Talking Points


Google launching AI initiative from Cambridge office


Google launching AI initiative from Cambridge office

Google is launching an initiative based in its Cambridge office to study how humans interact with artificial intelligence, taking on the practicalities of questions that just a few years ago might have been purely philosophical. The People + AI Research initiative , announced Monday, will examine what professionals like doctors, farmers, and musicians might need from AI design; study the ways engineers build machine learning systems; and look for ways to make the technology more inclusive. Google said the initiative will be carried out with its existing staff in Cambridge. It is being led by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, senior staff scientists at Google Brain, the company’s research unit for artificial intelligence. It will also work with outside researchers, including Brendan Meade, a professor of earth and planetary science at Harvard University, and Hal Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. — ANDY ROSEN


Trump will nominate Quarles as Fed’s top
Wall Street regulator

President Trump plans to nominate Randal Quarles, who served as a senior Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, to be the Federal Reserve’s chief banking regulator, the White House said in statement Monday. Quarles, 59, would bring a background in both domestic and international finance to the role, leaving his job as a managing director at a Salt Lake City-based private equity firm to become the Fed’s first-ever vice chairman of supervision. The prospective nominee will still need to go through the Senate confirmation process. The selection of Quarles would end a long search to fill a post with great sway over JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other large banks. The new vice chairman — a job established by the Dodd-Frank Act but never filled — would be expected to play a pivotal role in carrying out Trump’s pledge to ease some of the regulatory constraints that were put on banks after the 2008 financial crisis. Trump is nominating Quarles for a 4-year term as vice chairman, though he’s also being named to a longer term as one of the board’s seven governors, which would expire in 2032. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Abercrombie takes itself off the market

Abercrombie & Fitch, the fashion retailer that was once a must-have among teenagers, said Monday that it would end talks to sell itself. The company, based in New Albany, Ohio, said that it would instead focus on carrying out its own strategic plan as a stand-alone company. Shares of Abercrombie tumbled 11 percent in premarket trading Monday. The announcement came two months after Abercrombie said that it was in “preliminary discussions” with several unnamed suitors about a potential sale. The company had been in talks with Express and American Eagle Outfitters, The Financial Times reported in May, as well as with the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, according to The Wall Street Journal. Abercrombie has struggled to reinvent the brand after its longtime chief executive Michael S. Jeffries retired in 2014. — NEW YORK TIMES


News outlets want right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook


News outlets are seeking permission from Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate online advertising and online news traffic. The News Media Alliance, which represents nearly 2,000 news organizations, said the two companies’ dominance have forced news organizations to ‘‘play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.’’ ‘‘These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news,’’ the alliance said in a press release on Monday. It won’t be easy getting a congressional antitrust exemption to negotiate as a group. But the alliance’s chief executive, David Chavern, said in an interview that trying is better than doing nothing. The outlets want stronger protections for intellectual property, support for subscription models, and a bigger share of the online advertising market. Google and Facebook combined will account for 60 percent of the US digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Iberia airlines scraps pregnancy test for new employees

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Spain’s Iberia airline has decided to scrap a pregnancy test for new employees after it was fined 25,000 euros ($29,000) by a regional government for discrimination. The airline said in a statement Monday that the test had been purely a precautionary measure taken in the interest of the baby and future mother, and denied that it rejected pregnant women for jobs. The decision came after the Balearic Islands’ regional labor department fined the company following an inspection last year. Iberia said it had contracted five pregnant women last year and actively backed a policy of employing women. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Diesel emissions scandal spreads
to Porsche

Volkswagen AG’s Porsche brand faces a formal probe by German prosecutors as the diesel-emissions scandal spreads to VW’s iconic sports-car maker. Prosecutors in Stuttgart said they were escalating an informal investigation started last year into allegations the Porsche brand may have defrauded consumers by selling autos with software that manipulated emissions. While no individual suspects were named, investigators are looking into the role of employees at the Porsche brand in Germany and the United States, Jan Holzner, spokesman for Stuttgart prosecutors, said in an emailed statement on Monday. VW admitted in September 2015 that about 11 million diesel cars worldwide were fitted with so-called defeat devices — embedded algorithms used to game emissions tests. The company is now facing three separate diesel-fraud probes in its home country. Braunschweig prosecutors are investigating 37 suspects at Volkswagen, while Munich counterparts are looking into an unidentified number of suspects at the Audi unit, one of whom was arrested a week ago. VW has also faced criminal probes abroad, including the United States. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Prices at the pump dropped a penny
in Mass.

Gas prices in Massachusetts have dropped by a penny this week. AAA Northeast said Monday that the price of self-serve, regular is averaging $2.17 per gallon. That’s nine cents below the national average of $2.26. The state was averaging $2.19 a year ago at this time. AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.05 and as high as $2.41 per gallon. AAA officials say local gas prices remain some of the lowest they’ve seen all year, even as prices rise nationally. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Wells Fargo gets preliminary approval for settlement
in sales scandal

Wells Fargo has received preliminary approval to pay out $142 million to customers affected by the bank’s sales practices scandal. A federal judge gave preliminary approval Saturday to the deal that would settle claims over fraudulent accounts going back to 2002. The San Francisco-based bank and lawyers for customers reached the agreement earlier this year over accounts that Wells Fargo staff had opened without permission as they sought to meet unrealistic sales goals set by management. In September, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a combined $185 million fine to state and federal regulators. The biggest scandal in the bank’s history led to the abrupt retirement of its CEO, John Stumpf. Several other top executives have lost their jobs. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Snap falls
below IPO price


Snap Inc. shares fell below their initial public offering price amid questions about the company’s ability to grow as fast as initially expected and after wider declines recently in technology stocks worldwide. The stock fell 1.05 percent to close at $16.99, below the $17 IPO price set March 1. To regain value, the company will need to prove that its advertisements are a must-buy, not just an experiment, and will need to keep innovating on its product as Facebook copies its most popular features, analysts have said. Many technology stocks, including Facebook, Apple Inc., Nvidia Corp., and Microsoft Corp., declined in the past month after analysts began raising red flags on some of the high valuations. — BLOOMBERG NEWS