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    The Supreme Court says employers can prohibit their workers from banding together to complain about pay and conditions in the workplace. The justices ruled 5-4 Monday, with the court's conservative members in the majority, that businesses can force employees to individually use arbitration to resolve disputes. The outcome is an important victory for business interests. An estimated 25 million employees work under contracts that prohibit collective action by employees who want to raise claims about some aspect of their employment. The Trump administration backed the businesses, reversing the position the Obama administration took in favor of employees. The court's task was to reconcile federal laws that seemed to point in different directions. On the one hand, New Deal labor laws explicitly gave workers the right to band together. On the other, the older Federal Arbitration Act encourages the use of arbitration, instead of the courts. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the contracts are valid under the arbitration law. 'As a matter of policy these questions are surely debatable. But as a matter of law the answer is clear,' Gorsuch wrote. In dissent for the court's liberals, Justice Ruth Bader called the decision 'egregiously wrong.' Ginsburg said that the individual complaints can be very small in dollar terms, 'scarcely of a size warranting the expense of seeking redress alone.' Ginsburg read a summary of her dissent aloud. The National Labor Relations Board, breaking with the administration, argued that contracts requiring employees to waive their right to collective action conflict with the labor laws. Business interests were united in favor of the contracts. Lower courts had split over the issue. The high court considered three cases — two in which appeals courts ruled that such agreements can't be enforced and a third in which the appeals court said they are valid.
  • Stocks are jumping Monday morning after the U.S. and China appeared to make major progress in trade talks. The Chinese government says it will buy more goods and services and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the U.S. postponed tariffs on up to $150 billion in goods from China after the two sides made 'meaningful progress' toward a new trade agreement. Technology and industrial companies and retailers are making some of the biggest gains. KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index climbed 22 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,735 as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 293 points, or 1.2 percent, to 25,008. The Nasdaq composite gained 71 points, or 1 percent, to 7,425. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks jumped 9 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,636. TRADE TALKS: The U.S. and China concluded two days of trade negotiations with an agreement not to impose tariffs on each other. The two sides gave no indication of how much progress they had made toward ending their dispute entirely, as China said it can't guarantee that trade tensions will be permanently avoided and Mnuchin said President Donald Trump could reintroduce the tariffs he's proposed if the countries don't reach an agreement. Investors applauded. All 11 sectors in the S&P 500 index moved higher. In technology, Apple jumped 1.5 percent to $189.20 and Google's parent company Alphabet rose 2.1 percent to $1,092.50. Among industrials, Boeing gained 2.5 percent to $360.15 and construction equipment maker Caterpillar rose 3.4 percent to $160.94. Amazon gained 1.1 percent to $1,590.36 and Netflix added 1.6 percent to $329.47. RIDING THE RAILS: General Electric's train engine division will combine with railroad equipment maker Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies in deal worth $11.1 billion as GE CEO John Flannery continues to break off parts of the conglomerate. GE will get $2.9 billion in cash and will own 50.1 percent of the combined company, and the deal will help it narrow its business down to the aviation, health care and energy industries. Wabtec gained 4.1 percent to $99.11 and GE rose 2.8 percent to $15.39. BANK ON IT: Fifth Third Bancorp is buying Chicago's MB Financial for about $4.7 billion, mostly in stock. The deal values MB at $54.20 per share, and its stock rose 14.8 percent to $50.10 while Fifth Third tumbled 6.3 percent to $31.44. GET A ROOM: Investment manager Blackstone agreed to buy LaSalle Hotel Properties for $33.50 a share, or $3.7 billion in cash. LaSalle jumped 5.6 percent to $33.69 while Blackstone rose along with other financial firms and gained 0.7 percent to $31.50. CURRENCIES: The dollar jumped to 111.18 yen from 110.68 yen late Friday. The euro dipped to $1.1768 from $1.1773. OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 0.4 percent to $71.58 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, was unchanged at $778.51 per barrel in London. BONDS: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.07 percent from 3.06 percent. OVERSEAS: The British FTSE 100 gained 0.8 percent and France's CAC 40 rose 0.6 percent. The German market was closed for a holiday. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent and South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent. ____ AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay
  • A court has dismissed charges against Barclays relating to its emergency fundraising from Qatar at the height of the financial crisis. The Serious Fraud Office had accused Barclays over a 2008 deal to give to Qatar Holding LLC a $3 billion loan that was then used to invest in the bank, saving it from a government bailout. Prosecutors had also accused Barclays' operating unit with unlawful financial assistance 'for the purpose of directly or indirectly acquiring shares in Barclays Plc.' Southwark Crown Court in London dismissed all of the charges on Monday. However, Barclays warned in a statement to the markets that the fraud office is likely to seek to reinstate the charges. Individuals still face charges, as Monday's dismissal only refers to Barclays as a corporate entity.
