Amazon to Buy US Grocer Whole Foods Market for $13.7 Billion

Amazon to acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion
Whole Foods Market will continue to operate stores under its brand
The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017
Online juggernaut Amazon is buying Whole Foods in a deal valued at about $13.7 billion (approximately Rs. 88,300 crore), a strong move to expand its growing reach into groceries. Inc. will pay $42 (approximately Rs. 2,700) per share for Whole Foods Market Inc., including debt. That marks an 18 percent premium to Whole Foods’ closing price on Thursday.

The deal comes a month after Whole Foods announced a board shake-up and cost-cutting plan amid falling sales. The grocery store operator was also under pressure from activist investor Jana Partners.

The grocery chain, known for its organic options, had been facing increased pressure from rivals, including European grocery chain Lidl, which is planning to enter the East Coast market, along with Aldi and Trader Joe’s.

Amazon to Buy US Grocer Whole Foods Market for $13.7 Billion

Amazon, meanwhile, has been expanding its reach in goods, services, and entertainment.

Whole Foods will keep operating stores under its name and John Mackey will as CEO, with headquarters in Austin, Texas.

The company, founded in 1978, has struggled to differentiate itself as competitors also now offer a plethora of fresh and organic foods, and has said customers may be choosing “good enough” alternatives closer to home. In addition to other natural and organic grocers, it has cited pressure from restaurant chains, meal-delivery companies and traditional supermarkets such as Kroger.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017.

De Beers: US Diamond Jewelry Demand Hits High of $41 Billion

(IDEX Online) – Total diamond jewelry demand from US consumers increased 4.4 percent in 2016 to exceed $40 billion for the first time, according to industry insight data published today by De Beers Group.


While slower US GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017 is likely to have impacted diamond jewelry demand in the short term, the US has recorded five years of consecutive demand growth. US consumers now account for roughly half of all diamond jewelry purchases globally – a level not seen since before the financial crisis.


Although bridal diamond jewelry continues to be the foundation of demand in the US, more frequent acquisitions and a higher value of spend from single women helped drive demand. Meanwhile, self-purchase trends increased among both single and married women.


Fifty-seven percent of self-purchased diamond jewelry is acquired by married women, while a third is from Millennials. Retailers also reported high levels of consumer interest for multi-diamond pieces.

The data showed that consumers are spending more per piece on diamond jewelry, with retailers reporting an increase in the $1,000 to $4,999 category, De Beers claimed.


Globally, demand for diamond jewelry in 2016 increased marginally in US dollars (at actual exchange rates) to $80 billion, with demand growth from the US offsetting a contraction in India.


  • Demand from Chinese consumers grew 0.6 percent in local currency and has continued to improve in early 2017, with robust sales around Chinese New Year contributing to the positive performance in the first quarter.


  • Demand from Indian consumers started to return to more normal levels in 2017, following an 8.8 percent contraction (in local currency) in 2016 due to the jewelers’ strike, demonetization and exchange rates.


  • Demand from Japanese consumers declined 2.9 percent in local currency in 2016, but growth in US dollars reached 8.1 percent due to the strength of the yen.


  • Demand in the Gulf was impacted by a challenging macro-economic environment, driven by continued oil price weakness.


Further marginal global growth in diamond jewelry demand (in US dollar terms) is likely in 2017.


Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “American consumers continue to express strong desire for diamonds, but their purchasing habits are changing rapidly. While bridal diamond jewelry remains fundamental, we are seeing both single and married women buying for themselves more frequently and more purchases being made online. Meanwhile, products such as multi-diamond jewelry are becoming more popular.


“However, while US demand drove global growth in 2016, it is increasing demand from emerging markets that is behind the last five years being the strongest on record. Despite some markets facing challenging conditions last year, we see this trend continuing, with improvements in demand from China and India, in particular, emerging in 2017.”

Facebook Wins Dismissal of US Lawsuits Linked to Terrorism

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook Inc liable for supporting terrorist groups by letting them use its social media platform to further their goals, including violence against Jews.

US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn dismissed a $3 billion (roughly Rs. 19,450 crores) damages lawsuit by relatives of American victims of Hamas attacks, saying the federal Communications Decency Act regulating Internet content immunises Facebook from liability.

That law “prevents courts from entertaining civil actions that seek to impose liability on defendants like Facebook for allowing third parties to post offensive or harmful content or failing to remove such content once posted,” Garaufis wrote.

Garaufis also dismissed a lawsuit by roughly 20,000 Israeli citizens who feared harm from future violence. He said they had no legal right to demand changes to Facebook’s platform because they could not show any “actual or imminent” injury.

Facebook Wins Dismissal of US Lawsuits Linked to Terrorism

The decision is a setback to efforts to hold companies such as Facebook and Twitter Inc liable for failing to better police users’ online speech.

Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for both sets of the plaintiffs, said Garaufis appeared to sidestep limits under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act on aiding groups such as Hamas, a Palestinian group that the Department of State designates a foreign terrorist organization.

“There is a clash between statutes that the court needed to reconcile but ignored,” Tolchin said in an interview. “We are planning to appeal because we see major errors in the decision.”


In an email, Facebook said “there is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it’s reported to us. We sympathize with the victims and their families.”

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to regulate online pornography.

Garaufis said applications of that law in other contexts have arguably undermined incentives for internet service providers to remove content, but that it was enough for now to show that Congress’ “focus” was to limit liability.

The Brooklyn lawsuits drew notice after Facebook’s law firm Kirkland & Ellis initially assigned a junior associate to represent the Palo Alto, California-based company, prompting Garaufis to ask if it took the matter seriously.

