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BlackRock cares about money, not 'woke' politics – CNN

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A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here. You can listen to an audio version of the newsletter by clicking the same link.

London (CNN Business)Every year, BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink, one of the most powerful people in global finance, pens a letter to chief executives that’s required reading for business leaders.

Fink’s insistence that companies need to disclose more about their climate plans and seriously consider their role in society has helped change what’s expected of Corporate America.
His views have also drawn criticism. Some on the political right claim Fink goes too far in telling businesses to be socially and environmentally conscious. Others on the left say he isn’t going far enough.
In his latest letter to CEOs published Tuesday, Fink has issued a response that amounts to: I’m just a capitalist.
The push for companies to reassess their priorities is “not about politics,” he said.
“It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke,'” Fink wrote. “It is capitalism.”
Fink said companies need to set short, medium and long-term targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because doing so is “critical to the long-term economic interests” of shareholders.
He also said it’s crucial that leaders take a stand on issues important to employees and customers.
“It’s never been more essential for CEOs to have a consistent voice, a clear purpose, a coherent strategy and a long-term view,” Fink wrote. “Your company’s purpose is its north star in this tumultuous environment.”
Fink said that BlackRock does not advocate for widespread divestment from oil and gas companies, since there are firms in the industry making changes that will be essential to achieve net-zero emissions. Plus, “governments and companies must ensure that people continue to have access to reliable and affordable energy sources,” he added.
“Any plan that focuses solely on limiting supply and fails to address demand for hydrocarbons will drive up energy prices for those who can least afford it, resulting in greater polarization around climate change and eroding progress,” Fink said.
Why it matters: BlackRock is the world’s biggest money manager, ending last year with more than $10 trillion under management. That means the company has huge influence over how billions of dollars are allocated, and can sway other firms as they set policy.
BlackRock’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 and socially-minded business priorities has been important. But Fink’s stance that companies both need to step up and “cannot be the climate police” is set to continue to draw critics from across the political spectrum.
One more thing: Fink also addressed the changing relationship between employers and employees as the rate of workers quitting their jobs stands at a record high in the United States.
“Companies not adjusting to this new reality and responding to their workers do so at their own peril,” he said. “Turnover drives up expenses, drives down productivity and erodes culture and corporate memory. CEOs need to be asking themselves whether they are creating an environment that helps them compete for talent.”

Stocks fall as benchmark US Treasury yield hits 2-year high

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note jumped to its highest level in two years early Tuesday, rattling investors who were already on edge about how policymakers will respond to high inflation.
The latest: US stock futures were sharply lower in premarket trading as Wall Street eyed the turbulence in the bond market.
Government bond yields, which move opposite prices, have risen dramatically since the start of the year as investors brace for the Federal Reserve to respond more aggressively to the spike in consumer prices, which are rising at the fastest pace in nearly four decades.
Fed officials have indicated in recent days that they’d be willing to hike interest rates more than three times this year if needed. While borrowing costs would remain near historic lows, that would mark a notable shift after a long period of rock-bottom rates.
In a Deutsche Bank survey of roughly 500 market participants published Tuesday, higher-than-expected inflation and a more hawkish Fed tightening cycle were identified as the two biggest risks to market stability.
The VIX, a measure of US market volatility, rose almost 13% this morning to its highest level so far this year.
Over the weekend, billionaire investor Bill Ackman recommended on Twitter that the Fed initially hike rates by 0.5% instead of by 0.25% as expected in order to “restore its credibility” and “demonstrate its resolve on inflation.”
“The Fed is losing the inflation battle and is behind where it needs to be, with painful economic consequences for the most vulnerable,” Ackman said.

Ben & Jerry’s, meet Aquafresh and Advil

Unilever (UL) is willing to pay big money for the company that makes products like Advil, Tums and Aquafresh toothpaste as it tries to revive its sluggish stock and ramp up its focus on health products.
GlaxoSmithKline (GLAXF) said over the weekend that it had received three “unsolicited” proposals from Unilever to acquire its consumer healthcare business, which it runs as a joint venture with Pfizer. The latest had a price tag of £50 billion ($68 billion).
No deal yet: GSK has rejected the offers, which it said were too low. It’s planning to spin off the division later this year, under pressure from shareholders including hedge fund Elliott Investment Management.
Unilever could still sweeten its bid. The company said Monday that it’s pursuing a strategic overhaul that would involve expanding its portfolio of health, beauty and hygiene products. More details will be announced by the end of the month.
But investors aren’t thrilled about the idea. Unilever’s shares fell 7% in London on Monday and are down another 2% in early trading on Tuesday.
On the radar: Analysts at Berenberg said that Unilever should be careful about pivoting away from its food and drink business, which they said “actually offers some of Unilever’s most attractive categories,” such as ice cream and cooking ingredients.

