Railroads, grain elevators in limbo following Katrina

Saturday, September 3, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS -- The grain elevators that take in corn, soybeans and wheat from Midwest farmers and the railroads that move them are waiting to see what impact Hurricane Katrina will have on them. More than half of U.S. grain exports go through New Orleans, and it remained unknown when the port and its shipping terminals might reopen. That means railroads and elevators don't know if grain that would normally go down the Mississippi River by barge will need to go elsewhere by rail or truck. September and October are normally the region's biggest export months for corn and soybeans, said Jerry Fruin, a professor at the University of Minnesota's College of Agriculture and an expert on barge shipping.

Appeals court takes side of computer gamemaker

ST. LOUIS -- Three men illegally bypassed anti-piracy controls when they developed free technology to let computer users play some games against each other online without using the gamemaker's own system, a federal appeals court has ruled. Attorneys for Tim Jung, Ross Combs and Rob Crittenden had argued that the trio engaged in allowable "fair use" because they had legally bought the games and were not profiting from the bypass technology, called BnetD. Although the trio could have used Blizzard Entertainment Inc.'s Battle.net game service for free, they found it frustrating and preferred the dozens of additional features available through the BnetD technology they had developed, their lawyers said. Blizzard claimed that BnetD, which the trio also distributed to others over the Internet, disabled controls meant to ensure that players used a non-pirated copy of the game.

Edward Jones pledges $1 million for disaster relief

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis-based financial services firm Edward Jones announced Friday contributions totaling more than $1 million to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast this week. The firm will donate $250,000 directly to the American Red Cross and an additional $750,000 to Red Cross relief efforts in affected communities where Edward Jones branches are located. In addition, the firm is matching associate contributions to the American Red Cross and accepting donations from its customers at branches nationwide. Edward Jones has about 175 branch offices in the three states affected by the hurricane. The firm has verified that 29 of its branch locations were destroyed.

Unemployment rate falls to 4.9 percent in August

WASHINGTON -- The nation's unemployment rate dipped to a four-year low of 4.9 percent in August as companies added 169,000 jobs, a sign that the labor market continued to gain traction before Hurricane Katrina struck. The latest snapshot of the United States' jobs climate, released by the Labor Department on Friday, buttressed observations by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues that the hiring situation was gradually improving -- a bit of good news for workers as they headed into the Labor Day weekend. Friday's figures don't reflect the impact of Katrina, which slammed into New Orleans and a swath of Gulf Coast communities, because the employment information was collected before the storm hit. The 4.9 percent unemployment rate reported for August was down a notch from July's 5 percent rate and was the lowest since August 2001.

Boeing halts commercial production of airplanes

SEATTLE -- Boeing Co. machinists went on strike Friday, forcing the aerospace company to halt production of commercial airplanes after the two sides failed to agree on a new labor contract. The strike affects about 18,400 machinists in the Seattle area, Wichita, Kan., and Gresham, Ore. A Boeing spokesman said the strike meant the company would immediately stop assembling commercial airplanes, dealing a blow to the jet maker just as business at its commercial airplanes division appeared to be picking up. "We don't intend to assemble airplanes during this strike," Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said. Shares of Boeing fell $1.49, or 2.3 percent, to $64.50 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Boeing shares have traded in a 52-week range of $48.10 to $68.38.

-- From wire reports

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