BC-APFN-Business News Digest

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Business News at 5:10 p.m.

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All times EDT.

—Adds: GRAND CANYON CONTRACT, INSIDER TRADING, UNSHUFFLED CARDS, HOME DEPOT-HACKING-BANKS, APPLE-SOFTWARE GLITCH, HOSPITALS-UNINSURED, REVEL SALE

—Updates: FINANCIAL MARKETS

TOP STORIES:

MIDDLE-CLASS SQUEEZE

WASHINGTON — Middle-class families are straining under the weight of accelerating costs for a range of key services — from day care to health care. And now a study by the Center for American Progress shows just how heavy the burden has grown: For a typical married couple with two children, the combined cost of child care, housing, health care and saving for college and retirement jumped 32 percent from 2000 to 2012 — and that's after adjusting for inflation. The figures help explain why many Americans feel stressed, even as the economy has strengthened. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 950 words, photo.

With:

— MIDDLE-CLASS SQUEEZE-GLANCE — The picture painted by a report from the Center for American Progress is a gloomy one. Here's how costs have grown in some key categories. SENT: 620 words.

ON THE MONEY-WAL-MART-CHECKING ACCOUNTS

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart is launching a mobile checking account for its customers that will eliminate some of the fees charged by banks. The retailer joins Bank of America and other financial companies that have ditched some fees. It is Wal-Mart's biggest push into the financial services sector and its target is customers that have limited access to traditional banking. By Joseph Pisani. SENT: 660 words, photo.

PAINKILLERS-FDA CRITICISM

WASHINGTON — Anti-addiction activists are calling for the Food and Drug Administration's top official to step down, saying the agency's policies have contributed to a national epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. More than a dozen groups are asking the Obama administration's top health official to replace FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who has led the agency since 2009. By Matthew Perrone. SENT: 840 words, photo.

With:

— CHANTIX-FDA WARNING — New government-approved labeling on Pfizer's drug Chantix suggests that the anti-smoking medication may not carry the risks of suicidal behavior that first earned it the government's strongest warning more than five years ago. SENT: 650 words.

NEXTGEN-DRONES

WASHINGTON — When government officials designed a new air traffic control system, they neglected to take something into account — drones. Now, a decade and $5 billion into the project and with demand to fly unmanned aircraft escalating, there are questions about whether the new air traffic system will be able to accommodate them. AP Exclusive By Joan Lowy. SENT: 880 words, photos.

AIRLINE-SAFETY COURSE

LONDON — Bend forward and keep your head down. Protect your dominant hand with your weaker one. When you hear the word, head for the exits. Seconds count, so he who hesitates ... is pushed down the emergency slide by a flight attendant. It's all part of a safety awareness course run by British Airways for frequent fliers willing to drop $265 to learn the tricks to surviving a plane crash. The training may never be put to use — most if not all of the 93,500 flights around the globe each day land without incident. By Scott Mayerowitz. SENT: 850 words, photos, video.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK — With health insurance premiums rising under the health care overhaul, some small business owners are choosing to drop their coverage and compensate their employees for the lost benefits. Many of these owners are finding that their workers can get a better deal on health insurance exchanges or by going through a broker. They have more choice, and the combination of money from their bosses and government subsidies can take the sting out of losing company-provided coverage. By Joyce M. Rosenberg. SENT: 880 words, photo.

With:

— SMALLBIZ-HEALTH CARE-TAXES — When employers give workers money to help pay for health insurance, the cash may be subject to taxes for both employer and employee. SENT: 280 words.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rebound and have their best performance in more than a month, led by gains in health care and consumer staples companies. By Ken Sweet. SENT: 750 words, photo.

NEW HOME SALES

WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of new homes surge in August, led by a wave of buying in the West and Northeast. The Commerce Department says new home sales climbed 18 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000. The report also revised up the July sales rate to 427,000 from 412,000. By Josh Boak. SENT: 520 words, photo.

— CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP-IPO TRADING — Shares of Citizens Financial Group Inc. are rising in its debut as a publicly traded company. SENT: 280 words.

— EXAGEN DIAGNOSTICS-IPO — Exagen Diagnostics, which markets diagnostic tests for lupus and other autoimmune rheumatoid diseases has filed for an initial public offering. SENT: 140 words.

— BRAZIL-MARKET MANIPULATION — Federal prosecutors have charged Brazilian tycoon Eike Batista with manipulating the stock market and causing billions of dollars in losses. SENT: 300 words, photos.

— INSIDER TRADING — A former executive at a New York investor firm pleads guilty to an insider trading charge, blaming long work hours and drugs in part for his use of information from drafts of press releases to earn nearly a million dollars. SENT: 420 words.

