October 16, 2021

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Thousands of John Deere workers strike over their contract.

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, Thousands of John Deere workers strike over their contract., The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
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Credit…Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register, via Associated Press

Some 10,000 unionized workers at the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company went on strike early Thursday after overwhelmingly rejecting a contract proposal worked out with the company by negotiators for the United Automobile Workers union.

“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, the director of the union’s agricultural department, said in a statement. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”

Deere said it was “determined to reach an agreement” that would benefit workers. “We will keep working day and night to understand our employees’ priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve,” Brad Morris, the company’s vice president for labor relations, said in a statement.

The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members had voted down the tentative agreement reached on Oct. 1 with the company, which makes the John Deere brand of tractors. Union negotiators had characterized the proposal as providing “significant economic gains” and “the highest quality health care benefits in the industry.”

But workers, who are spread out across 14 facilities, primarily in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for insufficiently increasing wages, for denying a traditional pension to new employees and for failing to substantially improve an incentive program that they consider overly stingy.

“We’ve never had the deck stacked in our advantage the way it is now,” said Chris Laursen, a worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, who was president of his local there until recently.

Mr. Laursen cited the profitability of Deere & Company — which is on pace to set a record of nearly $6 billion this fiscal year — as well as relatively high agricultural commodity prices and supply-chain bottlenecks resulting from the pandemic as sources of leverage for workers.

“The company is reaping such rewards, but we’re fighting over crumbs here,” he said.

The strike comes at a time when many employers are grappling with worker shortages and workers across the country appear more willing to undertake strikes and other labor actions.

Last week, more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, the cereal maker, went on strike, and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos, experienced a work stoppage this summer. Workers have waged prominent union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.

Under the tentative deal, wages would have increased 5 or 6 percent this year, depending on a worker’s pay grade, and then an additional 3 percent each in 2023 and 2025.

Traditional pension benefits would have increased but would have remained substantially lower for workers hired after 1997, and many workers were disappointed to see benefits cut for new hires, Mr. Laursen said.

Looming over the negotiation is a suspicion among rank-and-file workers toward the international union resulting from a series of scandals in recent years involving corruption within the union and illegal payoffs to union officials from executives at the company then known as Fiat Chrysler.

The scandals led to more than 15 convictions, including those of two recent U.A.W. presidents.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Walgreens Boots Alliance administered coronavirus vaccinations at a higher-than-expected rate, delivering 13.5 million vaccinations in the three months that ended in September, which helped bolster its sales, the company reported on Thursday.

The company also announced that it would invest an additional $5.2 billion into VillageMD, a venture that aims to reach underserved communities, to support its rollout of at least 600 primary care practices at Walgreens in the United States.

Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance jumped by more than 3 percent in early trading after the announcement.

The company reported that same-store sales grew 8.9 percent in its fiscal fourth quarter compared with the same period last year. Health and wellness sales increased 14 percent, strengthened by at-home coronavirus tests and cold and flu products.

“Comparable U.S. pharmacy and retail sales both saw robust growth, and recovery continued in our U.K. business as Covid-19 restrictions eased in the quarter,” Rosalind Brewer, the chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in a statement.

Net profit jumped 68 percent in the quarter to $627 million; it was $373 million a year earlier. The company also benefited from digital tools that eased curbside and drive-through pickup, leading to 100 percent growth in revenue for the fourth quarter compared with last year.

Walgreens is one of the largest among dozens of grocery and drugstore chains that are giving vaccines allocated by states and via the federal pharmacy vaccination program. The company brings in revenue from the vaccine administration fees paid by government and private payers as well as from purchases made by shoppers coming in for vaccines.

The company requires people to create a Walgreens account to search online for a vaccine appointment, which helped increase membership in its MyWalgreens program to 85 million members from 75 million members in the previous quarter.

But it faced also complaints in the quarter from customers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the timing of a second dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Walgreens had been scheduling second doses for that shot four weeks apart, but agreed to follow guidance from federal health officials, who recommend a three-week gap.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Four of the country’s biggest banks reported quarterly earnings that beat expectations on Thursday, continuing a strong earnings season for the financial sector.

