Here’s what you need to know:
The Department of Justice on Wednesday provided Congress with draft legislation that would limit the measure that shields digital platforms like Facebook and YouTube from lawsuits over user content they host.
Under the proposal, platforms that intentionally ease the distribution of harmful activity would not receive the protections. And platforms that allow criminal content to stay up once they know it exists would lose the protections for that content.
The draft legislation is part of the Trump administration’s broader efforts to limit the reach of the legal protections for online platforms, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order meant to push some federal agencies to make changes to the law.
The original law makes it more difficult to sue online platforms over the content they host or the way they moderate it.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump will meet with Republican state attorneys general to discuss social media. He has attacked the tech giants over anecdotal examples of conservative content being removed from online platforms, in an appeal to his political base.
Online platforms and their representatives in Washington say the legal protections play a vital role in allowing free speech to flourish online and have been integral to Silicon Valley’s rapid growth.
Shares of Tesla were down 6 percent in early trading on Wednesday morning, after the company announced that it still had a lot of work to do to in its efforts to make cheaper, more powerful batteries for electric cars.
The innovations could cut battery costs by more than 50 percent and nearly double the distance the vehicles can travel, which could set the set the stage for the company to make a $25,000 electric vehicle three years from now, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, said at a presentation on Tuesday at the company’s California factory.
But Mr. Musk, who has a reputation for promising game-changing innovations that often take far longer than expected to materialize, said many of the advances were still works in progress.
This announcement appeared to underwhelm investors, who were hoping that Mr. Musk would announce a major technical breakthrough, after the company had heightened expectations by calling the event “Battery Day.”
Specifically, investors were expecting Tesla to unveil a “million mile battery” that would last a million miles or more, said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities, a financial services firm.
“From a hype perspective, Battery Day was probably one of the most anticipated events in the Tesla story over the last three to four years, because batteries are the heart and lungs of the Tesla growth story,” Mr. Ives said. “With no million-mile battery announcement, investors still left the event hungry.”
Tesla’s stock fell more than 5 percent on Tuesday before the event after Mr. Musk tried to temper expectations, writing on Twitter on Monday that the battery announcement would affect long-term production of Tesla’s vehicles.
The company is piloting production of batteries at its car factory in Fremont, Calif., and plans to build a cathode production plant somewhere in North America, Mr. Musk and Drew Baglino, senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering, said at the event.
Mars Food is changing the name of its Uncle Ben’s rice products to Ben’s Original, after widespread anti-racism protests renewed the focus on companies that for decades used racial images to sell their products.
The company said on Wednesday that it would also remove the image of an older Black man smiling from the box.
Mars committed to making changes to its branding in June, amid protests around the United States. The parent companies of Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s also said at the time that they would retire or rebrand their products.
“We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change,” said Fiona Dawson, global president of multisales and global customers for Mars Food.
This isn’t the first time that the brand has responded to such criticism. In 2007, Uncle Ben, whose face has appeared on the box of rice since the 1940s, was promoted from a servant to chairman in a marketing campaign.
The revamped packaging will hit store shelves in 2021.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, faced lawmaker criticism over the central bank’s program to backstop the corporate bond market, as House Democrats questioned whether the central bank has done enough for smaller companies and workers.
“The Fed must use its tremendous resources and market power not just to bail out wealthy stockholders, but also to protect lower-income workers and struggling small businesses that are the backbone of this country’s economy,” Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, said during a House hearing on the coronavirus crisis.
The Fed rolled out a variety of programs in March and April to keep markets functioning smoothly as pandemic fears choked off the flow of credit, unveiling never-before-tried programs that buy corporate bonds, municipal debt and support loans to midsize businesses. Those efforts have met with varying degrees of success.
The Fed has been buying already-issued corporate bonds, and though those purchases have slowed, the simple presence of a backstop has helped the market.
“The larger companies that have access to the bond market — that market was closed down in February and March,” Mr. Powell said in his testimony, adding that the program has worked by serving as a backstop that coaxed the market back to life, allowing companies to fund themselves and keep their workers employed.
“These are very large companies,” he said. “Their businesses were severely affected by the pandemic, and our actions were in no way an attempt to relieve pain on Wall Street.”
The central bank’s programs to help state and local governments and its business loan effort — called the Main Street program — have come under fire, in part because neither have been heavily used. Those efforts were created in conjunction with the Treasury Department, which is backstopping them using money from a $454 billion pot of congressionally appropriated funds — much of which has not been used, another point of frequent criticism. Commentators have criticized the Fed and the Treasury for being too risk-averse.
Fed officials regularly point out that municipal governments and smaller businesses are able to gain access to credit, and that their emergency lending facilities are meant to serve as backup options — not to stand in for private capital, if it is available.
“Banks are lending,” Mr. Powell said. “If the economy performs worse than we expect, then Main Street will be there to take on a heavier load.”
