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December 28, 2018

CHELMSFORD, Mass. — Army looks for a few good robots, sparks industry battle

The Army is looking for a few good robots. Not to fight — not yet, at least — but to help the men and women who do.

These robots aren’t taking up arms, but the companies making them have waged a different kind of battle. At stake is a contract worth almost half a billion dollars for 3,000 backpack-sized robots that can defuse bombs and scout enemy positions. Competition for the work has spilled over into Congress and federal court.

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Euro currency remains a work in progress on 20th birthday

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The euro is about to celebrate its 20th birthday, but the countries that use it are still wrestling with how the shared currency should work and how to fix flaws exposed by the debt crisis that marred its second decade.

The euro was launched on Jan. 1, 1999, when 10 countries fixed their exchange rates to it and handed decisions on interest rates to the newly-founded European Central Bank. Euro notes and coins went into circulation three years later.

The shared currency was seen as a solution to the constant quarrels over exchange rates that had marked European politics after World War II and as a logical extension of the European Union’s tariff-free trade zone. Britain, notably, opted out, but 19 of 28 EU countries use the euro.

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North Korea’s ‘Singapore shops’ expose gap in sanctions push

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Despite the unwanted publicity of a criminal trial for one of their main suppliers, business is booming at Pyongyang’s ‘Singapore shops,’ which sell everything from Ukrainian vodka to brand-name knock-offs from China. The stores stock many of the very things United Nations’ sanctions banning trade in luxury goods are intended to block and provide a nagging reminder that not all potential trade partners are lining up behind the U.N.’s pronouncements or the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure on the North.

Especially when there’s a buck — or a few million bucks — to be made.

The stores are anything but secret.

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US pending home sales slipped 0.7 percent in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in November as higher mortgage rates and prices continued to squeeze would-be buyers out of the market.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its pending home sales index dipped 0.7 percent last month to 101.4. The index based on contract signings has dropped 7.7 percent over the past year and has recorded 11 straight year-over-year decreases.

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Tesla names Oracle’s Ellison to board in SEC settlement

NEW YORK (AP) — Tesla named Oracle’s Larry Ellison and an executive from Walgreens to its board Friday as part of a settlement with U.S. regulators who demanded more oversight of CEO Elon Musk.

Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, an executive vice president at Walgreens Boots Alliance, join the board as independent directors, effective immediately.

Musk got into trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission in early August when he said in a tweet that he had “funding secured” to take the electric car company private at $420 per share.

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GOP and Democrats trade blame for shutdown, no deal in sight

WASHINGTON (AP) — The partial government shutdown will almost certainly be handed off to a divided government to solve in the new year, as both parties traded blame Friday and President Donald Trump sought to raise the stakes in the weeklong impasse.

As agreement eludes Washington in the waning days of the Republican monopoly on power, it sets up the first big confrontation between Trump and newly empowered Democrats. Trump is sticking with his demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico, and Democrats, who take control of the House on Jan. 3, are refusing to give him what he wants.

Trump raised the stakes on Friday, reissuing threats to shut the U.S.-Mexico border to pressure Congress to fund the wall and to shut off aid to three Central American countries from which many migrants have fled.

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EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is considering backing off of its regulation of toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In an announcement Friday, the EPA proposes what would be another Trump administration rollback of federal enforcement under the Clean Air Act. It’s the latest administration effort on behalf of the country’s coal industry.

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Wall Street faces annual losses despite solid gains for week

Wall Street capped a week of volatile trading Friday with an uneven finish and the market’s first weekly gain since November. Still, a rough month of December has erased all the market’s 2018 gains and nudged the S&P 500 closer to its worst year since 2008.

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The S&P 500 index fell 3.09 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,485.74. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 76.42 points, or 0.3 percent, to 23,062.40. The Nasdaq added 5.03 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,584.52.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 1.6 percent to settle at $45.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, inched up 0.1 percent to close at $52.20 a barrel in London.

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