Oil prices climb amid Saudi tensions, but demand outlook drags

BEIJING (Reuters) – Crude oil futures rose on Monday as geopolitical tensions over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist stoked worries about supply, although concerns about the long-term outlook for demand dragged on prices.

FILE PHOTO – A Chinese man works at a pump jack in PetroChina’s Daqing oil field in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province March 18, 2006.

Crude markets were also supported in the wake of data that showed South Korea did not import any oil from Iran in September for the first time in six years, before U.S. sanctions against the Middle Eastern country take effect in November.

Brent crude had risen $1.01, or 1.26 percent, to 81.44 a barrel by 0424 GMT, on track for its biggest daily gain since Oct. 9.

U.S. crude futures climbed 80 cents, or 1.12 percent, to $72.14 a barrel, extending gains they racked up on Friday after hefty losses on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The market has again expressed concerns over geopolitical tensions in the Middle East after U.S. and Saudi traded comments over the disappearance of the Saudi journalist, leading to a jump in prices,” Wang Xiao, head of crude research with Guotai Junan Futures, wrote in a research note.

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure since Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh and a U.S. resident, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The kingdom would retaliate against possible economic sanctions taken by other states over the case, its state news agency SPA reported on Sunday quoting an official source.

Meanwhile, South Korea in September stopped importing Iranian oil for the first time in years.

“South Korea’s move to stop Iran oil imports is giving the market confidence on prices,” said Chen Kai, head of research at brokerage Shengda Futures.

Lingering geopolitical worries, trade concerns and a weaker economic outlook may pave the way for another week of volatile trading, Chen said, adding that Monday’s recovery in prices was “fragile”.

Putting downward pressure on oil prices, the International Energy Agency, the West’s energy watchdog, said in its monthly report that the market looked “adequately supplied for now” and trimmed its forecasts for world oil demand growth this year and next.

That comes after the secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last week said the group sees the oil market as well supplied and that it was wary of creating a glut next year.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Joseph Radford

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2019 Hyundai Kona Electric: first drive of affordable 258-mile crossover

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Our first test-drive time with the Hyundai Kona Electric included plenty of what’s very familiar to Los Angelenos: plodding along to the next stoplight on wide boulevards, waiting another few minutes, and repeating—with occasional squirts into traffic gaps and quick merges into the carpool lane.

It’s a use case that many of the Kona Electrics Hyundai sells in the U.S. are likely to encounter. The company sees about 80 percent of the current U.S. market for EVs such as the Kona Electric in California, and company officials described a pecking order to it: California first, then the rest of CARB ZEV states, and then the rest of the nation. But in this year that Tesla is leading sales of all-electric models to new highs, it’s a travesty for Hyundai to limit it to what sounds, at the start, like a compliance machine—especially for a vehicle that, based on our preliminary impressions, is this good.

CHECK OUT: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric rated at class-leading 258 miles of range

As you scan downward in this first drive report, there are a couple things we really can’t comment about yet: pricing, which won’t be detailed for a little while, and the Kona Electric’s 258-mile driving range, which is the most currently EPA-rated for any non-Tesla model. Our drive route included a lot of elevation changes, and we finished our drive of the Kona Electric at a lower elevation than where we started. It wasn’t surprising that the range estimator adjusted upward.

The Kona Electric instantly strikes us as a more “normal” vehicle than its obvious cross-shop rival, the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Both are price-conscious electric crossover-hatches with mammoth “skateboard” battery packs stocked with LG Chem cells (pouch for the Bolt EV, prismatic for the Kona Electric). The Hyundai is slightly lower and wider than the Bolt EV, but it rides on an identical 102.4-inch wheelbase and 164.0-inch overall length.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

Cabin priorities are starkly different between these two, though. For instance, even though the Bolt EV has about three inches more rear legroom by the official numbers, the Kona Electric feels more spacious in back because its sides don’t taper as aggressively upward—revealed by the Kona’s nearly two-inch advantage in rear shoulder room. Lift the hatch and you get the same cargo capacity as in gasoline versions, and the 60/40-split rear seatbacks flip forward to a flat floor

DON’T MISS: 5 things about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

It’s easy to get in and get comfortable in the Kona Electric. Seats aren’t as high as most SUVs and crossovers, and there’s plenty of headroom above. The front ones are more generously padded than in the Bolt EV, and the lower seat cushions are longer, for more thigh support—a big difference for this tall driver.

