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    Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping

    NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it’s not doing it alone. Walmart is working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The move illustrates how serious Walmart is about being competitive in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices.

    ___ Trump bashes NAFTA in midst of talks to revamp trade deal WASHINGTON (AP) — Just a week into talks to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump is already threatening to abandon the 23-year-old pact with Canada and Mexico. At a high-profile campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump predicted […]
  • State says loan company mismanaged debt-forgiveness program

    BOSTON (AP) — One of the nation’s largest student-loan companies is accused of mismanaging programs that offer debt forgiveness to public servants.

    A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says problems at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency have caused financial harm to many teachers and other public servants.

    The agency oversees a federal program that forgives remaining student loans for public servants after they make 120 qualifying monthly payments. Healey says processing delays at the agency have prevented borrowers from making payments and set them back on their path toward forgiveness.

    The lawsuit also says a problem in the billing system overcharged tens of thousands of students nationwide. A statement from the agency says it “does not agree with the allegations” but is committed to resolving any problems. Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Former detective pleads guilty in tax-refund scheme

    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A former Tampa police detective faces up to 10 years in prison for her part in a tax-refund scheme.

    A U.S. attorney’s office news release says 51-year-old LaJoyce Houston pleaded guilty Wednesday to receiving stolen government property. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.

    Authorities say Houston received goods, services, money orders and cash from debit cards loaded with fraudulently obtained tax refunds in 2011 and 2012. The accounts connected to these debit cards contained more than $284,000 in fraudulent refunds. Payments to Houston came from Rita Girven, who was sentenced in 2015 to 12 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

    Houston’s husband, former Tampa detective Eric Houston, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen government property in March. His sentencing is set for Oct. 25. Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Judge allows money laundering charges against Backpage execs

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California prosecutors can bring money laundering charges against the creators of a website that prosecutors label an online brothel, a judge ruled Wednesday. But he dismissed other charges months after another judge threw out the entire case as violating free speech and federal protections.

    Prosecutors filed new and expanded charges against Backpage.com chief executive Carl Ferrer and website founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin this spring. The three pleaded not guilty after the judge allowed the money laundering charges.

    Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown also dismissed 15 pimping conspiracy and other charges against Backpage.com’s operators. He ruled that those charges relate to their publishing of sex-related advertisements and cannot be filed because of a federal law protecting free speech that grants immunity to websites that post content created by others. Brown sided […]
  • The Latest: Lawmakers debate ability to question regulators

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on the abandonment of a nuclear power project in South Carolina (all times local):

    5 p.m.

    Legislators ended a hearing on the failure of a nuclear power project in South Carolina debating whether they could legally ask state regulators about their role in the debacle.

    A House panel adjourned Wednesday after House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford argued the law legislators passed in 2007 to encourage nuclear construction bars the regulators from discussing rulings that may impact future decisions.

    The Public Service Commission approved in 2009 SCE&G’s application to expand V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, as well as all nine of the utility’s rate hikes since then. SCE&G wants the same regulators to allow them to recoup billions more from customers. The panel heard earlier Wednesday the decade-old law continually put the utility’s interests above […]
  • Lowe’s and Stryker fall while Express and Wal-Mart rise

    NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily on Wednesday:

    Lowe’s Cos., down $2.81 to $73.01

    The home improvement retailer fell short of expectations in the second quarter and gave a weak profit forecast.

    Cree Inc., down 82 cents to $22.21

    The energy efficient lighting maker disclosed a smaller-than-expected profit and its forecast was lower than expected.

    La-Z-Boy Inc., down $6.30 to $24.95

    The furniture company had a weak fiscal first quarter as its upholstery manufacturing business struggled. Express Inc., up $1.07 to $6.56 The retailer reported better second-quarter results than analysts expected. Salesforce.com Inc., up 12 cents to $93.07 The customer-management software company posted solid quarterly results and its forecasts pleased investors. Western Digital Corp., up $1.66 […]
  • How major US stock market indexes fared Wednesday

    Stocks retreated on Wednesday and gave back some of their gains from a day earlier, when the Standard & Poor’s 500 index had one of its best days of the year.

    Advertising companies and retailers had some of the steepest drops on worries about their earnings, while prices for Treasury bonds and gold rose modestly as investors sought safer ground. It’s the latest move lower for a stock market that’s yo-yoed since setting a record high earlier this month.

    On Wednesday: The S&P 500 fell 8.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,444.04. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 87.80 points, or 0.4 percent, to 21,812.09. The Nasdaq composite lost 19.07, or 0.3 percent, to 6,278.41. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 1.80, or 0.1 percent, to 1,369.74. For the week: The S&P […]
  • McConnell says he and Trump are united on ‘shared goals’

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he and President Donald Trump are in regular contact about “shared goals” and working together to advance them. He says people suggesting otherwise are “clearly not part of the conversation.”

    McConnell says priorities include tax overhaul, spending and other bills.

    The Kentucky Republican released the statement Wednesday during a rocky period between the two leaders.

    Trump has criticized McConnell for the Senate’s rejection of the GOP push to repeal President Barack Obama’s health law. He suggested McConnell might need to step aside as leader if he can’t push top bills through the chamber. People familiar with McConnell’s thinking say he’s privately expressed dismay over Trump’s failure to clearly criticize Nazis […]
  • Woman says stranger’s ashes in father’s urn, sues for $2.5M

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A woman is suing an Oregon cremation company for $2.5 million, claiming it gave her the remains of a stranger instead of her deceased father.

    Kimberly Grecco, 53, discovered the remains were her not her father’s as she prepared to spread the ashes on Father’s Day last year, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (http://bit.ly/2xtnN0l ) Tuesday.

