Archive for April, 2010

Children’s liquid cold, allergy medicine recalled (AP)

Friday, April 30th, 2010 | Finance News

WASHINGTON – More than 40 over-the-counter infant's and children's liquid medications are being recalled in the United States and 11 other countries because they don't meet quality standards.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare issued the recall for children's versions of Tylenol, Tylenol Plus, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl after consulting with the Food and Drug Administration.

The company is recalling the products because some did not meet required quality standards, the company said in a statement Friday. Some of the products recalled may have a higher concentration of active ingredient than is specified on the bottle. Others may contain particles, while still others may contain inactive ingredients that do not meet internal testing requirements.

The company is advising consumers to stop giving the products to their children as a precautionary measure. The recall was not undertaken because of any adverse effects, the company said.

The medicines were made and distributed in the United States, and exported to Canada, the Dominican Republic, Dubai, Fiji, Guam, Guatemala, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Kuwait.

Details, including NDC numbers, are available by telephone at 1-888-222-6036 or on the Web at http://www.mcneilproductrecall.com.

___

On the Net:

McNeil Product Recall Information: http://www.mcneilproductrecall.com

Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch

Source

Document: BP didn’t plan for major oil spill (AP)

Friday, April 30th, 2010 | Finance News

MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER – British Petroleum once downplayed the possibility of a catastrophic accident at an offshore rig that exploded, causing the worst U.S. spill in decades along the Gulf Coast and endangering shoreline habitat.

In its 2009 exploration plan and environmental impact analysis for the well, BP suggested it was unlikely, or virtually impossible, for an accident to occur that would lead to a giant crude oil spill and serious damage to beaches, fish and mammals.

At least 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled so far since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, according to Coast Guard estimates. One expert said Friday that the volume of oil leaking from the well nearly 5,000 feet below the surface could actually be much higher, and that even more may escape if the drilling equipment continues to erode.

"The sort of occurrence that we've seen on the Deepwater Horizon is clearly unprecedented," BP spokesman David Nicholas told The Associated Press on Friday. "It's something that we have not experienced before ... a blowout at this depth."

Amid increased fingerpointing Friday, efforts sputtered to hold back the giant oil spill seeping into Louisiana's rich fishing grounds and nesting areas, while the government desperately cast about for new ideas for dealing with the growing environmental crisis. President Barack Obama halted any new offshore drilling projects unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent another disaster.

The seas were too rough and the winds too strong to burn off the oil, suck it up effectively with skimmer vessels, or hold it in check with the miles of orange and yellow inflatable booms strung along the coast.

The floating barriers broke loose in the choppy water, and waves sent oily water lapping over them.

"It just can't take the wave action," said Billy Nungesser, president of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish.

The spill — a slick more than 130 miles long and 70 miles wide — threatens hundreds of species of wildlife, including birds, dolphins and the fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs that make the Gulf Coast one of the nation's most abundant sources of seafood. Louisiana closed some fishing grounds and oyster beds because of the risk of oil contamination.

BP's 52-page exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon well, filed with the federal Minerals Management Service, says repeatedly that it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities."

And while the company conceded that a spill would impact beaches, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, it argued that "due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected."

Robert Wiygul, an Ocean Springs, Miss.-based environmental lawyer and board member for the Gulf Restoration Network, said he doesn't see anything in the document that suggests BP addressed the kind of technology needed to control a spill at that depth of water.

"The point is, if you're going to be drilling in 5,000 feet of water for oil, you should have the ability to control what you're doing," he said.

Although the cause of the explosion was under investigation, many of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed in the wake of the explosion claim it was caused when workers for oil services contractor Halliburton Inc. improperly capped the well — a process known as cementing. Halliburton denied it.

According to a 2007 study by the federal Minerals Management Service, which examined the 39 rig blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico between 1992 and 2006, cementing was a contributing factor in 18 of the incidents. In all the cases, gas seepage occurred during or after cementing of the well casing, the MMS said.

While the amount of oil in the gulf already threatened to make it the worst U.S. oil disaster since the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, one expert emphasized that it was impossible to know just how much oil had already escaped and that it could be much more than what BP and the Coast Guard have said.

Even at current estimates, the spill could surpass that of the Valdez — which leaked 11 million gallons — in just two months.

Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanography professor at Florida State University, said estimates from both Coast Guard charts and satellite images indicate that 8 million to 9 million gallons had spilled by April 28.

"I hope I'm wrong. I hope there's less oil out there than that. But that's what I get when I apply the numbers," he said.

Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry brushed off such estimates that suggested the rate of the leak was five times larger than official estimates.

"I would caution you not to get fixated on an estimate of how much is out there," Landry said. "The most important thing is from Day One we stood corralling resources from a worst-case scenario working back."

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer for exploration and production, said it's impossible to measure the flow. But he said remote cameras show the rate doesn't appear to have changed since the leak was discovered.

"This is highly imprecise, highly imprecise," Suttles said. "We continue to respond to a much more significant case so that we're prepared for that in the eventuality that the rate is higher."

As of Friday, only a sheen of oil from the edges of the slick was washing up at Venice, La., and other extreme southeastern portions of Louisiana. But several miles out, the normally blue-green gulf waters were dotted with sticky, pea- to quarter-sized brown beads with the consistency of tar.

High seas were in the forecast through Sunday and could push oil deep into the inlets, ponds, creeks and lakes that line the boot of southeastern Louisiana. With the wind blowing from the south, the mess could reach the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coasts by Monday.

In Louisiana, officials opened gates in the Mississippi River hoping a flood of fresh water would drive oil away from the coast. But winds thwarted that plan, too.

