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Malaysia Airlines to Offer Refunds, Fee Waivers

Malaysia Airlines to Offer Refunds, Fee Waivers

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia Airlines says it will offer refunds and waive change fees for any passengers who wish to cancel or postpone their travel plans in the wake of MH17 being shot down over Ukraine on Thursday.In a statement on their website, Malaysia Airlines says that passengers — even those with non-refundable tickets — can receive a refund should they opt to cancel or postpone their trip. Enrich passengers will also receive fee waivers for any travel changes and refunded miles if they cancel a trip using redemption tickets.The offer stands for one week, so customers have to act between July 18 and July 24. All offers are available to customers scheduled to travel between July 18 and December 31, 2014.In a statement, the company said that it “deeply regrets the loss of MH17, and is very much appreciative of the support from our passengers.”
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Number of Layoffs in US at Six-Year Low

Number of Layoffs in US at Six-Year Low

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Microsoft is the big exception. The company’s announcement of 18,000 job cuts goes against the latest employment trends.Job security for most workers has improved. In fact, the number of layoffs across the U.S. is now at a six-year low.”Firms just aren’t laying off people in a recession-like way. They’re basically back to good times in terms of layoffs,” says economist Cary Leahey.But, he points out, job creation could be stronger.”They just haven’t felt the good times are good enough to hire workers in profusion or to take a chance on workers who have been unemployed for a long period of time,” Leahey says.Nevertheless, the jobs market is improving.”It’s basically as good as it’s been in the last five or 10 years but its nothing like what happened in the 80s or 90s,” Leahey notes.
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Markets Rebound to Close Week on High Note, Unemployment Claims Dip

Markets Rebound to Close Week on High Note, Unemployment Claims Dip

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street rebounded from poor performances on Thursday to finish the week on a high note, while the U.S. Labor Department announced lower unemployment rates in 22 states.The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day up 1213.37 to 17100.18. The index climbed back over the 17,000 mark, which it reached for the first time ever earlier this month.The Nasdaq closed at 4432.15, up 68.7 from Thursday’s finish, while the S&P 500 ended the session up 20.1 to 1978.22. A Labor Department report said on Friday that 22 states saw lower numbers of unemployment benefits claimed. Overall, 3,000 fewer Americans claimed unemployment compared to the revised numbers from the week before.
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Forbes Media to Sell Majority Stake to International Investors

Forbes Media to Sell Majority Stake to International Investors

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Forbes Media on Friday announced plans to sell a majority stake in the media group to international investors with the goal of accelerating the company’s global growth.The Forbes family will retain significant interest in the group, a release said, and Steve Forbes will remain chairman and editor-in-chief. However, the majority stake in the company will be acquired by Hong Kong-based investor group Integrated Whale Media Investments (IWM).IWM is expected to provide financial and operation expertise as well as financial assistance in enlarging Forbes Media’s global reach.
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Can Malaysia Airlines Endure a Second Tragedy So Soon?

Can Malaysia Airlines Endure a Second Tragedy So Soon?

Scott Barbour/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Even with support from the Malaysian government and its longstanding reputation for service, Malaysia Airlines’ future is in question after suffering its second high-profile tragedy this year, experts said.
The state-owned airline’s survival is in the hands of the Malaysian government. But the airline is already financially strapped, posting a loss for the last three years.
Malaysia Airlines did not respond to a request by ABC News for comment.”Certainly, government assistance or support can keep the worst of [airlines] afloat. That’s likely to be a primary factor in this specific case in my view,” Neal Dihora, senior equity analyst with Morningstar, told ABC News.George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, said the missile-attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 may be a milestone similar to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, which killed 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board over Lockerbie, Scotland.The airline holds a lengthy record of excellence, having received more than 100 awards in the last decade from various groups.But questions have arisen about why the Malaysian plane and planes from other carriers were flying over a war zone after some aviation agencies issued risk warnings in April related to Crimea, more than 300 miles southwest of eastern Ukraine.Hobica drew comparisons to the safety lapse that led to the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in 1996 in Florida, which killed all 110 people on board and led to the demise of the carrier.”This could be Malaysia Air’s Lockerbie or a ValuJet kind of milestone, or perhaps they can muddle through,” Hobica said.Travel expert and author Mark Murphy said a company’s response to tragedy may influence consumers more than a tragedy itself. Malaysia Airlines has been criticized for its response to families of passengers after the disappearance of Flight 370 on March 8.”Airlines don’t fail due to tragedies, they fail for a variety of other reasons. Back-to-back tragedies, as we are seeing with Malaysia Airlines, can be the final straw, but it’s typically a series of bad decisions, coupled with bad timing, that lead to any airline failure,” Murphy said.Pan Am, for example, didn’t fail solely because of the Lockerbie bombing, Murphy noted. The company’s growing debt, the flailing economy, and selling some of the most profitable foreign routes to competitors contributed to its ultimate bankruptcy, he said.”Some will say Lockerbie lead to [Pan Am's] demise, but that would be giving management a free pass on a series of bad decisions that were responsible for their demise,” Murphy said. “Had Pan Am developed a domestic route structure, just as the international market ground to a halt, they would have had a chance to survive.”Other industry forces will affect Malaysia Airlines’ future. The airline industry in general is profitable, if not thriving, Dihora said. However, airlines in Asia are becoming very competitive “and people certainly have many options for air travel,” he added.Hobica said he believes Malaysia Airlines will be re-branded, similar to the transformation of Swissair, the former national airline of Switzerland that experienced financial difficulty, into SWISS.”A larger question is whether, looking ahead, the world needs so many flag carriers merely to satisfy national pride, and will Malaysia compete effectively with the scores of low-cost carriers in Asia,” Hobica said.
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Uber Delivering Ice Cream on Demand Friday

