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Business briefs

Washington Post's Kaplan unit

sued for racial discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued The Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan Higher Education unit, alleging that it discriminated against black job applicants by refusing to hire people based on their credit histories. The commission said the practice has been in place since at least January 2008. Although considering credit histories is not illegal, the commission asserts that the practice violates civil rights laws when it has the effect of discriminating on the basis of race and is not justified by the needs of the business. A Kaplan spokeswoman said the company would not acknowledge a violation of civil rights law and would not comment further. The EEOC said it is seeking to stop the practice and win wages, benefits and offers of employment for those affected.

Sony launches iTunes rival

Sony Corp. on Wednesday launched a music streaming service in a bid to boost sales of its consumer electronics and break Apple's dominance of the online music business. The Japanese company's "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" is a digital music service based on cloud technology that does not involve downloading tracks like Apple's iTunes, which started in 2001. Instead, a subscription gives users access to a catalog of about 6 million songs, which can be streamed across Sony's Internet-connected devices like the PlayStation 3, personal computers and Bravia TVs. The service can be synchronized with a user's existing music files, including iTunes, Sony said. The service debuted in the U.K. and Irelandon Wednesday and will be rolled out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and New Zealand and the U.S. next year.

Ford Windstar probe widens

The federal government on Wednesday upgraded its investigation into Ford Windstar minivans amid new concerns about corrosion in the vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its website that it had begun an engineering analysis of about 550,000 Windstars from the 1999-2003 model years.

JetBlue extends CEO's contract

JetBlue Airways has extended the employment contract of its top executive, president and chief executive Dave Barger, through 2015. The Forest Hills-based airline said on Wednesday that Barger's current contract was set to expire in three years. Barger joined JetBlue in 1998, two years before its first flight took off.

Sales of previously owned

homes rise in November

More people bought previously owned homes in November, the third increase in four months after the worst summer season in more than a decade. Buyers bought homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Even with the rise, this year is shaping up to be the worst for home sales since 1997. For November, sales were up in all regions of the country, led by an 11.7 percent rise in the West. Sales were up 2.7 percent in the Northeast. The median price of a home sold in November was $170,600.

Fed extends currency-swap

program with foreign banks

The Federal Reserve will extend its program to make dollars available to central banks around the world through next summer, reflecting continued strains in European financial markets that could endanger the world economy in 2011. The lines were scheduled to expire Jan. 31, but now will be extended through at least Aug. 1, the Fed announced Tuesday. The program has been little-used this year, with only $60 million in outstanding lending last week.

From wire reports

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