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Feb 14 2011

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 China overtakes Japan as world’s No. 2 economy

by David Watkins, AFP

2 hrs 40 mins ago

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan lost its 42-year ranking as the world’s second-biggest economy to China in 2010, with data on Monday showing a contraction in the last quarter due to weak consumer spending and a strong yen.

While Japan was expected to fall behind a surging China in the year, the data underlined the weak state of a Japanese economy burdened by deflation, soft domestic demand and pressured by the industrialised world’s biggest debt.

“It is difficult for the deflation-plagued Japanese economy to achieve self-sustained growth,” said Naoki Murakami, chief economist at Monex Securities.

2 China’s trade surplus drops 53.5% in January

by Fran Wang, AFP

Mon Feb 14, 2:26 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – China said Monday its politically sensitive trade surplus shrank in January but analysts warned the data may have been skewed by a surge in imports leading up to the Lunar New Year holiday.

The data came hours after Tokyo confirmed China had surpassed Japan as the world’s second biggest economy and as economists look to the release on Tuesday of January inflation at a time when China is trying to rein in prices.

The trade surplus fell 53.5 percent to $6.45 billion in January as both exports and imports grew strongly ahead of the holiday, the General Administration of Customs said.

3 EU, IMF seek to repair Greek rift after asset furore

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Mon Feb 14, 12:22 am ET

ATHENS (AFP) – The European Commission and International Monetary Fund hastened to placate debt-hit Greece after the government bristled at a suggestion that it embark on a huge assets sale.

The Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank, issued a statement expressing “the deepest respect” for the “tremendous” fiscal overhaul the government had undertaken.

The three, known as the ‘troika’ in Greece, are supervising Greece’s tough austerity programme and were reacting to a row that blew up on Friday.

4 Greece slams ‘unacceptable’ EU-IMF asset sale call

AFP

Sat Feb 12, 4:32 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Saturday accused EU and IMF officials of “unacceptable behaviour” over demands for a 50-billion-euro asset sale to ease Greece’s crushing debts.

Papandreou’s office said he had personally complained to International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn over the “unacceptable behaviour” of European Union, IMF and European Central Bank experts monitoring Greece’s economic reforms.

Papandreou also called EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, the prime minister’s office said, and is also reportedly planning similar protests to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet.

5 Greece blasts EU-IMF asset sale demand

AFP

Sat Feb 12, 6:48 am ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece on Saturday blasted calls by EU and IMF officials for a massive privatisation drive worth 50 billion euros by 2015 to alleviate the country’s crushing debts.

“The behaviour of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank representatives … was unacceptable,” government spokesman George Petalotis said in an early morning statement.

“We asked them to help and are fully meeting our obligations. But we did not ask anybody to meddle in the internal matters of the country,” he said.

6 Obama eyes tax hikes, spending cuts to curb deficit

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama will unveil his 2012 budget later on Monday, proposing a raft of spending cuts and tax hikes aimed at curbing a record budget deficit.

Facing a projected $1.65 trillion budget shortfall this year — an all-time high — Obama plans to trim $90 billion from government spending in 2012, while dramatically boosting tax revenues, senior administration officials said.

Addressing widespread public fear that the government is living beyond its means, the administration will vow to cut the deficit by more than one trillion dollars over the next ten years.

7 Obama says budget will feature cuts, investment

AFP

Sat Feb 12, 11:58 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said Saturday he was determined to carry out budget cuts to improve America’s balance sheet but insisted on making key investments in the country’s future.

The president unveils his spending blueprint on Monday, with White House officials saying it will freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years and help the United States reduce the budget deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade.

“We have stripped down the budget by getting rid of waste,” Obama said in his weekly radio address.

8 Obama struggles to balance budget cuts, investment

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 12:40 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama unveils his fiscal 2012 budget Monday, an election year plan forged from conflicting needs to cut spending and stoke the economic recovery.

With vast crisis payments and sharply lower tax revenues making it difficult for the government to balance its books, Obama will set out an austerity plan that will help set the tone for next year’s presidential race.