The United States led the world in growth of financial assets last year thanks to tax cuts and booming stock markets, but its distribution of wealth was more unequal than in any other country, according to a study published Wednesday.
An annual tally by the German insurer Allianz of the world’s stocks, bonds, cash and other assets, and who owns them, also found that poor countries are no longer catching up with wealthier countries, reversing a trend. For the first time since 2000, there was a decline in the number of people worldwide considered middle class, as measured by their financial holdings.
And the world’s super rich are getting richer. The top 1 percent own 44 percent of financial assets, and the share is growing. “The super rich do indeed seem to be moving further and further away from the rest of society,” the Allianz study said.
The pandemic will only exacerbate the gulf between rich and poor, the authors of the study said. Declines in world trade will hurt developing countries the most, and poor people suffer more from strains on health care systems and public schools.
Per capital wealth in the United States grew more than 13 percent in 2019, to $245,000, in part because affluent Americans saved their tax cuts rather then spending the money, and because Americans are more likely than people in most other countries to buy stocks. The United States ranked ahead of Switzerland and Singapore in per capita wealth, but it was dead last in Allianz’s index ranking of wealth equality (a list headed by Slovakia, Belgium and Japan).
Stocks on Wall Street fell early trading on Wednesday, even as European markets rallied.
Shares of Johnson & Johnson climbed after the company announced that it had begun the final stage of clinical trials for its coronavirus vaccine. Although they are a couple of months behind the other so-called Phase 3 trials in the United States, Johnson & Johnson’s trials will be the largest, with plans to enroll 60,000 participants.
Shares of Tesla fell 6 percent in early trading, a day after Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, said the company still had a lot of work to do to make cheaper, more powerful batteries for its electric cars.
Nike shares jumped more than 10 percent, after the sportswear brand reported a surge in online sales. Shares of Adidas and Puma also rallied in European trading.
Germany’s Dax index, the FTSE 100 in Britain, and the Stoxx Europe 600 were all up more than 1 percent. Those gains came despite data showing that a second wave of coronavirus cases was fracturing the economic recovery, with a continued rebound in manufacturing and a slowdown in the services sector.
September’s IHS Markit purchasing managers index for the eurozone, an index of economic activity, fell more than economists expected, but still showed a slight expansion in overall activity over the previous month. The index was weighed down by a contraction in the services sector that was just offset by growth in manufacturing.
Markets were “shrugging off” this weaker-than-expected data, Milla Savova, a European equity strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said, and were instead focused on whether the pandemic was worsening in Europe. Airline stocks were rebounding on Wednesday, with shares climbing in easyJet (up 5.8 percent) Ryanair (up 3.4 percent), and jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce (up 6.3 percent).
One of the world’s largest technology conferences has been rescheduled, the latest sign that businesses expect coronavirus to limit travel and large gatherings for the foreseeable future. MWC Barcelona, formerly known as the Mobile World Congress, will be held next year from June 28 to July 1, instead of the first week of March, said GSMA, the industry group that organizes the conference.
United Airlines said on Tuesday that it planned to take a Treasury Department loan provided under the CARES Act that was passed in March, joining American Airlines. United declined to provide further details, though it had been expected to borrow up to $4.5 billion. American is expected to borrow $4.75 billion. Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, which were both eligible for similar loans, declined to take them.
Nike said demand from China and strong online sales helped bolster revenue in the three months through August. Revenue fell slightly to $10.6 billion, which was better than analysts had expected, while digital sales rose 82 percent, the company said on Tuesday.
Responding to both the outpouring of appreciation for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg since her death last week and the scarcity of films in movie theaters, the distributors behind the documentary “RBG” and the narrative feature “On the Basis of Sex” announced on Tuesday that they would rerelease the two 2018 films in some 1,000 theaters this weekend.
China’s response to economic slowdowns in the past has been to greenlight multibillion-dollar construction projects to quickly pump money into the economy.
The latest idea to rev up growth during the coronavirus pandemic? Elevators.
China’s premier, Li Keqiang, and his allies in the government want to retrofit as many as three million older, walk-up apartment buildings, projects that usually cost less than $100,000.
The smaller scale projects partly reflect the fact that China has fewer opportunities to spend big. High-speed rail lines and superhighways already link every large city, so new ones connect smaller and smaller communities in China’s mountainous interior — at exorbitant cost. And the country’s debt has spiraled so high that it has become a serious drag on growth.
A national elevator policy could help mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic on China’s blue-collar workers because building them is labor intensive. It could provide jobs to some of the tens of millions of still-unemployed Chinese migrant workers.
It’s a job dominated by small, private contractors in China. The contractors then buy elevators from a multinational — usually Otis Elevator, Schindler, Kone, Mitsubishi Electric or Hitachi — or one of several smaller Chinese manufacturers, like IFE Elevators in Guangzhou.