Thursday, June 28, 2012

Setting Chicago on fire

The Mets offense exploded yesterday against the Cubs with a season-high 17 runs. Here’s a look at the hitting highlights:

l Daniel Murphy, who had not homered since July 16, 2011, hit two home runs. He hit a 2-run shot in the fourth inning and a solo blast in the fifth.

l David Wright, whose 15-game hitting streak was snapped Tuesday, drove in a season-high five runs, the most RBIs he has had in a game since Sept. 16 last year.

l Ike Davis went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs, bringing his average to .201, the first time all season it’s been higher than .200.


Scott Hairston

l Scott Hairston’s sixth-inning grand slam was the second of his career.

l Those four Mets combined drove in all 17 runs.

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Big power player: Music rivals rip Universal move


Universal Music Group’s attempt to put its own spin on an influential report on the music business has competitors fuming, The Post has learned.

Universal, the industry’s top player, is being blamed for delaying the release of the market-share report while it tries to gain regulatory approval for its proposed $1.9 billion takeover of EMI’s recorded music business.

Yesterday, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry was slated to hold a press briefing with top music executives in London to unveil its latest report, “Investing in Music.”

The event was canceled, however, when fighting broke out over the report.

According to two sources, Universal, run by CEO Lucian Grainge, wanted to downplay the role of the major record labels in launching and shaping new artists.

At the same time, the record giant wanted to add new wording on growing competition in digital music distribution from new services such as TuneCore and The Orchard, which works with independent labels to gain distribution.

Sources said that Universal wouldn’t sign off on the report unless the changes were made, while rivals refused to OK it if the IFPI bowed to Universal’s demands.

“This report suddenly doesn’t make sense,” said one music source. “It’s really unfair.”

Universal insiders denied trying to hold up the report, saying they simply want it to reflect the realities of today’s marketplace.

All four labels have to agree on the wording of the report before it can be distributed.

Frustrated by the back and forth, IFPI head Frances Moore e-mailed the labels last week, saying that if they couldn’t agree, the industry group didn’t want to play referee. Moore told parties the report would be delayed until fall.

London-based IFPI couldn’t be reached by press time.

Universal’s bid for EMI is the music industry’s biggest deal in years, and will reduce the number of major labels from four to three. With the purchase of EMI, Universal’s share of the global music market would jump from 30 percent to about 40 percent.

Last week, Universal’s Grainge and other top music execs testified before a Senate subcommittee on antitrust issues over the EMI deal, which needs approval from US and European regulators.

“I have no doubt labels add value, but you just don’t have to have one in a world where an artist can deliver an album to fans themselves,” said Live Nation boss Irving Azoff, who testified in support of Universal.

The delay in the IFPI report means it likely won’t be released until after the European Union rules on Universal’s EMI acquisition by September.

Universal is expected to receive details of the EU’s “Statement of Objections” toward the end of this week. The Vivendi-owned company then has 30 days to respond to the letter with its remedies.

Separately, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to rule in favor of Sony’s deal to acquire EMI’s music publishing assets as early as next week. Sony’s deal, in partnership with a host of investors, will see EMI Publishing run as a separate venture alongside Sony/ATV.

Universal, Sony and Warner Music Group declined to comment.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Liberty lose to Dream

The Atlanta Dream didn’t panic when the Liberty made a run late in the first half to take a lead at the break. They just regrouped and took control of the game in the third quarter.

Angel McCoughtry scored 23 points and Sancho Lyttle added 19 to lead the Dream to a 74-64 victory Sunday.

“We just can’t let outside things get in our head,” McCoughtry said when asked what the team discussed after giving up a 10-point lead and trailing by two at halftime. “We were a little frustrated with some calls, a little frustrated with the way we were playing, and how they were making their run. It’s called adversity, it happens. It’s the game.”

McCoughtry was 7 for 20 from the field and 8 for 10 on free throws in her return after missing two games due to a knee injury, helping the Dream (5-7) snap a two-game skid.

Lyttle scored nine points, Armintie Price had five and McCoughtry added five points and four rebounds as Atlanta outscored New York 25-10 in the third quarter to take a 13-point lead.

