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April 14, 2014

Appeal granted in Lev Tahor case, children do not have to go to Quebec

Filed under: legal, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:32 pm

A Superior Court judge has ruled 14 Lev Tahor children subject to a Quebec court order no longer have to return to that province, where they would be placed in foster care.

Judge Lynda Templeton ruled Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth erred in his original Feb. 3, 2014 decision that upheld the Quebec order. Her ruling means the children may stay in Ontario, but she directed the Ontario Court of Justice to address the question of what will happen with the seven children who are currently in foster care.

They are there because of an impromptu flight that saw some of the 14 children removed from the country ahead of the first appeal hearing. Eight of those children were apprehended and seven were placed in foster care with Jewish families in Toronto.

The Ontario Court of Justice is the court with the jurisdiction to decide whether they should remain in foster care. The court has already ordered eight hours of weekly visits by the parents of the children and directed Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to pay a portion of the travel costs.

Quebec child protection authorities have documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime within Lev Tahor. Leaders of the ultraorthodox Jewish sect have denied all allegations of abuse and say they are the victims of a smear campaign targeting the group for its religious beliefs.

The group originally fled Quebec ahead of a November ruling for the removal of 14 children, which kicked off a long legal saga that sought to determine whether the Quebec order could be enforced in Ontario. Fuerth ruled that it could, but allowed a stay of 30 days on his decision to permit time for the families to appeal.

On the day that appeal was scheduled to be heard, it was found that some of the children had fled the country. Templeton held a secret hearing and issued an emergency order for the apprehension of 14 children. Eight of the children were found, while six of the children subject to the original order remain in Guatemala with their parents.

A few families not subject to any court orders that they knew of attempted to get passports for their Canadian-born children to leave the country, but found that Quebec had issued apprehension orders for their children as well.

Guidy Mamann, lawyer for the group, says the orders apply to all children in the sect. It’s unclear if, or when, they will be brought before an Ontario court.


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April 13, 2014

Foster families have been

Filed under: economics, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:48 am

MONTREAL—They speak Yiddish, follow the Jewish law to the letter and they’ve been on standby for months, waiting to welcome into their homes the children of Lev Tahor, the ultra-orthodox sect at the centre of a two-province child abuse probe.

Four months after child-welfare authorities in Quebec first went to court to have 14 children from two families taken into protective custody, the hassidic community of Montreal has been waiting to play its part.

Foster families able to meet some of the exacting needs of the children — namely, speaking Yiddish and keeping a high degree of religious observance — have been located. Now they are waiting for the ruling of an Ontario court judge Monday that could send the children along Highway 401 from Chatham-Kent to the hassidic enclave of Outremont in central Montreal.

“It was last week that they were expecting the children would be returned to Quebec, and so they have made contingency plans,” said David Ouellette, associate director of public affairs with Montreal’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “As far as the foster families are concerned in Quebec, they’ve been ready for months.”

Four months, to be exact. It was last November that Quebec’s director of youth protection first went to court seeking an order that the 14 children be taken into temporary foster care for physical and psychological examinations. Social workers testified that the children were living in filth, lacked access to doctors and dentists, received a religious education that didn’t come close to meeting the provincial curriculum and were subject to a regime of psychological abuse and underage marriages.

A few days before that court order was granted, the entire Lev Tahor community fled to Ontario. They hoped to find escape from the snooping social workers and freedom to follow their strict interpretation of the Torah. Instead, they have been subject to the scrutiny of Ontario social workers, a police raid and an immigration probe that resulted in the detention and deportation of several adult members of the group.

Mixed in with those Ontario tribulations was the failed exodus of the children and their parents, who took a run for Guatemala last month. That incident resulted in six children being forcibly returned to Canada when they landed at the Trinidad airport; one infant child being apprehended with his 17-year-old mother at the Edmonton airport; and another six who made it to the Central American country and are currently fighting attempts to have them brought back.

The seven children who did not escape the long arm of Canadian law are currently with Ontario foster families fast payday loans.

Stephen Doig, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services said there are three possible outcomes of Monday’s court decision: the children could be returned to their families; the children could remain with foster families in Chatham-Kent; or the children could be returned to Quebec.

