NBC Severing MSNBC Venture Ties with Microsoft? Stay Tuned.
A nearly 17-year-old venture between NBC News and Microsoft is poised to be broken as NBC negotiates to buy Microsoft's portion of MSNBC.com, the Associated Press reports. In 1995, Microsoft Corp. said it would invest $220 million for a 50 percent stake in the cable channel and its website. The TV partnership dissolved 10 years later, but the two companies shared ownership of the popular news website, which is less partisan than the left-leaning cable network.
One-Third of Country Declared Federal Disaster Areas
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has named more than 1,000 drought-plagued counties in 26 states as natural-disaster areas, Bloombergreports. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that the impacted farmers and ranchers in 1,016 counties -- about a third of those in the entire country –will be eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the drought, wildfires and other disasters. Changes in procedure will allow disaster claims to be processed quicker and reduce the penalty ranchers are assessed for allowing their livestock to graze on land earmarked for conservation, Bloomberg said. More than half of the Midwest, the country’s prime growing region, is experiencing moderate to extreme drought. The declaration also covers most of the Southwest, which has been plagued by wildfires, as well as the Southeast. Less than half (40 percent) of the U.S. corn crop was in good or excellent condition as of July 8, down from 48 percent a week earlier and the lowest for this time of year since a drought in 1988.
U.S. Trade Deficit Narrowed in May
The US trade deficit fell 3.8 percent in May to $48,7 billion, down from $50.6 billion in April, the Commerce Department announced Wednesday. The decline was fueled by cheaper oil, which lowered the value of imports, while exports to Europe and China rose, the Associated Press reports. Imports dipped 0.7 percent, while exports rose 0.2 percent, driven by heavy machinery and telecoms equipment sales. The trade deficit with China increased to $26 billion, up from $24.5 billion the previous month. Imports rose at a faster 5.8 percent pace over exports at 5.2 percent.
Spain Imposes New Austerity Measures
New austerity measures to help Spain cut is budget deficit by $80 billion through to 2015 were announced yesterday by the nation’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, The Wall Street Journal reports. The announcement was accompanied by warnings that Spain, the euro-zone’s fourth-largest economy, might not grow at all in 2013, according to The Journal. Rajoy urged all Spaniards to support the austerity plan, which includes cuts to public sector wages and benefits for unemployed workers, and also increases the country’s value-added tax to 21 percent, up from 18 percent.
Stocks End Lower on Fed Minutes
Stock markets fell following the release of the minutes to the Federal Open Market Committee meeting in June, The New York Times reports. The minutes suggest that Federal Reserve officials are disappointed by lower-than-expected job gains in June and other recent economic data indicating the U.S. economy is growing at a slower rate. According to the times, the minutes also reflect continuing concern over the impact of the European debt crisis on the U.S. economy. The minutes indicate a minority of committee members feel that further quantitative easing is warranted at this time, while several other officials would consider additional stimulus should the economy take a turn for the worse, according to The Times. U.S. stocks fell on the report, which lacked a definite signal from the central bank, and the S&P 500 Index closed lower for the fifth consecutive day.
House Votes to Repeal Obamacare
The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives voted 244-185 today to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the crowning legislative achievement of the Obama administration, Bloomberg News reports. The measure is not expected to advance in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, but the vote – the 33rd of its kind – signals Republican resolve to dismantle the act, which, among other things, mandates health care for all Americans. The constitutionality of the law was upheld on June 28 in a 5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court.