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Far-Right Groups Push Back as Protesters Rally in Europe

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LONDON — Thousands of people rallied against police brutality and racism in European cities like London and Paris on Saturday, punctuating a week of protests across the continent that included destruction of statues linked to slavery and demands for a reckoning with racial discrimination.

As European protesters have shown solidarity with demonstrators in the United States in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, they have also denounced their own countries’ problems and urged the authorities to address them.

But even as protesters gathered en masse to demand stronger measures against racism, far-right groups and protesters, most of them white, have fiercely pushed back, leading to chaotic episodes of violence on Saturday.

The situation grew especially tense in London, where crowds of white male counterprotestors clashed repeatedly with the police, who had imposed restrictions on the anti-racism marches because of concerns about the potential for violence.

The protest and counterprotest came to an explosive head in Trafalgar Square, when small numbers of Black Lives Matter supporters and their antagonists threw bottles and booming fireworks against one another, while the police tried to separate them.

Image

Credit…Simon Dawson/Reuters

Parliament Square, where thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters had gathered just a week ago, was filled on Saturday with hundreds of overwhelmingly white male counterdemonstrators. Many said they had assembled to prevent attacks targeting the statues in the square, especially that of Winston Churchill.

“People are defacing my history and my culture,” said Dave Allen, a 30-year-old lawyer from London who had joined the counterprotest. “That’s why these people are here, because we feel we’re getting attacked.”

Videos shared on social media showed mounted police officers standing guard in Parliament Square in front of boarded-up statues and repelling protesters who threatened and punched them.

The confrontations in London came days after protesters tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, in Bristol, and others scrawled “racist” on a Churchill statue in Parliament Square.

The statue of Churchill, a usually revered figure in Britain who steered the country through World War II, was later covered to protect it. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the episode “absurd and shameful.”

In Paris, some 15,000 people rallied to demand justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old who died in 2016 after the police had arrested him. Amid the overwhelmingly young crowds, demonstrators waved signs reading “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter,” less than two weeks after 20,000 protesters had assembled in front of a Paris court for Mr. Traoré. The Saturday protests were organized by “The Truth For Adama,” an advocacy group led by Mr. Traoré’s sister, Assa Traoré. The rally remained largely peaceful, although police officers threw tear gas and clashed with protesters in the late afternoon.

“In France, we have a tendency to deny thorny issues like race,” said Isabelle Blanche, a 41-year-old black protester who came with her brother. She said that it had taken Mr. Floyd’s death in the United States “for people to finally wake up.”

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing the inscription “Justice for Adama,” Océane Loimon, 18, blamed the French authorities for refusing to address police brutality, but as she pointed to the crowds on the plaza, she said: “They cannot ignore it anymore.”

As in London, the atmosphere in Paris had grown tense earlier in the afternoon when far-right activists unfurled a large red banner reading “White Lives Matter” on the roof of a building of the plaza. The crowd below chanted “No justice, no peace,” in response, and later cheered residents who tore down the lower part of the banner with chisels and knives. Some threw fireworks at the far-right activists, who were later chased off the roof by a handful of protesters.

Similar protests in Lyon ended in confrontations with the police, who fired tear gas in response to protesters who threw bottles and stones at them, according to local media reports.

Some demonstrations also were held in Germany including the city of Stuttgart, but they were much smaller than those of previous weekends.

Credit…Christoph Schmidt/DPA, via Associated Press

Across Europe, governments have walked a thin line throughout the week in trying to quell public anger while doing little to acknowledge signs of systemic racism.

The leader of a German opposition party, the Greens, has called for a change of wording in the country’s Constitution to include a provision that no one should face discrimination on the grounds of “racism.” Chancellor Angela Merkel and her justice minister signaled this week that they would be open to a public debate on the change, which would require support from two-thirds of Parliament.

But the authorities have otherwise urged people to avoid protesting and to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 167,000 people in Western Europe and dragged the continent into its worst economic slump since World War II.

The police in Paris reminded the public that gatherings of more than 10 people remained forbidden, and they asked businesses and restaurants to close near the Place de la République, where thousands remained on Saturday in defiance of the police barricades leading to the plaza.

Many protesters were unfazed by the warnings. “I’m less afraid of the coronavirus than I’m afraid of being killed by the police,” said Cécilia Ranguin, a 20-year-old law student, who is black.

Saturday evening, France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, reestablished the right to protest, provided that protesters respect health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing and that the gathering does not exceed 5,000 people.

Credit…Benoit Tessier/Reuters

In London, the police urged people to avoid demonstrating in the city and set a 5 p.m. deadline for all protesters to leave the defined demonstration routes.

“I absolutely understand why people want to make their voices heard,” Bas Javid, the Metropolitan Police commander, said in a statement. “But the government direction is that we remain in a health pandemic, and people are asked not to gather in large groups.”

As the 5 p.m. curfew approached, the police were taking measures to ensure that the right-wing groups were kept separate from the Black Lives Matter protesters.

The presence of far-right counterprotesters on Saturday added a new layer of complexity to an already tense situation in Britain and France, where demonstrators’ demands have been met with resistance from police forces, who argue that instances of racism by their members have been isolated episodes.

Credit…Michel Euler/Associated Press

Dialogue between protesters and the authorities in Europe has been infrequent. While demonstrators in Britain called on their country to acknowledge its racist and imperialist history, Mr. Johnson has accused those who wanted to remove statues of trying to “edit or censor our past.”

But there are also signs that politicians in Europe are heeding protesters’ calls.

Sibeth Ndiaye, a spokeswoman for France’s government, said on Saturday that the country had not brought an end to racism and that discrimination should be discussed more openly. In an opinion piece in the newspaper Le Monde, Ms. Ndiaye — who was born in Senegal and moved to France as a teenager — said the country needed to tackle “the reality of the suffering” that minorities endure.

As the protest neared a conclusion in Paris, protesters confronted police forces. “We are not afraid,” Ms. Traoré chanted, as the truck she stood on drove back to the center of the plaza, and parked in front of a cordon of armor-clad police forces.

Iliana Magra reported from London, and Elian Peltier and Constant Méheut from Paris. Melissa Eddy contributed reporting from Berlin.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/world/europe/george-floyd-protests-police.html

Fintech

Accept.inc secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform

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A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. 

Accepti.inc is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital.

Accept.inc describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With Accept.inc., its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes Accept.inc as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, Accept.inc doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ Accept.inc fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Accept.inc. Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, Accept.inc says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. Accept.inc wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building Accept.inc with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with Accept.inc is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using Accept.inc win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that Accept.inc is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for Accept.inc to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/accept-inc-secures-90m-in-debt-equity/

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Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago. 

Buy Apple AirPods Max (pink) at Amazon – $490 Buy Apple AirPods Max (sky blue) at Amazon – $489 Buy Apple AirPods Max (space gray) at Amazon – $489

With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.  

AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio. 

Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-airpods-max-good-deal-amazon-124026253.html?src=rss_b2c

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SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming

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The founders of South African cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared along with $3.6 billion (R51.4 billion) worth of Bitcoin, according to a report….

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Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/06/sa-agritech-releases-ai-enabled-omniofarm-to-modernise-african-poultry-farming/

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Fintech

Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion

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Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).

Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.

Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.

While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.

App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.

300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.

According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.

“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”

“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/visa-to-acquire-open-banking-platform-tink-for-more-than-2-billion/

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