Dec 06 2010

YAB: Yet Another Betrayal

Monday Business Edition

While most commentators are focusing on Obama’s sell-out on Tax Cuts for Billionaires, in the background he’s also sold out on his campaign promise to Rust Belt Independents for no more NAFTAs.

Firedog Lake is practically the only site providing coverage-


Trade Does Not Equal Jobs

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

December 6, 2010, 9:43 am

One thing I’m hearing, now that all hope of useful fiscal policy is gone, is the idea that trade can be a driver of recovery – that stuff like the South Korea trade agreement can serve as a form of macro policy.

Um, no.

Our macro problem is insufficient spending on U.S.-produced goods and services; this spending is defined by

Y = C + I + G + X – M

where C is consumer spending, I investment spending, G government purchases of goods and services, X is exports, and M is imports. Trade agreements raise X – but they also lead to higher M. On average, they’re a wash.

This, by the way, is why claims that the Smoot-Hawley tariff caused the Great Depression are nonsense. Yes, protectionism reduced world exports; it also reduced world imports, by the same amount.

There is a case for freer trade – it may make the world economy more efficient. But it does nothing to increase demand.

Business News below.

From Yahoo News Business

1 Spain will not seek international bailout: minister


1 hr 1 min ago

PARIS (AFP) – Spain will not follow Greece and Ireland in seeking an EU-IMF bailout, Finance Minister Elena Salgado said in a newspaper interview published on Monday, but also urged long-term fiscal union in the eurozone.

Salgado emphatically ruled out Madrid seeking a rescue, just one trading day after it emerged that the European Central Bank had ridden to the rescue of eurozone governments at risk by buying huge amounts of their debt.

“No”, she told Les Echos business newspaper, “because our (economic) fundamentals do not justify it.”

2 India’s workforce boom is a mixed blessing: experts

by Penny MacRae, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 4:09 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – An explosion of working-age people in India could serve as an engine of economic growth — or bring social turmoil, experts say.

Over the next two decades, India’s working-age population will increase by 240 million — four times the entire population of Britain — according to investment house Deutsche Bank.

But without education, this “demographic dividend can easily become a demographic curse,” Rajat Nag, managing director of the Asian Development Bank, warned at a recent conference of international investors in New Delhi.

3 Danger and doubt stalk eurozone crisis talks

by Roddy Thomson, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 3:54 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe’s finance ministers meet in Brussels on Monday with Ireland’s bailout endangered by domestic politics and the response mechanism to the wider eurozone debt crisis surrounded by doubts.

When eurozone ministers gather Monday, followed by their full European Union partners Tuesday, they will seek to move from fire-fighting to securing solid future foundations for the eurozone at the December 16-17 EU summit.

“If the 1990s was the decade of constructing the economic and monetary union, and the 2000s the decade of turning it into reality, we are now at the beginning of the decade of its fundamental reform,” the EU’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a speech to employers Friday.

4 For Strauss-Kahn, hard to quit IMF amid debt crisis

by Hugues Honore, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 4:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Abandoning his perch above the International Monetary Fund to plunge back into French politics is a delicate decision for Dominique Strauss-Kahn as his institution battles a eurozone financial crisis.

Will he leave or won’t he? The question is racing through France and Washington as Strauss-Kahn is three years into his term as IMF managing director, with two more still to go.

Speculation about the former Socialist finance minister picked up volume last week after fellow Socialist Segolene Royal threw her hat into the ring for the 2012 presidential election.

5 ECB intervenes in bond markets, presses politicians to act

by Ouerdya Ait-Abdelmalek, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 4:12 pm ET

FRANKFURT (AFP) – The European Central Bank has decided to calm financial markets by buying huge amounts of public debt and extending generous liquidity conditions, and is pressing European leaders to step up to the plate in turn.

After its governing council met here Thursday, ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet said only that the bank would keep buying government bonds through a controversial programme launched in the midst of the Greek debt crisis in May.

At he was speaking however, the bank was buying huge amounts of Irish and Portuguese bonds, traders said.