    Grecco, of Portland, said she opened the box from Crown Memorial Center and found a tag indicating the remains belonged to someone else, according to the lawsuit.

    She is suing Cascade Funeral Directors Inc., which does business as Crown Memorial Center as well as Cascade Cremation Center, and its president, Randy Tjaden. “People might think it’s just some ashes,” Grecco said. “But that’s my daddy. That’s my father.” The company previously assumed responsibility for the blunder and was reprimanded by a state […]
  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 file photo, a man transports eggs at a processing plant in Gaesti, southern Romania. The Dutch government appointed a former justice minister Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, to lead an investigation into the illegal use of a pesticide to treat laying hens for lice infestations, which sparked a food scare in Europe and beyond and led to the destruction of millions of eggs. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    Former Dutch government minister to lead tainted egg probe

    THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A former Dutch justice minister was appointed Wednesday to lead an investigation into the illegal use of a pesticide on laying hens, which sparked a food scare in Europe and beyond and led to the destruction of millions of eggs.

    According to a government-commissioned report, the estimated direct economic cost of the scandal to affected Dutch egg farmers was around 33 million euros ($39 million), due to sales bans and measures to clean up contaminated farms.

    The true cost is likely much higher. The report did not gauge the economic impact of indirect consequences such as the damaged reputations of farmers whose eggs were found to be tainted with the pesticide Fipronil and those with unaffected farms. Some supermarkets in Germany — the biggest export market for eggs from the Netherlands […]
  • Attorney: Failed nuclear project shortchanged ratepayers

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An attorney representing South Carolina’s major industries says ratepayers have repeatedly been shortchanged by a decade-old state law encouraging nuclear power construction, but state regulators can reject a utility’s efforts to recoup billions more from residents for two now-abandoned nuclear reactors.

    Scott Elliott with the South Carolina Energy Users Committee told legislators Wednesday that SCE&G’s initial 2008 application to expand V.C. Summer Nuclear Station was approved without a true construction schedule, and the law made the nine requested rate hikes since nearly automatic.

    While that law allows utilities to recoup money for never-completed nuclear projects, Elliott argues SCE&G isn’t entitled to recoup $5 billion in debt because the project was not on schedule or budget when construction stopped. Legislators say they want to change a system built to fail customers. Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. […]
  • In this Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 photo, stacks of hay donated to help farmers and ranchers affected by drought point skyward at a collection site on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D. The North Dakota Agriculture Department says it has received more than 900 applications for hay from producers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. About 82 percent of North Dakota, 76 percent of South Dakota and 70 percent of Montana are in some stage of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

    Getting drought-relief hay to Northern Plains no easy task

    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Farmers around the country are donating tons of hay for ranchers whose livestock are suffering from the drought in the Northern Plains, but the officials and groups lining up the aid aren’t finding it easy getting the feed to the region.

    North Dakota’s Agriculture Department has issued a plea for truckers to help haul donated hay hundreds of miles from other states for a hay lottery program, while an effort in the eastern U.S. started by a tractor pulling team is seeking thousands of dollars to pay for fuel.

    About a dozen semitrailer loads of hay have been donated through the effort spearheaded by Tom Bedgar, a Pennsylvania man who farms, hauls grain and runs the competitive tractor Patriot Pulling Team. Some of the hay has been hauled to North Dakota — at a cost of $1,000 per load in fuel and tolls — […]
  • FILE - In this June. 21, 2011, file photo, former U.S. CIA Operations Officer, Valerie Plame Wilson arrives for the UK film premiere of Countdown to Zero in London. Wilson launched an online fundraiser on Aug. 18, 2017, looking to crowdfund enough money to buy Twitter so President Donald Trump can't use it. (AP Photo/Jonathan Short, File)

    Former CIA agent wants to buy Twitter to kick Trump off

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Former undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson is looking to crowdfund enough money to buy Twitter so President Donald Trump can’t use it.

    Wilson launched the fundraiser last week, tweeting: “If @Twitter executives won’t shut down Trump’s violence and hate, then it’s up to us. #BuyTwitter #BanTrump.” The GoFundMe page for the fundraiser says Trump’s tweets “damage the country and put people in harm’s way.”

    As of Wednesday morning, she had raised less than $6,000 of her $1 billion goal. In an emailed statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the low total shows that the American people like the president’s use of Twitter. “Her ridiculous attempt to shut down his first amendment is the only clear violation […]
  • President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd while speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Trump bashes NAFTA in midst of talks to revamp trade deal

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Just a week into talks to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump is already threatening to abandon the 23-year-old pact with Canada and Mexico.

    At a high-profile campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump predicted that the United States would “end up probably terminating” NAFTA “at some point,” though he said he hadn’t made a final decision.

    “Personally,” Trump said, “I don’t think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of.” The president had made the same threat in April but then reversed himself after a pushback from American businesses, especially farm groups, which have benefited from expanded access to the Mexican market resulting from NAFTA. […]
  • Erosion gnaws away shoreline at Waikiki beach

    HONOLULU (AP) — State and city officials are hoping to get together with Waikiki business owners and the surfing community to brainstorm ways to fix a serious beach erosion problem.

    In 2012, the state took two concrete erosion barriers off of Waikiki beach because they were falling apart. But ever since then, the shore has been eroding to the point where water is now turning brown.

    “It’s ugly,” said Sabrina Kim, who was visiting the beach from California. “It’s not what you really expect when you come to Hawaii. You want to see sand.”

    Officials have been using temporary fixes, such as placing old carpets by the shoreline to help prevent the dirt from going into the ocean. But one long-term idea officials are considering is a sandbag barrier, KHON-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2wxR2CX ) Monday. It would take about six months to get permission and install the sandbags because talks […]