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Briefly: $2.5 billion distributed to Madoff scam victims

- - Thursday, September 20, 2012

NEW YORK

NEW YORK — A court-appointed trustee in New York has mailed out $2.5 billion in checks to victims of Bernard Madoff's massive fraud.

Irving Picard announced the distribution Thursday. He said it means that he's so far satisfied nearly half of all valid claims made by the disgraced financier's burned clients.

Mr. Picard has estimated that thousands of investors lost $17.3 billion in the decades-long fraud. He says he's recovered about $9.1 billion since he was appointed following Madoff's arrest in 2008.

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges that he orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He's serving a 150-year prison term.

CALIFORNIA

Business groups protest state's carbon market

SACRAMENTO — Dozens of people, some wearing red "Save Our Jobs" T-shirts, packed a public meeting to testify that a key component of the state's landmark greenhouse gas emissions law will impose enormous costs on them and consumers.

Manufacturers, oil refiners and workers Thursday appeared before the California Air Resources Board to protest the state's pending cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions.

They say the program's fees amount to a $1 billion tax increase per year.

The California Chamber of Commerce and others wrote Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to halt the start of the program, the central element of California's 2006 climate-change law, AB32.

Gino DiCaro, a California Manufacturers and Technology Association spokesman, said some 700 business have signed a letter to the board asking them to reconsider the costs of the program.

GERMANY

Employment commissioner calls for German pay hikes

BERLIN — European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor called for an increase in German salaries to help energize the EU's struggling economy.

"Salaries in Germany must follow developments in productivity," Andor told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview to be published Friday.

"For the past decade, we have sharply held back on salaries in Germany to boost competitiveness, but this has had consequences on other countries in the European Union," Mr. Andor, a Hungarian economist, said.

The call came amid recent calls by German unions for wage hikes after years of salary stagnation, with salary increases already agreed for metalworkers

Germany's economy, the EU's biggest, has largely defied sagging growth elsewhere and many economists argue that only a jump in German household consumption, fueled by wage hikes, could help lift its neighbors.

On Thursday, a closely watched survey showed that eurozone private sector business activity declined for an eighth straight month in September, hitting its gloomiest patch in three years.

WASHINGTON

Microsoft fixing security bug in Internet Explorer

REDMOND — Microsoft is releasing an update to its Internet Explorer browser to fix a security problem that could expose personal computers to hacking attacks.

A permanent repair to the security flaw will be released Friday. Microsoft Corp. began offering a temporary patch for the problem Wednesday on a part of its website set up for technical issues.

The permanent solution to the problem will be automatically installed on PCs running on Microsoft's Windows operating system if the machine is set up to receive important updates. The temporary repair requires clicking on a link.

Microsoft Corp., which is based in Redmond, is urging PC users who haven't enabled their machines for automatic updates to retrieve and install the permanent patch as soon as possible Friday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

Although Microsoft says "the vast majority" of users have not been bit by the security bug, the potential for trouble prompted a German technology agency to advise using other Web browsers besides Internet Explorer.

Once the dominant Web browser, Internet Explorer has been losing market share in recent years to Google's Chrome, Apple Inc.'s Safari and Mozilla's Firefox.

At least one research firm maintains that Chrome eclipsed Internet Explorer as the world's most popular browser earlier this year. Other measures still rate Internet Explorer as the market leader.

CANADA

Union threatens GM with strike notice

TORONTO — The Canadian Auto Workers Union says they could serve General Motors with a 24-hour strike notice Thursday after GM failed to meet the pattern of a deal the union reached with Ford.

Union spokeswoman Shannon Devine said there are a few key items missing from GM's latest proposal.

The union decided to keep working past a midnight Monday strike deadline after reaching a tentative deal with Ford and extending its contracts with GM and Chrysler. Workers are staying on the job as talks continue but can go on strike after giving GM and Chrysler 24 hours' notice. The union wants the Ford contract to serve as a template for the other two companies. The union says it's making better progress with Chrysler and it's frustrated with GM.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports