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SOCIAL SERVICES

Two area nonprofits merge

Two longtime Boston-area nonprofits that help children and families are merging to create a 2,000-person agency with $115 million in annual revenue. Under the deal, the 138-year-old Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children will become part of Eliot Community Human Services of Lexington. Together, the two will provide a range of care from home visits and mental health services for victims of abuse to residential services for youth. “When we look at the changing landscape in health care, it’s really clear that scale matters,’’ said Mary McGeown, executive director of MSPCC. She said that combined, the agencies will be able to offer more care and expanded career paths for employees, and save money on administration. Steve Pagliuca (left) , longtime chair of the MSPCC board of directors, as well as a Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, said, “Merging these two strong agencies will ultimately further their collective mission and benefit clients,’’ as well as broaden their impact. Kate Markarian, chief executive of Eliot, will lead the combined agencies. However, MSPCC will retain its name, as a unit of the combined entity, and continue its work advocating for children and families, she said. She predicted there would be no layoffs resulting from the merger. MSPCC has about 200 staff members, while Eliot is larger, with about 1,800. — BETH HEALY

MEDICAL DEVICES

Pa. manufacturer agrees to pay $7.8m for selling contaminated syringes

A Pennsylvania drug and medical device manufacturer has agreed to pay up to $7.8 million for selling contaminated syringes, federal prosecutors say. B. Braun will avoid criminal charges in exchange for implementing procedures to improve oversight of its suppliers, authorities said Wednesday. The company will pay $4.8 million in penalties and forfeited profits, plus up to $3 million in restitution. The company, based in Melsungen, Germany, has its US headquarters in Bethlehem, Pa. The settlement comes in response to the sale of contaminated syringes that prosecutors say led to an outbreak of bacterial infections and at least five deaths. The syringes were branded B. Braun but made by another firm.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

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RETAIL

Gap to close about 75 Old Navy and Banana Republic stores, mostly overseas

Apparel giant Gap said Thursday that it plans to shutter about 75 stores across its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, a move aimed at helping the company get on stronger footing amid sagging sales. Most of the closures will be overseas: Old Navy’s Japan fleet will be closed entirely, and the company said a ‘‘select number’’ of Banana Republic locations will be axed, mostly international ones. This latest round of store closings, which is set to be completed this year, follows a decision in 2015 to get rid of about one-quarter of Gap’s North American outposts. — WASHINGTON POST

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MORTGAGES

Rates little changed

Long-term US mortgage rates were little changed this week, at or near their lows for the year. The low rates come amid the spring home-buying season, luring prospective purchasers. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 3.58 percent from 3.57 percent last week. It’s far below its level a year ago of 3.84 percent. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages was steady at 2.81 percent.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

RETAIL

Walmart bucks trend, releases upbeat earnings report

Big-box behemoth Walmart released a surprisingly upbeat earnings report on Thursday, showing it has been able to keep its turnaround efforts on track, despite a shopping environment that has proved punishing to many major retailers. Walmart reported a 1 percent uptick in its sales at its US stores open more than a year, its seventh consecutive quarter of increases on this closely followed metric. The rise was fueled by 1.5 percent growth in store traffic, an encouraging sign at a moment when foot traffic to shopping centers generally has been sluggish. Walmart’s revenue was up 0.9 percent to $115.9 billion. Walmart has been working to keep shelves stocked and the chain has been trying to spruce up its presentation in departments such as grocery, where it is giving more prominent display to items such as leafy green vegetables. The retailing giant has also undertaken measures to deliver better customer service, as well as raising the minimum wages for its workforce and increasing pay for department managers. — WASHINGTON POST

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COMPUTERS

Not so good at iambic pentameter

Computers are pretty good at stocking shelves and operating cars, but are not so good at writing poetry. Scientists in a Dartmouth College competition reached that conclusion after designing artificial intelligence algorithms that could produce sonnets. Judges compared the results with poems written by humans to see if they could tell the difference. In every instance, the judges were able to find the sonnet produced by a computer program.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUTOMOTIVE

More than 500,000 Jeeps recalled

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling about half a million 2007-10 Jeep Wranglers, including 392,000 in the United States, because the driver’s-side air bag may not deploy in a crash, the automaker said Wednesday. In addition, 2011-16 Wranglers with right-hand drive, typically used for mail delivery, are being recalled in the United States, about 7,400 of them. The action stems from investigations last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and its Canadian counterpart, Transport Canada. The carmaker said the problem is the clock spring, part of the system to activate the air bag, can be contaminated with dust and dirt during “extensive off-road driving or driving with a vehicle’s top and/or doors removed.” The Wrangler is designed for off-road driving. — BLOOMBERG

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UNEMPLOYMENT

New filings fall

Filings for US unemployment benefits declined last week from a more than one-year high, as a plunge in New York returned claims to a level consistent with a firm labor market. Applications dropped by 16,000 in the week ended May 14, the biggest decrease since early February, to 278,000, a Labor Department report showed. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 275,000. The decrease was primarily due to fewer filings in New York after a surge the previous week that probably reflected difficulties adjusting for the spring break holiday. — BLOOMBERG

RIDE HAILING

Uber tests self-driving car in Pittsburgh

Uber is testing a self-driving car on public streets in Pittsburgh. Uber says it has outfitted a Ford Fusion hybrid with radar, laser scanners, and high-resolution cameras. It’s using the car to test self-driving capability and collect mapping data. A trained driver remains behind the wheel for now. Uber says it’s still in the early stages of its self-driving tests and needs to make sure the technology is safe. The San Francisco ride-hailing company says Pittsburgh is an ideal place to test self-driving cars because it has a wide variety of weather and road types. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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