Business Highlights

Posted August 9


Google gender debacle speaks to tech culture wars, politics

Special circumstances — from politics to Silicon Valley's problem with diversity — have contributed to the outrage and subsequent firing of a Google engineer who blamed biological differences for the paucity of women in tech. But workplace experts and lawyers say the fallout should still serve as a warning to anyone in any industry expressing unpopular, fiery viewpoints.


US productivity rose a modest 0.9 pct. rate in spring

The productivity of American workers rose just modestly in the spring, extending a worrisome issue that has persisted throughout this expansion. The Labor Department says productivity grew at an annual rate of 0.9 percent in the April-June quarter, slightly better than a scant 0.1 percent rate of increase in the first quarter.


Fed official supports September start for bond reductions

A member of the Federal Reserve's interest-setting committee said Wednesday it would be appropriate for the central bank to announce next month that it was starting to trim its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, but wait until December before raising a key interest rate again. Charles Evans, the president of the Fed's regional bank in Chicago, said he does not expect the balance sheet reduction to make much of a market impact because the move has been "well-choreographed."


Kentucky man, transgender wife sue Amazon for workplace bias

A Kentucky man and his transgender wife has sued Amazon, alleging that they endured sustained discrimination and harassment during a year as co-workers at the mammoth online retailer's warehouse in northern Kentucky. A lawyer working with the couple said the case is notable in part because Amazon, one of the nation's largest corporations, has a record of strongly supporting gay and transgender rights.


Pentagon: British firm billed US over $50M for iffy expenses

A Pentagon audit has found a British company hired to train Afghan intelligence officers billed the U.S. government for high-end cars and paid the "significant others" of the firm's top executives six-figure salaries even though there's no proof they did any work. Missouri Sen. Clarie McCaskill said in a statement that overall, New Century Consulting "left taxpayers on the hook for over $50 million in questionable costs." New Century's CEO says his company is being portrayed unfairly.


Walmart tests app that lets shoppers skip checkout lines

Walmart is bringing back an app that lets shoppers skip the checkout line and pay for items themselves on their smartphones. It first tested a version of the app, called Scan & Go, in 2013. But it discontinued it after customers said it was confusing to use. The retailer said Wednesday that it learned from the initial test and redesigned the app to make it easier to use.


Morris Communications selling newspapers to GateHouse Media

Morris Communications will sell its 11 daily newspapers and other publications in those markets to New Media Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse Media Inc., the companies announced Wednesday. New Media said in a news release it will pay $120 million to purchase Morris Publishing Group, the newspaper division of Georgia-based Morris Communications.


Utah's $1.9 billion claim from mine spill reveals no details

Utah's $1.9 billion claim against the Environmental Protection Agency for a multi-state mine waste spill says Utah's water, soil and wildlife were damaged, but offers no specifics. State officials provided a copy of the claim to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The claim stems from the August 2015 release of 3 million gallons of wastewater from an inactive gold mine in southwestern Colorado. An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill.


Operator of big Montana coal plant will keep on running it

The operator of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Western US says it plans to keep running the 2,100-megawatt plant after saying last year a new operator would be needed by mid-2018. Spokesman Todd Martin said Wednesday the co-owners of the Colstrip Generating Station have decided Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy will keep running the southeastern Montana plant for the foreseeable future. Martin did not give a reason. The Trump administration is giving the coal industry a boost.


The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.90 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,474.02. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 36.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to 22,048.70. Earlier, the average had been down more than 88 points. The Nasdaq composite lost 18.13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,352.33.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 39 cents to settle at $49.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 56 cents to $52.70 in London. Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.62 a gallon, heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.65 a gallon and natural gas rose 6 cents to $2.88 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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