For days, crews have struggled without success to activate the well's underwater shutoff valve using remotely operated vehicles. They are also drilling a relief well in hopes of injecting mud and concrete to seal off the leak, but that could take three months.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he has pressed BP to work more efficiently to clean the spill and has pledged that "those responsible will be held accountable." President Barack Obama has ordered Salazar to report to him within 30 days on what new technology is needed to tighten safeguards against deepwater drilling spills.

With the government and BP running out of options, Salazar has invited other companies to bring their expertise to the table.

BP likewise sought ideas from some of its rivals and planned to use at least one of them Friday — applying chemicals underwater to break up the oil before it reaches the surface. That has never been attempted at such depths.

Animal rescue operations have ramped up, including the one at Fort Jackson, about 70 miles southeast of New Orleans. That rescue crew had its first patient Friday, a bird covered in thick, black oil. The bird, a young northern gannet found offshore, is normally white with a yellow head.

And volunteers have converged on the coast to offer help.

Valerie Gonsoulin, a 51-year-old kayaker from Lafayette who wore an "America's Wetlands" hat, said she hoped to help spread containment booms.

"I go out in the marshes three times a week. It's my peace and serenity," she said. "I'm horrified. I've been sitting here watching that NASA image grow, and it grows. I knew it would hit every place I fish and love."

___

Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman, Chris Kahn, Allen G. Breed, Vicki Smith, Janet McConnaughey, Alan Sayre and Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.

Source

Banks closed in Puerto Rico, Mich., Mo., Wash. (AP)

Friday, April 30th, 2010 | Finance News

WASHINGTON – Regulators on Friday shut down three banks in Puerto Rico, two in Missouri, and one each in Michigan and Washington, bringing the number of U.S. bank failures this year to 64.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the banks: Westernbank Puerto Rico, based in Mayaguez, with about $11.9 billion in assets; R-G Premier Bank of Puerto Rico, based in Hato Rey, with around $5.9 billion in assets; and San Juan-based Eurobank, with $2.5 billion in assets.

The FDIC also seized CF Bancorp, based in Port Huron, Mich., with about $1.6 billion in assets; Champion Bank, of Creve Coeur, Mo., with $187.3 million in assets; BC National Banks, of Butler, Mo., with $67.2 million in assets; and Frontier Bank, based in Everett, Wash., with $3.5 billion in assets.

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico agreed to acquire Westernbank's deposits and about $9.4 billion of its assets. The FDIC will keep the remainder for eventual sale. Scotiabank de Puerto Rico agreed to buy all the assets and deposits of R-G Premier Bank. And Oriental Bank and Trust is acquiring all the assets and deposits of Eurobank. The three healthier acquiring banks are based in San Juan, the Puerto Rican capital.

The three failed banks together held more than one-fifth of the total bank assets on the U.S. Caribbean territory. They had struggled to stay afloat during Puerto Rico's grinding, four-year recession.

It was Puerto Rico's largest bank consolidation in more than two decades as well as one of the FDIC's biggest resolutions of failed banks in the financial crisis that struck in fall 2008.

In addition, the FDIC and Banco Popular agreed to share losses on $8.8 billion of Westernbank's loans and other assets. The agency and Scotiabank agreed to share losses on $5.4 billion of R-G Premier Bank's assets, while the FDIC and Oriental Bank and Trust are to share losses on $1.6 billion of Eurobank's assets.

The failure of Westernbank is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $3.3 billion; the failure of R-G Premier Bank is expected to cost $1.2 billion; that of Eurobank, $743.9 million.

First Michigan Bank, based in Troy, Mich., agreed to assume the deposits and about $870 million of the assets of CF Bancorp. BankLiberty, based in Liberty, Mo., agreed to acquire the deposits and $152.6 million of the assets of Champion Bank, while Community First Bank of Butler, Mo., is acquiring all the assets and deposits of BC National Banks. San Francisco-based Union Bank agreed to assume the assets and deposits of Frontier Bank.

In addition, the FDIC and First Michigan Bank agreed to share losses on $808.1 million of CF Bancorp's loans and other assets. The agency and BankLiberty agreed to share losses on $113.5 million of Champion Bank's assets, while the FDIC and Community First Bank are to share losses on $37.9 million of BC National Banks' assets. Union Bank is sharing losses with the government on about $3 billion of Frontier Bank's assets.

The failure of CF Bancorp is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $615.3 million; the failure of Champion Bank is expected to cost $52.7 million; that of BC National Banks, $11.4 million and that of Frontier Bank, around $1.4 billion.

There were 140 bank failures in the U.S. last year, the highest annual tally since 1992, at the height of the savings and loan crisis. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008 and only three succumbed in 2007.

The number of bank failures likely will peak this year and will be slightly higher than in 2009, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said recently.

As losses have mounted on loans made for commercial property and development, the growing bank failures have sapped billions of dollars out of the deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year, hitting a $20.9 billion deficit as of Dec. 31.

The number of banks on the FDIC's confidential "problem" list jumped to 702 in the fourth quarter from 552 three months earlier, even as the industry squeezed out a small profit. Still, nearly one in every three banks reported a net loss for the latest quarter.

The FDIC expects the cost of resolving failed banks to grow to about $100 billion over the next four years.

The agency mandated last year that banks prepay about $45 billion in premiums, for 2010 through 2012, to replenish the insurance fund.

Depositors' money — insured up to $250,000 per account — is not at risk, with the FDIC backed by the government. Apart from the fund, the FDIC has about $66 billion in cash and securities available in reserve to cover losses at failed banks.

Source