AP NEWS

Business Highlights

January 22, 2020 GMT

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Saudi crown prince’s WhatsApp linked to Bezos phone hack

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two U.N. human rights experts say the cellphone of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked in what appears to be an attempt by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to “influence, if not silence” the newspaper’s reporting on the kingdom. The two experts called Wednesday for an “immediate investigation” by the United States into a report commissioned by Bezos that showed the technology mogul’s phone was likely hacked after receiving a video file from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s WhatsApp account in 2018 after the two exchanged phone numbers at a dinner in California. Saudi Arabia has called the allegations “absolutely illegitimate.”

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Key events leading to statement on Jeff Bezos phone hack

Experts at the United Nations said Wednesday that the phone of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was likely hacked through a file sent from an account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The experts called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States and alleged that the Saudis wanted to “influence” coverage of Saudi Arabia by The Washington Post. The U.N. report says Bezos and the Saudi prince exchanged numbers when they met in April 2018. About a month later, an encrypted video file was sent to Bezos’ iPhone from the Saudi prince’s WhatsApp account, according to U.N. experts. Within hours, there was a spike in data exiting Bezos’ phone.

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US stocks flat as health authorities focus on China virus

Technology companies led stocks to a flat close on Wall Street Wednesday, erasing the market’s early gains. The topsy-turvy day comes as health authorities around the world take steps to monitor and contain a deadly virus outbreak in China to keep it from spreading globally. The international measures have helped reassure Wall Street following Tuesday’s decline. The S&P 500 index gained 1 point or less than 0.1% to 3,321. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 9 points, or less than 0.1%, to 29,186. The Nasdaq rose 0.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks lost 0.1%. European markets were mostly lower and Asian markets climbed.

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Boeing’s new CEO sees 737 Max production resuming in spring

Boeing’s new CEO is suggesting that production of the 737 Max will resume this spring, even before regulators approve the plane to fly again. Boeing expects that regulatory approval in June. CEO David Calhoun said Wednesday that the assembly line will start back up “a few months” before then. Calhoun also believes passengers will fly on the Max when federal regulators say it is safe and they see airline pilots getting on the plane. Calhoun took over this month for former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who was fired in December over Boeing’s halting response to the Max crisis.

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US-French tax truce a respite in tense relations with EU

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — France’s finance minister says his country will delay its digital tax and U.S. will hold off retaliatory sanctions. The deal is a potential sign of goodwill in the U.S. and EU’s increasingly tense relations over trade. The French finance minister said in Davos, Switzerland, that he and the U.S. Treasury secretary will talk about setting up a global framework on how to tax online business. France will delay collection of the digital tax until December and the U.S. will not impose retaliatory tariffs on French wine and cheese. President Donald Trump, however, said he was still unhappy with the wider EU’s approach to trade with the U.S.

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China virus outbreak may wallop economy, financial markets

BANGKOK (AP) — Reports that a new coronavirus that has afflicted hundreds of people in central China can spread between humans has rattled financial markets and raised concern it might wallop the economy just as it appears to be regaining momentum. Health authorities across Asia are stepping up surveillance and other precautions to prevent a repeat of the disruptions and deaths during the 2003 SARS crisis. Such outbreaks can cause tens of billions of dollars of losses from reduced travel and spending. The first cases of the new coronavirus were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, suggesting animal-to-human transmission, but the illness is now thought to also be spread between humans. As of Wednesday, more than 500 people were confirmed sick and 17 reported dead from the illness.

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Sale ending soon? How online stores trick you into buying

NEW YORK (AP) — Sale ending soon! Only two left! This is a hot item! If you’ve shopped online, you’ve probably seen messages like those before. What you may not realize: These are tricks from infomercials and home shopping networks designed to make you spend more. The best way to combat them? Being aware of the tactics online stores use. Be wary of messages saying an item is almost sold out or limited-time discounts with no end date. Messages that say an item is close to being sold out could be a way to get you to buy quicker, thinking it will be out of stock.

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Why tech has been slow to fight wildfires, extreme weather

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As wildfire risks heat up, Silicon Valley startups are starting to take notice. Companies face multiple barriers in this field, including stodgy utilities and government agencies, but investors are encouraged that activity is picking up. One startup makes a fire retardant spray that is safe for plants and designed to keep fires from spreading. Another using artificial intelligence technology to spot fires as soon as they break out. One more uses drones to replant trees after a fire ravages a landscape. Founders are hopeful more tech companies will get involved as wildfires continue to occur in California and Australia.

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New rules could bump emotional-support animals from planes

The days of passengers bringing rabbits, turtles and birds on planes as emotional-support animals could be ending. The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed that only specially trained dogs qualify as service animals, which must be allowed in the cabin at no charge. Airlines could let passengers bring other animals on board, but hefty fees would apply. Airlines have complained that some passengers try to get their pets on board for free by claiming they need them for emotional support under the current rules.

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Tesla passes $100 billion, teeing up big payout for Musk

DETROIT (AP) — The meteoric rise of Tesla shares that recently pushed the company’s value over $100 billion could turn into a supercharged payday for CEO Elon Musk. Stock in Tesla Inc. rose 4.1% Wednesday, pushing the market value of the electric vehicle and solar panel maker past a critical milestone in Musk’s pay package. He could get a stock options package worth over $371 million. Tesla shares closed at $569.56 on Wednesday, giving the company a market capitalization of $102.7 billion. Shares have tripled in value since May, meaning Tesla’s market capitalization now exceeds the value of Ford and General Motors, combined.

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The S&P 500 index rose 0.96 points, or less than 0.1%, to 3,321.75. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed an early gain and fell 9.77 points, or less than 0.1%, to 29,186.27. The Nasdaq composite gained 12.96 points, or 0.1%, to 9,383.77. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped 1.44 points, or 0.1%, to 1,684.46.