Up next

BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs (GS), PNC (PNC) and Truist (TFC) report results before US markets open. J.B. Hunt follows after the close.
Also today:
  • The Empire State Manufacturing Index posts at 8:30 a.m. ET.
  • The NAHB Housing Market Index follows at 10 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: Earnings from Bank of America (BAC), Morgan Stanley (MS), Procter & Gamble (PG) and United Airlines (UAL).

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Charest, Poilievre stress divergent visions in Conservative leadership debate

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LAVAL, Que. — Two front-runners in the federal Conservative contest kicked off the race’s only French-language debate Wednesday night with differing visions of Canada, with Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre stressing freedom and former Quebec premier Jean Charest pitching unity.

“My legacy will be the freest country in the world where people will be able to control their lives, including their health decisions,” Poilievre said in his opening statement, highlighting “freedom of speech without censorship by the state or the woke movement.”

Charest said he hopes his legacy as Tory leader would be uniting his party and vaulting it to majority government.

“We will leave a more prosperous country to our children and a united country to our children,” said Charest.

The event took place in Laval, Que., north of Montreal, as a deadline approaches for candidates to have supporters signed up as party members to be eligible to vote in the contest.

Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., who can also speak French, stressed winning “in urban areas,” which he noted remains a challenge for Conservatives. Brown has spent the race campaigning against a controversial secularism law in Quebec that prohibits some public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job, which he says is an affront to religious freedom.

Candidates took the stage after a language reform bill passed Quebec’s legislature that critics say goes too far in protecting the French language by potentially denying the province’s anglophones the ability to access services like health care in English.

Scott Aitchison, an MP from rural Ontario who’s running, released a statement ahead of Wednesday’s event pledging that a government led by him would work with Quebecers to see the new language bill and province’s religious symbols law repealed.

He called Premier François Legault’s language reform “divisive” and said the bill is “designed to exploit frustrations by discriminating against the English speaking minority in Quebec.”

“Government policies that unite francophones and anglophones are what Canada needs. We cannot allow fear and anger to win in this country,” Aitchison said.

Other candidates staked out positions on matters relevant to Quebecers and the party’s membership in that province as well.

Brown, who is promising to fight Quebec’s religious symbols law in court, said on Wednesday he would get rid of the country’s existing firearms law and replace it with a new one that better balances protecting Canada’s streets with respecting the rights of its citizens.

The Liberal government’s approach to firearms, which includes a regulation banning so-called assault-style weapons, has been a source of frustration for Conservatives, many of whom represent gun owners.

Another rallying cry for Conservative leadership hopefuls Poilievre, Lewis and Roman Baber is to end all remaining COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.

Baber is the Independent Ontario MPP whose opposition to a provincial lockdown got him booted from Premier Doug Ford’s caucus. His campaign announced Wednesday that he had won the support of Daniel Bulford, one of the leaders of the weeks-long convoy protest that jammed the streets of Ottawa in February.

Among the themes expected to be discussed during the debate were immigration, health, the party’s future and winning more seats in Quebec.

The latter has been a long-standing issue for the party, which currently only holds 10 of the province’s 78 seats, while the governing Liberals have 35 and the Bloc Québécois boast 32.

Since the Conservative Party of Canada formed in 2003, the most seats it has been able to hold has been 12 under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Former Tory leader Erin O’Toole tried to change that during last year’s federal election by making numerous campaign stops in Quebec and promising to enter into a new contract with the province that would better respect its areas of jurisdiction.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

— With files from Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

 

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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Steven Del Duca says his politics come from personal life as he makes run for premiership – The Globe and Mail

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Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca speaks during a campaign rally in Toronto, on May 17.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Anyone who has heard Steven Del Duca speak during this election campaign likely knows he has two daughters in public school, two elderly parents who want to age at home, and that his Saturday mornings include grocery shopping for his family.

Weaving in personal touches to speeches is a tried and true political tactic, but the Ontario Liberal leader says his politics come from his personal life.

“Family is really the centre of everything … so it’s just a very natural, I guess, lens for me to view those issues,” he said in a recent interview.

Del Duca’s focus on home care comes not only from his 83-year-old Italian-born father and his 80-year-old Scottish-born mother, but also his grandparents, all of whom lived past 80 – one to 97 – and stayed in their own homes.

Education policy is important to Del Duca as the father to two daughters, Talia, 14, and Grace, 11, but he also mentions a teacher who kept him on track as he was drifting in his final year of high school.

By that time, he was already actively engaged in politics and didn’t have much interest in what the school curriculum had to offer in social sciences, and the teacher worried that his grades wouldn’t be able to get him into university.

So she developed two large research projects that he could do as independent studies and got the principal to sign off on it.

“I loved it because it gave me a chance to actually take what I was doing in reality, fuse it to with what I was reading and learning about and kind of taking a run with it,” Del Duca says.

“I don’t know how it would have worked out otherwise.”

Thirty years later, he’s taking a run at much bigger projects: the premiership and rebuilding the Ontario Liberals four years after their walloping that saw them lose official party status.

