Thursday, September 29, 2011 Magazine

has published their Q&A interview with you on the state of the US real estate sector. As background, is Malaysia's number one property and real estate website.

Malaysia Property for Sale/Rent

New York Appeal


Described by the New York Observer as “one of the few real estate attorneys to successfully grow and sustain what could fairly be described as a global boutique firm”, Edward A. Mermelstein, a US lawyer based in New York, talks to Jan Yong on investing in the US, as well as a host of other issues.

The Ukrainian-born top lawyer is also a broker and developer, and is known for closing hundreds of real estate deals, many of them multi-million dollars, for Russian and Central Asian clients in
New York city. Why would foreign investors invest in US property now?
Edward Mermelstein (EM):
Entry into the US market is very much at a low point now – the post-recession pricing is very much accessible for international buyers. The US dollar is fairly weak compared to foreign currency these days. Property prices are down by 50% in certain locations. Furthermore, the US market is consistently politically and economically stable for long-term investments.

US real estate laws apply very much the same for foreigners as US citizens or residents other than the required visa for the foreigner to enter the US to view the property.

In fact, you don’t even have to enter the US. You can do everything by power of attorney although I won’t recommend anyone doing that! It would be difficult for me to represent someone who wants to do that. We sometimes do that but only after the client has actually seen similar properties in the same building or area.

There is no minimum purchase price required or landed property restrictions. There is no concern for the US of foreigners buying up American land and property because the number of foreign ownership of property is currently very small. Maybe in New York, the figure might exceed 10% but there is certainly no fear of foreigners buying up the country!

Apart from each state’s legislation, the real estate laws there are also governed by city and county laws, for example, each county can make decisions on the type of constructions, etc. In the US, a foreigner can’t simply buy real estate to get a green card. They need to go through the EB-5 programme where they have to invest at least US$500,000 and create at least 10 jobs.

iP: What about some talk that the US dollar might collapse one day?
If that ever happens, we have more to worry about. It will be the equivalent of a global nuclear war. The likelihood of this taking place is very remote simply because it would send shockwaves globally that I don’t think anyone can recover from because the world economy is so dependent on the US economy. It’s a scary thought. The dominos falling after that is just too large.

iP: Which US locations are popular with foreign property investors?
It varies with the foreigner. The west coast’s proximity to Asia in terms of travel time makes it popular. In the east coast, New York, Miami and Washington DC are popular with the Chinese and Koreans.

New York (NY), especially Manhattan is very unique compared to the rest of the country. Manhattan has always been a destination for foreign investors because it is one of the financial capitals of the world. It is multicultural and every language is represented there. NY is really a melting pot in a true sense. There are more immigrants and diversity in NY than any other part of the world. Financially, every major bank in the world is represented there. It’s been the strongest real estate market in the US for the last 70 -80 years and the recession has not affected it.

Speaking of recession, generally, we are no longer in recession because of several quarters of positive growth. Real estate continues in many areas to be in recessionary state but cities such as NY and San Francisco are anomalies and don’t reflect what’s happening in the rest of country. Manhattan especially is back to pre-recession levels and is expected to be so for the next 3 – 5 years. In certain parts of Manhattan, you can expect to see appreciation of 15 – 20% per year particularly in the office sector.

iP: Who are the largest groups of foreign property investors in the US now?
It shifts – several years ago, the Middle East was one of the larger presence. The largest are the Canadians followed by the Europeans. Now Chinese from China, both institutional and individual investors are coming in. They have a lot of liquidity and are very much taking advantage of the weak US currency. We will see the largest growth from them especially in the residential sector.

iP: Is rental income from a US property taxable to a foreign owner resident outside of the US?
Yes, it’s taxed at the same level as a US citizen. There are however reciprocal tax treaties depending on which country, that allows tax credits. If you have already paid the tax in the US, you are unlikely to have to pay your local country’s tax. But again, it’s on a case to case basis. If you spend a certain amount of time in the US, you can become a tax resident which makes you subject to tax laws as if you are a citizen.

iP: How easy is it for a foreigner to obtain a US bank loan to purchase property in view of the tightening of mortgage loans there?
Generally, it’s difficult to get a mortgage loan since the last few years due to the subprime crisis and the recession. It’s getting easier now as the secondary market recovers and as CMBS (commercial mortgage backed security) and RMBS (residential mortgage backed security) become active again, it allows the recovery in mortgage market for individuals.

Foreigners can obtain mortgages but it would be difficult. If they can show proof of income and credit history, it makes the mortgage process much easier but it’s a hurdle that’s hard to overcome. One of the reasons local sellers prefer foreigners is because the latter buy cash. Once purchased with cash, it’s easier to take money out of it.

In generally, US banks give 50% loan to value to a foreign buyer. But it’s better to purchase with cash first, then use the property as collateral for a loan.

iP: How is the subprime mortgage crisis playing out in the US now?
It’s definitely recovering but foreclosures are still a problem in many states. Having said that, many locations are not affected by the subprime, for example, NY is very much an anomaly. Subprime was never a problem there.

iP: What do you think of the Malaysian “My First Home Scheme” where first home buyers get to buy a relatively cheap house with 100% loan?
It’s a scenario that creates an artificial pricing scheme that could lead to overbuilding. When a buyer has nothing to lose, there is much greater risk of a collapse.

iP: What do you think of tax liens on properties? Is it a good way to buy a US property from a foreign investor’s point of view? (Note: tax lien is a lien imposed by law upon a property to secure the payment of taxes.)
It’s a gimmick in the same way real estate gurus prey on foreclosures or short sales where you buy property below mortgage amount which forces the bank to take less than what they are owed. So, tax liens should be left to experts that work within that area. It’s a very narrow investment vehicle that I would stay away from if you don’t have a lot of experience. A lot of people have invested in tax liens without really understanding what can happen.

