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Federal Lands Transfer

Trump sweep of GOP field deflates federal land transfer push

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Donald Trump’s apparent lock on the Republican presidential nomination means advocates of large-scale transfers of federal lands to states in the West likely won’t find support in the White House regardless of who wins election this November. Neither Trump nor Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor the wholesale transfers of federal lands, according to advisers and the candidates’ prior statements. However, chief policy adviser Sam Clovis said Trump does want to see policy changes that give states and local governments more say in land management. “All of us involved in the campaign believe in conserving the property,” Clovis said. “But there are also uses for the property that can benefit all concerned and benefit the common good, which is essentially what we need to do.” Trump supports “shared governance” of federal lands between federal agencies and state and local governments in many circumstances, Clovis said. Under such management, he said state and local government would benefit from better access to minerals on federal lands and would retain revenues coming off the properties above what’s required for maintenance of the land. “The whole federal land issue is one where we can preserve the sportsmen’s access to that land, we can preserve grazing land, and at the same time we can get to a shared governance structure on other aspects of that where state and local governments can benefit from access to minerals, from access to other things,” Clovis said. In instances where growing cities are hemmed in by federal lands, Clovis said Trump supports easing the transfer of federal lands to state and local governments to allow development. Trump supports the transfer to local and state government when it is appropriate and when proper stewardship is guaranteed, Clovis said, adding “Congress needs to get on board with that.” Clinton and Sanders, meanwhile, are both on-record opposing transfers of federal lands to the states. “We need to preserve existing public lands and add more public lands,” Clinton said at a press conference last fall in Nevada. “But we certainly should not be giving in to this ideological argument from the right that we need to put more public lands in private hands. I don’t agree with that.” According to a recent federal report, the federal government owns nearly 47 percent of the combined land mass in 11 Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In Alaska, the federal government owns over 60 percent. Among the remaining states, federal ownership stands at just 4 percent. Supporters of transferring federal lands to states would give local officials who know the most about the land control over management decisions. And they say it would create better conditions for economic development. The issue turned violent earlier this year when activists upset by federal land policy and the imprisonment of two ranchers staged an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. One of the activists was killed by law enforcement and others are facing criminal charges. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a leading opponent of the land-transfer movement, said culturally conservative groups such as hunters and anglers increasingly are rallying against the idea. Transferring federal lands to states would threaten public access that those sportsmen rely on, the New Mexico Democrat said. “It really is a bait-and-switch when you think about how many millions of acres a lot of these state lands offices have sold off over the years,” Heinrich said.

