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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Retail sales jump, Twinkies are saved, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
Twinkies really are indestructible.
Twinkies really are indestructible. Daren Fentiman/ZUMA Press/Corbis

1. RETAIL SALES RISE
Retail sales made their biggest jump in five months in February, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The 1.1 percent advance exceeded all forecasts, and suggested that the improving employment picture was helping shoppers shrug off the impact of the 2 percent increase in payroll taxes that kicked in at the beginning of the year. Another reason for the gains was a boost in household wealth, courtesy of rising stock prices and the beginning of a recovery in home prices, which have combined to improve the finances of many families and boosted sales at places like Costco despite higher fuel prices. "These numbers are cause for cautious optimism," says Terry Sheehan, an economic analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research in Princeton, N.J. [Bloomberg]
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2. GOOGLE ACKNOWLEDGES VIOLATING PRIVACY DURING STREET VIEW MAPPING
Google on Tuesday admitted that employees in its Street View mapping project had violated people's privacy by collecting passwords, email, and other personal information from unencrypted wireless networks. The acknowledgement came as part of a settlement with 37 states and the District of Columbia that also required the internet search giant to set up a privacy program within six months that will include an annual privacy week event for employees. The deal also included a $7 million fine. "We work hard to get privacy right at Google," Niki Fenwick, a Google spokeswoman, said, "but in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue." [New York Times]
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3. SAMSUNG STAGES PR BLITZ AHEAD OF GALAXY S IV UNVEILING
Samsung is ramping up publicity ahead of Thursday's unveiling of its hotly anticipated update of its wildly popular Galaxy smartphone. (See what we know about the device here.) The company staged what Mashable called a "cheesy" and "ill-advised flash mob" in New York City's Times Square, with men in bowlers and black and white suits doing a jazzy dance. They had the number "4" emblazoned on their backs, in reference the device's name, the Galaxy SIV. Samsung is billing the smartphone as the "Next Big Thing." If the gadget delivers, says Forbes contributor Haydn Shaughnessy, Samsung could be "taking its last steps in Apple's shadow." [Mashable, Fox News]
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4. REGULATORS ACCEPT PLAN TO CHECK NEW DREAMLINER BATTERIES
The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday approved Boeing's plan for certifying the redesigned battery system for its 787 Dreamliner jets, a key step toward getting regulators to let the new aircraft fly again. Dreamliners were grounded in January after several batteries overheated — one causing a non-fatal fire — on 787s operated by Japanese airlines. "This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. [MarketWatch]
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5. HOSTESS SELLS TWINKIES BRAND
Twinkies will live on. Hostess Brands, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, has reached a deal to sell the iconic snack to two investment firms in a deal worth $410 million. Some of the company's other well-known brands, including Ho Hos, Sno Balls, and Dolly Madison Zingers, are also part of the bargain. The buyers — Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Company, which owns Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vlasic pickles — are getting five recently shuttered Hostess factories, which they hope to reopen in the summer so they can begin restocking store shelves. [New York Times]

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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