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    A defiant French President Emmanuel Macron has told laid-off employees at a troubled French appliance factory that his government should not be held responsible for job losses after a takeover there failed. On a two-day visit to his hometown of Amiens, the French leader sought to show that he’s paying more attention to struggling workers, one year after the yellow vest movement erupted against his government policies, which were seen as favoring the rich. In a blunt moment seized upon by French media, Macron said Friday that the failure of the takeover at the Whirlpool plant in Amiens — a blue-collar battleground with his 2017 far-right election rival Marine Le Pen — was “not the state’s fault.” At the time, Macron told workers to trust the company that took over the factory but it later went bust. A second takeover then left more than 100 workers unemployed. Macron acknowledged a “failure” but stressed that the government is not responsible for firing workers. “I believed in it (the project) too,” he said, vowing to keep looking for solutions to help the plant’s former employees. Leftist lawmaker Francois Ruffin, elected in the Amiens’ region, told reporters that he feels “a huge gap between peoples’ ordinary lives and the president’s comments.” Ruffin said people have concerns because “they are told they are too old, they can’t find a job, they are constantly looked upon with contempt. And the president is telling them from afar ‘We’re going to take care of this, don’t worry.’” France's unemployment rate has decreased this year to its lowest level in a decade, but at 8.6% it still remains among the highest in the European Union. Later Friday, Macron spent long moments with the crowd in a popular neighborhood of Amiens, shaking hands and taking selfies with people. In Amiens, he also visited the university and a facility allowing people to get easier access to public services like the health care system and unemployment benefits. Macron has been trying to stymie the far-right’s appeal to blue-collar workers ahead of France’s municipal elections in 2020 and the country’s presidential vote in 2022.
  • The chamber hushed as the debate got underway at the Cambridge Union and the teams launched into their carefully crafted opening statements. The topic - whether artificial intelligence would do more harm than good - was something each side had a big stake in because both were using the technology to deliver their arguments. Cambridge University, home to the world’s oldest debating society, was the setting Thursday night for a demonstration of what the future might hold. IBM’s Project Debater, a robot that has already debated humans, was for the first time being pitted against itself, at least in the first round. Artificial intelligence “will not be able to make a decision that is the morally correct one, because morality is unique to humans,” the computer system said in a synthetic and vaguely feminine voice. “It cannot make moral decisions easily and can lead to disasters. AI can cause a lot of harm,” it continued. Artificial intelligence can only make decisions it has been programmed for and “it is not possible to program for all scenarios, only humans can.' Then, the machine switched sides, delivering the opposing team’s argument. Artificial intelligence “will be a great advantage as it will free up more time from having to do mundane and repetitive tasks,” it said, its voice embodied by a blue waveform on a screen set into a two-meter-tall sleek black monolith-like pillar. Audience members at the society, which has hosted notable figures including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates over its 200-year history, were spellbound by its first non-human guest. After first pitting the technology against a human last year, IBM challenged it to present opposing arguments, in a display of its latest advances. Unlike its earlier debate, which relied on analyzing a huge trove of newspaper and magazine articles for its replies, researchers this time crowd-sourced contributions from 1,100 Cambridge students and fed the answers to the computer. They wanted to find out, “Can you use the technology to generate a compelling narrative that will help the decision maker to take a better decision?' said lead scientist Noam Slonim. The system had to identify which side the crowd-sourced contribution was on, rank the best arguments, filter out spelling mistakes and bad grammar, then present a persuasive five-minute statement — a process IBM said took about a minute. Potential applications for the technology include helping a company or government carry out surveys or gather feedback from clients. The night wasn’t totally devoid of humanity. Project Debater quipped, 'Let's move to an issue close to my artificial heart: technology,' drawing laughter from the crowd. And then human debaters took over in the rebuttal and closing rounds, while also jokingly dubbing the computer 'Debbie' and 'Cybertronia the All-Knowing.” At the end of the night, audience members sided with the argument that artificial intelligence does more good than harm. Its future is assured, at least for now. ___ Kelvin Chan contributed to this report.