It is expected to address widespread public anger that the government is living beyond its means, detailing tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars of spending cuts, while making investments that will help “win the future.”

9 Steel deal sets example for Japan Inc say analysts

by David Watkins, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 6:12 pm ET

TOKYO (AFP) – The proposed merger of two Japanese steel giants is a sign of an industry looking to reassert itself and an example to Japan Inc. that restructuring is crucial to take on competition, say analysts.

Japan’s biggest steelmaker Nippon Steel and third-ranked rival Sumitomo Metal Industries are working towards a merger that would create the world’s second-largest steel firm by 2012, behind Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal.

The agreement is the first steel industry merger in a decade in the country, and analysts say the move sets an example to the rest of Japan Inc. as it grapples with a weak home economy, a strong yen and rising overseas rivals.

10 Singapore’s casino gamble pays off one year on

by Philip Lim, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 6:10 pm ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Just one year after opening its first casino, Singapore has emerged as Asia’s hottest new gambling capital with a revamped cityscape and billions of dollars pouring into the economy.

“Singapore has made a dramatic entry to the casino gaming market,” financial consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report estimating the city-state’s casino gaming market at $2.8 billion in 2010.

The first casino opened in Malaysian-controlled Resorts World Sentosa on February 14, 2010, with US-based Las Vegas Sands following two months later as the world economy was still clawing itself out of recession.

11 Rate rises and graft scandals threaten India growth

by Penny MacRae, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 5:50 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India is set for scorching growth this year but concern is mounting about its longer-term outlook, with the central bank seen hiking interest rates further and corruption scandals worrying investors.

The stock market has already dropped some 17 percent this year, hit by fears that economic growth will cool due to higher interest rates and souring foreign investor sentiment amid a spate of high-profile corruption scandals.

In January, foreign institutional investors turned net sellers for the first time in eight months, dumping some $1.4 billion in Indian stocks, according to industry data.

12 Platinum boom brings riches to S.Africa’s Bafokeng

by Alexandra Lesieur, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 5:27 pm ET

PHOKENG, South Africa (AFP) – South Africa’s Bafokeng people live on the biggest platinum deposits in the world, a resource that has transformed the once-traditional tribe into a mini-state with its own investment company.

The Royal Bafokeng Nation — a kingdom of some 300,000 people about 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg — has its own professionally designed web site, a majority stake in a listed platinum firm and a two-percent share in telecoms giant Vodacom.

The kingdom’s capital, Phokeng, is also home to the newly renovated Royal Bafokeng Stadium, which hosted six matches in the 2010 World Cup.

13 Readers, bloggers sound off on Huff Post sale

by Chris Lefkow, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 8:25 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – When The Huffington Post was sold to AOL last Monday for $315 million, its founder, Arianna Huffington, was feted as a new media pioneer. Not everyone is celebrating, however.

Huffington has been facing a backlash over the sale — from readers worried about what it will mean for the future of the site and from unpaid bloggers who helped make The Huffington Post such a valuable property.

Arianna Huffington’s blog post on Monday announcing the sale to AOL has attracted more than 7,500 comments as of Friday, many of them bemoaning the purchase of the left-leaning news and opinion site by AOL.

14 Rio CEO targets iron ore as demand booms

by Amy Coopes, AFP

Sun Feb 13, 2:00 am ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – Rio Tinto chief Tom Albanese said Australian iron ore was the firm’s top growth priority, with demand set to outstrip supply of the precious steelmaking metal until at least 2013.

The Anglo-Australian mining giant this week revealed it had almost tripled net profit to $14.32 billion dollars as commodity prices skyrocketed on strong demand, saying it would hand $5 billion back to shareholders.

The market had been “pleasantly surprised” by the share buyback but Albanese said Rio’s prospects were strong, with global growth running at between 4-5 percent — “higher than we would’ve expected” — and a “good long-term picture.”