Uber Delivering Ice Cream on Demand Friday

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Transportation company Uber is delivering ice cream on demand Friday in more than 100 cities around the world.According to a press release, Uber will serve up the sweet treats in 144 cities in 38 countries, spanning six continents. The news generated plenty of interest online, spawning the hashtag #UberIceCream, which was among the top trends on Twitter.In some cities, the company trades standard ice cream for gelato or frozen yogurt. Uber held a similar event last year, hitting only 33 cities. In the Philippines, the company will even donate all proceeds from sales in the capital city of Manila to victims of Typhoon Glenda.
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New ‘Plaza-opoly’ Board Game Inspired by Iconic Hotel

New ‘Plaza-opoly’ Board Game Inspired by Iconic Hotel

The Plaza Hotel(NEW YORK) — What happens when an iconic hotel meets a classic board game? Plaza-opoly.Debuting later this month, the game features Plaza-inspired instructions, playing cards and themed board spaces. Players can challenge one another to become the wealthiest winner by purchasing hotel-branded squares.The board game is the first venture into the game world for the property. It is $60 and sold at The Plaza Boutique.Six game tokens are characters and amenities inspired by The Plaza, including Eloise’s pug dog Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee, a luxury car, a champagne bottle, a tea cup and (The Big) apple.After checking in at the Front Desk, players roll the dice to move around via The Rose Club, The Eloise Suite, The Plaza Food Hall and even Home Alone 2, which was filmed at the hotel.Players can take their “winnings” straight to the bank and “purchase” their favorite Plaza destinations, such The Champagne Bar, explore “The Great Gatsby” in The Fitzgerald Suite, The Grand Ballroom and The Shinn Murals. Each space has a corresponding Title Deed Card that provides a value and details of each location.
Players get cards such as “Order Room Service” or “Carriage Ride in Central Park.” Instead of jail, players risk getting sent to Hotel Security.
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GE Reports Positive Second Quarter Earnings

GE Reports Positive Second Quarter Earnings

Scott Olson/Getty Images(FAIRFIELD, Conn.) — General Electric had a positive second quarter, according to its latest earnings report.The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company announced on Friday that its operating earnings rose 8 percent from the second quarter of 2013 to $3.9 billion. GAAP earnings from continuing operations also went up, climbing 13 percent from last year to $3.6 billion.Revenues, meanwhile, were $36.2 billion for the quarter — a 3 percent increase from 2013, GE said.”GE had a good performance in the quarter and in the first half of 2014, with double-digit industrial segment profit growth, 30 basis points of margin expansion, and nearly $6 billion returned to shareholders,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement. “The environment continues to be generally positive.”
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States Sue 5-Hour Energy over Advertising

States Sue 5-Hour Energy over Advertising

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Could energy shots be getting the boot?
Indiana-based shot-maker 5-Hour Energy is facing lawsuits in both Oregon and Washington Friday morning, as litigators claim the company exercised deceptive advertising in the sale of their products, as well as a host of other devious practice allegations.
The 10-year-old company said in a statement that it would fight the suit.
“When companies are being bullied by someone in a position of power, these companies roll over, pay the ransom, and move on,” 5-Hour Energy spokeswoman Melissa Skabich said in a statement. “We’re not doing that.”
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Google Reports Quarterly Revenue Growth