Gas gone electric—but you might not know

While there’s no gasoline Bolt EV, there is a gasoline Kona, and it’s one of the finest (and newest) specimens of the compact crossover class—neither conceived to look too outdoorsy nor aiming too far afield in design. To take it electric, Hyundai gave it a smoothing-over that makes the whole design a whole lot less busy than the gas model, but carried the rest of the goodness forward. The sharp squint of the headlamps are the most overt aspect of the design; otherwise the Kona feels a bit like a stylish hatchback car that’s gone sans serif and sans italics. Cargo space is abundant, rear seatbacks fold flat, and there are none of the sore compromises that can call out a compliance car [whether it is or not, well, we’ll get to that].

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai has added what it calls a “bridge-type center console with high-tech image.” Translation: With shifting between Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive performed by four big buttons replacing the traditional shift lever (with the parking-brake toggle just behind), there’s a lot more space freed up for a large storage area below.

READ MORE: 2019 Hyundai Ioniq preview

A drive mode button, important to note, is also atop the bridge. There are three primary charge modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport, each with a different calibration for how the accelerator and steering boost respond. Hold down the button for a few seconds and you’ll get to a fourth, Eco+, which essentially just cuts out the climate control.

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You’re Expecting Too Much Out of Boston Dynamics’ Robots

At the WIRED25 festival in San Francisco Sunday evening, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot got onstage and did what no other quadruped robot has done before: It danced the running man like it was born to. It was a bit more, well, robotic than a human, but it illustrated just how far Spot has come: Twenty-five years into both WIRED’s and Boston Dynamics’ lives, robots have finally grown sophisticated enough to dance through our world. And a lot more than that, of course.

As impressive as Spot’s new moves are, they came paired with frank talk from Boston Dynamics boss Marc Raibert, who spoke with WIRED editor in chief Nicholas Thompson about the capabilities, aspirations, and futures of both Spot and the humanoid robot Atlas.

You might have seen the video a few days ago of Atlas doing parkour, bounding up a multi-leveled structure with ease. While the performance seemed effortless, it took over 20 attempts. “In our videos we typically show the very best behavior,” Raibert said. “It’s not the average behavior or the typical behavior. And we think of it as an aspirational target for what the robots do.”

This sets up an interesting tension. Whenever Boston Dynamics releases a video of its robots opening doors or doing backflips, the internet has a collective heart attack. (Raibert himself helps edit those videos, by the way.) The machines move with a stunning, perhaps haunting animality, prompting the inevitable articles about the machines taking over the world.

In reality, they’re so far away from doing so that it’s more productive to talk about how climate change will destroy the planet long before then. If it takes a robot 20 tries to get through a door and chase you down the street, it’s going to have a tough time catching up.

“Right now robot technology has advanced a lot,” Raibert said, “but it’s still not all the way where we’d like it to be. And so I think our job is to keep push the boundaries, but also find the best possible uses for the technology as we have it.”

To be clear, these machines are amazing. After Spot danced on stage this evening, it ventured out on the street and drew a mob. People love this thing, even when it’s just traipsing back and forth, picking up bags and hats with its snake-like arm.

But when Spot hits the market next year, customers should be clear that it doesn’t consistently live up to its video performances. The company will be debuting Business Spot, not Party Spot. That means allowing buyers to customize the machine with particular packages, like more cameras for surveillance, or special sensors for surveying construction sites. Spot may be able to do a mean running man, but at its core, it’s a laborer that will have to meet certain expectations of the job, not of the internet.