15 Japan economy shrinks but exports may fuel recovery

By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Leika Kihara, Reuters

2 hrs 48 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s economy shrank slightly in the final quarter of 2010 but analysts expect a recovery this year as stronger exports to China and other parts of fast-growing Asia offset persistently weak domestic demand.

The data confirmed Japan lost its place to China last year as the world’s second-largest economy and highlighted Tokyo’s increasing reliance on its giant neighbor, which buys nearly a fifth of Japan’s exports.

Gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 0.3 percent in the October-December period from the previous quarter, slightly less than a 0.5 percent fall expected by markets but still the first contraction in five quarters.

16 Sen. Schumer creates waves over DB-NYSE merger plan

By Joseph A. Giannone, Reuters

Mon Feb 14, 12:34 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A top lawmaker on Sunday created waves over two key aspects of the proposed merger between Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext — which management team will run the merged entity and what will be its name.

The intervention by Senator Charles Schumer, a senior Democrat and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, is the latest indication that getting approvals for a deal on both sides of the Atlantic will not be easy.

Schumer told reporters he met with NYSE Euronext Chief Executive Duncan Niederauer — who would lead the combined entity — on Friday and again on Saturday.

17 China trade surplus shrinks, supports government’s G20 case

By Zhou Xin and Kevin Yao, Reuters

Mon Feb 14, 4:11 am ET

BEIJING, Feb 14 (Reuters) – China’s trade surplus fell to its lowest in nine months in January after imports surged, supporting the government’s case ahead of a G20 meeting that it is doing enough to spur domestic demand without speeding up currency appreciation.

The trade surplus shrank to $6.5 billion from $13.1 billion in December, well short of forecasts for a $10.7 billion gap.

Global stocks and commodity prices climbed higher, with the surprisingly strong imports highlighting China’s massive appetite for raw materials and its solid export growth hinting at solidifying recoveries in the U.S. and European economies.

18 France seeks G20 deal on imbalances, unsure of success

By Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas, Reuters

1 hr 37 mins ago

PARIS (Reuters) – France played down hopes on Monday of clinching a deal at a meeting of G20 finance ministers this week on which indicators should be used to measure global economic imbalances, but said that remained its goal.

A G20 summit in Seoul last year mandated France’s presidency to reach agreement in the first half of 2011 on a list of “indicative guidelines” for quantifying imbalances to prevent a repeat of the global economic crisis. Agreeing on a list will be the focus of this week’s meeting in Paris.

Disagreement has persisted between rich and developing nations over which indicators to select, with G20 officials saying China in particular is resisting pressure from developed nations to include factors like real effective exchange rates and the level of foreign assets. “We hope … to reach agreements (this week) on economic performance indicators which will allow us to measure the way toward the optimal point,” French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde told a news conference on Monday.

19 G20 sees two steps to tackling global imbalances: EU

By Jan Strupczewski, Reuters

Sun Feb 13, 3:11 pm ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Finance ministers from the world’s 20 biggest developed and developing economies (G20) are likely to agree next week on a two-stage approach to tackling global economic imbalances, a European Union document showed.

Such imbalances, reflected in the current account balance, private and public savings, debt and capital flows, can trigger or augment crises, destabilizing the world economy. G20 leaders agreed in November to find a way to tackle them.

The first step would be to identify the imbalances using an agreed set of economic indicators and benchmark values.

20 Nokia’s Microsoft tie-up gets renewed hammering

By Jussi Rosendahl, Reuters

30 mins ago

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nokia’s already battered shares fell further on Monday as analysts slammed its all-or-nothing deal with Microsoft for failing to answer key questions about smartphone development and heralding a turbulent transition.

New CEO Stephen Elop announced a partnership with Microsoft on Friday, but the mainstay of his much anticipated strategy revamp was not enough to restore confidence in Nokia.

Under the partnership, which Elop said was worth billions, Nokia will adopt Windows Phone software across its devices, replacing its home-grown Symbian platform and turning the world’s largest cellphone maker into a pure hardware player.

