November 15, 2018

Before a Deal, Amazon Had to Know: Could Cuomo and De Blasio Get Along?

By January, Amazon narrowed the list to 20 locations, including New York. Amazon visited in April, July and September, said a person familiar with the meetings. The executives narrowed their search to sites on the West Side of Manhattan and in Long Island City before finally settling on the Queens neighborhood.

Mr. Carney said Mr. Bezos did not tour any of the sites. The process was run by Holly Sullivan, who leads the company’s worldwide economic development. John Schoettler, the executive who oversees Amazon’s real estate, negotiated with the private developers.

During one visit, the Amazon executives visited the Cornell Tech campus, a new high-tech school on Roosevelt Island, and took the ferry from there to Long Island City. They rode Citi Bikes as city officials and local Queens representatives showed off the area. On another occasion, they took the ferry at sunset.

It wasn’t until the past few weeks that things really took off.

Gov. Cuomo met Amazon executives, including Jeff Wilke, who runs the company’s retail business, in his offices on Third Avenue. From the window, he said, they could see the site along the waterfront Amazon would eventually select.

“I showed them the pictures of the progress of LaGuardia, of J.F.K., Penn Station, Kosciuszko Bridge — I explained what doubling the span means,” he said, referring to building projects. He said Amazon executives were interested in having a pipeline of educated employees, not just from the top universities, but from other places such as Queens College and the nearby LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.

Amazon expressed concern about the city’s planning process, which is slow and allows for local officials and the City Council to veto projects. The company’s lawyers appeared to know about those pitfalls and wanted to avoid them. So Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo agreed to let the state control the approval, meaning there could be local input but no local veto. Mr. Cuomo said it was a “friendly condemnation” of the city-controlled land by the state, not a source of tension.

Though the mayor and governor met separately with Amazon, they were in close contact, comparing notes and strategizing over the phone, according to a person briefed on the talks.

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A $2 Billion Question: Did New York and Virginia Overpay for Amazon?

New York City did not offer any special tax breaks to Amazon as part of the deal. But the company will be able to take advantage of existing city tax credits, including a program designed to encourage companies to create jobs outside the busiest parts of Manhattan. The program, open to all companies, could be worth as much as $900 million to Amazon over 12 years, on top of the state incentives.

Ms. Doulis, of the Citizens Budget Commission, said that credit and similar ones might have outlived their usefulness. In the 1980s and ’90s, she said, companies were taking a risk by expanding in Queens or Brooklyn, and tax breaks provided an important inducement. But today, Long Island City is a rapidly developing neighborhood full of hip bars and luxury apartment complexes.

“That neighborhood was very different 25 years ago,” she said. “We’re in a very different world now.”

Still, Ms. Doulis said Amazon’s arrival was a major coup for the city, which has been trying to establish itself as a tech hub to rival Boston, Seattle and even Silicon Valley. Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said Amazon’s decision was a vindication of that strategy, which the mayor said would benefit all New Yorkers.

Tom Stringer, who advises companies on site-selection decisions for the consulting firm BDO, said high-cost places like New York and Virginia needed to offer incentives to compete with cheaper areas. And he said the deals would pay off in the long run in jobs and tax revenues.

“Incentives are not subsidies,” Mr. Stringer said. “They are investments.”

But it isn’t clear they are good investments, said Jay Shambaugh, director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. In offering incentives to Amazon, he said, New York and Virginia are effectively subsidizing a big, incumbent company at the expense of local businesses and start-ups. That is especially concerning, he added, when entrepreneurship rates are falling and cities are struggling to nurture homegrown businesses.

That could be a particularly bitter pill for local retailers, many already struggling to compete with Amazon, said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group long critical of Amazon.

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Books News: Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ Finally Hits Shelves

Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” which officially published today, is the No. 1 best seller on Amazon under the category of Biographies Memoirs Professionals Academics Lawyers Judges. Of course, it’s also the top-selling book on the site as a whole.

[ Read our critic’s review of “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama. ]

The publishing industry might have to think back to Harry Potter’s heyday for a book that has garnered as much attention as the former first lady’s has. Secondary sellers of tickets for Obama’s upcoming rock ’n’ roll-like arena tour have high hopes of their own. Floor seats for the event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Dec. 1 are currently being offered on StubHub for between $1,000 and nearly $4,000.

[ Read “Michelle Obama’s Big Book Rollout.”]

Also like a rock band, Obama is hitting the road with a significant merchandise table, offering hoodies, mugs, onesies and other items festooned with her own motivational sayings. (The label on a $35 candle reads: “Find your flame and keep it lit.”) Unlike most rockers, however, the net proceeds of Obama’s merch sales will go to charity: her own Global Girls Alliance, centered on the education of adolescent girls around the world.

