President Obama Pleased with Korea Trade Deal

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Calling it a “landmark” deal, President Obama said Saturday he’s “very pleased” with the free-trade agreement the United States and South Korea have worked out.

“This deal is a win for American workers, for farmers and ranchers,” the president announced this afternoon in a statement read from the White House. 

Obama boasted that the deal will contribute significantly to his goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years by opening up the Korean market to American aerospace products, electronics, and cars and trucks. 

“In short, the tariff reductions in this agreement alone are expected to boost annual exports of American goods by up to 11 billion. All told, this agreement, including the opening of the Korean service market, will support at least 70,000 American jobs,” Obama said.

The deal now must be ratified by Congress and approved by lawmakers in South Korea.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports passage of the agreement, and its president said in a statement Friday that the lobby organization will do everything in its power to round up the votes needed. 

News of the trade agreement was announced late Friday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Google, Groupon Abandon Deal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Google's attempt to buy Groupon came to a disappointing end for the search-engine giant on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reports. Local deals site Groupon, whose name is a combination of group and coupon, was apparently divided over Google's multibillion dollar offer, with many investors fearing that the two companies' personalities were incompatible.

Google has a history of spending big bucks for smaller businesses, including a $3.1 billion deal for DoubleClick in 2007. It seemed especially determined to get Groupon, however, even if the bidding was unprecedented. The Journal noted that AllThingsD claimed Google was offering $5.3 billion in the deal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Former 'GMA,' 'Primetime' Producer Tapped to Lead ABC News

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In a packed ABC News studio, incoming network president Ben Sherwood vowed to "work his heart out" to propel the news division to success.

"This is the greatest building in all of television, and the people who work here are the best in television," said Sherwood, who noted that it was "emotional" to walk into the ABC News headquarters this morning for the first time in years.

The audience that gathered to welcome Sherwood back to ABC News -- most recently he served as the executive producer of Good Morning America from 2004 to 2006 -- included World News anchor Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, and outgoing president David Westin.

Sherwood first joined ABC News in 1989 as an associate producer and producer for PrimeTime and later led Good Morning America to its two most successful seasons. Sherwood has also worked at NBC's Nightly News and has published two best-selling novels.

ABC News Digital will be of the utmost importance in this mission, according to Sherwood.

"Digital is everything, it's essential," he said. "I'm going to challenge our digital team to think really big thoughts."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Jobs Report Disappointing, Unemployment Up to 9.8%

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's employers increased payrolls by 39,000 in November, significantly worse than the 130,000 increase analysts expected.

Private sector companies added only 50,000 workers, far fewer than the 140,000 predicted.
The jobless rate jumped significantly from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

A net of 7.5 million jobs have been lost since Dec. 2007, the first month of the recession.

“There's no denying that the report is disappointing,” Vice President Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, “because we were, quite frankly, hoping for even stronger job growth.”

The vice president said that the bottom line is that there has clearly not been enough economic progress.

“There is too much pain out there. There's still millions of people out of work and trying to make do with -- without a paycheck and without the dignity or the respect that goes with a job.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


JP Morgan Suspected Madoff Months Prior to Arrest

Photo Courtesy - Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Documents obtained by ABC News show that two months before Bernie Madoff's arrest, JP Morgan Chase suspected that his investment returns were probably "too good to be true."  The bank, however, was still doing business with Madoff when federal authorities discovered his Ponzi scheme.

Lawyers representing the victims of Madoff's massive investment fraud filed a $6.4 billion lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase Thursday, claiming the bank continued its relationship with Madoff despite having documented suspicions about him.

The lawyers' complaint remains sealed, and lawyers did not specify in a public statement on the lawsuit how JP Morgan had documented those suspicions, but ABC News has obtained a "Suspicious Activity Report" that the London office of JP Morgan Chase filed with the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency in October 2008. The document -- filed two months prior to Madoff's arrest -- specifically notes Madoff's investment returns were most likely "too good to be true."

The report shows the company was already removing its money from funds that did business with Madoff -- so-called "feeder funds" -- by the time it alerted the British government to its concerns.  The London office did not issue a similar alert to U.S. authorities, and an Inspector General's Report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued in the wake of Madoff's arrest did not mention any warnings from JP Morgan.

The company filed the report, an attorney for JP Morgan would later say, after a representative of a Madoff feeder fund became angry when JP Morgan began removing money from the fund.  The representative of Geneva-based Aurelia Finance, which was acting as an advisor to one of the feeder funds, allegedly hinted at violence against a JP Morgan employee involving Aurelia's "Colombian friends" who could "create havoc."

But the report also emphasizes concerns about Madoff based on "the investment performance achieved by its funds which is so consistently and significantly ahead of its peers year-on-year, even in the prevailing market conditions, as to appear too good to be true -- meaning it probably is."

It also cites Madoff's "lack of transparency" surrounding his trading techniques, the "implementation" of Madoff's investment strategy, the "identity" of its over-the-counter (OTC) option counterparties, and Madoff's "unwillingness to provide helpful information."

As a result, the report says, JP Morgan has "sent out redemption notices in respect of one fund, and is preparing similar notices for two more funds -- referring funds Lagoon, Fairfield Sentry/Sigma Ltd., and Herald Fund SPC."

While the London office of the bank sent its warning letter to British authorities, and withdrew its funds from the Madoff feeder funds, it did not send a similar notification to U.S. authorities.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'We Did Not Stop Hosting WikiLeaks Because of Government, Site Attacks,' Says Amazon

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Amid reports that government inquiry caused Amazon not to serve WikiLeaks, Amazon Web Services (AWS) posted a message on its blog stating "that is inaccurate."

