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NEW YORK (AP) -- A last-minute surge in spending may have saved Christmas for stores. Major retailers such as Costco and Nordstrom on Thursday reported better-than-expected revenue in December. That comes as a relief for stores that can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the winter holiday shopping period that runs from November through the end of December.
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The new movie “Promised Land” digs into the fierce national debate over fracking, the technique that’s generated a boom in U.S. natural gas production while also stoking controversy over its possible impact on the environment and human health. Written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, the film comes at an opportune time for a big-screen exploration of the issues surrounding the shale gas revolution, with cheap natural gas transforming the nation’s energy landscape and “fracking” now a household word.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A private survey shows U.S. businesses sharply increased hiring in December, helped by a surge of new construction jobs created to help rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. Payroll processor ADP said Thursday that employers added 215,000 jobs in December. That's more than November's total of 148,000, which was revised higher. The survey showed companies added 39,000 construction jobs last month. That was partly in response to the storm but also an indication of the housing recovery under way.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Hormel Foods apparently has a hankering for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. The company primarily known for Spam and other cured, smoked and deli meats said Thursday that it's buying Skippy, the country's No. 2 peanut butter brand, for about $700 million.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials say a teenager from Texas has died of complications of the flu. Relatives say 17-year-old Max Schwolert and his family were spending the holidays with his grandparents in Amery, Wis., when he got sick on Christmas Eve. The teen died Saturday at a St. Paul hospital. His uncle, Phil Schwolert, says his nephew apparently developed a staph infection along with the flu. The Star Tribune ( http://bit.ly/TJNql5 ) reports the teen was a senior at Marcus High School in suburban Dallas.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, though the winter holidays likely distorted the data for the second straight week. The Labor Department says weekly applications rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29. The previous week's total was revised higher.
MONROE, Conn. (AP) -- The Newtown schools superintendent says preparations have been made for a "normal" day, yet it will likely be anything but that when classes resume for Sandy Hook Elementary School students for the first time since a gunman killed 20 of their classmates.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie's blunt talk has long been one of his hallmarks. But Christie, who has verbally tangled with many, showed Wednesday he's willing to aim his barbs at the highest echelons of his own party. In a State House news conference, Christie blasted Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio for delaying a vote on a $60 billion aid package for Superstorm Sandy recovery.
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward scored 17 points, Enes Kanter had 15 and the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-84 on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak. Paul Millsap started 7 of 7 for Utah and finished with 14 points, and Jamaal Tinsley had 12 on 6-of-8 shooting. Tinsley started in place Mo Williams, who learned earlier in the day he will be out six weeks after opting for surgery on his right thumb. The game marked the return of Andrei Kirilenko, who played 10 seasons for the Jazz before being allowed to leave via free agency two years ago.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Ray Lewis spent 17 seasons instilling fear in his opponents while serving as an inspirational leader for the Baltimore Ravens. Now he's poised and eager to become a full-time dad. Lewis announced Wednesday he will end his brilliant NFL career after the Ravens complete their 2013 playoff run.