Update on the latest in business:


Asian shares mixed following Wall St retreat

UNDATED (AP) — Major Asian share indexes meandered between modest gains and losses today after a retreat on Wall Street.

Australia’s benchmark led the declines, falling nearly 2% as the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to keep interest rates at record lows, as expected.


Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index finished flat and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was little changed. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.8%. The Shanghai Composite index inched less than 0.1% lower. The S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.8%.

Wall Street ended August with its fifth monthly gain in a row. The benchmark S&P 500 fell 0.2% Monday to 3,500.31. It finished the month with a 7% gain, making it the S&P 500′s best August since 1986. It’s now up 8.3% this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8% to 28,430.05.

The Nasdaq rose 0.7% to 11,775.46. Heavily weighted with tech stocks, it has led the market’s rebound this year. It finished August with a 9.6% gain and is up 31.2% for the year.

The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks fell 1%, to 1,561.88.


Pandemic brings hard times for farmers, worsening hunger

UNDATED (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has brought hard times for many farmers and has imperiled food security for many millions both in the cities and the countryside.

United Nations experts are holding an online conference beginning Tuesday to brainstorm ways to help alleviate hunger and prevent the problems from worsening in the Asia-Pacific region. That challenge is made doubly difficult by the loss of many millions of jobs due to the crisis.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization forecasts that the number of undernourished people will increase by up to 132 million in this year, while the number of acutely malnourished children will rise by 6.7 billion worldwide due to the pandemic.


Trump administration finalizes coal plant pollution rollback

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday finalized its weakening of an Obama-era rule aimed at reducing polluted wastewater from coal-burning power plants that has contaminated streams, lakes and underground aquifers

The change will allow utilities to use cheaper technologies and take longer to comply with pollution reduction guidelines that are less stringent than what the agency originally adopted in 2015. The latest rule change covers requirements for cleaning coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and selenium from plant wastewater before it is dumped into waterways.

It’s the latest in a string of regulatory rollbacks for coal power under Trump — actions that have failed to turn around the industry’s decline amid competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy.


Zoom rides pandemic to another quarter of explosive growth

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Zoom’s videoconferencing service is deepening its integral role in life during the pandemic as tens of thousands more businesses and other users pay for subscriptions to get more control over their virtual meetings.

The surge in paying customers enabled Zoom to hail another quarter of explosive growth. The company on Monday reported that its revenue for the May-July period more than quadrupled from the same time last year to $663.5 million, boosted by a steadily rising number of users converting from the free to paid version of Zoom’s service.

Zoom finished its fiscal second quarter with 370,200 customers. A years ago, Zoom only had 66,300 customers with at least 10 employees paying for subscriptions.


Delta, American join United in dropping most US change fees

UNDATED (AP) — This could be the final boarding call for the $200 ticket-change fee that has enraged so many U.S. airline travelers over the past decade.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines said Monday that they are dropping the fee on most tickets for domestic flights, copying United Airlines’ move one day earlier.

Southwest Airlines didn’t levy change fees to start with, so Monday’s announcements mean that the four biggest U.S. carriers will have roughly similar policies.

Airlines are being battered by the coronavirus pandemic, as travel restrictions and fear of contracting the virus are keeping travelers at home. Normally in summer, 2 million or more people pass through security checkpoints at U.S. airports each day, but that number hasn’t been above 900,000 since mid-March, the early days of the pandemic.


Facebook threatens to block news distribution in Australia

UNDATED (AP) — Facebook threatened to block Australian publishers and individuals from sharing news stories on its platform in reaction to an Australian measure that could require it to compensate media organizations for its use of their stories.

The social network said the Australian move would force it to pay arbitrary and theoretically unlimited sums for information that makes up only a small fraction of its service. The company’s managing director for operations in the region said the measure would force Facebook to choose between “either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want.”

Google, meanwhile, issued an open letter that cast the proposed Australian law as a potential threat to individual privacy and a burden that would degrade the quality of its search and YouTube video services, but did not threaten a cutoff.


Man who admitted embezzling millions sentenced to prison

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois accountant who pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago and others to finance a luxurious lifestyle has been sentenced to 16½ years in prison.

Sultan Issa admitted earlier this year that Art Institute trustee Roger L. Weston wasn’t his only victim. Issa, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January, said he also stole millions from individual investors, including $500,000 from a widow who trusted him to invest funds from her late husband’s estate and three former Chicago Blackhawks players.

In handing down Monday’s sentence, federal Judge Andrea Wood said Issa’s misconduct was “startling” in its breadth and that he would not have been able to carry out the schemes without first gaining the “trust and affection” of his victims.


15 years later, Walmart launches its answer to Amazon Prime

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is launching a new membership service for shoppers this month that it hopes can compete with Amazon Prime.

Walmart+ will cost $98 a year or $12.95 a month, and give members same-day delivery on 160,000 items, a fuel discount at certain gas stations and a chance to check out at Walmart stores without having to wait at a register.

The company, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, says Walmart+ will launch Sept. 15. Walmart has a long way to go to catch up with Amazon Prime. Launched in 2005, Prime has more than 150 million members.

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