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Business Highlights

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Ruble collapse shakes Russian economy, consumer

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a major challenge after a catastrophic fall in the value of the ruble, which hit a new low Tuesday despite the Central Bank’s desperate efforts to halt the selling.

On the streets of Moscow, panicky consumers rushed out to buy home appliances before they became even more expensive.

Putin’s popularity has been based on oil-driven economic growth that has helped increase incomes during his 15-year rule. The ruble’s collapse, driven by a combination of slumping oil prices and Western sanctions, is denting that pillar of his power.

The Kremlin has tried to shift blame for Russia’s economic woes, accusing the West of inflicting economic pain on Russia in an attempt to force a regime change.

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Apple wins class-action lawsuit over iPod prices

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A federal jury decided Tuesday that Apple did not compete unfairly when it sold music players and songs with software that made it incompatible with rival devices.

Attorneys for consumers and iPod resellers were seeking as much as $1 billion in a class-action lawsuit. They argued that Apple was able to overcharge consumers for iPods by making it difficult to switch to a rival music player, as music bought from Apple’s iTunes store wouldn’t work on other players, nor would music from other stores work on iPods.

Apple argued that the copy-protection software provided necessary security protection and was part of a larger package of improvements that made iPods and iTunes popular with consumers.

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Ex-employees sue Sony Pictures over hacked personal details

NEW YORK (AP) — Two former employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment are suing the company for not preventing hackers from stealing nearly 50,000 social security numbers, salary details and other personal information from current and former workers.

The lawsuit claims that Sony Pictures failed to secure its computer systems despite “weaknesses that it has known about for years,” and made a business decision to accept the risk.

The case filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Monday seeks class-action status for other current and former employees whose personal information was stolen posted online.

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Robin Williams tops 2014 list of Google searches

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robin Williams’ suicide seared into the world’s collective mindset more than anything else this year, based on what people were searching for on Google.

The reaction to Williams’ death topped Google’s list of 2014’s fastest-rising search requests.

It beat notable events such as the World Cup, the Ebola outbreak and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Other topics of worldwide intrigue on Google included the addictive smartphone game “Flappy Bird,” bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, the Middle East extremist group ISIS, the hit Disney movie “Frozen” and the Winter Olympics in Russia.

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American Apparel fires founder Charney, names new CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — American Apparel has fired founder Dov Charney and named longtime fashion executive Paula Schneider to be its next CEO.

The Los Angeles-based company’s board voted to oust Charney as CEO in June, citing allegations of misconduct. He was put under suspension, but still served as a consultant to the company. American Apparel said Tuesday that it has terminated his position “for cause” after an internal investigation.

Schneider previously served as a senior executive at retail and clothing companies including Warnaco, Gores Group and BCBG Max Azria. She officially takes over the role January 5.

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US home construction drops 1.6 per cent in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new homes fell slightly in November, reflecting weakness in construction of single-family homes.

Builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million homes and apartments last month, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That was a decline of 1.6 per cent from October when construction activity had posted a 1.7 per cent gain.

The weakness last month came from a 5.4 per cent fall in construction of single-family homes, which offset a 6.7 per cent rise in the more volatile apartment sector.

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Southwest bag workers picketing over flight delays

DENVER (AP) — Baggage handlers for Southwest Airlines are protesting the company’s slide in on-time performance.

Workers conducting informational picketing at 16 airports across the country Tuesday, handing out leaflets. They plan to press their point Wednesday with an ad in USA Today.

Dallas-based Southwest was the most punctual of big U.S. airlines for many years, but stumbled after trying to squeeze in more flights into its schedule.

Southwest’s unionized baggage handlers are also unhappy with contract negotiations that have dragged on for over three years.

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Korean Air to be sanctioned for nut rage coverup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s transport ministry says Korean Air Lines Co. will face sanctions for pressuring employees to lie during a government probe into its nut rage fiasco. It will also evaluate if the airline’s corporate culture poses safety risks.

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of the company chairman who was head of cabin service at Korean Air, ordered a senior flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate, in what she thought was a breach of service protocol in first class.

Korean Air could face 21 days of flight suspensions or a $1.3 million fine for violating aviation law.

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Apple stops sales in Russia, citing unstable ruble

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple has halted online sales of its iPhones, iPads and other products in Russia amid financial turmoil triggered by the steep decline in the country’s currency.

The ruble plunged by as much as 20 per cent Tuesday, even after Russia’s central bank increased interest rates sharply in an attempt to shore up the currency. The ruble’s value has fallen by more than 60 per cent since January. Its decline has coincided with a dramatic decrease in the price of oil, a pillar of Russia’s economy.

Cupertino, California-based Apple said Tuesday that the ruble’s instability has made it too difficult to set its prices in Russia, prompting the closure of its online store there.

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Amazon extends Christmas shipping deadlines

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is courting last-minute holiday shoppers by extending its free-shipping deadline by one day to Dec. 19.

Orders over $35 are eligible for free shipping. The e-commerce company says members of its $99 annual Prime loyalty program can order by Dec. 22 for two-day shipping.

One-day shipping for items ordered on Dec. 23 costs $2.99 and up for Amazon Prime members. And same day delivery is available in 12 cities on items ordered by 10 a.m. local time for $5.99 per shipment.

Retailers are hoping to avoid shipping snafus that occurred last year while at the same time getting the last-minute online shoppers dollar.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 111.97 points, or 0.7 per cent, to close at 17,068.87. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 16.89 points, or 0.9 per cent, to close at 1,972.74. The Nasdaq composite dropped 57.32 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 4,547.83.

The price of U.S. oil settled higher on Tuesday for the first time in a week, rising 2 cents to close at $55.93 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.20 to close at $59.86 in London. Wholesale gasoline dropped 3.5 cents to close at $1.541 a gallon. Heating oil lost 4.2 cents to $1.960 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 10 cents to $3.619 per 1,000 cubic feet.