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Two legislators file overdue finance reports after threat of being sued

Madison (AP) — Two of eight legislators or political challengers who failed to file campaign finance reports on time have turned in their paperwork after state election officials threatened to sue them all.

The Government Accountability Board said four Democrats — state Reps. Tamara Grigsby, Christine Sinicki and Annette Polly Williams, all of Milwaukee, and challenger Perry Duman of Port Washington — never turned in reports due Feb. 2.

Four Republicans — Rep. Scott Newcomer of Hartland and challengers Jess Kufahl of Merrill, David Nickel of West Allis and Jason LaSage of Menomonee Falls — also didn’t turn in reports by then.

Board attorney Mike Haas says Grigsby and Williams turned in their reports Monday. He said Newcomer has promised to submit his “shortly,” but the board has heard nothing from any of the challengers.

Construction of new Soo shipping lock beginning

Sault Ste. Marie, MI (AP) — A ceremony will mark the first step toward building a new shipping lock at Sault Ste. Marie.

Ground will be broken Tuesday for two dams to hold back the St. Mary’s River so crews can begin work.

The Soo Locks raise and lower ships hauling cargo such as iron ore and coal between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

The Poe lock is the only one of the four existing locks that can accommodate the largest freighters, which can be up to 1,000 feet long. Shippers have long pushed for construction of a second big lock in case the Poe becomes disabled.

Congress first authorized the project in 1986 but has yet to come through with money to build it. The new lock is expected to cost about $490 million.

Jobless rates rise in all U.S. metro areas in May

Washington (AP) — Unemployment rates rose in all the largest U.S. metropolitan areas for the fifth straight month in May.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that jobless rates in May rose from a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan area it tracks.

The unemployment rate in Kokomo, Ind., jumped to 18.8 percent, up 11.7 percentage points from a year ago, the largest increase of all metro areas. The second-highest increase occurred in Indiana’s Elkhart-Goshen, where the rate rose to 17.5 percent. That’s up 11.4 percentage points from a year earlier.

Both parts of Indiana have been slammed by layoffs in transportation equipment manufacturing.

A common thread running through most of the regions that have been hard hit is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The collapse of the housing market has especially hurt jobs at factories that produce building materials and household goods, such as carpets, flooring, appliances and furniture. In addition, the global recession has cut into demand from customers both at home and abroad for a wide range of goods.

The U.S. unemployment rate climbed to a quarter-century high of 9.4 percent in May. Many economists predict it will rose to 9.6 percent in June. The government releases the new national employment report on Thursday.

Deere says 800 workers leave in voluntary program

Moline, IL (AP) — Deere & Co. said Tuesday about 800 salaried workers have decided to leave the world’s largest farm machinery maker under a voluntary separation program.

The number of workers taking the offer was about four times as many as the company expected when it announced the program in April and represents about 3 percent of Deere’s overall salaried work force.

The company expects to realize $75 million in savings in the first year, after pretax expenses of about $100 million recorded mostly in the fourth quarter. Previously, the company expected $50 million in savings.

In April, the Moline, Ill.-based company said it would combine its agricultural and commercial and consumer equipment divisions. The job cuts are intended to help the company reduce costs and meet customer needs more efficiently.

Deere said at the time it expected to eliminate about 200 salaried jobs.

Spokesman Ken Golden said Tuesday more employees — many with more than 20 years experience — took the offer to leave. The company has 27,500 salaried workers, he said.

Golden did not know what the terms of eligibility were.

Deere has benefited from strong sales of farming machinery despite a drop in construction equipment orders amid the housing slump. But the global credit crisis and lower crop prices have made it more difficult for buyers to obtain financing for new equipment, and Deere earlier this year slashed its 2009 earnings outlook and suspended quarterly forecasts.

Taiwan opens door for Chinese investment

Taipei, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan opened up key parts of its manufacturing and service sectors to Chinese investment as another barrier falls between the once bitter foes.

The new rules announced Tuesday are part of President Ma Ying-jeou’s ambitious effort to move Taiwan’s economy closer to that of China, and foster a dialogue aimed at ending six decades of mutual bitterness and distrust.

The two sides split amid civil war in 1949, and China continues to claim Taiwan as part of its territory.

Under the new Taiwanese rules, Chinese companies will be able to invest in 100 categories of local business, including computer components, cell phones, car making and building of resort hotels and commercial ports.

But Taiwan is keeping the semiconductor, flat panel display, solar panel making and communications sectors to itself, to safeguard the island’s secrets, and maintain its technological advantages. Real estate development will not be open to Chinese companies, though their Chinese employees will be permitted to buy property for private use.

Chinese investments “with a military purpose” will be banned, as will those that could harm Taiwan’s economic and financial development.

Under the new rules, mainland institutional investors will also be allowed to buy Taiwanese shares as long as the accumulated stock does not exceed 10 percent of a listed firm’s total share value, the government said.

The new rules take effect immediately.

Mortgage lender says U.K. house prices rising slightly

London (aAP) — House prices in Britain have risen 0.9 percent in June, and have risen in three of the past four months, the Nationwide Building Society said Tuesday.

Nationwide said the average price for a house in Britain is $259,000, still down 9.3 percent from a year ago.

The company is Britain’s No. 3 mortgage lender

The lender said that a comparison of prices taken over a three-month period showed the first rise in prices since December 2007. The figure echoes some other recent signs that the country’s housing market is stabilizing.

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