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Update on the latest in business:

October 10, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mostly rise in muted trading amid growth fears

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher in muted trading today amid continuing worries about trade tensions and slowing global economic growth.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished 0.2 percent higher, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.5 percent, while the Shanghai Composite gained nearly 0.1 percent.

On Wall Street Tuesday, the S&P 500 ended down 4 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,880. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 56 points, or 0.2 percent, to 26,431, and the Nasdaq composite added 2 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 7,738.

TRUMP-ETHANOL

In boon for farmers, Trump lifts restrictions on ethanol

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is moving to allow year-round sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, a boon for Iowa and other farm states that have pushed for greater sales of the corn-based fuel.

On a Tuesday trip to Iowa, President Donald Trump announced he is lifting a federal ban on summer sales of high-ethanol blends.

Earlier at the White House, Trump said: “It’s an amazing substance. You look at the Indy cars. They run 100 percent on ethanol.” He said he wants more energy production and to help farmers and refiners.

The long-expected announcement is something of a reward to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman led a contentious but successful fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Farm state producers of soybeans and other commodities have been impacted by rounds of tit-for-tat economic trade tariffs between the U.S. and China.

PUERTO RICO-POWER COMPANY

Whitefish Energy gets US contracts after Puerto Rico ouster

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after losing a $300 million no-bid contract to restore Puerto Rico’s hurricane-shattered electric grid, Whitefish Energy Holdings has quietly been seeking and winning U.S. government contracts.

Founded in 2015 in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s tiny Montana hometown, Whitefish had just two employees when Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. The company was ousted weeks later by Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority amid concerns about the slow pace of recovery and eyebrow-raising charges.

Records show Whitefish won a $225,000 job in June from the Interior Department to perform electrical work at three fish hatcheries. The Energy Department awarded Whitefish a more than $1 million contract in September to build power transmission lines. The Interior Department denied that Zinke, a former Montana congressman, played any role in the contract award.

CONGRESS-FOREIGN LOBBYING

Objections blunt momentum for foreign lobbying law overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — A push to give the Justice Department more enforcement authority over the lucrative and at times shadowy world of foreign lobbying is stalled amid opposition from pro-business groups, nonprofits and privacy advocates.

Organizations that range from the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have raised objections to legislation that would sharpen the teeth of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law, enacted 80 years ago to expose Nazi propaganda, requires people to disclose when they lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments or political entities.

While there’s bipartisan support for cracking down on unregistered foreign agents, several of the changes proposed in congressional bills could backfire by sweeping in a host of unintended targets, according to critics. That pushback has effectively kept the legislation from advancing as lobbying groups press for revisions.

PIPELINE PROTEST-DEFENSE

Minnesota judge dismisses case against 3 climate activists

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge has dismissed charges against three climate change activists who tried to shut down two Enbridge Energy crude oil pipelines in northwestern Minnesota.

Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany ruled Tuesday that the prosecution failed to prove any damage. He threw out the case even before the protesters could present a so-called “necessity defense” to the jury.

Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, of the Seattle area, admitted turning the emergency shut-off valves on two pipelines in 2016 as part of a coordinated action in four states. They were charged with felonies.

The two women and a third defendant had planned to argue that the threat of climate change from Canadian tar sands crude was so imminent that their actions were not only morally right, but necessary.

RECYCLING SHAKE-UP

Market forces put America’s recycling industry in the dumps

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A crash in the global market for recyclables has pushed an already stressed recycling industry to the breaking point.

Mountains of paper have piled up at sorting centers, worthless. Thousands of tons of recyclables left at the curb in dozens of cities and towns have gone to landfills after processing centers shut down or imposed high fees. Instead of making money selling recyclables, some cities are being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of them.

It all stems from a policy shift in China that closed its doors this year to all but the most pristine recyclables. The resulting glut of recyclables has caused prices to plummet. While new markets are being developed, recycling advocates have launched programs to get people to recycle right to reduce contamination.

OFFICE PARKS-SCHOOLS

Vacant office parks repurposed as school, college buildings

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — Across the U.S., office parks that have lost their luster with employers are being repurposed as school buildings.

Colleges and school districts willing to think beyond traditional school settings are retrofitting office space to help them deal with growing enrollments and a scarcity of available land in urban and suburban areas.

In southwestern Connecticut, Sacred Heart University has developed a new satellite campus on the property that once housed the global headquarters of General Electric, and the city of Stamford has been looking at a building that held the headquarters of Xerox as the potential site for a new elementary school.

There are other recent examples in cities including Atlanta, Houston and Alexandria, Virginia.

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