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    The boom market in small businesses is showing signs of cooling. The number of small business sales counted by online market BizBuySell.com fell 6.5% during the first quarter from the same period of 2018, following a 6% fourth quarter drop. BizBuySell.com reported 2,504 first quarter transactions, down from 2,678 a year earlier. Sales remain very strong, and the first quarter total is close to the record for a January-March period, according to BizBuySell.com, which compiled its results from a survey of brokers who arrange small business transactions. But a number of factors is likely contributing to a slight diminishing of owners' desire to sell and potential buyers' interest in acquiring firms, Jeff Snell, chairman of the trade group International Business Broker Association, said in a statement. Among them: Low unemployment, which indicates that many people are satisfied in their jobs and not looking to switch to entrepreneurship. Small companies' profits are up, and that may dissuade owners from letting go of their businesses, Snell says. Small business sales began surging at the start of 2013 as the stronger economy lifted prices for companies and baby boomer owners decided it was a good time to sell and retire. As companies grew healthier, they became more attractive to buyers. And as the unemployment rate dropped and it became harder for businesses to find talented workers, they began acquiring other companies in order to expand. But the slowing of sales seen in the past two quarters could continue, said Jessica Fialkovich, president, Transworld Business Advisors of Denver. 'We are seeing signs that the market could become more challenging in the future with interest rates rising and financing becoming both more expensive and harder to acquire,' she said in a statement. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates four times last year and a total of nine times since 2015. The Fed indicated after its most recent meeting on March 21 that it foresaw no more increases this year as the economy is slowing. While that can keep borrowing costs stable going forward, the rate increases through 2018 have made it more expensive to finance purchases. And a weaker economy is likely to make some potential buyers wary about acquiring a business. _____ Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com
  • Looking back at her time as an early Microsoft employee, Melinda Gates said the brash culture at the famously tough, revolutionary tech company made her want to quit. In an interview with The Associated Press, she says she didn't discuss those concerns with Bill Gates, the company CEO who embodied that culture and was also her boyfriend, and later her husband. She said telling him 'wasn't my job to do that at the time.' She said says drew 'bright lines' around office and home life in order to work there. Her new book out Tuesday, 'The Moment of Lift,' is a memoir and manifesto on women and power, covering her life from Catholic school girl in Texas and young Microsoft manager to wife of a public icon and leading philanthropist.
  • President Donald Trump said Monday that Herman Cain has withdrawn from consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve's board amid a focus on past scandals. Cain is a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza who dropped out of the 2012 presidential race amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity. The issues resurfaced after Trump said he intended to nominate Cain to the central bank's board of governors. Trump tweeted Monday that 'My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. I will respect his wishes.' The president added that 'Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!' Trump has also nominated conservative ally Stephen Moore for a separate vacancy on the Fed's seven-member board. Cain's nomination was all but doomed earlier this month when four Republican senators said they wouldn't vote to confirm him if he were nominated. The GOP holds just a three-seat majority in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say 10 days ago whether the chamber would confirm Cain. Trump's nomination of Cain, along with Moore, had raised concerns about the Fed's ability to remain politically independent. Last fall, Cain co-founded a pro-Trump super political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC. It features a photo of the president on its website and says, 'We must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment.' The potential nominations surfaced after Trump has spent months attacking his pick to lead the Fed, Jerome Powell, and other Fed officials for raising interest rates four times last year. Those rate hikes hurt the stock market and were unnecessary because there was no inflation threat, Trump has said.
