Business

We lost Twitter and got X. We tried out Bluesky and Mastodon (well, some of us did). We fretted about AI bots and teen mental health. We cocooned in private chats and scrolled endlessly as we did in years past. For social media users, 2023 was a year of beginnings and endings, with some soul-searching in between.

Gift cards make great stocking stuffers — just as long as you don't stuff them in a drawer and forget about them after the holidays. Americans are expected to spend nearly $30 billion on gift cards this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Restaurant gift cards are the most popular, making up one-third of those sales.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — It was the dog, stuck atop skyscraping grain silos on Springfield's northeast side in 2019, that forced Chris Richmond's hand. The stray had found its way to the top of the behemoth Pillsbury Mills, for decades a flour-churning engine of the central Illinois city's economy but now vacant more than 20 years. Rescue was too risky amid such decay, officials said.

The journey from nowhere to an Olympic gold medal is a tale as old as time. Just as well-worn, but far less explored, are the stories about great athletes who realize they can't make it anywhere unless they have a way to bankroll the trip.

NEW YORK (AP) — Retailers are stepping up sales and other enticements in the final days before Christmas to lure shoppers who've been waiting for the best deals, or who didn’t have the time or the urge to wrap up gift-buying early. Incentives to spend last minute are an extension of ongoing efforts by stores to keep shoppers engaged, an effort that began as early as October this year.

NEW YORK (AP) — Christmas Eve is almost here. But before running out the door for some last-minute gifts or final tree trimmings ahead of Santa's visit, you might want to double-check the hours of the stores you're headed to. Business closings on Christmas Eve are less common than those on Christmas Day, but many large chains still cut back hours or close up shop early for the coming holiday.

DETROIT (AP) — America’s automakers have staked their futures on the notion that electric vehicles will dominate sales in the coming years, spurred by buyers determined to reduce carbon emissions and save on fuel. But so far, while EV sales are growing, their pace is falling well short of the industry’s ambitious timetable for transitioning away from combustion engines.

Holiday travel is expected to hit its peak right around now. Airlines are confident they can handle the crowds, but it could come down to the weather. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the …

NEW YORK (AP) — Haven’t ordered any of your holiday gifts yet? Well, you might find solace in discovering some of America’s biggest retailers are working to increase their shipping speeds to please shoppers expecting faster and faster deliveries. Walmart, Target and Amazon are all-in on the shipping wars, a move retail experts say will help them maintain a competitive edge against low-cost Chinese retailers Shein and Temu.

Google has agreed to pay $700 million and make several other concessions to settle allegations that it had been stifling competition against its Android app store — the same issue that went to …

LONDON (AP) — The European Union is looking into whether Elon Musk’s online platform X breached tough new social media regulations in the first such investigation since the rules designed to make online content less toxic took effect. “Today we open formal infringement proceedings against @X” under the Digital Services Act, European Commissioner Thierry Breton said Monday in a post on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

NEW YORK (AP) — The promise of self-checkout was alluring: Customers could avoid long lines by scanning and bagging their own items, workers could be freed of doing those monotonous tasks themselves and retailers could save on labor costs. All that has happened since the rollout of self-checkout but so has this: Customers griping about clunky technology that spits out mysterious error codes, workers having to stand around and monitor both humans and machines, and retailers contending with theft.

Quaker Oats on Friday recalled several of its granola products, including granola bars and cereals, saying the foods could be contaminated with salmonella.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of older Americans could pay less for some of their outpatient drug treatments beginning early next year, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The White House unveiled a list of 48 drugs — from chemotherapy treatments to growth hormones used to treat endocrine disorders — whose prices increased faster than the rate of inflation this year. Under a new law, drugmakers will have to pay rebates to the federal government because of those price increases.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve kept its key interest rate unchanged Wednesday for a third straight time, and its officials signaled that they expect to make three quarter-point cuts to their benchmark rate next year. Speaking at a news conference, Chair Jerome Powell said that Fed officials are likely done raising interest rates because of how steadily inflation has cooled.

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot. Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

Choice Hotels is launching a hostile takeover offer for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts after repeated attempts to reach a deal with the rival hotel chain were rebuffed. Choice Hotels said Tuesday that its exchange offer to shareholders of Wyndham, which runs Days Inn, La Quinta, Ramada and a host of other brands, is the same as its last bid to company management, which was $49.50 in cash and 0.324 shares of Choice common stock per Wyndham share.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. inflation ticked down again last month, with cheaper gas helping further lighten the weight of consumer price increases in the United States. At the same time, the latest data on consumer inflation showed that prices in some areas — services such as restaurants, used cars and auto insurance — continued to rise uncomfortably fast.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s employers added a solid 199,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell. Friday’s report from the Labor Department showed that the unemployment rate dropped from 3.9% to 3.7%, not far above a five-decade low of 3.4% in April.

NEW YORK (AP) — The heads of Wall Street's biggest banks used an appearance on Capitol Hill to plead with senators to stop the Biden administration's proposed changes to how banks are regulated, warning that the proposals could negatively impact the economy at a time of geopolitical turmoil and inflation.

LONDON (AP) — Hailed as a world first, European Union artificial intelligence rules are facing a make-or-break moment as negotiators try to hammer out the final details this week — talks complicated by the sudden rise of generative AI that produces human-like work.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday is hearing arguments over a nationwide settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma that would shield members of the Sackler family who own the company from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids. The agreement hammered out with state and local governments and victims would provide billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic.

SEATTLE (AP) — Alaska Air Group said Sunday it agreed to buy Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal including debt. The combined company would keep both airlines' brands, rooted in the nation's 49th and 50th states. Alaska will pay $18 in cash for each share of Hawaiian, whose stock closed Friday at $4.86. The deal also includes $900 million in Hawaiian debt, which the airlines said brings the acquisition's total value to $1.9 billion.

LONDON (AP) — Saudi Arabia will extend a cut in the amount of oil it sends to the world after a series of previous reductions by members of the OPEC+ alliance of major producing countries failed to prop up prices. That’s been a good thing for U.S. drivers, who have been able to fill their gas tanks for less money in recent months.

DETROIT (AP) — Less than two weeks after ratifying new contracts with Detroit automakers, the United Auto Workers union announced plans Wednesday to try to simultaneously organize workers at more than a dozen nonunion auto factories. The UAW says the drive will cover nearly 150,000 workers at factories largely in the South, where the union has had little success in recruiting new members.

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