HOUSTON, July 5 (Reuters) – More than 5 million barrels of oil that were part of a historic U.S. emergency reserves release to lower domestic fuel prices were exported to Europe and Asia last month, according to data and sources, even as U.S. gasoline and diesel prices hit record highs.
The export of crude and fuel is blunting the impact of the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden to lower record pump prices. Biden on Saturday renewed a call for gasoline suppliers to cut their prices, drawing criticism from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. read more
About 1 million barrels per day is being released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through October. The flow is draining the SPR, which last month fell to the lowest since 1986. U.S. crude futures are above $100 per barrel and gasoline and diesel prices above $5 a gallon in one-fifth of the nation. U.S. officials have said oil prices could be higher if the SPR had not been tapped.
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“The SPR remains a critical energy security tool to address global crude oil supply disruptions,” a Department of Energy spokesperson said, adding that the emergency releases helped ensure stable supply of crude oil.
The fourth-largest U.S. oil refiner, Phillips 66 (PSX.N), shipped about 470,000 barrels of sour crude from the Big Hill SPR storage site in Texas to Trieste, Italy, according to U.S. Customs data. Trieste is home to a pipeline that sends oil to refineries in central Europe.
Atlantic Trading & Marketing (ATMI), an arm of French oil major TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), exported 2 cargoes of 560,000 barrels each, the data showed.
The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an oil storage facility, is seen in this aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas, U.S., April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Phillips 66 declined to comment on trading activity. ATMI did not respond to a request for comment.
Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance (RELI.NS) refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said.
At least one cargo of crude from the West Hackberry SPR site in Louisiana was set to be exported in July, a shipping source added.
“Crude and fuel prices would likely be higher if (the SPR releases) hadn’t happened, but at the same time, it isn’t really having the effect that was assumed,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.
The latest exports follow three vessels that carried SPR crude to Europe in April helping replace Russian crude supplies. read more
U.S. crude inventories are the lowest since 2004 as refineries run near peak levels. Refineries in the U.S. Gulf coast were at 97.9% utilization, the most in three and a half years.
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Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sam Holmes
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
HAILEY, Idaho — Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, flies in a Gulfstream G650. So do Jeff Bezos and Dan Schulman, PayPal’s chief executive. The jets, roughly 470 of which are in operation, retail for about $75 million each.
Most days, those planes are spread out, ferrying captains of industry to meetings around the globe. But for one week in July, some of them converge on a single 100-foot-wide asphalt runway beside the jagged hills of Idaho’s Wood River Valley.
The occasion is the annual Sun Valley conference, a shoulder-rubbing bonanza organized by the secretive investment bank Allen & Company. Known as “summer camp for billionaires,” the conference kicks off this year on Tuesday, and it draws industry titans and their families — some of whom are watched over by local babysitters bound by nondisclosure agreements. In between organized hikes and fly-fishing at past gatherings, there have been sessions on creativity, climate change and immigration reform.
the ninth hole of the golf course, the head of General Electric expressed interest in selling NBC to Comcast. It is where Mr. Bezos met with the owner of The Washington Post before agreeing to buy the paper, and where Disney pursued a plan to purchase ABC — with Warren Buffett at the center of the discussions.
a year-round population of 1,800.
During a 24-hour period last year as the conference began, more than 300 flights passed through Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, a small town near Sun Valley, according to data from Flightradar24, an industry data firm. They ranged from tiny propeller planes to long-wing commercial jets. By comparison, two weeks ago, when Mr. Pomeroy gave me a brief tour of the airport, just 44 flights took off or landed there over 24 hours, according to the data firm.
“This is empty right now,” Mr. Pomeroy said, smoothly steering his white 2014 Ford Explorer (what he calls his “mobile command center”) past a swath of freshly paved asphalt. “But in the summer, and during the event in particular, there’s airplanes parked everywhere up here.”
Much like the activities of the conference, elements of the travel there are shrouded in secrecy. Many jets flying in are registered to obscure owners and limited liability companies, some with only winking references to their passengers. The jet that carried Mr. Kraft last year, for example, is registered under “Airkraft One Trust,” according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane that Mr. Bezos flew in on is registered to Poplar Glen, a Seattle firm.
Representatives for Mr. Kraft and Mr. Bezos declined to comment. Mr. Bezos is not expected to turn up at Sun Valley this year, according to an advance list of guests that was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Pomeroy plans well in advance to deal with the intense air traffic generated by the conference, which he refers to obliquely as “the annual fly-in event.” Without proper organization, flocks of private jets could stack up in the airspace around Friedman, creating delays and diversions while pilots burn precious fuel.
