Although the complaints were originally lodged with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh’s former court, the circuit executive of that court asked Roberts to transfer the matters to another circuit out of a “concern that local disposition may weaken public confidence in the process.”
The complaints relate to testimony that Kavanaugh gave last month during his confirmation hearings, according to a source familiar, and do not pertain to his conduct as a sitting judge.
FBI Director: Kavanaugh background probe 'limited in scope'

In a letter addressed to Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich, the chief circuit judge of the Denver-based 10th Circuit, Roberts said he had selected the court to review the identified complaints and “any pending or new complaints related to the same subject matter.” Tymkovich can handle the complaints himself, dismiss them or appoint a special committee to examine them.
According to the Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings, any person may file a misconduct complaint against a federal judge in the circuit in which the judge sits.
In his letter, Roberts referred to more than a dozen complaints that had been filed between September 20 and October 5.
Kavanaugh settles in, hires 4 female clerks, joins court for first day of arguments

Kavanaugh settles in, hires 4 female clerks, joins court for first day of arguments

Last weekend DC Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson mentioned the complaints in a news release. She said they “do not pertain to any conduct in which Judge Kavanaugh engaged as a Judge.”
“The complaints seek investigations only of the public statements he has made as nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States,” she wrote in the release. According to a source familiar, Henderson dismissed some allegations because she found they lacked sufficient evidence but chose to forward others along.
Tymkovich is a George W. Bush appointee who is on Trump’s Supreme Court short list.
The letter, which triggers an “investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination” was penned by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman Sen. Bob Corker and ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez, along with the leaders of the appropriations subcommittee for the State Department, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Turkish officials say a Saudi murder squad is behind journalist's death

“The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requires the President, upon receipt of a request from the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression, and report to the Committee within 120 days with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions on that foreign person or persons,” the letter states.
“We request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi,” it adds.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Tom Udall (D-N.M).
Prior to the letter’s release, senators were given access to a two-page classified report on Khashoggi, according to a Senate aide. Senators can read the classified material, which was updated today, in the Senate’s secure facility, according to the aide.
Members of the Gang of Eight are being briefed in more detail: House Intelligence ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff said he had been briefed on the matter, and Senate Intelligence ranking Democrat Mark Warner said he expected a briefing today.
One-fifth of the Senate — all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee besides Sen. Rand Paul — signed the letter triggering an investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Missing journalist's fiancée 'in a state of deep confusion and sadness'

Missing journalist's fiancée 'in a state of deep confusion and sadness'

“The entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sans Rand Paul, and the relevant appropriators all agreed to sign this request. The administration would be foolish not to follow the law here by rejecting their request,” one Senate aide told CNN.
Asked if the letter puts pressure on the Trump administration, Corker responded, “Oh it does, of course.”
“It’s not intended though as a shot at them, it’s intended to put in place … it’s the forcing mechanism to ensure that we use all the resources available to get the bottom of this and if in fact at the very highest levels of Saudi Arabia they have been involved in doing this, that appropriate steps will be taken to sanction them,” Corker added.
A little over a week ago, Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, walked into the consulate general in Istanbul, intending to get paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. She hasn’t seen him since.
Since then, officials and journalists have scrambled to piece together the story of what happened to him.
Turkish authorities have privately said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, a startling allegation that is firmly denied by the Saudis. Closed-circuit television footage, flight trackers, intercepted communications and even rumors of a bone saw have served as pieces of a puzzle that has spurred a diplomatic outcry.
In the latest developments on Wednesday, Turkish security officials concluded that the “highest levels of the royal court” in Saudi Arabia ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, according to a senior official cited by The New York Times.
The kingdom’s staunchest Western allies — including the United States, where Khashoggi had applied for permanent residency — have urged Saudi Arabia to come clean.
Trump said Wednesday that he’s been in touch with the “highest levels” of the Saudi government about Khashoggi’s case and expressed concerns about his possible murder. He said his administration was pressing the Saudi government to reveal more about the incident.
“We’re demanding everything. We want to see what’s going on here. It’s a bad situation,” Trump said in the Oval Office.
But he stopped short of saying whether he believed the Saudis have knowledge about his whereabouts, or may have played a role in his disappearance, stating that not enough was known to make a determination.
Following the letter’s release, Corker specifically noted that the sanctions could affect the highest levels of the Saudi regime.
“It’s a very strong signal I think from the foreign relations committee. Again it’s an act that we can take without passing legislation. It is a forcing mechanism. I don’t look at this in any way to try to cross the bows of the administration. I don’t. I do look at it certainly has a shot across the bow at Saudi Arabia and these are very serious steps,” he said.
Corker also said that the administration was not given a heads up about the letter prior to its release to reporters, adding that he was unsure about how Trump might respond given his close relationship with the Saudi crown prince.
“This is a step that we are taking that we can take unilaterally that is a forcing mechanism and it does mean that in a serious way an investigation has to take place. And if in fact at the highest levels they have been involved in the murder of a journalist who just happened to write against some of the things they are doing in their country, they will be under tremendous pressure to follow this wherever it goes,” he said.
The letter, which triggers an “investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination” was penned by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman Sen. Bob Corker and ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez, along with the leaders of the appropriations subcommittee for the State Department, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Turkish officials say a Saudi murder squad is behind journalist's death

