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NEW THIS DIGEST:
— Adds: AIG-TREASURY SALE, HSBC-BANK CASE, FISCAL CLIFF-MARKETS
— Updates: OBAMA-ENGINE PLANT, WALL STREET
HEALTH OVERHAUL-NEW FEE
WASHINGTON — Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It's a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama's health overhaul. The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest company health plans, and much of that is likely to be passed on to employees. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.
—HEALTH OVERHAUL-NEW FEE-GLANCE — List of new taxes and fees imposed under the new health care law.
EUROPE FINANCIAL CRISIS:
FRANKFURT — Until last weekend, Europe seemed headed for a quiet Christmas and New Year's. Then Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti unexpectedly announced he would resign, pulling the plug on a government that had boosted confidence in the country's ability to manage its debts. The prospect of a return to a shaky government and shakier finances has suddenly put new strains on the leaders of the euro countries and their efforts to bottle up the region's debt and economic crisis. By David McHugh.
—ITALY-POLITICS — Seeking to calm jittery markets, Italian Premier Mario Monti said there will be "no decision-making vacuum".
— SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS — The rate for Spain's benchmark 10-year bond rises on uncertainty after Italy's prime minister says he plans to resign.
CHINA'S REACH-MINING FARMLAND
GUNNEDAH, Australia — Tony Clift's family has plowed the rich black soil of Australia's Liverpool Plains for six generations. The thought of selling never crossed his mind until a Chinese company came to town. Shenhua Watermark Coal offered to buy farms at unheard-of prices. The decision wasn't easy, Clift says. His pioneer ancestors settled the land in 1832. But farming is a business nowadays, and selling his 6,500 acres made business sense. Soaring coal prices fueled by China's economic growth have made mining parts of the Australian landscape far more lucrative than farming it. It's one example of how China's emergence as a global trading power may transform countries in ways never contemplated and not yet fully understood. By Rod McGuirk.
MARKETS & ECONOMY
REDFORD, Mich. — President Barack Obama warns that he "won't compromise" on his demands that the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes, digging in on the chief sticking point between the White House and Republicans as they seek a way to avert the "fiscal cliff." By White House Correspondent Ben Feller.
— FISCAL CLIFF-STATES — A plunge over the federal "fiscal cliff" may sound like a terrifying risk for many state officials anxiously watching as Washington struggles to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to start with the new year.
— FISCAL CLIFF-BUSINESS TAXES — Small business owners say they're concerned Obama's tax increase on them would stunt growth. AP photos.
— FISCAL CLIFF-MARKETS — Fear of financial markets' reaction lends uncertainty to fiscal cliff talks as deadline nears. AP photo.
NEW YORK — When he was first told in 2008 about Bernard Madoff's epic Ponzi scheme, attorney David Sheehan had a response that now sounds inconceivable. "Who," he wondered, "is Bernie Madoff?" Since then, a trustee appointed to recover funds for Madoff victims and a battalion of lawyers headed by Sheehan have spent long days untangling the fraud. On the fourth anniversary of the financier's arrest, it's an international effort that shows no signs of slowing. By Tom Hays.
NEW YORK — Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a hotel maid have settled her lawsuit over sex-assault allegations that sank his political career and spurred scrutiny of his dealings with women on two continents. By Jennifer Peltz.
— AIG-TREASURY SALE — The U.S. government says it is selling its remaining shares of American International Group stock, moving to close the books on the government's biggest bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.
NEW YORK — Stocks edge higher on Wall Street after a strong sales report from McDonald's offset concerns about the surprise resignation of Italy's prime minister. Investors also wait for developments in crucial U.S. budget talks. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.
— OIL PRICES — Oil prices fall below $86 per barrel, despite a report of a surprise expansion of German exports and signs of increased oil consumption in China. Concerns about the so-called fiscal cliff in the U.S. continue to dog traders and investors.
DETROIT — The Detroit Diesel Corp. uses a visit from President Barack Obama to announce that it will add 115 jobs and invest millions at a huge factory near the city. By Auto Writer Tom Krisher.
NEW YORK — McDonald's says a key sales figure rose in November, as U.S. customers snapped up the world's biggest hamburger chain's breakfast offerings and limited-time Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwiches. The increase follows a decline in October, the first drop in McDonald's key monthly sales gauge in nearly a decade. By Business Writer Mae Anderson.
— HSBC-BANK CASE: AP source: HSBC to reach $1.9 billion deal with government in money-laundering probe.
— INGERSOLL-RAND-SPINOFF — Ingersoll-Rand says it will spin off its security division. The company, which also makes heating and cooling tools and other industrial products, also plans to buy back up to $2 billion in shares.
— AMGEN ACQUISITION — Biotech pioneer Amgen Inc., in a bid for a big edge in using people's genetic information to find better ways to attack diseases, is buying human genetics research and analytics leader deCODE Genetics for $415 million.
— GERMANY-OPEL — GM's Opel to end car production at German plant in 2016, but a slimmed-down factory may still make components.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Nothing says "Jersey shore" like a boardwalk. But Superstorm Sandy wrecked the coast's fabled wooden walkways, a major economic engine for shoreline communities in New Jersey and New York. Towns are racing to rebuild their boardwalks in time for the summer tourist season. By Wayne Parry.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA
SEOUL, South Korea — Moon Tae-Hwa stares at his computer, dizzy and nauseous from the hours of porn he's viewed online while his wife and children slept. He feels no shame — only a righteous sense of mission. "I feel like I'm cleaning up dirty things," he says. Moon is among the most successful members of a squad of nearly 800 volunteers who help government censors by patrolling the Internet for pornography. Unlike most developed nations, pornography is illegal in South Korea, though it remains easy for its tech-savvy population to find. By Hyung-jin Kim.
KIDS CELLPHONE PRIVACY
WASHINGTON — The government is investigating whether software companies that make cellphone apps have violated the privacy rights of children by quietly collecting personal information from phones and sharing it with advertisers and data brokers. Such apps can capture a child's physical location, phone numbers of their friends and more. By Richard Lardner.
— DUBAI-INTERNET CONFERENCE — U.S. facing pressures from backers of greater Internet controls at United Nations telecommunications conference in Dubai.
— SWITZERLAND-STMICROELECTRONICS — Europe's largest chipmaker, STMicroelectronics, plans to exit its money-losing joint venture with Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson.
— GUATEMALA-MCAFEE — Software company founder John McAfee says he wants to return to the United States and "settle down to whatever normal life" he can. AP photos.
MADRID — Irene Gonzalez is desperately waiting to hear if she'll benefit from an emergency government decree that protects Spaniards from being evicted for failing to make their mortgage payments. Spain has endured a wave of foreclosures that have generated protests and at least two recent suicides by people about to be ousted from their apartments and houses.
— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Greece extends deadline on vital bond buyback plan for a day.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — Exports from Germany, Europe's biggest economy, edge higher in October following a substantial drop the previous month.
BEIJING — China's trade weakened sharply in November, adding to challenges for the world's second-largest economy as a gradual recovery takes shape. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.
— JAPAN-ECONOMY— Japan's economy is technically in recession after revised figures for the April-June quarter show the economy shrank for two straight quarters.
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Investors have been harvesting their Apple profits over the last few months. Since hitting an all-time high of $705 on Sept. 21, Apple stock has plunged nearly 25 percent. There isn't any consensus regarding the cause, but here's a look at three leading theories about the sell-off.
McDonald's November sales rise
A limited-time offering of Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwich helped McDonald's November sales rise 2.4 percent.