What do farmers, former mayors and prosecutors along with military veterans, business people and the son of migrant workers who grew up to become an astronaut all have in common? They are among theÂ scores of people from diverse walks of life whoÂ Democrats recruited to run for the House of Representatives in hopes of winning control of the chamber back from Republicans in next yearâs election. Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats in the 435-member House to capture the chamber, and are buoyed by recent polls that show Americans favor them over Republicans. A new of registered voters found that 48 percent said they would back Democrats, compared to 40 percent saying they would support Republicans, if the election were held now. âWith the wind now at our backs, we have strong Democratic candidates running in 60 Republican and open districts across the country,â Steve Israel, head of the House Democratic campaign committee, said this week in announcing that he had met his recruiting goal ahead of time. Analysts say Democrats may pick up House seats in the November 2012 election, but not the 25 needed to take back control. One of their biggest problems is President Barack Obama. His approval rating of only about 40 percent threatens to be aÂ drag on their chances in individual House races. âMy best guess right now is that they pickup between zero and five seats,â said David Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Such talk doesnât dampen Democratsâ enthusiasm for their House contenders. Their list is literally topped by Jose Hernandez,Â a California native who grew up picking vegetables with his migrant parents. He later soared over the same fields as an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. In declaring his candidacy this week, Hernandez, 49, who left NASA in January after more than a decade of service, said he was proof that the American dream lives. âI went from plowshares to the stars,â he was quoted as saying in a Democratic press release. For more Reuters political news, click here. Photo credit: (Hernandez and other members of space shuttle Discovery at Kennedy Space Center in 2009)
* Legal fight could involve county, bondholders* Other cities, counties have had filings dismissedBy David GaffenNEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The lawyer for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania rejected allegations on Thursday that its bankruptcy filing was illegal in the face of threatened legal and legislative challenges.One day after Pennsylvania’s state capital filed for bankruptcy, Mark Schwartz, attorney for the city council, told Reuters Insider the Chapter 9 filing was “absolutely” legal.That followed comments by the mayor and county that the council did not have the authority to take such a step.Harrisburg is one of a handful of municipalities that has flirted with bankruptcy in the wake of the Great Recession that devastated budgets in state and local communities. Some say it could become a touchstone for whether other cities will follow this path to extract concessions from creditors and others.”We’re trying to advocate to use the leverage of bankruptcy,” said Dan Miller, Harrisburg City Controller.But legal experts say this is a complicated process as states in recent years have erected higher walls for local governments to overcome if they seek bankruptcy. One in four Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcies are dismissed, according to a legal expert.Several entities, including the county, state, and bondholders, are expected to contest the filing.Thursday, Charles Zwally, special council for Dauphin County, where Harrisburg is located, said the county is weighing its options.”We’re reviewing it now and we’re advising the county…We don’t believe that they are authorized to file,” he said.The Pennsylvania capital’s crisis has been a year in the making. The city of about 50,000 is hampered by $300 million in debt incurred from an expensive revamp of its incinerator and is struggling to fund key city services.Less than half of U.S. states authorize a city or county to undertake such a move, and states have been making it harder to file.A law passed in Pennsylvania earlier in the year prohibits the city from filing for bankruptcy until 2012.Glen Grell, a Republican member of the state’s house of representatives for the 87th district said the “bankruptcy petition that was filed is not authorized by state law as it’s required to be.”“It’s horrible for any municipality, especially the state capital of Pennsylvania, to attempt to walk away from its creditors,” he said. The state Senate is expected to vote next week on a bill that calls for an eventual takeover of Harrisburg.Schwartz called the legislation’s language “deplorable, incomprehensible and illegal.”Juliet Moringiello, a professor at Widner School of Law in Harrisburg, said the state’s authority is in question. The state’s law says municipalities can file for bankruptcy, but it changed its law to stipulate that third-class cities — of which Harrisburg is one — cannot file for a year.”The problem is that the law was aimed at Harrisburg. The question the city lawyer is raising is, ‘Was that constitutional?”ONE IN FOUR DISMISSEDIn 1991, Bridgeport, Connecticut filed but the case was dismissed as the city could not prove it was unable to pay its debts.”One of the issues is, is the municipality insolvent? Do the assets exceed the liabilities? That’s why Bridgeport failed,” said Richard Zeisler of Zeisler & Zeisler PC of Bridgeport, who represented that city in its unsuccessful case.Jim Spiotto, a municipal bankruptcy expert at the law firm of Chapman and Cutler, told Reuters Insider on Wednesday one in four bankruptcies wind up “having it being dismissed or closed without a plan.” He said Harrisburg’s bankruptcy “could” be dismissed.Bond insurer Assured Guaranty and the mayor questioned the legality of the filing, which the Harrisburg City Council approved in a 4-3 vote late on Tuesday, but Schwartz rejected that assessment.”The council basically utilized that remedy, which was bankruptcy, and filed for it,” he said.Thompson said Wednesday that the mayor and the city solicitor must sign off on all hiring of outside counsel and the city solicitor must approve all ordinances and resolutions considered by the council, which was not done in this case, she said.The county is one of the most high-profile cities to use Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, most notably invoked nearly 20 years ago by Orange County, California.There have been only 629 municipal bankruptcies under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code since 1937, according to Spiotto.Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has said the city would be better off if it agreed to a rescue plan under the state’s Act 47 program for distressed cities — which has seen Philadelphia and other cities through crises. His office opposes the bankruptcy.”If you go through the Act 47 plan or the receiver legislation we’re going through right now, the assets are sold and Wall Street gets paid 100 cents on the dollar. And we’ll be left with no sources of income,” said city councilman Brad Koplinski.”So we’re going to have to tax our citizens. Those who can leave — will leave. Those who can’t leave because of economic situations are those who can least afford to pay it.”At the root of Harrisburg’s troubles is a financing scheme used to fund a state-of-the-art revamp of its trash-burning plant that left the city deeply in debt.The incinerator is owned by the Harrisburg Authority, a separate municipal entity, but the city and the surrounding Dauphin County guarantee much of that debt. The state wants Harrisburg to sell major assets, cut jobs and renegotiate labor deals.”This mess has been around for a long time,” said Joe Church, a resident of Susquehanna Township, a suburb of Harrisburg. “The previous administration and the new administration are not fiscally capable.”
RIM said services were starting to improve in all affected regions, reducing disruption for the millions of users hit by delays and outages.But many in the telecoms industry believe significant damage has been done to a business that already has its share of trouble. They see a risk that this week’s disruption will tip already restless BlackBerry users into the arms of rivals like Apple.Meanwhile the company’s service provider partners were looking at how compensation might be handled.”We are reviewing our options in terms of compensation,” said a spokesman for Britain’s Vodafone, adding that “no decisions have been taken.”Spain’s Telefonica said on its web site it would compensate customers, in line with Spanish law. Spanish Consumer Association FACUA estimated that clients will receive 0.23-1.90 euros ($0.31-$2.62) for each 24 hours of service interruption.The Vodafone spokesman would not be drawn on whether such costs might be passed on to RIM, but analysts said there was little doubt operators would try.”In the past there have been outages but they’ve been limited to an hour here and an hour there and the operators have been tempted to let that go,” said Will Draper, analyst at Espirito Santo.”They haven’t been happy about it but it’s not the kind of thing you go to court over. But this is completely different. This is a three-day outage. This is 10 percent of your working month, so I’m pretty sure there will be compensation claims and I’m pretty sure they’ll try and pass it on to RIM, but my feeling is it will be very difficult to make it stick.”RIM is unique among handset makers in that it compresses and encrypts data before pushing it to BlackBerry devices via carrier networks. Apple and other rivals rely on the carrier networks to handle all routing and delivery of content. However other providers are breathing down RIM’s neck with smarter handsets and copycat service provision.Apple has started rolling out new version of its iOS software which includes BlackBerry-like iMessage service.One analyst said BlackBerry is a victim of its own success in that the huge increase in usage over recent years has made its centralized network architecture vulnerable.”This is the first major disruption to the BlackBerry service since 2009, during which time the number of BlackBerry users has doubled,” said Nick Dillon, analyst at technology specialist consultants Ovum in a note …”Despite the benefits the network brings in real-time delivery of email and data efficiency, it remains significant risk for the company.”SERVICES RECOVERRIM said there had been a significant improvement for services with users saying their services had started to work again, although there were still some delays.”Service levels are also progressing well in the U.S., Canada and Latin America and we are seeing increased traffic throughput on most services, although there are still some delays and services levels may still vary amongst customers,” RIM said in an update on its website.Singapore employees of global news and data provider Thomson Reuters were still having problems on Thursday but colleagues in London, Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta and Bangkok said BlackBerry service was normal.The outages — and RIM’s sluggish communications with its customers — have fanned rising dissatisfaction with its co-chief executives, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.Critics have called for a shake-up, saying the top managers have let the company fall too far behind Apple and other rivals in a rapidly changing market.RIM’s shares have already tumbled more than 50 percent this year on a series of profit warnings and product missteps - a sharp reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated the smartphone market.Even before this week’s disruptions, many companies had started to balk at paying a premium to be locked into RIM’s service. Some are now allowing employees to use alternative smartphones, particularly Apple’s iPhone, for corporate mail, and the outage could accelerate the trend.($1 = 0.725 Euros)
* At $3.4 bln, would be biggest fund buyout in Japan since 2008 crisisTOKYO, Oct 12 (Reuters) - U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital plans to finalise a deal to buy Japanese restaurant chain Skylark Co from a unit of Nomura Holdings Inc for about 260 billion yen ($3.4 billion), a source with knowledge of the matter said.At that price the transaction would mark the biggest private equity buyout in Japan since the 2008 financial crisis and highlight a revival of deal making following Japan’s devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.Bain Capital began talks with Nomura Principal Finance to buy Skylark last year. Negotiations were put on hold after the March earthquake and slowed again in August after an outbreak of dysentery traced to Skylark restaurants.Talks between Bain and Nomura Principal are in the final stages and the two sides aim to reach an agreement by the end of the month before Nomura Holdings reports its earnings for the July-September quarter, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet public.Nomura Holdings, Japan’s largest brokerage, said in a statement that media reports on the deal did not represent announcements by the company.Officials at Bain and Skylark declined to comment.In dollar terms, the $3.4 billion price tag is the same as in March, before the earthquake delayed the deal.Nomura Principal, the broker’s buyout unit, has been unloading portfolio companies, agreeing to sell ball bearing maker Tsubaki Nakashima Co to Carlyle Group for about $800 million earlier this year.Nomura Principal originally invested in Skylark in 2006 through a management buyout with UK private equity firm CVC Capital Partners . It currently controls a 77.8 percent stake in the restaurant chain along with other investors with money in a Nomura fund.