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Business news in brief

In the Region

Charity tax break renewed

Tax-free transfers to charity were renewed at the last minute for retirement account holders age 70½ or older, so charitable rollovers completed this month can still count for 2014, tax authorities said this week. Owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) who are 70½ or older have until Wednesday to make tax-free transfers to eligible charities and still have those count for tax year 2014, the Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday. The Tax Increase Prevention Act, enacted Dec. 19, extends the provision authorizing qualified charitable distributions. The provision had expired but was renewed retroactively, so any eligible IRA distributions investors make by year-end 2014 can still qualify as a tax deduction. IRA owners can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity. The money must be transferred directly by the IRA trustee or brokerage account custodian to the charity. - Erin Arvedlund

Herley will help make drones

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions said its Herley Industries facility in Lancaster would help fulfill a $72.3 million contract to make target drones and related equipment for the U.S. Air Force. The drones, which will be made through 2018, will be used by the Air Force to simulate attacks by enemy missiles and aircraft. - Lancaster News

Pa. mulling tunnel replacement

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is taking a new look at a long-dormant plan to replace mile-long tunnels near Somerset. The commission is considering six options to replace the Allegheny Tunnels. Three of the options would require new tunnels, and the others would build an open highway either north or south of the existing route. Depending on which approach the commission takes, the project would cost between $242 million and $694 million. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Initial jobless claims decline

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level in seven weeks, a sign the U.S. economy and job market are steadily improving. The Labor Department said Wednesday applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, declined 8,500, to 290,250. But wage growth remains sluggish. Average pay has risen just 2.1 percent over the last 12 months, only slightly better than inflation. - Associated Press

Report of layoffs at Coke

Coca-Cola reportedly plans to cut 1,000 to 2,000 jobs in coming weeks as part of a $3 billion cost-cutting effort. In November, analysts speculated as many as 2,000 jobs would be cut in the face of challenges to growing sales. Coke has a global workforce of more than 130,000. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday the reductions would be significant at the company's headquarters in Atlanta and global regional offices, but bottling and distribution divisions will be largely unaffected for now. - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Facebook faces privacy lawsuit

Facebook Inc. must defend itself against a lawsuit by users who claim the company scans the content of private messages to add "likes" to Web pages contained in the messages and to deliver targeted advertising, a federal judge in Oakland, Calif., said. U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied Facebook's request to throw out the users' claim under the U.S. Wiretap Act because she said she couldn't determine whether the company was shielded by the law's "ordinary course of business" exception for providers of electronic communications. "Facebook's unwillingness to offer any details regarding its targeted advertising practice prevents the court from being able to determine whether the specific practice challenged in this case should be considered 'ordinary,' " Hamilton said. - Bloomberg News

South Africa getting AIDS drugs

South Africa's health department has awarded four drug companies a three-year tender worth $885 million to supply the country with antiretroviral drugs used to treat AIDS. Sonke Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd., Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd., Africa's largest generic drugmaker, Barcelona's Mylan Pharmaceuticals SL, and Cipla Medpro got contracts. - Bloomberg News

Former billionaire out of jail

Timothy Blixseth, the former billionaire founder of bankrupt Yellowstone Mountain Club L.L.C. who was jailed six days ago in Montana for contempt of court, persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to free him. The appeals court panel directed the judge who jailed him to craft an order specifically stating what Blixseth has to do to avoid being in contempt. U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon had ordered Blixseth held in custody until he provides a full accounting of the $13.8 million he received for a resort in Mexico he had sold in violation of an order by a bankruptcy court judge. - Bloomberg News