NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shoppers headed out to stores across the United States in a quest to score the best Black Friday discounts on everything from handbags to 4K TVs, with early promotions marking the start of a condensed holiday shopping season.
People wait in line to pay for purchases at Best Buy during a sales event on Thanksgiving day in Westbury, New York, U.S., November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The following are quotes from shoppers and store managers in the midst of America’s biggest shopping day:
DICK DOYLE, 76, RETIRED, SHOPPING AT MODELL’S SPORTING GOODS IN VIRGINIA:
“I will come to the mall, look at prices and go back and check them online. Prices and discounts online are competitive to what’s available in stores.”
MARIAH BERRY, 22, UNIQLO TRAINEE SUPERVISOR, CHICAGO
“We tend to have more deals in-store, so people come in rather than go online … The only problem today is we didn’t expect how slow it would be. It’s the same with Macy’s and all the others, but that’s been surprising.”
ANTHONY WRIGHT JR, 26, ENGINEERING PHD STUDENT, SHOPPING AT BEST BUY (BBY.N) IN CHICAGO:
“We literally drove by at 2 o’clock after looking at YouTube videos of people sleeping outside. There weren’t really a lot of people so we went back home and came back around six.”
EVAN HOUSER, 22, ELECTRONICS SALESMAN AT TARGET (TGT.N) IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO:
“It’s slow now because we had a big, big rush last night – we had a line around the block from like 4:30.”
SERGE MENENG, 48, ENGINEER, SHOPPING AT COSTCO (COST.O) IN VIRGINIA:
“I came in to Costco this morning, hoping to get a good deal on a Canon camera I have been wanting to buy and I checked the price online versus in-store and it was better here.”
MONYETTA MONK, 30, WORKS IN EMERGENCY AT A HOSPITAL, SHOPPING AT TARGET (TGT.N) IN VIRGINIA:
“We are doing some Christmas shopping and for some birthdays between now and the end of the year. We came out this morning for a popular LOL toy and were able to save $30. Target is very competitive when it comes toys.”
Reporting by Melissa Fares, Andrew Kelly and Shannon Stapleton in New York, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Richa Naidu in Chicago and Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel
CALGARY — Big Oil is continuing its push into Big Data as Cenovus Energy Inc. has struck deals with tech giants Amazon Web Services and International Business Machines Corp. in an attempt to harness the power of cloud computing and lower its costs.
I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry
Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer
“I don’t want to run our grandfather’s IT shop. I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry,” Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer, said of the Calgary-based company’s plans to move its data out of two local data centres and into Amazon Web Services’ cloud following a deal struck over the summer.
The oil and gas producer is also planning to use Amazon’s cloud computing power to process and analyze its data and run other software programs in a move the company says will lower costs and allow it to better understand the “millions of data points” produced by its steam-based oilsands plants.
“Running machine learning and analytics against these things, as other industries have found, we really feel we’ll be able to enhance our operations and our efficiency,” Enright said.
“Right now, we’re just scratching the surface of the value of that,” he said.
Cenovus did not announce the deal with Amazon when it was struck, but described a broader push at the company to adopt new digital technologies and cut costs. In an interview Enright said the company ran a “bake-off” between cloud computing providers in late 2018 and picked Amazon this year for its big move to cloud computing.
In fact, a series of recent announcements indicate that more Calgary-based oil and gas companies are turning to cloud computing and big data in an attempt to modernize their businesses as the energy industry is trying to shed its reputation of being laggards when it comes to adopting digital technologies.
This month, oilsands rival Suncor Energy Inc. announced a similar partnership with Microsoft Corp. to migrate its data, computing power and processes to the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s cloud services and overhaul many aspects of its business.
While oil and gas companies have been pilloried for being digital laggards, large Calgary-based oil and gas companies have been quietly integrating new digital technologies in a bid to cut costs as they’ve been pressured by low oil prices, a lack of export pipelines.
In 2017, Calgary-based pipeline giant TC Energy Corp. began migrating its data and computer processing onto Amazon’s cloud services and that move to cloud computing is now 90 per cent complete, said Eric Gales, Amazon Web Services country manager for Canada.
TC Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation
Ross Manning, IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry
Gales said he’s seen a major change in large companies’ attitudes towards digital technologies in the past four years and said the pace of adoption has increased dramatically.
“Four years ago, I was still having conversations with customers about ‘why?’ Now, it’s about ‘Where do I start?’” Gales said.
Now he said, many of the major companies in the Canadian oilpatch have a “cloud strategy” because “the case for the cloud has been made.”
At Cenovus, Enright said he believes the move to Amazon’s cloud computing service will allow it to run multiple data analyses concurrently — something it wasn’t able to do previously — and also cut down the amount of time it takes to analyze that data.
“When you go to the cloud to look at reservoir simulations or modelling our greenhouse gas improvements, things like that, we can model many things simultaneously,” Enright said.
For example, when Cenovus struck its $17.7-billion deal to buy ConocoPhillips Co.’s Canadian assets in 2017, it took the company nearly four months to acquire the computer servers it needed to process the data for the deal.
As the company integrates more of its processes into Amazon’s cloud, Enright said he’s confident the company could process the same volume and complexity of data in under three weeks.
On Monday, Cenovus also announced a deal with IBM in which the Armonk, New York-based tech giant will implement a suite of new software programs at the oilsands producer.
Enright said the technology will run in the cloud and is part of the broader push to cloud computing and faster decision making aided by digital technologies.
“As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation, with companies turning to new platforms that will maximize the value of their assets, lower operating costs and continue to improve on their sustainable operations,” IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry Ross Manning said in a release.
LONDON — It is not normal for the United States to have two diplomatic channels for dealing with a foreign ally at war, as the U.S. apparently did with Ukraine under President Donald Trump, as the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry this month.
