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Dumb, smart & funny things people said and did today Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Oct. 20. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Dumb, smart and funny 1. San Francisco officials were scheduled today to debate legislation that would regulate nudity. It's legal to be naked in public, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though this plan would force people to put something like a towel on a public bench before using it - that's under the bum, not on top of the privates - and dress for dinner at a restaurant. I wonder what that will do to the food services industry.

2. Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled Greece's former labour minister from his parliamentary group because she voted against a piece of the government's anti-austerity legislation that will take away some union powers. Let's see if he can expel all the thousands of protesters from the streets of Athens. They don't like the measures either.

3. The cover of The New Yorker has a clever take on the Occupy Wall Street protest, with an illustration of protesting bankers of old - they look like Mr. Monopoly - complete with signs with slogans such as "Keep things precisely as they are."

4. "The most important fact to realize about the rash of popular protests around the world - Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., demonstrations in Greece, Spain, London, and elsewhere in Europe, violent uprisings in rural China, even the revolutions of the Arab Spring - is that they aren't about money or inequality. If they were, they'd be easier to deal with. They're about perceived injustice, which reflects a deeper, fiercer problem." Geoff Colvin of Fortune hits the nail on the head today.

5. An ad campaign by U.S. law firm Jacoby & Meyers is a little different: "Remember that guy who came in second in the last New York Marathon? Neither do we. Winning is everything." The New York Times takes a look at how the firm is taking an unconventional approach.

6. Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame has joined designer Kelly Osbourne in promoting palladium for Palladium Alliance International, Bloomberg News reports in an article on how some alternative materials are being pushed as alternatives to gold in jewellery. I'd always just assumed she'd prefer gold . And baby seals.

7. "I have been trying not to splash out on anything big and I have been going drinking in student places." This 27-year-old accountant was speaking to Reuters, which today chronicles the troubles of everyday Britons.

8. Clare O'Connor, who covers the wealthy for Forbes magazine, says one of her pet peeves is how some famous people are oft seen to be billionaires, when they're not. Among them: Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Anne Sinclair, Jamie Dimon and Jeffrey Epstein. They may be rich, but they're not billionaires, Ms. O'Connor writes today.

9. Delta Air Lines plans to start a new class of seats on all its flights, having previously offered it just on international routes. "Economy Comfort" seats will be at the front of the Economy section. Customers get to board a bit earlier and get at least three more inches of legroom. At last, seats for the middle class.

10. "It's really quite sweet, how concerned everyone is about my wellbeing, including the staff ... It's much safer here than walking the streets of New York." ABC reports Bernie Madoff made this comment in a letter to his daughter-in-law. Well, yes, that's because the streets of New York are now filled with protesters who have an issue with capitalism, and crooks.

Greece in chaos again Violence erupted for a second day in Athens during anti-austerity demonstrations that swept through the city centre, turning streets into battlegrounds, The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly reports from the scene.

What again started as a peaceful mass demonstration descended into chaos in the late afternoon, with pitched battles between demonstrators and police filling the streets around Syntagma Square, facing the Parliament buildings.

The riots came shortly before the government was to try to pass new austerity measures and three days before the European Union attempts to reveal a solution to the two-year-old Greek debt crisis.

Greece outlook dims European leaders are being forced to hold a second summit as Germany and France fail to agree on certain issues to resolve the debt crisis. That means there will be no decisions taken at the first meeting in Brussels on Sunday.

Late today, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel announced they will meet again Saturday, to be followed by the initial summit on Sunday. But they said in a statement that they want a "global and ambitious answer" to be discussed on the weekend, and then adopted at the summit, which would be held no later than Wednesday.

Separately today, the latest report from the so-called troika, the group inspecting Greece's debt, says Greece should get the next tranche of its bailout. But, according to reports, a second bailout won't be enough to keep the country alive.

The troika includes the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. As The Financial Times reports, they have determined that the outlook is troubling, and the Greek economy is sinking fast.

"When compared with the outlook of a few months ago, the debt sustainability has effectively deteriorated, given the delays in the recovery, in fiscal consolidation and in the privatization plan, as well as the perspective of bank recapitalization,” the report says.

Scotiabank strikes Colombian deal Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia is jumping into the Colombian retail banking market, striking what it says is a $1-billion (U.S.) deal for a majority stake in one of the country's leading financial groups.

Scotiabank said today the deal for 51 per cent of Banco Colpatria includes $500-million and 10 million Scotiabank shares, The Globe and Mail's Grant Robertson reports.

"This transaction represents entering into a long-term partnership with Mercantil Colpatria that will allow Scotiabank to take advantage of the growth opportunities in Colombia," the bank said in a statement.

Banco Colpatria has assets of $6.2-billion and deposits of $4.2-billion, and a banking network of 175 branches

"We view this as a positive development for Scotia, demonstrating in particular its approach to acquisitions - go for strong franchises, leverage best practices and generate a high return, visible in a very short time frame," said analyst Michael Goldberg of Desjardins..

Microsoft profit, revenue jump Microsoft Corp. reported a jump in first-quarter profit and revenue today, hitting a quarterly sales record.

The software giant earned $5.74-billion (U.S.) or 68 cents a share, compared to $5.4-billion or 62 cents, diluted, a year earlier. Revenue climbed to $17.4-billion from $16.2-billion.

Officials weigh broader mandate The House of Commons finance committee will examine whether the Bank of Canada should work to achieve “full employment,” a reform that would mirror the dual mandate of the U.S. Federal Reserve, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry and Jeremy Torobin report.

In a unanimous all-party vote today, the MPs approved a motion to consider the government’s looming decision on whether to renew the Bank of Canada’s current inflation target of 2 per cent.

However, the motion goes further by asking the committee to look at possible alternatives to the target that has guided the bank’s work for the past 20 years.

Encana profit sinks Canada's Encana Corp. today posted a hefty drop in third-quarter profits.

Profit slipped to $120-million (U.S.) or 16 cents a share from $606-million a year earlier, the natural gas giant said. Operating earnings climbed to $171-million or 23 cents from $85-million or 12 cents.

“Encana delivered another excellent quarter in every aspect of its operations, achieving solid cash flow and operating earnings," chief executive officer Randy Eresman said in a statement.

"Our third-quarter production growth of 6 per cent per share puts us in line to achieve our 2011 targeted growth range of 5 to 7 per cent per share. We are highly focused on core initiatives that will strengthen our financial capacity and position us for future growth."

CPPIB, Microsoft eye Yahoo The Canada Pension Plan could soon hold a stake in Yahoo Inc. , according to reports today.

The CPP Investment Board has teamed up with Microsoft Corp. and Silver Lake Partners, a private equity firm, to work up a potential bid for the Internet giant, The Wall Street Journal says.

According to the report, Microsoft would put up the bulk of the money, and the CPPIB and Silver Lake would put in less.

Yahoo rejected a $45-billion (U.S.) bid from Microsoft several years ago, and its stock has plunged since.

Wealth rebounding Wealth in Canada has rebounded from the erosion of the recession, and, according to a report from Credit Suisse, we're now sitting relatively pretty.

"While wealth per adult in the United States is still 8 per cent below the 2007 level, Canada's wealth in domestic currency is now 3 per cent above the 2007 figure," the global wealth report says.

"This reflects the fact that Canada's financial institutions and housing market did not suffer a collapse during the global financial crisis."

According to the report released yesterday, Canada is eighth in the world in a ranking of aggregate household wealth, and 13th in terms of wealth per adult, at $245,000 (U.S.), compared to $248,000 in the United States. That's a sharp reversal from 2000, when Canadian mean wealth was just 56 per cent of the U.S. figure when expressed in U.S. dollar terms.

