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August 14, 2014

Sagging European economies crimp stock markets

Filed under: business, economics — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:48 pm

HONG KONG (AP) — A contraction in Germany’s economy and stagnation in France dragged on European stocks Thursday while Asian markets ended mixed.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 lost 0.4 percent to 4,176.03 and Germany’s DAX shed 0.4 percent to 9,164.92. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent to 6,661.95. U.S. shares were set to drift lower, with Dow futures slipping 0.1 percent to 16,606. S&P 500 futures dipped 0.1 percent to 1,943.60.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to close at 15,314.57 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.6 percent higher at 5,548.50. South Korea’s Kospi was practically unchanged at 2,063.22. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.4 percent to 24,801.36, after swinging between gains and losses for most of the day. The Shanghai Composite in mainland China followed the same pattern, down 0.7 percent to 2,206.47.

EUROPE SAGS: The latest growth figures from two major economies cast doubt over Europe’s recovery. The Germany economy lost momentum, shrinking by 0.2 percent in the April-June period, while the French economy stagnated for second straight quarter, official reports showed.

CHINA ECONOMY: Benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai declined a day after disappointing data on the Chinese economy left investors fretting that authorities in Beijing were comfortable with slowing growth and would refrain from further stimulus. Fixed investment and industrial production for July slowed, though the big surprise was the sharp drop in loan growth, which Rabobank analyst Michael Every called “shockingly low bad credit payday advance.”

PC PROFITS: No. 1 personal computer maker Lenovo Group failed to hold on to gains after reporting quarterly profit rose 23 percent on stronger sales of smartphones and other mobile devices, with shares down 1.6 percent. China Mobile, the world’s biggest wireless carrier by subscribers, rose 0.7 percent even as the state-owned company reported first half profit fell 8.5 percent as it continued to roll out fourth-generation phone service.

US CUES: Investors are looking ahead to more hints on the health of the global economy with the release of U.S. unemployment benefit applications later Thursday. They come a day after U.S. retail sales edged up a tiny amount compared with the month before, fueling hopes that the Fed will maintain stimulus.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil for September delivery was down 27 cents to $97.31 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 60 cents to $104.46 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.3380 from $1.3365 in late trading Thursday. The dollar was little changed at 102.41 yen from 102.42 yen.

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August 8, 2014

Milos Raonic survives Rogers Cup thriller

Filed under: online, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:48 am

Milos Raonic wasn’t perfect, but he’s still alive at the Rogers Cup.

Raonic had his serve going amid some erratic shots as he came back to beat American Jack Sock 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) on centre court Wednesday night at Rexall Centre.

Fans chanted “Let’s go Milos” between points, cheering on the last Canadian left in the field. On Tuesday, all four men who played singles were eliminated, and Eugenie Bouchard bowed out in Montreal.

Raonic stunted that momentum with 15 aces that helped offset some struggles to return Sock’s serve. He won 79 per cent of his first-serve points but was broken in the first set to cause the 23-year-old to fall behind.

In the second set, Raonic held serve before blowing Sock out in the tiebreak. He needed another tiebreak to finish off the match.

Raonic will face Julien Benneteau of France on Thursday night. Benneteau upset 11th-seeded Ernests Gulbis Wednesday after beating former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.

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August 6, 2014

A-B InBev establishes “high-end” unit in Chicago

Filed under: money, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:08 pm

Anheuser-Busch InBev said today it is setting up what it calls a high-end business unit, based in Chicago.

The company said in the statement the Chicago location “places us closer touch with urban consumers, their way of thinking, lifestyle and the accounts they visit.”

As a result, Adam Oakley, vice president of import, craft and specialty brands and the “high-end marketing team” he heads in St. Louis will relocate to Chicago “over time,” A-B InBev said. The company did not specify the number of jobs that will be moved.

Oakley will report to Felipe Szpigel, the vice president in charge of the high-end business unit. Szpigel previously was A-B InBev’s vice president of trade marketing, in New York fast cash without a hassle.

A-B InBev also said Rob McCarthy will leave the company Sept. 2 after 18 years in commercial leadership roles. In his most recent role as vice president, Bud Light, McCarthy led development of the “The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens” campaign.

