Archive for May 10th, 2010

10
May
10

Fannie Mae asks for $8.4 billion in aid

NEWS
Fannie Mae asks for $8.4 billion in aid

Monday, May 10, 2010

••• U.S. mortgage finance company Fannie Mae has again asked taxpayers for more money after reporting a first-quarter loss of more than $13 billion.

The company, which was rescued by Washington in September 2008, said it needs an additional $8.4 billion from the government to help cover mounting losses.

Fannie Mae says it lost $13.1 billion, or $2.29 per share, in the January-March period. That takes into account $1.5 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $23.2 billion, or $4.09 a share, a year ago.

The rescue of Fannie Mae and sister company Freddie Mac is turning out to be one of the most expensive aftereffects of the financial meltdown. The new request for aid will bring Fannie Mae’s total to $83.6 billion. The total bill for the duo will now be nearly $145 billion.
Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie, lifting an earlier cap of $400 billion.

Fannie and Freddie play a vital role in the U.S. mortgage market by purchasing mortgages from lenders and selling them to investors. Together the pair own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That’s about half of all mortgages.

The two companies, however, loosened their lending standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences.

With the housing market still on shaky ground, Obama administration officials say it is still too early to draft any proposals to reform the two companies or the broader housing finance system.

But Republicans argue the sweeping financial overhaul currently before Congress is incomplete without a plan for Fannie and Freddie. They propose transforming Fannie and Freddie into private companies with no government subsidies, or shutting them down completely.

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10
May
10

British Airways plans fresh strikes

NEWS
British Airways plans fresh strikes

Monday, May 10, 2010

NEWS Unite said its members at the airline would take 20 days of action following their rejection of the company’s latest offer aimed at ending the long-running dispute.

Cabin crew will walk out from May 18 to 22, May 24 to 28, May 30 to June 3 and June 5 to 9, which will cover the school half-term holidays and a bank holiday.

Unite ordered four five-day strikes from May 18 to June 9 which will affect fans flying to the World Cup in South Africa.

Leaders of British Airways cabin crew will on Monday consider calling fresh strikes after the rejection of a deal aimed at ending their long-running dispute.

Members of Unite voted by 81 percent in a 71 percent turnout not to accept a proposal from the airline which would have ended a bitter, year-long row.

Union activists will press their leaders to call a lengthy strike following a series of stoppages in March which caused travel chaos for passengers and cost BA tens of millions of pounds.

British Airways accused Unite of ‘orchestrating’ rejection of a ‘very fair’ offer it said addressed all the concerns raised during 14 months of talks.

Representatives of the cabin crew will meet Unite’s joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, to discuss their next move.

The two union leaders said: ‘British Airways management should take note of their own employees’ strong rejection of their offer and immediately address the outstanding concerns.

‘They should make no mistake that Unite is fully committed to supporting our members in furthering this dispute if no resolution is found.’

British Airways said in a statement: ‘British Airways is disappointed but not surprised that Unite has clearly orchestrated a rejection of a very fair offer that addresses all the concerns raised during 14 months of talks.

‘We urge Unite to put an end to this unnecessary dispute and focus on the best interests of its members. There can be nothing positive to be gained from further strikes.

‘The majority of our crew came to work during the previous strikes and demonstrated their firm commitment to our customers, despite their union’s callous disregard for the traveling public.

‘Unlike other businesses and airlines, we have avoided compulsory redundancies. Cabin crew face no pay cut or reduction in terms and conditions, and remain the best rewarded in the U.K. airline industry.

‘It is not too late for Unite to put an end to this dispute and support our recovery from two consecutive years of record losses and return to sustained profitability and job security for its members.’

More than 7,000 union members took part in the latest ballot, with over 5,600 rejecting the deal and 1,375 voting in favour.

Union officials said the ballot result showed the continued ‘strength and courage’ of the cabin crew, despite claims of threats, bullying, sanctions and loss of earnings.

Cabin crew representatives said they had not ‘dissected’ the proposed deal because it had not been recommended, but officials said there was a ‘complete lack’ of any detail.

The original dispute was over pay, jobs and conditions, including staffing cuts on flights, but the latest offer was rejected because British Airways has not fully restored travel concessions taken away from crew who went on strike, and because over 50 union members have been suspended.

Five people who went on strike have now been sacked, including the branch secretary of the cabin crew’s union section, the British Airways Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA).

‘Your union is looking for a reasonable compromise to allow the threat of any industrial action to be lifted and ensure that all of us can move on and put this behind us.

