One customer in New York celebrates his iPad 2 purchase on Friday.
One customer in New York celebrates his iPad 2 purchase on Friday. (Lucas Jackson)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Senate Republicans have raised the stakes in their showdown with President Obama over trade policy, saying they will block the confirmation of a new Commerce Department secretary until the administration submits to Congress three free-trade agreements.

The administration says it is ready to submit the trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for ratification, but says it needs more time for the other two, with Colombia and Panama. Republicans in the House and Senate have said that is unacceptable, and they would not act on the South Korea deal unless all three pacts are submitted together.

In the latest move Monday, 44 Senate Republicans sent Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) a letter initiated by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio saying that until the president submits all three agreements "we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce secretary and any trade-related nominees."

Obama last week nominated current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next ambassador to China. He has yet to name Locke's successor.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that ratifying the trade agreements would be the quickest and easiest way to create jobs, and he was "perplexed" by the administration's "lack of willingness to initiate the process."

- Associated Press


Brisk sales during iPad 2's first weekend

Apple hasn't said how many of its new iPad 2 tablet computers it sold over the weekend, but an analyst estimates that people snapped up between 400,000 and 500,000 of the gadgets on Friday, leading to nationwide shortages through the rest of the weekend.

Gene Munster, an analyst for Piper Jaffray, wrote in a research note Sunday that he and his team made calls to 58 retailers including Apple stores, Target and Best Buy locations but was unable to find one with the iPad 2 in stock. Online, the wait time for an iPad 2 to ship is three to four weeks.

If Munster's estimate is correct, the iPad 2 had an even better debut than the first-generation tablet. When the first iPad went on sale in April 2010, Apple said it sold more than 300,000 on the first day.

Apple did not say how many iPads it sold over the weekend, nor did it confirm the retail shortages.

- Associated Press


Berkshire to buy chemical maker Lubrizol

Warren Buffett's company said Monday it will spend about $9 billion cash to add specialty chemical maker Lubrizol to the eclectic mix of businesses inside Berkshire Hathaway.

The purchase may help satisfy Buffett's appetite for large acquisitions to boost Berkshire's earnings power, but the deal is still smaller than last year's $26.7 billion acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

Two years ago, Berkshire invested $3 billion in preferred shares of Dow Chemical to help finance Dow's $16.5 billion purchase of specialty chemical maker Rohm & Haas in 2009.

- Associated Press


Ex-executive pleads guilty in fraud case

The former president of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to commit bank, wire and securities fraud and lying to federal agents about his role in a scheme that led to the failure of both the mortgage company and Colonial Bank.

Raymond Bowman, 45, of Atlanta entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 10.

- Dana Hedgpeth

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