Boston Dynamics hopes that Spot will find employment in a wide range of industries. But much of determining what the robot is good for depends on customers, not Boston Dynamics itself. “We could try and make a special-purpose, particular solution for one area, but we don’t know which area is the right one to focus on,” Raibert said. “So we’re making a platform and we’re hoping the ecosystem will let us find the places where people can really make use of it.”

Right now, the “idea” of SpotMini you get from the internet is idealistic, though not necessarily unrealistic—the company’s humanoid robots are in fact backflipping, and its quadrupeds are in fact autonomously navigating environments. The internet may have built Boston Dynamics’ machines into god-like machines, but the market will determine their futures. So if you’ve been looking for a dance instructor that never gets tired, now’s the time to speak up.

More Great WIRED Stories

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Worries about Saudi Arabia are thumping shares of one of Japan’s biggest tech companies

Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a joint announcement with Toyota Motor Corp. to make new venture to develop mobility services in Tokyo, Japan, 04 October 2018.

Alessandro Di Ciommo | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a joint announcement with Toyota Motor Corp. to make new venture to develop mobility services in Tokyo, Japan, 04 October 2018.

Global concerns about a missing Saudi journalist are dragging down one of Japan’s largest tech giants.

SoftBank saw its stock fall by more than 6 percent on Monday in Tokyo trade. The company, which has reshaped the global technology landscape with investments in companies such as co-working space operator WeWork, Indian e-commerce heavyweight Flipkart, and ride-hailing giants Uber, Didi Chuxing, Grab and Ola, has close ties to the Saudi Arabia government.

In fact, a significant amount of SoftBank’s investment capital comes from the country, which is now under withering global scrutiny amid concerns about the disappearance and suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Analysts attributed the Monday stock move to the questions swirling about how other countries and investors will respond to the kingdom.

“We are seeing a massive backlash right now on Tech companies and investors who are receiving funding from the Saudi Arabian government,” Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research, told CNBC in an email.

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Asia stocks fall following sell-off last week

Stocks in Asia slipped on Monday afternoon as investors remained cautious, following global losses in the previous week.

Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell by around 1.01 percent in the afternoon. The Shanghai composite also slipped by 0.79 percent while the Shenzhen composite lost its earlier gains to decline by 0.295 percent.

The moves in China came as new reserve requirements for lenders went into effect, in a move by the People’s Bank of China which is expected to inject 750 billion yuan (around $108.4 billion) into the banking system.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell by 1.43 percent in afternoon trade, while the Topix index slipped by 1.14 percent, with most sectors trending lower.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi also saw losses of 0.52 percent, with industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics sliding 0.8 percent.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 fell 1.12 percent in afternoon trade as most sectors continued to trade down. The heavily weighted financial subindex fell 1.74 percent as major banking shares saw losses — Commonwealth Bank was down 2.16 percent, ANZ fell 1.93 percent, Westpac was lower by 1.78 percent and the National Australia Bank declined by 1.7 percent.

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Here’s the Earliest Age to Collect Social Security

For the vast majority of Americans, the earliest possible age to collect Social Security is 62. But there are some circumstances in which younger individuals — even children — can benefit from the program. These include:

  • People who are unable to work due to qualifying disabilities.
  • Qualifying children whose parents are receiving benefits.
  • Younger spouses who are taking care of said children.
  • Surviving spouses whose partners have passed away.

It’s helpful to remember the original intent of Social Security from the outset: to provide support to Americans who are typically considered vulnerable — namely, the elderly, the disabled, widows and widowers, and children.

We’ll cover who qualifies for these benefits, starting with cases where people can claim Social Security benefits before age 62, and then we’ll talk about why the timing of Social Security benefits is so crucial.