He said that the agency has been sensitive to religious considerations in their dealings with the children and has had help from nearby social service agencies that have Yiddish or Hebrew-speaking staff members that can act as translators.

“Some of the children and many of the adults in Lev Tahor speak or understand some English as well,” Doig said.

But adding to the difficulty of handling kids from a community like Lev Tahor — one that frowns on speaking any language but Yiddish, whose interpretation of kosher means extreme dietary restrictions and whose contact with the outside world is said to be next to nil — is what the children are said to have endured since last November. Put it all together and long-term care for the children may require a more intensive effort that only an ultra-orthodox Jewish clan can provide.

Eluzor Moscowicz, who has been caring for five Lev Tahor children for more than a year, said that when the children arrived in his home, they were unclean and wore too-small shoes that had left them with a stunted gait when they walked.

He told the Canadian Jewish News in February that they were suspicious and uncertain about such things as using scented soap or bathing. He said the children also had a habit of informing on one another, which coincides with testimony by a former Lev Tahor member that they were encouraged to report bad habits or breaches of the community’s strict rules to the group’s leadership.

The seven children affected by Monday’s court ruling may be in better physical shape, but the ordeal they have gone through since last November will have left psychological marks all the same, Ouellette suggested.

“The whole idea of having hassidic foster families is to ease the trauma that these kids are going to go through,” he said.

And even when the final decision is handed down, there could still be one additional snag that draws out the fate of the Lev Tahor children just a little bit longer. Monday will be marked by a flurry of preparation for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which would prevent observant Jews from travelling or working on Tuesday and Wednesday.


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December 4, 2012

Sanergy toilets turn poop into profit

Filed under: news, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:36 am

In China’s Hunan Province, using the bathroom often means squatting over a dirty hole in the ground. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world lack adequate sanitation — more than a third of the global population — and 2 million die each year of diarrheal disease.

To David Auerbach, that is both a human-rights crisis and an entrepreneurial gold mine. He and his business partners hatched a plan for profiting on both ends of a messy problem: Sell pay-per-use toilets to local entrepreneurs, then collect the waste and sell that too, after converting it into fertilizer.

Auerbach spent several years in China teaching English after college, then moved on to stints at the Clinton Foundation and Endeavor, a non-profit that supports entrepreneurs in emerging markets. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he teamed up with fellow grad students Ani Vallabhaneni and Lindsay Stradley. Vallabhaneni had worked with a chain of dialysis clinics for low-income patients in the Philippines, and Stradley was a veteran of Teach for America and Google.

On a trip to Kenya, the trio saw locals paying about 5 cents to use an unlined pit latrine. Even more common were “flying toilets” — plastic bags used as a toilet, tied off and then thrown outside. The ground is often covered in them.

When they returned, the three cofounders — all 31 now — wrote the business plan for Sanergy and its brand of Fresh Life toilets. Their vision won the 2011 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and landed the $100,000 Diamond Prize at the 2011 MassChallenge Startup Competition and Accelerator.

A Fresh Life toilet is 3′ x 5′ and made of prefabricated concrete. The floor has a squat plate and two holes, one for urine and one for solid waste, that lead down to removable waste cartridges. The toilets are sold at cost for $500, which includes installation, painting and daily waste collection. Owners are considered franchisees and have to supply toilet paper, soap and a hand-washing stand.

Right now, Stradley says, there are 150 toilets operating in Nairobi’s crammed Mukuru slum, and the company is selling another five to 10 toilets per week. About a third of Fresh Life operators have already purchased an additional unit.

Bob Orengo, a franchisee in Mukuru, sees about 47 customers a day. At five Kenyan shillings a pop, that’s about U.S. $19 a week.

“It’s a good way to start your own business and be self-employed,” he told CNNMoney through an interpreter.

Another Fresh Life operator in Mukuru, Esther Muniyiva, has about 96 customers a day and makes around $40 a week. The big benefit, she says, is that the area around the toilet is clean: “Some people think the toilet is so clean that they could eat in there too.”

Joshua Boger, the former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, was one of Sanergy’s judges in the MassChallenge competition. He says one of the company’s biggest challenges now is how fast to scale up.

