Showing posts with label NYT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NYT. Show all posts

Jan 30, 2020

Biden Push for Labor Support Is Burdened by Obama-Era Baggage

By Noam Scheiber

Supporters of the former vice president say he can win back union members who rejected Hillary Clinton. But he must overcome some hard feelings first.
Credit...Daniel Acker for The New York Times
Noam Scheiber
On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has highlighted the first two years of the Obama administration as a time when he helped enact sweeping legislation to widen access to health care and revive the economy, accomplishments most Democrats revere.
But to many union officials, those years were a disappointment — a time when the administration failed to pass a labor rights bill that was their top priority and imposed a tax that would affect many union members’ health plans. And they partly blame Mr. Biden.
“They were in the driver’s seat for the first two years, and what did they get done from a labor perspective?” said Chris Laursen, the president of a United Automobile Workers local in Ottumwa, Iowa, with nearly 600 members. “Joe Biden is complete status quo.”
Since Mr. Biden began his third campaign for the presidency last April, his supporters have portrayed him as the Democrat best positioned to win back union members who deserted the party in 2016 in crucial industrial states.
There is some basis for that claim. Mr. Biden, who has longstanding ties to many labor leaders, quickly gained an endorsement from the politically powerful firefighters’ union, and just won an endorsement from the ironworkers’ union. Polls frequently show him leading other Democratic candidates in battleground-state matchups against President Trump.
But for many labor voters — even white, blue-collar union members whose votes skewed toward Mr. Trump — the reaction to the former vice president has been more mixed. They frequently cite his policy centrism, which many associate with his time in President Barack Obama’s White House.
A mid-January poll by SurveyUSA showed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont surging to within three points of Mr. Biden among union households nationally. The combined support of Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has generally outpaced Mr. Biden’s among union households since August.
The Biden campaign declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mr. Obama. A campaign surrogate, former Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, called Mr. Biden “a champion for organized labor” and said, “It’s easy to take more extreme positions on issues when no one holds you accountable for actually enacting them.”
The reservations of union members could be a bigger problem for Mr. Biden than they were for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 Democratic race against Mr. Sanders. Some large unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Mrs. Clinton, though many members later supported Mr. Sanders.
In the current cycle, many of these unions have skipped an early endorsement, making it easier for individual members and in some cases locals to support their own candidates. The teachers’ union in Los Angeles has endorsed Mr. Sanders, as has the Ottumwa local of the United Food and Commercial Workers, whose 1.3-million-member international endorsed Mrs. Clinton before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. A large Pennsylvania local of the food workers’ union has endorsed Mr. Biden.
While the Labor Department recently reported that union membership last year fell to a record low — 10.3 percent of the work force — labor endorsements can still be critical because of the role of unions in educating members about candidates and canvassing for them on the ground.
Mr. Laursen, the U.A.W. local leader in Ottumwa, estimates that more than half his members — who are primarily workers at a John Deere plant — backed Mr. Trump in 2016. But he says many of those who oppose the president’s re-election are supporting Mr. Sanders over Mr. Biden.
And the skepticism toward Mr. Biden may be even more pronounced in the less white, less male parts of the labor force.
Nicole McCormick, a West Virginia music teacher who helped organize a statewide walkout that made national headlines in 2018, said she worried that Mr. Biden wasn’t “willing to push for the things that we as Americans look at as radical, but the rest of the world looks at and is like, ‘We did that 50 years ago.’” She cited expanded access to unions, universal health care and paid parental leave as examples.
(Mr. Biden has proposed wide-ranging labor-law reforms, though his plan isn’t as ambitious as Mr. Sanders’s or Ms. Warren’s in some respects. He supports paid family leave.)
Keon Liberato, the president of a Philadelphia-based local of more than 200 workers who maintain and construct railroad tracks, said many of his members preferred Mr. Sanders. Mr. Liberato said his members, both African-American and white, knew Mr. Biden as a friend to railroad workers, but tended to believe that taking health care off the bargaining table under Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All plan “would be huge for the American people.”
In voicing their concerns about Mr. Biden, union officials frequently cite dismay over the Obama years. They acknowledge a number of accomplishments, including the economic stimulus, the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, and elements of the Affordable Care Act, as well as a variety of pro-labor appointments and regulations. But they express reservations about the administration’s focus on deficit reduction, its ties to Wall Street, and especially its efforts to lower barriers to foreign competition.
“I was really disappointed with his trade policies,” said Nick Diveley, a U.A.W. member in Ottumwa, who supported Mr. Obama in 2008. “That’s what pushed me to Trump.” Mr. Diveley said he was open to voting for someone other than Mr. Trump in the fall but called Mr. Biden “just another established Washington guy.”
Union members and leaders also grumble about the so-called Cadillac tax on expensive health care plans that the Obama administration sought as a way to rein in wasteful spending. “It was an egghead Ivy League idea, that people overuse health care,” said D. Taylor, the president of the hospitality and casino workers union UNITE HERE, which helped lead the unsuccessful fight against the tax.
(The union was supportive of the law and the administration over all; the tax was recently repealed.)
And some complain that the Obama administration delayed action on labor’s top priority — a bill that could have expanded their ranks by making it easier to unionize through a sign-up process called card check, rather than a secret ballot — partly so that it could focus on health care.
“He failed to fight for our priorities and stand up for the main reason we endorsed him — card check,” said Norwood Orrick, a telecom technician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Tampa, Fla. “It was discussed a lot in my immediate circles of activists.”
Beyond any single policy, there are complaints that the Obama administration sometimes treated labor as an interest group to be managed rather than a partner in making policy. Ana Avendaño, a former senior official at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., recalled a White House meeting on immigration that the federation’s president, Richard Trumka, attended.
“They sat him at one of the corners of the table,” squeezed between two other people, Ms. Avendaño said. “He couldn’t even open his pad. In D.C. terms, it was a show of disrespect.”
A spokesman for Mr. Trumka said: “While President Trumka worked with and respected President Obama, he felt there were times when the president tried to split the difference between Main Street and Wall Street. That did not serve him or us well.”
Some labor officials and union members see the more pragmatic approach of the Obama years, and Mr. Biden’s moderate reputation, as a selling point. “Our guys lean 55 percent Republican,” said Thomas Hanify, president of the Indiana firefighters’ union. “Over all for my members, Warren and Bernie Sanders are a little extreme.”
And many prefer Mr. Biden’s approach to health care, voicing concern that Mr. Sanders would do away with insurance plans that unions have worked hard to negotiate.
Other labor leaders, while citing shortcomings of the Obama presidency, say Mr. Biden was an advocate for their interests within the administration. Teachers’ unions were furious after Mr. Obama publicly embraced the firing of the entire faculty of an underperforming school in Rhode Island in 2010. But Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Mr. Biden helped resolve the situation.
“We started having a fairly heated argument, me and the vice president, at an A.F.L. meeting,” Ms. Weingarten said. “But he heard what I was saying.”
Jared Bernstein, an economic adviser to Mr. Biden during his vice presidency, said the same was often true on trade and other issues, including labor-law reform, which faced a complicated path in the Senate. “I know for a fact where Biden is on these things,” Mr. Bernstein said. “But he was part of an administration that at times very much pleased the unions, and at other times very much pissed them off.”
(As a senator, Mr. Biden supported some free-trade legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement.)
But many labor officials regard Mr. Biden as essentially a sympathetic face for unfriendly policies he was either powerless to reverse or personally advanced. One cited Mr. Biden’s role in leading the negotiations with Republicans over a long-term deficit-cutting deal that could have led to cuts in programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Mr. Biden, whose record on Social Security has been a subject of sparring with the Sanders campaign, says he supports an expansion of benefits for many retirees.
Frank Flanders, the political director of the food workers’ local in Ottumwa, said that he was skeptical of Mr. Biden’s views on trade and his more hawkish foreign policy views, and that he regarded Mr. Biden as a “corporate Democrat.”
“I think we had a lot of Trump voters in the general, for the most part it’s because he wasn’t Hillary,” said Mr. Flanders, describing how his members voted in 2016. “It’s also a concern I have about a Biden candidacy.”