Obama’s book has gotten a little-needed additional boost from Oprah Winfrey, who has made it her next book club selection. Winfrey also interviews Obama in the December issue of Elle magazine. Obama and her publisher, Crown, struck a deal with Hearst Magazines to promote the memoir across several of the company’s publications and websites.

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Premier League Names Susanna Dinnage Its Next Chief Executive

The only other female leader of one of soccer’s top leagues is Nathalie Boy de la Tour, the president of France’s Ligue de Football Professionnel. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, appointed the former United Nations official Fatma Samoura as its secretary general in 2016.

“We had a very strong field, but Susanna was the outstanding choice given her track record in managing complex businesses through transformation and digital disruption,” said Bruce Buck, the chairman of Chelsea F.C., who led the league’s nominations committee. Dinnage, who has been with Discovery for the past decade, most recently led Animal Planet, one of the company’s biggest channels.

The Premier League has prospered since its inception in the early 1990s on the strength of record-breaking television contracts, and as the beneficiary of bidding competitions in which cable and satellite providers around the world repeatedly drove up the price to acquire the rights to broadcast its matches. Dinnage arrives at the Premier League amid a time of great change, however; with media consumption habits changing, she will be charged with figuring out a strategy to keep the money flowing as consumption of Premier League matches — in Britain, but also in places as far afield as Bangkok and Boston — increasingly shifts to online platforms.

In two decades at the Premier League, Scudamore managed to keep the competition together amid rising tension between its richest teams — wealthy northern clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool, and the London powerhouses Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham — and the rest. The most powerful clubs’ battle for a greater slice of league revenue most likely will intensify in the coming years, as will new threats. Earlier this month, for example, leaked documents obtained by a consortium of European news media groups showed that some of the continent’s top teams, including Premier League giants like United and Liverpool, had been involved in discussions about a possible breakaway competition.

Dinnage’s tasks also will include figuring out a way of keeping the Premier League, one of Britain’s biggest international success stories, prospering if the country follows through on plans to exit the European Union. British soccer leaders, like those from most other industries, have expressed great concern about the impact of Brexit on their operations, with particular concerns about player recruitment and television rights sales.

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CNN Sues Trump Administration for Barring Jim Acosta From White House

Supporters of Mr. Trump, though, are likely to seize on the lawsuit as evidence for the president’s claim that news organizations, especially CNN, are biased against him. “CNN sucks!” has been a frequent chant at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The reporter Bob Woodward, speaking at a conference in Florida on Tuesday, said that a lawsuit may play into Mr. Trump’s hands.

Floyd Abrams, the noted First Amendment lawyer, said in an interview on Tuesday that CNN’s legal action was necessary, even as he acknowledged the potential political fallout.

“I can understand the reluctance — at a time when the president is saying, ‘CNN is hostile to me’ — for a lawsuit to be filed with the caption ‘CNN v. Donald Trump,’” Mr. Abrams said. “That said, sometimes a strong response is necessary, both for the institution itself and for the broader cause for which it effectively speaks.”

Mr. Acosta, who has a reputation as a showboat among some of his press corps colleagues, is not the first White House reporter to aggressively question a president in public. One of his predecessors, the ABC correspondent Sam Donaldson, said in a memo filed with CNN’s lawsuit that he knew of no precedent for a journalist’s credentials being yanked and “never would have imagined such action was possible.”

Still, rival networks to CNN have not issued formal statements backing Mr. Acosta. The White House Correspondents’ Association on Tuesday criticized the removal of Mr. Acosta’s credential, but did not specifically address the lawsuit itself.

“Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday,” the group’s president, Olivier Knox of SiriusXM radio, wrote. “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”

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‘Completely safe’: Monsanto owner Bayer hit by new wave of lawsuits over Roundup weed killer

Plaintiffs claim that Roundup weed killers, which Bayer acquired in its takeover of US agrochemical firm Monsanto, made them ill and that the company knew or should have known of the risks but failed to warn adequately.

Bayer rejected all the accusations, claiming there are hundreds of scientific studies and regulatory authorities that show glyphosate, the compound contained in the weed killers, is safe to use.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which is the most popular weed killer in the US.

Monsanto loses appeal on historic Roundup cancer verdict, owes $78mn

“We continue to believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously in all of these lawsuits,” said Bayer’s chief executive Werner Baumann.

He acknowledged, however, that “more lawsuits are to be expected.” There were 8,700 lawsuits against the company as of the end of August.

