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Business News

Last Update on March 03, 2015 08:29 GMT


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Search giant, self-driving car developer, smartphone and tablet maker. Now, is Google becoming a data plan provider?

Google wants more people to get online so they can search around and click on its ads. And it's shaking up the telecom world to do it. The company said Monday at the wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, that it will soon sell data plans for smartphones and tablets in the U.S. The announcement confirmed leaks and media reports in late January that Google planned to enter the telecom market.

Sundar Pichai, Google Inc.'s senior vice president of products, said during his presentation that more information would be provided in the coming months.

The move into the wireless market mirrors what Google has been trying to do for hard-wired Internet access at home. The Mountain View, California, company currently sells an ultra-fast fiber-optic Internet service in a handful of markets scattered across the U.S. in an attempt to pressure long-established broadband providers to improve their service and cut their prices.

Google conceivably do something similar for wireless by offering discounted data plans that would pressure major carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications to offer better deals and services or risk losing customers to a powerful rival.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Republicans are sending a message that they hope the Supreme Court and voters will hear: The country's health care system won't crumble if the justices obliterate a bedrock feature of President Barack Obama's heath care law.

Three top senators say that if the court invalidates federal subsidies that help millions of Americans buy coverage under Obama's law, they have a plan to protect them and create "better" insurance markets by giving states more leeway to decide what insurers must cover.

But an opinion article in Monday's Washington Post by GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah offered very few details. It said nothing about how much assistance they would provide, its duration or how they would pay for it.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Citing safety concerns, United Airlines says it will no longer accept bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries of the kind that power everything from smartphones to laptops to power tools.

United is the second major U.S. airline to decide it will no longer accept lithium-ion battery shipments. Delta Air Lines stopped accepting the bulk shipments last month.

It's not uncommon for tens of thousands of the batteries to be shipped in a single cargo container aboard a passenger airliner on an international flight.

Federal Aviation Administration tests over the past year show that when a single battery overheats it can result in a chain reaction, causing other batteries to short circuit and overheat. As they overheat, the batteries emit explosive gases. Several tests have resulted in fierce explosions and fires.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government watchdog is warning that cybersecurity weaknesses could lead to disruptions and undermine the safety of the nation's air traffic control system.

The Government Accountability Office says the Federal Aviation Administration has taken steps to protect the air traffic system from cyber-based threats, but that, quote, "significant security control weaknesses remain."

One area of weaknesses is the ability to prevent and detect unauthorized access to the vast network of computer and communications systems the FAA uses to process and track flights around the world.

There also are inadequate protections to prevent entry into air traffic computer systems from other, less-secure computer systems not directly involved in traffic operations.

The FAA said it is aware of the importance of the matter and has achieved several milestones in improving its cybersecurity.


GENEVA (AP) -- The CEO of Volkswagen AG is staying with his cautious outlook for this year.

Martin Winterkorn tells The Associated Press that it's a "balanced statement" based on growth in the U.S., Europe and China versus trouble spots such as Russia and Brazil.

Winterkorn calls it a solid assessment, saying "I think it's quite a good assessment, as usual we at Volkswagen do not want to lose touch with reality despite all the successes."

As it announced increased profits for last year Volkswagen last week cautioned that 2015 could be a turbulent year. It predicted increased sales but said there was no guarantee of a successful year for the company or the industry as a whole.

Russia's economy appears headed for recession this year after the ruble plunged in value. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also unsettled business confidence in Eastern Europe.

A slew of U.S. auto sales figures for February will be released in Detroit later today.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A lawyer for media organizations says a gag order in the criminal case of the West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed 29 men violates the First Amendment by barring virtually anyone from discussing it publicly.

David Schulz has told a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, that some victims' relatives believe the sweeping gag order also prohibits them from testifying before lawmakers and regulators.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger's gag order was imposed in January when she said it was needed to protect former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's right to a fair trial.

Blankenship was the head of the company when the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded in 2010. He's charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards.

Schultz argued Monday that "the public has a right and a need to know that justice is being done fairly."

The panel didn't indicate when it would rule.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were mixed in yesterday's auction, with rates on six-month bills rising while rates on three-month bills dipped to their lowest level since mid-October.

The Treasury Department auctioned $26 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.015 percent, down from 0.020 percent last week. Another $26 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.075 percent, up from 0.065 percent last week.

The three-month rate was the lowest since three-month bills averaged 0.010 percent on Oct. 14. The six-month rate was the highest since those bills averaged 0.085 percent on Feb. 9.

The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,999.62, while a six-month bill sold for $9,996.21. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.015 percent for the three-month bills and 0.076 percent for the six-month bills.


MADRID (AP) -- Spain created hours of confusion over the future of Greece's troubled finances yesterday. First, it announced that eurozone nations were negotiating a third Greek bailout of up to 50 billion euros ($56 billion). But then, Madrid backtracked and said that the prospect of such a bailout was merely hypothetical.

The high profile sequence of events began when Spain's Economy Ministry said that Minister Luis de Guindos had declared at a conference that a new bailout for Greece could provide between 30 billion euros and 50 billion euros.

In comments circulated by the ministry to media outlets, de Guindos said that a "central scenario for Greece is a deal on the basis of the current bailout, and new conditions to be set with flexibility." Those remarks clearly stated that a round of negotiations were underway for a third Greek bailout.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of the nation's leading medical researchers has joined the Food and Drug Administration, taking on the agency's No. 2 leadership job at a critical juncture for prescription drugs, medical devices and tobacco products.

Dr. Robert Califf comes to the job of FDA deputy commissioner after more than 30 years as a researcher and administrator at Duke University. But the 63-year-old Califf is no stranger to FDA issues. For years he served on committees that advise the agency on scientific and medical matters. And he was considered for the FDA's top job at least twice, under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The timing of his appointment has raised speculation that he may eventually be nominated to lead the agency. The week after announcing Califf's new position, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said she would be leaving the agency after nearly six years on the job. Currently, the FDA's chief scientist is serving as acting head of the agency.

A leading expert in cardiology and medical study design, Califf is viewed by FDA watchers as a natural fit for the job.


NEW YORK (AP) -- If you're shopping at Costco, you'll need a new credit card to pay for those family-sized packs of chicken breasts or toilet paper.

After accepting only American Express cards for the last 16 years, the retailer is switching to Visa and will use Citigroup as its exclusive provider of co-branded credit cards.

Costco is a large and influential chain. It is the world's second-largest retailer by revenue, and has 671 locations around the world, including 474 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For an annual fee of $55 to $110, shoppers get access to groceries in bulk sizes, as well as appliances, jewelry, home goods and other products.

The switch from AmEx to Visa could mean changes for some of those customers. For example, Costco will accept only Visa credit cards at its stores starting April 1. Customers will also be able to use Visa and MasterCard debit cards, or pay in cash. American Express cards will no longer be accepted on that date.

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