Business Highlights: Google Fined, Holiday Business Quiet

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Russian court slaps Google, Meta with massive fines

MOSCOW (AP) – A Moscow court has fined Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta nearly $ 100 million of $ 27 million for their failure to remove content banned by local law. The Tagansky District Court ruled on Friday that Google had repeatedly neglected to remove banned content and ordered the company to pay a fine of 7.2 billion rubles ($ 98.4 million). Google said it would study the court documents before deciding on its next steps. Later on Friday, the court also fined Meta 1.9 billion rubles ($ 27.2 million) for failing to remove banned content. Russian authorities have stepped up pressure on tech companies this year, accusing them of failing to suppress calls for unauthorized protests in favor of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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Omicron is the latest blow to frontline workers tired by pandemic

BOSTON (AP) – The surge in coronavirus cases caused by the new omicron variant is the latest blow to hospitals, police departments, supermarkets and other critical operations struggling to maintain their workforce. COVID-19-related absences among London hospital workers tripled this month and nearly 10% of the city’s firefighters were sick. In New York City, about twice as many police officers took sick leave this week than normal. Countries like Spain have relaxed quarantine rules to allow more people to continue working. Some US states have called in the National Guard to help beef up understaffed hospitals.

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United States lifts omicron southern Africa travel ban

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries it has imposed in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the COVID omicron variant. The White House says the temporary travel bans have given scientists time to study the new variant of the virus first discovered in South Africa. The World Health Organization and Southern African leaders have criticized the travel ban as ineffective. The ban barred entry to all non-US citizens who were in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It will be lifted on New Year’s Day.

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Airlines Cancel Flights Due to COVID Staff Shortage

NEW YORK (AP) – Airlines are canceling hundreds of flights as the omicron variant has scrambled schedules and downsized some carriers during the busy holiday season. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said on Friday they had canceled flights due to understaffing related to the omicron variant, while other airlines say operations are proceeding normally. Flight delays and cancellations linked to staff shortages have been a regular problem for the U.S. airline industry this year as travel recovers. While some travelers have canceled vacation plans due to increased cases, many others have stayed on vacation during some of the busiest travel days of the year.

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China denounces US law on imports from Xinjiang

BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese government has denounced a US law that restricts imports from Xinjiang as a violation of international law and dismissed complaints of abuse against most Muslim minorities in the region as lies. President Joe Biden signed the measure amid growing tension, including calls from activists to boycott the February Winter Olympics in Beijing. It prohibits US companies from importing goods from Xinjiang unless it is proven that they were not manufactured by forced labor. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said the measure ignored the truth and interfered in China’s affairs. Foreign governments and researchers say more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities have been confined to camps in Xinjiang.

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The King of Spain calls for more caution in the face of the wave

Spain’s King Felipe VI has warned citizens to remain cautious as the coronavirus can still inflict widespread damage. His annual Christmas Eve speech came on Friday amid a record number of infections in the country. Health officials have reported three consecutive days of record number of cases and have reinstated mandatory masks in open spaces with a few exceptions. “We must all do our utmost not to reverse this health crisis which has caused so much suffering,” said Felipe.

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Stocks are mixed in global markets in calm holiday trading

BEIJING (AP) – Global stocks were mixed in calm trading on Friday, with many markets closed or ending early for Christmas. Shares fell in Paris and Tokyo, edged up in Seoul and Hong Kong, and remained virtually unchanged in London. Financial markets have taken their leave in the United States, Germany and many other countries. A day earlier, the Wall Street S&P 500 had set a record as fears faded over the impact of the omicron variant on the economy. Of course, much is still unclear about the omicron, which appears to be spreading extremely quickly. Several airlines canceled flights on Friday because many workers reported sick.

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