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Business Highlights: Merck pill, Amazon remote work

October 11, 2021 GMT

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Merck asks US FDA to authorize promising anti-COVID pill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Drugmaker Merck has asked U.S. regulators to authorize its promising antiviral pill against COVID-19, setting the stage for a decision within weeks. If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, adding a new, easy-to-use weapon to the world’s arsenal against the pandemic. The FDA will scrutinize company data on the drug’s safety and effectiveness before rendering a decision. All COVID-19 drugs now authorized by the FDA require an IV or injection.

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Amazon to allow employees to work remotely indefinitely

Amazon says it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely as long as they can to commute to the office when necessary. The new policy was announced in a blog post. It’s a change from Amazon’s previous expectation that most employees would need to be in the office at least three days a week after offices reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic in January. Most of Amazon’s more than 1 million employees worldwide cannot work remotely because they are in the company’s fulfillment and transportation division. About 50,000 tech and office employees in Seattle work at the company’s headquarters campus. Their absence will hurt nearby businesses.

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Southwest Airlines flight cancellations continue into Monday

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds more flights Monday following a weekend of major service disruptions. By midmorning Monday, Southwest had canceled about 360 flights and more than 600 others were delayed. The Dallas-based airline blamed air traffic control issues and bad weather for weekend “operational challenges” that resulted in 1,900 canceled flights on Saturday and Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration took the unusual step of pushing back against Southwest’s explanation. Southwest Airlines was the only airline to report such a large percentage of canceled and delayed flights over the weekend.

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3 US-based economists win Nobel for research on wages, jobs

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A U.S.-based economist has won the Nobel prize for economics for pioneering research that showed an increase in minimum wage doesn’t lead to less hiring and immigrants don’t lower pay for native-born workers, challenging commonly held ideas. Two others in the U.S. shared the award Monday for creating a way to study these types of social issues. The winners are David Card of the University of California, Berkeley; Joshua Angrist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Guido Imbens from Stanford University. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three have “completely reshaped empirical work in the economic sciences.”

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Facebook unveils new controls for kids using its platforms

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NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook, in the aftermath of damning testimony that its platforms harm children, will be introducing several features including prompting teens using its photo sharing app Instagram to take a break, and nudging them if they repeatedly look at the same content that’s not conducive to their well-being. The Menlo Park, California-based Facebook is also planning to introduce new controls for parents or guardians of teens on an optional basis so that adults can supervise what their teens are doing online. This comes after Facebook announced late last month that it was pausing work on its Instagram for Kids project. But critics say they are skeptical that the new features would be effective and that the plans lack details.

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Israel a step closer to commercial drones with latest tests

Dozens of drones have flown across Tel Aviv in an experiment that officials believe could pave the way for commercial drone use across Israel. Israel’s National Drone Initiative, a government program, believes delivering goods via aerial drones will take pressure off highly congested urban roads. Monday’s demonstration is part of a two-year program aiming to apply the capabilities of Israeli drone companies to establish a network where customers can order goods and have them delivered to pick-up spots. The initiative faces many issues, including ensuring that drones can handle flights through turbulent weather conditions and that individual privacy is not violated.

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Thai prime minister plans to drop required virus quarantines

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s prime minister says the country plans to no longer require international visitors from at least 10 low-risk nations to quarantine beginning next month if they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a televised speech Monday the first group would include arrivals from the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China and the United States. The list would be expanded on Dec. 1, and then made even more extensive on Jan. 1. All visitors will still need to show negative RT-PCR test results before embarking for Thailand and will require another test on arrival. Thailand’s economy has been badly hurt by the losses suffered by its huge tourism industry after most foreign visitors were barred in April last year.

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Scientists urge speedy switch to renewables in Middle East

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A climate change conference will underscore to policymakers in the Middle East and the east Mediterranean that the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is needed urgently because greenhouse gas emissions are helping to drive up regional temperatures faster than in many other inhabited parts of the world. A scientist at the Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center said Monday that although this “can’t happen overnight,” governments have to make the switch within the next two decades to avert potentially “irreversible effects” such as desertification. An international climate change conference this week brings together 65 top scientists, diplomats and policymakers from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Greece to present the results of a two-year study.

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Toymaker Hasbro’s CEO Brian Goldner will take medical leave

NEW YORK (AP) — Toy and entertainment company Hasbro Inc. has announced that Brian D. Goldner is taking a medical leave of absence from his CEO role, effective immediately. The move, announced Sunday, follows Goldner’s disclosure in August 2020 that he was undergoing continued medical treatment for cancer since 2014. Goldner has served as the CEO of Hasbro, Inc. since 2008, and has served as the chairman since May 2015. The lead independent director of Hasbro’s board Rich Stoddart has been appointed interim CEO. Hasbro is headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

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The S&P 500 fell 30.15 points, or 0.7%, to 4,361.19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 250.19 points, or 0.7%, to 34,496.06. The Nasdaq lost 93.34 points, or 0.6%, to 14,486.20. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies shed 12.45 points, or 0.6%, to 2,220.64.