“The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requires the President, upon receipt of a request from the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression, and report to the Committee within 120 days with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions on that foreign person or persons,” the letter states.
“We request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi,” it adds.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Tom Udall (D-N.M).
Prior to the letter’s release, senators were given access to a two-page classified report on Khashoggi, according to a Senate aide. Senators can read the classified material, which was updated today, in the Senate’s secure facility, according to the aide.
Members of the Gang of Eight are being briefed in more detail: House Intelligence ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff said he had been briefed on the matter, and Senate Intelligence ranking Democrat Mark Warner said he expected a briefing today.
One-fifth of the Senate — all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee besides Sen. Rand Paul — signed the letter triggering an investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Missing journalist's fiancée 'in a state of deep confusion and sadness'

Missing journalist's fiancée 'in a state of deep confusion and sadness'

“The entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sans Rand Paul, and the relevant appropriators all agreed to sign this request. The administration would be foolish not to follow the law here by rejecting their request,” one Senate aide told CNN.
Asked if the letter puts pressure on the Trump administration, Corker responded, “Oh it does, of course.”
“It’s not intended though as a shot at them, it’s intended to put in place … it’s the forcing mechanism to ensure that we use all the resources available to get the bottom of this and if in fact at the very highest levels of Saudi Arabia they have been involved in doing this, that appropriate steps will be taken to sanction them,” Corker added.
A little over a week ago, Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, walked into the consulate general in Istanbul, intending to get paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. She hasn’t seen him since.
Since then, officials and journalists have scrambled to piece together the story of what happened to him.
Turkish authorities have privately said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, a startling allegation that is firmly denied by the Saudis. Closed-circuit television footage, flight trackers, intercepted communications and even rumors of a bone saw have served as pieces of a puzzle that has spurred a diplomatic outcry.
In the latest developments on Wednesday, Turkish security officials concluded that the “highest levels of the royal court” in Saudi Arabia ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, according to a senior official cited by The New York Times.
The kingdom’s staunchest Western allies — including the United States, where Khashoggi had applied for permanent residency — have urged Saudi Arabia to come clean.
Trump said Wednesday that he’s been in touch with the “highest levels” of the Saudi government about Khashoggi’s case and expressed concerns about his possible murder. He said his administration was pressing the Saudi government to reveal more about the incident.
“We’re demanding everything. We want to see what’s going on here. It’s a bad situation,” Trump said in the Oval Office.
But he stopped short of saying whether he believed the Saudis have knowledge about his whereabouts, or may have played a role in his disappearance, stating that not enough was known to make a determination.
Following the letter’s release, Corker specifically noted that the sanctions could affect the highest levels of the Saudi regime.
“It’s a very strong signal I think from the foreign relations committee. Again it’s an act that we can take without passing legislation. It is a forcing mechanism. I don’t look at this in any way to try to cross the bows of the administration. I don’t. I do look at it certainly has a shot across the bow at Saudi Arabia and these are very serious steps,” he said.
Corker also said that the administration was not given a heads up about the letter prior to its release to reporters, adding that he was unsure about how Trump might respond given his close relationship with the Saudi crown prince.
“This is a step that we are taking that we can take unilaterally that is a forcing mechanism and it does mean that in a serious way an investigation has to take place. And if in fact at the highest levels they have been involved in the murder of a journalist who just happened to write against some of the things they are doing in their country, they will be under tremendous pressure to follow this wherever it goes,” he said.

