Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks edge higher; S&P 500 still near record

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving higher on Wall Street, keeping the market near record levels as earnings season winds down and investors wait to hear from the Federal Reserve. At midday the S&P 500 index was up 0.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.3% and the Nasdaq was 0.2% higher. Investors are in a holding pattern as Wall Street waits to hear from policymakers at the Federal Reserve later this week when they meet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for their annual convention. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.33% from 1.28% the day before.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DELTA AIR LINES

Delta Air Lines will make unvaccinated employees pay charge

UNDATED (AP) — Delta Air Lines won’t force employees to get vaccinated, but it’s going to make unvaccinated workers pay a $200 monthly charge. Delta said Wednesday that it will also require weekly testing for unvaccinated employees starting next month, although the airline says it’ll pick up the cost of that testing. Delta isn’t going as far as United Airlines, which will require employees to get vaccinated by late September or face termination. Both Delta and United require new hires to be vaccinated. Other airlines are encouraging workers to get the shots, but they’re not requiring it.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PFIZER BOOSTER

Pfizer seeking FDA OK for COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

UNDATED (AP) — Pfizer is seeking U.S. approval of a booster dose of its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine. The drugmaker announced Wednesday that it has started the approval process for a third dose of its vaccine for Americans ages 16 and older. The company said it expects to complete its application with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of this week. U.S. health officials announced last week plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant of the virus. Pfizer’s vaccine received full regulatory approval this week.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS-IOWA

Lawsuit argues Iowa’s unemployment benefit cuts are illegal

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A proposed class-action lawsuit claims that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to end enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of residents violated state law and asks a court to reinstate their aid. The lawsuit seeks to make claimants eligible for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment aid they have been denied since Iowa in June ended federal pandemic relief programs that provided an extra $300 per week and expanded eligibility criteria. Reynolds says ending benefits encouraged people to return to work, although the impact has been unclear. The lawsuit claims the decision violated a state law that says Iowa “shall cooperate with the United States Department of Labor to the fullest extent” in order to take advantage of federal unemployment programs.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RENTAL ASSISTANCE

Feds report most rental assistance has still not gone out

BOSTON (AP) — Only 11% of the tens of billions of dollars in federal rent assistance meant to help tenants around the country avoid eviction has been distributed. The latest data from the Treasury Department, which oversees the program, shows that the pace of distribution increased in July over June and that nearly a million households have been helped. But with landlords challenging a federal eviction moratorium in court, the concern is that a wave of evictions will happen before much of the assistance has been distributed. Lawmakers approved $46.5 billion in spending on rental assistance and most states are now distributing the first tranche of $25 billion.

MORTGAGE APPROVAL ALGORITHMS

The secret bias hidden in mortgage-approval algorithms

UNDATED (AP) — An investigation by The Markup has found that lenders in 2019 were more likely to deny home loans to people of color than to white people with similar financial characteristics. Holding 17 different factors steady in a complex statistical analysis of more than 2 million conventional mortgage applications for home purchases, The Markup found lenders were 40% more likely to turn down Latino applicants for loans, 50% more likely to deny Asian/Pacific Islander applicants, and 70% more likely to deny Native American applicants than similar white applicants. Lenders were 80% more likely to reject Black applicants than similar white applicants.

WHITE HOUSE-CYBERSECURITY

Biden to tackle cybersecurity with tech, finance leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is meeting with top executives from some of the country’s leading technology companies and financial institutions as the White House works to enlist the private sector’s help in firming up cybersecurity defenses against increasingly sophisticated attacks. Wednesday’s summit comes during a frenetic stretch of ransomware attacks that have targeted critical infrastructure, in some cases extorting multi-million-dollar payments from major corporations, as well as other illicit cyber operations that U.S. authorities have linked to foreign hackers. Though ransomware is one focus of Wednesday’s gathering, a senior administration official said the purpose of the meeting is broader and centered at identifying the “root causes of malicious cyber activities.”

ONLYFANS-EXPLICIT-CONTENT

OnlyFans planned porn ban suspended after user outcry

UNDATED (AP) — OnlyFans, the subscription site known for porn, says it has “suspended” a plan to ban sexually explicit content following an outcry from its creators and advocates for sex workers. The company says the ban is no longer required because of assurances from its banking partners. OnlyFans had said last week that it would ban explicit content starting Oct. 1, and blamed requirements of banks and payment processors for the policy change. Advocates for sex workers criticized OnlyFans’ planned ban, saying it could put sex workers at greater risk by pushing them into more dangerous street-based work. Others, including officials and child protection groups, have criticized the site, saying it has been a marketplace for sexual videos with children in them.

RIGHT WHALE-PROTECTION

Feds eye new rules to protect right whales from fishing gear

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Federal ocean regulators are considering new rules to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. The whales number only about 360 and are vulnerable to entanglement in the gear. Most of the government’s efforts to protect them has focused on regulating gear used to harvest lobsters and Jonah crabs. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is working on a new phase of rules that will focus on other fisheries, including those that use gillnets and those that use traps and pots.

JAPAN-FUKUSHIMA-CONTAMINATED WATER

Fukushima nuclear water to be released via undersea tunnel

TOKYO (AP) — The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan says it plans to build an undersea tunnel so that massive amounts of treated but still radioactive water can be released into the ocean about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) away from the plant to avoid interference with local fishing. The operator says it hopes to start releasing the water in 2023. It says hundreds of storage tanks at the plant need to be removed to make room for facilities necessary for the plant’s decommissioning. Radioactive water is being stored at the Fukushima plant since 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged three reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began leaking.

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