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August 22, 2014

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

Filed under: finance, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:00 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that’s currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they’re unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That’s because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations’ health plans.

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August 19, 2014

EPA launches probe of Tyson’s role in polluting a Missouri creek

Filed under: management, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:52 pm

MONETT, Mo. • The Environmental Protection Agency has begun an investigation of Tyson Foods’ role in a discharge of a food supplement that allegedly led to pure ammonia flowing into a southwest Missouri creek, killing more than 100,000 fish.

The discharge on May 16 allegedly caused the wastewater plant in Monett to fail and allowed a chemical to flow into nearby Clear Creek, The Joplin Globe reported.

The EPA did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press Tuesday.

The company revealed the investigation earlier this month in its quarterly notice to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We’re cooperating with the Environmental Protection Agency in its investigation, as we have with state and local agencies regarding this incident,” company spokesman Worth Sparkman said Monday.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources found that Tyson’s pre-treatment plant in Monett treated wastewater containing Alimet, a liquid animal feed supplement, that it had received another Tyson operation in Aurora. After the water was pre-treated, it was discharged to Monett’s sewage system. The compound killed the bacteria that process the wastewater effluent in Monett’s plant, causing virtually undiluted ammonia to flow into Clear Creek. It is unclear how much Alimet was discharged.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a six-count civil lawsuit against Tyson after the spill, seeking fines, compensation for damage to the stream and reimbursement for the costs of the state’s investigation.

Koster said at the time his lawsuit was filed that he did not pursue criminal charges because he had no evidence that Tyson knowingly dumped the chemical into the water. But he said, “there was negligence involved, and people will be held responsible.”

The DNR issued notices of violation against Tyson Foods and the city of Monett after the spill but the department said it believed Tyson was responsible for the discharge.

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August 11, 2014

U.S. Bank closes on financing for Arcade building rehab

Filed under: management, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:40 am

U.S. Bank has closed on more than $77 million in several tax credit financing packages for the redevelopment of the Arcade building downtown.   

The Minneapolis-based bank, which announced the closure of financing Monday, invested $77 million in the century-old building at 800 Olive Street, through federal New Markets Tax Credits, federal and state historic tax credits and federal low-income housing tax credits. The bank’s U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation subsidiary is based in downtown St. Louis. 

Dominium Development, the Minneapolis-based developer on the $116 million project, is converting two lower floors of the 18-story, 500,000 square foot building to classroom space for Webster University and upper floors into 282 market rate and affordable-housing apartments for artists no credit check payday loans. The project also includes more than 13,000 square feet of artist studio space.

“Tremendous persistence, commitment and a deep desire to support the emergence of downtown St. Louis as an arts and innovation community kept our team motivated to make this development come to fruition,” Zack Boyers, chairman and chief executive officer of USBCDC said in a statement.

Webster University will move in as early as December 2015 and construction on the remaining space will finish in January 2016, U.S. Bank said.

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August 9, 2014

Financial health can be a matter of time, not smarts

Filed under: Uncategorized, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

Conventional wisdom says the more you know about personal finance, the better off you’ll be at managing your money.

But a new survey suggests that knowledge alone is not enough. For your finances to be in good shape, you also need to be aware of something else: your attitude toward time.

Dwell too much on the past, present or future, and you could make decisions that are bad for your financial health, even if you know to do otherwise.

“Ideally, we’d all have happy memories, take time out in the present and plan for the future. But if you get out of whack in any one of those, bad things can happen,” said Nick Clements, co-author of the study and co-founder of MagnifyMoney, which reviews credit cards and other bank products.

Survey participants had to complete a “time personality” quiz developed by Philip Zimbardo, a professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and co-author of the study.

Participants were also scored on their financial smarts (say, whether they could calculate compound interest) and the state of their finances (for example, had they ever filed for bankruptcy). In all, 3,000 people in six countries, including Brazil, Germany and the U.S., participated.

The results showed that, despite your financial know-how, your time personality has a lot to do with how well you manage your money. Someone, for example, whose personality skews toward living it up today is often financially sick. You may understand how compound interest works, but the knowledge doesn’t help if you habitually overspend your paycheck.

On the flip side, you may think primarily about the future. But people who are too goal-oriented are often so harried by career and other obligations that they have little time to think through their financial options.

“It may be on your to-do list to buy insurance or invest in your 401(k),” Clements said. “But because you don’t have enough time, you rush through and make bad decisions.”

You might assume that young adults would fall into the camp of people who think too much about the present, the so-called hedonists, according to the survey. But that was not the case.

In fact, 25.3 percent of millennials have a past-negative personality: This group came of age about the time of the 2007-09 financial crisis, and the experience, colored by home foreclosures, big stock market losses and high rates of unemployment, dominates their financial decision-making.