President Donald Trump opened his rally in Pennsylvania tonight by sending the “thoughts and prayers” of the entire nation to those impacted by Hurricane Michael.

“I want to send our thoughts and prayers of our entire nation to everyone in the path of Hurricane Michael especially in the Florida panhandle where it’s hitting and hitting hard,” he said.

“We send our unwavering love and support,” Trump said to the audience in Erie. 

“As it leaves we’re going to follow right behind,” Trump said of the planned response to the storm, saying food, water and electrical workers are all ready to go once the storm ends. 

Trump earlier today defended his decision to hold a “Make America Great Again” rally and fundraiser, saying he couldn’t “disappoint” the “thousands” who waited in line to see him. The arena was filled to capacity.

Trump added that he and his administration have been working in “close coordination” with governors and local officials to “provide the full response and steadfast support of our federal government.” 

Finally, Trump concluded his remarks on the hurricane speaking to those in the storms path saying, “God speed. God speed. God bless you all.” 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said about 50,000 of the capital’s 120,000 utility customers — including the emergency operations center — have no power.

The operations center, though, is now running on emergency generators, he told CNN Wednesday afternoon.

Utility crews will not be able to get out to repair and restore power to customers until the winds subside, Gillum said.

The strongest winds were expected until about 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, according to the mayor.

“What we want our folks to do is to remain in place, remain in shelter … until this storm makes its way through and its impact can be assessed and then we can make sure we clear roads and streets for emergency vehicles,” he said.

The storm “sort of a crept up” on the state, he said.

“Sunday I was at a different part the state on a different mission and, all of a sudden, we saw these projections coming in that it looked like it was going into the Gulf and potentially up our way,” he said. “We were not all the way certain and communities had to act really quickly.”

Yanjun Xu faces four charges of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the indictment. DOJ officials said the indictment marks the first time a Chinese Ministry of State Security operative has been arrested and brought to the United States to face charges. He’s charged with working to get aviation employees to inadvertently reveal trade secrets to the Chinese government.
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, in a statement.
Xu was one of several Ministry of State Security officials who, starting in 2013, allegedly identified aviation industry experts at at least three companies, including Cincinnati-based GE Aviation, and invited them to China under the guise of speaking at universities for an idea exchange, according to the Justice Departmen complaint.
However, these presentations were purely for the benefit of the Chinese government, and often included highly technical discussions about a company’s signature material design and manufacturing technology. According to the indictment, the Ministry of State Security officers worked to “protect and conceal the true nature of the information they were seeking” and paid for the experts’ travel, lodging and stipends.
“Effectively Xu and his (Chinese Ministry of State Security) colleagues sought to groom experts to hand over trade secrets,” Ben Glassman, the US attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, told reporters at a news conference.
“China has made clear that it has a program where it is seeking to acquire leading technological information in this industry and several others,” he later added.
Glassman stressed that while it was apparent that Chinese officials were using insider recruitment as well as online hacking to further their interests, perpetrators could be brought to justice when private companies and the federal government worked together. GE Aviation cooperated with the FBI throughout the investigation, Glassman said.
“Companies should see that Chinese officials are seeking to acquire their intellectual property, not only through hacking, but also through the recruitment of insiders,” Glassman said. “Companies should also see that working together with federal law enforcement authorities, as in this case, those attempted thefts can be thwarted and foreign actors can be brought to trial for their actions.”
Xu made his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Cincinnati, Glassman said. Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and was extradited to the United States on Tuesday after losing his appeal. He faces up to 25 years’ imprisonment.
“I think the Fed is making a mistake. They’re so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy,” Trump told reporters on the tarmac in Pennsylvania.
“It’s a correction that we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” he said of the more than 800-point drop.
“I really disagree with what the Fed is doing,” Trump said.
The Federal Reserve has steadily tightened monetary policy amid an economic boom in the United States, something Trump has repeatedly criticized.
Dow falls 832 points in third-worst day by points ever

