Magazine

Score One For The Greens


Environmentalists were cheering after the Apr. 2 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency. The justices issued a 5-4 decision rebuking the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "The harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority, which also ruled that states have legal standing to bring cases alleging damage from such emissions.

The ruling knocks the wheels off carmakers' legal challenge to carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions reductions proposed by California and 10 other states. It gives a boost to states' suits against utilities for alleged harm from global warming caused in part by power plant emissions. And it raises the chances of Congress' passing climate change legislation that will affect the entire economy.

See "Court Turns Up the Heat on Global Warming"

It's the biggest bilateral free-trade pact ever—and the largest trade deal the U.S. has signed since NAFTA in 1994. On Apr. 2 the U.S. and South Korea shook hands on a deal that will open new markets for U.S. farmers and ranchers and will benefit Korean auto and textile manufacturers—if ratified by both legislatures, which is by no means certain. Forecasts by Korean government-funded institutes show the countries' two-way trade, which topped $75 billion in 2006, could hit $90 billion to $100 billion within a few years. Meanwhile, Washington on Mar. 30 slapped tariffs on imports of glossy paper from China.

See "Korea Trade Pact: No Easy Ride for Detroit"

Real estate maverick Sam Zell on Apr. 2 captured Tribune (TRB) with a bid that values the company at $8.2 billion.

See "Zell's Big Plans for Tribune"

Ethanol thirst. That's what'll bring a bumper 2007 corn crop, said an Agriculture Dept. report on Mar. 30. The forecast—for 90.5 million acres, up from 78 million in 2006—knocked down prices a bit, but they're still high as an elephant's eye thanks to fast-rising demand for ethanol. Farm equipment makers, meat producers, and ethanol brewers will benefit from the corn-ucopia.

See "Has Corn Hit Its Peak?"

Another week, another humongous buyout. Private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts said on Apr. 2 that it will grab electronic commerce and payment services provider First Data (FDC) for $29 billion. KKR will thus become a power in processing everything from credit cards to debit cards to electronic gift cards to fraud protection.

Good Apple (AAPL) or bad Apple? On Apr. 2, CEO Steve Jobs and EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli trumpeted a deal under which songs by EMI artists would be sold on the iTunes Music Store without anti-piracy strictures. That means those songs could be copied and played on devices other than the iPod. Hours later, news broke that the European Union had sent an antitrust complaint to Apple and three other companies, asking why the same song on iTunes costs different amounts in different countries.

See "EMI, Apple Remove Music's Copy Locks" and "Apple's International iTunes Controversy"

It took a while, but New Century Financial (NEWC) finally did what everyone on Wall Street had been predicting for weeks: The onetime darling of the subprime mortgage biz filed for bankruptcy on Apr. 2 and said it would lay off 3,200, more than half its workforce. New Century is the best-known of more than two dozen subprime lenders to go bust or get acquired over the past six months. Its stock, trading around $40 last October, had sunk to less than a buck on the filing date.

See "The Subprime Story's Latest Chapter: 11"

What, consumers worry? Apparently not: The Commerce Dept. said on Mar. 30 that personal incomes and spending both rose 0.6% in February, way above what dismal scientists had predicted. On the other hand, inflation seems to be stirring, too, with the core personal consumption expenditures index up 2.4% from a year ago.

Releasing only a sliver of info about a major probe, Dell (DELL) on Mar. 29 said an internal investigation has identified "errors, evidence of misconduct, and deficiencies in the financial control environment." It wouldn't elaborate. The pc giant, whose accounting the SEC and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are also studying, said it'll hold off filing its yearend report beyond the extended Apr. 18 deadline. The stock barely budged.

See "Dell: Prolonging the Agony"

More of the same from the Big Three carmakers, who announced March U.S. sales on Apr. 3: General Motors (GM), down 7.5%; Ford (F), down 13.5%; DaimlerChrysler (DCX), down 7.4%. The numbers should keep shrinking all year as Detroit pares back. Toyota (TM), meanwhile, revved up by 7.4%. On Apr. 4, DaimlerChrysler confirmed it's trying to offload Chrysler.

See "Detroit's Growing Green Problem"

CEO Steve Heyer and Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT) parted ways on Mar. 31. The stock jumped 9% by Apr. 4, partly on speculation that the company might put itself in play.

Online gambling king Gary Kaplan has been on the lam since being indicted by a federal grand jury in June—but no longer. The law caught up with the BetOnSports founder on Mar. 28 in the Dominican Republic, where he was arrested and sent to Puerto Rico to await extradition to the U.S. on wire fraud charges. But even as federal prosecutors continued their long-running crackdown on Internet betting operators, the World Trade Organization slammed the U.S. on Mar. 30 for thumbing its nose at a 2005 ruling that America's online betting ban violates global trade rules. Despite its big win, Antigua, the $1 billion micro-economy that houses many online gaming operations and that brought the trade complaint, doesn't plan to impose retaliatory sanctions because U.S. exports to Antigua are so tiny that Uncle Sam wouldn't even feel a pinprick. "It's a huge problem," admits Mark Mendel, Antigua's lawyer. Instead, the Caribbean nation is pushing Washington for the right to do business with U.S. bettors and has invited American regulators to help keep its gambling industry on the up-and-up.


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