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Update on the latest in business:

August 23, 2017


Asian markets rise modestly after Wall Street’s sharp gains

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Most Asian markets staged modest gains on Wednesday after overnight gains on Wall Street as geopolitical risks and turmoil at the White House that have dented investor sentiment in the past few weeks abated while investors eyed the annual gathering of central bankers.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.5 percent and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent. But the Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent.

U.S. stocks finished higher on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 24.14 points, or 1 percent, to 2,452.51 for its fourth-biggest gain of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 196.14 points, or 0.9 percent, to 21,899.89 on Tuesday, and the Nasdaq composite gained 84.35, or 1.4 percent, to 6,297.48.


Whole Foods shareholders to get their say on Amazon deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Whole Foods shareholders will vote on whether to bless a union with Amazon that the organic grocery chain’s CEO called “love at first sight.”

Before agreeing to the $13.7 billion offer, Whole Foods had been under intense shareholder pressure to improve results and retain customers who have more choices about where to get natural foods.

Approval from Whole Foods shareholders today is one of the steps required to close the deal. The companies also need approval from government regulators.

Amazon announced plans to buy Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. in June. The takeover would give the e-commerce giant more than 460 Whole Foods stores and the possibility of making big changes to the supermarket industry. Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. has said it expects the deal to close this year.


Walmart dives into voice-activated shopping with Google

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it’s not doing it alone.

The world’s largest retailer says it’s working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September.

It’s Google’s biggest retail partnership — and the most personalized shopping experience it offers — as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker. And it underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.


Studies: Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Researchers say safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes.

Two studies released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that vehicles with lane-keeping and blind spot monitoring systems had lower crash rates than the same vehicles without the systems. Some lane-keeping systems even nudge vehicles back into their lanes for drivers.

Lane-keeping systems lowered rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes in which there were injuries by 21 percent.

But the institute’s research also raises concern that drivers may be less vigilant when relying on automated systems or become distracted by dashboard displays that monitor how the systems are performing.


Verizon tweaks prices, cuts video quality on unlimited plans

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon is raising the price of its unlimited plan while introducing a slightly cheaper, more limited version as wireless carriers battle each other for customers.

All major carriers now offer unlimited plans after years of steering people toward paying extra for using more data. Verizon, like its rivals, will start charging more for higher-quality video while hoping to attract cost-conscious customers with a cheaper plan.

Verizon’s unlimited plan had cost $80 a month for one line for those who sign up for automatic payments with a checking account or debit card. Beginning Wednesday, it’ll cost $85 with high-definition video — capped at 720p for phones. Plans with DVD-quality streaming will cost $75. For a family of four, the higher-quality version costs $200 a month; the cheaper plan is $160.

Existing customers can keep their unlimited plans, but their video quality is now limited to 720p on phones as well. That rules out 4K-resolution video, but many people probably won’t notice a difference and there isn’t much 4K content yet.


How much sugar in that cola? Panera to list it on its cups

NEW YORK (AP) — Panera Bread will start listing the amount of added sugar and calories on the cups for seven drinks, including cola and iced teas.

The move is the latest by the company to appeal to Americans who are increasingly concerned about what’s in their food and drinks. Panera and other restaurant chains have been tweaking their recipes and removing artificial ingredients to match consumer’s changing tastes.

Panera said the new cups will be available in eight cities this week, including New York, Chicago and St. Louis. They will be in all the chain’s more than 2,000 locations by the middle of September.

CEO Ron Shaich said the cups list the amount of added sugar in teaspoons instead of grams because it’s less confusing. “I think the only people who really understand grams are drug dealers and Walter White,” Shaich said in an interview, referring to the drug-dealing character from the TV show “Breaking Bad.”

A 20-ounce cola is listed as having 17.25 teaspoons of added sugar and 250 calories. Panera’s blood orange lemonade has 8.25 teaspoons of added sugar and 160 calories, while a plum ginger hibiscus tea has no added sugars and zero calories.


Walker aide: Forxconn to hire Wisconsin residents

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s top aide says he believes nearly all of the employees at a southeastern Wisconsin Foxconn plant would be Wisconsin residents.

Democrats on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee asked state Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel during a hearing Tuesday on a $3 billion incentives package for the plant about the likelihood of Foxconn delivering on its promise to employ up to 13,000 jobs.

