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    Global shares were mostly lower Monday following Friday's steep slide in technology shares on Wall Street. Markets had only a muted reaction, if any, to North Korea's announcement that it would stop nuclear and missile testing. KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 was almost unchanged at 7,365.29. Germany's DAX edged 0.1 percent lower to 12,522.34 and the CAC 40 of France declined 0.2 percent to 5,404.24. The future for the S&P 500 lost 0.1 percent and the future for the Dow lost 0.2 percent. ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 22,088.04 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 2,474.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.5 percent to 30,254.40 and the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.1 percent to 3,068.01. Australia's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 5,886.00. Shares rose in India but fell in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. WALL STREET: Losses in technology, retailers, packaged foods and beverage makers weighed on U.S. stocks Friday, pulling the market lower for a second day in a row. The S&P 500 index fell 0.9 percent to 2,670.14. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.8 percent to 24,462.94. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.3 percent to 7,146.13 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 0.6 percent, to 1,564.12. For every stock that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, two declined, though the indexes finished the week with gains. NORTH KOREA: North Korea's announcement on Saturday to suspend further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and close its nuclear test site raised hopes in Washington and Seoul for a breakthrough in the upcoming nuclear negotiations. However, the North's statement stopped short of suggesting it would give up its nukes or halt production of missiles. That raises the question of what might come of a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday. ANALYST VIEWPOINT: 'While geopolitical tensions remain bubbling under the surface, rising oil prices and higher U.S. yields suggest investors are likely to deal with increased volatility as a broad range of political, economic and financial events unfolds,' Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a commentary. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 44 cents to $67.96 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday it gained 7 cents to settle at $68.40 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, sagged 39 cents to $73.67 per barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 108.19 yen from 107.64 yen on Friday. The euro fell to $1.2233 from $1.2290. The pound slipped to $1.3971 from $1.4001.
  • When will the European Central Bank join the U.S. Federal Reserve and start raising interest rates? This much is clear: It won't be soon. Weaker signals from the economy and worries about a possible trade war between the United State and China have left the top monetary authority for the 19 countries that use the euro in no hurry to start withdrawing its monetary stimulus. And that means the central bank's short-term interest rate benchmark will almost certainly stay at zero well into next year, ensuring low borrowing costs for businesses but miserly returns for savers. Analysts think ECB President Mario Draghi will try to say as little as possible Thursday about when the bank might phase out its 30 billion euros ($37 billion) per month in bond purchases, currently slated to run at least through September. The ECB would only start considering raising rates once the bond-buying is over. The bank's 25-member rate-setting council meets at the bank's skyscraper headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, to set monetary policy for the 19 countries that are members of the euro currency union. No changes in stimulus settings or interest rates are expected. But Draghi's post-meeting news conference will be closely parsed for clues about the end of the bank's monthly bond purchases — clues that Draghi may not especially care to give right now. The purchases are set to run at least through September but the bank has otherwise left the end date open. Several analysts think the bank will decide only in June or July whether to extend the purchases. 'Our best guess is that Mr Draghi will strike a balance between expressing optimism about the economy, and concern about recent bad news,' said Jack Allen, European economist at Capital Economics. The bank has struggled to raise inflation from the current 1.3 percent annually toward its goal of just under 2 percent. The bond purchases aim to do that by increasing the amount of money in the economy. Extending the bond-purchase stimulus for another few months might not have a huge impact by itself. Its key influence would be on expectations for when the bank might follow the U.S. Federal Reserve and finally start raising rates after years of unprecedented monetary stimulus. That is because the ECB has said it will only raise rates 'well after' the end of the purchases. So a purchase extension, even with a reduced amount of, say, 15 billion euros a month has the effect of pushing the first rate increases even farther into the future. If the purchases cease at the end of this year, that could push a first rate rise from the current record low of zero into mid- or even late 2019. That means continued monetary stimulus the bank considers critical for the economy to keep growing. But more stimulus for longer can also have side effects, such as the risk of inflating some markets, like housing or stocks, and propping up inefficient companies that couldn't survive without ultra-cheap borrowing. Behind the bank's caution: slightly weaker data on industrial production, retail sales and construction suggest the eurozone is going through a period of slightly lower economic growth in the first months of 2018, after a robust increase of 2.5 percent in 2017, the highest in 10 years. Also, Draghi has said that escalating trade tensions could hit business confidence, though the initial impact of steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump would be small. An eventual stimulus exit will have wide ranging impacts on markets, business and consumers. The bank must move cautiously to avoid panicking stock markets that have risen thanks to extensive central bank stimulus after the 2008-9 global financial crisis and Great Recession. Rising short term rates would mean more returns for savers, while higher long-term rates would mean greater debt service costs for governments and home buyers. Higher rates could also send bond prices lower; but higher returns on bonds and certificates of deposit over the long term would make them more attractive compared with riskier investments like stocks.