Usually tax liens are against property that most people won’t buy or these are abandoned properties so the likelihood of ROI (return of investment) against these properties becomes very small.

If someone stops paying their taxes, it’s usually in impoverished, dying cities. You see quite a bit of that in areas that are significantly overbuilt, and at abandoned projects. The likelihood of anyone investing there becomes very remote, therefore ROI is very remote.

iP: From recent reports, Latvia is the No: 2 hottest property market in the world. Apparently, this is due to its government policy that provides EU residency to those who invest US$96,112 or more in a property there. What is your view on this?
I am not a big fan of gimmicks but the fact that Latvia is in close proximity to Russia and Ukraine where there are a lot of rich people, has created a niche in the short term. I am not sure how long it will continue. With every gimmick comes some sort of barrier shortly after.

iP: From your short trip in Malaysia, what is your impression in terms of its property market?
From my experience, when you look at a market, you can tell by just driving around. If you see a lot of active constructions, it means it has a functioning mortgage market; there is liquidity when banks are funding construction. There are quite a bit of active construction sites here which give the impression of a strong market especially knowing that globally, many real estate markets are suffering. However, until you do in-depth market research, this is the surface impression. Knowing that commodity prices are very strong, it’s easy to hold a strong opinion that this market will continue to do well unless something happens to the price of oil.

iP: Any tips on property investment overseas for Malaysians?
You have to be careful when going through third parties when purchasing property overseas. Be careful when you can’t do due diligence on the management or investment company, or the marketing agent. There are public listed companies that you can do due diligence on. So the best way to invest overseas, is either direct investment or going through investment vehicles such as REITs which are publicly traded.

iP: Why do you have an office in Moscow and will you be opening another office overseas?
We have a presence in Russia simply because a large concentration of money in Moscow tends to invest in real estate in the US. We hope our next office will be in China and maybe KL!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tabloids Report: Ashton Kutcher & Demi Moore Calling It Quits

This report comes over a year later following Star‘s report that Ashton had cheated on Demi with a girl named Brittney Jones. Both Ashton and Demi denied those claims, going on a Twitter rampage against the publication and threatening to sue.

However, this time around the couple has remained mum about the report. The new Two and a Half Men star nor his wife have tweeted about the report and their reps have not made statements.

Meanwhile, Radar Online (Star’s sister site) is claiming that a 23-year-old girl has come out saying she’s had an affair with Ashton after a booze-filled evening in San Diego, Calif. this past week.

What do you think of these reports: real or rumor? Sound off in the comments!

Let it be noted that on their anniversary, Sept. 24, neither Ashton or Demi tweeted about their significant other. Odd for such a Twitterific couple. If true, this would be Demi’s second divorce after being married to action star Bruce Willis.

Suge Knight is Focus of Showtime Documentary

New Showtime documentry to focus on life of Suge Knight

Kicking off a series of documentaries on iconic and controversial figures, Showtime will produce a doc focusing on the life and exploits of Death Records co-founder Suge Knight.

The as-yet titled project will be helmed and produced by Training Day director Antoine Fuqua and co-produced by Bradley J. Fischer.

Why a documentary on such a tumultuous figure as Suge Knight?

“Suge Knight’s reputation and rise to power in the music business has become the stuff of legend,” Fischer said in a statement on Tuesday, “and he remains one of the entertainment industry’s most provocative and enduring myths. But while his name elicits an immediate and powerful reaction from people around the world, very few can legitimately claim to know the man.”

Knight will participate in the documentary, discussing his rise to fame, why it all (particularly Death Row Records) fell apart and what he has planned for the future.

As the former CEO of Death Row Records, he is not only credited with launching the careers of rap icons like Snoop Dogg but overseeing one of the most power hip hop labels in the genre’s history.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Showtime project will also act as a re-launching pad for Knight’s music career. He will oversee the documentary’s soundtrack, which will feature music from new and established artists signed to his new company, Black Kapital.

(Photo: Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd)

Airline Denies Discrimination of 'L Word' Actress

Southwest Denies 'L Word' Actress Discrimination
Eric Charbonneau/ Getty Images
September 28, 2011

The L Word actress Leisha Hailey made headlines Monday when she was booted from a Southwest flight for allegedly being affectionate to an "excessive" degree with her same-sex partner. The airline was quick to issue a statement following a backlash of outrage from the public, but after further investigating the matter, Southwest holds firm to their initial decision to remove the couple from the plane in El Paso.

Published Tuesday to their company website, Southwest clarified their employee's decision to confront the couple as a follow-up to passengers' complaint of "loud profanity."

The revised statement reads:

"Additional reports from our Employees and Customers onboard flight 2274 during a stop in El Paso on Sunday now confirm profane language was being used loudly by two passengers. At least one family who was offended by the loud profanity moved to another area of the cabin. Although we have reports of what Customers characterize as an excessive public display of affection, ultimately their aggressive reaction led to their removal from the aircraft."

In response to accusations they discriminated against the actress and her girlfriend Camila Grey, Southwest asserts they "do not tolerate discrimination against anyone for any reason." In the couple's unique case "their removal was directly and solely related to the escalated conversation that developed onboard the aircraft."

To conclude, the airline rejected the notion they were bigoted, emphasizing their "celebration of diversity."

"The more than 100 million people who fly Southwest each year reflect the great diversity of our country and our Company - and ALL are valued and welcome. In fact, we've been recognized as a leader in diversity throughout our 40 years of service."

Hailey and her partner maintain they will file a formal complaint with Southwest in the hope that "when all is said and done a greater tolerance without prejudice will evolve."