Google Reports Quarterly Revenue Growth

Google(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) — Google announced its financial results for the second quarter Thursday, reporting a 22 percent increase for the year at $16 billion. “We are moving forward with great product momentum and are excited to continue providing amazing user experiences, with a view to the long term,” said Patrick Pichette, CFO of Google. The online search provider attributed growth to mobile and video advertising. Majority of revenue came from Google’s sites, which generated $10.94 billion, or 69 percent of total earnings in the second quarter of 2014. The tech company also announced a management change Thursday, announcing that its Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora will be leaving after nearly 10 years. He will be replaced by business founder Omid Kordestani.
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Stocks Tumble Following Dow’s Record Close, Markets Dip with Airline Crash

Stocks Tumble Following Dow’s Record Close, Markets Dip with Airline Crash

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks plunged Thursday following disappointing corporate earnings reports and news of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner.The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 161 points to 16976.81, just one day after its record close. The Nasdaq Composite lost 63 to finish at 4363.45, and the S&P 500 fell 23 points at 1958.12. News of the Malaysia Airlines jet disaster in Ukraine grounded several airline stocks, including American, Delta, and United Continental. Government reports revealed an uneven economic recovery: the number of people seeking jobless benefits fell to its lowest number since the late 1990s and dipped by 3,000 last week, while home construction fell to its slowest pace in nine months.Microsoft announced Thursday that it plans to cut 18,000 jobs by 2015. Meanwhile, tech giant Google reported a 22 percent increase in revenue from last year.
 

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Microsoft to Eliminate 18K Workers as It Absorbs Nokia

Microsoft to Eliminate 18K Workers as It Absorbs Nokia

David Becker/Getty Images(REDMOND, Wash.) — The $7 billion honeymoon is over. Ten months after that pricey acquisition of Nokia’s handset business, Microsoft said 12,500 of the 18,000 layoffs will be from the Finnish company it acquired.It is the biggest layoff in company history.Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO for less than six months, is swiftly leading the company to focus on “platform and productivity” from “devices and services,” said Norman Young, analyst with Morningstar. This is happening while the company is living in a “mobile-first and cloud-first world,” Nadella wrote to employees last week.Thursday’s announcement is timed ahead of Microsoft’s fourth quarter earnings announcement on Tuesday, July 22, when Nadella said he will reveal “further specifics on where we are focusing our innovation investments.” Nadella wrote that the company is now reducing the first 13,000 positions, and “the vast majority of employees whose jobs will be eliminated will be notified over the next six months.”Young said the move was expected, as Microsoft’s management already spoke of realizing $600 million of “synergies” from the Nokia acquisition. Young also said the cuts were necessary, as Nadella said in his email to employees Thursday he wants to “become more agile and move faster.”The job cuts do not mean that Microsoft is saying goodbye to its Nokia business. The company launched its latest mobile phone, the Nokia Lumia 635, just two weeks ago. The phone has the latest Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, features of which the company is marketing this year, including digital personal assistant Cortana, a competitor of Apple’s Siri.”[Microsoft] wants to provide the basis (platform) for devices and services alike. While this is an ambitious strategy, we think the foundation already exists through products such as Microsoft Azure, Bing/Cortana, Enterprise Mobility Suite, and Office/Office 365,” Young wrote.The vast majority of the 12,500 Nokia job cuts is a combination of manufacturing, engineering, and other professional employees. Microsoft will be closing down some manufacturing facilities in addition to shutting down some engineering offices that were likely duplicated after the acquisition, Young said.
 

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Facebook Launches App for Famous People

Facebook Launches App for Famous People

Facebook(NEW YORK) — Facebook wants to put you in touch with your favorite celebrity.The social network launched a new app Thursday, called “Mentions,” that is available to actors, musicians and other influencers who have verified pages.More than 800 million of Facebook’s users are connected to celebrities on the website, according to the company, making an app for famous people seem like the next logical step.Celebs with verified pages in the United States can request access after downloading the app and administrators of verified pages can request access directly from Facebook.After they’ve downloaded the app and have permission, your favorite social media savvy celeb can see what you’re saying about them, join the conversation and host live question and answer sessions.Facebook turned to a star-studded crew to help test the app, including Ed Sheeran, Mariah Carey, Tyrese Gibson and soccer player Alex Morgan.
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Starbucks’ Creative Customer Problem

