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Asian markets gain as China closes down for Lunar New Year

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in quiet trading today in Asia as China began a week-long Lunar New Year festival that is being overshadowed by the outbreak of a new virus that has killed 25 people and sickened more than 800.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose less than 0.1% and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng gained 0.2% in a shortened session. Australia's S&P ASX/200 picked up 2.5 points and the Sensex in India rose 0.3%.

Markets were closed in Shanghai and the rest of mainland China, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 notched a small gain for the second straight day, climbing 0.1% to 3,325.54, while a modest pickup nudged the Nasdaq composite to an all-time high of 9,402.48, up 0.2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.1% lower to 29,160.09, its third straight day of losses as the benchmark was weighed down by a steep drop in shares of Travelers Cos.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rose less than 0.1%, to 1,685.01.


Trump ups mileage proposal slightly over Obama standard

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is making a concession on its proposed minimum fuel economy requirement for new vehicles, but environmental groups and a key Democratic senator complain that it does not go far enough, and still falls well below the requirements set under the Obama administration.

Fuel economy standards would increase 1.5% per year from 2021 through 2026 under the new proposal. That's a reversal from the Trump administration's proposal in 2018, when it sought to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.

Environmentalists and Delaware Sen. Tom Carper say that doesn't come close to the 5% annual increase that the Obama administration had mandated.

The Trump administration has billed its mileage standards as safer and less costly to motorists, but there’s a growing chorus of critics disputing that, including the Trump EPA’s own scientific advisory board.


Trump to sign U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal Wednesday

MIAMI (AP) — The White House says President Donald Trump will hold a signing ceremony for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement on Wednesday.

The deal to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement passed on bipartisan votes in Congress, scoring the president a significant political victory amid his Senate impeachment trial.

Mexico has already ratified the agreement. Canada must act next for it to fully enter into force.


New York City Council votes to ban cashless businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City lawmakers have voted to require stores and restaurants to take cash as payment. The City Council voted 43-3 on Thursday in favor of a bill that would prohibit businesses from accepting only credit and debit card payments. Businesses that refuse cash would be fined $1,000 for the first violation and $1,500 after that. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the legislation. A spokesperson said that the mayor supports the intent of the legislation but that his administration will review it.

Philadelphia last year became the first U.S. city to ban cashless stores.

Backers of the cashless model say the benefits include greater efficiency and eliminating the risk of theft, but opponents say millions of Americans still rely on cash.

Backers of the New York City bill said that hundreds of thousands of city residents don't have bank accounts or credit cards and that others simply prefer to use cash.


Coalition of states sue over rules governing 3D-printed guns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit challenging a federal regulation that could allow blueprints for making guns on 3D printers to be posted on the internet.

New York Attorney General Tish James is helping to lead the coalition. She says posting the blueprints would allow anyone to go online and use the downloadable files to create unregistered and untraceable assault-style weapons that could be difficult to detect.

The lawsuit is likely to reignite a fierce debate over the use of 3D-printed firearms and is the latest in a series of attempts by state law enforcement officials to block the Trump administration from easing the accessibility of the blueprints.

Proponents have argued there is a constitutional right to publish the material, but critics counter that making the blueprints readily accessible online could lead to an increase in gun violence and put weapons in the hands of criminals who are legally prohibited from owning them.


California bill would make utilities pay some blackout costs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A bill in the California Legislature would require electric companies to reimburse customers when the utilities turn off power to prevent wildfires. Large electric utilities have been aggressively shutting off power for millions of customers ahead of windstorms.

The bill would require them to reimburse customers and local governments for some costs. It would also let regulators fine utilities if they determine the shutoffs were not reasonable and prudent.

Utility companies cite public safety for the practice but also do it to protect their bottom line.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the nation's largest electric utility, filed for bankruptcy last year after facing an estimated $50 billion in damages from several Northern California wildfires that were linked to its equipment, including one blaze in 2018 that killed 85 people and destroyed 19,000 buildings.


Nonprofits worry sale of dot-org universe will raise costs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The company that controls the dot-org online universe is putting it up for sale, and nonprofits are raising concerns about the move.

Some organizations that use the dot-org suffix in their websites are concerned registering domain names could become a lot more expensive if a for-profit company is in control.

Private-equity firm Ethos Capital plans to buy the Public Interest Registry from the Internet Society for $1.1 billion.

It says it doesn't plan to jack up prices and will respect freedom of expression. Nonprofits and some tech activists plan to protest today in Los Angeles.


Alaska pot shops to be among 1st in US to allow consumption

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Marijuana shops in Alaska will be among the first nationally where onsite use would be permitted.

Alaska's legal marijuana industry hit the milestone Thursday as regulators approved the first retail stores in the state that will be allowed to have customers smoke or consume marijuana products on site.

Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project says that while some cities in other states have approved such actions, these are the first state-issued approvals.

The Marijuana Control Board approved the applications on 3-2 votes.

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