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Microsoft makes design central to its future

Before Ralf Groene helped devise the look and feel of Microsoft's Surface tablet, he designed food — or "food concepts," he says, such as dried noodles that come wrapped around a pair of chopsticks and a fork that squeezes out sauce.

Though none of these ideas made it into production, the principles behind them can be applied to computing devices that fit into busy lives, says Groene, and they are just as varied as the ones Microsoft now uses to redesign all its software and devices.

Microsoft is putting an emphasis on design excellence more than ever — to make its products more competitive with offerings from rivals Apple, Google, and Amazon and to prod its hardware making partners to dream up new, more innovative devices. In recent years, the software giant has put a priority on fashioning devices that work around people's lives, help reduce information overload and become intimate, personal and knowledgeable about their users.

And yes, Microsoft is even trying to make devices attractive, cool and desirable, top executives say.

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Pain of Atlantic City casino closings far-reaching

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Yomary Blanco cleans rooms at Trump Plaza, one of three Atlantic City casinos that could shut down by September. Her husband works the buffet at the Showboat, which is scheduled to close on Aug. 31.

With two young daughters, a mortgage, no savings and no obvious plan B, the couple is afraid of what the future holds.

The pain of a sudden spasm of casino contraction in what was once the nation's second-largest gambling market will hurt not only families like Blanco's. It will also hurt small businesses, the housing market could suffer, and taxes could rise and services decline in Atlantic City, where 60 per cent of the budget comes from casino taxes.

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Allergan to cut 1,500 employees in restructuring

Botox maker Allergan will cut about 13 per cent of its workforce as part of a push to become more efficient while it fights a hostile takeover bid from Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

The Irvine, California, company said Monday it plans to trim about 1,500 employees and around 250 vacant positions as it restructures to focus on its "highest value opportunities."

Allergan said its restructuring will yield annual pretax savings of about $475 million in 2015. It announced the cuts the same day it said second-quarter results trumped analyst expectations, as earnings grew 16 per cent to $417.2 million.

Allergan Inc. has rejected several takeover attempts from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and activist investor Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management. The latest amounts to about $53 billion in cash and stock.

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McDonald's, KFC in China face new food scandal

BEIJING (AP) — McDonald's and KFC in China faced a new food safety scare Monday after a Shanghai television station reported a supplier sold them expired beef and chicken.

The companies said they immediately stopped using meat from the supplier, Husi Food Co., Ltd. The Shanghai office of China's food and drug agency said it was investigating and told customers to suspend use of the supplier's products.

Dragon TV said Sunday that Husi, owned by OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, repackaged old beef and chicken and put new expiration dates on them. It said they were sold to McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants.

The report added to a series of food safety scares in China that have battered public confidence in dairies, fast food outlets and other suppliers.

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Thirst for US craft beer grows overseas

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Helping to quench a growing thirst for American craft beer overseas, some of the United States' largest craft breweries are setting up shop in Europe, challenging the very beers that inspired them on their home turfs.

It's the latest phenomenon in the flourishing craft beer industry, which got its start emulating the European brews that defined many of the beer styles we drink today. The move also marks a continuing departure from the status quo of mass market lagers or stouts, demonstrating a willingness of American breweries to explore — and innovate — old world beer styles from Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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Star Wars Car, a Doomsday doll: Toys of Comic-Con

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mattel designers have spent the past year working on 10 toys created especially for the crowd at Comic-Con, the annual celebration of pop culture lifting off Thursday in San Diego.

Their efforts at limited-edition playthings include a replica of the Batmobile from the upcoming game "Batman: Arkham Knight" and a 9-inch-tall action figure of Superman killer Doomsday.

Like other toy makers struggling in this digital, video-centric age, the company is trying to remain relevant in the retail world as demand drops for core brands like Barbie.

But things will at least seem rosier at Comic-Con, where eager buyers for the toys await (the only other place they will be sold is on the Mattel collector's site). Mattel's exclusives this year run between $20 and $85, but elite toys can fetch much more when they're put up for auction.

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Shark sightings off Cape Cod a boon for tourism

CHATHAM, Mass. (AP) — Great white sharks are having an unusual effect on Cape Cod this summer, and many a merchant is going to need a bigger wallet.

The sharks being spotted in growing numbers are stirring curiosity and a buying frenzy for shark-related merchandise.

Shark T-shirts are everywhere, "Jaws" has been playing in local movie theatres and boats are taking more tourists out to see the huge seal population that keeps the sharks coming. Harbormasters have issued warnings but — unlike the sharks in the movies — the great whites generally are not seen as a threat to human swimmers.

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Russia's Severstal selling US plants for $2.3B

NEW YORK (AP) — Russian steel company Severstal is exiting the U.S. market, selling a pair of steel plants to AK Steel and Steel Dynamics for about $2.33 billion.

Word of a possible sale began to circulate earlier this year as the West threatened sanctions against Russia for its activity in the Ukraine, but Severstal has not among those companies targeted by those actions.

Steel Dynamics Inc. said Monday that it will pay about $1.63 billion for Severstal Columbus, which is located in northeast Mississippi. AK Steel Holding Corp. said that it is buying Severstal's steel plant in Dearborn, Michigan for $700 million.

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German supermarket tycoon Albrecht dead at 94

BERLIN (AP) — Karl Albrecht, co-founder of the Aldi grocery store empire and one of the world's richest people, has died in the western German city of Essen. He was 94.

Essen's city hall told The Associated Press that Albrecht was buried Monday in a family plot in a small ceremony in the city's Bredeney district where he lived. Aldi's press office said Albrecht died July 16.

Albrecht and his brother Theo, who died in 2010, both worked in their parents' grocery store as they were growing up.

After both serving as German soldiers in World War II, the two took over the business and began a rapid expansion. Today the group has thousands of stores in 17 countries in Europe, North America and Australia, and a family trust established by Theo Albrecht in 1979 bought the U.S. specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's.

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Netflix tops 50M subscribers as 2Q earnings soar

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix's second-quarter earnings more than doubled as new episodes from one of its hit series helped the Internet video service surpass 50 million worldwide subscribers for the first time.

The gains announced Monday include an additional 570,000 U.S. subscribers, slightly more than Netflix's management predicted. The quarter is typically the company's slowest of the year, as people spend more time outdoors instead of watching video.

The second quarter featured one of Netflix's marquee attractions, "Orange Is The New Black," which returned for its second season in early June.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 48.45 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 17,051.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped 4.59 points, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 1,973.63. The Nasdaq composite lost 7.44 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,424.70.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery rose $1.46 to $104.59 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, gained 44 cents to $107.68 on the ICE exchange in London. Natural gas fell 10 cents to $3.85 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.89 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1 cent to $2.86 a gallon.

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