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story.lead_photo.caption File - This Oct. 11, 2018, file photo, shows branches of a damaged cotton tree in Newton, Ga. New Mexico was the national leader in pecan production last year thanks to Hurricane Michael striking down large swaths of Georgia's pecan crop, new U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

FDA jabs retailers on tobacco sales to kids

Walmart Inc. and 11 other retailers recently received letters from the Food and Drug Administration asking for a written plan to "address and mitigate" the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in the letter addressed to Walmart President and Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon that the agency has identified Walmart "as one of several national retail chains ... with more than 15 percent of stores inspected having illegally sold tobacco products to minors since the inception of the FDA's retailer compliance check inspection program in 2010. Sadly, Walmart Inc. had a violation rate of approximately 17 percent."

Gottlieb gave Walmart 30 days from receipt of the letter to submit "a detailed plan, including timeframes" to curb these sales.

The Bentonville retailer did not return a request for comment by press time.

The FDA letters, dated April 5, also went to Kroger Inc., Casey's General Store, Family Dollar Stores, 7-Eleven Inc. and convenience stores run by Chevron Corp., Citgo, Exxon Mobil Corp., Marathon Petroleum, Sunoco LP, Royal Dutch Shell PLC. and BP PLC.

-- Serenah McKay

Ex-Volkswagen CEO charged with fraud

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German prosecutors charged former Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn and four others with fraud in the emissions cheating scandal that has helped turn many Europeans against diesel engines and accelerated the push toward electric cars.

Prosecutors said Monday that Winterkorn knew about the scheme since at least May 2014 and failed to put a stop to it.

That contradicts his claim that he didn't learn about it until shortly before U.S. investigators announced it in September 2015. Winterkorn resigned as CEO five days later.

The 71-year-old Winterkorn and the others, whose names were not released, face six months to 10 years in prison if convicted of aggravated fraud involving serious losses. Other charges include unfair competition and breach of trust.

Volkswagen has admitted installing software in its diesel cars that turned on pollution controls when vehicles were being tested and switched them off during everyday driving.

In all, some 11 million cars worldwide were equipped with the illegal software.

-- The Associated Press

N.M. took lead on pecans after hurricane

CARLSBAD, N.M. -- New Mexico became the national leader in pecan production last year after Hurricane Michael struck down large swaths of Georgia's crop, new U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers show.

New Mexico produced about 90 million pounds of pecans in 2018 compared to Georgia's 56 million, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports.

Georgia, traditionally the largest pecan-producing state, saw its crop crippled by the October storm, cutting production by almost half from its expected 107 million pounds.

Lenny Wells, associate professor of horticulture with a focus on pecans at the University of Georgia, said 17 percent of the state's pecan acreage was lost to the storm.

Georgia lost about $100 million in pecan crops, $260 million in trees and up to $200 million in future income, Wells said.

Records show Texas and Arizona ranked third and fourth in pecan production, respectively.

-- The Associated Press

$69M asteroid mission given to SpaceX

Atari fan Elon Musk has been awarded a U.S. government contract to essentially play a real-life version of the arcade shooter game Asteroids with his rocket company, SpaceX.

NASA awarded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. a $69 million contract last week to provide launch services for the agency's Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission. The program is seeking to be the first ever to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft into one at high speed.

The test mission is targeted for a June 2021 launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said in an April 11 statement. The mission will be to intercept a small moon of the asteroid Didymos more than a year later, in October 2022, when it will be within 6.8 million miles of Earth, according to the agency.

Musk, who's chief executive officer of both SpaceX and Tesla Inc., deployed Atari games to the latter company's electric vehicles last year as part of an over-the-air software update. The slate of games initially made available to play using Tesla steering wheels and center-console touch screens includes Asteroids, Missile Command, Lunar Lander and Centipede, according to "TechCrunch."

-- Bloomberg News

Russian firm backs U.S. aluminum mill

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- An aluminum company planning to build a $1.7 billion plant in Appalachia said on Monday that it's forging a partnership with a Russian company that until recently faced U.S. sanctions.

Russian aluminum giant Rusal wants to invest $200 million in a Kentucky taxpayer-backed aluminum rolling mill that Braidy Industries intends to build near Ashland, Ky.

Rusal said it would assume a 40 percent ownership stake in the mill in return for the investment, the Russian company said in a release.

The project is expected to create 1,500 construction jobs and more than 650 full-time jobs once the plant starts production, which is expected in early 2021.

Rusal had been among Russian companies hit with U.S. sanctions for connections to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The U.S. Treasury Department announced in January it was removing Rusal and two other companies from its sanctions list on the grounds that the companies have reduced Deripaska's direct and indirect shareholding stakes in the three companies.

-- The Associated Press

Waste Management to pay $3B for rival

NEW YORK -- Waste Management is pushing into the eastern U.S. by paying $3 billion for its smaller rival, Advanced Disposal Services.

The country's largest collector of trash and recycling said Monday that it will pay $33.15 per share for Advanced Disposal, a 22 percent premium for the stock. It is also taking on $1.9 billion of the company's debt.

Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, has about 21 million customers. The deal will add more than 3 million residential and industrial customers, mostly in the eastern half of the U.S., where Advanced operates. Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. is based in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

The deal adds to Waste Management's existing collection and recycling centers.

The deal is expected to close by the first quarter of next year.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: FDA jabs retailers on tobacco sales to kids Ex-Volkswagen CEO charged with fraud N.M. took lead on pecans after hurricane $69M asteroid mission given to SpaceX Russian firm backs U.S. aluminum mil...

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