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Paris tests electric driverless minibus to fight pollution

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:17:09 UT

PARIS (AP) — In a city hit by chronic pollution and traffic problems, Paris officials are experimenting with a self-driving shuttle linking two train stations in the French capital. On the Charles de Gaulle bridge linking the two train stations, the shuttles are running on separate lanes and don't mix with other vehicles in traffic.



Colorado moves to eliminate black-market Internet pot ads

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:02:21 UT

A bill approved unanimously by the state Senate on Monday would make it a misdemeanor to advertise pot if the person does not have a license to sell the drug. Like other legal-pot states, Colorado is trying to crack down on the lingering black market for marijuana as it awaits word on how President Donald Trump's administration will approach states violating federal drug law. [...] Aguilar told the Senate that on a single day in Denver, authorities found more than 690 ads on Craigslist for marijuana, almost all of it likely being sold outside the regulated market.



Lawsuit: Trump business ties violate Constitution

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:57:19 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — To fight what it called a "grave threat" to the country, a watchdog group on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments. The lawsuit claims that Trump is violating a clause in the Constitution that prohibits him from receiving money from diplomats for stays at his hotels or foreign governments for leases of office space in his buildings. The language in the clause is disputed by legal experts, and some think the suit will fail, but it signaled the start of a legal assault by Trump critics on what they see as unprecedented conflicts between his business and the presidency. The two have expressed frustration that Trump has refused to take their recommendation and divest from his business, and feel they had no choice but to take legal action. The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted within minutes that it had filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking that government agencies hand over memos, emails and other private communications with Trump's transition team on the conflicts issue. The group behind Monday's lawsuit also filed a complaint Friday addressed to the General Services Administration, an agency that oversees the lease of the Old Post Office building by Trump to house his new Washington hotel. "CREW's argument for how it has standing to bring this lawsuit barely passes the laugh test," said Robert Kelner, chairman of the election and political law group of the firm Covington & Burling and an experienced Republican attorney. Government ethics lawyers worry that U.S. interests could take a back seat to Trump's financial concerns. [...] even if they don't, the critics argue, people will try to curry favor with the new president by buying apartments in his towers or memberships in his golf resorts, raising doubts — fair or not— that U.S. policy is for



Judge rules Snapchat immune from distracted driver claim

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:55:07 UT

A loss for Snapchat would have been dangerous, opening a floodgate of lawsuits for everyone from cell phone manufacturers to billboard advertisers to makeup brands — virtually anyone that can potentially cause a distraction from driving. The judge found that the claims against Snapchat were barred by the immunity clause of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says, "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." A key question is whether Snapchat had a legal duty because Wentworth's injury was predictable, given that other users are alleged to have had wrecks while using the speed filter, and therefore should have removed or restricted access to the filter once it found out about those crashes, the judge wrote.



Female animators break down stereotypical cartoon women

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:46:28 UT

(AP) — More women are entering the field of animation, and one of their goals is to create more realistic female characters — not just the stereotypical nerds, sex bombs and villains that dominate now. Here's a look at four of the main ones, rendered by a female student at the California Institute of the Arts and explained by Erica Larsen-Dockray, who teaches a class on "The Animated Woman" for the school's experimental animation program. Big eyes, flowing locks, luscious lips and a heart-shaped face. About the typical princess' waistline, Larsen-Dockray says: "If they were life-size, they would not have space in their bodies for reproductive organs." While male villains can be any shape or size, female villains almost always are old and unmarried.



A look at the group suing Trump over business conflicts

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:37:44 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit Monday in New York alleging that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is a non-profit group made of lawyers and other staff that track and oppose the "negative impact of money in politics" through legal action, public policy and communications strategies. — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed multiple ethics complaints and requested an inquiry by the Office of Congressional Ethics into Aaron Schock after media reports of the Illinois congressman's lavish spending, including his office, which was inspired by the show "Downton Abbey." A federal appeals court ruled in 2014 that the documents should have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.