  • The sprawling network funded by the billionaire Koch brothers is having a very good run with President Donald Trump in the White House and Republican control of Congress. Tax cuts are now signed into law. A conservative judge is seated on the Supreme Court. And many governmental regulations, including those on labor and environmental practices, are facing rollbacks. That success is starting to get attention. Democrats are increasingly questioning how far the network's influence extends into the White House, casting the groups' backing by industrialists Charles and David Koch as puppeteers behind Trump's agenda and hoping to rouse their own donors to fight back. The network in turn is ratcheting up its focus on areas where it aligns with Democrats— most notably immigration legislation — and reviving calls for bipartisanship. 'We've come off one of the most successful years in our network's history,' said James Davis, executive vice president of Koch-backed Freedom Partners and a spokesman for the Seminar Network, the broader organization of groups and donors. 'And we're going to turn up the heat on both parties to drive forward.' But there's another outcome, too: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and other senators recently fired off letters to the administration asking for a detailed accounting of the network's role at various government offices including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The senators name more than a dozen individuals working in the administration with ties to the groups. On Monday, the lawmakers will launch a series of Senate floor speeches turning a spotlight on the influence. 'Americans have a right to know if special interests are unduly influencing public policy decisions that have profound implications for public health, the environment, and the economy,' wrote Whitehouse with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. The influence of the Koch-backed groups is somewhat surprising. They are an array of organizations and include Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners and Concerned Veterans for America, whose donors include some of the wealthy attendees of the twice-a-year Seminar Network conferences. The groups took a pass on donating to Trump's presidential bid. But they have managed to influence policy through several top allies in key jobs sprinkled across the administration. Among those in the Koch orbit with ties to the administration, perhaps the most prominent is Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, who is a past president of Freedom Partners, the network's chamber of commerce-styled group. Short plays a key policy-making role and is a Capitol Hill fixture of legislative battles. The senators mention several others with top policy roles, including Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president. Koch groups have been central to Trump policies Democrats oppose — among them tax cuts for the wealthy, loosening of environmental regulations, and expanding private-sector health care for veterans. Trump's first-year regulatory rollbacks were drafted by one of the Koch-backed groups and became a ready blueprint for action in Congress. The network, however, doesn't just toe the Trump line. On Monday, the group is stepping up its effort to push Congress not to let up on legislating as lawmakers turn to focus instead on campaigning for midterm elections. Two groups in the network are releasing a letter to congressional leaders of both parties, urging them to take up a bipartisan compromise to help young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who have been living in the U.S. illegally since childhood. They want Congress to pass a deal that was on the table earlier this year — a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and $25 billion for border security. Because most Americans want a solution that would allow the Dreamers to avoid deportation, the group says Trump and Congress should be able to come up with a solution. 'There is no reason to continue to delay action on the Dreamers,' wrote officials from Freedom Partners and the LIBRE Institute, two network groups. 'What are we waiting for?' The group is also pushing Congress to take up criminal justice reform, another issue with bipartisan support that has lagged. Republicans have little appetite to engage on big-ticket items as they struggle to keep control of their majority in the House, and try to pick off Democratic incumbents up for re-election in the Senate from conservative Trump-won states. And Democrats, while saying they are willing to engage with the Koch-backed groups, are at times envious of their operation and eager to pound on their influence, which includes chapters that mimic traditional party apparatus in many battleground states. It doesn't help build bipartisanship when much of the advocacy the Koch groups undertake, unleashing their army of volunteers and spending sums on advertising, ends up going against Democratic senators in Missouri, Wisconsin, North Dakota and others in tough election battles. ___ Follow Lisa Mascaro on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LisaMascaro
  • General Motors said Monday that it has reached a tentative agreement with its South Korean labor union on measures to cut costs and allocate new car models to GM Korea factories. The agreement between GM and its union steers the American carmaker away from filing for bankruptcy protection for its loss-making Korean unit. It also paves the way for support from the Korea Development Bank, which holds a 17 percent stake in GM Korea. The union will vote on the deal later this week. 'Ratification of the tentative agreement is critical to our viability plan and securing support of the Korean government and our shareholders, KDB and GM,' GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem said in a statement. 'The labor union has demonstrated its commitment and we continue to work with our other key stakeholders to gain their support.' The agreement reached by GM and its union after 14 rounds of negotiations calls for freezing wages and canceling bonuses this year and cutting some benefits. GM will allocate production of new models of sport-utility vehicles to two local factories to stabilize their operations. Those models are 'important new products' with big production volume that will be mostly shipped abroad, Barry Engle, GM's executive vice president told reporters. The GM Korea union did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The labor union shared part of the transcript from the final negotiations on its website where its union chief said that he will not forget how the company unilaterally pressured the workers to make concessions, warning that could be an obstacle in the company's path to recovery. GM shocked South Korea when it announced in February that it plans to close one of four Korean factories in Gunsan by May as part of a broader restructuring plan. Since the shutdown was announced, about 2,600 GM Korea workers, or 16 percent of its 16,000 South Korean workers, have agreed to leave the company in a voluntary severance program including 1,100 employed at Gunsan factory. One of the biggest sticking issues between GM and the union during their protracted negotiations was what to do with 680 Gunsan workers who did not want to leave the company. The two parties agreed to work toward resolving that issue by sending them to other plants and encouraging other workers to voluntarily leave GM. To keep its Korean unit afloat, GM is seeking investment and tax incentives from South Korea's government, which controls the Korea Development Bank. The government will decide on injecting fresh funds into GM Korea after reassessing its finances and outlook. The government said Monday that it respects the agreement between GM and the union. It said it would speed up due diligence under way to find ways to put GM Korea on track for recovery. GM struggled in South Korea as its cars lost popularity in the domestic market and its exports and profit margin fell. Since GM's acquisition of Daewoo Motor Co. in 2002, South Korea has served as an Asian manufacturing hub for GM, mainly producing small and compact cars. But GM's recent restructuring of its overseas businesses, especially its decisions to stop selling mainstream Chevrolet models in Europe, to sell its Opel and to stop selling cars in India, hurt its South Korean unit, which produced cars for the European markets and parts to be sent to emerging countries for assembly.
