Asian shares mostly higher; Japan’s Nikkei up on weaker yen
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian shares are mostly higher today, rebounding from jitters over the U.S.-China trade disputes for a second straight day.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.9 percent, helped by a weakening in the yen against the U.S. dollar, which helps blue chip manufacturers. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.2 percent. But the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 was flat. Stocks in Singapore, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets were higher.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the economy is in a “good place” at the moment with low unemployment and inflation rising toward the Fed’s optimal range. But he says rising trade tensions and higher tariffs could end up being a drag on growth.
In an interview for American Public Media’s “Marketplace” radio program, Powell gave an upbeat assessment of the economy, in remarks signaling that the central bank’s current pace of gradual interest rate increases should continue. The Fed has raised rates twice this year and is projecting two more rate hikes this this year.
Powell, who was tapped by President Donald Trump to succeed Janet Yellen as Fed chairman, says he is not concerned about possible political pressure trying to influence the Fed’s rate decisions.
Detaining immigrant kids is now a billion-dollar industry
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade.
An Associated Press analysis finds that Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody.
Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and Kansas.
They are being held while their parents await immigration proceedings or, if the children arrived unaccompanied, are reviewed for possible asylum themselves.
Trump DOJ appealing judge’s OK of AT&T-Time Warner merger
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stung by a federal judge’s dismissal of its objections to AT&T’s megamerger with Time Warner, the Trump Justice Department is challenging the decision with a legal appeal.
The Justice Department said Thursday it is appealing the ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, which blessed one of the biggest media deals ever following a landmark antitrust trial.
Leon rejected the government’s argument that the phone and pay-TV giant’s $81 billion takeover of the entertainment conglomerate would hurt competition, limit choices and jack up prices for consumers to stream TV and movies.
Leon’s ruling allowed Dallas-based AT&T to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, “Game of Thrones,” coveted sports programming and other “must-see” shows.
TALC POWDER-CANCER LAWSUIT
Jury awards nearly $4.7 billion in powder case
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis jury has awarded nearly $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.
Jurors on Thursday awarded the women $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Lanier told the jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn’t warn consumers.
Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company believes its products are safe and will pursue “all available appellate remedies.”
‘Do not eat this cereal’: CDC links Honey Smacks, salmonella
ATLANTA (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a popular Kellogg’s cereal has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that has infected 100 people in 33 states.
The CDC announced Thursday that customers should avoid Honey Smacks, tweeting, “Do not eat this cereal.” The agency says it found salmonella in samples of Honey Smacks, which has been subject to a voluntary recall by Kellogg since mid-June.
It says that regardless of expiration date, the cereal should be thrown away or returned to a retailer for a refund.
The CDC says at least 30 of the people infected in the outbreak have been hospitalized. It says most people infected with salmonella develop a fever, cramps or diarrhea within 12 to 72 hours of being exposed to the bacteria.
Medicare proposes to pay docs for analyzing texted photos
WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare says it wants to pay doctors for analyzing photos texted by patients, one of several steps to keep up with how technology is changing health care.
Doctors would also be able to bill separately for brief video consultations with patients. Medicare may count phone calls as well.
Additionally, Medicare would expand the range of telehealth services already covered, important in rural areas.
The proposals are part of a 1,500-page physician payment rule released Thursday that would take effect in 2019.
Administrator Seema Verma said virtual medicine won’t replace office visits.
One of the proposals is likely to trigger push-back: Medicare wants to cut a 6-percent fee doctors get for drugs dispensed in their offices. The reduction to 3 percent would apply to new drugs during their introductory period.
BEN & JERRY’S-ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUIT
Consumer group sues Ben & Jerry’s over eco-friendly claims
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A consumer advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against Ben & Jerry’s alleging the ice cream company misleads consumers about its environmental practices.
Vermont Public Radio reports a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Organic Consumers Association claims Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, used advertising to create the false perception that the ice cream company “is committed to a clean environment and high animal welfare standards.”
The nonprofit says most of the milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream doesn’t meet its standards for animal care and labor practices. They also claim that farms supplying the company are polluting Lake Champlain and Lake Carmi.