Andy Rooney Retiring from 60 Minutes

Wednesday September 28, 2011 08:15 AM EDT

Andy Rooney Retiring from 60 Minutes  Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney, whose wry and acerbic essays about the foibles of everyday life have been a mainstay on 60 Minutes since 1978, will retire from the CBS news-magazine program this Sunday after his 1,097th original essay.

"There's nobody like Andy, and there never will be. He'll hate hearing this, but he's an American original," Jeff Fager, the executive producer of 60 Minutes, told CBS News. "His contributions to 60 Minutes are immeasurable; he's also a great friend. It's harder for him to do it every week, but he will always have the ability to speak his mind on 60 Minutes when the urge hits him."

Michael Jackson family appears "shocked" by audio

    (CBS News)

    It was an emotional first day Monday in the manslaughter trial of Michael
    Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray. The defendant shed tears, and so did Jackson's

    CBS News national correspondent Ben Tracy reports prosecutors began their
    case by showing photos of Jackson's lifeless body on a gurney and the room in
    which he died in June of 2009. Then they played an audio recording of Jackson,
    said to be made by Murray.

    Jackson is heard saying, "When people leave this show, I want them to say,
    'I've never seen nothing like this in my life. I've never seen nothing like
    this. Go. It's amazing, He's the greatest entertainer in the world.'"

    The words are slurred and barely recognizable.

    "Everybody was stunned in that courtroom," Jean Casarez, a correspondent for
    "In Session" on TruTV who sat near the Jackson family as the audio was played,
    tells "The Early Show".

    "We had never heard a Michael Jackson like that. But the family was sitting
    in front of me and there were nine of them altogether. They were very stoic,
    paying attention to the prosecution's opening when this audio tape began to be
    played. They started looking at each other, they were concerned. They were
    shocked. They were stunned. You could tell they didn't know about this tape and
    they didn't like what they were hearing."

    "You know, you say to yourself, Michael Jackson is suddenly on trial, but
    this is what the prosecution is trying to do. They are trying to show that
    Conrad Murray, who they say recorded it on his own iPhone, saw Michael Jackson,
    knew this was happening, but continued to buy propofol and other drugs for
    Michael Jackson," adds Casarez. "They're going into the state of mind of Conrad
    Murray to show the gross negligence, the deviation from a standard of care that
    a doctor should have toward a patient."

    Prosecutors say in the last two months of Jackson's life he was given
    propofol on a daily basis by Murray, with the doctor ordering hundreds of vials
    of the powerful drug.

    But the defense says it was Jackson who ultimately killed himself while
    Murray was in the bathroom.

    "Michael Jackson self-administered a dose of propofol that with the lorazapam
    created a perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly," argued Ed
    Chernoff, Murray's attorney.

    "It's hard to imagine two opening statements being more different," says CBS
    News legal analyst Trent Copeland. "The prosecution's was slick, almost
    perfectly choreographed. On the other hand, the defense seemed to be more

    But Murray became emotional as his lawyers talked of his friendship with the

    Chernoff said "Jackson would share with (my client) things about his
    childhood, his family, life, dreams and hopes. They were friends first."

    Murray has pleaded not guilty and faces four years in prison and the loss of
    his medical license if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

    When asked about the defense's strategy, Casarez said the focus is likely to
    remain on Jackson's responsibility in his own death, and an effort to show
    Murray as trying to wean the pop icon off propofol.

    At the heart of the defense team's strategy, says Casarez, will be an
    argument that, "when Conrad Murray walked out of the room to go to the restroom
    that morning of June 25th, he never would have imagined that Michael Jackson
    took eight pills of an anti-anxiety medication and then ingested the propofol,
    and when he came back, he was dead. That's the defense theory right there."

    Casarez says it's "very likely" Murry himself take the stand himself during
    the course of the trial.

    "Only two people in the bedroom, Conrad Murray and Michael Jackson. One is
    deceased. The other one - Dr. Murray - can take the stand to talk about what
    happened and to talk about how, in good faith, he was treating Michael Jackson
    and did not violate that standard of care. The defense is going to say maybe
    there was negligence here all the way but that is a medical malpractice claim
    and that should not be in this criminal court."

    Derek Hough tells Ricki Lake: You're not Kirstie Alley

    By Dahvi Shira,
    updated 5:17 PM EST, Tue September 27, 2011
    "I really love working with Derek. He's such a good teacher," Ricki Lake said about her dancing partner Derek Hough.
    • Ricki Lake has said she's "hoping to pull a Kirstie Alley"
    • Derek Hough said "This is about you. This is now time"
    • "I feel like I'm learning that way," Ricki Lake said

    ( -- Ricki Lake has made no secret about which former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant she looks up to as she competes on the show.

    But Lake, 42, who continuously says she's "hoping to pull a Kirstie Alley," needs to stop focusing on other people's accomplishments and inspire herself, according to her ballroom partner Derek Hough.

    "I told her, 'No more,' " Hough, 26, told PEOPLE backstage after Monday night's show. "I said, 'This is about you. This is now time.' "

    "I'm me, I know, I know," Lake said in response to her partner's comments. "That's probably good advice. I really love working with Derek. He's such a good teacher, and I'm learning so much. He encourages me. I feel like I'm learning that way. He's really intuitive with me."

    It sure seems like Lake is finding her own confidence.

    The actress and talk show host ended up atop the leader board on Monday after earning 23 points for her lively jive.

    "Each week I'm here, I'm feeling better and better about my body and about what I can do," Lake said. "I'm having the time of my life."

