• Oil's slide shakes up the junk-bond market

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Oil's slump didn't just hit the stock market, it's shaken up the junk-bond market, too. High-yield bonds are on track for their worst drop in a year and a half after investors dumped risky securities issued by energy companies. Those bonds make up about 13 percent of the category. The Barclays U.S. high-yield corporate bond index, a benchmark for the securities, has dropped 2.5 percent this month, after a 1.4 percent drop in November. If the index were to end December at that level, it would mark the biggest two-month slump since June 2013. By comparison, a broader Barclays index tracking the entire bond market, which includes corporate bonds with better credit ratings and Treasurys, is largely unchang

  • Vermont Gas pipeline estimate jumps 27 percent

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Gas Systems natural gas utility says its estimate to complete phase 1 of a new pipeline has gone up 27 percent, to a total of about $154 million. Incoming Vermont Gas CEO Don Rendall says the company will be submitting the new estimate to the utility regulating Public Service Board on Friday. He also says the company is "hitting the reset button" on seeking approval for a second phase. The latest cost increases follows a 40 percent increase in July that took the cost of the proposed 43-mile pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury from $86 million to $121 million. Rendall says they're seeking to delay hearings on phase 2 that would extend the line to Ticonderoga, New York.

  • EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity, treating it more like household garbage rather than a hazardous material. Environmentalists had pushed for the hazardous classification, citing the hundreds of cases nationwide in which coal ash waste had tainted waterways or underground aquifers. The coal industry wanted the less stringent classification, arguing that coal ash wasn't dangerous, and that a hazardous label would hinder recycling. About 40 percent of coal ash is reused. The Environmental Protection Agency said in a call with reporters Friday that the record did not support a hazardous classification.

  • Obama: Keystone offers little benefit to consumers

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama downplayed the benefits of building the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. He said it would not lower gasoline prices and argued more jobs would be created by repairing America's infrastructure. He said the pipeline would mainly benefit Canadian oil companies that need to get Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico. He said the pipeline is "not even a nominal benefit for U.S. consumers." Obama spoke Friday during his year-end news conference, shortly before he was leaving the White House for a Hawaii vacation. Obama has resisted efforts by Republicans to authorize the pipeline's construction. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it would be the first bill ta

  • AstraZeneca cancer drug, companion test approved

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — U.S. regulators on Friday granted accelerated approval to the first in a new class of targeted drugs for ovarian cancer, Lynparza from British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC. The drug is for women whose ovarian cancer is associated with certain defective genes and whose cancer persists after multiple treatments. Women with mutated BRCA genes have a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer. About 10 percent to 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are due to those hereditary mutations. The Food and Drug Administration also approved a companion diagnostic test from Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City called BRACAnalysis CDx. The test is to be used to identify women most likely to benefit from the new medica

  • Obama: Debate to lift Cuban trade embargo not expected soon

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says it will likely be a while before Capitol Hill begins a debate about possibly lifting the trade embargo with Cuba, which must be done by Congress. Obama spoke Friday during his year-end news conference, shortly before he was leaving the White House for a Hawaii vacation. The news conference came two days after the president made the surprise announcement that he was moving to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after half a century of Cold War acrimony. Obama has said it's clear that isolating Cuba has not worked. He says changes in Cuba could come quickly, or slower than he would like to see, but that change will come.

  • Obama willing to work with GOP on tax overhaul

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he will try to undertake an overhaul of the tax system with the new Republican majorities in Congress. He says the "devil is in the details." He says the tax system needs to be simpler and fairer. He says some corporations engage in tax avoidance while others pay full freight. He also says he would like to combine tax changes with money for capital works projects. Obama spoke Friday during his year-end news conference, shortly before he was leaving the White House for a Hawaii vacation. Obama will have a Republican-led Congress for the first time in his presidency when the GOP takes control of the Senate in January. Republican leaders have said that creates opportunities f

  • Weird weather lingers in Alaska's largest city

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A week before Christmas, Alaska's largest city should look like a postcard wonderland, and the last place you'd expect to see equipment making snow. "We want Santa to bring snow, soon," Terry Goodwin said as she hit a ski trail in Anchorage on Thursday near snowmaking machines churning out the white stuff. A picturesque northern winter-scape is hardly the reality here as a spate of weird weather lingers in Anchorage, which is almost 2 feet behind the snowfall totals typical by this time. With just days to go until solstice Sunday signals the official start of winter, bare ground can be seen in places and temperatures have been averaging in the 30s, prompting a few hardy residents to take to the stre

  • Obama vows US will respond to North Korea "in a place and manner and time that we choose"

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Obama vows US will respond to North Korea "in a place and manner and time that we choose"

  • AT&T hikes quarterly shareholder payout by a penny

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    DALLAS (AP) — AT&T will raise the quarterly dividend it pays shareholders by a penny, to 47 cents per share, starting early next year. The Dallas-based company said Friday that its board approved the roughly 2 percent increase. The new payout, which totals $1.88 annually, will be paid Feb. 2 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 9. Shares of AT&T Inc. slipped a penny to $33.50 in Friday afternoon trading while broader indexes rose slightly. That share price has slipped about 5 percent so far this year.