  • U.S. stock indexes drifted between small gains and losses Friday as a week dominated by the progress in U.S.-China trade talks — or lack thereof — comes to a close. President Donald Trump said that a deal between the world’s largest economies is “potentially very close” after Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing is working to “try not to have a trade war,” but will nevertheless fight back if necessary. Markets around the world have churned this week on uncertainty about whether the two sides can soon halt their trade dispute, or at least stop it from escalating. New U.S. tariffs are set to hit Dec. 15 on many Chinese-made items on holiday shopping checklists, such as smartphones and laptops. Tariffs already put in place have hurt manufacturing around the world, and businesses have held back on spending given all the uncertainty about where the rules of global trade will end up. The S&P 500 was on pace to finish the week with a loss, which would snap its longest winning streak in two years. KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.1%, as of noon Eastern time. It had earlier been up 0.3% and then down 0.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 70 points, or 0.3%, to 27,836, and the Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1%. TRADE TALKS: Trump said “we have a very good chance to make a deal” in an interview with Fox News after reports through the week raised the possibility that a “Phase 1” agreement may not be in place until 2020. But he also stressed, again, that he thought Xi wanted to make a deal more than he did. In Beijing, Xi earlier told a visiting U.S. business delegation, “We want to work for a Phase 1 agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equality.' TAKING A PAUSE: The uncertainty on trade has the S&P 500 on pace to close the week with a 0.5% loss. If it stays that way, it would be the first down week for the index in the last seven. Stocks had been chugging higher on optimism that earlier worries about a possible recession were overdone. Reports in recent months showed the job market remained solid, and corporate profits held up better than expected in the summer. Interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve also helped. The S&P 500 is still within 0.7% of its record set on Monday. RETAIL RUN: Nordstrom surged 11.6% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the retailer said it made a bigger profit last quarter than Wall Street expected. It was a bright spot for the retail sector after a long list of mall-based clothing retailers delivered weak third-quarter earnings reports. Macy’s cut its profit and sales forecast for the year as shoppers continue to head online instead of to the store. RISING GLOBAL TIDE: Markets around the world climbed amid a mixed set of economic reports. In Europe, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.2%, and Germany’s DAX returned 0.2%. The FTSE 100 in London jumped 1.2%. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.3%, South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.5%. SWEET RETURNS: J.M. Smucker jumped 4.7% after it reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than Wall Street expected. It joins a long list of companies to do so. Nearly 96% of companies in the S&P 500 have now told investors how much profit they made during the summer, and they’re on pace to report a drop of 2.3% from a year earlier. That’s not as bad as the 4% drop that analysts were earlier expecting. SOUR OUTLOOK: Intuit, the company behind TurboTax, sank 5.1% for the largest loss in the S&P 500 after it gave a profit forecast for the current quarter that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. TRUCKED: Tesla dropped 6% after some analysts panned the unveiling of its electric pickup truck. It’s aiming at the most profitable part of the North American market, but investors are skeptical about how many traditional pickup drivers the blocky, angular looks of Tesla’s “Cybertruck” will draw. ___ AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.
