Tuesday PM February 15th, 2011

World Bank President Robert Zoellick says global food prices have hit “dangerous levels'' that could contribute to political instability and raise the cost of groceries. The Bank says in a new report that global food prices have jumped 29% in the past year, and are just 3% below the all-time peak hit in 2008. It estimates higher prices for corn, wheat and oil have pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty since last June. Zoellick said he expects food prices to continue to rise, and that export bans and weather disruptions are partly to blame.

A lawsuit on behalf of BP investors claims former BP official Kevin Lacy resigned months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion because of disagreements with the oil giant about its commitment to safety. Lacy was BP's senior vice president for drilling operations for the Gulf of Mexico. The claims are part of a suit that alleges BP inflated its stock price by making false statements about its safety practices before the Gulf oil spill. The amended lawsuit was filed yesterday evening in Houston federal court.

JPMorgan Chase is trying to make amends with military customers, after recently admitting it overcharged thousands of military families on mortgages, and improperly foreclosed on more than a dozen. The steps include a program making certain military personnel eligible for reduced-rate mortgages; enhancing a program qualifying personnel for mortgage modifications if they're having trouble making payments; and a pledge not to foreclose on any active personnel while they're deployed.

Rick Ferguson, executive director for the Houston Film Commission, says an incentive package to attract film production is critical to keep the industry from fleeing Texas and costing the state jobs.

“It has helped level the playing field between Houston, the State of Texas, and other states. Our bookends have two of the most lucrative tax programs in the United States, and that being New Mexico and Louisiana. And we certainly have to maintain our competitive level to be able to stay in the marketplace.”

The program is under threat as state legislators aim to close a budget deficit estimated at fifteen to twenty-seven billion dollars.

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