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  • IRS head says budget cuts could delay tax refunds

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Budget cuts at the IRS could delay tax refunds, reduce taxpayer services and hurt enforcement efforts, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday. About half the people who call the IRS for assistance this filing season won’t be able to get through to a person, Koskinen said. Once returns are filed, there will…

  • Amid scrutiny, Vegas hotelier wins gambling license

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — The nightlife mogul who opened the SLS Las Vegas hotel and casino on the Strip has won a gambling license from Nevada regulators after intense scrutiny into his past business dealings and drug use. Sam Nazarian appeared before the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday. He said he was sorry for misleading…

  • Investors say ‘bye,’ but not ‘ciao,’ to stock pickers

    NEW YORK (AP) — Stock pickers might as well wear a scarlet “A.” “Active management” is becoming more of a taboo when it comes to mutual funds. Many investors are abandoning actively managed funds, wary of their high fees and recently disappointing performance. Instead, they’re funneling money into lower-cost index funds, which aim to match…

  • Questions and answers about traveling to Cuba

    NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t rush to book that flight to Cuba just yet. While the U.S. plans to restore diplomatic ties with the Caribbean island nation, globe-trotting tourists won’t be able to hop on a plane to Havana anytime soon. It remains illegal for most U.S. citizens to travel to — and spend money…

  • US announces protections for transgender workers

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is now interpreting federal law to explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination against transgender individuals. That means the Justice Department will be able to bring claims on behalf of people who say they’ve been fired by a public employer based on gender identity. In defending lawsuits, the federal government also will no…

  • Constantly changing online prices stump shoppers

    NEW YORK (AP) — Online shopping has become as volatile as stock market trading. Wild, minute-by-minute price swings on everything from clothes to TVs have made it difficult for holiday shoppers to “buy low.” A growing number of retailers are using software that changes online prices based on demand, competition, inventory and other factors. The…

  • Average US 30-year loan rate falls to 3.80 percent

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates’ historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from…

  • 2014: A year of battle lines drawn over dinner

    Have you picked a side yet? If not, you’d better think fast, because the battle lines are being drawn and they cut right down the dinner table. For if there was any theme to the food world in 2014, it was the prevalence of polarizing issues. Whether we were tussling over genetically modified organisms, or…

  • Ford expands drivers air bag recall nationwide

    DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. has agreed to government demands to expand a driver’s side air bag inflator recall to the entire U.S. The move announced Thursday adds 447,000 Ford vehicles to the list of those recalled due to driver’s inflators made by Japan’s Takata Corp. The inflators can explode with too much force,…

  • Kraft Foods CEO to retire; Cahill named successor

    NORTHFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Kraft Foods Group Inc. says that CEO Tony Vernon plans to retire later this month. The company named Chairman John Cahill as his successor. Vernon has served as CEO since the consumer packaged food and beverage company’s spinoff from Mondelez International Inc. in October 2012. Before that, he was the company’s…

  • France fines 13 firms $1.2 bln for price-fixing

    PARIS (AP) — Penalizing a dirty business involving cleaning products, French regulators fined 13 consumer-products makers about 950 million euros ($1.2 billion) for price fixing on goods like shampoos, detergents and toothpaste. France’s competition authority said Thursday that the companies sought to maintain “artificially high” prices in negotiations with supermarkets which filtered down to consumers…

  • Circus disputes citation for hair-hanging accident

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has contested a citation it received from federal regulators for an accident that sent eight hair-hanging acrobats plummeting to the ground during a live performance, severely injuring most of them. Stephen Payne, a spokesman for circus parent company Feld Entertainment, said this week that…

  • ‘Interview’ ordeal at Sony just its latest crisis

    TOKYO (AP) — How do you say “damage control” in Japanese? Sony Corp. is sealed within a hermetic cone of silence as executives try to prevent the slow motion train wreck at Sony Pictures from damaging the rest of the sprawling business empire. Sony’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now…

  • ‘Free Shipping Day’ exceeds $1 billion in sales

    WASHINGTON — The most wonderful time of year just got even better. Thousands of online retailers are promising free shipping on Thursday with on-time Christmas delivery. “Free Shipping Day” is a shopping day that has grown exponentially,  exceeding $1 billion in sales over the past two years. It’s enticing for many who don’t mind buying a gift, but…

  • Gift Guide: Home products come with connectivity

    NEW YORK (AP) — Do you really need an app to tell you to brush and floss? It seems every household appliance is getting some smarts these days, meaning some connection to a phone app and the broader Internet. But then what? To give you a feel for what that connectivity brings, here’s a closer…