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June 2022

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TikTok has been quietly telling advertisers it is exploring a possible move out of China and may even consider a spinoff from its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, The Post has learned.

TikTok is signaling to ad buyers it could make the move out of Beijing as the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party are once again raising national security concerns among US officials, sources told The Post.

TikTok insiders point to the fact TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who was installed last May, is Singaporean by birth. After a brief stint in Beijing as CFO of ByteDance, Chew returned to Singapore to operate TikTok.

These insiders speculate that Chew’s return to Singapore may be setting the stage for the company to follow his lead and relocate to the island nation. As part of the move, TikTok could also look to formally spin out of ByteDance and become its own fledgling company, according to the speculation.

Discussions over security concerns were also a point of conversation last week at the annual Cannes Lions festival, where ad buyers descended on the French Riviera to meet with major tech companies including Meta and Google, sources told The Post.

TikTok
TikTok may consider a spinoff from its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, sources told The Post.
EPA

TikTok — which made its debut at the event — is expected to triple its ad revenue this year from $3.8 billion in 2021 to $11.6 billion in 2022, according to reports. People close to the company say it wants its growth to continue unabated and is looking to assure advertisers the company is on good terms with the US government and has the green light to continue operating.

It’s unclear when such a move might take place. It could not be determined if leadership is fully committed to the move and a potential spinoff, and some ad executives wondered whether TikTok executives have merely been circulating talking points to juice ad sales.

TikTok did not respond to requests for comment.

On Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr released a letter he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking companies to remove TikTok from the App Store over security concerns.

“At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data,” Carr said. “Indeed, TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints…and voiceprints.”

“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” Carr wrote in the letter posted to Twitter. He adds its fun videos are merely the Chinese government acting as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Carr’s criticism follows an explosive Buzzfeed report that revealed recorded conversation with TikTok U.S. executive saying China “had access to everything” and “everything is seen in China.” TikTok, a short video platform, exploded in popularity during the pandemic. The company has more than 1 billion users globally.

A spokesperson for TikTok dismissed the Buzzfeed report. “As we’ve publicly stated, we’ve brought in world class internal and external security experts to help us strengthen our data security efforts,” the spokesperson said. “This is standard industry practice given the complexity of data security challenges.”

But in the days following Carr’s public missive, a TikTok spokesperson has been telling some media outlets, it allows access to US user data by people in Beijing on an “as-needed basis” and under “strict controls.”

TikTok
“I’ve lost faith in TikTok’s representation of data storage,” Commissioner Brendan Carr told The Post.
REUTERS

Carr told The Post these latest comments are a “very concerning admission because ‘as needed’ when defined by a Beijing organization that is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party operates suggests access with no real check at all.”

“Even if the data is stored somewhere else, that doesn’t allay concerns,” Carr told The Post. “The CCP can compel access to data even if on paper headquarters are in Singapore.”

Another national security insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Post any talk about TikTok relocating without officially removing its link to ByteDance would be “a parlor trick” and in no way ensures American data is protected.

During the Trump Administration, TikTok was continually under scrutiny as the ex-president raised alarm bells the Chinese government could access user data. Trump tried to compel ByteDance to sell TikTok and then later tried to ban the app. Under the Biden Administration, both actions were reversed.

While Carr said he open to real solutions that could include a spinoff, he told The Post he’s skeptical about TikTok’s promises.

“I’ve lost faith in TikTok’s representation of data storage… the most generous view I have is trust but verify.”





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The Washington Post reportedly unveiled an updated social media policy for its journalists on Thursday – days after a newsroom dustup over a retweet culminated in the suspension of politics reporter Dave Weigel and the eventual firing of reporter Felicia Sonmez.

The Jeff Bezos-owned news outlet issued the fresh guidance in an internal memo to staffers – reminding reporters that personal social media posts and accounts “inevitably reflect upon The Post’s reputation and credibility,” the report said.

“Post journalists should not feel compelled to engage or broadcast on social media platforms, except for those whose roles explicitly require it,” the memo said. “Post journalists who choose to use these platforms will be expected to do so responsibly.”

“A Post journalist’s use of social media must not harm the editorial integrity or journalistic reputation of The Post,” the memo added.

The policy noted that Washington Post reporters should be mindful of “our collective responsibility to protect that integrity and reputation” and included a reminder to be more aware of the potential impact of their retweets and likes.

