Business Highlights: Infrastructure Talks, Ransomware Gangs

·5-min read

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Paid in full? Biden, GOP struggle over infrastructure costs

WASHINGTON: Congressional negotiators and the White House appear open to striking a roughly $1 trillion deal on infrastructure, but they are struggling with the hard part deciding who will pay for it. As President Joe Biden jumps back into the talks this week, the question of where the money will come from looms large. And time is running short to solve it. Republicans are opposed to increasing taxes on corporations and the White House is opposed to letting the gas tax rise at the rate of inflation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the president wants to see progress in the coming days.

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Ransomware gangs get paid off as officials struggle for fix

BOSTON: The dilemma surrounding ransomware payments has left U.S. officials fumbling about how to respond to such demands. While the Biden administration strongly discourages paying, officials recognize that failing to pay would be almost self-destructive for some victims. In an initial step, bipartisan draft legislation would mandate immediate federal reporting of ransomware attacks. Doing so could assist response, help identify attackers and even recoup ransoms, as the FBI did with most of the $4.4 million that Colonial Pipeline recently paid. But without additional action soon, experts say ransomware payments will continue to skyrocket.

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Inflation ahead? Even a top economist says its complicated

WASHINGTON: Two months of sharply rising prices have raised concerns that record-high government financial aid and the Federal Reserves ultra-low interest rate policies when the economy is already surging have elevated the risk of accelerating inflation. In May, consumer prices rose 5% from a year earlier, the largest such year-over-year jump since 2008. Many economists see the recent spike as temporary. Others say they worry that higher consumer prices will persist. Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who was President Barack Obamas top economic adviser, thinks the reality is more complicated. He does, however, lean toward the higher-inflation-will-persist camp.

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Spielbergs Amblin to make several films a year for Netflix

NEW YORK: Steven Spielberg, a filmmaker synonymous with big-screen enchantment, has set a new deal with Netflix in which his production company, Amblin Partners, will make multiple feature films per year for the streaming giant. The partnership announced Monday is a major get for the company that, amid increasing competition, brings perhaps the most beloved film director more officially into the streaming fold. The deal doesnt specifically include any movies to be directed by Spielberg. In December, hell release his West Side Story in theaters. Amblin, which takes its name from a 1968 short by Spielberg, has helped produce a wide variety of non-Spielberg films, including 1917 and Green Book.

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Biden White House launches public push for child tax credit

WASHINGTON: The White House is working to raise awareness of the federal governments new expanded child tax credit. The credit will start paying out monthly in July to families with children who are 17 years old and younger. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a recreation center in Pittsburgh on Monday as part of a broader push for the program in partnership with churches, schools and other organizations. The administration has launched a website at childtaxcredit.gov with details for potential recipients. Families could receive payments ranging from $3,000 to $3,600 annually per child.

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Wall Street snaps back following worst week since February

NEW YORK: Stocks rebounded on Wall Street Monday and clawed back most of their sharp loss from last week. The S&P 500 snapped 1.4% higher as the initial jolt passed from the Federal Reserves reminder that it will eventually offer less help for markets. Oil producers, banks and other companies that were hit particularly hard last week made the biggest gains. High-growth tech stocks lagged. Shorter-term yields fell, and longer-term yields rose in another reversal from last weeks initial reaction to the Feds saying it may raise rates twice by late 2023.

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Chinese banks promise to step up cryptocurrency ban

BEIJING: Chinas biggest banks have promised to refuse to help customers trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies after the central bank said executives were told to step up enforcement of a government ban. Regulators appear to be worried that despite a 2013 ban on Chinese institutions handling cryptocurrencies, the state-run financial system might be exposed indirectly to risks. The four major state-owned banks and payment service Alipay promised to step up monitoring of customers and block use of their accounts to buy or trade crypto-currencies. Promoters of crypto-currencies say they allow anonymity and more flexibility, but Chinese regulators warn that might facilitate criminal activity.

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Facebook launches podcasts, live audio service

MENLO PARK, Calif: Facebook is launching podcasts and live audio streams in the U.S. to compete with emerging rivals. Facebook says it is allowing public figures with verified accounts to start live audio rooms and invite anyone else to speak. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has appeared on the video streaming app Clubhouse in the past, hosted his own live audio room on his Facebook page last week. But podcasts and live audio have also been an outlet for racism, misinformation and extremist material. Live audio is particularly difficult to moderate, compared with traditional social media posts. Facebook says its rules on abuse apply to live audio and podcasts and anyone can report offending material.

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The S&P 500 rose 58.34 points, or 1.4%, to 4,224.79. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 586.89 points, or 1.8%, to 33,876.97. The Nasdaq added 111.10 points, or 0.8%, to 14,141.48. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies advanced 48.35 points, or 2.2%, to 2,286.09.

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