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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

IRS raises mileage rate due to spike in gas prices

The Internal Revenue Service is trying to take some of the sting out of the spike in gasoline prices this year.

The IRS said Thursday it is raising its standard mileage rate for businesses to 55.5 cents per mile beginning July 1, a 4.5 cents per mile increase from the current 51 cents per mile rate.

The IRS mileage rate is widely used by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage. It also is used to compute the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business use, rather than tracking the actual costs.

The IRS usually updates the rate only once a year, but IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said the agency decided to raise the rate for the second half of this year because of the spike in gasoline prices.

"We are taking this step so the reimbursement rate will be fair to taxpayers," he said in a statement.

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Bond yields decline

NEW YORK (AP) -- Spooked by a spreading European debt crisis, traders again flocked to the safety of U.S. Treasury bonds, sending the yield on a benchmark 10-year note to its lowest point this year.

Bond yields declined Friday on fears that European banks are vulnerable to the debt crisis that is engulfing Greece and other countries. Moody's warned of downgrading the credit worthiness of some Italian banks, which sent their stocks plummeting.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to its lowest level this year, 2.86 percent. That's down from 2.90 late Thursday. Its price rose 46.8 cents for every $100 invested. Bond yields fall when their prices rise.

The price of the 30-year bond rose 15.6 cents, sending its yield down to 4.15 percent from 4.17 Thursday.

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Water wells contaminated

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- Federal environmental officials say that testing has revealed contamination in three private water wells located near an April blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas drilling site.

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Roy Seneca said Friday that EPA took water samples from seven private water wells near the Chesapeake Energy Corp. drilling site near Canton in northeastern Pennsylvania's Bradford County.

EPA briefed residents on the sampling results Thursday. Seneca declined to reveal the nature of the contamination but says EPA has not drawn any conclusion about its cause.

He says EPA will sample the wells again in July.

The Chesapeake well spilled thousands of gallons of salty, chemical-laced water into fields and a stream.

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Auto unions go global

MILAN (AP) -- As the Fiat and Chrysler automakers go global, so do their unions.

Fiat and Chrysler unions worldwide this week agreed to join in a global network aimed at a constant flow of information and defining a common strategy. The unions said they may try to replicate a worldwide framework agreement for minimum union rights that exists at Volkswagen, Psa-Peugeot and Renault.

"The network is a signal to Fiat that the unions are united," Enzo Masini, auto coordinator at the FIOM union, said in a statement. "A global company requires a global union."

Their first common act will be a letter to Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne asking for recognition.

The international network potentially could give workers leverage in national contract negotiations and a voice in how the two automakers will eventually merge.

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Online poker bill proposed

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Joe Barton introduced a bill Friday to legalize online poker, hoping to pull the estimated $6 billion industry out of the shadows at a time when its top operators face serious legal troubles.

The Republican lawmaker from Texas said that the bill would let states choose whether they want to allow residents to play poker on the Internet, and operators would be required to already have gambling licenses in at least one U.S. state.

A law passed in 2006 barred financial institutions from processing illegal gambling payments, but many have complained since then that it didn't explicitly outlaw playing poker, and it didn't define well enough exactly what is illegal.

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