Asian stocks fall after Wall St rebounds from losses
BEIJING (AP) – Asian stock markets have fallen after Wall Street rebounded from its biggest loss in nearly three months. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul all retreated.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index ended up 1%, recovering some of its losses from the previous day’s 2.6% fall. Japan’s government reported December factory output declined 1.6% from the previous month. U.S. markets were roiled by a spate of trading by small investors of video game vendor GameStop that hurt hedge funds that bet the stock would fall.
Investors were watching coronavirus infection spikes in Europe and Asia, renewed travel curbs and negotiations in Washington over President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion economic aid package.
Democrats to ‘act big’ on $1.9T aid; GOP wants plan split
WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats are rejecting a Republican pitch to split President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue plan into smaller chunks.
Democrats and the White House appear ready to leave their GOP opponents behind and push the sweeping economic and virus aid forward on their own.
Despite Biden’s calls for unity, Democrats say the stubbornly high unemployment numbers and battered economy leave them unwilling to waste time courting Republican support or curbing the size of the package.
The bill would offer money for vaccines, help reopen schools and give $1,400 direct payments to most Americans. Biden has been appealing directly to Republican and Democratic lawmakers while signaling his priority to press ahead.
UN-SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES
UN chief calls for regulating social media companies
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations chief is calling for global rules to regulate powerful social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he believes it shouldn’t be a company that has the power to decide whether then-president Donald Trump’s Twitter account should be closed. Rather, he said, a “mechanism” should be created “in which there is a regulatory framework with rules that allow for that to be done in line with law.”
Earlier this month, Twitter ended Trump’s nearly 12-year run and shuttered his account.
Twitter said Trump’s tweets could incite violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. Conservatives accused the companies of censorship and violating the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
Key findings in audit of California’s unemployment agency
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – An audit of California’s unemployment benefits agency found the state has likely paid $10.4 billion in fraudulent benefits during the pandemic. California’s State Auditor says that number is likely to grow in the coming months and that the agency was slow to react to warnings of an increase in fraudulent claims.
The audit released Thursday found the agency knew about hundreds of thousands of claims associated with suspicious addresses. Yet it did nothing to stop payments of those claims.
Auditors found one address had 80 claims associated with it. Of those, 12 were still receiving benefits as of mid-December, totaling more than $300,000.
Judge OKs extradition of 2 wanted in ex-Nissan boss’ escape
BOSTON (AP) – A U.S. judge has cleared the way for the extradition of an American father and son accused of sneaking former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn (gohn) out of Japan in a box. The U.S. State Department said in October that it had agreed to hand Michael Taylor and Peter Taylor over to Japan but a U.S. District Judge in Massachusetts put their extradition on hold after their lawyers filed an emergency petition.
The judge issued a ruling Thursday that the extradition could move forward. Lawyers for the men said in court papers that they plan to appeal to the Boston-based federal appeals court.
The Taylors are wanted by Japan so they can be tried on charges that they helped the former Nissan chairman flee the country last year with Ghosn tucked away in a box on a private jet. Ghosn had been out on bail and awaiting trial on financial misconduct allegations, which he has denied.
WHO team to begin face-to-face meetings with China experts
WUHAN, China (AP) – World Health Organization experts are to begin face-to-face meetings with their Chinese counterparts in the central city of Wuhan at the start of the team’s long-awaited fact-finding mission into the origins of the coronavirus. The WHO says those meetings should be followed by the first field visits in and around the industrial and transport hub today.
It says the team plans to speak with early responders and some of the first COVID-19 patients.
The team members had spent the past two weeks in a required quarantine, during which they had been communicating with Chinese officials by videoconferences to lay the groundwork for field visits.
Dutch court to rule in Nigerian farmers’ case against Shell
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – A Dutch appeals court is set to deliver its judgment in a long-running civil case in which four Nigerian farmers are seeking compensation and a cleanup from energy giant Shell for pollution caused by leaking oil pipelines in the Niger Delta.
Today’s decision, which can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court, is the latest stage in a case that is breaking new legal ground in how far multinationals in the Netherlands can be held responsible for actions of their overseas subsidiaries.
Royal Dutch Shell argues that saboteurs are responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the delta. The company also argued that it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for actions of a foreign subsidiary.