Early Briefing: Taxi!

People waiting for rides outside Union Station yesterday faced long waits and higher fares -- double the price of a taxi ride or more -- as limo drivers took the striking cabdrivers' place. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

Standing out on 15th St yesterday, we wondered why it was so hard to find a cab. The taxi driver who finally came to our rescue offered an explanation: "We're on strike," he said, which didn't quite explain why he was on the road. We didn't quibble.

The strike, called by the newly formed Coalition of Cab Drivers, Companies and Associations of Washington, D.C., was the latest attempt to forestall a historic change in the way taxi fares are calculated in the city. For decades, the District has relied on a system of zones that many found confusing, but in October, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced the April 6 switch to meters to bring the District in line with other major U.S. metropolitan areas. Since then, drivers opposed to the plan have held rallies and distributed leaflets. They staged a one-day strike in the fall. See the full story here.

* Shares of MicroStrategy slid yesterday after the McLean business software firm reported a decrease in profit and analysts aired concerns about the company. One analyst noted that even with declining earnings the company still plans to buy a Bombardier Global Express XRS jet for $46 million, including a cabin with "24k polished gold, satin antique brass or equivalent" plated fixtures, according to a contract filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"There is no other software company with their level of revenues and their market capitalization that has a corporate jet as an asset," said the analyst, Michael B. Nemeroff, of Wedbush Morgan Securities. "I hope they bought it with anticipation that it's going to increase their business or help them improve their operations. But I don't think it will. I think it was just a very good example of corporate excess."

Cowen and Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher wrote in a note that the company has declined to make available executives to talk to Wall Street about operations. Many companies offer such guidance.

"We would continue to avoid the stock given the significant deterioration in fundamentals over the course of 2007 and management's refusal to communicate with the Street to set expectations, making the stock a rudderless ship," Goldmacher said. See the rest of the story here.

*District business leaders, with the backing of Fenty, have chipped away at the D.C. Council's once-solid support for mandatory paid sick leave for all workers, turning today's vote on the measure into a down-to-the-wire contest.

When introduced in May, the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act had the support of the full body of the D.C. Council. Yesterday, however, as lobbyists on both sides of the bill walked the halls of the Wilson Building, at least six council members -- including Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) -- said the bill needed "tweaking." See story.

* Is your fur a fake? A lawmaker from Montgomery County plans to introduce legislation today that would change the rules in Maryland by requiring all manufacturers and retailers selling fur coats in the state to identify the species and country of origin on their labels, regardless of value.

The legislation comes after reports such as the one by the Humane Society, which discovered some stores selling coats that were trimmed with the hair of raccoon dog, a species of dog indigenous to China and other Asian countries that closely resembles raccoon.

"Consumers think they know what they're buying and what they're wearing," said Del. Tom Hucker (D), the bill's sponsor. "A lot of people I've talked to are shocked to know this is going on." See story.

*Last year's catch of blue crabs from Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay was the second-lowest on record, as environmental damage, drought and past overfishing helped drive down the state's most valuable seafood harvest, state officials said. See story.

By Dan Beyers  |  February 5, 2008; 7:13 AM ET
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