Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia stocks rise

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares have advanced, taking their cue from a surge on Wall Street as governments and central banks took more aggressive measures to fight the virus outbreak and its economic impact.

Benchmarks in Japan, South Korea, China and Australia were all higher on Thursday. Investors expect more central banks will follow the Federal Reserve’s lead in cutting interest rates. The gains on Wall Street more than recouped big losses from a day earlier as wild, virus-fueled swings around the world’s markets extend into a third week. The recovery came as China reported further progress in containing the outbreak. 

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VIRUS-TRAVEL

Virus adds gut punch to travel industry

UNDATED (AP) — A steep drop in business trips is dealing a gut punch to a travel industry already reeling from the virus outbreak. Amazon has told its nearly 800,000 workers to postpone any non-essential travel. Swiss food giant Nestle told its 291,000 employees to limit domestic business travel and halt international travel until March 15. Industry events like the Geneva Motor Show have been canceled, and companies including Twitter have told employees to work at home. The changes will be costly for airlines and hotels. One analyst says airlines depend on business travel for 55% of their revenue. The Global Business Travel Association estimates the virus is costing the business travel industry $47 billion per month.

As business air travel is freezing up, the spread of the novel coronavirus is having a broad impact on supply chains, communications and staffing as the virus shifts westward.

OPEC MEETING

OPEC looks to cut production as virus outbreak hits demand

VIENNA (AP) — The oil-producing countries of the OPEC cartel are considering slashing output to contain a plunge in prices that has been worsened by concerns about the virus outbreak’s disruption to the world economy.

Oil ministers from the group’s 14 countries are gathering in Vienna on Thursday as energy producers were taking a hit from a 25% slide in crude prices since January.

Since the new coronavirus outbreak began in China last month, air travel to the country – the world’s second-largest economy – has all but stopped. Demand for transportation fuel inside the country dropped dramatically and manufacturing was idled as cities with millions of residents locked down to contain the spread of the virus. Major companies around the world have halted business travel as meetings were canceled out of precaution.

CHINA-UIGHURS FORCED TO WORK

China’s Uighurs trapped in factory toiling for tech titans

NANCHANG, China (AP) — In a lively Muslim quarter of Nanchang city, a sprawling Chinese factory turns out computer screens, cameras and fingerprint scanners for a supplier to international tech giants such as Apple and Lenovo. Throughout the neighborhood, women in headscarves stroll through the streets, and Arabic signs advertise halal supermarkets and noodle shops.

Yet the mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs (WEE’-gurz) who labor in the factory are isolated within a walled compound that is fortified with security cameras and guards at the entrance. Their forays out are limited to rare chaperoned trips, they are not allowed to worship or cover their heads, and they must attend special classes in the evenings, according to former and current workers and shopkeepers in the area.

Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained more than a million people from the far west Xinjiang (shihn-jahng) region, most of them Uighurs, in internment camps and prisons where they go through forced ideological and behavioral re-education. When detainees “graduate” from the camps, documents show, many are sent to work in factories. A dozen Uighurs and Kazakhs told the AP they knew people who were sent by the state to work in factories.

EU-BRITAIN-FLYBE

British airline Flybe collapses, stranding travelers

LONDON (AP) — The struggling British airline Flybe has collapsed, leaving passengers stranded and told to find their own way home.

UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Thursday that financially troubled Flybe had entered administration. It said, “All Flybe flights are cancelled. Please do not go to the airport as your Flybe flight will not be operating.”

Flybe’s network included more than half of British domestic flights outside of London. The carrier’s collapse came after the British government tried to save it, while fending off allegations from competitors that it had provided state aid to Flybe.

Flybe has a major presence at airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton, and flies some 9 million passengers a year to 170 destinations across the continent. Its links to some difficult-to-reach spots in the UK were a strong selling point for the government.

UN-INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Singaporean named to head intellectual property agency

GENEVA (AP) — A Singaporean official has handily defeated a candidate from China in a leadership contest for the U.N.’s intellectual property body. The race for the post caused a new rift between Washington and Beijing over U.S. claims of Chinese theft of intellectual property. Daren Tang, the CEO of Singapore’s intellectual property office, won a crucial nomination to become the next director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization over China’s candidate who was a veteran of the agency. Top U.S. officials including the White House trade adviser spoke out against China’s candidate from becoming head of the money-making agency. The fight over the post prompted the Chinese ambassador to criticize an “attack” against a “competent” civil servant.

BOY SCOUTS-BANRUPTCY

FDA bans shock device used on mentally disabled patients

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A nine-member committee has been selected to represent victims of child sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case.

Nine men who say they were sexually abused as children were selected to serve on the committee Wednesday after several hours of closed-door interviews by representatives of the U.S. trustee’s office. The committee will represent the interests of potentially thousands of sexual abuse survivors seeking compensation for their suffering.

A separate official committee was appointed to represent the interests of other unsecured creditors, such as suppliers, vendors and pensioners.

The Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection last month in an effort to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a huge compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.

SHOCK DEVICE-GOVERNMENT BAN

FDA bans shock device used on mentally disabled patients

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is banning electrical shock devices used to discourage aggressive behaviors in patients with disabilities.  

Health experts have called the devices outdated, unethical for years and pushed for the ban. Only one facility in the U.S. still uses the shock treatment — a residential school in Massachusetts. The school’s administrators have said the shocks help control violent behaviors that endanger patients and those around them.  But most experts say the shocks are harmful and don’t work

The Rotenberg school has used shock devices carried in students’ backpacks, which were attached to their arms and legs via electrodes. School staffers could trigger a two-second shock to a patient’s skin by using a remote controller.

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