“It’s not because of me. It’s a team effort and everybody coming together, regrouping after a loss,” McCoughtry said. “(Lyttle) hit a couple of 3s ... she has the highest 3-point percentage shooting on the team and she’s a post player. Armintie got some great rebounds, got fouled. Lindsey (Harding) is coming back slowly.”

Leilani Mitchell scored 16 points, Kara Braxton had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Cappie Pondexter and DeMya Walker added 12 points each as the Liberty (4-9) lost for the fourth time in five games. New York’s lone win during that stretch came at Atlanta last Tuesday in a game McCoughtry missed.

Pondexter fouled out of the game late in the fourth quarter as the Liberty were trying to make a surge. She finished 4 for 17 from the field with seven turnovers.

“We couldn’t make shots tonight,” Pondexter said. “They did a great job of adjusting. We were the last game they played and obviously they made a lot of adjustments. ... We just got to learn to be consistent. It’s kind of up and down, it’s kind of hard for us to get it together.”

The Liberty had 26 turnovers, which led to 31 points for the Dream. Atlanta had 16 turnovers, leading to nine points for New York.

“Those are lost opportunities,” Mitchell said of the Liberty’s turnovers. “At least when we’re getting shots there’s a chance we’re going to get it in. We have to take better care of the ball and they’re capitalizing on those turnovers. ... They got 31 points off those turnovers. It’s just too much.”

After Walker’s layup gave New York a 42-38 lead 13 seconds into the third quarter, Atlanta took control of the game with a 20-2 run. The Liberty got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

McCoughtry started it off with a 3 and Aneika Henry’s layup put the Dream ahead for good with 9:12 remaining in the third. McCoughtry’s layup with 7 1/2 to go in the period put Atlanta ahead 49-42.

Kia Vaughn’s jumper ended the Liberty’s scoring drought 13 seconds later, but the Dream scored the next nine points to stretch their lead to 58-44 on Harding’s jumper with 3:16 left in the third.

Yelena Leuchanka’s jumper with just under 7 minutes remaining in the fourth put Atlanta ahead 70-52, the Dream’s biggest advantage of the game.

Pondexter and Braxton each had two baskets as New York scored the next eight points to pull within 10 with 3:07 to go. Pondexter fouled out 15 seconds later and McCoughtry made two free throws to push Atlanta’s lead back to 12.

“I didn’t know I had five fouls,” Pondexter said. “I thought the last charge gave me four. Obviously I would have been more smart about fouling Angel that possession. We were actually on a run, we had the momentum on our side and that foul changed things.”

Walker had a layup with 2:37 to go and then hit 2 of 4 from the line to pull New York to 72-64 in the final minute. McCoughtry closed the scoring with two free throws with about 17 seconds to go.

New York was without forward Plenette Pierson, second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and rebounding (4.9), for a third straight game due to a strained calf. She could miss four to six weeks and Whisenant doesn’t expect her to return before the monthlong Olympic break, which begins July 14.

Trailing by 10 after one quarter, the Liberty slowly cut into the Dream’s lead. Mitchell’s 3 cut the deficit to seven less than 2 minutes into the second. Then, Vaughn had six points during a 9-1 run that pulled New York to 33-31 with 4:08 left in the first half.

Mitchell’s fifth 3 of the game gave New York a 40-38 lead at the break.

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More citizens vote with their feet, and leave

America’s rich are renouncing their citizenship at record levels — just to get richer.

Startling new data from Uncle Sam show that defections by Americans are expected to double this year, largely to avoid any stiff tax bills resulting from the proposed 55 percent hike on the rich — as well as the likely expiration on Dec. 31 of the Bush era tax cuts.

As many as 8,000 US citizens are projected by immigration officials to renounce in 2012, or about 154 a week, versus 3,805 in 2011, or about 73 per week.

“High-net-worth individuals are making decisions that having a US passport just isn’t worth the cost anymore,” said Jim Duggan, a lawyer at Duggan Bertsch, which specializes in protecting assets of the wealthy.

HASTA LA VISTA Renouncing citizenship.

HASTA LA VISTA Renouncing citizenship.

“They’re able to do what they do from any place in the world, and they’re choosing to do it from places with much lower tax rates,” he said.

“Some are philosophically disgusted at the course our country is taking in all kinds of ways. They’re making a strong protest of, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Duggan. “But largely it’s an economic decision.”

