Hillicon Valley: CBS, Viacom strike merger deal | Pentagon investigating $10B 'war cloud' contract | Apple stock surges after Trump delays tariffs | Eight states to use paperless voting in 2020

Hillicon Valley: CBS, Viacom strike merger deal | Pentagon investigating $10B 'war cloud' contract | Apple stock surges after Trump delays tariffs | Eight states to use paperless voting in 2020
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MAJOR MERGER NEWS: Top media companies CBS and Viacom have agreed to merge, setting the stage for a combined entertainment company with more than $28 billion in revenue.

In a statement on Tuesday, the firms announced the combined company – ViacomCBS Inc – will control an extensive library of content as well as a portfolio that includes CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Network.

"Today marks an important day for CBS and Viacom, as we unite our complementary assets and capabilities and become one of only a few companies with the breadth and depth of content and reach to shape the future of our industry," Bob Bakish, the current president and CEO of Viacom who is set to become the president and CEO of the combined company, said in a statement.

Both companies are controlled by National Amusements Inc, which is owned by the family of media mogul Shari Redstone. Redstone is currently the vice chairman of the CBS and Viacom boards of directors.

"Through CBS and Viacom's shared passion for premium content and innovation, we will establish a world-class, multiplatform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry," Redstone said in a statement.

The big picture: The merger will help both Viacom and CBS compete with rivals such as Netflix, WarnerMedia, Comcast and AT&T. CBS and Viacom split up in 2006 but the new combination comes amid business pressure from streaming companies and other media mega-mergers.

Read more about the deal here. 

CLOUD CONCERNS: The Pentagon's internal watchdog on Tuesday said that it is investigating potential ethics concerns around the $10 billion "war cloud" contract at the center of an ongoing tug-of-war among lawmakers and the White House.

The Pentagon inspector general said it is reviewing aspects of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, including allegations of possible misconduct in the contract awarding process.

It was previously known that the Pentagon inspector general's office was reviewing ethical concerns around JEDI, but the inspector general's statement on Tuesday provides details on an official probe.

"We are reviewing the DoD's [Department of Defense's] handing of the JEDI cloud acquisition, including the development of requirements and the request for proposal process," spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said in a statement.

She added that "a multidisciplinary team" is investigating concerns around JEDI "referred to us by Members of Congress and through the DoD Hotline. In addition, we are investigating whether current or former DoD officials committed misconduct relating to the JEDI acquisition, such as whether any had any conflicts of interest related to their involvement in the acquisition process."

What's at stake: The JEDI contract, which is set to be awarded to either Amazon or Microsoft, would allow one company to develop cloud-computing infrastructure for the Pentagon. The contract could last for up to 10 years, though it begins at only two, and is valued at up to $10 billion.

The watchdog review of JEDI is happening alongside an internal review ordered earlier this month by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Esper ordered the review after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE said he would ask his administration to investigate whether the JEDI contract is biased towards Amazon.

Read more here. 

 

GOING PAPERLESS: At least eight states are on course to use paperless voting equipment, or machines without paper records, as the primary polling place equipment during the 2020 elections, a report published Tuesday by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found.

The report said that around 12 percent of Americans, or about 16 million people, will vote on paperless machines in 2020 and will have no paper record of how they voted. 

Many of these Americans will vote in the eight states that will use some form of paperless voting in 2020: Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey. 

"Experts have long warned that these machines are a security risk because they do not allow election officials or the public to confirm electronic vote totals," the report's authors wrote. 

The report said the number of Americans expected to cast votes through paperless machines is down from 20 percent in 2016, when 14 states used some form of paperless voting machines.

Pennsylvania, Georgia and South Carolina are on course to replace all paperless voting machines by 2020, while Arkansas, Virginia and Delaware have already completed this process.

The authors wrote that more funding from Congress would allow states to replace paperless voting machines and cut down on the number of Americans expected to use them in 2020. 

Read more here. 

HOLD UP: The Trump administration's decision to hold off on imposing tariffs on certain Chinese goods sent Apple's stock price surging Tuesday morning.

Apple's shares shot up nearly 5 percent after the announcement before ending the day up 4.23 percent.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced earlier that it would delay tariffs on goods like "cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing" until December 15.

The office also said that it would release a list of goods that would be exempted from the 10 percent tariff that goes into effect on September 1.

A spokesman for Apple did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 373 points or 1.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 1.95 percent.

Read more here. 

 

HUAWEI BEEFS UP LOBBYING: Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom firm, is bringing on new lobbying help amid a Trump administration ban on sales to federal agencies.

The firm has already spent $125,000 on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year, a pace that will lead it to top the $165,000 it spent in 2018.

Last year, the company only had two firms on retainer, APCO Worldwide and Strategic Public Affairs. Now, in addition to a $10,000 contract for APCO Worldwide, the firm has also engaged Steptoe & Johnson with a $100,000 contract and Jones Day, with a $20,000 contract.

Only four lobbyists total were lobbying domestically for Huawei until the company nearly doubled its lobbying manpower this summer.

On July 1, it hired Sidley Austin to lobby on export controls, trade and economic sanctions and other national security-related topics, according to lobbying disclosures. Robert Torresen, who focuses on exports and economic sanctions, along with Thomas Green and Mark Hopson, both with backgrounds in white-collar law, will work on the account.

Huawei has one registered in-house lobbyist, Donald Morrissey, who previously worked for former Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.).

Read more here. 

 

SOMEBODY'S IN TROUBLE: The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is looking into a 4chan post purporting to be from a first responder detailing the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than 30 minutes before it was made public, according to BuzzFeed News.

A user on the message board, a popular hub for white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, reportedly wrote: "dont ask me how I know, but Epstein died an hour ago from hanging, cardiac arrest. Screencap this."

The post came 38 minutes before ABC News broke the news of Epstein's death at 8:54 a.m. on Saturday, according to BuzzFeed.

When other 4chan users were skeptical about the initial claims, the poster added further information, including the procedures used in the attempts to revive Epstein -- details that have not yet been made public.

Deputy FDNY Commissioner Frank Gribbon said that while he "could not verify the accuracy" of the post, the fire department will review the matter. He added that any disclosure of medical information without consent would constitute a violation of privacy laws.

Read more here. 

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Campaigns need to practice--not just preach--stronger digital security 

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Communication is key.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe users’ audio chats (Bloomberg)

Election equipment industry groups kept their distance from DEF CON voting village. (CyberScoop) 

Surveillance technology and the cultural notions of privacy. (Forbes) 

Democratic presidential nominees are ignoring the issue of our cybersecurity infrastructure. (TechCrunch) 

Three years of misery inside Google, the happiest company in tech. (Wired)