"Measured in terms of the U.S. dollar, mean household wealth grew at an annual rate of 7.7 per cent from 2000 to mid-2011," says the report by Professor Jim Davies of the University of Western Ontario, Anthony Shorrocks, former director of the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University, and Rodrigo Lluberas, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of London.

"When exchange rate changes are excluded, the rise in wealth is more modest, showing annual growth of 3.6 per cent. Also, the contraction in household wealth due to the financial crisis - almost 30 per cent in U.S. dollar terms - is much less evident when wealth is expressed in Canadian dollars."

Like Americans, Canadians hold more than half of their wealth in financial assets, Credit Suisse says, and we have almost one million millionaires. The Canadian section of the report does not discuss the issue of the high personal debt levels in Canada.

Analysts cut Agnico targets Analysts are slashing their price targets on shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. , whose shares plunged yesterday after it suspended operations and production at its Goldex project in Val d'Or, Que., because of water intake and instability.

"Just as the company closes in on steady state across its operations, the decision to suspend the Goldex mine indefinitely is yet another unfortunate setback for the company," said Raymond James analyst Brad Humphrey, who cut his target to $68.50 from $85.

"With no short-term solution apparent, we believe the company had no real alternative option than to suspend the mine indefinitely (for safety reasons and in order to prevent further damage to the asset)."

UBS Securities Canada analyst Brian MacArthur cut his 12-month target to $64 from $84.

Agnico said yesterday it would study the possibility of resuming operations next year on the western side of the deposit, and for now, it is writing off its investment in Goldex to the tune of about $260-million (U.S.) in the third quarter.

CIBC cuts shares of potash producers CIBC World Markets has cut the price targets on the shares of major potash companies, including Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan , Agrium Inc. and The Mosaic Co. .

"We are taking a more tempered view of potash demand over next 12-18 months and in turn 2012 potash pricing and are lowering our production estimates and price assumptions accordingly," analyst Jacob Bout said of Potash Corp., as he cut his target to $65 (U.S.) from $68. "Our 2012 [earnings per share]estimate falls to $4.07 from $4.71."

Where Agrium is concerned, Mr. Bout said its retail operations appear robust but that "we are taking a more tempered view of nutrient price increases, reducing our 2012 [earnings per share]estimates and lowering our price target from $113 to $109."

As for Mosaic, "we are tweaking our estimates to reflect a more tempered view of nutrient pricing," among other things, Mr. Bout said, trimming his target to $83 from $88 and raising the prospect of the company becoming a takeover target."

Analysts forgive Analysts appear to be in a forgiving mood over the fourth-quarter earnings miss by Apple Inc. this week. As The Globe and Mail's Darcy Keith reports, one analyst calls it an "iBlip."

I particularly liked a report from Mike Abramsky, Mark Sue and Paul Treiber of RBC, who asked: "Siri, is Apple still the fairest of them all?"

That was related to the nifty new voice technology on the iPhone 4S - you ask it questions - and the analysts suggest investors give Apple's new management team a chance to show their stuff.

"Apple's surprise miss to Q4 Street expectations was the first in more than five years; however, we remain positive on the shares for three reasons: 1) the miss appears transitional; 2) catalysts and global opportunities remain ahead; 3) Q4 offers a healthy reset of expectations ahead of the iPhone 4S impact."

In Economy Lab There are more NHL players making more than $6-million a year than there are Canadian managers or CEOs, Mike Moffatt writes.

In International Business The price difference between West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude reached a record high of more than $28 (U.S.) a barrel earlier this month. But, almost unnoticed, the market has started to price a return to the parity between the two benchmarks in five years. Javier Blas of The Financial Times reports.

In Globe Careers Most people struggle with how to promote themselves without coming across as boastful or aggressive. Jessica Kleiman of Forbes.com offers some tips.

From today's Report on Business

Follow on Twitter: @michaelbabad

 
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