Business Highlights


Prying parents: Phone monitoring apps flourish in S. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lee Chang-june can be miles from his 12-year-old son but still know when he plays a smartphone game. With the press of an app he can see his son’s phone activity, disable apps or totally shut down the smartphone.

The app, “Smart Sheriff,” was funded by the South Korean government primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content online. But its features go well beyond that.

Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as “suicide,” ”pregnancy” and “bully” or receives messages with those words.


Latest self-driving Google car heading to public streets

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — The latest version of Google’s self-driving car — a pod-like two-seater that needs no gas pedal or steering wheel — will make its debut on public roads this summer, a significant step in the technology giant’s mission to have driverless cars available to consumers in the next five years.

This prototype is the first vehicle built from scratch for the purpose of self-driving, Google says. It looks like a Smart car with a shiny black bowler hat to hide its sensors, and it can drive, brake and recognize road hazards without human intervention. It has more capabilities than the prototype Google introduced last May, which was so rudimentary it had fake headlights


Confident Delta CEO predicts fewer flight delays this summer

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson leans back in his chair, smiles and explains why he’s so happy.

His airline cancels fewer flights than the competition, complaints are down and, most importantly, Delta is making record profits — despite a bad bet on oil prices.

In an industry that, until recently, was famous for its losses, it’s rare to hear a CEO speaking so optimistically about the future. But a wave of mergers has left four big U.S. airlines controlling the majority of flights and stopped the frequent fare wars that benefited fliers but devastated the airlines’ profitability.


US industrial output falls for 5th month on lower drilling

WASHINGTON (AP) — A plunge in energy-related drilling and sluggish manufacturing sent U.S. industrial output down for a fifth straight month in April.

Overall industrial production slid 0.3 per cent in April after a drop of the same size in March, the Federal Reserve said Friday. The figures suggest that weakness in manufacturing and mining is weighing heavily on the economy.

Oil and gas well drilling activity plunged 14.5 per cent last month, its fourth straight double-digit decline. Last year’s steep decline in oil prices, from about $110 a barrel to $50 in January, has forced energy firms to rapidly scale back operations.


Manufacturing in New York state up slightly in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — Factory activity in New York increased slightly in May, as manufacturers are beginning to adapt to the challenges caused by a stronger dollar, lower oil prices and restrained consumer spending.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that its Empire State manufacturing index rose to a plus 3.09 reading, up from a negative 1.19 reading in April.

The dollar has risen 17.5 per cent against the euro since June, in addition to climbing in value against the currencies of other major trade partners. The stronger dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive, cutting into sales.


Top 3 US airlines step up attack on Middle Eastern carriers

Leaders of the three largest U.S. airlines are stepping up their attack against Middle Eastern competitors that they say get unfair government subsidies.

The CEOs of American, Delta and United made a rare public appearance together Friday in Washington to detail their claims.

— American’s Doug Parker said Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have expanded service to the U.S. by 25 per cent since the dispute broke out in January. He accused them of rushing to expand before the U.S. government blocks new flights.

— United’s Jeff Smisek said U.S. airlines can compete against foreign rivals but not against the governments and energy riches of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.


Rulings require feds to consider carbon impact of coal mines

DENVER (AP) — Beset by power plant closures, growing regulatory scrutiny and proposed changes in how they pay royalties, coal mines are facing a new obstacle — a review of how coal extracted and burned will impact the air and global warming.

Under a series of rulings by U.S. judges in Denver over the last year, federal agencies that approve mining projects have been told to take into account coal’s indirect environmental impact along with traditional concerns about mine dust and equipment emissions.


Schumer: House Speaker Boehner ignorant about rail safety

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer accused House Speaker John Boehner of “massive ignorance” about rail safety on Friday and announced another push to get Congress to pay for train safety technology and infrastructure improvements in the wake of Amtrak’s deadly derailment.

Joined by his fellow rail safety advocate, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the New York Democrat lambasted his congressional colleagues and federal rail officials for delaying installation of an advanced electronic system for keeping trains from speeding, called positive train control, on the track where the accident occurred. They urged Congress to address Amtrak’s $21 billion state of good repair backlog and called for speedy installation of the new technology.


Emails show FBI privacy concerns about license-plate readers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in license-plate reader technology, but it halted a purchase order at least temporarily after lawyers raised privacy concerns about the surveillance three years ago, according to emails and other documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The heavily redacted emails provide a limited view into some of the internal discussions over the last decade about the technology, which relies on a network of cameras to capture and store data from vehicle license plates. They also indicate that the FBI sought to develop a policy governing its use.


Ride-hailing service Lyft says Icahn makes $100M investment

NEW YORK (AP) — Carl Icahn is joining the parade of investors in startups, hitching a $100 million ride with the ride-hailing service Lyft.

The billionaire activist investor is known for tangling with corporate boards, sometimes launching proxy fights and pushing companies to make big changes or sell themselves. He’s less well known for investing in startups, but that’s become one of the hottest areas in the market. Venture capitalists poured more than $48 billion into startups last year, the most since the dot-com bubble burst.

Icahn owns stakes in Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Hertz, Gannett and eBay, among many other publicly traded companies.


1,450 Blue Bell workers losing jobs after listeria problems

HOUSTON (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries will lay off more than a third of its workforce following a series of listeria illnesses linked to its ice cream that prompted a nationwide recall of all its products, the Texas company announced Friday.

The company, whose production plants remain closed, said 750 full-time employees and 700 part-time workers are losing their jobs. That represents about 37 per cent of its 3,900 employees.

Another 1,400 workers will be furloughed but will be still receive a substantial portion of their current pay. Employees essential to the ongoing cleanup and repair efforts will continue working but have their pay reduced, Blue Bell said.


Toys R Us says it will close FAO Schwarz store in July

NEW YORK (AP) — Toys R Us is closing its iconic FAO Schwarz store, citing the high and rising costs of running the retail space on New York City’s pricey Fifth Avenue.

The company said Friday it will close the 45,000-square-foot store July 15 and it is looking for another location in midtown Manhattan. FAO Schwarz says it is the oldest toy store in the U.S., as it has had a location in New York City since 1870. It moved to its current Fifth Avenue location in 1986.

The location features a candy store, numerous specialty toy departments spread across three levels, and personal shoppers. It has been featured in several movies, including “Big,” where Tom Hanks danced on its large floor piano.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.32 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 18,272.56. The S&P 500 index gained 1.63 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,122.73. The Nasdaq slipped 2.50 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,048.29.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 19 cents to close at $59.69 a barrel in New York. U.S. oil ended last week at $59.39 and the week before at $59.15. Brent crude for July delivery, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 11 cents to close at $66.81 in London. The June Brent contract expired Thursday at $66.59. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.1 cent to close at $2.057 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.1 cent to close at $2.005 a gallon. Natural gas rose 0.8 cents to close at $3.016 per 1,000 cubic feet.