AWS Thursday claimed that WikiLeaks simply did not follow the terms of service, which was cause for removal from the server.  For example, Amazon's terms state that one must "represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content...that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity."

Amazon said it was "clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content."

AWS, which has been storing data for its customers for over four years, also said that controversial information is not an issue for them as much as violation of terms.

"Some of this data is controversial, and that's perfectly fine.  But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Fact Check: Who Gets Hurt, Who Gets Helped If Bush Tax Cuts Expire?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, with the clock running down on the Bush tax cuts, Democrats in the House voted to make them permanent, but not for the wealthiest Americans.

Democratic senators, like Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have said that continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for America's richest will give the millionaires a tax break, while Republicans in Congress, like the next Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, have said tax hikes will kill jobs.

So who's right? Will letting the top Bush tax cuts expire hit small business or the super-rich? The answer is both.

If the top tax cuts expire, someone making $1 million a year would see their taxes go up by about $43 thousand, and for someone making $10 million, it's a tax hike of more than $450 thousand.

But small business owners, like Drew Greenblatt, would be hit, too. When ABC News visited his 30-employee wire basket company in Baltimore earlier this year, he said an increase in the top tax rate would cost him about $40 thousand -- and likely at least one employee.

Small businesses aren't the only concern. What about the deficit? Extending tax cuts on the top brackets would add to the deficit, as would extending any of the cuts.

Extending the tax cuts for those with incomes under $200 thousand a year, as the president and Democrats are fighting for, will add an estimated $3.1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. Extending any tax cuts for those over $200 thousand a year adds another $800 thousand to the deficit.

These figures are just estimates, though. According to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a tax increase could bring in less than expected.

"Many of the wealthier individuals in particular will find ways to hide their money or they'll give more to charity," she said.

Despite what the politicians say, the truth is there is not much certainty with any of these numbers. The IRS doesn't keep records of how many truly small businesses pay taxes at the top income tax level, so no one knows for sure just how many businesses -- and jobs -- would be affected.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Christian Leaders Protest Apple's Removal of 'Anti-Gay' App 

Photo Courtesy - Apple(NEW YORK) -- It's been said that Apple products are instruments of the divine, but it seems that some religious leaders think the tech company is on the wrong side of God on at least one issue -- an iPhone application opposing gay marriage.

After Apple removed the controversial application from its iTunes app store, a group of Christian leaders sent a letter to the company protesting the decision.

The application, called Manhattan Declaration, was a "call of Christian Conscience" that advocated "the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty," according to its website.

In a letter sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs earlier this week, the religious leaders said they were disappointed to learn the company stopped selling the application, which included the text of the "Manhattan Declaration."

"We do not know exactly why the app was pulled, as we have yet to receive any explanation from Apple, but we assume that it was the result of pressure brought to bear by some who, for blatantly ideologically partisan reasons, claim that the Manhattan Declaration is bigoted, or otherwise offensive," they said. "We hope that you will see how wrong it would be to let one side shut down the opposing side in a debate by slandering their opponents with prejudicial labels such as "bigot" or "homophobe."

The letter was signed by Charles Colson, former aide to President Richard Nixon and head of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Dr. Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Dr. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School.

The three leaders urged Apple to reinstate the application and are calling on their own supporters to e-mail Apple and sign a petition. According to the Manhattan Declaration website, more than 16,000 people have already signed their names in support.

In a statement, Apple said, "We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."

The iPhone application initially disappeared from the app store in late November after more than 7,000 people signed a petition urging Apple to delete it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Mylanta Recall Adds to Johnson & Johnson Woes

Photo Courtesy - Johnson & Johnson/ Mylanta [dot] com(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- Health care product giant Johnson & Johnson is adding to its growing list of recalls this year -- this time a dozen types of Mylanta and one Alternagel antacid.

The wholesale and retail level recall was not done due to "adverse effects," the company said, but because an internal review showed the bottles failed to note the alcohol content of some flavoring agents.

"Certain flavoring agents contribute small (<1%) amounts of alcohol," the company said on the Mylanta website.  "It is unlikely that use of these products will cause either absorption or alcohol sensitivity related adverse events."

Johnson & Johnson advised that there was no consumer safety concern related to the recall and the products can still be used as directed.

It's yet another blow to the company whose manufacturer has already made more than half a dozen recalls this year alone, including the largest recall in children's medicine history.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Federal Reserve Details Massive $3.3 Trillion in Crisis Lending

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Reserve, in an unprecedented move required by the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, provided details of which banks and firms took advantage of a series of lending programs during the financial crisis.
Details of some $3.3 trillion in loans were posted to the Federal Reserve’s website early Wednesday afternoon. The data covers 21,000 lending transactions in the programs from December 2007 to July 2010.
In the data, Fed watchers can see which firms accessed the programs and how much lending these firms accessed. As one might expect, big banks were some of the most prolific users of the Fed’s largesse. But dozens of “Main Street” companies like McDonald's, Verizon, Harley-Davidson and General Electric also accessed the Fed lending programs. Even large foreign banks took out Fed loans -- through their US subsidiaries.
“After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a post-release statement. “Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations. As a result of this disclosure, other members of Congress and I will be taking a very extensive look at all aspects of how the Federal Reserve functions.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio