Update on the latest in business:


Asian stocks mixed after Wall St record on stimulus hope

UNDATED (AP) — Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims. Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined while Shanghai and Seoul advanced. Wall Street’s S&P i rose 0.6% overnight after the U.S. government reported the highest level of unemployment claims since September. Investors hope legislators in Washington agree on a new economic aid package to replace unemployment benefits that are expiring. Progress in developing and distributing vaccines has helped to buoy optimism the U.S. economy might start to recover next year.


Hack against US is ‘grave’ threat, cybersecurity agency says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s cybersecurity agency is expressing increased alarm about a hack of computer systems in the U.S. and around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russia. The cybersecurity unit of the Department of Homeland Security says the hack “poses a grave risk” to the U.S. government and state and local governments as well as critical infrastructure and private business. The hack creates a fresh foreign policy problem for President Donald Trump in his final days in office. President-elect Joe Biden says his new administration “will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office.”


Judge says strip club ruling also protects restaurants

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California judge said Thursday that all restaurants in San Diego County can resume on-site dining with safety protocols, marking a setback to the governor’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil said his ruling Wednesday that also protected two strip clubs extended to the thousands of eateries in the county of 3 million people.

County officials had suspended enforcement of restrictions barring indoor and outdoor dining and live entertainment on Wednesday and requested the hearing to get clarification from the judge about the scope of his ruling.

The air of uncertainty hung over restaurant owners as they considered whether to reopen.

Some will reopen only for outdoor dining while others are reluctant because an appeal may force them to close again after scrambling to buy food and schedule staff a week before Christmas.


EU clears Google’s $2.1B takeover of Fitbit, with conditions

LONDON (AP) — EU regulators cleared Google’s plan to buy fitness tracking device maker Fitbit after the company promised to silo off user data and not use it for advertising.

Google also pledged to ensure that Android phones can continue working with other smartwatches and wearable devices and that health and fitness apps would still be able to access Google and Fitbit data.

Google made the commitments, which last for at least 10 years, to get approval from the EU after the bloc’s competition watchdog launched an-depth investigation of the $2.1 billion deal.

The EU dismissed concerns the deal would let Google dominate the continent’s digital healthcare sector because the market is still emerging and has many players. But Privacy International said the EU should have carried out a closer examination, saying there’s a chance Google could end up dominating health-related markets if they’re overlooked by regulators.

The London-based group said, “Nothing seems to prevent Google from further enriching their massive data troves with vast quantities of sensitive health data and potentially exploiting our data in ways that go beyond digital advertising markets”.


Google says Australian law on paying for news is unworkable

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Google executive says a proposed Australian law to make the digital platforms pay for news is unworkable and its proposed arbitration model is biased toward media businesses. Mel Silva made her first public comments on the details of the proposed legislation since it was introduced to the Parliament last week. The law would force Google and Facebook to compensate Australian news media for the journalism that they link to. Silva said the plan would be a “unprecedented intervention that would fundamentally break how search engines work.”


Facebook removes French, Russian accounts active in Africa

PARIS (AP) — Facebook says individuals linked to Russia and the French military used fake Facebook and Instagram accounts to wage a covert disinformation campaign in the Central African Republic ahead of elections there this month,

Facebook said it took down hundreds of accounts and groups linked to France and Russia accused of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in the CAR as well as other countries in Africa and the Middle East. While accounts traced to Russia have been repeatedly accused of such activity, Facebook told The Associated Press this is the first time it has taken action against a network tied to individuals associated with a Western government.

Facebook’s move came ahead of elections Dec. 27 in the Central African Republic, which Facebook identified as the main target of the disinformation, at a time when both France and Russia have been jockeying for influence in the region.


Ky. high court: online poker site must pay state $1 billion

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that an online poker company must pay more than $1 billion to Kentucky. The ruling was for illegal gambling losses that began a decade ago. The ruling from Kentucky’s high court reinstated a Circuit Court judgement against PokerStars.com.

Two years ago, the state appeals court rejected the collection of the gambling losses.

Gov. Andy Beshear says the total amount to be ordered recovered is nearly $1.3 billion.

The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet filed the lawsuit in 2010. From 2006 to 2011. The state said about 34,000 Kentucky residents lost more than $290 million wagered on PokerStars’ website. The company later blocked Kentucky residents from using the site.

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