Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Goldman Execs Deny Wrongdoing

Blistered by lawmakers for "unbridled greed," Goldman Sachs executives on Tuesday unflinchingly defended their conduct and denied the huge Wall Street investment bank helped cause the near-meltdown of the nation's financial system.

While the famous firm fights for its reputation, senators said the company's behavior leading up to the financial crisis clearly demonstrated a need for stronger regulation, and Democrats hoped to use the daylong hearing to build support for legislation now before the Senate. Republicans have so far succeeded in blocking debate, but more test votes are expected.

The legislation would crack down on the kind of lightly regulated housing market investments that helped set off the crisis in 2007.

Through hours of testimony to a Senate investigative subcommittee, present and former Goldman officials disputed, sometimes testily, the Securities and Exchange Commission's recent fraud allegations against the company.

They strongly denied that the firm cashed in on the housing crash by crafting a strategy to bet against home loan securities while misleading its own investors.

Europe's Debt Sinks Stocks; Dow Below 11,000

U.S. stocks followed European markets sharply lower Tuesday after Standard & Poor's downgraded the debt of Greece and Portugal. The rating agency's move intensified investors' fears that Europe's debt problems are spreading.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 213 points at 10,991.99 on Tuesday afternoon. All the major market indexes were down more than 2 percent.

The ratings downgrades sent the dollar up more than 1.1 percent against the euro, hitting its highest level in about a year. At the same time, gold and Treasury prices also rose as investors sought safer investments. The three often do not trade in the same direction.

Debt-strapped countries would also likely find it harder to spend more to stimulate their economies and help feed the global economic recovery.

Standard &Poor's downgraded Greece's debt to junk status and lowered Portugal's debt two notches to A-minus from A-plus. Greece has already admitted it can't pay debts coming due shortly and it has asked for a bailout from European neighbors and the International Monetary Fund. And there are growing concerns about Portugal's ability to handle its debts.

Investors have been on edge for months about Greece's fiscal crisis even as they've sent stocks higher on signs of an improving U.S. economy. They have also been worried that Portugal could be the next weak European economy to require help. That has undermined confidence in Europe's shared currency, the euro.

Man Claims Explosives, Flight Diverted

An American citizen on a flight from Paris to Atlanta claimed to have a fake passport and said he had explosives in his luggage, forcing federal air marshals to intervene and the plane to land in Maine, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, believe the man's passport was authentic.

There were 235 passengers and eight crew aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 273, which landed safely just after at 3:30 p.m. at Bangor International Airport, Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said. Federal officials met the aircraft at the airport. The Transportation Security Administration said the passenger was being interviewed by law enforcement.

After the man was apprehended, flight attendants moved passengers forward to clear out space in the rear of the plane, a passenger told FOX News.

"We were told there was some danger and some threats made, but beyond that we weren't told anything else," said the passenger, Adithya Sastry. Sastry said a passenger sitting next to him told him that the "young man" who was apprehended was carrying a backpack.

Elliott said late Tuesday afternoon that the Airbus A330 remained on the ground in Bangor but that the airline planned to continue the flight to Atlanta.

All passengers were taken off the plane because it was an international flight and they needed to clear customs, said Rebecca Hupp, a spokeswoman for Bangor International Airport.

The Bangor airport is accustomed to dealing with diverted flights.

It's the first large U.S. airport for incoming European flights, and it's the last U.S. airport for outgoing flights, with uncluttered skies and one of the longest runways on the East Coast. Aircraft use the airport when there are mechanical problems, medical emergencies or unruly passengers.

Top 10 Green Cars For 2010 Offer Variety

If you're looking to go green with a new car these days, there's no shortage of options - a fact reflected in Kelley Blue Book's list of the Top 10 Green Cars for 2010.

The list includes the usual hybrid options - including the Toyota Prius in the No. 1 spot - but also includes hybrid SUVs, clean diesel engines and other fuel-sipping small cars.

"From conventional gasoline-powered fuel sippers to hybrids to diesels, we think car shoppers will be impressed with the variety in vehicle types and sizes, as well as the vast array of various technologies, available on the market for the green-minded consumer today," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's website

Toyota also saw its Highlander Hybrid make the list at No. 9, making it one of three automakers, along with Ford and Honda, to land two vehicles on the list.

To be considered for the list, each vehicle was required to offer fuel economy and CO2 emissions superior to the bulk of vehicles in its class, and at the same time provide all the safety, creature comforts and driving enjoyment that would make it pleasant to own.

While this year's list includes several from last year's collection, it also includes newcomers like the Volkswagen Golf TDI, one of the newest "clean diesels" offering hybrid-like fuel efficiency, and the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, which combines SUV features with a hybrid powertrain.

See the entire Top 10 Green Cars for 2010 list

Wife Of Soldier In Paralysis Scam Jailed

The former wife of an Army veteran who bilked the U.S. government by faking paralysis to get disability benefits and avoid deployment to Iraq is headed to federal prison.

A judge in East St. Louis, Ill. sentenced 25-year-old Amy Rush of Glen Carbon on Monday to two years behind bars for her role in the scam. Her ex-husband, Jeffrey Rush, was ordered Friday to spend six and a half years in prison and to repay more than $300,000. Amy Rush must make $241,000 in restitution.

Authorities said the pair stuck to the story that Jeffrey Rush had lost use of his legs after a 2004 rollover crash just weeks before his Army company shipped off to Iraq.

Both pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Classes Ordered For Dog That Destroyed Police Car

A pit bull mix in Tennessee has been sentenced to obedience training after his dogged attack on a local police car.

Winston didn't bite anybody, but he mauled a Chattanooga police car in what might have been a confused attempt to take a bite out of crime. The persistent pooch managed to tear off a section of the front bumper and damage the tires on March 14th and the incident was caught on tape.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Judge Sherry Paty ruled that Winston had been a very bad dog. He was sentenced to obedience and canine good citizen classes, and he'll have to wear a tag that says he is "potentially dangerous."

Charges against his owner will be dismissed if the classes are completed successfully. Owner Nancy Emerling said Winston got out of a fenced-in area at a welding shop.

Wall Street Journal; AP; FOX News; Kelly Blue Book; Stars & Stripes; Chattanooga Times Free Press; WBZ-TV 38, Chattanooga, TN.

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