Sonmez, who covers politics for the Washington Post, defied management's edict to cease tweeting about colleagues.
Sonmez, who covers politics for the Washington Post, defied management’s edict to cease tweeting about colleagues.
Twitter / @feliciasonmez

The Washington Post did not immediately return a request for comment.

Chaos struck the Washington Post’s newsroom earlier this month after Weigel retweeted a post by a user who wrote “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

The retweet drew a furious response from Sonmez, who publicly slammed Weigel for sharing the tweet, which she considered sexist, as well as the newspaper’s leadership for their handling of the incident. Weigel apologized and was suspended without pay for a month.

Dave Weigel
Dave Weigel was suspended without pay for sharing a sexist joke.
Twitter / @daveweigel

Sonmez continued to publicly rip the Washington Post and engage in arguments with colleagues in a days-long Twitter tirade. The outburst eventually resulted in her firing.

Washington Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee had earlier indicated that the outlet planned to update its social media policy.

Another source of newsroom drama occurred Washington Post features editor Dave Malitz reportedly lost a promotion shortly after internet reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted that a miscommunication with her editor had resulted in a mistake in one of her articles.

“Last Thursday, an incorrect line was added to a story of mine before publishing due to a miscommunication with an editor,” Lorenz tweeted on June 4.

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee angered staffers when she rescinded a promotion offer to an editor days after he was criticized by star reporter Taylor Lorenz.
Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee angered staffers when she rescinded a promotion offer to an editor days after he was criticized by star reporter Taylor Lorenz.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

“I did not write the line and was not aware it was inserted. I asked for it to be removed right after the story went live.”

While the Washington Post denied that Lorenz’s tweets impacted any decision by management, some staffers reportedly confronted Buzbee about the decision to rescind Malitz’s promotion.

Taylor Lorenz
Taylor Lorenz is a Washington Post reporter covering the internet.
Getty Images

The Washington Post’s updated memo reportedly included a passage about addressing “personal grievances” on Twitter.

“It is not appropriate to use your social media account to air personal grievances with an individual or to mention a company in a way that could be construed as unwarranted criticism or seeking favor or special treatment,” the memo said.



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Xerox boss John Visentin has died at age 59 after experiencing complications from an undisclosed “ongoing illness,” the company announced on Wednesday.

Xerox officials said that Visentin, the company’s CEO and vice chairman, had “unexpectedly passed away.” Xerox COO Steve Bandrowczak will serve as interim CEO.

“We are all greatly saddened by this tragic news and are keeping his family at the forefront of our thoughts in this difficult time,” Bandrowczak said in a statement. “John’s vision was clear, and the Xerox team will continue fulfilling it — not only to deliver on our commitments to our shareholders, customers and partners — but also to pursue John’s legacy.”

Visentin became CEO of Xerox in May 2018. His appointment as chief executive and vice chairman stemmed from an agreement between Xerox’s board and activist investor Carl Icahn, who had opposed a plan to merge with Japan-based Fujifilm. Icahn remains Xerox’s largest shareholder.

Visentin led the company through a tumultuous period in which demand for printing services sagged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Xerox chairman James Nelson noted that Visentin had spearheaded a new focus on “digital and IT services, financial services and disruptive technologies” in recent years.

Xerox
John Visentin died after experiencing complications from an illness.
Corbis via Getty Images

Under Visentin’s leadership, Xerox embarked on a $35 billion hostile takeover bid for Hewlett-Packard, but the company abandoned its course as the pandemic weighed on its business. Icahn held large stakes in both companies and had pushed for the deal to move forward.

Prior to his stint at Xerox, Visentin worked as an adviser at Apollo Global Management and as an executive at HP and IBM, according to his LinkedIn page.

“The Xerox family is profoundly saddened by this untimely event and extends its heartfelt condolences to John’s wife, his five daughters and his family,” the company said in a statement.

Xerox shares fell more than 2% in early trading Thursday during a broader downturn on the stock market. The company’s shares have declined more than 35% so far this year.

The Post has reached out to Xerox for further comment on Visentin’s illness.



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Ben & Jerry’s ice cream blasted parent company Unilever for selling the Vermont-based firm’s operations in Israel to a local licensee — effectively circumventing a boycott of Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank.

“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on Wednesday.

The official Twitter account of the ice cream maker founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield posted a short tweet thread on Wednesday — hours after Unilever announced its agreement to sell Ben & Jerry’s to Avi Zinger of American Quality Products.