  • The financial condition of the government's bedrock retirement programs for middle- and working-class Americans remains shaky, with Medicare pointed toward insolvency by 2026, according to a report Monday by the government's overseers of Medicare and Social Security. It paints a sobering picture of the programs, though it's relatively unchanged from last year's update. Social Security would become insolvent in 2035, one year later than previously estimated. Both programs will need to eventually be addressed to avert automatic cuts should their trust funds run dry. Neither President Donald Trump nor Capitol Hill's warring factions has put political perilous cost curbs on their to-do list. The report is the latest update of the government's troubled fiscal picture. It lands in a capital that has proven chronically unable to address it. Trump has declared benefit cuts to the nation's signature retirement programs off limits and many Democratic presidential candidates are calling for expanding Medicare benefits rather than addressing the program's worsening finances. Many on both sides actually agree that it would be better for Washington to act sooner rather than later to shore up the programs rather than wait until they are on the brink of insolvency and have to weigh more drastic steps. But potential cuts such as curbing inflationary increases for Social Security, hiking payroll taxes, or raising the Medicare retirement age are so politically freighted and toxic that Washington's power players are mostly ignoring the problem. Later this year, Social Security is expected to declare a 1.8% cost-of-living increase for 2020 based on current trends, program officials say. Monday's report by three Cabinet heads and Social Security's acting commissioner, urges lawmakers to 'take action sooner rather than later to address these shortfalls, so that a broader range of solutions can be considered and more time will be available to phase in changes while giving the public adequate time to prepare.' If Congress doesn't act, both programs would eventually be unable to cover the full cost of promised benefits. With Social Security that could mean automatic benefit cuts for most retirees, many of whom depend on the program to cover basic living costs. 'We remain committed to further bolstering the programs' finances, which will benefit from the long-term growth we will see as a result of the Administration's economic policies,' said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. For Medicare, it could mean that hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical providers would be paid only part of their agreed-upon fees. As an indication of Medicare's woes, it would take a payroll tax increase of 0.91 percentage points to fully address its shortfall or a 19% cut in spending. Medicare's problems are considered more difficult to solve, as health care costs regularly outpace inflation and economic growth. Social Security is the government's largest program, costing $853 billion last year, with another $147 billion for disability benefits. Medicare's hospital, outpatient care, and prescription drug benefits totaled about $740 billion. Taken together, the two programs combined for 45% of the federal budget, excluding interest payments on the national debt.
  • SpaceX has suffered a serious setback in its effort to launch NASA astronauts into orbit this year, with the fiery loss of its first crew capsule. Over the weekend, the Dragon crew capsule that flew to the International Space Station last month was engulfed in smoke and flames on an engine test stand. SpaceX was testing the Dragon's abort thrusters at Cape Canaveral, Florida, when Saturday's accident occurred. The company said the test area was clear and no one was injured. This Dragon was supposed to be reused in a launch abort test in June, with another capsule making the first flight with a crew of two as early as July. The SuperDraco abort thrusters are crucial to protect astronauts in flight; they're designed to fire in an emergency and pull the capsule safely away from the rocket. NASA said Monday it's too early to revise the target launch dates, given that the accident is still so fresh. 'This is why we test,' NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement over the weekend. 'We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our commercial crew program.' The University of Southern California's Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut who directed space operations for SpaceX until last year, said it was a 'tough day ... not good' for SpaceX. 'But thankfully no one got hurt and with everything we learn from this anomaly Crew Dragon will be a safer vehicle for all her future crews,' he tweeted. Until Saturday, SpaceX was on a roll to resume crew launches from Florida. The March test flight, to the space station and back, went smoothly. The SuperDraco thrusters embedded in the sides of the capsule, however, were not used during the demo. SpaceX said it will make sure, through the accident investigation, that the Dragon is one of the safest spacecraft ever built for astronauts. The California-based company released few details, though, on the accident itself and how it might impact future flights. Former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, now with Syracuse University, said via email Monday that it's 'too early to tell what the implications may be.' NASA astronauts have not launched from Cape Canaveral since the last shuttle flight in 2011, instead hitching rides on Russian rockets at steep prices. The space agency turned the job over to two private companies — SpaceX and Boeing — to build new capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. Earlier this month, NASA announced major delays for test flights of Boeing's Starliner crew capsule. The initial trip to the space station, without astronauts, is targeted for August, with the first Starliner crew potentially flying by year's end. NASA stressed that next week's launch of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule remains on track. The supply ship is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral on April 30. SpaceX has been making deliveries to the space station since 2012. The crew Dragon is a much-enhanced version of the cargo version. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • On a spring evening in eastern Pennsylvania, upon a bluff overlooking the Lehigh Valley, a carnival of baseball and pork products is at hand. From loudspeakers, swine-like sounds reverberate. Vendors roam the stands in clothing festooned with outsized strips of bacon. And yes, there is also a baseball game going on — featuring players wearing jerseys that say, across the chest, 'BaconUSA.' No matter that the decade-old Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A team, are named for the pig iron that is a byproduct of the steel this region is renowned for producing. This is branding and marketing at its best. The pugnacious strip of breakfast meat, introduced as the team's alternate identity five years ago, hardly stands alone. Up in New England, there are yard goats. In the Deep South, there are spacebound raccoons. A wider scan of the American map reveals a menagerie of unlikely characters, from quarrelsome jumbo shrimp to menacing thunderbolts, from in-your-face rubber ducks to aggrieved prairie dogs. It's nowhere near the history-soaked dignity of the Yankees or the Dodgers, and that's the point. Across America, a golden age of minor league baseball branding has unfolded, bursting with exuberance and calibrated localism. And two guys from San Diego, born six days apart and best friends since kindergarten, have helped teams find the way. ___ 'You look at our stuff, and you'll see a lot of pigs, squirrels, ducks looking to punch above their weight. These are American stories,' Jason Klein says. He and his partner, Casey White, are the 39-year-old founders of Brandiose, a California design studio that pushes minor league baseball branding into fresh frontiers. Partnering with nearly half the approximately 160 minor league clubs that dot the continental United States, they have spent most of their adult lives helping teams build new storylines. The recipe goes something like this: Take modern microbrewing's eclectic localism. Add a character-based American advertising tradition that points back to Count Chocula, the Green Giant and Messrs. Clean and Peanut. Top it off with an optimistic Disneyland sensibility that marries midcentury roadside signage with the kinetic creativity of Bill Veeck, the team owner who, in 1951, sent a 3-foot, 7-inch tall adult man up to the plate for a major league at-bat (he walked, of course). The resulting civic cocktail? Minor league teams bursting with personality and verve, saturated in the culture of the communities they represent — and ready to sell you loads of quirky merch. 'It's a very exciting time for colloquial, niche and unique stories,' White says. 'We're accentuating stories that were lost for a long time, that people were told were stupid and they should be more cosmopolitan.' Brandiose and a minor league club will discuss what's wanted — from some tweaks to a total rebrand or new-team launch — and set to work. Klein and White will travel to the community and immerse themselves, asking questions and trying to figure out what makes the region tick. Possibilities will be narrowed, presentations made, naming contests sometimes held. But if Brandiose is involved, it's likely a team won't be steered toward the safe choice. They embrace the counterintuitive — like the IronPigs, with whom they have been involved since 2008, when the team became the metallic, truculent hogs they are today. 'We got skewered in the media, the fan base: 'This is the worst name ever. We're never coming to a game,'' says Chuck Domino, who was running the IronPigs then and is now chief executive manager of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. 'Within a couple months,' he says, 'we had grandfathers wearing plastic pig noses to games.' Or consider the Rocket City Trash Pandas. When the BayBears of Mobile, Alabama, the Los Angeles Angels' Double-A team, came under new ownership and moved 350 miles north to the Huntsville area for 2020, they brought in Brandiose. 'Moon Possums' and 'Comet Jockeys' emerged as contenders, but despite trepidations about the word 'trash,' the Trash Pandas — slang for raccoons — prevailed. Why? Because a scrappy raccoon reaching for the stars resonated in the Huntsville-area community, with its deep aerospace heritage. So a scavenger in a trash-can spacecraft it became. Says Klein: 'Raccoons break locks, get into things. What if a raccoon created a rocket ship? What would it look like? It'd be created out of trash! And that metaphorically speaks to these engineers: 'I don't know how we're going to do this. We gotta get people from here to the moon!'' The team did $500,000 business in Trash Pandas merchandise in the 30 days after the October unveiling, Klein says. Particularly appealing to fans are teams' 'alternate' identities — a swag-sales play, sure, but also an opportunity to dig deeper into the community. One expression of that: Copa de Diversion, in which teams temporarily deploy names and logos designed to resonate with Latino/Hispanic fans. This year, 72 minor league clubs participated. Often a team will express its alternate identity through local food, from Rochester, New York's 'garbage plates' to asparagus in Stockton, California. Thus did the IronPigs one summer switch meats temporarily, rebranding themselves as the Cheesesteaks, an ode to the fans of their major league team 60 miles southeast. Like the best of such gambits, it calibrated the dance of local flavor and national interest perfectly. 'We had orders from all 50 states in 24 hours,' says Kurt Landes, the team's president and general manager. 'You want to do things from a local standpoint, and that's important to us. But sometimes there's a small twist that makes things go viral.' ___ Minor league ball dates to the 1800s, as does its idiosyncratic regionalism: By the dawn of the 20th century, the Wheeling Stogies were playing in West Virginia's cigar-making northern panhandle and the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers were taking the field in Michigan. Today's version of it, which comes after years of teams styling themselves after MLB counterparts, plays to a specific notion: that minor league baseball isn't merely the big leagues in miniature. Because the 'on-field product' — the players — are mostly just passing through en route to the majors (or in the other direction), it's hard to market personalities. So teams tend to emphasize the off-the-field experience. 