Jan 6, 2020

Julián Castro Endorses Elizabeth Warren

By Astead W. Herndon

Politics|Julián Castro Endorses Elizabeth Warren

The move came soon after Mr. Castro ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and gives a lift to Ms. Warren’s campaign as it tries to reignite excitement.

Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times
Astead W. Herndon
Julián Castro, the former housing secretary whose progressive presidential candidacy did not make significant inroads with Democratic voters but earned plaudits from the party’s left wing, has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, offering a possible lift for her candidacy less than one month before the Iowa caucuses.
Mr. Castro announced his endorsement on Monday morning, just days after he ended his own bid for the White House. In a statement, Mr. Castro cast Ms. Warren as the logical extension of his campaign’s social-justice-driven message, which seeks to correct inequities through targeted policy proposals. He will campaign with Ms. Warren this week, joining her Tuesday night at a rally at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.
Today I'm proud to endorse @ewarren for president.
Elizabeth and I share a vision of America where everyone counts. An America where people⁠—not the wealthy or well-connected⁠—are put first. I'm proud to join her in the fight for big, structural change.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 6, 2020
“There’s one candidate I see who is unafraid to fight like hell to make sure that America’s promise will be there for everyone,” Mr. Castro said in a video announcement released on Twitter. Ms. Warren, he said, “will make sure that no matter where you live in America — or where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity, too.”
The endorsement is not a shock to close observers of the Democratic primary race — Mr. Castro and Ms. Warren made no secret of their shared affection for each other — but it formalizes a partnership that could help Ms. Warren reignite excitement at a critical moment.
Ms. Warren has fallen from her polling peak in early October, when she was hailed as the race’s ascendant front-runner and the standard-bearer for the party’s progressive wing. National polls now show Ms. Warren firmly in third, behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has been aided by grass-roots progressive groups and by some high-profile endorsements of his own, including from popular House members like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
It is unclear whether Mr. Castro’s name carries similar political weight. His presidential candidacy struggled to break through in a significant way, but he led the field on a number of progressive issues, including reparations, border decriminalization and housing inequality. He impressed liberal activist groups like the Working Families Party and the Center for Popular Democracy, even though they formally backed Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.
Ms. Warren thanked Mr. Castro for his support on Monday, calling him “a powerful voice for bold, progressive change.”
During the waning months of his campaign, Mr. Castro was a vocal critic of the primary calendar, pointing to how voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, who hold their nominating contests first, are overwhelmingly white. Ms. Warren has, at times, sidestepped that issue, saying once in South Carolina that she was just “a player in the game on this one.” 

Jan 5, 2020

Iran Shifts on a Landmark Nuclear Deal: Live Updates

16-21 minutos - Source: NYT

The announcement followed a vote in Iraq’s Parliament to expel American troops, in response to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Iranian commander, in Baghdad.
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Tehran said in a statement that its nuclear program would “have no limitations” on enriching uranium.

Credit...Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times
Iran’s government said it was no longer abiding by a commitment it made under the 2015 nuclear deal and it would not limit its enrichment of uranium.
The decision to lift all restrictions on the production of nuclear fuel meant the effective end of the nuclear deal, experts said, though Iran left open the possibility that it will return to the limits if sanctions are lifted.
“It’s finished. If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit in Washington.
The announcement came after Iran’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the country’s nuclear policy in the aftermath of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani’s assassination.
The statement said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will end its final limitations in the nuclear deal, meaning the limitation in the number of centrifuges. Therefore Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production including enrichment capacity and percentage and number of enriched uranium and research and expansion.”
But the government said Iran would continue its cooperation with International Atomic Agency.
The announcement followed several steps by Iran to move away from the terms of the agreement, nearly two years after President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal. Since that renunciation, the Trump administration has imposed severe sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.
The nuclear agreement had ended many economic sanctions on Iran in return for its verifiable pledge to use nuclear power peacefully. The European parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, had struggled to preserve the agreement amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s statement Sunday did not include details about its enrichment ambitions. And the country did not say it was expelling the inspectors who monitor its nuclear program. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted:
Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear expert on Iran and associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on Twitter that the announcement was “ambiguous,” with room for “both negotiation and escalation.”