A social security card

Image source: Getty Images

Disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance

While retirement benefits are the most common form of Social Security, the payroll tax that comes out of workers’ paychecks also funds disability insurance. As the Social Security Administration (SSA) notes, “The sobering fact for 20-year-olds, insured for disability benefits, is that more than 1-in-4 of them becomes disabled before reaching retirement age.”  

However, not all disabled Americans qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The first step in claiming disability benefits is to pass two basic tests:

  • A “recent work” test
  • A “duration of work” test

First, the SSA will look into how long you were recently working before you became disabled. Here’s what it takes to pass the “recent work” test.

If you became disabled… Then you must have worked for at least…
Before 24 years of age One-and-a-half years in the last three years, ending during the quarter in which you became disabled.
Between the ages of 24 and 31 At least half of the time between the age of 21 and when you became disabled. For instance, if you became disabled at 29 years old, you must have worked for at least four years.
After the age of 31

At least five years in the past 10 years, ending when you became disabled

Data source: SSA.

If you pass this test, you move on to the “duration of work” test. While the SSA says these requirements may not apply in all cases, those considering filing for Social Security Disability Insurance can use them as guidelines.

Age at Time of Disability Minimum Years of Work
28 1.5 years
30 2 years
34 3 years
38 4 years
42 5 years
44 5.5 years
46 6 years
48 6.5 years
50 7 years
52 7.5 years
54 8 years
56 8.5 years
58 9 years
60 9.5 years

Data source: SSA.

But passing these two tests alone won’t guarantee that you’ll get coverage. The SSA is up front about the fact that the requirements for SSDI benefits are strict.

You’ll need to send in documentation about your disability and your family’s income when you apply. Even then, your disability needs to be qualified as “severe,” which generally means one of two things:

  • You’ll be unable to work for at least a year.
  • The disability will result in death.

It also needs to fall under SSDI’s qualified disabilities.

In general, SSDI benefits are modest, with the average payout in July 2018 hovering right at $1,200. That’s $14,400 annually — which is not enough to support most individuals, let alone a family. 

Disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income

Because those payouts are modest, and because not all unemployed Americans will qualify for disabled status, there is another program that can pay Social Security benefits to people other than retirees: Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

There are three groups of people who may qualify for SSI

  • Those over the age of 65
  • Those who are legally blind
  • Those who are disabled

Even if one of these three criteria is met, there are also strict income-based criteria (as opposed to the work-based requirements of SSDI), as well as resource-based caps on what you can receive.

lengthy list of public assistance programs do not count toward income — including SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), home energy assistance, and any services you might receive for your disability. Specific cut-off limits for losing SSI eligibility, however, vary by state and region within a state. You can only find out what the cut-offs are in your area by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

If your resources (things you own, generally speaking) amount to more than $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple), however, you will not qualify for benefits. Resources include cash, stocks, bonds, and any real estate other than your primary residence. Your home, car, burial plots, and life insurance policies with face values of up to $1,500 are among the assets that do not count as resources.  

SSI benefits are even more modest than SSDI benefits, maxing out at $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple — that’s $9,000 and $13,500, respectively, per year. Those amounts can also go up in certain areas where state agencies add additional payments on top of the federal ones. In California, for instance, a disabled individual can receive up to $910 per month.  If you believe you might qualify for SSI, here’s more information on submitting an application.

Benefits for children

Adults who struggle to support themselves will also struggle to support the households that depend on them for income. As such, the SSA also provides benefits for children whose parents are disabled, already receiving Social Security retirement benefits, or deceased. To qualify, a child needs to be both unmarried and one of the following: 

  • Under age 18;
  • Still in high school and either 18 or 19; or
  • 18 or older with a disability that began before the age of 22.

A child who meets these requirements and has a parent who receives any type of Social Security benefits is eligible to receive 50% of said parent’s benefit. If that parent passes away, the child is entitled to up to 75% of the benefit — assuming they still meet the age requirements.

There are, however, limits to the amount an entire household can receive from Social Security — which can come into play depending on each family’s circumstances. In general, those benefits max out at 150% to 180% of the parent’s benefit.