A Ben & Jerry’s spokeswoman says the company does not comment on lawsuits.
UNITED NATIONS-DIGITAL FUTURE
New UN panel to make proposals to ensure safe digital future
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations is establishing a high-level panel co-chaired by Chinese e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma and the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates to make recommendations on ensuring “a safe and inclusive digital future.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference Thursday that he sees the United Nations “as a unique platform for dialogue in our digital age” and the panel as an expert group to make proposals to strengthen international cooperation.
In Guterres’ words: “As a global community, we face questions about security, equity, ethics, and human rights in a digital age. We need to seize the potential of technology while safeguarding against risks and unintended consequences.”
The panel led by Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Gates foundation, includes 20 members.
Commerce secretary tells ethics office he will sell equities
WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he will sell all his equity holdings after a government ethics office noted inaccuracies and omissions in his financial disclosure reports.
Ross says in a statement issued Thursday night that he “made inadvertent errors in completing the divestitures required by my ethics agreement.”
He says he “worked diligently with my department’s ethics officials to make sure I avoided any conflicts of interest.”
However, the Office of Government Ethics sent Ross a letter Thursday noting that he continued to own assets which could lead to such conflicts.
Ross’ statement in response says, “To maintain the public trust, I have directed that all of my equity holdings be sold and the proceeds placed in U.S. Treasury securities.”
China’s trade grows in June despite tensions with Washington
BEIJING (AP) — China’s trade grew by double digits in June despite mounting tensions with Washington but the government warned it will face “rising instabilities and uncertainties.”
Customs data shows exports rose 11.3 percent over a year earlier to $216.7 billion, down from May’s 12.6 percent growth. Imports expanded 14.1 percent to $175.1 billion yuan, down from the previous month’s 26 percent.
Washington raised tariffs this month on $34 billion of Chinese goods in a dispute over Beijing’s technology policy. China retaliated with higher duties on a similar amount of goods.
The customs agency said in a report, “There will be challenges facing foreign trade with rising instabilities and uncertainties in the global environment.”
China’s June trade with North Korea down by half
BEIJING (AP) — China’s customs agency says its imports from North Korea plunged 92.6 percent in June compared with a year ago under U.N. sanctions imposed to stop its nuclear and missile programs.
The customs agency said Friday exports of Chinese oil and other goods to the North fell 40.6 percent to 6.4 billion yuan ($960 million). Imports were 690 million yuan ($103 million).
The U.N. Security Council has steadily tightened trade sanctions as leader Kim Jong Un’s government pressed ahead with nuclear and missile development in defiance of foreign pressure.
China accounts for nearly all of the isolated North’s trade and energy supplies. Beijing has imposed limits on oil exports and banned purchases of North Korean textiles, seafood, minerals and other exports.
Jury convicts key players in Buffalo Billion corruption case
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal jury in New York has convicted key players of corruption in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program.
The jury in Manhattan federal court returned its verdict Thursday after a month-long trial that put a spotlight on how lucrative contracts were awarded for redevelopment projects in Syracuse and Buffalo worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors maintained the bidding process was corrupt and that deals were steered to favored developers.
One of the lead defendants in the case was Alain Kaloyeros (uh-LAYN’ kal-oh-YEHR’-ohs), formerly the president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute.
Prosecutors said Kaloyeros helped Buffalo developer Louis Ciminielli’s company win a job in Buffalo worth a half billion dollars.
They said two other developers unfairly won a $100 million job in Syracuse.
Last Alaska Blockbusters set to close, leaving 1 store in US
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s last two Blockbuster video stores are calling it quits, leaving just one store open in the rest of the nation.
Kevin Daymude, general manager of Blockbuster Alaska, says the stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks will close for rentals after Sunday night and reopen Tuesday for video sales.
The closures come just two months after the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” sent a jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in the 2005 movie “Cinderella Man” to the Anchorage store, which displayed it in an effort to ramp up business.
Daymude says the buzz from the Oliver connection brought business to the store. But it wasn’t enough to counter a planned lease increase.
The closures will leave the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, as the sole holdout.