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World News

Asahi offers to sell Stella, Strongbow and Beck’s in bid to clinch CUB deal

Asahi Beverages has proposed selling Australia's number two cider brand, Strongbow, and premium beer brands Stella Artois and Beck's, as it seeks approval from the competition watchdog to buy iconic brewer Carlton & United Breweries.

Asahi has also offered to sell the cider labels Little Green and Bonamy's, which combined with Strongbow account for about 20 per cent of the market. Strongbow alone accounts for about 18 per cent of Australian cider sales.

Asahi Beverages has told the competition watchdog it will offload the premium beer brand Beck’s as it seeks approval to buy beer giant CUB.Credit:Jasper Juinen

The two beer and three cider brands identified by Asahi are all currently owned by CUB, meaning that Asahi would retain Australia's number one cider brand, Somersby.

Cider has long been considered a likely roadblock to Asahi’s proposed $16 billion purchase of CUB, and in December the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it was concerned about the market strength of a combined Asahi/CUB.

At the time, the ACCC said the proposed deal could lead to higher cider and beer prices and substantially lessen competition in those markets.

The ACCC said a combined Aashi/CUB would have cider brands with about 65 to 71 per cent share of the market. And it warned that an unfettered deal "may substantially lessen competition" in Australia's "highly concentrated" beer market.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims stressed on Friday that Asahi's proposed divestments did not mean the ACCC would ultimately approve the $16 billion deal.

"It's a serious proposal but we still have an open mind on whether it addresses the problem. So we're seeking comment, and we'll take that comment into account as we continue to make our decision as to whether to approve or not approve the merger," he said.

Asahi Beverages, which is owned by the Japanese beer giant Asahi, said it had been working closely with the ACCC to address the concerns it had raised.

"We understand and respect that the ACCC must undertake a thorough process to ensure that the deal does not reduce competition and is in the interests of consumers. Asahi's acquisition of CUB is a significant one and we have always expected that the review process would take some time," said Asahi Beverages chairman Peter Margin.

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World News

Senate Democrats Want Watchdog To Investigate Political Interference At DOJ

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate “an apparent pattern of political interference” at the DOJ after four career prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case because Attorney General William Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee pointed to the handling of the Stone case; Barr’s appointment of an outside prosecutor to look at the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn; and a number of other cases as examples of potential political interference in the prosecutorial process.

The letter points to President Donald Trump’s extensive record of pushing the Justice Department to take actions to protect allies like Stone and target his rivals, which they said “suggest political interference in the Justice Department’s work.”

“The public record provides a number of reasons to believe that President Trump or other White House officials are seeking to influence the Justice Department’s handling of certain investigations, civil lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions,” the senators, led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), wrote. “Our concern is that politically motivated enforcement of federal law could become standard practice. This would permanently damage the integrity and independence of the Justice Department.”

A jury in November convicted Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser, on seven charges stemming from the Robert Mueller investigation. The prosecution team initially suggested Stone serve seven to nine years, but their recommendation was later overruled by Barr. A judge ultimately sentenced Stone to 40 months behind bars. 

A spokeswoman for Barr declined to comment on the letter. The inspector general’s office also declined to comment.

Read the letter below.

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Business

Hong Kong publisher detained by police over pro-democracy march

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper says the outspoken head of its publishing group, Jimmy Lai, has been held by police Friday over his participation in a protest march in August that was part of a months-long pro-democracy movement.

The paper said Lai, the founder of Next Media, was picked up from his home by officers at around 7 a.m. and taken to a police station in the Kowloon neighborhood.

It also said the vice chairman of the opposition Labor Party, Lee Cheuk-yan, and others were also detained at the same time in connection with the Aug. 31 march, called to mark the fifth anniversary of a decision by China against fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.

Organizers called off the action after the police banned it, but hundreds of thousands of people defied the order and filled the streets in several areas of the Asian financial hub. Protesters threw gasoline bombs at government headquarters and set fires in the streets, while police stormed a subway car and hit passengers with batons and pepper spray in some of the most violent scenes up to that point in the protest movement.

Hong Kong broadcaster TVB showed police on the platform of Prince Edward subway station swinging batons at passengers who backed into one end of a train car behind umbrellas. The video also shows pepper spray being shot through an open door at a group seated on the floor while one man holds up his hands.

Police arrested thousands during the protest movement that began in June but fizzled out toward the end of the year amid harsher tactics by authorities. Still prison sentences have been against many on charges including rioting and possessing offensive weapons.

The demonstrations began to oppose proposed legislation which would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial, but later included demands for democratic elections and an investigation into police use of force.

Lai is a serial entrepreneur and longtime activist who sold his clothing chain under political pressure and has since focused on media in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

There was no immediate comment from Hong Kong police.

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World News

CPAC staged a play based on ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page's anti-Trump texts

  • "FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, opened CPAC on Thursday.
  • During the 2016 election, Strzok and Page were having an affair, and exchanged texts critical about then-candidate Donald Trump.
  • Trump and his allies have cited the texts as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won.
  • Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Conservative Political Action Conference's Thursday afternoon session kicked off with a staging of "FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that have become something of an obsession to President Donald Trump and his supporters. 

The controversial messages came during the 2016 election, which Trump and his allies have cited as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won.

Strzok and Page were having an affair and exchanged messages that were critical of Trump.

Among the most controversial of the texts was Strzok's response to Page's query asking if Trump could be elected. To which Strzok replied, "No, we'll stop it."

Strzok later said the remark was "off the cuff" in a moment of anger at Trump over his insulting of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan's bereaved parents. Khan's father gave a stirring speech at that year's Democratic National Convention, condemning Trump's proposed "Muslim ban." 

During the texts with Strzok, Page also said, Hillary Clinton "just has to win now," and "This man cannot be president."

The texts were made public in December 2017, and resulted in both Strzok and Page being removed from their posts as part of then-special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Strzok was eventually fired by the FBI, while Page left her position in May 2018. 

Page has since sued the FBI and the Justice Department for what she says was an invasion of her privacy. 

At a rally in October 2019, Trump mocked Page by performing a fake orgasm from the stage at a rally in Minneapolis. 

Strzok and Page were played by actors who made their names in the early 90s as "Superman" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page. Two other actors, Bruce Nozick and Tommy Gissendanner, played composites of members of Congress who later questioned Strzok in a July 2018 congressional hearing. 

Both Cain and Swanson hammed it up, playing up the "smug DC elite" factor, as well as the inherent absurdity of two grown adults in national law enforcement positions reading their candid text messages allowed. 

The actors read from scripts with long pauses between each others "texts." The CPAC crowd seemed to enjoy the novelty of the actors announcing their emoticons ("smiley face," "wink"), acronyms (OMG) and multiple exclamation marks as part of the dialogue. 

But after some smatterings of applause and laughter, the energy in the room flagged, perhaps because the audience expected more steamy content and explicit plotting against Trump than the texts actually provide.

One line in particular that received a lot of applause was Strzok's text reading: "Just went into a Southern Virginia Wal-Mart, I can smell the Trump support." 

During a Q and A session following the performance, Cain was asked how he could inhabit Strzok so well. Cain, like Swanson a vocal conservative, replied, "Well, I've played Scott Peterson." 

The actors and creators also revealed they had visited with President Trump at the White House today, with Cain adding that he thought Trump had performed better than they had — an apparent reference to the fake orgasm the president used to mock Page last year. 

Cain added that he thinks Strzok and Page thought they were doing something that was "heroic" and "in the best interests of the country," though Cain added it was "unconstitutional." Swanson told an audience member that unlike Strzok and Page, the heroes that she and Cain previously played "weren't arrogant." 

Writer and director Phelim McAleer, who produced the documentaries' "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer" and "FrackNation," wrote and directed the play.

He told Insider after the performance, "It's a tragic love story was an international political drama, not just on top of it but running through it as well. And you've got Donald Trump." McAleer says he's looking to raise funds to stage the play for a few weeks in New York. 

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Markets

Asian markets continue to slump, as Nikkei enters correction territory

Asian stocks fell sharply lower in early trading Friday, as Japan’s Nikkei sank to into correction territory as coronavirus fears continued to rattle global markets.