Samsung details causes of Note 7 fires but questions remain

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:33:22 UT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung says a thorough investigation into the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 phone has confirmed widely held suspicions that its batteries were to blame, marking a first but important step toward restoring consumer confidence. Samsung announced tighter quality controls and more rigorous testing and took responsibility for failing to ensure that design specifications given to its suppliers were failsafe. The spontaneous fires, many chronicled in videos circulated on YouTube, prompted Samsung to recall millions of phones and take a $5.3 billion hit on its earnings — and an unknown amount in reputation. While praising Samsung's frankness and apologies, analysts question whether the world's largest smartphone maker has really gotten to the bottom of the problem in blaming flaws in the design and production of batteries. Ramon Llamas, an analyst at research firm IDC, said he would like to see Samsung show more of a "human side" to solving its problem and say what it's doing to work with consumers affected by this. Though some experts had speculated that the phones' ultra-thin design or water-resistant features could have made them prone to overheat, Samsung says the investigation found no such problems. After replacement phones also started catching fire, aviation authorities banned them on flights and the company dropped the product for good.



Why Trump will find it hard to make American economy greater

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:26:54 UT

Even if Trump could return factory production to its heyday by toughening trade deals and threatening to slap tariffs on America's trading partners, a surge of new jobs wouldn't necessarily follow. Many analysts say the economy needs better and more widely available post-high school education and training, whether through community colleges, vocational schools or boot camps offering technology training. Last year, the Obama administration opened some financial aid programs to Flatiron and other boot camps. Modern manufacturing work increasingly requires high-tech know-how requiring some education or training beyond high school. Since the economic recovery began in 2009, only 12 percent of manufacturing jobs have gone to workers with no more than a high school degree, according to research by Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce. He favors expanded tax breaks for companies that invest in new machinery and equipment, which typically make workers more productive. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum, says Trump's push to loosen regulations might also lead to more startup companies, which could prod established businesses to become more efficient. [...] many economists, like Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, argue that today's innovations — in mobile communications and biotechnology, for example — aren't transformative enough to fuel the explosive productivity growth that resulted from inventions like the automobile, telephone and computer. Trump's nominee for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, noted this concern at a confirmation hearing last week: "The average American worker has gotten nowhere," he said. The tepid gains for low- and middle-income families have slowed the economy because those groups typically spend more of their income than do affluent households, and consumer spending is the economy's primary fuel. Mnuchin said the a



US stock indexes head lower in afternoon trading; oil slides

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:19:37 UT

Energy and industrial companies led U.S. stock indexes lower in afternoon trading Monday as investors pored over the latest crop of company earnings and deal news. Real estate and phone company stocks rose as bond yields fell. Traders also had their eye on Washington as President Donald Trump reaffirmed plans to slash regulations on businesses and tax foreign goods entering the country. At a White House meeting early Monday with business leaders, Trump repeated a campaign promise to cut regulations by at least 75 percent. Aetna fell 2.2 percent after a federal judge rejected the health insurer's plan to buy rival Humana for about $34 billion. McDonald's was down 0.6 percent after the world's biggest hamburger chain reported a fourth-quarter drop in sales at established U.S. locations. Kate Spade climbed 3.3 percent after Bloomberg News reported that the handbag maker has attracted takeover interest from Coach, Michael Kors and international companies. Sprint gained 3.2 percent on news the mobile phone carrier is buying a 33 percent stake in Tidal, the music streaming service owned by artists including Jay-Z. Yields have generally been climbing since Election Day on expectations that President-elect Donald Trump's policies will spur more inflation and economic growth.



Federal judge swats Aetna-Humana insurer combo

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:18:38 UT

A federal judge has rejected health insurer Aetna's plan to buy rival Humana Inc. for about $34 billion and become a major player in the market for Medicare Advantage coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, which are fast-growing, privately run versions of the government's Medicare program, and on public health insurance exchanges. Federal regulators had said in July, when they sued to block the deals, that the combinations would hurt competition that restrains the price of coverage and reduce benefits, among other drawbacks.