  • Korean Air Lines said Monday that two daughters of its chairman will resign from their executive positions amid mounting public criticism over the women's behavior and allegations that the family engaged in smuggling. An official at the Korea Customs Service, meanwhile, confirmed that authorities raided the airline's headquarters in Seoul seeking evidence on alleged smuggling and tariff evasion. Chairman Cho Yang-ho announced the resignation of his daughter Hyun-ah, who returned to leadership last month after a four-year hiatus following a 'nut rage' scandal, and her younger sister Hyun-min, who is under investigation for allegedly hurling a cup of water at a business meeting. 'We are deeply sorry for upsetting the public and Korean Air employees with my family's problems,' Cho said in a statement. 'Everything is my fault. I apologize to the public.' Cho said Korean Air will create a new management position to hire a senior manager outside the Cho family member and establish a compliance committee. A former Constitutional Court judge will head the committee to beef up internal oversight, the flag carrier said. Hyun-ah achieved worldwide notoriety after she had an onboard tantrum in 2014 when a first class flight attendant served her nuts in a bag instead of on a dish. Cho was the head of the airline's cabin service at the time. The plane was forced to return to the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. She was released from jail after South Korea's appeals court suspended her prison term for coercion and obstruction of business. Her sister, who is also known as Emily Cho, oversaw the company's marketing and commercials. She apologized on Facebook for allegedly throwing the cup of water at an ad agency official during a meeting. South Korean media reports have cited anonymous tips from airline employees that the Cho family smuggled foreign goods into South Korea by disguising them as corporate assets. A Korean Air spokesman said the family is fully cooperating with the investigation. The Cho family's troubles angered many South Koreans who resent abuses of power by elite families connected to many of the country's biggest publicly listed businesses. Such family-run conglomerates dominate the South Korean economy. The families and their companies are facing growing pressure for stricter oversight and more transparency in corporate governance.
  • Across the street from the Colorado Capitol rises an 11-story building emblazoned with The Denver Post's logo. No reporters work out of the building any more, only executives of Digital First Media, whose cuts at the Post triggered an unusual plea from the paper's own editorial page to be sold to another owner. Five hundred miles to the west, the Salt Lake Tribune newsroom takes up one floor of the building that bears its name, overlooking snow-capped mountains and the arena where the Utah Jazz play. Once a Digital First property that dealt with staff reductions and feared closure, the paper was sold to a prominent local family in 2016. Since then, its reporters received their first raise in a decade and won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Though its home city is less than one-third the size of Denver, the Tribune's newsroom staff of about 90 is larger than the Post's roughly 60, who work out of leased offices in an industrial area northeast of the city. 'Denver is such a big, vibrant community to have a staff that is smaller than ours -- that's just a mockery,' said Mike Gorrell, a veteran Tribune reporter. As Colorado's civic community tries to mount a journalistic rescue mission and buy the Post, it is looking to Salt Lake City and other cities like Boston, Minneapolis and Philadelphia that have seen wealthy residents keep their newspapers viable. What happens in Denver could be a signal to a battered newspaper industry, reeling from dwindling ad revenues, of what the future looks like. 'You've got a better shot when there's a local owner -- there's going to be pressure on that person to keep that asset vibrant,' said former Denver Post editor Greg Moore, who contributed a column to the Post's April 9 editorial package. 'If Denver's future was like Salt Lake's and they had a local owner with deep pockets who cared, that'd be the best outcome.' That was the hope of the Post's editorial page when it published its rebellious call for a sale with the headline: 'As vultures circle, The Denver Post must be saved.' Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett did not inform the newspaper's editor or owners of the editorial and accompanying columns slamming Digital First and the New York-based Hedge Fund that owns it, Alden Global Capital, which the editorial called 'vulture capitalists.' 'The smart money is that in a few years The Denver Post will be rotting bones,' the editorial warned. Digital First and Alden did not reply to requests from The Associated Press for comment. The chain owns more than 80 newspapers and is known for cutting deeply. Critics say it vacuums up the profits from the reduced newsrooms and funnels them into other ventures. In the days after the Post editorial, the editor of the Bay Area News Group, also owned by Digital First and reeling from heavy cuts, published a sympathetic column . Last week, the editorial page editor of the Boulder Daily Camera, another Digital First property, self-published his plea for a buyer, saying his bosses would not allow it in their newspaper. It's unclear if the Post is even for sale, and there's no guarantee of a buyer surfacing in Denver. Colorado's civic scene does not have a dominant family like the one in Utah who purchased the Tribune, the Huntsmans, which includes the recently deceased Jon Huntsman Sr., who founded an $11 billion industrial company. His son is Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor of the state who is now the U.S. ambassador to Russia. Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz has long been rumored as a possible buyer, but he also owns the rights to the name of the shuttered Rocky Mountain News, and has explored reviving that paper in the past instead. Anschutz owns the Colorado Springs Gazette and has built a political vertical to compete with the Post's coverage. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says he's been talking with local leaders about assembling possible buyers. Potential contributors include Colorado billionaires like John Malone, chairman of the board of Liberty Media, and Pat Stryker, a major liberal political donor. One group of philanthropists is traveling to Philadelphia to study how charities there bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News in 2016, according to Bruce DeBoskey, a Denver philanthropic adviser. The only group to surface publicly is a consortium in Colorado Springs that pledged $10 million toward purchase of the newspaper. 'We still believe in print,' said John Weiss, publisher of an alternative newspaper in Colorado Springs and six other small newspapers, who is part of the group. J.B. Holston, dean of the University of Denver's school of engineering and computer science, has been convening meetings about the Post, but said some in the group lean toward starting a new, largely or entirely digital newsroom to bind the fast-growing city together. But newspaper analyst Ken Doctor warned there's no proven substitute for a local newspaper. 'In this whole debacle of American journalism and especially with what Alden's done, we haven't seen anyone enter the scene with a real replacement,' Doctor said.
  • Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Monday following Friday's steep slide in technology shares on Wall Street. Markets had only a muted reaction, if any, to North Korea's announcement that it would stop nuclear and missile testing. KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 22,091.73 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.2 percent to 2,471.25. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.4 percent to 30,288.71 and the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.2 percent to 3,064.80. Australia's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.4 percent to 5,889.30. Shares were higher in Singapore but fell in Indonesia and Thailand. WALL STREET: Losses in technology, retailers, packaged foods and beverage makers weighed on U.S. stocks Friday, pulling the market lower for a second day in a row. The S&P 500 index fell 0.9 percent to 2,670.14. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.8 percent to 24,462.94. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.3 percent to 7,146.13 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 0.6 percent, to 1,564.12. For every stock that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, two declined, though the indexes finished the week with gains. NORTH KOREA: North Korea's announcement on Saturday to suspend further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and close its nuclear test site raised hopes in Washington and Seoul for a breakthrough in the upcoming nuclear negotiations. However, the North's statement stopped short of suggesting it would give up its nukes or halt production of missiles. That raises the question of what might come of a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday. ANALYST VIEWPOINT: 'While geopolitical tensions remain bubbling under the surface, rising oil prices and higher U.S. yields suggest investors are likely to deal with increased volatility as a broad range of political, economic and financial events unfolds,' Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a commentary. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 7 cents to $68.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday it gained 7 cents to settle at $68.40 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was flat at $74.06 per barrel. It added 28 cents per barrel in London on Friday. CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 107.78 yen from 107.64 yen on Friday. The euro fell to $1.2274 from $1.2290. The pound rose to $1.4019 from $1.4001.
  • It was looking like a banner year for business in China. The U.S. clothing company was expecting a 20 percent jump in online sales on Alibaba's Tmall, thanks to the e-commerce giant's massive reach. But executives soon learned that what Alibaba gives, it can also take away. The company refused to sign an exclusive contract with Alibaba, and instead participated in a big sale promotion with its archrival, JD.com Inc. Tmall punished them by taking steps to cut traffic to their storefront, two executives told The Associated Press. They said advertising banners vanished from prominent spots in Tmall sales showrooms, the company was blocked from special sales and products stopped appearing in top search results. The well-known American brand saw its Tmall sales plummet 10 to 20 percent for the year. 'Based on our sales record, we should have been in a prominent position, but we were at the bottom of the page,' said the brand's e-commerce director, who spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of further retaliation. 'That's a clear manipulation of traffic. That's a clear punishment.' As the Trump administration pushes China to play by fair trade rules, companies are caught in a quieter but no less crucial struggle for rules-based access to a $610 billion online marketplace, an AP investigation has found. Executives from five major consumer brands told the AP that after they refused to enter exclusive partnerships with Alibaba, traffic to their Tmall storefronts fell, hurting sales. Three are American companies with billions in annual sales that rely on China for growth. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. denied punishing the companies. In a statement, Alibaba said pursuing exclusive deals is a common industry practice and called the charges of coercion 'completely false.' 'Alibaba and Tmall conduct business in full compliance with Chinese laws,' Alibaba said. 'Like many e-commerce platforms, we have exclusive partnerships with some of the merchants on Tmall. The merchant decides to choose such an arrangement because of the attractive services and value Tmall brings to them.' The executives spoke to the AP only on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, but their concerns were echoed by a U.S. industry group, brand consultants and policy makers in China and JD.com itself. In a speech about cyberspace last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping said ensuring free and fair competition online was a regulatory priority, citing the need 'to cultivate a fair market environment, strengthen intellectual property protection, and oppose monopoly and unfair competition,' state media reported. In its months-long investigation, the AP interviewed more than 30 people and reviewed two contracts from Alibaba that contained the previously unreported exclusivity clauses. The AP found that the platforms that control access to Chinese consumers online wield such enormous power that even multi-billion dollar foreign companies can have trouble fighting back. 'We urge the authorities to quickly investigate and take steps to ensure such practices are eliminated from the growing Chinese marketplace,' said Stephen Lamar, executive vice-president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, adding that members of his industry group had complained about unfair competitive practices by Alibaba. JD.com is a member and sponsor of the trade group. Imagine a company twice as profitable as Amazon that each year serves more people than live in all of North America. That's Alibaba. It claims to be the marketplace for nearly $550 billion a year in sales — more than is sold online in the entire U.S. economy. The trials of the affected companies offer a rare window onto a bruising business culture forged in China that could spread as Alibaba takes its aggressive, innovative and hugely profitable model of e-commerce global. To the extent that their products are manufactured in the United States — and some are — constricting sales in China's critical growth market can also deepen the imbalance of trade between China and the U.S., a gap that is a top concern for the Trump administration. The competition between Alibaba and JD.com is so infamous in China — and so dirty — it's been dubbed the 'great cat-and-dog war,' after Tmall's black-cat mascot and JD.com's white dog. Wang Hongbo, a consultant who helps Chinese brands sell online abroad, echoed the problems cited by the companies who spoke to AP. 'Many brands complained about this to us. Because they didn't fall in line, they faced restrictions on Tmall,' he said. JD.com said that over 100 Chinese brands defected last year due to pressure from its main rival, an assertion Alibaba and some brands have contested. The exodus appears to have had a lasting impact. 