Iraqi lawmakers voted 170-0 on Sunday in favor of expelling American troops from their country, just days after a United States drone strike killed the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force on Iraqi soil.
The vote was not final and many lawmakers did not attend the session. But Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, leaving little doubt about his support.
The drone strike that killed the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, at the Baghdad airport on Friday also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias.
The attack was viewed in Iraq as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it had summoned the American ambassador in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Parliament was divided over demands from angry citizens to expel American troops. Many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend Sunday’s session and did not vote. In his speech to lawmakers, Mr. Mahdi laid out two possibilities: to either quickly end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq, or to set a timeline for that expulsion.
The measure approved by the Parliament did not include a timeline, and only instructed the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq. Officials said no decision had been made about whether any American troops would be able to stay, or under what conditions.
Iranian officials reacted to the vote with congratulatory messages and said General Soleimani’s death had delivered a huge victory over the United States.
Hesameddin Ashena, a top adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, in a Twitter post, said: “Expanding friendship with our neighbors and domestic unity are the best gifts for protecting our national security. America and Israel are the only winners of a rift between neighbors.”
Asked about the vote on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would continue to battle the Islamic State. “It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,” he said in an interview on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
If American forces leave the country, European Union and coalition forces will likely have to follow, because they rely on the American logistics and intelligence resources to protect their forces and the civilians that work with them. NATO has already announced the suspension of its training mission for Iraqi forces.
The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria said on Sunday that it was pausing its yearslong mission of attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in both countries as United States forces braced for retaliation from Iran over the killing of its top military commander.
A statement from the American command pointed to recent attacks on Iraqi and American bases, one of which killed an American contractor last month. “We have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” it said of the fight against ISIS.
After the killing last week of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of troops over the years — the approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq and several hundred in Syria are focused on fortifying their outposts.
The assassination of General Suleimani removed the leader of one of the Islamic State’s most effective opponents. He had been responsible for building up the alliance of Iran-backed militias that played a significant role in driving the militants out of their strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Also on Sunday, Islamic State militants attacked Iraqi security forces near the northern city of Kirkuk, killing two Iraqi soldiers and injuring another, the Iraqi Joint Command said.
Echoing President Trump’s remarks the day before, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Sunday that the United States could attack Iran itself if leaders there took hostile actions against American interests in the aftermath of the drone strike that killed a top general.
“I’ve been part of the discussion and planning process — everything I’ve seen about how we will respond with great force and great vigor if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision,” Mr. Pompeo said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We hope that they won’t, but when they do, America will respond.”
In appearances on five television news shows on Sunday morning, Mr. Pompeo underscored Mr. Trump’s message the previous day that the United States had chosen sites to attack within Iran if Tehran ordered assaults on American assets or citizens in retaliation for a drone strike that killed General Suleimani in Baghdad.
He tweeted on Saturday that the United States had pinpointed 52 targets in Iran if it retaliated for the killing, prompting Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to say on Twitter that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime.”
Mr. Zarif added, “whether kicking or screaming, end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun.”
Mr. Trump said on Sunday that “media posts” would serve as notification to Congress about a potential strike.
Mr. Pompeo also blamed the 2015 nuclear deal for the rising hostilities. He told CNN that “this war kicked off” when the Obama administration entered into the agreement. Though Tehran had been abiding by the terms of the deal, Mr. Pompeo said, the agreement gave Iran “free rein” to expand its regional activities.
In protest over that latest threat, Iran on Sunday summoned the Swiss envoy representing American interests in Tehran, Reuters reported.