“You don’t build a fertilizer plant for a million people if you only have 100 customers, so they have to go slow — but not too slow,” he says.

Sanergy collects about 1.5 tons of waste each day and sold its first batch of fertilizer in July — two tons at market price, which generally runs $300 to $600 a metric ton, Stradley says. That’s about twice the global price because, thanks to a local fertilizer shortage. It’s badly needed by Kenya’s huge horticulture industry, one of the largest flower exporters to Europe.

It takes Sanergy four to six months to change raw human waste into fertilizer. The process could be sped up with an investment in infrastructure, and Stradley says the company plans to build a high-tech waste management facility within the next year.

The same waste can be used for both fertilizer and biogas, but the company isn’t operating at a scale yet where it makes sense to generate electricity to sell back to the grid, Stradley says: “We need about a thousand toilets to have enough waste to do that.”

If Sanergy’s plans pan out, that won’t be a problem. Within five years, the company’s founders want to provide toilets to more than half a million Africans, generating 11,000 tons of fertilizer annually and 7.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Their aim is to be profitable within 18 months and to raise an equity investment round of $2 million in early 2013. But investors might question whether the model is sustainable, says Jenny Aker, an assistant professor of development economics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University whose research focuses on West Africa.

“If sanitation services aren’t commonly used or culturally appropriate, would the community be willing to pay for it?” she asks. If Sanergy expands into rural areas, the impact will probably be much lower than in urban zones , simply because there are fewer potential customers, says Aker.

And there’s the issue of using human waste as fertilizer. It’s fine if it’s just used in the flower industry. “What would people think about using human manure as part of growing their food?” Aker asks. “That’s something to consider long-term.”


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November 29, 2012

BP banned from federal contracts

Filed under: online ads, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:56 am

The U.S. government temporarily banned oil giant BP from bidding on any new federal contracts as a result of its recent criminal pleas stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The move prevents ) from getting new federal government “contracts, grants or other covered transactions,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which was charged with issuing the ban.

Among BP’s government contracts are hundreds of leases it has signed to drill for oil or gas in the United States and agreements worth billions of dollars to supply the government with fuel. Wednesday’s move does not impact existing agreements.

“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout,” the EPA said in a statement. “Suspensions are a standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case.”

The ban will remain in effect “until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards,” the agency said.

BP said it is already working with the EPA to prove it is meeting standards, and said that this temporary suspension should be lifted “soon no fax cash advance.”

Shares in BP fell earlier in the day, but recouped most of their losses by noon.

Earlier this month, BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of misconduct or neglect of ship officers, a felony count for obstruction of Congress, a misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act and a misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty in relation to the 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drill rig that killed 11 people.

The explosion and subsequent oil spill poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and led to what EPA called “the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”

BP also agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines as part of the settlement earlier this month. The company said it has now spent over $40 billion on spill related costs.

In addition to charging BP as a company, the federal government also brought criminal charges against two high ranking BP employees involved with the drilling, who now face jail time if convicted.


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November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday starts early this year

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 am

Post-Thanksgiving online discounts were once relegated to Cyber Monday — but these days, websites are launching deals even before Black Friday. And the resulting shopping frenzy is expected to set records.

IBM Benchmark reported total online sales for Black Friday were up nearly 21% from last year. On Thanksgiving, sales rose more than 17% compared to 2011. Black Friday was the stronger of the two days, eclipsing Thanksgiving by 4:10 p.m. ET.

And a long list of retailers — including , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500) and ) — unveiled “pre-Black Friday deals” even before Thanksgiving. , Fortune 500) posted its one-day online shopping discounts on Black Friday, as did beauty brand MAC Cosmetics.

“We’ve absolutely seen this whole weekend turn into one big promotional event,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. “Black Friday deals are no longer just for the [brick-and-mortar] store, and Cyber Monday deals are no longer just for Monday.”

Cyber Monday’s original appeal, as the first weekday after Thanksgiving, was access to quick Internet speeds while at work. But now broadband at home is ubiquitous, and consumers can also shop on a slew of mobile devices.

And so retailers’ online deals stretch well ahead of Cyber Monday — in some cases, nearly a full week before.