'Based on the feedbacks we received from these merchants, the move was mainly due to the coercive tactics from our competition, which if proven true would be illegal and clearly against the merchants' will,' said Sidney Huang, JD.com's chief financial officer, said in a November earnings call. Peacebird, a Chinese fashion company, is among those that left JD.com last year. But Weng Jianghong, the company's general manager of e-commerce, said Alibaba had not coerced them and the decision to focus on Tmall was strategic. 'We will centralize and develop the limited resources of our company on Tmall,' he said. Many companies, including JD.com, do exclusive deals. However, JD.com maintains that it doesn't strategically push merchants for exclusivity. 'We support fair and open competition because greater choice is always better for brands and users,' JD.com said in a statement. 'We are winning over customers by providing a superior shopping experience, rather than by limiting the options of brands or consumers.' JD.com is still trying to get brands to return. 'We do believe there will be more merchants coming back,' Huang said in a call last month with analysts. 'But I do not expect a very quick fix.' PLAY OR PAY Tmall controlled six of every ten dollars spent overall for business-to-consumer sales online in China in the second half of last year — and even more for sectors like apparel — giving it enormous power over companies that rely on Alibaba for access to Chinese consumers online. The contracts reviewed by AP offered a suite of benefits in exchange for exclusivity. One contract specified that brands must not operate storefronts on other e-commerce platforms without Tmall's written permission. The other contract mandated that new products not be launched on competing platforms and barred brands from sales promotions on other platforms without Tmall's written permission. Such sales events are the lifeblood of online commerce in China. The country's massive Singles Day promotion in November, which started as an anti-Valentine's Day gimmick, is now the world's largest e-commerce event. Last year, Alibaba said $25 billion worth of merchandise was sold on its platforms alone, compared with just $14.5 billion in total online sales in the U.S. for Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, according to data from Adobe Systems Inc. Brands cited commercial, ideological and legal reasons for refusing to cut off business with JD.com. Some said that different people shop in different ways on JD.com and Tmall, so cutting off JD.com means cutting off access to a pool of potential shoppers. 'It's clear from the data we look at these are distinct consumer pools,' said the China head of a publicly-traded company. 'If I lost the JD business I would lose a certain part of that business. Another part is on principle: This is blatant anticompetitive behavior.' Others cited legal concerns. 'We didn't want to go for it in part because we thought it might be an illegal agreement in restraint of trade,' said an executive for a second publicly-traded company. 'We're chided when we participate in promotional events on other platforms,' he added. 'What's never said but actually happens when we don't cooperate in the way they want us to is our traffic falls. It's not a coincidence.' Two companies said they granted concessions to Alibaba, agreeing to exclusive product launches, raising their prices on JD.com, or removing ads promoting JD.com sales. Traffic to their Tmall shops rebounded. One company said it ultimately closed its flagship on JD.com to salvage Tmall sales. 'You have to go beg,' said the China director of a multi-billion dollar publicly-traded company. THE GREAT CAT-AND-DOG WAR Tmall and JD.com have different business models but they are increasingly pushing onto each other's turf. Alibaba's online marketplaces connect buyers and sellers. Alibaba earns money from advertising, as well as commissions and fees. JD.com runs a similar marketplace but, like Amazon, also buys products from brands, then sells and distributes the merchandise itself. Alibaba has taken aim at JD.com's long-standing dominance in electronics, while JD.com hopes to cut into Tmall's core apparel category. Both have expanded into groceries and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into acquisitions to extend their reach into brick-and-mortar businesses. The result is an escalating turf fight that carries a chilling message for brands: Either you're with us or against us. The Chinese have a name for this unwritten rule, 'er xuan yi,' choose one of two. ''Choose one of two' is a tacit understanding that has been reached by everyone, but you do not say it directly,' said Zhuo Saijun, who until 2015 was a general manager of e-commerce research at Analysys Ltd., a Beijing-based big data consultancy. 'This is certainly a problem for the development of retail sales channels. It is a business ethics problem, and this is how monopolies develop.' Some policymakers have raised concerns about monopolistic tendencies in Chinese e-commerce and called for more effective regulation and enforcement. 'Unfair competition still exists,' Wang Bingnan, a deputy director at China's Ministry of Commerce, said in a June speech about China's e-commerce market. 'Behaviors like forced 'choose one of two,'' he added, 'are hard for regulators to define, prove or deal with accurately.' It's not clear whether Alibaba's actions would be illegal, nor is it certain that the evidence of coercion that brands have managed to collect would hold up in court. Under China's anti-monopoly laws, companies that dominate a market cannot demand exclusivity without justification. A 2015 regulation also specifically bars e-commerce platforms from restricting brands' participation in promotions on other platforms. The rules are designed to prevent dominant players from squeezing out the competition, which could ultimately hurt both brands and consumers by giving a single, monopolistic player absolute control over prices. JD.com has complained about anticompetitive tactics before. In 2015, the company filed a complaint with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, a corporate regulator, accusing Alibaba of pressuring brands into doing exclusive Singles Day sales promotions — a charge Alibaba denied. The complaint was kicked to a regional office in Zhejiang province, where Alibaba has its headquarters. Nothing more was ever heard about it. The regulators did not respond to requests for comment. Alibaba said that while JD.com focuses 'on groundless complaints to explain why they are losing brands, we at Alibaba are squarely focused on making our platform the best for our merchants.' MR. MA GOES GLOBAL The battles now being waged within China's e-commerce sector could well impact the culture and norms of e-commerce globally — at least if Alibaba's chairman, Jack Ma, has his way. Alibaba aims to serve 2 billion consumers by 2036 — or about one in four people now on the planet. Already, the value of goods sold on Alibaba's platforms in fiscal year 2017 was $547 billion, larger than the gross domestic product of Sweden. In June, Ma told investors that his company will rank as the fifth largest economy in the world. 