That was the case for the 2016 conference, which coincided with Mr. Pomeroy’s first week on the job. That year, some aircraft circled overhead or sat on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half, waiting for the airspace and runway to clear.
“I saw airplanes literally lined up to take off from the north end of the field almost all the way down to the south end of the field,” Mr. Pomeroy said, referring to the 7,550-foot runway. “Tail to nose, all the way up the taxiway.”
After that episode, Mr. Pomeroy enlisted Greg Dyer, a former district manager at the F.A.A., to help unclutter the tarmac. The two coordinated with an F.A.A. hub in Salt Lake City to line up flights, sometimes 300 to 500 miles outside Sun Valley. For some flights, the staging begins before the planes take off.
“Before, it looked like an attack — it was just airplanes coming from all points of the compass, all trying to get here at the same time,” said Mr. Dyer, an airport consultant for Jviation-Woolpert.
Last year, delays were kept to a maximum of 20 minutes, and no commercial travelers missed connecting flights because of air traffic caused by the conference, Mr. Pomeroy said.
When moguls are forced to circle in the air, they often loiter in great style. Buyers willing to shell out tens of millions for a high-end private plane are unlikely to balk at an additional $650,000 to outfit the aircraft with Wi-Fi, said Lee Mindel, one of the founders of SheltonMindel, an architectural firm that has designed the interiors of Gulfstream and Bombardier private jets. Some owners, he said, have opted for bespoke flatware from Muriel Grateau in Paris, V’Soske rugs or other luxe features.
“If you have to ask what it costs, you really can’t afford to do it,” Mr. Mindel said.
During the pandemic, when commercial travel slowed because of restrictions, corporate jaunts increased among a subset of executives who didn’t want to be held back, said David Yermack, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He added that it might be cheaper in the long run to compensate chief executives with jet travel than pay them with cash.
“I think it was Napoleon who said, ‘When I realized people would lay down their lives for little pieces of colored ribbon, I knew I could conquer the world,’” Mr. Yermack said.
The glut of flights certainly raises practical concerns. The residents of Hailey, as well as nearby Ketchum and Sun Valley, have complained in the past about the noise created by the jets zooming into Friedman Memorial Airport.
To deal with the complaints, Mr. Pomeroy and the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority curtailed flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and limited the number of takeoffs and landings from the north, over the little city of Hailey.
Before the conference, Mr. Pomeroy sends a letter to incoming pilots about what to expect, admonishing them to keep the noise to a minimum.
“While the overwhelming majority of users during this event are respectful of our program and community, only a few operators who blatantly disregard our program, or who are negligent in educating themselves about our program, leave a negative impression on all of us,” Mr. Pomeroy wrote this year.
Allen & Company’s stinginess about some conference details extends to the airport. But Mr. Pomeroy and his team get enough information to conclude when the moguls will arrive and are about to leave town.
When the schmoozing is over next week, Mr. Pomeroy will begin the arduous task of ushering the corporate titans out of Idaho. Often that means closing the airport briefly to arrivals while they hustle out departures for an hour.
As the last jets get ready to leave, Mr. Pomeroy said, he and his team breathe a sigh of relief.
“Afterward, I am ready to hit the river for some serious fly-fishing for a day or two,” he said.
When Sally Buzbee joined The Washington Post a year ago this month, she took over a newsroom that had nearly doubled to more than 1,000 journalists under the ownership of Jeff Bezos, who bought it in 2013. Its coverage regularly won Pulitzer Prizes.
The newspaper has continued growing in the months since. It has opened breaking news hubs in Seoul and London to become more of a 24-hour global operation. It expanded coverage of technology, climate and personal health. Its reporting won the Pulitzer Prize for public service this year.
But Ms. Buzbee is now on the defensive, yet to completely win over the newsroom and facing internal strife that has eclipsed some of her bold plans.
tweeted in unison last week in support of the newspaper’s direction.
joined The Post last June, becoming the first female executive editor in its 145-year history. She had spent her career at The Associated Press, most recently serving as executive editor. She replaced Martin Baron, who remade the newsroom over eight years to much acclaim, including 10 Pulitzer Prizes.
said was too vague and unevenly enforced. Mr. Baron faced similar tensions under his tenure, including a clash with a star reporter, Wesley Lowery. Mr. Baron threatened to fire Mr. Lowery for violations of The Post’s social media policy, including expressing political views and criticizing competitors, according to a copy of a disciplinary letter.
tweeted: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”
Mr. Weigel quickly deleted his tweet and apologized. Several days later, with several staff members fighting about his actions online, Ms. Buzbee suspended him for a month. In emails, she implored Post journalists to be collegial. After an employee replied to everyone in support of Ms. Sonmez, The Post cut off the ability for staff members to reply-all in a newsroom-wide email, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
But Ms. Sonmez never stopped tweeting. She said the newspaper unevenly punished journalists for what they wrote on Twitter, and critiqued her co-workers publicly. (Ms. Sonmez previously sued The Post for discrimination after she was barred from covering stories related to sexual assault after she publicly identified herself as a victim of assault. A judge dismissed the case in March.)
termination letter sent by The Post accused her of “insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.”