McDonald's sales dip in US, underscoring comeback challenges

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:14:45 UT

Customer traffic also continued to slide for all of 2016 despite the rollout of an all-day breakfast menu, marking the fourth straight year of declines domestically. Since the start of 2013, customer counts are down 10 percent at established U.S. locations. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company attributed the sales decline at home to a tough comparison from the year-ago period, when it introduced the all-day breakfast menu that generated enormous buzz online. The results underscore the hurdles for McDonald's as it pushes to revitalize its image while facing broader challenges, including convenience stores selling more foods and cheaper groceries encouraging people to eat at home. McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said the company expects to start drawing more customers with compelling value deals and convenient ways to order. McDonald's has been slashing costs as part of its turnaround efforts, which helped boost operating income.



'Alternative facts' quip from Trump adviser sparks mockery

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:12:01 UT

The internet went wild after a top Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said the administration was supplying the media with "alternative facts." The comment came after she was asked why Trump press secretary Sean Spicer mischaracterized the inauguration as having the biggest crowd ever, both in person or around the world.



Liz Weston: Your mother's maiden name is not a secret

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:16:40 UT

"Relying on questions and answers is absolutely brain-dead, but a lot of banks do it because they're not equipped to implement anything else and regulators aren't mandating alternatives," says security expert Avivah Litan, vice president and analyst at Gartner Inc. "No security measure is perfect, but knowledge-based authentication is certainly more granular and more effective than shared secrets, such as your mother's maiden name," says Doug Johnson, senior vice president for payments and cyber security at the American Bankers Association. Security questions and answers were among the data stolen from 1 billion Yahoo accounts in 2013, for example, and criminals answered questions drawn in part from credit report data to access more than 700,000 taxpayers' transcripts at the IRS. (If you can't find a maiden name that way, try genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com.) Data brokers legally hawk addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and property records, among other information, for as little as $1 per person. Schwab also offers customers the option to add a verbal password and activate voice-recognition technology for added security in telephone transactions, says Sarah Bulgatz, director of corporate public relations for Schwab. Financial institutions may take extra measures to determine identity when they spot unusual transactions or attempts to log in from unfamiliar devices or networks, Johnson says. [...] while federal regulations typically require financial institutions to restore money lost due to fraud, some banks, including Chase , say customers will be on the hook if they share their credentials with third-party sites such as Mint. Financial institutions post security policies on their websites, but ask specifically how your bank or brokerage handles sensitive transactions, such as attempts to change your phone number (to thwart two-factor authentication, for example).



Markets Right Now: Energy stocks lead US indexes lower

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:00:42 UT

Stocks are heading lower in midday trading, led by declines in energy companies as the price of crude oil falls. High-dividend stocks did better than the rest of the market as bond yields fell, making those sectors more appealing to investors seeking income. Stock indexes are little changed in early trading on Wall Street as gains in materials and technology companies are offset by losses in energy stocks and retailers. Energy companies were weaker early Monday as the price of crude oil fell.



Sprint is buying a 33 percent stake in Tidal

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:04:44 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint is buying a 33 percent stake of the Tidal, the music streaming service owned by artists like Jay-Z, Madonna and Kanye West. Financial terms were not disclosed. Tidal has a more than 42.5 million song catalog and 140,000 videos. It's available in more than 52 countries. The partnership will include Tidal and its artists making exclusive content for Sprint's new and current customers. Sprint has 45 million retail customers. Jay-Z and the other artist-owners will continue to run the Tidal service. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will join Tidal's board.



Global stocks slip amid concern over Trump policies on trade

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:44:51 UT

BEIJING (AP) — Major global stock markets mostly fell on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump promised "America first" policies, adding to concern about possible trade protectionism. Trump has major U.S. trading partners who worry about his promises to restrict commerce and shift jobs back to the United States. ANALYST'S TAKE: "Trump's inauguration speech really offered nothing new for investors to latch on, besides harping on old themes of economic 'carnage' that will be stopped," said Mizuho Bank in a report. China's economic growth ticked up in the final quarter of 2016 but the full-year expansion was the weakest in three decades. Benchmark U.S. crude shed 79 cents to $52.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.



