Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

June 21, 2005

In the Region

Senate panel OKs bill with funds for several bay projectsThe Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a fiscal 2006 energy and water development bill that includes money for dredging the shipping channels to the port of Baltimore and other waterway projects in the region.

Maryland Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, both Democrats, said the bill also contains financing for several Chesapeake Bay water quality initiatives.

The bill still needs approval by the full Senate and reconciliation with a House version before final passage.

The measure includes $19.2 million for the dredging; $13.4 million for environmental restoration of the bay's Poplar Island; $11.48 million for maintaining and operating the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal; $3 million for the Gwynns Falls watershed and $3 million to aid oyster population efforts.

Another $2.95 million is earmarked for bay restoration and an Army Corps of Engineers' evaluation of non-native oysters being introduced to the bay; $1.45 million for a shoreline erosion study of the bay and its tributaries, and almost $3.65 million for various other studies and environmental improvement programs.

"This funding helps to ensure that the port of Baltimore has the means and continued federal support necessary to help it grow and meet the needs of its customers," Sarbanes said. "In addition, it funds programs that are critical to our ongoing efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay and its habitat."

Md. high court asked to throw out settlement

A public interest law firm yesterday asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to throw out a $26 million settlement with Verizon customers because class-action lawyers would get half the money.

The original case, filed in 2000, complained that fees charges by Verizon's predecessor, Bell Atlantic, between 1996 and 2000 were higher than permitted by Maryland law.

A proposed settlement of the class-action case allowed payments of about $6 to each customer, but only about 24,000 customers claimed the payment, for a total payout of about $156,000. That would have generated some $13 million in lawyers fees, and the trial court, in Prince George's County, denied final approval to the deal.

But the court approved a second settlement, with total payout about equal to the legal fees. In a filing yesterday, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice asked the state's highest court to block the second settlement as "not fair, reasonable or adequate."

Two Md. biotechs form research partnership

MedImmune Inc. of Gaithersburg and Avalon Pharmaceuticals of Germantown said yesterday that they have formed a partnership to work on treatments for undisclosed inflammatory diseases.

Avalon will use its drug discovery engine, which detects changes in gene expression and is called "AvalonRX," to identify possible therapeutic compounds. Then MedImmune will take charge of the pre-clinical and clinical testing.

Avalon will receive an upfront payment from MedImmune, plus research and development support, various "milestone" payments and royalties on marketed products. MedImmune has the right to undertake two more drug discovery efforts with Avalon if this one pays off.

Lockheed, Alliant working on tactical ballistic missile

Lockheed Martin Corp., the nation's largest defense contractor, and Alliant Techsystems Inc., the top supplier of rocket motors for the U.S. military, said yesterday that they are designing a submarine-launched intermediate range ballistic missile that would be faster than cruise missiles.

The missile would carry a 1,000-pound payload of conventional explosives 1,200 miles within 15 minutes of launch. A cruise missile would take four hours to cover the same distance.

The U.S. military is seeking weapons to quickly strike targets that are easily moved as it battles insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan who have few fixed bases and relocate regularly. The Navy already is spending $1.4 billion to convert four Trident ballistic-missile submarines for carrying cruise missiles and special operations forces. The new ballistic missile would be mounted on those converted subs, Murphy said.

Elsewhere

Buffett still predicts dollar's fall, despite its rally this year

Warren E. Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s chairman, said yesterday that the dollar's rally this year against major currencies hasn't changed his view that the growing U.S. trade deficit will cause the currency to decline over time.

"There's no change in the underlying factors affecting currencies, in my view," Buffett said at news conference in Boise, Idaho, while attending a meeting of state utility commissioners. "The policies that we're following are likely to lead to a weaker dollar over a long period of years. It's not a forecast for next week, or next month or even next year."

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