Carlyle, TPG near deal on Healthscope: report

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Private equity groups Carlyle Group and TPG Capital are close to acquiring Healthscope Ltd , Australia’s second largest private hospital operator, for at least $1.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

AIG to name ex-Pru CEO to head AIA unit: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) – American International Group Inc is expected to name former Prudential Plc Chief Executive Mark Tucker as head of AIA, as it prepares the Asian life insurance unit for an initial public offering, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Biden: White House Wanted Bigger Stimulus; Republicans Howl Immediately (VIDEO)

Vice-President Joseph Biden said on Sunday that the administration understood the need to pass a larger stimulus package upon entering office but chose to scale down their ambitions in order to win GOP votes.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Biden endorsed the viewpoint held by Keynesian economists like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (who he referenced by name), acknowledging that the stimulus passed was likely too small. But, he added, there would have been no package at all had it not been made smaller and, subsequently, more palatable to moderate Republicans.

“There was a reality,” Biden told host Jake Tapper. “In order to get what we got passed, we had to find Republican votes. And we found three. And we finally got it passed.”

“I think it would have been bigger [if not for that],” he added. “I think it would have been bigger. In fact, what we offered was slightly bigger than that. But the truth of the matter is that the recovery package, everybody’s talking about it [like] it’s over. The truth is now, we’re spending more now this summer than we — I’m calling this … the summer of recovery.”

The notion that the stimulus was, in all likelihood, too small for the crisis it was supposed to mend is hardly controversial among sober-minded political and economic observers. The White House, after all, continues to press Congress for additional (marginal) stimulus packages — underscoring what the president clearly feels is an additional need to jolt the economy.

But Biden’s comments are already being jumped on by Republican strategists, who have spent the past year ridiculing the stimulus as a massive, wasted, $800 billion check. Kevin Madden, a longtime consultant and confidant of Mitt Romney, predicted television ads attacking the White House for Biden’s remark.

As for the argument that the stimulus (even undersized) hasn’t had its desired effect, Biden cast blame on a miscommunication campaign that has kept the public in the dark.

“People don’t know a lot of what’s going on in the Recovery Act,” Biden said. “Understandably, because there has been so much stuff that has been flowing our way.”

WATCH

Read more: Joseph Biden, Biden Scaled Down Stimulus, Recovery Act Biden, Biden Stimulus Scalled Down, Biden Stimulus, Biden Recovery Act, Economic Stimulus Package, Economy, Economic Stimulus, Politics News

Magda Abu-Fadil: Britannia Rules the Ripples?

“Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves.”

So went the song in colonial and post-colonial times (for nostalgia seekers).

But today’s harsh realities and cascading financial crises have people in Britain singing a different tune.

The former British Empire seems to rule the ripples on the Thames instead, taking a back seat to emerging economies and licking the wounds of a financial crisis that has left ample scars on ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet.

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Britannia rules the ripples on the Thames (Abu-Fadil)

Heavy taxation, reduced services, high prices and failing policies are tugging at everyone’s purse strings.

The heydays of Beatlemania when the rock scene helped British exports and Britannia ruled the airwaves – if not the oceans – seem a distant memory as Britons suffer the double indignities of tightening their belts across increasingly widening girths.

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Beetlemania’s heyday remembered fondly (teesforall.com)

Recent reports feature an alarming rate of obesity that may catch up with an existing one in the United States.

“It’s awfully tough, what with the government slashing budgets,” a British waiter told me on a recent business trip to London.

Earlier this month, Francis Maude, the minister for the Cabinet Office, demanded that heads of blue-chip companies cut the cost of services they provide to the government.

According to City A.M. (www.cityam.com), a free tabloid handed to subway riders and describing itself as “business with personality,” the chief executives of leading British companies were told to chip in and help reduce the country’s budget deficit.

“I am laying down the challenge to major government suppliers to ask them what they can do to take costs out of contracts,” Maude was quoted as saying.

According to Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com), banks are also facing a rough ride, with the head of UK Financial Investments – overseer of the government’s bank stakes – stepping down amid turmoil on whether retail and investment banking should be separated.

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Grey skies over London banks (Abu-Fadil)

This adds fuel to the fire of pension benefits that Britain’s (relatively) new government plans to slash.

Airlines are also feeling the pinch with British Airways (www.britishairways.com) taking several recent hits as flight attendants and staffers went on rolling strikes, stranding passengers or disrupting flights across the globe.

