Eurozone shows growth despite Brexit fears; Airbnb starts own listings; Tesla claims ‘milestone’ car battery

1 Eurozone shows growth despite Brexit fears (San Francisco Chronicle) Business activity across the 19-country eurozone grew at a steady, moderate pace in August as the region continued to show little concern about the impact of a British exit from the European Union.

A gauge of activity in the services and manufacturing sectors in the eurozone, the so-called purchasing managers’ index, rose slightly to a seven-month high of 53.3 points from 53.2 in July. The index published Tuesday by IHS Markit is on a 100-point scale, with the 50 mark separating contraction from growth in activity.

The result echoes the steady growth seen in July and confirms that businesses in the eurozone aren’t overly worried about Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the EU, the broader 27-country trading bloc that includes the eurozone.

Britain has yet to trigger the clause that will start negotiations on the nation’s exit terms. It could take months for the country to invoke that clause and when it does, the actual departure will involve years of negotiations.

2 Airbnb starts own listings (Francesca Perry in The Guardian) Since its inception, Airbnb – the website that allows people to rent out their homes for holiday accommodation – has been a contentious issue in cities. It’s a cost-saving convenience for travellers and a money-making opportunity for homeowners, yet a source of ire to scores of traditional hotels and guest-houses.

Some have accused the global home-sharing initiative – which operates in 34,000 cities – of playing a part in gentrifying neighbourhoods, as more Airbnb listed properties means fewer available homes to live in, thus pushing up prices.

But could Airbnb be finding another way to influence cities? Earlier this August the multi-billion-dollar company launched a brand new initiative called Samara. It claims it is an innovation and design studio that “generates new ideas and building products that serve the Airbnb community” and “explores new attitudes to sharing and trust”.

So far, so vague. Samara will apparently focus on architecture, product design, software engineering, and new economic models – but the design studio has started with a house for a Japanese village. Samara says the rental income from stays at the house will be used to “strengthen the cultural legacy and future of the town”, which has struggled as young people move away to cities – an issue that has affected many of Japan’s rural communities as the country’s population ages, shrinks and urbanises.

Abandoned houses blight many of Japan’s rural towns; in 2013 there were 8.2 million vacant houses across the country, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Samara’s ambition is to take the Yoshino Cedar House model – a listing run by and for the benefit of a community, designed as a shared space – and roll it out to similar struggling rural communities around the world to boost localised tourism and reinvigorate economies. ssentially, it seems Airbnb would build its own listings.

Many websites reporting on Samara have announced that Airbnb is branching out into urban planning. As it stands though, Samara’s work is firmly targeting a rural context. So far, this is no urban planning; I somehow doubt we’ll see Airbnb-designed cities any time soon.

3 Tesla claims ‘milestone’ car battery (BBC) Tesla Motors has unveiled a new battery pack for the performance versions of its Model S and X cars that will extend the range and mean faster acceleration. Elon Musk, chief executive of the electric car maker, hailed the upgraded battery as a “profound milestone”.

He said the battery cell chemistry is the same, but the reconfigured product stored more energy in the same space. Tesla, which this month posted a steeper-than-expected loss, is adding a new sedan car to its sports line-up. Mr Musk claimed that the new 100-kilowatt hour battery pack means high-end versions of the Model S sedan, called the P100D, will be the world’s fastest accelerating car in production.

It will do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds. He said there were faster cars on the market, but these were limited-run vehicles, while the Tesla is aimed at the mass market, he said. Mr Musk said that in cool weather, a driver could travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles – a nearly 400 mile drive – without recharging.

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Aramco’s mother-of-all IPOs; Ford self-driving cars by 2021; Sad plight of Mongolian currency

1 Aramco’s mother-of-all IPOs (Matein Khalid in Khaleej Times) It will be the mother of all initial public offerings, unquestionably the biggest financial deal in history. Saudi Aramco is a $2 trillion colossus, the largest oil and gas producer on earth, owner of one fifth of the kingdom’s oil reserves.