Alexander Lambrecht has been promoted to vice president, Bud Light, the company said. He formerly took part in Stella Artois marketing and communication efforts.

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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 31, 2014

Purina’s new natural brand has ’super foods’ for pets

Filed under: loans, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:16 am

Nestlé Purina PetCare’s new brand of dog and cat food, Beyond, features natural ingredients, including ’super foods’ such as sweet potato and pumpkin. 

St. Louis-based Purina, a division of Swiss-based Nestlé, said Wednesday that the new Beyond line of natural dog and cat foods are made from meat, poultry or fish as the number one ingredient, with no corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal or added artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Beyond’s ingredients include nutrient rich ’super foods’ such as salmon, sweet potato, pumpkin and cranberries, the company said when announcing the new brand. 

Beyond is being rolled out nationwide at mass and grocery retailers and at pet specialty stores. 

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July 29, 2014

Waste Management selling subsidiary for $1.94B

Filed under: finance, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:04 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — Waste Management is selling a subsidiary to Energy Capital Partners for $1.94 billion as part of its effort to focus on its core business.

It is selling Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., which owns or runs 17 waste-to-energy facilities and four independent power-producing plants in the U.S. The business also has four ash monofill landfills, three transfer stations and an ongoing development and construction project in the U.K. Wheelabrator’s 2013 revenue totaled about $845 million.

Houston-based Waste Management Inc. said Tuesday it plans to use proceeds from the sale to buy assets related to its core business and for stock repurchases.

The deal is targeted to close later this year. It still needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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July 26, 2014

Nevada gambling revenue jumps 14 percent in June

Filed under: business, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:20 am

LAS VEGAS • Nevada officials say casino revenues shot up more than 14 percent in June thanks to a banner month on the Las Vegas Strip.

The state Gaming Control Board reported Friday that Nevada casinos brought in about $907 million in June.

Las Vegas Strip casinos pulled in $532 million in June, up more than 22 percent from the same month a year ago. Downtown Las Vegas casino revenues of $41million were up 12 percent.

Reno casino revenues of $48 million were down 3 percent compared with June 2013, while South Lake Tahoe casinos brought in $12 million and were down 2 percent payday loans.

The state collected $44 million in taxes based on the June winnings, which is up less that 1 percent compared with a year earlier.

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July 19, 2014

NBA: Cavaliers now willing to include Andrew Wiggins in Kevin Love trade talks

Filed under: loans, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:20 pm

The Cleveland Cavaliers have finally shown a willingness to put Andrew Wiggins in a trade for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

While no deal is imminent, this development jump-starts the conversation between the two teams.

Minnesota has been adamant that any deal with the Cavs for Love include Wiggins. Cleveland had been reluctant to include the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft in trade talks. It remains unclear what else the T’wolves would want in a trade and whether that will be enough to get a deal done.

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Right now, the T’wolves are playing hardball for teams who want the all-star power forward. Cleveland has numerous young players and several future draft picks to offer, but Wiggins is high on Minnesota’s priority list. USA TODAY Sports previously reported the Golden State Warriors balked at including shooting guard Klay Thompson in a trade for Love, but their interest remains.

Love is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds a game. He can opt out his contract after this season, meaning teams that look to trade for him may want a commitment that he won’t leave after one year. That option also puts pressure on the T’wolves to trade him before losing him for nothing.

But Wiggins was drafted No. 1 with considerable hype. He is averaging 13.7 points, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks in summer league action the past week and is expected to play well with LeBron James, who signed with the Cavs last weekend.

Love also would be a great fit with James, replicating the stretch big man role played so well by Chris Bosh for James’ Miami Heat’s four consecutive NBA Finals runs. Love played with James for Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics.

As for Wiggins, the 19-year-old Canadian is receiving a crash course in the NBA rumour mill.

Since he arrived in Las Vegas and found out LeBron James was coming to Cleveland with him, Wiggins has heard his name brought up in possible trade scenarios as the Cavaliers pursue Love. Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the Cavaliers’ position has remained unchanged despite the reports Thursday and that no offer including Wiggins has been made to Minnesota.