The Nikkei plunged 4% NIK, -4.20% , bringing the index down 10.8% from recent highs. While new data showed Japan’s manufacturing output rose more than expected in January, economist Takeshi Minami warned output will likely decline until the outbreak is over — potentially not until summer, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised Friday he was willing to make policy moves in order to avoid economic damage. “If developments change, we’ll ensure to take steps as needed to prevent the virus from becoming a huge downside risk to Japan’s economy,” he told parliament, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, Abe asked all schools in Japan to close for a month in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. On Friday, Tokyo Disney Resort operator Oriental Land Co. 4661, +0.90%  said it would close its theme parks for two weeks, per a request by the government to cancel or postpone major public events.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -2.76%  fell 2.6%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -3.06%  slid 2.9% and the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite 399106, -3.85%  dove 3.6%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -3.11%  tumbled 3%. Stocks inched up in Malaysia FBMKLCI, -1.47% , but sank in Taiwan Y9999, -1.24% , Singapore STI, -2.80%  and Indonesia JAKIDX, -4.04% . Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -3.25% retreated 2.9%.

Among individual stocks, Hitachi 6501, -5.49% , SoftBank 9984, -4.24% , Toyota 7203, -4.43%  and Sony 6758, -3.84%  dropped in Tokyo trading. In Hong Kong, Apple component maker AAC 2018, -7.04% slid, along with Geely Automobile 175, -6.38% , oil producer CNOOC 883, -4.47%  and Wharf Real Estate 1997, -6.90% . Samsung 005930, -2.50%  and LG Electrionics 066570, -3.21%  fell in South Korea, while BHP BHP, -4.52% , Rio Tinto RIO, -3.47%  and National Australia Bank NAB, -3.05%  declined in Australia.

Fears of the coronavirus’ spread “have become full-blown across the globe as cases outside China climb,” DBS analysts Chang Wei Liang and Eugene Leow said in a report, according to the Associated Press.

New COVID-19 cases have sprung up around the globe in recent days, with trade and industry threatened by mass quarantines and shutdowns.

Goldman Sachs analysts on Thursday warned the outbreak could wipe out U.S. earnings growth this year, though they expect the S&P 500 to rebound by the end of the year.

Thursday on Wall Street, stocks plunged for a sixth straight day as all three benchmark indexes closed in correction territory, defined as a decline of at least 10%, but no more than 20%, from a recent peak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -4.42%  lost 1,190.90 points, or 4.4%, to close at 25,766.60, while the S&P 500 SPX, -4.42%  shed 137.63 points, or 4.4%, to end at 2,978.76. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -4.61%  slumped 414.29 points, or 4.6%, closing at 8,566.48.

Benchmark U.S. crude CLJ20, -3.06%  slid more than 2% in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 3.4% on Thursday to settle at $47.09. Brent crude oil BRNJ20, -2.53% , the global benchmark, sank 2% to $51.19 per barrel in London after falling $1.25 on Thursday to $52.18 a barrel.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.60%  fell to 108.94 yen from 109.58 yen Thursday.

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Markets

Citigroup, Goldman, JPMorgan Slash Earnings Estimates for Stocks

Citigroup Inc. now expects zero growth in global earnings for 2020 as the coronavirus throttles economic growth. And it warns even the new forecast may prove too optimistic.

The bank’s call on earnings per share follows moves Thursday by Wall Street peers Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to cut profit estimates on U.S. companies. Goldman expects no earnings gain for American firms this year.

“Given obvious further risks to global GDP, it seems prudent to forecast flat global EPS in 2020,” Citigroup analysts including chief global equity strategist Robert Buckland wrote in a research report dated Feb. 27. The bank expected 4% growth at the start of the year.

“Maybe even flat EPS is too optimistic,” the team wrote. “If the virus slows global economic growth to 2.0% in 2020, our models suggest global EPS could contract around 10%.”

Global equities have sold off precipitously, with MSCI’s all-country stock index dropping more than 10% over its seven consecutive days of decline. The S&P 500 is down 11% so far this week, in the fastest correction from a record high in history.