Less than an hour later, Ms. Buzbee met with the features department to quell another social media flare-up.
Taylor Lorenz, a technology reporter lured to The Post from The New York Times this year, had tweeted that a miscommunication with her editor led to an inaccurate line in an article. The tweets were discussed and agreed on by Ms. Lorenz and multiple editors before she posted, said three people with knowledge of the discussions. The tweets prompted an outcry from critics on Twitter who accused her of passing the buck.
Before the corrections, Ms. Buzbee had offered the well-respected editor, David Malitz, a promotion to run the features department, according to one person with knowledge of the offer. He had agreed to take it. But several days later, Ms. Buzbee pulled the offer.
In the meeting with the features group, Ms. Buzbee fielded angry questions about Mr. Malitz’s treatment. She said he was “in no way reprimanded or punished for any errors,” according to a copy of notes taken at the meeting, but would not say what was behind her decision. She said she couldn’t talk about personnel issues.
It was at that meeting that Ms. Sullivan, The Post’s media columnist, accused Ms. Buzbee of damaging Mr. Malitz’s career, and other staff members said she hadn’t earned their trust. Some told Ms. Buzbee that their doubts stemmed from rarely hearing from her until that meeting.
Ms. Lorenz has been moved from the features staff to the technology team, according to three people with knowledge of the move. Mr. Barr has been asked to review her articles before publication, two of the people said.
On Tuesday, Ms. Buzbee met with dozens of editors in person and over videoconference, fielding questions about the recent upheaval. One editor relayed the concerns from employees who were wary of becoming editors at The Post after recent events.
Ms. Buzbee said in the meeting that she was optimistic about the future of the newspaper. She also told editors that it was their collective responsibility to protect the staff, the readers and the newspaper’s credibility.
On Wednesday evening, newsroom employees were emailed a draft of updated social media guidelines and told that senior editors would hold “listening sessions” this week to get feedback on the revisions.
The draft says that no employee is required to post or engage on social media platforms; journalists must not harm the integrity or reputation of the newsroom; and journalists are “allowed and encouraged to bring their full identity and lived experiences to their social accounts.”
The draft guidelines also note that The Post considers it a priority to protect its journalists from online harassment and attacks.
When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.
David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”
Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.
Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.
broken up for good.
the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.
Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.
When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”
The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.
He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.
In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.
The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.
While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.
When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.
And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.
By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.
MacKenzie Scott stepped out of the long shadow of her former husband, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, by handing out billions of dollars in grants over the past two years to charities, community colleges, food banks and progressive nonprofits led by people of color.
Advising her was a team of consultants at a firm that is hardly known outside philanthropic circles but highly influential within them, the Bridgespan Group.
Spun out of the consulting firm Bain & Company as a nonprofit, Bridgespan is one of a host of groups that arose in the early 2000s as a new wave of giving led by tech billionaires was beginning to crest. Two decades later, the consultants working behind the scenes are more important than ever.
Ms. Scott pulled back the curtain a bit in June when, among the 286 groups receiving more than $2.7 billion in donations, were a host of organizations that are basically the plumbing and wiring of the nonprofit world. Among them were the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Charity Navigator and Bridgespan itself, which said it would use its gift mainly to pursue research meant to benefit the sector as a whole.
spreadsheet of gifts and a full-blown foundation with offices on Fifth Avenue.
“Bridgespan occupies a unique perch in the landscape of professional-services organizations serving foundations and high-net-worth families,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. Mr. Walker, who has worked with Bridgespan since he was with the Abyssinian Development Corporation two decades ago, said no firm had been more influential in the past 20 years.
When a group of billionaires and scholars gathered last year to brainstorm reforms for the charitable sector, they met at Bridgespan’s offices in New York. When the Open Society Foundations, by most measures the second-biggest foundation in the United States after Gates, recently began a significant restructuring, it brought in Bridgespan. And, of course, there is Ms. Scott, who shook up the world of philanthropy with donations of more than $8 billion in 11 months.
But some philanthropy experts say relying on consultants can skew which groups get the most funding. “Consultants at places like Bridgespan are setting the menu of what philanthropists can and should do,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy and scholar of philanthropy at the University of Michigan. “The organizations that are stamped with the managerial brand are more likely to get funding.”