Economy

US employers added 160K jobs in April; jobless rate 5 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers pulled back on hiring in April, adding 160,000 jobs, the fewest in seven months, after a streak of robust monthly gains. The unemployment rate remained at a low 5 percent, roughly where it has been since fall. Last month’s hiring gain marked a drop from the average increase of 200,000 over the past three months. Weak U.S. economic growth may be making some employers more cautious about hiring. Still, the government’s report Friday pointed to a U.S. job market that continues to generate steady hiring and to outperform those of most other major countries. Worker pay also showed signs of picking up. Average hourly pay rose 2.5 percent in April from a year earlier, above the sluggish 2 percent annual pace that has been typical for the past six years. Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at the accounting and advisory firm CohnReznick, suggested that April’s slower job growth reflects the broader slump in economic growth. The U.S. economy expanded at just a 1 percent annual rate over the past six months. “It’s not going to set off cheers or jeers,” O’Keefe said of the jobs report. The proportion of adults who either have a job or are looking for one declined in April after four months of increases. The increase in job seekers had been a positive sign because it suggested that many Americans became optimistic enough to resume looking for work amid signs of stronger hiring. The slowdown in economic growth in the United States and overseas has led to volatility in financial markets and complicated the Federal Reserve’s plans to gradually raise interest rates. Fed policymakers have signaled that they could raise rates twice this year. But a hiring slump, if sustained, could disrupt those plans. “By adding to signs that economic weakness is lingering into the second quarter, these disappointing numbers greatly reduce the likelihood of the Fed hiking rates this side of the presidential election,” Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, wrote in a research note. In its report Friday, the government also slightly revised down its estimate of job growth for February and March by a combined 19,000, although each month’s gain remained at a healthy level above 200,000. April’s slower job growth might not signal a sustained pullback. Hiring slumped as recently as January only to snap back in the following months. Across industries, job growth fell sharply last month in retail, construction and governments, and remained weak in manufacturing. Retailers shed 3,100 jobs, down from an average gain of 52,500 in the first three months of the year. Unseasonably cool weather in the Northeast may have delayed shopping for summer clothes, causing stores to cut workers. Construction job gains slipped to 1,000 from an average of 24,000, and governments shed 11,000 after adding a monthly average of 16,000 in the first quarter. Manufacturing added a slight 4,000 jobs, after two months of cutbacks. Job growth in higher-paid industries, such as management consulting and computer systems, picked up from March. Gains in education and health care remained steady, climbing 54,000 last month, above its three-month average of 49,000. The U.S. job market is still outperforming many of its counterparts overseas. The unemployment rate in the 19 European nations that share the euro currency is more than twice the U.S. rate at 10.3 percent. Some of those countries are faring better, though: Unemployment rates in Germany and the Czech Republic are both below the U.S. rate. Japan’s economy contracted in the final quarter of last year, though its jobless rate is also below the United States‘. China’s economy grew 6.9 percent last year, its slowest pace in a quarter-century. But it expanded 6.7 percent from a year ago in the first quarter. In recent months, slower economies overseas and a stronger dollar have cut into U.S. exports of factory goods. Low oil and gas prices have also caused energy companies to sharply curtail the construction of new rigs, lowering overall business spending. Consumers have also been cautious. Despite job growth and lower gas prices, many people have stepped up their savings rather than their spending. Still, there are some signs that the economy could be improving. Auto sales picked up in March, suggesting that Americans are still willing to make large purchases. And a private survey found that services firms, which include retailers and restaurants as well as professional services such as engineering, expanded in April at the fastest pace this year.

APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street-1

Stock market shakes off an early loss and turns higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were turning modestly higher in afternoon trading Friday, after the U.S. government’s disappointing jobs report added to speculation that the Federal Reserve might keep interest rates low for another year. Investors were also weighing tepid U.S. earnings reports and persistent weakness in the global economy. TAKING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,738 as of 2:40 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.31 points, or 0.3 percent, 2,055 and the Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,728. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: The Labor Department said employers created just 160,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate remained steady at 5 percent. The amount of job creation was significantly below the 200,000 jobs that economists were expecting. While one month does not make a trend, there have been a few economic reports this week from across the globe that have shown signs of a slowdown last month. A closely watched Chinese manufacturing survey showed production contracted last month and European Union officials trimmed their forecasts for growth across the 19 countries that use the euro. ANALYST’S TAKE: “Once again, we received evidence that the U.S. economy is just bumbling along and will most likely remain so until after the U.S. presidential election,” said Tom di Galoma, a managing director of fixed income at Seaport Global. Di Galoma added that the April jobs report significantly reduces the possibility that the Federal Reserve will interest rates in June or even later this year. “In my view, a rate hike potential this year is nearing zero probability.” That view appears to be widely held. Fed fund futures, which are securities that allow traders to bet on which way the Fed will move interest rates, show that a majority of investors do not expect the Fed to raise rates until February 2017. CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE: Payment processing company Square dropped $2.54, or 20 percent, to $10.51. The company, run by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, reported a larger than expected quarterly loss and saw its expenses climb sharply in the quarter. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 34 cents to close at $44.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 36 cents to close at $45.37 a barrel in London. BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.75 percent. The euro rose to $1.1424 from $1.1398 and the dollar declined to 106.70 yen from 107.25 yen. METALS: Gold rose $21.70 to $1,294 an ounce, silver rose 20 cents to $17.53 an ounce and copper was unchanged at $2.15 a pound.

