Grocers allege potato group pumped up spud prices
BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A U.S. wholesale grocer says America's potato farmers have run an illegal price-fixing cartel for a decade, driving up spud prices while spying on farmers with satellites and aircraft fly-overs to enforce strict limits on how many tubers they can grow.
Kansas-based Associated Wholesale Grocers' lawsuit against United Potato Growers of America and two dozen other defendants was shifted this week to U.S. District Court in Idaho, America's top potato-producing state, which provides 30 percent of the nation's supply.
The grocery group, a cooperative which supplies more than 2,000 stores including IGA, Thriftway and Price Chopper in 24 states, contends that the potato growers banded together in 2004 to illegally inflate prices in a scheme akin to the petroleum-producing OPEC cartel, reducing planting acreages and destroying potatoes, all to restrict what was available for sale.
Court says isolated human genes cannot be patented
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously threw out attempts to patent human genes, siding with advocates who say the multibillion-dollar biotechnology industry should not have exclusive control over genetic information found inside the human body.
But the high court also approved for the first time the patenting of synthetic DNA, handing a victory to researchers and companies looking to come up with ways to fight – and profit – from medical breakthroughs that could reverse life-threatening diseases such as breast or ovarian cancer.
The high court's judgment, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, reverses three decades of patent awards by government officials and throws out patents held by Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics Inc. involving a breast cancer test brought into the public eye recently by actress Angelina Jolie's revelation that she had a double mastectomy.
Privacy – the online generation wants it
CHICAGO (AP) – The generation that's grown up posting their lives online wants a little privacy. That's not what we might expect as we debate just how much access the government should have to our mobile and online lives.
But as it turns out, young people are much more complex than some may think when determining what personal information they want to share.
Sure, they're as likely as ever to post photos of themselves online, as well as their location and even phone numbers – and assume that at least some of their information is shared among website providers – say those who track their high-tech habits. But as they approach adulthood, they're also getting more adept at hiding and pruning their online lives.
Despite their propensity for sharing, many young adults also are surprisingly big advocates for privacy – in some cases, more than their elders.
Rupert Murdoch files for divorce from Wendi Deng
LOS ANGELES (AP) – News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from Wendi Deng Murdoch, his wife since 1999, citing a breakdown in the relationship. The matter doesn't alter the succession plan for the media company, which the 82-year-old founder controls through a family trust.
Murdoch filed a one-page document Thursday indicating that he was opening a divorce case in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
A News Corp. spokesperson confirmed the filing.
US retail sales jump 0.6 percent in May on autos
WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans stepped up purchases at retail businesses in May, spending more on cars, home improvements and sporting goods. The gain shows consumers remain resilient despite higher taxes and could drive faster growth later this year.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales increased 0.6 percent in May from April. That's up from a 0.1 percent gain the previous month and the fastest pace since February.
The April gain was led by a 1.8 percent jump in auto sales, the biggest increase in six months. Excluding volatile autos, gas and building supplies, core retail sales rose 0.3 percent. That's slightly higher than the 0.2 percent April increase.
US unemployment benefit applications fall to 334,000
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 334,000, a decline that suggests steady job gains will endure.
The less volatile four-week average decreased 7,250 to 345,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. Both figures are roughly 7,000 higher than month-ago levels, which were the lowest in five years.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Since January, they have fallen by 6.5 percent, suggesting employers are cutting fewer jobs.
US business increased stockpiles 0.3 pct. in April
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles in April but their sales fell for a second straight month, held back by a decline in orders to American factories.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that business stockpiles rose 0.3 percent in April from March. That followed a 0.1 percent decline in March from February.
Sales slipped 0.1 percent in April following a sharp 1.2 percent drop in March. It marked the first back-to-back sales declines in nearly a year, although the weakness was concentrated in manufacturing.
Unpaid internships in jeopardy after court ruling
WASHINGTON (AP) – Unpaid internships have long been a path of opportunity for students and recent grads looking to get a foot in the door in the entertainment, publishing and other prominent industries, even if it takes a generous subsidy from Mom and Dad.
But those days of working for free could be numbered after a federal judge in New York ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie "Black Swan."
The decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III may lead some companies to rethink whether it's worth the legal risk to hire interns to work without pay. For many young people struggling to find jobs in a tough economy, unpaid internships have become a rite of passage essential for padding resumes and gaining practical experience.
1 dead, 73 hurt in Louisiana plant explosion
GEISMAR, La. (AP) – A ground-rattling explosion Thursday at a chemical plant in Louisiana ignited a blaze that killed one person and injured dozens of others, authorities said. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of flames as high as 200 feet into the air and workers scrambling over gates to escape the plant.
A thick plume of black smoke rose from the plant after the blast even after the fire was extinguished. At a roadblock several miles away where family members waited anxiously to hear about loved ones, flames were still easily visible above the trees hours later.
Louisiana's health department said 73 people were treated at hospitals for injuries ranging from minor to critical following the morning explosion. A body was found by hazardous materials crews going through the aftermath of the blast at the facility, according to state police.
Forecast sees big payoff for Google mobile ads
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Google will sell more mobile advertising than the rest of its rivals combined for the second straight year, according to a new forecast that highlights the expansion of the Internet search leader's moneymaking prowess from personal computers to smartphones and tablets.
The report released Thursday by the research firm eMarketer projects Google Inc. will generate nearly $8.9 billion in mobile ad revenue throughout the world this year. The figure reflects the anticipated amount that Google will retain after paying commissions to its ad partners.
The prediction calls for Google to hold a 56 percent share of the overall mobile ad market, which is expected to approach $16 billion this year. In 2012 Google accounted for 52 percent, or $4.6 billion, of the worldwide mobile ad market, according to eMarketer.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 180.85 points, or 1.2 percent, to 15,176.08. The Nasdaq composite rose 44.94 points, or 1.3 percent, to 3,445.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index soared 23.84 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,636.36.
Benchmark oil for July delivery gained 81 cents to close at $96.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, gained 76 cents to end at $104.25 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Wholesale gasoline added 5 cents to finish at $2.86 a gallon. Heating oil gained 4 cents to end at $2.94 per gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to finish at $3.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.