“Retailers are trying to draw consumers in earlier, and one way to do that is to stagger the deals: Pre-Thanksgiving, some on Thanksgiving Day, another set over the weekend, and finally the big bang to close it out on Cyber Monday,” Henderson said.

Mobile devices have become increasingly important during that week before Cyber Monday creditreport. The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase on Black Friday this year increased by nearly two-thirds from 2011, IBM data show.

Apple’s iPad made up nearly 10% of online shopping traffic on Black Friday this year, according to IBM, while the iPhone brought in almost 9% and Android devices comprised 5.5%.

And IBM said shoppers are taking advantage of the technology to find better deals. Despite spending more overall, the average online order fell 4.7% to $181.22, and the number of items in each order decreased 12% to 5.6.

Retailers are taking note. Companies like , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) developed special Black Friday mobile apps featuring exclusive deals and store maps.

Still, despite the expanded schedule, Cyber Monday itself remains an important part of the holiday shopping season.

Andrew Lipsman, an industry analyst at data tracking firm ComScore, said he expects sales for the one-day Cyber Monday shopping event to be around $1.5 billion this year. That’s up from his calculations of $1.3 billion in 2011.

It will be a few weeks before full details on Thanksgiving week’s sales are made clear, but last year both Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke records. Total spending over the four-day weekend after Thanksgiving 2011 reached a record $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday 2012 was shaping up to be robust, with shoppers turning out even on Thanksgiving Day at stores including Toys R Us and , Fortune 500).


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November 19, 2012

Greenspan: Recession ’small price to pay’ to fix debt

Filed under: news, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:04 am

Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday that a mild recession would be a “small price to pay” for getting the nation’s debt problems under control.

In an interview with CNN’s Ali Velshi, Greenspan said cutting spending on “so-called social benefits” would hurt the economy, but argued that it would cause less damage than raising taxes.

“I think if we have to have a moderate recession to solve this huge fiscal problem that’s in front of us — I think that’s a very small price to pay,” he said. “We’re not going to get out of this thing without pain.”

Greenspan said he was not referring specifically to the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that are set to go into effect January 1, known as the fiscal cliff, but to the “broad crisis with respect to our debt.”

The “inexorable rise” in government spending on social benefits, which occurred under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has corresponded with a decline in household savings, said Greenspan.

The decline in savings has undermined the economy by removing the “root source” of funding for capital expenditures and therefore productivity, he continued. As the economy has slowed, the government has been forced to borrow “foreign savings” to pay for social benefits at home.

“This is obviously an unsustainable situation that we have got to come to grips with sooner rather than later,” he said.

Greenspan acknowledged that cutting spending on benefits would be painful and damage the economy in the short run, but he said there is no other alternative and warned that investors are losing patience.

“I don’t see any way out of this without the brute changes that need to be made, and they are hurtful,” he said. “But if we don’t do it the market is going to do it for us.”

While Greenspan said he opposes increasing taxes, he does support allowing Bush-era tax breaks to expire in exchange for a reduction in government spending.

“If you have to allow a rise in taxes to cut a deal on a major benefit cut, that’s a good deal for me,” said Greenspan.

President Obama is meeting with top congressional leaders Friday to begin the process of negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff.

The Wall Street Journal said the Obama administration is considering a plan to replace massive spending cuts with a combination of smaller, targeted cuts and tax increases. By postponing the so-called sequester, lawmakers could put off a number of large deficit-reduction decisions until mid-2013.


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November 13, 2012

U.S. to become biggest oil producer and energy independent

Filed under: finance, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:32 pm

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020, and will be energy independent 10 years later, according to a new forecast by the International Energy Agency.

The recent resurgence in oil and gas production, and efforts to make the transport sector more efficient, are radically reshaping the nation’s energy market, reported Paris-based IEA in its World Energy Outlook.

North America would become a net exporter of oil around 2030, the global organization said Monday.

“The United States, which currently imports around 20% of its total energy needs, becomes all but self sufficient in net terms — a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy importing countries,” the IEA stated.

The U.S. is experiencing an oil boom, in large part thanks to high world prices and new technologies, including hydraulic fracking, that have made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock commercially viable.