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The body of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was brought back to Iran. Mourners flooded the streets, weeping and holding up posters of the general, as his coffin moved through the crowds.CreditCredit...Mohammad Taghi/Tasnim News, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Iran to pay their respects to Maj. General Qassim Suleimani on Sunday, one day after joint funerals were held in Baghdad for the slain Quds Force leader and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful militia leader in Iraq and a close adviser to the general.
Both men were killed by an American drone strike early Friday at Baghdad’s airport, inflaming tensions between Washington and Tehran and raising fears that more violence would follow.
President Trump said he had ordered the airstrikes not just as retaliation for past attacks on Americans, but also to prevent “imminent and sinister attacks” on more Americans. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and its president, Hassan Rouhani, both promised that the country would take “revenge” for the killing.
Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sent a letter of condolence to Iran’s supreme leader that praised General Soleimani for helping fight the Islamic State and stabilize Iraq over the past decade.
Iran’s regional reach was visible during the services in Baghdad, which were as close to a state ceremony in Iraq as any since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many mourners were members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, militias that came together to fight the Islamic State — and the most powerful of which are affiliated with Iran.
Tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through Baghdad, waving flags and chanting that “revenge is coming” to the United States.
“The worst thing that happened to Iran in the recent months was not the killing of General Suleimani but the turning of the Iraqi Shia against Iran before he was killed,” said Abbas Kadhim, the head of the Iraq Initiative at the Atlantic Council, referring to recent protests against Iranian influence. “That was reversed by the killing of Suleimani.”
Mr. Kadhim said that while Iran could afford the loss of a general or a politician, they could not afford “the turning of the Shia in neighboring countries against them.”
“That’s why this show of support for Iran in the holy cities, in Lebanon and Iraq after the killing of Suleimani is a huge victory,” he said. “They regained the most important element of their strategy in the region, which is the support of local populations.”
Mr. al-Muhandis, one of Iran’s top lieutenants in Iraq, was accused of playing a role in embassy bombings in Kuwait in the 1980s and funneling weapons to pro-Iranian militias in the 2000s. Many Iraqis saw him as a hero for his role in the battle against the Islamic State.
The leader of Hezbollah, the Islamist movement backed by Iran, warned in a speech Sunday that the killing of General Suleimani would only motivate Iran’s allies in the Middle East to strike harder against the United States and Israel.
“Assassinating General Suleimani means targeting the entire axis of resistance,” said the militant leader, Hassan Nasrallah, speaking via video feed at a memorial service. “The United States will leave our region humiliated. When U.S. troops leave the region in coffins, Washington will realize it has lost, and Trump will realize that he has lost the election.”
Mr. Nasrallah vowed to target American bases, soldiers and Marines — a response he called “retribution, a fair one” — but took care to add that he was “not talking about the American people at all.”
Hezbollah, a militia and political party based in Lebanon, is perhaps the most formidable of the network of proxy forces Iran has built up around the Middle East, which also includes pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.
The State Department has classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and the militia has battled and skirmished repeatedly with Israel. It maintained close ties with General Suleimani, and was now mourning him as a hero over the weekend
Mr. Nasrallah said that he had met with the general on Wednesday in Beirut, where General Suleimani had stopped before flying to Baghdad. The group released what appeared to be a photo of the two men meeting.
On Sunday, Mr. Nasrallah said that the general’s death marked “the start of a new stage, not just for Iraq or Iran, but for the entire region” — a stage he warned would be awash in anti-American violence.
As the United States has escalated its conflict with Iran, many in the generation of Americans who have grown up since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have become alarmed by the prospect of being swept up in an extended conflict.
Over high school lunch tables, teenagers speak of World War III. When they get home, they tearfully ask their parents whether they could be drafted. Social media feeds have exploded with predictions of military action and wisecracking memes about end times.
With an all-volunteer military fighting the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East that have been simmering since they were toddlers, many young men had grown used to thinking of the longstanding requirement that they register for the draft as a mere bureaucratic formality. “Now it’s like, what exactly did we sign up for?” said Adrian Flynn, a high school senior in New York who turned 18 in October.
And demonstrators took to the streets of cities across the United States over the weekend to protest the killing of an Iranian general and the possibility that it could lead to yet another war.
“Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences,” said a statement by the coalition behind the protests. That group included Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, an antiwar coalition, and Code Pink, an antiwar organization led by women.
More than 80 protests were organized, in places like Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Miami and Philadelphia. Marchers in Times Square in New York chanted, “U.S. out of the Middle East.”
Organizers had begun calling for nationwide protests early last week, before the drone strike that killed General Suleimani. They had already been fearful of the possible effects of rising tensions between the United States and Iran in recent months.
Even as Western allies said they had been given no warning about the United States’ killing of General Suleimani, Britain’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said on Sunday that America had a right to self-defense in killing the Iranian military commander.
Asked in an interview with the BBC whether the killing was legal, Mr. Raab said, “There is a right of self-defense.”
“It was General Suleimani’s job description to engage proxies and militias,” Mr. Raab said, “to attack Western countries that were legitimately there.”
Describing General Suleimani as a “regional menace,” he said he did not agree that the killing was an act of war — a label that Iran’s United Nations ambassador used to describe the killing, and which analysts have said is applicable.
Mr. Raab said he had spoken to Iraq’s prime minister and president to urge a de-escalation of tensions in the region after the drone killing.
President Emmanuel Macron of France spoke by telephone with President Trump on Sunday, according to a statement from the French president’s office, and expressed solidarity with allies “in light of the attacks carried out in recent weeks against the coalition in Iraq,” his office said in the statement.
Mr. Macron also expressed concerns about “destabilizing activities of the Quds force under General Qassem Soleimani,” his office said, and urged Iran avoid “taking any measures that could lead to an escalation in the situation and destabilizing the region.”
In Germany, a government spokeswoman also expressed sympathy for the United States’ position. “The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible,” the spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, said at a news conference on Friday, according to Reuters.
“We also see with great concern Iran’s activities in the region,” she said, adding that Berlin would aim to de-escalate the tensions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had criticized Europes response to the killing of General Suleimani, telling Fox News on Friday night that “the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be.”
Reporting was contributed by Alissa J. Rubin, Ben Hubbard, Falih Hassan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Vivian Yee, David D. Kirkpatrick, Edward Wong, Tess Felder, Yonette Joseph and Mariel Padilla.

