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Airplane default

(Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) sued Alan Casden, a Beverly Hills, Calif., real estate developer, for $43.4 million, claiming his company defaulted on the financing of a Gulfstream 550 corporate jet.

A unit of Casden Co. took out a $37.5 million loan in 2005 to finance the aircraft, engines and related equipment, Citigroup said in a complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

The loan was later increased to $45.9 million and was guaranteed by Casden personally and by Casden Co., according to the New York-based bank.

Citigroup said it declared the loan in default and demanded full payment in a letter Dec. 3.

The developer's Casden Properties LLC has built more than $10 billion in residential real estate projects over 45 years, according to its website.

The case is Citicorp USA v. Casden, 12-CV-8820, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Hunting the wild pig

(AP) -- California hunters have killed 40 wild pigs in an effort to stem a wave of property damage cause by the marauding animals.

Most of the damage has been west of U.S. Highway 101 between Atascadero and Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo County.

The pigs have been tearing up lawns and other landscaping in search of worms.

The Tribune in San Luis Obispo County says the California Department of Fish and Game hired two hunters to trap and euthanize the pigs in recent weeks. The carcasses are donated to charity.

California feral pigs are a combination of introduced wild boar and domestic pigs that have become wild.

Their digging does extensive damage to rangelands, meadows and woodlands. They also foul streams by wallowing.
Fresh Hollywood sign

(AP) -- The Hollywood sign's 10-week facelift is complete with nine shiny white letters ready for a 90th anniversary close-up.

Workers stripped the 45-foot letters of weathered paint, applied 105 gallons of primer and coated them with 255 gallons of high-reflective white paint. Sherwin-Williams picked up most of the $170,000 cost.

The sign celebrates its 90th anniversary next year.

The painting project began in October, about 35 years after the sign was rebuilt.

The hillside sign went up in 1923 at a cost of $21,000 to promote a Hollywoodland Real Estate Group development.

It read Hollywoodland until 1949, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce entered into a preservation deal and the last four letters were removed.

It was replaced in 1978 following a fundraiser hosted by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
Charred house wrapped

(AP) -- Some residents of Penn Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb, have gift-wrapped something they hope will be gone by Christmas: a charred and abandoned house that burned nine months ago.

Amy Davis tells WPXI-TV that residents put a big red bow on the house next door to hers, so officials will get moving on tearing it down. The house burned in March.

Residents say it's unsafe and an eyesore, and that they fear it could harm their property values.

Davis says gift-wrapping the house “was done in jest to bring light to a situation where there's no humor at all.” She says the fire frightened her and caused $8,000 worth of damage to her 100-year-old home.

Municipal code enforcement officer John McCafferty tells the TV station he just got approval to tear down the home.
Man's canoe is his ...

(AP) -- They say no man is an island, but Michael Richard Smith has been creating his own floating homes in Boston Harbor.

The Coast Guard and Boston police are keeping an eye on the unconventional camper who has been tying his canoe to small offshore docks in the city's inner harbor and pitching his tent to sleep at night.

The 49-year-old Maine native said Tuesday he's been paddling the waters of metro Boston since October with all his possessions aboard a 14-foot, 40-year-old aluminum canoe he patches with duct tape when necessary.

Smith detests the term “homeless” and describes himself as just another “fellow citizen.”

He said he feels most secure when he sleeps out in the harbor, and lists his biggest worries as the wakes of fast ferries and drunken boaters.

“It's about as safe as I could be,” said Smith, who's also camped on at least one inner harbor island.
Reserves boost

(Bloomberg) -- Fifth Third Bancorp may need to boost reserves after Freddie Mac said it will review all of the lender's nonperforming loans from 2004 to 2006 for possible mortgage putbacks, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Kabat said.

“We're not a big servicer and we expect any one-time reserve adjustment to be manageable, likely not more than a few cents per share,” Kabat said Wednesday.

Freddie Mac notified the Cincinnati-based lender of its expanded scrutiny on Dec. 3, Kabat said.

Lenders have said the threat of more putbacks, or a demand to repurchase mortgages, is deterring them from making new home loans backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Chateau oops

(AP) -- Residents of a sleepy French village in Bordeaux have been left dumbfounded after discovering their local 18th-century chateau was completely bulldozed “by mistake.”

The mayor's office in Yvrac said Wednesday that workers who were hired to renovate the grand 140,000-square-foot manor and raze a small building on the same estate in southwest France mixed them up.

“The Chateau de Bellevue was Yvrac's pride and joy,” said former owner Juliette Marmie. “The whole village is in shock. How can this construction firm make such a mistake?”

Local media reported that the construction company misunderstood the renovation plans of the current owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Stroskin, to clean up the manor and restore it to its former baroque glory.

Stroskin was away when the calamity occurred and returned home to discover his chateau, a local treasure boasting a grand hall that could host some 200 people, as well as a sweeping stone staircase _ was nothing but rubble.

“I'm in shock ...I understand the turmoil of the community,” local media quoted Stroskin as saying.

He told them he plans to build an exact replica of lost manor on the site.
New Malawi railway

(AP) -- Malawi plans to break ground on a $1 billion new railway line in the country to ferry both passengers and minerals through the nation.

A statement from the president's office Wednesday said the line would be built by Brazilian mining company Vale SA.

Vale currently has operations in Mozambique mining coal and some of that mineral will be shipped through Malawi for the local market, as well as to export abroad.

Malawi's presidency said the project will create more than 3,000 jobs.

Mozambique's government now is considering a $2 billion port and railroad line project to speed the nation's coal exports to the rest of the world.
Israeli water

(Bloomberg) -- The Israel Water Authority is expected to raise the price of water supplied to factories by 17.5 percent starting Jan. 1, the Manufacturers Association said, calling on the government to halt the planned price rise.

The manufacturers said Wednesday that such a jump in the industrial water bill would boost consumer prices, including food and toiletry costs. The association said the increase would raise manufacturers' water costs in 2013 by 100 million shekels ($26.3 million) to 700 million shekels.

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