From 2008 to 2011, U.S. crude oil production jumped 14%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas production is up by about 10% over the same period.

According to the IEA, U.S. natural gas prices will rise to $5.5 per million British thermal units (MBtu) in 2020, from around $3.5 per MBtu this year, driven by rising domestic demand rather than a forecast increase in exports to Asia and other markets.

“In our projections, 93% of the natural gas produced in the United States remains available to meet domestic demand,” it said. “Exports on the scale that we project would not play a large role in domestic price setting.”

North America’s new role in the world energy markets will accelerate a change in the direction of international oil trade toward Asia, and underscore the importance of securing supply routes from the Middle East to China and India.

The IEA said it expects global energy demand to increase by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and the Middle East accounting for 60% of the growth, and more than outweighing reduced demand in developed economies.

That will push world average oil import prices up to $125 per barrel (in 2011 dollars) by 2035, from around $100 per barrel at present, but they could be much higher if Iraq fails to deliver on its production potential.

Iraq is set to become the second largest oil exporter by the 2030s, as it expands output to take advantage of demand from fast growing Asian economies.

New fuel economy standards in the U.S. and efforts by China, Japan and the European Union to reduce demand would help to make up for a disappointing decade for global energy efficiency.

“But even with these and other new policies in place, a significant share of the potential to improve energy efficiency — four-fifths of the potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry — still remains untapped,” the IEA stated.

Policymakers are still missing out on potential benefits for energy security, economic growth and the environment.

Growth in demand over the years to 2035 would be halved and oil demand would peak just before 2020, if governments took action to remove barriers preventing the implementation of energy efficiency measures that are already economically viable, the global organization said.


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November 8, 2012

Fiscal cliff: Boehner’s opening gambit

Filed under: loans, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

There’s a big difference between raising tax rates and raising tax revenue. And the distinction may prove key in fiscal cliff negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama over the next two months.

Boehner on Wednesday laid out in public his opening gambit for that deal-making.

House Republicans, Boehner said, are open to raising more tax revenue to reduce deficits — a key Democratic requirement — but only if it’s done through tax reform that lowers income tax rates and in conjunction with entitlement reform.

Done right, Boehner said in public remarks in Washington, a reformed tax code can raise more revenue by curbing special interest loopholes and deductions and by generating economic growth.

That’s very different than raising tax rates — something that has been off the table for Republicans.

Obama, by contrast, has proposed making a down payment on debt reduction by letting the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to high-income households expire. That would mean the top two income tax rates would increase to 36% and 39.6% next year from 33% and 35% today.

Boehner’s remarks left several questions unanswered.

For one, how much of the new revenue would Republicans want raised through economic growth versus through curbing tax breaks?

Many tax experts believe smart tax reform can boost economic growth and thereby generate more revenue over time. But how much growth and when is unpredictable. And there’s no guarantee that other factors that hurt economic growth won’t undercut the revenue raised by tax reform.

In any case, the conventional way Congress assesses how much revenue a proposal would raise does not include potential economic growth effects of the kind Boehner expects, noted Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at the centrist think tank Third Way.

So an official “score” of revenue raised from such a tax reform plan would be most heavily reliant on the tax breaks that are curtailed.

And curbing tax breaks is not always an easy sell politically to either party, because it could mean many taxpayers end up paying more in taxes even when income tax rates are lowered, said Pete Davis, a former Capitol Hill staffer who now runs Davis Capital Investment Ideas.

In 1986, the last time the tax code was overhauled, lawmakers reduced rates and curbed tax rates for individuals. Most people got a net tax cut because lawmakers raised corporate tax rates a lot, Davis said.

This time, both Democrats and Republicans want to lower corporate tax rates, too. And if reform is to raise more revenue than the current system in great part by closing loopholes, more than half of taxpayers would likely see a net tax increase, according to Davis.

Given the country’s long-term fiscal shortfalls, that may be necessary. But it will be a tough sell on Capitol Hill.

Nevertheless, Boehner’s comments are a “promising start” to fiscal cliff negotiations, said Steve Bell, the economic policy director of the Bipartisan Policy Center.


