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Musk Backwalks Twitter Bid

FILE - Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020, in Washington. Elon Musk is threatening to end his $44 billion agreement to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot accounts.

Elon Musk threatened Monday to withdraw his bid to buy Twitter, accusing it of failing to provide data on fake accounts, in the latest twist in the Tesla billionaire's push to acquire the social network.

This is the first time Billionaire Elon Musk has threatened to walk away from the deal in writing as opposed to airing it on Twitter's social media platform.

Musk has told both securities regulators and Twitter that the social media company has committed "a clear material breach" of its "obligations under the merger agreement and Mr. Musk reserves ... his right not to consummate the transaction."

The filing marks an escalation of Musk's prior statements that have highlighted fake accounts as a threat to his proposed $44 billion deal to take over Twitter.

Musk has said that the real number of "'bots" [automated computers running tasks] may be four times higher than Twitter estimates.

Bots can be used on social media to spread false news or create a distorted impression of how widely information is being consumed and shared.

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal has said that fewer than five percent of accounts active on any given day at Twitter are bots, but that analysis cannot be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private.

In March, Musk said he would put the deal "temporarily on hold", while he waits for the social media company to provide data on the proportion of its fake accounts.

"Musk believes Twitter is transparently refusing to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data," according to the letter.

A self proclaimed free-speech absolutist, Musk has questioned the accuracy of Twitter's public filings about spam accounts representing less than 5% of its user base, claiming they must be at least 20%.

Musk said he needed the data to conduct his own analysis of Twitter users and did not believe in the company's "lax testing methodologies."

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article was compiled from information furnished by Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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OPEC Chief Calls For Iran, Venezuela Oil Resumption

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russia, 5.25.2018

OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said on Tuesday the oil and gas supply shortage could be eased if extra supplies from Iran and Venezuela were allowed on the market.

OPEC Chief Mohammad Barkindo told an energy conference in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, that "We could unlock resources and strengthen capacity if the oil produced by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Venezuela were allowed to return to the market."

Both nations are under strong sanctions for sponsorship of terrorism and other acts.

"Our industry is now facing huge challenges along multiple fronts," he told conference delegates.

"And these threaten our investment potential now and in the long term. To put it bluntly, my dear friends, the oil and gas industry is under siege," he said, citing geopolitical developments in Europe, where the war in Ukraine has left many countries vulnerable to soaring energy prices.

Strain on the industry has been increased by some countries' efforts to divest from hydrocarbons, Barkindo stated.

While they are seeking to limit global warming, he said oil demand was growing even as investment in capacity falls and prices surge.

Nigeria's oil minister Timipre Sylva said Africa's top oil producer would not abandon fossil fuels.

"For us in Nigeria, fossil fuel will always have a share in our energy mix, for the foreseeable future. We will not at this time abandon fossil fuels. We have adopted ... gas as a transition fuel," he said.

Barkindo forecast primary demand for oil globally would increase up to 2045, while refining capacity in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries fell by 3.3% in 2021.

EU Activists Knock Tik-Tok

FILE: A person holds a smartphone as Tik Tok logo is displayed behind in this picture illustration taken 11.7.2019

Rights activists on Tuesday accused social media giant TikTok of breaching EU laws by co-opting users into sharing their data for targeted advertising.

"TikTok wants to strip away the rights of people who use the platform to bump its ad revenue," said Estelle Masse of digital rights group "Access Now."

Masse said other social media platforms also had problems with their consent mechanisms but TikTok was "taking a step further" by "effectively suggesting that we should not have a say in deciding how our information is used."

The howl was triggered by TikTok announcing it would change its policy next week to allow data to be gathered from over-18s in Europe whether or not they had consented, claiming the move was allowed under Europe's data protection law (GDPR).

Access Now said it wrote to the company asking for clarity on the legal basis, calling it a "clear abuse" of several European laws including GDPR.

Social media firms gather vast troves of data on individuals' online habits and use it to sell highly targeted advertising.

But the GDPR forces firms to give detailed justifications for gathering data, something social media platforms have struggled to do.