Bridgespan was started in 2000 by three men with ties to the for-profit management consultant Bain & Company, including Bain’s then-worldwide managing partner Thomas Tierney. The founders received $1.3 million from the consulting firm and $5.5 million from a group of foundations to see if a dedicated nonprofit could do a better job than for-profit consultants dabbling in pro bono work.
Bridgespan got its start during an era of “venture philanthropy” and “philanthrocapitalism.” In essence, the billionaires knew best and they were going to bring their vaunted analytic practices to the world of nonprofits. A whole crop of groups came up at around the same time, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Center for Effective Philanthropy and the consultants FSG among them. (All received funding from Ms. Scott in her last round of giving.)
Bridgespan itself received a gift from Ms. Scott. Bridgespan’s latest tax filing for the year 2020 showed contributions and grants leaping to $74.7 million from $12.5 million the year before, nearly doubling the group’s total assets as of the end of last year. Bridgespan said the increase reflected a five-year capital campaign with multiple donors and not just Ms. Scott’s grant.
Giving away money used to be approached as a distinct enterprise from making money. The strategies, language and reams of analytics do not always translate to the nonprofit world, where “return on investment” could be harder to quantify.
“We were getting into bidding wars. ‘I can serve 500 kids for a million dollars.’ ‘I can serve 500 kids for $400,000,’” said Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children’s Zone and one of Bridgespan’s first clients. He said he found his initial encounter with the group “predictably demeaning — they come in, lay out charts, don’t give you the chance to answer back.”
What was different from other firms his nonprofit worked with, he said, was Bridgespan took his “brutally honest” feedback to heart. In turn, they persuaded him to abandon the bidding wars and ask for more money, trusting the donors to respect his candor.
Attitudes toward billionaire philanthropy shifted after the Great Recession, with populists on the left and right more suspicious of the ultrawealthy. Yet management consulting for philanthropists and nonprofits continued to thrive. That is partly because the pie keeps growing.
From 2000 to 2018, assets held by private foundations more than doubled, according to the research group Candid, to $950 billion from $421 billion. Total giving tripled over the same period, the most recent for which complete data is available, rising to $72 billion from $23 billion, according to Candid, which also received a grant from Ms. Scott.
Instead of establishing big foundations, many of the richest Americans now want to use limited-liability companies, like Laurene Powell-Jobs, and donor-advised funds, which Ms. Scott has used for some of her gifts.
“Bridgespan seems exceptionally able and well-disposed to take advantage of the shift from big family foundations to L.L.C.s that don’t want staff but are still giving away a huge sum of money,” said Rob Reich, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University.
Groups like Bridgespan can also step into the gap and serve as outsourced staff for new foundations finding their footing.
In March, the recently formed Asian American Foundation had just five full-time employees. After the killing of eight people at Atlanta-area spas, six of Asian descent, the group was inundated with pledges and commitments, including millions more from prominent board members including Joseph Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, and a further $1 billion committed to their cause by foundations, corporations and individuals in an eight-week period.
Mr. Hussein of Bridgespan served as an informal adviser, joining calls with board members.
The foundation brought on a team from Bridgespan full time over the summer. “My ask of them was understanding what is happening in the field and what are things we should be paying attention to. Where were the gaps?” said Sonal Shah, the foundation’s president. The Bridgespan team provided a thorough analysis of Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations in the United States.
“I think it was over a four-week period, which is not a small thing to do in a month,” Ms. Shah said.
Ms. Shah said she appreciated the fact that the team from Bridgespan was staffed fully with people of Asian descent. Mr. Hussein said that was intentional. He drew from Bridgespan’s internal affinity group, people with “firsthand experience of what it means to be othered, what it means to have the model minority myth,” Mr. Hussein said.
That was not the case in the group’s early days, said Mr. Walker, of the Ford Foundation.
“When I first met Bridgespan, it was primarily white men at the top and that’s not a surprise given their origin,” Mr. Walker said. “I had a Zoom call with the Bridgespan team on a matter last spring and a majority of the people on the little Hollywood Squares on the Zoom were people of color and women.”
Bridgespan’s self-reported diversity figures show two-thirds of the group’s staff are women. White people make up less than half of the overall staff, as well as less than half of those in leadership positions.
Both Mr. Walker and Jeff Bradach, one of Bridgespan’s founders, used the word “journey” to describe the group’s embrace of diversity and inclusion as central tenets of the work. Mr. Bradach, who was managing partner until October, when he stepped down from the top post, stressed in an interview that this was still a work in progress and that Bridgespan had made mistakes in the past.
