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WASHINGTON Millions of dollars from US pension funds including those of New York’s police officers and firefighters are likely invested in ByteDance, the Chinese-controlled parent company of TikTok that is under a standing order from Congress to sell off the popular social media platform or face its banning.

The non-profit investment-watchdog group Future Union has identified 48 pension funds that have entrusted their money with venture capital and private equity firms known to have invested in ByteDance since 2012, according to a new report obtained by The Post Tuesday.

Six of the largest are directly tied to New York, including the state’s common retirement fund and teacher’s retirement system, as well as New York City’s employees’ retirement system, police pension fund and teachers’ retirement system.

Future Union was unable to track down exactly how much money was directly invested into ByteDance because its proprietary data “is not required to be publicly provided by the pensions funds.”

However, it confirmed that at least some of the investments went to ByteDance by assessing the investment firms handling their money.

“Future Union devised a [system] based on the amount of capital committed to known investors in ByteDance, combining the proprietary data on institutional investors with the timeline of ByteDance investments to report rank-order and show the magnitude of capital commitments,” nonprofit founder and venture capitalist Andrew King told The Post.

The report also found that some of the most notable American nonprofits and foundations have used investment funds that place their money in ByteDance, including the Mayo Clinic, the Bush Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

As Americas largest source of private investment dollars, the capital allocators the pensions, endowments and foundations make up the lion’s share of source funding for venture capitalists and private equity firms.

“Commitments by US public pension funds to venture and private equity funds that are known investors in ByteDance reached $8.1 billion, while US university endowments’ past commitments were $1 billion,” explained King, who advises the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

US nonprofit and foundations overall have made more than 620 commitments to Chinese and China-related venture capital and private equity funds, including some of the most powerful players in the field such as Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital and Qiming Venture Partners, according to the report.

President Biden last month signed into law a bill that will force ByteDance to divest from TikTok after both Republicans and Democrats in Congress raised concerns about the social media platform’s tracking and reporting of its American users’ data to the Chinese Communist Party the US’ top adversary.

Beijing, through its state-run Internet Investment Fund, owns about 1% of TikTok shares, “illustrating the nearly indecipherable nature of the state and private sector companies in China,” according to the report.

Under Chinese law, the investment grants the government access to the social media platform’s data collected from its users, creating a national security risk for the US that led to the TikTok legislation’s passage.

“TikToks rise owes itself to the dozens of venture capitalist firms investing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars from university endowments and US public pension funds into the Chinese company that Congress has forced to sell off the social media platform,” said King.

Experts also believe Beijing is using the app which is not available in China to influence US opinions in its favor, geopolitical consultant and former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kellie Currie told The Post.

“ByteDance is not a normal tech company and TikTok is not a normal social media app. It should be clear to anyone paying attention that TikTok is an enormously successful Chinese influence operation,” she said. “It has succeeded beyond the CCPs wildest imagination in advancing both direct CCP agendas as well as indirect influence operations that weaponize polarized issues.”

Aside from the moral quandary of investing in a company that presents national security risks to the US, the investment firms have now endangered their clients’ funds by tying them to a company that may soon be forced to give up its US operations.

“Many of our most powerful and prominent pension funds, university endowments and nonprofits/foundations have subsequently been involved in, and now may remain to subject to, a geopolitical risk premium in private market investing,” the report said.

That risk has always existed but was “long ignored,” according to Future Union, but is now unavoidable since the TikTok legislation passed, “resulting in vastly reduced exit opportunities for Chinese companies like ByteDance.”

As investors, were all capitalists here and the goal is to make money. Yet we can no longer make investments that directly imperil the long-term success of our free market system,” King told The Post. “As TikTok shows, the investment choices that venture capitalists and private equity investors made today, at the earliest stage and in the most critical technologies, have ramifications that reverberate for years.”

Future Union, which has produced two other reports on US investments in Chinese competitors, added that the ByteDance investments are part of a troubling trend of American firms risking financial and national security in exchange for the possibility of big short-term returns from the Asian market.

“This highlights a general trend that, despite the geopolitical tensions, US fund managers continue investing in the startups they view as leading in technology advancement and capable of generating higher returns even if it means ignoring the long-term implications of supporting an adversarial ecosystem,” the report said.

Still, Currie said that “nobody should feel the least bit sorry for (US investors in ByteDance) if they lose money,” since the professional investment and VC firms either were or should have been aware of the associated dangers.

