- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

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History points to limited economic pain from Belgium attacks

LONDON (AP) - Financial markets barely registered this week’s attacks in Brussels, a sign that investors think the economic impact on Belgium and across Europe as a whole will be limited. Recent history suggests they may be right.

The experience of terror attacks in Europe over the past decade has helped the business community keep their cool in the face of horrors like this week’s deadly bombings.

Firms have gotten better in their responses to contain the disruption. And governments learn to put in place security measures they hope will deter more attacks.

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Shadowy hacking industry may be helping FBI crack an iPhone

NEW YORK (AP) - Turns out there’s a global industry devoted to breaking into smartphones and extracting their information. But you’ve probably never heard of it as they prefer to stay in the shadows.

Now one of those hacking businesses may well be helping the FBI. Late Monday, the FBI abruptly put its legal fight with Apple on hold, announcing that an “outside party” had come forward with a way to unlock the phone of a shooter. If it works, it could render Apple’s forced cooperation unnecessary.

The announcement has thrown a spotlight on a group of digital forensics companies and consultants that make a living cracking security protections on phones and computers.

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As Yahoo Turns: Shareholder mutiny begins another soap opera

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Activist investor Starboard Value launched a widely anticipated mutiny Thursday in a letter announcing its intent to overthrow Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the rest of the company’s board. It marks the opening salvo in a battle for control of Yahoo Inc. that could drag into the summer.

This is the third attempted coup at Yahoo since 2008, all led by different shareholders fed up with different management teams’ attempts to turn around the company.

Now, Mayer’s job is in jeopardy as a prolonged revenue slump at Yahoo deepens nearly four years into her reign as CEO.

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Samsung to give up authoritarian ways, emulate startups

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of phones, memory chips and television sets, plans to revamp its authoritarian, top-down corporate culture to become more like a lean startup as it copes with sluggish demand and growing competition.

The company said Thursday its staff pledged to reduce hierarchical practices, unnecessary meetings and excessive working hours in a “Startup Samsung” ceremony held at its headquarters in South Korea.

The first step in this new culture of flexibility? Requiring all its executives to sign a statement promising to scrap the company’s traditional authoritarian ways.

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VW, Porsche recalling 800,000 SUVs over possible pedal issue

BERLIN (AP) - Volkswagen and its Porsche unit say they’re recalling a total of about 800,000 Touareg and Cayenne SUVs worldwide because of a potential problem with the pedal system.

Volkswagen said Thursday that it is recalling 391,000 Touaregs worldwide because of a problem that was detected in internal checks with “possible loosening of a retaining ring on the bearing block of the pedal system.” The vehicles concerned are 2011-2016 models.

Porsche said the recall also affects just over 409,000 of its Cayenne SUVs, made in the same years.

Volkswagen said it will contact owners of the cars and aims to examine the vehicles as quickly as possible.

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Investment firm hurt by Valeant stake says CEO is retiring

NEW YORK (AP) - The CEO of a firm with the largest stake in troubled Valeant Pharmaceuticals is retiring after punishing losses due to that investment.

Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb holds a 10.4 percent stake in the drug company. That has translated into significant financial losses for the firm, where Robert Goldfarb, a disciple of Warren Buffett, has served as chief executive. Its flagship Sequoia Fundhas tumbled 28 percent in the last year as Valeant stumbled.

Valeant is besieged by federal probes into its practice of buying companies that own older drugs, than jacking up the prices. Valeant also faces Securities and Exchange Commission investigations.

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FDA outlines standards for anti-abuse generic painkillers

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal officials are encouraging generic drugmakers to develop painkillers that are harder to abuse, the latest in a string of steps designed to combat abuse of highly-addictive pain drugs like codeine and oxycodone.

The Food and Drug Administration published draft guidelines outlining testing standards for harder-to-abuse generic painkillers. The agency has already approved five brand-name opioid pain drugs which are designed to discourage abuse. The current version of OxyContin, for example, is difficult to crush, discouraging abusers from snorting or dissolving the tablets to get high.

But these abuse-deterrent painkillers represent a small fraction of the market for opioid pain drugs, which is dominated by low-cost generics.

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Exelon closes deal to buy Pepco, creating largest US utility

NEW YORK (AP) - Exelon has completed its nearly $7 billion deal to buy Pepco, creating America’s largest electric utility company.

The deal closed late Wednesday after the company received approval from its final regulator, almost two years after Exelon first made its offer for Pepco.

The combined company becomes the largest electric utility company in the U.S., based on number of customers, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Exelon now has about 10 million customers, the company said.

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Dollar General to add nearly 2,000 stores by fiscal 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Dollar General Corp. is aggressively expanding its footprint with plans to add about 2,000 stores over the next two years, bringing its total to more than 14,000 stores.

Dollar General plans to open 900 new stores and relocate or remodel 875 stores in the current year. For next year, it forecasts opening 1,000 new stores and plans relocations or remodels of 900 stores.

It also projects annual net sales to increase 7 percent to 10 percent.

During the Great Recession, Dollar General, along with other dollar chains, attracted legions of followers looking to save money.

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Microsoft takes chatbot offline after offensive Tweets

NEW YORK (AP) - Microsoft has taken its artificial-intelligence software, which is designed to tweet like a teenage girl, offline after it began spouting offensive remarks.

The company said it is making adjustments to the Twitter chatbot after users found a way to manipulate it into tweeting racist and sexist remarks and even making a reference to Hitler.

It was a short-lived debut. The chatbot debuted on Wednesday using the Twitter account @tayandyou. Microsoft said Thursday that within 24 hours, the company “became aware of a coordinated effort” by some users to abuse the AI commenting skills.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13.14 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,515.73. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.77 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,035.94. The Nasdaq composite index gained 4.64 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,773.50.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 33 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close at $39.46 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, slipped 3 cents to $40.44 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose a penny to close at $1.47 a gallon. Heating oil slipped a penny to close at $1.20 a gallon. Natural gas added a penny to close at $1.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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