Hong Kong Gucci Afterlife Warning

Gucci sorry for warning to Hong Kong funeral offering shops

HONG KONG (AP) — Gucci and its parent company apologized Friday after drawing heavy criticism for warning some Hong Kong shops not to sell paper offerings for the deceased that resembled the fashion brand’s luxury products. The brand and its Paris-based owner, Kering, also said in a statement that they regretted any misunderstanding caused by the letters, which were sent to six shops last month. After meeting with the shop owners, “Kering and Gucci would like to reiterate their utmost respect with regards to the funeral context,” the statement said. In Hong Kong and some other parts of Asia, people burn paper offerings at funerals and during grave-sweeping festivals for deceased relatives to “use” in the afterlife. Specialty shops near funeral parlors sell a diverse array of paper offerings, including bundles of “hell money,” mansions, iPhones, cars, cigarettes and designer handbags, cans of beer and soda, mahjong tables and dogs and cats. The letters, which were sent as part of the companies’ global intellectual property protection efforts, did not suggest legal action or compensation because they did not believe the shop owners intended to infringe on the Gucci trademark, the statement said. Gucci operates 11 boutiques in Hong Kong and is one of the brands most coveted by shoppers, including many visiting from mainland China, where luxury goods are more expensive because of higher taxes.

National Business

Financial Markets Wall Street

Asian shares lower ahead of closely watched US jobs report

TOKYO (AP) — Asian markets were mostly lower in nervous trading Friday ahead of a closely watched U.S. jobs-report that may influence interest rate decisions and the value of the U.S. dollar. KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged down 0.8 percent to 16,014.19 as Tokyo resumed trading after the three-day “Golden Week” national holidays. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,349.50, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 1 percent to 20,247.21. The Shanghai Composite inched down 0.1 percent to 2,995.01. Markets were closed in South Korea for a national holiday. WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.45 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,660.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.49 of a point, less than 0.1 percent, to 2,050.63 and the Nasdaq composite lost 8.55 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,717.09. U.S. JOBS: The market’s focus is turning to the U.S. jobs report for April due out later in the day. Investors are watching to see if it might affect the Federal Reserve’s plans for raising interest rates at its next policy meeting in June. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent. THE QUOTE: “The key theme this week has been that the U.S. dollar managed to hold on to its gains across major currencies,” said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader & institutional sales at CMC Markets Singapore of the U.S. dollar. “The biggest question is how the U.S. dollar will perform tonight in light of the U.S. non-farm payrolls announcement.” ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 8 cents to $44.24 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 54 cents on Thursday to $44.32 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 3 cents at $44.98 a barrel in London. CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.1405 from $1.1490 and the dollar rose to 107.13 yen from 107.10 yen. Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

Clean Energy Dominance

GOP states benefiting from shift to wind and solar energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — If there’s a War on Coal, it’s increasingly clear which side is winning. Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing. It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year. And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy. Leading the way in new wind projects are GOP strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, home to some of the leading critics of climate science and renewable energy incentives in Congress. Republican-dominated North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms, thanks largely to pro-renewables polices enacted years ago under a Democratic legislature. The most dramatic change has been seen in the plummeting cost of emissions-free wind energy, which has declined by two-thirds in the last six years thanks to the availability of cheaper, more efficient turbines. An annual analysis by the investment firm Lazard determined that wind energy is now the lowest-cost energy source, even before federal green-energy tax incentives are factored in. “We are entering the era of renewables,” former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday at the Climate Action 2016 conference in Washington. “It’s a very exciting new reality.” Billions of dollars in private equity are going to construct massive new renewables projects, especially in the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines are also under construction to send power from the wind and sun from the sparsely populated areas where it is collected to the urban centers where it’s needed. Even with the surge in new projects, energy from such renewable sources as wind, solar and water accounted for only about a tenth of total U.S. power generation last year. Still, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy with about 48,800 utility-scale turbines operating across the country, generating enough electricity to power about 20 million homes. By 2030, the Energy Department estimates wind will provide a fifth of the nation’s electricity. “Wind energy is very low-cost and not subject to the fuel price risk that both natural gas and coal face,” said Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. “Adding wind is cheaper than new gas or new coal. It is by far the lowest-cost resource.” Coal has dropped over the last decade from providing half of all U.S. electricity to about one-third. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, last month joined a growing list of major mining firms forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Wall Street appears to also be writing coal’s financial obituary. JPMorgan Chase recently announced it will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants, following similar announcements from other big banks. While new clean-air regulations and tax incentives for renewables are having a negative impact on coal, the plummeting cost of cleaner-burning natural gas made possible by fracking is largely driving the closure of many old coal-fired power plants. Exports of coal to foreign customers such as China also are down. “We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry trade group. Meanwhile, the long-promised potential of Clean Coal technology has yet to be realized. A model power plant in Mississippi designed to capture the carbon dioxide generated from burning coal has encountered repeated delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns. Closures mean America’s coal mines now employ about only about 56,700 people, down from a peak of more than 10 times that. By contrast, the fast-growing solar industry now employs more than 210,000 workers. Wind energy accounts for another 77,000 by federal estimates. Political giving by the big coal companies and their executives has declined, but the industry still spends heavily to protect its interests in Washington. Pro-coal interests spent at least $11 million to influence the 2014 Congressional midterm elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of that went to support Republican candidates. Among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for killing mining jobs. Nearly all of the 27 states that have sued to stop the administration’s carbon emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan have GOP governors. For Republicans from areas benefiting from renewable energy, the political calculus can be complicated. An increasing number of them try to balance criticizing Obama’s environmental efforts with quietly supporting the federal tax incentives helping drive investment in renewables. GOP leaders compromised with Democrats and a growing number of pro-renewables Republicans to include a five-year extension of tax breaks for wind and solar projects as part of a federal budget agreement approved in December. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among the earliest boosters of government support for wind power, points out that fossil fuels and nuclear plants have long benefited from tax credits. Last month, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest another $3.6 billion to add new turbines in Iowa, which already gets about a third of its electricity from the wind. “We’ve seen the economic success story behind renewables up close and personal,” Grassley said as the new project was announced. “There are more than 6,000 good wind jobs in Iowa.” Follow Michael Biesecker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mbieseck and find his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/michael-biesecker