Investors have been scrambling to evaluate the epidemic’s impact on the global economy as it spreads to more countries, throws supply chains into chaos and restricts movement of people and goods.

Citigroup lowered its target on the local-currency MSCI All Country World Index to 660 by the end of the year, down from a previous target of 690. That would still mark a gain of about 7.5% from current levels. The index was at 613.95 at 10:30 a.m. Hong Kong time.

“We would prefer it to be closer to panic before going all-in. It is not there yet,” the analysts said. “Our global bear-market checklist still says buy this dip, although our U.S. panic-euphoria indicator says not yet.”

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Economy

FDA Nod For BHVN’s Drug, IBIO On Watch, SGMO Soars On Biogen Deal

Today’s Daily Dose brings you news about FDA approval of Biohaven’s migraine drug, iBio’s Annual Meeting, Sangamo’s deal with Biogen, and Zogenix’s revised FDA decision date.

Read on…

The FDA has approved Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Company Ltd.’s (BHVN) NURTEC ODT (rimegepant) for the acute treatment of migraine in adults.

NURTEC ODT is the first FDA-approved product for Biohaven, and the first and only calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonist available in a fast-acting orally disintegrating tablet formulation.

Aimovig, co-developed by Novartis and Amgen, Teva’s Ajovy, Eli Lilly’s Emgality and Allergan’s Ubrelvy are the other approved CGRP inhibitors for migraine – the same class of drugs to which Biohaven’s investigational Rimegepant also belongs to.

Biohaven’s NURTEC ODT could bring in $897 million in annual sales in 2024, according to EvaluatePharma.

NURTEC ODT is also being evaluated in the preventive treatment of migraine and a phase III trial in this indication is underway, with topline data expected later this quarter.

BHVN closed Thursday’s trading at $40.82, down 8.54%. In after-hours, the stock was up 7.79% at $44.00.

iBio Inc.’s (IBIO) annual meeting of stockholders is all set to be held on March 5, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The Company focuses on developing plant-based biologics manufacturing. Its FastPharming System combines vertical farming, automated hydroponics, and glycan engineering technologies to rapidly deliver gram quantities of high-quality monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, bioinks, and other proteins.

Early this month, iBio and Beijing CC-Pharming Ltd. entered into collaboration to develop and test a new 2019-nCoV vaccine to be manufactured using iBio’s FastPharming System.

iBio’s FastPharming Technology has been used to produce antibody candidates for Ebola and Dengue fever viruses, while human and animal studies have been completed for vaccine candidates, including yellow fever virus, human papilloma virus, seasonal influenza and avian influenza.

IBIO closed Thursday’s trading at $0.86, up 158.98%.

Shares of Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. (SGMO) jumped nearly 40 percent in extended trading on Thursday, following a global licensing collaboration agreement with Biogen Inc. (BIIB) to develop and commercialize ST-501 for tauopathies including Alzheimer’s disease, ST-502 for synucleinopathies including Parkinson’s disease, a third undisclosed neuromuscular disease target, and up to nine additional undisclosed neurological disease targets.

Sangamo’s ST-501, ST-502, and the undisclosed neuromuscular disease target are all in preclinical testing.

As part of the agreement, Biogen will pay Sangamo $350 million upfront, including a license fee and an equity investment in Sangamo stock. In addition, Sangamo is eligible to receive up to $2.37 billion in potential milestones, as well as royalties on potential net commercial sales.

SGMO closed Thursday’s trading at $6.66, down 3.27%. In after-hours, the stock was up 39.83% at $9.32.

The FDA decision date on Zogenix Inc.’s (ZGNX) New Drug Application for FINTEPLA for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome has been extended by three months to June 25, 2020.

The original decision date of March 25, 2020, has been extended to allow the FDA time to review additional data submitted by Zogenix in response to a recent information request from the U.S. regulatory agency.

