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Business/Economy

  • Prairies vanish in the US push for green energy

    ROSCOE, S.D. (AP) — Robert Malsam nearly went broke in the 1980s when corn was cheap. So now that prices are high and he can finally make a profit, he's not about to apologize for ripping up prairieland to plant corn.

    Across the Dakotas and Nebraska, more than 1 million acres of the Great Plains are giving way to corn fields as farmers transform the wild expanse that once served as the backdrop for American pioneers.

    This expansion of the Corn Belt is fueled in part by America's green energy policy, which requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline. Ethanol has become the No. 1 use for corn in America, helping keep prices high.

    "It's not hard to do the math there as to what's profitable to have," Malsam said. "I think an ethanol plant is a farmer's friend."

    What the green-energy program has made profitable, however, is far from green. A policy intended to reduce global warming is encouraging a farming practice that actually could worsen it.

  • All day shopping frenzy on Thanksgiving?

    NEW YORK (AP) — Last Thanksgiving Day, Kimberly Mudge Via's mother, sister and nieces left in the middle of their meals to head for the mall.

    Now, Via says she'll never host Thanksgiving dinner for her relatives again.

    "They barely finished," says the 28-year-old who lives in Boone, N.C. "They thanked me and left their plates on the counter."

    That scene could become more common in homes across the country. Black Friday shopping, the annual rite of passage on the day after Thanksgiving, continues to creep further into the holiday as more stores open their doors a day early.

    It's a break with tradition. Black Friday, which typically is the year's biggest shopping day, for a decade has been considered the official start to the busy holiday buying season. Stores open in the wee hours of the morning with special deals called doorbusters and stay open late into the evening. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Christmas remained the only two days a year that stores were closed.

  • The secret, dirty cost of Obama's green power push

    CORYDON, Iowa (AP) — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America's push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.

    Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

    It wasn't supposed to be this way.

    With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."

    But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

    As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

    Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.

  • World economy being sustained by extraordinary aid

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world's biggest economies still need to be propped up.

    They're growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs, but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.

    From the United States to Europe to Japan, central banks are pumping cash into economies and keeping loan rates near record lows. Even fast-growing China has rebounded from an uncharacteristic slump with the help of government money that's poured into projects and made loans easily available from state-owned banks.

    For now, thanks in part to the intervention, the world economy is improving. The International Monetary Fund expects global growth to rise to 3.6 percent in 2014 from 2.9 percent this year.

    The improvement "does not mean that a sustainable recovery is on firm footing," Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, warned last month. He said major economies will need stimulus from "extraordinary monetary policies" to sustain momentum into 2014. Many economists think stimulus will be needed even longer.

  • Blue Cross buying Lovelace Health Plan

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico is buying the Lovelace Health Plan.

    The Albuquerque Journal reports the companies have agreed to a long-term provider agreement that will allow Lovelace Health Plan members a seamless transition and ensure continuity of members' care.

    The Lovelace Health Plan currently serves 108,000 members in New Mexico.

    Under the agreement, LHP members will continue to have access to the physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and services of the current Lovelace provider network.

    Lovelace said it was unclear what would happen to the Health Plan's 350 employees.

  • Wall Street Tweets Its Approval on Twitter IPO
  • SF hospital lays off 36 employees in prep for Obamacare

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Santa Fe hospital that is the city's largest private employer is reducing its work force in what it is says is a response to the federal health law.

    Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center says it is laying off 36 employees and changing additional employees' assignments and hours.

    Vice President Lillian Montoya says the hospital is realigning some of its services to conform to the health law's goal of reducing hospitals' inpatient populations.

    Christus St. Vincent still has nearly 1,950 employees.

    The hospital had an operating surplus of $6.3 million on annual revenue of $330 million last year, and CEO Bruce Tassin says that's a very small surplus for an operation of the size of Christus St. Vincent.

  • Blackberry to Remain Public; Shares Tank
  • Firm celebrates nearly two decades in LA

    When you live in an area where the local economy is as tightly intertwined as it is between Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, being a small business owner can be
    a challenge.

    So, for RE/MAX of Los Alamos, located at 116 Central Park Square, to still be in business after 18 years is quite an accomplishment; the firm just celebrated its anniversary recently.

    “Eighteen years in Los Alamos is a pretty good run,” said the firm’s current owner, Kendra Henning. Henning is the third owner since 1995. She became the owner in 2007, after working at the firm as a realtor since 2002.

    According to Kelly Myers, a realtor with the firm since 2005, a big reason why they’re still around is because Henning has her finger on the pulse of everything real estate-related that goes on in town, and gets that information to her associates quickly.

    “She spends a lot of time accumulating data, and that data has been so helpful when it comes to educating our clients, whether they’re a buyer or a seller,” Myers said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why we provide such excellent service.”

    According to Myers, the information they get from the central office is invaluable, given the type of clients they are dealing with.

  • Sticker shock often follows insurance cancellation

    MIAMI (AP) — Dean Griffin liked the health insurance he purchased for himself and his wife three years ago and thought he'd be able to keep the plan even after the federal Affordable Care Act took effect.

    But the 64-year-old recently received a letter notifying him the plan was being canceled because it didn't cover certain benefits required under the law.

    The Griffins, who live near Philadelphia, pay $770 monthly for their soon-to-be-terminated health care plan with a $2,500 deductible. The cheapest plan they found on their state insurance exchange was a so-called bronze plan charging a $1,275 monthly premium with deductibles totaling $12,700. It covers only providers in Pennsylvania, so the couple, who live near Delaware, won't be able to see doctors they've used for more than a decade.

    "We're buying insurance that we will never use and can't possibly ever benefit from. We're basically passing on a benefit to other people who are not otherwise able to buy basic insurance," said Griffin, who is retired from running an information technology company.