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Sears was a commercial and social hub across the U.S. (Photo: Ron Frehm / AP)

After a 101-year marriage, Sears and Whirlpool are severing ties: America's quintessential big-box department store will no longer sell America's best-selling washing machine or other Whirlpool appliances.

Why it matters: In another sign of traditional retail's existential struggle, the divorce reflects Sears' seemingly inexorable loss of touch both with its shoppers and Wall Street. At a time Amazon is raking in one conquest after another, Sears may be jeopardizing one of its very few remaining strongholds — its hold on the major appliance market.

The larger trend is that major retailers have closed some 5,000 stores this year, all victims of Amazonization — the shift to on-line shopping.

Here is how it's been reflected in Sears' case:

  • In January, Sears sold its iconic Craftsman tools brand to Stanley Black & Decker.
  • In July, the chain made a stab at surviving by linking up with Amazon — agreeing for the first time to sell its Kenmore appliances through the on-line retailer.
  • But none of this has halted Sears's slide. On Oct. 10, Sears Canada said it will close all its 150 stores in the country, and fire 12,000 workers. That is on top of some 330 U.S. stores that either have already closed or will be this year.
  • Sears' share price, at $64.39 in November 2013, was down 3.8% at $6.31 this afternoon— a tenth of its price four years ago.

The bottom line: The move is baffling. Sears told employees that the decision is a result of Whirlpool charging too much for its appliances. And Sears will not be cutting ties entirely with Whirlpool as a company, since Whirlpool will continue to manufacture the Kenmore appliances that Sears sells. Nonetheless, Sears risks cutting the legs out from under a rare strength: Though its market share has fallen, the chain continues to account for 1 out of 5 major new appliances sold in the U.S., the WSJ's Suzanne Kapner and Andrew Tangel report.

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Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.