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British Airways strikes ground/slow flights (airlinepost.com)

I feared being stuck in Rio de Janeiro last month with a non-refundable BA ticket after speaking at a conference during one of those strikes, as flights to Europe were fully booked.

But at least I didn’t have to pay for my luggage.

Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) is advertising the advantage of its one-way flights on which passengers only pay 9 Sterling Pounds ($13.77) to check in a 20-kilogram (44-lb) bag against Ryanair’s (www.ryanair.com) 30 Sterling Pounds ($45.92).

“We rest our case,” the newspaper ad announced smugly in typical wry pun fashion.

Cutbacks are also being painfully felt as more businesses tank.

“Insolvencies set to escalate,” headlined one business article, predicting the levels of distress would continue at a high pitch for several successive quarters in line with previous recessions over the past 35 years.

That’s bad news for small businesses, but micro start-ups could benefit and gain in popularity in an era of tight credit, wrote Kathleen Brooks in City A.M.

She quoted a spokesman for the Federation of Small Business saying more people were likely to start small businesses from their homes to keep a lid on costs.

Biting the bullet is an understatement for the usually unflappable Brits who are being asked to fathom up to 40% cuts in government ministries and agencies, the largest such reductions since World War II, according to the Financial Times (www.ft.com).

It’s a hard pill to swallow for those needing reasonable housing in London where real estate costs are stratospheric by many standards.

The London Evening Standard (www.standard.co.uk) reported ministers had axed vital affordable housing projects across the capital when the government changed hands from Labour to the Conservative Party in a bid to keep deficits in check.

The paring knife is digging deeper into the wound as officials warn London faces the worst housing crisis in decades.

It cited a survey that found 54% of young Londoners expected to wait at least 10 years before they could own a home.

In another piece, the paper pointed to cost-cutting measures at the Ritz Hotel (www.theritzlondon.com), one of the world’s toniest, where housekeeping staffers are asked to recycle or salvage soap, shampoo and even remnants of toilet rolls from the rooms of distinguished guests.

“Once the rich and famous have left their rooms and suites – for which they pay up to 6,000 Sterling Pounds ($9,178) a night – maids are told to decant half-empty bottles of liquid soap so they can be used in the dispensers in the staff facilities and the gents’ lavatories,” it said.

It’s a sorry state of affairs I felt during a London stay where my hosts put a group of guests up in Spartan “serviced” apartments in Canary Wharf, a business district far from downtown, where the “service” was sorely missing.

Our three-night/four-day stay necessitated we share the two-bedroom flats with other guests to a workshop we attended. Nobody asked our views on the matter.

The place wasn’t cleaned daily, toiletries were scant and not replenished during our visit, and the tiny rooms lacked air conditioning during a particularly hot summer week, making our stay unpleasant.

Even the TV set was blurry and nobody bothered to fix it.

Adding insult to injury, the hosts provided each guest with 33 Sterling Pounds ($50.48) to pay for two breakfasts, two dinners and a lunch not covered in the program where below-par meals were served.

They calculated a reception we attended at the House of Lords (www.parliament.uk) with lukewarm white wine – Brits drink their beer warm – and puny canapés were substitutes for a meal.

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House of Lords River Room (Abu-Fadil)

It reminded us of Ronald Reagan’s administration considering ketchup a vegetable in public schools.

One bright spot, however: major sales in stores.

Read more: Canary Wharf, Sterling Pound, Francis Maude, Britannia, Ronald Reagan, Federation of Small Business, United States, Britain, British Empire, Easyjet, House of Lords, Colonial, Thames, Ritz Hotel, Labour, Bloomberg, Retail and Investment Banking, London Evening Standard, Financial Crisis, British Airways, Conservative Party, City a.M., Ryanair, UK Financial Investments, Beatlemania, Financial TImes, World News

Top Republican says his party will win back House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top Republican lawmaker on Sunday predicted his party would win back the House of Representatives from Democrats in the November mid-term elections, as both parties previewed the arguments they will deploy in the battle for control of Congress.

Money worries, "broken promises" at AIDS conference

VIENNA (Reuters) – The head of the world’s largest backer of programs against HIV and AIDS said at a global conference on AIDS on Sunday he feared wealthy donor countries may cut funding in the wake of global recession.