Archives for News

Treasury Dept. paid law firms without checking bills

The Treasury Department paid out more than $27 million to law firms overseeing the financial bailouts without requiring detailed bills or questioning the incomplete records that the lawyers provided, a government watchdog says. Treasury’s “current contracts and fee bill review practices create an unacceptable risk that Treasury, and therefore the American taxpayer, is overpaying for legal services,” the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report issued Thursday. Treasury could not have adequately gauged whether the fees were reasonable because the records are so sparse, the report says. The report criticizes so-called “block billing,” in
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Poll: Most think their taxes are fair

For all the complaining this time of year, most Americans actually think the taxes they pay are fair. Not that they’re cheering. Fewer people expect refunds this year than in previous years, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But as Monday’s filing deadline approaches, the poll shows that 54 percent believe their tax bills are either somewhat fair or very fair, compared with 46 percent who say they are unfair. Should taxes be raised to eat into huge federal deficits? Among the public, 62 percent say they favor cutting government services to sop up the red ink. Just 29 percent
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A new TV network for rich boys with toys

Discovery Communications Inc. is launching a television network for rich guys and their toys. Called Velocity, the new network will replace the current network HD Theater in some 40 million homes on Sept. 25, Discovery officials said Thursday. The target audience is men with incomes of $150,000 a year and more. “We just felt like this was a space missing in the marketplace,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. HD Theater was launched in 2002 with the specific purpose of showing high-definition versions of programs on other Discovery networks. The rapid adoption of high-def by consumers, and
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James Bond will return for 23rd film

James Bond is staying put with the studio that distributed his last two big-screen adventures. Sony Pictures has signed a deal with MGM to co-finance and distribute the 23rd film in the super-spy franchise, due in theaters Nov. 9, 2012. Daniel Craig will be back for the third time as British agent Bond. In an announcement Wednesday, the studios said they hope to partner up for a 24th Bond film, as well. Sony Corp. had been a part owner of MGM and distributed Craig’s earlier Bond flicks, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.” But the Bond franchise had been on
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Obama eyes Medicare changes, tax increases

President Barack Obama, two years into a presidency marked by increased spending on a weak economy, is turning his attention to the nation’s crushing debt and trying to counter a Republican anti-deficit plan with one of his own. The president on Wednesday was to deliver a speech outlining his proposal to reduce spending in the biggest government benefits programs, raise taxes on the wealthy and cut defense costs. In a pre-emptive response Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called any proposed tax increase “a nonstarter.” This new clash, just a week after the president announced he would seek re-election, ensures
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GOP supports Democratic Medicare cuts

In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall when Democrats and President Barack Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law. The cuts are included in the 2012 budget that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled last week and account for a significant share of the $5.8 trillion in claimed savings over the next decade. The House is expected to vote on the blueprint this week. Ryan’s spokesman, Conor Sweeney, said the cuts are virtually the only part of “Obamacare” — the term that Republicans use
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Budget cuts: Will anyone really notice?

It’s touted as the biggest one-time rollback of domestic spending ever, but most folks will be hard-pressed to notice. After all, it’s just 1 percent of what the government will lay out this year. The number of security officers at airports won’t be reduced. National park campgrounds won’t close. There will still be enough meat inspectors to prevent temporary plant closures. Disadvantaged schools won’t see cuts in federal aid. And stiff cuts to grants for community action agencies serving the poor were averted. Basically, the things most people expect from the government won’t change very much if Congress approves the
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A year later, BP spill damage lingers

The worst maritime oil spill in history began nearly a year ago with a drop in pressure in a poorly drilled well deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It hasn’t really ended even though BP’s runaway well was eventually capped 87 days later. As crews in Japan struggle to contain a nuclear meltdown at a poorly maintained plant in Fukushima, the April 20 anniversary of the BP spill is a stark reminder of the high costs of our energy needs and the far-reaching consequences of cutting corners on safety. The massive explosion killed 11 workers and sank the Deepwater Horizon
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Drop in defaults helps JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase & Co is expected to post an increase in first-quarter profit of more than 50 percent on Wednesday, as the bank weathers a slowdown in trading and fewer borrowers default on credit card loans. Analysts on average expect the second-largest U.S. bank earned $1.16 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. That compares with a year-earlier profit of 74 cents a share. JPMorgan is the first of the major U.S. banks to report earnings and is expected to set an upbeat tone for the sector, showing an improvement in credit quality and only moderate trading losses. The bank
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Wal-Mart cuts back on space for electronics

Wal-Mart Stores is cutting the size of its electronics department as popular gadgets shrink and making room to add back dropped items like fishing poles, fabric and full-figure fashions. “It’s still a vibrant category but much smaller items are being sold,” Rosalind Brewer, president of Walmart East, said while speaking at the ISI Retail Summit on Tuesday. Company officials said Wal-Mart will be selling the same number of products despite the reduction in the physical size of its electronics departments. They added that the size of the electronics departments will vary store by store. Over the last couple of years,
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