Benefits for spouses taking care of said children

If you are a parent to one of the aforementioned children — meaning that your spouse receives Social Security and your child also gets benefits — then you, too, are entitled to benefits. That’s true even if you don’t have a work history or have yet to reach the age of 62.

These benefits max out at one-half of your spouse’s benefits. If your child is not disabled, those benefits stop once the child reaches 16 — even though the child can continue receiving such support for a few more years. If, however, the child is disabled, those benefits can continue so long as you are the primary care provider for that child.

As mentioned above, the limits on household benefits could reduce the overall amount of this spouse’s benefit.

Benefits for surviving spouses and ex-spouses

Sometimes, there’s a large age gap between spouses. That can create a situation where one partner is receiving Social Security while the other is younger, working, and years away from being able to claim either their own benefits or spousal benefits.

If one spouse is receiving any kind of Social Security benefits and passes away before his or her partner reaches 62, the surviving spouse is entitled to the deceased’s benefits. The value of those benefits depends, however, on the age at which the initial claim was made. If the surviving spouse claims survivors benefits at age 60 — the earliest possible age to do so — they will be worth 71.5% of the deceased’s full benefits. The value of those benefits then increases over time until the surviving spouse reaches his/her own full retirement age.

If the surviving spouse is disabled, and that disability occurred within seven years of the deceased spouse’s passing, then those reduced benefits can be claimed as early as age 50.

Importantly, benefits can also be claimed by ex-spouses under the same guidelines as above, assuming the couple was married for at least 10 years and the surviving ex-spouse has not gotten remarried. If the spouse remarries before 60, then he or she forfeits these survivors benefits.

As one last caveat, if a divorced, surviving ex-spouse is caring for a qualifying child, then the 10-year marriage rule is waved.

The timing of taking Social Security

Now that we’ve covered all of the different situations where someone might be able to receive Social Security benefits before 62 years of age, it’s time to dive into all the questions surrounding the best time to claim retirement benefits.

While you can claim retirement benefits as early as 62, the full retirement age (FRA) currently stands between 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born. If you claim benefits earlier, your full monthly benefit checks go down in value. If you wait past your FRA, your monthly benefits will go up for every month you delay up until age 70.

You can find out what your full retirement benefit is by using this tool from the Social Security Administration. Once you have that, you can use the chart below to figure out what your monthly benefit would be depending on when you decide to claim and what year you were born.

Retirement Age Born 1943-1954 Born in 1955 Born in 1956 Born in 1957 Born in 1958 Born in 1959 Born in 1960 or Later
62 75% 74.2% 73.3% 72.5% 71.7% 70.8% 70%
63 80% 79.2% 78.3% 77.5% 76.7% 75.8% 75%
64 86.7% 85.6% 84.4% 83.3% 82.2% 81.1% 80%
65 93.3% 92.2% 91.1% 90% 88.9% 87.8% 86.7%
66 100% 98.9% 97.8% 96.7% 95.6% 94.4% 93.3%
67 108% 106.7% 105.3% 104% 102.7% 101.3% 100%
68 116% 114.7% 113.3% 112% 110.7% 109.3% 108%
69 124% 122.7% 121.3% 120% 118.7% 117.3% 116%
70 132% 130.7% 129.3% 128% 126.7% 125.3% 124%

Chart by author. Data source: SSA

Knowing this, it’s easy to assume that everyone could maximize their lifetime benefits payments by waiting until 70 to file for Social Security. But that ignores a crucial variable: how much time you’ll spend collecting those benefits. Those who start collecting Social Security at 62 will receive almost 100 monthly checks before 70-year-old filers get their first checks in the mail.