INDUSTRY:

FEDERAL BAILOUT-PAY

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department continues to approve "excessive" pay raises for top executives at General Motors and its former consumer finance arm, both of which received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis, a new government report says. The government watchdog that oversees the $475 billion bailout said Treasury approved cash salaries exceeding $500,000 last year for 16 of the 47 top executives at General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. By Marcy Gordon. SENT: 820 words.

HOME DEPOT-HACKING-BANKS

JPMorgan Chase and other credit and debit card issuers are assigning new cards to some of their customers in response to the data theft at Home Depot. By Alex Veiga. UPCOMING: 600 words by 5:30 p.m.

GULF-OIL SPILL-SETTLEMENT

NEW ORLEANS — BP wanted its money back — hundreds of millions of dollars of it — but a federal judge says the oil giant must stick by an agreement with companies that got payouts after claiming the 2010 Gulf oil spill hurt their business. By Janet McConnaughey. SENT: 510 words, photos.

PLANES-DEER STRIKES

WASHINGTON — Long the bane of gardeners and unwary motorists, soaring deer populations are also nuisances for airports and threats to pilots, aviation and wildlife experts say. From 1990 to 2013, there were 1,088 collisions between planes and deer, elk, moose and caribou, according to a report. Whether driven by hunger or just crazy for love, deer will do seemingly anything to get onto airport grounds and runways, including leaping over tall fences or squeezing under them. By Joan Lowy. SENT: 760 words, photo.

WIND FARM-LOS ANGELES POWER

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A project to export twice as much Wyoming wind power to Los Angeles as the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam includes an engineering feat at least as impressive as that famous structure: Four underground chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, would be carved from a Utah salt dome to hold a massive volume of compressed air. The caverns would serve as a kind of battery and help to overcome the fact that, even in Wyoming, the wind doesn't blow all the time. By Mead Gruver and Matthew Brown. SENT: 750 words. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5:30 p.m.

— CHINA-GM — General Motors Co. expects its sales in China this year to top 3.1 million vehicles and sees no impact on business from an anti-monopoly probe of the industry, the president of the automaker's China unit says. SENT: 400 words, photos.

— SKOREA-FIGHTER JETS — South Korea will buy 40 F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin for about $7 billion in the country's biggest-ever weapons purchase aimed at coping with North Korea's military threats. SENT: 360 words.

— HASBRO-FROZEN DOLLS — The toy wars just got a bit colder thanks to Disney's "Frozen," with Hasbro wrestling the rights for dolls from the hit movie away from its rival Mattel. SENT: 480 words.

— FRANCE-AIRBUS FORECAST — European jet maker Airbus is raising its long-term forecast for new airplane demand by more than 7 percent, based on expected orders of smaller, more fuel-efficient planes and burgeoning travel in Asia. SENT: 340 words.

— SKI RESORTS SALE — Two Southern California ski resorts that draw visitors from around the world have a new owner. The operators of Mammoth Mountain have signed a $38 million deal to acquire the company that runs Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in the San Bernardino Mountains. SENT: 330 words, photo.

— FRANCE-PILOTS STRIKE — Air France-KLM says it isn't ready to abandon a plan to transfer activities to a low-cost carrier, contradicting a government minister's claim. SENT: 130 words, photos.

— CZECH-AIRLINE — Czech national carrier CSA says it is planning to fire a third of its pilots this year after passenger numbers from Russia and other former Soviet republics have declined due to the crisis in Ukraine. SENT: 140 words.

— BEHIND-THE-WHEEL-CHRYSLER 200 — Chrysler's redesigned and re-engineered 2015 200 mid-size sedan is so stylish it looks pricier than it is. By Ann M. Job. SENT: 890 words, photo, box.

— TRACK WORKERS-NTSB — An investigation into last year's spike in the number of deaths among track workers concludes that some federal workplace safety standards should be extended to railroads. SENT: 370 words.

— GAS DRILLING-GE-PENN STATE — Penn State University says General Electric Co. will give the school up to $10 million to create a new center for natural gas industry research. SENT: 310 words.

— SWEETENER FACILITY-CIVIL LAWSUIT — A federal judge rules that a lawsuit filed against investment banking firm Morgan Keegan after the collapse of a proposed artificial sweetener plant in Moberly, Missouri, will be considered a class action. SENT: 420 words.

— GRAND CANYON CONTRACT — The Grand Canyon is imposing a series of cutbacks to make a contract for park concessions more attractive to bidders. SENT: 610 words.

— UNSHUFFLED CARDS — Games of mini-baccarat played at the Golden Nugget two years ago with unshuffled cards in which gamblers won $1.5 million did not violate any rules or laws, New Jersey casino regulators ruled. SENT: 710 words.

— HOSPITALS-UNINSURED — The government says the number of uninsured patients admitted into hospitals has dropped markedly this year, reducing charity care and bad debt cases particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage under the new federal health care law. SENT: 120 words.