6 No room for Greek error to keep loan: finance minister


Sun Dec 5, 9:45 am ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece can afford no delay to a painful shakeup of its debt-burdened economy in order to maintain a loan lifeline from the EU and the International Monetary Fund that keeps the country afloat, the Greek finance minister said on Sunday.

“We cannot afford to lag behind (with reforms), not only in the next quarter but in any quarter,” George Papaconstantinou told To Vima newspaper in an interview.

“Not only because we endanger the country’s financing but mainly because the country and society allow no more time for delay in doing what is necessary to overcome the current deadlock,” he said.

7 German jobs ‘miracle’ as a tale of two cities

by Aurelia End and Mathilde Richter, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 4:06 pm ET

NEUBRANDENBURG, Germany (AFP) – The German jobs motor is turbo-charged these days but stark regional differences point up the potential and pitfalls in Europe’s biggest economy.

The town of Neubrandenburg, a two-hour drive north of Berlin in the former communist east, had an unemployment rate of 13.8 percent in November according to figures published this week, twice as high as the national average.

But Heiko Mirass, head of the local labour agency office, insists: “The time of mass employment (of more than 20 percent) is behind us.”

8 Madrid forces end to air controllers wildcat strike

by Katell Abiven, AFP

Sat Dec 4, 3:21 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Spanish air traffic controllers returned to work under military orders Saturday, ending a wildcat strike after the government declared a state of alert and threatened them with jail.

The strike over working hours hit an estimated 300,000 passengers on a long holiday weekend, prompting the government to place the military in command of the skies and threaten prison for absent controllers.

“The airspace is open,” Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told a news conference after an emergency cabinet meeting.

9 Obama hails ‘win-win’ US-S.Korea trade deal

by Olivia Hampton, AFP

Sat Dec 4, 3:15 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama said Saturday a sweeping US-South Korean free trade agreement that broke through a three-year deadlock was a “win-win” for both countries.

The “landmark” agreement benefits US workers, farmers and ranchers, Obama said, and was also a “win” for South Korea because it will grant the Asian ally “greater access to our markets and make American products more affordable for Korean households and businesses.”

Associated tariff reductions are expected to boost annual exports of US goods by up to 11 billion dollars while contributing “significantly” to his goal of doubling US exports over the next five years, Obama said of the agreement that raised hopes of renewed US leadership in Asia.

10 Republicans block tax cuts for US middle class


Sun Dec 5, 3:30 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama’s Republican foes in the Senate have blocked a move to let Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, rejecting in the process Democrats’ efforts to extend those breaks just for the middle class.

Obama said he was “very disappointed” at the vote.

“It makes no sense to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans,” he added.

11 Australia Outback could soon get web via TV aerial

by Amy Coopes, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 1:00 am ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – The humble old rooftop TV aerial could bring superfast Internet to even the most remote shack in the Australian Outback and help solve the problem of how to connect isolated communities across the globe.

Researchers in Australia from the government science agency CSIRO have developed new technology which could achieve connection speeds to compete with the best: through the tangled piece of metal already attached to most roofs.

“The basic premise is if you get good high quality analogue television you should be able to get reliable high-speed communications,” project leader Ian Oppermann said.

12 Land disputes hit Indian infrastructure schemes

by Phil Hazlewood, AFP

Sun Dec 5, 12:35 am ET

MUMBAI (AFP) – Protests against a proposed Indian nuclear power plant this weekend highlight a growing problem facing developers, experts say, as the country tries to upgrade or build much-needed infrastructure.

Thousands of fishermen, farmers and their families in Jaitapur in western Maharashtra state turned out in force Saturday to denounce the loss of homes and agricultural land, as well as voice fears about radiation and pollution.

The long-running protest has already seen a government compensation package rejected as “derisory” compared with the estimated 22 billion dollars that the plant will cost.

