Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares decline after Fed chief’s comments on inflation

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares have mostly retreated, tracking losses on Wall Street after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated increases in interest rates must be faster to fight inflation.

Major regional indexes cascaded downward in Asia. Japan’s consumer price index data show an increase for the seventh consecutive month, although the results were within market expectations.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares decline after Fed chief’s comments on inflation

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares have mostly retreated, tracking losses on Wall Street after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated increases in interest rates must be faster to fight inflation.

Major regional indexes cascaded downward in Asia. Japan’s consumer price index data show an increase for the seventh consecutive month, although the results were within market expectations.

Benchmarks also fell in Australia and South Korea. Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki made comments suggesting a slightly more forceful pushback against “sudden movements” in exchange rates, as the dollar remained at a 20-year high level of 128 yen. U.S. stocks closed broadly lower.

WORLD-RISING FOOD PRICES

Is Russia to blame for rising food prices ?

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia and Ukraine have squared off at the U.N. over whether Russia’s war is to blame for rising food prices and hunger around the world. Between them, the two countries account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley exports.

Millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia depend on them for affordable bread and noodles. Ukraine is also a major corn supplier and the biggest exporter of sunflower oil.

Ukrainian counsellor Natalia Mudrenko said at an informal U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss conflict and hunger that “as long as Russia persists in its efforts to invade Ukraine, the threat of hunger will be looming over many countries throughout the globe.”

Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov argued that sanctions, trade wars, the coronavirus pandemic and Western economic policies are shaking up the global food, energy and financial markets.

NUCLEAR REPOSITORY-SAFETY

Report: Fire training, equipment lacking at US nuclear dump

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Independent federal investigators say there are significant issues related to fire training at the U.S. government’s nuclear waste repository in New Mexico.

The U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General also has found that firefighting vehicles at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were in disrepair from years of neglected maintenance. Federal officials say they’re making changes to address the issues.

The repository is the backbone of a multibillion-dollar program for cleaning up tons of Cold War-era waste from past nuclear research and bomb making. The safety concerns come as New Mexico’s governor and others voice opposition to expanding the types of radioactive waste that can be shipped to the repository.

STARBUCKS-UNION

Workers unionize at flagship Seattle Starbucks roastery

SEATTLE (AP) — Starbucks workers at the coffee giant’s flagship roastery in Seattle have voted to form a union, the chain’s latest location to form a collective bargaining unit. The Seattle store voted Thursday 38-27 to unionize. Workers United said 26 Starbucks locations have unionized nationwide.

The Starbucks Reserve and Roastery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is the business’s second to unionize in its hometown of Seattle. Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges says in a statement that the company will respect the process and bargain in good faith.

BORDER WALL-FUNDRAISER

2 plead guilty in ‘We Build The Wall’ fraudulent fundraiser

NEWYORK (AP) — The co-founder of the “We Build The Wall” project aimed at raising money for a border wall has pleaded guilty to charges in a case that once included former President Donald Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon.

The plea Thursday by Brian Kolfage came just weeks before a scheduled trial.

A guilty plea Thursday by codefendant financier Andrew Badolato in the case during the same electronic hearing meant that only one of the four defendants originally charged will go to trial as scheduled next month.

Bannon was pardoned by Trump just before he left office last year. Bannon had pleaded not guilty to charges he pocketed more than $1 million, using some of the money to secretly pay Kolfage.

NFL-BRIAN FLORES LAWSUIT

NFL gives defense against Black coaches’ discrimination suit

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is telling a judge there are multiple reasons why a lawsuit filed against it by three Black coaches who allege racist hiring practices should fail.

The league says in a letter in advance of an initial hearing before a Manhattan federal judge that it will either ask that the claims of Brian Flores and two other coaches be forced into arbitration or be dismissed without a trial because they lack legal merit.

The letter was prepared jointly by lawyers for the coaches and the NFL to notify the judge of each side’s positions in advance of a May 2 hearing.

Flores, who was fired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in January, had alleged in his lawsuit that racist hiring practices by the NFL, particularly for coaches and general managers, left the league “rife with racism” even as it publicly condemns it.

The two other coaches — Steve Wilks and Ray Horton — joined Flores in the lawsuit earlier this month.

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA SALES- NEW JERSEY

‘Amazing’: Cannabis sales in New Jersey bring excited buyers

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s recreational marijuana marketplace is open for business. Recreational sales of cannabis for adults 21 and older started Thursday, with the first alternative treatment centers opening early in the day.

The start of the market comes a week after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced that state regulators had cleared the way for recreational sales at seven centers that had already offered medical cannabis.

New Jersey is among 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, with legalized recreational marijuana markets. New Jersey is first among its closest neighbors to begin recreational sales.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia to end mask mandate, days after reinstating it

UNDATED (AP) — Philadelphia health officials say they’re ending the city’s indoor mask mandate, abruptly reversing course just days after people in the city had to start wearing masks again amid a sharp increase in infections.

The Board of Health voted Thursday to rescind the mandate. That’s according to the Philadelphia health department, which released a statement that cites “decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts.” The health department did not release data to back up its reversal on masking, saying more information would be provided today.

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, but faced fierce blowback as well as a legal effort to get the mandate thrown out.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BOSTON

Boston urges masks as battle brews over transit rule

UNDATED (AP) — Boston is urging people to start wearing masks, and the Biden administration is weighing its next legal step in a court fight over the abrupt end of the national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit.

In early April, Boston followed New York, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities in relaxing pandemic restrictions as officials pushed for more normalcy after two grueling years of the pandemic.

But the Boston Public Health Commission says cases have increased recently by 65%.

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