The daily business briefing: October 8, 2019

Harold Maass
A Juul ad


U.S. blacklists 28 Chinese tech firms as trade talks loom

The Commerce Department late Monday blacklisted 28 Chinese state security bureaus and tech companies for their alleged involvement in suppressing China's Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. The entities' inclusion on the Entity List bars U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese firms. The filing accuses the agencies and some of China's top artificial intelligence companies of involvement in Beijing's "campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance" against the minority groups. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the U.S. "will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities in China." The move came as high-level U.S. and Chinese negotiators prepared to meet Thursday for talks on ending the two countries' trade war. [NPR]


3 school districts sue e-cigarette maker Juul

Three school districts filed a lawsuit Monday against e-cigarette maker Juul saying its products were endangering students and draining resources from schools forced to deal with rising nicotine addiction among teens. The St. Charles, Missouri, Olathe, Kansas, and Long Island, New York, school districts were believed to be the first to take e-cigarette companies to court over the fallout from rising vaping among young people. The districts accused Juul of targeting young people with its marketing and flavored products. "As smart as our students are, they don't understand the long-term ramifications of vaping and the amount of addictive chemicals they are dealing with," said John Allison, superintendent of the 30,000-student Olathe Public Schools. Juul did not immediately comment. It has denied targeting teenagers. [The New York Times]


Southwest pilots sue Boeing over 737 Max jet safety

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association union filed a lawsuit against Boeing on Monday, calling grounded 737 Max jets unsafe and accusing the aircraft maker of rushing the planes into service. The union said Boeing assured pilots the plane was not much different from older 737 models, but that wasn't true. The lawsuit came as Boeing struggles to repair its reputation after two 737 Max planes crashed, killing 346 people. Experts say a flight control system that forced down the planes' noses contributed to the crashes. A former chief engineer for Ethiopia Airlines, Yonas Yeshanew, said in a whistleblower complaint that the airline went into the maintenance records of its 737 Max after it crashed this year, calling it part of a pattern of corruption and shoddy repairs at the airline. [The Associated Press]


Oracle to hire 2,000 new workers in cloud expansion

Oracle plans to hire 2,000 more workers under a plan to expand its cloud computing services into more countries, Don Johnson, executive vice president of the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, told Reuters on Monday. The jobs will be concentrated mostly in Oracle's software development centers in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and India, Johnson said. Some of the hiring will be in data centers. The move will help the company compete with larger rivals Amazon and Microsoft. By the end of 2020, Oracle plans to open 20 new cloud "regions" with data centers where clients can keep data for disaster recovery or to meet local data-storage regulations. Oracle currently has 16 cloud regions, a dozen of them opened within a year. [Reuters]


U.S. stock futures drop as tensions rise before trade talks

U.S. stock index futures fell early Tuesday in a sign of caution ahead of high-level U.S.-China trade talks later this week. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were down by about 0.7 percent. Tensions between Washington and Beijing remain high ahead of the talks, which are due to start in Washington on Thursday. The U.S. late Monday blacklisted 28 Chinese companies and artificial intelligence companies over their alleged involvement in repression of ethnic minorities, and the White House is preparing to increase tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports on Oct. 15. The South China Morning Post reported that China was dialing down its expectations for the meeting. [CNBC, South China Morning Post]