Tag Archives: Local governments

Guidelines proposed by California insurance coverage commissioner supply

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LOS ANGELES — After a number of years of insurers dropping owners’ insurance policies in areas hard-hit by wildfires, the California insurance coverage commissioner is pushing for laws that may offset rising premiums with reductions for mitigating wildfire dangers.

On Oct. 19, the Division of Insurance coverage will host an investigatory listening to the place owners, trade specialists and insurance coverage suppliers, amongst others, can provide their enter into laws Commissioner Ricardo Lara plans to provoke that may in all probability speed up premium will increase for some owners whereas giving them an opportunity to learn the way their property’s danger is calculated and alternatives to scale back it, Lara’s workplace mentioned.

“The truth is local weather change goes to proceed to disrupt communities by way of excessive warmth and climate and have an effect on our insurance coverage markets,” Lara mentioned. “Utilizing my authority as a regulator to have a look at these key areas is basically going to be vital.”

For a number of years now, the housing market in California’s increasing wildland-urban interface, the realm the place suburbia blends with the wildlands, has been rocked by wind-driven fires which have worn out housing inventory and years of insurers’ income together with it. In response, insurers have been dropping insurance policies in these at-risk areas by the hundreds, pushing individuals into the secondary market, and dramatically elevating the premiums for a lot of others, arguing that the tandem strikes are supposed to restrict their monetary dangers.

However on the identical time, client advocates say, insurers have been slow-rolling the speed will increase throughout the remainder of their portfolio, conserving the will increase total under 7% yearly so it does not open them up for a public inspection, enabled beneath Proposition 103, permitted in 1988.

Lara’s workplace mentioned it might push for insurers to hunt charge will increase extra reflective of the dangers the businesses’ actuaries spell out, which suggests in all probability larger than 7%, however it might additionally require insurers present extra info to owners on what they’ll do to scale back these dangers.

“Time and time once more we heard from customers, ‘How do I enchantment my rating? How do I do know what I have to do to decrease that rating?’ And proper now there’s nothing,” Lara mentioned.

To melt the rate-increase impression, Lara mentioned his workplace would require that insurers present and clarify the reasoning behind a house owner’s explicit hearth danger rating. Hundreds of house owners in the previous couple of years have obtained notices when their insurance policies ended telling them they had been instantly uninsurable due to hearth dangers, or conversely, that it might value prohibitively extra to stay lined and there was nothing they might do to vary it.

“We’re saying, ‘Let’s promote transparency and acknowledge that home-hardening, that is science-based, works,” Lara mentioned.

To that finish, insurers have been working with the Insurance coverage Institute for Enterprise & House Security to stipulate an ordinary method to dwelling hardening on a person and communitywide scale, which wildfire specialists say is vital to limiting the lack of life and property. Lara mentioned he’ll work with these teams to find out what sorts of methods owners can take to scale back their dangers and get a reduction. A failed Meeting invoice that Lara endorsed earlier this 12 months would have required insurers to cowl properties whose homeowners diminished their dangers.

Traditionally, Californians have a spotty observe report of mitigating their wildfire dangers on a big scale, and with few exceptions, native governments have executed a poor job of implementing the requirements that exist already. Each customers and native governments could have a job in seeing the proposed laws bear fruit after statewide mitigation requirements are set.

“We’re incentivizing the buyer and incentivizing the area people to deliver down the chance and conserving the insurance coverage market vibrant the place they’re competing for individuals’s companies,” Lara mentioned.

One insurance coverage group, the American Property Casualty Insurance coverage Affiliation, which represents about 60% of the property casualty insurance coverage market, welcomed the upcoming listening to as a chance to revisit the rate-making course of total. Insurers have complained that California’s legal guidelines do not enable them to cost within the rising dangers linked to local weather change as a result of they’ll set charges primarily based solely on previous losses.

“APCIA applauds the commissioner’s curiosity in bettering the regulatory system to encourage extra insurers to put in writing insurance coverage in high-risk wildfire areas and provides client extra decisions,” the group mentioned in a press release. “Clearly, California is dealing with dramatically completely different situations with 5 of the state’s largest fires occurring simply this 12 months. Local weather change is altering situations in California and we count on this to be the ‘new regular.’ “

(c)2020 Los Angeles Instances

Distributed by Tribune Content material Company, LLC.

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Copyright 2020 Tribune Content material Company.

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Politics creates financial phantasm in Houdini’s hometown

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APPLETON, Wis. — Nothing can shake Scott Rice’s religion that President Donald Trump will save the U.S. financial system — not seeing companies shut or buddies furloughed, not even his personal hellish bout with the novel coronavirus.

Rice reveres the president the way in which Wisconsin loves the Inexperienced Bay Packers. He has painted “T-R-U-M-P” on his garden, spelled it out with Christmas lights on his roof and painted it on his steel-toed footwear.

He was additionally a virus skeptic, believing it was a hoax meant to harm Trump and the financial system. However then the illness seeped into the paper mill the place he works, and he was stricken, all of a sudden shedding his urge for food, even for his favourite Taco Bell. He lay in mattress, feverish, drenched in sweat. Two air-conditioner items didn’t cool him. His physique appeared at struggle with itself.

After 16 days at dwelling, Rice advised his co-workers that the illness was scary and actual. However Trump held onto his vote for one motive: The inventory market was climbing.

“The 401(okay)s, simply the financial system,” Rice stated. “He received jobs going. Simply amassed plenty of jobs, being a businessman.”

Rice’s perception represents the muse of Trump’s hopes — that Individuals imagine the financial system is robust sufficient to ship him a second time period.

However in Appleton, a predominately white metropolis of 75,000 individuals alongside the Fox River, the well being of the financial system isn’t judged on jobs numbers, private financial institution accounts or union contracts. As an alternative, it’s considered via partisan lenses — filtered via the info voters need to see and listen to, and people they don’t.

By nearly any measure, Trump’s guarantees of an financial revival in locations like Appleton have gone unfulfilled. The realm has misplaced about 8,000 jobs since he was elected.

