Saturday, August 12, 2000

Business Digest

Record crops are forecast

        Farmers will harvest record crops of corn and soybeans this year, thanks to timely rains and excellent growing conditions this summer across the Midwest, the government said Friday.

        Based on its monthly survey of farms, the Agriculture Department estimated U.S. corn production at 10.4 billion bushels, up 10 percent from last year and 6 percent from 1998.

        Farmers are expected to harvest 2.99 billion bushels of soybeans this year, a 13 percent increase from 1999 and 9 percent above 1998's record crop.

Verizon talks resume

               Verizon Communications and phone workers' unions resumed negotiations Friday in hopes of concluding a nearly weeklong strike, making apparent progress on the cumbersome issue of unionizing wireless-service workers.

        But working conditions and job security remained stumbling blocks as the parties worked to craft new contracts for the 87,200 employees on strike since Sunday.

Drug group sues Maine

               A drug industry group is challenging in federal court Maine's new law that would institute price controls if the state cannot negotiate substantial discounts on prescription drugs for its uninsured residents.

        The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America filed a lawsuit on the eve of Fri day's effective date of the law, seeking to block the legislation from taking effect until a constitutional challenge is heard.

        Earlier this year, Maine adopted legislation enabling the state to negotiate for lower prices on behalf of more than 300,000 residents who do not have insurance coverage for prescription drugs.

Online hate case calls on experts

               In a legal battle over who should be held responsible for online racism, a court called Friday for a team of experts to examine ways of blocking French Internet users from U.S. giant Yahoo!'s auction site. A lawyer for Yahoo! called the judge's action “reasonable.”

        The case began in April, when two Paris-based human rights groups filed suit against Yahoo! for hosting auctions of Nazi objects, including Nazi medallions, swastika-emblazoned battle flags and other such paraphernalia.

        In France it is illegal to sell or exhibit anything that incites racism, but the U.S. Constitution's protection of free speech allows the expression of racist or extremist ideas.

Barclays OKs merger

               Barclays PLC has agreed to pay about $8.1 billion for mortgage banker Woolwich PLC in a deal that will more than double its share of the British mortgage lending market.

        Woolwich's board approved the deal and will recommend it to its shareholders, who must approve it. Regulators also must clear the transaction.


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