There’s a catch to reaching tax nirvana. To renounce citizenship — and thus escape any future US taxes forever — a citizen must buy that unique freedom with a a one-time exit tax of 15 percent on the fair-market value of all assets — including real estate, securities, businesses and personal belongings — less their basis price.

“Many see it as a cheaper way to get out from under any tax liabilities on future wealth, while their assets have lower values during the weak economy,” he said.

The step before dumping citizenship is, of course, finding a new homeland and getting citizenship there.

Duggan said scores of tax-haven nations and island regimes around the world eagerly welcome disenchanted rich Yanks with quick citizenship, business deals and protections from the US Justice Department and the IRS.

Among the popular spots: Australia, Norway, Singapore, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Guernsey and Antigua.

There is one way to have your cake and eat it, too, Duggan said.

The US possessions in the Caribbean — St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix — give a 90 percent tax credit to US citizens living there at least 183 days a year, resulting in an effective tax rate of just 3.5 percent, he said.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wells’ risky business

One out of every three home loans in the US is now funded by Wells Fargo.

The company scaled back its subprime lending in 2004, well before the housing crash. That move, and the bank’s lack of exposure to investment banking and Europe, is why Wells Fargo was the one major US bank to escape a ratings cut by Moody’s Investors Service this week.

But former regulators and banking experts are worried that the fourth-largest US bank may be becoming over-exposed to the housing market.

It is adding mortgages to its books when the economy is sluggish and interest rates are near record lows, and this could be the best scenario.

If the economy strengthens and rates suddenly rise, mortgages will suffer more than most other loans and the bank’s income could be clobbered. Another recession would also hurt the bank, because defaults would rise.

Wells Fargo says it can manage the risk and sees no reason to stop expanding.

It is hiring thousands of loan processors, underwriters and call center employees, and investing billions of dollars in new loans and tens of millions in the infrastructure to manage them.

Investors have long praised Wells Fargo for sticking to traditional commercial and consumer banking while de-emphasizing riskier undertakings like credit derivatives trading.

But old-fashioned banking can be risky too. By expanding so much in the mortgage industry, Wells Fargo is building a potentially dangerous concentration in one type of loan, said Mark Williams, a former US Federal Reserve bank examiner.


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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Greece set to ‘fight’ Germany

Gdansk, Poland — Germany’s most prominent fan will be in the stands for today’s quarterfinal against Greece at the European Championship.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, wins no popularity contests among the Greek contingent. So the political dimension of today’s game only heightens what is already an intriguing match in strictly soccer terms.

Germany is a three-time champion. Greece is the surprise winner of the 2004 Euro title, and the Greeks are still standing again, with an unexpected place in the knockout stages.

“It was always our main aim to reach the quarterfinals. So now we have nothing to lose,” said defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, one of the many Greece players with Bundesliga experience. “We are playing against one of the best teams here. All I can say is that we’ll fight. If we get the win, that would be a huge result.”

Greece has plenty of reason to be thankful to Germany — the 2004 championship team was coached by a German, Otto Rehhagel.

German and Greek officials are trying to play down the politics. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has been a major contributor to international bailouts for Greece and was instrumental in demanding structural reforms and hugely unpopular spending cuts in return. Greek fans are unlikely to take kindly to Merkel’s presence at Gdansk Arena.

“We are playing for our shirt, our flag and for the people back home,” midfielder Costas Katsouranis said.

Added Greek forward Dimitris Salpigidis: “I don’t think anyone on the team believes this will be our last game at this tournament. People have so many problems in their everyday lives. We’re really hoping that we can put a smile on their face.”

Gdansk also was also the scene of the first battle of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. A German soccer federation delegation laid a wreath Wednesday at a memorial for Poles at the Westerplatte peninsula on the outskirts of the Baltic city.

Germany has two Poland-born players in its squad, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, and Polish fans could throw their support behind the Germans. By winning its group, Germany got to stay in Gdansk and was spared having to travel. — AP

Merkel attended Germany’s 4-0 rout of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup and saw Germany beat Turkey in Berlin in the most important Euro 2012 qualifier for her team. She has visited the German locker room and briefly spent time with the team in Gdansk before the tournament.

“She seems to bring us luck,” midfielder Sami Khedira said.