As an example, let’s say you were born in 1960, and your full retirement benefit is $2,000 per month. If you claim at age 62, your monthly check will be reduced to $1,400. If you wait until age 70, it will be raised to $2,480 — that’s $1,080 more than you’d be entitled to receive at age 62. However, if you filed for benefits at 62, you’d collect more than $134,000 ($1,400 x 96 months) from the SSA by the time you reached age 70, so you’d have a major head start despite the lower monthly benefit.

In other words, if you claim benefits at age 70, it will take you many years to collect more total benefits than you would have collected by claiming early. This is where breakeven points come in. The lifetime payout for a hypothetical retiree who claims at age 70 doesn’t surpass the early claimant’s until their late 70s, and only surpasses those who claim at full retirement age in their early 80s. 

Chart showing lifetime payouts from Social Security depending on age at claiming

Chart and calculations by author.

Therefore it only makes sense to delay your benefits if you believe you’ll live long enough for the bigger checks to make up for all the checks you missed. When you’re trying to decide when to claim Social Security retirement benefits, you need to consider not only your financial needs and circumstances, but also your health.

Traditional spousal benefits

As if all those variables weren’t enough to weigh, there’s another big one we haven’t touched on: spousal benefits. Because one partner often stays home to help raise a family — and thus has a more modest earnings history — they are entitled to benefits based on their spouse’s earnings history.

Here’s a broad overview of the factors that can play a role in deciding when each spouse claims benefits:

  • Everyone is entitled to a Social Security retirement benefit, assuming they have accumulated enough working credits — normally equal to 10 years of work.
  • Spouses are entitled to benefits as high as half of their partner’s full retirement benefit.
  • Spouses, however, are also eligible for benefits based on their own working records. If your spouse is already receiving benefits, and then you file, then you’ll automatically receive the greater of your own benefit or up to one-half of your spouse’s benefit (at your full retirement age).
  • If the higher-earning partner dies, the surviving partner will either continue to receive their own benefit or assume the full value of the deceased’s benefit — whichever is higher.

The number of different scenarios that can play out is dizzying. For example, spousal benefits max out at 50% of the higher earner’s benefits at his or her full retirement age. In other words, there’s little immediate payoff for the higher earner to wait until 70 to claim benefits — as far as spousal benefits are concerned. However, waiting beyond your FRA to file will increase the survivors benefit your spouse is entitled to if you pass away first.

It’s all part of the mental acrobatics that retirees need to go through when figuring out what their highest priorities in retirement will be.

The trade-offs of claiming immediately and waiting

Despite what you might hear, your spending will most likely drop in retirement. While you will end up spending more on healthcare — particularly long-term care or long-term care insurance — your expenditures in virtually every other category will fall.

Because you no longer need to commute to work, for instance, the costs associated with transportation generally drop. Instead of eating out because you don’t have time to make dinner, retirees often spend less on food, as they cook more of their meals at home.

Of course, every retiree will be different, and it’s important to take honest stock of what you want your retired life to look like on a day-to-day basis. A strong argument can be made for delaying your Social Security benefits, as the value of those benefits will increase for each month you wait up until age 70, permanently boosting the monthly checks you receive from the program.

At the risk of over-simplifying things, however, I believe most retirees should claim Social Security as early as possible, provided that:

  • The combination of income from Social Security and other sources will allow you to meet your basic needs — using the 4% safe withdrawal rule as a guide;
  • you have practiced living on your budget and feel confident that you can live within your means; and
  • you have a clear purpose for retirement, which includes at least three core pursuits.

The last bullet point might seem odd, but there’s a good reason for it. Wes Moss, chief investment strategist at Capital Investment Advisors and author of You Can Retire Earlier Than You Think has found that “happy” retirees have an average of 3.6 core pursuits upon entering retirement, as compared to less than two for unhappy retirees.

What’s a core pursuit? It’s any activity that gives you purpose, meaning, and the feeling of intrinsic rewards. Gardening, coaching, spending time with grandkids, and investing would all be considered “core pursuits,” to name a few.