One of Del Duca’s oldest friends, Anthony Martin, has known him since the two were in Grade 3, and is not surprised to see him running for the province’s top job. Martin says his friend was always well informed about current events for his age, but once he was bitten by the political bug, that was it.

“He said he wanted to be premier, because, he thought that was where you could do the most good and make the most change in people’s lives,” Martin said.

Del Duca’s interest in politics was first sparked at age 14, when his older sister gave him “The Rainmaker,” the autobiography of legendary Liberal organizer Keith Davey, for Christmas.

He has since asked his sister why she settled on that present, a peculiar selection for a young teen, and “she can’t remember what possessed her to get that specific book.”

Regardless, Del Duca was hooked. He was then reeled in a few months later when a cousin invited him to a nomination meeting. It turned out to be a hotly contested race, with an incumbent being challenged for a federal Liberal nomination.

“I felt the electricity in the room,” he says.

Later that year was the 1988 election and Del Duca volunteered for the Liberals, knocking on the doors of voters who found a 15-year-old wanting to talk to them about free trade on the other side.

At age 48, Del Duca still likes talking, and he has developed a particular style. On the campaign trail he looks straight into the camera, delivering his words with a measured cadence that generally comes from reading prepared remarks.

Except there is no teleprompter in sight.

Del Duca says it’s partly due to him being quite hands on with platform development, but the seed was planted at his own nomination meeting in 2012.

He was being acclaimed to replace Greg Sorbara, who was retiring. Del Duca had actually written speeches for Sorbara, though he eschewed speaking notes.

“(It) used to drive me crazy,” Del Duca says. “He’d say, ‘Steven, this is such a beautifully written speech. I’m not using it.”’ Ahead of the nomination meeting, Sorbara told Del Duca not to use a written speech, but rather a single page of bullet points to “frame the mind.”

He was unsure about speaking off the cuff in front of so many people, and brought both his speech and his page of bullet points to the banquet hall. But after sitting in the parking lot and mulling it over, he left his speech in the car.

“It went fine,” Del Duca says. “That was really good advice Greg gave me … Even if you get back in the car afterwards, or you’re back at the office and think, ‘Oh shoot, I was gonna say those two things, but I didn’t,’ it’s OK. You connect with the audience far, far better.”

He would go on to spend nearly four years as transportation minister and a few months as economic development minister.

Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who served in cabinet with Del Duca, says he is someone who was always prepared, and can disagree with others cordially. The two have known each other since they were in the Liberals’ youth wing together, and Naqvi says personally Del Duca is a devoted family man.

Del Duca’s younger brother was killed in a car crash in 2018, and Naqvi says he was impressed by how Del Duca faced the tragedy.

“There were times of course he was fragile, but then he was also there for his parents, who lost their son,” Naqvi says.

“He was there for his sister-in-law, who lost her husband. He was there for his niece and nephews, who lost their father and of course, provide support for his family as well. Really, I was incredibly impressed by his strength, his calmness and his resiliency.”

Del Duca was chosen as party leader just days before the first COVID-19 lockdown.

March 7, 2020 was, in hindsight, not the best time for a mass gathering, and the timing was especially poor for Del Duca, who needed to spend the next two years both rebuilding the party from its disastrous 2018 election showing and introducing himself to voters.

But the new Liberal leader was one of the last things on voters’ minds as they dealt with devastating effects of the pandemic, and it has left Del Duca still fairly unknown, said Chris Cochrane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“It’s made life difficult for (him),” he said.

During last week’s debate, Del Duca came across as someone who had a good grasp of policy, but when it comes to a unique and easily identifiable charisma, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford has him beat, Cochrane said.

“Doug Ford has a presence, a way of speaking, mannerisms, everything about him, that sends a message automatically, no matter what he says to the people he wants to vote for (him) that he’s one of them,” he said.

“As soon as you see (Ford) and you hear him speak, it’s unique to him … Jean Chrétien, for example, also had that, in the past. Del Duca doesn’t have that.”

But those who know him say he has a good sense of humour, trading dad jokes and offering up self-deprecating remarks.

He has also tried to cultivate a relatable image, often appearing in public wearing a suit with sneakers and ditching his signature black-rimmed glasses after getting laser eye surgery just before the campaign.

“I figured it was easier than trying to grow my hair,” he quips.

Want to hear more about the Ontario election from our journalists? Subscribe to Vote of Confidence, a twice-weekly newsletter dedicated to the key issues in this campaign, landing in your inbox starting May 17 until election day on June 2.

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Politics Podcast: Trump’s Revenge Primary In Georgia Fails – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

After pursuing a vendetta against statewide Georgia Republican officials for more than a year, all of former President Trump’s endorsees failed to unseat incumbents in the state on Tuesday. Gov. Brian Kemp bested his Trump-backed challenger by more than 50 points and even Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who wrote a book about Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, won outright to avoid a runoff. Trump’s endorsees in open races, such as Herschel Walker in the Senate primary and Burt Jones in the lieutenant governor primary, fared better. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew recaps the night’s contests in Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas and Minnesota.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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