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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday January 17 2009 - (813)

Saturday January 17 2009 edition
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Report: Many Companies Getting Bailout Help Avoid Paying Taxes
2009-01-16 16:15:42

A majority of America's largest publicly traded companies and the U.S. government's largest federal contractors - including some receiving millions in federal bailout money - use multiple subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to conduct business and avoid paying U.S. taxes, a new report finds.

The new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released Friday by U.S. Sens. Byron L. Dorgan  (D-North Dakota) and Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan), lists Citigroup and Morgan Stanley as having set up hundreds of tax haven subsidiaries, along with American International Group and Bank of America. Also in the tax-haven list are well-known companies and such federal contractors as American Express, Pepsi and Caterpillar.

GAO, searching publicly available data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, determined that 83 of the 100 largest publicly traded corporations and 63 of the 100 largest federal contractors maintain tax havens in 50 subsidiaries. Dorgan and Levin said they requested the updated report from one several years ago because they are focused on combating offshore tax abuses, which they estimated cause $100 billion in lost U.S. tax revenue each year.

"This report shows that some of our country's largest companies and federal contractors, many of which are household names, continue to use offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the U.S. And, some of those companies have even received emergency economic funds from the government," said Dorgan. "I think we should take action to shut down these tax dodgers, and we will be introducing legislation to do just that."

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Citigroup Posts $8.3 Billion Quarterly Loss
2009-01-16 16:15:12
Citigroup Inc. reported an $8.3-billion fourth-quarter net loss today and announced that it would divide into two businesses, a fundamental restructuring that reverses the corporate expansion strategy it has vigorously pursued for two decades.

The primary business will consist of its traditional commercial and investment banking units, which formed the core of the company before its 1998 merger with Travelers Group.

The other portion will house operations that are slated to be sold or spun off, including its CitiFinancial consumer finance unit and its Primerica insurance business. Citigroup announced earlier this week that it was combining its vaunted Smith Barney brokerage in a joint venture with rival Morgan Stanley.

"Our results released this morning are clearly disappointing, and I can assure you that my No. 1 priority is to return this company to profitability," said Vikram Pandit, Citigroup's chief executive, in a conference call with analysts.

The moves amount to the most drastic attempt yet by the banking giant to stem mounting losses that totaled $18.7 billion last year and more than $28 billion over the last five quarters.

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Crude Prices Fall As Storage Space Nears Limit
2009-01-16 16:14:49
Burgeoning crude inventories pushed oil prices lower Friday with yet another major energy group predicting demand will fall again this year in a widening recession.

In its closely watched monthly survey, the Paris-based International Energy Agency cited ''the relentless worsening of global economic conditions'' as it reduced its global demand expectations by 1 million barrels, to 85.3 million barrels a day.

It would mark the first time in more than a quarter century that global demand fell in consecutive years.

''This is more than just your average bear market,'' said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. ''There's so much pent up inventory in terms of cars, houses, industrial equipment. It's going to take a long time to get out of this.''

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Left Engine Is Missing From Downed Plane In New York
2009-01-16 16:14:06

The left engine is missing from the US Airways Airbus A320 that splashed down in the Hudson River on Thursday afternoon, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board investigating the accident said Friday.

In addition, the transportation board member, Kathryn O. Higgins, said it was not clear if the right engine was still on the wing either, because it is submerged.

“The left engine is not there; it’s somewhere,” said Higgins. "We’ve got to go find that.”

While investigators were gathering details of the accident, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg praised the efforts of the pilot, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, and the dozens who came to the immediate aid of the dazed passengers during a City Hall news conference.

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Advanced Micro Devices Plans To Cut 1,100 Jobs
2009-01-16 16:13:10
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) plans to cut 1,100 jobs, 9 percent of its global staff, and slash the remaining employees' pay as the chip maker hopes its third round of layoffs in a year can help it get through a brutal market for computer sales.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said Friday that 900 workers will have their positions cut. The rest of the reductions are coming from attrition and the previously announced sale of a business unit.

The company has 15,000 workers currently, but it is spinning off its manufacturing operations, which have 3,000 employees who are not affected by Friday's announcement. So AMD's cut of 1,100 jobs amounts to 9 percent of the remaining 12,000 workers.

The firings represent AMD's third round of major layoffs in the last year. AMD cut 600 workers just last month, and earlier in 2008 jettisoned 1,600.