Saudi Aramco financed the epic transformation of Saudi Arabia into the powerbroker of Opec, the biggest economy in the Arab world and the geopolitical future of the Middle East. Saudi Aramco pumps more crude oil than Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron combined.

The privatisation IPO of Saudi Aramco is central to Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 strategy, which is nothing less than a blueprint for the kingdom’s post Oil Age economy. Alibaba’s IPO in New York and Shanghai raised $25 billion but the Saudi Aramco IPO will raise at least $100 billion.

The crash in crude oil prices since 2014 and the geopolitical crises in the Arab world since 2011 have only intensified the need for the Saudi government to boost its economic growth rate, diversify its non-oil consumer services and industrial base and attract foreign capital to the kingdom.

Not since the reign of the late King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, which coincided with the black gold bonanza of the early 1970s just after the Arab-Israeli war in the Sinai and the Golan Heights, has the economic momentum of the kingdom portend change on such seismic a scale. Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation creates once in a lifetime investment opportunities for prescient investors.

The IPO of Saudi Aramco would be a milestone moment in the history of postwar finance, an event as transformational as Sir Sigmund Warburg’s eurobond new issue for Italy’s Autostrade or the evolution of the Shariah-compliant (sukuk) debt markets in the 1990s. Ever since Chevron geologists first struck oil in a Dammam salt dome in 1937, Saudi Aramco has been the financial umbilical cord of the kingdom, generating for 90 per cent of budget revenues.

2 Ford self-driving cars by 2021 (Gulf News) Ford Motor Company has vowed to have self-driving cars on the road for ride-sharing services by the year 2021. The US automaker said it was fuelling the effort with ramped up investments in technology and by doubling the size of the team at its autonomous-car campus in Silicon Valley.

“We see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Ford chief executive Mark Fields. As part of its mission, Ford joined Chinese internet giant Baidu to pump a combined $150 million into Velodyne, a US firm specialising in self-driving car sensors.

California-based Velodyne said the cash infusion will enable it to quickly expand the design and production of “LiDAR” high-performance sensors for autonomous vehicles. Baidu, an investor in on-demand ride service Uber, said that it was testing a fleet of self-driving vehicles in China as part of a vision for promoting safe use of the technology on a global scale.

Ford’s first fully autonomous vehicle will not have a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal, according to the carmaker. The self-driving vehicle is being designed for services such as on-demand ride services, Ford said.

3 The sad plight of Mongolian currency (Leisha Chi on BBC) Even Genghis Khan himself might find it hard to conquer this battle. Mongolia’s currency is on its longest losing streak on record as the government grapples to contain an economic crisis.

Back in 2011, a mining boom helped make it the world’s fastest-growing economy with growth in gross domestic product of around 17.5%. But the tugrik lost about 7.8% of its value this month, making it the world’s worst-performing currency.

The landlocked country has substantial untapped reserves of valuable minerals like gold, copper and coal. But then commodity prices collapsed. And so did demand from China, which buys 90% of Mongolia’s exports. The government has since admitted that the country is “in a deep state of economic crisis”.

Due to its cash shortage, Mongolia has borrowed massively and now owes dinosaur-sized interest payments of a debt load of nearly $23bn. This has fuelled speculation that Mongolia could face a sovereign default or need a bailout.

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Global outlook brighter as Brexit fears fade; Selfies boost make-up sales; Stanford and Cal fifth in Olympic medals

1 Global outlook brighter as Brexit fears fade (Issac John in Khaleej Times) Despite heightened political uncertainty, the global outlook has brightened a little with early evidence suggesting that the impact of Brexit on the rest of Europe would be less severe than previously estimated.

“While the full effects of Brexit have yet to be felt and the negative rhetoric of the US presidential election escalates, recent economic news has been a little more upbeat,” said IHS Global Insight’s World Flash for August.

IHS Markit chief economist Nariman Behravesh and IHS Global Insight senior research director Sara Johnson said in their forecast that Japan’s large fiscal stimulus package would provide a temporary (although small) boost to growth.

HIS relatively bullish forecast for the world economy is in sharp contrast with the recent International Monetary Fund’s observation. The IMF has cut its forecasts for global economic growth this year and next as the unexpected UK vote to leave the European Union creates a wave of uncertainty amid already-fragile business and consumer confidence.

IHS said growth in China, the world’s second largest economy, is set to slow in the second half. In other large emerging markets, prospects look a little brighter-or at least a little less dark, the report said.

2 Selfies boost make-up sales (Dearbail Jordan on BBC) Some call it extreme narcissism, for others, it is just a bit of fun. For Estee Lauder, the selfie is a trend that has helped drive a rise in make-up sales. Cosmetics was the fastest growing division for the company for the full-year to 30 June, with turnover up 9%.

The owner of brands such as Clinique, MAC and Bobbi Brown, said there has been a “shift in consumer preferences”. The upshot is that the snap-happy want to be camera ready at all times. That impulse helped Estee Lauder’s sales to rise by 4% to a total of $11.2bn for the year.

The company said sales of products such as make-up palettes have increased because they are a favourite of the internet beauty bloggers. A big Instagram following is also advantageous. Estee Lauder is about to launch a new make-up range with designer Victoria Beckham who has 12.1 million followers, as does US model Amber Rose, who is the face of Flirt Cosmetics, which Estee Lauder is launching online.

With the global cosmetics market set to grow to $675bn by 2020, according to Research and Markets, there will be no shortage of potential new brands for Estee Lauder to target.

3 Stanford and Cal fifth in Olympic medals (Katie Dowd in San Francisco Chronicle) With their combined medal count of 48, Stanford and Cal would create the world’s fifth-best athletic nation at the Rio Olympics. Thanks to the addition of three more gold medals Saturday in women’s water polo, Stanford leads the Bay with an astounding 27 medals. Cal is close behind with 21, almost all in swimming events.

Here’s how they stack up against the rest of the world: 1. United States 2. Great Britain 3. China 4. Russia (Cal and Stanford) 5. Germany 6. Japan 7. France 8. South Korea 9. Australia 10. Italy

Female dominance was a huge part of the picture for Stanford in particular; 12 of their 15 Olympic medalists are women.

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Strongest week for oil since March; Self-driving Ubers have arrived; The evolution of greenwashing

1 Strongest week for oil since March (Gulf News) Oil capped its strongest weekly increase in five months after entering a bull market as investors weighed speculation that Opec talks next month could lead to an output freeze, and US inventories dropped.

Futures rose 0.6 per cent in New York. While Opec is unlikely to reach a deal to freeze production, its plans to hold informal talks in Algiers next month “were the spark” behind oil’s rally, according to Morgan Stanley.

Oil has climbed more than 20 per cent since it dipped below $40 a barrel earlier in the month, meeting the common definition of a bull market. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that the nation was open to discussing a freeze after his Saudi counterpart Khalid Al Falih said that informal talks in September may lead to action to stabilise the market.

US oil drillers added 10 rigs this week, extending the biggest and longest increases since April 2014, Baker Hughes Inc data show. An agreement to freeze output is within reach as Saudi Arabia, Iran and non-Opec member Russia are producing at, or close to, maximum capacity, Chakib Khelil, former Opec president and Algerian energy minister, said.

2 Self-driving Ubers have arrived (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) Starting later this month, a fleet of Volvo XC90 SUVs will be picking up and dropping off passengers in Pittsburgh with one interesting twist: they won’t have drivers.

The cars won’t be completely empty though — there will be a “driver” sitting in the driver’s seat in case things get dicey along the ride. Nevertheless, the vehicles are outfitted with sensors, cameras, radar, and GPS receivers that make it possible for them pick you up and get you to your destination without the help of anyone behind the wheel.

There’s even a tablet in the back of each car letting you know you’re in a driverless car, which suggests you pretend the human driver isn’t even there. So far, he or she sometimes needs to grab the wheel when tackling bridges; that task is still difficult for the car’s computer system.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that the need for the company to develop its own self-driving fleet became apparent when Uber realized Google was planning to get into the ride-sharing business down the line.

If Google was successful, and Uber still relied on drivers, the move would eventually put Uber out of business. Volvo worked with Uber on the SUVs, but it won’t be the only car manufacturer with which the ride-hailing service will be working. Uber began road testing its vehicles in Pittsburg in May.

Self-driving Ubers have finally arrived

3 The evolution of corporate greenwashing (Bruce Watson in The Guardian) The term greenwashing was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, back when most consumers received their news from television, radio and print media – the same outlets that corporations regularly flooded with a wave of high-priced, slickly-produced commercials and print ads.

The combination of limited public access to information and seemingly unlimited advertising enabled companies to present themselves as caring environmental stewards, even as they were engaging in environmentally unsustainable practices.

But greenwashing dates back even earlier. American electrical behemoth Westinghouse’s nuclear power division was a greenwashing pioneer. Threatened by the 1960’s anti-nuclear movement, which raised questions about its safety and environmental impact, it fought back with a series of ads proclaiming the cleanliness and safety of nuclear power plants.

By the early 1990s, consumers were wising up to sustainability concerns: polls showed that companies’ environmental records influenced the majority of consumer purchases. This interest in the environment brought an increased awareness of the greenwashing; by the end of the decade, the word had officially entered the English language with its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Since then, the trend has only increased: a 2015 Nielsen poll showed that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products. Among millennials, that number jumps to 72%.

One shift has been outreach. Many companies are now working to engage customers in their sustainability efforts, even as their core business model remains environmentally unsustainable. The Home Depot and Lowes, for example, both encourage customers to do their part by offering onsite recycling for several products, including compact fluorescent lights and plastic bags. Meanwhile, they continue to sell billions of dollars per year worth of environmentally damaging products, such as paints that are loaded with toxic ingredients and which release noxious fumes.

Greenwashing may have taken on a new shape in the last decade, but it’s still as murky as ever.

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BHP Billiton hit by commodity rout; Ford’s self-driving car by 2021; UAE vacancies drop 22%

1 BHP Billiton hit by commodity rout (Sean Farrell & Graham Ruddick in The Guardian) BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, has reported a record loss of $6.4bn (£4.9bn) following a fatal dam disaster in Brazil, a slump in the price of commodities, and a bet on fracking in the US.

Miners are struggling due to a sharp fall in commodity prices, sparked by concerns that a slowdown in the Chinese economy could leave a surplus of raw materials. Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive of the company, said the last 12 months have been challenging and that commodity prices are likely to remain volatile, even if long-term demand remained robust.

The miner swung to the net loss in the year to the end of June after making a profit of $1.9bn a year earlier. It is the company’s first annual loss and the first time it has not increased its dividend since Australia’s BHP and the Anglo-Dutch company Billiton merged in 2001.

The loss was driven by $7.7bn of writedowns and charges including $4.9bn for the reduced value of its US shale operations and $2.2bn for the collapse of the Samarco dam, which killed 19 people, polluted a river valley and devastated communities in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state in November.

The commodity rout forced BHP Billiton to scrap its policy of not cutting dividends by slashing the half-year payout in February. It cut the annual dividend by 76% to 30 cents a share, in line with a new policy of linking payments to profits.

2 Ford’s self-driving car by 2021 (San Francisco Chronicle) Ford Motor Co. intends to have a fully driverless vehicle — no steering wheel, no pedals — on the road within five years. The car will initially be used for commercial ride-hailing or ride-sharing services, with sales to consumers coming later.

“This is a transformational moment in our industry and it is a transformational moment for our company,” said CEO Mark Fields, as he announced the plan at Ford’s Silicon Valley campus. Ford’s approach to the autonomous car breaks from many other companies, like Mercedes-Benz and Tesla Motors, which plan to gradually add self-driving capability to traditional cars.

Just last month, BMW AG, Intel Corp. and the automotive camera maker Mobileye announced a plan to put an autonomous vehicle with a steering wheel on the road by 2021. Instead, Ford is taking the same approach as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which supports moving directly to self-driving cars once the technology is perfected.

“We abandoned the stepping-stone approach of driver-assist technologies and decided we were going to take the full leap,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s chief technical officer. Nair says Ford will continue developing systems that assist the driver, like automatic emergency braking or lane departure warning.

3 UAE vacancies drop 22% (Cleofe Maceda in Gulf News) The employment market in the UAE looks more subdued, with the number of job opportunities listed online dropping significantly for the first time this year.

The latest Monster Employment Index (MEI), a monthly gauge of vacancies posted by employers across various career platforms and websites in the Middle East, showed that job opportunities in the country dropped by 22 per cent last month compared to the same period in 2015. The decline is the first negative growth recorded in the UAE since the beginning of the year.

The highest decline in hiring was noted in the hospitality industry, down by 38 per cent. Opportunities remained scarce in the oil and gas sector, where job postings plunged by 33 per cent. Jobseekers can’t expect much recruitment going on in the banking, financial services and insurance industry, either, with listings within this sector dropping by 22 per cent.

But while the labour market still looks generally lethargic, some companies are still open to hire new staff. There are still a number of healthcare projects that are in the pipeline and once they are completed, they are expected to generate more jobs.

The employment markets in other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, however, seemed to have improved, with Bahrain registering an 11 per cent increase in recruitment, while Kuwait and Oman each recorded a 10 per cent increase.

In Saudi Arabia, online hiring dropped by 15 per cent, while in Qatar, the decline reached 25 per cent. Egypt recorded the highest decline among the Middle East countries monitored at -34 per cent.

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Japan growth runs out of steam; Chequered 2016 for crude oil; July was hottest month ever

1 Japan growth runs out of steam (BBC) Japan’s economy grew at a weaker-than-expected rate in the second quarter despite an aggressive spending policy by the government. Gross domestic product grew at an annualised rate of 0.2% in the three months to June, below market forecasts for 0.7% and a marked slowdown from the 2% rate in the first quarter.

The figures come after the government launched a massive new stimulus package worth 28 trillion yen ($265bn). On top of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fiscal stimulus, Japan’s central bank is running negative interest rates and an unprecedented asset-purchase programme.

Mr Abe has been under pressure to end two decades of deflation, or falling prices, but analysts say his policies are not working. Due to the weak state of the economy, Mr Abe has delayed another increase to the country’s controversial sales tax to 2019.

Japan needs to raise more money to fund its public debt, one of the world’s largest, but when it last increased the sales tax in 2014 the economy shrunk as people cut back on spending. Private consumption accounts for about 60% of GDP but that only rose 0.2% in the second quarter, compared with a 0.7% increase the quarter earlier.

2 Chequered 2016 for crude oil (Dharmesh Bhatia in Khaleej Times) There are several reasons for crude oil prices reaching a peak of $52, after a consistent rise from the rock-bottom price of 13 years i.e. $26.05 in the first two quarter of the current year. Steady increase in energy demand, decrease in US production and unplanned productions cut in Nigeria and Canada have contributed to the rise in prices.

However, doubt prevails whether this rally would sustain or not. Normally, refineries resort to excessive production to cope with the summer demand for petrol, gas and fire-heating oil by purchasing crude oil and transforming it into refined energy products.

Currently, however, there is a glut of such refined products across the world. Refineries have produced so much gasoline during the current year that supply has exceeded demand, resulting in good news for consumers, but not for bulls.

Crude prices are under pressure from gasoline and the scenario is likely to continue even into the third quarter. If refineries purchase less than expected, crude oil producers will be forced to divert production into storage and, consequently, prices may once again face tremendous pressure.

The US crude oil stock decreased by 14 million barrels in May but inventories reached the peak of 522 million barrels in the week ending July 22, which is 60 million barrels more than the average of the last five years.

3 July 2016 was hottest month ever (Michael Slezak in The Guardian) Last month was the hottest month in recorded history, beating the record set just 12 months before and continuing the long string of monthly records, according to the latest Nasa data.