“Every investment carries risk, and this one more so than most,” she said. “These are very sophisticated investors … [who] knew or should have known the risks they were taking by investing in a Chinese company that has been marked with major political, regulatory and operational problems from day one.”

While the US funding is important, that’s not the only benefit reaped by Chinese companies.

Because venture capitalists are required to make the most money possible for their clients, they also offer “intangible relationship elements and knowledge that is far more impactful and dangerous if transferred to an adversary like China,” King said.

“Venture capitalists are a conduit, and if they invest in Chinese startups, their duty to prioritize returns requires them to help these startups, and thus China,” he said. “In doing so, they offer China the nearly priceless value of some of a lifetime of experience and learnings from … expertise in business best practices and the networks developed over a career touching the smartest founders, wealthiest investors, and most politically connected powerbrokers.

“This is an invisible threat worse than mere capital.”

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide - as 'major destruction' hampers rescue efforts

More than 2,000 people have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster agency has said.

The landslide levelled the mountainous Kaokalam village in Enga Province – about 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

It hit the Pacific nation at around 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier said it estimated 670 people had been killed. Local officials had initially put the number of dead at 100 or more.

People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP
Image:
People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre said the landslide had buried more than 2,000 people.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” an official from the national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations.

Earlier, Serhan Aktoprak, head of the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, said the figure of 670 deaths was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 homes had been buried. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he said.

More than 4,000 people were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian group CARE Australia said earlier.

It said the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
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Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

About six villages were affected by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three bodies were pulled from an area where 50 to 60 homes were destroyed. Six people, including a child, were pulled from the rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said.

But hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

Pic: AP
Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)
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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through the landslide. Pic: AP

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP
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Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200 sq km (77 sq miles), cutting off road access, which was making relief efforts difficult. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

Survivors searched through tonnes of earth and rubble by hand looking for missing relatives while a first emergency convoy delivered food, water and other provisions on Saturday.

However, Mr Aktoprak added: “Hopes to take the people out alive from the rubble have diminished now.”

In February, at least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

Mr Marape has said disaster officials, the defence force and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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A damaged house after the landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
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Locals carry their belongings away from the scene of the landslide. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of around 10 million, is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activity occurs.

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In March, the country was hit by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The US and Australia are building closer defence ties with the strategically important nation, while China is also seeking closer security and economic ties.

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said their governments stood ready to help respond to the landslide.

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

Eight people have been taken to hospital due to turbulence on a flight to Dublin.

Dublin Airport said six passengers and six crew members on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were hurt after experiencing turbulence over Turkey.

In a later statement, the airport said all passengers were assessed for injury before getting off the plane and eight were taken to hospital.

Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, told Sky News the aircraft was met by emergency services upon landing shortly before 1pm on Sunday.

The scene at Dublin Airport

Qatar Airways described the injuries sustained by passengers and crew as “minor”.

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention… The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation into what happened has now been launched.

Read more:
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Climate change causing more turbulence – scientists

Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a British man died on a Singapore Airlines flight after extreme turbulence on a Heathrow-Singapore journey.

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Singapore Airlines passenger Josh Silverstone describes ordeal

Turbulence is defined as a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

It can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them, Sky News weather producer Jo Robinson said.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

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This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Qatar Airways flight went through.

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

Four girls aged between nine and 17 were stabbed in an “unprovoked” attack at a cinema in Massachusetts, US police have said.

A 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found stabbed in a McDonald’s restaurant in an incident that may be connected, according to officers.

A man, whose identity has not been released, was taken into custody following a vehicle chase that ended in a crash in Sandwich, Cape Cod.

Police said a man came into the AMC Braintree 10 complex, south of Boston, at about 6pm local time on Saturday and entered one of the movie theatres without paying.

“Without saying anything and without any warning, he suddenly attacked the four young females,” the Braintree police department said in a statement.

“The attack appeared to be unprovoked. After the attack, the man ran out and left in a vehicle.”

The girls sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in Boston for treatment.

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The suspect’s vehicle – what appeared to be a black SUV – and number plate was seen on camera, police said.

A vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle was later seen in Plymouth, about 27 miles south of Braintree.

Police said it had left a McDonald’s restaurant, where a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were found stabbed and both were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Police found the vehicle another 20 miles south, in Sandwich, and attempted to pull it over, but it didn’t stop and later crashed.

The driver was taken into custody shortly afterward and was being treated at a hospital.

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