13 Vietnam’s ‘tiger’ economy limping: investors

by Amelie Bottollier-Depois, AFP

Sat Dec 4, 11:40 pm ET

HANOI (AFP) – Celebrated as a new “Asian Tiger” two decades ago, Vietnam has lagged behind its neighbours and needs further reforms in order to catch up, foreign investors say.

Overloaded infrastructure, an under-qualified workforce, excessive bureaucracy and corruption are just some of the problems investors cite.

The hopes and promises of the early 1990s, when the communist nation abandoned a planned economy for the laws of the market, have not been realised.

14 Bernanke: More Fed bond buys "certainly possible"

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters

Mon Dec 6, 2:28 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve could end up buying more than the $600 billion in U.S. government bonds it has committed to purchase if the economy fails to respond or unemployment stays too high, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said.

The Fed will regularly review the policy and could adjust the amount of buying up or down depending on the economy’s path, he added.

In a rare televised interview, Bernanke told the CBS program “60 Minutes” the Fed’s actions are aimed at supporting what is still a fragile economic recovery, dismissing critics who argue the policy will lead to future inflation.

15 Rio Tinto in talks on $3.5 billion bid for Riversdale

By Sonali Paul, Reuters

2 hrs 36 mins ago

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto made a $3.5 billion bid approach for Africa-focused Riversdale Mining, sending the target firm’s shares surging 16 percent and setting up a potential takeover battle.

Rio’s move on Australia’s Riversdale is likely to spark a bidding war, as the company has hard coking-coal projects in Mozambique that could eventually supply 5-10 percent of the global market for the key steel-making material.

Brazil’s Vale is seen by some analysts as the most likely rival bidder, as it already has coal mines nearby in Mozambique. India’s Tata Steel, Riversdale’s top shareholder, was also seen as a potential bidder.

16 Moody’s cuts Hungary close to junk, warns of risks

By Marton Dunai and Gergely Szakacs, Reuters

1 hr 10 mins ago

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Credit rating agency Moody’s cut Hungary’s sovereign rating by two notches, to just above “junk” grade, on Monday and said it may cut further if the government fails to put public finances on a sustainable footing.

Hungary’s government has rejected austerity and aims to close its budget deficit with hefty new taxes on banks and other businesses as well as a diversion of private pension savings into state coffers.

“Today’s downgrade is primarily driven by the Hungarian government’s gradual but significant loss of financial strength,” Moody’s Investors Service analyst Dietmar Hornung said in a statement.

17 Merkel rebuffs IMF call to raise euro zone fund

By Jan Strupczewski, Reuters

43 mins ago

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone finance ministers meeting on Monday face IMF pressure to increase the size of a 750 billion euro ($1,006 billion) safety net for debt-stricken members to halt contagion in the single currency bloc.

But EU paymaster Germany firmly rejected any such move and also dismissed a call by two veteran finance ministers for joint euro bonds guaranteed by the whole euro zone.

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will call on ministers to boost the rescue pool and urge the European Central Bank (ECB) to step up its purchases of bonds to stem the crisis, according to an IMF report obtained by Reuters.

18 Calibrating China’s cool-down

By Emily Kaiser, Reuters

Sun Dec 5, 3:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China needs to slow down its economy enough to cool inflation at home without putting a drag on growth in the rest of the world.

This will require careful calibration. It’s no secret that advanced economies are growing slowly. The International Monetary Fund thinks 2011 output will reach just 2.2 percent in rich countries while China romps ahead at 9.6 percent.

Figures this week are expected to show China’s import growth outpaced that of exports in November, although the total volume of goods flowing out still easily dwarfs those coming in.

19 Spain counts the costs of air controller strike

By Paul Day, Reuters

Sun Dec 5, 11:51 am ET

MADRID (Reuters) – The 24-hour strike by Spanish air traffic controllers has cost the tourist and airline sectors hundreds of millions of euros and the political cost for an already unpopular government could be much higher.

A walk-out by the controllers on Friday paralyzed airports and stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers after the cabinet approved new rules regulating their hours and agreed a partial sell-off of airport authority AENA.

