Edmonton police officer hands out help instead of ticket

An Edmonton woman said she deserved a ticket on Tuesday afternoon for driving with her car covered in snow, but instead, she was surprised by a random act of kindness from a local police officer.

Jessica Shmigelsky said she was on her way to get groceries when she found her car buried in a foot of snow.

Remembering that she had broken her snow brush, Shmigelsky made the decision to drive the vehicle anyway.

“It broke a couple weeks ago in one of the cold snaps,” she said. “I just never thought to get another one because it was nice out.”

Shmigelsky said she was hoping she wouldn’t get caught.

“I thought I could swing it because Loblaws is two blocks away from me,” she explained.

“But within 30 seconds of leaving my apartment, the cop pulls me over — he put on his siren and I knew exactly why I was being pulled over.”

The officer pulled up beside her and after explaining her situation she was asked to pull over — but what happened next was unexpected.

“Next thing you know, he’s coming out of his car with a snowbrush,” Shmigelsky said.

“He was just brushing off my car, we chatted, and then he just left.”

She said the positive interaction made her tear up and reminded her that “there are good people in the world” — a particularly comforting thought in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before he went he said: ‘I’ve been on the force for 10 years and this is a first. I’ve never brushed snow off someone’s car.’”

Shmigelsky said she doesn’t know the officer’s name, but wanted to thank him, so she posted about their exchange on Facebook.

The post has since been shared thousands of times.

Shmigelsky said she also intends to buy a new snow brush — but until she does, she’ll improvise.

“A lot of people say brooms work, and I have a broom.”

A ticket for driving with ice or snow on your windshield costs $155.

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Opinion | Who Will Win the Fight for a Post-Coronavirus America?

Every disaster shakes loose the old order. What replaces it is up to us.

By Rebecca Solnit

Ms. Solnit is a writer.

The scramble has already begun. The possibilities for change, for the better or the worse, for a more egalitarian or more authoritarian society, burst out of the gate like racehorses at times like these.

Progressive and conservative politicians are pitching proposals to radically alter American society, to redistribute wealth, to change the rules, to redefine priorities. The pandemic has given the Trump administration an excuse to try to shut down borders and, reportedly, a pretext to try to secure the unconstitutional capacity to detain people indefinitely. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, among others, has made the case for reducing the prison population, whose crowding in poor conditions constitutes a health risk — for freeing people, rather than the opposite, in response to the crisis. Other progressives have sought to expand workers’ rights, sick leave and implement other policies that would improve lives even in ordinary times. Social programs long said to be impossible may well come to pass; so could authoritarian measures.

Every disaster shakes loose the old order: The sudden catastrophe changes the rules and demands new and different responses, but what those will be are the subject of a battle. These disruptions shift people’s sense of who they and their society are, what matters and what’s possible, and lead, often, to deeper and more lasting change, sometimes to regime change. Many disasters unfold like revolutions; the past gives us many examples of calamities that led to lasting national change.

The catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans generated just such a power struggle. Conservatives won some things as the city ruined by the failure of levees was rebuilt: All New Orleans public schools became charter schools, and the city’s huge housing projects — which had survived the inundation largely intact — were torn down, displacing thousands of impoverished residents. But the city also cleaned up some of the corruption in its justice and prison system, made improvements in its evacuation plans and began to address its long-term vulnerability to flooding via more ecologically sound water policies and infrastructure.

The changes weren’t just local. The George W. Bush administration four years earlier had used Sept. 11 — another calamity — as a pretext to strip Americans of their civil liberties, to conduct a pair of wars that were themselves humanitarian, diplomatic and economic catastrophes, and to amplify its own authority. In fact you can see the administration’s response to Sept. 11 as a struggle primarily not to subjugate terrorists or battle distant regimes, but the American public. It did so by instilling fear, chipping away at rights, demonizing Muslims, expanding its powers and using wartime ideas of patriotism to quell dissent. The failure to prevent the Al Qaeda attacks could have discredited the regime; the regime was trying, as regimes often do, to shore up its authority.