Facebook quickly flew its deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, a former federal judge, from California to Brooklyn, where he assured Garaufis that the company had “a very serious interest in keeping terrorism content off” its platform.

The cases are Cohen et al v. Facebook Inc, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-04453; and Force et al v Facebook Inc in the same court, No. 16-05158.

McDonald's to Use Snapchat to Hire Workers in the US


  • McDonald’s will hire some US workers this summer through Snapchat
  • About 250,000 people will be hired across its US restaurants
  • The chain started accepting “Snaplications” in Australia last month

In its bid to attract young applicants, American fast-food chain McDonald’s will hire some US workers this summer through the photo-sharing app Snapchat.

The world’s largest burger chain said the company and its franchisees will hire about 250,000 people across its US restaurants for what is usually one of its busiest seasons of the year, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The chain started accepting “Snaplications” in Australia last month, allowing potential employees to make video submissions with a special filter that shows them wearing a McDonald’s uniform.

“We thought Snaplications was a great way to allow us to meet job seekers where they are – their phones,” Jez Langhorn, McDonald’s Senior Director of Human Resources in the US was quoted as saying.

McDonald's to Use Snapchat to Hire Workers in the US

The video audition could be submitted to McDonald’s Snapchat account after which McDonald’s would send back a link to the application and digital careers page for a formal application.

McDonald’s said that allowing applications through Snapchat will aid hiring efforts because many of its applicants are between the ages of 16 and 24.

This is incidentally the prime user group of the photo sharing platform. The company is also set to use other platforms like Spotify and Hulu to reach potential job seekers.

China Has Now Eclipsed US in AI Research

Humanity may still be years if not decades away from producing sentient artificial intelligence. But with the rise of machine-learning services in our smartphones and other devices, one type of narrow, specialized AI has become all the rage. And the research on this branch of AI is only accelerating.

In fact, as more industries and policymakers awaken to the benefits of machine learning, two countries appear to be pulling away in the research race. The results will likely have significant implications for the future of AI.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “deep learning” is a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning – which basically involves the use of computer algorithms to perform pattern recognition and analysis. It’s this type of AI that powers personal digital assistants like Google Now, for example.

The Obama administration has a new strategic plan aimed at spurring US development of artificial intelligence. What’s striking is that while the United States was an early leader on deep learning research, China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject. The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how China’s research priorities have pivoted on a dime.


China Has Now Eclipsed US in AI Research

The quality of China’s research is also striking.


Compared to other countries, the United States and China are both spending tremendous research attention on deep learning. But, according to the White House, the United States isn’t investing nearly enough in the basic research.

“Current levels of R&D spending are half to one-quarter of the level of R&D investment that would produce the optimal level of economic growth,” a companion report published this week by the Obama administration finds.

The government is pushing for a major role for itself in AI research, and here’s why: Becoming a leader in artificial-intelligence R&D puts the United States in a better position to establish global norms on how AI should be safely used. When AI stands to transform everything from labor to the environment to the future of warfare and cyberconflict, the United States could be put at a disadvantage if other countries, such as China, get to dictate terms instead.

Facebook Launches Features to Connect US Users to Elected Officials


  • New features intended to boost civic engagement among users in the US
  • New offerings come as Facebook tries to rehabilitate its image
  • Constituent Badges, Constituent Insights, District Targeting announced

Facebook announced a set of three new features on Wednesday intended to boost civic engagement among users in the United States on its platform by connecting them more easily with their elected representatives.

The new offerings come as the social media juggernaut has sought to rehabilitate its image as a credible source of information following a wave of criticism after last November’s presidential election that the company did too little to combat misleading or wholly fabricated political news stories during the campaign.

Facebook Launches Features to Connect US Users to Elected Officials


Among the features, Facebook will now allow users to turn on “Constituent Badges” to identify them as living in their elected officials’ district. The opt-in badge will be visible when a user comments on content shared by their federal, state and local representatives.

“District Targeting” creates a new preset audience selection that lets politicians’ pages target posts to people likely to be their constituents.

Facebook has continued to come under attack from prominent Democrats and some technology experts despite a raft of changes it has made in recent months that seek to help users consume more legitimate political news.

Hillary Clinton, who ran for president as a Democrat last year but lost to President Donald Trump, a Republican, said last week that Facebook was flooded with false information about her during the campaign and that people were understandably misled. She said she wanted Facebook to curate its network more aggressively.


Study Abroad: US organises annual Student Visa Day in various Indian cities

The US Embassy in the national capital and Consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai on Thursday opened their doors to more than 4,000 Indian students applying for visas to pursue higher education in the United States. This was the third iteration of the annual Student Visa Day organised by the country to boost higher education ties with India.

“Today, every sixth international student in the United States is from India, and these students are contributing enormously to every aspect of life at the university and in the surrounding communities,” said Embassy Charge d’Affaires MaryKay Carlson.

study abroad, US student visa, USA best colleges, Student Visa Day, Student Visa Day celebration, Student Visa Day 2017, higher education in US, US education, study abroad US, education news, indian express

This was the third iteration of the annual Student Visa Day organised by the country to boost higher education ties with India.

Currently, 1,66,000 Indian students are enrolled in US institutions of higher education. The US Embassy and the Consulates welcomed the applicants in a festive atmosphere.

Consular staff members were dressed in their alma mater apparel. Some consulates had alumni guest speakers, while others had a video station or other special programs for the applicants.

Representatives from EducationUSA, American Spaces, and recent US graduates gave insights and answered questions from students about college life in the United States.