Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

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Obama asks help dealing with cybersecurity 'wild West'

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Cyberspace is the new "wild West," President Barack Obama said Friday, with everyone looking to the government to be the sheriff. But he said the private sector must do more to stop cyberattacks aimed at the U.S. every day.

Speaking Friday in California's Silicon Valley, Obama warned that cyberthreats are a challenge to U.S. national security, public safety and the economy. He told his audience of administration officials, tech CEOs, law enforcement officers and consumer and privacy advocates that all must work together to do what none can achieve alone.

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Harvard grads lead IPO class of 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Harvard is top of the IPO class for 2014.

The Ivy League school is the alma mater for seven chief executives who led their companies' IPOs last year. That's more than twice the amount of the next highest schools in the rankings, according to figures from Equilar, an executive compensation data firm.

Harvard's performance wasn't a fluke. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, school has led the rankings for at least the last three years, according to Equilar.

Tied for second place last year were Columbia University, Stanford University, Texas Tech University and University of North Carolina. Each school produced three CEOs who took their companies public.

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To combat fraud, Visa wants to track your smartphone

NEW YORK (AP) — Those days of calling your bank to let them know that, yes, you really are in Thailand, and yes, you really did use your credit card to buy $200 in sarongs, may be coming to an end.

The payment processing company Visa will roll out a new feature this spring that will allow its cardholders to inform their banks where they are automatically, using the location function found in nearly every smartphone.

Having your bank and Visa know where you are at all times may sound a little like "Big Brother." But privacy experts are actually applauding the feature, saying that, if used correctly, it could protect cardholders and cut down on credit card fraud.

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Greece, creditors open to compromise but deal still far off

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Signs that Greece and its European creditors are open to compromise boosted market hopes on Friday that the sides can reach a deal to save the country from bankruptcy. But any agreement will likely take time, with both sides pressing hard for concessions.

After a turbulent week, in which investors feared Athens' demands to rewrite its bailout terms would result in an impasse that could push Greece out of the euro, markets were reassured by leaders' promises to talk.

The main Athens stock index rose 4.5 percent in late trading while the Stoxx 50 index of eurozone shares was 1 percent higher.

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APNewsBreak: NJ allows physical skill-based gambling

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — An Atlantic City casino is about to redefine casino gambling by introducing a new style of wagering: competition based on a physical skill rather than luck.

Executives at The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa told The Associated Press on Friday that they've gotten permission from New Jersey gambling regulators to host a basketball contest next month in which players shoot free throws for money.

It's the first of what promises to be many skill-based events that let gamblers take greater control over the outcomes of their bets, rather than relying on a roll of the dice, spin of the wheel or deal of the cards.

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Insurer Anthem offers layers of identity theft protection

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthem Inc. is offering several levels of free identity theft protection to current and former customers after hackers broke into a database storing information for about 80 million people.

The nation's second-largest health insurer said Friday that for two years it will provide credit monitoring, identity theft repair assistance if someone experiences fraud, and identity protection designed specifically for children. The services are available to all current and former customers since 2004.

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FDA panel to review application for 'modified risk' tobacco

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Food and Drug Administration panel is planning to review smokeless tobacco maker Swedish Match's request to certify its General-branded pouches of tobacco as less harmful than cigarettes.

The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has scheduled a two-day meeting beginning April 9 to discuss the request that the agency approve the snus (pronounced "snoose") products as "modified risk."

Snus — teabag-like pouches or loose tobacco that users stick between their cheek and gum to get their nicotine fix — are popular in Scandinavian countries and are part of a growing smokeless tobacco market in the U.S.

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US allows imports of privately produced products from Cuba

HAVANA (AP) — The Obama administration is announcing that it will allow Cuba's small private business sector to sell goods to the United States in a potentially important loosening of the half-century trade embargo on the communist island.

A list published by the U.S. State Department Friday said Americans will be allowed to import anything produced by Cuban entrepreneurs with the exception of food and agricultural products, alcohol, minerals, chemicals, textiles, machinery, vehicles, arms and ammunition.

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House votes to make expired business tax breaks permanent

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Friday to make permanent an expired tax break designed to help small businesses invest in equipment and property, defying a veto threat by the White House.

President Barack Obama objects to the bill because it would add $79 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.

The bill is part of a package of more than 50 temporary tax breaks that Congress routinely extends every year or two. The entire package expired at the start of the year. Now, House Republicans are moving to make selected tax breaks permanent.

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Pot legalization backers discuss next steps in California

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Marijuana legalization proponents are gathering in San Francisco this weekend to hear about efforts to add the nation's most populous — and arguably most pot-infused — state to the four others where it is now legal for adults to buy and use the drug recreationally.

The International Cannabis Business Conference on Sunday and Monday is expected to draw about 1,000 investors, entrepreneurs and activists from California and elsewhere for an overview of the legalization landscape.

Advocacy groups are now drafting a 2016 ballot initiative that could transform California from a place where only medical marijuana is legal to a global center of state-approved recreational weed.

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After shipwreck, concerns Costa wants to cut Italy ties

MILAN (AP) — Italian cruise company Costa Crociere is facing a public relations battle over its future in Italy amid concerns the company wants to distance itself from the country after the deadly 2012 shipwreck of the Costa Concordia.

Costa, which is owned by U.S. company Carnival, has been based in the Italian port city of Genoa since 1854, but its CEO Michael Thamm has announced some operations will move abroad, to Germany.

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Germany helps eurozone economy pick up speed in 4th quarter

BRUSSELS (AP) — Strong growth in Germany helped the eurozone economy expand faster than expected in the final three months of 2014, the latest in a string of indicators showing the region is picking up steam amid lower oil prices and a weaker euro.

Economic output across what was then the 18-country eurozone was 0.3 percent higher in the fourth quarter than the previous three-month period, the EU's statistics agency said Friday. That equates to an annualized rate of around 1.2 percent, which is still only about half the growth rate in the U.S.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 46.97 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,019.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 8.51 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,096.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 36.22 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,893.84.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.57 to close at $52.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude for April delivery, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $2.24 to close at $61.52 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to close at $1.626 a gallon. Heating oil rose 5.7 cents to close at $1.971 a gallon. Natural gas rose 9.1 cents to close at $2.804 per 1,000 cubic feet.