Political obstacles to oil and gas production are starting to fall away at the state and local levels as voters, elected officials and courts jump on the energy boom bandwagon that may turn the USA into the world's top energy producer.
Voters are rewarding local politicians who support production. Ballot measures are distributing potential tax windfalls broadly. And most state legislatures are focused on managing the economic and environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, so the drilling boom can speed up rather than slow down.
The trend is crucial to the nation's energy future because oil and gas production is regulated and taxed almost entirely by state and local governments. The federal government's role is largely advisory, except on federal lands and on pipelines.
Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, oppose fracking and warn that fracking could harm drinking water and release toxic pollution in air and water.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
After several years of costly concessions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) authorized a walk-out earlier this month after Hostess received bankruptcy court approval to implement a wage cut that was not included in its contract.
With operations stalled, the company that makes Twinkies and other famous U.S. brands said last week that liquidating its business was the best way to preserve its dwindling cash. It won court approval on Wednesday to start winding down in a process expected to claim 15,000 jobs immediately and over 3,000 more after about four months.
Interviews with more than a dozen workers showed there was little sign of regret from employees who voted for the strike. They said they would rather lose their jobs than put up with lower wages and poorer benefits.
This is the type of garbage management had to put up with it to get product to the stores.
With 18,500 workers, Hostess has 12 different unions including the BCTGM, which has about 5,600 members on the bread and snack item production lines, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents about 7,500 route sales representatives, drivers and other employees.
Unlike some non-unionized rivals, the maker of Wonder Bread and Drake's cakes had to navigate more than 300 labor contracts, with terms that often strained efficiency and competitiveness, Hostess officials have said. In some extreme cases, contract provisions required different products to be delivered on different trucks even when headed to the same place.
Someone in the article comments posted more on this and it fits what I have heard about the unions.
Hostess posted a $341 million loss in 2011 on revenues of about $2.5 billion. Contributing to those 2011 losses:
- $52 million in Workers’ Comp Claims
- Dealing with 372 Distinct Collective-Bargaining Contracts
- Administration of 80 Separate Health and Benefits Plans
- Funding and Tending to 40 Discrete Pension Plans
- $31 million in year-over-year increases in wages and health care benefits for 2012 v. 2011
Uncounted in the above numbers were the outrageous union-imposed rules that made for a
too-high-to-bear cost of sales:
- No truck could carry both bread and snacks even when going to the same location
- Drivers were not permitted to load their own trucks
- Workers who loaded bread were not allowed to also load snacks
- Bringing products from back rooms to shelves required another set of union employees
- Multi-Employer pension obligations made Hostess liable for other, previously bankrupted,
retirement plan contributions from employees that never worked for Hostess at all
But the workers rather lose their jobs and go on the taxpayers dole getting undeserved unemployment benefits from the rest of us who are still working. Good job losers.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
They don't have too but that is one of the many reasons why the church of England is a dying entity. When you demand as Rowan Williams demands the church conforms to pop culture instead of standing up for itself, you lose credibility to those people who value unwavering values and traditions.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Paris Hilton has come a long way from her not-so-humble beginnings as a hotel heiress, via an infamous sex tape to her current position as a ubiquitous media presence and ‘businesswoman’ hell bent on global domination.
Nowhere is safe from Paris, not even the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia and the latest venue for one of Ms. Hilton’s fabulous handbags and accessories stores.
Of course Paris isn’t without her knockers and the idea that the notorious hard-partying socialite has opened a store in an Islamic holy place coveted by 1.2billion Muslims worldwide has proved a step too far for many.
“If I could just get a lift,” said Francisco López, imagining the addition of a hydraulic elevator as he stood by a rusted Russian sedan in his mechanic’s workshop here. All he needed was an investment from his brother in Miami or from a Cuban friend there who already sneaks in brake pads and other parts for him.
The problem: Washington’s 50-year-old trade embargo, which prohibits even the most basic business dealings across the 90 miles separating Cuba from the United States. Indeed, every time Mr. López’s friend in Florida accepts payment for a car part destined for Cuba, he puts himself at risk of a fine of up to $65,000.
With Cuba cautiously introducing free-market changes that have legalized hundreds of thousands of small private businesses over the past two years, new economic bonds between Cuba and the United States have formed, creating new challenges, new possibilities — and a more complicated debate over the embargo.
The longstanding logic has been that broad sanctions are necessary to suffocate the totalitarian government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Now, especially for many Cubans who had previously stayed on the sidelines in the battle over Cuba policy, a new argument against the embargo is gaining currency — that the tentative move toward capitalism by the Cuban government could be sped up with more assistance from Americans.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Looking for a new place to call home? Spain is hoping to give you a little bit more than a welcome basket of baked goods if you decide to move there. In an attempt to reduce the country's bloated stock of unsold homes, the government is set to offer permanent residency to any foreigner provided they buy a house or apartment worth more than €160,000 ($200,000).
The plan, unveiled by Trade Ministry secretary Jaime Garcia-Legaz Monday and expected to be approved in the coming weeks, would be aimed principally at Chinese and Russian buyers. Spain has more than 700,000 unsold houses following the collapse of its real estate market in 2008 and demand from the recession-hit domestic market is stagnant.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed Monday that the plan has not yet been finalized, but added that Spain "needs to sell these homes" and that getting them off the market could help revive the nation's devastated construction industry.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Monday became the biggest corporation yet to move its planned dividend into late December from early January to help shareholders avoid a looming jump in the tax rate due to the so-called fiscal cliff.
The shift by the world's largest retailer will give shareholders, including the family of founder Sam Walton, roughly $1.34 billion in total dividend payments taxed at the current rate.
Fiscal years for retailers typically end in late January, so their dividend payments often are timed differently from those of other types of companies. Exxon Mobil Corp, for instance, had already planned for payouts in December.
Hostess Brands Inc agreed in court on Monday to enter private mediation with its lenders and leaders of a striking union to try to avert the liquidation of the maker of Twinkies snack cakes and Wonder Bread.
Hostess, its lenders and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) agreed to mediation at the urging of Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain of the Southern District of New York, who advised against a more expensive, public hearing regarding the company's liquidation.
"My desire to do this is prompted primarily by the potential loss of over 18,000 jobs as well as my belief that there is a possibility to resolve this matter," Drain said.
The health service is struggling to save £20 billion over four years and a growing number of treatments are being restricted. Even essentials such as cataract surgery are being withheld in some areas, experts said.
When a primary care trust refuses to fund treatment, GPs or other doctors can make an “individual funding request” on behalf of the patient and this is looked at by a panel of experts.
A series of Freedom of Information Act requests has revealed that such requests increased by a fifth between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
In England there were 85,200 requests last year, GP magazine found. As the number of requests has risen, the proportion approved has fallen, from 59 per cent in 2008/09 to 55 per cent in 2011/12.
In some areas doctors have to request special funding for one in every 200 patients while in others it is just one in 11,000.
The Surgery Center’s consumer-driven model could become increasingly common as Americans look for alternatives to the traditional health care market—an unintended consequence of Obamacare. Patients may have no choice but to look outside the traditional health care industry in the face of higher costs and reduced access to doctors and hospitals.
The Surgery Center demonstrates that it’s possible to offer high quality care at low prices. "It's always been interesting to me,” says Dr. Jason Sigmon, “that in any other industry, tons of attention is devoted to making systems more efficient, but in health care that's just completely lost." Sigmon, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, regularly performs procedures at both the Surgery Center and at Oklahoma City's Integris Baptist Medical Center, which is the epitome of a traditional hospital. It's run by a not-for-profit called Integris Health, which is the largest health care provider in Oklahoma serving over 700,000 patients a year.
Sigmon says he can perform twice as many surgeries in a single day at the Surgery Center than at Integris. At the latter institution, he spends half his time waiting around while the staff struggles with the basic logistics of moving patients from preoperative care into the operating room. When the patient arrives, Sigmon will sometimes wait even longer for the equipment he needs.
As governments throughout the region seek to close gaping holes in their budgets, they are taking aim at United States multinational companies, especially Internet giants like Google and Amazon.com, which pay little or no taxes in Europe, despite generating billions of dollars in revenue on the Continent.
“Why on earth do you manipulate your accounts so that you get away with not paying corporation tax in the U.K.?” Margaret Hodge, a member of Parliament, asked representatives of Google, Amazon and Starbucks last week, during a heated committee hearing in London.
In France, tax collectors have gone further. Amazon says it has received a bill from France for taxes and penalties related to the “allocation of income between foreign jurisdictions” from 2006 through 2010. Other companies, including Google, are also reportedly in the French authorities’ sights.
“Even if the Internet is a zone of freedom, it shouldn’t be a lawless zone,” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a spokeswoman for the French government, said last week. “Fiscal rules should be able to be applied to those activities as well.”
As Wal-Mart workers prepare to stage a walkout on Black Friday, the world's largest store is fighting back.
Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) has filed a complaint with a federal agency accusing one of the largest labor unions in the country of unlawfully organizing picket lines, in-store "flash mobs" and other demonstrations in the past six months.
Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar pointed out in a statement that the number of workers participating in the walkout is a "very small minority" of its 1.3 million workforce. Tovar said that Black Friday is like the "Superbowl" for retailers and that Wal-Mart is ready.
"If [the store employees] are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job. If they don't, depending on the circumstances, there could be consequences," said Tovar.
The union that brought the 85-year-old baker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread to its knees is holding out hope that a buyer will salvage chunks of the company and send the union's members back to work, even as Hostess Brands Inc. gears up for a fire sale.
Hostess, the company behind treats snacked on for generations, is poised on Monday to present to a federal bankruptcy judge a plan to shut down 36 plants and sell off the company's business. The liquidation was sparked by a nationwide strike orchestrated by the snack maker's second-largest union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers.
While Hostess has said the shutdown would result in the loss of more than 18,000 jobs and place the fate of more than 30 American brands in jeopardy, union President Frank Hurt said he believed there was "more than a good chance" that a buyer quickly would swoop in to buy the profitable parts of the company and give his union's members their jobs back.
Hostess Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn had a different vision of how the bankruptcy auction process would play out.
"Nobody wants to have anything to do with these old plants or these unions or these contracts," Mr. Rayburn said in an interview. The company had hunted for buyers for the last several years as it tried to avoid a second trip into bankruptcy, but no buyer came forward.
Liquidation firm Great American Group Inc. GAMR 0.00%and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., the owner of beer brands including Pabst Blue Ribbon, have signaled interest in Hostess's brands. But Mr. Rayburn said potential buyers have made clear that their interest partly is because a liquidated Hostess would be free of its collective-bargaining agreements.