'We have no control of the team, no control of the players,' says Jim Pfander, president of the Fast Forward Sports Group, which owns the Akron RubberDucks and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. 'They get called up and there's nothing you can do about it.' Both teams — formerly the Akron Aeros and the Jacksonville Suns — enlisted Brandiose to help reboot what they considered unfocused identities. For Akron, whose history is intertwined with the rubber industry, 'a tough, gritty duck that's really got that blue-collar ethos to it' was an ideal choice for both adults and kids. In Jacksonville, White and Klein learned that lots of the East Coast's shrimp passes through the Port of Jacksonville, and that the community saw itself as a 'little big city.' The oxymoronic Jumbo Shrimp were born. 'They had been the Suns forever. But by the end of the (first) season, people were leaving with armloads of gear,' Pfander says. More saliently, attendance jumped nearly 29 percent in Jacksonville the season after the rebrand; for Akron, it was 27 percent. A more subtle example of brand tweaking came from Brandiose's work with the Spokane minor league team, known for 116 years as the Indians. At the outset, Klein recalls, Brandiose was asked to follow 'one rule — stay away from the Native American stuff.' Instead, they did the opposite. They all went to meet with the Spokane Tribe of Indians, for whom the team was originally named. The two groups learned about each other and agreed to incorporate tribal icons and the tribe's fading language, Salish, into the team's narrative. Today, one jersey spells out 'Spokane' in Salish; the word 'Indians' is gone. Signs in both English and Salish dot the ballpark, and the tribe's leaders are stakeholders in how the team frames its message. 'We said, 'What's important to you?'' says Otto Klein, the team's senior vice president. 'A lot of minor league teams are realizing that we don't have to throw a dart against a wall and see where it sticks. We can look at our own community and find the gems that make us special.' ___ There is a saying in minor league baseball circles, often attributed to Chuck Domino: 'We're not in the baseball business. We're in the circus business.' But many people think of a circus as chaos, when in fact it is, as Domino says, a choreographed extravaganza. It is business. It is mythmaking, and in particular that 'farm team' brand of it that speaks to the American desire for baseball to have come from the heartland, from the small towns and tinier cities. Most of all, it is that curious collision of nostalgia and capitalism and quirky carnival-barkerism that helped build America, rewritten for the 21st century. 'Minor league ball has always had this aura, accurate or not, of a more innocent time, a more innocent approach to the game,' says Paul Lukas, whose blog, UniWatch, has showcased his expertise in athletic uniforms and consumer culture for nearly two decades. 'I do enjoy the embrace of local culture at a time when so many things are homogenized. . There is still stubborn regionalism. We learn about these places through these teams.' Baseball today is under threat by glitzier, faster-moving, entirely personality-driven sports that are something minor league ball will never be. But as teams and Brandiose have proven, they can lean into the exact opposite aesthetic. 'When you put on a minor league baseball hat,' Klein says, 'it's the story of your town and the story of what it means to be an American.' Overstating things? Perhaps a bit. But in a landscape of trash pandas and rubber ducks and flying squirrels and sod poodles, would you really expect anything less? ___ Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation for The Associated Press, writes frequently about American culture. Follow him on Twitter at @anthonyted.
  • The price of crude oil surged Monday after the U.S. government moved to further block Iranian oil exports. That helped to lift energy stocks, but losses elsewhere in the market held U.S. indexes in check. The S&P 500 flip-flopped between modest gains and losses in morning trading, much as it has the last few weeks. The Trump administration said it will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, including China and Japan, the world's second and third largest economies. That helped the price of benchmark U.S. crude touch its highest level since October, and energy stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.7%. Most other areas of the stock market were weaker, though, and seven of the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500 index were lower. Real-estate stocks had some of the sharpest losses. Raw-material producers and health care stocks were also weak. Stock trading was relatively muted around the world, with markets in London, Frankfurt and other major markets closed for holidays. The U.S. market itself has remained notably calm in recent weeks after following up a nearly 20% plummet late last year with a nearly mirror-opposite rebound. Investors will be getting several potentially market-moving reports later this week, including a cavalcade of corporate earnings reports and a read on how much U.S. economic growth slowed during the first three months of the year. KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up by 0.1% as of 11:40 a.m. Eastern time after earlier being down as much as 0.3%. The index is within 0.8% of its record high, which was set in September. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10 points, or less than 0.1%, to 26,550, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.1%. BUBBLING CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude surged $1.59, or 2.5%, to $65.66 per barrel. The leap tacks further gains onto the price of oil, which has been climbing since dropping below $43 in late December. Brent crude rose $2.03, or 2.8%, to $74.00 per barrel. President Donald Trump made the move with the intent of bringing Iran's oil exports to zero. If successful, the move could increase demand for oil from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but would heighten political tensions. 