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This Week in Business: Twitter Cancels Political Ads

What will you do with your extra daylight-saving hour today? I suggest taking a tiny fraction of it to peruse the week’s top stories in business and tech, and then use the rest to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. Or just stay in bed and watch The Times’s new show, “The Weekly.” Up to you.


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Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

High on the list of people no one wanted to be this week: Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg. He was called to testify before Congress about the compromised safety of his company’s 737 Max jets, which have been grounded after two deadly crashes in the last year. Several documents made public during the hearings showed that Boeing employees warned of problems with the plane’s technology, but the company kept making and selling them anyway — at a pace of 52 aircraft a month — until the second crash last March. Mr. Muilenburg apologized and vowed to do better. But several members of Congress, along with some families of the 346 people who died on the planes, suggested that he step down instead.

A former executive at Juul Labs sued the e-cigarette maker last week, claiming he was fired after raising flags about contaminated nicotine pods. The company went on to sell over a million of those pods and is now embroiled in a vaping crisis linked to a mysterious lung illness that has killed 36 people. No one is quite sure what’s causing the epidemic, but one thing is certain: Juul Labs is hurting for it. The tobacco giant Altria Group bought a 35 percent stake in Juul Labs last December and just devalued its investment by $4.5 billion (down roughly a third). But Altria may also see a twisted silver lining: Some industry analysts predict that many vapers will switch to old-fashioned cigarettes, which remain its bread and butter.

Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot have agreed to merge, putting brands like Dodge, Ram, Citroën, and Jeep under the same umbrella. It’s the first time in two decades that two major auto companies are joining forces, and the result will be the world’s fourth-biggest car producer, slightly larger than General Motors and smaller than Volkswagen, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan alliance. Why consolidate? Today’s auto industry has shown that size matters when it comes to revenue, because companies can combine their supply chains, tap into each other’s markets and develop new technologies at scale. But this deal is not without its troubles: Both companies have weak sales in China, lack electric vehicles and are overly dependent on the lagging European car market.


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Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, announced on Wednesday that the platform would ban all political ads starting Nov. 22. It’s a bold step as many tech companies struggle to rein in the spread of misinformation online. And it flies in the face of Facebook’s policy of not blocking any political speech or ads even if they contain false or misleading information. (Facebook’s stance has not hurt its revenue, which soared this quarter.) The companies’ conflicting approaches highlight ongoing concerns and unease about the role of social media platforms in voter education (or, in some cases, deliberate miseducation) as we head into the 2020 elections.

Britain’s Parliament finally agreed on something: The country will hold a rare snap election on Dec. 12, which basically amounts to kicking the Brexit can back to the general public. This Wednesday marks the start of a six-week campaign that pits Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has sworn to carry out Britain’s divorce from the European Union, against his opposing party, which would curtail or even reverse the proceedings. Whichever side wins a clear majority may break the Brexit deadlock and shape Britain’s future role in international trade. Or, if there’s no big winner, Parliament may wind up right back where it is now: hopelessly divided. Markets reacted calmly to the election news, because who’s surprised by anything Brexit-related these days?

The government will release September’s international trade data this Tuesday, and the numbers are not expected to be good: the lowest in more than a year, if predictions are correct. Analysts are blaming the usual boogeyman (the trade war with China), plus growing uncertainty with other trade partners like Europe. (In October, Mr. Trump made good on his threat to impose tariffs on a bunch of European goods, including wine, olive oil and cheese, sadly.) Hopes for better days ahead are mixed. The Trump administration claimed that it could rustle up the first part of a trade deal with China by mid-November. But Beijing seems more pessimistic about long-term solutions.


The Fed cut interest rates for the third time this year, as expected. But officials also signaled that they wouldn’t do so again unless the economy looks truly dire. Speaking of meltdowns, the bankrupt luxury retailer Barneys has found a buyer, but the deal will shutter all Barneys stores (the upside: killer liquidation sales). And finally, Adam Neumann, WeWork’s ousted leader, has been accused of pregnancy discrimination by his former chief of staff. Adding to the long list of complaints against him, he was said to have referred to her maternity leave as “vacation.”


More than 1 million people a year are arrested in the United States and asked to blow into a breathalyzer to see if they’re too drunk to drive. “The Weekly” investigates how one of the most common forensic tools in law enforcement may be unreliable. Watch The Times’s new TV show on FX and Hulu.


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