The daily business briefing: August 15, 2018

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Harold Maass
Utility workers in Puerto Rico work to restore power
RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images

1.

Turkey doubles tariffs on some U.S. goods

Turkey on Wednesday doubled tariffs on certain U.S. imports — including cars, alcohol, and tobacco — in what Vice President Fuat Oktay described as a reciprocal move "in response to the U.S. administration's deliberate attacks on our economy." A day earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Turks to boycott American goods after President Trump authorized higher tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey. The clash escalated tensions between the two countries, which have contributed to a sharp decline in the value of Turkey's currency, the lira, although a fresh move by Turkish banking authorities to support the currency sent it rising by 6 percent. U.S. stock-index futures edged lower early Wednesday as Turkey's currency crisis remained a concern ahead of a flurry of economic reports. [Reuters]

2.

Puerto Rico says power fully restored for first time since 2017 hurricane

Utility crews in the southern Puerto Rico city of Ponce on Tuesday reconnected the last neighborhood left without electricity after last year's Hurricane Maria, marking the first time power had been restored to the entire island in 11 months, the U.S. Caribbean territory's electric utility announced. "No more lamps, no more candles, no more extension cords," Ponce resident Charlie Colon Nazario told El Nuevo Dia as about two dozen power workers connected his home. The mayor of San Juan said the island still needs help, and is not ready for another storm to hit this hurricane season. The blackout across the island was the longest continuous outage in the nation's history. The lack of power has seriously hampered efforts to boost the island's economy, which was already shrinking before the hurricane caused housing shortages and government revenue shortfalls. [The Associated Press]

3.

RBS to pay $4.9 billion fine for misrepresenting mortgages

Royal Bank of Scotland will pay $4.9 billion to settle allegations it misrepresented the risk and quality of mortgages it sold to investors during the housing bubble that led to the 2008 financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. The fine is the largest ever imposed on a single company for misconduct during the financial crisis, although the Justice Department also has hit Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and other banks with billions of dollars in penalties to settle similar allegations linked to the crisis. "This settlement holds RBS accountable for serious misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis," Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio said in a statement. [The Associated Press]

4.

Twitter suspends Alex Jones for a week

Twitter suspended the account of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for a week, saying he violated the company's rules against inciting violence by tweeting a link to a video urging supporters to get their "battle rifles" ready against the media and others. Jones will be able to browse Twitter but not tweet or retweet during the suspension. The account of his media website and show Infowars was not affected. The move came about a week after Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify announced they were banning Jones due to hate speech, but Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Jones had not violated the company's rules, which prohibit threats of violence and hate speech but not deception and misinformation. Jones has circulated many conspiracy theories, and called the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax. [The New York Times]

5.

Report: Pentagon spokeswoman investigated for retaliating against aides

The Defense Department's inspector general launched an investigation into Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, after receiving multiple complaints that she retaliated against staff members who once ran her personal errands, four people familiar with the matter tell CNN. White, one of Defense Secretary James Mattis' most senior civilian advisers, allegedly asked support staff to pick up her dry cleaning, buy things for her at the pharmacy, work on her mortgage application, and give her a ride to work when it snowed. Several people told CNN that in May, at least two staffers complained to senior officials and not long after, White retaliated by having them transferred. The investigation began weeks ago, CNN reports. This is just the latest high-profile scandal over workplace behavior in government and the private sector. [CNN]