That authority came crumbling down with the administration’s callous and incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, particularly to the stranding of New Orleanians, mostly poor and mostly black, in their flooded city. (Two days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and put 80 percent of New Orleans underwater, Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees,” videotape of him being warned of that possibility a day before the catastrophe later hit the media.) The outrage over the response undermined the Bush administration’s mandate to govern. “Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public,” Bush pollster Matthew Dowd said. “I was like, man, you know, this is it, man. We’re done.” It ended the post-Sept. 11 era of deference to this particular authority — and some argue that by exposing the festering racism in American society, it strengthened the case for electing a black president a few years later.

“This is our Chernobyl,” a doctor in New York City said recently. He seemed to mean that not only were medical staff front-line workers in grave danger, but also that institutional authorities were in the process of failing civil society, as Soviet hierarchies all the way up to the Kremlin did in the 1986 disaster of a nuclear meltdown that spewed radiation internationally and contaminated hundreds of square miles of Ukraine for millenniums to come. The man at the top of that hierarchy, Mikhail Gorbachev, reflected years later: “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point.”

Managua, Nicaragua, in 1972 and Mexico City in 1985 both suffered major earthquakes after which the corrupt and venal government response prompted long-term change. The Somoza dictatorship seized more powers in the wake of the Nicaraguan disaster, but in so doing it strengthened the case for the Sandinista revolution that swept it away later in the decade. In the wake of the quake in the Mexican capital, made worse by corruption in the enforcement of building codes beforehand and in the distribution of relief and rescuing the trapped afterward, public dissatisfaction with the one-party government boiled over. (In one instance, the police provided support for a sweatshop owner who wanted to rescue his equipment from a collapsed building but not the seamstresses trapped inside; this concern for property and profit over human life is often one of the flash points for ensuing political conflict.) A seamstresses’ union, a housing rights movement for the displaced and challenges to one-party rule were among the results.

Disasters test regimes. Some fail the test. Incompetence, indifference and self-interest are easy to see in the stark light of an emergency. People whose lives have been thrown into turmoil are no longer cautious or deferential, and no longer accept the inevitability of a status quo that is already in disarray. Things that seemed impossible have already happened — in our case, much of the economy has shut down, much of the population has suspended its ordinary activities, and sweeping new social programs (canceling student debt, for example) suddenly seem within reach.

There are no simple rules for when disaster becomes insurrection. Strong public outrage at the ruling party and its response is one factor; recognition of the possibility of deep and lasting change is another; and of course, how the story of what happened takes shape — who deserves credit or blame — yet another.

No one knows yet what will come out of this crisis. But like so many other disasters, this one has revealed how interconnected we are; how much we depend on the labor and good will of others; how deeply enmeshed we are in social, ecological and economic systems; and how prevention or survival of something as deeply, bodily personal as a disease depends on our collective decisions and those of our leadership.

It has also revealed how squalid the Trump administration’s selfishness is; early reports suggested — and a presidential tweet on Wednesday reiterated — that Mr. Trump viewed the pandemic as primarily about how it would affect his re-election chances and sought to minimize it for his own sake rather than respond to it as we needed. Most recently he and the Republican congressional leadership have aimed a bailout package at large corporations rather than citizens and, while fumbling delivery of urgently needed medical supplies, made proposals focused on keeping the market strong rather than human beings safe.

Will this catastrophe bring back the social safety nets we’ve been gutting for 40 years? Will it make the case for universal health care? Will a universal basic income seem like a more reasonable idea? As consumer spending free-falls while whole populations stay home, will we redefine what is necessary and important and how people’s needs are met? Will addressing climate change seem different in a world where air travel and consumption of consumer goods and of fossil fuel has been significantly curtailed, a world in which it is more possible to imagine sweeping change because so much is already altered?

