Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets gain

UPDATED (AP) — Asian stock markets have gained as investors weighed the economic impact of the spread of the coronavirus’s delta variant. Wall Street ended August with a gain for the seventh straight month. Shanghai and Hong Kong retreated while Tokyo and South Korea advanced. The S&P declined 0.1% from the previous day’s record but ended August with a 2.9% gain. Investor optimism about stronger U.S. corporate profits and that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low is being tested by data showing the delta variant is weighing on economic activity.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE CARD-FRAUD

‘AntiVaxMomma’ accused of selling bogus vaccination cards

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities say a New Jersey woman with the Instagram handle AntiVaxMomma sold several hundred fake COVID-19 vaccination cards at $200 a pop to New York City-area jab dodgers, including people working in hospitals and nursing homes.

Prosecutors say Jasmine Clifford, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, sold about 250 fake vaccine cards in recent months. Officials say her co-conspirator, Nadayza Barkley, of Long Island, entered at least 10 names into the state’s vaccine database for an extra $250 fee per customer. Online court records did not list lawyers for Clifford or Barkley who could comment. Thirteen alleged card purchasers have also been charged.

GOOGLE-OFFICE RETURN DELAY

Google again delays return to office due to COVID surges

UNDATED (AP) — Google is once again postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-January.

The internet search giant is also to requiring all employees to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened. The highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. That is leading companies to delay or scrap return-to-office plans after nearly two years of people working from home. CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post Tuesday that Google is delaying its return to offices until Jan. 10.

SOCIAL SECURITY-MEDICARE

COVID recession pushed Social Security insolvency up a year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sharp shock of the coronavirus recession pushed Social Security a year closer to insolvency but left Medicare’s exhaustion date unchanged, the government reported Tuesday.

It’s a counterintuitive assessment that deepens the uncertainty around the nation’s bedrock retirement programs. Social Security’s massive trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated exhaustion date of 2035. The depletion date for Medicare’s trust fund for inpatient care remained unchanged from last year, estimated in 2026. The full impact from the coronavirus pandemic will take several more years to play out.

SOUTHWEST-PILOTS-LAWSUIT

Pilots’ union sues Southwest over changes made in pandemic

DALLAS (AP) — The pilots’ union is suing Southwest Airlines, saying that rules the airline put into place before and during the pandemic have changed pay rates and working conditions its members.

The union says that violates federal law because any changes in working conditions should be negotiated between Southwest and the union. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed the lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Dallas, where Southwest is based. The lawsuit is the latest evidence of rising tension between Southwest and labor unions, which represent more than 80% of the airline’s employees.

OPIOID CRISIS-PURDUE PHARMA

Judge set to rule on Purdue Pharma’s opioid settlement plan

UNDATED (AP) — A U.S. bankruptcy judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a plan for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to settle thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments and others over its role in the nation’s opioids crisis.

The deal could be worth $10 billion, with cash coming from members of the Sackler family who own the company. Under the deal, the Sacklers would give up ownership of the company and get protection from lawsuits over opioids. Purdue would be remade into a new company with profits being used to pay some victims and fund drug treatment, education and other measures to fight the opioid epidemic.

THERANOS-FOUNDER FRAUD TRIAL

Fallen tech star Elizabeth Holmes prepares to go on trial

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A jury is being assembled to decide the fate of Elizabeth Holmes, a former Silicon Valley star facing felony charges of duping her elite financial backers and a high-powered board of directors into believing she had invented a revolutionary blood-testing technology that could detect hundreds of diseases with a finger prick.

The selection process that began Tuesday sets the stage for next week’s start of a trial revolving around the rise and fall of Theranos, a startup that Holmes launched after dropping out of Stanford University her dream of becoming the next Steve Jobs. She now is in danger of being remembered as con artist.

NUCLEAR REACTORS-FRAUD

Exec charged in failed SC nuclear project pleads not guilty

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A business executive charged in the aftermath of a failed multibillion-dollar project to build two nuclear reactors in South Carolina has pleaded not guilty.

Jeffrey A. Benjamin entered the plea in federal court Tuesday. Benjamin is a former executive at Westinghouse Electric Co., the lead contractor to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant. Two utilities spent nearly $10 billion on the project before halting construction in 2017 after Westinghouse’s bankruptcy. Authorities say Benjamin repeatedly lied to the utilities about how far behind schedule and over budget the project was. Three other top-level executives have already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a multiyear federal fraud investigation.

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