The solid reports from the four lenders — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup — underscored their optimism about the economic recovery from the pandemic, even amid risks from the Delta variant of the coronavirus, rising inflation and supply-chain headaches.

Bank of America reported a profit of $7.7 billion, or 85 cents per share, for the three-month period that ended in September. The bank’s deal makers pulled in record advisory fees of $654 million, echoing their counterparts at JPMorgan Chase, who also cashed in on a hot market for mergers and acquisitions in earnings announced on Wednesday.

“If you look at the economy, it’s improving, people are spending more and businesses are going to have to start investing,” Paul Donofrio, Bank of America’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call. “We’re optimistic about the future,” he added.

At Wells Fargo, profit was $5.1 billion, or $1.17 per share, also beating analyst estimates, thanks partly to cutting expenses.

Wells Fargo’s chief executive, Charles W. Scharf, said the bank was focused on fixing its problems after it was slapped with a $250 million fine over mortgage practices and a stinging rebuke from a banking regulator last month. It was the latest in a series of penalties the bank has faced for its conduct, including a fake account scandal that spanned more than a decade.

The fine was “a reminder that the significant deficiencies that existed when I arrived must remain our top priority,” Mr. Scharf said in a statement.

Morgan Stanley’s profit rose to $3.7 billion, or $1.98 a share, with its gains fueled by investment bankers who brought in record revenue from advising companies on transactions, and stock traders, who drove equities revenue up 24 percent.

Citigroup reported a profit of $4.6 billion, or $2.15 a share. Debt underwriting was a bright spot for the bank, which also had its best quarter for mergers and acquisitions in a decade. “The recovery from the pandemic continues to drive corporate and consumer confidence,” Jane Fraser, the Citigroup chief executive, said in a statement.

Included in profits for Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup were funds released from stockpiles they had built early in the pandemic to guard against a surge in loan defaults that never materialized. Wells Fargo released $1.7 billion, Citigroup released $1.2 billion and Bank of America released $1.1 billion. Morgan Stanley instead added slightly to its provisions for credit losses.

On Wednesday, JPMorgan, the country’s biggest bank, beat analysts expectations with earnings of $11.7 billion, or $3.74 per share. Goldman Sachs, the last of the major banks to report for the quarter, will release its results on Friday.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Thursday, lifted by favorable economic data and some stronger-than-expected earnings reports.

The S&P 500 rose 1 percent in early trading, while the Nasdaq composite gained 1.1 percent.

The Labor Department reported initial claims for state jobless benefits fell to 293,000 last week, down 36,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since the pandemic began.

The government also reported that producer prices — a measure of inflation — rose 0.5 percent in September, a slower rate of increase than in August and below economists’ expectations.

Banks reported better-than-expected earnings on Thursday, driving shares for Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo up by more than 1 percent in early trading. Bank of America gained 2 percent.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group rose about 6 percent on after the health care giant reported that its revenue for the third quarter climbed by 11 percent from the same period last year. Shares for Walgreens Boots Alliance dropped more than 3 percent after announcing in its virtual investor conference that it will invest $5.2 billion into its partner company VillageMD to boost its rollout of health care services and clinics.

European stock indexes were higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 jumping by more than 1 percent. Asian markets closed mixed.

Credit…Ron Sach/ZUMA

He tried and failed to buy The Baltimore Sun. Now the Maryland hotel magnate Stewart W. Bainum Jr. is creating an ambitious publication meant to compete with it.

The planned digital news outlet, The Baltimore Banner, will have an annual operating budget of $15 million, and Mr. Bainum is now looking to hire an editor in chief and a staff of 50 journalists, the newspaper consultant Imtiaz Patel, an adviser to Mr. Bainum, said on Thursday.

Mr. Bainum’s goal, Mr. Patel added, is to build the largest newsroom in Maryland — more than 100 journalists — and lean on subscription sales to achieve sustainability. The Baltimore Banner will be run as a nonprofit organization and will not offer print editions. The Atlantic first reported Mr. Bainum’s plans on Thursday.

The creation of The Baltimore Banner is a side result of the biggest newspaper deal of the last year, when the hedge fund Alden Global Capital bought Tribune Publishing, the company behind The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and other major metropolitan dailies, in a deal valued at $630 million.

