January 2009 Current Events: Business/Science News

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Here are the key events in business and science news for the month of January, 2009.

  • Apple Removing Music Copyright Protection (Jan. 6): Apple announces that it will begin selling music on iTunes without copyright protection, or digital rights management software (D.R.M.). Songs purchased will be playable on any music player that supports AAC files. Plus, customers will now be able to move songs freely among computers, MP3 players, and phones.
  • $173 Million in Checks Found in Madoff's Name (Jan. 8): In court documents, prosecutors stated that over $173 million in signed checks were found in Bernard Madoff's apartment on the day of his arrest for operating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. They were allegedly signed and ready to be sent to family and friends. Prosecutors cite this discovery as proof that Madoff is hiding his wealth and his bail should be revoked. (Jan. 12): A judge rules that Madoff will remain on bail, despite a government request that the defendent be returned to prison due to the recent discovery of hidden assets. The ruling states that Madoff was not proven to be a flight or security risk. He will remain under house arrest.
  • Jobless Rates Reach 7.2% (Jan. 9): Unemployment is at a 16-year high, 7.2%, according to the Labor Department. 524,000 jobs were lost in December 2008, for a total of 2.6 million in 2008. More than 11 million Americans are currently unemployed.
  • Retail Stores Reveal Dismal Holiday Sales (Jan. 14): Retail stores confirm that the weak economy resulted in terrible holiday sales in 2008. Sales in November and December, which typically make up at least a quarter of annual sales, fell 2.2 percent this year—the most since the 1970s—according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. This news follows much sunnier reports from online sellers in late December. Amazon reported its best holiday season ever.
  • Jobs Announces Leave of Absence from Apple (Jan. 14): Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence until June, according to a letter to employees. In response to concern about his noticeable weight loss, Jobs announced last week that he was suffering from a hormone deficiency. His health problems are more serious than previously thought, he says now.
  • Gannett Asks Employees to Take Furlough (Jan. 14): The nation's largest newspaper publisher, Gannett Company, is asking its employees to take a week long furlough in an effort to save money and prevent large-scale layoffs. The company employs about 31,000 people in the U.S. and publishes newspapers across the country, including USA Today. A memo states there will be no hardship exceptions, though unionized employees would not be eligible. Employees will not be able to do any work-related activity during that period, including checking email and returning phone calls.
  • Citigroup Posts Loss; Confirms Company Split (Jan. 16): Citigroup will divide into two businesses, Citicorp and Citi Holdings, after posting a loss of $8.29 billion in the fourth quarter.
  • Circuit City to Liquidate, Close Remaining Stores (Jan. 16): Circuit City, the electronics retailer, announced they will be shutting down their stores and liquidating. This comes after the company filed for bankruptcy in November.
  • Microsoft Laying Off Employees (Jan. 22): Following a drop in profits and demand, Microsoft announces it will lay off up to 5,000 employees. Experts expect the sale of PCs, a major component of Microsoft's inventory, will drop 8% in 2009. Sales of the Windows operating system fell 8% last year.
  • Pfizer Acquires Wyeth for $68 Billion (Jan. 28): Pfizer, one of the biggest drug companies in the world, has bought the drug company Wyeth for $68 billion. The acquisition is one of the biggest ever inside the drug industry. This information comes after Pfizer announced it would be laying off about 8,400 employees.
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