    See the full article at

    'Dancing with the Stars' Results, Week 2: Elisabetta Canalis is Finito

    Adam Taylor/ ABC

    Elisabetta Canalis and Val Chmerkovskiy

    Adam Taylor/ ABC

    Welcome to this week's Dancing with the Stars recap. On Monday
    night, the show's judges left fan favorite Chaz Bono with the lowest score and
    Ricki Lake with the highest. Let's see how the voters treated them:

    The result: Voters apparently tapped into their patriotic
    pride and voted American; out of the bottom three contestants—Elisabetta
    Canalis, Chaz Bono and David Arquette—they said ciao to pseudo-celebrity
    Elisabetta. Maybe they simply couldn't muster any sympathy for a woman who is
    famous merely for being George Clooney's fame-hungry ex-girlfriend. (Honestly,
    even on this show of "stars," her "fame" was always debatable.) Her fate was
    sealed by the producers, who did her no favors by portraying her as a diva who
    made partner Val Chmerkovskiy cater to her every whim. Now Elisabetta must find
    a new path to stardom. Actually, is David Arquette single...

    (LIST: Dancing with the Who? The Most Dubious DWTS

    The Ghost of Dancing with the Stars future: Demi
    Lovato performing her hit "Skyscraper" on the show. How many years until the
    Disney tween is dancing on that set, instead of singing on it.

    Worst musical number: When DWTS producers invited
    Irish alternative rock group The Script to sing on national television, they
    probably didn't expect the band to pick a song that required bleeping. This is a
    clean show, kids! Aside from the low-cut, bust-baring costumes and hip-swiveling
    sexual innuendo, that is.

    Least surprising behind-the-scenes reveal A guided tour of
    the Dancing with the Stars training center uncovered an on-set
    spray-tanning booth where stars can touch up their just-off-the beach glow.
    Equally unsurprising was the lack of food in the kitchen (it's a weight loss
    show, right Ricki?) and the rooftop putting green for bogey-ing balls at the
    paparazzi, as demonstrated by David Arquette. Ok, that last one was a bit

    Most egregious, yet-adorable, competitive statement of the
    Soccer star Hope Solo declaration to to partner Maks
    Chmerkivoskiy that she wants to be "the best" at everything she does. It's hard
    to argue with a woman who won the "Golden Glove" at the World Cup soccer
    tournament, practices with the U.S. national soccer team in the morning, and
    learns how to jive in the afternoons.

    Least tense moment of the evening:When top scorers Ricki
    Lake, J.R. Martinez, and Kristin Cavallari were pitted against each other. It's
    the same tension-free gimmick they pulled last week. It took about a minute for
    host Tom Bergeron to announce the obvious conclusion that the contestants were
    all safe.

    (LIST: Top 10 Terrible Dancing with the Stars

    Biggest sacrifice by a star: Rob Kardashian wants voters to
    know that he is giving up a lot to train for the rigorous competition.
    He is taking this show so seriously he is even willing to make sacrifices like,
    "Maybe not going out every night." Do you feel his pain, America?

    Biggest overstatement of the night: During a montage of the
    stars describing their anxiety over facing scrutiny each week, Ricki Lake
    gasped, "Whoa, there's so much at stake here." No, there's really not.

    Best paid promotion: The Macy's Stars of Dance and their
    Busby Berkeley-inspired synchronized routine were worth having to sit through
    nearly back-to-back Macy's commercials for the rest of the evening. The silver
    and red spangled performers reminded viewers that dancing can be a beautiful,
    visual art form, not just a means by which nerve-ridden celebrities desperately
    attempt to cling onto scraps of cultural relevance.

    See you next week, everyone. Same batdance,
    same batplace.

    Melissa Locker is a contributor to TIME. Find her on Twitter at @woolyknickers. You can also
    continue the discussion on TIME's Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

    Health Insurers Push Premiums Sharply Higher

    Eric Michael Johnson for The New York Times

    Allan Evans at his home in Flushing, Queens. Last year, his insurance company tried to raise his rates while he was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

    Major health insurance companies have been charging sharply higher premiums this year, outstripping any growth in workers’ wages and creating more uncertainty for the Obama administration and employers who are struggling to drive down an unrelenting rise in medical costs.

    A study released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group, showed that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011 — 9 percent higher than in the previous year. And even higher premiums could be on the way, particularly in New York, where some companies are asking for double-digit increases for about 1.3 million New Yorkers in individual or small-group plans, setting up a battle with state regulators.

    The higher premiums are particularly unwelcome at a time when the economy is sputtering and unemployment is hovering at about 9 percent. Many businesses cite the cost of coverage as a factor in their decision not to hire, and health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for more Americans. The cost of family coverage has about doubled since 2001, compared with a 34 percent gain in wages.

    Aetna and United Health/Oxford said their requested rate increases in New York largely reflected actual hospital, physician and pharmacy costs. “Our rate requests are simply keeping pace,” said Maria Gordon Shydlo, a spokeswoman.

    How much the new federal health care legislation pushed by President Obama is affecting rates remains a point of debate, with some consumer advocates and others suggesting that insurers have raised prices in anticipation of new rules that would, in 2012, require them to justify any increase of more than 10 percent. Kaiser pointed out that the increase this year could be an anomaly, after several years of 3 percent to 5 percent increases during the recession.

    Kaiser estimates that one to two percentage points of the increase this year is related to provisions of the law already in effect, like coverage for children up to 26 years old and for prevention services like mammograms.

    New York, along with states including California, Connecticut and North Carolina, has been exercising its regulatory muscle to try to tamp down some of the increases. The Obama administration this month funneled a total of $109 million to many states, in part to help fight against “unreasonable” increases.

    The increases now under consideration in New York would affect 1.3 million of the 3 million residents in individual and small-group plans; the amounts vary considerably depending on the type of policy. The increases requested by Aetna, for example, range from 8.9 percent to 53.6 percent, while those from United Health Group/Oxford range from 13 percent to 34 percent, according to the State Insurance Department.

    The state’s power to deny increases does not extend to rates for large employers; the Kaiser survey included large and small company policies, which cover about 60 percent of working-age Americans with insurance. Employers, on average, pay the bulk of premiums and absorb some of the increase each year while passing the rest onto workers.

    The increase in premiums was striking because in a poor economy, many people put off going to doctors, to avoid co-payments and higher deductibles. Despite a decrease in the use of medical services, companies have defended higher premiums — and their high profits — reasoning that their costs would rebound once the economy recovered.

    Insurers also say that the use and price of medical services have continued to rise in individual and small-group plans, in part because those policies tend to have a higher proportion of people with serious illnesses. If the health care law survives legal challenges and goes into full effect in 2014, increased competition will make it tougher for companies to charge those customers more, the administration says.

    Aetna and United Health/Oxford said their requested rate increases in New York largely reflected actual hospital, physician and pharmacy costs. “Our rate requests are simply keeping pace,” said Maria Gordon Shydlo, a spokeswoman for United Health Group/Oxford, which secured rate increases of 18 to 24 percent last year.

    Consumer advocates contend that the latest requests exceed any documented rise in costs, with some companies enjoying three years of record profits and paying millions of dollars in dividends and executive compensation.

    “We’re at a watershed moment,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, who represents Health Care for All New York, a group of 100 organizations advocating affordable care. “The Cuomo administration has to decide, will the Department of Insurance stand up for the little guy, John Q. Public, or let the insurance companies get away with this nonsense?”

    Since last year, the Insurance Department has posted more than 4,000 policyholder objections online. In one typical letter, a small businessman, citing six years of annual increases of more than 15 percent, raged, “There are no words to express how utterly greedy and unconscionable another double-digit increase in health care costs are to the world of small companies and those employed by them.”

    Such messages are not lost on Benjamin M. Lawsky, the state’s superintendent of financial services, who oversees the department. “We get it,” he said. “These increases are often hitting people who just can’t afford it.”

    “At the same time,” he added, “we have to make sure these companies stay healthy. What keeps us up at night is the need to strike a responsible balance.”

    High-Tech Companies to Invest $4 Billion in New York State, Cuomo Says

    Former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke at an economic development conference in Albany on Tuesday.

    Hans Pennink/Associated PressFormer President Bill Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke at an economic development conference in Albany on Tuesday.

    ALBANY — I.B.M., Intel and three other technology companies agreed Tuesday to pour $4 billion into computer-chip research in New York, promising to hire thousands of workers and giving a major boost to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as he campaigns for companies to invest in the state and create jobs.

    Mr. Cuomo, sounding downright giddy as he kicked off an economic development conference here, heralded the investment as a “really, really big deal” that proved that New York, especially upstate, could lure new investment from major corporations flush with potential suitors.

    His announcement came as former President Bill Clinton, whom Mr. Cuomo served as housing secretary, made an appearance at the conference and urged business leaders and local officials to embrace environmentally friendly technology and new industries as they try to create jobs.

    The computer-chip investment deal will also include Samsung, GlobalFoundries and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The governor’s office said it would create 2,500 high-technology jobs and 1,900 construction jobs, and would also preserve 2,500 existing jobs.

    “I think it’s important to remember, as we start this conference — a better affirmation of our potential you could not have,” Mr. Cuomo said. “These companies could have gone anywhere on the globe.”
    Over the past two decades, New York State has invested heavily in the burgeoning nanotechnology industry, primarily in the capital region. Mr. Cuomo and others have highlighted the effort as a model for regional economic development in the economically depressed upstate region.

    The state will spend $400 million over five years as part of the new research deal. The money will go toward expanding the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany, and the investment by the technology companies will go toward creating jobs in Albany, Yorktown Heights, East Fishkill, Utica and Canandaigua.
    Mr. Cuomo and other lawmakers said they hoped that the new research and development activities would lead to the construction of chip plants in several years, creating many more jobs, and would also serve as an example to other companies that New York was increasingly attractive to major corporations seeking to invest in research and high-technology manufacturing facilities.

    “It’s huge for the message, and it’s huge for the jobs that go with it,” the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who has been a booster of the nanotechnology sector in the capital region, said in an interview.

    The semiconductor deal was promptly overshadowed on Tuesday by the news that the second-largest union of state workers had rejected their labor agreement with Mr. Cuomo. But before that, its announcement created a mood of triumph at the capital, where the governor had summoned members of 10 regional councils that he appointed to compete for state economic-development funding.
    Mr. Clinton’s visit only added to the festive mood, as Mr. Cuomo joked about picking up a southern accent from working under Mr. Clinton, and his staff cued a brief slideshow of old photos showing the governor, with noticeably darker hair, working alongside Mr. Clinton when he was president.

    In his speech, Mr. Clinton, citing San Diego’s success with biotechnology and the computer simulation business in Orlando, Fla., suggested that the capital region could similarly exploit its nanotechnology industry to turn around its economic fortunes.
    Mr. Clinton focused mostly on giving economic-development tips: he particularly encouraged pursuing jobs related to clean energy sources and retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient. But he also offered a dollop of praise for the governor and lawmakers for their handling of the state’s budget gap last winter, suggesting that Mr. Cuomo’s fiscal stewardship would help encourage businesses to invest here.

    “I travel all over America and all over the world, and the confidence people have in New York outside this state has exploded just because the government did its job,” Mr. Clinton said. “They showed up, passed the budget on time, didn’t raise taxes — it’s an amazing, amazing thing for you.”

    UAW nears OK of GM deal

    An American flag flies in front of the United Auto Workers union logo on the front of the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit, Michigan, September 8, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

    DETROIT Wed Sep 28, 2011
    9:31am EDT

    DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto
    Workers union looks set to announce approval of its labor contract with General
    Motors Co on Wednesday as more than half the local bargaining units have voted
    in favor of the four-year deal.

