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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Retailers, energy pull US stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are lower in midday trading, giving up small gains from the day before.

Several retailers were posting hefty losses today, and technology and health care companies are also lower. Energy companies fell along with the price of crude oil.

At 12:46 p.m. Eastern Time, the S&P 500 index fell 7 points, to 2,578.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42 points, to 23,397.

And the Nasdaq composite index fell 25 points to 6,733.

CONGRESS-TAXES

Congressional GOP upbeat about prospects for tax overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans are projecting confidence about delivering on an overhaul of the nation's tax code with President Donald Trump planning an in-person appeal to lawmakers ahead of a crucial House vote this week.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters, "This bill will make things better for hard-working Americans."

House GOP leaders rallied support with the rank-and-file at a closed-door meeting. Underscoring the sharp political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office, is his planned meeting with House Republicans on Thursday ahead of an expected vote on the legislation.

Across the Capitol, the Senate Finance Committee began its second day of work on the Senate version of legislation revamping the tax system. Minority Democrats on the panel complained that the bill would enable U.S. corporations with foreign operations and wealthy individuals and families to exploit loopholes to skirt millions in taxes.

POSTAL SERVICE-FINANCES

Postal Service: Red ink for 11th year in row as mail slumps

WASHINGTON (AP) — The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is reporting a financial loss for the 11th straight year, citing declining mail volume and costs of its pension and health-care obligations.

It is pleading for more freedom to raise stamp prices to help keep pace with consumer demand for ever-quicker package deliveries.

The Postal Service says it lost $2.7 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That was better than a $5.6 billion loss in the prior year but mainly due to fluctuations in interest rates. The 2017 loss came after a double-digit increase in package delivery couldn't offset drop-offs in letter mail.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is deciding whether to give the Postal Service greater power to raise stamp prices.

The price of a first-class stamp is now 49 cents.

KUSHNER COS-TENANTS SUING

Lawsuit: Rent at Kushner properties inflated illegally

NEW YORK (AP) — Tenants of another building owned by the company of Jared Kushner's family are filing a lawsuit over rent that they say is inflated illegally.

The lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, filed today by six residents at 18 Sidney Place in Brooklyn alleges that Kushner Cos. is charging much higher free-market rent, rather than the rent-stabilized rate required by law. The suit seeks class action status.

Kushner Cos. did not respond immediately for comment.

The case follows a similar suit filed in August by nine residents of another Kushner building in Brooklyn. That case also seeks class action status.

Jared Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser.

OPIOID ALTERNATIVE-FDA WARNING

FDA warns of injury, death with herbal supplement kratom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health authorities are warning about reports of injury, addiction and death with a herbal supplement that has been promoted as an alternative to opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs.

The supplement, kratom (KRAY'-tuhm), is made from a plant native to Southeast Asia. It has gained popularity in the U.S. as a treatment for pain, anxiety and drug dependence. Users have opposed efforts to regulate the plant, saying it could be a safer alternative to opioid pain pills.

But the Food and Drug Administration says that kratom carries similar risks, including addiction and death, and the agency is working to block shipments.

The FDA said it is aware of 36 deaths involving products made with kratom and hundreds of calls to poison control centers.

UNSAFE TOYS

Consumer safety group unveils its 'worst toys' list

BOSTON (AP) — Fidget spinners, a Wonder Woman "battle sword" and a remote-controlled Spider-Man drone are among the toys topping a consumer safety group's annual list of worst toys for the holiday season.

World Against Toys Causing Harm, or WATCH, unveiled its top 10 list today at a Boston children's hospital.

A Disney-themed "stacking toy" for infants recalled in August, but still available online, also made the list.

So too did Razor's "Heel Wheels," which can transform children's shoes into roller skates, and "Slackline," a tightrope-like device meant to be anchored between two trees.

The Toy Association, an industry trade group, dismissed WATCH's list as "needlessly frightening" because it says all toys sold in the U.S. meet "rigorous" safety standards.

The nonprofit WATCH has been releasing its list for more than four decades.

TINY HOUSES-BIG OPPOSITION

Tiny houses are trendy — unless they go up next door

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Tiny homes have been promoted as the solution to all kinds of housing needs, and they've inspired at least six national TV shows. But the popularity of the trendy structures seems to evaporate when developers try to build them.

Neighbors have organized to stop the projects in at least a dozen cases across the nation. They complain that the developments could hurt property values and clash with existing housing.

The opposition is often focused on developments for homeless people, as in Des Moines, Iowa. But in many cases, it also extends to tiny-home communities designed for the open market.

Some efforts moved forward, but many others were blocked.

The president of the American Tiny House Association says opposition arises even among people who otherwise like the homes.

SUBWAY SPOKESMAN

Judge rejects self-filed appeal from ex-Subway pitchman

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge in Indianapolis has rejected an appeal that former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle filed himself in an attempt to overturn his child pornography and sex abuse convictions.

An order from District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt calls Fogle's claim that the court didn't have jurisdiction to convict him "frivolous" with "no conceivable validity in American law."

The Indianapolis Star reports Fogle's motion filed Nov. 6 was done without the high-profile attorneys who represented him when he pleaded guilty in November 2015 to trading in child pornography and paying for sex with underage girls. He's serving a 15-year sentence at a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado.

The 40-year-old Indiana man became a star of Subway's advertising campaigns after losing 200 pounds (90 kilograms), partly by eating Subway sandwiches.

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