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Manitowoc County seeks employee cuts in face of decreased revenue

Manitowoc (AP) — Manitowoc County’s unionized employees are being asked to take pay cuts, a wage freeze and potential increases in health insurance costs to cut expenses by around $2 million a year because of decreased revenues.

County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer made the request Wednesday evening. The county’s six bargaining units are in the fourth year of a five-year agreement with annual raises of 3 percent. They have until June 16 to accept or reject the proposal.

It includes a 5 percent cut in the general wage level as of June 28.

Ziegelbauer said that if a union rejects it, the county will move on to a “drastic” plan B that could include layoffs. If the unions agree, non-represented employees will get the same deal and elected officials will be “strongly encouraged” to do the same.

Iowa woman sentenced in Wisconsin for pirating, selling software

Madison (AP) — A federal judge in Madison sentenced an Iowa woman to prison for pirating software.
U.S. Attorney Erik Peterson says 39-year-old Kelly Garcia of Dubuque, Iowa, posted online advertisements selling software at reduced rates in March 2003.

The Business Software Alliance bought several titles and discovered they were pirated copies of Macromedia software programs. In November 2003, federal investigators searched a home in Boscobel, where Garcia lived at the time, and uncovered records showing she made about $85,000 selling pirated programs.

Garcia pleaded guilty to copyright infringement in February. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb sentenced her Wednesday to six months behind bars.

Madison Common Council approves apartment development

The Madison Common Council this week approved a plan to knock down 11 houses and make way for a $15 million apartment complex in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood.

The project, proposed by Madison developer Michael Matty and Madison-based Stone House Development, had met with some opposition in the neighborhood and from the Madison Landmarks Commission relating to the destruction of historic homes.

The neighborhood plan calls for the preservation of such homes and restricts infill development. Other residents said the homes marked for demolition were beyond repair.

Both the Urban Design Commission and the Madison Plan Commission recommended the new apartment complex development.

Egyptian real estate tycoon sentenced to death over diva killing

Cairo (AP) — A real estate mogul was sentenced to death Thursday for ordering the killing of a Lebanese pop star who had been his lover.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa pleaded not guilty to paying former Egyptian State Security officer Mohsen el-Sukkary $2 million to kill Suzanne Tamim in Dubai.

Authorities maintain Moustafa paid el-Sukkary, who worked for the tycoon at one of the Four Seasons hotels he owned in Egypt, to kill Tamim while she was staying in a luxury apartment in Dubai.

At the trial, authorities pointed to security footage of El-Sukkary in Dubai, blood-soaked clothes that were found dumped outside the building and the knife he used to slash Tamim’s throat as evidence.

Moustafa’s trial marked the demise of one of the country’s most prominent businessmen. Since his arrest in September, his brother Tarek Moustafa — who heads the lower house of parliament’s housing committee — took over as the company’s chief executive.

Over the past decade, Talaat Moustafa became one of Egypt’s wealthiest men, building a real estate empire that included luxury hotels and resorts. He was also a leading force behind the rise of the pricey Western-style suburbs that ring Cairo.

New jobless claims drop, Wisconsin among states with biggest decrease

Washington (AP) — The number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment insurance dropped slightly last week after spiking due to auto layoffs, while continuing jobless claims moved closer to 7 million.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 631,000, down from a revised figure of 643,000 the previous week.

Many economists said that while layoffs probably are still declining, they may not be doing so as fast as had been hoped.

Among the states, Michigan had the largest increase in claims for the week ending May 9. Claims there rose by 16,817, which it attributed to layoffs in the auto industry. The next largest increases were in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

California reported the largest decrease in claims of 10,052, which it said was due to fewer layoffs in the service industry. The next largest decreases were in Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma and Washington.

European surveys point to recession easing giving glimmer of hope for growth

London (AP) — The recession afflicting the 16 nations that use the euro eased further in May, closely watched surveys found Thursday, reinforcing hopes that growth may emerge possibly by the end of the year.

The monthly purchasing managers’ surveys for the manufacturing and services sectors — key gauges of activity — improved in May to levels last seen before the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in September, when the global financial crisis took a turn for the worst.

The “flash” estimate for the manufacturing index rose to 40.5 in May from 36.8 in April while the equivalent measure for the services sector increased to 44.7 from 43.8. The composite measure, which combines the two, climbed for the third month running to an eight-month high of 43.9 from 41.1.

The readings continue to point to recession as anything below 50 indicates a contraction. However, they also show that the severity of the recession is easing as the nearer the reading is to 50 the less marked the contraction.

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