Neitzel said the plant will be highly automated but he believes the company will still employ 13,000 people. He said since the plant will be so automated the jobs will be “fairly high-end.”

He predicted 90 percent of the plants employees will be Wisconsin residents.


Regulators to dig deeper into US luxury property deals

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal regulators searching for money laundering schemes are digging deeper into who is behind luxury real estate purchases in certain parts of the U.S.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said Tuesday it’s adding wire transfers to the list of all-cash buys it monitors during certain types of high-end deals.

Previous orders on such monitoring covered property purchased using methods such as cashier’s checks or money orders.

Regulators want to unmask the true owners behind shell companies often created to buy luxury properties with cash.

The monitoring will be done on real estate deals in New York City; three Florida counties including Miami; Honolulu; the Texas county that includes San Antonio; and five counties in California, including Los Angeles.


Latino coalition: CBS diversity progress is part of a new push

LOS ANGELES (AP) — CBS and Hispanic media activists say the network has stepped up its efforts to increase Latino representation in its shows.

In a statement Tuesday, the National Latino Media Coalition said it was “heartened” by CBS doubling the number of Latino writers and series cast members since 2016. No numbers were provided by the coalition or the network.

A coalition executive, Alex Nogales, said work remains to be done by other broadcast networks and the coalition is prepared to take “militant” action.

The announcement followed a meeting last week with Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS Corp., and coalition leaders.

CBS called the meeting “positive” and said it looked forward to continued progress.


Appeals court: Energy officials missed in pipeline review

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Washington appeals court says federal energy regulators fell short in evaluating the environmental impact of a natural gas pipeline that’s carrying gas through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday agreed with the Sierra Club in ruling that officials needed more detail in their environmental study of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. The court said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have attempted to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from burning the gas transported by the pipelines.

The project includes the Sabal Trail pipeline, which runs for more than 500 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Sierra Club attorney Elly Benson says the group is discussing its next steps.


The Village Voice stops print edition, goes digital only

NEW YORK (AP) — The Village Voice, the alternative weekly newspaper that has been a mainstay on the city’s street corners for decades, is going digital only and will no longer appear in print.

Owner Peter Barbey announced the change on Tuesday. He said the newspaper, founded in 1955 by a group of writers including novelist Norman Mailer, “has been a beacon for progress and a literal voice for thousands of people whose identities, opinions and ideas might otherwise have been unheard.”

Barbey said he expects that to continue, with reporting and stories posted on the Voice website.

The Village Voice was the country’s first alternative newsweekly. In its prime, it was both popular, with a free circulation of 250,000, and groundbreaking. It covered the gay rights movement from its earliest moments. It was a fertile outlet for some of the city’s better investigative journalists. Its staffers have won three Pulitzer Prizes: awards for editorial cartooning and feature writing in the 1980s and an award for international reporting in 2000 for a series on AIDS in Africa. It has been celebrated for its arts and culture coverage.


Utility sale could leave taxpayers with $4B of nuclear debt

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Selling South Carolina’s state-owned utility could force taxpayers to cover its $4 billion debt from a now-abandoned nuclear power project. That’s according to the chairman.

The scuttled expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station accounts for half of Santee Cooper’s total debt of $8 billion. Even if the utility can find a buyer, no company would be willing to acquire that debt, meaning the state would have to pay it, said board Chairman Leighton Lord.

He was among utility executives testifying before a Senate panel investigating their July 31 decision to abandon the joint project with South Carolina Electric & Gas. Separately, the privately-owned SCE&G hopes to recoup its $5 billion in debt through customer charges and other sources.

Gov. Henry McMaster has said he’s talking with other utilities about the possibility of buying out Santee Cooper’s 45 percent share, or even buying the state-owned utility outright, as a way to complete at least one of the two reactors under construction.


Ski resort owner will litigate damages, not contest charges

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A ski resort owner accused last year of massive fraud involving foreign investors’ money will not contest the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges against him.

A lawyer for Ariel Quiros, the owner of the Jay Peak Resort, said Tuesday that Quiros is not admitting nor denying anything and now will only litigate damages.

“As far as Mr. Quiros is concerned he’s interested in resolving everything,” attorney Melissa Visconti said.

Quiros and the then-president of Jay Peak, William Stenger, were accused last year by the SEC and by Vermont of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program for developments at or near the ski resort.

Stenger has settled with the SEC.

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