  • Britain’s Dec. 12 vote has been dubbed the “Brexit election,” dominated by the country’s stalled exit from the European Union. But political parties are also trying to win over voters more worried about the U.K.’s stuttering economy and frayed social fabric. That means even the Brexit Party, led by veteran euroskeptic Nigel Farage, published a list of policy pledges on Friday that went far beyond leaving the EU. The party, which wants Britain to make a sharp break with the 28-nation bloc, is also calling for a “political revolution” in the U.K. It wants a written constitution, the abolition of Parliament’s unelected House of Lords, more public referendums and a cut in immigration to below 50,000 people a year, less than a quarter of Britain’s current rate. Founded earlier this year, the Brexit Party currently has none of the 650 seats up for grabs in the House of Commons in the December vote. It is running in almost 300 seats, but has withdrawn from 317 Conservative-dominated constituencies to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote. Farage urged voters to give his party lawmakers in Parliament so they could pressure the government for a hard Brexit in which Britain wouldn’t remain aligned to EU rules and standards. “Without us, there will be no genuine Brexit,” he said. Detailed policy manifestoes are a British election staple and their publication is a major campaign event for each party. The Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru also released its manifesto Friday, calling for billions of pounds (dollars) in new investment in renewable energy to create “tens of thousands of green-collar jobs.” The Plaid Cymru — Welsh for the Party of Wales — opposes Brexit. It’s calling for a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership and backs an eventual vote on Welsh independence. The party held four seats in the last Parliament. The main opposition Labour Party published its manifesto on Thursday, setting out plans for a radical expansion of public spending and state ownership. Labour promised to nationalize Britain’s railways, energy utilities and postal system, cap rents, hike the minimum wage, abolish university tuition fees and give everyone free internet access if it wins the Dec. 12 election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the measures in the party’s “manifesto of hope” would be paid for by increasing taxes on corporations and high earners. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has labelled Labour’s policies “ruinous.” Johnson’s Conservative Party and the Scottish National Party have not yet published their own manifestos. The leaders of Britain’s four biggest parties — Johnson and Corbyn, along with Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party and Jo Swinson of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats — were to face questions from a studio audience in a televised series of interviews later Friday. Johnson pushed for Britain to hold the December election, which is taking place more than two years early, in hopes of winning a majority and breaking Britain's political impasse over Brexit. Johnson says if voters give the Conservatives a majority he will “get Brexit done” by getting Parliament to ratify his Brexit divorce deal and taking the U.K. out of the bloc by the current Brexit deadline of Jan. 31. Labour says it will negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU, then hold a new referendum offering British voters a choice between leaving the EU on those terms or remaining. ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s embattled heir apparent sought to silence critics Friday, throwing down the gauntlet for any member of the Christian Democratic Party to challenge her if they didn’t like the direction in which she was leading the party. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s nearly 90-minute impassioned address was met with a lengthy standing ovation at a party convention in Leipzig, where many had expected her to be taken to task after a series of poor results in state elections. “If you are of the opinion that the path that I want to take together with you is not the right one, then let’s say it clearly, let us end it, here and now and today,” she said. “But, dear friends, if you are of the opinion that you want this Germany, if you are of the opinion that we should take this path together ... then let’s roll up our sleeves and get going here and now.” Earlier in the speech, she took a dig at her rival, Friedrich Merz, who some had thought might openly challenge her at the convention, as well as others saying that criticizing Merkel’s government and the party was “not a good campaign strategy.” Merz recently called the government's image 'abysmal' and laid into Merkel's leadership style. He toned that down in his address to the convention, however, praising Kramp-Karrenbauer for her “scrappy, courageous and forward-looking speech.” “We are loyal to our chairwoman, to our party leadership and to the government,” he said. Merkel has said she won’t run for a fifth term in the 2021 election, and didn’t stand again as party leader last year, paving the way for Kramp-Karrenbauer’s election to the role after narrowly defeating Merz. Merkel has also elevated Kramp-Karrenbauer to defense minister in a move seen as increasing her profile before a possible run for the chancellorship. Merkel herself has said she intends to remain in office until the next election, and again emphasized that at the convention before Kramp-Karrenbauer’s speech. Taking the stage 14 years to the day that she became chancellor, Merkel reminded party delegates that since coming to power in 2005 her government had brought unemployment to record lows and weathered the world financial crisis. But she said with new challenges like digital transformation and the fight against climate change, the party needs to look to the future, while overcoming new pressures like Russian aggression and trade disputes with the U.S. The party needs “to find solutions for the world of tomorrow,” she said, and ensure that it is the party of “Germany’s strong center.” “I want to continue to work for that as chancellor,” she said.
  • The new president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, says better-targeted public spending would help support economic growth in the eurozone. In her first official speech Friday, Lagarde indirectly chided countries like Germany that have kept a tight grip on their budgets while making clear that a spendthrift approach to public spending would be hazardous, too. Lagarde said “there is today a cross-cutting case for investment in a common future that is more productive, more digital and certainly greener' and warned that public spending in the 19-country eurozone “remains some way below its pre-crisis level.' She also said the ECB will begin a strategic review of its monetary policy “in the near future” but the bank would also “continuously monitor the side effects” of its current low-interest stance.
