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This startup wants to help you prepare for America’s next disaster

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There are few experiences more harrowing than an earthquake. Ask Dan Kessler. He obsesses about them.

Kessler is the chief executive of Harbor, a startup that aims to help Americans prepare—at least semi-calmly—for the next disaster, from how to pack a “go bag,” to how much water you should stockpile.

To be sure, there will be another disaster. That might not be good for your nerves, but makes for ideal timing for a disaster prep app. America is grappling with a pandemic, a financial crisis, a potentially contested presidential election, another historic hurricane season, and superpowered wildfires on the West Coast.

Harbor tackles two out of these—natural disasters and COVID-19—plus the usual ailments of modern life: car crashes and house fires. (Next on Kessler’s wish … Read the rest

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Big Oil Loses Refining Crutch With Margins Crushed Last Quarter

(Bloomberg) — Six months on from crude’s era-defining price crash and Big Oil is suffering from whiplash.Prices may have stabilized around $40 a barrel as OPEC+ curbed supply, but as the coronavirus surges through Europe once again, the twin safety nets for majors in previous downturns — refining and trading — have come under severe pressure as consumers stay home.“Refining margins are absolutely terrible,” Patrick Pouyanne, Total SE’s Chief Executive Officer, said earlier this month. The French major, along with a raft of other oil companies and refiners, have warned investors that slumping margins will be a drag on profits. For some like Exxon Mobil Corp., it might even push them into the red.The third quarter will provide little respite to the supermajors with three out of the five expected to post losses. Trading, which brought the European firms a torrent of cash last quarter, is unlikely to save the … Read the rest

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How to hold the corporate world accountable

On Tuesday, the Justice Department and 11 U.S. states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, alleging, “For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies…the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.” 

Yet, despite widespread, bipartisan censure, Google has been celebrated as a leader in “stakeholder capitalism”; its parent company, Alphabet, ranks fifth out of over 900 companies in JUST Capital’s recently released list of businesses that excel in addressing the needs of workers, consumers, communities, and the environment. Why the reputational disconnect?

The answer is the key challenge of the stakeholder capitalism movement: All too often, corporate goodness cannot be adequately measured and assessed. 

But fortunately, that is starting to change.

There is increasing recognition that we need to depart from the past 50 years of “shareholder capitalism,” but less consensus on what that actually means. Influential actors such as the … Read the rest

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Bitcoin Resurgence Leaves Institutional Acceptance Unanswered

(Bloomberg) — The Bitcoin hype machine is back in overdrive.The digital token spiked above $13,000 this week for the first time in over a year, touching off Twitter dance parties, new sky-high predictions and even some tattoo flashing. Back are proclamations that crypto is the currency of the future, that the dollar’s days are numbered and blockchain will reorder the financial universe.A mid-week announcement that PayPal Holdings Inc. will allow transactions in crypto set off the craze, adding about $19 billion to Bitcoin’s value over the following two days. It was the latest in a series of mainstream acknowledgments that digital tokens exist and clients want to trade in them. Wall Street stalwarts like Fidelity Investments have crypto investment products and two public companies — Square Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. — recently said they bought Bitcoin.But for all the hype, there’s little evidence that Bitcoin and its digital brethren are … Read the rest

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Last night’s debate didn’t change a thing: Biden is still a 2-1 favorite to win, betting market says

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Last night’s debate in Nashville didn’t change the odds of Joe Biden beating Donald Trump to win the presidency on November 3rd.

That’s the verdict from one of the most closely watched political betting markets. Smarkets, a U.K.-based gambling company that allows wagers on political contests as well as sporting events, says Biden’s chances of winning remain unchanged at 67%, while Trump has a 33% chance of retaining the presidency.

The Electoral College forecast also wasn’t shifted by the final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, with state-by-state wagers implying a 317-221 Electoral College victory for Biden, according to Smarkets.