'Just say USA, China, Europe, maybe Japan and us,' Ma said. The company has been aggressively recruiting foreign brands to sell on its platforms, and they have come, in droves. Alibaba said it signed up 60,000 international brands for its massive Single's Day sale in November, up from 5,000 in 2015. Alibaba's retail sales outside of China also are growing fast — they more than doubled last fiscal year to 7.3 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), or 5 percent of total revenue. America remains at the heart of Ma's ambition. He told president-elect Donald Trump in Jan. 2017 that he would create a million U.S. jobs by facilitating trade between businesses in the U.S and consumers in China — a pledge he now says is imperiled by the brewing trade war between the two countries. Brands now caught in the great cat and dog war have adopted different strategies to avoid becoming collateral damage. An e-commerce manager at a major European brand said she'd be happy to offer totally different products on Tmall and JD.com to stay out of trouble, but worries her bosses won't go for it because it cuts off potential buyers. Sometimes, she said, it feels 'like we're working for those platforms.' -- Associated Press reporter Anne D'Innocenzio contributed from Las Vegas. Associated Press researchers Si Chen and Fu Ting contributed from Shanghai. Follow Kinetz on Twitter at twitter.com/ekinetz Send news tips, documents, etc. securely and confidentially to AP at https://securedrop.ap.org/
  • Mexico's president has said at a trade fair in Germany that he's optimistic about reaching a deal to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Enrique Pena Nieto and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday opened the annual Hannover Messe fair, where Mexico is this year's guest country. Both welcomed a preliminary agreement reached Saturday between the European Union and Mexico to update their nearly 20-year-old trade deal. Mexico faces a challenge with the United States and Canada in overhauling NAFTA. About three-quarters of Mexico's exports go to the U.S.; roughly half its imports come from there. Pena Nieto said: 'We have optimism, as well, that we're going to be concluding the renegotiation (and) modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement ... ensuring benefits for all its partners.
  • It's another weekend of buzz versus pure star power at the box office as the word of mouth sensation 'A Quiet Place' finds itself neck-and-neck again with Dwayne Johnson's 'Rampage.' This time buzz had the slight advantage. Studio estimates on Sunday have placed 'A Quiet Place,' with $22 million, in first, and 'Rampage' in second with $21 million, but it's possible those numbers may shift when final results are tallied on Monday. Still, John Krasinski's 'A Quiet Place' continues to be a mini phenomenon. With a $17 million production budget, 'A Quiet Place' has grossed $132.4 million from North American theaters in three weeks. 'Rampage,' too, is down only 41 percent domestically in its second weekend and continues to rake in the dollars globally. The film boasts a worldwide tally of $283 million, and Johnson has continued using his social media accounts to hype the film and thank audiences. 'I never take success like this for granted. Global success like this means so much,' Johnson posted on his Instagram account Saturday night. 'I'm not a Marvel movie. It's not Star Wars. 'Rampage' may as well have been called 'Dwayne Johnson and his albino gorilla friend' because it's such an obscure video game ... Thank you guys so much.' The staying power of both somewhat overshadowed the newcomers, like Amy Schumer's 'I Feel Pretty' and the sequel to the 2001 cult comedy 'Super Troopers,' both of which nevertheless managed to find their own niche audiences despite largely negative reviews. 'I Feel Pretty,' released by STX Entertainment, grossed an estimated $16.2 million — a little less than half of what Schumer's 'Trainwreck' opened to in July 2015. Unlike 'Trainwreck,' Schumer did not write 'I Feel Pretty,' which is about an insecure woman who gets a life-changing confidence boost after a head injury. The concept became somewhat divisive and the subject of a fair amount of scrutiny. 'She's a force and that's not going to change,' notes comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. 'She's always going to push the envelope. Sometimes that will bring big box office, sometimes it won't.' The partially crowd-funded 'Super Troopers 2,' meanwhile, leaned into its April 20 opening and scored a fourth place, $14.7 million opening weekend for Broken Lizards and distributor 20th Century Fox. Fifth place went to the Blumhouse horror 'Truth or Dare' with $7.9 million in its second weekend, while Lionsgate's thriller 'Traffik,' with Paula Patton, launched in ninth with $3.9 million. The box office for the year remains down about 2.4 percent from last year, but that will change next week. 'We're going to see a huge turnaround later this week in the box office fortunes with 'Avengers: Infinity War,'' Dergarabedian said. The film is tracking to make over $200 million in its first weekend in theaters, leading some experts to wonder whether the superhero pic could have the highest opening of all time, beating out even 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday. 1.'A Quiet Place,' $22 million ($15 million international). 2.'Rampage,' $21 million ($57 million international). 3.'I Feel Pretty,' $16.2 million ($2.4 million international). 4.'Super Troopers 2,' $14.7 million. 5.'Truth or Dare,' $7.9 million ($4.1 million international). 6.'Ready Player One,' $7.5 million ($23 million international). 7.'Blockers,' $7 million ($2.6 million international). 8.'Black Panther,' $4.6 million ($1.2 million international). 9.'Traffik,' $3.9 million. 10.'Isle of Dogs,' $3.4 million ($5.6 million international). ___ Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore: 1. 'Rampage,' $57 million. 2. 'Ready Player One,' $23 million. 3. 'A Quiet Place,' $15 million. 4. '21 Karat,' $10.1 million. 5. 'Peter Rabbit,' $6.4 million. 6. 'Isle of Dogs,' $5.6 million. 7. 'The Coach,' $4.8 million. 8. 'Truth or Dare,' $4.1 million. 9. 'Taxi 5,' $3.8 million. 10. 'Dude's Manual,' $3.7 million. ___ Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A man reportedly was shot and killed Sunday night outside an Arkansas Walmart as bystanders, including kids, looked on. >> Waffle House shooting: 4 dead after nude gunman opens fire in Tennessee; victims identified According to KAIT, police said the slaying began as a domestic dispute at the front of the store in Trumann about 9:15 p.m. CDT. Police arrived and negotiated with an armed man who walked out of the store with a woman. The man then shot and killed a second man who 'tried to intervene,' KAIT reported. The armed man eventually surrendered to police and was arrested. Police did not release the names of the people involved in the incident, but officers said the slain man was likely connected to the woman and armed man. >> Read more trending news  Dozens of shoppers were nearby when the man was shot, police said. 'A lot of people witnessed something tonight that they should have never seen,' Trumann police Chief Chad Henson told KAIT. 'We're going to have to go through a lot of healing from here on out. It was just a terrible day.' Read more here.