21 GE to buy John Wood unit for $2.8 billion

By Megan Davies, Reuters

Mon Feb 14, 4:40 am ET

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – General Electric Co (GE.N) is to buy a unit of British energy services firm John Wood Group (WG.L) for about $2.8 billion, the latest move by the largest U.S. conglomerate to boost its presence in oil services.

GE’s acquisition John Wood’s well support division raised hopes of more deals in the oilfield services sector, where GE has recently been an active buyer of assets.

GE, which is buying the unit through its oil and gas business, in December agreed to buy Britain’s oil drilling pipemaker Wellstream Holdings Plc for $1.3 billion.

22 Forty years on, birth of a new Boeing jumbo

By Bill Rigby, Reuters

Sun Feb 13, 6:00 pm ET

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co rolled out a new jumbo jet on Sunday, hoping to relive the glamour of the birth of the 747 over 40 years ago and use it to boost slow sales.

The 747-8 Intercontinental will seat 467 passengers, 51 more than the current version of the 747, and burn less fuel while offering passengers more comfort, the U.S. planemaker says.

“Of all the airplanes that we’ve built, there is one that is identified more closely with Boeing than any other, and that’s the 747,” said James Albaugh, head of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit, introducing the plane to a crowd of almost 10,000 Boeing employees, their families and a select group of industry VIPs.

23 New York Toy Fair kicks off on cheerful note

By Dhanya Skariachan, Reuters

Sun Feb 13, 12:52 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – From Mattel’s sweet-talking boyfriend Ken doll to Hasbro’s Kre-O building sets based on Transformers characters, toy makers lined up an impressive array of hi-tech and movie-themed playthings to win sales in 2011, which some say will be a better year for the industry.

The mood on the opening day of the American International Toy Fair in New York was rather upbeat as manufacturers like Mattel Inc, MEGA Brands Inc and Spin Master tried to woo potential buyers from across the globe.

“I have become increasingly optimistic as we have gotten into the year,” Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association, said in an interview on Sunday. “We are at this show right now, completely sold out of space.”

24 Revolution and some inflation

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters

Mon Feb 14, 12:36 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nothing like a little revolution to shake up an already turbulent global economy.

World finance chiefs head to Paris for a Group of 20 nations meeting on Friday and Saturday after weeks of preparatory discussions by their aides on topics such as global economic imbalances and the euro zone’s debt troubles.

Now, Egypt’s historic popular uprising could force them to debate broader geopolitical matters as well.

25 China to vet inward M&A deals for national security

Reuters

Sat Feb 12, 7:55 am ET

BEIJING, Feb 12 (Reuters) – China will launch a state-level investment review body to check that merger and acquisition deals struck by foreign firms in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies do not endanger “national security,” China’s State Council, the cabinet, said on Saturday.

The new regulation, which will come into effect in March, is set to install a new red-tape barrier for doing business in China, the world’s second largest economy where double-digit growth has attracted more than $105 billion in foreign direct investment last year.

Foreign investments in military, agriculture, energy and resources, key infrastructure, transport systems, key technology sectors and “important equipment manufacturers” may be subject to reviews, according to a statement published on the central government Internet portal, www.gov.cn.

26 Obama budget to cut deficit by $1.1 trillion

By Alister Bull and Jeff Mason, Reuters

8 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama proposed a budget on Monday that would cut the U.S. deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years, setting the stage for a bitter fight with Republicans who vow even tougher spending controls.

Conservatives say Obama, a Democrat, is a tax-and-spend liberal, and they aim to make the 2012 presidential election a referendum on his fiscal track record.

Details of the budget proposal provided by the White House before its official release showed the deficit rising to $1.645 trillion in fiscal 2011, then falling sharply to $1.101 trillion in 2012.

27 ECB’s Weber says European opposition behind withdrawal

By Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters

Sat Feb 12, 7:57 am ET

BERLIN (Reuters) – Bundesbank president Axel Weber confirmed on Saturday he would not be a candidate to head the European Central Bank, blaming resistance in some European countries to his hardline monetarist stance.

He also pointed to Jens Weidmann, an economic adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel, as a leading candidate to replace him at the helm of the Bundesbank when he steps down from the German central bank in April.

