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    Asian shares have advanced, boosted by a rally on Wall Street following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared. Markets remained closed in Shanghai for the Lunar New Year holidays. In Tokyo, data showed the core consumer price index was up 4.3%, slightly higher than expected at 4.2%, and higher than the Bank of Japan’s target of 2%. On Thursday, Wall Street stocks climbed to their highest level in nearly eight weeks after the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace in the last quarter, ending 2022 with momentum despite higher interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession.

      A newly released report from the Mississippi State Department of Health finds that an increasing number of mothers in the state have died in recent years due to pregnancy complications. Racial disparities in health outcomes have also widened. The report shows that between 2017 and 2019, overall maternal mortality increased by 8.8% from the previous period researchers analyzed, 2013 to 2016. Black women had a rate four times higher than white women. The report arrives as the Republican-controlled state legislature debates whether to extend Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year after childbirth.

      A new home is being built on my street. I’ve visited the job site countless times to check on the progress and to observe the quality of the workmanship. So far I’ve recorded nearly 40 videos showing mistakes and shortfalls. You can view the videos on my website. The link is at the end of this column.

      We’ve received several comments and observations about a column we recently wrote about divorce, death and joint tenancy. A grandchild wrote about how her grandparents had a difficult marriage and divorce. But even after the divorce, they kept the property in both names. Whoever died first lost the house. But there were some questions about whether the grandmother, who died in March, actually still owned the property because she and our correspondent's mother paid all of the bills.

      Hong Kong will ban CBD starting Wednesday, labeling it a “dangerous drug.” Cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, was previously legal in Hong Kong, where bars and shops sold products containing it. But last year, Hong Kong authorities decided to prohibit its use. Customs authorities announced Friday that the ban would go into effect starting Feb. 1. CBD is one of many chemicals found in cannabis, a plant known more commonly as marijuana. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD doesn’t get users high. Supporters say CBD can treat a range of ailments. Others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, say there’s not enough evidence to confirm its safety as a supplement.

      South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea had stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China in early January. It did so after the virus surged in China late last year and the government there abruptly lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions. South Korea and other countries are worried the surge could create new variants of the coronavirus. In retaliation to Seoul's move, China also suspended South Korean short-term visa applications.

      A proposed settlement between New Jersey and the current owner of a notoriously polluted industrial site is drawing fire from residents of Toms River, where memories of children getting cancer at elevated rates are still a fresh source of pain. The state and Germany-based BASF reached an agreement for the company to restore natural resources polluted by the former Ciba-Geigy chemical plant. But many residents call it woefully insufficient given the history of toxic dumping at the site. Ciba-Geigy and BASF have paid more than $300 million cleaning up the site, an effort whose end is not yet known, and contaminated groundwater still sits beneath some residential neighborhoods.

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