Dec 19, 2019

House Impeachment Vote Is Unlikely to Sway Markets

10-13 minutos - Source: NYT

Credit...Leah Millis/Reuters
Voting nearly along party lines, the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump, making him the third president in history to face removal by the Senate. But the stock market has been largely unfazed by the news of impeachment proceedings, and that is unlikely to change, reports MarketWatch.
Investors are shrugging at the news because they don’t expect the Republican-controlled Senate to remove the president from office.
Market participants have grown more comfortable with the expectation that Mr. Trump would be impeached but not convicted, according to an investor survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets.
A federal appeals court yesterday struck down the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires Americans to have health insurance, saying it was unconstitutional, but the future of the decade-old health care law is still in limbo, writes the NYT’s Abby Goodnough.
The decision did not invalidate the rest of the law, and the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans sent the case back to a federal district judge in Texas to see which parts of the law could survive without the mandate.
If the law were thrown out, insurers would no longer have to cover people up to age 26 on their parents’ plans, and could refuse coverage for more than 50 million people with pre-existing conditions. About 17 million Americans bought coverage through the A.C.A.
The case could go before the Supreme Court. The California attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said he planned to petition the court to hear the case. He led 21 states that intervened to try to preserve the law.
President Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law, tried to appeal to both opponents of the law and people concerned about losing their health insurance.
He called the ruling “a big win for all Americans,” and said it would not alter the health care system. Mr. Trump also said he wanted to protect people with pre-existing conditions.
The case is unlikely to be resolved before next year’s presidential election.
The Bank of England said today that an audio feed from its news conferences had been leaked to some investors before it was made public. The early access to policymakers’ remarks gave those investors a leg up on the rest of the market, reports the NYT’s Amie Tsang.
The central bank is investigating the source of the leak, an unidentified third-party supplier that has provided sound from news conferences ahead of their video feed since earlier this year.
Investors closely monitor the news conferences to gain insight. “In the world of high-speed trading, just a few seconds’ lead time can offer some investors a trading advantage,” Ms. Tsang reports.
The bank said it had disabled the supplier’s access. “The bank operates the highest standards of information security around the release of the market-sensitive decisions of its policy committees,” it said.
Uber has a resolution on one investigation into its workplace culture: Yesterday, the ride-hailing company agreed to create a $4.4 million fund to compensate employees who had been sexually harassed at work, the NYT’s Kate Conger writes.
The company “permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found. It has been examining workplace issues there since 2017.
Besides creating the fund, the company agreed to three years of monitoring by a former agency commissioner to ensure that it changes its practices.
“This agreement will hopefully empower women in technology to speak up against sexism in the workplace knowing that their voices can yield meaningful change,” a lawyer for the Commission said.
The prevalence of sexual harassment at Uber came to light when a former engineer, Susan Fowler, published an essay describing how the company had allowed inappropriate behavior to fester.
The company has “worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said Tony West, the company’s chief legal officer.
The U.S. job market continues to exceed expectations, but it is on a collision course with a dimming demographic outlook, writes Greg Ip in the WSJ.
Job numbers are growing faster than expected: The current economic expansion has lasted a record 10-plus years. But the U.S. population is smaller than the Census Bureau had predicted.
“The U.S. has had two longstanding demographic advantages over other countries: higher fertility and immigration,” Mr. Ip writes. “Both are eroding.”
• The country’s fertility rate dropped to its lowest on record in 2018.
• And the foreign-born population in the U.S. had a historically low expansion rate last year.
“Job creation is constrained by the number of people of working age,” Mr. Ip writes. And until the trends are reversed, “the U.S. cannot assume it is immune to the demographic downdraft holding back Germany and Japan.”
Boeing buys parts from 600 suppliers around the world to build its 737 Max planes. Those suppliers are now waiting to see how the company’s temporary halt in production will affect their businesses, writes the NYT’s David Yaffe-Bellany.
“We are in a crisis mode,” Philippe, the C.E.O. of Safran, a French company that makes engines for the Max in partnership with General Electric, told L’usine nouvelle, a French newspaper. “Any day we do nothing now costs us money.”
The grounding of the Max has reduced G.E.’s cash flow by $400 million per quarter, company officials said in August. And Spirit AeroSystems, a Kansas company that manufactures the plane’s fuselage, relies on Boeing for 80 percent of its revenue.
Yet “the full reach of Boeing’s production process extends beyond those direct suppliers,” Mr. Yaffe-Bellany writes.
Major suppliers that also manufacture materials for other companies may be equipped to weather the suspension, while smaller operations will struggle. Yet a halt to production that lasts longer than a month could put even those larger companies in peril.
More: President Trump reportedly called Boeing’s C.E.O. on Sunday to discuss the company’s plans to halt production of the 737 Max.
Louis Dreyfus named Patrick Treuer, a former Credit Suisse investment banker, its new finance chief.
Peter Zaffino, the executive overseeing a turnaround effort of A.I.G.’s general insurance unit, was named as the company’s president.
Pearson’s chief executive, John Fallon, will step down next year.
Blythe Masters, the former JPMorgan executive and C.E.O. of the blockchain start-up Digital Asset Holdings, has joined the investment firm Motive Partners.
• Several suitors have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. (WSJ)
• Now that PSA and Fiat Chrysler are combining, Carlos Tavares has a hefty to-do list. (Bloomberg)
• Broadcom is looking to sell one of its wireless-chip units, a move that would accelerate the company’s shift away from its roots as a semiconductor maker. (WSJ)
• Valence Media, the parent of Billboard magazine, is acquiring Nielsen Music, a transaction that comes as data takes on an increasingly outsize role in the music industry. (WSJ)
• Adyen has sealed a deal to process McDonald’s mobile app payments, expanding the Dutch company’s portfolio of clients in a growing sector. (Bloomberg)
• Short-sellers are betting against companies that they believe are unduly inflated by environmental, social and governance promises. (Reuters)
• Direct lenders, including hedge funds and buyout firms, are preparing to dish out billions at a time to lure borrowers away from the $1.2 trillion leveraged loan market. (Bloomberg)
• The year the markets stopped believing in unicorns. (FT)
Politics and policy
• President Trump has asked advisers for a plan to help ease student loan debt for Americans, according to senior administration officials. (WSJ)
• Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a presidential candidate, cemented his place in the top tier of the Democratic primary after becoming more aggressive. (NYT)
• As his coal mining company was going bankrupt, Robert E. Murray paid himself $14 million, gave his successor a $4 million bonus and earmarked nearly $1 million for casting doubt on human-made climate change. (NYT)
• The special inspector general with the Troubled Asset Relief Program is calling for the U.S. to establish a national financial fraud registry. (WaPo)
• After Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory, activists who wanted Britain to stay in the E.U. have thrown in the towel. (WSJ)
• Amazon is reportedly scouting sites in Ireland for a warehouse to fulfill orders currently shipped from Britain, as the Brexit deadline looms. (Bloomberg)
• Many people don’t hesitate to spend $600 on a cellphone. Here’s another device that money could be spent on: a toaster oven. (NYT)
• Tesla shares hit an all-time high. (CNBC)
• Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany played down any public threats from China if her government were to bar Huawei from the country’s 5G network. (Bloomberg)
• The Texas authorities say Google is trying to hamstring an antitrust investigation of the company brought by 51 attorneys general. (WaPo)
Best of the rest
• Wall Street analysts are unconvinced that Beyond Meat, the maker of “plant-based meat,” can repeat its stock performance from 2019. (Bloomberg)
• If Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain decides to reshape the BBC, he has five ways to pursue it. (FT)
• Edward Snowden is not allowed to profit from his memoir because he didn’t get publication clearance from the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., a judge ruled. (Bloomberg)
• Inflation in Britain remained at a three-year low in November, comfortably below the Bank of England’s 2 percent target before its next interest rate announcement, which is expected today. (Reuters)
• Coca-Cola documents show that the company’s public-relations goals included targeting teenagers, even as childhood obesity rates were rising. (WaPo)
• Renaissance Technologies, which has produced the greatest investment returns of any hedge fund, may be facing a clawback over a tax maneuver. (WSJ)
• Bernie Ebbers, the WorldCom C.E.O. imprisoned in one of the biggest frauds of the 20th century, will soon be free after serving just over half of a 25-year sentence. (NYT)

