Rig count increases by 13
HOUSTON — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 13 this week to 1,791. The Houston-based company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,397 rigs were exploring for oil and 388 for gas. Six were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,914 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Louisiana gained five rigs, California gained four, Alaska and New Mexico each gained two and Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming each gained one. Texas lost three rigs and West Virginia lost one. Arkansas, Colorado and Pennsylvania were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.
AOL to lay off 500 workers
NEW YORK — AOL Inc. is laying off up to half the workforce at its Patch local news sites and shuttering or consolidating roughly 150 of the 900 sites while looking for partners for others. Up to 500 of Patch's 1,000 employees will go in the layoffs, which started on Friday with 350 people getting pink slips. In all, the layoffs amount to about 9 percent of AOL's total workforce of 5,500. AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong co-founded Patch, an ambitious experiment in local news meant to compete with newspapers, in 2007. AOL bought it in 2009 after Armstrong had taken over the helm of the New York-based Internet company. Patch ran into the same problems that newspapers had already discovered — that it's expensive to cover local news. For about an 18-month period in 2010 and 2011, Patch was the biggest hirer of journalists, just as they were being laid off from struggling U.S. newspapers, said media analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc.
General Motors recalls Cruzes
DETROIT — General Motors Co. is recalling nearly 293,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars in the U.S. because the power-assisted brakes can fail. The recall affects Cruzes made in Lordstown, Ohio, from the 2011 and 2012 model years that are equipped with 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engines and 6T-40 six-speed automatic transmissions, the company said Friday. It's the eighth recall of the car since it was introduced in September of 2010, according to records compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Auto safety advocates say that's an unusually high number of recalls. GM said that in the most recent recall, the power brake boosters can fail, and in rare cases, drivers may have to put extra pressure on the pedal to stop the cars. The company said that Cruze brake problems have caused 27 low-speed crashes but no injuries. Dealers will replace a switch in the power brake vacuum pipe assembly for free.
Sentence set in kickback scheme
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — An 82-year-old man convicted of tax evasion was sentenced Friday to two years of home confinement for his role in a kickback scheme that cost the U.S. Navy $18 million. The judge said she spared Ralph Mariano Jr. prison time because of his age and because it would cost taxpayers more to keep him behind bars. Mariano, of North Providence, is the father of one of the scheme's admitted ringleaders, Ralph M. Mariano, a former civilian employee of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Virginia. The younger Mariano has pleaded guilty to using his position to add money to contracts held by Georgia-based contractor Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, or ASFT. In return, the contractor funneled kickbacks to the elder Mariano, corrupt subcontractors and others. The elder Mariano is the first of six people convicted in the federal investigation into the scheme to be sentenced. Prosecutors said he received $2.5 million in payments from a subcontractor over 8 years. He was charged only for the years 2006 through 2009, and received $1.4 million during that time, never reporting the income on his tax returns. Prosecutors calculated that he failed to pay $488,000 in federal taxes during those years.