U.S., Cuba closer to restoring regular flights

The United States and Cuba have reached an understanding on restoring regularly scheduled commercial flights, Cuban and American officials said Wednesday on the eve of the anniversary of detente between the Cold War foes. The diplomatic advance helps open the way for U.S. airlines to begin flying to Cuba within months in what would be the biggest business deal struck as the two countries try to normalize relations. Officials on both sides described it as an understanding on aviation but not yet a formal agreement and they hoped to reach a formal deal within hours or days. The understanding was reached Wednesday in Washington. U.S. officials and aviation executives have speculated that Cuba could allow more than a dozen flights from the U.S. a day.

Secret Santa pays off layaway debts in Ohio

A man has paid off more than $106,000 in shoppers' layaways at two Wal-Mart stores in northeast Ohio. WEWS-TV in Cleveland reports that the man told Wal-Mart employees that he liked to do something special on his birthday every year. They say he insisted on remaining anonymous. The donor paid off a total of nearly $70,000 for the layaway items at the Steelyard Commons store in Cleveland and about $36,000 for items in Lorain. Items on layaway included toys, 70-inch televisions and even a pair of socks. Tara Neal said she had paid $10 on a bed for her 3-year-old daughter at one of the stores when she was told Tuesday that the remaining balance of more than $80 was paid. She said it was "like Santa."

FDA OKs cheaper version of diabetes drug

Federal health officials have approved a cheaper version of the world's top-selling insulin from Sanofi for millions of U.S. patients with diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration approved a new form of Sanofi's penlike injector, Lantus, from drugmakers Eli Lilly and Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim. Those companies received tentative FDA approval for their drug, called Basaglar, in August 2014. But the launch was delayed by a patent dispute with Sanofi. The three drugmakers reached an agreement in September allowing the launch of the new drug. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or cannot properly use it. Lantus is the top product for Sanofi and the third bestselling medicine in the world by revenue. British research firm GlobalData says Lantus had sales of $12.4 billion in 2014.

Chipotle apologizes using newspaper ads

The power of the printed press lives on, at least as long as corporations continue to seek customer forgiveness with full-page ads. Chipotle was the latest to say it's sorry Wednesday through a full-page advertisement in 61 newspapers around the U.S. The ad, an open letter from CEO Steve Ells, expressed remorse over the recent outbreaks of food-related illnesses at Chipotle and outlined steps forward in improving food safety. Ells lamented the recent E. coli outbreak that sickened 52 people and a norovirus outbreak that sickened approximately 140 people at a single Chipotle restaurant in Boston. From there, he pivoted to the company's attempt to fix the problem through a new comprehensive food safety program that assesses risk throughout the supply chain.

Two newspapers in western Pa. will close

Trib Total Media said it has been unable to reach a deal to sell two of its western Pennsylvania newspapers, and both newspapers will cease publishing after Dec. 31. The papers, both based in cities outside Pittsburgh, are the Daily News in McKeesport and the Valley Independent in Monessen. The publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other publications announced in August that it planned to downsize its print operations as part of a companywide strategic overhaul that will be focusing more on its Web-based news products. In the summer, the company sold eight newspapers to West Penn Media, but no deals were reached for the McKeesport and Monessen operations.

Deal approved, Kohler strike is over

Union workers at the Kohler Co. overwhelmingly approved a new contract Wednesday, ending a monthlong strike and the first walkout at the Wisconsin manufacturer in more than 30 years. Union officials said the tentative agreement announced Tuesday was supported by 91 percent of the 1,846 employees who voted. Workers will return to their jobs Thursday morning. The strike — the company's first since 1983 — began Nov. 15 at the privately held maker of plumbing products, cabinets, furniture and other items. Under the agreement, employees would get wage increases in each year of the four-year contract., according to union leaders who represent about 2,000 workers at the company's kitchen and bath plant.

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