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Update on the latest business

August 28, 2018


Asian stock mostly rise on US, Mexico preliminary trade deal

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher Tuesday after the White House said it reached a preliminary agreement with Mexico on replacing a North American free-trade deal.

Asian economies generally benefit from trade deals that will encourage exports to the U.S. The Nasdaq composite index topped 8,000 for the first time after the NAFTA news, although the trade deal isn’t final. The U.S. still needs to reach an understanding with Canada, the third party in the accord.

The S&P 500 index climbed 22.05 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,896.74. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 259.29 points, or 1 percent, to 26,049.64. The Nasdaq composite gained 71.92 points, or 0.9 percent, to 8,017.90. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 2.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,728.41.

Toyota Motor Corp. shares got a perk from the NAFTA news as the top Japanese automaker benefits from free trade. The manufacturer was also boosted by its announcement that it was investing $500 million in ride-hailing service Uber and will be partnership with Uber to build self-driving cars. Toyota was trading up nearly 2 percent in the morning session on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil inched down to remain just under $69 a barrel.

The dollar rose to 111.32 yen from 111.19 yen late Monday. The euro rose to $1.1676 from $1.1611.


Canadian official heading to US for trade talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is cutting short her diplomatic trip to Europe to head to Washington for trade talks with the United States.

Freeland will fly to Washington today after the Trump administration and Mexico said they have reached a preliminary accord to end the North American Free Trade Agreement and replace it.

The administration still needs to negotiate with the third partner in NAFTA, Canada, to become part of any new trade accord. Without Canada, America’s No. 2 trading partner, it’s unclear whether any new U.S. trade agreement with Mexico would be possible.

A spokesman for Freeland says Canada will only sign a new trade deal that is good for Canada.


US government advocate for student loan borrowers resigns

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s roughly 44 million student loan borrowers have lost their advocate inside in the U.S. government.

Seth Frotman, the government’s top official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned in protest Monday, citing what he says is the White House’s hostility toward protecting the nation’s student loan borrowers.

Frotman will be stepping down as student loan ombudsman at the end of the week, according to his resignation letter , which was obtained by The Associated Press. He held that position since 2016, but has been with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since its inception in 2011.

His departure leaves a critical role inside the U.S. government unfilled at a time of crisis in the student loan market.

Student loan debt has ballooned from $638.9 billion in 2008 to roughly $1.5 trillion this year. Meanwhile 13.6 percent of all student loans are either in default or delinquent, according to the Department of Education, a percentage that has remained alarmingly high despite an improving economy and record low unemployment.

Frotman is the latest high-level departure from the CFPB since Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s budget director, took over in late November. But Frotman’s departure is especially noteworthy, since his non-partisan office is one of the few parts of the U.S. government that was tasked with handling student loan issues.


Trademark bullies? Many big colleges fiercely protect brands

UNDATED (AP) — Never get between a university and its trademarks.

That’s the lesson dozens of people learn every year when they unwittingly provoke the wrath of big universities and the lawyers they hire to protect their mascots, slogans and logos.

Records gathered by The Associated Press show that some major universities send their lawyers after even slight perceived threats to their brands, sending flurries of letters threatening legal action or trying to block new trademarks deemed too close to their own.

Schools say they’re only defending themselves from merchandise counterfeiters and others looking to exploit their brands for personal gain. But some legal experts say it often amounts to trademark bullying, a term used when bigger institutions use aggressive tactics to overpower their opponents in seemingly frivolous disputes.

And according to some lawyers, it appears to be getting more common. As the biggest universities bring in growing sums of money through licensing deals that rely on their brands, some are becoming increasingly aggressive in their efforts to protect their symbols.

The Associated Press reviewed dozens of disputes detailed in records obtained from universities and from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


Plans on making untraceable 3D guns can’t be posted online

UNDATED (AP) — A U.S. judge in Seattle blocked the Trump administration Monday from allowing a Texas company to post online plans for making untraceable 3D guns, agreeing with 19 states and the District of Columbia that such access to the plastic guns would pose a security risk.

The states sued to stop an agreement that the government had reached with Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, saying guidelines on how to print undetectable plastic guns could be acquired by felons or terrorists.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik extended a temporary restraining order, and his new decision will last until the case is resolved. He said Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed, wanted to post the plans online so that citizens can arm themselves without having to deal with licenses, serial numbers and registrations.

