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Iran foreign minister says Iran, U.S. have exchanged messages in recent weeks

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Iran foreign minister says Iran, U.S. have exchanged messages in recent weeks
© Reuters. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian speaks during a press conference upon arrival at Beirut international airport, Lebanon February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran and the United States have exchanged messages throughout Israel’s four-month-old war on Hamas in Gaza, including about Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, the Iranian foreign minister said on Saturday.

“During this war and in the recent weeks, there was an exchange of messages between Iran and America,” Hossein Amirabdollahian said through a translator at a press conference capping a day-long visit to Beirut.

He said the United States had asked Tehran to request Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, “not to get widely, fully involved in this war against” Israel.

Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli military along the Lebanese-Israeli frontier to support its Palestinian ally Hamas, and has vowed to “fight to the end” should Israel launch a full-scare war on Lebanon.

Israel launched a war it says aims to destroy Hamas after the Islamist group staged a deadly cross-border assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The conflict has rippled across the region and earlier this month Washington staged strikes against Iran-aligned groups in Irag, Syria and Yemen in retaliation for a deadly attack on U.S. troops in Jordan.

Amirabdollahian on Saturday warned Israel against taking any steps towards a broader war against Lebanon, saying that would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “last day.”

He also said Iran saw a political solution as the only way to end the Gaza war.

“Iran and Lebanon confirm that war is not the solution, and that we absolutely never sought to expand it,” Amirabdollahian told a news conference earlier on Saturday alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib.

He also said Tehran was in talks with Saudi Arabia on a political solution to hostilities in Gaza.

Hamas this week proposed a ceasefire of 4-1/2 months, during which remaining hostages held by Hamas would go free, Israel would withdraw its troops from Gaza and agreement would be reached on an end to the war.

Netanyahu called the Hamas terms “delusional” and vowed to fight on. But Amirabdollahian said Hamas was presenting ideas based on a “realistic view,” and that they should be widely backed in order to end the war.

Amirabdollahian met on Saturday with Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, foreign minister, speaker of parliament and Hezbollah head Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television outlet said the foreign minister and Nasrallah reviewed the latest developments in Gaza and southern Lebanon, including “the near future of the situation in Lebanon”.

Amirabdollahian is set to travel on to Syria, according to Syrian media, and will meet top officials there.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps have suffered one of their most bruising spells in Syria since arriving a decade ago to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.

Since December, Israeli strikes have killed more than half a dozen of their members, among them one of the Guards’ top intelligence generals.

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New Jersey fines Walmart over in-store pricing practices

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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Walmart (NYSE:), the world’s largest retailer, agreed to pay $1.64 million to settle regulatory charges that its 64 New Jersey stores employed illegal pricing practices that made it hard for consumers to comparison-shop.

Matthew Platkin, New Jersey’s attorney general, said on Tuesday that the settlement includes a $1.62 million civil fine, and is the largest obtained by the Office of Weights and Measures of the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

New Jersey is one of nine U.S. states that requires grocery retailers to display prices using standard, easy-to-understand measurements such as pounds and quarts.

Platkin said Walmart store inspections in the first quarter of 2023 found more than 2,000 incorrect measurements, sometimes in the same category: coffee, for example, could be priced by the pound, the can or the number of pods.

“As the price of grocery items continues to rise,” Platkin said, “this settlement sends a clear message that New Jersey will not allow retailers to engage in unlawful pricing practices that deny shoppers the ability to easily compare prices to figure out which product is a better buy.”

Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer did not admit wrongdoing, but in a consent order said it “takes seriously its obligations to provide accurate unit prices to enable customers to comparison shop.”

Walmart also agreed to improve employee training and randomly screen items to ensure it displays proper measurements.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: View of Walmart's newly remodeled Supercenter, in Teterboro, New Jersey, U.S., June 7, 2023. REUTERS/Siddharth Cavale/File Photo

In November, discount retailer Dollar General (NYSE:) agreed to pay $1.2 million, including a $1.18 million fine, to settle New Jersey charges that it scanned higher prices at checkout than it posted on merchandise displays thousands of times.

That settlement had been the largest obtained by the state’s weights and measures office.

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Meta must face Australian billionaire Forrest’s US lawsuit over scam Facebook crypto ads

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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge rejected Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:)’ bid to dismiss a lawsuit by billionaire Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest over scam Facebook advertisements that show him promoting fake cryptocurrency and other fraudulent investments.

In a decision on Monday, U.S. District Judge Casey Pitts in San Jose, California said Australia’s second-richest person can try to prove that Meta’s negligence in allowing the ads breached its duty to operate in a commercially reasonable manner.

Forrest can also try to prove that his name and likeness was misappropriated by Meta, and not just by fraudsters behind the bogus ads.

“Dr. Forrest claims that Meta profited more from ads that included his likeness than it would have if the ads had not,” Pitts wrote. “This is enough to adequately plead that the alleged misappropriation was to Meta’s advantage.”

Lawyers for Meta declined to comment on Tuesday.

The Palo Alto, California-based company had argued that Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act immunized it from liability as a publisher of third-party content.

But the judge said Forrest’s claims “present a factual dispute regarding whether Meta’s ad systems were neutral tools that anyone could use (or misuse) or whether the tools themselves contributed to the content of the ads.”

Forrest said more than 1,000 of the ads appeared on Facebook in Australia between April and November 2023, leading to millions of dollars in losses for victims.

The 62-year-old is executive chairman of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group (OTC:), and with his family is worth US$16.5 billion (AUD$24.8 billion), according to Forbes magazine.

In a statement, Forrest said Pitts’ decision was the first where a social media company was unable to invoke Section 230 immunity in a U.S. civil case over its advertising business.

“This is a crucial strategic victory in the battle to hold Facebook accountable,” he said.

Forrest is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

In April, Australian prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges that he brought against Meta in that country over scam cryptocurrency ads.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Fortescue's founder and executive chairman Andrew Forrest speaks during an interview with Reuters, in Beijing, China March 23, 2024. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

Forrest had sued under Australian laws that let individuals criminally prosecute foreign companies upon receiving prosecutors’ consent.

The case is Forrest v Facebook Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-03699.

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Justin Timberlake arrested for drunk driving in the Hamptons

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(Reuters) -Pop singer Justin Timberlake was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in a neighborhood in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, authorities said on Tuesday.

Timberlake was arrested in the town of Sag Harbor on Tuesday morning, according to a statement from the local district attorney’s office.

The 43-year-old was arraigned in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court and released, the statement said. His next court date will be a virtual appearance on July 26, the statement said.

Representatives for Timberlake did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Timberlake was taken into custody after he left a dinner at the American Hotel, People magazine reported.

© Reuters. Justin Timberlake performs during the iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 1, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

Timberlake rose to fame as a member of 1990s boy band ‘N Sync before starting a solo career. His hits include “Can’t Stop the Feeling!,” “Suit & Tie” and “SexyBack.”

He has two concerts scheduled in Chicago this weekend and two shows in New York City next week.

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