1/24/97 -- 6:37 PM

Business Highlights,0842


NEW YORK (AP) - America Online is facing its biggest challenge yet to a new pricing plan that encourages customers to go online but instead leaves many listening to annoying busy signals.

One day after a group of state officials met to confront America Online over delays in signing on, New York state's attorney general said Friday he will sue the company unless it promises refunds and stops promoting a plan it can't reliably deliver.

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DALLAS (AP) - Talks on a contract under negotiation for more than two years may come down to five days of mediation to avert a strike by American Airlines' pilots.

American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. and the Allied Pilots Association on Friday scheduled a ``super mediation'' session in Washington starting Feb. 10, the final week of a cooling-off period that expires at 12:01 a.m. EST on Feb. 15.

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Johnson & Johnson and Boehringer Mannheim Corp. - rivals in the business of blood-sugar monitors - said they have settled their corporate spying lawsuits against each other.

The two companies released a joint statement Friday saying the terms of the out-of-court settlement were secret.

Boehringer had alleged that J&J;'s Lifescan division spied on Boehringer for 18 months and stole a prototype and confidential documents. Lifescan accused Boehringer of using detectives to obtain secrets.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Publix Super Markets agreed to pay $81.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit from 150,000 women who accused the grocery chain of relegating them to dead-end, low-paying jobs.

Publix, the nation's ninth-largest grocer and Florida's biggest private employer, also agreed Friday to allow the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to monitor hiring and promotions for up to seven years.

``This settlement really goes to breaking the glass ceiling in the promotion of women,'' said Frederico Costales, the EEOC's Florida director.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton will ask Congress for $43 million to beef up the nation's early warning system for food contamination and take other steps to fight millions of food poisonings that Americans suffer every year.

Clinton's proposal, which he will detail Saturday in his weekly radio address, comes in the wake of deadly outbreaks from hamburgers, apple juice and other foods. His request, part of the federal budget he will send Congress next month, attempts to reverse years of tighten budgets for food programs.

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NEW YORK (AP) - Frito-Lay Inc. dropped plans to run a Super Bowl commercial featuring a bungee jump after a woman practicing a similar leap for the game's halftime show died after striking her head on the Superdome floor.

The situation demonstrated the often unforeseen risks advertisers take when trying to capture the exuberance of the people they are trying to reach through their commercials.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Meredith Corp. said it will buy four television stations in a $435 million deal.

The Des Moines-based media company said Friday it has agreed to buy all four television stations - one CBS affiliate and three Fox affiliates - of First Media Television L.P., a private company controlled by the Marriott family.

Meredith, best known for its publishing operations which include Ladies' Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens magazines, already owns seven television stations.

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NEW YORK (AP) - NBC is shutting down its Spanish-language cable news network, Canal de Noticias, amid growing competition and plans to expand the reach of MSNBC and CNBC in Latin America.

Canal de Noticias has not been profitable since its launch in March 1993. The network reaches about 5 million households, mostly through cable but also over the air and through direct satellite systems. About 1.2 million of those homes are within the United States.

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said the closure will take place in the second quarter of this year.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - AM General Corp., maker of the all-terrain Hummer, is eliminating more jobs and likely will close one of its plants in an effort to streamline operations in the age of declining military budgets.

On Friday, the company said it is eliminating 100 management jobs, or more than 17 percent of its salaried work force. The cuts came just two days after AM General said it will likely close its Indianapolis stamping plant within six months, costing some 200 jobs.

--- ^By The Associated Press

Stocks extended their selloff Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 59.27 to 6,696.48. For the week, the Dow lost 136.62 points, or 2 percent.

The dollar mostly fell, gold rose and bond prices fell.

Soybean futures, silver futures and corn futures prices advanced strongly, while coffee futures retreated from 16-month highs.

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.