There was a slight move in Biden’s favor in some key battleground states, according to Smarkets’ betting. The Democrat’s odds of winning Florida ticked up slightly … Read the rest

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Mattel Soars After Toy Demand Helps Earnings Smash Estimates

(Bloomberg) — Mattel Inc. rose as much as 11% in early trading Friday after third-quarter results shattered expectations, lifted by consumers snapping up Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels toys during the pandemic.Revenue rose 10% to $1.63 billion in the period, Mattel said on Thursday, topping analysts’ predictions of $1.46 billion. Adjusted profit was 95 cents a share, beating estimates of 39 cents, as the company continued to work on cutting costs.Mattel has addressed inventory problems posed by the coronavirus and expects a stronger-than-normal holiday buying season, Chief Executive Officer Ynon Kreiz said in an interview. The company said that inventories at retail outlets were lower than at the same time last year, and they’re working together to avoid product shortages.The lack of new movie franchises tied to competing toy brands may provide a boost to Mattel, which relies on well-known products such as Barbie, Uno and Pictionary. The company’s doll … Read the rest

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Is it time for a regulatory revamp in Congress?

Two government officials yesterday admitted what many Big Tech critics have argued for years: Lawmakers and regulators have done a bad job of managing monopolies.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust committee David Cicilline and Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra spoke at a virtual event hosted by the American Economic Liberties Project, a lobbying group focused on battling monopoly power. They suggested that the U.S. needs new laws to prevent companies from engaging in anticompetitive behavior as well as improved regulatory enforcement to crack down on companies that break the rules. 

“We need to end the era of weak enforcement,” Chopra said on the Zoom call. 

Both Congress and regulators have become increasingly concerned with Big Tech’s growing power and their history of squashing and scooping up rivals. And the battle against Big Tech has bipartisan interest, though in some cases for different reasons.

Already, the antitrust committee had … Read the rest

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Heavy Oil Scarcity to Boost Canadian Oil-Sands Prices Next Year

(Bloomberg) — Canadian oil prices are poised to strengthen next year as Mexican heavy crude exports to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries dwindle, according to BMO Capital Markets.Heavy Western Canadian Select’s discount to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark could narrow to $5 to $7 a barrel next year, BMO said in a report Wednesday. Oil sands producers will benefit from less output of competing crude from Latin America as Petroleos Mexicanos expects to cut exports while Venezuelan supplies remain off limits due to U.S. sanctions.Western Canadian Select discount to WTI strengthened to less than $10 a barrel since mid-April, after more than a million barrels a day of oil sands production was shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The strong differential has remained near $10 even as oil sands supplies have returned to the market.U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest refiners invested billions of dollars in recent decades to process heavy crude, … Read the rest

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In pursuit of ‘net zero,’ Spain’s Iberdrola bets big on America

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Bilbao-based utilities and renewable giant Iberdrola’s buying spree will expand its reach further into the U.S., the company said Wednesday, by acquiring Albuquerque-based PNM Resources for $4.3 billion.

The deal represents the growing might of a group of fast-moving, low-carbon utilities companies—increasingly coming from abroad—in the race to decarbonize America’s energy sector.

The deal folds PNM Resources—which serves homes in Texas and New Mexico and has 2,811 MW in capacity—into Avangrid, the much larger northeast-U.S. utilities and renewables company in which the Spanish Iberdrola holds a roughly 80% stake.

Avangrid has 7.1 GW of power capacity, largely in wind and solar, and holds $32 billion in assets across 24 states, the company says on its website. It is split into two businesses: one an electric and natural … Read the rest

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Snapchat Co-Founders Share $2.7 Billion Windfall

(Bloomberg) — Snap Inc.’s co-founders got richer by billions of dollars in just a few hours, after the company reported better-than-expected results as the coronavirus pandemic boosted usage of its app.Shares soared as much as 25% to $35.57 in late New York trading Tuesday after the owner of the popular Snapchat mobile app said sales jumped 52% to $678.7 million in the third quarter, with 249 million daily active users. The gains lifted the fortunes of Snap’s co-founders, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, by $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively, taking them to $6.9 billion and $7.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.Spiegel has pocketed over $200 million from Snap stock sales during 2020, benefiting from the record prices. The sales were made between January and September as part of a trading plan adopted by Spiegel, according to SEC filings. Snap shares have climbed 74% this year.Wealth accumulation in … Read the rest