Even earlier than the pandemic, Wisconsin’s financial system was fragile, as job losses started in August 2019 and a restoration in hiring had simply begun when the virus struck. The state that’s very important for Trump’s victory had extra jobs a decade in the past when the nation was nonetheless ailing from the Nice Recession than it did in July.

Whereas supporters like Rice are immovable, others have had sufficient. President Barack Obama gained right here in 2012, however voters flipped to Trump 4 years later, and Trump can not afford a lot erosion in a state that he gained by solely 22,000 votes out of greater than 2.Eight million.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden holds a slight lead over Trump within the newest Marquette Regulation College ballot of Wisconsin voters. Trump’s disapproval score has risen to 54% from 49% in the beginning the 12 months. However 52% of Wisconsin voters applaud Trump on the financial system, whereas 56% dislike his dealing with of the pandemic that pulled the nation into recession.

Even Rice concedes that the financial system is not only an argument for Trump — it’s additionally an argument towards him. His 20-year-old daughter, Cassidy, tells him so. She is learning public well being at George Washington College and can solid her first presidential vote for Biden.

“The truth that there was a pandemic and the truth that it had these penalties on the financial system needs to be a watch opener, like, hey, possibly we’re not doing this accurately,” she stated.

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Trump gained the presidency by wringing tens of 1000’s of votes out of small cities and medium-size cities throughout Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

He did it in locations like Appleton. The town of stone and brick hugs the Fox River, its currents powering the smoke-stacked paper mills that constructed fortunes. Steamboats and trains introduced the trimmings of Victorian-era consolation. The nation’s second co-educational school, Lawrence College, occupies 84 acres on the fringe of downtown. The top of World Warfare II introduced a suburban buildout, and youngsters more and more left dairy farms for union jobs at mills and foundries.

However as the necessity for paper waned 20 years in the past, town started a gradual evolution. Now condos, cafes, workplaces and a jogging path line the riverbank.

The path ends downtown at Houdini Plaza, a monument to town’s most well-known offspring, illusionist Harry Houdini. His phrases are inscribed on the monument the place his childhood dwelling as soon as stood: “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the thoughts believes.”

There could also be no higher clarification of American politics on this confounding second.

Trump voters hearken to his cheerleading for the financial system and imagine the businessman president has labored his magic. Many write off the pandemic as a velocity bump for accelerating prosperity. Biden’s backers see an phantasm — an financial system that was recovering underneath Obama, however now, with the pandemic, is attempting to crawl again to well being, with no actual plan from Trump.

The 2 realities are clear in nationwide surveys. In August, 80% of Democrats name financial circumstances “poor,” whereas 63% of Republicans describe them as “good” in a survey carried out by The Related Press-NORC Heart for Public Affairs Analysis.

In Appleton, maybe the one shared view is a deep anxiousness concerning the future. Eating places and bars fear about prospects vanishing as soon as cooler temperatures return. The excessive prices of childcare and medical insurance make it exhausting to draw staff, regardless of the downturn.

Folks can not even agree on the phrases of the financial debate to provide you with an answer.

“What we’ve performed with politics is gotten right into a tribal struggle that appears solely at elections after we needs to be taking a look at insurance policies and outcomes,” stated John Burke, CEO and chairman of Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles, one of many state’s most distinguished enterprise leaders.

How enduring the divide will likely be is likely one of the central assessments of the presidential election. Will emotional ties to Trump override assessments of his job efficiency?

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After 2016, native Democrats wasted no time mourning. Lee Snodgrass grew to become chair of the native occasion and started a blitz of door-knocking to construct up volunteers and voters, a job that led her into areas that have been firmly for Trump.

As a candidate now for the state legislature, she has tried to bridge the partisan divide, however usually finds few Republican takers.

“It’s like watching a automotive accident in gradual movement,” stated Snodgrass. “The habits and decisions that individuals make on this pandemic mirror basic variations between the Democratic Occasion of immediately and the Republican Occasion of immediately.”

Sporting a T-shirt that stated “VOTE,” Snodgrass walked via a neighborhood that leans for Trump. She recited info concerning the financial system and the pandemic — a number of thousands and thousands jobs misplaced, a rising physique depend — and Republicans would defend Trump.

She would then attempt to steer the dialog to widespread floor, like the necessity to scale back well being care prices, and finish by summarizing their dialog by saying, “Listed here are the issues that we agree on.”

These Republican voters discovered Trump’s demeanor crude. However the unemployment price was a powerful 3.5% earlier than the pandemic. Trump had up to date and changed the North American Free Commerce Settlement. They provide Trump credit score, though he inherited a wholesome 4.7% unemployment price and the commerce deficit with Mexico on items had jumped to $101 billion final 12 months — larger than in any 12 months underneath Obama.

“There are issues that he stated he would do,” stated Candice Meyer, a retired authorized assistant. “And he has performed that. He’s performed it with a giant mouth and a show-off, 13-year-old character, and he can’t hold his mouth shut. And he’s impolite. However he has come via with plenty of his platform.”

The pandemic and recession confirmed simply how ingrained politics was in what individuals noticed, heard and believed. Their partisan loyalties grew to become their realities about handle the coronavirus and assist the financial system.

“What actually stunned me is how rapidly issues received polarized,” stated Jonathan Rothwell, the principal economist at Gallup. “The pandemic received immediately framed as a bit of fine or dangerous information for the president, very similar to the roles report.”

How individuals really feel concerning the financial system more and more mirrors their politics. AP-NORC discovered that solely 34% of Republicans believed the financial system was in good condition in April 2016 when a Democrat was within the White Home, a quantity that swiftly shot upward after Trump’s election to succeed in 89% this January earlier than the pandemic.

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On the Midwest Paper Group, the place Scott Rice works, there’s a story of restoration, however one the place credit score lay with the union and the Outagamie County govt, not with Trump. Between 2001 and 2016, Wisconsin’s paper business misplaced 15,000 jobs. Midwest Paper Group sunk into receivership in 2017 as demand flagged in for crisp white paper.

Greater than 600 staff have been handed pink slips in anticipation of the mill being shuttered, in an space the place almost one in 5 jobs are nonetheless in factories.

“Most have been resigned to destiny,” stated Tom Nelson, the county govt. “The paper business was deemed outdated and outdated, uncompetitive due to imports, unfair commerce offers, digital substitution.”