For instance, one of Bridgespan’s big pushes was for donors to make “big bets” rather than spreading the money around. But that standard tends to favor big institutions. “If in your criteria, you say, ‘We only fund people that do random control trials,’ if you have these barriers to capital on general operating support, then a whole bunch of organizations led by people of color have actually never been given the money to do that,” Mr. Bradach said.
Ms. Scott has made it a priority to give to such previously underfunded groups. But she has no website or headquarters or way to apply for grants, leaving groups scrambling for a way to get on her radar. People in the field noticed, for instance, that Bridgespan has advised the YMCA and Ms. Scott gave grants to YMCA’s across the country last year.
While avoiding directly discussing Ms. Scott’s giving per company policy, Mr. Bradach rejected the notion that nonprofits could work with Bridgespan as a way of getting the attention of the big donors they advise. Mr. Bradach said that just 5 percent of the nonprofits that Bridgespan’s philanthropic clients gave to were also Bridgespan clients.
In that 5 percent of cases, Bridgespan policy is to tell the donor that it also represents the nonprofit. The notion among nonprofits that they could cozy up to Bridgespan and then receive huge sums from Ms. Scott is wrong, Mr. Bradach said, and also betrays a misunderstanding of how much sway Bridgespan has over the donors who seek its help. “It’s not,” he said, “a black box that they’re kind of scratching their head going, ‘I can’t wait to see what comes.’”
Three years after an employee revolt forced Google to abandon work on a Pentagon program that used artificial intelligence, the company is aggressively pursuing a major contract to provide its technology to the military.
The company’s plan to land the potentially lucrative contract, known as the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, could raise a furor among its outspoken work force and test the resolve of management to resist employee demands.
In 2018, thousands of Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in Project Maven, a military program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to refine the targeting of drone strikes. Google management caved and agreed to not renew the contract once it expired.
The outcry led Google to create guidelines for the ethical use of artificial intelligence, which prohibit the use of its technology for weapons or surveillance, and hastened a shake-up of its cloud computing business. Now, as Google positions cloud computing as a key part of its future, the bid for the new Pentagon contract could test the boundaries of those A.I. principles, which have set it apart from other tech giants that routinely seek military and intelligence work.
contract with Microsoft that was canceled this summer amid a lengthy legal battle with Amazon. Google did not compete against Microsoft for that contract after the uproar over Project Maven.
The Pentagon’s restart of its cloud computing project has given Google a chance to jump back into the bidding, and the company has raced to prepare a proposal to present to Defense officials, according to four people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. In September, Google’s cloud unit made it a priority, declaring an emergency “Code Yellow,” an internal designation of importance that allowed the company to pull engineers off other assignments and focus them on the military project, two of those people said.
On Tuesday, the Google cloud unit’s chief executive, Thomas Kurian, met with Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the chief of staff of the Air Force, and other top Pentagon officials to make the case for his company, two people said.
Google, in a written statement, said it is “firmly committed to serving our public sector customers” including the Defense Department, and that it “will evaluate any future bid opportunities accordingly.”
The contract replaces the now-scrapped Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, the Pentagon cloud computing contract that was estimated to be worth $10 billion over 10 years. The exact size of the new contract is unknown, although it is half the duration and will be awarded to more than one company, not to a single provider like JEDI.
Project Maven in 2017 and prepared to bid for JEDI. Many Google employees believed Project Maven represented a potentially lethal use of artificial intelligence, and more than 4,000 workers signed a letter demanding that Google withdraw from the project.
Soon after, Google announced a set of ethical principles that would govern its use of artificial intelligence. Google would not allow its A.I. to be used for weapons or surveillance, said Sundar Pichai, its chief executive, but would continue to accept military contracts for cybersecurity and search-and-rescue.
weapons or those that direct injury.”
Lucy Suchman, a professor of anthropology of science and technology at Lancaster University whose research focuses on the use of technology in war, said that with so much money at stake, it is no surprise Google might waver on its commitment.
“It demonstrates the fragility of Google’s commitment to staying outside the major merger that’s happening between the D.O.D. and Silicon Valley,” Ms. Suchman said.
Google’s efforts come as its employees are already pushing the company to cancel a cloud computing contract with the Israeli military, called Project Nimbus, that provides Google’s services to government entities throughout Israel. In an open letter published last month by The Guardian, Google employees called on their employer to cancel the contract.
The Defense Department’s effort to transition to cloud technology has been mired in legal battles. The military operates on outdated computer systems and has spent billions of dollars on modernization. It turned to U.S. internet giants in the hope that the companies could quickly and securely move the Defense Department to the cloud.
awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft. Amazon sued to block the contract, claiming that Microsoft did not have the technical capabilities to fulfill the military’s needs and that former President Donald J. Trump had improperly influenced the decision because of animosity toward Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s executive chairman and the owner of The Washington Post.
