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Update on the latest in business:

October 5, 2018


Asian stocks fall as US accuses China of election meddling

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mostly lower on Friday after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed China had meddled with its midterm elections to unsettle the Trump administration, which Beijing has denied.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of taking public and covert measures to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. This includes targeting Chinese tariffs to industries in states that are crucial to Trump, intimidating scholars, and coercing U.S. businesses to speak out against the Trump administration.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose above $74.50 a barrel.

The dollar strengthened against the yen and and the euro.


Musk takes swipe at SEC on heels of fraud settlement

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elon Musk is taunting the government regulators who threatened to oust him as CEO of electric carmaker Tesla just days after he settled a case alleging he duped investors.

Musk used his Twitter account to jab the Securities and Exchange Commission, the same agency that went after him for an Aug. 7 tweet in which he declared he had secured financing for a Tesla buyout. The SEC alleged that Musk hadn’t locked up the estimated $25 billion to $50 billion that it would have required to pull off that deal, and wanted to punish him by forcing him out as Tesla’s CEO.

After initially rejecting an SEC offer to settle the case, Musk relented two days after the fraud complaint against him and agreed to resolve the matter by having Tesla and Musk each pay a $20 million penalty, stepping down as Tesla’s chairman and submitting to oversight about his communications about company news.

But the deal didn’t prevent the free-wheeling Musk from continuing to speak out about other subjects — a liberty he took advantage of to bash the SEC in a Thursday tweet that indicated he is still stewing about the allegations filed against him.

Musk derided the SEC as the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” before snidely praising it for “doing incredible work.”

The tweet also stoked Musk’s long-running feud with short sellers, a category of investors that have been betting on Tesla’s stock to fall.


Russian envoy rejects reports of cybercrimes

LONDON (AP) — A top Russian diplomat is warning the U.S. that its allegations of cybercrimes by the Russian intelligence could dangerously escalate tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement that the U.S. is taking a “dangerous path” by “deliberately inciting tensions in relations between the nuclear powers.” He added the U.S. allies in Europe should also think about it.

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other international organizations. Britain and the Netherlands accused the Russian GRU intelligence agency of a series of global cybercrimes.

Ryabkov rejected the accusations as unfounded. He said they were intended to support Washington’s claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and create a pretext for new sanctions against Russia.


New Zealand fines travelers who won’t unlock secure devices

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Visitors to New Zealand can be fined 5,000 New Zealand dollars ($3,243) for refusing to provide passwords to unlock electronic devices and allow customs officials to examine them under a new law that a civil liberties group on Thursday condemned as a grave invasion of privacy.

The law came into effect on Oct. 1 as part of an update of 22-year-old customs legislation. It also gives customs officials authority to copy data found on searched devices.

The New Zealand Customs Service said in a statement that “the traveling public is unlikely to notice much difference at the border.”

But the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties said the law gives customs officials the power to force travelers to unlock their smartphones without justification, and without legal options for travelers to challenge an order to enter a password.

Council spokesman Thomas Beagle said that “allowing customs to be able to demand the right to examine and capture all this information is a grave invasion of personal privacy of both the person who owns the device and the people they have communicated with.”

Beagle questioned whether the intrusion would catch criminals, who would prefer to pay the fine than expose evidence that could lead to prison.

Criminals could also store their data in the cloud, travel with a wiped phone and restore the data once they passed customs, he said.


Oregon vineyards face losses amid concerns about smoke taint

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Some Oregon lawmakers and winery owners scrambled Thursday to help a dozen vineyard owners who face the prospect of tons of grapes withering on the vine after a California company abruptly canceled contracts to buy the grapes worth millions of dollars over fears they are tainted by wildfire smoke.

Copper Cane, based in the Napa Valley, canceled contracts to buy 2,000 tons (1,814 metric tons) of grapes just as the annual harvest was getting underway in Oregon.

The value of the grapes totals $4 million. If they go unsold, harvesting crews will be out of work, and earnings and profits won’t be pumped into the local economy.

The cancellation of the contracts “is perhaps the most devastating issue facing the Oregon wine industry in our history,” said Christine Collier Clair, winery director of Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Lab tests carried out so far show wildfire smoke hasn’t had an adverse effect on the grapes. The vineyard in northwest Oregon is buying some of the crop for its brand that’s made from grapes grown in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley wine country, paying the full market price.

Jim Blumling, Copper Cane’s vice president of operations, said both lab and sensory tests showed a high level of smoke taint. The most effective time to test is as close as possible to harvest.