  • Greek authorities charged four men Monday over a weekend mob attack on the 75-year-old mayor of the country's second-largest city, carried out in an apparent venting of nationalist sentiment. The suspects, aged between 17 and 36, were formally accused of grievous bodily harm and breach of the peace over Saturday's attack on Yiannis Boutaris. The mayor of Thessaloniki required hospital treatment after being thrown to the ground, kicked and punched by about 12 people during a ceremony honoring Greek victims of mass killings by Turks during World War I. The trial of the three adults will be held on Wednesday, after their lawyers requested a two-day deferral to better prepare the defense. The 17-year-old will appear before a court for minors, but no trial date has been set for him. One of the suspects allegedly told police he was angry at a recent statement by Boutaris, a liberal centrist, favoring friendlier relations with Turkey. Another two have apologized, telling police that they were carried away by the behavior of the rest of the crowd. Prosecutors are also carrying out a separate investigation into whether charges can be brought against so-far unidentified individuals for instigating the attack.
  • A criminal court in Skopje has cleared Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on bribery charges dating back to when he was mayor of the southern town of Strumica. The case erupted in 2015 when a video emerged allegedly showing Zaev demanding a bribe of around 160,000 euros ($188,000) from a local businessman over a land deal with the local authority. The court on Monday ruled that the prosecution had failed to provide compelling evidence of Zaev's guilt. Zaev, leader of Social-Democrats, took office last year after decade-long rule by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party and one of the worst political crises the small Balkan country has faced since its independence in 1991. The 43-year-old Zaev said he was satisfied with the verdict.
  • Despite losing the Republican primary in a distant third-place, convicted ex-coal baron Don Blankenship announced Monday that he will continue his bid for U.S. Senate as a third-party candidate, though it's unclear if the move violates West Virginia's 'sore loser' law. Blankenship will run as a member of the Constitution Party, which nominated him by a unanimous vote, his campaign said in a news release. West Virginia secretary of state spokesman Steve Adams said Blankenship has officially switched his party affiliation to the Constitution Party. But Adams has said West Virginia's 'sore loser' or 'sour grapes' law prohibits candidates affiliated with a major party who lose in a primary from changing their registration to a minor party to take advantage of later filing deadlines. In comments made before Monday's announcement, Mike Queen, who is communications director for Secretary of State Mac Warner, said Blankenship wouldn't be allowed to run in a general election. 'The Secretary's position is that Mr. Blankenship is not permitted to run again in the general election for the United States Senate,' Queen told the Charleston Gazette-Mail in a story published Saturday. 'If Mr. Blankenship pursues the matter, he will most likely have to bring a legal action to force the Secretary to approve his candidacy.' On Monday, the office referred questions to its lawyer, who did not immediately respond to questions. In his statement, Blankenship says, 'Although the establishment will likely begin their efforts against us by mounting a legal challenge to my candidacy, we are confident that — if challenged — our legal position will prevail, absent a politically motivated decision by the courts.' Blankenship said his personal views align with those of the Constitution Party, whose goal is to restore U.S. government philosophy to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its constitutional boundaries. Blankenship, a former executive of Massey Energy, spent a year in federal prison for violating mine regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners. More recently, he took swipes at 'China people' and referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as 'Cocaine Mitch' in campaign ads during the Republican primary. Blankenship sold himself as 'Trumpier than Trump' during the race, but the president opposed him. The White House worried that Blankenship's baggage would make it all but impossible to defeat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey claimed the nomination instead, promoting his record of challenging policies of the Obama administration. In 2016, Trump claimed his largest margin of victory in West Virginia. Looking ahead to the general election, Manchin — who has held elected office in West Virginia for the better part of three decades — has a huge financial advantage over Morrisey after easily winning the Democratic primary. But he's expected to face the most difficult re-election campaign of his career.