In July, the Defense Department announced that it could no longer wait for the legal fight with Amazon to resolve. It scrapped the JEDI contract and said it would be replaced with the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability.
The Pentagon also noted that Amazon and Microsoft were the only companies that likely had the technology to meet its needs, but said it would conduct market research before ruling out other competitors. The Defense Department said it planned to reach out to Google, Oracle and IBM.
But Google executives believe they have the capability to compete for the new contract, and the company expects the Defense Department to tell it whether it will qualify to make a bid in the coming weeks, two people familiar with the matter said.
The Defense Department has previously said it hopes to award a contract by April.
“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of I.P. in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement.
Amazon’s appetite for movies became ravenous during the pandemic. It paid $125 million for the rights to “Coming 2 America,” $80 million for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” and $200 million for “The Tomorrow War,” a Chris Pratt adventure that will arrive on Prime on July 2. Amazon also has Oscar ambitions, buying the rights to “Sound of Metal,” which was nominated for best picture and other top awards at this year’s ceremony.
When it comes to making its own hit films, Amazon has long struggled. MGM managers could help: Michael De Luca, MGM’s movie chairman, has a track record that includes, at various companies, the “Rush Hour,” “Austin Powers” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchises.
MGM also has a 17,000-episode television library and a TV studio that makes “Vikings,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Fargo” and various “Real Housewives” shows. In 2014, MGM acquired Mark Burnett’s production company, One Three Media, which holds rights to competition series like “The Voice.” Mr. Burnett, a contentious figure in Hollywood because he helped shape Donald J. Trump’s image with “The Apprentice” and remained close to him during his divisive presidential term, serves as MGM’s television chairman.
Anchorage Capital, a New York investment firm, has been the majority owner of MGM for more than a decade. Before that, MGM was tossed between owners and, bitten by falling DVD revenue, eventually ending up in bankruptcy. It was worth about $2 billion in 2010, according to analysts.
Kevin Ulrich, Anchorage’s chief executive and MGM’s chairman, formally put the studio on the block late last year. Anchorage has been under pressure from various stakeholders to exit the investment, with some agitators complaining that Mr. Ulrich was overly enamored with Hollywood and should have sold years ago.
A self-made multimillionaire who married into a revered European banking dynasty, Lynn Forester de Rothschild now spends her time calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, stricter regulation of big business and a wholesale reordering of the capitalist system that has delivered her such privilege.
It is an unlikely reformation for a woman who came from modest origins, made a fortune in the 1980s and could have spent her later years enjoying a sumptuous life of aristocracy.
Born to a middle-class family in the New Jersey suburbs, Ms. Rothschild began her career at the white shoe law firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett, then started working with John Kluge, a telecommunications mogul, in the 1980s. Ms. Rothschild eventually struck out on her own, working for, running and founding a series of successful media companies.
In 2000, she married Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, a British financier. (Henry Kissinger introduced them at the Bilderberg conference; the Clintons invited them to honeymoon at the White House.)
Despite her pedigree, Ms. Rothschild has in recent years come to understand that while she and her associates have enjoyed the fruits of capitalism, not all have fared so well. Many workers are struggling to get by. The environment is in serious trouble. Government often cleans up the private sector’s messes.
Sociable and well-connected, Ms. Rothschild has tapped her expansive network to launch a multipronged assault on the status quo. In 2014, she founded the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, an effort to get business leaders more engaged in environmental and social issues. And she has parlayed that into a related group, the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, that is working with Pope Francis, and a new fund focused on socially responsible investing she founded with Jeff Ubben, a successful hedge fund manager.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
Back when you were starting out in your career, were you concerned about some of the negative impacts of capitalism in the same way you are today?
It was really different. I don’t think we realized how bad it was. Graduating from law school in 1980, I believed I was living the American dream. I was a skinny girl from nowhere who knew no one, who had aspirations for an interesting life that would make a difference. And I believed that was available to me if I worked hard and played by the rules. The mantra at that time, that was not said disparagingly, was “Greed is good.” There was an Ayn Rand view that if you pursue your interests, all of society is lifted. So I really did believe that all I needed to do was to pursue my career in a legal, ethical, exciting way, and I didn’t have to worry about society.
When did it click for you that something wasn’t working?
We didn’t anticipate the kind of disparity that developed over those 20 years when we started in 1980. And I don’t think people practicing shareholder primacy were evil. There was just too much greed. But by 2008 it was impossible to ignore. The concentration of wealth in America at that time already was back to levels we had during the Gilded Age. In the 1960s the ratio of C.E.O. pay to average worker pay was 25 to one. Today it is 320 to one.
That has very conveniently created enormous personal wealth, which became the objective, as opposed to: What wealth have you left behind in society? How have you made the world better for your children, for your community? “Greed is good” was never a concept for Adam Smith.
What do you see as the most problematic symptoms of our economic system today?
Inequality of opportunity. We have to be honest that in each of our two recent crises — the great financial crisis and the Covid crisis — the government came to the aid of the wealthiest. Some have called it “socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else.” There’s something to that.
The elites turn to government when the financial system is blown up or we have a health crisis. Government got us out of both of those problems, and it got us out with too much of the benefit going to the richest. So how do we equalize that?
I personally am fine with higher taxes, if higher taxes lead to better distribution of opportunity, particularly for people of color and people in the lower part of the socioeconomic environment. I also believe that it is time that we listen more to our employees. It’s time that we create a more level playing field with respect to worker voice and worker involvement. This is hard stuff, because it can impact profit.
A year ago you said Covid was going to change capitalism forever. In what way did you think it was going to change capitalism, and how do you think that all has actually played out?
I’m probably always guilty of being overly optimistic. I believed that our moral compass would tell us that we need to take better care of the people who take care of us. But we saw starkly how we treated the people we called essential, how we were exposing them to this deadly disease. I personally find it difficult to understand why that is so hard for us as a society, and that’s why I founded the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.
I had the disease. I was really sick. I thought I was going to die. I had a really bad case and I’m scared to death of it.
What were the origins of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?
In June of 2015, Laudato Si was written by Pope Francis. By September, the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed to by the United Nations. By December, the Paris climate accord had been signed. You had every reason to believe that there was a sense of the common good.
And if you go back and read Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration.” He goes on to say that “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.”
What are some of the reforms you’d like to see? The Business Roundtable can put out as many press releases as it wants about stakeholder capitalism, but we still have companies losing billions of dollars, laying off tens of thousands of workers and still rewarding their C.E.O.s with tens of millions of dollars.
Something is really broken. I do believe that C.E.O.s and boards are willing to share the wealth and do more. But the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are going to go for tax policy and trade policy as their primary objective.
I remember a person who was very senior in a previous administration told me that in his four years in office, only one C.E.O. asked to go and see him about an issue of the common good. Everyone was coming in to push what they needed for their own book. We need to profitably solve the problems of people and planet. That’s why business exists.
Who’s to say that there shouldn’t be a government policy that prices the negative externalities that companies cost the taxpayer when full-time workers have to be on public assistance to lead a decent life? Why can’t there be a tax and a penalty on that? Why is Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world? He’s a nice guy, and at the same time he has tens of thousands of employees on public assistance. Why is that OK? Why do we have a government that lets that happen?
Which do you think is more broken, American politics or capitalism?
I think their problems feed upon each other. They’re creating a death spiral together and it’s got to be stopped. Politics and capitalism needs to return to a basic sense of decency.
And that is actually why I reached out to the Holy Father, because I think that a lot of what it will take to change behavior is a moral and ethical reawakening. It’s not just one policy, it’s not just taxes, it’s not just reforming labor laws — all of which are important, and we need competent ethical people to do it. But at the core of it, it has to come from common decency.
God did not invent the corporation. Society allows a corporation to exist, gives shareholders limited liability, and expects something in return. But we don’t just expect cheap widgets.
How do you reconcile your critique of shareholder capitalism with the fact that you’re now working with a hedge fund manager?
If there is going to be a system change, the capital markets need to reward shareholders. That is only going to happen if there are really talented investors who find the new levers of value creation, and are engaging actively with companies that are transforming at scale to become cleaner and more inclusive, and those companies become the ones that are the most valuable. Then we’ve created a race to the top.
That’s why I’m in partnership with Jeff, who’s such a legend in shareholder value creation and transforming companies. I have 1,000 percent confidence in the integrity of Jeff, even though he’s been on the opposite side for many years. I trust many billionaires.
The fortune of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates exceeds the size of Morocco’s annual economy, combines the value of Ford, Twitter and Marriott International and is triple the endowment of Harvard. While few know how their wealth will be divided in the divorce, one thing is clear: breaking it up can’t be easy.
Mr. Gates built one of the great fortunes in human history when he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. The Gateses’ net worth is estimated to be more than $124 billion, and includes assets as varied as trophy real estate, public company stocks and rare artifacts.
There’s a big stake in the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and ranch land, including Buffalo Bill’s historic Wyoming ranch. There are billions of dollars’ worth of shares in companies like AutoNation and Waste Management. There’s a beachfront mansion in Southern California. And one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.