There were no official estimates, but newspapers said the strike may have cost the tourism industry as much as 350 million euros and airlines more than 100 million euros ($134 million).

20 Can a more vocal Bernanke keep Fed on message?

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters

Sun Dec 5, 8:50 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ben Bernanke is ready for his close-up.

As the Federal Reserve tries to counter suspicion of its latest $600 billion stimulus plan, it is making a concerted, if awkward, effort to raise the chairman’s profile and harmonize the often-dissonant message from within the central bank.

One big fear Bernanke must counter stems from the Fed’s bloated balance sheet: with some $2.3 trillion in reserves sloshing around the U.S. banking system, some economists and many Republican politicians say inflation is bound to get out of hand.

21 Negotiators shape possible tax-cut deal

By Thomas Ferraro, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 10:17 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A framework for a possible deal between the White House and congressional leaders to extend expiring tax cuts for millions of Americans is slowly being put together behind closed doors, aides said on Friday.

Negotiators are working on a potential deal that could temporarily renew all these tax breaks, including ones for the wealthiest, and extend jobless benefits for hundreds of thousands of the needy, congressional aides said.

The possible accord could also clear the way for Senate ratification of a stalled U.S.-Russian arms treaty, and perhaps even an increase the U.S. debt limit, they said.

22 IMF to tell euro zone to boost rescue fund

By Jan Strupczewski, Reuters

Sun Dec 5, 2:07 pm ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The euro zone should have a bigger rescue fund for member states in trouble, and the European Central Bank should boost its bond buying to prevent the sovereign debt crisis from derailing economic recovery, an IMF report obtained by Reuters said.

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will present the report on the economy of the 16 countries using the euro at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Monday.

“The recovery could still stay the course, but this scenario could now easily be derailed by the renewed financial market turmoil,” the IMF report said. “The sovereign and financial market storm affecting the periphery (of the euro zone) constitutes a severe downside risk.”

23 Court halts Wal-Mart ex-exec from joining CVS


Fri Dec 3, 6:56 pm ET

NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – CVS Caremark Corp (CVS.N) named a recent Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) executive as the president of its retail pharmacy business, but a judge temporarily blocked him from taking the job due to a noncompete agreement with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart’s lawsuit seeks to bar the appointment of Hank Mullany, who served as president of the discount retailer’s northern U.S. division until November 5. In the lawsuit against CVS and Mullany, filed in Delaware Chancery Court late on Thursday, Wal-Mart said the move would violate the noncompete agreement.

The hiring battle comes as Wal-Mart tries to compete more directly with retailers such as CVS by opening smaller stores of its own.

24 French court: Continental guilty in Concorde crash

By ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press

11 mins ago

PONTOISE, France – Continental Airlines Inc. and one of its mechanics were convicted in a French court of manslaughter Monday because debris from one of its planes caused the crash of an Air France Concorde jet that killed 113 people a decade ago.

The Houston-based airline was ordered to pay Air France euro1.08 million ($1.43 million) for damaging its reputation, in addition to a fine of around euro200,000 ($265,000). The victims of the crash were mostly German tourists.

The presiding judge confirmed investigators’ long-held belief that titanium debris dropped by a Continental DC-10 onto the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport before the supersonic jet took off on July 25, 2000, was to blame. Investigators said the debris gashed the Concorde’s tire, propelling bits of rubber into the fuel tanks and sparking a fire.

25 Eurozone under pressure to aid euro with more cash


36 mins ago

BRUSSELS – European nations were under pressure to commit more money to help stabilize the euro, as finance ministers gathered in Brussels to find ways to fight the debt crisis that has rocked the currency bloc.

The head of the group of 16 countries that use the euro, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Italian Finance Minister Giulio on Monday called for the creation of pan-European bonds to boost much-needed confidence in the euro. But Germany, Europe’s bankroller, quickly ruled out the notion.

Meanwhile, Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders said over the weekend that eurozone countries should increase the current euro750 billion ($1 trillion) bailout fund now, rather than wait until the creation of a permanent stability mechanism planned for 2013.