A Democrat with tortoise-shell glasses, Nelson gained his first election in Appleton in 2005 and nonetheless has a boyish look on the age of 44, with curly hair that has grown lengthy in the course of the pandemic. By his estimate, the county would have misplaced a catastrophic 2,000 jobs as collateral harm if the mill closed.

Nelson, the employees and their union illustration lobbied the chapter court docket and struck a deal. “If it weren’t for the truth that the mill was unionized, it could be a trash heap,” Nelson stated.

As an alternative, the mill added new machines to make supplies for cardboard, capitalizing on the rising variety of individuals buying on-line at Amazon. For 12 hours a day, Rice mans the management room in a purple face masks that claims “USA.”

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There are different winners within the native financial system — the Menard’s dwelling enchancment retailer, grocers, fast-food chains. Bike shops are bought out of Treks, which have been constructed within the manufacturing unit 87 miles away in Waterloo.

Trek’s three U.S. warehouses have been emptied by August due to all of the shopping for, but Burke, its CEO, was agonizing concerning the destiny of the broader financial system.

Burke, 58, pedals 110 miles on his customary Saturday experience, lengthy sufficient for the nation’s issues to show over in his thoughts. After his personal school commencement, Burke took a day to get his knowledge tooth pulled and began the following at Trek. He’s remained there for the previous 37 years.

He determined to put in writing a guide in 2016 and up to date it this 12 months, “Presidential Playbook 2020: 16 Nonpartisan Options to Save America.”

As Burke sees it, Trump has ruled with a harmful set of blind spots that threaten long-term development.

There have been the hurricanes and wildfires unleashed by local weather change. Federal debt has surged. Not sufficient cash is being invested in training and youngsters. And Trump initially downplayed the virus and supplied the prospect of unsafe treatments like injecting disinfectant to kill coronavirus.

Appleton is testimony to the shortage of straightforward options to the pandemic.

Almost 40% of town’s leisure and hospitality jobs have been misplaced. Eating places have been closed, accommodations vacant. The banquet corridor connected to the Longcheng Market that serves the realm’s inhabitants of 5,000 Hmong immigrants has sat empty since March.

The downtown had been evolving as younger dad and mom moved again to Wisconsin from Minneapolis and Chicago. Eating places and boutiques popped up alongside School Avenue, catering to the professors and college students at Lawrence College. The oil companies agency U.S. Ventures introduced it could construct a brand new headquarters on a metropolis bluff — 500 workplace staff who may very well be regulars at Mondo! wine bar.

Then the pandemic struck.

The standing of the U.S. Ventures headquarters is now unsure, however it actually gained’t open as introduced in 2022. Mondo! is getting by with retail gross sales and outside seating, till the climate adjustments.

Since 2017, David Oliver used Instagram to steadily draw individuals to Appleton’s first skyscraper (1932) and a bar designed to be as ethereal and lightweight as a day rosé.

Oliver, 59, would fairly hold his politics corked. However he stated American companies desperately want one other spherical of help. As a result of the virus has lingered, so have the income shortfalls and Oliver blames the president.

“They’re purported to be pro-business,” Oliver stated. “However a lot of the Republican Occasion has reverted to this magical considering that Trump has that the financial system is okay and the virus goes away. They’re delusional.”

Oliver worries a couple of darkish time during which future generations really feel it’s too dangerous to start out a small enterprise of their hometown. He can’t help the president.

“This occasion will impression generations of Individuals — identical to the Nice Despair,” Oliver stated. “It’s going to make it a lot tougher to attempt to take the possibility. As a result of, what occurs if there may be one other pandemic?”

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Different companies are struggling to search out staff. Trisha Kostelny, who runs Fischer-Ulman Development, might solely get 5 individuals to use to put concrete, although the job paid $29 an hour with well being, dental and an identical 401(okay). She solely discovered two of the candidates certified.

“We’re so wanting candidates I’ve puzzled if I wanted to go on the market and do the work myself,” she stated.

Greater than 9,600 individuals within the Appleton space are nonetheless with out work.

The Trump administration argues the issue is that the federal government has been too beneficiant with laid-off staff as officers stated that the additional $600 per week in unemployment profit stored most individuals from in search of jobs, so their expiration in August ought to trigger a rush of candidates and hiring.

However to Kostelny, the issue is that staff want much more assist from the federal government. Her solely approach to get extra functions is to concentrate on minorities and girls, staff who will possible have to pay for childcare. As of now, she will solely afford to cowl two-thirds of her 25 staff’ medical insurance prices.

If she boosted wages and advantages on her personal, she would put her enterprise in danger. She now favors a rise within the minimal wage and a few type of common well being care.

Kostelny plans to vote Democratic, as she did in 2016. However her prospects and firm span your entire political spectrum and he or she believes the financial system is being harm by the hyper partisanship.

“The extra we’re divisive — on no account is that good for enterprise,” she stated. “That may’t be good for enterprise.”

Matt Albert, chair of the native Republicans, additionally sees the financial polarization. Companies have been initially much less enthusiastic about declaring their enthusiasm for Trump and probably offending Democrats, however these worries light after the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after police shot a Black man seven occasions.

“That they had been involved about shedding prospects for placing indicators up,” Albert stated. “However they now really feel like if Trump does not get in, they will not have a enterprise. … The riots will shut them down. The laws will shut them down.”

Nonetheless, Republicans right here say that Trump propelled the nation to new heights with tax and regulatory cuts, solely to be introduced low by the pressure majeure of a virus, and that the majority voters will maintain him innocent.

Republicans’ knock on Joe Biden is that he would elevate taxes that would suffocate development (almost $Four trillion over 10 years that may largely come from the rich).

Whereas Republicans stay assured Trump will carry the county once more, some concede the race may very well be tighter. If he loses cities like Appleton, it might spell bother for the president.

“I believe it is going to be nearer as a result of he’s shedding among the optimistic momentum that I believe he created,” stated State Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, who will not be in search of reelection. “The pandemic has knocked him off his message.”

A number of lawmakers and voters asserted that Biden would turn out to be the pawn of socialists and Marxists — a jarring declare in a neighborhood whose most infamous native son is Sen. Joe McCarthy, who falsely claimed that the U.S. authorities was filled with communists and whose chief counsel would later turn out to be the non-public lawyer for a younger New York Metropolis actual property scion who’s now president.

“The COVID has put a lot pessimism into the financial system — that’s the large killer,” stated Marvin Murphy, the 80-year-old proprietor of Fox Cities journal. He estimates he has spoken with each enterprise inside 70 miles of Appleton through the years.

Solely the wealthiest corporations with entry to low-cost capital are more likely to survive, Murphy stated. He nicknamed the illness the “McVirus,” he stated, as a result of McDonalds couldn’t have engineered a “higher approach to kill off small, impartial eating places.”

A libertarian who stated he votes Republican unhappily as a result of “there may be nothing else,” Murphy sipped a recent cup of espresso in his yard overlooking the Wolf River and lamented that so many individuals solely course of the world primarily based on what they see and listen to on TV.

“Actuality will not be crucial factor,” Murphy stated. “The perceived actuality is what’s necessary.”

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AP’s Advance Voting information brings you the info about voting early, by mail or absentee from every state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/

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The Newest: Madrid to impose lockdowns in some areas

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MADRID — The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in city areas the place the coronavirus is spreading sooner.

Deputy regional well being chief Antonio Zapatero mentioned Wednesday that the measures will almost certainly have an effect on southern, working-class neighborhoods of Madrid the place an infection charges have been steadily hovering since August.

Zapatero mentioned that Madrid desires to “flatten the curve earlier than the arrival of autumn and the issues that chilly climate might carry,” including that the measures to be taken might be determined by this weekend.

Madrid and its surrounding area of 6.6 million folks have accounted for almost one third of Spain’s new instances, which have averaged 8,200 per day for the previous week.

Total, Spain has had greater than 600,000 instances and simply over 30,000 deaths.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— Trump denies downplaying virus menace, regardless of audio recording, and continues to forged doubt on masks

— India’s virus instances move 5 million and are nonetheless hovering, testing feeble well being care system and shutting in on US whole

— Iowa governor received’t budge on mandating masks at the same time as virus deaths rise

— Doubts persist as NYC’s hybrid college 12 months is about to begin

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Comply with AP’s pandemic protection at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — The British authorities plans to ration coronavirus testing, giving precedence to well being employees and care house employees after widespread reviews that folks all through the nation have been unable to schedule checks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday will face questions on his dealing with of the COVID-19 pandemic within the Home of Commons and earlier than a key committee amid the outcry over the scarcity of testing.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says the federal government is within the technique of drawing up a brand new precedence record for testing, suggesting that college students and their households could possibly be subsequent in line after the Nationwide Well being Service and social care.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proved that our personal well being depends upon the well being of others and the atmosphere, and that exploiting nature means exploiting others.

Francis doubled down on his insistence of the interconnectedness of individuals and the planet throughout his common viewers Wednesday, held in a Vatican courtyard with the trustworthy spaced aside to restrict contagion.

Francis mentioned if individuals are unable to ponder the sweetness and majesty of nature with out exploiting it, they are going to be equally unable to ponder others with out profiting from them. He mentioned: “He who lives to take advantage of nature finally ends up exploiting folks and treating them like slaves. It is a common regulation.”

Francis is anticipated to elaborate on the themes of solidarity, fraternity and look after creation in an encyclical he’s anticipated to signal Oct. three on dwelling within the post-COVID world.

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam will resume worldwide industrial flights connecting the nation to a number of Asian locations beginning Friday, after a monthslong shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights, nonetheless, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, consultants, managers, expert employees, traders and their households. They aren’t but out there for vacationers.

The flights connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Metropolis to locations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will function weekly, the federal government web site introduced. Flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume subsequent week.

To board a flight, passengers should maintain a certificates exhibiting they’ve examined damaging for the coronavirus not more than 5 days earlier than the departure date. Upon arrival, they are going to be examined and quarantined, the report mentioned.

Vietnam shut down worldwide flights on April 1. Nationwide provider Vietnam Airways estimated final month that it might lose $650 million in 2020.

Vietnam has reported 1,059 instances of the coronavirus. It managed to keep away from any deaths till July, when the virus crept into town of Da Nang, killing 35 folks.

However no new instances have been reported for 2 weeks. Final week, Da Nang lifted a journey restriction after two months.

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has registered one other steep rise in coronavirus infections, with the variety of new confirmed instances surpassing 1,600 in in the future for the primary time.

The Well being Ministry says the day-to-day enhance reached a brand new document of 1,677 on Tuesday. The document was damaged 4 instances final week.

The capital of Prague has the best quantity of people that examined constructive, over 141 per 100,000. The surge has prompted some European nations, together with Slovakia, Denmark, Britain and Switzerland to impose journey restrictions for travellers from the Czech Republic.

In line with authorities figures launched on Wednesday, 333 folks wanted hospitalization. That quantity was over 400 through the first wave of the pandemic within the spring.

The Czech Republic has had 38,896 folks contaminated with 476 deaths.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s each day coronavirus tally has stayed under 200 for 2 weeks, however the authorities is urging folks to not decrease their guard.

Authorities mentioned Wednesday that the 113 instances added within the final 24 hours took the nation’s whole to 22,504, together with 367 deaths.

Eighty-one of them have been within the Seoul metropolitan space, the center of a latest viral resurgence.

Vice Well being Minister Kim Gang-lip known as on folks to chorus from having pointless gatherings and visiting crowded locations.

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UNITED NATIONS — The brand new president of the U.N. Normal Meeting is warning that unilateralism will solely strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is asking for a brand new dedication to world cooperation together with on the honest and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the reins of the 193-member world physique on Tuesday, introduced that the Normal Meeting will maintain a high-level particular session on the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, although diplomats mentioned the date could slip.

Bozkir takes over from outgoing Normal Meeting President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who presided over a novel year-old session that he mentioned was “outlined by a pandemic” and included digital conferences and new voting procedures.

Bozkir advised diplomats from U.N. member nations, seated at socially distanced areas within the meeting chamber, that “confronting the consequences of the coronavirus in all their dimensions might be an overarching precedence for my presidency.”