Months before Tribune’s shareholders approved that sale, Alden Global Capital announced that it had reached a nonbinding deal to sell The Sun to Mr. Bainum for $65 million once the larger acquisition had been completed. Mr. Bainum’s plan was to turn the 184-year-old newspaper to a nonprofit organization that would run it as a public trust.

That arrangement fell through, however, leaving Mr. Bainum to try to put together new bids for Tribune Publishing as a whole. Those attempts did not come to fruition, but Mr. Bainum did not lose interest in becoming a publisher.

“He has this vision of building up the real alternative paper of record and investing the resources he would have put into The Sun,” Mr. Patel, the adviser, said on Thursday.

A native of Takoma Park, Md., Mr. Bainum is the chairman of Choice Hotels International, a onetime family business that is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, including the Comfort Inn and Quality Inn brands. A lifelong Democrat, he served in Maryland’s state legislature from 1979 to 1987.

When he was assembling bids for Tribune Publishing earlier this year, he hoped to find local, civic-minded benefactors willing to take ownership of the company’s individual papers, a group of large-circulation dailies that includes The Hartford Courant, The Orlando Sentinel and The Daily News.

Journalists at several Tribune papers publicly supported Mr. Bainum’s efforts to buy the company, and many of them were publicly critical of Alden Global Capital, which has a reputation for stringent cost-cutting at the dozens of newspapers it owns through a subsidiary, MediaNews Group.

Credit…Warner Bros.

LeBron James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter want to become major players in the film, television, gaming, consumer products, audio and live-events businesses (among others). On Thursday, four investors — RedBird Capital, Fenway Sports Group, Nike and Epic Games — agreed to “pour gasoline” on those ambitions.

That was how Mr. Carter, speaking by phone, described the sale of a “significant” minority stake in SpringHill, the company that he and Mr. James founded last year. The deal values SpringHill, where Mr. Carter is chief executive and Mr. James chairman, at about $725 million.

“This allows us to really double and triple down on financing our own content,” Mr. Carter said, noting that doing so would allow SpringHill to both build a library of content and more tightly control the creative process.

He declined to say how much cash was pumped into the company. SpringHill, which is based in Los Angeles, has 141 employees and will generate roughly $100 million in revenue over the next year, Mr. Carter said.

SpringHill’s operations include a marketing consultancy (clients have included General Motors, Sprite and JPMorgan Chase) and a media and apparel division focused on athlete empowerment. Another division, SpringHill Entertainment, produces film and television shows. (An expired partnership with Warner Bros. resulted in the big-budget movie sequel “Space Jam: A New Legacy” over the summer. Additional scripted projects are gestating at Universal Pictures and ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company.)

Sale chatter began to swirl around SpringHill this year as a wide variety of companies and investors — hoping to capitalize on the streaming boom — looked for media start-ups to buy. Reese Witherspoon, for instance, sold her Hello Sunshine to a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by the Blackstone Group.

Mr. Carter and Mr. James turned away other suitors before deciding to make a deal with the investor group led by RedBird, which was founded in 2014 by Gerry Cardinale, a former Goldman Sachs executive who is known for building businesses. A prime example was his 2001 creation of the YES regional sports network, which broadcasts New York Yankees games, with the Steinbrenner family. RedBird, which manages about $5 billion in capital, is also an investor in David Ellison’s Skydance Media.

Mr. Cardinale said he was especially taken with SpringHill’s emphasis on empowerment.

“Sports has a very important role to play in addressing societal issues,” he said in a phone interview. “Maverick and LeBron have an unbelievable opportunity to take a real leadership position in pushing that forward.”

Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday a national rush to mine and burn more coal, despite their previous pledges to curb emissions that cause climate change.

  • Mines that were closed without authorization have been ordered to reopen.

  • Coal mines and coal-fired power plants that were shut for repairs are also to be reopened.

  • Tax incentives are being drafted for coal-fired power plants.

  • Regulators have ordered Chinese banks to provide plenty of loans to the coal sector.

“We will make every effort to increase coal production and supply,” said Zhao Chenxin, the secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, at a news briefing on Wednesday in Beijing.

