Update on the latest in business:


Asian stock markets rise after Wall St rebounds

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher after President Joe Biden reassured investors by calling for more vaccinations but no business or travel curbs in response to the omicron coronavirus variant.

Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced while Shanghai was down less than 0.1%. Wall Street rose, recovering the previous day’s losses.

Biden announced the government will provide free rapid-test kits and increase vaccination efforts but gave no indication of plans for travel bans or other restrictions that might disrupt the economy. Other governments in Asia and Europe have tightened travel controls or pushed back plans to relax curbs already in place.


Democrats ‘not giving up’ on Biden bill, talks with Manchin

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden appears determined to return to the negotiating table with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Biden says he and the West Virginia Democrat will, as Biden put it, “get something done.” The president’s remarks at the White House on Tuesday were his first since Manchin effectively tanked the party’s signature $2 trillion domestic policy initiative with his own jarring year-end announcement.

Later in the evening Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also struck a determined tone, telling Senate Democrats on 90-minute video call to expect a vote in January on the package as they push toward a deal.


Chicago to require proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the nation’s third-largest city will require proof of coronavirus vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor venues.

Lightfoot said Tuesday that the requirement will take effect Jan. 3. It comes as the rapidly spreading omicron variant has led to a spike in COVID-19 infections. Lightfoot says she hasn’t been as concerned about COVID-19 as she is now since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.

On Monday, Illinois reported about 12,330 new COVID-19 cases, which is the highest daily total in more than a year.


United Methodists to join in plan for Boy Scouts bankruptcy

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Congregations affiliated with the United Methodist Church have agreed to contribute $30 million to a fund for victims who say they were molested as youngsters in the Boy Scouts of America.

A committee representing United Methodist churches that sponsored Scouting activities also agreed to help raise another $100 million for the fund. Jessica Lauria is an attorney for the BSA.

She told a federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware about the planned agreement during a court hearing Tuesday.

The proposed fund is expected to grow to more than $2.6 billion after insurance companies and churches made settlement agreements. More than 82,000 abuse claims have been filed in the case. Victims who say they were abused must vote on a settlement by Dec. 28.


New Jersey governor signs aid bill for Atlantic City casinos

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Tuesday night that will give tax relief to Atlantic City’s casinos — and possibly prevent the closure of as many as four of them.

The action by the Democratic governor hands the casinos long-sought relief from an existing law that allows them to make payments in lieu of property taxes to Atlantic City, Atlantic County and the school system.

The bill scales back large increases in such payments the casinos would have had to make next year.

The Casino Association of New Jersey said in a statement Tuesday that the measure “will protect thousands of jobs and provide certainty and stability to the market.”

The casinos will still pay more to the city, county and schools next year even if the bill is enacted; it just reduces the amount of the increase.

The casinos collectively expect to pay about $10 million to $15 million more next year if the bill passes. Without it, they say, their payments are due to rise by 50%.


Hong Kong’s Lam in Beijing to report on ‘patriots only’ poll

BEIJING (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam is visiting with top Chinese leaders in Beijing to report on the territory’s first legislative elections held under new laws ensuring that only “patriots” loyal to Beijing could run as candidates. Sunday’s elections for the 90-seat Legislative Council were swept by politicians backed by China’s ruling Communist Party, who beat out moderates and independents.

Just 20 of the seats were directly elected. Lam says she is satisfied with the election, despite a 30.2% voter turnout — the lowest since the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

All candidates were vetted by a largely pro-Beijing committee before they could be nominated and several were disqualified over statements or actions in the past.


Russian pipeline faces big hurdles amid Ukraine tensions

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Russia’s natural gas pipeline to Europe is built and filling with gas. But the Nord Stream 2 pipeline still faces a rocky road ahead before the gas can flow to customers in Germany and Europe.

First, the U.S. secretary of state has said gas won’t start if Russia launches military aggression against Ukraine. German officials are more cautious but say Russian aggression would carry high costs and sanctions.

Even if it doesn’t come to that, Nord Stream 2 faces an extensive regulatory review and possible lawsuits after that from pipeline opponents such as Poland who say it gives Russia too much leverage over Europe. It’s all happening as Europe faces winter with a shortage of gas that has sent prices surging.


Football, reality competition conclusions dominate TV

NEW YORK (AP) — Television viewers were in the mood for competition last week. NFL football games were the traditional venue, with four prime-time contests hitting the Nielsen’s company of the 20 most popular shows last week. As is typical, NBC’s Sunday night game did the best. Season finales for reality shows ‘The Voice,’ ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Masked Singer’ all did well in the ratings.

The Fox broadcast network won the ratings competition in prime time last week and in cable, Fox News Channel took the crown.

ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ had another week atop the ratings for the network evening news shows.


Development and conservation clash at Komodo National Park

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Construction for tourism in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is raising concerns from U.N. officials, environmental activists and residents about damage to Komodo dragon habitat.

Construction is under way for a visitor center and other features on a main island where the huge endangered lizards live, and permits for other projects have been granted within the park.

Indonesian officials did not submit a required environmental assessment to UNESCO before construction, but they say the development will lead to strong eco-tourism. UNESCO officials fear the project could harm the park’s “universal value” as a World Heritage Site. Locals say the development could damage livelihoods because the park’s natural beauty is essential for tourism.

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