Google reveals 48 employees fired for sexual harassment

Google CEO Sundar Pichai made a surprise disclosure this week. File/AP

Google: 48 fired for harassment

SAN FRANCISCO — Google disclosed this week that it has fired 48 employees for sexual harassment during the past two years and sent them away without a severance package.

The surprise acknowledgment came Thursday in an email Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent to employees after The New York Times reported the company had dismissed the executive in charge of its Android software for sexual misconduct in 2014 and is still paying him a $90 million package.

A spokesman for the former Android executive insisted Andy Rubin left on his own accord and has never been informed of any accusations of sexual misconduct. The spokesman also said Rubin acknowledged having consensual sexual relationships that adhered to Google's policies at that time.

Pichai's email said Google now has stricter policies in place.

Billionaires saw ranks, wealth grow

BERLIN — The rich got richer than ever before last year, with China leading the way.

Swiss bank UBS said Friday that its annual study of the world's billionaires found their combined wealth rose by $1.4 trillion to an eye-popping $8.9 trillion in 2017.

The number of billionaires around the global also increased, from 1,979 in 2016 to 2,158 last year.

China alone saw two new billionaires emerge each week, highlighting the rapid rise of a class of super rich in the nominally communist country.

Many of the country's 373 billionaires — almost one in five of the global total — are self-made tycoons, often involved in the technology and retail sectors.

The report forecast that, driven by China, billionaires in Asia-Pacific will be wealthier than their American counterparts within three years.

Report: Tesla subject of criminal probe

NEW YORK — A published report Friday said the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into whether electric-car maker Tesla misled investors by overstating production forecasts for its Model 3 sedan.

The Wall Street Journal reported that FBI agents have contacted former Tesla employees to interview them. The paper cited anonymous people familiar with the matter.

A Tesla spokesman said the company was transparent about the difficulty of increasing production of the Model 3. He said the company cooperated with a "voluntary request" for documents from the Justice Department earlier this year and has received no additional requests on the matter for months.

The FBI did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Model 3 is a key part of Tesla's plan to expand from a niche player in the luxury segment to a car maker with broader appeal. In early 2017, the company announced plans to produce up to 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of that year. It fell far short, making just 793 in the last week and 2,700 for all of 2017. It didn't hit the 5,000-a-week target until June 2018.

The Journal reported that the FBI is investigating whether Tesla made production estimates that it knew would be impossible to meet. The company defended its forecasts.

GM proposes zero-emissions mandate

DETROIT — General Motors is asking the federal government for one national gas mileage standard, including a requirement that a percentage of auto sales be zero-emissions vehicles.

The nation's largest automaker spelled out the request Friday in written comments about a Trump administration proposal to roll back Obama-era fuel economy and emissions standards. The administration wants to freeze them at 2020 levels instead of gradually making them tougher. Administration officials say waiving the tougher requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers' hands more quickly.

GM has said it doesn't support the freeze but wants flexibility to deal with consumer preferences shifting from cars to trucks and SUVs.

Pork giant to power from pig waste

RALEIGH — The world's largest pork company said it's going whole-hog on converting powerful pig poop gases into power.

Smithfield Foods said it is expanding to farms across North Carolina, Utah and Missouri a pilot program that traps methane and burns the gas to generate electricity.

Smithfield said its company-owned and contract farms over the next decade will cover waste-treatment pits to capture the gas and keep out rainwater. The gas will be channeled to processing centers and converted into natural gas.

The Environmental Defense Fund is working with Smithfield to reduce the company's greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental group said large-scale rollout of the plan could have the effect over 20 years of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from more than 700,000 homes.

Classic-film streaming service to close

LOS ANGELES — The classic film-focused streaming service FilmStruck is shutting down after two years of operation. The service said Friday on its website that the last day of service will be Nov. 29, and that it is no longer enrolling new subscribers.

The joint venture between Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies offered a rotating selection of classic and hard-to-find arthouse film fare. The site, launched in November of 2016, provided a niche alternative to Hulu and Netflix, both of which have been criticized for lacking older films in their catalogues.

The news was met with sadness among filmmaker and film fans online. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson tweeted that "FilmStruck was too good to last."

FilmStruck was owned and operated by Turner, a subsidiary of AT&T's WarnerMedia.

Wire reports