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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Business in brief: Transportation panel head admits lobbyist link

From wire reports

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House committee that handles aviation legislation has acknowledged he has a private, personal relationship with an airline industry lobbyist.

Rep. Bill Shuster is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Pennsylvania Republican acknowledged his relationship with Shelley Rubino in a statement Thursday but said she doesn’t lobby him. Rubino works for Airlines for America, a trade association for major U.S. airlines.

Shuster was the top House recipient of airline industry contributions last year, receiving $128,350 in campaign donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sony hacking woes get worse

NEW YORK – Sony’s hacking problems aren’t over yet.

Whistleblower site WikiLeaks on Thursday put hundreds of thousands of emails and documents from last year’s crippling cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment into a searchable online archive. It’s the latest blow for the entertainment and technology company struggling to get past the attack, which the company estimates caused millions in damage.

The website said its database includes more than 170,000 emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment and a subsidiary, plus more than 30,000 other documents.

Sony Pictures blasted WikiLeaks for creating the archive, saying the website was helping the hackers disseminate stolen information.

“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain,” the company said in a statement.

But founder Julian Assange said the documents should be available to the public. Although they had been online, it was in a compressed format that wasn’t easily searchable.

“This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation,” he said. “It is newsworthy and at the center of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”

Yahoo, Microsoft extend tie

SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo and Microsoft will keep working together on Internet search, but Yahoo is getting more control over how the search results are presented.

An agreement announced Thursday extends a search partnership that Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. forged in 2009 while they were being led by different CEOs. Current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had the option of terminating the relationship under a clause triggered earlier this year.

The two are trying to chip away at Google’s dominance of Internet searches. They haven’t had much success so far. Google still controls two-thirds of the U.S. search market and holds an even larger share in Europe. Mayer spent 12 years helping Google build its lucrative lead before becoming Yahoo’s CEO in 2011.

Home construction softens

WASHINGTON – U.S. homebuilders opened the spring buying season in March at a slower pace than last year.

The Commerce Department says builders began construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000 homes last month, a 2.5 percent decline from the pace in March 2014.

March housing starts did rise 2 percent from February’s rate of 908,000 homes, as construction recovered in the Northeast and Midwest markets hammered by winter storms. But the pace of construction slipped in March for the South and West.

Steady job growth, low mortgage rates and cheaper gasoline have given consumers more flexibility. But the improved economy has yet to significantly boost sales and construction.

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