November 2008

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But in the end, ketchup is just ketchup, isn’t it?

Not really. For Americans, ketchup always contains tomatoes and vinegar and some kind of sweetener, along with spices, and a brand named Heinz.

H.J. Heinz Co. (HNZ) reported a 22% rise in its fiscal second-quarter profit and indicated that it may take fewer price increases on its products amid weakening consumer spending and falling commodity prices.

The company is still going ahead with some selected price hikes, but indicated that price cuts were unlikely.

Food companies have raised prices steadily over the last year amid soaring commodity prices. Investors and analysts have been watching closely to see how these companies now will handle the subject of price increases as commodities have pulled back and global economies have weakened. Price increases play a big role in offsetting costs, but in a weak economy companies run the risk of pushing away penny-pinching consumers. There has been some speculation that retailers may also be resisting efforts by manufacturers to raise prices.

The company took a fair amount of price hikes in the second quarter and that discussions with retailers on pricing are a “little more difficult.”

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The billionaire Saudi prince, who invested in Citicorp in 1991 when it was in financial straits, said he would raise his stake from 4 per cent to 5 per cent. At Citi’s current market value of just over $25bn, the new investment would cost about $350m.

The 26.4 per cent fall in the shares, which closed at $4.71 in New York, prompted Citi’s directors and executives to look at strategic options, includes selling part or whole of the company.

A $350m vote of confidence from Saudi prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal could not halt the rapid decline in the fortunes of Citigroup yesterday, with fears mounting that what was once the world’s biggest bank will lack adequate capital to withstand the billions of dollars of losses expected in the months to come.

The £236m investment came before the market opened yesterday, and reversed the nose-dive in the ailing bank’s share price for only 20 minutes before the sellers returned. It had been hoped that the boost in sentiment from Al-Waleed’s vote of confidence would end a two-year selloff that has wiped more than $200bn from Citigroup’s market value.

But as quickly as the share price had improved, it declined again. At one point it plunged by more than 25% to less than $4, its lowest since 1994. By the close on Wall Street it was off by more than 26% at $4.71, giving the bank a puny market value of $25bn.

In January 2007, Citigroup shares were worth more than $54 each and the company was valued at more than $250bn.

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Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama made history by becoming the first ever African American to be nominated for the role by a major political party.

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Hawaii. His mother, Ann Dunham, a white American from Kansas, met his Kenyan father, Barack Obama I, while they were studying together at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His parents separated when Obama was two, and he barely knew his father, who died in an automobile accident in 1982.

In 1967, Obama’s mother married Indonesian Lolo Soetoro, and the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama lived until he was 10. He has a half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.

Obama moved back to Hawaii in 1971 and lived with his maternal grandparents until he graduated from high school in 1979. A graduate of Columbia University, he entered Harvard Law School in 1988, where he served as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review.

First elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 Barack Obama served as an Illinois state senator for seven years before he was elected to the US State Senate in November 2, 2004.

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The election of a new American president is always an important event, because of the power the American president has to influence events and affect lives around the world.

This election is particularly important: the American economy is going through the most serious financial crisis since The Great Depression. And the international scene is littered with the debris of Bush’s disregard for the rule of law, and his confrontational strategies.

Barack Obama has promised to undo the damage eight years of Bush policy has caused. The other contender, John McCain, if he unexpectedly surmounts the odds and becomes president, will likely build on the Bush legacy, notwithstanding his recent disclaimer: “I am not President Bush.”

To be sure Obama has said he would use force to defend American interests, and would be ready to act outside the framework of the United Nations.

It may be that being the president of a superpower carries with it some obligation to brandish the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy, or else risk being disqualified from the race altogether.

Nevertheless, the possibility of an Obama administration choosing dialogue over confrontation, engagement over hostility, is real.

Therefore, the new president would be well-advised to send a message that his defence of American values is genuine and not a rhetorical device to justify oppressive foreign policy choices.
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What is it that prevents America from righting herself? Stupid, blind, unthinking patriotism — willful idiots yelling “We’re number one!” while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
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