Zinger announced on Wednesday that he will resume sales of the Ben & Jerry’s brand in both Hebrew and Arabic throughout Israel proper as well as the West Bank territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Unilever effectively circumvented Ben & Jerry's decision to not sell its ice cream in the West Bank, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Unilever effectively circumvented Ben & Jerry’s decision to not sell its ice cream in the West Bank.
AFP via Getty Images

“We are aware of the Unilever announcement,” Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on Wednesday.

“While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it.”

Ben & Jerry’s continued: “Unilever’s arrangement means Ben & Jerry’s in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry’s in Israel.”

The Unilever announcement brings to an end the saga that began last year when Ben & Jerry’s said that it would no longer offer its products to consumers in Israeli settlements built on occupied land.

Unilever, the Dutch-British conglomerate whose properties include big-name brands such as Hellmann’s, Dove, Lipton, and Breyers, said at the time that it had no legal right to force Ben & Jerry’s to reverse course.

When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s more than 20 years ago in a deal valued at $326 million, the Vermont-based ice cream maker insisted that its board would have autonomy on matters related to social and political issues.

Avi Zinger, whose company owned the exclusive rights to sell Ben & Jerry's in Israel, bought the ice cream brand's local operations.
Avi Zinger, whose company owned the exclusive rights to sell Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, bought the ice cream brand’s local operations.
Eric Sultan

But Unilever maintained the power to sell parts of the business as it deemed fit.

The boycott by Ben & Jerry’s created a public relations headache for Unilever as pro-Israel politicians in the US announced economic retaliatory measures.

The states of New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Texas have divested a combined $1 billion in pension fund investments from Unilever, concluding Ben & Jerry’s action violated their anti-boycott laws.

The Israeli government hailed the decision by Unilever to sell the brand to Zinger as a “victory over anti-Semites” on Wednesday.





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The Biden administration says that Miami is the “epicenter” of the country’s housing crisis as the bustling South Florida metropolis has seen a surge in demand for available rental units that are few and far between.

“I decided I was going to Miami, to the epicenter of the housing crisis in this country,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge told the Miami Herald during a visit to the city on Tuesday.

The Biden administration is helping a private developer refurbish a public housing complex as part of a $390 million plan that will include subsidized housing for low-income residents as well as rent caps.

The federal government provides the majority of funding for public housing projects in Miami-Dade in the form of Section 8 rental vouchers for low-income tenants.

Miami is one of the most competitive rental markets in the country, according to RentCafe.

Miami-Dade County has some of the highest rent prices in the country.
Miami-Dade County has some of the highest rent prices in the country.
AFP via Getty Images

For every vacant rental unit in Miami-Dade County, there are 31 prospective renters who line up to sign lease agreements. That’s more than twice the national average of 14 prospective renters per vacant unit.

A national ranking of rents put Miami at fifth highest. A one-bedroom apartment in Miami would set back a tenant some $2,400 a month — a sharp, 25% increase from a year ago, according to Zumper’s.

New York City is the most expensive place in the country to rent a one-bedroom apartment. The monthly price tag — $3,600.

A surge in demand to live in the area coupled with a scarcity of vacant units has fueled soaring rent prices.
A surge in demand to live in the area coupled with a scarcity of vacant units has fueled soaring rent prices.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

A recent study showed that Miami-Dade isn’t the only place in Florida where rents have skyrocketed.

When joined with the other two counties that make up South Florida, Broward and Palm Beach counties, rents in the Miami metro area jumped by almost a third.

In the past year, rents in Fort Myers jumped more than 31%, they’re up 28% in Tampa and they rose more than 24% in Orlando, according to a report released earlier this year by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University.



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RadioShack isn’t dead yet.

The bankrupt electronics retailer is back and trending on Twitter for going after other companies and using profane language and drug references, according to CNN

In one exchange, user @ChrisWooleyAC asked: “Hey @RadioShack, what’s y’all’s return policy? I got a remote control car for Christmas back in 03 that stopped working. I need a refund.”

The former chain responded, noted Newsweek, with “Got a receipt? Head over to our Antartica [sic] location for a *potential* refund.”

It led many users to wonder who is behind the verified account and the reason for its reemergence. 

Turns out, after originally filing for bankruptcy in 2015 and again in 2017, the company is now a crypto platform and the tweets are simply to gain publicity. In 2014, the chain had 5,200 stores with 27,500 employees, according to CNN.

An example of one of the new RadioShack’s tweets.

The crypto is called Radio Shack Swap with a token they’re calling $RADIO and isn’t worth much according to the crypto market.

The website describes itself as a “100 year old brand embedded into the global consciousness” as it “leads the way for blockchain tech.”

