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Asian shares reverse gains on growing impact of China virus

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares reversed early gains today as health authorities around the world moved to monitor and contain a deadly virus outbreak in China and keep it from spreading globally.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index skidded 1% today, while the Kospi in South Korea sank 0.9%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 2.1%, while the Shanghai Composite index declined 2.8%. Australia's S&P ASX/200 shed 0.6%. Shares rose in India and Jakarta but fell in Taiwan and Singapore.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 index rose 0.1% to 3,321.75 after gaining as much as 0.5% earlier in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed an early gain, edging less than 0.1% lower to 29,186.27.

The Nasdaq composite gained 0.1% to 9,383.77, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped 0.1% to 1,684.46.

Bond prices fell. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped to 1.75% from 1.77% late Wednesday.


What we know, and don't, about the alleged Bezos phone hack

BOSTON (AP) — U.N. human rights experts are asking Washington to investigate a suspected Saudi hack that may have siphoned data from the personal smartphone of Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post.

The experts said the hacking appears to be an attempt by Saudi Arabia's crown prince to "influence, if not silence" the newspaper's reporting on the kingdom.

The 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.”


US, other leading powers flag in fight against corruption

BERLIN (AP) — A new report says the U.S. and several other leading industrial powers are struggling to keep up the momentum in the fight against corruption, and the report urges governments to address problems with political party financing.

Watchdog group Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceived public-sector corruption in 180 nations. It uses a scale on which 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.

Transparency International says the United States' score of 69 is two points lower than a year earlier and its worst score for eight year. The U.S. was ranked 23rd, a one-place drop from last year.


Japan has second straight year of red ink on trade last year

TOKYO (AP) — TOKYO (AP) — Japan has had the second straight year of red ink in trade for last year, hurt by a slowdown of demand in China, according to government data released Thursday.

China's trade tensions with the U.S. have hurt Japan's trade, with Japan's exports for 2019 falling 5.6% from the previous year, while imports fell 5.0%.

Japan had a trade surplus of 6.6 trillion yen ($60 billion) with the U.S. last year, as exports fell 1.4% from 2018, and imports fell 4.4%.

President Donald Trump has thrown out past trade deals, including that with China, that he said added to the U.S. trade deficit and cost the country manufacturing jobs.


As European Central Bank meets, eyes turn to policy review

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Markets are waiting to hear more about Christine Lagarde's plans as head of the European Central Bank.

The bank's first female president holds a news conference today and she will have a chance to talk about her proposed rethinking of how the bank steers the eurozone economy.

That could include a new target for inflation. Or it could mean getting the bank involved in efforts to fight climate change.

The review is expected to take up most of this year. Lagarde is not expected to announce any change in interest rates or other stimulus policies.


Amtrak ends policy resulting in $25,000 bill for activists

CHICAGO (AP) — Amtrak is getting rid of a pricing policy that resulted in a $25,000 travel bill for a group of wheelchair-bound activists heading to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois from Chicago.

The passenger rail agency told Chicago-based Access Living its policy was to charge extra to reconfigure train cars to accommodate wheelchair users.

In a statement Wednesday, Amtrak said the policy wasn’t meant to be applied in the case of Access Living.

On Monday, Amtrak agreed to accommodate everyone at the regular rate of $16 per person. Access Living spokeswoman Bridget Hayman says members of the group got ``royal treatment’’ Wednesday.


Ex-pharma CEO gets over 2 years in prison for bribery scheme

BOSTON (AP) — The former head of a drug company has been sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison in a bribery scheme that prosecutors say helped fuel the national opioid epidemic.

Former CEO of Insys Therapeutics, Michael Babich, was sentenced Wednesday in Boston after pleading guilty and cooperating with prosecutors. The former regional sales director at the Arizona company, Sunrise Lee, was also sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison.

Prosecutors argued that employees for Arizona-based Insys paid millions of dollars in bribes to doctors nationwide to overprescribe Subsys, a powerful, addictive fentanyl-based painkiller for cancer patients. They said the company paid doctors’ fees for participating in sham speaking events. Prosecutors said the company also misled insurers to receive payments for the drug, which cost as much as $19,000.

The case was considered the first to hold an opioid maker and its executives criminally liable for a nationwide drug crisis that has claimed nearly 400,000 lives over two decades.


Trump administration approves Keystone pipeline on US land

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday approved a right-of-way allowing the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to be built across U.S. land, pushing the controversial $8 billion project closer to construction though court challenges still loom.

The approval covers 46 of the pipeline’s route across land in Montana that's controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Those segments of federal land are a small fraction of the pipeline's 1,200-mile route, but the right-of-way was crucial for a project that's obtained all the needed permits at the state and local levels.

The pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from western Canada to terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast.


New rules could bump emotional-support animals from planes

UNDATED (AP) — 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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