26 American voices on making the economy move

By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press

Mon Dec 6, 3:08 am ET

WASHINGTON – It seems Washington is all ears these days.

President Barack Obama says he’ll take a great idea to fix the economy anywhere he hears it. The Republican leaders in Congress can’t say enough how determined they are to “listen to the American people.”

OK. Here goes.

27 GOP, Dems nearing deal on taxes, jobless benefits

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

1 hr 16 mins ago

WASHINGTON – An outline of a bipartisan economic package is emerging that would temporarily extend the Bush-era tax rates for all taxpayers, while extending jobless benefits for millions of Americans.

Differences remained over details, including White House demands for middle- and low-income tax credits. But Republicans and Democrats appeared to come together Sunday, raising the possibility of a deal in Congress by the end of the week.

Some Democrats continued to object to extending current tax rates for high earners.

28 Carbon credit programs fail without climate bill

By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press

Mon Dec 6, 3:19 am ET

BISMARCK, N.D. – A national program that paid farmers millions of dollars for reducing greenhouse gasses has fizzled amid uncertainty about U.S. climate legislation, stopped paying dividends and will no longer taken enrollment after this year, the president of the group running it said.

The North Dakota Farmers Union awarded farmers carbon dioxide credits for using techniques that reduced emissions of carbon and other gasses tied to global warming and distributed the proceeds when those credits were sold to businesses, cities and others. About 3,900 farmers and ranchers from 40 states have earned about $7.4 million through the program since it started in 2006.

But carbon credits that fetched up to $7 a metric ton a few years ago are now nearly worthless, said Robert Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union. The group has 6 million tons worth of credits that have gone unsold, and while it will continue to try to sell those, no new credits will be issued after this year, Carlson said.

29 South Korean trade minister defends deal with US

By KELLY OLSEN, AP Business Writer

Sun Dec 5, 11:45 pm ET

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s top trade official defended a hard-fought compromise with the United States to salvage a stalled free trade agreement, rejecting accusations that his government gave up too much to seal the deal.

Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk reached a final agreement Friday after four days of negotiations focusing on U.S. demands that South Korea rework the accord to address its big trade surplus in automobiles.

The South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was originally signed in June 2007, but steps to ratify it stalled amid changes in government in both countries, the global financial crisis and American demands that South Korea take steps to reduce their imbalance in auto trade and ease restrictions on imports of American beef.

30 Pfizer CEO Kindler, 55, unexpectedly replaced

By LINDA A. JOHNSON, AP Business Writer

Mon Dec 6, 1:08 am ET

Pfizer Inc. abruptly replaced its CEO and chairman Sunday, saying Jeffrey B. Kindler was retiring after 4 1/2 years leading the world’s biggest drugmaker to “recharge.”

Analysts saw the unexpected departure as an ouster, however, coming amid repeated failures from Pfizer’s labs to produce new, much-needed blockbuster drugs, multiple patent expirations that threaten its income and a questionable strategy of relying on acquisitions and cost cutting to overcome those mammoth problems.

The move, announced unexpectedly late Sunday night, may be an attempt to palliate investors unhappy with Pfizer’s languishing stock price, which is well below that of its peers and down about 30 percent since Kindler took the helm.

31 Bernanke defends bond buys, citing at-risk economy

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

34 mins ago

WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is stepping up his defense of the Fed’s $600 billion Treasury bond-purchase plan, saying the economy is still struggling to become “self-sustaining” without government help.

In a taped interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, Bernanke also argued that Congress shouldn’t cut spending or boost taxes given how fragile the economy remains.

The Fed chairman said he thinks another recession is unlikely. But he warned that the economy could suffer a slowdown if persistently high unemployment dampens consumer spending.

32 WikiLeaks uses Swiss Web address as options narrow

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press

Mon Dec 6, 3:58 am ET

GENEVA – WikiLeaks’ elusive founder, his options dwindling, has turned to Switzerland’s credit, postal and Internet infrastructure to keep his online trove of U.S. State Department cables afloat.