“The amount of money and the diversity of assets that are involved in this divorce boggles the imagination,” said David Aronson, a lawyer who has represented wealthy clients in divorce cases. “There have rarely been cases that are even close to this in size.”
2019 divorce between the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife, the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, was bigger. Mr. Bezos had an estimated fortune of $137 billion, though mostly in Amazon stock, and Ms. Scott kept 4 percent of Amazon’s shares, worth $36 billion at the time.
But Mr. Gates has for decades been diversifying his holdings; he owns just 1.3 percent of Microsoft. Instead, his stock portfolio includes stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies. He is the largest private owner of farmland in the country, according to The Land Report. In addition to the Four Seasons, he has stakes in other luxury hotels and a company that caters to private jet owners. His real estate portfolio includes one of the largest houses in the country and several equestrian facilities. He owns stakes in a clean energy investment fund and a nuclear energy start-up.
Forbes, or $146 billion, according to the research firm Wealth-X. Including the Gates Foundation’s endowment and the Gates personal fortune, Cascade most likely oversees assets that put it on par or beyond some of the world’s biggest hedge funds in size.
Mr. Larson operates Cascade with an obsessive level of secrecy, going to great lengths to cloak the firm’s transactions so that they can’t easily be traced back to the Gateses. In a 1999 interview with Fortune magazine, Mr. Larson said he chose the name “Cascade” because it was a generic-sounding name in the Pacific Northwest.
that questions about the future of the Gates Foundation immediately arose following news of the divorce. The foundation directs billions to 135 countries to help fight poverty and disease. As of 2019, it had given away nearly $55 billion. (In 2006, Mr. Buffett pledged $31 billion of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, greatly increasing its grant making.)
Since he stepped down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008, Mr. Gates has devoted much of his time to the foundation. He also runs Gates Ventures, a firm that invests in companies working on climate change and other issues. Over the decades, Mr. Gates shed the image of a ruthless tech executive battling the United States government on antitrust to be viewed as a global do-gooder. And he appears to be keenly aware of the stark contrast between the scale of his wealth and his role as a philanthropist. “I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for the work I’ve done — while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by,” he acknowledged in a year-end blog post from 2019.
told The New York Times last year. “There’s just none.”
Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, will launch a rocket into space with passengers on board for the first time in July, the company said on Wednesday.
One seat on the flight, which will carry six astronauts on a short jaunt to the edge of outer space, is up for auction.
The first astronaut flight of New Shepard, a suborbital spacecraft, is scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“We’ve spent years testing, so we’re ready,” Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut sales for Blue Origin, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
millions of people eventually living and working in space.
For now, most of Blue Origin’s business has stayed closer to Earth. It builds and sells rocket engines to another rocket company, United Launch Alliance. A rocket that would lift cargo to orbit is not expected to be ready for years, and the company recently lost a competition with SpaceX for a contract to build a moon lander for NASA’s astronauts (it has protested the award). Customers have also paid to fly science experiments for NASA and private scientists during test flights of the New Shepard spacecraft.
It has been preparing for years for the start of its space tourism program, which would offer suborbital trips to what is considered the boundary of outer space, 62 miles above Earth. A competitor, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, also plans to fly space tourists on suborbital jaunts. Virgin Galactic’s space plane, known as SpaceShipTwo, is flown by two pilots, so it has carried people to space on test flights, but no paying passengers yet.
Blue Origin’s tourist rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space. It has undergone 15 test flights, none of which had passengers aboard. Ahead of the latest test, in April, a crew rehearsed boarding and exiting the capsule.
For July’s crewed launch, astronauts will arrive to the launch site in West Texas four days before their flight for safety training, Ms. Cornell said.
terms of agreement for the auction listed on Blue Origin’s website, the winning bidder must have a height and weight from five feet tall and 110 pounds to 6-foot-four and 223 pounds.
The astronaut must also be comfortable with walking at heights above 70 feet above ground level on the gangway, be able to climb the launch tower — equivalent to seven flights of stairs — in less than 90 seconds and be able to fasten his or her own harness in less than 15 seconds.
The astronaut must also be comfortable with lots of pressure pressing down on him or her for several minutes during both the ascent and descent.
Proceeds from the winning bid will be donated to Club for the Future, a science and technology education foundation affiliated with Blue Origin, Ms. Cornell said.
Ms. Cornell declined to comment on potential pricing for regular tickets, and when they might go on sale for the general public. But she said there would be “a couple more crewed flights before the end of the year.”
She also declined to answer whether Mr. Bezos would be on the first flight and did not say if and when he would go to space.