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Microsoft cutting 18,000 jobs, signals new path

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft announced the biggest layoffs in its 39-year history Thursday, outlining plans to cut 18,000 jobs in a move that marked the CEO's sharpest pivot yet away from his predecessor's drive for the company to make its own devices.

Although some cuts had been expected ever since Microsoft acquired Nokia's mobile-device unit, the number amounted to 14 per cent of the Microsoft workforce, about twice what analysts had estimated. The cuts will include some 12,500 jobs associated with the Nokia unit — nearly half of the 28,000 employees Microsoft brought on board in April through the acquisition.

In a public email to employees, CEO Satya Nadella said the changes were needed for the company to "become more agile and move faster." The move also pushes Nokia to focus solely on the Windows Phone operating system.

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Largest US insurer's move signals industry shift

The nation's largest health insurer expects to play a much bigger role in the health care overhaul next year, as the federal law shifts from raising giant questions for the sector to offering growth opportunities.

UnitedHealth Group said Thursday that it will participate in as many as 24 of the law's individual health insurance exchanges in 2015, up from only four this year.

These state-based exchanges debuted last fall as a way for customers to buy individual health insurance, many with help from income-based tax credits. They played a key role in helping roughly 8 million people gain coverage for 2014.

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Senators call on GM CEO to fire top lawyer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers on Thursday demanded General Motors fire its chief lawyer and open its compensation plan to more potential victims as a Senate subcommittee delved deeper into GM's mishandling of the recall of small cars with defective ignition switches.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chairs the subcommittee, praised GM CEO Mary Barra, saying she "has stepped up, and with courage and conviction has confronted the problem head on and the corporate culture that caused it."

But McCaskill also put Barra on the spot, telling the CEO that she should have fired GM's corporate counsel, Michael Millikin, based on the conclusions of an internal report by outside attorney Anton Valukas. Millikin sat next to Barra as she defended him as a man of "tremendously high integrity."

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For Malaysia Airlines, disaster strikes twice

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline — and the nation — were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.

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For US and Europe, divisions over Russia penalties

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Europe are seeking to maintain a united front against Russia with co-ordinated announcements of new economic sanctions, but divisions persist over how aggressive the West should be in punishing Moscow for its threatening moves in Ukraine.

The penalties announced by the White House were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight weapons makers and four individuals.

Leaders in Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S. has, were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow. They also asked EU foreign ministers to consider targeting people or companies involved in the unrest in Ukraine — a decision that could affect Russian oligarchs or members of the Kremlin inner circle.

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After hybrid success, Toyota gambles on fuel cell

TOKYO (AP) — Rocket science long dismissed as too impractical and expensive for everyday cars is getting a push into the mainstream by Toyota, the world's top-selling automaker.

Buoyed by its success with electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, Toyota is betting that drivers will embrace hydrogen fuel cells, an even cleaner technology that runs on the energy created by an electrochemical reaction when oxygen in the air combines with hydrogen stored as fuel.

Unlike internal combustion engines which power most vehicles on roads today, a pure hydrogen fuel cell emits no exhaust, only some heat and a trickle of pure water. Fuel cells also boast greater efficiency than the internal combustion process, which expends about two-thirds of the energy in gasoline as heat.

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Bolivia on verge of legalizing work from age 10

EL ALTO, Bolivia (AP) — While most of the world is trying to diminish child labour, Bolivia is on the verge of becoming the first nation to legalize it from age 10. Congress has approved the proposal and all that's now required is President Evo Morales' signature.

The bill's sponsors say lowering the minimum work age from 14 simply acknowledges a reality: Many poor families in Bolivia have no other choice than for their kids to work. The bill offers working children safeguards, they say.

Under the legislation, 10-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. It sets 12 as the minimum age for a child to work under contract. They also would have to attend school.

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US home construction drops 9.3 per cent in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction fell in June to the slowest pace in nine months, a setback to hopes that housing is regaining momentum and will boost economic growth this year.

Construction fell 9.3 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 893,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was the slowest pace since last September and followed a 7.3 per cent drop in May, a decline even worse than initially reported.

Applications for building permits, considered a good indicator of future activity, were also down in June, dropping 4.2 per cent to a rate of 963,000 after a 5.1 per cent decline in May.

The worse-than-expected June performance reflected a big drop in activity in the South, where construction plunged by 29.6 per cent last month.

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Airbus beats Boeing in airshow orders race

FARNBOROUGH, England (AP) — Airbus beat rival Boeing in the aircraft order stakes at this year's Farnborough International Airshow, getting nearly twice as many orders and commitments.

The victory by the European aircraft manufacturer is its second in a row in the unofficial airshow competition. For years, the airshow has served as a platform for a sales race between the world's two major aircraft makers, who are having to cater to customers increasingly interested in new-generation, energy-efficient planes to offset huge increases in the price of jet fuel.

Though Airbus clinched more deals at Farnborough, Boeing insisted that it has won more in the year to date. Boeing put its figure at 783 and Airbus' at 648.

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Google's 2Q revenue gains eclipse earnings miss

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google's second-quarter earnings rose 6 per cent as World Cup fever drove more traffic to the Internet company's search engine and YouTube video site while Android devices spurred more sales of movies, music, books and applications through its mobile store.

The report released Thursday also showed that Google's advertising prices are still dropping to extend a nearly three-year slump. Meanwhile, the company's expenses are steadily rising as it hires more workers, promotes products and ventures to new technological frontiers such as Internet-connected eyewear, driverless cars and robots.

Those trends have frustrated many investors, causing Google's stock to lag the broader market this year even though most analysts still view the company as a prudent long-term investment.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 161.39 points, or 0.9 per cent, to close at 16,976.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 23.45 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 1,958.12. The Nasdaq composite index fell 62.52 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 4,363.45.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery rose $1.99 to close at $103.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 72 cents to close at $107.89 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline closed unchanged at $2.882 a gallon. Natural gas fell 16.5 cents to close at $3.954 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil rose 0.1 cent to close at $2.859 a gallon.

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