The changes are a reaction to the country’s electricity shortage, and how much coal can be mined and burned soon will help decide whether Beijing can deliver in the coming months the strong economic growth that China’s people have come to expect, Keith Bradsher reports for The New York Times.

Power rationing appears to have eased somewhat since late last month, when widespread blackouts and power cuts caught factories by surprise. But the winter heating season officially begins on Friday in the country’s northeast and continues into north-central China next month.

China faces tough choices. It burns more coal than the rest of the world combined and is the No. 2 consumer of oil after the United States.

The electricity crunch has laid bare one of China’s strategic weaknesses: It is a voracious, and increasingly hungry, energy hog. READ THE ARTICLE →

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Facebook told employees on Tuesday that it was making some of its internal online discussion groups private, in an effort to minimize leaks.

Many Facebook employees join online discussion groups on Workplace, an internal message board that workers use to communicate and collaborate with one another. In the announcement on Tuesday, the company said it was making some groups focused on platform safety and protecting elections, an area known broadly as “integrity,” private instead of public within the company, limiting who can view and participate in the discussion threads.

The move follows the disclosure by Frances Haugen, a former employee, of thousands of pages of internal documents to regulators, lawmakers and the news media. The documents showed that Facebook was aware of some of the harms it was causing. Ms. Haugen, a former member of Facebook’s civic misinformation team, has filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and testified to a Senate subcommittee this month.

“As everyone is likely aware, we’ve seen an increase in the number of Integrity-related leaks in recent months,” an engineering director wrote in the announcement, which was reviewed by The New York Times. “These leaks aren’t representative of the nuances and complexities involved in our work and are often taken out of context, leading to our work being mischaracterized externally.”

Facebook had been known for an open culture that encouraged debate and transparency, but it has become more insular as it has confronted leaks about issues such as toxic speech and misinformation and grappled with employee unrest. In July, the communications team shuttered comments on an internal forum used for companywide announcements, writing, “OUR ONE REQUEST: PLEASE DON’T LEAK.”

“Leaks make it harder for our teams to work together, can put employees working on sensitive subjects at risk externally and lead to complex topics being misrepresented and misunderstood,” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement. Mr. Stone also said Facebook had been planning the changes for months.

Tuesday’s announcement stated that Facebook plans to comb through some of the online discussion groups to remove individuals whose work isn’t related to safety and security. The changes will occur in “the coming months” and “with the expectation that sensitive Integrity discussions will happen in closed, curated forums in the future.”

In internal comments, which were shared with The Times, some employees supported the move while others denounced the loss of transparency and collaboration. They called the change “counterproductive” and “disheartening,” with one person suggesting that it could lead to even more leaks from disgruntled employees.

“I think every single employee at the company should be thinking about and working on integrity as part of their day-to-day role, and we should work to foster a culture where that’s the expectation,” one Facebook employee wrote. “Siloing off the people who are dedicated to integrity will harm both active efforts to collaborate and reduce the cultural expectation that integrity is everyone’s responsibility.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times
  • The top federal auto safety regulator sent two letters to Tesla this week raising questions about the company’s driver-assistance software systems and instructing the carmaker to provide fuller information.

    The regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is looking into why Tesla did not issue a recall last month when it updated software called Autopilot to improve its ability to spot stopped emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire trucks. The agency also ordered Tesla to provide data about the software that the company calls Full Self-Driving and expressed concern that Tesla may be preventing customers from sharing safety information with the agency.

    The moves suggest that NHTSA is taking a closer look at Tesla’s driver-assistance features and the gap between their names and their abilities. READ THE ARTICLE →

  • Federal Reserve officials were preparing to begin slowing down monetary policy support as soon as the middle of November, minutes from their September meeting showed, and policymakers debated when they might need to raise rates amid rising inflation risks.

    The central bank’s officials signaled after their Sept. 21-22 meeting that they might announce a plan to pare back their purchases of government-backed bonds as soon as early November. The minutes suggested that “if a decision to begin tapering purchases occurred at the next meeting, the process of tapering could commence with the monthly purchase calendars beginning in either mid-November or mid-December.”

    The process could end by the middle of next year, the minutes indicated. READ THE ARTICLE →

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