'The big fear now and perhaps the markets' next significant catalyst, will Iran retaliate with force?' said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report. Marathon Oil rose 4.8%, and Exxon Mobil gained 2%. CUT DEEP: Intuitive Surgical fell to the largest loss in the S&P 500 after the robotic surgery system company reported weaker earnings for the latest quarter than Wall Street expected. It dropped 7%. SUPPLY SURPRISE: W.W. Grainger sank 4.4% after the supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products reported weaker revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected. CLEANING UP: Kimberly-Clark jumped 5.9% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the maker of Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissue reported stronger earnings and revenue for its latest quarter than analysts expected. IT'S QUIET OUT THERE: The stock market has been notably calm, with no move for the S&P 500 of more than 0.7% in either direction after April 1. Bigger moves may be ahead, with a crush of corporate earnings reports due this week. More than a quarter of the companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to report, including Amazon.com, Exxon Mobil and Facebook. Expectations are low for earnings broadly, and analysts are forecasting the first drop in profit for the S&P 500 in nearly three years. But most companies are reporting stronger profits than Wall Street had been expecting, which is typical. Later this week, investors will also get a preliminary read on the economy's strength during the first quarter of the year. Economists expect the report to show that growth slowed to 1.8% from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of last year. WORLD MARKETS: Markets around the world were mixed in relatively muted trading. The Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.1%, and the Kospi in South Korea was virtually flat, while stocks in Shanghai lost 1.7%. Markets in Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney were closed for holidays. ___ AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed from Beijing.
  • Sales of existing U.S. homes fell in March after a huge gain the previous month, held back partly by a sharp slowdown among the most expensive properties. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that home sales fell 4.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.21 million, down from 5.48 million in February. The drop followed an 11.2% gain the previous month, the largest in more than three years. Home sales are struggling to rebound after slumping in the second half of last year, when a jump in mortgage rates to nearly 5% discouraged many would-be buyers. Spring buying is so far running behind last year's healthy gains: Sales were 5.4% below where they were a year earlier. Most analysts expect sales to rebound in the coming months. Borrowing costs have since fallen back to an average of 4.2% on a 30-year fixed mortgage. And solid hiring is pushing employers to pay higher wages, making it easier for more Americans to afford a home purchase. Applications for mortgages to purchase homes have been running at a healthy pace in recent months, evidence that final sales should pick up in the coming months. Demand remains strong, with homes on the market for an average of 36 days in March, down from 44 in February. 'We look for a combination of strong demand and lower mortgage rates to support modest growth in sales over the balance of the year,' said Nancy Vanden Houten, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. Still, a split in the market has emerged, thanks partly to the Trump administration's tax cut law. Sales increased slightly among mid-priced homes but fell sharply among homes priced at $1 million or more. Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR, said that the tax changes have limited the ability of wealthier homeowners to deduct mortgage interest payments and property taxes. That's discouraging sales of more expensive homes. Developers have built more expensive homes in recent years while pulling back from cheaper properties, even as middle-income Americans are eager to buy. 'The lower-end market is hot while the upper-end market is not,' Yun said. Properties valued at $100,000 or less, mostly condos, also saw a sharp drop in sales, though that reflects a lack of available homes at that price point. The slowdown among higher-priced homes has occurred because of weaker demand. Sales fell in all four major U.S. regions, with the biggest decline occurring in the Midwest. That may have partly reflected the impact of massive flooding in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska last month. The broader U.S. economy is looking much better now than it did a couple of months ago, when the government shutdown, slumping retail sales and slower global growth threatened to drag down the U.S. economy. Earlier this year, economists forecast growth could fall to as low as 0.5% at an annual rate in the first three months of the year. Now, analysts expect the government on Friday could report growth as high as 2.8%.
  • President Donald Trump and his business organization sued the Democratic chairman of the House oversight committee on Monday to block a subpoena that seeks years of the president's financial records. The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, says the subpoena from Rep. Elijah Cummings 'has no legitimate legislative purpose' and accuses Democrats of harassing Trump and wielding their new majority in Congress to try to stain the president's standing. 'Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically,' the lawsuit states. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the subpoena earlier this month to Mazars USA, an accountant for the president and Trump Organization. The lawsuit accuses Cummings of failing to consult with Republicans on the panel before issuing the subpoena and says he relied on the testimony of Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who told lawmakers in February that some of Trump's financial statements contained inaccuracies. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress in 2017 about a real estate deal involving Trump in Moscow. 'The Cohen hearing was a partisan stunt, not a good-faith effort to obtain accurate testimony from a reliable witness,' the lawsuit says. The complaint also says the subpoena seeks to investigate events that occurred before Trump was president and 'has no legitimate legislative purpose.' It says, 'Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump's personal finances, businesses, and even his family.' Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's lawyers, said in a statement Monday that 'we will not allow presidential harassment to go unanswered.
