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Google’s Ad Changes Face U.K. Probe in First Shot at Big Tech

Amazon To Buy Podcast Startup Wondery

Amazon.com agreed to buy West Hollywood-based podcast company Wondery. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, buts report said the deal might be valued about $300 million.

With this acquisition, Wondery would become part of Amazon Music, which launched podcasts in September 2020.

Amazon said that Wondery podcasts will continue to be available to listeners on a variety of platforms for free when the deal closes.

Wondery was launched in 2016 by Hernan Lopez, the exiting Fox International Channels CEO with backing from 20th Century Fox. Wondery is the publisher behind podcasts including “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”

Europe Secures Doubling of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

TheEuropean Commission said it had secured an extra 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced byPfizer Inc. andBioNTech SE as countries across Europe step up the fight against the coronavirus.

The announcement by President Ursula von der Leyen, who heads theEuropean Union’s executive arm, doubles the total vaccine doses available from the two companies for the bloc’s 27 member states to 600 million.

The EU has come under pressure from governments over the slow roll-out of vaccination programs. The bloc has signed deals with a range of companies for access to 2.3 billion doses, though only the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and a vaccine fromModerna Inc. have received approval for use from the European regulator.

“I’m particularly pleased that 75 million of this order will already be available as of quarter two onward,” von der Leyen told reporters on Friday in Brussels. “The rest will then be delivered in the third and in the fourth quarter.”

U.K. House Prices Climb to Record as Tax Cut Stokes Market

U.K. house prices rose to a record high last month as a government incentive to buy and a desire to move out of big cities boosted demand.

Prices rose 6% from a year earlier in December to an average 253,374 pounds ($340,000), mortgage lender Halifax said Friday. On the month alone, they gained 0.2%.

The property boom is being fueled by a tax cut on transactions worth as much as 15,000 pounds to buyers. The Covid-19 pandemic is also boosting interest in moving to larger properties and those outside of city centers as remote working becomes increasingly common.

The number of Britons working from home will rise five-fold in by 2025, according to a separate survey of chief financial officers published by Deloitte. The same poll found that 98% of the 90 finance bosses expect corporate and individual tax to rise.

The monthly gain showed the housing market may be starting to lose some momentum. Halifax predicts prices couldslump as much 5% in 2021 as the property transaction tax break expires in March and new restrictions to stem the spread of the virus weigh on the economy.

With “unemployment widely predicted to rise in the coming months, downward pressure on house prices remains likely as we move through 2021,” said Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax.

Iran leader Khamenei bans imports of US, British Covid-19 vaccines

DUBAI (REUTERS) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday (Jan 8) banned the government from importing new coronavirus vaccines from the United States and Britain.

“Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are banned. I have told this to officials and I’m saying it publicly now,” he said in live televised speech.

“If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country,” he said.

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Iran in no rush to see US return to nuclear deal: Khamenei

TEHERAN (AFP) – Iran is in no hurry to see the United States return to a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers after President-elect Joe Biden takes office this month, its supreme leader said on Friday (Jan 8).

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said it was not a question of “whether the United States returns or not”, it was a matter of it lifting its unilateral sanctions.

“We are in no rush and we are not insisting on their return. Our demand… is the lifting of sanctions” which outgoing US President Donald Trump reimposed after quitting the deal in 2018.

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Google’s Ad Changes Face U.K. Probe in First Shot at Big Tech

Google is the U.K.’s first big antitrust target after the country quit the European Union as regulators opened a probe Friday into the company’s planned changes to advertising data.

The Competition and Markets Authority said it’s “investigating Google’s plans to remove third-party cookies and other functionalities from its Chrome browser,” according to an emailed statement. This could “undermine the ability of publishers to generate and undermine competition in digital advertising, entrenching Google’s market power.”

Publishers and advertising technology companiescomplained in November that Google’s so-called privacy sandbox changes will curb members’ ability to gather information on web users, which helps them offer more valuable advertising. Smaller media companies are at risk of losing as much as 75% of their revenue, it said.

Googleupended the advertising world with its decision last year to phase out third-party cookies that help advertisers pinpoint customers with ads for websites they previously visited and monitor which ads convinced them to buy. Google’s Chrome is used by the overwhelming majority of internet users and the changes will be followed by browsers based on Google technology such as Microsoft Corp.’s Edge.