No one has the answers to these kinds of questions yet, because what so many disasters tell us is that the outcome is not foreordained. It depends on what we do, and that depends on how we read what’s happening and what we value and how that changes in a time of stunning upheaval. Along with the struggle to overcome a disaster comes a struggle to define what it means. The two struggles are inseparable, and out of them a new order emerges.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of, most recently, the memoir “Recollections of My Nonexistence.”

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Impossible Foods raises about $500 million in new funding

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Plant-based meat company Impossible Foods said on Monday it had raised about $500 million in its latest series F funding round, which was led by new investor South Korea’s Mirae Asset Global Investments.

That brings the total raised to $1.3 billion since its founding in 2011. Other investors in this round include Khosla Ventures, Horizons Ventures and Temasek.

Impossible Foods did not disclose its latest valuation. Reuters in November said citing sources that the company was aiming to more than double the $2 billion valuation it attained in its May funding round.

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Aon to buy Willis in $30-billion insurance mega-deal, antitrust hurdles loom

(Reuters) – UK-based Aon Plc (AON.N) said on Monday it would buy Willis Towers Watson (WLTW.O) for nearly $30 billion in an all-stock deal that creates the world’s largest insurance broker but is almost certain to face regulatory hurdles.

The deal unifies the sector’s second and third largest names into a company worth $76 billion by current share prices and adds scale in a battle with falling margins and challenges ranging from the coronavirus to climate change.

“We know each other well and this came together pretty quickly,” Aon Chief Executive Officer Greg Case said on a call with analysts, adding that the deal was motivated by “unmet client needs.”

First mooted a year ago, the deal creates a company that will overtake market leader Marsh & McLennan (MMC.N) in terms of value. It follows a period of brutal competition that has driven down insurance premiums even as claims continue to rise.

Aon confirmed last year that it was in early stage talks with Willis Towers before quickly scrapping the plans, without giving a reason.

Analysts said that an Aon-Willis deal might have trouble clearing anti-trust hurdles and Aon’s shares plunged nearly 11% in pre-market trade, while Willis’ shares rose just 3.14%, although both moves came in a market hit heavily by Monday’s collapse in oil prices.

“The insurers and re-insurers are unlikely to be happy about the deal given the scale of the two players coming together,” said analyst Ben Cohen at Investec.

The deal terms state Aon will be obligated to pay a fee of $1 billion to Willis if the deal were to fall through.

Aon Chief Financial Officer Christa Davies said she was confident of getting all the “necessary approvals” for the deal.

The deal follows other moves to consolidate the global insurance business. Marsh last April sealed its own purchase of British rival Jardine Lloyd Thompson for $5.7 billion, at the time cementing its position as the biggest global player.


Under the deal, Willis shareholders would receive 1.08 Aon shares, or about $232 per share as of Aon’s Friday close, representing a total equity value of $29.86 billion. The offer is at a premium of 16% to Willis’s closing price on Friday.

When the deal closes, existing Aon shareholders will own about 63% and existing Willis investors will own about 37% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis.

The deal is expected to add to Aon’s adjusted earnings per share in the first full year of the deal, with savings of $267 million, reaching $600 million in the second year, with the full $800 million achieved in the third year.

The deal is subject to the approval of shareholders and regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the first half of 2021.

Aon will maintain its headquarters in London and the combined firm will be led by Aon CEO Case and Aon CFO Davies.

Aon’s financial advisor for the deal is Credit Suisse Securities, while Willis was advised by Goldman Sachs.

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Exclusive: Grindr's Chinese owner nears deal to sell social media app – sources

(Reuters) – Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd (300418.SZ) is close to signing an agreement to sell Grindr LLC, the popular gay dating app it has owned since 2016, to a group of investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move comes after a U.S. government panel asked Kunlun to divest Grindr. The panel, dubbed the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), was concerned that the personal information of millions of Americans, such as private messages and HIV status, was at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

One of the investors in the group that is nearing a deal to acquire Grindr is James Lu, a former executive at Chinese search engine giant Baidu (BIDU.O), three of the sources said. The identity of the other investors in the consortium could not immediately be learned.

