c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

MAJOR RETAILERS AGREE TO INSPECTION STANDARDS IN BANGLADESH

Two groups of retailers — one dominated by U.S. companies, the other by European brands — announced Wednesday that they had agreed on joint inspection standards for thousands of garment factories in Bangladesh as part of their effort to improve workplace safety there. The U.S.-led group, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, comprises 26 retailers, and the European-dominated group, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, with more than 100 members, said that the new agreement was considerably tougher than the previous standards used by many individual retailers and by the Bangladeshi government.

FED LOOKS FOR OTHER WAYS TO AID ECONOMY

Federal Reserve officials, many of them reluctant to continue the Fed’s economic stimulus campaign in its current form, wrestled at their most recent meeting with other ways of supporting an economy that still needs help. The discussions, described in the standard account of the meeting that the Fed published Wednesday, did not produce any immediate change in policy. Officials decided at the October meeting to press ahead with the current campaign. The Fed intends to reduce and then suspend its monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. At the same time, it is seeking ways of emphasizing that it remains determined to keep borrowing costs as low as possible well into the future.

AT&T AND VERIZON PRESSED TO DETAIL ROLES IN U.S. SURVEILLANCE EFFORTS

Shareholders are putting AT&T and Verizon Wireless on notice: Tell the public more about the companies’ role in government surveillance efforts or risk a ding to the bottom line. Two separate but similar shareholder resolutions, from New York state’s comptroller and a large investment firm, say that the two dominant wireless carriers hurt customers’ trust by not disclosing more about the data they share with governments. The resolutions are the latest sign that the flurry of revelations about American spying efforts is putting business pressure on the companies lassoed into providing customer data to the government.

STATES ARE LEFT TO DECIDE ON HEALTH PLAN CHANGE

A group of state insurance commissioners emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama and other federal officials Wednesday saying that state regulators would continue to decide on their own whether to go along with his recent proposal to let consumers keep older insurance plans for an extra year. In a conference call with reporters and in a statement issued after the meeting, they said they had warned the president that his proposal would amount to “different rules for different policies and might result in higher premiums for consumers without addressing underlying concern of gaps in coverage.”

TOYOTA SHOWS OFF FUEL-CELL AUTOMOBILE

Hydrogen-powered cars are finally being readied for their Prius moment — at least, that is what promoters of the environmentally friendly technology hope. Toyota, maker of the Prius, on Wednesday unveiled a concept version of a hydrogen fuel-cell car that it plans to begin selling “around 2015.” The bright blue sedan is shaped like a drop of water to emphasize that water is the only substance that hydrogen-powered cars emit from their tailpipes. The car, which Toyota calls the FCV concept, was one of several vehicles with alternative powertrains to take the spotlight at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opened to reporters Wednesday.

HIGH LOSSES FOR J.C. PENNEY, BUT SHARES RISE

J.C. Penney may have reported a bigger-than-expected loss Wednesday, but investors say they are seeing signs that the retailer’s business is improving. Shares in the company jumped 8.4 percent after it reported quarterly results that included a slowdown in sales declines and the prospect of rising profit margins during the all-important holiday season. The spate of promising news suggests that Penney has bought itself some breathing room as it takes on its third self-help campaign in two years. Though the retailer’s executives acknowledged that much work lay ahead, they said repeatedly that the next few months would reflect even more progress.

TIMES ANNOUNCES CHANGES IN WASHINGTON BUREAU

The New York Times on Wednesday announced a reorganization of its Washington bureau, including the elevation of Carolyn Ryan to bureau chief and the start of two new ventures. In a memo to the staff, Jill Abramson, the executive editor, said that Ryan, the top political editor, would replace David Leonhardt, who will head up one of the new initiatives, in a role that combines data with analytical reporting. The Times is also introducing an early-morning news tip sheet about the day’s happenings in Washington that will be supervised by Carl Hulse, currently a deputy in the Washington bureau.

MURDOCHS REACH DIVORCE SETTLEMENT

Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Murdoch appeared in court Wednesday morning and announced they had reached a divorce settlement, an agreement that effectively ends the 14-year marriage of the media mogul and his third wife. At a hearing at New York state Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan, the couple told a judge they had signed on to a confidential 100-page agreement, which made a trial unnecessary. People close to the Murdochs said the settlement negotiations were relatively straightforward, in part because they signed one prenuptial and two postnuptial agreements delineating the division of assets in the event of a divorce.

THE RIGHT STUFF? A LIBRARY THINKS SO, AND BUYS TOM WOLFE’S PAPERS

Tom Wolfe has long been a gleeful scourge of New York’s cultural institutions and the people who make them hum, from novelty-seeking museum curators and the mandarins of The New Yorker to the Wall Street buckaroos and “social X-ray” wives who swan around at all those galas. But now, Wolfe is about to be enshrined in one of the city’s most august institutions, thanks to the sale of his archives to the New York Public Library. The $2.15 million acquisition, largely paid for with a private donation, was approved by the library’s board Wednesday afternoon.