In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine released on Saturday, Weber said he feared the credibility of the ECB presidency would have suffered if as president he held a minority view on key questions, pointing to his “clear position” in the last year on important decisions.

28 NYSE and Deutsche Boerse vote seen Tuesday

By Philipp Halstrick and Jonathan Spicer

Fri Feb 11, 8:19 pm ET

FRANKFURT/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The boards of NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse AG are expected to meet on Tuesday for a final vote on their planned deal, a source close to the situation said on Friday, as exchanges left out of the merger frenzy plotted their response.

A formal merger document that can be presented to the companies’ boards is not yet prepared, a separate source familiar with the situation said. Other sources said the NYSE Euronext board is also expected to meet on Sunday, but the details of what it might discuss were unclear.

The two companies declined to comment.

29 Obama launches housing overhaul plan, long road ahead

By Corbett B. Daly and David Lawder, Reuters

Fri Feb 11, 6:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration nailed a ‘condemned’ sign on the wrecked U.S. housing finance system on Friday but did not offer a clear blueprint for a rebuilding project that promises to take years.

In a long-awaited move, the White House offered three big-picture options for overhauling a $10.6-trillion market that cratered in 2008, triggering a wave of home foreclosures and the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression.

All the alternatives sketched out in a 31-page “white paper” would unwind the troubled mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink the government’s market footprint to allow private capital to step in.

30 Clothing prices to rise 10 pct starting in spring

By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer

1 hr 58 mins ago

NEW YORK – The era of falling clothing prices is ending.

Clothing prices have dropped for a decade as tame inflation and cheap overseas labor helped hold down costs. Retailers and clothing makers cut frills and experimented with fabric blends to cut prices during the recession.

But as the world economy recovers and demand for goods rises, a surge in labor and raw materials costs is squeezing retailers and manufacturers who have run out of ways to pare costs.

31 Japan confirms China surpassed its economy in 2010

By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA, Associated Press

1 hr 55 mins ago

TOKYO – Japan confirmed Monday that China’s economy surpassed its own as the world’s second largest in 2010 and said a late-year downturn was its first quarterly contraction in more than a year.

Japan’s economy expanded 3.9 percent in the calendar year – its first annual growth in three years. But it wasn’t enough to hold off a surging China. Japan’s nominal GDP last year came to $5.4742 trillion, less than China’s total of $5.8786 trillion, the Cabinet Office said.

China was acknowledged last year as having surpassed Japan as the world’s No. 2 economy after the U.S. – a title it had held since 1968. But full-year Japanese data confirming it were not available until Monday. The historic shift underscores a stark change in fortunes for the two countries: China is growing rapidly and driving the global economy, while Japan never fully bounced back from the stagnation that followed the bursting of its property bubble.

32 Obama unveils $3.73 trillion budget for 2012

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is sending Congress a $3.73 trillion spending blueprint that pledges $1.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.

Obama’s new budget projects that the deficit for the current year will surge to an all-time high of $1.65 trillion. That reflects a sizable tax-cut agreement reached with Republicans in December. For 2012, the administration sees the imbalance declining to $1.1 trillion, giving the country a record four straight years of $1 trillion-plus deficits.

Jacob Lew, Obama’s budget director, said that the president’s spending proposal was a balanced package of spending cuts and “shared sacrifice” that would bring the deficits under control. Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Lew said that Obama’s budget would “stand the test that we live within our means and we invest in the future.”

33 KB Home to lure buyers with energy bill savings

By ALEX VEIGA, AP Real Estate Writer

2 hrs 55 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Homebuilders say one of the biggest advantages of buying a newly built home is energy efficiency. However, some of the ways that builders make homes burn less cash might not be as recognizable to buyers as say, kitchen appliances, generous closets and bathroom amenities. So now some builders are boiling energy efficiency down to something every buyer understands: money.

