Proposed soda tax falls flat in Mississippi House

Democratic Rep. John Mayo of Clarksdale proposed a tax of 2 cents per ounce for sweetened bottled or canned drinks, saying Mississippi needs money to battle one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said he doesn’t expect to bring Mayo’s bill up for a vote, so the issue will die this session. Still, Watson held a nearly two-hour hearing Wednesday to give supporters and opponents a chance to speak.

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Health advocates said a tax could deter some people from buying sugary drinks. Business groups said the tax would hurt the economy and would unfairly target one product in a state where people enjoy fried chicken and other fatty foods.

Bill Brown, president of Ridgeland-based Brown Bottling Group Inc., said his company employs 425 people in Mississippi, with a payroll of about $30 million a year. [Read the full article]

DirecTV Inc. on Thursday reported a fourth-quarter loss after absorbing a hefty merger charge. The nation’s largest satellite TV operator also added 60 percent fewer new subscribers as discounted bundles from competitors and a weak economy took their toll on growth.

DirecTV has benefited from cable companies losing ground in the battle for subscribers. However, it is up against aggressive marketing from fellow satellite TV operator Dish Network Corp. which has offered hefty promotions aimed at stealing away bargain-hunters. Dish says its ads — which claim DirecTV service is more expensive — are bringing in customers. DirecTV is suing Dish for false advertising.

DirecTV still remains one of the brighter lights in the subscription TV industry. [Read the full article]

Britain and the Netherlands are putting together a revised proposal on the repayment of $5.7 billion owed by Iceland to the two countries following the collapse of the Icesave online bank.

A source with knowledge of the talks said the main change under discussion is a floating interest rate, replacing the 5.6 percent rate under the previous deal.

The source, who requested anonymity because the proposal had not been completed, said that there was currently no time frame to take the deal to Iceland.

Elias Jon Gudjonsson, a spokesman for Finance Minister Steingrimur J. Sigfusson, said the Icelandic government had not received a new offer, but had got a message that a proposal would be made on Saturday.

The potential breakthrough follows talks held at the Iceland Embassy in London by officials from all three countries earlier this week, led by attorney Lee Buchheit, of the New York-based office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. [Read the full article]

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