Business Briefs – January 31, 2018

Health Care Just the Latest Industry Amazon Seeks to Upend

NEW YORK (AP) – When Amazon sets its sights on a new industry, Corporate America shudders. The latest example came Tuesday, when the online retailing giant said it was working with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to create a health care company to offer an “affordable” option to their employees. Stocks of health insurers tumbled, erasing billions of dollars in shareholder value. One expert says Amazon is feared because it grows businesses quickly and takes market share fast.

Judging by Algorithm: Using Risk Factors to Score Defendants

CLEVELAND (AP) – Instead of holding criminal defendants on cash bail, courts around the United States are increasingly using algorithmic risk-assessment tools to help judges decide if a defendant should be jailed or go free while awaiting trial. A model now used by New Jersey and other state and regional courts is the Public Safety Assessment, developed by the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It uses nine risk factors to evaluate a defendant, including age and past criminal convictions.

Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Twitter Over IS Attack

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that sought to hold Twitter liable for the deaths of two U.S. contractors in Jordan in an attack for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday the suit failed to establish that Twitter accounts used by IS directly caused the men’s deaths. Lloyd Fields and James Creach were shot and killed in Jordan in 2015 by a Jordanian police captain while training law enforcement officers.

Apple to Respond to U.S. Probes Into Slowdown of Old iPhones

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Apple is cooperating with U.S. government inquiries into its secret slowdown of older iPhones, further complicating its efforts to move past an issue that irked many customers whose devices bogged down. The company acknowledged the probes after media reports that both the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating how investors have been affected by Apple’s handling of the situation. Apple has already apologized to customers.

U.S. Appeals Court Gives Victory To Consumer Finance Agency

WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal appeals court has handed a victory to the government’s beleaguered consumer finance watchdog agency, ruling that its director’s power isn’t excessive and the president shouldn’t have freer rein to fire that person. The decision came Wednesday in the politically charged case involving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a keen target of conservative Republicans. The nine-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, with three judges dissenting, overturned a 2016 ruling by a smaller panel that would have made it easier for President Donald Trump to fire then-CFPB director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee.

Insurance Claims From California Wildfires Near $12 Billion

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Insurance claims from last fall’s deadly California wildfires have reached $11.8 billion, making it the most expensive series of wildfires in state history, an official said Wednesday.

The staggering number exceeds the total insurance claims from the top 10 previously most costly wildfires in California.

Until last year, California’s most expensive single fire was the 1991 Oakland Hills fire that prompted $2.7 billion in claims in today’s dollars, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute.

If treated as one disaster, the combined fires in October and December 2017 “represent one of the most damaging natural catastrophes in California history,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said at a news conference in Los Angeles.