    Ratification of the GM deal, which includes bonuses instead of hourly wage
    increases, would clear the way for the union to complete talks with the
    automaker's crosstown rival, Ford Motor Co.

    The UAW had indicated a deal with Ford could yield a proposed contract this
    week, although an update for union members by Ford negotiators on Tuesday night
    said only that talks continued, and there were no major developments to

    Voting ends Wednesday on the GM contract, which would be the first for 48,500
    GM hourly workers represented by the UAW since the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy
    and restructuring.

    GM executives have set a conference call with Wall Street analysts for
    Wednesday afternoon to explain the financial implications of the contract for
    the first time.

    The deal would add or save more than 6,000 U.S. factory jobs, raise wages for
    entry-level employees and pay each worker at least $11,500 in bonuses over the
    four years.

    The terms also would leave GM's break-even point unchanged and allow the
    automaker to tackle the risk of its underfunded pension plan, one of the few
    issues left unaddressed by the restructuring directed by the Obama

    "When we went into this labor negotiation, we were very focused on that," GM
    Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson told a conference in New York on Tuesday.
    "We could not do anything to negatively bias our break-even point."

    UAW President Bob King joined the Ford talks this week, and the focus shifted
    to the tough economic issues.

    Teams of negotiators for the union and Ford, the only U.S. automaker to avoid
    bankruptcy, have been meeting for about two months. The two sides typically
    address financial issues in the final stages of negotiations.

    The union began an intense focus on Ford last week, a day after failing to
    finalize a deal with Chrysler Group LLC. It has extended its contract with the
    Fiat SpA-controlled automaker until October 19.

    Observers are interested in the extent that the UAW will adjust contract
    terms to the different financial positions of the three Detroit


    While UAW officials in the Ford talks said on Monday they expected "to have
    good news for our membership by the end of the week," discussions at Chrysler,
    the smallest and most fragile of the Detroit automakers, are progressing much
    more slowly. Those talks continued on Wednesday, a Chrysler spokeswoman

    Chrysler, which nearly collapsed two years ago, is still executing its own
    financial turnaround and trying to change public perceptions of its vehicle
    lineup. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection with a debt load that
    included $7.6 billion in government loans.

    In May, Chrysler repaid those loans through a refinancing that helped cut its
    interest payments, but effectively swapped government loans with private

    As a result, Chrysler is eager to hold down its fixed costs beyond the 2015
    expiration of the deal now being negotiated.

    Last week, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters in Italy that workers should not
    expect the package proposed at GM, calling it a "completely different" entity
    from his company.

    As of Wednesday morning, at least 28 of the about 50 UAW locals for GM plants
    had voted for ratification, while three had voted against it, according to
    Reuters interviews and a tally by a union dissident group.

    Locals reporting results on Wednesday morning included the Lordstown, Ohio,
    assembly plant, where 74 percent of a large turnout backed the deal, and the
    Lake Orion plant near Detroit, where 56 percent voted yes. Lake Orion is the GM
    plant with the most entry-level workers, who earn about half the pay of
    traditional workers.

    (Reporting by Ben
    in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

    EU Proposes Financial Transaction Tax for 2014

    U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable

    U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable

    Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

    U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier today said taxation is a “national competence issue” and European Union proposals for a levy on financial transactions cannot be forced on the U.K.

    U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier today said taxation is a “national competence issue” and European Union proposals for a levy on financial transactions cannot be forced on the U.K. Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

    Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable discusses trade relations with Turkey, and European Union proposals for a levy on financial transactions. He talks from Istanbul with Owen Thomas on Bloomberg Television's "On the Move." (Source: Bloomberg)

    Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Guillermo Felices, head of European currency strategy at Barclays Capital, discusses the outlook for the euro, the sovereign debt crisis and European Central Bank monetary policy. He also comments on the dollar's haven status and the pound. Felices spoke yesterday with Bloomberg's Paul Dobson in London. (Source: Bloomberg)

    The European Union proposed a financial-transactions tax that would take effect in 2014 and raise about 57 billion euros ($78 billion) a year, prompting renewed opposition from the U.K.

    The plan would set minimum tax rates for financial transactions throughout the 27-nation EU, the European Commission, the bloc’s Brussels-based executive, said in a statement. Today’s proposal would apply a tax of 0.1 percent on trading of stocks and bonds, with a 0.01 percent rate for derivatives contracts.

    European governments are split over the merits of a transactions tax, with the U.K. Treasury saying today that such a levy would need to apply globally and “there are a number of practical issues that need to be worked through.” EU tax proposals require unanimous support of the bloc’s 27 members.

    Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders and Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado said on Sept. 17 that the euro area’s 17 governments should consider introducing their own tax if no agreement were possible at the global or EU level.

    In a press briefing today in Strasbourg, France, EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta downplayed the prospect of narrowing the proposal’s scope.

    ‘Clear Benefits’

    “There are clear benefits of the proposal for the United Kingdom,” Semeta said. “It will give additional revenues to our member states including the United Kingdom. Many member states need consolidation efforts and these additional revenues would be also beneficial for the U.K. At the same time, it would reduce the contribution of the United Kingdom to the EU budget.”

    The proposed tax is aimed at banks, investment firms, insurance companies, pension funds, stockbrokers and hedge funds, among other types of financial firms, the EU said. Spot foreign-exchange trades would not be covered by the tax, while currency derivative contracts are included.

    Transactions with the European Central Bank and other central banks wouldn’t be covered by the tax, according to the proposal. It also features an exemption for the “primary market,” which includes sovereign and corporate bond auctions.