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November 7, 2012

Amazon testing $8 per month price for Prime streaming

Filed under: loans, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:20 pm

It’s no secret that Amazon’s main streaming video competitors are Netflix and Hulu Plus. A new pricing setup pits the retailer even more squarely against its rivals.

Amazon is testing a $7.99 per month pricing scheme for its Prime program, the same exact cost as the monthly streaming services from ) and Hulu.

That’s a pricier option than Amazon Prime’s traditional $79 annual fee. The blog Hacking Netflix first reported on the pricing trial after a reader spotted the offer.

Amazon appears to be offering the monthly option only to some customers. CNNMoney didn’t receive the message when accessing Amazon’s Prime signup page from multiple browsers on several different computers. Amazon representatives didn’t reply to a request for comment on the program guaranteed online payday loans.

The Prime program is unique in that it covers both the Amazon’s retail and video content businesses. Prime customers receive free two-day shipping on certain tangible goods from, as well as streaming video access. Prime subscribers who have Kindle devices can also borrow some e-books for free.

As of September, Amazon said Prime Instant Video offered members streaming access to about 25,000 movies and TV episodes. Netflix doesn’t specify how many titles it offers, simply saying that its streaming catalog has “thousands” of selections. Hulu is similarly vague, advertising that its library features “a large selection of videos from more than 410 content companies.”


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November 5, 2012

Verizon: Sandy could have ’significant’ impact on profit

Filed under: loans, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:36 am

Verizon on Friday said it is making progress in getting its cellular service back online for customers impacted by Superstorm Sandy, but the repair work may take a chunk out of its fourth-quarter earnings.

In a regulatory filing, the company said it is directing its resources towards powering up cell towers and rebuilding its network, “which may take some time.” Verizon said it is not yet able to estimate how much impact the storm will have on operating profit, “but we expect that it could be significant.”

The nation’s largest wireless carrier said 96% of its towers in Sandy-impacted areas are operational, up from 94% on Wednesday. But getting the remaining towers online will take a tremendous effort.

“Unfortunately, the extent of the storm damage — including lingering power outages and inaccessible roadways — in harder-hit areas like New Jersey and the New York City metro area makes full restoration a marathon and not a sprint,” Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s consumer division, said in a prepared statement. “We ask for customers’ patience and understanding.”

, Fortune 500) isn’t the only carrier that got nailed. The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that 19% of cell sites in the core area affected by the storm — 158 counties across 10 states, from Virginia all the way up to Massachusetts — remained non-operational. That’s an improvement from 25% earlier in the week, but wireless companies still have “much work to be done,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.

, Fortune 500) appears to be the most damaged of the three major national carriers. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the Sprint Network is more than 90% operational, the company said. But in the harder-hit areas, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Sprint’s network is only around 80% functional, and just 75% of its New York City towers are online.

, Fortune 500) said the “vast majority” of its towers are back online, but it continues working to restore service in areas with significant damage and power outages.

In a rare show of cooperation in the wireless industry, AT&T and T-Mobile are allowing customers in storm-affected areas to roam on one another’s networks free of charge. The two carriers’ networks are technically compatible, which made such a move possible.

All carriers noted that they are making efforts to reopen their retail stores, where customers can charge phones. For those without service, many stores are allowing customers to make free landline calls.

Sandy’s impact on the wireless infrastructure is likely second only to Hurricane Katrina, said Ken Rehbehn, wireless infrastructure analyst with Yankee Group.

” A big difference between New York City and Katrina is that the flooding is not lasting as long in as large an area,” he said. “But the failure of key power stations and power distribution in a complex, dense area such as lower Manhattan means that secondary power being brought in is essential.”

Many irate customers took to social networks, saying that regulators should require carriers to have more robust backups. That kind of fallback system exists in hurricane-prone areas like Florida, with backup generators at practically every cell site. But Rehben said the costs of doing that in the Northeast would likely outweigh the benefits.

The good news for consumers is that new 4G network equipment that carriers are deploying is significantly more energy-efficient than 3G or 2G technology. Once carriers’ 4G networks are fully deployed, cell towers’ battery backups should last longer, giving carriers more time to make repairs.

Verizon was among the first major companies to say that Sandy would have a significant financial impact, but the storm will likely hurt airlines, insurance companies and hotels as well.


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