Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

4 fed leaders face questions about their powerful jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Janet Yellen was put on the spot about whether she made a mistake in raising interest rates in December. Ben Bernanke was quizzed about what it felt like to be called a traitor by the governor of Texas.

Alan Greenspan was asked if he purposely sought to confuse Congress with his answers. And Paul Volcker was queried about being hung in effigy after he pushed interest rates to levels not seen since the Civil War.

The event was an unprecedented gathering of leaders of the Federal Reserve — past and present — to discuss what it feels like to hold what is considered the world's most powerful economic policy-making job. The four Fed leaders appeared Thursday evening at the event to launch a speaker's program honoring Volcker at the International House in New York, a residential dormitory for foreign students.


Big apple chill: Cold snap could nip fruit in the bud

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Apple farmers in the East worry the late-season Arctic blast could take a big bite from their budding crops.

"It definitely was cold enough so that there could be some catastrophic damage to the majority of the apple crop," said Jake Samascott, whose family grows about 100 acres of apples on their farm south of Albany.

The unseasonably cold air moved into Northeast and mid-Atlantic states this week shortly after a warm spell sped up bud growth on apple trees. Buds become more sensitive to cold as they mature, making the cold snap especially troubling in big apple-producing states such as New York. Farmers are starting to assess the damage this week with another round of plummeting temperatures looming.


US cites Chinese Internet filters as trade barrier

BEIJING (AP) — The American government has cited Chinese Internet controls as a trade barrier in a report that comes as Beijing tries to block its public from seeing news online about the finances of leaders' families.

Chinese filters, which block access to websites including the Google search engine and social media such as Twitter, are a "significant burden" on businesses, the U.S. Trade Representative said in an annual report on trade conditions.

It gave no indication Washington plans to take action but highlights the economic cost of pervasive Chinese censorship that also draws criticism from human rights and pro-democracy activists.


Brooklyn case takes front seat in Apple encryption fight

NEW YORK (AP) — The Justice Department said Friday it will continue trying to force Apple to reveal an iPhone's data in a New York drug case, putting the Brooklyn case at the center of a fight over whether a 227-year-old law gives wide authority to force a technology company to help it in criminal probes.

The government told U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie in Brooklyn that it still wants an order requiring Apple's cooperation in the drug case even though it recently dropped its fight to compel Apple to help it break into an iPhone used by a gunman in a December attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.


Senate bill draft would prohibit unbreakable encryption

WASHINGTON (AP) — A draft version of a Senate bill would effectively prohibit unbreakable encryption and require companies to help the government access data on a computer or mobile device with a warrant.

The draft is being finalized by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and the top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

Their goal, they said in a statement, is to ensure adherence to any court order that requires helping law enforcement or providing decrypted information. "No individual or company is above the law."

It was not immediately clear when they would introduce the bill.


Vietnam demands that China move oil rig

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam demanded Friday that China remove an oil exploration rig from an area of the South China Sea where their border is still being demarcated, and said Beijing's unilateral actions were complicating regional tensions.

The oil rig was at the center of a standoff between the countries in 2014 when China parked it near the Paracel islands, which Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone. The incident sparked deadly riots in Vietnam.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said China has moved the oil rig into an area in the Gulf of Tonkin where the countries are negotiating the demarcation of their sea border.


Catholic archdiocese vs. insurer in priest sex abuse cases

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford is taking its dispute with an insurance company to trial, seeking reimbursement of more than $1 million in payments made to settle sexual misconduct cases involving priests and minors.

The case is one of many around the country in which insurance companies have balked at paying claims related to lawsuits against church officials seeking to hold them responsible for sexual assaults of minors by clergy — accusations that in many instances date back decades and involve priests who have since died.

A key issue in the Connecticut case and others is whether insurance companies can deny claims under assault and battery exemptions in liability policies.


Hyundai recalls 173K Sonatas because of power steering issues

Hyundai is recalling 173,000 Sonata midsize cars in the U.S. because the power steering can fail, making them harder to steer and increasing the risk of a crash.

The recall covers Sonatas from the 2011 model year when the car was Hyundai's top-selling U.S. vehicle.

The company says in government documents that the computer circuit board in the power steering control unit can become damaged. If that happens, the cars would still have manual steering, but it would take more effort to turn the cars and could cause a wreck.


Starboard attempts a coup at Depomed

The activist investor Starboard Value is bringing its next boardroom coup attempt to Depomed, asking shareholders to replace all of the company's directors with those of its own choosing.

Starboard is nominating six people for the drugmaker's board and searching for another candidate for the seventh seat, accusing the current directors of being more concerned with entrenching themselves than improving shareholder value. Starboard, of New York, has acquired a nearly 10 percent stake in the Newark, California, company.


California State University faculty strike averted

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California State University officials and the union that represents campus faculty are scheduled to reveal the terms Friday of a salary agreement that averted an unprecedented strike at the 23 campuses that comprise the nation's largest public university system.

The California Faculty Association and Cal State officials said in a joint announcement Thursday that they had reached a tentative deal on the size of the pay increases 26,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches will receive for the current school year.


Tourism to France rose in 2015 despite Paris attacks

PARIS (AP) — The overall number of tourists visiting France in 2015 rose marginally compared to the year before, despite the two deadly attacks in Paris in January and November.

Government figures released Friday shows that 84.5 million tourists visited continental France, an increase of 0.9 percent compared to 2014.


The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,576.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,047.60. The Nasdaq composite index eked out a gain of 2.32 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,850.69.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.46, or 6.6 percent, to $39.72 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $2.51, or 6.4 percent, to $41.94 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 8 cents, or 6 percent, to $1.46 a gallon. Heating oil jumped 7 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $1.20 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 3 cents to $1.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.