Starbucks’ Creative Customer Problem

Courtesy of Sameera Raziuddin(NEW YORK) — Starbucks prides itself on the personalization opportunities of its drinks, something its customers have really taken to heart.The past few weeks have brought news of coffee enthusiasts taking advantage of the “My Starbucks Rewards” program, which allows customers to receive a free birthday beverage or food item on their birthday, as well as a free item, after earning 12 stars through purchase, that they are free to customize however they wish.Except online, it’s turned into a contest to see who can receive the biggest and most expensive drink for free. Andrew Chifari, 27, made headlines in late May for creating a 128-ounce, $54.75 drink in a Dallas Starbucks that he received for free.Now, Sameera Raziuddin has shattered his record at a Florida store with a 192-ounce, $57.75 frappuccino, made with a caramel crunch base and filled with 60 espresso shots, caramel syrup, white mocha flavor, hazelnut flavor, tazo chai, soy milk, mocha drizzle, matcha powder, vanilla bean flavor, vanilla drizzle, hazelnut drizzle and whipped cream.And Starbucks is not happy about it.“This particular customization was excessive and something we don’t encourage, and the same can be said for the beverage a few weeks ago,” Starbucks spokeswoman Maggie Jantzen said.Starbucks has a preexisting policy that blended beverages can be no larger than 24 ounces, and iced tea and iced coffee can be no larger than 31 ounces.Jantzen declined to comment on why stores are not following corporate guidelines.Grub Street, a national food blog, theorized that it was because stores receive free publicity out of such a service, not to mention a hopefully more significant tip to the barista that agreed to make the drink.Starbucks maintains it has a size guideline in place for taste reasons.“We really want to make sure we’re providing a high-quality product. I don’t believe this particular beverage was representative of that,” Jantzen said.Raziuddin, 23, wholeheartedly disagreed.
“It amazingly turned out to be really, really good,” she said. “Everybody wonders if I tossed it, but we just love it. We drink it all the time.”It’s to be determined if this monster drink trend continues, but one thing is for sure: Starbucks is not impressed.
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Airbnb Unveils New Logo

Airbnb Unveils New Logo

Airbnb(NEW YORK) — When Airbnb unveiled its new logo, netizens went wild trying to pin down what the simple scribble looks like.But the rent-a-room service says the logo — which resembles a pretzel shape or an upside-down heart — is symbolic of belonging, the core of the Airbnb brand, according to CEO Bryan Chesky.”For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses,” he wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”A video explains the symbol, called the bélo, and it stands for four things: people, places, love and Airbnb.The logo is the latest in an ongoing rebranding process for the company, which has also redesigned its website and app, ratcheted up its marketing efforts and launched a bed and breakfast service.
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Why Weak Passwords Aren’t Always a Bad Idea

Why Weak Passwords Aren’t Always a Bad Idea

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It turns out having your dog’s name as your password isn’t such a bad idea after all.New research from Microsoft says Internet users are better off recycling weak, memorable passwords for accounts of low importance.Complex passwords, comprised of letters, numbers and symbols, should only be used for accounts that hold sensitive information, such as a person’s bank account, according to the study published by Microsoft Research.The logic behind the study indicates that users will more likely be able to remember unique passwords if they’re limited to just their high-value accounts.“Strategies that rule out password re-use or the use of weak passwords are sub-optimal. Both are valuable tools in balancing the allocation of effort between higher and lower value accounts,” researchers wrote.While password managers are one viable option for managing online accounts, the study argues that they can create more problems than they’re worth.Researchers suggest that if a user forgets their password for their password manager, they could be locked out of all their accounts, or by storing everything in one place, users are leaving themselves potentially vulnerable to hackers.The study recommends writing down passwords the old-fashioned way, if you must.“Writing passwords down is, if properly done, increasingly accepted as a coping mechanism,” the study says.
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Jobless Claims Continue Decline, Down by 3,000

Jobless Claims Continue Decline, Down by 3,000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims are still falling, decreasing last week by 3,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.For the week ending July 12, the number of people filing for benefits dropped to 302,000. The previous week, claims stood at a revised level of 305,000.The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting this week’s figures.The four-week moving average also fell, decreasing by 3,000 to 309,000 — the lowest level for this average in five years.
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Starbucks Opens First Colombia Store

