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How JetBlue flight attendant is a hero to those who dream

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'Pulling a Slater' The JetBlue flight attendant alleged to have quit his job in a rather remarkable fashion has become a folk hero, his tale having sparked the imagination of those who have fantasized about quitting their job by telling their bosses to shove it. T-shirts urging "Free Steven Slater" are selling, a re-enactment of his alleged stunt has gone viral and there are now songs about him, according to Reuters. He even has his own phrase: Pulling a Slater.

Mr. Slater is alleged to have reacted to being hit on the head by a passenger's luggage by swearing over the intercom, grabbing two bottles of beer and sliding down the emergency chute of a plane. He has been charged in the alleged incident, and no charges have been proven, but that hasn't stopped the groundswell of support among those who dream of saying "Take this job and shove it."

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"Obviously he's tapped into a pretty pervasive emotion," Jonathan Berent, author of an upcoming book, Work Makes Me Nervous, told the news agency. "There's so much frustration and anger about the economic climate, the unfairness of things and dealing with stress in the workplace."

Workplace advisers don't advise "pulling a Slater" for the obvious reasons. Quitting a job in anger may be instant gratification, but then you're looking for another job having left a sour mood behind.

Mr. Slater's lawyer Howard Turmon told reporters yesterday that his client wants to go back to work and "wants to thank the world for its understanding." Mr. Turman said Mr. Slater was not rude and put the blame on a "lack of civility on the part of one passenger," according to The Associated Press.

Germany drives European growth Europe's economy rebounded at a solid pace in the second quarter of the year, but its headline growth rate was driven by Germany and masks the disparity across the continent. The economies of both the 27-nation EU and the smaller euro zone, whose 16 members share the common currency, expanded by 1 per cent, compared to the first quarter, the Eurostat statistical agency said today. On an annualized basis, the growth rate was 3.9 per cent. In Germany alone, gross domestic product surged by 2.2 per cent - that's about 9 per cent annualized and the strongest pace since reunification - as Europe's biggest economy and main exporter solidified its position as the continent's growth engine.

"Superman is wearing black, red and gold this year, Germany's national colours," said economist Carsten Brzeski of ING Group. "But at some stage he'll become Clark Kent again. The economy can't keep growing at this rate."

The Eurostat report highlights the diverse nature of Europe's recovery, a problem for the European Central Bank, the monetary authority for the 16 countries in the euro zone. While Germany surged, others countries that have been at the heart of Europe's debt crisis, such as Greece, Spain, Hungary, Ireland and Portugal, lagged.

"The optimism from the German report was short-lived, as markets focused on softer growth elsewhere which widened peripheral Europe's sovereign debt spreads," said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Benjamin Reitzes.

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U.S. retail sales disappoint It appears Americans still aren't spending in any meaningful way. Retail sales in the United States rose 0.4 per cent in July, and though that was the first increase in three months it was driven largely by sales of cars and gasoline. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.2 per cent, shy of what economists were expecting. And when you take out both autos and gas, sales fell 0.1 per cent. Of the 12 categories measured by the U.S. Commerce Department, sales were down in eight. The retail numbers are a key gauge of the U.S. recovery given the clout of consumer spending in the overall economy.

"Eat, pray, love? How about nibble, pray and gas up?" said BMO Nesbitt Burns senior economist Jennifer Lee. "Not a great way to finish up an equally not great week ... Given [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke's 'unusual uncertainty' comment, Mastercard's CEO remark that he sees 'conflicting signals' about the economic recovery, and Cisco's CEO saying he sees 'mixed signals' about the economy there is only one thing that's for sure ... economic momentum has slowed."

Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Alistair Bentley had a slightly more optimistic take: "Today's result adds credence to our view that consumer spending is gradually improving and that a continuing - albeit tepid - recovery is underway across the U.S. economy ... All told, given the outlook for job growth and continued financial market volatility, consumers are likely to remain cautious in their purchase behavior over the remainder of this year."

The retail report came as J.C. Penney Co. , the third-largest department chain in the United States, lowered its outlook for this year, warning of an uncertain projection for spending.


Energy pushes up consumer prices in U.S. U.S. consumer prices jumped last month for the first time in several months, though the pace was driven by energy prices and is not a sign of inflationary pressures suddenly appearing on the scene. While inflation rose to 0.3 per cent in July over June, the so-called core rate that excludes volatile prices was just 0.1 per cent. That suggests that inflation is not a problem in the United States - not that anybody thought that, as fears now centre on deflation - and leaves the Federal Reserve free to fight a stalling recovery.

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"Despite the rebound in retail sales last month, the consumer recovery has clearly lost a lot of momentum recently," said Capital Economics. "At the same time, the risk of a near-term fall into deflation has actually receded a little."

Spike in inflation rate projected Expect Statistics Canada to report a spike in the country's inflation rate when it releases its report on consumer prices next Friday. The annual inflation rate stood at 1 per cent in June, but economists project that the introduction of the harmonized sales tax in B.C. and Ontario, along with an increase in Nova Scotia's existing HST, drove it to the 2-per-cent range, or possibly 2.1 per cent, in July. The impact of the HST on the rate of inflation will last for a year until the increase drops out.

That shouldn't affect the inflation policy at the Bank of Canada, whose favoured measure of the rise in consumer prices factors out volatile items and indirect taxes. The so-called core rate is projected to tick up to 1.8 per cent or 1.9 per cent from 1.7 per cent in June, still shy of the 2-per-cent mark that guides the central bank but moving closer.

It also shouldn't have any major impact on labour contracts still include cost-of-living allowances, said economist Erin Weir of the United Steelworkers. Many union-company pacts have not included such provisions in newly-organized workplaces, and many contracts, though not all, likely have higher threshholds, he said. Provisions are also different among various contracts in terms of how they calculate allowances.

Month-over-month, economists expect consumer prices rose 0.6 per cent to 0.8 per cent in July. "More expensive gasoline also added to upward price pressures nationally while food prices, which have been tame in recent months, may finally show some heat as imported fresh produce responds to a weaker Canadian dollar," said CIBC World Markets economist Krishen Rangasamy.

Black can sue accusers The Court of Appeal of Ontario has granted Conrad Black the right to pursue a libel action in Ontario against the directors and officers who accused him at Hollinger International Inc. Lord Black launched a libel action in 2004 against nine former Hollinger directors and officers, including former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden, who led an internal investigation into the conduct of the companies senior executives.

Flaherty expects GM toronto listing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expects General Motors Co., reborn from a bankruptcy protection filing and in firm turnaround mode, to list its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange when it goes public again. Both Mr. Flaherty's government and Ontario helped bail out GM last year, taking an equity stake in return, along with the U.S. government. An IPO is expected soon, and Mr. Flaherty told reporters today that Ottawa has not yet decided whether to take part. Mr. Flaherty said it's reasonable to expect a TSX listing given that "we are a major shareholder in the company."

Magma stirs controversy in Iceland The proposed takeover of an Icelandic geothermal company by Vancouver's Magma Energy Corp. is stirring up a hornet's nest in the island nation, drawing widespread opposition from critics of the deal, including pop star Björk. The opponents, who also include members of a party that is part of a coalition government, have managed to prompt an investigation into the proposal, in turn sparking warnings from business that the struggling economy could scare away foreign investors.

Magma, a geothermal power company, has been acquiring stakes in HS Orka through a Swedish subsidiary, Bloomberg News reports, and wants to take more. Iceland, which blocks the acquisition of majority stakes in its energy companies by those outside Europe, has seen several takeovers of companies by foreigners.

In late July, the government said it would strike up a committee to study foreign investment in the country's energy companies, after members of the Left Greens, vowed to pull their support for the coalition. The campaign against Magma has been growing, including the likes of Björk, who, according to Bloomberg, has called for an "open discussion and reconsideration concerning the sale of access to our natural resources."

Björk aside, Iceland doesn't have a lot going for it now, having been the poster child for the meltdown as its financial system collapsed. Its economy is a mess and foreign investment in the country has plunged. Bjorn Thor Arnarson, the chief economist at the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg that "one can't be blamed for wondering whether many investors will back away from their investments in the years to come because they are scared that politicians will meddle."

Magma said in a statement after the government's decision that each of its deals to date were reviewed and allowed, and it is "confident that the proposed transaction is in accordance with the laws of Iceland."

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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