According to Baumann, “glyphosate is an indispensable chemical for modern agriculture that is safe to use, very effective and saves resources.” He explained: “When used appropriately, glyphosate is a completely safe and good product,” repeating “completely safe.”

The number of lawsuits against Monsanto has been surging lately and, according to expert estimates, could cost its new owner Bayer billions of dollars in damages in the coming years.

The surge in lawsuits followed the $289-million California court verdict when Monsanto was ordered to pay damages to a man who alleged its glyphosate-based weed killers, including Roundup, caused his cancer.

READ MORE: Bayer beware: US lawyers claim to have ‘explosive’ documents about Monsanto’s activity in Europe

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic. It had labeled glyphosate a carcinogen in 1985, but reversed the position in 1991. The World Health Organization’s cancer research agency classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015. California has listed glyphosate in its Proposition 65 registry of chemicals known to cause cancer.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Stock market in serious downward spiral & for very good reason – investment guru Jim Cramer

The comment comes after another major slump in stock prices of the biggest American corporations, including Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent company Alphabet – the so-called FANG league. The high-flying quartet is commonly highly attractive for investors due to their potential for consistent growth and their enormous market values.

© Reuters / Brendan McDermidThis market similar to worst crashes ever seen – stock guru Jim Cramer

“The thinking behind today’s action is surprisingly simple: money managers are buying the winners and selling the losers,” Cramer said on CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’. “Unfortunately, there are a heck of a lot more losers than winners, and I want to put that into context because such behavior, frankly, is highly unusual this close to the end of the year.”

The FANG stocks are in a corrective phase, defined as a drop of at least 10 percent from the latest peak. Netflix and Facebook have dropped around a third of their values since hitting 52-week peaks.

“Their stock is pretty inexpensive. They have more than $100 billion in cash. They own search. They own online video. They own the self-driving car market, at least for now. I think it’s an outright buy. But no one cares. All this will start mattering at some lower price, though,” the stock market analyst said.

According to Cramer, the US Federal Reserve should pause or slow down its interest rate hiking initiative to assess current market conditions. He added that the economy was slowing down with continuous decline in oil prices, decreased home sales numbers, high mortgage rates and slipping prices for materials. The Fed is going to raise rates in December, for the fourth time in 2018.

“We need to see a trade deal with China or some sign that the Federal Reserve will wait and see before it hits us with more rate hikes next year,” Cramer said. “We’ve been getting weaker for some time and the Fed doesn’t seem to care — they’re still very committed to the ‘destroy the economy in order to save it’ approach.”

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Saudis scramble to stop oil price slide

Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday that the kingdom would slash oil exports by 500,000 bpd in December, a move that would go a long way to reversing the 1 million-barrel-per-day increase in output agreed to by OPEC+ in June.

It was only a few weeks ago that al-Falih was trying to reassure the market that Saudi Arabia had enough spare capacity in the event of an outage; now he is rushing to try to stop the slide in prices but paring back production.

No plans to break up OPEC oil cartel, says Saudi energy minister – state media

The production cut would come just after crude oil officially entered bear market territory, falling 20 percent from its October peak.

But it is unclear at this point if the rest of the OPEC+ coalition, including Russia, will join the Saudis. The OPEC-Non-OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) met over the weekend in Abu Dhabi to consider options for 2019. The group was rumored to be considering a collective production cut, although the meeting ended on Sunday with no firm commitments.

Still, in an official statement, the group seemed open to the idea. The JMMC “noted that 2019 prospects point to higher supply growth than global requirements,” which is another way of saying that they are nervous about a supply glut. Also, the committee stated that a global economic downturn could depress demand, and “could lead to widening gap between supply and demand.” These conditions “may require new strategies to balance the market.” It would seem that the OPEC+ coalition is laying the groundwork for a production cut. The official ministerial meeting in Vienna in early December will reveal much more about the group’s plans heading into 2019.

Al-Falih said that the OPEC+ group needs to cut output by 1 million barrels per day (mb/d) below October levels. Saudi Arabia will alone account for half of that total, removing 500,000 bpd in December. BP’s Bob Dudley told Bloomberg TV that al-Falih’s announcement “probably will firm the price.”

That’s probably all it will do, at least for now. Surging shale production at a time when the demand picture is darkening will make a renewed run up in prices difficult. “It is beginning to look alarming in the sense that the resurgence of non-OPEC supply — in particular shale oil from the United States — is putting a lot of pressure on this fragile equation,” OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said in Abu Dhabi. As for demand, “we’re beginning to see signs of deceleration in 2019. Now the result of that is projecting a buildup of stocks to the level we saw in 2014.”