He mentioned “no state can fight this pandemic alone,” and it’s the members’ duty “to strengthen folks’s religion in multilateral cooperation and worldwide establishments, with the U.N. at their heart.”

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Generic drugmakers sold most opioids during overdose crisis

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Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals doled out lavish perks for top U.S. employees who hit or beat sales goals for prescription opioids and other drugs: six-figure bonuses and a chance to snag a coveted “President’s Club” award, which could mean vacations to Hawaii, the Caribbean or Mexico.

The company placed that same staff in charge of reporting any sales of its painkillers that appeared to be suspicious, including to distributors or pharmacies requesting extreme volumes of its most potent formulas. Asked during a federal court deposition last year whether she believed it was appropriate to put incentive-motivated sales staff in charge of calling out questionable sales, Karen Harper, who oversaw Mallinckrodt’s suspicious order monitoring system, said yes.

In fact, as the nation’s opioid overdose crisis began to explode, not a single order with the company between August 2008 and October 2010 rose from the level of “peculiar” to “suspicious,” the category that would have triggered a report to authorities, according to Harper’s deposition.

The court documents reveal a company culture that allowed Mallinckrodt to become one of the giants of the prescription opioid market at a time when overdoses were claiming tens of thousands of American lives. The company, based in England, announced a tentative $1.6 billion settlement Tuesday with state and local governments in the U.S. If finalized, the deal would end lawsuits nationwide over the company’s role in the epidemic.

Purdue Pharma has been the poster child for the U.S. opioid crisis, mostly because of aggressive marketing of its signature painkiller, OxyContin. Lesser known is the role of generic opioid manufacturers like Mallinckrodt that produced the vast majority of painkillers during the height of the overdose epidemic. While they may not have been sending sales representatives to encourage prescribing like Purdue, they were filling more and more orders for the drugs — so many that Mallinckrodt couldn’t always produce enough to fill them all.

Nationwide distribution data released in a sprawling federal court case and analyzed by The Associated Press shows that Mallinckrodt’s U.S. subsidiary, SpecGX, and another generic drugmaker, Actavis Pharma, produced the vast amount of prescription opioids distributed throughout the country.

From 2006 to 2014, Mallinckrodt’s subsidiary shipped more than 2.2 billion high-potency oxycodone pills, nearly one-third of its total in that time period, according to the data analysis. Actavis was even more prolific, shipping more than 2.4 billion pills.

The court records made public last year by the U.S. District Court in Cleveland showed some Mallinckrodt employees were more focused on sales than public safety. At least one joked about the rising use of the drugs with a customer.

In January 2009, Victor Borelli, a Mallinckrodt salesman, exchanged emails with Steve Cochrane, who worked at drug distributor KeySource.

“Keep them coming,” Cochrane wrote. “Flying out of here. It’s like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are.”

Borelli responded: “Just like Doritos. Keep eating, we’ll make more.” After the comment become public, the company disavowed it, calling it “callous.”

Borelli said that as a reward for sales, he got bonuses ranging from $101,000 to $119,000 from 2008 through 2010, and that he twice received the company’s President Club award. That scored him vacations to St. Thomas and other tropical getaways.

Borelli and other Mallinckrodt employees answered lawyers’ questions under oath ahead of what was expected to be the first federal trial over the toll of opioids. The company ended up settling with the plaintiffs — the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit. Other major defendants also reached deals.

Another opioid trial is scheduled to begin next month in Central Islip, New York, which has created a renewed push among drugmakers and distributors to settle thousands of opioid-related lawsuits.

Mallinckrodt agreed with lawyers suing on behalf of local governments nationwide to pay its settlement amount over eight years. Most of the money is to go into a fund intended for drug treatment and other programs to aid recovery from an epidemic that has been linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.

The deal is still subject to some negotiations and must be approved by a bankruptcy court. It’s the first proposed opioid settlement that has overwhelming support from the key lawyers for the governments suing to try to hold the drug industry accountable for the crisis. Teva, which now owns Actavis, is negotiating a separate settlement.

In a deposition last year, Douglas Boothe, who was CEO of Actavis in the U.S. and the Americas from 2008 through 2012, was asked about the company’s responsibilities for flagging large and suspicious orders of prescription painkillers.

“I don’t think we had responsibility for, accountability for preventing diversion,” he said. “We had responsibility and accountability for making certain that the orders that we received were valid from licensed pharmacies and were within our suspicious order monitoring thresholds. … Once it goes outside of our chain of custody, we have no capability or responsibility or accountability.”

One of the main destinations for both companies’ opioids was Florida, where so-called pill mills drew people from Appalachia and beyond. One deposition from a Mallinckrodt sales representative says that 47 percent of the company’s high-potency opioids made in 2010 ended up in Florida.

Steve Becker, a former Mallinckrodt salesman who worked for the company from 2000 to 2014, said he wasn’t aware of a system for monitoring suspicious orders. When asked if employees had incentives to report such orders, he said no.

But there were incentives to sell more, Becker said in a 2018 deposition. Employees said they frequently had back orders for pain pills.

“We’re doing our due diligence in selling our product to the various accounts, and we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, according to the DEA,” Becker said. “When (distributors) then sell their product, it’s their due diligence to know where that product is going.”

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Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Fenn, a data journalist, reported from New York.

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Associated Press writers Mark Gillispie in Cleveland and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this article.

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Opioid settlement still elusive as some lawyers criticize it

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Lawyers for some state and local governments say the deal being offered by companies in a sweeping national settlement over the toll of opioids isn’t enough

State attorneys general are finding a national settlement over the toll of opioids to be elusive, as some lawyers for state and local governments are renewing public criticism of the proposed deal with a group of companies led by the nation’s largest drug distributors.

A group of top state lawyers in October announced the framework for a deal that they said would be worth about $48 billion in cash, treatment drugs and services over time.

Some state attorneys general and lawyers for local governments criticized it at the time. They’re speaking up anew as the push continues to reach a deal, with a trial over opioids scheduled to start next month in New York .