The deal price that Kunlun is agreeable to for Grindr could also not be learned, but the negotiations during the sale process were based on a valuation of Grindr of around $500 million, one of the sources said.

The sources cautioned that there is no certainty a deal will be completed and requested anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

Grindr declined to comment, while Kunlun and Lu did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Brazil e-commerce firm Peixe denies it is in talks to buy Grow scooter startup

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Brazilian e-commerce firm Peixe Urbano on Thursday denied it was in talks to acquire Latin American scooter company Grow Mobility even as a person with direct knowledge of the matter said the startup was in talks with a chairman of the firm’s board.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Peixe was in advanced talks to acquire the electric scooter firm, with terms yet to be finalized.

But Peixe Urbano, which operates as Peixe outside of Brazil, denied the company had held any discussions with Grow, formed from the merger of Mexican electric scooter firm Grin and its Brazilian peer Yellow, about a potential acquisition.

The person with direct knowledge said Grow was in talks with investor Felipe Henriquez to sell the company.

Peixe Urbano confirmed that Henriquez was an investor in Santiago-based venture capital firm Mountain Nazca, which owns Peixe Urbano.

Henriquez’s LinkedIn profile shows that he is chairman of Peixe Urbano and a partner at Mountain Nazca. The firm is separate from Mexico-based venture capital firm Mountain Nazca, which has invested in high-profile startups such as used car platform Kavak.

Henriquez did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Grow Chairman Jonathan Lewy did not respond to a request for comment.

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What's in a name? Corporate dealmakers tussle over coronavirus references

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Many companies negotiating mergers and acquisitions (M&A) contracts are haggling over whether the global coronavirus outbreak should offer legal grounds for the acquirers to walk away from their agreements, dealmakers say.

Merger agreements routinely include contractual provisions to protect the parties involved, citing earthquakes, pandemics and “acts of God” as possible ways out of a deal. But with the S&P 500 Index losing close to 12% of its value in the last five days as a result of the outbreak, some companies are asking for specific references to coronavirus in contracts with acquirers, corporate attorneys said.

“The discussion is happening,” said David Gibbons, partner at law firm Hogan Lovells. “Sellers want to carve out the impact of coronavirus, and buyers are pushing back on that.”

Morgan Stanley’s (MS.N) $13 billion all-stock acquisition of trading brokerage E*Trade Financial Corp (ETFC.O), announced last week, offered the first example of a specific coronavirus reference in a publicly disclosed M&A contract.

It stipulates that Morgan Stanley cannot use the outbreak as a reason to walk away from the acquisition, unless it can show that E*Trade’s business has suffered a “disproportionate adverse effect.”

Traditionally, most M&A contracts do refer to epidemics or pandemics as potential grounds for an acquirer to abandon a deal, but rarely do they mention a specific disease by name.

“We do expect to see those closing conditions … to be specifically negotiated on this point around coronavirus,” said Brian Fahrney, global co-leader of law firm Sidley Austin’s M&A and private equity practice.

It is not yet clear whether specific coronavirus references will have any impact on the number of M&A deals that reach completion. A small minority of acquirers has always explored walking away from a deal, or asking for a lower price, when the fortunes of their targets sour, and companies that want a reason not to close on a deal will always find one, lawyers said.

Companies being acquired are arguing that their buyers know already that the coronavirus is out there, and what the impacts on the company are, meaning it is not a reason to break a deal, Gibbons said.

The sellers are saying, “You’re coming in with your eyes open,” Gibbons said.

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Doubts mount over Thyssenkrupp's future strategy

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Investors on Friday expressed concerns over whether Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE) can come up with a working strategy for its struggling businesses following the sale of its most profitable division, elevators, for 17.2 billion euros ($18.69 billion).

The landmark sale, announced a day earlier, will leave the stricken conglomerate with a bunch of underperforming or loss-making businesses in need of restructuring, including plant building, car parts, steel, submarines and materials trading.

“Shareholders want to know the concrete changes Thyssenkrupp plans to make in the individual divisions,” said Marc Tuengler of DSW, a lobby group that represents Thyssenkrupp’s private shareholders.