The President said this week he prefers lower interest rates but added he would not speak directly to his Fed chairman appointee Jerome Powell, preferring instead to remain hands-off.
The Fed traditionally remains outside the purview of the President, though Trump has at moments blurred the lines by commenting on Fed policy.
Trump, who departed for Erie just before markets closed on Wednesday, was briefed by officials about the sell-off.
“The fundamentals and future of the US economy remain incredibly strong,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement after the close.
The Dow plunged nearly 832 points on Wednesday, the third-worst point decline in history.
All 30 Dow stocks were in the red, sending the index below 26,000 points for the first time in a month. The index fell by more than 3%.
The S&P 500 posted its fifth straight decline, plummeting nearly 3.3%. And tech stocks got hit particularly hard. The Nasdaq dropped more than 4% in the worst percentage decline since June 2016.
Stocks are in the midst of a scary October slump, sliding sharply because investors are worried about rising interest rates.
This is Life with Lisa Ling” tackles screen addiction Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
This is by design.
From app developers to tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook, companies have spent years working to make consumer technology as addictive as possible. After all, time spent with their products could equal big bucks for the company.
However, that’s starting to change, and we could be at the precipice of a shift in how software is designed. Apple and Google are implementing new features aimed at curbing phone usage, and apps like Instagram are rolling out features intended to help you manage your time with the app better.
So, why are they doing this, and is it enough?
Tristan Harris previously worked at Google as a design ethicist, and he saw first-hand how developers worked to capture people’s attention and hook them in. He was part of the infamous “Facebook Class” from Stanford. Led by instructor BJ Fogg, who oversaw the Persuasive Technology Lab, they studied how to “persuade users to take certain actions” and developed the techniques to make apps and gadgets addictive. Members of the class, which counts Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger among its ranks, went on to design products at companies such as Google, Facebook and Uber.
“At the end of the day, it was about capturing attention,” Harris said on the TED Radio Hour from NPR about his time working at Google. “You know, how would we hook people into spending more time on the screen or driving more page views or getting people to click on ads?”
After leaving Google in 2016, Harris went on to found a nonprofit that is now called the Center for Humane Technology, and he started the “Time Well Spent” movement.
“With Time Well Spent, we want technology that cares about helping us spend our time, and our lives, well — not seducing us into the most screen time, always-on interruptions or distractions,” Harris says.
The movement made waves in Silicon Valley and set in motion a sea change in the tech industry.

How are tech companies addressing the issue?

Apple was likely spurred to action after two major investors, Jana Partners and the CalSTRS (California State Teachers’ Retirement System), urged the company to help fight phone addiction in children in an open letter to the board of directors at Apple earlier this year.
Apple responded with the introduction of tools in its new iOS 12 operating system aimed at informing and empowering users to better manage their smartphone usage and parental controls that allow parents to better monitor and control their children’s phone time.
Apple's Screen Time dashboard in iOS 12

Screen Time is an activity dashboard that gives users a detailed breakdown of how much time they spend with each app, how often they pick up their phone and how many notifications they’ve received from each app. You’re able to set daily limits, which lock the app after you reach your limit. Granted, the lock is easy to bypass; it’s more of a reminder that you have reached your limit as opposed to a true barrier to use.
Parents, however, are able to set hard limits on the phones of their children, completely locking them out of apps or categories once they reach their allotted time.
“Consumers — and parents in particular — are up against teams of engineers and psychologists designing technology that’s meant to keep us constantly engaged,” said Christine Elgersma, senior editor of parent education at Common Sense Media. “Even with tools that tell us we’re checking Twitter 100 times a day, we may still feel the same compulsion to check because of the way devices and apps are made.”
Google has included similar tools in the upcoming version of Android Pie that it’s dubbed “Digital Wellbeing,” which is currently in beta testing. The tools offered by Apple and Google are almost mirror images of one another, but Google goes a bit deeper than Apple. For instance, the app icon is grayed out once users hit their limit, and to get around the app limit, users have to open the dashboard to manually remove it as opposed to simply clicking the ignore pop-up with iOS 12.
Google also offers a “Wind Down” feature to set at bedtime, which automatically puts the phone into Do Not Disturb mode and puts the entire screen in grayscale mode. No notifications will show up on your phone, and losing all color on-screen is certainly an incentive to put your phone away.
Google's Digital Wellbeing dashboard in Android Pie