In a statement Friday, Patrick Morrisey, the attorney general in West Virginia, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, said the $22 billion in cash being offered by distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson plus drugmaker Johnson & Johnson “is way too low.”

Under terms previously announced, Teva Pharmaceuticals would also provide a free addiction treatment drug, and the other companies would distribute it.

Morrisey also said that the money would not be allocated fairly under the plan as it stood because states’ shares would be based too much on population and not enough on the impact of the crisis.

“When addressing a national public health crisis, a global settlement shouldn’t be about a pure money grab for the states,” he said. “Monies should be targeted to those who need it most and spent on abatement.”

His statement showed that at least some attorneys general remain resolute not to accept the offer a week after 21 of them signed a letter saying they opposed the deal as offered.

Lead lawyers for more than 2,500 local governments suing the drug industry said Friday that the companies have offered an additional $1.2 billion in cash over 18 years. The lawyers said that’s not enough: “Concerns remain that the total value being proposed is not adequate nor does it provide any degree of assurance that resources will reach communities.”

The attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas who championed the settlement in October said it was better to have a national deal than see money go out piecemeal — while it lasts — through trial judgments.

Prescription and illicit painkillers have been linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. in the past two decades, and they’ve created financial burdens for families who have lost incomes and governments who have seen public service expenses rise as they’ve tried to deal with the crisis.

The offices of several attorneys general who have supported the deal have declined comment or not returned messages.

The companies also did not respond to messages or did not comment on Friday night.

Earlier in the week, McKesson said in a statement that it was trying to finalize a settlement settlement “that would serve as the best path forward to provide billions of dollars in immediate funding and relief to states and local communities.”

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Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill



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Can AI flag disease outbreaks faster than humans? Not quite

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BOSTON —
Did an artificial-intelligence system beat human doctors in warning the world of a severe coronavirus outbreak in China?

In a narrow sense, yes. But what the humans lacked in sheer speed, they more than made up in finesse.

Early warnings of disease outbreaks can help people and governments save lives. In the final days of 2019, an AI system in Boston sent out the first global alert about a new viral outbreak in China. But it took human intelligence to recognize the significance of the outbreak and then awaken response from the public health community.

What’s more, the mere mortals produced a similar alert only a half-hour behind the AI systems.

For now, AI-powered disease-alert systems can still resemble car alarms — easily triggered and sometimes ignored. A network of medical experts and sleuths must still do the hard work of sifting through rumors to piece together the fuller picture. It’s difficult to say what future AI systems, powered by ever larger datasets on outbreaks, may be able to accomplish.

The first public alert outside China about the novel coronavirus came on Dec. 30 from the automated HealthMap system at Boston Children’s Hospital. At 11:12 p.m. local time, HealthMap sent an alert about unidentified pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The system, which scans online news and social media reports, ranked the alert’s seriousness as only 3 out of 5. It took days for HealthMap researchers to recognize its importance.

Four hours before the HealthMap notice, New York epidemiologist Marjorie Pollack had already started working on her own public alert, spurred by a growing sense of dread after reading a personal email she received that evening.

“This is being passed around the internet here,” wrote her contact, who linked to a post on the Chinese social media forum Pincong. The post discussed a Wuhan health agency notice and read in part: “Unexplained pneumonia???”

Pollack, deputy editor of the volunteer-led Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, known as ProMed, quickly mobilized a team to look into it. ProMed’s more detailed report went out about 30 minutes after the terse HealthMap alert.

Early warning systems that scan social media, online news articles and government reports for signs of infectious disease outbreaks help inform global agencies such as the World Health Organization — giving international experts a head start when local bureaucratic hurdles and language barriers might otherwise get in the way.

Some systems, including ProMed, rely on human expertise. Others are partly or completely automated.

“These tools can help hold feet to the fire for government agencies,” said John Brownstein, who runs the HealthMap system as chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It forces people to be more open.”

The last 48 hours of 2019 were a critical time for understanding the new virus and its significance. Earlier on Dec. 30, Wuhan Central Hospital doctor Li Wenliang warned his former classmates about the virus in a social media group — a move that led local authorities to summon him for questioning several hours later.

Li, who died Feb. 7 after contracting the virus, told The New York Times that it would have been better if officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier. “There should be more openness and transparency,” he said.

ProMed reports are often incorporated into other outbreak warning systems. including those run by the World Health Organization, the Canadian government and the Toronto startup BlueDot. WHO also pools data from HealthMap and other sources.

Computer systems that scan online reports for information about disease outbreaks rely on natural language processing, the same branch of artificial intelligence that helps answer questions posed to a search engine or digital voice assistant.

But the algorithms can only be as effective as the data they are scouring, said Nita Madhav, CEO of San Francisco-based disease monitoring firm Metabiota, which first notified its clients about the outbreak in early January.

Madhav said that inconsistency in how different agencies report medical data can stymie algorithms. The text-scanning programs extract keywords from online text, but may fumble when organizations variously report new virus cases, cumulative virus cases, or new cases in a given time interval. The potential for confusion means there’s almost always still a person involved in reviewing the data.

“There’s still a bit of human in the loop,” Madhav said.

Andrew Beam, a Harvard University epidemiologist, said that scanning online reports for key words can help reveal trends, but the accuracy depends on the quality of the data. He also notes that these techniques aren’t so novel.

“There is an art to intelligently scraping web sites,” Beam said. “But it’s also Google’s core technology since the 1990s.”

Google itself started its own Flu Trends service to detect outbreaks in 2008 by looking for patterns in search queries about flu symptoms. Experts criticized it for overestimating flu prevalence. Google shut down the website in 2015 and handed its technology to nonprofit organizations such as HealthMap to use Google data to build their own models.

Google is now working with Brownstein’s team on a similar web-based approach for tracking the geographical spread of tick-borne Lyme disease.

Scientists are also using big data to model possible routes of early disease transmission.

In early January, Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and researcher at Toronto General Hospital, analyzed commercial flight data with BlueDot founder Kamran Khan to see which cities outside mainland China were most connected to Wuhan.

Wuhan stopped outbound commercial air travel in late January — but not before an estimated 5 million people had fled the city, as the Wuhan mayor later told reporters.