“What is needed is a very granular plan to make sure progress can be measured. Every day that goes by without it is a lost day.”

Thyssenkrupp CEO Martina Merz confirmed plans to set out in May how funds from the elevator sale will be used, apart from cutting debt and pension liabilities, which jointly stand at around 16 billion euros.

“We do not like selling this division. But it is the best solution,” Merz said, declining to answer which businesses will remain a core part of the conglomerate.

Thyssenkrupp late on Thursday agreed to sell its elevators division to a consortium of Advent, Cinven and Germany’s RAG foundation, divesting its most profitable business.

Shares initially rose as much as 4% on the deal, but then fell by more than 7% along with other stocks over concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus as well as uncertainty over the company’s future.

“It is far from secure that high investments into the reorganisation of Steel Europe and the remaining business areas will be successful,” Baader Bank analyst Christian Obst said in a note.

Without its elevator division, which is the world’s fourth-largest lift maker, Thyssenkrupp would have made an adjusted operating loss of 105 million euros last year, as opposed to a profit of 802 million.

“The problems are anything but solved by the deal,” a trader said.

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Buyout bids for Thyssenkrupp Elevator loaded with similar leverage-sources

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Private equity suitors for Thyssenkrupp’s (TKAG.DE) elevator division, which is seen fetching around 16 billion euros ($17.4 billion), have submitted offers with similar levels of debt, four people familiar with the process told Reuters on Wednesday.

Two consortia remain in the race: Blackstone (BX.N), Carlyle (CG.O) and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are competing against Advent and Cinven, who are supported by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Germany’s RAG Stiftung.

The bids, which were submitted on Wednesday, both include a leverage factor of more than seven times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), the people said.

Based on expected 2020 EBITDA, this would result in a debt component of more than 7 billion euros.

Volkmar Dinstuhl, Thyssenkrupp’s head of M&A who bears the title “International Master” from the International Chess Federation FIDE, will help review final bids, two people familiar with the matter said.

His assessment will feed into the board’s recommendation to the group’s supervisory board, which will meet on Thursday to make a decision.

Spokespeople for Thyssenkrupp and the suitors declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.

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Blackstone to buy British student housing group iQ for $6 billion

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs’ (GS.N) merchant banking unit and medical charity Wellcome Trust have agreed to sell here the British student accommodation company iQ to Blackstone (BX.N) for 4.66 billion pounds ($6.06 billion), the companies said.

Britain is the second largest market for purpose-built student accommodation outside of North America and rapid growth over the last decade means that the sector is now valued at more than 50 billion pounds, according here to Knight Frank.

There were 142 universities in the UK in 2017, according to market and consumer data firm Statista, while a report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed here there were 2.34 million students studying at higher education institutions between 2017 and 2018.

“British higher education is globally renowned and we are delighted to invest meaningful capital to support iQ’s further growth and continue to deliver the highest quality accommodation for students across the country,” James Seppala, Head of Real Estate Europe at Blackstone, said.

Goldman and Wellcome said the deal would be the largest ever private real estate deal in Britain and was subject to regulatory approvals.

iQ was established in 2006, with Wellcome as one of the founding investors, and merged with Goldman Sachs’ student housing business in 2016. It owns and manages more than 28,000 beds across Britain, with a development pipeline in excess of 4,000 beds.

Property firms have turned to Britain’s budding build-to-rent sector, which caters to students and city dwellers seeking affordable accommodation, as traditional home building and selling falters.

Student housing provider Unite (UTG.L) last year said it would buy rival Liberty Living Group for 1.4 billion pounds.

The iQ deal follows media reports on Tuesday that Blackstone will use money from a $14 billion Saudi-backed infrastructure fund to invest in Britain.

iQ’s portfolio is concentrated in London – where it is the largest owner of student accommodation – and also Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley & Co. International and Eastdil Secured were as financial advisors to the sellers. Bank of America and Citi were financial advisors to Blackstone.

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