Remote Development Fraud Investors

Foreign investors in fizzled development are at wit's end

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Foreigners who had been banking on their investments in a biomedical research facility and a hotel and rental cottage project in Vermont to get green cards are scrambling to find a backup now that the project’s developers are accused of misusing hundreds of millions of dollars in what investigators called a “massive eight-year fraud scheme.” Wei Wang and his wife, who are from Beijing and living in Houston after graduate school, had hoped their investment of more than a half-million dollars would lead them down the road to starting a restaurant. “We were doing our business plans for the restaurant when this came up, so we have to change everything,” Wang said. “It’s hard to accept that we may lose all of our almost 600K.” Wang said he recently contacted about 30 other Chinese investors, of the 166 foreigners who chipped in a total of about $83 million in the biomedical research project, to see if they might be able to work together to protect their immigration status and money. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Vermont last month accused Ariel Quiros — owner of Jay Peak, a large ski resort in the state — and the resort’s president of misusing in “Ponzi-like fashion” more than half of nearly $400 million raised from foreign investors for developments through a special visa program. The EB-5 program offers foreign investors a chance at residency for investments in projects that create jobs. Quiros also is accused in the civil complaints of “pilfering” $50 million of investor funds for his personal use, including to buy the Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts, a Trump Place luxury condo in New York, and to pay personal income taxes. Both Quiros and Jay Peak president Bill Stenger have said they will be cleared of wrongdoing. The case is one of several around the country in which the EB-5 program was allegedly used to defraud hundreds of investors out of tens of millions of dollars. One investor filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday in Miami, where Quiros is based, against Quiros, Stenger, the Raymond James financial firm and Quiros’ then-son-in-law, who was working at the firm. The lawsuit seeks to recover funds the investor says were misused, commingled and stolen. The status of investor funds related to the litigation ultimately will be decided by the courts, the state of Vermont said. The federal receiver overseeing the projects amid the fraud allegations said he is attempting to protect both the investors’ immigration status and the investments. Five of the eight projects connected to Quiros and Stenger have been completed and are operating, including the Jay Peak Hotel, indoor water park, ice arena and golf course; the Jay Peak Golf and Mountain Suites; and the Jay Peak Lodge and Townhouses. But the biomedical research plant, which was expected to bring 450 jobs, is unlikely to happen, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said last month. Federal receiver Michael Goldberg expects both Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts, including a new hotel at Burke that has not yet opened, to be sold. Mirna Alcalay, whose husband, Antonio Azcarate, invested in the biotech project, described in an email to the AP about being stateless until her teens and then living in Italy for years without legal residency. Her father was a Jew who escaped the Nazis, and her mother escaped the Soviet regime, she said; her husband’s father lived in exile from Spain because he was against the dictator Francisco Franco. “In spite of all our current passports, and in spite of our middle age, my husband and I decided to live in the US because we believe that meritocracy, justice and general fairness are unique characteristics of this country,” wrote Alcalay, 53. “We sold more or less everything we had in Europe to move here.” Now, she said, they face the risk of losing their green cards and their money. While EB-5 investors can hope for a return on their investment, there’s no guarantee they will receive one, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The state has since changed the structure of the EB-5 regional program to provide more financial oversight. Felipe Vieira, of Brazil, said he decided to invest in Jay Peak to create a more secure life for his small family. He said he made the decision after vacationing in Stowe, Vermont, when his then-8-year-old daughter said she wanted to stay. He sold a small farm about two hours outside of Rio de Janeiro and an apartment in the city and moved with his family to Stowe. Now he worries they may not be able to stay. He said he is in contact with other investors so they can communicate their main concerns to officials as a group. Some investors have expressed interest in chipping in more money to make sure the projects are completed and jobs are created, said Michael Goldberg, the federal receiver. Vieira, who works as a business analyst, said he can’t because of expenses for lawyers, moving, housing, and next year, his daughter is going to college. “To tell the truth, I don’t have money,” he said.