  • Faced with hundreds of demonstrators rallying against a crowd of neo-Nazis in Newnan, Georgia, authorities turned to a little-known Georgia law adopted in 1951 to combat the Ku Klux Klan. >> Tension, arrests at neo-Nazi rally in metro Atlanta The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists. And the irony was not lost upon the organizers of the counterdemonstration, who were fuming Sunday that a law aimed at weakening white supremacists was used to arrest protesters who opposed a neo-Nazi rally. “They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Jeremy Ortega, a 19-year-old who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for wearing a mask. He said many of the demonstrators wore masks to avoid being identified and threatened by white power groups. “We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off,” said Ortega, who added that he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “It made no sense.” State and local authorities did not comment on specific allegations of abuse on Sunday. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the overwhelming security – nearly 700 law enforcement officers were on hand – helped prevent the clashes from escalating. “Making arrests in a volatile situation is never going to be pretty,” Keenan said. No one from the white supremacist group was arrested on Saturday, and they largely avoided confrontations with police or the counterdemonstration group. The two dozen white supremacists who attended the rally were separated from the group by an 8-foot fence – and hundreds of armed officers. ‘Remove your mask’ On Sunday, a coalition of counterprotest groups planned a vigil at the Coweta County Jail to criticize what they said was excessive violence by police. The Huffington Post reported that a contingent of officers approached a group of 50 counterdemonstrators before the rally and demanded they remove their masks or face arrests. The news outlet wrote that officers then “grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.” A video posted on social media by freelance journalist Daniel Shular appeared to show authorities scuffling with counterdemonstrators. Authorities demanded that the counterprotesters remove their masks, and the footage showed an officer raising his rifle at demonstrators. “Remove your mask, or you will be arrested,” said an officer in the video, which shows a ring of demonstrators standing with their hands raised aloft. Several are chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.” An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who attempted to report on the confrontation during the rally was obstructed by authorities. Several other counterdemonstrators faced violations that have nothing to do with the anti-mask law. Daniel Hanley was charged with obstruction of a pedestrian roadway after he said he nonviolently resisted a police officer who confronted him. He said he believes he was arrested because he was wielding a megaphone and leading chants against the white supremacists. “They were trying to find any pretext to shut us down,” Hanley, 36, said of the authorities. “The moment we stepped foot there, they intimated us and strategically tried to target people.” ‘Absolutely satisfied’ State law bans the wearing of masks, hoods or other devices that conceal a person’s identity if they’re on public property or on private property where the owner has not consented. It includes exceptions for holidays, theatrical productions, civil emergencies and sporting events. The laws have been adopted by about a dozen states, most aimed at weakening the KKK in the middle of the 20th century. The Georgia Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the state’s ban after a Klansman donned a hood on the Lawrenceville Square, citing his First Amendment rights. The law has mostly been used to target KKK demonstrations, though it has also been employed before to arrest demonstrators who are objecting to white power groups. At a 2016 rally, the law was used to arrest eight demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain Park. In a strange turn, it also was invoked ahead of a press conference last year at the Gold Dome, when supporters of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened to hire performers in circus masks to interrupt a rival’s event. The clowns never showed up. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said they were intent on enforcing that law and others as they studied how law enforcement officials handled white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 to prepare for the Newnan event. In Charlottesville, officers remained largely passive as bloody clashes raged around them, and the event soon spiraled out of control. One person was killed and dozens more were injured in the violence. “You have to have adequate resources and the intent to enforce the law,” Keenan said. “We had both.” He said officers made clear to both groups that masks and some weapons were not allowed. He said authorities found an abandoned backpack with smoke bombs at one checkpoint. State law allows demonstrators to carry firearms if they are licensed; on Saturday, several were spotted sporting firearms. “We maintained security. We would not let there be disorder. We didn’t have civil disorder, property damage. And we had just a few arrests,” Keenan said. “We are absolutely satisfied.” MORE COVERAGE FROM AJC.COM:  >> Reports from Newnan as the rally and counterprotest were underway >> How social media reacted >> In-depth look at how protest was contained 
  • UPDATE, 10 a.m. April 22: The two brothers who went missing Friday have been found, police said.  Police said Amier Windsor, 12, and Robert Windsor Jr., 11, have been located. Pittsburgh police thanked all involved for their assistance in finding the boys.  ORIGINAL STORY: Pittsburgh police are seeking assistance in finding two brothers.  >> Watch the news report here Police said Amier Windsor, 12, and Robert Windsor Jr., 11, went missing about 5 p.m. Friday. >> Read more trending news  According to a news release, the two brothers are known to frequent the Brookline area.  Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is asked to call police at 412-323-7800. 
