Around the World November 11, 2001

AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Columbia dispute goes to mediation

JUNEAU - A mediator will attempt to resolve a dispute between the state and a Ketchikan shipyard operator. Each contends the other owes millions due to delays in returning the ferry Columbia to service last summer.

Alaska Ship and Drydock and state Transportation Department officials will begin mediated talks in Seattle late this month, said Doug Gardner, an assistant attorney general.

The shipyard operator had a $10.4 million contract to refurbish staterooms on the state’s largest ferry as well as repairing a switchboard damaged by a June 2000 fire.

But the work was finished more than 40 days late and the ship did not return to service until July 19 this year.

State officials say the shipyard operator owes $4 million in damages as a result.

But Alaska Ship and Drydock blames the delays on poor state specifications for the work and $287,347 in more work added to the project.

The state should set aside the $4 million penalty and pay the shipyard operator $3.1 million in additional compensation, said Doug Ward, a company spokesman.


Nation’s unemployment shoots up in October

WASHINGTON - The nation’s unemployment rate shot up to 5.4 percent in October and job losses surged to the highest level in more than two decades as the full brunt of the terrorist attacks hit a weak economy.

Job losses touched every part of the economy, not just airlines, hotels, restaurants and other travel-dependent industries, the Labor Department reported Nov. 2.

"It was pretty clear the report was going to be bad, but this was beyond bad in every way,’’ said Mark Zandi of

Businesses slashed 415,000 jobs in October, the worst monthly cut in payrolls since May 1980.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats both seized on the new jobless figures to push their own plans to jump-start the economy. Despite President Bush’s demand for a stimulus plan by Nov. 30, it remains unclear how both sides will resolve their differences over tax cuts vs. increased spending to help unemployed workers.

Texas gas prices dip to one dollar a gallon

SAN ANTONIO - Do you have a dollar? In San Antonio and other places around Texas these days, that’s all you need to pump a gallon of regular into your car’s gas tank, and have enough change left over for a piece of Bazooka Joe gum.

Motorists in the Alamo city, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley are among those who can readily find self-service gas for less than $1 a gallon, while determined shoppers in Houston and Fort Worth can find similar deals.

Statewide, the average price for self-service regular is $1.18, about 7 cents under the national average, according to AAA Texas.

Groups seek late fee moratorium

WASHINGTON - Consumer advocates and some lawmakers want a nationwide temporary moratorium on fees for late payments of credit card bills because of mail delays resulting from the terror attacks and the anthrax scare.

Many banks that issue Visa cards have helped customers who were directly or indirectly affected by the Sept. 11 attacks by waiving late fees and interest charges on accounts, said Richard Fischer, an attorney representing Visa USA Inc.

Lawmakers of both parties have recited a litany of complaints against credit card companies. Despite nine interest-rate cuts this year by the Federal Reserve, rates on many card accounts have remained relatively high, and card companies continue to trick consumers with small print detailing terms and conditions and with sudden changes in rates.

Boeing will still build 737, 757 models

RENTON, Wash. - Boeing Co. will continue to produce its Boeing 737 and 757 commercial airplanes in Renton, Alan Mulally, head of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division said Nov. 2.

But, Mulally said, the Seattle area will have to become more competitive and fix traffic congestion more quickly if it wants to keep Boeing’s airplane production in Renton over the long term.

Doing business in Renton, a 51,000-resident town centered around Boeing’s massive airplane production plant, can be costly and frustrating, Mulally said. Traffic has gotten so bad, he said, that aircraft parts much be delivered in the middle of the night, at considerable cost.

Marathon spends $1 billion for African assets

HOUSTON - Marathon Oil Co. is paying $993 million for CMS Energy Corp.’s production and refining interests in Equatorial Guinea, a tiny nation on Africa’s Atlantic coast.

The purchase announced Nov. 2 will give Houston-based Marathon large stakes in several offshore production blocks and a condensate separation facility, a 45 percent interest in a methanol production plant and a 43 percent stake in a liquefied petroleum gas processing plant.

Marathon said it will net 142 million barrels of liquid reserves and 646 billion cubic feet of gas reserves with the acquisition.

- Compiled from business wire services.

11/11/2001 - 8:00pm