“We showed that the highest volume of flights from Wuhan were to Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong,” Bogoch said. “Lo and behold, a few days later we started to see cases pop up in these places.”

In 2016, the researchers used a similar approach to predict the spread of the Zika virus from Brazil to southern Florida.

Now that many governments have launched aggressive measures to curb disease transmission, it’s harder to build algorithms to predict what’s next, Bogoch said.

Artificial intelligence systems depend on vast amounts of prior data to train computers how to interpret new facts. But there are no close parallels to the way China is enforcing quarantine zones that impact hundreds of millions of people.

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Larson reported from Washington.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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China deaths rise to 490, Japan confirms 10 cases on ship

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BEIJING —
Deaths from a new virus rose to 490 in mainland China on Wednesday while new cases on a Japanese cruise ship, in Hong Kong and in other places showed the increasing spread of the outbreak and renewed attention toward containing it.

Ten people from the cruise ship tested positive and were taken to hospitals, while all 3,700 crew and passengers on the ship will be quarantined on board for up to 14 days, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. More tests are pending.

In Hong Kong, hospitals workers are striking to demand the border with mainland China be shut completely to ward off the virus, but four new cases without known travel to the mainland indicate the illness is spreading locally in the territory.

The growing caseload “indicates significant risk of community transmission” and could portend a “large-scale” outbreak, said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch at the Center for Health Protection.

Hospitals in Hong Kong said they had to cut some services due to striking workers’ absences. More than 7,000 joined the strike Tuesday, according to the Hospital Authority Employees’ Alliance, the strike organizer.

The territory’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, criticized the strike and said the government was doing all it could to limit the flow of people across the border. Almost all land and sea links have been closed, but the striking workers want it shut completely.

“Important services, critical operations have been affected,” Lam told reporters. “So I’m appealing to those who are taking part in this action: Let’s put the interests of the patients and the entire public health system above all other things.”

With the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, cut off by rail, air and road to try to contain the virus, the U.S. and other countries were organizing more evacuation flights for their citizens still in the central Chinese city.

The latest mainland China figures showed an increase of 65 deaths from the previous day, all the new deaths from Wuhan. The number of new cases increased to 24,324, a rise of 3,887 from the previous day. Outside mainland China, at least 180 cases have been confirmed, including two fatalities, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

To treat the thousands of patients, China rushed to build hospitals and converted a gymnasium, exhibition hall and cultural center in Wuhan.

Patients were being moved into a new, 1,000-bed hospital with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms. A 1,500-bed hospital also specially built opens in days. The hospitals made from converted public spaces to treat patients with mild symptoms have a total of 3,400 beds, the simple cots placed in tight rows in cavernous rooms without any barriers between them.

One man, Fang Bin, said he saw wards so crowded during a visit to the city’s No. 5 Hospital on Saturday that some patients were forced to sit on the ground.

“There are too many patients, it’s overcrowded,” Fang told The Associated Press. He said he was taken from his home and questioned by police after he posted a video of what he saw online.

The 10 cases confirmed on the Diamond Princess cruise ship raised Japan’s total to 33 cases. The 10 are a Filipino crew member and nine passengers, two Australians, three Japanese, three Hong Kongers and an American.

They were among 273 people tested because they had a cough or fever, which are symptoms of the virus, or had close contact with a man who got off the ship in Hong Kong and was infected.

Some tests are still pending. The transmission to each person isn’t clear, and the others may have gotten the virus when they got off the ship at other port calls in Vietnam, Taiwan, Kagoshima and Okinawa. The ship returned to Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday.

Thailand confirmed six more cases Tuesday, raising its total to 25. Two are motorcycle taxi drivers who had driven for Chinese tourists. Earlier a Thai taxi driver was also diagnosed with the virus. The cases are concerning because they suggest the virus can spread more easily between people than has been suspected.

South Korea raised its total to 18, with the new cases raising concern about the illness spreading from countries other than China. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a man who attended a business conference in Singapore met a Malaysian there who had the virus. Another case confirmed Wednesday was the daughter of a woman who got sick after traveling in Thailand.

Dr. David Heymann, who led the World Health Organization’s response to the SARS outbreak, said it’s too early to tell when the new coronavirus will peak, but that it appears to still be on the increase.

He said the spike in China’s recent caseload is partly because the tally was expanded to milder cases, not only people with pneumonia. It is not yet considered a pandemic, or worldwide outbreak, which WHO defines as sustained transmission in at least two world regions.

Heymann said as the new virus starts to spread beyond China, scientists will gain a better understanding of it. “What we will see is the clearer natural history of the disease,” he said, as those exposed to the virus “are being traced and watched very closely,” he said.

Nevertheless, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries outside China to share more data on infections, saying detailed information has been provided in only 38% of cases. “Without better data, it’s very hard for us to assess how the outbreak is evolving or what impact it could have and to ensure we’re providing the most appropriate recommendations.”

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Associated Press writer Alice Fung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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Casino execs: Clean up Atlantic City, no Showboat gambling

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Top executives of most of Atlantic City’s casinos say the city needs to become cleaner and safer, with a better public perception in order for business conditions to improve

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. —
Top executives of most of Atlantic City’s casinos say the city needs to become cleaner and safer, with a better public perception in order for business conditions to truly improve.

And they also oppose the return of gambling to the former Showboat casino, which currently operates as a non-gambling hotel but whose owner is moving forward plan to restore gambling there.

Executives from eight of the city’s nine casinos spoke Thursday at a panel sponsored by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce on challenges and opportunities facing the seaside gambling resort.

An early and recurring theme was the need to get rid of crime and blight from areas most tourists see, making them feel safer and creating a better imagine of Atlantic City that could help spur future investment.

“Our buildings can’t be surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes,” said Hard Rock President Joe Lupo. “The street lights need to work. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. The city needs to be in better shape. Go out and buy the biggest bulldozer the county has to offer, and you could probably make a lot of positive changes.”

The talk was remarkable in that it was the first sustained, nearly unanimous declaration by Atlantic City’s casino leadership of dissatisfaction with current conditions in the city, something they previously addressed only in passing, or in private. It follows harsh comments two weeks ago from Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, that Atlantic City “is going in the wrong direction” and is in worse shape than when his company bought the casino three years ago.