“Rumours are rumours. That’s why they call them rumours,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “Sooner or later in one’s career, you’re going to have to deal with it. If he has to deal with it now, then so be it. It’s summer league. He’s learning everything as he goes along.”

Wiggins scored 21 points in 31 minutes on Thursday night in a loss to the Houston Rockets. He showcased his superior athleticism by creating mismatches and getting to the free throw line at will, making 15 of 20 free throws and getting one jaw-dropping, chase-down block in transition.

Several fans made remarks during the game about the Cavaliers getting Love, but Wiggins was unfazed. He was unavailable to reporters after the game, but Blatt said he felt no need to talk to him about the speculation.

“What you’ve got to like about the kid is that it doesn’t make a difference if it’s the fourth game of summer league in seven or eight days, or if people are keying on him or the crowd has funny things to say to him,” Blatt said. “He goes out there and really plays and has a nice calm about him and a real good demeanour. Andrew’s going to be a high-level player. It’s good to see.”

The Cavaliers and Timberwolves have been engaged in discussions since before the draft for Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer. That stipulation gives Love tremendous influence on where he ends up, and he initially balked at joining a Cavaliers team that appeared to be in rebuilding mode after missing the playoffs and firing coach Mike Brown.

That all changed when James decided last week to leave the Miami Heat and return to Cleveland, where the Akron native played for the first seven seasons of his career. James’ signing changed Love’s mind about going to Cleveland and the Cavaliers again started conversations with the Wolves.

General manager David Griffin, Blatt and owner Dan Gilbert have to this point refused to include Wiggins in any offer.

That has been a deal-breaker for the Wolves, who want Wiggins to headline any package that the Cavs would offer.

It’s not known if James would prefer the Cavs to hold onto Wiggins in any deal for Love, his U.S. Olympic teammate. But what’s certain is that the Cavaliers will take James’ feelings into consideration before making any move. The four-time MVP is hugely influential, and his return to the Cavaliers has restored hope in a franchise that has been down and out since he left for Miami in 2010.

Wiggins has yet to sign his rookie contract, which has led to speculation that the Cavaliers were stalling on that front to make it easier to execute a trade. The minute Wiggins does sign the deal, he cannot be traded for 30 days under league rules.

But keeping him unsigned also gives the Cavaliers more flexibility to pursue free agents. They have already agreed to terms with veteran shooters Mike Miller and James Jones, and have reached out to Ray Allen as well.

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June 22, 2014

British couple convicted of killing parents:

Filed under: marketing, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:01 am

LONDON—A British husband and wife were convicted Friday of murdering the woman’s parents, burying their bodies and collecting their pension checks for 15 years.

A jury at Nottingham Crown Court found Susan and Christopher Edwards guilty of shooting William and Patricia Wycherly in May 1998.

Prosecutors said the debt-ridden Edwards collected almost 250,000 pounds ($457,000) by pretending her parents were still alive. In 2005 they sold the parents’ home in the central England town of Mansfield, with the bodies buried in the backyard.

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Police Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin said the couple, desperate for money, “decided an easy way to get their hands on it was to kill their parents, and that’s what they did.”

“I think cold is the word,” he said.

They used some of the money to buy celebrity memorabilia, including autographs of Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra.

They told friends and relatives that the Wycherlys were travelling or had moved away.

Police unearthed the bodies in October after being tipped off by a family member that Christopher Edwards had admitted burying the bodies.

The couple had moved to France but were arrested at a London railway station after emailing police to say they wanted to surrender.

They pleaded not guilty to murder. Susan Edwards testified she had been provoked into shooting her mother after her mother killed her father.

But a jury did not believe the story.

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April 29, 2014

Audit finds issues with Toronto trustee expenses

Filed under: mortgage, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:11 am

Toronto trustees like to have their say in the boardroom, but they do a lot of talking outside of it as well — racking up thousands of dollars worth of calls to and from the Virgin Islands, Panama, Cuba, Greece and Mexico.

A detailed internal audit of Toronto District School Board trustees found numerous examples when they were, mostly without question, reimbursed for unauthorized or dubious expenses, including conference costs six days after the end of a three-day conference, $100 for alcohol and a $250 parking violation — issued for either blocking a fire route or a fire hydrant.

