Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Olive Garden seen through an unlimited pasta pass

NEW YORK (AP) — The "Never Ending Pasta Pass" card from Olive Garden not only promised weeks of unlimited pasta, but a look into why the chain is fighting to hold onto customers.

The Italian-themed chain sold the $100 card last month that allowed 1,000 people to dine on endless pasta, breadsticks, soup and salad for 49 days. The passes sold out in less than an hour, with some turning up on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

It was a successful publicity stunt for Olive Garden's parent company, Darden Restaurants. But the company's troubles aren't over: It's fighting to hold onto customers, with sales at its flagship chain declining for each of the past three years. On Friday, activist investor Starboard Value succeeded in its bid to replace all 12 of Darden's board seats with its own slate of nominees.


German downturn casts shadow over world economy

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — As if the global economy didn't have enough troubles, it looks like Germany, Europe's traditional growth engine, risks falling into recession — or growth so weak it holds back the entire euro currency union's weak recovery.

Europe's largest economy has seen a run of lousy numbers for factory orders, industrial production, exports and business confidence. All that's bad news because exporting industrial goods such as machines and cars is the heart of Germany's globally linked economy.

And if Germany isn't selling goods, it suggests other parts of the world's economy are not strong enough to keep buying them.

Global stock markets tumbled this week, in part due to the German figures, with the U.S. logging its worst day of the year on Thursday. Germany's DAX blue chip index was down a painful 2 percent on Friday.


Unequal Pay: Must be a lot of good karma out there

NEW YORK (AP) — Don't ask for a raise. Keeping quiet will give you "superpowers" that will translate into employer trust and other "good karma" that will eventually come back around to your purse.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was widely derided Thursday for his foot-in-mouth statement at an event celebrating women in computing. During his stage interview, Microsoft director Maria Klawe asked Nadella to give advice to women who want to advance their careers but are uncomfortable asking for promotions and raises. His pearl of wisdom? Just trust that the system will reward you "as you go along." He didn't say if he has employed that philosophy during his decades-long career at Microsoft. He later apologized.


Top finance officials grapple with weak growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Finance ministers from the world's largest economies say they are determined to prevent a slide into another global recession.

They are unveiling plans for a global initiative to build roads and other infrastructure projects to help boost world growth by $2 trillion over the next five years and create millions of jobs.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey says that the plan involves more than 900 individual projects with the potential to lift growth by 1.8 percent over the next five years. He says all the details will be revealed at a November summit.

The finance officials also grappled with more immediate threats of growth slowdowns in Europe, Latin America and China that roiled financial markets this week with concerns the economic recovery could be in danger of faltering.


Wary US candidates fear jobless debate

PERRY, Ga. (AP) — Candidates everywhere this election season are struggling for ways to frame the state of the economy, ranked by U.S. voters as the most important issue.

The result is a blame game that cuts in multiple directions depending on the contest. Even in states where rising unemployment might offer tempting targets, many candidates fear unintended consequences and political boomerangs if they delve too deeply into economic debates.

Democrats in Republican-run states worry that an emphasis on economic woes might reflect badly on Obama, and by extension, themselves. But Republicans in those same states often worry that highlighting a shaky economy will reflect badly on a governor from their party or Republican candidates for the Senate. Republicans need six more seats to control the upper chamber.


New once-a-day pill for hepatitis C wins FDA OK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials have approved a daily pill that can cure the most common form of hepatitis C without the grueling pill-and-injection cocktail long used to treat the virus.

But the drug's $1,125-per-pill price is sure to increase criticism of drugmaker Gilead Sciences, whose pricing strategy for an older hepatitis drug has already drawn scorn from patient groups, insurers and politicians worldwide.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it cleared Gilead's Harvoni combination pill for patients with genotype 1 of hepatitis C, a form of the liver-destroying virus that accounts for 70 percent of the estimated 3.2 million cases in the U.S. For the first time ever, those patients will not have to take a decades-old combination of antiviral pills and shots that causes flu-like side effects.


Billionaire: lawmaker 'selling out' Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Carl Icahn accused New Jersey's Senate president of "selling out" Atlantic City by considering casinos near New York City, while the legislative leader said the state wouldn't give the billionaire investor the tax breaks he is seeking.

Icahn responded Friday to stinging criticism by state Senate President Steven Sweeney and others about Icahn's role in a proposed bailout of the struggling Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. Icahn said he would give the casino $100 million, but only in return for union givebacks and tax credits.

Sweeney on Friday ruled out any state contribution to Trump Entertainment Resorts' proposed transfer to Icahn. That made it even more likely the Taj Mahal will close on Nov. 13, as Trump Entertainment has threatened to do.


Ebola screening measures rest on federal law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's authority to screen airline passengers for potential Ebola exposure and order them quarantined if necessary is far-reaching and rooted in the Constitution and federal law, public health experts say.

Temperature checks of passengers arriving from three West African countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak, along with other screening measures, will begin Saturday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and expand over the next week to four other major American airports.

The measures may seem intrusive but are legally permissible because of the government's broad authority in matters of public health and border control, experts say.


Bernanke says he was reluctant on AIG bailout

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke etched a portrait Friday of his initial reluctance to have the central bank rescue American International Group Inc. in 2008. But he ultimately came to believe the bailout loan to the company was needed to avert a shock to the financial system.

At the same time, Bernanke insisted he didn't agree with other government officials that AIG's dire financial state largely resulted from excessive risk-taking by management — a view that led them to punish the insurance giant with harsh loan terms.


Tesla's 'D' adds all-wheel drive, safety features

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveiled a new version of the luxury electric car maker's Model S sedan that includes all-wheel drive and self-driving "auto pilot" features.

The open-to-the-public event Thursday night included free alcohol and test rides on an airport tarmac.

With more than 1,000 Tesla fans in the audience, Musk explained that the current Model S is a rear-wheel-drive car with one motor, but a new version will have two motors — one powering the front wheels and one powering the rear wheels.

All-wheel drive helps grip slippery roads and is standard on many luxury sedans. Analysts have said Tesla needed it to boost sales in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Europe.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 115.15, or 0.7 percent, to 16,544.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 22.08, or 1.2 percent, to 1,906.13. The Nasdaq slid 102.10 points, or 2.3 percent, to 4,276.24.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 5 cents to close at $85.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 16 cents to close at $90.21 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.7 cents to close at $2.258 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2.3 cents to close at $2.560 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.4 cents to close at $3.859 per 1,000 cubic feet.