This week, Los Angeles-based builder KB Home will start giving prospective homebuyers an estimate upfront of what their monthly gas and electric bill will be if they buy one of the company’s homes. The estimate label also will clearly show buyers where the home ranks on an energy efficiency scale. Houston-based McGuyer Homebuilders Inc. earlier this month began providing customers with estimates of what the annual heating and cooling portion of their utility bills will be on homes in the company’s Dallas market. If buyers end up paying more, McGuyer promises to reimburse them for the difference in the first two years.

The strategy comes as homebuilders grapple with fierce competition from existing homes on the market, particularly sharply discounted foreclosed properties. Sales of new homes, which make up a fraction of overall home sales, sank last year to the lowest level since at least 1963. New homes, many bristling with energy-efficient features, often are priced at a premium to older homes. That can be a deal-breaker for buyers expecting to see bargain-priced properties as the housing downturn enters its fifth year.

34 In Holland, land of windmills, flap over wind farm

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press

Mon Feb 14, 5:36 am ET

URK, Netherlands – On an outcrop near this town’s lighthouse, a woman in stone perpetually scans the horizon for the fishing fleet returning home. To the dismay of townspeople, her view may soon be obscured by some of the world’s tallest wind turbines.

In this eco-friendly nation where windmills are embedded in the culture, it may seem strange that a spat over wind power threatens to land in the country’s highest court.

But these turbines are a far cry from the squat four-bladed mills used for centuries to drain the swamps and create new land from the sea. They are giants, with gray metallic blades that will scrape the clouds at 650 feet (about 200 meters) – and residents say they’ll destroy a way of life.

35 How overseas inflation could hurt investors

By DAVID K. RANDALL, AP Business Writer

Sun Feb 13, 2:53 pm ET

NEW YORK – Inflation isn’t hitting your wallet hard, but it is lurking in your stock portfolio.

Core inflation in the U.S. is 0.8 percent, well below the 4 percent rate that starts to worry economists. Though food costs are rising, the overall inflation rate is expected to hold steady due to stagnant real estate prices.

So what’s the worry?

36 Probe sought of Mubarak family’s purported fortune

By KARIN LAUB and TAREK EL-TABLAWY, Associated Press

Sun Feb 13, 8:58 pm ET

CAIRO – Switzerland has frozen whatever assets Hosni Mubarak and his associates may have there, and anti-corruption campaigners are demanding the same of other countries. But experts say hunting for the deposed Egyptian leader’s purported hidden wealth – let alone recovering it – will be an enormous task.

Mubarak’s actual worth remains a mystery. A recent claim that he and his sons Gamal and Alaa may have amassed a fortune of up to $70 billion – greater than that of Microsoft’s Bill Gates – helped drive the protests that eventually brought him down.

“Oh, Mubarak, tell us where you got 70 billion dollars!” protesters chanted in demonstrations before Egypt’s ruler of 30 years was driven from office Friday, and left Cairo for a gated compound in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

37 Egypt CBank sells $1.1B in Treasury bills

By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer

Sun Feb 13, 11:47 am ET

CAIRO – Egypt’s Central Bank on Sunday sold 6.5 billion pounds ($1.1 billion) in Treasury bills, still forced to pay high yields despite the easing of tensions after President Hosni Mubarak ceded control of the country to the military.

The auction of 3 billion pounds in three-month bills and 3.5 billion in 266-day bills was the latest push by the Egyptian government to raise funds as the political crisis battered the country’s economy.

It was the first such auction since Mubarak left office on Thursday after 18 days of protests in which hundreds of thousands demanded his ouster.

38 Former NCAA player’s suit threatens Hollywood

By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press

Sun Feb 13, 3:44 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – There was a time when Sam Keller and his teammates couldn’t wait to get their hands on Electronic Arts Inc.’s latest edition of NCAA Football, which included their team and images down to Keller’s distinctive visor he wore while playing quarterback for the University of Nebraska in 2007.

EA shares undisclosed royalties with the NCAA for use of college stadiums, team names and uniforms and the players’ images in a game that racks up hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. Because they are amateur athletes, the players don’t receive any direct benefit from the appearances of their nameless images in the game.