TikTok has said its policy change relies on a principle in the GDPR called "legitimate interest", which allows companies to process data without giving a specific justification.

However, regulators have already begun to limit the use of legitimate interest.

They ruled in February that websites relying on the principle to opt-in users to targeted advertising were acting illegally.

AFP has asked TikTok for a response to the criticism.

TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, is also under pressure from lawmakers in the United States over its use of data after reports suggested it allowed its staff in China to access data on US-based users.

The social media company confirmed the reports last week in a letter to US Congress but said it would never allow Communist Party officials to access data on US users.

Underwater Drug "Drones" Discovered

FILE: Clouds form over Gibraltar, seen from from La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain, taken 8.18.2013

Spanish police said on Monday they had seized six underwater drones capable of transporting large quantities of drugs from Morocco to Spain and broken up a gang suspected of manufacturing them.

Spanish authorities have arrested eight people in raids carried out in Barcelona and the southern provinces of Malaga and Cadiz in connection with the novel underwater machines, a police statement said.

Police said it was the first time they had seized such devices, which are officially known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

The drones had up to 12 motors each and a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles).

That is easily enough to manage an underwater crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco which measures just 15 kilometres (nine miles).

Authorities believe the gang made underwater drones "capable of bearing big loads" for use by other criminal organizations.

"These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar," the statement said.

Spain's physical proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine-producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.

Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to "transport significant amounts of cocaine", the statement said.

Their customers included criminal gangs in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, police said.

CAR Touts Crypto Over Cash

FILE: Representations of the virtual currency Bitcoin and Ethereum stand on a motherboard in this picture illustration taken 5.2-.2021

Cryptocurrencies are the solution to tackling financial exclusion in the Central African Republic, its President Faustin-Archange Touadera said on Sunday, citing the cost of opening bank accounts.

Central African Republic's move to adopt cryptocurrencies in a country where internet use is low and electricity unreliable has raised eyebrows among crypto experts, puzzled lawmakers and residents, and drawn words of caution from the International Monetary Fund.

President Faustin-Archange Touadera declared Sunday that "The alternative to cash is cryptocurrency," he said at a launch event for crypto initiative Sango hosted by the country, after it became the first African state to make bitcoin legal tender in April. "For us, the formal economy is no longer an option."

The Sango project, including a "Sango Coin", was backed by the Central African Republic's National Assembly and spearheaded by Touadera, who said the token would provide access to the country's "mountain" of natural resources, including gold and diamonds.

While Touadera touts cryptocurrencies, these so-called "currencies" have taken a stiff beating in the marketplace, raising questions as to why CAR would consider holding crypto as a "reserve currency." While the leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was valued at some US$69,000 in November, 2021, its current value is under $19,500 - representing over a trillion dollars in value lost.

Egypt Rakes Record Suez Revenue

FILE: Ships, one loaded with containers, pass through the Suez Canal in Suez, Egypt, 2.15.2022

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority announced Monday an all-time revenue record, earning $7 billion during the last fiscal year following a series of toll hikes for vessels transiting the vital waterway.

The income is over a fifth higher than the previous fiscal year's $5.8 billion in transit fees, and the highest figure ever recorded.

Between July 2021 and June 2022 -- Egypt's fiscal year -- some 1.32 billion tons of cargo were shipped through the canal, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said.

Earlier this year, the SCA reported the canal's highest annual revenue for a calendar year, netting $6.3 billion dollars in 2021, despite the coronavirus pandemic and a six-day blockage by giant cargo ship the Ever Given.

In April, the waterway recorded its highest-ever monthly revenue of $629 million, despite the rise in oil prices due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Global crises have proven the importance of the Suez Canal to ensuring the sustainability of global supply chains," Rabie said Monday.

The SCA has hiked passage tolls for transiting vessels, including fuel tankers, twice this year.

Connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the canal accounts for roughly 10 percent of global maritime trade.

It is also a source of much-needed foreign currency for Egypt, which is battling crippling inflation and a currency devaluation.

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