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Social media timeout as French election reaches final stage

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 21:46:58 UT

PARIS (AP) — The final hours of many electoral campaigns are frantic affairs, dominated by last-minute pitches, late-breaking polls and massive social media campaigns aimed at drumming up turnout. Rules dating back more than half a century impose a 44-hour timeout ahead of the polls' closure Sunday, meaning that politicians, journalists — and even ordinary citizens — are supposed to refrain from broadcasting any form of "electoral propaganda." The national timeout lasts from midnight Friday to 8 p.m. on Sunday in France and is intended to give voters time to reflect on their choice free from the distraction of surveys, radio commentary, and televised rallies. Amid chatter about foreign propaganda and so-called "fake news" possibly affecting the vote, French authorities seem to be keeping a close eye on potential violations of the law. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen's last tweet rebroadcasted a message by her niece, National Front lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who said, This Sunday, the only real question that matters:

Icelandic language at risk; robots, computers can't grasp it

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 15:47:57 UT

[...] the revered Icelandic language, seen by many as a source of identity and pride, is being undermined by the widespread use of English, both for mass tourism and in the voice-controlled artificial intelligence devices coming into vogue. In the 19th century, when its vocabulary and syntax were heavily influenced by Danish, independence movements fought to revive Icelandic as the common tongue, central to the claim that Icelanders were a nation. Since Iceland became fully independent from Denmark in 1944, its presidents have long championed the need to protect the language. Asgeir Jonsson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland, said without a unique language Iceland could experience a brain drain, particularly among certain professions. Iceland's Ministry of Education estimates about 1 billion Icelandic krona, or $8.8 million, is needed for seed funding for an open-access database to help tech developers adapt Icelandic as a language option.

Business Highlights

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 23:07:18 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says businesses and individuals will receive a "massive tax cut" under a tax reform package he plans to unveil next week. In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump says the plan will result in tax cuts for both individuals and businesses. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has denied a request from Exxon Mobil to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia and allow it to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a brief statement that the administration "will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions." The Chinese government says it's given the first daughter no special treatment on her trademarks, which have raised questions about political favoritism. In brief comments to reporters at the White House, Trump says the GOP attempt to revive its drive to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law is "coming along well." SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A utility says a San Francisco power outage that stranded people in elevators and left tens of thousands of others in the dark was caused by the massive failure of a circuit breaker that sparked a fire at a power substation. Fitch Ratings has downgraded Italy's long-term debt, citing the country's huge debts, stagnant economy and divided politics. WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators on Friday approved another alternative version of Remicade, an expensive injected drug widely used for rheumatoid arthritis and other immune system disorders.

Fitch lowers Italy's credit rating to 1 notch above junk

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 22:55:22 UT

Fitch Ratings has downgraded its rating on Italy's long-term debt, citing the country's huge debts, stagnant economy and divided politics. Italy's government debt equaled 132.6 percent of the country's economic output last year, one of the highest figures in the developed world and well above its debt targets.

United CEO won't add chairman title in 2018 as was planned

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 22:51:28 UT

DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines said CEO Oscar Munoz, who came under withering criticism for the airline's handling of a passenger-dragging incident, will not automatically add the title of chairman in 2018 as planned. The company said Friday that Munoz proposed rewriting his employment contract to remove the expectation that he would become chairman at next year's annual meeting of parent United Continental Holdings Inc. United said Friday in a securities filing that management and the board "take recent events extremely seriously," and will link executive bonuses partly to "progress toward improvements in the customer experience." Last month, the airline was also criticized on social media and trolled by other airlines after a United gate agent in Denver told young girls they would have to change or cover up their leggings before being allowed to board a plane.

Russian man sentenced to 27 years in hacking case

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 22:34:24 UT

SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge on Friday handed down the longest sentence ever imposed in the U.S. for a cybercrime case to the son of a member of the Russian Parliament convicted of hacking into more than 500 U.S. businesses and stealing millions of credit card numbers, which he then sold on special websites. After sentencing, Seleznev lawyer Igor Litvak read a hand-written statement from his client that said the long sentence was a political prosecution at a time of strained U.S.-Russian relations. U.S. Secret Service agents, with the help of local police, arrested Seleznev in the Maldives as he and his girlfriend arrived at an airport on their way back to Russia. Seleznev was "living like a mob boss" and spent money on fast cars, expensive boats and luxury trips around the world, he said. "Never before has a criminal engaged in computer fraud of this magnitude been identified, captured and convicted by an American jury," prosecutors told the judge in a presentence memo. Seleznev's parents divorced when he was 2; his alcoholic mother died when he was 17; he suffered a severe head injury in a terrorist bombing in Morocco in 2011, causing his doctors to say he may not recover; and his wife divorced him while he was in a coma, Litvak told the judge.

Ousted Arconic CEO resigns from board of Morgan Stanley

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:22:03 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Klaus Kleinfeld, who was ousted as CEO of Arconic after sending a threatening letter to the company's largest shareholder, has resigned from the board of directors of Morgan Stanley. The hedge fund Elliott Management, which for months pushed Arconic to replace Kleinfeld, published a letter it said Kleinfeld sent to its founder and president, Paul Singer.

Russian accused of running spam ring is indicted in US

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:21:20 UT

A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Thursday indicted Levashov, 36, on charges including causing intentional damage to a protected computer, accessing protected computers in furtherance of fraud, and aggravated identity theft. American authorities say Levashov commanded the sprawling Kelihos botnet, which at times allegedly involved more than 100,000 compromised computers that sent phony emails advertising counterfeit drugs, harvested users' logins and installed malware that intercepted bank account passwords.

US Treasury rejects Exxon Mobil request to drill in Russia

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:14:09 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has rejected a request from Exxon Mobil to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia to allow the company to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea. The disclosure of Exxon's application was criticized in Congress by lawmakers who said the Trump administration should not reduce sanctions after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in last year's presidential election. An Exxon spokesman said the company's application for a waiver was made to meet contractual obligations under a joint-venture agreement in Russia, "where competitor companies are authorized to undertake such work under European sanctions."

How major US stock market indexes fared on Friday

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:39:34 UT

How major US stock market indexes fared on Friday U.S. stocks slumped Friday as financial and health care companies moved lower. Industrial companies rose as stocks continued the up-and-down pattern they've been stuck in for the last month.

Mattel and Schlumberger slide while Honeywell jumps

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:39:11 UT

The industrial conglomerate's profit and sales were better than expected, and it raised its profit projection for the year. The aviation electronics company raised its profit and sales forecasts after its $8.6 billion purchase of former competitor B/E Aerospace. The Trump administration denied a request from the company to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia and allow it to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea

Losses for finance, health care companies send stocks lower

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:36:35 UT

Stocks slumped in morning trading as banks fell in tandem with bond yields and interest rates and energy companies sank with oil prices. President Donald Trump gave the market a fleeting boost in the afternoon when he said his administration will release a tax reform proposal next week that includes a large tax cut. On the same day, the federal government is scheduled to reach its borrowing limit, which could trigger a government shutdown unless Congress agrees to extend it. Next week the market may also react to the first round of voting in the French presidential election. Polls between the top four candidates are fairly close, and a good showing by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen or leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, as opposed to their more centrist rivals, could unsettle investors. Mattel, the largest toy company in the U.S., said its sales dropped 15 percent in the fiscal first quarter as it continued to deal with effects of poor sales over the holiday season. Honeywell's profit and sales were better than expected, and the industrial conglomerate raised its profit projection for the year. Aviation electronics company Rockwell Collins raised its profit and sales forecasts after its $8.6 billion purchase of former competitor B/E Aerospace. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $1.64 a gallon and heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.55 a gallon.

Markets Right Now: US market indexes end slightly lower

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:08:25 UT

Markets Right Now: US market indexes end slightly lower The stock market is closing slightly lower led by declines in phone companies, banks and health care providers. In earnings news, Mattel nosedived 13.6 percent after the struggling toy maker reported a big drop in sales. Energy companies are falling Friday as oil prices decrease. Stocks are edging lower in early trading on Wall Street as traders digest the latest round of company earnings reports.