Supporters say Julian Assange, an Australian living in Britain, is considering seeking asylum in Switzerland. He told a Spanish newspaper that he faced “hundreds of death threats,” including some targeting his lawyers and children, aside from the pressure he is getting from prosecutors in the U.S. and other countries.

After a number of web companies dropped WikiLeaks, much of the site’s traffic was coming through the wikileaks.ch Web address Sunday. The address is controlled by the Swiss Pirate Party, a group that formed two years ago to campaign for freedom of information. The site’s main server in France went offline but it remained reachable through a Swedish server.

33 US cable: China leaders ordered hacking on Google

By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press

Sun Dec 5, 4:37 pm ET

BEIJING – Contacts told American diplomats that hacking attacks against Google were ordered by China’s top ruling body and a senior leader demanded action after finding search results that were critical of him, leaked U.S. government memos show.

One memo sent by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to Washington said a “well-placed contact” told diplomats the Chinese government coordinated the attacks late last year on Google Inc. under the direction of the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Communist Party power.

The details of the memos, known in diplomatic parlance as cables, could not be verified. Chinese government departments either refused to comment or could not be reached. If true, the cables show the political pressures that were facing Google when it decided to close its China-based search engine in March.

34 Visited porn? Web browser flaw secretly bares all

By JORDAN ROBERTSON, AP Technology Writer

Sun Dec 5, 3:16 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Dozens of websites have been secretly harvesting lists of places that their users previously visited online, everything from news articles to bank sites to pornography, a team of computer scientists found.

The information is valuable for con artists to learn more about their targets and send them personalized attacks. It also allows e-commerce companies to adjust ads or prices – for instance, if the site knows you’ve just come from a competitor that is offering a lower price.

Although passwords aren’t at risk, in harvesting a detailed list of where you’ve been online, sites can create thorough profiles on its users.

35 US works to secure networks as hackers advance

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

Sun Dec 5, 8:25 am ET

WASHINGTON – It will take several more years for the government to fully install high-tech systems to block computer intrusions, a drawn-out timeline that enables criminals to become more adept at stealing sensitive data, experts say.

As the Department of Homeland Security moves methodically to pare down and secure the approximately 2,400 network connections used every day by millions of federal workers around the world, experts suggest that technology already may be passing them by.

The department that’s responsible for securing government systems other than military sites is slowly moving all the government’s Internet and e-mail traffic into secure networks that eventually will be guarded by intrusion detection and prevention programs. The networks are known as Einstein 2 and Einstein 3.

36 China’s skyscraper boom buoys global industry

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

Sun Dec 5, 6:02 am ET

BEIJING – The 121-story Shanghai Tower is more than China’s next record-setting building: It’s an economic lifeline for the elite club of skyscraper builders.

Financial gloom has derailed plans for new towers in Chicago, Moscow, Dubai and other cities. But in China, work on the 2,074-foot (632-meter) Shanghai Tower, due to be completed in 2014, and dozens of other tall buildings is rushing ahead, powered by a buoyant economy and providing a steady stream of work to architects and engineers.

The U.S. high-rise market is “pretty much dead,” said Dan Winey, a managing director for Gensler, the Shanghai Tower’s San Francisco-based architects. “For us, China in the next 10 to 15 years is going to be a huge market.”

37 Court to hear arguments over Ariz. immigration law


Sun Dec 5, 1:39 am ET

PHOENIX – The impassioned debate over the nation’s immigration policy takes center stage at the Supreme Court Wednesday in a dispute over an Arizona law that punishes employers who knowingly hire workers illegally in the U.S.

Prosecutors have used Arizona’s employer sanctions law just three times in three years, but business interests and civil rights groups, backed by the Obama administration, have banded together to argue that only the federal government may enforce immigration laws.

The outcome in this case also could signal how the court would handle the controversial and more expansive Arizona immigration enforcement law, known as SB1070, that the administration challenged and a federal judge blocked key components this summer.