Google's Digital Wellbeing dashboard in Android Pie

“These are band aids,” Adam Alter, author of “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” tells CNN. “Instead of actually producing tech that’s good for us — that helps us live better lives — these tools basically suggest that the tech itself can’t be improved, so we’re stuck with trying to discourage or curb usage.”
Alter believes that the way technology is designed needs to be changed so that the addictive features are more consumer friendly and truly good for your well-being. However, he does not believe that change will happen anytime soon, even if these “companies have a moral obligation to minimize the harm they do.”

Will new tools impact the bottom line?

Google makes most of its money through ads, and limiting screen time can potentially have an adverse impact on its profits. Still, the company is investing in Digital Wellbeing. Even if Google’s products never get to the point of being friendlier to consumers, as Alter has suggested, Google has made a conscious decision to put profits at risk.
“We take our responsibility to our users and society very seriously and strive to build products that make people’s lives easier, not detract from them,” a spokesperson for Google tells CNN. “We have been working hard to add key capabilities right into our products, and our goal is to help users achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for, with a focus around awareness of their current behavior, and controls to help them interact with their devices.”
“At this point we know devices are here to stay, and we see that there are effects around how we use it,” Elgersma says. “Instead of psychologists working to keep us hooked, what if we had child development experts involved in the development of tech kids are using, especially since those creating tech often aren’t yet parents?
“What if we funded research and education around these issues so that the generations who are growing up online with devices were better equipped to use them responsibly and knew the proven, long-term effects of overuse? So, we all have an obligation for kids, but the responsibility should be shared more equally, starting with those who create the tech in the first place.”

When is screen time a problem?

There are still no clear guidelines on what constitutes tech addiction, but it’s a growing concern likely on the minds of parents everywhere as they see their kids’ faces constantly glued inches away from a screen. And everywhere you go, you’re all but guaranteed to see people buried in their phones.
“The term ‘tech addiction’ is itself empty,” Alter says. “Tech itself is only the vehicle for hundreds of different experiences, some of which undoubtedly become addictive for some people. They vary considerably, so I prefer not to use a single label to describe them, though most are delivered on screens.”
Apple and Google may be the two biggest culprits, as their products are the vehicles to deliver these experiences. However, Facebook deserves a fair amount of blame, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged in a blog post earlier this year, directly referencing the Time Well Spent movement. The social network announced plans to roll out changes aimed at making interactions more meaningful.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” Zuckerberg said. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
Facebook and Instagram have begun to roll out features to better engage with their platforms, and users will soon have access to an activity dashboard, a daily reminder limit and more controls over notifications.
“What matters most in the long run is that people connect and share in meaningful ways on our platforms,” Ameet Ranadive, Product Management Director at Instagram, tells CNN. “It’s very important that people feel like the time they spend with Facebook and Instagram is time well spent.”
In cities like Lagos, Nairobi and Addis Ababa, busy streets are awash with the bright blue shopfronts of Transsion’s flagship brand, Tecno. In China, the company doesn’t have a single store, and its towering headquarters in the southern megacity of Shenzhen goes largely unnoticed among skyscrapers bearing the names of more famous Chinese tech firms.
A Tecno sign in Addis Ababa. The brand is a common sight in African cities.

The company took a different path to success from other top Chinese smartphone makers such as Huawei and Xiaomi, which started out in China before eventually expanding overseas.
Transsion built its business in Africa. And it has no plans to come home.

The perfect selfie

In Edna Mall on the bustling Bole Road in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Mesert Baru poses for her Tecno Camon i. “This phone is seriously nice for selfies,” says the 35-year-old shop assistant, admiring the picture she just took.
Mesert’s satisfaction is no accident. Tecno cameras have been optimized for African complexions, explains Arif Chowdhury, vice president of Transsion. “Our cameras adjust more light for darker skin, so the photograph is more beautiful,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve become successful.”
A Tecno user in Ethiopia using her smartphone.