  • Pope Francis' reported comments to a gay man that 'God made you like this' have been embraced by the LGBT community as another sign of Francis' desire to make gay people feel welcomed and loved in the Catholic Church. Juan Carlos Cruz, the main whistleblower in Chile's clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandal, said Monday he spoke to Francis about his homosexuality during their recent meetings at the Vatican. The pope invited Cruz and other victims of a Chilean predator priest to discuss their cases last month. Cruz said he told Francis how Chile's bishops used his sexual orientation as a weapon to try to discredit him, and of the pain the personal attacks had caused him. 'He said, 'Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,'' Cruz told The Associated Press. The Vatican declined to confirm or deny the remarks in keeping with its policy not to comment on the pope's private conversations. The comments first were reported by Spain's El Pais newspaper. Official church teaching calls for gay men and lesbians to be respected and loved, but considers homosexual activity 'intrinsically disordered.' Francis, though, has sought to make the church more welcoming to gays, most famously with his 2013 comment 'Who am I to judge?' He also has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church. As a result, some sought to downplay the significance of the comments as merely being in line with Francis' pastoral-minded attitude. In addition, there was a time not so long ago when the Catholic Church officially taught that sexual orientation was not something people choose, the implication being it was how God made them. The first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the dense summary of Catholic teaching published by St. John Paul II in 1992, said gay individuals 'do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.' The updated edition, which is the only edition available online and on the Vatican website, was revised to remove the reference to homosexuality not being a choice. The revised edition says: 'This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.' Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for equality for LGBT Catholics, said the pope's comments were 'tremendous' and would do a lot of good. 'It would do a lot better if he would make these statements publicly, because LGBT people need to hear that message from religious leaders, from Catholic leaders,' he said. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit whose book 'Building a Bridge' called for the church to find new pastoral ways of ministering to gays, noted that the pope's comments were in a private conversation, not a public pronouncement or document. But citing the original version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Martin said they were nevertheless significant. 'The pope is saying what every reputable biologist and psychologist will tell you, which is that people do not choose their sexual orientation,' Martin said in a telephone interview. A great failing of the church, he said, is that many Catholics have been reluctant to say so, which then 'makes people feel guilty about something they have no control over.' Martin's book is being published this week in Italian, with a preface by the Francis-appointed bishop of Bologna, Monsignor Matteo Zuppi, a sign that the message of acceptance is being embraced even in traditionally conservative Italy.