‘Subsequent recriminatory actions and public statements of intent have now made this increasingly difficult and unlikely.

‘An insistence that people who participated in lawful and legal industrial action are punished is simply not helpful in finding a solution to what are already difficult issues,’ said a message from BASSA.

‘There is still time to avoid unnecessary disruption and anxiety to both cabin crew, fellow colleagues and of course, our customers.

‘We sincerely hope that this opportunity is not squandered but by now we think we all know that it will be. This is a company that is now not prepared to settle for anything less, and are now literally hell bent on the total destruction of your union to pave the way for its low-cost vision of the future.’

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10
May
10

Airports operate normally as ash clears over Europe

NEWS
Airports operate normally as ash clears over Europe
Monday, May 10, 2010

Earth••• Flights across Europe were operating normally Monday after a plume of volcanic ash that disrupted air traffic and forced some airports to close over the weekend dispersed, aviation officials said.

But delays on trans-Atlantic flights were expected because another band in mid-ocean was still blocking the air routes between Europe and North America, the European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said.

“While most of these flights are oprating, many are having to make significant re-routings to avoid the area of ash cloud coverage, resulting in delays,” according to a statement from the agency.

The ash cloud from a fresh eruption of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano reached west and northwest Romania and is expected to cover most part of the country by Tuesday afternoon, said the authorities on Monday.

Citing the latest forecast of the London Volcanic Ash Advisory, Romania’s Environment Ministry said the cloud will cover most of the country by 03:00 am EEST (08:00 pm EDT on Monday, May 10) on Tuesday.

According to the National Meteorology Administration, the volcano ash cloud over Romania’s territory is not causing pollution, during the coming 24 hours.

Romania will not close its airspace Monday, said Civil Aviation Department chief Catalin Radu, adding that the night evolution of the cloud does not affect airline traffic.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano began erupting last month, causing air travel chaos across Europe for about a week as many countries closed their airspace, due to lack of visibility and the danger the ashes pose to aircraft.

Ireland will re-open its airports on Monday after the latest aerial shutdown due to volcanic ash from Iceland that is still causing travel disruptions around Europe after nearly a month.

Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West (Knock), Galway and Kerry on the west coast will re-open at 06:00 am IST (02:00 am EDT), said the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

They were closed progressively on Sunday due to the threat to plane engines from an ash cloud hovering over the Atlantic.

‘The past number of days has seen the growth of a large cloud of high ash concentration off the west coast of Ireland, and this has caused difficulty for some transatlantic operations,’ said the IAA in a statement.

Restrictions were also lifted late on Sunday in Scottish airspace – they had been imposed over some northern areas – with the exception of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Ireland has faced several fresh shutdowns in recent days. On Thursday airports were closed before being re-opened just three hours later.
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.) and Irish Aviation Authority(IAA)
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10
May
10

Elena Kagan Is Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

NEWS
Elena Kagan Is Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elena Kagan
Age: 50 (Born: April 28, 1960; NYC)
Current job: Solicitor General (confirmed by a 61-31 vote in March 2009)
Education: Princeton University, 1981; Harvard Law School, 1986

••• President Barack Obama has picked Solicitor General Elena Kagan as nominee to become next Supreme Court justice, NBC news reported Sunday night.

If confirmed by Senate, the 50-year-old Kagan will replace John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement last month.

Obama was reported to have interviewed four people to take over 90-year-old Stevens’ seat in the high court. The other three were Diane Wood, Merrick Garland and Sidney Thomas, all federal appeals court judges.

Obama said earlier he would make his selection by end of May. Attorney General Eric Holder, earlier on Sunday, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Obama will “have an announcement very soon.”

Kagan is a relatively moderate choice for Obama, as she does not have a track record on hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Her job as Solicitor General is to represent the United States in the Supreme Court, and also to determine the legal position that the United States takes in the court.

Formerly dean of the prestigious Harvard Law School, Kagan taught law at Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, where Obama also taught. She became an Associate White House legal counsel under former president Bill Clinton. She was the favored pick for Obama rumored in the media, and went through a Senate confirmation process last year to become the first female solicitor general, winning 61 votes.

Kagan is likely to be tested on the issue of gays in military. Republicans have voiced concern about her opposition to on-campus military recruiting at Harvard because of U.S. policy barring homosexual service members from revealing their sexuality, also known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

If Kagan was confirmed by the Senate, the Supreme Court would have three female justices. The other two are Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who was also nominated by Obama.

» Related: Supreme Court: The Contenders

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