A Tecno user in Ethiopia using her smartphone.

Transsion founder George Zhu had spent nearly a decade traveling Africa as head of sales for another mobile phone company when he realized that selling Africans handsets made for developed markets was the wrong approach.
His timing could hardly have been better. By the mid-2000s, the Chinese government, under its “Going Out” strategy, was encouraging entrepreneurs to look abroad and forge stronger ties with African nations in particular. Cell phones were spreading rapidly in China, but in Africa — which has a roughly similar population — they were still a very rare luxury.
Africa, in other words, could be the new China.

Giving consumers what they want

In 2006, Zhu launched Tecno in Nigeria, targeting Africa’s most populous nation first. From the start, the company’s motto was “think global, act local,” which meant making phones that met Africans’ specific needs.
“When we started doing business in Africa, we noticed people had multiple SIM cards in their wallet,” Chowdhury says. They would awkwardly swap the cards throughout the day to avoid the steep charges operators would levy for calling different networks, says Nabila Popal, who tracks the use of devices in Africa for research firm IDC. “They can’t afford two phones,” says Chowdhury, “so we brought a solution to them.” Zhu made all Tecno handsets dual SIM.
A Tecno store on Bole Road in Addis Ababa.

A Tecno store on Bole Road in Addis Ababa.

More innovations followed. Transsion opened research and development centers in China, Nigeria and Kenya to work out how to better appeal to African users. Local languages such as Amharic, Hausa and Swahili were added to keyboards and phones were given a longer battery life.
Extra juice was important. In Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, for example, the government frequently shuts off electricity to conserve power, leaving people unable to charge their phones for hours. In less developed markets, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chowdhury says, consumers might have to walk 30 kilometers to charge their phone at the local market — and have to pay to do so. “For those kind of consumers, longer battery life is a blessing,” he adds.
Sewedo Nupowaku, the Lagos-based CEO of entertainment company Revolution Media, says he switched from a Samsung S3 to a Tecno L8 for this reason. “I can spend 24 hours constantly talking, browsing on this phone, no problem. With a Samsung, no way.”
But perhaps Transsion’s smartest move was its pricing. It has three main brands: Tecno, Infinix and Itel. Most of their feature and smartphones sell for between $15 and $200.
Mesert says she bought her Tecno smartphone for 2,000 birr ($72). At a shop near her workplace, an iPhone 7 costs the equivalent of $906, and a Samsung Galaxy J7 around $360. Average monthly wages in Ethiopia range from 1,500 birr ($54) to 3,000 ($108) birr, and most vendors across Africa don’t allow customers to pay in installments.
“About 95% of Transsion smartphones cost under $200,” says Mo Jia, an analyst at technology research firm Canalys. “They are the king of the budget smartphone.”

Tecno: ‘We are African’

Less than a decade ago, Chinese phones were barely on the radar in Africa. In 2010, Nokia and Samsung (SSNLF) dominated sales across the continent. By the first half of this year, Nokia’s share of the market had collapsed and Samsung was selling only one in 10 phones. Transsion had come from nowhere to take more than 50% of the market, according to Canalys. For smartphones alone, it accounts for nearly a third of all sales in Africa, according to IDC.
Apple (AAPL) has been complacent about African markets, Jia says, because it deemed the slim profit margins on low-cost phones not worth fighting for. Transsion, on the other hand, is happy to work with tight margins, he adds. Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Transsion’s rise reflects the wider role Chinese firms now play in providing the technology people across Africa use to communicate, including the high-speed internet networks on which smartphones rely. Despite security concerns in countries such as the United States and Australia about Huawei and ZTE, Jia expects demand for Chinese products to remain strong in Africa, where governments and consumers are so price sensitive.
Transsion's assembly factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Transsion's assembly factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In its marketing, Transsion plays down its Chinese roots. “In Africa, we say that we are African,” Chowdhury says, explaining why Tecno’s stores carry no Chinese characters or signs of being a Chinese brand. In the 2017-2018 Brand Africa 100 report, published by African Business magazine, Tecno ranked as the 7th most admired brand in Africa. That was up from 14th the previous year, but it still lagged Samsung (2nd) and Apple (5th). The iPhone is still considered a luxury product that many Africans aspire to own.
In Ethiopia, Transsion went a step further to assimilate. Since 2011, every phone it sells in Africa’s second most populous nation has been assembled at its facilities in the suburbs of Addis Ababa. About 700 workers piece together Shenzhen-manufactured screens, circuit boards and batteries to churn out 2,000 smartphones and 4,000 feature phones a day.
Transsion says it has a total of 10,000 local employees in Africa, and 6,000 in China. Its low-cost African workforce helps it keep down prices, according to Jia. It also adds appeal for some consumers. “I like that my phone is made in Ethiopia,” Mesert says.