But there’s an even more powerful reason that I believe many of us should claim Social Security as early as possible: The control over our time that retirement grants us produces a strong and enduring bump to our overall contentment with life. If the extra income that Social Security provides helps you reach that state, I suggest taking it as soon as your basic needs are met.

There’s no price tag you can put on that. What’s money for, if not to help us enjoy our time on Earth? Whenever you decide to claim it, use Social Security wisely to make the most of your remaining years.

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L3, Harris CEOs: Merger Will Help Compete Against Top Contractors

L3 expects to depart its Manhattan headquarters and join Harris in Florida.

What started as a social relationship between L3 Technologies CEO Chris Kubasik and Harris CEO Bill Brown led to Sunday’s announcement that the two firms intend to merge, creating a new $16 billion aerospace company that would be one of the largest defense contractors in America.

Brown, in a joint interview with Kubasik on Sunday, said talks between Harris and L3 began earlier this year, but “really picked up steam in the summer.” The executives expect the deal to close in mid-2019, if the government approves.

“We realized, given where we stack up in the defense hierarchy, this would be a great potential combination,” Brown said.

L3 will shrink or close its midtown Manhattan headquarters and move to Harris’ home base in Melbourne, Florida, where the merged entity will be called L3 Harris Technologies.

“We’ll be transitioning from the headquarters from New York and taking the best of the best and moving to Florida,” Kubasik said. “The short answer is: at some point the Manhattan office will either be significantly scaled down or ultimately closed.”

Harris’ Brown is expected to become chairman and CEO of the new L3 Harris. Kubasik, who took over as L3’s CEO only last January, will be president and COO. Two years after the deal’s closing, Kubasik is expected to be named CEO. A year after that, he is expected to add chairman to his title.

Based on 2017 revenue, L3 Harris would be the world’s seventh-largest defense firm, and the sixth-largest U.S. defense firm, according to the latest Defense News Top 100 rankings.

“[T]here are not a lot of major overlaps between Harris and L3,” said Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, in a note to investors after the Wall Street Journal reported the merger on Saturday.

Callan noted that both companies have night vision and data-links businesses. Asked Sunday about overlapping sectors or possible divestitures, Brown said the companies have “very high and complimentary portfolios. So we see very, very, very little overlap.”

That portfolio is incredibly diverse. L3 is a major supplier of electronics and intelligence equipment for the Pentagon, everything from military training to special operations aviation software, submarine radar and sensors, ship-board targeting systems, and more. It also builds airport security systems. Harris supplies the Pentagon with tactical radios, satellite payloads, and electronic-warfare gear. It’s a major player in the FAA’s air traffic control modernization effort.

Kubasik had been looking to elevate L3’s profile though mergers and acquisitions. The company has had a keen interest in underwater drone technology, making a number of acquisitions over the past two-plus years. He said those acquisitions could slow in the wake of the Harris merger.

Related: Defense One’s live Global Business Briefing with former L3 CEO Michael T. Strianese

“Job one is going to be the integration for the first couple years, so there will be very, very few, if any, acquisitions,” he said Sunday. “They would have to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

A former senior defense official said the merger represents further consolidation in the defense industry’s second tier, a trend that the Pentagon watches closely.  

Brown said the companies alerted their U.S. government customers of the merger on Saturday.

“Initial reaction, I think, was positive,” he said.

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Oversized flyers a challenge for seatmates and airlines


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It’s true, Americans are getting larger and airline seats are shrinking. So confrontations between oversize airline passengers and their fellow travelers are inevitable.

The average American man weighs 15 pounds more than he did 20 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average American woman weighs 16.2 pounds more. 

The average seat pitch, a rough measure of legroom, has dropped from 35 inches in the 1970s to about 31 inches today. And the average width has shriveled from 18 inches to about 16.5 inches.

Airlines are more sensitive to territorial seat skirmishes than ever. But air travelers have developed their own tricks, too. They might save you from being squeezed on your next trip.

