Talking Points

TALKING POINTS

FDA approves Foundation Medicine’s cancer gene test

BIOTECH

FDA approves Foundation Medicine’s cancer gene test

Federal regulators on Thursday approved a diagnostic test by Cambridge-based Foundation Medicine Inc. that company leaders say will enable them to sequence the DNA of different cancer tumors to tailor treatments. The Food and Drug Administration approved the test — called FoundationOne CDx — which can detect all four classes of alterations in 324 cancer-related genes that cause solid tumors. That includes those found in the lung, colon, breasts, ovaries, and — in cases of melanoma — skin. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recommended that Medicare pick up the cost of the test — likely to be several thousand dollars for each patient — for many Americans with cancer. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the dual actions reflect a government effort to “bring patients faster access to a breakthrough diagnostic that can help doctors tailor cancer treatments to improve medical outcomes and potentially reduce health care costs.”
— JONATHAN SALTZMAN

RETAIL

Walmart stops selling ‘Rope. Tree. Journalist.’ T-shirt

Walmart has pulled a T-shirt offered by an outside seller from its online store after a journalist advocacy group told the retailer it found the shirt threatening. The shirt, listed on Walmart.com through a third-party seller, said: ‘‘Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.’’ ‘‘This item was sold by a third-party seller on our marketplace and clearly violates our policy,’’ Walmart said. ‘‘We removed it as soon as it was brought to our attention, and are conducting a thorough review of the seller’s assortment.’’ The Radio Television Digital News Association said Walmart notified it about five hours after its complaint that the shirt was being removed. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Judge appears unlikely to throw out Facebook privacy case

Facebook Inc. faced a skeptical judge over its second request to get out of a lawsuit alleging its photo scanning technology flouts users’ privacy rights. “The right to say no is a valuable commodity,” US District Judge James Donato said Thursday during a hearing in San Francisco. The case concerns the “most personal aspects of your life: your face, your fingers, who you are to the world.” The owner of the world’s largest social network faces claims that it violated the privacy of millions of users by gathering and storing biometric data without their consent. Alphabet Inc.’s Google is fighting similar claims in federal court in Chicago. If Donato lets the case proceed, Facebook is still potentially on the hook under an Illinois law for fines of $1,000 to $5,000 each time a person’s image is used without permission. A victory for consumers in the class action could lead to new restrictions on Facebook’s use of biometrics in the United States, similar to those in Europe and Canada. A lawyer for Facebook argued Thursday that plaintiffs haven’t shown they were harmed by its practices. An attorney for the consumers contended the mere collection by Facebook of biometric data runs afoul of the Illinois law and that the case should move forward without any showing of harm. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

BREXIT

Far fewer people are migrating
to Britain

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Britain has recorded the steepest fall in long-term net migration into the country since records began in 1964, dropping by a third in the year after the vote to leave the European Union, authorities said Thursday. The figure, which records the difference between the numbers arriving and leaving for a year, was down by 106,000 to 230,000 net arrivals in the year ended in June 2017. Some 336,000 were registered in the year ended in June 2016. More than three-fourths of the reduction was due to EU citizens. ‘‘The number of people immigrating for a definite job has remained stable but there has been a 43 percent decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, especially for EU citizens,’’ said Nicola White, head of migration statistics at the Office for National Statistics. ‘‘These changes suggest that Brexit is likely to be a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK — but decisions to migrate are complex and other factors are also going to be influencing the figures.’’ The ONS said immigration was 572,000, down 80,000, and that the fall included both EU and non-EU citizens. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRADE

US sides with EU over China’s World Trade Organization status

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The United States is joining a fight against China at the World Trade Organization in a decision likely to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing. The United States is supporting the European Union in a dispute over China’s status at the WTO, which rules on trade disputes. The United States and EU contend that the communist Chinese government continues to interfere so heavily in the country’s commerce that China remains a ‘‘non-market’’ economy. That label makes it easier to win antidumping cases against China for allegedly selling products at unfairly low prices. China argues that it was automatically elevated to ‘‘market’’ economy status on Dec. 11, 2016, the 15th anniversary of the day it joined the WTO. It has filed a case against the EU to press its claim. America joined the EU’s side in documents filed Nov. 21 and released publicly on Thursday. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

FINANCING

Mortgage rates dip slightly

Long-term mortgage rates slipped this week, though shorter-term rates rose in response to better economic news that made it more likely the Federal Reserve will increase rates in December. The rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.9 percent from 3.92 percent last week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said. The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage, popular among homeowners seeking to refinance, also declined 0.02 percentage points, to 3.3 percent. The five-year adjustable mortgage rate jumped to 3.32 percent, from 3.22 percent last week. That increase followed bullish comments on the economy by Fed chair Janet Yellen. Mortgage rates have mostly fallen in the past 12 months, even as the Fed has lifted short-term rates. A year ago, the 30-year rate was 4.08 percent and the 15-year at 3.34 percent. The 30-year rate is still above last year’s average of 3.65 percent. But any rate below 4 percent is low by historical standards. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

TECHNOLOGY

Amazon launching ‘Alexa for Business’ service

Office workers who fumble through dialing into conference call numbers could soon have Amazon’s Alexa start the meetings for them. The online retail giant is announcing the new functionality, called Alexa for Business, at its Web services conference in Las Vegas. The service envisions an office technical manager setting up multiple voice-activated smart speakers called Amazon Echo for workers at their desk or in conference rooms. Users can use their voices to access custom-made apps called skills or tap into team schedules created in Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Outlook. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Former Twitter contractor reportedly admits helping to take down Trump account

A former contractor from Germany has reportedly admitted to helping briefly deactivate President Trump’s Twitter account in early November, an unprecedented mishap for the company that generated intrigue around the world. The disclosure on the website TechCrunch generated a flurry of headlines but did little to clarify the details of how, exactly, the president’s personal account was brought down for 11 minutes on Nov. 2. According to TechCrunch, Bahtiyar Duysak was working as a contractor at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco at the time. In the interview, the website said, Duysak apologized for his role in the deactivation. ‘‘I had a wild time in America, and I was tired sometimes, and everyone can do mistakes,’’ the website reported. ‘‘It might be that I did a mistake.’’ The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify that Duysak was responsible for deactivating the president’s account. According to TechCrunch, Duysak was employed by contracting company Pro Unlimited and was working with Twitter’s Trust and Safety division, which monitors reports of bad behavior on the service, including harassment, offensive or illegal tweets or impersonation. Someone had reported Trump’s account on Duysak’s last day at Twitter, and he ‘‘put the wheels in motion to deactivate it,’’ according to TechCrunch. — WASHINGTON POST