  • NYC mayor finally supports 'Taxi of Tomorrow'

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — New York City is finally moving ahead with a new generation of yellow taxis. Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced Friday that most taxi operators will be required to buy the "Taxi of Tomorrow" starting April 20. The Nissan NV200 minivan was named the city's official taxi by de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. Officials in the yellow taxi industry then sued, and the measure has been tied up in court. De Blasio, who has many supporters in the industry, also opposed the plan. But faced with Nissan suing if the city did not honor the agreement, his administration shifted gears. Nissan no longer has the exclusive agreement to make taxis. But officials said the Taxi of Tomorrow shoul

  • US rig count down 18 to 1,875

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell by 18 this week to 1,875. The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,536 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago 1,768 rigs were active. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Arkansas gained three rigs, Kansas and New Mexico each rose by two and Alaska and Pennsylvania were up one apiece. North Dakota declined by seven, Oklahoma by six, Texas down four, Louisiana off three, and Ohio and West Virginia each decreased two. California, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,53

  • Court: Internet phone providers must pay phone tax

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Companies that provide Internet-based phone service must be taxed the same as traditional telephone companies, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday. Voice over Internet Protocol providers operate "telephone lines" even though their calls are initially transmitted through broadband networks, the court ruled 6-0. The ruling means they are subject to annual state property tax assessments on telephone companies, which are calculated based on the size of their service networks. The ruling comes amid an ongoing debate on whether VoIP should be regulated differently than other phone service. Verizon and AT&T have been lobbying Iowa lawmakers to deregulate VoIP, saying it would spur investment in technology an

  • AstraZeneca cancer drug, companion test approved

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — U.S. regulators have granted accelerated approval to the first in a new class of drugs for ovarian cancer, AstraZeneca PLC's Lynparza. The drug is for women whose ovarian cancer is associated with certain defective genes and whose cancer persists after multiple treatments. Women with mutated BRCA genes have a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer. About 10 percent to 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are due to those hereditary mutations. The Food and Drug Administration also approved a companion diagnostic test from Myriad Genetics Inc. called BRACAnalysis CDx. The test is to be used to identify women most likely to benefit from the new medication.

  • Warren County passes local right-to-work law

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — If you want to build Corvettes in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you have one option: Join a labor union. The General Motors plant in Warren County is a closed shop, meaning its 888 employees must pay union dues in order to work there. But the Warren County Fiscal Court passed a local law Friday banning that practice in the future, defying the state's Democratic attorney general and taking the first step toward trying to overturn a 49-year-old state Court of Appeals decision. The small county along the Tennessee border is the only local government in the country to approve a so-called "right-to-work" law, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

  • Security flaws allow global cellular eavesdropping

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    BERLIN (AP) — Security flaws in a system used by cellphone carriers around the world could open the door to wide-ranging surveillance of mobile phone traffic, according to a German researcher who discovered the problem. The issue affects a telecommunications standard called Signaling System 7, or SS7, which is used by carriers to manage connections between cellular networks. The Berlin-based Security Research Lab, which discovered the problem in August, said a skilled person could exploit the flaws to eavesdrop on the phone calls, text messages and data traffic of billions of people.

  • Global oil impact: Who's hurting, happy, hopeful

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Oil's plunge is spreading both pain and gain across the globe. The price of a barrel has fallen by about half since June, punishing the economies of some major exporters. Russia's currency has nose-dived, for instance, and investors worry Venezuela could default on its debt. For countries that consume a large amount of the world's oil, it's a different story. The world's four biggest economies — U.S., China, Japan and that of the European Union — all benefit from lower oil prices. "Economically this is a good thing for the U.S.

  • Cyprus: initial offshore drilling finds no gas

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' Energy Ministry says initial exploratory drilling by an Italian-Korean consortium off Cyprus' southern coast has failed to find significant quantities of gas. The ministry said Friday that the SAIPEM 10000 rig belonging to the Eni-Kogas consortium drilled to a depth of 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) without success. The ministry said new drilling will begin elsewhere inside an area, or block, where Cyprus has licensed the consortium to search for fossil fuels. The consortium had identified six potential gas fields inside the block. Cyprus has also licensed France's Total and U.S. firm Noble Energy to search for offshore gas.

  • Gang accused of robbing New Jersey freight trains

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — More than a decade ago they were called the largest gang ever to attack North American railroads and gained enough notoriety to be the subject of a television documentary. Now, prosecutors in northern New Jersey say their ringleader is back at it. In an age when cyber-criminals can make millions with a few keystrokes, railroad cargo theft is an anachronism, evoking images of six-shooters and 10-gallon hats. But it has not disappeared entirely, as demonstrated by details provided by the Hudson County prosecutor's office, which announced the arrests of the so-called "Conrail Boyz" gang Thursday.

  • Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans broadly back tight regulations on commercial drone operators, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, as concerns about privacy and safety override the potential benefits of the heralded drone revolution. The FAA is expected to propose restricting drones weighing less than 55 pounds to flights under 400 feet high, forbid nighttime flights, and require drones be kept within sight of their operators. It also may require drone operators to get pilot's licenses, which would be controversial. Critics say the skills needed to fly a manned aircraft are different from those needed to operate a drone.