An agreed upon cut of 1 mb/d next month would take some of the excess out of the market, however, and the Saudi cut could go a long way towards building the will within OPEC+ to agree to such collective action. “The unilateral reduction in supply announced by Saudi Arabia should make it easier to agree on a general reduction at the early-December OPEC meeting and thus noticeably reduce the risk of an oversupplied market,” Commerzbank said in a note. “We therefore envisage further recovery potential for oil prices in the short term.”

US agrees to grant India waiver from Iran sanctions… for the time being

The Saudis themselves aren’t exactly sure of what to expect. “We are going to be flexible,” al-Falih said at a conference in Abu Dhabi. “There are a lot of assumptions that may change in two to three weeks time.” He added that OPEC+ “will do what it takes,” which sounds like Riyadh is not interested in seeing Brent fall below $70 per barrel, about where it was trading this past weekend.

Sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia was surprised that the US government issued a series of waivers to importers of Iranian oil just as sanctions took effect. The waivers meant that a lot less Iranian oil is destined to go offline than was previously expected. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies ramped up production in anticipation of much larger outages from Iran. The waivers led to a fall in prices.

“No one expected the waivers. Saudi Arabia wants to at least put a floor under oil prices. No one wants a free fall in prices,” an OPEC source told Reuters.

Not everyone agrees. At least one oil market watcher was not happy with the planned production cuts.

This article was originally published on

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Russia’s Rosatom to start construction of 7th power unit at Chinese nuclear power plant

“Together with the Chinese partners, we have already built four power units at this site and thus have paved the way for further projects,” said Vladimir Savushkin from Rosatom’s engineering division Atomstroyexport (ASE).

Savushkin told Strana Rosatom newspaper that “cooperation continues, now on the basis of Russia’s newest 3+ generation technologies,” adding that the deadlines are tight and “in 2021 we are to begin construction works at Tianwan-7.”

Last week, ASE and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) inked contracts for the construction of units 7 and 8 at the Tianwan NPP. Rosatom is currently negotiating a framework contract for the construction works.

The largest joint NPP project between Russia and China, the Tianwan plant is located on the coast of the Yellow Sea. It was built in 2006 by Russia’s nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly owned by Gazprom.

READ MORE: Russia’s Rosatom starts loading fuel into reactor of Chinese nuclear power plant

Two of its units, with a capacity of 1,000 MW each, were opened in 2007. Unit 3 was connected to the grid last December while unit 4 is expected to enter commercial operation in March 2019. Fuel loading at unit 4 was completed in September.

Construction of Tianwan Phase III (units 5 and 6) was originally scheduled to start in early 2011 but was suspended following Japan’s Fukushima disaster. CNNC plans to put both units into commercial operation by the end of 2021.

Last year, Beijing and Moscow said they intended further strategic partnerships in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Iran’s armed forces vow to protect oil tankers against US threat

Iran’s military is “prepared today as in the past” to protect against “any threats,” and to ensure the safe passage of Iranian oil tankers, Rear-Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, a deputy commander of the regular armed forces, said on Monday, Iranian news agency ISNA reports.

He stressed that any “hindrances” to Iran’s right to use international waterways “would be clearly unacceptable.”

The comments come a week after the United States unilaterally re-imposed sanctions on Tehran’s oil, shipping and banking industries. Although it’s unclear whether other nations will abide by Washington’s diktats, US officials have hinted that Iranian ships will no longer be welcome in international waters.

“From the Suez Canal to the Strait of Malacca and all choke-points in between, Iranian tankers are a floating liability,” Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to the secretary of state, said on Wednesday. “Self-insured Iranian tankers are a risk to the ports that permit them to dock [and] the canals that allow them to transit.”

Hook went on to warn that nations that ignore the US-imposed restrictions on Iran’s commercial fleet could face sanctions of their own.

Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and halt Persian Gulf oil exports if its own oil exports are blocked. In recent months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has held naval exercises in the Persian Gulf designed to increase preparedness for “confronting possible threats.”

National Security Advisor John Bolton said in August that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would be a serious “mistake,” suggesting that Tehran was merely “bluffing.”

On November 5, the US put back in force all sanctions previously lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Washington unilaterally withdrew from in May. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the sanctions will remain until Tehran complies with a list of 12 demands. The ultimatum calls on Tehran to halt all nuclear and ballistic missile development, as well as ending the country’s alleged “support for terrorism.” Washington also says that Iran must completely withdraw from Syria before sanctions can be lifted.

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