Video Game Hall of Fame

'Space Invaders,' 'Grand Theft Auto III' hall of fame games

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A video game that allowed players to zap marching aliens with dot lasers and another that gave them flamethrowers and put them in the driver’s seat in a violent 3-D world are among six games inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. “Space Invaders” and “Grand Theft Auto III,” along with “The Oregon Trail,” ‘‘Sonic the Hedgehog,” ‘‘The Legend of Zelda” and “The Sims,” were honored Thursday for their influence on gaming and pop culture at the hall inside The Strong museum in Rochester. “Space Invaders” wasn’t the first shooter game when it was introduced in Japan in 1978, but it spurred many imitators and a craze for arcade games, said Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. A virtual universe away, “Grand Theft Auto III” armed players with flamethrowers and assault rifles. “By providing players with a license to do virtually anything they wanted to do on foot or behind the wheel, ‘Grand Theft Auto III’ renewed debates about the role of games and violence in society while it signaled video games aren’t just for kids,” Saucier said. The title sold 14.5 million copies by 2008. The hall of fame inductees were chosen from among 15 finalists culled from thousands of nominations from around the world. Contenders that missed the final cut were: “John Madden Football,” ‘‘Elite,” ‘‘Final Fantasy,” ‘‘Minecraft,” ‘‘Nurburgring,” ‘‘Pokemon Red and Green,” ‘‘Sid Meier’s Civilization,” ‘‘Street Fighter II” and “Tomb Raider.” The Strong, which also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, opened the World Video Game Hall of Fame last year to recognize electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, hand-held and mobile. To get in, games must have had sustained popularity and influenced the video game industry or society. About this year’s honorees: “GRAND THEFT AUTO III” The first 3-D open-ended game that let players control the action became a model for the “sandbox-style” games that followed. But the flamethrowers and automatic weapons that were part of the action in the 2001 best seller fed worries about the influence of video game violence. “SPACE INVADERS” The high score display at the top of “Space Invaders” quickly became a standard feature in arcade games. In 1980, the game broke free from the arcade and entered the home console market to become the Atari 2600’s most popular game. “THE OREGON TRAIL” “The Oregon Trail” was developed by three student teachers in 1971 and gave many players their first introduction to computers. It was designed to teach Minnesota schoolchildren American history by making them settlers heading west in covered wagons toward the Pacific coast. Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic games, said “The Oregon Trail” pioneered the valuable blend of learning and play. “SONIC THE HEDGEHOG” “Sonic the Hedgehog” was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario character, and was launched in 1991. It remains the best-selling Sega Genesis game of all time and has inspired more than 20 additional games and spin-offs, as well as a television show and comic book, said Strong Associate Curator Shannon Symonds. It also inspired the first video game-themed balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. “THE LEGEND OF ZELDA” “The Legend of Zelda” of 1986 also spun off sequels, comic books and a television series. Inspired by creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood expeditions through woods and caves, it popularized non-linear open-world exploration. “THE SIMS” “The Sims” provided a digital dollhouse setting for endless domestic dramas and gave players flexibility to tell stories in an open-ended environment. Its nearly 200 million sales in 60 countries and more than 20 languages following its 2000 release make it the best-selling PC game franchise ever.