However, with 2022 being half over, participants should be careful because the prices of bitcoin and other crypto currencies have been cut in half this year.

As for the person behind tweets such as “[W]ho else high [as f – – k] [right now],” it seems to be an intern based on a post from Wednesday night.

It read, “Shack intern here. I wanted to take a sec to reflect on my post. [I know you’re] expecting me to say, in my wildest dreams I never thought that tweet would go viral and to apologize. But i did because [I know] that s – – t was fire af. No we didn’t get hacked, and no i’m not fired. Buckle up b – – – h.”

Regardless, not everyone is picking up on what one commenter warned was a “cryptocurrency scam.” 

Some are still reveling in the jokes that are being shared like one commenter who said, “Whoever gave the person who’s in charge of Radio Shack’s Twitter account drugs … please, don’t stop.”





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Universal Music Group on Thursday announced an agreement to acquire rock guitarist and composer Frank Zappa’s catalog of music, recordings and film archive for an undisclosed fee.

Zappa joins other big-name artists such as Bob Dylan, Sting and Neil Diamond who have sold their catalogs to music labels, helping them generate more revenue from licensing, brand deals and royalties. 

The label said its music publishing arm Universal Music Publishing Group will receive Zappa’s publishing catalog including album “Joe’s Garage,” songs “Cosmik Debris” and “Uncle Remus,” among others.

Over the last decade, UMG’s global catalog company Universal Music Enterprises and The Zappa Trust reissued many of Zappa’s iconic albums on vinyl and made his catalog of music available for streaming and download.

UMG, which also represents and collects royalties for artists such as Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Korean pop group BTS, had said in May they expect the boom in the music streaming industry to continue. 



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North Dakota’s attorney general has found the sale of a couple thousand acres of prime farmland to a group tied to Bill Gates complies with a Depression-era law meant to protect family farms because the land is being leased back to farmers.

The state’s Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley had inquired into the land sale and on Wednesday issued a letter saying the transaction complied with the archaic anti-corporate farming law. The law prohibits corporations or limited liability companies from owning farmland or ranchland, but allows individual trusts to own the land if it is leased to farmers.

The purchase of the land had raised legal questions as well as concerns that ultrarich landowners do not share the state’s values.

Gates is considered the largest private owner of farmland in the country with some 269,000 acres (108,860 hectares) across dozens of states, according to last year’s edition of the Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation’s largest landowners. The Microsoft co-founder owns less than 1 percent of the nation’s total farmland.

Bill Gates North Dakota land
Gates’ company purchased the land for nearly $14 million.
Google Earth
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley issued a letter saying the transaction complied with the archaic anti-corporate farming law.
AP

Gates’ firm, Red River Trust, purchased $13.5 million worth of land in two counties from wealthy northeastern North Dakota potato growers Campbell Farms.

In a curious move, the Campbell family in February filed a partnership name certificate with the North Dakota secretary of state naming their farming operation the Red River Trust — the same name as Gates’ firm. But an attorney for Gates’ firm wrote to the attorney general’s office that the Campbells registered the name without his knowledge.

The Campbells did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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A new blond ale being sold in Singapore will allow beer-drinkers to literally “get pissed.”

The alcoholic beverage, called NEWBrew, uses recycled sewage water to create the drink. It first went on sale in stores in the Asian city-state in April.

The beverage is made from NEWater — specially treated sewage water first introduced in 2003.

The island nation lacks natural water sources and is thus heavily dependent on rainfall. Any prolonged dry spell puts Singapore at risk of severe water shortages.

It relies on desalination plants that turn seawater into drinkable water by removing salts and minerals through a process known as reverse osmosis.

Singapore also uses the NEWater process in which sewage water is subjected to a microfiltration that weeds out microscopic particles and bacteria.

The treated water is then put through a phase of reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection that is aimed at killing the remaining bacteria and viruses, ensuring purity.

Beer-drinkers in the Asian city-state who have sampled the ale said they like the taste.
Beer-drinkers in the Asian city-state who have sampled the ale said they like the taste.
NewBrew

Countries and cities such as Israel, Los Angeles and London that lack freshwater sources and have been plagued by water scarcity have either incorporated the technology or are considering doing so.

PUB, which is the government agency responsible for managing the country’s water supply, partnered with Brewerkz, a local craft brewery, and created NEWBrew.

The result is a beer that tastes like, well, beer, with no hint of its unsavory origins.

“NEWater perfectly suits brewing because it tastes neutral,” Mitch Gribov, Brewerkz’s head brewer, told Bloomberg.

