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Top News & Analysis Illinois

  • LOS ANGELES/ CHICAGO, Oct 4- Walmart employees affiliated with a union-backed group walked off the job in Los Angeles on Thursday, protesting conditions at the world's largest retailer, which promptly defended itself, saying the "publicity stunt" was not having an impact on its business. unfair labor practices by Wal-Mart Stores Inc, sponsors of the action said.

  • WASHINGTON-- The Federal Reserve wants to find a clearer way to signal to the public when it might start raising interest rates. Most members agreed at the Sept. 12-13 meeting that linking a future rate increase to a level of unemployment or some other numeric target could be useful.

  • CHICAGO-- Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale says he's pleased that teachers ratified a new contract. The Chicago Teachers Union announced Wednesday night that 79 percent of the union's membership had voted in favor of the contract. Teachers walked off the job Sept. 10, idling about 350,000 students for seven days.

  • *Middle East tensions, Turkey strikes at Syria lift oil. NEW YORK, Oct 4- Oil prices jumped 4 percent on T hursday as inflamed Middle East tensions stoked supply fears and U.S. gasoline futures rallied following a fire at the largest operating refinery in the United States.

  • LOS ANGELES/ CHICAGO, Oct 4- Walmart employees affiliated with a union-backed group walked off the job in Los Angeles on Thursday, protesting working conditions at the world's largest retailer, which promptly defended itself, saying the "publicity stunt" was not having an impact on its business.

  • NEW YORK-- Sears Holdings Corp. said that its hiring of seasonal workers for the crucial winter holidays will be unchanged from a year ago.

  • CHICAGO-- Several environmental groups want the Illinois Pollution Control Board to order Midwest Generation to clean up groundwater pollution that allegedly leached from coal-ash ponds at four of the company's power plants.

  • Oct 4- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has cracked down on thousands of online pharmacies for selling potentially unsafe, unapproved or fake medicines, including the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and antiviral Tamiflu.

  • Oct 4- Li& Fung Ltd, a global supplier of apparel, is in advanced talks to buy Synergies Worldwide, a small, New York- based supplier, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The move would help Hong Kong- based Li& Fung gain a better foothold in the fast fashion and discount clothing space.

  • CHICAGO-- A growing number of retirees are looking to pass along more to the next generation than money and possessions. "There's an element regarding money, but it is really more about affirming your life as a legacy," says Neal Van Zutphen, a certified financial planner in Mesa, Ariz..

  • WASHINGTON-- A federal strike force has charged 91 people, including a hospital president, doctors and nurses, with Medicare fraud schemes in seven cities involving $429 million in false billings. The law enforcement effort focused on fraudulent Medicare schemes in Baton Rouge, La.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles and Miami.

  • Google acquired Motorola in May for $12.5 billion to bolster its patent portfolio as its Android mobile operating system competes with rivals such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. But many investors and analysts have questioned Google's need to be in the hardware business, where profit margins are lower and Google has little experience.

  • NEW YORK/ SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 4- Amazon.com Inc. Take Apple Inc, for example. Now Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Amazon, Microsoft Corp and other tablet and smartphone makers are stepping up with big spending on TV spots, print ads, guerilla marketing stunts and over-the-top launch events.

  • AUGUSTA, Maine-- Kaplan University has opened a new campus in Augusta. It's Kaplan's third campus in Maine, joining other ones in South Portland and Lewiston. Kaplan University is based in Chicago and serves nearly 50,000 online and campus-based students.

  • Conditions worsened, though, in Kansas and Iowa, the nation's biggest corn producer, and nearly 98 percent of Nebraska was still deemed to be in one of the two worst categories. According to the map, which is put out by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, 75 percent of Iowa is enduring extreme or exceptional drought.

  • CHICAGO-- The final case to stem from the corruption investigation into imprisoned former Illinois Gov. William Cellini, 77, was convicted last year for his role in trying to get a $1.5 million campaign contribution for Blagojevich from the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby" in exchange for state business.

  • "A guy like Romney should excite me," said Becker, 30, a Republican who manages real estate investments in Fairfield, a charming shoreline town on Connecticut's affluent "gold coast." That was before the 90- minute head-to-head matchup between Romney and President Barack Obama in Denver, their first of three debates before Election Day.

  • CHICAGO-- Members of the Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly have approved a new three-year contract that includes pay increases and a new evaluation system, union officials announced late Wednesday.

  • *Sales at Costco and Gap top expectations. *Macy's, Target, Kohl's sales miss analysts' forecasts. "I think September overall is going to be OK; I don't think it's going to be great," said John Rooney, national retail& distribution sector lead for Deloitte Consulting.

  • *Macy's, Target sales miss analysts' forecasts. Retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp, Victoria's Secret operator Limited Brands Inc and teen chain Zumiez Inc posted bigger-than-expected gains in September sales at stores open at least a year. Target Corp and Macy's Inc posted same-store sales increases that missed analysts' expectations.