38 Massey CEO Blankenship expected to testify Dec. 14

By BRIAN FARKAS, Associated Press

Sat Dec 4, 4:24 pm ET

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Massey Energy chief executive Don Blankenship is expected to honor an agreement to testify this month about the nation’s worst coal mine disaster in decades despite his sudden retirement plans, investigators said Saturday.

The Virginia-based coal company announced late Friday that Blankenship, who has been chairman and chief executive since 2000, will retire effective Dec. 31. The modern-day coal baron who made millions for investors while turning countless neighbors into enemies over mining’s effects on the environment has been with Massey since 1982 in a variety of roles.

Investigators want to question Blankenship about the April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine, which killed 29 and injured two. Unlike other Massey employees, who have refused to speak with investigators, Blankenship reached an agreement with state investigators to testify on Dec. 14. The interview will be closed to the public.

39 Obama hails SKorea trade as victory for US workers

By JULIE PACE and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press

Sat Dec 4, 8:41 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday praised a newly sealed trade deal with South Korea as a landmark agreement that promises to boost the domestic auto industry and support tens of thousands of American jobs.

“This agreement shows the U.S. is willing to lead and compete in the global economy,” the president told reporters at the White House, calling it a triumph for American workers in fields from farming to aerospace.

The pact, which requires congressional approval, would be the largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994. Obama said the South Korean deal would support at least 70,000 American jobs – welcome news with the latest unemployment figures showing nearly stagnant job growth. The president said that jobs report showed more needed to be done.

40 Cities seek to cut strings tying up gas money


Sat Dec 4, 9:17 pm ET

BEAUMONT, Texas – Advances in drilling have helped American towns and cities strike natural gas, and just in time, it would appear. With many facing cash crunches, the millions of dollars they’re reaping in royalties could go toward saving public services, jobs and badly needed road projects.

Not so fast. Because of restrictions built into deeds and federal grants, municipalities can’t use most of their newfound wealth to plug budget shortfalls.

And so, while elected officials struggle to make ends meet, the money sits there, close enough to smell but just out of reach.

41 New BP challenge to spill size could affect fine

By DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 10:57 pm ET

WASHINGTON – BP is mounting a new challenge to the U.S. government’s estimates of how much oil flowed from the runaway well deep below the Gulf of Mexico, an argument that could reduce by billions of dollars the federal pollution fines it faces for the largest offshore oil spill in history.

BP’s lawyers are arguing that the government overstated the spill by 20 to 50 percent, staffers working for the presidential oil spill commission said Friday. In a 10-page document obtained by The Associated Press, BP says the government’s spill estimate of 206 million gallons is “overstated by a significant amount” and the company said any consensus around that number is premature and inaccurate.

The company submitted the document to the commission, the Justice Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

42 Vt. city stumbles in effort to do telecom itself

By DAVE GRAM, Associated Press

Sun Dec 5, 3:17 pm ET

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Tired of waiting for state-of-the-art communications technology, voters of Vermont’s biggest city decided in 2000 to form their own company to provide telephone, Internet and cable TV service.

Nearly 11 years later, city-owned Burlington Telecom offers Cadillac service – fiber-optic broadband – to nearly every home and business in the city. But it has signed up far fewer customers than hoped, it’s $50 million in debt, its main creditor is threatening to repossess equipment and it is under state and federal criminal investigations.

The saga may be a cautionary tale for cities around the country that are fed up with waiting for their onramp to the information superhighway and contemplating getting into the telecom business themselves.

43 Cuomo gets rare fight from Wall Street car czar

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press

Sun Dec 5, 12:35 pm ET

NEW YORK – In his four years as New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo had his way with Wall Street, muscling banks and bankers into paying fines, making reforms and eating crow for their errors during the financial crisis.

Few bothered to fight back. Most figured it was smarter to take their lumps than risk a public showdown, even in instances where Cuomo appeared to lack clear authority to investigate or regulate.

But finally, Cuomo has a battle on his hands – just as he is leaving office.

