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You’ve got a new partner, Bjorn

In the opening scene of one of our all-time favorite TV series, mob boss Tony Soprano is chasing a guy through a Jersey parking lot with a baseball bat. The guy owes Tony some vigorish.Vigorish is local vernacular for the weekly interest payments that loan sharks charge to their borrower community. These payments don't actually reduce the amount owed, they are kind of an ''insurance policy'' -- as in, you p ...

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Philadelphia success story

In June, we took note in this space of Sheriff John Green of Philadelphia's refusal to enforce court-ordered foreclosure auctions in the city. The soul-searching stance of Sheriff Green (we called him ''Not the Sheriff of Nottingham'') prompted city officials to set up a unique program to facilitate negotiations between financial institutions and homeowners in danger of losing their property to foreclosure. ...

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Save U.S.

Here's the understatement of the year for you: The United States is in some pretty deep trouble. As our presidential nominees debate whether or not to have a debate tomorrow, our current head honcho, George Bush, broadcast himself into our living rooms to tell us "our entire economy is in danger." Thanks, W, for that update from the Department of the Obvious. He must still be trying to determine how many ze ...

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Hydrogen-powered road test

When you turn the ignition key in your car and nothing happens, the first thing most of us do is get out and check the battery. Well, if you happen to be sitting behind the wheel of General Motors' hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinox, don't bother. Just wait for the red light on the dashboard to turn green -- that's the only way you are going to know that this car of the future is ready to roll. We were invited ...

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Bridge to nowhere

In one of our favorite Honeymooners episodes, Ralph Kramden's buddy Ed Norton is bragging about an investment he just made in a new firm called ''Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Ziggy.'' The guy who sold him the shares was Ziggy. Ziggy worked in the sewer with Norton. This week, the U. S. Treasury gave an $85 billion loan to the largest U.S. insurance giant, AIG, to keep it from collapsing. According to U.S ...

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Rebuilding of World Trade Center site is still years away

Within months of the hideous terrorist attack in 2001 that destroyed the World Trade Center, state and city officials in New York unveiled ambitious plans to build five new skyscrapers, a solemn memorial, and a gleaming new transit hub designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava at the 16-acre site that is known as Ground Zero. The plans called for two reflecting pools that would sit atop the Twin Towe ...

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Cali is Growing Smarter by the Mile

When I was an undergraduate student in Bethlehem, PA, I made a friend from California who told me something I still remember to this day: "You belong in Los Angeles." I didn't understand fully what she meant, and she didn't elaborate. I had always been an East Coast guy—raised at the Jersey shore, and spending a lot of my teenage years and early twenties in the glorious frenzy of Manhattan. But shortly afte ...

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Tapping out an S.O.S.

When we last left the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Depression-era aqency that backs up our bank accounts was trying to keep a lid on a ''secret'' list it had compiled of 90 U.S. banks teetering on the edge of failure. FDIC's big brothers over at the Securities and Exchange Commission warned everybody not to spread any unsubstantiated ''false'' rumors about this list, lest it spawn another wave of fi ...

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Trump this, Donald

Does the cube farm in your office have the population density of Shanghai? Do you eat your lunch next to the copy machine because the nearest restaurant is five miles away? When you plug your work address into MapQuest, do you get a response that says ''page not found?'' Well, have we got a deal for you! According to this week's edition of Crain's New York Business, there currently is a whopping 54 blocks o ...

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The Mom and Pop Shop’s Gritty View of Government

Small business owners in the United States are overwhelmingly disillusioned and dissatisfied with the federal government, according to a recent press release from American Management Systems, a 21-year-old organization that provides turnaround services and profitability guidance to more than 6,000 small- to medium-sized business across 400 industries. The clear-cut results of the survey, conducted this year ...

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