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Wal-Mart sex discrimination case hits possible court block by Supreme Court

BY CSA STAFF

Washington, D.C. — A report released Tuesday by the Associated Press said that the U.S. Supreme Court may block a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of at least 500,000 women, and that could make it harder for other workers nationwide to bring class-action claims against large employers.

The 10-year-old lawsuit, argued at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claims that Wal-Mart Stores favors men over women in pay and promotions. Billions of dollars are at stake if it is allowed to go forward as a class action suit.

In Tuesday’s arguments, Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia suggested they were troubled by the case and lower court decisions against Wal-Mart, saying that the women’s arguments are conflicting.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that at this stage of the lawsuit, the issue is not proving discrimination but showing enough evidence to go forward. Fellow female justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, along with Justice Stephen Breyer, also appeared inclined to allow the lawsuit to proceed.

The split among the justices raised the prospect of an ideologically divided ruling by the court this summer.

Business interests have lined up with Wal-Mart while civil rights, women’s and consumer groups have sided with the women plaintiffs.

Both sides have painted the case as extremely consequential. The business community has said that a ruling for the women would lead to a flood of class-action lawsuits based on vague evidence. Supporters of the women say that if the court sides with Wal-Mart, it could remove a valuable weapon for combating all sorts of discrimination.

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Amazon takes a bite out of Apple

BY CSA STAFF

SEATTLE — Apple iTunes may have met its match in the form of a new music service from Amazon.com that offers the flexibility in file purchasing and access previously unseen by similar programs.

The company Tuesday announced the launch of Amazon Cloud Drive (www.amazon.com/clouddrive), Amazon Cloud Player for Web (www.amazon.com/cloudplayer) and Amazon Cloud Player for Android (www.amazon.com/cloudplayerandroid). Using these services together, customers can securely store music in the cloud and play it on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC, wherever they are. Customers can upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free.

"We’re excited to take this leap forward in the digital experience,” said Bill Carr, VP movies and music at Amazon. “The launch of Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android eliminates the need for constant software updates as well as the use of thumb drives and cables to move and manage music.”

“Our customers have told us they don’t want to download music to their work computers or phones because they find it hard to move music around to different devices,” Carr said. “Now, whether at work, home, or on the go, customers can buy music from Amazon MP3, store it in the cloud and play it anywhere.”

To promote the service, Amazon is offering customers 5 GB of free Cloud Drive storage to upload their digital music library, and those who purchase an Amazon MP3 album will be upgraded to 20 GB of Cloud Drive space. New Amazon MP3 purchases saved directly to Cloud Drive are stored for free and do not count against a customer’s storage quota.

According to Amazon, customers can save their music files to their Cloud Drive in both AAC or MP3 formats, and they will be uploaded to Cloud Drive in the original bit rate. Customers can hand-pick particular songs, artists, albums or playlists to upload or simply upload their entire music library.

The ability to secure files, and access them from any compatible device, is one of the Cloud Drive’s main selling points Amazon is pushing. According to the company, files are securely stored on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and each file is uploaded to Cloud Drive in its original bit rate, enabling customers to purchase and access their files from multiple devices.

Cloud Player for Web, the company reported, let’s customers listen to their music on a variety of browsers, without the need for regularly updating software (unlike Apple iTunes). According to Amazon, Amazon MP3 customers can continue to use iTunes and Windows Media Player to add their music to their iPods and MP3 players.

Cloud Player for Android is now bundled into the new version of the Amazon MP3 App; it includes the full Amazon MP3 Store and the mobile version of Cloud Player. Customers can use the app to play music stored on their Cloud Drive and music stored locally on their device. Features include the ability to search and browse by artist, album or song, create playlists and download music from Cloud Drive.

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Retail Ventures reports Q4 profit, comps growth

BY CSA STAFF

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Retail Ventures reported that income from continuing operations for the quarter ended Jan. 29 was $5.7 million on net sales of $468.5 million, compared with the loss from continuing operations of $5.3 million on net sales of $402.6 million for the same period last year. DSW same-store sales increased 14.9% during the fourth quarter versus an increase of 12.9% last year.

Diluted loss per share from continuing operations attributable to Retail Ventures common shareholders was 3 cents for the fourth quarter compared with diluted loss per share from continuing operations attributable to Retail Ventures of 21 cents per share last year.

The income from continuing operations for the year ended Jan. 29 was $51.8 million on net sales of $1.82 billion, compared with loss from continuing operations of $65.6 million on net sales of $1.6 billion for the prior year. DSW same-store sales increased 13.2% for the year versus an increase of 3.2% last year.

Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations attributable to Retail Ventures common shareholders was 23 cents per share for the year compared with diluted loss per share from continuing operations attributable to Retail Ventures of $1.76 per share last year.

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