Previewing the 2017 Modern Home Tour

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:25:00 UT

Much of Seattle residential architecture is defined by stately Craftsman homes or ornate Queen Annes. But modern architecture fans, take note: The last weekend of April is a celebration of all things modern with the sixth annual Modern Architecture + Design Society home tour.

United misses deadline to answer senators on dragging

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:31:11 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — United Airlines and Chicago airport officials missed a deadline for answering questions from by key U.S. senators about the dragging incident aboard a United Express plane. Passengers had already boarded the United Express plane when the airline, needing to find seats for four crew members, called airport security officers to help remove a 69-year-old passenger.

US rig count rises 10 this week to 857; Texas up 6

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:12:14 UT

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by 10 this week to 857. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday that 688 rigs sought oil and 167 explored for natural gas this week.

Trump administration denies Exxon's request to resume Russian oil drilling

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:58:36 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trump administration denies Exxon's request to resume Russian oil drilling.

Judge orders Volkswagen to pay $2.8B in emission scandal

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:23:32 UT

DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered Volkswagen to pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty in the United States for cheating on diesel emissions tests, blessing a deal negotiated by the government for a "massive fraud" orchestrated by the German automaker. U.S. District Judge Sean Cox stuck to the plea deal during the sentencing hearing, six weeks after VW pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice in a bold scheme involving nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. They were programmed to turn on pollution controls during testing and off while on the road. Separately, VW is paying $1.5 billion in a civil case, mostly to settle allegations brought by U.S. environmental regulators, and spending $11 billion to buy back cars and offer other compensation. U.S. regulators confronted VW about the cheating software after West Virginia University researchers discovered differences in testing and real-world emissions of harmful nitrogen oxide.

Unemployment rates fall to record lows in 4 US states

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:39:51 UT

Unemployment rates fall to record lows in 4 US states WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rates fell to record lows in four U.S. states in March after months of steady job creation nationwide. Unemployment rates fell in 17 states in March and were mostly unchanged in 33, the Labor Department said Friday.

Pioneering computer scientist Harry Huskey dies at 101

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:26:09 UT

Pioneering computer scientist Harry Huskey dies at 101 ENIAC made its public debut in Philadelphia in 1946 as one of the world's first electronic computers.

GM plans to launch 10 electric cars in China by 2020

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:17:44 UT

SHANGHAI (AP) — General Motors Co. plans to launch 10 electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles in China by 2020, an executive said Friday, as automakers speed up the rollout of alternative vehicles under pressure from Beijing to promote the industry. Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, Nissan Motor Co. and other automakers also have announced aggressive plans to make and sell electric vehicles in China, the biggest auto market by number of units sold. Foreign automakers had been reluctant to sell electric cars in China because regulators required them to transfer valuable intellectual property to local partners or face import duties of 25 percent even if the vehicles were produced at a Chinese factory. Beijing has eased those requirements in an effort to attract foreign participants, though automakers say the final ground rules for electric vehicle production have yet to be announced. Electric cars also are exempt from sales tax and license plate quotas Beijing, Shanghai and other cities use to curb congestion and smog.

US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:16:53 UT

The U.S. housing market faces something of a split personality: A stable economy has intensified demand from would-be buyers, but the number of properties listed for sale has been steadily fading. The result of this trend is prices rising faster than incomes, homes staying on the market for fewer days and a limit on just how much home sales can grow. Foreclosed properties were snapped up by investors who turned the homes into income-generating rentals, depriving the market of supply. [...] many owners who escaped the downturn unharmed chose to refinance their mortgages at extremely low rates, possibly making them hesitant to move to a new house that could increase their monthly costs. Home loan costs had been climbing after President Donald Trump won the November election, under the belief that the government would engage in forms of stimulus such as tax cuts and greater deficits that could cause higher levels of inflation.