Early this month, the Company reported top-line results from a global pivotal phase III trial of FINTEPLA for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

The Lennox-Gastaut syndrome trial achieved its primary endpoint, demonstrating a statistically significant reduction in drop seizures for FINTEPLA 0.7 mg/kg/day compared to placebo. The same dose of FINTEPLA (0.7 mg/kg) also demonstrated statistically significant improvements versus placebo in key secondary efficacy measures, including the proportion of patients with a clinically meaningful reduction in drop seizure frequency.

However, for a lower dose of FINTEPLA (0.2 mg/kg/day), although there was a decrease in the frequency of drop seizures between baseline and the treatment period compared to placebo, it did not reach statistical significance.

ZGNX closed Thursday’s trading at $23.69, down 9.09%. In after-hours, the stock fell another 7.43% to $21.93.

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World News

Smelters ‘stick out’ in Rio Tinto’s $1.5b push to cut carbon emissions

Rio Tinto will need to source cleaner energy for its highly carbon-intensive Australian aluminium smelters in order to achieve its tougher new emissions-reduction targets, unless it opts to divest plants instead.

This week the Anglo-Australian miner pledged to invest $1.5 billion over five years in initiatives to neutralise its greenhouse gas emissions by becoming a net zero emitter by 2050 and to reduce its direct emissions by 15 per cent within the next decade.

Rio’s jointly owned Tomago aluminium smelter is Australia’s largest.Credit:Virginia Star

However, while discussing the details of its push to decarbonise its global portfolio, Rio chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques acknowledged the company "has a challenge" in its Pacific aluminium business, spanning smelters in Australia and New Zealand. In 2018, the business unit accounted for 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, the largest amount of emissions in Rio's entire global operations.

While hydropower supplies electricity for many of Rio Tinto's smelters globally, its plants in Queensland and New South Wales are largely powered by coal-fired generators, the most polluting form of energy creation.

"Repowering our aluminium assets and increasing the share of renewable electricity more broadly will be central to our decarbonisation strategy to 2030," the company said.

Both smelters – Boyne in Queensland and Tomago in NSW – have been described by Rio as being on "thin ice" and facing the threat of closure as the company remains locked in negotiations over cheaper long-term power contracts.

Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast said the Pacific Aluminium assets "stick out" in Rio's portfolio as "low-economic and highly carbon-intensive”, and would unsurprisingly be a significant hurdle in its emissions-reduction drive.

Glyn Lawcock, mining analyst at UBS, said: "We couldn't help but notice the closure of Pacific Aluminium alone would reduce emissions by approximately 25 per cent."

"Maybe this is the elegant solution to Rio’s desire to reduce CO2 as well as lifting margins within the aluminium business unit," Mr Lawcock said.

Pacific Aluminium reported an EBITDA loss of $US22 million in 2019.

'We couldn't help but notice the closure of Pacific Aluminium alone would reduce emissions by approximately 25 per cent.'

Although divestment would be the "simplest and quickest" option to eliminate its emissions, Mr Prendergast said he suspected Rio may encounter difficulties finding an interested buyer for such carbon-intensive and low-returning assets.

But Mr Prendergast said Rio also had the resources and the capacity along with plenty of time ahead of its 2030 target date to reduce the emissions intensity of its aluminium smelting assets through ongoing research and development with Alcoa to decarbonise the smelting process.

The two companies are in a Montreal-based joint venture, Elysis, which has been developing aluminium production technology that removes carbon dioxide from the process and emits only oxygen.

Processing alumina into aluminium is a highly energy-intensive and carbon emissions-intensive process, especially at smelters that source power from coal, including Rio Tinto's Australian operations. The aluminium industry accounts for as much as 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions globally.

AustralianSuper, which owns Rio Tinto shares, said it had been engaging with Rio Tinto for more than two years ahead of its newly announced decarbonisation goals, unveiled as part of the Climate Action 100+ initiative.

"This a great demonstration of constructive engagement resulting in genuine outcomes on climate change," AustralianSuper's Andrew Gray said.

However, unlike top global miner BHP, Rio Tinto is refusing to commit to setting goals for its "Scope 3" emissions – the emissions generated by the customers of its producers, such as the steelmakers in China – which are vastly greater than emissions directly caused by its mining operations.

