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    TALKING POINTS

    National Grid electric bills going up

    ENERGY

    National Grid electric bills
    going up

    National Grid electric customers in Massachusetts are going to notice a bump in their bills this month. The typical residential customer’s monthly bill starting Nov. 1 will be $154, compared with the typical bill of $137 for the past six months and $150 last winter. The reason: The state Department of Public Utilities recently approved National Grid’s price adjustment for the company’s winter season. The new rates will be in effect for the company’s 1.3 million electric customers in the state through April 30. National Grid does not mark up its cost of power supplies, which it buys for its customers in six-month increments. (Eversource’s rates, meanwhile, change every January and July.) National Grid said capacity charges, included in the bill cost, will average $28 a month this winter, compared to $11 last winter. These charges, overseen by grid operator ISO New England, are used to reimburse power plant owners for ensuring their plants are available for times of peak demand. — JON CHESTO

    LABOR

    BU and building service workers reach tentative agreement, avoiding strike

    Building service workers reached a tentative agreement with Boston University early Thursday morning, just hours after their contract expired, narrowly avoiding a strike. More than 700 maintenance, custodial, grounds keeping, and skilled trades staff will get a 2.75 percent wage increase the first year and 2.5 percent raise in each of the following three years, according to the workers’ union, 32BJ Service Employees International Union District 615. The agreement, which will be voted on early next week, will move the workers onto the health plan that covers all other BU employees, with a fund that helps mitigate increased out-of-pocket costs, the union said. The new contract also provides for a safety consultant to address workers’ concerns including asbestos, exposure to chemicals and medical waste, and malfunctioning equipment. The workers held dozens of rallies on campus in recent days and garnered support from the Boston City Council and congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley. Full-time custodians at BU are among the highest paid in the city, according to BU, currently earning $24.76 an hour. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and HVAC mechanics make roughly $80,000 a year. — KATIE JOHNSTON

    AVIATION

    Japan Airlines
    co-pilot arrested after failing alcohol test before flight

    Japan Airlines Co. apologized Thursday after one of its co-pilots was arrested in London for failing an alcohol test before flying on a London-Tokyo flight. JAL said the co-pilot was arrested Sunday for violating British aviation law. The driver of a crew bus at Heathrow Airport smelled alcohol on the co-pilot and reported it to police, Japan’s NHK public television reported. British authorities notified JAL that breath and blood tests on the co-pilot, whose name was withheld, also found alcohol levels far exceeding the legal limit, the airline said. The pilot acknowledged he drank about two bottles of wine and a pitcher of beer the previous night, NHK said. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

    GENDER

    More than
    50 companies
    urge Trump to keep transgender protections

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    More than 50 major companies are urging the Trump administration to maintain federal transgender protections, and are opposing any legislative or regulatory efforts to erase those protections. They are responding, in large part, to a New York Times report that the administration was contemplating trying to change federal policy that would define gender by restricting it to a person’s biological sex at birth. A number of Massachusetts companies are on the list, including Iron Mountain, Ropes & Gray, State Street, and MassMutual. Other participating companies with a big presence in the state include Amazon, Bank of America, BNY Mellon, IBM, and MGM Resorts. — JON CHESTO

    AUTOMOTIVE

    German consumer group sues Volkswagen over emissions scandal

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    A German consumer group has filed a suit against Volkswagen that aims to establish a right to compensation for car owners affected by the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations filed the case to a court in Braunschweig under new rules that came into force Thursday allowing a form of class-action suit. The new system was prompted in part by the Volkswagen scandal. The scandal over Volkswagen’s use of software to turn emissions controls off when vehicles were not being tested erupted in 2015. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

    GENDER

    Men still dominate as speakers
    at conferences, events

    Even after a year of focus on gender balance and the harassment of women in the workplace, the era of “manels” — male-dominated panels and speakers — at conferences and events shows no sign of waning. Men made up 68 percent of the speakers at conferences, trade shows, marketing events, and other gatherings this year, a scant improvement from 70 percent two years ago, according to an analysis by Bizzabo. The event software company analyzed 60,000 speakers at thousands of events over five years in 23 countries, according to Alon Alroy, Bizzabo co-founder. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

    RETAIL

    Sears expanding Kenmore and DieHard lineups despite bankruptcy

    Sears Holdings Corp. is expanding its lineup of Kenmore and DieHard products — including its first-ever at-home electric vehicle charger — even as the future of the bankrupt department-store chain remains in doubt. The retailer, which is trying to stave off a potential liquidation after filing for Chapter 11 last month, announced a series of licensing agreements Thursday with third parties to make new home goods and auto parts under the Sears-owned brands. Terms of the deals weren’t disclosed. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

    MORTGAGES

    Rates dropped
    this week

    Long-term mortgage rates declined this week, in a quiet pause after weeks of market anxiety over rising interest rates. Home borrowing rates still remain at their highest levels in more than seven years, dampening the outlook for prospective homebuyers. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages eased to an average 4.83 percent this week from 4.86 percent last week. A year ago, it stood at 3.94 percent. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 4.23 percent this week from 4.29 percent last week. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

    MEDIA

    New York Times subscriptions
    top 4 million

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    The New York Times Co. announced Thursday that it surpassed more than 3 million paid digital-only subscribers and more than 4 million total, during the third quarter of 2018. The number of digital subscribers showed a net increase of roughly 203,000. That figure represents the highest gain in digital subscribers in a quarter since the so-called Trump bump in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 after the presidential election. Not all of the new subscribers signed on for news. The Times reported that, of the 203,000 new digital-only subscribers, 143,000 signed on for digital news products, with the remainder paying for the company’s cooking and crossword features. Perhaps more important to shareholders, the company reported that it continued to be profitable. Net income reached $24.9 million, a 23 percent drop from last year when the publisher realized a one-time gain from the sale of a dam owned by a closed paper mill in which the company has a joint venture investment. Operating profits, the company’s preferred measure, rose 30 percent to $41.4 million in the period. Digital revenue through the first nine months of the year topped $450 million, the fastest-growing part of the business. — NEW YORK TIMES