In comparison, only 16.5 percent of baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) were past negative in the study.

To get a sense of what your time personality is, take the quiz at magnifymoney.com/timeperspective. After answering the questions, you’ll see where you fall on the time personality spectrum.

What if the results show you’re past negative? According to the survey, most millennials don’t rate themselves as being money-savvy. But those who land in this group tend to be financially healthy because they’re not taking the kinds of risks that can lead to bankruptcy or other money catastrophes.

Just keep in mind that too much caution can be a bad thing.

Without some risk, you may never be hired for that dream job or grow your savings into a comfortable nest egg. (A fact that young adults might appreciate more if they had more financial knowledge.)

Similarly, you don’t want to be so financially conservative that you forgo having any fun today.

Said Clements: “Think of Ebenezer Scrooge, sitting on a pile of gold coins. He is financially healthy, but you probably don’t want to be him.”

Carolyn Bigda is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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August 3, 2014

Doug Ford backs off Bill Blair

Filed under: loans, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:16 am

Doug Ford has backed off accusations that police Chief Bill Blair leaked information about a criminal case involving Mayor Rob Ford after the chief said the claims were untrue and threatened legal action.

In an interview Saturday with the Toronto Sun, Ford said of the incident that “I wish it didn’t even happen, to be honest with you,” and “I just wish the chief all the best.”

The war of words between the two flared up Friday when Ford, a city councillor, accused Blair of releasing information about the impending subpoena to be served to his brother as a possible witness in the extortion trial of the mayor’s friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Doug Ford suggested that the information was leaked as “payback” because the police services board decided last week not to renew Blair’s contract.

“When you have the leadership of the police department releasing a subpoena to the media before they release it to the mayor, you wonder why we need a change at the top?” Ford told the reporters.

“I got an idea,” he added. “Maybe the chief should just let the Toronto Star serve him. Because God knows, they’ve got a direct line to the chief.”

Later that day Blair said through a spokesperson that “Doug Ford is lying, and I am prepared to take legal action.”

While Ford spoke about Blair in conciliatory terms on Saturday — “he’s leaving, I’m leaving, so I think we should leave on good terms” — he refused to say whether he still believed the subpoena information was released as “payback,” according to The Sun.

“I can’t make a comment on that,” he said. “Sometimes I get a little rambunctious, sometimes.”

The Star reported on Friday that Mayor Rob Ford would soon be served with a subpoena in Lisi’s extortion trial. Lisi is accused of making threats in an effort to obtain the video that appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.

A subpoena could force Ford to testify under oath at Lisi’s preliminary hearing, scheduled to start next March.

The video has been a source of contention between Blair and the Fords since the chief confirmed its existence on October 31 and said he was “disappointed.”

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July 23, 2014

Consumer Prices in U.S. Increase as Gasoline Costs Jump - Bloomberg

Filed under: legal, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:00 am

The cost of living in the U.S. rose in June, paced by a jump in gasoline that is now reversing, bolstering Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

June 20, 2014

IMF Considers Dropping Exemption That Enabled 2010 Greek Loan - Bloomberg

Filed under: management, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:05 pm

The International Monetary Fund is considering creating a new way for indebted countries to get large loans and dropping a exception to its lending rules that enabled Greece to obtain a loan in 2010 without having to first restructure its debt.

The exemption was established at the start of the European debt crisis to prevent contagion by allowing some nations to receive financing even though the fund could not say with

April 18, 2014

Defend ‘Obamacare’ unabashedly, some Democrats say

Filed under: economics, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:36 am

WASHINGTON • With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it’s time to stop hiding from the president’s health care overhaul, even in this year’s toughest Senate elections.

Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace “Obamacare,” the GOP’s favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.

President Barack Obama recently announced that first-year sign-ups for subsidized private health insurance topped 7 million, exceeding expectations. And the Congressional Budget Office — the government’s fiscal scorekeeper — said it expects only a minimal increase in customers’ costs for 2015. Over the next decade, the CBO said the new law will cost taxpayers $100 billion less than previously estimated.

Republicans already were pushing their luck by vowing to “repeal and replace” the health care law without having a viable replacement in mind, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant and blogger in North Carolina. Now, he said, Democrats have even more reasons to rise from their defensive crouch on this topic.

“Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare,” Mills said. “They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can’t get away from it. So they’d better start defending it.”

Even some professionals who have criticized the health care law say the political climate has changed.

“I think Democrats have the ability to steal the health care issue back from Republicans,” health care industry consultant said Bob Laszewski said. “The Democratic Party can become the party of fixing Obamacare.”