More: President Trump signs bill that will regulate airline seat sizes

What airlines do with oversize airline passengers

Oversize airline passengers fall into two broad categories. Some travelers can’t fit into the seats because of their hip size. Others are too tall to contort into an economy-class seat with limited legroom. The ones that generate the most complaints, perhaps unfairly, are the ones who spread into the next seat.

That’s what happened to 73-year-old Sam Cristol. He found himself seated next to a 6-foot-7, 500-pound passenger on a 5.5-hour JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco.  

“He looked like an NFL lineman,” says Cristol, a food broker from Lake Worth, Florida. “He took up half my seat. My other half was in the aisle while I had to hold on to the seat in front of me.”

Cristol complained to JetBlue, which apologized for the inconvenience. I checked with JetBlue about his flight, and it offered a $100 voucher to both him and the lineman, which was an interesting solution.

JetBlue offers seat belt extenders for oversize airline passengers on its site but is otherwise silent on its passengers-of-size policy. Other airlines require large travelers to buy two seats.

Crewmembers try to fix these onboard confrontations before takeoff. For example, a flight attendant would have tried to re-seat a passenger like Cristol. But unfortunately, it was a completely full flight. He also might have asked to trade seats with a smaller passenger, but that wasn’t an option either.

What passengers are doing about oversize airline passengers

So beyond the usual advice – change seats, try to persuade a smaller passenger to take your place, beg for an upgrade – what do you do?

A little kindness would probably take you a long way, says Casey Gardonio-Foat, a small business owner from St. Louis. 

“Have empathy for the larger person,” she says. “Remember, they are likely more uncomfortable than you are. That’s because of shrinking airline seats and because of bias and routinely awful treatment of larger people in American society.”

Suzanne Dixon, a dietitian from Portland, Oregon, agrees that being nice can make the trip more survivable.

“When I’m seated next to a large passenger, I greet them with a smile,” she says. “No matter how much of a squeeze, a positive and nonjudgmental attitude is important.”

A polite request can help, too. On Stacy Caprio’s last flight, her seatmate took over her armrest and encroached into her personal space. “I asked him, ‘Could we please each keep our arms inside our own seats?'”says Caprio, who works for a Canadian coupon website. “He grunted but then mostly complied which made the flight much more pleasant for me.”

Ken Friedlander was so concerned about passengers who spill into someone else’s space that he invented something to fix it. It’s a partition called Create-A-Space (createaspace.net, $39) that pushes up against your armrest, clearly delineating your personal room. 

“I have found that coming prepared with something to help share the armrest really makes a difference,” he says. “The airlines have forced me to make this a part of good travel planning.”

Jen Lowe shared one of the cleverest techniques I’ve heard, although it’s not necessarily one I would endorse. She told me the story of a “super-intrusive” seatmate on a recent flight who refused to move. 

“She was rude and unapologetic about physically taking up my personal space in my seat,” says Lowe, a swimsuit designer from San Diego.

Halfway through the uncomfortable flight, the cabin turned cold. And she had an idea. 

“I just snuggled up to her and put my head on her cuddly shoulder,” she says. “It’s amazing how fast she was suddenly able to retract into her own seat – like, completely.”

What are your rights with a space invader?

• Fly later. If you’re seated next to someone who can’t fit into one seat and your schedule is flexible, ask a flight attendant if you can take the next flight. If there’s room on the next plane, you might be better off traveling later.

• Know your legal rights. Unfortunately, you don’t really have that many. The contract of carriage, the legal contract between you and the airline, does not say you have a right to a full seat. Generally, the crew’s attitude is that if you can sit in the seat and use your seat belt, you’re good to go.

• Know what to expect when you complain. As a practical matter, airlines will apologize and maybe offer a voucher for your discomfort. Discreetly take pictures of the incursion and send them with your complaint. If the airline doesn’t respond appropriately, consider asking a third party for help with your case, such as a consumer advocate, or post your pictures on social media.


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Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate. Contact him at chris@elliott.org or visit elliott.org.

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