Pay for workers who survive the cuts will shrink. AMD's CEO Dirk Meyer and executive chairman Hector Ruiz, the former CEO, will see their salaries slashed by 20 percent. Vice presidents and other top management will have their pay cut 15 percent, other salaried workers will go down 10 percent, and pay for hourly workers will fall 5 percent. AMD said the pay cuts are temporary. AMD was not specific about how pay would be cut in other countries.

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American Painter Andrew Wyeth Dies At 91
2009-01-16 16:12:27

Andrew Wyeth, the popular American painter of rustic landscapes, farmhouses and plain country folk whose pictures evoked a range of feelings and emotions and a nostalgic vision of times past, died at home early Jan. 16 at age 91. No cause of death was reported, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Wyeth sketched, painted and drew the people and places of Pennsylvania's Brandywine River Valley and the rugged Maine coastal region near Cushing, where he had lived all his life. He died at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Chadds Ford, according to Hillary Holland, a spokeswoman for the Brandywine River Museum, the A.P.  reported.

His artistry was of fields and hillsides, wildlife, sawmills, springhouses, farmhands, farm tools, fixtures and furniture. It was symbolic and paradoxical, expressing tranquility and turbulence, tenderness and rigor, cruelty and compassion. Some of it included such discordant details as hanging animal carcasses, rifles, hunters, meat hooks, peeling paint, cracked ceilings, fallen and sharply sawed or broken logs that conveyed subliminal suggestions of violence and decay, and a sense of loss.

One of the most widely recognized and highly priced American artists of his era, Mr. Wyeth was probably best known for his 1948 painting, "Christina's World," which shows a young crippled woman in a pink dress crawling across a brown field toward a bleak and distant farmhouse. In its degree of familiarity, this picture was once compared with the portrait of George Washington that appears on the $1 bill.

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Vatican Secret Confession Tribunal Opens Up
2009-01-16 16:11:59
One of the Vatican's most secrecy shrouded tribunals, which handles confessions of sins so grave only the pope can grant absolution, is giving the faithful a peek into its workings for the first time in its 830-year history.

The Vatican has long lamented that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to confession, the sacrament in which the faithful can receive forgiveness if they sincerely confess their sins to a priest.

To combat the decline, the so-called "tribunal of conscience" invited the public into the frescoed halls of its imposing 16th-century palazzo for a two-day conference that ended Wednesday.

The aim was to explain what the Apostolic Penitentiary actually does, and thereby encourage more of the faithful to go to confession, said Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the tribunal's No. 2 official.

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U.S. Signs Deal With Israel To Track Weapons Smuggled Into Gaza Strip
2009-01-16 16:15:22

The United States today signed an agreement with Israel that pledges help in halting weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, part of a flurry of diplomatic activity designed to halt a conflict that has left more than 1,000 dead.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in one of her last officials acts before the Obama administration takes power, signed a two-and-half page memorandum of understanding with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni this morning. Under the agreement, the United States said it would help track and thwart weapons shipments that have allowed the Palestinian militant group Hamas rain rockets on Israeli towns and cities.

Rice told reporters the agreement would be part of a broader international effort - including similar agreements with European countries - to stem the flow of arms into Gaza.

The U.S.-Israeli deal "should be thought of as one of the elements of trying to bring into being a durable cease-fire, a cease-fire that can actually hold," Rice said. A key element, she said, "is to do something about the weapons smuggling and the potential for resupply of Hamas from other places, including from Iran."

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Bank Of America Posts $2.6 Billion Quarterly Loss
2009-01-16 16:15:04
When Bank of America Corp. agreed to buy Merrill Lynch & Co. four months ago it seemed to be weathering the worst economic storm since the Depression, paying stockholders a hefty quarterly dividend of 64 cents a share. Friday, Bank of America reported a $2.6-billion quarterly loss - its first loss in 18 years - and it cut the dividend to a penny. The penny dividend was as a condition of receiving $20 billion in federal aid - a second round of bailout funds - and a government guarantee on $118 billion in toxic assets, mostly at Merrill Lynch.

Without that assistance, the bank said, it could not have completed its purchase of Merrill on Jan. 1.

Bank of America, the nation's largest bank as measured by assets, posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.6 billion, or 48 cents a share, after paying dividends to preferred shareholders, compared with a profit of $215 million, or 5 cents, in the final quarter of 2007.

Full-year earnings were $2.6 billion, or 55 cents a share, down from $14.8 billion, or $3.30 a share, in 2007.