— REVEL SALE — A bankruptcy court auction for Revel, the failed luxury casino-hotel on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, will resume on Tuesday. SENT: 130 words.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

DIGITAL LIFE-REVIEW-SAMSUNG ALPHA PHONE

NEW YORK — Apple's new iPhones are notable for having larger screens like Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. Now, Samsung is coming out with a smaller phone that looks and feels more like an iPhone. Both have 4.7-inch screens, and both have metal frames. Unfortunately, the Alpha falls short in a few ways, including the resolution of its display. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 970 words, photos.

With:

— BLACKBERRY PHONE — BlackBerry launches a new smartphone as the embattled Canadian company tries for a comeback. BlackBerry lost relevance as a dominant smartphone company following the launch of Apple's iPhone and the introduction of Google-powered Android phones. SENT: 500 words.

— APPLE-SOFTWARE GLITCH — Apple has stopped providing an update to its new iOS 8 mobile operating software, following complaints that the update interferes with users' ability to make phone calls. SENT: 130 words.

— GERMANY-AMAZON — Workers at Amazon.com in Germany extend a strike in a long-running wage dispute into a third day and targeted a fifth distribution center. SENT: 130 words, photo.

— GERMANY-DRONE DELIVERY — Deutsche Post DHL says it is starting Germany's first drone package delivery service, a test program transporting medicine to a pharmacy on a North Sea island. SENT: 140 words, photos planned.

— BITCOIN COMPANY-FTC LAWSUIT — The Federal Trade Commission alleges in a lawsuit that a Kansas bitcoin company bilked more than 20,000 customers out of up to $50 million. SENT: 320 words.

— JIMMY JOHN'S-SECURITY BREACH — Jimmy John's sandwich chain says that it believes customers' credit card data was stolen from 216 of its shops between June and September. SENT: 150 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

CHINA-DROUGHT

HEXINGTEN, China — The corn has grown to only half its normal height on Yan Shuqin's ranch in the hills of Inner Mongolia this year, as a swath of northern China suffers its worst drought in 60 years. Groundwater levels have hit historic lows this year in northeast and central parts of China where hundreds of millions of people live, but this is no one-time emergency. Farmers like Yan and water-hungry industries have been wrestling with a long-term water crisis that has dried up more than half the country's 50,000 significant rivers and left hundreds of cities facing what the government classifies as a "serious scarcity" of water. By Jack Chang. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

INDONESIA-WASPS AT WAR

BOGOR, Indonesia — They are the size of a pinhead and don't even pack a sting, but these tiny wasps are cold-blooded killers nonetheless. They work as nature's SWAT team, neutralizing a pest that threatens to destroy one of the developing world's most important staple foods: cassava. By Margie Mason. SENT: 870 words, photos.

— GERMANY-ECONOMY — Business confidence in Germany, Europe's largest economy, drops for the fifth consecutive month — continuing a slide that has been fueled by the persistent turmoil in Ukraine and sluggish growth in Europe and China. SENT: 200 words.

— PORTUGAL-WAGE DEAL — Portugal's government is raising the country's minimum monthly wage to 505 euros ($645) from 485 euros, though that is still the lowest in Western Europe. SENT: 140 words.

— JAPAN-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS — Japan steps up sanctions against Russia over the unrest in Ukraine, including banning some Russian banks from issuing securities in Japan and tightening restrictions on arms exports to Russia. SENT: 340 words.

— INDIA-COAL SCANDAL— India's top court says private companies will have to return most of the coal fields allocated to them by the government since 1993 under a corruption prone bidding system. SENT: 360 words.

— CHINA-CORRUPTION TRIAL — The former deputy chief of the Chinese agency in charge of steering the world's second-largest economy pleaded guilty to taking bribes as China intensified its campaign against corruption. SENT: 430 words, photo.

— GERMANY-TAX EVASION — Germany is tightening rules that allow tax evaders to escape punishment if they come clean, a move that follows the conviction in March of soccer powerhouse Bayern Munich's ex-president. SENT: 140 words.

— POLAND-RUSSIA-MINERS' PROTEST — Some 200 Polish coal miners are blocking railway tracks on the border with Russia to protest imports of cheap Russian coal, saying it threatens their jobs. SENT: 140 words.

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CENTERPIECE

Big stumble for small caps

Small stocks are getting a big brush-off from investors. Stocks of smaller companies have dropped this year, even as big-company stocks have continued to reach record highs. Worries about high price tags have hurt small-cap stocks, along with concerns that coming interest-rate hikes will sap demand for them. If the trend continues, 2014 will be only the third time in the last 12 years that the Russell 2000 small-cap index has lagged an index of the biggest 200 stocks. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

Princess power

Hasbro stock jumps after it announces a deal to make dolls based on Disney princesses and Frozen characters beginning in 2016. Girls' toys delivered Hasbro's strongest revenue growth last year. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.