Update on the latest in business:


Stocks lose momentum

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have lost some momentum in afternoon trading on Wall Street, putting the S&P 500 barely below the record high it set on Monday. The S&P 500 was down less than 0.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2% and the Nasdaq fell 0. 4%. All three indexes started the day slightly in the green. Retailers and companies reliant on consumer spending were also among the better performers coming off the Christmas holiday shopping season. With three trading days left in the year, the S&P 500 is headed for a gain of more than 27% for 2021, nearly as big as its gain in 2019.


WHO chief worried about ‘tsunami’ of omicron, delta cases

BERLIN (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization says he’s worried about the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19 combining to produce a “tsunami” of cases. Two years after the coronavirus first emerged, top officials with the U.N. health agency cautioned Wednesday that it’s still too early to be reassured by initial data suggesting that omicron, the latest variant, leads to milder disease. And after 92 of the WHO’s 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 40% of their populations by the end of this year, the agency’s chief urged everyone to make a “new year’s resolution” to get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70% of countries’ populations by the beginning of July.


New COVID-19 cases in US soar to highest levels on record

CHICAGO (AP) — More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to the highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average. The surge has been driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant. The previous mark was 250,000 cases per day, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.


Widespread flight cancellations continue as omicron spreads

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of flights are being cancelled as the omicron variant creates havoc both for travelers and for airlines who are having to cobble together flight crews as infections rise among pilots and flight attendants. According to data from the flight-tracking website FlightAware, 832 flights were cancelled by midday Wednesday and that number has ticked higher throughout the day. There were nearly 1,300 cancellations for flights entering, leaving or inside the U.S. on Tuesday, and about 1,500 Monday. Cancellations began to spike the day before Christmas during what is typically an already buzzing pace for airlines.


Belgium reverses COVID cultural rules: The show must go on!

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian authorities have allowed for the reopening of cinemas, theaters and concert halls. The decision Wednesday handed victory to the culture sector which said it was being unfairly targeted by the rules. The government and regional authorities had come under increasing pressure to undo last week’s decision on closures. That was not even backed by scientific experts. It highlighted the widening fault line between authorities trying to keep the pandemic at bay with on-the-spot decisions and a public increasingly frustrated by limits on their personal freedoms.


Suits against OxyContin owners on hold; negotiations ordered

UNDATED (AP) — A judge has kept lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family who own it on hold until Feb. 1 but ordered the parties to negotiate a new settlement. Connecticut and Washington state argued Wednesday that suits against the Sacklers should be allowed to move ahead immediately. The hold on litigation was set to expire Thursday after another judge threw out a settlement of thousands of lawsuits on the toll of opioids. The company says it will appeal that ruling. Judge Robert Drain warned Wednesday that if there aren’t “good-faith” settlement negotiations quickly, he’d end the protections for Sackler family members even earlier.


New Mexico tribes concerned about plan to power nuclear lab

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Indigenous leaders are concerned about a proposed multimillion-dollar transmission line that would cross what they consider sacred lands. The transmission line would bring more electricity to one of the nation’s top nuclear weapons laboratories as it looks to power ongoing operations and future missions that include manufacturing key components for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The line would stretch more than 12 miles, crossing national forest land in an area known as the Caja del Rio and spanning the Rio Grande at White Rock Canyon. The All Pueblo Council of Governors has adopted a resolution to support preservation of the Caja del Rio.


Putin: New Germany-bound pipeline may help reduce prices

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says a new pipeline to Germany has been fully filled with natural gas. Putin noted that it could help quickly reduce soaring European energy prices. The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline is currently awaiting approval from Germany and the European Union. Officials warned that a decision won’t come in the first half of 2022. The first of its two links was filled with gas in October. Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom natural gas company reported Wednesday that it had completed filling the second one to make it fully ready for operation. Putin pointed at surging energy prices in Europe. He added that Nord Stream 2 could help quickly stabilize the continent’s nervous energy markets.


Indonesia to let Boeing 737 Max fly again after 2018 crash

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia is lifting its ban on Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, three years after one crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. The Transportation Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the aircraft will be permitted to fly in Indonesia, but only after airlines carry out airworthiness directives. The ministry also will conduct inspections before letting them operate in the country. Some relatives of victims of the 2018 crash said the decision to lift the ban on the 737 Max was regrettable. Families of some crash victims have complained a $2.5 billion settlement between Boeing and the U.S. Department of Justice excluded them from involvement in negotiating their compensation.


Autonomous trucker TuSimple logs first no-human road test

NEW YORK (AP) — A semitruck guided by technology from the company TuSimple completed an 80-mile route in Arizona with no human on board and no human intervention during the trip, according to San Diego-based company TuSimple. The company says it’s the first successful fully autonomous run by a class 8 vehicle, or semi, on open public roads with no human intervention. The nighttime trip earlier this month started at a railyard in Tucson, Arizona and ended at a distribution center in Phoenix with approval and supervision from the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement. Founded in 2015, TuSimple says it has 70 autonomous trucks globally.

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