    “The tax would aim at covering 85 percent of the transactions that take place between financial institutions,”according to the statement. The EU is seeking to insulate households and small businesses from the levy, and says banks could charge “not excessive” fees such as a 10-euro fee on a 10,000-euro stock purchase.

    ‘Fair Contribution’

    The tax would “ensure that the financial sector makes a fair contribution at a time of fiscal consolidation,” the commission said in the statement. EU member states will discuss the proposal before the commission presents the plan to the Group of 20 nations at a November summit.

    An impact assessment accompanying the proposal says that the plan would have a “long-run” negative impact of 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. The tax would affect market behavior and financial-industry business models, such as high-frequency and automated trading, the EU said.

    “It is time for the financial sector to make a contribution back to society,” European Commission PresidentJose Barroso told the European Parliament in announcing the proposal in Strasbourg.


    The plan drew support from Oxfam International and Catholic Development Agencies, who said the measure would increase justice and provide funding for environmental and social goals. Oxfam said the U.K. has existing taxes that haven’t had a big negative effect on London business, suggesting that the EU proposal also would not do harm.

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said this month that a transaction tax could create “frictions” that would worsen the impact of a crisis, without offering a protective reduction in volatility or risk-taking.

    “I don’t think their history is very good in containing the risks of large swings in asset prices,” Geithner told a financial forum today in Wroclaw, Poland, on Sept. 16. “I don’t think they’re the most effective way to contain leverage, or limit leverage, and I think most evidence suggests that they probably damage liquidity, that they undermine depth in markets, which is valuable in a crisis,” he said.

    Stephen Machin, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal Taxand UK LLP, called the proposal “a populist measure” and said it “will put EU financial centers at a disadvantage” to competitors. “If this tax is introduced in the U.K., then significant volumes of transaction activity will move” to other regions.

    ‘National Competence’

    U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier today said taxation is a “national competence issue” and EU proposals for a levy on financial transactions cannot be forced on the U.K. Cable was speaking to Bloomberg Television from Istanbul.

    Today’s announcement follows a 2010 proposal that failed to draw agreement among member nations. The financial industry says a transaction tax would affect the broader economy because banks would pass on costs to clients.

    French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for the EU to introduce its own transactions tax irrespective of whether other regions follow suit.

    To contact the reporters on this story:Rebecca Christie in Brussels at

    Durable goods orders fell 0.1% in August

    Companies ordered more machinery, computers and
    communication equipment in August, a positive sign for the slumping U.S.

    An increase in demand for those kind of longer-lasting factory
    goods suggests businesses are sticking with their investment plans, despite slow
    growth and weak consumer spending.

    orders for durable goods slipped 0.1 percent last month. The modest decline was
    largely due to an 8.5 percent drop in orders for autos and auto parts. In July,
    demand for those goods surged 10.2 percent — the biggest increase in eight

    At the same time, a category that measures business investment
    plans rose 1.1 percent last month.

    Durable goods are products expected to
    last at least three years. Orders typically fluctuate from month to

    Manufacturing had been one of the leading sectors since the
    recession officially ended two years ago. But factory growth slowed this spring
    and summer, partly because of supply disruptions from Japan, but also because
    consumer demand weakened.

    Consumers have been paying more for food and
    gas, while receiving small raises. As a result, many have cut back on
    discretionary purchases, such as computers, appliances and furniture. That has
    slowed growth.

    The economy expanded at an annual rate of just 0.7 percent
    in the first six months of this year, the weakest growth since the recession

    Slow growth has led many employers to delay hiring plans. In
    August, employers added zero net jobs, and the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1
    percent for the second straight month.

    Economists don't expect growth to
    pick up much in the second half of the year.

    The forecasting panel for
    the National Association for Business Economics predicts 2.2 percent growth in
    the second half of this year. For the full year, it predicts only 1.7 percent
    growth. That would be down from the 3 percent growth last year. And it's well
    below the pace needed to make a significant dent in the unemployment

    Other manufacturing data have been mixed.

    Factory output
    rose in August, according to the Federal
    . But nearly all of the gain was from a 2.6 percent rise in the
    production of autos and auto parts.

    Regional Fed surveys showed that
    manufacturing continued to weaken in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic area in

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said factory conditions
    in that region worsened for a fourth straight month. Businesses saw fewer new
    orders and paid higher prices. Factories in the region employed fewer people and
    their remaining employees worked fewer hours, the New York Fed said.

    Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
    said manufacturing in that region shrank in September for the third time in four

    Greek Debt Review May Mean More Bailout Talks, Merkel Says

    Greek Debt Review May Mean More Bailout Talks, Merkel Says

    Greek Debt Review May Mean More Bailout Talks, Merkel Says

    John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, chats with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of the Federation of German Industry (BDI) in Berlin on September 27, 2011.

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, chats with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of the Federation of German Industry (BDI) in Berlin on September 27, 2011. Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

    Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Dominic Konstam, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, talks about the outlook for an enhancement of Europe's crisis rescue fund. Konstam, speaking with Deirdre Bolton and Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack," also discusses the Federal Reserve's so-called Operation Twist program and its potential impact on Treasuries, and the outlook for global currencies. (Source: Bloomberg)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkelsignaled policy makers may review Greece’s second bailout after international debt inspectors rule on whether the country is meeting the terms of its current aid package.

    Greece’s “numbers in September, as it now seems, were again different from what we expected under the program,”Merkel told Greek broadcaster NET when asked whether the second bailout agreed by European leaders on July 21 will be revised.

    “We must now await what the troika, that is the expert mission, finds out and tells us: do we need to renegotiate or don’t we need to renegotiate?” Merkel said, according to a transcript provided by her press office late yesterday. “What we would like the most, of course, is that the numbers stay as we know them. But I can’t pre-empt the outcome of the troika.”