Provisions for losses on loans rose to $8.54 billion from $3.31 billion a year earlier, and the bank charged off 2.36% of its loans as uncollectible, up from 0.91% a year earlier. Losses on credit cards jumped to 7.16% from 4.75% year to year.
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Coal Ash Disposal Rises As An Environmental Issue
2009-01-16 16:14:28

In less than a month, the question of how to dispose of coal combustion waste has gone from a largely ignored issue to a pressing national environmental concern that has already sparked legislative proposals and the prospect of new regulation.

Since the Dec. 22 coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant, which poured a billion gallons of toxic material over 300 acres, lawmakers and regulators have said that the federal government should revisit an issue it has deliberated on for three decades. Although President-elect Barack Obama has identified climate change as one of his top policy priorities, addressing coal ash may come first.

Burning coal produces more than 129 million tons annually of combustion waste - a concentrated ash that includes toxic elements such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, selenium and mercury - but federal authorities have yet to establish uniform standards for handling it.

"The threats are out there, and we know it now. And we also know how we need to address them," said U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II (D-West Virginia), who introduced legislation this week calling for tighter controls on coal ash ponds, which are piles of combustion waste suspended in water. "As we often see in the coalfields across the country, it takes a disaster before we see decisive action."

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Hamas Official Balks At Truce With Israel
2009-01-16 16:13:39
As diplomats edged closer Friday to a cease-fire deal for the Gaza Strip, a top Hamas official vowed there would be no truce until Israel ended its invasion of the Palestinian enclave.

The comments by exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal appeared to contradict earlier indications that the militant group was prepared to end of 21 days of fighting. Meshaal's condemnation of Israel came a day after heavy Israeli bombardment in Gaza that damaged a United Nations compound and killed Hamas' interior minister.

"Resistance can lead to victory and there will be no cease-fire until our demands are met," Meshaal told an emergency gathering of Arab leaders in Doha, Qatar. It was not immediately clear whether he was posturing or whether Thursday's violence had hardened Hamas' position.

Fighting was less intense in Gaza today as diplomats attempted to reach a solution on Egypt's truce proposal. In Washington, D.C., Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni signed a memorandum of understanding with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to provide for U.S. assistance in stemming arms smuggling across the Gaza border.

The United States agreed to help organize international monitors to oversee border crossings and to provide technical aid to prevent the smuggling of rockets and other arms, officials said. The composition of the monitoring group and other important details remain to be worked out, they said.
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Circuit City To Liquidate Its Remaining U.S. Stores
2009-01-16 16:12:53
Bankrupt Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer, said today it failed to find a buyer and will liquidate its 567 U.S. stores. The closures could send another 30,000 people into the ranks of the unemployed.

"This is the only possible path for our company," James A. Marcum, acting chief executive, said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The company had been seeking a buyer or a deal to refinance its debt, but the hobbled credit market and consumer worries proved insurmountable.

The liquidation of Circuit City is the latest fallout from the worst holiday shopping season in four decades. People have slashed their spending since the financial meltdown in September as they worry about their job security and declining retirement funds.

Other recent casualties include KB Toys, which filed for bankruptcy in December and is liquidating stores. Department store chains Goody's Family Clothing and Gottschalks Inc. both filed for bankruptcy this week - Goody's plans to liquidate, while Gottschalks hopes to reorganize.

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Author John Mortimer, Creator of Rumpole, Dead At 85
2009-01-16 16:12:12
John Mortimer, barrister, author, playwright and creator of Horace Rumpole, the cunning defender of the British criminal classes, died Friday morning at his home in Oxfordshire, England, said his agent, Katherine Vile. He was 85 years old and had been ill for some time, said Ms. Vile.

Sir John is known best in this country for creating the Rumpole character, an endearing and enduring relic of the British legal system who became a television hero of the courtroom comedy.

As a barrister in Britain, Sir John came to be known in the 1960s as a defender of free speech and human rights for taking up cases that he said were “alleged to be testing the frontiers of tolerance.” He became a Queen’s Counsel just in time to tackle some of the civil rights cases that arose in Britain in that decade, all the while writing fiction, non-fiction, drama and comedy.

To read Rumpole, or to watch the episodes of the popular television series “Rumpole of the Bailey” is to enter not only Rumpole’s stuffy flat or crowded legal chambers, but to feel the itch of his yellowing court wig and the flapping of his disheveled, cigar ash-dusted courtroom gown.

Rumpole spends his days quoting Keats and his nights quaffing claret at Pommeroy’s wine bar, putting off the time that he must return to his wife, Hilda, more commonly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.

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