Bank of England Audio Was Leaked, Giving Some Traders an Edge

By Amie Tsang

Business|Bank of England Audio Was Leaked, Giving Some Traders an Edge
The British central bank says a supplier, without authorization, provided sound from news conferences ahead of the video feed.
Credit...Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Amie Tsang
LONDON — The Bank of England said Thursday that an audio feed from its news conferences had been released to some investors before it had been made public, giving them a leg up on the rest of the market.
The central bank said it was investigating how a third-party supplier had gotten early access to policymakers’ remarks since earlier this year. In the world of high-speed trading, just a few seconds’ lead time can offer some investors a trading advantage.
The Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates Britain’s financial markets, also said it was investigating the leak.
Any trades made on the basis of leaked information or insider dealing would come under the review of the Financial Conduct Authority, which has a mandate to insure that competition in the markets is respected.
A spokeswoman for the agency said in an email that it was looking into the Bank of England leak, but declined to comment on whether any trading had occurred on the basis of the leaked information.
After queries from The Times of London, the bank said the audio feed of its news conferences, which is used as a backup in case the video feed fails, had been “misused by a third-party supplier to the bank since earlier this year to supply services to other external clients.”
The audio feed provides traders a five- to eight-second advantage over the video feed, The Times reported.
Bloomberg said that it was the manager of the video feed and that it made it available to other news providers. The Bank of England did not identify the supplier of the audio feed, but said that it had disabled the supplier’s access. “As a result, the third-party supplier did not have any access to the most recent press conference and will no longer play any part in any of the bank’s future press conferences,” it said in a statement.
“The bank operates the highest standards of information security around the release of the market sensitive decisions of its policy committees,” the statement added. “The issue identified related only to the broadcast of press conferences that follow such statements.”
The disclosure came before the bank’s release of its periodic monetary policy statement on Thursday, in which it announced that it was keeping its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.75 percent.
Comments from the Bank of England’s news conferences are closely monitored for indications about the bank’s thinking on interest rates and the state of the economy.
The bank routinely puts reporters through tight precautions to prevent leaks that could prove valuable to traders. Before they are allowed to view policy announcements and forecasts ahead of their release, reporters are locked in a room with a security guard standing by and cellphone connectivity is cut. They are not allowed to leave the room until after the embargo is lifted.
Premature access to potentially market-moving information is a crucial concern to financial regulators around the world. In a 2015 case, prosecutors and regulators in the United States asserted that 32 traders and hackers had reaped more than $100 million in illegal proceeds from a scheme that provided a look at corporate news releases before they were made public.

Elian Peltier contributed reporting.

Dec 18, 2019

Internet Giants, Defied by Bitcoin, Now See Its Tech as a Remedy

By Nathaniel Popper

A decentralized internet was hailed as a way to dethrone Twitter and Facebook. But to the tech giants, the idea could unload some of their burdens.

