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Stocks flat...Canada cuts interest rate...USDA proposes standards for safer poultry

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are little changed in early afternoon trading on Wall Street, as investors weigh higher oil prices, a rebound in home construction and a mix of corporate earnings reports. Traders are also waiting to see just how much financial firepower the European Central Bank will unleash tomorrow, when it's expected to announce large-scale purchases of government bonds to stimulate Europe's sluggish economy.

TORONTO (AP) — Canada's central bank is cutting its key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point because of the recent sharp drop in oil prices. The Bank of Canada unexpectedly cut its trend-setting rate to three quarters of a percentage point from one percent. The bank says the price collapse poses considerable uncertainty for economic growth in the oil-producing nation. It's the first time the bank has moved its overnight rate in either direction in nearly four and a half years.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is pushing the poultry industry to make chicken and turkey a little safer to eat. New voluntary standards proposed by the Agriculture Department today aim to reduce cases of foodborne illness by 50,000 a year. Suggested steps for lowering rates of salmonella and another pathogen, campylobacter (kam-pih-loh-BAK'-tur), include better screening of flocks and better sanitation.

CHICAGO (AP) — The CEO of Tootsie Roll Industries has died at age 95. Melvin Gordon ran the Chicago-based company for 53 years. It makes 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day and other favorites including Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Tootsie Pops. The company says Gordon died yesterday in Boston after a brief illness. His wife of 65 years, Ellen Gordon, has been named CEO. She was company president and chief operating officer.

NEW YORK (AP) — Nielsen says CBS drew an average 14.2 million prime-time viewers last week, matching the viewership for ABC, Fox and NBC combined. CBS logged a dozen of the Top 20 shows and Fox scored three. Cable's ESPN claimed the remaining five. The week's most-watched show was the AFC Championship between Indianapolis and New England on CBS, with 42 million viewers. ESPN left its cable competitors in the dust with an average viewership of 5 million.

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