Starbucks Opens First Colombia Store

Starbucks(BOGOTA, Colombia) — Caffeine chain Starbucks payed homage to one of its major coffee sources Wednesday with the opening of its first store in Colombia. Officials debuted the three-level store in Bogota where employees are set to serve 100 percent Colombian coffee. “Our admiration and respect for Colombian coffee farmers dates back to our humble beginnings in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971 when we first began purchasing and roasting Colombian coffee,”  Starbucks chairman Schultz said. “Over the past 43 years, we have proudly shared Colombia’s finest coffee with billions of people around the world and today we are honored to bring the Starbucks Experience to Colombia for the first time.”The stores in the Latin American country will be the first to serve locally sourced Starbucks coffee. Other whole bean packaged goods will be offered from international markets. Wednesday’s opening is just the beginning — the chain plans to open 50 other stores in the market over the next five years.
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Company Limits Worker Bathroom Use to 6 Minutes a Day, Union Claims

Company Limits Worker Bathroom Use to 6 Minutes a Day, Union Claims

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Can an employer regulate the number of bathroom breaks that workers take?A Teamsters union in Chicago thinks not and claims workers have been disciplined for taking what the company says is an “excessive” number of breaks. Teamsters Local 743 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board last month and is awaiting a response from WaterSaver Faucet Company.Last winter, WaterSaver Faucet Company installed equipment to electronically monitor the production staff’s washroom use, requiring employees to key in and out of the bathroom during work hours, according to the Teamsters’ statement filed with the federal labor board, with one WaterSaver Faucet employee describing “excessive use” as spending 60 minutes or more over the last 10 working days, an average of six minutes a day.Workers picketed outside the company on July 9 with placards that read, “Stop Bathroom Harassment!”Teamsters Local 743′s staff attorney Nick Kreitman said 19 of approximately 90 employees, or about 20 percent of the company workforce, were disciplined last month for “excessive washroom” use, according to the filing. The company told CNN that no one has been suspended or terminated, but warnings were issued.WaterSaver Faucet declined to comment to ABC News.”Due to the company’s current contract negotiations with the union, we have no comments,” the WaterSaver Faucet Company said.The Teamsters Local 743 agreed to the company’s proposed incentive program to pay workers $1 per day, up to $20 a month, if the employee visited the bathroom only during breaks or other non-work time, according to the union’s statement to the labor board.Kreitman told ABC News that none of the 200 or so contracts the union manages with other companies have such policies.In general, a work rule that seems unfair or silly is not illegal unless it impacts a protected group disproportionately, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If this rule of 60 minutes per month in the bathroom hypothetically affected women more than men, because, for example, they may need more breaks for menstrual periods, it might be sex discrimination, an EEOC spokeswoman said. Or if the rule affected older men, many of whom have prostate problems, it might be a combination of sex and age discrimination.Last year, one T-Mobile employee who was given two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch, claimed she clocked out to use the restroom while she was pregnant because it wasn’t enough time.And a 51-year old woman was dismissed from the Minnesota factory of Electrolux Home Products in August 2012 for urinating in a box after being refused a bathroom break. Last year, an arbitrator ruled the firing violated her union contract and she was reinstated.The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration states employees have a right to bathroom use. Electrolux stated that it complied by providing a half-hour lunch break and two 10-minute breaks for restroom use for every four hours, which is in its collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists (IAM), according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.If an employee had a disability, such as irritable bowel syndrome or needed to change a colostomy bag, an employer would have to modify its limited bathroom breaks policy to accommodate the disability, unless it could show that doing so would be an undue hardship, a spokeswoman for the EEOC said. Cases that involve bathroom policies and alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act occur more frequently than those involving gender or age discrimination, she said.
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Dow Hits New Record, Stocks Rise Amid Earning Reports

Dow Hits New Record, Stocks Rise Amid Earning Reports

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street stocks closed higher Wednesday after strong second-quarter earnings reports and news of mergers and deals. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new record, up 78 points to finish at 17138.20, the Nasdaq Composite added 10 at 4425.97, and the S&P 500 gained 8 points, closing at 1981.57. News of Rupert Murdoch’s interest in Time Warner prompted gains for the media company, and Apple and IBM saw an increase following a deal between the two tech giants. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified to the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, telling officials it would be a big mistake for Congress to require the central bank to adopt a formal policy rule on setting interest rates. BMW is expanding a recall of popular models to address an air bag problem affecting more than a million 3-series cars manufactured from 2000 to 2006.
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