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PODCAST: Sandy slows down New York and gas prices

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Hurricane Sandy has taken a human toll so far of 15 reported deaths. One million people have been told to evacuate their homes. The economic toll is also becoming apparent as the East Coast nears mid-day. Flooding is widespread in parts of New York and New Jersey, and the rain’s not over yet as the storm moves inland and north toward Canada.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the storm has been the notion of America’s biggest, busiest city brought to a stand-still. New York is reckoning with power and transportation troubles on an unprecedented scale.

U.S. stock and bond markets are closed, perhaps reopening tomorrow. Dozens of companies have decided to postpone their quarterly earnings releases. Avon, Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart have all decided to wait out the storm. The S&P-Case Shiller index of U.S. home prices rose in August, a half-a-percent. It was the seventh straight month of home price increases.

CEO Tim Cook is shaking things up at Apple: The head of the company’s mobile software unit is out — he reportedly refused to accept responsibility for trouble with Apple’s new “maps” software. The head of Apple’s retail stores has also been asked to leave, after just seven months in the job.

You might wonder if we could add gas prices to the economic toll of the superstorm. AAA had forecast a gas price decline through the end of the year — barring “unforeseen circumstances.”

Businesses in the path of Sandy are taking whatever measures they can to avoid damage. That goes for the country’s biggest owner of billboards. Clear Channel has dispatched crews across the East Coast as a precautionary measure.

Across the eastern U.S. evacuation orders have affected around a million people. In New York City, the problem somewhat different: Residents are largely stuck at home. The country’s most extensive subway system has been put thoroughly out of commission by Sandy. A 14-foot storm surge sent water into the tunnels and seems likely to have caused considerable damage.

Mitt Romney’s campaign is out with an ad in Ohio saying he’d do a better job handling the American auto industry than President Obama. That kind of claim is hardly unusual in a campaign. What’s making waves, though, is that the ad calls out a specific company: Chrysler.

Trade between the United States and Mexico has grown five-fold in the last 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into being. Every day, goods worth more than a billion dollars move across our southern border, but the trucks carrying all those goods can still be stuck for hours waiting to cross

Not a lot of funny stuff to talk about when the Hurricane moves in, but this little item is notable. We’ve all maybe been to a local city council or school board meeting where someone goes on and on. Well, in Riverside California, perhaps they take it more seriously than in some places. Last week a 60-year-old woman rose to speak at a city council meeting about a local contract for sludge-hauling — whatever that is. She went over her alotted three minutes, they asked her to stop, and when she persisted, the cops on hand moved in, cuffed her, and took her away after a bit of a scuffle. The woman faces a misdemeanor for disrupting the meeting, but local politicians seem pretty embarassed by the whole thing. The mayor says police will no longer be able to make arrests unless he calls for it. Just in case, stick to your alotted tim in Riverside, folks.

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