Global Glance: Self-driving cars go public, Obama administration phasing out private prison use

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Here are today’s top business headlines from across the nation and world:

Self-driving cars go public; Uber offers rides in Pittsburgh

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The option to hail a ride in a self-driving car, which was science fiction just a few years ago, will soon be available to Uber users in Pittsburgh, the first time the technology has been offered to the general public. Within weeks, the company announced Thursday, customers will be able to opt into a test program and summon an autonomous Ford Fusion. But since the technology has not been perfected, the cars will come with human backup drivers to handle any unexpected situations. Although other companies including Google are testing self-driving cars on public roads, none offers rides to regular people. As an enticement, the autonomous rides will be free, the company said. Read more

Obama administration to phase out some private prison use

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is phasing out its use of some private prisons, affecting thousands of federal inmates and immediately sending shares of the two publicly traded prison operators plunging. In a memo Thursday to the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told the bureau to start reducing “and ultimately ending” the Justice Department’s use of private prisons. The announcement follows a recent Justice Department audit that found that the private facilities have more safety and security problems than government-run ones. Read more

Australia formally bans Chinese from leasing power grid

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s treasurer on Friday formally blocked Chinese bidders from leasing a Sydney electricity grid, saying the deal would not have been in the nation’s best interest. The announcement by Treasurer Scott Morrison comes one week after he announced preliminary plans to ban Chinese state-owned State Grid Corp. and Hong Kong-registered Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group from bidding for a 99-year lease over a 50.4 percent stake in Ausgrid due to classified national security reasons. Morrison’s initial announcement prompted criticism from China and accusations from some in Australia that his decision was made to appease influential lawmakers with xenophobic views – a critique the treasurer has rejected as false. Read more

EPA watchdog says government fails to study ethanol’s impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has failed to study as legally required the impact of requiring ethanol in gasoline and ensuring that new regulations intended to address one problem do not actually make other problems worse, the Environmental Protection Agency inspector general said Thursday. The conclusion in the new audit confirmed findings of an Associated Press investigation in November 2013. The AP said the administration never conducted studies to determine whether air and water quality benefits from adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline. Such reports to Congress were required every three years under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Read more

Marijuana plants at Oregon state fair mark a 1st for the US

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Nine living marijuana plants will be displayed at the Oregon State Fair in a first of its kind event for the United States starting next Friday. The exhibit of the non-flowering, immature plants brings pot cultivation more into the agricultural mainstream less than two years after Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana. The Oregon Cannabis Business Council, which organized the exhibit, says it’s the first time live cannabis will be shown at a state fair anywhere in the U.S. Read more

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