Ed King, founder of King Estate Winery in Eugene in west-central Oregon, also is buying grapes from the southern Oregon growers and wants other wineries or custom crush facilities with extra capacity to take them in to sell on the bulk wine market.

King Estate, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Silvan Ridge Winery of Eugene are going to jointly make a “Solidarity Vintage” with the grapes, Clair said.


Famed Tsukiji fish market uneasy over move to new site

TOKYO (AP) — After years of delays Tokyo’s 80-year-old Tsukiji fish market is closing on Saturday to move to a more modern facility on reclaimed industrial land in Tokyo Bay.

The new, 569 billion yen ($5 billion) facility at Toyosu will open on Oct. 11, over the objections of many working in Tsukiji who contend the new site is contaminated, inconvenient and unsafe.

Tai Yamaguchi, the 75-year-old leader of a group of 30 women whose families run shops in Tsukiji opposed to the move, says she feels it has been mishandled by authorities who failed to fully consult those affected.

Tsukiji now has more than 500 wholesalers employing several thousand people. About 40,000 people visit each day. Much of the angst over the move has to do with closing down a beloved local institution.

A labyrinth of quaint sushi stalls and shops selling knives and ice cream encircling the huge wholesale market famous for its predawn haggling over deep-frozen tuna and other harvests from the sea, Tsukiji has been supplying Tokyo’s fancy restaurants and everyday supermarkets since 1935. Its origins go back nearly a century.

Opponents of the move fear tourists will be less likely to visit out-of-the-way Toyosu, which resembles a huge, modern factory and lacks the picturesque quality of Tsukiji.


Major business and economic reports due out today

WASHINGTON (AP) — Another healthy picture of hiring is expected when the Labor Department issues its September jobs report today. Despite worries about the long-term effects of the Trump administration’s trade wars, employers have kept hiring at a brisk pace.

Also, the Commerce Department releases its August report on international trade this morning, and this afternoon the Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for August.


Amazon’s $15 an hour a win? Not so, some veteran workers say

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s announcement that it would raise its hourly minimum wage to $15 has been seen as a win for workers. But some longtime employees say they are losing out.

Those who already made $15 will get an extra dollar an hour when the change is made next month, but they will also lose two benefits they relied on: monthly bonuses that could top hundreds of dollars and a chance to own Amazon’s sky-rocketing stock, currently worth nearly $2,000.

Longtime workers, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear they would be fired, said the $1 raise would not make up for the lost benefits. Amazon says the increase in hourly wages more than compensates for the benefits that will be phased out.


Tronc no more: Company reverting to ‘Tribune Publishing Co.’

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s Tronc no more. The Chicago-based media company says it’s ditching the name and will revert to its “Tribune Publishing Co.” moniker.

The company rebranded itself Tronc — short for “Tribune online content”— in 2016 to highlight its digital publishing efforts. But the clunky-sounding name quickly became the subject of jokes across social media.

Tronc owns papers across the U.S. including the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.

It is also changing its stock ticker from TRNC to TPCO. Both changes are effective after the market closes Tuesday.

Tronc has been cutting staff at its papers and sold off the Los Angeles Times in February to shore up its results. It didn’t give a reason for the name change.


Trump’s flagship Scottish resort lost millions last year

NEW YORK (AP) — A financial report filed with the British government shows that President Donald Trump lost millions of dollars at his flagship Scottish golf resort for a fourth year in a row last year.

A report from Britain’s Companies House shows that Trump’s Turnberry resort lost 3.4 million pounds ($4.4 million at current exchange rates) in 2017. The loss, however, is smaller than the previous year’s when the resort was closed for six months.

Trump’s company has struggled since it ventured into Scotland a dozen years ago. It lost a court fight to stop an offshore windmill farm at a second Scottish resort, drew objections from the environmental regulators and faced backlash from local anti-Trump protesters.

The president’s son, Eric Trump, expressed optimism that Turnberry will turn an operating profit soon.


2 more ex-Pilot Flying J employees get prison sentences

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Two more former employees of truck stop chain Pilot Flying J have been sentenced in connection with a rebate scam.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced former Pilot Flying J vice president Scott “Scooter” Wombold to six years and former account representative Heather Jones to 43 months Friday.

Collier sentenced former company president Mark Hazelwood to 12 ½ years in prison and fined him $750,000 last month.

The sentences come nearly eight months after jurors convicted Wombold of wire fraud and Jones of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Hazelwood was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and witness tampering.

Pilot Flying J is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The Haslams haven’t been charged with any wrongdoing. The governor hasn’t been involved in the company in recent years.

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