44 More spending, less spending – Obama’s dilemma

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

Sat Dec 4, 3:29 am ET

WASHINGTON – In less than three hours, the extraordinary forces tugging at Barack Obama’s presidency – and the Republicans who will soon take more control of Congress – came into sharp relief: a sky-high jobless rate, an out-of-control deficit and pressure to keep taxes down.

Together, they illustrate the difficulty of balancing immediate, costly fixes for the economy with the long-term austerity needed to control the nation’s debt. What’s more, Obama must show that his handling of those challenges has been deft enough to earn him four more years in the White House.

To be sure, the competing demands create a conundrum for all of Washington – Democrats and Republicans alike. But it is the president who has claimed the mantle of honest broker and the price would ultimately be paid by him.

45 Reid pushes bill to allow for online gambling

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

Sat Dec 4, 1:15 am ET

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing behind the scenes for lame-duck legislation that would allow poker games over the Internet but restrict initial licenses to casinos and racetrack operators that have been in businesses at least five years.

Some of the biggest casino operators in Reid’s home state of Nevada are eager to get a piece of the online gambling industry, which generates an estimated $5 billion a year for offshore operators.

A congressional aide familiar with the issue said Reid aides were circulating the draft legislation, and a copy of it was obtained by The Associated Press. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so only on condition of anonymity.

46 Deficit-cutting plan fails to advance to Capitol

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 9:26 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s deficit commission failed Friday to forge consensus on what to do about an increasingly urgent debt problem, but the breakdown of its vote lays out the road map for how Congress might address it next year.

The 11-7 vote in favor of the panel co-chairmen’s recommendations for a painful mix of spending cuts and tax increases foretells a bitterly partisan and possibly unproductive debate in the House. If there’s a deal to be had, it will likely be reached in the Senate. Fourteen votes were needed to officially send the plan to Congress now for quick action on it.

About $4 trillion would be slashed from the budget over the coming decade – three-fourths of it through spending cuts and the other fourth from higher taxes. Deficits over the period are estimated in the $10 trillion range and are expected to require the federal government to borrow up to 33 cents of every dollar it spends.

47 Spain OKs new austerity measures to calm markets

By ALAN CLENDENNING, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 7:02 pm ET

MADRID – The Spanish government approved new austerity measures and a limited economic stimulus package to ease investor fears about its debt – and insisted again it was taking strong steps to right its ailing economy.

Markets responded positively to Friday’s actions after weeks of turmoil, but the country was thrown into chaos again after air traffic controllers unexpectedly staged a massive sickout just hours after top government officials endorsed a move to partially privatize key airports.

At least 200,000 travelers were stranded on the eve of a long holiday weekend. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ordered the military to take over air traffic control, but there was no immediate information when flights would resume.

48 Oregon timber counties face financial collapse

Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 6:43 pm ET

PORTLAND, Ore. – The loss of federal timber payments is pushing some Oregon counties already suffering from the recession toward possible financial collapse.

To make things worse, the Legislature is trying to pare down a projected $3.5 billion state budget deficit that likely will result in cuts to services that counties provide under shared funding or contracts with state and federal agencies.

Federal timber payments are set to expire in 2012, carving big holes in the budgets of 18 Oregon counties, The Oregonian reported.

49 WaMu treasurer defends reorganization plan

By RANDALL CHASE, AP Business Writer

Fri Dec 3, 5:11 pm ET

WILMINGTON, Del. – Washington Mutual Inc.’s treasurer on Friday defended a legal settlement underlying the bank holding company’s reorganization plan.

The plan is based upon the proposed settlement of lawsuits that WaMu, JPMorgan Chase and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. filed against one another after the collapse of Seattle-based Washington Mutual Bank in 2008, the largest bank failure in U.S. history. The FDIC seized the bank and sold its assets to JPMorgan for $1.9 billion.

Challenging the reorganization plan are shareholders who contend that JPMorgan would receive billions of dollars in disputed assets while contributing virtually nothing out of pocket to the bankruptcy estate. JPMorgan is also being released from potential legal liabilities worth perhaps billions of dollars, the shareholders argue.

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