Energy corridor plan proposed
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A plan for designating thousands of miles of energy corridors in 11 Western states will be revamped under a settlement reached by federal land managers, environmental groups and one Colorado county. The settlement was filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco. It must be approved by a judge. A senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity says the landmark agreement is a step toward advancing renewable energy development in areas that make sense. The environmental groups identified areas from Washington to New Mexico where wildlife habitat, historic properties and trails could be affected by corridors for power lines. The settlement puts agencies on notice that projects in those areas could be challenged. The settlement also gives the federal government a year to set up a review system for determining whether corridors should be revised, removed or added.
Power delivery setup questioned
WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of storms that knocked out power to millions, sweltering residents and elected officials are demanding to know why it's taking so long to restring power lines and why they're not more resilient in the first place. The answer, it turns out, is complicated: Above-ground lines are vulnerable to lashing winds and falling trees, but relocating them underground incurs huge costs — as much as $15 million per mile of buried line — and that gets passed onto consumers. With memories of other extended outages fresh in the minds of many of the 1.26 million customers who still lack electricity, some question whether the delivery of power is more precarious than it used to be.
Truck, auto sales surge in June
DETROIT — From mini cars to monster pickups, sales of new cars and trucks surged in June. Automakers reported big gains over June of last year. Chrysler posted its best June in five years. Sales soared at Volkswagen, which is on track for its best year in the U.S. since 1973. The results allayed fears that growth would stall after a strong start to 2012. Earlier this spring, sales were on track to reach 14.5 million this year. The pace dropped in May as fears about the health of the global economy increased. But buyers didn't go away. Falling gas prices, cheaper loans and new models like the Ford Escape and Dodge Dart drew them out. A revived housing market lifted sales of pickups.
Factory orders increase in May
WASHINGTON — Companies placed more orders with U.S. factories in May compared with April, demanding more computers, machinery and other equipment that signal investment plans. The increase is a welcome sign for the economy after two months of declining factory orders. Still, factory orders are down from the start of the year. And more recent data show manufacturing activity shrank in June for the first time in three years, adding to worries that weaker global growth is weighing on the economy. Factory orders increased to $469 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Core capital goods, which include machinery and computers, rose 2.1 percent, showing companies are making investment plans.
Chuck E. Cheese mascot changes
NEW YORK — Chuck E. Cheese has been given the pink slip. The company that operates the chain of children's pizza restaurants is retiring the giant rodent's outdated image — and the man who voiced its character for nearly two decades. CEC Entertainment Inc. says it plans to launch a national ad campaign Thursday with a revamped image of Chuck E. Cheese as a hip, electric-guitar-playing rock star. It's just the latest makeover for the 35-year-old mascot, which started life as a New Jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar. CEC Entertainment, based in Irving, Texas, is struggling to revive sales at its more than 500 pizza restaurants.
Netflix reports more viewing
SAN FRANCISCO — Netflix says its subscribers watched more than a billion hours of online video last month as more high-speed Internet connections and high-powered mobile devices change people's viewing patterns. The milestone announced Tuesday is the latest sign that the Internet video service may be starting to reduce the amount of time its 26.5 million streaming subscribers spend watching advertising-supported entertainment bundled in more expensive cable-television packages. Netflix Inc. sells its service for $8 per month.
Flaws hamper computer project
LIMA, Peru — Peru's distribution of more than 800,000 low-cost laptop computers to children easily ranks as one of the world's most ambitious efforts to leverage digital technology in the fight against poverty. Yet five years into the program, there are serious doubts about whether the largest single deployment in the One Laptop Per Child initiative was worth the more than $200 million that Peru's government spent. Ill-prepared rural teachers were often unable to fathom, much less teach with the machines, software bugs didn't get fixed and most had no way to connect to the Internet. Many could not take the computers home. And some schools even lacked electricity to keep them running.
Rate cut may help Europe
FRANKFURT, Germany — Europe's sinking economy and wobbly banks could get modest help Thursday from an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank. Economists think the ECB will cut its benchmark refinancing rate by at least a quarter point to 0.75 percent, a record low. On Tuesday, the rising expectation of a rate cut helped lift stock markets in Europe, which have been rallying since European leaders last week announced new measures to fight the continent's debt crisis. The ECB is likely to hold off from more aggressive measures, such as new cheap loans to banks. Its president, Mario Draghi, has said there is only so much the central bank can do and that it was up to Europe's politicians to restore confidence.
From wire reports