Trustee John Hastings, chair of the audit committee, said he could not explain the claims but wants the board to move quickly to address spending.

“I think it’s a combination of training that has to be provided to trustees, plus clearer policies and procedures … we need to bloody well pull up our socks and get at it,” he said before heading into a meeting Monday afternoon to discuss the audit.

The board paid out an additional $3,500 in international texting and data roaming charges from September 2010 to last January. “There appears to be no monitoring of trustee’s board cellphone charges,” the audit notes.

“We need to have a tracking system on that,” Hastings added. “We need to probably have better phone plans that adapt to the individual circumstances of trustees. Again, I see this as a big opportunity to get this ship turned around in this regard.”

The audit comes after a December report by Ernst and Young raised red flags about financial processes at Canada’s largest school board home insurance. It also comes amid revelations of trustee misbehaviour, after senior educators complained staff have been bullied, harassed and intimidated by elected officials.

There is no indication trustees harangued staff to approve expenses, Hastings added.

The audit details current differences in the rules for Toronto public and Catholic boards — showing limits and controls for the latter, with very few for the former.

(Spending at the Catholic board was tightened in 2009 after trustees made outrageous expense claims for things like lingerie and vacations.)

Toronto public trustees have annual expense accounts of $27,000, with extra money available through a fund for non-ward business such as professional development.

While some expenses “contradicted the policy … the estimated costs of these exceptions represent a small percentage of the total $2.5 million in trustee and governance expenses during the audit period” of September 2010 to this past January, the audit notes.

A new policy firming up expense reporting will go before another committee this week, and Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher continues to push to have all expenses posted online, in detail, as soon as possible.

The audit also revealed that trustees have hired board employees as their constituency assistants — not allowed — or have assistants who have no contract on file with the board.

It also raises questions about two trustees who charged taxpayers for stays at Ottawa’s luxury Chateau Frontenac hotel for a national school boards’ conference — one billing $354 a night for three nights, the other $414 a night for four nights.

Hastings himself said he had to reimburse the board for $60 for mileage he mistakenly claimed for meetings he didn’t attend.

“We’re all fallible,” he said.

He also defended a $2,100 expense for lanyards, with his trustee business card tucked inside, given to each graduating high school student last year.

Another unnamed trustee spent $11,600 for newsletter printing and graphic design.

Hastings said up to eight staff members were approving expenses without sufficient documentation, and feels that no more than two or three should be in charge.

TDSB audit highlights

Seven trustees incurred long distance charges on their cellphones: $55 for calls to and from Panama in one month; $947.50 to and from Cuba over one month; $2,218.47 to Barbados, Switzerland and the Virgin Islands; $1,473.90 in calls to China, Chile, Hong Kong, Greece and Polynesia; $320 in calls to and from Israel during one month; $800.43 to Guyana and Trinidad; $492.90 to Greece and Mexico over two months.

“The TDSB may have paid for personal long distance charges of the trustees,” the audit notes. Policy says they must reimburse such charges, and the audit recommends creating a special form for trustees to do so.

Almost $3,500 was billed for data roaming, international texting and text roaming life insurance for retirement.

One trustee charged the board for home Internet at two addresses in one month.

“A number of trustees submitted expenses for travel, accommodation, meals or other expenses in their conference claims that were outside of the conference dates … One trustee attended a three-day conference and incurred hotels, tours and other accommodation charges for up to six days after the conference. There were also two hotel rooms paid during one day of the trip.” One trustee billed $300 in tour costs and $400 in food at a conference with no explanation. Four trustees billed for a night at a Toronto hotel for a conference, when all live in the city and the conference took place during the day. One trustee expensed 181 kilometres in a day, with no details. One trustee billed cabs totalling $2,500, another $4,700. The audit notes there are no rules and that other transportation might be less expensive. Citing no clear policy on gifts, the audit found $40 spent on flowers for a parent council chair; $1,054 in glassware to “an organization in relation to the signing of a board agreement,” $30 for a music CD for a guest speaker, and Hastings’ lanyard giveaway. Parking receipts with no details, or details that don’t match mileage claims. $2,210 in “professional development” costs for constituency assistants.

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