Wilson has said that “governments should live in fear of their citizenry.”

The State Department had reached the settlement with the company after the agency removed the 3D gun-making plans from a list of weapons or technical data that cannot be exported overseas.

The states argued that the federal agency didn’t follow the law when it removed 3D guns from the munitions list. They said the government was supposed to notify Congress and provide a 30-day window before making a change to that list, but it did not.

Lasnik criticized the government for switching its position on the threat posed by the 3D gun-making plans.


Unions seek to block new Missouri labor group restrictions

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Unions representing teachers and other public employees sued on Monday to try to block a new Missouri law that they claim imposes “a raft of harsh restrictions” that “effectively eviscerates” their right to organize and bargain on behalf of employees.

A Missouri law set to take effect Tuesday will require most public sector unions to hold recertification votes to continue their representation, limit the topics on which they can bargain, and require annual employee permission to deduct dues from paychecks and spend money on political causes.

The lawsuit filed in St. Louis County seeks an injunction and a declaration that the law violates several provisions of the Missouri Constitution, including free speech and due process rights and a specific right for employees “to organize and to bargain collectively.”

The law was one of several measures restricting union powers that were enacted by the Republican-led Legislature and former Gov. Eric Greitens, who signed it just hours before resigning June 1 amid scandal. The most prominent measure — a so-called right-to-work law prohibiting mandatory union fees in private-sector workplaces — was overwhelmingly defeated by voters earlier this month after unions submitted petitions forcing a referendum.


Google’s search tool to help job-seeking veterans

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A new Google search tool will allow service members transitioning to civilian life to include their military occupational specialty code to find jobs that match their skills.

The tool announced Monday is part of the tech giant’s “Grow with Google” initiative aimed at helping Americans get jobs or grow their businesses. The program also is offering transitioning service members, and their spouses, computer training.

In addition, when users are searching for a place on Android or iOS mobile device or in Google Maps and open a business listing, a “veteran-led” designation will let people know which businesses are owned and run by veterans.

The initiatives are part of Google’s plans to spend $1 billion on nonprofit organizations helping to raise education levels around the world.


Uber teams with Toyota on self-driving cars

DETROIT (AP) — Uber is teaming up with Toyota to build self-driving cars for its ride-hailing service after its efforts to do it alone were derailed by allegations of theft and a fatal collision.

Toyota is also investing $500 million in Uber as part of the alliance announced Monday.

The deal will aim to combine the best features from the two companies’ work on autonomous vehicles into cars that will be picking up Uber riders in 2021.

Uber is turning to Toyota for help in autonomous vehicles five months after one of its self-driving cars ran over and killed a pedestrian crossing a dark street in Tempe, Arizona.

Uber’s expansion into self-driving cars suffered another setback last year when a Google spin-off accused it of stealing its technology. Uber paid $245 million to settle that case.


Kushner Cos. fined $210K by New York for false documents

NEW YORK (AP) — The Kushner family real estate company has been fined $210,000 by New York City regulators following an Associated Press investigation that showed it routinely filed false documents with the city claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when it, in fact, had hundreds.

The city buildings department on Monday fined the Kushner Cos. for filing 42 false applications for construction work on more than a dozen buildings when presidential adviser Jared Kushner ran the business.

The false documents allowed the company to escape extra scrutiny during construction that watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative has said led to harassment of low-paying, rent-regulated tenants to get them to leave.

The Kushner Cos. plans to appeal the fines. It says “third party consultants” prepared its permit applications and the errors “have been corrected or will be.”


‘We are totally happy,’ says paid Amazon workers on Twitter

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is paying workers to defend the company on Twitter, reassuring critics that they make enough money to live and are allowed to take bathroom breaks.

The tweets are part of Amazon’s plan to combat negative headlines and online chatter about poor working conditions at its warehouses.

Amazon says the “ambassadors” are not told what to write, while some on social media have been skeptical of their cheery messages and called them bots. The company didn’t say how many workers it has enlisted for the program or respond to a request to interview them.

Workplace experts say negative tweets can be a turnoff to potential employees who have more options during a strong economy. Amazon will soon need to hire thousands of temporary warehouse workers for the holiday season.

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