China cracks down on tools used to get around web filters

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:06:52 UT

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a directive that it forbids the operation of virtual private networks (VPNs) or leased lines that allow users and businesses to access blocked overseas websites without government permission. The new enforcement measures are the latest steps in the Chinese government's efforts to cement its grip over the domestic internet and closely control what information may be accessed by the country's 731 million internet users. To get around the government's filters, numerous foreign and domestic companies in China use VPNs to conduct business, and private citizens often use the technology to access banned foreign websites such as Google, Facebook and overseas news outlets.



Samsung: Batteries only problem with fire-prone Note 7s

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 04:54:17 UT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics said Monday that tests of more than 200,000 Galaxy Note 7 smartphones found defects in two sets of batteries from two different manufacturers that made the devices prone to catch fire. The German company TUV Rheinland analyzed the Note 7 supply chain as part of the investigation, Samsung said. The Galaxy Note 7 featured one of the biggest battery capacities so far for smartphones at 3,500 mAh, or milliampere hour, which gave it the highest energy density of all Samsung's devices. Rechargeable lithium batteries are more susceptible to overheating than other types of batteries if they are exposed to high temperatures, are damaged or have manufacturing flaws. In batteries by one manufacturer — likely Samsung SDI — used in the phones in the initial Note 7 recall, inspectors found damage to their upper corners. Though Samsung faulted the batteries from its suppliers, it said in a statement "we provided the target for the battery specifications for the innovative Note 7, and we are taking responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising out of battery design and manufacturing."



Asian shares mixed after Trump inauguration, dollar weakens

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 03:51:14 UT

BEIJING (AP) — Japanese stocks tumbled while Chinese markets gained Monday after Donald Trump took office as U.S. president and promised "American first" policies, adding to concerns about the threat of protectionism. Trump has rattled businesspeople in Japan, China and other major U.S. trading partners who worry about his promises to restrict commerce and shift jobs back to the United States. ANALYST'S TAKE: "Trump's inauguration speech really offered nothing new for investors to latch on, besides harping on old themes of economic 'carnage' that will be stopped," said Mizuho Bank in a report. A crop of encouraging company earnings news helped lift the market. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 9 cents to $53.31 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.



Samsung says battery design and manufacturing process caused Galaxy Note 7 smartphone fires

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 01:00:31 UT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung says battery design and manufacturing process caused Galaxy Note 7 smartphone fires .



In debt and afraid: dealing with debt collectors

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 17:35:46 UT

The first-ever national survey of consumer experiences with debt collectors found consumers often faced calls that came too often, at odd hours and contained warnings of jail time and other threats. The CFPB says debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry affecting 70 million consumers. People are most often contacted about medical and credit card debt. [...] more consumers complain to the CFPB about debt collection than any other financial product or service. While many debt collectors are careful to comply with consumer protection laws, some engage in illegal practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides protection for those being pursued for personal debts, such as money owed on a credit card account, an auto loan or a mortgage.



Villains and vixens dominate cartoon roles for women

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 16:54:51 UT

(AP) — More women are entering the field of animation, and one of their goals is to create more realistic female characters — not just the stereotypical nerds, sex bombs and villains that dominate now. Here's a look at four of the main ones, depicted by a female student at the California Institute of the Arts and explained by Erica Larsen-Dockray, who teaches a class on "The Animated Woman" for the school's experimental animation program. Big eyes, flowing locks, luscious lips and a heart-shaped face. About the typical princess' waistline, Larsen-Dockray says: "If they were life-size, they would not have space in their bodies for reproductive organs." While male villains can be any shape or size, female villains almost always are old and unmarried.