  • Syria's military said Monday it has retaken the last neighborhoods in southern Damascus held by the Islamic State group and declared the Syrian capital and its surroundings 'completely safe' from militants for the first time in nearly seven years. Reading an army statement on Syrian TV, Gen. Ali Mayhoub said the army captured the former IS strongholds in the Palestinian Yarmouk camp and Hajar al-Aswad after a monthlong campaign. He said the army operations were 'concentrated and successive,' leading to the extremists' defeat in the city. The gains by President Bashar Assad's troops bring greater Damascus — including the capital's far-flung suburbs — fully under government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011. 'Damascus and its surroundings are completely secure,' Mayhoub said. State TV earlier said that government forces resumed an offensive at noon after a group of civilians was evacuated from the area overnight. Two hours later, the TV said troops captured IS' former stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad and broadcast images showing troops waving the Syrian national flag in the heavily destroyed neighborhood. A war monitoring group said some 1,600 people, including hundreds of IS gunmen, left the area on Saturday and Sunday, heading toward the desert east of the country following a deal with the government. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces are now clearing the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, a built-up residential area, of the last remaining IS fighters. It said the month of fighting left scores of dead on both sides. The TV earlier quoted an unnamed Syrian military official as saying the two-day truce had been in place to evacuate women, children and the elderly on Sunday night from Hajar al-Aswad. Syrian state media denied a deal was reached to evacuate fighters. The push into Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk came after government forces captured the last rebel-held southern and eastern suburbs of Damascus, boosting security in Assad's seat of power. 'The Daesh terrorist organization was wiped out in Hajar al-Aswad,' an unnamed Syrian soldier told state TV, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS. 'We will keep marching until we liberate all parts of Syria.' Assad's forces have been making steady gains since 2015, when Russian launched an air campaign on behalf of his forces. In December 2016, government forces captured rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of the northern city of Aleppo, marking Assad's biggest victory since the conflict began. In March and April, thousands of opposition fighters surrendered and were evacuated from Damascus suburbs known as eastern Ghouta, after a crushing government offensive. Shortly before noon on Monday, when the truce was supposed to end in Hajar al-Aswad, government warplanes struck IS positions as Syrian troops began advancing deeper into the neighborhood. The Observatory said IS fighters have been setting their offices and vehicles on fire so that government forces would not be able to seize equipment or documents belonging to the group. The extremists have been driven from nearly all the territory they once held in Syria and neighboring Iraq, but still maintain a presence in remote areas along the border. Both Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad's forces, giving them the upper hand in the civil war. Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad during a meeting last week that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria. Putin's envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said the Russian leader was referring to Iranian forces. But on Monday, Tehran appeared to reject that idea, saying its forces will remain in Syria and continue fighting 'terrorism' at the request of the Syrian government. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters Monday that no one can force Tehran to do anything it doesn't desire to do. 'Our presence in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants,' he said. ___ Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
  • A Florida man was arrested Thursday for allegedly walking naked through a neighborhood during a rainstorm and carrying cooking oil, the Pensacola News Journal reported. >> Read more trending news Joseph John Musso, 63, was charged with loitering and prowling, lewd and lascivious behavior, resisting an officer without violence and exposure of sexual organs, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office said. According to an arrest report, a deputy encountered Musso, who was naked and standing in heavy rain near a red pickup truck. Musso also was holding a plastic bottle with cooking oil, according to the report. Musso attempted to run away, but the deputy caught him and removed the bottle of cooking oil, the News Journal reported. But when the deputy attempted to handcuff Musso, he slipped away and began running down the street, according to the arrest report.  The deputy fired his Taser at Musso, prompting the naked man to fall to the ground, according to the arrest report. Musso was handcuffed and taken to the Santa Rosa County Jail, the News Journal reported. According to the arrest report, Musso told deputies he received sexual gratification by being naked in public. Musso also said he was carrying cooking oil because he liked to rub it on his legs, according to the arrest report. Musso was released from jail on bonds totaling $3,000, the News Journal reported.
  • The Associated Press on Monday announced that award-winning journalist Susannah George will join its Washington bureau to cover U.S. intelligence agencies and national security. The appointment was announced by Julie Pace, AP's Washington bureau chief. 'Susannah is a dogged reporter with a track record of producing standout journalism on complex issues,' Pace said. 'In her new role as an intelligence reporter, she will be an integral part of our Washington-based national security team.' George, 33, joined the AP in 2015 and has led coverage from the Baghdad bureau. She was a member of the team of journalists who won the Overseas Press Club awards this year for coverage of the Islamic State and the fight for Mosul. Her Mosul coverage was also part of a larger body of work named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year. George is also a 2018 Livingston Award finalist for international reporting. George has spent much of her career overseas, covering conflict in Gaza, the NATO bombing campaign in Libya and uprisings in Egypt. She began her career in the U.S. as a producer for National Public Radio, covering elections, natural disasters and gun violence. A native of Connecticut, George grew up in the Middle East between Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem.