- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

The top business news from The Associated Press for the morning of Thursday, March 19, 2009:

House sets up vote on taxing AIG bonuses

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Venting their outrage, lawmakers are preparing to slap heavy taxes on employee bonuses at insurance giant AIG and at other companies that have received large bailout packages from the government. The House was scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would levy a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to employees with family incomes above $250,000 at companies that have received at least $5 billion in government bailout money.

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Asia markets mixed after Fed’s $1.2 trillion plan

HONG KONG (AP) _ Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday as investors digested the U.S. Federal Reserve’s massive $1.2 trillion spending plan to revive growth in the world’s largest economy. Japanese exporters got whacked as the dollar tumbled against the yen. Most of the region’s other markets posted small gains, buoyed after Wall Street gained for a sixth time in seven days on optimism over the Fed’s announcement. Banks in several markets helped lead the way, while commodity firms rose on stronger prices for crude and metals.

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Microsoft adds shortcuts, security to new browser

SEATTLE (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. will release a new version of Internet Explorer Thursday, adding features meant to speed up common Web surfing tasks and bringing the browser’s security measures in line with those of major competitors. The number of browsers has grown to a dizzying array, from Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, the two most popular, to Apple Inc.’s Safari, Google Inc.’s Chrome, the Norwegian entrant Opera and others. Each is using speed, security enhancements and new features to fight for a share of Web surfers’ growing time online. Microsoft remains the dominant player, but Firefox’s influence is growing.

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Sony e-book reader gets 500,000 books from Google

NEW YORK (AP) _ Google Inc. is making half a million books, unprotected by copyright, available for free on Sony Corp.’s electronic book-reading device, the companies were set to announce Thursday. It’s the first time Google has made its vast trove of scanned public-domain books available to an e-book device, and vaults the Sony Reader past Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle as the device with the largest available library, at about 600,000 books.

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Oracle manages 3Q feat: healthy contract signings

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Oracle Corp.’s sales force pulled off a big feat in the business software maker’s latest quarter, sustaining a healthy clip of contract signings amid a dreary time for technology spending. The efforts helped push Oracle’s sales and profit above Wall Street’s forecasts. Oracle also surprised investors by declaring its first dividend, a rare sign of confidence that comes as other bellwethers are cutting or suspending their dividends to save money.

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Kellogg CEO: Food safety must be strengthened

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It’s not just consumer groups anymore that say the U.S. food safety system is broken. The head of Kellogg Co., the world’s largest cereal maker, planned to urge Congress on Thursday to revamp how the government polices his industry. Kellogg lost $70 million in the recent salmonella outbreak, after it had to recall millions of packages of peanut butter crackers and cookies.

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INSIDE WASHINGTON: AIG turns to crisis managers

WASHINGTON (AP) _ They took lavish junkets and paid bonuses to purveyors of exotic financial instruments. Now add this to the list of extras American International Group Inc. has paid for while grasping a federal lifeline: The once-mighty insurance giant has turned to a seasoned Washington crisis manager to repair its tattered reputation and help it weather the escalating public backlash. Levick Strategic Communications, first tapped by AIG last year, is known for coaching prominent players through the messiest of cases, from the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal to the controversy surrounding a Dubai-based company’s contract to run some U.S. ports. It’s a player in a vibrant and lucrative cottage industry in the nation’s capital _ helping high-profile people and companies rescue their images after well-publicized missteps.

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IBM could shake up Silicon Valley with Sun deal

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ If IBM Corp. scoops up Sun Microsystems Inc. for at least $6.5 billion in cash, as the companies are discussing, IBM would be making an opportunistic grab for a deep well of technology that Sun has nearly buried itself developing. The proposed acquisition would be IBM’s biggest yet. It would shake up Silicon Valley and the corporate computing world, marrying two traditional foes whose animosity was relatively recently squashed.

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Oil rises to near $49 as stock rallies boost hopes

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Oil rose to nearly $49 a barrel Thursday in Asia, brushing off news of increasing U.S. crude supplies, as traders took heart from rallies in global stock markets as an indication of overall investor optimism. But others cautioned that oil prices wouldn’t go much higher because the outlook for the global economy remains murky.

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Fed launches bold $1.2T effort to revive economy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With the country sinking deeper into recession, the Federal Reserve launched a bold $1.2 trillion effort Wednesday to lower rates on mortgages and other consumer debt, spur spending and revive the economy. To do so, the Fed will spend up to $300 billion to buy long-term government bonds and an additional $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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Japan Markets

TOKYO (AP) _ Stocks of Japanese exporters got hit by a sudden jump in the yen Thursday, breaking the benchmark index’s four-day winning streak. The Nikkei 225 stock average lost 26.21 points, or 0.33 percent, to 7,945.96. The broader Topix index was up only 0.10 points at 764.77.

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Dollar-Yen

TOKYO (AP) _ The dollar fell to 95.53 yen Thursday from nearly 99 yen the day before.

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A service of The Associated Press. Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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