Credit...Erik Söderberg
Nathaniel Popper
SAN FRANCISCO — Not so long ago, the technology behind Bitcoin was seen in Silicon Valley as the best hope for challenging the enormous, centralized power of companies like Twitter and Facebook.
Now, in an unexpected twist, the internet giants think that technology could help them solve their many problems.
The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said last week that he hoped to fund the creation of software for social media that, inspired by the design of Bitcoin, would give Twitter less control over how people use the service and shift power toward users and outside programmers.
Likewise, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he hopes the same concepts from Bitcoin could “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands.”
This push toward decentralization — the buzzword people in tech are using to describe these projects — has already gained enough currency and has sounded outlandish enough that it was one of the central themes of the satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley.”
Though Bitcoin’s digital tokens are widely used among the tech set, its underlying concept — a network of computers managing the currency without anyone in charge — is what’s most interesting to many people working on decentralization.
Countless entrepreneurs are working on decentralization projects, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He founded Solid, which seeks to fix the problems of the centralized internet by shifting the ownership of personal data away from big companies and back toward users.
But the other efforts have largely been aimed at taking down Twitter and Facebook rather than helping them solve their problems. And the two behemoths have plenty of problems, from policing their sites for toxic content to dealing with pressure from regulators who think tech companies have grown too powerful.
Not surprisingly, the efforts at Twitter and Facebook have faced skepticism and questions about whether they are just trying to land some positive press while dodging responsibility — and regulations.
“When a company does something like this when it is under pressure, it becomes a way to distract attention by appearing to do something,” said Mitra Ardron, the head of the decentralized web project at the Internet Archive, which has hosted the Decentralized Web Summit the last four years.
Many people working on decentralization projects are concerned that Twitter and Facebook are trying to align themselves with the work’s countercultural spirit without giving up their enormous power.
“The monoliths see it as a threat to their model, so they try to weave in the concepts into their own products to maintain control,” said Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, a competitor to Twitter. With around two million users, Mastodon has been one of the most successful alternative projects.
Mr. Dorsey said Twitter was just starting to look at the idea and had committed only five people to it. Facebook has moved ahead with its Bitcoin-inspired cryptocurrency and has beefed up encryption, but the company has otherwise taken few steps to decentralize its services. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg, though, have frequently discussed decentralization, suggesting they have a personal fascination that goes beyond business interests.
Mr. Dorsey also hired a small team at his second company, Square, to work full time on Bitcoin, without any commercial responsibilities. And he recently announced that he was hoping to take an extended sojourn in Africa to understand how Bitcoin was working there.
“It’s clearly catching on in part because people believe in it,” said Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “It’s not necessarily that it is cheaper or more efficient or faster or easier. In fact, it is much harder. But it’s clear that this idea speaks to people.”
Mr. Dorsey’s tweets last week suggest that he wants the new team, Blue Sky, to build essentially a basic version of Twitter that would be available for anyone to copy. This would make it easier for outside developers to build on top of Twitter and to compete with it. A competitor might be able to offer a version without ads, or one that recommends tweets to readers based on different standards.
While that would most likely pose a commercial threat to Twitter, Mr. Dorsey said it would also force the service to be “far more innovative than in the past” and could draw more overall users to it.
The idea of decentralization harks back to the basic design and ideals of the internet, which was supposed to be a global gathering place where everyone was welcome and no one was in charge.
Mr. Dorsey said the invention of Bitcoin had made it possible to revive those early ideals. The key to Bitcoin is its blockchain database, which provides a way for a network of disconnected computers to agree on a single set of records for every Bitcoin in existence.
Mr. Dorsey is following in the steps of the many cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that the underlying technology could be used to record all the users and activity on a social network, and to agree on a single set of rules for the network, without having any single company in charge. He said, though, that it would most likely take “many years.”
Facebook has pursued several projects over the past year that would shift control to its users.
The company’s most notable effort with blockchains is the Libra cryptocurrency, which aims to create money outside the control of any one company. The Libra effort has faced crippling opposition from politicians, regulators and even some of the project’s original partners. But it appears to have inspired central banks in China and Europe, which are also considering ways to duplicate Bitcoin’s underlying technology.
Already, many start-ups have tried to use blockchains to create social networks to compete with Twitter and Facebook. But these networks, with names like Minds and Steemit, have faced many of the same problems that Bitcoin has, struggling to attract mainstream attention and leaving users to fend off hackers themselves. Many investors have largely given up on blockchain investments.
Several up-and-coming projects focused on decentralization, including Mr. Berners-Lee’s Solid, have steered clear of the blockchain entirely because they don’t believe it is useful for anything other than financial transactions.
Mr. Dorsey said one of the great appeals of a decentralized future was that Twitter would no longer be the only one in charge of deciding what is and isn’t allowed on the network.
To many people, that sounded like an effort by Mr. Dorsey to wash his hands of the hardest but arguably most important responsibility of social networks today: identifying and filtering bad actors and disinformation.
“I’m concerned that Twitter may try to foist the responsibility for dealing with these problems onto the decentralization community,” said Ross Schulman, the senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute.
A spokeswoman for Facebook had no comment on the company’s efforts.
Mastodon, the Twitter competitor, allows anyone to tweak the software in order to create his or her own version of Mastodon. If people don’t like the rules set up in one version, they can move to another.
But Mastodon has provided a window into just how difficult these problems are to deal with, even with decentralization.
The Mastodon software was created to form a refuge from anger and hate speech on Twitter. But recently, a social network with close ties to hate crimes and the far right, Gab, used Mastodon’s software to create a new home after it was pushed off the mainstream internet. Mastodon’s leaders were opposed to it but could do little to stop it.
“Building these types of decentralized social networks comes with a slew of challenges that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet,” said Ms. Narula, who was a co-author of an article titled “Decentralized Social Networks Sound Great. Too Bad They’ll Never Work.” 