Market Forces' Will van de Pol has also cast doubt over the adequacy of Rio's direct emissions reduction target of 15 per cent by 2030, saying they appeared to "fall well short" of the sort of decarbonisation action required.

"The company's emission reduction plans amount to nothing more than economic decisions to improve efficiency and reduce costs, rather than ambitious change guided by an understanding of the decarbonisation required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and avoid the worst impacts of climate change," Mr van de Pol said.

"Based on the company's current plans, investors must have serious questions about the sincerity of Rio Tinto's claimed commitment to climate action in line with the Paris Agreement."

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World News

Barack Obama Demands Pro-Trump Group's Joe Biden Attack Ad Be Pulled for Misusing His Voice

Former President Barack Obama this week demanded that a pro-Trump group’s racially charged anti-Joe Biden ad be pulled in South Carolina for using Obama’s words out of context.

The negative ad by the Committee to Defend the President, which attacks the former vice president’s record on racial issues, includes Obama’s voice from a recording of his audiobook for his 1995 memoir, Dreams of My Father.

But the ad makes it sound — incorrectly — like Obama is criticizing Biden.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement to PEOPLE. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

Obama’s narration was from a portion of his 1995 memoir when he was telling a story about a barber in Chicago who was speaking to him about politicians mistreating black voters.

In a cease-and-desist letter on Wednesday, Obama’s attorney wrote: “This unauthorized use of President Obama’s name, image, likeness, voice and book passage is clearly intended to mislead the target audience of the ad into believing that the passage from the audiobook is a statement that was made by President Barack Obama during his presidency, when it was in fact made by a barber in a completely different context more than 20 years ago.”

The Committee to Defend the President reportedly spent more than $250,000 on negative ads against Biden in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s crucial Democratic primary vote, according to The Washington Post.

The group also similarly spent big on anti-Biden ads in Nevada ahead of that state’s caucus vote earlier this month, according to the Post.

The Committee to Defend the President did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

In 2017, President Obama’s attorneys similarly reached out to a different group supporting President Donald Trump when that group also took Obama’s words out of context to say Democratic politicians took black voters for granted.

The South Carolina primary on Saturday is all-important for Biden’s presidential campaign, as the former vice president has heavily campaigned in the state and has looked to South Carolina’s largely black electorate to reinvigorate his presidential campaign and give him a win.

Obama chose not to endorse a candidate in the 2020 race, though his team acknowledged his ties to Biden, who was his vice president for eight years.

“President Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President,” his spokeswoman said. “He has said he has no plans to endorse in the primary because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee.”

• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON

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Markets

Indonesian Stocks Drop to Two-Year Low, Headed for Bear Market

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Indonesian stocks slumped to a two-year low, headed for a bear market as investors grew increasingly jittery over the economic impact of the fast spreading coronavirus on Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The Jakarta Composite Index fell as much as 3.7% Friday, down 20% from its February 2018 record high. The benchmark gauge is down 10% this month, heading for its worst such performance since October 2008.

Foreign investors have net sold almost $300 million of Indonesian shares this week as the nation’s currency and bonds were also routed. While the rupiah is down 2.4% this week, the yield on benchmark 10-year government bonds has risen more than 25 basis points, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Indonesian stocks are falling along with global equities amid concerns on global economic slowdown from this outbreak of coronavirus,” said John Teja, a director at PT Ciptadana Sekuritas Asia. “Nothing is spared in Indonesia, even the defensive consumer stocks are getting hit.”

Shares of consumer goods company PT Unilever Indonesia fell as much as 5.9%, while PT Bank Central Asia dropped 4.1% and PT Astra International slipped 5.5%, among the biggest drags on the Jakarta Composite.

With no confirmed case of coronavirus in Indonesia so far, and the market’s reliance on the domestic economy, the rout in the nation’s equities should be nearing an end, according Thendra Crisnanda, head of research at PT MNC Sekuritas.

“The index should reach the bottom between February and March,” Crisnanda said. “The impact of the virus on Indonesia isn’t significant and our domestic economy will remain resilient. This is a good time for investors to buy as valuation has been low and the dividend season is coming soon.”

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