  • Attorney General William Barr said he initially had his own suspicions about financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death while behind bars at one of the most secure jails in America but came to conclude that his suicide was the result of “a perfect storm of screw-ups.” In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said his concerns were prompted by the numerous irregularities at the New York jail where Epstein was being held. But he said after the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general continued to investigate, he realized there were a 'series' of mistakes made that gave Epstein the chance to take his own life. “I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Barr told the AP as he flew to Montana for an event. Barr’s comments come days after two correctional officers who were responsible for guarding the wealthy financier when he died were charged with falsifying prison records. Officers Tova Noel and Michael Thomas are accused of sleeping and browsing the internet — shopping for furniture and motorcycles — instead of watching Epstein, who was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes. Epstein took his own life in August while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. His suicide cast a spotlight on the federal Bureau of Prisons, which has been plagued by chronic staffing shortages and outbreaks of violence. The indictment unsealed this week against the officers shows a damning glimpse of safety lapses inside a high-security unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. But the indictment also provided new details that reinforce the idea that, for all the intrigue regarding Epstein and his connections to powerful people, his death was a suicide — as the city’s medical examiner concluded — and possibly preventable. A lawyer for Thomas, Montell Figgins, said both guards are being “scapegoated.” The attorney general also sought to dampen conspiracy theories by people who have questioned whether Epstein really took his own life, saying the evidence proves Epstein killed himself. He added that he personally reviewed security footage that confirmed that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed on the night he died. Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on his cell floor with bruises on his neck but was taken off the heightened watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes. He was required to have a cellmate, but he was left with none after his cellmate was transferred out of the MCC on Aug. 9, the day before his death, the indictment said. Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell when the guards went to deliver breakfast. One of the guards told a supervisor then that they hadn’t done their 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. rounds, according to the indictment. The Justice Department is still investigating the circumstances that led to Epstein’s death, including why he wasn’t given a cellmate. “I think it was important to have a roommate in there with him and we’re looking into why that wasn’t done, and I think every indication is that was a screw-up,” Barr said. “The systems to assure that was done were not followed.” Epstein’s death ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures and sparked widespread anger that he wouldn't have to answer for the allegations. Even with his death, federal prosecutors in New York have continued to investigate the allegations against Epstein. Barr, who has vowed to aggressively investigate and bring charges against anyone who may have helped Epstein, said investigators were making good progress in the case. “They are definitely pushing things along,” Barr said. “I’ll just say there is good progress being made, and I’m hopeful in a relatively short time there will be tangible results.”
  • World stocks rose Friday as upbeat comments by Chinese President Xi Jinping helped quell anxiety over the state of trade talks with the U.S. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1% to 7,311, while the CAC 40 in France gained 0.3% to 5,897. Germany’s DAX picked up 0.1% to 13,146. Wall Street looked set for gains, with the future contracts for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both up nearly 0.2%. Xi told a visiting delegation in Beijing on Friday that he hoped to work toward a resolution of the 18-month-old tariff dispute with Washington. He added, though, that China was not “afraid” and would “fight back” if necessary. Investors turned cautious this week amid concerns that the U.S. and China will fail to strike a deal before the year is over. The world’s two largest economies have been negotiating a resolution to their trade war ahead of new tariffs set to hit key consumer goods on Dec. 15. Investors have been hoping for a deal before that happens, as the tariffs would increase prices on smartphones, laptops and many common household goods, just before Christmas. Meeting with a U.S. delegation from Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum, a conference held in Beijing this week, Xi said “We want to work for a Phase 1 agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equality.' The Wall Street Journal reported that China’s lead negotiator in the talks, Vice Premier Liu He, has invited his U.S. counterparts to Beijing for more talks. That also swayed markets in a positive direction. The uncertainty over the trade dispute between the two largest economies, “has investors sitting in that all too familiar predicament of trade war limbo,” Stephen Innes of AxiTrader said in a commentary. “It does sound positive on the surface, but equity markets remain cautious given the numerous stops and starts, not to mention dead ends these trade discussions have met with,” he said. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.3% to 23,112.88, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong picked up 0.5% to 26,595.08. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.3% higher to 2,101.96 and the S&P ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.6% to 6,709.80. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.6% to 2,885.29 and the Sensex in India dropped 0.5% to 40,359.41. In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 33 cents to $58.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude oil, the international standard, declined 16 cents to $63.81 per barrel. The dollar was down slightly, at 108.51 Japanese yen from 108.54 on Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.1058 from $1.1061.