The first was the official one run by Taylor, aimed at supporting Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists. The other was “irregular, informal” and unaccountable to Congress, with the goal of getting Ukraine’s new leader to do President Donald Trump “a favor” by investigating a political rival, as described by a number of witnesses — most explosively by the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, on Wednesday.
What is also not normal is the United States’ current standing in the world and the way other countries have engaged with it since Trump took office, but particularly since the revelations about his actions toward Ukraine prompted the impeachment inquiry against him.
Diplomatic and foreign policy experts tell NBC News that the president’s habit of deviating — sometimes wildly — from long-held alliances and diplomatic norms have substantially altered America’s relations with allies around the world, and made trusting U.S. intentions and policy positions increasingly difficult.
“The U.S. traditionally has been the country that has most carefully parsed its sentences and words, and with any statement and policy it ran things through an inner-agency process where everyone is involved — what you see is what you get,” says Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was president of Estonia from 2006 to 2016 and was foreign minister before that.
“Other countries may waffle and say ‘that’s not the case’ or ‘we didn’t mean that’ but with the States, anything from the president was always so nailed down,” Ilves said.
That’s why when something like Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy comes up, “everyone is bewildered.”
Ilves, in a phone interview from Stanford University, where he is a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, said that international actors responsible for statecraft are now wary of what the U.S. might do while Trump is in the White House.
“Most of my colleagues and people in the same position today are bewildered and trying to do their best to avoid landmines,” Ilves said. “There is an overarching and abiding concern about what will happen to the various treaty obligations that the U.S. has.”
Trump has pulled the U.S. out of several key international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the Paris climate accords. Trump has reportedly discussed leaving NATO with senior aides and has criticized its members for not matching U.S. spending on defense — although in public he has committed to staying in the alliance.
Nevertheless, Trump’s less-than-fulsome support for NATO left Pentagon officials scrambling to reassure allies that the U.S. would meet its obligations.
“Of course renouncing treaties is more complex than simply not fulfilling a verbal promise. But I think heads of statement and governments generally are anxious and nervous,” Ilves said.
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Ilves dealt with the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations and describes the phone calls and meetings with each president as meticulously planned.
He said that, with previous administrations, anything the president said was policy, whereas now many are left wondering what is approved and what isn’t.
Perhaps even more damaging in the eyes of other nations was the Trump administration’s decision to publish a transcript, albeit partial, of the Zelenskiy call, which marks a watershed moment in how other countries engage with the White House, experts said.
“What it probably does is make people a bit more cautious about what they say in those meetings and calls,” said Reza Afshar, a former senior British diplomat and now policy director at Independent Diplomat, an advisory group based in New York.
“I’m sure European states will be thinking about how they record information and are making sure they are above any impropriety,” he said. “I would imagine some states are thinking about just how they go about those discussions and making sure they are covered legally.”
Trump’s unconventional ways are seen as a strength by supporters and a detriment by critics. But in the realm of foreign affairs, where even the slightest change in language and tone can have wide-ranging effects, this unpredictability can cause problems.
“You can’t rely on what was said a couple of weeks earlier,” said Afshar, who was previously in charge of Syria policy at the U.K. Foreign Office. “In terms of the autonomous administration in northeast Syria, they were given assurances just a few weeks ago that border security would be handled by the Americans and it allowed them to pull out their own heavy weapons and personnel.”
As part of the deal agreed in August, the Syrian Democratic Forces withdrew from the Syria-Turkey border area and dismantled defenses while U.S.-Turkish forces patrolled the region. But this policy was left in tatters on Oct. 7, when Trump announced that U.S. forces would withdraw from the region, two days before Turkey’s invasion began.
“So you’re left with that assurance, and weeks later suddenly it’s meaningless,“ Afshar said.
Any suggestion of wrongdoing by the Trump administration in the Ukraine affair, however strongly denied, could also have ramifications for how other states interact with the U.S., its allies and rivals, he added.
The shift doesn’t “change what Russia and China do, they do these things anyway, but it gives the impression that what they are doing is the norm and gives them encouragement,” Afshar said.
In several ways, it was unfortunate that Ukraine became embroiled in an international scandal with the U.S.
“They didn’t only have a strong bilateral relationship, Ukraine viewed the United States as Not Russia,” said Jennifer Cassidy of Oxford University, a former diplomat with the Irish government, European Union and the United Nations
“If you look at it from a Ukrainian point of view, when they looked at the transcripts and what was said, it turned the U.S. from a model of good governance and truth into what they are trying to get away from, the sort of corruption they are battling.”
Cassidy teaches her politics students at Oxford about what she calls the “shadow of the past” — the idea that whenever two states interact they should always do so on the assumption that they will have to do business together again, so you should always keep relations positive and ongoing.
Rarely do states deviate from this way of working — but the current U.S. administration is not known for doing things by the book.
“This is historically how diplomats and heads of state have always negotiated — they would never cut off all diplomatic ties, or that would happen very rarely,” Cassidy said.
“What we’ve seen from the Trump administration is that it’s just a short-term gain. There is no regard for how this is going to impact America’s reputation, its credibility and its trust on the international stage.”
The most important effect of this short-termism, Cassidy argues, is how the U.S.’s traditional foes might react in the future.
The Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned was a complex multilateral treaty signed not just by Iran and the U.S. but Russia, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, which have spent the last few months attempting in vain to resurrect some form of the agreement on their own.
“Whether you agree with Iran or not, you can still see the logic of the view that they now hold the card of credibility. Why would they ever come back to the negotiating table with a country that’s wasted their time?” Cassidy said.
“Countries hostile to America hold the cards to not negotiate with America. This lack of long-term strategy, especially if it’s for eight years, is going to be severely damaging to the U.S.’s reputation.”