The past nine months have set temperature records for their respective months and the trend continued this month to make 10 in a row, according to Nasa. July broke the absolute record for hottest month since records began in 1880.

Similar data from the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said the past 14 months have broken the temperature record for each month, but it hasn’t released its figures for July yet.

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UK construction in recession first time in four years; Italian growth stagnates; Being a thought leader

1 UK construction in recession first time in four years (Katie Allen in The Guardian) The UK’s construction industry has slipped back into recession for the first time in four years, according to official figures that show the sector was struggling even before the vote to leave the EU.

Experts say the drop in business and consumer confidence since the referendum will further dent construction activity in the months ahead. The Office for National Statistics said output dipped 0.7% in the second quarter of 2016, following a drop of 0.3% in the previous three months. It is the first time there have been two consecutive quarters of falling output – a technical recession – since 2012, when the eurozone debt crisis shook confidence across Europe.

Economists put the industry’s troubles down to government spending cuts and a blow to private sector investment plans from the referendum. A recent business survey by the data group Markit suggested pressure had intensified after the referendum. The PMI report signalled the sharpest contraction since mid-2009.

2 Italian growth stagnates (BBC) Italy’s economy failed to grow between April and June as the country struggled with its creaking banking sector. GDP growth shrank to 0% in the second quarter compared to 0.3% in the first quarter.

Germany’s economy also slowed in the second quarter, albeit less markedly than had been expected. Europe’s largest economy expanded by 0.4%, down from 0.7% in the first quarter, but above forecasts of 0.2%.

Overall, a second estimate of GDP across the eurozone confirmed that growth halved to 0.3% from 0.6% in the first three months of the year. GDP also fell across the 28-nation European Union to 0.4% from 0.5% between the first and second quarters.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi, is battling to reduce the bad debt in its banking sector, which is currently buried under €360bn worth of bad loans. Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy’s third largest bank and the world’s oldest lender, is saddled with €46.9bn of bad debt.

France recorded no growth between April and June after GDP rose by 0.7% in the first quarter, boosted by business from the Euro 2016 football tournament. In contrast, Greece reported a rare rise in GDP – which increased by 0.3% compared to a 0.1% fall in the first quarter. Holidaymakers are choosing the likes of Greece and Spain over politically volatile Turkey.

3 Being a thought leader (Karen Tiber Leland in San Francisco Chronicle) If your goal is to position yourself as a thought leader, then you need to engage in a branding process to legitimately position yourself at that level. The following is a bird’s-eye view of each level.

Phase One: Platform Development—Brand Design and Strategy. This is all about developing a solid platform on which you can build your brand and market your business. It requires defining, articulating, and declaring your brand and then translating that into places (online and off) where people can effectively engage with your business.

That probably doesn’t come as news to you; however, if you’re like many of my clients, your tendency is to move quickly past this first phase and jump headlong into the more exciting work of spreading the word. The problem is, I’ve seen far too many people haphazardly rush into building buzz for their brand (Phase Two), only to drive traffic back to a website and/or social media sites that don’t hit the mark.

Phase Two is about Brand and Buzz Building—Brand Expansion and Acceleration. With your platform solidly in place, you’re ready to take on some serious buzz building. There are hundreds of significant tactics you can use to build brand and buzz, but unless you’re a Fortune 500 company, you likely won’t have the time or money to pursue them all.

The trick is to sit down and carefully consider which tactics (based on your business, brand, personal preferences, time, money, and energy) you’re going to include in your overall brand- and buzz-building strategy.

Phase Three is about Thought/Industry Leadership—Brand Authority. Making that leap generally requires the following three steps. A. Adding something new through academic research, clinical research, experimentation, field study, and sometimes just old-fashioned, deep, reflective thinking.

B. Being a trusted source of information. Being a requested speaker at industry conferences, a go-to source for media interviews, and a contributor to blogs, leading websites, and publications are all indications that you’re poised for thought/industry leadership. C. Consistently generating high-quality content. Thought/industry leaders create traditionally published books, ebooks, blogs, articles, podcasts, webinars, online products, and more.

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