The Delaware Economic Development Office is offering interest-free loans of up to $500,000 to small businesses for repairs and losses not covered by insurance. Deadline for applying for the five-year loans is Sept. 1. Call Gary Smith at 672-6817 or Bill Pfaff at 856-1555. Citizens Bank's EZ Home Improvement Loan Program gives qualified low- and moderate-income customers the chance to borrow $1,000 at a 1 percent annual percentage rate repayable over three years; or $10,000 at 6 percent for seven years. The loan is designed for family incomes of less than $59,000 in New Castle County and $40,000 in Kent and Sussex counties. Contact Citizens Bank at (888) 304-5400 or visit a branch office. The PNC Financial Services Group also is offering below-market interest rate loans and assistance grants to individuals and small-business owners affected by the flooding. Applications must be received by Friday for personal loans and Aug. 18 for business loans. Details about the program are available at any PNC Bank branch or by calling (888) 762-2265.

Dover Downs has opened a new section for slot machines, adding 200 machines to an area the Dover racino calls Trackview Slots. The increase raises the number of slot machines at the casino to 2,700. The expansion was authorized earlier this year by the General Assembly, which increased the maximum number of slot machines at the state's three slots parlors to 4,000.

One of Australia's biggest shopping center owners, Centro Properties Group, which owns the shopping center at 1101 N. Du Pont Highway in Dover, agreed to buy Heritage Property Investment Trust for $1.83 billion, adding 157 U.S. malls. Centro will receive malls in 27 U.S. states, but none in Delaware.

Kimco Realty Corp., a real estate investment trust focused on shopping centers, plans to acquire Pan Pacific Retail Properties Inc. for $2.9 billion in cash and stock. San Diego-based Pan Pacific holds a portfolio of 138 retail properties in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Kimco owns interests in 1,100 retail properties in 45 states, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Kraft Foods Inc., the world's second-largest food company behind Nestle SA, will pay about $1.07 billion to acquire the Spanish and Portuguese units of United Biscuits to broaden its global strength in cookie sales. The company also will reclaim the rights to all Nabisco trademarks in the European Union, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Insurers offering prescription drug coverage through Medicare routinely failed to provide accurate and complete responses to questions posed over the telephone by the Government Accountability Office. Many of the 43 million people eligible for Medicare drug coverage rely on insurers' call centers for information about what plan would best meet their needs. Investigators made 900 calls to 10 of the largest drug plan sponsors. They got a complete and accurate answer only a third of the time.

Former Goldman Sachs chief executive Henry M. Paulson was sworn in as the nation's 74th Treasury secretary Monday, and he pledged to make sure the United States does not retreat from the world economy. "We must always remember that the strength of the U.S. economy is linked to the strength of the global economy," Paulson said.

ConAgra Foods Inc., one of the nation's largest packaged-foods companies, is urging its poultry suppliers to consider slaughtering chickens in a way the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calls more humane. A letter sent to suppliers June 29 uses some of the same arguments the animal-rights group uses to lobby for "controlled-atmosphere killing." Last September, ConAgra shareholders rejected a PETA proposal to research whether it would be feasible to require the company's suppliers to switch to "controlled-atmosphere killing" instead of the current method, which involves cutting chickens' throats after the birds have been immobilized with electricity.

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