Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mostly lower after mixed day on Wall Street

UNDATED (AP) — Stocks are mostly lower in Asia after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares were higher in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%.

Benchmarks fell in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Sydney.

In New York, gains for some Big Tech companies nudged the Nasdaq composite barely higher while the benchmark S&P slipped 0.3%. The Dow industrials lost 0.8%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was steady at 1.37%, while oil prices rose after falling overnight.

AMAZON-CASHIER-LESS WHOLE FOODS

Amazon to open 2 cashier-less Whole Foods stores next year

NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets.

Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them.

But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. One of the new stores will be in Washington, D.C., the other in Sherman Oaks, California.

Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

CHINA CRACKDOWN

China chases ‘rejuvenation’ with control of tycoons, society

BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind the changes is President Xi Jinping’s vision of reviving an idealized earlier era of vigorous party leadership, with more economic equality and tighter control over society and billionaire entrepreneurs.

Since he took power in 2012, Xi has called for the Communist Party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.”

The party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

To support its plans, Xi’s government is trying to create what it deems a more wholesome society by reducing children’s access to online games and banning “sissy men” who are deemed insufficiently masculine from TV.

Beijing has launched anti-monopoly and data security crackdowns to tighten its control over internet giants, including e-commerce platform Alibaba Group and games and social media operator Tencent Holdings Ltd., that looked too big and potentially independent.

In response, their billionaire founders have scrambled to show loyalty by promising to share their wealth under Xi’s vaguely defined “common prosperity” initiative to narrow the income gap in a country with more billionaires than the United States.

AUSTRALIA-DEFAMATION

Australian court rules media liable for Facebook comments

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s highest court on Wednesday made a landmark ruling that media outlets are “publishers” of allegedly defamatory comments posted by third parties on their official Facebook pages.

The High Court dismissed an argument by some of Australia’s largest media organizations — Fairfax Media Publications, Nationwide News and Australian News Channel — that for people to be publishers, they must be aware of the defamatory content and intend to convey it.

The court found in a 5-2 majority decision that by facilitating and encouraging the comments, the companies had participated in their communication.

The decision opens the media organizations to be sued for defamation by former juvenile detainee Dylan Voller.

Voller wants to sue the television broadcaster and newspaper publishers over comments on the Facebook pages of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Centralian Advocate, Sky News Australia and The Bolt Report.

The companies posted content on their pages about news stories that referred to Voller’s time in a Northern Territory juvenile detention center.

Facebook users responded by posting comments that Voller alleges were defamatory.

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller says that the ruling was “significant for anyone who maintains a public social media page by finding they can be liable for comments posted by others on that page even when they are unaware of those comments”.

CHANGING ECONOMY-SILLICON VALLEY

Silicon Valley finds remote work is easier to begin than end

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thriving Silicon Valley companies were among the first to embrace remote work during the pandemic, but they’ve struggled over how to recall their high-paid employees to the office. Their varied — and sometimes quickly reversed — attempts to justify free food and expensive real estate may establish a new employment model that could ripple across much of U.S. business. And it may involve much less office work than once expected, which in turn could challenge one of Silicon Valley’s most cherished notions –- that open offices and employee perks are necessary to spark innovation.

That transition has been complicated by the rapid spread of the delta variant, which has scrambled the plans many tech companies had for bringing back most of their workers near or after Labor Day weekend.

Microsoft has pushed those dates back to October while Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and a growing list of others have already decided wait until next year.

This hybrid approach permitting employees to toggle between remote and in-office work has been widely embraced in the technology industry, particularly among the largest companies with the biggest payrolls.

Nearly two-thirds of the more than 200 companies responding to a mid-July survey in the tech-centric Bay said they are expecting their workers to come into the office two or three days each week. Before the pandemic, 70% of these employers required their workers to be in the office, according to the Bay Area Council, a business policy group that commissioned the poll.

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