  • President Xi Jinping said Friday that Beijing wants to work for a trade deal with the United States but is not afraid to “fight back” to protect its own interests. Echoing the upbeat tone adopted by other Chinese officials in recent days, Xi told a visiting U.S. business delegation that China holds a “positive attitude” about the trade talks. “As we always said we don’t want to start the trade war, but we are not afraid,” Xi said. “When necessary, we will fight back but we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war.” Later Friday, President Donald Trump reiterated his oft-stated assertion that the world’s two biggest economies are “potentially very close’’ to forging a modest “Phase 1” agreement. Such an agreement would be expected to include increased U.S. farm sales to China but to leave bigger points of conflict largely unresolved. These include long-standing allegations that China steals trade secrets and pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. “We have a deal potentially very close,’’ Trump said in a phone interview with “Fox & Friends.” Yet the president also insisted that Xi “wants to make it much more than I want to make it. I’m not anxious to make it.’’ The U.S. delegation from Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum, a conference held in Beijing this week, included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman and other dignitaries. The latest flareup in trade tensions came after Trump imposed punitive tariffs last year on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports to the U.S., seeking to ramp up pressure for changes in Chinese trade and investment policies. China has retaliated with tariff hikes of its own. Sanctions have gradually escalated and trade talks have made only halting progress. But the two sides are working toward what they say will be a preliminary agreement to pave the way for tackling more complex issues. During the meeting at Beijing’s ornate Great Hall of the People, Xi reiterated to the group China’s stance that a deal requires “mutual respect and equality.” “We want to work for a Phase 1 agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equality,' Xi told the group. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that China’s lead negotiator in the talks, Vice Premier Liu He, has invited his U.S. counterparts to Beijing for more talks, suggesting there may be some progress. However, the prospects even for a more general deal look uncertain, given that China has said it wants a promise from the U.S. side to gradually reduce the tariffs already in place. It’s unclear if the U.S. side would be willing to do that. Pressure is building as financial markets grow increasingly jittery over prospects for a breakthrough. Trump agreed to hold off on raising tariffs further last month while the two sides talked. But the Washington is still due to hike tariffs on $160 billion worth of imports from China next month. That increase would boost prices on smartphones, laptops and many common household goods. Ultimately, the U.S. side wants China to scrap a blueprint for state-led development of industrial leadership in advanced technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence. Foreign companies also object to policies and practices they say force them to hand over technology in return for access to the vast Chinese domestic market. In the meeting Friday, Xi emphasized that Beijing will not yield its own “financial sovereignty,” hinting at limits to China’s flexibility on issues the ruling party considers vital for the country’s future. He drew from historical references, perhaps mindful of the important role Kissinger played along with the late Premier Zhou Enlai in brokering the rapprochement between Washington and Beijing in the early 1970s after decades of Cold War alienation. China is finding its way “just like feeling the stones while crossing a river,” Xi said, in an expression famously used by Deng Xiaoping, the revolutionary leader who led the “reform and opening up” era beginning in the late 1970s. “We are working to realize the Chinese dream of renewal of our nation,” Xi said. ___ AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this report.
  • Google spinoff Waymo is trying to educate emergency responders on how to deal with its autonomous vehicles. Waymo released a training video on YouTube Thursday geared toward guiding public safety officials responding to incidents involving their self-driving cars. The 14-minute instructional video advises how to put a car in manual mode and what precautions firefighters should take. The video was done in conjunction with Waymo engineers and suburban Phoenix police and firefighters. Waymo is among several companies that has been testing autonomous vehicle programs in Arizona. The video comes two days after the National Transportation Safety Board found a distracted human safety driver caused a fatal crash of an autonomous Uber car. The NTSB also condemned a lack of state and federal regulation of testing on public roads.