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Here’s what Google’s new Nest Audio speakers are like

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The new Nest Audio Internet-connected speaker, introduced on Monday, is Google’s latest attempt to catch up to the category leader, Amazon’s Echo. But this time, Google is trying a new tactic: It’s focusing on better sound quality rather than new artificial intelligence features that have previously been its main sales pitch for the devices.

The move to focus on audio quality underscores that while people may use smart speakers for asking questions and quickly retrieving recipes, they mostly use them to play music.

Since 2016, Google has released several versions of its smart speakers, including small and large models. But the basic premise has remained unchanged—people can use the their voices to adjust the speaker’s volume, play their favorite songs, or check the weather.

The size … Read the rest

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Why right now is the time to start aging your wine collection

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Between social distancing and more time spent at home these days in the coronavirus age, many people are turning to new hobbies as well as organizing multiple facets of their personal belongings.

For wine novices and self-described oenophiles alike, there could be no better time to start, grow, and improve one’s wine collection. Here is a helpful starter guide with tips from wine distributors, wine directors, sommeliers, and other industry experts on how to nurture your own collection and ensure your bottles age safely well beyond 2020.

“A wine fridge will also have racks that are sized for bottles to lay on their side, which is better than standing upright in order to keep the cork in contact with the wine to stop it from drying out,”
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The Zoom effect: Why plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures might be more popular because of the pandemic

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With millions of Americans working from home and avoiding socializing outside of their immediate family and close friends, much has been written about plummeting sales for industries that thrive on people going out, like makeup, and clothing retailers.

That is not the case for plastic surgery. On the contrary, extra time holing up at home has provided a boom in cosmetic services practices that offer popular—and pricey—skin care treatments like Botox and dermal fillers.

Even before some lockdowns were lifted around the country this summer, interest in plastic surgery was already bubbling over as people were isolating. In June, a survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) of more than 1,000 consumers found that 49% of those who haven’t had plastic … Read the rest

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To retain customers, businesses need to make them feel as safe as possible. Here’s how

As stores, restaurants, airlines, and offices are trying to lure clients back, this is what they need to do to earn my business: Make me feel safe—no, make me be as safe as possible. As I’ve begun to explore old haunts, some are doing a fabulous job. Others are not.

So my dollars will flow to the former, and I’ll effectively boycott the latter. Think of it as ethical shopping, with a safety twist: I’ll reward businesses that are seriously implementing recommended COVID-19 precautionary guidelines. And I’ll punish, in my own tiny way, those who don’t take them to heart.

Yes, I know businesses across the country have lost huge amounts of money because of the pandemic. But many did get billions of dollars of federal aid to sustain them. 

All many of us got was a $1,200 check. Some who would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits will … Read the rest

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Jane Fraser’s priorities as incoming Citi CEO

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Good morning.

The next CEO of Citi, Jane Fraser—who will become the first woman to head a big Wall Street bank—was interviewed by Fortune’s Claire Zillman on the virtual stage at the Most Powerful Women Summit yesterday, and provided an early look at her priorities for when she assumes the top job in February.

“The priorities will be fairly simple ones. We will be, as you say, in quite challenging times. The critical piece will be saying: What has changed in the world? What is the new normal? What is the future of work? Where will people be working? Digital transformation has been supercharged. What does that mean for business models of the future? There will be quite a lot on the plate.”

Add to that the main course, which … Read the rest

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Instagram and Messenger users will soon be able to chat across apps

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Instagram and Facebook Messenger users will be able to chat with each other across services in the upcoming months. 

The update, announced on Wednesday, eliminates the hassle of having to switch between apps to talk with others.

“With this update, it will be even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri and Stan Chudnovsky, vice president of Messenger, said in a blog post.

Facebook’s ultimate goal, the company’s executives said during a call with reporters, is to let users of Instagram and Messenger also communicate with users of fellow Facebook-owned messaging service WhatApp. But it’s unclear when that will happen.

Users who do not want cross-app messaging between Instagram and Messenger will be … Read the rest

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This veteran Wall Street investor thinks pundits are overestimating the chances of a Biden victory

Michael Arone believes that President Trump stands a much better chance of winning reelection than the polls are showing or that the big investors he regularly talks to believe. A surprise Trump win, says the chief investment strategist for State Street Global Advisors, the world’s third-largest investment manager overseeing $2.7 trillion in assets, would be a boon for the likes of tech and health care stocks that could suffer under a Biden administration and keep thriving under Trump, while industrials that benefit from global trade would fare better under the former VP.

In a conversation with Fortune, Arone recalled his surprise in 2016 when betting sites put a high probability on a Clinton win at the same time swing state polls stood within the margin of error. “We’re exactly in the same spot now, including with investors,” he cautions. He adds that the polls have narrowed since June and … Read the rest

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The funding gap between Black- and white-led organizations is clear—and alarming

Following the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests, donations have poured into Black-led organizations and groups dedicated to racial equity. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, for example, received more than 1.1 million individual donations in the month after Floyd’s death. Higher Heights for America, which works to build the political power of Black women, said that it experienced 10 times its regular number of donations over a two-week period following the Floyd tragedy.

This wave of funding is much-needed. For too long, organizations supporting Black lives have been unable to generate as much funding as white-led organizations. Now, there finally seems to be the recognition that this gap is real—and deeply problematic.

I’m hopeful that this marks a turning point in philanthropy. In January, I became the first Black leader of the Mississippi Center for Justice, which opened its doors in 2003. Every day, we fight to … Read the rest

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5 better ways to help your employees mourn at the office

As the United States crosses 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, grief has become the biggest risk facing U.S. employers. Most have absolutely no idea how to handle it—or how to avoid the billions of dollars it costs in lost productivity.

“We always think grief is all about time off—and of course it’s about time off, and we don’t give enough time off,” says grief expert David Kessler of Grief.com. “But it’s also about how you handle it.”

With no federally mandated bereavement leave in the United States, only 54% of U.S. private-sector employees get any paid time off for funerals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But a few days is hardly enough time to recover from the death of a loved one—and more time off, while a good start, is only the first step in helping employees mourn. Below, Kessler and other grief experts, … Read the rest

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Big Tech is suffering from ‘mean reversion.’ And the downdraft isn’t over yet

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No force in financial markets is as powerful and predictable as “mean reversion,” the tendency of stock and bond prices that are extraordinarily high or low versus history to return to their long-term norms. The big drop we’re now seeing in tech shares looks like a classic case in point, as economic gravity takes charge, pulling high-flying prices closer to where they’ve traditionally hovered relative to earnings. We’re hearing sundry explanations for the fall—”a second lockdown is on the way,” “chances for new stimulus are fading,” or “the trade war with China is endangering Big Tech”—but the one that makes the most sense is most basic: mean reversion that comes and goes, but always comes again.

In a previous story, this reporter studied the amazing trajectory of Read the rest