  • Kraft Heinz Co. has named a new CEO as it struggles to remain relevant amid changing American tastes. The company said Monday that Miguel Patricio, a longtime executive at Anheuser-Busch InBev, will replace outgoing CEO Bernardo Hees in July. Patricio, a native of Portugal, served as InBev's chief marketing officer from 2012 to 2018, its Asia Pacific president from 2008 to 2012 and its North America president from 2006 to 2008. He has also worked at Philip Morris, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. 'Miguel is a proven business leader with a distinguished track record of building iconic consumer brands around the globe,' said Alex Behring, chairman of Kraft Heinz's board of directors, in a statement. Kraft Heinz, which is based in Pittsburgh and Chicago, has been hurting as consumers looking for fresher, healthier food pivot away from its familiar stable of brands like Jell-O, Kool-Aid and Velveeta. In February, the company slashed the value of its Oscar Meyer and Kraft brands by $15.4 billion. Investors have also questioned moves by 3G Capital, the Brazilian investment firm that engineered Kraft's tie-up with Heinz in 2015 along with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The firm has cut costs at Kraft Heinz, but some analysts say it hasn't invested enough in new product development. Kraft Heinz lost $12.6 billion in the fourth quarter and said its net sales were flat from the prior year. It also slashed its dividend and recorded a $25 million charge after a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation found problems with its procurement reporting. 'This set of disappointing results dampened management's credibility with investors and might have prompted the board to initiate the CEO change,' Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard said in a note to investors. Howard says the selection of Patricio indicates that 3G's merger and cost savings phase has ended and the board is looking for managers with more marketing and operational experience. 3G was also behind the 2008 merger of InBev and Anheuser-Busch. But unlike Hees, who is a partner at 3G, Patricio is not directly involved with the investment firm. Patricio's experience overseas could also help the company expand in new markets, Howard said. The U.S. accounted for 70 percent of the company's net sales in the fourth quarter. Kraft Heinz shares rose 1 percent to $33.22 in morning trading.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Nine explosions hit multiple churches, hotels and other locations in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing nearly 300 people and injuring hundreds more, according to The Associated Press and other media outlets. >> Read more trending news  Here are the latest updates: Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday mourned the victims of Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka and promised the government would provide “all possible assistance” to Americans and Sri Lankans alike. >> Sri Lanka attacks: Who are the National Thowheed Jamath? “We urge that any evil-doers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that,” he Pompeo said. “We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankas who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please.” Pompeo confirmed that Americans were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, though he didn’t specify the number of American victims. “It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists,” he said. >> Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings Update 9:50 am. EDT April 22: A Denver man has been identified as one of the nearly 300 people killed Sunday in bombings in Sri Lanka, his employer confirmed Monday. Dieter Kowalski worked as senior leader of the operation technical services team for Pearson, an education management company. Though the company is based in England, Kowalski worked in Pearson’s Denver office, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.  “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a statement shared with company employees and posted Monday on LinkedIn. “They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace.” Fallon said Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel Sunday for a business trip. Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 22: Three children of Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller clothing, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. The 46-year-old Danish billionaire, who is also the largest shareholder in ASOS, and his family were on vacation in Sri Lanka, the AP reported. Authorities said 39 foreigners were among the 290 people killed in Sunday’s attacks.  Meanwhile, a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the churches that was bombed Sunday, exploded Monday as police tried to defuse three bombs inside, according to the AP. At least 87 bomb detonators have been found in Colombo, officials said. Police have detained at least 24 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings. Update 5:15 a.m. EDT April 22:  Government officials said the National Thowheed, a Sri Lankan militant group, was responsible for Sunday’s deadly attacks, the Guardian is reporting. However, a government spokesman said an “international network” helped the attackers. Seven suicide bombers caused six of the nine explosions Sunday, a forensic analyst told The Associated Press. Authorities also said a second Chinese citizen and two Australian citizens were among those killed in Sunday’s attacks. So far, the dead include citizens of the United States, India, Britain, China, Australia, Japan and Portugal, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka military official said crews defused a homemade pipe bomb discovered late Sunday on a road to the airport outside Colombo, the AP reported. Update 12:10 a.m. EDT April 22: The death toll in the bombings has increased to 290 and more than 500 people have been wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. Among those killed are five Indians, who were identified in tweets from India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, The AP reported. China and Portugal also said they lost citizens, and the U.S. said “several” Americans were also killed in the bombings. The AP reported Sri Lankan officials said they would examine reports that intelligence failed to heed or detect warnings of a possible suicide attack.  “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said in a tweet, according to The AP. “Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”  Update 9:50 p.m. EDT April 21: Japan has confirmed at least one citizen death and four injuries from the bombings. The country has issued a safety warning to Japanese people in the country, telling them to avoid mosques, churches and public places like clubs, malls and government offices, The AP reported. Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka and sent his condolences to victims of the explosions. He also said Japan was committed to “combating terrorism.” Update 5:40 p.m. EDT April 21: The Associated Press reported that, according to internet censorship monitoring group NetBlocks, social media has been blocked across the country after the attacks. Most services, including YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have been temporarily blacked out to curb false information spread, according to Sri Lankan officials. According to NetBlocks, such blackouts are usually ineffective. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Sri Lanka shuts down social media in wake of Easter attacks “We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to The AP. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.” Update 3:28 p.m. EDT April 21: Police have 13 suspects in custody, impounded a vehicle they believed was used by suspects and located a safe house used by the attackers.  Related: Photos: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. Update 9:28 a.m. EDT April 21: Police have so far arrested three people in connection to the blasts, The Guardian reported. A motive for the bombings is still unclear, investigators said.  Update 8:46 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 207 people were killed and 450 hurt in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Officials said eight blasts targeted three churches, three hotels, a guesthouse and an area near a Dematagoda overpass, the AP reported. Authorities reportedly have arrested seven people in connection with the incidents. Update 8:07 a.m. EDT April 21: Sri Lankan officials say at least 190 people, including at least 27 foreigners and two police officers, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the eight explosions, which rocked at least three churches and three hotels, as well as a guesthouse, officials said. Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 21: President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to the Sri Lankan people Sunday morning. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted. “We stand ready to help!” Update 7:19 a.m. EDT April 21: Hours after explosions at Sri Lankan churches and hotels left dozens dead and hundreds more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his annual Easter message at the Vatican. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Pope denounces attacks during Easter blessing “I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community (of Sri Lanka), wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican News. He later added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.” Every year after leading Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report: Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The St. Cloud police department is searching for a young woman with a disability reported missing over the weekend. Faith Kepner, 20, disappeared Friday after leaving her home to visit a nearby grocery store. Investigators say Kepner told her family that she was going to walk to the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market located at 2025 Nolte Road in St. Cloud.  Surveillance video from the business shows Kepner visited the store but she never returned home. Kepner is white with brown hair and brown eyes.  She’s approximately 5’05” and weighs around 110 lbs.  She was last seen wearing a pink shirt, black shorts and a black hooded sweat shirt with a heart emblem with black and red Sketchers sneakers. Investigators consider Kepner to be endangered because she lacks the mental capacity for her age, due to an illness/disability. If you know where she is, call the St. Cloud Police Department in reference to report number 19-002303.
  • For the second time in less than a year, some residents at a Lake Mary condo complex are without a home due to a fire.  50 residents of Regency Park on Lake Emma Rd. had to be evacuated this morning after the fire started in a building toward the front of the complex, just before 5:00 a.m.   It quickly spread to the roof of the building, and it took over 45 firefighters to eventually knock it down.   There were no injuries reported, although a pet cat and snake had to be rescued.   Four units in the building that caught fire are a total loss, according to firefighters.   There was another fire reported at Regency Park last summer that also caused extensive damage.
  • Another day, another teen internet challenge. This one is called Shell On Challenge. This challenge encourages teens to eat things still in its packaging. For example, eat the banana by biting through the peel. Another example is eating through the packaging of Hostess, Lil Debbie or Tastycakes including chewing AND swallowing the plastic packaging. This means teens are consuming plastic. Teens are videoing themselves and posting to YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Doctors are warning teens not to participate in this challenge. Fruit rinds are typically not dangerous. Eating plastic is another story. BPA has been suggested to influence hormones. Chemicals in PVC like vinyl chloride have been linked to cancers. APP USERS CAN SEE VIDEO HERE. APP USERS CAN SEE VIDEO HERE. APP USERS CAN SEE VIDEO HERE.  Actor Kevin Spacey may have been ahead of the trend on this one, as he eats a banana with the skin on in the 2001 movie K-Pax.  APP USERS CAN SEE KPAX SCENE HERE.
