Business Highlights


Apple’s next big challenge: Making Siri smarter

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple’s Siri made a big splash when it debuted on the iPhone five years ago, but it seems to be losing its edge as competitors advance their offerings.

On Monday, Apple is expected to demonstrate an upgrade to Siri’s smarts at its annual software conference. It’s a potentially momentous time for the company; sales of its flagship iPhone are slowing, and AI is emerging as a key tech battleground. And while Siri has gained new abilities over the years, some experts believe Apple still lags in behind in the AI race, hindered in part by its unwillingness to pry too deeply into your personal information.


US airlines to start scheduled flights to Cuba

HAVANA (AP) — Six airlines won permission Friday to resume scheduled commercial air service from the U.S. to Cuba for the first time in more than five decades.

The airlines — American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and Sun Country — were approved by the Department of Transportation for a total of 155 roundtrip flights per week.

U.S. law still prohibits tourist travel to Cuba, but a dozen other categories of travel are permitted. Most of the airline service is expected to begin this fall and early winter.


Gawker files for bankruptcy, to sell itself to Ziff Davis

NEW YORK (AP) — Gawker Media is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and putting itself up for sale, strained by a jury’s verdict that that it must pay $140 million to pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit.

The filing by the 14-year-old website follows the revelation that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit as what he called a “deterrent” to Gawker’s no-holds-barred style of journalism. Thiel’s role sparked anxiety over the possibility that more wealthy individuals might cow publications by covertly funding lawsuits against them.

Gawker says it plans to sell itself to publishing company Ziff Davis, although other bidders could emerge.


US stocks give up recent gains as oil prices sink

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks skidded Friday in a wave of selling that wiped out most of the market’s gains from earlier this week. A drop in oil prices took energy companies sharply lower. Investors were also troubled by a poll showing Britain may be more likely to leave the European Union.

Oil prices fell by the largest amount in two months, and banks slumped as bond yields fell for the second consecutive day, pulling interest rates lower. Machinery, technology and consumer stocks also lost ground. It was the market’s biggest loss in more than three weeks.


Tesla denies safety problems with Model S suspensions

DETROIT (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla Motors is denying allegations that there are safety problems with its vehicle suspensions.

The company says one of its cars had an abnormal amount of rust on a suspension part, a problem it hasn’t seen in any other car.

On Thursday, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it asked for information from owners and Tesla about Model S suspension failures. The agency has not opened a formal investigation.


Aerospace firm successfully tests solar-powered aircraft

CALVERTON, N.Y. (AP) — A test pilot successfully flew a solar-powered prototype aircraft on Friday for a company that envisions manufacturing a fleet of drones to provide aerial internet service for an estimated 4 billion people worldwide.

The test flight by Luminati Aerospace LLC took place at a former Northrop Grumman defence plant on eastern Long Island that once made military aircraft. The prototype aircraft allows for a pilot to control it, but eventually Luminati will build unmanned drones that can fly at 60,000 feet or more.


Auction of private meal with Buffett likely to draw big bids

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett has raised more than $20 million for a San Francisco homeless charity since 2000, and he’s about to add to that total by auctioning off a private lunch.

The weeklong eBay auction that began Sunday will wrap up Friday night. By midmorning Friday, the bidding reached more than $2.6 million, nearly $300,000 higher than last year’s winning bid.

The lunch auctions began after Buffett’s first wife, Susie, showed him the Glide Foundation, where she had been volunteering. Susie Buffett died in 2004, but the connection between Warren Buffett and Glide’s founders has endured.


The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 119.85 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 17,865.34. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank 19.41 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 2,096.07. The Nasdaq composite slid 64.07 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 4,894.55.

U.S. crude shed $1.49, or 2.9 per cent, to $49.07 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell $1.28, or 2.5 per cent, to $50.56 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline dropped 6 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Heating oil fell 4 cents to $1.52 a gallon. Natural gas lost 6 cents to $2.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.