In truth, some Democratic lawmakers often talk of “fixing” the 2010 health care law arrest records. But it’s usually in response to critics or in a manner meant to show their willingness to challenge Obama.

For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election bid, used her first TV ad of the campaign to highlight her demand that Obama let people keep insurance policies they like.

But Landrieu and other hard-pressed Democrats have not gone as far as a pro-Democratic group in Alaska that is unabashedly highlighting the health law’s strongest points.

The independent group Put Alaska First is airing a TV ad that praises Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for helping people obtain insurance even if they have “pre-existing conditions,” such as cancer. The ad doesn’t mention Obama or his health care law by name, but it focuses on one of the law’s most popular features.

Other Democrats should consider such tactics, political consultant David DiMartino said.

“There is still time to tell the story of Obamacare to voters,” he said. Democratic candidates don’t want to be defined entirely by the health law, he said, “but now they can point to its successes to fend off the inevitable distortions.”

GOP strategists don’t agree. The recent upbeat reports might help Democrats temporarily, but “the negative opinion of Americans toward Obamacare is baked in,” Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said. “If Obamacare was truly trending positively,” he said, “Sebelius would have stayed, and Democrats in tough races would be picking a fight on Obamacare, instead of mostly hiding from it.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary closely associated with the health care law, is stepping down. Democrats say it’s a sign that the biggest problems are past, but Senate Republicans vow to use her successor’s confirmation hearings as another forum for criticizing the law.

Democrats hardest hit by anti-Obamacare ads — including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — continue to defend the health law when asked, but they generally focus on other topics, campaign aides say.

Polls don’t suggest public sentiment is shifting toward Democrats, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. But with at least 7.5 million people enrolled despite last fall’s disastrous rollout of insurance markets, Blendon said, Democrats have some strong new material to use.

“Each of the Democratic candidates is going to have to make a calculation on whether or not they can motivate Democrats,” Blendon said. “For Democrats to get an advantage out of the law, they have to convince people they have something to lose if the Senate changes hands.”

Republicans need to gain six seats to control the 100-member Senate.

New political problems might arise for the health care law before the Nov. 4 election. For instance, the individual requirement to carry health insurance remains generally unpopular, and now penalties may apply to millions of people who remain uninsured.

So far, Republicans have had an edge in public opinion, particularly when those with strong sentiments about the law are considered. A recent AP-GfK poll found that strong opponents outnumber strong supporters, 31 percent to 13 percent. And motivated voters often make the difference in low-turnout nonpresidential elections criminal search. But the poll also found that most Americans expect the health law to be changed, not repealed.

That puts Republicans in a tricky situation: GOP primary voters demand repeal, but general election voters in November are looking for fixes.

“It’s not a cheap and easy political target anymore,” Laszewski said. “Republicans are going to have to tell us what they would do different.”

Democrats deride GOP proposals to “replace” the 2010 health care law, saying they collapse under close scrutiny. Since they generally contemplate a smaller federal government role, many of the GOP ideas are likely to leave more people uninsured. Some approaches do not completely prohibit insurers from turning away people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who advises many top Republicans, said the emerging GOP plans aren’t tied to the ups and downs of Obama’s law but look ahead to the 2016 presidential election, when the party will need alternatives.

Ultimately, he said, “there can’t be a Republican ‘replace.’ … There needs to be a bipartisan reform.” That doesn’t seem likely, but Holtz-Eakin said it was the only kind of change that will prove durable.

Democrats can cheer the latest statistics, “but they are not out of the woods yet,” he said. “They have waived and deferred a million things they knew were unpopular, and those are still out there.”

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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October 15, 2012

Softbank could play Sprint’s savior

Filed under: legal, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:56 am

Sprint Nextel’s seven-year nightmare may soon be over. The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier confirmed Thursday that it is in talks with Japanese technology giant Softbank to sell at least part of the company.

, Fortune 500) has struggled to keep up with stronger competitors , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) ever since its disastrous 2005 merger with Nextel. The company is up to its eyeballs in debt, undergoing an expensive — and late — transition to 4G-LTE, and losing contracted customers in the wake of its decision to ditch the Nextel brand. With smaller rival T-Mobile entering into an agreement to buy , Fortune 500) earlier this month, Sprint is feeling the heat of stronger competition from all sides.

Forced to go it alone, the company has been working on a major upgrade intended to modernize its network. It’s also toying with backup plans: Sprint’s shares rose last week on a Bloomberg report that said the company was considering making a counter-offer to MetroPCS.

But then, seemingly out of the blue, Softbank arrived dangling a new rescue plan. It’s the kind of white knight with deep pockets that Sprint desperately needs. Softbank had roughly $13 billion in cash at the end of last year. Sprint, by comparison, has $21 billion in debt and just $7 billion in cash and short-term investments.

