Facebook again refuses to ban political ads, even false ones
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook is reaffirming its freewheeling policy on political ads, saying it won’t ban them, won’t fact-check them and won’t limit how they can be targeted to specific groups of people. Instead, Facebook will offer users slightly more control over how many political ads they see and make its online library of such ads easier to use. These steps announced Thursday appear unlikely to assuage critics, who say Facebook has too much power and not enough limits when it comes to its effects on elections. By contrast, Google has decided to limit targeting of political ads, while Twitter is banning them outright.
China’s economy czar going to Washington to sign trade deal
BEIJING (AP) — China’s government says its economy czar will go to Washington next week for the signing of an interim trade deal. The Commerce Ministry announcement was the first official confirmation of expectations Vice Premier Liu He would attend the signing. The ministry said Liu would be in Washington from Monday to Wednesday. Under the “Phase 1” deal, China agreed to buy more American farm exports and Washington postponed additional planned tariff hikes on Chinese imports. The two sides have yet to release details.
Fugitive Ghosn brings global attention to Japanese justice
TOKYO (AP) — Though former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is unlikely to stand trial in a real court, he has made himself a key witness in putting Japan’s justice system on trial. In his first public appearance after fleeing to Lebanon, Ghosn described unfair detention conditions and being presumed guilty of the financial misconduct charges against him. Japanese officials said Ghosn had “only himself to blame” and credited the nation’s extremely low crime rate to a judicial system rooted in “its history and culture.” But advocates of reform say Japan’s high conviction rate indicates suspects enter the courts carrying a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
Soaring pork prices keep China’s inflation at 7-year high
BEIJING (AP) — Soaring pork prices that nearly doubled in December kept China’s inflation at a seven-year high despite government efforts to ease meat shortages caused by a disease outbreak. Surging inflation adds to challenges for communist leaders who are trying to reverse a slowdown in economic growth and resolve a tariff war with Washington. Government data showed pork prices rose 97% over a year earlier despite increased imports of China’s staple meat and the release of supplies from stockpiles. Food costs rose 17.4% and overall consumer inflation was 4.5%, well above the ruling Communist Party’s 3% official target. Pork supplies have plunged after authorities destroyed animals and blocked shipments to stop an outbreak of African swine fever.
Microsoft looks to detect sex predators in video game chats
REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft says it has developed a technique to detect online predators using video games to try to sexually exploit children. The chat function in online multiplayer games is one place where predators have tried to groom children for sexual purposes. Microsoft, which makes the Xbox gaming system, says its new technology will automatically scan text-based conversations for signs of potential exploitation. A human moderator can then review the flagged conversation and determine if it should be reported to law enforcement.
California could be 1st state to sell own prescription drugs
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California could become the first state with its own prescription drug label. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he wants the state to contract with generic drug companies to make prescription medications on its behalf to sell to the public. The Democratic governor said the goal is to lower prices by increasing competition in the generic market. Lawmakers must approve the plan before it can take effect.
CES Gadget Show: Pizza from robots, underwater scooters
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Among the many robots at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week is one busily making pizzas for hungry crowds. The robot from Picnic resembles an assembly line and can churn out 300 12-inch pies in an hour. Humans are still needed, though. A worker slides a frozen crust on the conveyor belt. As the crust goes down the line, sauce, cheese, sausage and other toppings fall from above and onto the crust. A worker then needs to put the pie in the oven, take it out and slice it up. The annual CES show runs through Friday.
US stocks set records as fear recedes from market; gold dips
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks around the world climbed on Thursday, and U.S. indexes hit records as markets continued a rally sparked after the United States and Iran appeared to step away from the edge of war. Money flowed into riskier investments, such as technology stocks, and trickled out of traditional hiding spots for investors when they’re nervous, such as gold. A measure of fear in the stock market had its largest drop in a week. The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq all set records as the market’s focus turns to the health of the economy and corporate profits.
The S&P 500 rose 21.65 points, or 0.7%, to 3,274.70 and surpassed its record set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 211.81 points, or 0.7%, to 28,956.90, and the Nasdaq composite rose 74.18, or 0.8%, to 9,203.43. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 1.40 points, or 0.1%, 1,664.99.