US to hold trade talks with Taiwan, island drills military
HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — The U.S. government will hold talks with Taiwan on a trade agreement in a sign of support for the self-ruled island democracy China claims as its own territory. The announcement comes after Beijing launched military drills that included firing missiles into the seas around Taiwan in an attempt to intimidate the island after a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative made no mention of tension with Beijing but said the negotiations were meant to enhance trade and regulatory cooperation, a step that would entail closer official interaction.
Stars Coffee, anyone? Starbucks successor opening in Russia
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian fans of Starbucks coffee shops are getting the chance to see if a homegrown successor can measure up. After the U.S. company left Russia in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, entrepreneurs who bought the assets are opening shops in former Starbucks locations this week. They have the nearly identical name of Stars Coffee and a logo almost indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. The venture follows the strategy of reviving closed McDonald’s outlets under a new name but with fundamentally the same menu. Russian entrepreneurs saw opportunity in suddenly unoccupied stores after Western companies exited the country.
Disqualified for disabilities, railroad workers fight back
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific has already lost three lawsuits over the way it removes employees with health conditions because of safety concerns, and the prospect of hundreds more lawsuits looms over the railroad. The lawsuits were originally going to be part of a class-action case before a federal appeals court decided the cases must be pursued individually. The first few lawsuits have now been tried with verdicts over $1 million coming in all three cases, but more than 200 more discrimination complaints are still pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that are likely to turn into lawsuits. Union Pacific has vigorously defended its policy in court, and the railroad says it is designed to protect its workers and the public from significant injury risks.
US home sales fell again in July as housing slowdown deepens
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slowed for the sixth consecutive month in July, deepening the housing market’s slowdown from a high-flying pace at the start of this year. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that existing home sales fell 5.9% last month from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million. That’s lower than what economists were expecting, according to FactSet. Sales fell 20.2% from July last year. Sales have now fallen to the slowest pace since May 2020, near the start of the pandemic. The national median home price jumped 10.8% in July from a year earlier to $403,800.
Climate bill’s unlikely beneficiary: US oil and gas industry
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Renewable energy incentives in the climate bill signed by President Joe Biden are expected to drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions. But some analysts say the legislation will also boost oil and gas companies, offsetting at least some of the emissions reductions. The legislation mandates several oil and gas lease sales. It also locks renewables and fossil fuel together for 10 years. So if the Biden administration wants solar and wind, it must first offer new oil and gas leases. Economists project the measure could result in more planet-warming carbon dioxide from U.S.-produced oil and gas by 2030, even as more of that fuel gets exported.
Germany lowers natural gas tax to ease burden on consumers
BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the government will temporarily lower taxes on natural gas to ease the financial pressure on people struggling with soaring energy costs. The announcement Thursday at a hastily convened news conference in Berlin comes a day after Scholz met with hostile protests during a town hall event outside the capital. Scholz said his government decided to lower the value-added tax on gas from 19% to 7% until the end of March 2024. In addition to rising prices for natural gas caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, consumers will have to pay a new surcharge to prop up energy companies scrambling to find new supplies on the global market.
Turkey lowers interest rate even as inflation soars to 80%
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s central bank has lowered its key interest rate despite inflation surging to nearly 80% and making it difficult for people to buy what they need. Following a monetary policy committee meeting Thursday, the bank said it decided to reduce the policy rate from 14% to 13%. The decision is in line with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition to high borrowing costs. The Turkish leader has pressured the bank into lowering interest rates in a bid to boost economic growth, insisting that raising interest rates cause inflation. That position contradicts established economic thinking and comes as central banks around the world are raising rates to combat inflation.
Trains paralyzed again in UK as unions stage more strikes
LONDON (AP) — Thousands of train workers in Britain have staged a fresh round of strikes that is paralyzing rail services across the country. Only around one in five trains was running across the U.K. as a result of Thursday’s walkout by union members in an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions exacerbated by a deepening cost-of-living crisis. A strike on Friday is expected to affect most of the London Underground subway network and bus services in the city. A walkout on Saturday will disrupt national train services. Union leader Mick Lynch says rail workers and other public employees are struggling to cope with soaring food and fuel prices. The country’s inflation rate jumped to a 40-year high of 10.1% in July.
Trump Organization CFO pleads guilty in tax evasion case
NEW YORK (AP) — A top executive at former President Donald Trump’s family business has pleaded guilty to evading taxes. The deal could potentially make him a star witness against the company at a trial this fall. Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg admitted at a court hearing Thursday that he dodged taxes on lavish fringe benefits he got from the company. Weisselberg is the only person to face criminal charges so far in the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running investigation of the company’s business practices. It is accused of helping some employees avoid income taxes by failing to report their full compensation. Trump is not charged in the case.
Kohl’s cuts 2022 outlook, closing mixed week for retailers
Kohl’s slashed its sales and profit expectations for the year as the department store chain stepped up discounts to get rid of unwanted merchandise like clothing and home goods. Looking ahead, Kohl’s said it was reducing merchandise orders for the critical holiday period. The news, announced Thursday, sent shares down and closed out a mixed week for retailers. Kohl’s disappointing forecast offers the latest indication of shoppers, under strain from spiking costs, particularly gas and food, who are cutting back on clothing and other discretionary items to focus on necessities. They’re also shifting priorities as they emerge from the pandemic, moving away from home goods and other items focusing on the home to more entertainment and other activities.