    Experts from the European Commission, European Central Bankand International Monetary Fund will return to Athens tomorrow as officials race to put in place a package of measures that will ring-fence Greece. Euro-area finance ministers will hold an extra meeting on Greece in October amid international concerns that a default could plunge the global economy into recession.

    Greece won’t be repay all of its debt and will have to leave the euro area, Otmar Issing, the ECB’s former chief economist, was quoted as saying by Stern magazine. The country needs to write down its debt by at least 50 percent, the German weekly quoted him as saying in an interview published today.

    ‘Sustainable Footing’

    The restart of the so-called troika review in Athens will“constitute an important step toward achieving the 2012 agreed fiscal target and putting the Greek public finances on a sustainable footing,” commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj told reporters in Brussels.

    Merkel’s remarks came as a person familiar with the matter said German banks are resisting pressure to accept larger writedowns on their holdings of Greek government debt. German lawmakers have called on lenders in recent days to accept a larger writedown than the 21 percent proposed by the Institute of International Finance, an industry lobby group, said a person briefed on the talks.

    Earlier, the Financial Times Deutschland reported that euro members have started talks on renegotiating the second bailout. Banks and insurance companies might have to increase their contribution to the rescue package as Greece’s economy has deteriorated, the German newspaper said, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.

    Property-Tax Vote

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won parliamentary backing for a property tax to meet deficit-reduction targets required to avoid default, prompting an offer of support from Merkel in Berlin, where the two had dinner yesterday.

    “We want a strong Greece in the euro area and Germany is ready to offer all kinds of help that is needed,” Merkel told reporters at a joint briefing with Papandreou. “I have heard so far that Greece is ready to meet the conditions” set by the IMF, the ECB and the EU commission.

    Euro-area governments are withholding approval of the next loan installment under Greece’s May 2010 110 billion-euro ($150 billion) bailout until officials from the three institutions rule whether the government is meeting its targets. The next aid payment is due in October.

    Merkel didn’t elaborate in the television interview on possible changes to the second bailout, which includes an accord for banks and insurers to reduce the value of their Greek debt holdings. Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, didn’t reply to requests for comment by phone and text message today.

    Greek Bonds

    The yield on 10-year Greek government bonds fell 4 basis points to 23.27 at 12:30 p.m. in Athens today and the two-year note yield climbed 38 basis points to 70.43 percent.

    Greek bonds have tumbled in recent weeks and credit insurance has soared, putting the chance of default at more than 90 percent, as Papandreou struggled to rein in the deficit and a recession deepened in its third year.

    “Implementation of the measures is the biggest challenge for the government as the trade unions and parts of the civil service will mount significant resistance, raising the risk of inertia and inaction,” Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst in Londonat Eurasia Group, said before the vote.

    The property tax was part of a package of cuts announced earlier this month after officials from the European Union and IMF told Greece it wasn’t meeting the terms of its rescue.

    European Commission President Jose Barroso called today forEurope’s permanent rescue fund to be speeded up, saying the debt crisis had reached a “serious” stage.

    Due to be set up in mid-2013, the European Stability Mechanism will wield a 500 billion-euro war chest that could be used more flexibly than the current guarantee-based temporary financial backstop.

    The European Union also proposed a financial-transaction tax that would take effect in 2014 and raise about 57 billion euros a year. The plan would set minimum tax rates for trading of stocks, bonds and derivatives contracts throughout the 27-nation EU, the commission, the EU’s Brussels-based executive, said today.

    To contact the reporters on this story: Maria Petrakis in Athens at; Tony Czuczka in Berlin at

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Jordin Sparks is dating Jason Derulo

    By Carlos Greer and Liz Raferty,
    updated 10:08 AM EST, Tue September 27, 2011
    Jordin Sparks helped Jason Derulo celebrate his birthday.
    Jordin Sparks helped Jason Derulo celebrate his birthday.
    • The two are officially dating, Derulo's rep confirms
    • Derulo was on tour in Europe on his actual birthday, September 21
    • He had a belated celebration at Phillipe Chow in Hollywood

    ( -- Jason Derulo celebrated his 22nd birthday cuddling up to his new "It Girl," Jordin Sparks on Sunday night.

    Though Derulo was on tour in Europe on his actual birthday, September 21, the two, who are officially dating, Derulo's rep tells PEOPLE, had a belated celebration at Phillipe Chow in Hollywood with friends and music industry executives.

    Jordin Sparks: 'My Dogs Make Me a Better Person'

    "Jordin would sing to him occasionally through the night in his ear if her head was nested on his shoulder," according to an eyewitness at the party. "He was excited to spend some [quality time] with Jordin in L.A. ... The two left together and continued the celebration."

    Derulo's sophomore album, "Future History," is out September 27.

    See full article at

    Rihanna Told to Cover Up by Irish Farmer

    Tuesday September 27, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

    Rihanna Told to Cover Up by Irish Farmer  Rihanna



    He stopped the music.

    An Irish farmer who had given Rihanna permission to use his grain field to film her new music video shut down the production on Monday and chastised the pop singer for her "inappropriate" wardrobe.

    Rihanna, 23, was dancing in a red handkerchief bikini when Alan Graham, 61, noticed her and drove over in his tractor to put a stop to things.

    "I have an ethos and I felt it was inappropriate," Graham told the BBC. "I requested them to stop and they did."

    Graham said he granted permission for Rihanna and her film crew to use his field even though he wasn't familiar with the often scantily-clad Grammy winner, whose hits include "S&M" and "Disturbia."

    The shoot, for Rihanna's new single "We Found Love," has resumed in a different location, according to reports.

    The two parted on good terms, according to Graham, shaking hands as he went on his way.

    "I wish no ill will against Rihanna and her friends," he said later. "Perhaps they could acquaint themselves with a greater God."