  • Authorities in Miami, Florida were surprised to find an 11-foot, 600-pound alligator taking a stroll in a local backyard Friday. Law enforcement checked to see if the alligator had been injured while 'At the same time, keeping a safe distance away,' said Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll Jr. 'It broke through a chain-link fence and ended up in their backyard,' said Carroll. Although wet and slimy, Miami PD and a Fish and Wildlife were able to wrangle the large reptile and euthanize it.  APP USERS CAN SEE VIDEO HERE.

Washington Insider

  • As reporters, politicians, legal experts, and members of both political parties spent the weekend going over the impact of the 448 page redacted version of the Mueller Report, it was obvious from the political and legal reactions that the fight over what Russia did in the 2016 elections - and how the Trump Campaign and President Donald Trump dealt with that - was not going to be ending anytime soon. 'There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday, as Republicans continue to press the case that the Mueller Report absolves the President of any and all wrongdoing. 'We need to go back and look at how this fake “Russia Collusion” narrative started,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as Republicans looked to move on from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and to focus on investigating the investigators. Meanwhile, Democrats were mulling over their own options, which certainly seem to include more hearings in Congress on what was revealed by the Mueller Report, tugging the story in the exact opposite direction. Democrats pointed to comments from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who said the Mueller Report showed a 'pervasiveness of dishonesty' inside the Trump White House. Here's some things which may get some attention in the weeks and months ahead: 1. GOP still wants answers on the Steele Dossier. If you were looking for the Special Counsel's office to detail how the Steele Dossier had factored into the Russia investigation, there was precious little in the Mueller Report. The dossier was directly mentioned 14 times, but there was no mention of it contributing anything directly to the findings of the report. The Special Counsel report says nothing about the dossier as the reason for starting a counter-intelligence investigation, instead making clear that it was information from Trump Campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos which was the genesis. 'On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government rep01ting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,' the report states on page 14. But the Mueller Report does not address one key question - was the Steele Dossier just another effort by Moscow to disrupt the 2016 elections? This is where Republicans say they want answers - they can hold hearings in the U.S. Senate, if they wish. 2. Michael Cohen again demands retraction over Prague story. One item in the Steele Dossier which has often caused a media furor is over the assertion that President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to the Czech Republic on some sort of mission for the President during the 2016 campaign. Cohen has always denied it, and repeated that in testimony before Congress earlier this year. 'Have you ever been to Prague?' Cohen was asked. 'I've never been to Prague,' Cohen responded without missing a beat. 'I've never been to the Czech Republic.' The Mueller Report was clear that Cohen was believed over Steele. 'Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false,' the report says on page 351. On Friday, Cohen again said he was still waiting for a retraction by McClatchy Newspapers. 3. Why did Donald Trump Jr. not answer questions from Mueller? While President Trump's son has steadfastly defended his father throughout the Mueller investigation, and testified to the Congress about the Russia probe, the Special Counsel report notes that Trump Jr. did not directly aid the Mueller investigation, specifically on the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 'The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer) and Trump, Jr., the latter of whom declined to be interviewed by the Office' - then, the next two sentences are redacted, with the explanation on page 125 that grand jury information is responsible for the redacation. In a later discussion of how President Trump handled publicity about the Trump Tower meeting, there is a redaction which involves Trump Jr. on grand jury grounds - does it indicate again that Trump Jr. did not answer questions? It's not clear because of the blacked out material - but the President's son never seemingly answered questions from Mueller's team or a federal grand jury. 4. A Trump tweet that was redacted in the Mueller Report. This seems sort of crazy, but it's true. On page 363 of the report, Mueller discusses President Trump denouncing Michael Cohen, when his former personal attorney had moved to plead guilty and cooperate with the feds. 'He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence,' the President tweeted. Then there is a section which is blacked out under, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' But if you look at the footnote, it refers to a tweet by Mr. Trump, at 10:48 am on December 3, 2018. It's not hard to figure out which tweet that was, as it was one in which the President talks about Roger Stone not flipping and cooperating with the feds. I'm not a lawyer, so it makes no sense to me that printing that tweet could interfere with an ongoing case, but that's one of the redactions made by the Justice Department. 5. When will Robert Mueller talk in public? Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have already sent a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking him to testify before Congress on his report. Last week, the Attorney General said he would have no opposition to Mueller testifying. Mueller operated in a much different way than previous high-profile independent prosecutors - go back to Watergate and you will see news conferences by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski; Ken Starr spoke to the press during the Whitewater investigation. But Robert Mueller has been totally silent, ignoring questions on his few visits to Capitol Hill, doing no interviews and saying nothing in public. An effort to get some remarks from him on Sunday after church netted only a 'no comment' - which is pretty much the most we have heard from Mueller during his almost 22 months as Special Counsel.