  • A massive hunt to capture the man wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of four people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, outside Nashville, continues. >> Watch the news report here >> Waffle House shooting: 4 dead after nude gunman opens fire in Tennessee; victims identified Travis Reinking, 29, is now on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted List, and law enforcement said he is armed, dangerous and hiding, WHBQ's Greg Coy reports.  >> Who is Travis Reinking, the person of interest in the Waffle House shooting? Police said Reinking returned to his apartment after opening fire at the Waffle House. Reinking, who reportedly was nude at the time of the shooting, put on pants and then ran into the woods, police said. >> Waffle House 'hero' disarmed shooter, tossed rifle over counter Neighbor Johnny Green said another neighbor noticed Reinking and called police.  >> Who is James Shaw Jr., the man who disarmed the Waffle House shooter? 'My mom saw him,' Green added. Coy asked, 'What did she say about him?' 'He just seemed weird,' Green replied.  >> Read more trending news  Police said they hope the rain and cooler temperatures will draw Reinking out of hiding. Police said Reinking's options are limited because the crime and social media attention have made him an international fugitive. >> Please visit Fox13Memphis.com for the latest on this developing story
  • An intensive manhunt continued Monday for a half-naked man suspected in the slayings of four people at a Waffle House restaurant. Police in Nashville, Tennessee warned people nearby to be wary, while authorities shared reports about previous efforts to contain the gun-loving man with paranoid delusions. More than 80 Nashville police officers continued to search for Travis Reinking early Monday, authorities said. Agents with the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol joined the manhunt. He was also added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted list. Reinking was nearly naked, wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault-style rifle when he opened fire in the parking lot and then stormed the restaurant, police say. Four people were killed and four others were injured before a quick-thinking customer wrestled the gun away, preventing more bloodshed. Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said at a news conference that Reinking, 29, was last seen Sunday around a wooded area near an apartment complex where he lived, wearing only pants and no shirt or shoes. Anderson said it's not clear why Reinking opened fire on restaurant patrons with an assault weapon, though he may have 'mental issues.' He may still be armed, Anderson said, because he was known to have owned a handgun authorities have not recovered. 'He's on foot,' Anderson said. 'Unless he's been picked up by a car, he would be fairly close. We don't want to alarm people, but certainly, everybody should take precautions. It could be he's in an unoccupied house. We want everybody to be concerned. Neighbors should check on each other.' Nashville public schools will go into 'lock-out' mode if Reinking isn't found in time for class Monday, officials said. That means students will be free to move about the building, but no guests or visitors will be allowed to enter. As the search continued, authorities in Illinois shared past reports suggesting multiple red flags about a disturbed young man with paranoid delusions who liked firearms. In May 2016, Reinking told deputies from Tazewell County, Illinois, that music superstar Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was also involved, according to a report released Sunday. Another sheriff's report said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June, and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman's coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed. Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after he crossed into a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump. Reinking was not armed at the time, but at the FBI's request, state police in Illinois revoked his state firearms card and seized four guns from him, authorities said. The AR-15 used in the shootings was among the firearms seized. Then, in August, Reinking told police he wanted to file a report about 20 to 30 people tapping into his computer and phone and people 'barking like dogs' outside his residence, according to a report. Reinking agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said. 'There's certainly evidence that there's some sort of mental health issues involved,' Tazwell County Sheriff Robert Huston said. But he said deputies returned the guns to Reinking's father on the promise that he would 'keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.' Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said that Reinking's father 'has now acknowledged giving them back' to his son. After the shooting, police recovered three of the four guns originally taken from Reinking, officials said. They believe he still has at least one handgun. Phone calls to a number listed for the father, Jeffrey Reinking, went unanswered. It is not clear why Reinking moved recently from Morton, Illinois, to Nashville and if it had anything to do with being near Swift. Police say he was employed in construction for a while, and there would have been enough work in the booming city for him. Police say Reinking drove into the Waffle House parking lot in his gold Chevy Silverado pickup early Sunday and sat there for about four minutes before opening fire outside the restaurant. The victims fatally shot in the parking have been identified as Taurean Sanderlin, 29, of Goodlettsville, and Joe Perez, 20, of Nashville. Sanderlin was an employee at the restaurant. Perez's mother posted a picture of her son on Facebook and asked for prayers, saying it was the hardest day of her life. 'Me, my husband and sons are broken right now with this loss,' Trisha Perez said in the post. 'Our lives are shattered.' Reinking then went inside the restaurant and opened fire, police said. One of the fatally wounded inside was DeEbony Groves, a 21-year student at Nashville's Belmont University. She was remembered as an exceptional student who made the Dean's list, and a tenacious basketball player. 'She was a brilliant young lady, very, very intelligent and a very hard worker,' Gallatin High School basketball coach Kim Kendrick told The Tennessean. Akilah Dasilva was also killed inside the restaurant. The 23-year-old from Antioch was a rap artist and music video producer who had such skills behind the camera that he was a favorite among many of Music City's independent musicians and recording labels, The Tennessean reported. 'Music is my life and I will never stop until I achieve my dreams,' Dasilva said on his Twitter account. Dasilva's mother told CBS News that her son was a student at Middle Tennessee State University and aspired to be a music engineer. He was at the restaurant with his girlfriend, 21-year-old Tia Waggoner, the paper reported. Waggoner was wounded and is being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dasilva's family said she underwent surgery and doctors were trying to save her leg. Police say Sharita Henderson, 24, of Antioch, was wounded and is being treated at VUMC. Also wounded was James Shaw Jr., a 29-year-old restaurant patron who burned his hand grabbing the hot muzzle of the assault weapon as he wrestled the gun away. A Nashville native who works as a wireless technician for AT&T, Shaw said he was no hero — despite being hailed as one by Nashville Mayor David Briley. Shaw said he pounced on the suspect out of self-preservation, after making up his mind that 'he was going to have to work to kill me.' ___ Associated Press writers John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Ed White in Detroit; and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.