“We all agree we’re not pleased with where we are with the Tourism District,” said Resorts President Mark Giannantonio, speaking of an area encompassing the city’s downtown and casino areas. He said making a noticeable reduction in crime could bring a rapid increase of 20% to 30% in visitation to Atlantic City.

Steve Callender, a senior vice president with Tropicana’s parent company, Eldorado Gaming, complained about “three-foot potholes” near the entrance to his casino that have gone unrepaired.

“There’s still a lot of blight,” added Borgata President Marcus Glover. “You need to get some wins and get some earned media about the positive things happening in Atlantic City.

Ron Baumann, regional president of Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars, Bally’s and Harrah’s, said Atlantic City has not significantly improved in the last 10 years, despite “ample opportunity and money.” He said a state agency in charge of planning and development in Atlantic City, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, needs to focus more on helping solve societal problems.

Matt Doherty, the agency’s executive director, said it already works with two local social service agencies on such problems, adding the agency pays $3 million a year toward the cost of special police officers.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, who is leading opposition to a proposed change of government that would replace a directly elected mayor with an appointed city manager, called the criticism an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of the change.

“I’ve been mayor for a little over three months and we are doing a great job,” he said. “My administration is committed to safe and clean, and we’ve shown that in a big way.”

The government change proposal, which will be decided by voters on March 31 is backed by Resorts casino owner Morris Bailey, the head of Atlantic City’s main casino workers union, and a retired state senator.

The casino executives also blasted developer Bart Blatstein’s plan to restore casino gambling to the Showboat. The casino closed in 2014, and he reopened it as a non-gambling hotel.

On Tuesday, Blatstein sold the Playground pier complex back to Caesars Entertainment, from whom he bought it five years ago. Blatstein told The Associated Press the move frees him up to pursue the restoration of gambling at the Showboat.

But Baumann, whose company is regaining ownership of the pier from Blatstein, said “the Northeast market is saturated; the last thing Atlantic City needs is another casino.” He added that “it would be purely cannibalistic to do something along those lines.”

Lupo said that when gambling winnings from Hard Rock are excluded, Atlantic City’s slot and table games revenue for 2019 would have declined.

And Giannantonio added: “Resorts is totally against an additional casino. It would be a bad move. It will certainly cause cannibalization of the existing properties.”

Blatstein declined comment when told about the executives’ remarks. He has received preliminary approval from the state to seek a casino license, but no hearing dates have yet been set.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC



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Uber, Lyft confirm Phoenix airport business as usual for now

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Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft say they won’t change their service at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport until Arizona’s highest court rules on proposed fee increases to pick up and drop off customers

PHOENIX —
Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft say they won’t change their service at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport until Arizona’s highest court rules on proposed fee increases that prompted threats to stop picking up and dropping off customers at one of the nation’s largest airports.

Both companies issued statements Wednesday confirming operations will continue while they wait for the Arizona Supreme Court to rule. The court on March 26 will hear arguments to a challenge of a city ordinance that raised the companies’ fees by $4 for rides to and from the airport.

Uber and Lyft had threatened to stop providing airport services if the fees took effect Saturday as originally planned.

The Phoenix City Council approved the fees, arguing they were much like rent and landing fees charged to restaurants and airlines at Sky Harbor, which serves some 44 million passengers a year. It later decided to hold off until the high court weighed in.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has sought to overturn the ordinance, arguing it is “very likely” unconstitutional and probably violated a 2018 ballot measure prohibiting higher taxes on services.

Phoenix could lose its share of state revenue — a third of its general fund budget — if the fee hike is found to be illegal.

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Asia shares observe Wall Road larger amid commerce optimism

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Asian inventory markets have adopted Wall Road larger about optimism U.S.-Chinese language commerce relations are enhancing

NEW YORK —
Asian shares adopted Wall Road larger on Friday amid optimism U.S.-Chinese language commerce relations are enhancing.

Hong Kong’s benchmark rose 1.3% whereas Shanghai and Hong Kong additionally rose and Tokyo was unchanged.

Buyers welcomed President Donald Trump’s remark that an interim “Section 1” commerce deal was “getting executed.” Trump stated he and Chinese language President Xi Jinping would maintain a signing ceremony.

Markets have been inspired by optimistic feedback in regards to the settlement, although particulars have but to be launched.

Chinese language customs knowledge this week confirmed soybean imports rose in November in a attainable enhance to American farmers. Midwestern farm states had been battered by Beijing’s suspension of purchases of U.S. soybeans, the most important Chinese language import from the USA, in response to Trump’s tariff hikes in a struggle over China’s expertise ambitions and commerce surplus.

“Broadly threat sentiment is optimistic,” Mizuho Financial institution stated in a report.

Hong Kong’s Grasp Seng rose to 28,222.40 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8% to three,030.13. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was off Three factors at 23,921.97.

Seoul’s Kospi gained 0.3% to 2,204.03 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.3% to six,814.10.

Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore superior whereas New Zealand declined.

On Wall Road, the S&P 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Common reached new highs Thursday.

The S&P 500 rose 0.5% to three,239.91 and the Dow gained 0.4% to 28,621.39. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.8% to 9,022.39.

Buyers welcomed a report by Mastercard SpendingPulse that confirmed U.S. on-line Christmas purchasing rose 18.8% over a 12 months earlier.

Regardless of optimism a couple of U.S.-Chinese language commerce truce, merchants nonetheless are involved about greater unresolved disputes.

The approaching 12 months additionally has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 13 cents to $61.81 per barrel in digital buying and selling on the New York Mercantile Change. The contract added 57 cents on Thursday to shut at $61.88. Brent crude, used to cost worldwide oils, superior 6 cents to $66.82 per barrel in London. It rose 60 cents the earlier session to $66.76.

CURRENCY: The greenback weakened to 109.47 yen from Thursday’s 109.57 yen. The euro gained to $1.1121 from $1.1100.

Nonetheless, as merchants flip their consideration to 2020, fears in regards to the outlook for the worldwide economic system stay, as do issues over unresolved commerce points between Washington and Beijing. Subsequent 12 months additionally has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

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