Shares of Sprint jumped by as much as 19% Thursday on the news.

Japan’s third-largest carrier, led by colorful and outspoken CEO Masayoshi Son (he devised a 300-year plan in 2010, which involved brain-computer symbiosis and machines that know how to love), isn’t shy about dealmaking. It owns a stake in ), had a chunk of ) until last year, and orchestrated a blockbuster deal to buy Vodafone’s Japan unit that gave the company a huge presence in the burgeoning wireless space no fax payday loan. Softbank was the first Japanese wireless company to carry the , Fortune 500) iPhone.

Softbank’s flair and assertiveness could give Sprint a needed jolt. The company lost its brief marketing edge — billing itself as the only nationwide network with unlimited data — when T-Mobile recently reverted to its unlimited data plans as well. Despite a network technology transition that appears to be on schedule and promises cost savings and improved coverage, Sprint’s management has been criticized for lacking the chutzpah to do something bolder. The company seems locked in a losing battle with its two much-larger competitors.

“If Softbank does acquire Sprint Nextel, it is not a forgone conclusion that the company will do well,” said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. “However, the chances it can do well are there if the company can understand the U.S. marketplace.”

Terms of the deal that is being negotiated were not disclosed, and Softbank declined to comment. A Wall Street Journal report said the deal, worth roughly $13 billion, would give Softbank a controling stake in Sprint.

Regulators would likely cheer the deal, which would ensure that four strong, nationwide wireless competitors remain in the U.S. market. In AT&T’s scuttled $36 billion buyout offer for T-Mobile last year, regulators said they opposed the deal because it would bring the number of national wireless choices down from four to three.

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September 7, 2012

ECB outlines bond-buying program

Filed under: canada, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:28 am

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi outlined the details of a plan to buy euro area government bonds, reiterating his pledge to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro.

Following a meeting of top ECB officials in Frankfurt on Thursday, Draghi said the ECB is prepared to make “outright monetary transactions,” or OMTs, in the secondary bond market.

The goal is to “address severe distortions in government bond markets,” which he said stem from “unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro.”

He said the OMTs will be subject to conditions, including the activation of the two eurozone rescue funds — European Financial Stability Facility or European Stability Mechanism. In other words, governments that want the ECB to buy its bonds must agree to a program of reforms and oversight by the bailout funds and possibly the International Monetary Fund.

The move is aimed mainly at Spain and Italy, which struggled with unsustainable borrowing costs earlier this year, although Draghi said the offer is open to all euro area governments. So far, neither Madrid or Rome has officially requested support from the bailout funds.

There will be no “ex ante limits on the size” of the purchases, said Draghi, calling the plan a “fully effective back stop that removes tail risks from the euro area.”

The purchases will focus on bonds with a duration of between 1 and 3 years. And Draghi said the ECB will not be considered a preferred creditor under the new program.

Investors welcomed the comments, with stock markets rallying in Europe and the United States. In the bond market, yields on Spanish and Italian bonds fell sharply.

“This is a very significant step for the ECB,” said Marie Diron, senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young. “The ECB did not disappoint on the very high expectations in the market.”

Diron praised the ECB for being proactive, but she added that the new program alone “is not enough for the eurozone economy to turn itself around.”

“The program certainly improves the financial market environment and will create some room for governments to hold up their part of the bargain,” she said.

During his press conference, Draghi said “conditionality” is the most important difference between the OMTs and past interventions in the bond market under the ECB’s Securities Market Program.

The ECB president stressed that intervening in the bond market is not effective without “concurrent” policy actions by government policy makers. “You need two legs,” he said.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income analyst at Janney Capital Markets, called the emphasis on conditionality “a sacrifice to the German financial gods.”

“Essentially, if a bailed out country doesn’t meet its fiscal target, the ECB stops buying, and borrowing rates go through the roof,” LeBas wrote in a note to clients. “It also allows the ECB an ‘out,’ which reduces the effectiveness of the purchase program.”

The decision was backed by all members of the ECB’s governing council, with one exception. Jens Weidmann, president of the German Bundesbank, has made his opposition to bond buying publicly known.

Draghi reiterated his argument that bond buying is not a violation of the ECB’s mandate because dysfunctional financial markets are impeding the “transmission” of monetary policy.

However, he downplayed reports that ECB leaders are divided along geographic lines, with more hawkish Northerners opposed to more dovish Southerners.

“There is a mistaken caricature, particularly in this country (Germany) about how the governing council works,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ECB said its main refinancing rate will remain at a record low of 0.75%. Some analysts had expected a rate cut to 0.5%.

The ECB also lowered its outlook for economic growth this year to a range between a decline of 0.6% and 0.2%.

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