Dec 17, 2019

Boeing Crisis Could Hit the Broader Economy

11-14 minutes - Source: NYT

Credit...Lindsey Wasson/Reuters
Boeing halts production of the 737 Max
Boeing’s announcement that it would suspend production in January of its most popular plane, the 737 Max, is the culmination of the worst crisis in the company’s 103 years, the NYT’s David Gelles and Natalie Kitroeff report.
The plane has been grounded since two crashes killed nearly 350 people within five months, and its return to service remains uncertain. Rather than continue making new jets, Boeing will focus on delivering the 400 Max planes it has waiting for clients.
The company’s reputation and stock price have been battered, with shares falling 25 percent since March. Boeing has announced more than $8 billion in charges related to the crisis, and more are expected.
The production halt will affect hundreds of suppliers around the U.S. and is expected to be felt across the economy, because Boeing is the country’s largest manufacturing exporter.
“It would be hard to have any other single company stop the production of a single product and have it hit the economy as hard as this would,” one economist told the WSJ.
But the decision will reduce losses for Boeing: The suspension will cut in half the $4.4 billion that Boeing has burned through each quarter by making and storing jets, a Jeffries analyst estimated.
Members of the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, took $10 billion out of the company as pressure on the drugmaker over the opioid crisis increased in the past dozen years, the NYT’s Jan Hoffman and Danny Hakim report.
The money was distributed among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue. The findings renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.
The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by New York and Massachusetts, have declined to sign the agreement.
“Ultimately, it does not answer a key question for investigators — how much the Sacklers are actually worth and where their money is,” the reporters write.
The judge overseeing Purdue’s bankruptcy has extended a shield against litigation to cover the Sacklers, hoping to encourage negotiations, the WSJ reports.
The American economy is on sounder footing after worries of a recession, but one part of the country is struggling: the Midwest, a region where President Trump had promised to restore jobs, write the NYT’s Ben Casselman and Karl Russell.
Mr. Trump has made the economy a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, after pledging in 2016 to restore jobs in long-struggling Midwestern communities.
“But job growth has slowed sharply this year in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states that were critical to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, as well as in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost,” the reporters write.
The two hardest-hit sectors are manufacturing and agriculture, both of which are suffering in Mr. Trump’s trade war. “We do believe that manufacturing is in a recession,” an economist at Moody’s Analytics said.
Yet voters in Midwestern states appear to be shrugging off the slowdown. “Early polls show Mr. Trump leading in the Midwest against several of his prospective Democratic opponents, and his approval ratings have remained largely steady,” Mr. Casselman and Mr. Russell write.
Rock-bottom interest rates that were meant to bolster an economic recovery in Europe are igniting a property boom that is creating new worries, reports the NYT’s Liz Alderman.
Lured by cheap money, borrowers are flocking to buy apartments and houses, and institutional investors are acquiring large tracts of residential real estate across Europe.
Soaring valuations are leading to concerns of a housing bubble: “Prices jumped at least 30 percent in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Madrid and other metropolitan hot spots,” Ms. Alderman writes.
Local governments are intervening with rent controls, higher property taxes and subsidized housing programs as homeownership becomes increasingly unaffordable for almost anyone except high earners.
The financial authorities are on the alert, pursuing regulations and tax measures meant to rein in prices and promote housing affordability and availability.
More: The global economy is showing signs of strength, based on recent economic and trade reports from the U.S. and China, but Europe remains weak.
Amazon is blocking its third-party sellers from using FedEx’s ground delivery network for Prime shipments, citing a decline in performance heading into the final stretch of the holiday shopping season, writes the WSJ.
The ban on using FedEx’s Ground and Home services starts this week and will last “until the delivery performance of these ship methods improves,” according to an email, reviewed by the WSJ, that Amazon sent to merchants on Sunday.
The retailer had already stopped using FedEx for its own deliveries in the United States, but third-party sellers — whose merchandise represents half of sales on the site — were allowed to use it.
FedEx attributed some delays to weather conditions and said it recently had some of its highest-volume days ever, adding that its networks were “designed to accommodate the surge of packages.”
Amazon and FedEx ended two major contracts this year that totaled about $900 million in revenue for FedEx. The delivery company is shifting its focus to retailers that compete with Amazon, including Walmart and Target.
Amazon ships nearly a third of its packages on its own, Morgan Stanley has estimated, and could start a third-party shipping option that would present a threat to the established shipping channels.
Goldman Sachs announced an alternative-investments group yesterday in a preview of a strategic plan ahead of its investor day next month, writes the FT.
The strategy is a “unique opportunity” to attract more funds from outside investors, David Solomon, Goldman’s C.E.O., said in a staff memo about the platform, called the Alternatives Capital Markets and Strategy Group.
The platform will cover a wide range of investment strategies, “from the private equity, infrastructure and debt investments offered by Goldman’s merchant bank to the partnerships, co-investments and funds offered through Goldman’s investment management arm,” the FT writes.
“Attracting more third-party funds has been a key aim of Mr. Solomon and his lieutenants, who have spoken about creating an investment business like Blackstone, perhaps the world’s most powerful alternative money manager,” the FT reports.
• The group will be run by Chris Kojima, the company’s global head of alternative investments, and Mike Koester, the chief commercial officer for Goldman’s merchant bank.
The London Stock Exchange Group is set to reshuffle top management in a bid to turn around the unit that supplies technology to other exchanges and electronic marketplaces around the world.
Jeff Shell, head of NBCUniversal’s film and entertainment division, will become C.E.O. of NBCUniversal on Jan. 1.
• Intel is expanding its push into artificial intelligence with the acquisition of Habana Labs, a start-up based in Israel, for about $2 billion. (Reuters)
• Cineworld, a movie theater chain based in Britain, will buy Cineplex of Canada for $1.65 billion, making it the biggest cinema operator in North America. (Reuters)
• Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm, is close to a deal to acquire the auto-trading unit of the German classifieds company Scout24. (Bloomberg)
• Uber is in talks to sell its food delivery business in India for about $400 million. (NYT)
Politics and policy
• Michael Bloomberg, a 2020 Democratic primary candidate, is showing the power of a virtually bottomless advertising budget. (NYT)
• Why wealthier families get a bigger tax credit for their children. (NYT)
• Ninety-one Fortune 500 companies essentially paid no federal taxes in 2018. (CNBC)
• Nearly all of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s staff in Washington resigned over the weekend as both Democrats and Republicans criticized his decision to switch parties. (NYT)
Trump impeachment inquiry
• Democratic lawmakers representing conservative-leaning districts announced yesterday that they would vote this week to impeach President Trump. (NYT)
• Rudy Giuliani said he had provided Mr. Trump with detailed information this year about how the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was, in Mr. Giuliani’s view, impeding investigations that could benefit the president. (NYT)
• More than 700 historians signed a letter urging the House to impeach Mr. Trump, saying that his disregard for the rule of law represented a “clear and present danger to the Constitution.” (The Hill)
• Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to change the law to guarantee that the Brexit transition phase is not extended, which could take Britain out of the E.U. without a deal. (Bloomberg)
• Technology companies have resisted a Trump administration request to stop sourcing supplies from some Chinese companies, a move that would essentially shut out Huawei. (FT)
• Companies in Poland are turning to robots amid labor shortages that are constraining one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. (FT)
• Cisco Systems won a court challenge to halt the sale of Chinese counterfeit networking equipment on online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba. (WSJ)
• Netflix released new metrics showing its expansion overseas as competition stiffens in the U.S. (NYT)
• Hundreds of freelance writers at Vox Media will lose their jobs as the company prepares for a California law that will force companies to reclassify contractors as employees. (NYT)
• Two Las Vegas programmers have pleaded guilty to running huge unauthorized streaming services that the authorities say rivaled the libraries of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. (WaPo)
• Travis Kalanick, the Uber co-founder, sold $350 million in stock this month, bringing his proceeds to more than $2.1 billion since a share lockup ended in early November. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
• Retailers have made e-commerce easy for shoppers, but with online returns eating into profits, some companies are taking steps to discourage abuse of their policies. (Bloomberg)
• Friction between Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and the BBC extends to its journalism as the country’s leader delivers broadsides against the broadcaster. (NYT)
• In a whistle-blower complaint to the I.R.S., a former investment manager says that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, possibly violating federal tax rules. (WaPo)
• There are no standard clothing sizes, and the problem has worsened as shopping has shifted online. But a crop of companies is trying to solve the problem. (WSJ)
• Securities regulators have barred Tim Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs partner, from working in the industry just over a year after he pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate the looting of billions from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. (NYT)
• A disease spreading from China has wiped out roughly one-quarter of the world’s pigs, reshaping farming and hitting the diets and pocketbooks of people around the globe. (NYT)
• Just 31 counties — the top 1 percent by share — made up 32.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product last year. (Bloomberg)
• Some funds marketed as socially responsible by investment firms are drawing regulators’ attention to determine whether those claims are at odds with reality. (WSJ)

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