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Opening Bell: 8.30.07

China Finance Minister Exits Amid Impropriety Claims (Bloomberg)
The Chinese finance minister has left his post after allegations of improper conduct leveled against him by state newspapers. Hopefully for him, these improprieties don't rise to the level of that one guy who was in charge of food and drug safety, who was eventually executed. On the other hand, some think this is pure politics and that the charges are just an excuse, which would probably be the best thing.
Grower recalls 34 tons of spinach (Mercury News)
Last year it was E. Coli in the spinach supply. This year it's salmonella, as a California spinach grower is recalling 34 tons after testing revealed a tainted sample. At the time, last year, the whole hysteria seemed like it got blown out of proportion (probably the case with all of these food recalls), and it could easily happen again here if incidents multiply.
Yahoo’s New President Oversees a Shake-Up (NYT)
Just a few months after shoving out (okay, shoving up -- they made him Chairman) CEO Terry Semel, Yahoo is putting more heads under the guillotine. In other words, simply making a few changes at the top doesn't seem to have had much of an effect... so they're making more leadership changes. The big change is that the company's top sales executive is out the door, though it's hard to believe that this will change much. After all, it's hard to be good at sales if you don't have something good to sell.
Rumored iPod update stokes Apple stock (Mercury News)
Apple's stock jumped yesterday on speculation of yet another iPod. Just wondering, will iPod fatigue eventually set in. It seems like it would have to, but who knows? Isn't the news of another iPod something of a yawner?

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Gasoline supplies at lowest ever (TheStar)
We've always been a little skeptical about the overuse of inventory data to judge the energy market. yes, everyone does it, including seasoned energy analysts, and no, we've never put forth a theory as to why it's wrong, let alone come up with any empirical evidence. It's just a gut feeling -- something to be revisited at a later date. Anyway, if you do put stock in that stuff, then you'll be glad to hear that US gasoline supplies are down to their lowest level anyway at just 20 days worth of supply. So that means in theory, just in theory, if we stopped producing new gasoline right this instance, the world would basically end in 20 days. Whoa.
Patients Turn to No-Interest Loans for Health Care (NYT)
The Times reports about the soaring popularity of no-interest loans for things like healthcare. It notes the money people will borrow for stuff like laser eye surgery and dental procedures. The upshot is that we're supposed to be scared about all this stuff, just like we're scared about mortgages. Okay, the idea of a no-interest loan is sort of scary as a concept, and we do worry about the effect on people when the gravy train leaves the station. But let's just say this -- if someone offers you an honest-to-god no interest loan, you'd pretty much be a fool not to take it, even if you're buying a stick of gum. Now, there might be catches in a lot of instances. Miss a payment and the rate balloons to 23.3%, etc. Then you might want to weigh the risks. But we're certainly not going to knock anyone for taking a good deal.
Judge Orders a Web Site Selling Tax-Evasion Advice to Close (NYT)
Over the years, a number of heroic radicals have tried to claim that paying taxes is purely voluntary and that you're pretty much a total dupe if you do pay 'em. Of course, these champions of liberty have never gotten very far, since the government, apparently, doesn't agree. Folks that have tried to save some money on the tax bill usually get sent up the river, if caught. Of course, if we were on a jury for one of these trials, we'd be nullifying like mad, but that's a different matter. And now we've probably precluded ourselves from being selected. In a related case, the operator of a website teaching people how to avoid paying taxes has been told to take it down on the basis that it incites criminal activity. No First Amendment protection there. Of course, it's all predicated on tax evasion actually being criminal.
After 4 Years, Last Charges Dropped in Quattrone Case (Dealbook)
We didn't realize he still had a pending charge, but no matter, it's gone.
BNP Reopens Funds Affected by Subprime Loans (Dealbook)
The asymmetry of news is no fair. Bad news will always get more attention than good news. Real life is the same -- you'll never get credit for taking out the garbage, only scorn for forgetting to do so. A few weeks ago, when BNP Paribas announced that it would halt withdrawals of a fund, citing repricing issues, people acted like the world was going to collapse. Now it's reopening the funds and all it gets is a tiny blurb in Dealbook? Weak. Of course, even we're putting this as the last item of the day.