- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Regional

Maryland will issue $400 million in general obligation bonds today with the highest possible rating from all three major rating services. Proceeds will cover acquisition and construction of public schools, community colleges, jails and correctional facilities, and also will be used for grants to local governments and nonprofit institutions.

Linthicum, Md., communications-equipment provider Ciena Corp. said it received clearance to proceed with its $290 million acquisition of World Wide Packets.

Israel might buy a “significant” number of Lockheed Martin Corp. Joint Strike Fighters, its U.S. ambassador said. The fighter is the most-costly U.S. weapons program. The Pentagon said Israel might be interested in 100 planes, which would make the country among the largest allied customers of the program, behind Britain and Italy.

Shares of USEC Corp. of Bethesda, the lone U.S. producer of enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, fell the most since its initial public offering in 1998 after analysts said more than $1 billion in cost overruns at a new plant in Ohio might reduce earnings. The shares plunged $2.43, or 26 percent, to $6.82.

National

The Supreme Court left the door open for workers in age discrimination cases to present supporting evidence from other employees at a company. In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that federal courts cannot categorically block so-called “me too” evidence of age discrimination or, by contrast, freely allow it to be used.

U.S. bank and thrift earnings dropped to the lowest level since 1991 in the fourth quarter, hurt by trading losses and increased reserves for bad loans, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) said. Net income for FDIC-insured institutions was $5.82 billion, an 83 percent decline from the $35.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006.

MBIA Inc. had its Aaa rating affirmed by Moody’s Investors Service, removing the threat of an immediate downgrade that would have sparked losses across the credit markets. Moody’s said it ended a review, satisfied that capital-raising plans and restructuring showed the bond insurer could withstand losses on subprime debt.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, was sued by the estate of a Florida woman over claims the company charged borrowers improper foreclosure fees. The suit claims that starting in February 2002, Countrywide overcharged for attorneys’ fees tied to foreclosures and imposed improper interest, escrow and late charges.

The Federal Reserve auctioned another $30 billion in funds to commercial banks to fight the effects of a serious credit crisis. The Fed said the money carried an interest rate of just more than 3 percent. It was the sixth in a series of auctions that so far have pumped $160 billion into the nation’s banking system.

Amtrak, the U.S. railroad used by 26 million passengers annually, would “severely curtail service” under the budget proposed by President Bush, said Rep. John W. Olver, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s transportation, housing and urban development panel. Mr. Olver also said Amtrak’s budget request of $1.67 billion is equally unrealistic.

US Airways Group Inc. said it will start charging fliers $25 to check a second bag, the latest effort by the company to raise revenue and deal with rising costs. The new charge will begin May 5, the company said. The announcement follows a similar policy change disclosed early this month by United Airlines.

Microsoft Corp. said it fixed a glitch with Windows Live that shut users out of Hotmail accounts and other online services for hours yesterday. The failure prevented most customers worldwide from signing on.

Deteriorating credit markets could force Pinnacle Entertainment to abandon a $2 billion casino project on the Atlantic City’s boardwalk in New Jersey, the company said. Pinnacle bought the former Sands Hotel Casino and demolished it in October to make way for the project.

Robert Jarvik, the inventor of an artificial heart, was paid $1.3 million over two years to endorse Pfizer Inc.’s cholesterol drug Lipitor. He defended his role, saying he is qualified as a medical scientist even though he is not a practicing physician. Mr. Jarvik also said a stunt double was used for a scene purportedly showing him rowing, strictly for insurance purposes.

International

Canada confirmed a new case of mad cow disease, the 12th since 2003, and said the animal in question was a 6-year-old dairy cow from Alberta. Regulators said no part of the carcass entered the human or animal food supply.

The European Court of Justice ruled that only the tasty, crumbly cheese that has been made for some 800 years near the Italian city of Parma can legally be called Parmesan cheese.

China’s largest producer of plastic bags said it closed, more than a month after the government announced a high-profile ban on stores handing out free bags, in an effort to clean up the environment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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