A homegrown rival to Spotify

Nigeria, with its population of 186 million, is Transsion’s biggest market. It has connected with consumers there through one of their biggest passions: music.
Oye Akideinde, an amateur rapper turned software developer, was recruited by Tecno in 2015 to launch a music app called Boomplay, a homegrown rival to iTunes or Spotify. Most Nigerian internet users grew up illegally downloading music or streaming it for free on YouTube, according to Akideinde, a 40-year-old Lagos resident.
Tecno’s vision was to attract music lovers by uniting African and international artists on a single platform offering affordable downloads and streaming with advertising. It preloaded the app onto every Tecno smartphone and made it the default music player. The app now has 32 million users.
Transsion is the parent company behind the popular brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel.

Transsion is the parent company behind the popular brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel.

Tecno spun off Boomplay and its apps division into a new company, TranssNet, last year. Backed by NetEase, a $30 billion Chinese internet company, TranssNet plans to introduce a suite of financial apps on smartphones made by Transsion.
Chinese companies have been eager to use technology to tap into Africans’ spending habits. In 2015, Kenyan mobile payments operator M-Pesa migrated all of its 12.8 million subscribers to Huawei’s Mobile Money platform as it expanded across East Africa and beyond. The move increased the number of transactions M-Pesa could process, and the app’s user base has more than doubled since then.

Expanding in India and beyond

For Transsion, future growth is set to come from building its business outside Africa in other developing markets, such as Russia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. In 2017, it launched Tecno in India and within a year had claimed 5% of the huge market, according to IDC.
How did Tecno make such rapid progress? Transsion’s Chowdhury says another innovation tailored to local customs has helped.
“Indian people use their hands to eat food,” he says, “so their fingers get oily. What if you’re having lunch and your boss calls? You try to take the call but your fingerprint won’t work.”
The fix: screens that can read greasy fingers.
Yanjun Xu faces four charges of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the indictment. DOJ officials said the indictment marks the first time a Chinese Ministry of State Security operative has been arrested and brought to the United States to face charges. He’s charged with working to get aviation employees to inadvertently reveal trade secrets to the Chinese government.
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, in a statement.
Xu was one of several Ministry of State Security officials who, starting in 2013, allegedly identified aviation industry experts at at least three companies, including Cincinnati-based GE Aviation, and invited them to China under the guise of speaking at universities for an idea exchange, according to the Justice Departmen complaint.
However, these presentations were purely for the benefit of the Chinese government, and often included highly technical discussions about a company’s signature material design and manufacturing technology. According to the indictment, the Ministry of State Security officers worked to “protect and conceal the true nature of the information they were seeking” and paid for the experts’ travel, lodging and stipends.
“Effectively Xu and his (Chinese Ministry of State Security) colleagues sought to groom experts to hand over trade secrets,” Ben Glassman, the US attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, told reporters at a news conference.
“China has made clear that it has a program where it is seeking to acquire leading technological information in this industry and several others,” he later added.
Glassman stressed that while it was apparent that Chinese officials were using insider recruitment as well as online hacking to further their interests, perpetrators could be brought to justice when private companies and the federal government worked together. GE Aviation cooperated with the FBI throughout the investigation, Glassman said.
“Companies should see that Chinese officials are seeking to acquire their intellectual property, not only through hacking, but also through the recruitment of insiders,” Glassman said. “Companies should also see that working together with federal law enforcement authorities, as in this case, those attempted thefts can be thwarted and foreign actors can be brought to trial for their actions.”
Xu made his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Cincinnati, Glassman said. Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and was extradited to the United States on Tuesday after losing his appeal. He faces up to 25 years’ imprisonment.