But Keller and an increasing number of players, such as former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, think they should and have filed at least nine federal lawsuits against the NCAA and EA over the last two years.

39 Foes seek to de-fund, discredit Planned Parenthood

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

Sun Feb 13, 12:06 pm ET

NEW YORK – From its defiant origins in 1916, Planned Parenthood has not shied away from controversy – fighting to legalize birth control, offering candid sex education to adolescents, evolving into America’s largest provider of abortion.

Its foes have been relentless, and it now faces some of the most withering attacks of its history. A bill in Congress would strip the organization of federal family-planning grants and a series of covertly taped videos seek to depict some Planned Parenthood staff as willing to assist sex traffickers.

On one side, there are prominent conservatives suggesting that Planned Parenthood may be a criminal enterprise.

40 Without Mubarak, Egypt state TV switches sides

By MAGGIE HYDE, Associated Press Maggie Hyde, Associated Press – Sat Feb 12, 1:53 pm ET

CAIRO – Egypt’s state and pro-government media have abruptly changed their tune.

Faithful mouthpieces of Hosni Mubarak’s regime until the end, they now celebrate the ouster of the longtime Egyptian president – and pledge to be more attentive to ordinary Egyptians. State TV even promised to be more truthful in its reporting.

During the 18-day uprising, state TV and pro-Mubarak newspapers portrayed the hundreds of thousands of protesters as a minority of troublemakers. While raucous protests raged in downtown Cairo, state-run Al-Nil TV showed serene videos of the Nile River.

41 Greece slams IMF, EU debt inspectors for hubris

By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press

Sat Feb 12, 9:37 am ET

ATHENS, Greece – An indignant Greece slammed EU and International Monetary Fund inspectors overseeing its efforts to reform its debt-crippled economy, accusing them Saturday of overstepping their role and interfering in Greece’s internal affairs.

In an unusually harshly worded, pre-dawn statement, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis called the behavior of the inspectors at a Friday news conference unacceptable.

“We have needs, but we also have limits. And we do not negotiate the limits of our dignity with anyone,” Petalotis said. “We take orders only from the Greek people.”

42 Rare-earth shortage? Afghans think they can help

By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press

Mon Feb 14, 12:00 am ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – Amid surging demand for rare-earth minerals used in everything from cell phones to gas-saving cars, Afghans are dreaming of cashing in on vast deposits they believe lie beneath their feet.

The problem is that they are in one of the country’s most dangerous spots, on the south bank of the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan, where fighting rages in a traditional Taliban stronghold.

That Afghanistan sits on vast mineral wealth has been detailed in several surveys, the most extensive of which were conducted by the Soviets in the 1970s. Mining companies, both Afghan and foreign, already have shown interest, notably in its copper, iron and oil.

43 A look inside America’s poorest county

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

Sun Feb 13, 8:54 pm ET

ZIEBACH COUNTY, S.D. – In the barren grasslands of Ziebach County, there’s almost nothing harder to find in winter than a job. This is America’s poorest county, where more than 60 percent of people live at or below the poverty line.

At a time when the weak economy is squeezing communities across the nation, recently released census figures show that nowhere are the numbers as bad as here – a county with 2,500 residents, most of them Cheyenne River Sioux Indians living on a reservation.

In the coldest months of the year, when seasonal construction work disappears and the South Dakota prairie freezes, unemployment among the Sioux can hit 90 percent.

44 Corporate tax cuts could lead to Canadian election

By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press

Sun Feb 13, 12:01 am ET

TORONTO – Canadian politics are heating up in language familiar to the neighbors down south: tax cuts, jobs, the deficit, corporate enrichment and struggling families.

The opposition is threatening to vote Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of office next month over his latest planned cut in corporate taxes. That would force a general election which Harper is widely expected to win, while once again falling short of a majority in Parliament and unable to pass major legislation without opposition support.

Harper is adamant he won’t repeal the cut in the federal corporate rate from 16.5 percent to 15 percent and complete the phased reduction he began in 2007 when the rate was 19%.

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