Germany is the only team to have won all three group games and goes into the quarterfinal as the overwhelming favorite. But the Germans understand the ability of the Greeks.

“They are a very good team, underestimated by many. They create few chances but score from them. Technically, they are strong and play well one-on-one,” Khedira said.

“It will be tough to crack their defense, but we have the means. We have to be patient, but we also have to be constantly on the move. They will try to disrupt our game and beat us, but they will not succeed.”

Added midfielder Thomas Mueller: “We know what we have to do, but it’s not going to be a piece of cake.”

Greece will be missing playmaker and captain Giorgos Karagounis because of suspension.

There is speculation Germany coach Joachim Loew will return Klose to the starting lineup, although Mario Gomez scored three goals that won matches against Portugal and the Netherlands. Klose, a 34-year-old striker, scored the last time these teams played each other, a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

Six Greece players have either played or still play in the Bundesliga. Greece has five defeats and three draws in the eight games it has played Germany or the former West Germany.

“We are not too bothered about statistics. ... That doesn’t really matter,” Salpigidis said. — AP

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Amazin’ performances harken back to epic ’68 season

Tim McCarver gladly brings it up, unprovoked, and the joy in his laugh is palpable as he speaks of that seminal year, 1968, when he squatted behind home plates all over the country in a Cardinals’ uniform and watched the game of baseball change forever.

“It’s always mentioned, with Bob Gibson and Luis Tiant and the rest,” McCarver said this week, speaking of the Cardinals’ and Indians’ all-time great pitchers who had 1.12 and 1.60 ERAs, respectively, that season. “But I think pitching has been as dominant this year as in 1968.”

That is an extreme statement for someone who was closer to the game than most in pitching’s greatest season, catching most of Gibson’s 34 starts, 28 of them complete games, 13 of those shutouts.

TRICKY DICKEY:R.A. Dickey has thrown consecutive 1-hitters heading into his Sunday start against <a href=the Yankees at Citi FIeld." title="TRICKY DICKEY:R.A. Dickey has thrown consecutive 1-hitters heading into his Sunday start against the Yankees at Citi FIeld." width="300" height="300" src="/rw/nypost/2012/06/22/sports/web_photos/22.1sxxx.tvcover.C.TA--300x300.jpg" />

TRICKY DICKEY:R.A. Dickey has thrown consecutive 1-hitters heading into his Sunday start against the Yankees at Citi FIeld.

“What a story pitching has been in baseball,” McCarver said of this season. “It’s as dominant now as it was then.”

Forty-four years ago, Gibson’s and Tiant’s ERAs were two of the four best regular-season marks of the modern era, and the Red Sox’s Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with the lowest batting average (.301) ever to lead the league. The result was Major League Baseball’s decision lowering the height of the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10.

This season, there have been five no-hitters thrown through mid-June (six Mariners pitchers combined to throw one), the most in that time frame since 1917.

“I don’t think they can lower the mound any more,” McCarver joked, “or they’d be pitching in a hole.”

One of those no-hitters came on June 1 when Johan Santana threw the first in the Mets’ 50-year history. Adding to the Mets’ pitching success (starting pitching, at least) have been the two consecutive one-hitters thrown by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

It has all led up to tomorrow night at Citi Field, where McCarver will be in the Fox television booth with partner Joe Buck, calling the middle game of the season’s second installment of the Subway Series — and all eyes will be on the pitching.

The nationally televised matchup will feature the Yankees’ young right-hander Ivan Nova — of whom McCarver said, “You could make a case that Nova is one of the best in the AL” — and Mets veteran Chris Young.

Young is one of the pieces the Mets hope they can use to build on the success of Santana and Dickey to establish a deep and formidable rotation, something McCarver has seen happen before.

“I think when you have starting pitching like [the Mets] have had, it becomes competitive after a while,” he said. “We had a competitive situation with the Cardinals. Everybody saw how Gibson performed and they didn’t want to give up a run, either. We had 31 shutouts that year, second all-time from a team standpoint. That’s a type of contagious component.”

Matched with the Yankees’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position this season and the size of Citi Field possibly limiting their home-run power, McCarver seems to be expecting a game echoing a time with faded colors.

“I’ve been around the game a long time,” he said, “and it seems to me at some point in time you have to start giving pitchers credit.”

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