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Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:01 PM
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Stock indexes end multiday skid

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes ended Thursday's trading session in positive territory, ending a three-day skid on news about first-time jobless claims.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 45.33 points or 0.38 percent to 11,868.81.

The Nasdaq gained 1.70 points or 0.07 percent to 2,541.01.

The Standard & Poor's 500 picked up 3.93 points or 0.32 percent to 1,215.75.

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday initial jobless claims fell by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000 for the week ending Dec. 10, the lowest since mid-2008.

On the New York Stock Exchange 1,903 stocks advanced and 1,122 declined on volume of 3.63 billion shares.

The 10-year treasury note fell 2/32 to yield 1.913.

The euro was 1.3016 Thursday from $1.2986 Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was 77.91 yen from 78.06 yen Wednesday.

In London, the FTSE 100 Index added 34.05 to close at 5,400.85.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei Average closed at 8,377.37, off 141.76.

Sony, Warner join suit against Grooveshark

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Two of the world's biggest record companies said they joined a U.S. lawsuit against Grooveshark, an online music service accused of infringing copyrights.

Sony Music Entertainment and Access Industries Inc.'s Warner Music Group joined in an amended complaint Thursday to a suit filed last month by Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group in U.S. District Court in New York, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The amended complaint alleges Grooveshark executives personally uploaded copies of songs to which they didn't have the rights, a claim made in the original suit filed in November. Thursday's amendment also added a new detail that intimated Grooveshark knew it needed to license the material available on its service.

The lawsuit alleged Grooveshark Chief Executive Officer Samuel Tarantino and others personally uploaded thousands of songs for which they didn't have rights, citing unspecified "business records" of Escape Media Inc., Grooveshark's parent company. The Gainesville, Fla., company, Tarantino and other executives were named personally as defendants in the lawsuit, along with Escape Media.

The Journal said a Grooveshark spokesman did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The music industry has sued many online music services that allow users to download songs to hard drives. But Grooveshark is a streaming service that lets users listen to songs free as they play through Web browsers without keeping a copy.

Settlement reached in drywall case

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- A Chinese drywall manufacturer and lawyers for U.S. homeowners who sued because of odor and contamination reached a settlement to replace the gypsum wallboard.

The settlement reached by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin and a class action steering committee affects about 5,200 plaintiffs who specifically alleged their homes contain the KPT drywall, the steering committee and KPT said Thursday in a release.

The remedial work is free.

Claims were filed by homeowners in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and thousands more across the country could file claims in the future. Plaintiffs include homeowners, commercial owners and tenants; multi-unit properties; prior owners of foreclosed properties or those who have engaged in short sales because of the KPT drywall, the release said.

"We are delighted that thousands of homeowners will have an opportunity to have these Chinese drywall complaints addressed," plaintiff lead counsel Arnold Levin said. "They will now be able to repair their property, receive compensation and move forward after suffering the effects of Chinese drywall."

Homeowners have three options: Use a certified contractor approved by the steering committee and KPT, use a qualified contractor of their choosing or receive a cash payment. All of the remediated homes will be inspected by environmental engineers, who will certify to homeowners their homes are free of problem drywall odors and contamination.

"From the outset, KPT has been committed to developing a comprehensive and efficient approach to resolve the problematic and complex issues arising from Chinese drywall. This global settlement is the culmination of those efforts," said Gregory Wallance and Steven Glickstein of Kaye Scholer LLP in New York, representing KPT.

The settlement is subject to final approval by U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon in New Orleans.

Labor: Change to help home health workers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Home healthcare workers in the United States would see changes in wages and overtime protections under new rules put forward by the Obama administration.

President Obama and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the proposed new rule, announced Thursday, would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly 2 million workers who provide in-home care services, the White House said in a release.

Currently, workers classified as "companions" are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime requirements. The proposed regulation will reconsider whether the exemption is too broad.

When established in 1974, the exemption was meant for casual sitters and companions for the elderly and the sick, not in-home healthcare service providers, Obama said when discussing the proposed rule change."

"As the home care business has changed over the years, the law hasn't changed to keep up," Obama said, and lumped professional home health providers "in the same category as teenage babysitters when it comes to how much they make. That means employers are allowed to pay these workers less than minimum wage with no overtime."

"That's just wrong. In this country, it's inexcusable," Obama said.

Companies that do pay home-health workers minimum wage also don't deserve to be penalized, he said.

"We are going to make sure that over a million men and women in one of the fastest-growing professions in the country don't slip through the cracks. We're going to make sure that companies who do right by their workers aren't undercut by companies who don't," Obama said. "We're going to do what's fair, and we're going to do what's right."

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the proposed regulation would ensure that home healthcare workers' work is properly classified "so they receive appropriate compensation and that employers who have been treating these workers fairly are no longer at a competitive disadvantage. "

The proposed rule and a fact sheet are available at www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/companionNPRM.htm.

The proposal will be subject to 60 days of public comment.

Several Republican lawmakers have criticized the anticipated proposals, saying they raise costs for individuals, and federal and state programs, The New York Times reported.

At a hearing last month, Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., chairman a House subcommittee on work force protections, said, Medicare and Medicaid expenses likely would increase because of the proposed change in the companion definition.

The move likely would mean senior citizens and their families would be "less able to afford home care, which is typically paid not by insurance, but by families themselves," he said.

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