“The mineral profile of water plays a key role in chemical reactions during brewing.”

Some locals who have sampled the beer said they couldn’t tell the difference.

“If you don’t tell people it’s made from wastewater, they probably won’t know,” said Grace Chen, 52.

Singapore, which lacks freshwater sources, relies on recycling sewage water and desalination plans to provide for its people's water needs.
Singapore lacks freshwater sources and relies on recycling sewage water and desalination plans to provide for its people’s hydration needs.
AFP via Getty Images

Others, however, prefer to steer clear of the drink knowing where it came from.

“There are many kinds of beers around,” 22-year-old Low Yu Chen said. “If I wanted a beer, I’d pick something made of normal water.”

The Singapore-based brewer said that the beer is flying off the supermarket shelves so fast that it could be sold out by the end of July.

It will assess consumer reaction before deciding whether to manufacture more ale.

NEWBrew isn’t the first beer that uses recycled sewage. Swedish brewer Nya Carnegie Brewery collaborated with beer giant Carlsberg and an environmental research institute to create a pilsner made with purified toilet water.

A Canadian brewer, Village Brewery, teamed up with US water technology firm Xylem and researchers from the University of Calgary to create their own ale.



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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s performance at briefings has reportedly frustrated beat reporters — and some Biden administration officials — in a “rocky first month” since replacing MSNBC’s Jen Psaki in the key messaging role.

Jean-Pierre’s responses to questions during the daily briefings have “baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince,” according to details included in Politico’s West Wing Playbook newsletter.

The press secretary has purportedly faced scrutiny for appearing unprepared for some queries or delivering “vague” responses that stick too closely to White House talking points while communicating with reporters — sparking speculation that some media members could start skipping the briefings entirely.

“At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” an unnamed White House reporter told the outlet.

“She is so focused on not making a mistake that she doesn’t let herself speak freely,” another reporter said. “A lot of her responses end up becoming … it appears that she’s reading from a page.”

Karine Jean-Pierre
White House officials have defended Karine Jean-Pierre’s performance.
REUTERS

The scathing report noted the frequent presence of National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who “at times appears to function as a co-press secretary.” Jean-Pierre reportedly declined to be interviewed about the grumblings.

The report cited specific instances in which Jean-Pierre appeared to be unprepared for a line of questioning, such as an episode when she was unaware that President Biden had attended an event with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland just before she tested positive for COVID-19.

Karine Jean-Pierre
Jean-Pierre took the role as the Biden administration faces the Russia-Ukraine war, decades-high inflation, surging gas prices and SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade.
EPA

Another source of apparent frustration occurred when Jean-Pierre declined to disclose the last time Biden had been tested for the virus, even though the White House has regularly provided that information in the past.

Meanwhile, an analysis of press briefing transcripts revealed that Jean-Pierre had acknowledged lacking the information needed to answer a reporter’s question over 20 times more than Psaki through their first 10 briefings in the role.

Karine Jean-Pierre and Jen Psaki
Karine Jean-Pierre succeeded Jen Psaki as White House press secretary last month.
AP

Some Biden officials leaped to Jean-Pierre’s defense — with some allies and black communications officials in the White House’s orbit purportedly alleging that the administration “has set her up to fail” through Kirby’s frequent presence at briefings.

Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates defended Jean-Pierre’s handling of the role thus far.

“She’s here precisely because of her respect for the indispensable role of the free press in our democracy,” Bates said in a statement.

Jen Psaki
Jen Psaki recently signed a deal with MSNBC.
ZUMAPRESS.com

“She is proud of her briefings — which often run longer than the modern average and have included multiple Saturday gaggles. She loves the back-and-forth with the White House press corps, and her door is always open for any feedback its members are interested in giving directly,” Bates added.

Another White House official told the outlet that reporters “would grumble regardless of who is at the podium and find ways of critiquing those individuals.”

The Post has reached out to the White House for further comment.

Jean-Pierre, 44, made history last month by becoming the first black and openly gay person to hold the key position.

Jen Psaki
Jen Psaki will make her MSNBC debut this fall.
AFP via Getty Images

She took the role as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure to respond to several ongoing sagas, including the Russia-Ukraine war, decades-high inflation, surging gas prices and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

As The Post previously reported, three top White House press officers have recently left their posts amid reports of mounting dysfunction.

Psaki has joined left-leaning news network MSNBC, where she will begin appearing this fall. The ex-press secretary is also set to host her own series on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.



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