- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Regional

• About half of the 1,326 employees at Media General Inc.’s Florida properties — including the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV — were offered buyout packages yesterday as the struggling company tries to cut costs and consolidate platforms. Offers included a severance package based on years of service with the company. The Tampa Tribune is the largest of Richmond-based Media General’s 25 daily newspapers.

• The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) plans to give a safety award to a Massey Energy Co. underground mine where two men were killed in a January 2006 fire. Massey, the Richmond coal company cited for negligence in the accident, said the award recognizes Aracoma for having no lost-time injuries while miners worked 574,000 hours at the mines last year. MSHA also is giving the award to a Nicholas County plant.

• American Electric Power said it plans to appeal Virginia’s rejection of a plan to build a $2.23 billion clean-coal plant in West Virginia. Virginia’s State Corporation Commission yesterday denied a request from Columbus, Ohio-based AEP to build the Mason County plant. The commission also rejected a proposal to increase rates for Virginia residents to start recovering construction costs from customers.

AOL, the Sterling, Va., Internet unit of Time Warner Inc. that is shifting its focus to advertising, will sell and manage Internet ads for Verizon Communications. AOL’s Platform A sales network will handle display and video ads for the second-biggest U.S. phone company, AOL said. Verizon will keep using AOL’s Third Screen Media technology to manage the sale of its ads for mobile devices.

National

• UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, the world’s second-biggest carrier, asked U.S. regulators for a one-year delay in starting flights between San Francisco and China because of soaring jet-fuel prices and a slowing economy. United’s expected fuel cost to fly the route surged 52 percent to $70 million, according to its request, filed with the Transportation Department.

• Former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, a Citigroup board member, said the global financial system of free-flowing capital and goods, including organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, needs to be fixed. The United States has promoted lower trade barriers and free markets through such organizations for decades, but Mr. Rubin called into question the efficacy of the system.

Bear Stearns Cos. said its first-quarter profit fell just below Wall Street expectations as it prepares to be acquired by rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. The fifth-biggest U.S. investment bank posted a profit of $110 million (86 cents per share), down from $548 million ($3.82) a year earlier. Revenue fell to $1.48 billion from $2.48 billion a year ago.

Google Inc., seeking to reduce its dependence on advertising tied to Internet-search results, said it will expand a television-ad service with Dish Network Corp. Google’s U.S. AdWords customers will be able to bid for spots in the coming weeks. Google started the ad-brokering program with a limited number of advertisers last year.

Salesforce.com Inc. will combine its customer-management software with Google Inc.’s Internet-based applications in a challenge to Microsoft Corp.’s Office software. The software combines Salesforce.com’s programs for tracking customers and sales leads with Google’s online word processing, spreadsheet, e-mail and calendar programs, San Francisco-based Salesforce.com said.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest seller of firearms, said it will toughen rules for gun sales, from storing video of purchases to creating an internal log of which guns they sell that are later used in crimes. Wal-Mart executives appeared with outspoken gun-control advocate New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to announce the changes at a gathering of Mr. Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

• The chief executive of General Re Corp. resigned in the wake of reports that federal prosecutors were pushing for his removal. Joseph Brandon, who led one of Berkshire Hathaway’s largest reinsurance subsidiaries, will be replaced by General Re’s president, Franklin “Tad” Montross. Pressure for Mr. Brandon to step down increased after four former executives at the company were convicted on fraud charges in February.

Tax season became a little more taxing this year, with the average person spending more than a day and more than $200 collecting, calculating and compiling those numbers for the tax man, according to a report based on Internal Revenue Service figures. But businesses have it far worse. The National Taxpayers Union, in its annual look at the burdens of taxpaying, said the corporate cost of compliance is about $170 billion.

State-run investment funds and the countries in which they invest must work more closely to diminish political concerns that threaten to hurt capital flows, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said. Mr. Kimmitt said sovereign wealth funds have an obligation to be open about the assets they are buying.

International

Iraq has agreed to buy four more regional jets from Bombardier Aerospace for $159 million, and has taken out options to purchase an additional 10, in a deal whose potential value totals $573 million, the company said. Montreal-based Bombardier said its planes will be used to rebuild airline services in Iraq. Services have largely been grounded since 1991 when the United Nations imposed sanctions following the invasion of Kuwait.

Norwegian companies Seadrill and MPF Corp. separately announced oil-drilling contracts with Brazil’s government-run oil company worth at least $4.7 billion. Seadrill said it entered six-year contracts with Brazil’s Petrobras Oil and Gas BV worth $4.1 billion for services by three offshore-drilling rigs under construction in South Korea and Singapore.

China sought to persuade the World Trade Organization to let it keep higher tariffs on industrial goods in any global trade deal, sparking fierce opposition from developed countries. China, which joined the WTO in 2001, wants to be able to charge tariffs above the 23 percent level proposed for developing countries, citing its status as a “recently acceded member,” trade officials said.

Cubans are lining up out the door and down the block at phone centers in Havana as cell-phone service becomes available to all citizens for the first time. The cell-phone contracts cost about $120. That’s more than six times the average state salary and doesn’t include a phone or cards with credit to make and receive calls. Still, hundreds of Cubans are lining up to buy the service.

• Australia’s Qantas Airways and Pacific Airlines of Vietnam announced plans to develop the Asian carrier into a low-cost airline through massive expansion during the next six years. Under a strategic and commercial partnership agreement, the new airline will be renamed Jetstar Pacific and operate as part of the Qantas budget carrier’s brand, Qantas said. Up to 30 Airbus A320 planes will be added to the fleet by 2014.

• The online hangout MySpace is continuing its international expansion with today’s launch of a Korean site peppered with features tailored to local cultural habits. Among the new tools is “Minilog,” a way for Korean youths to jot down everyday thoughts and feelings in a few hundred characters, with options to personalize stamps and backgrounds to resemble different types of notebook paper.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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