Microsoft vies for Facebook stake

Microsoft is looking to buy up to 5 percent of privately held social networking site Facebook, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal would value Facebook, with more than 40 million members, at about $10 billion. ( The bid pits Microsoft against Google and Yahoo, which have also expressed interest in Facebook and its potential ad-revenue bonanza. Microsoft already has a deal to place ads on Facebook. “The social network is the platform of the future,” said Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff. “And since Microsoft is a clear third or fourth in the race to be a portal, I think they’re trying to get a front row position in the next race.” (MarketWatch)

Going nuclear after all these years

NRG Energy is filing the first full application to build a nuclear power plant in the U.S. since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. Rising energy demand and fuel costs, and federal subsidies for the first new nuclear plants, are making nuclear energy more attractive. (The Washington Post) Nuclear power cost 1.72 cents per kilowatt hour last year, versus 2.73 cents for coal power and 6.75 cents for natural gas, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute trade group. “Nuclear is expensive to build,” said Calyon Securities analyst Gordon Howald, but then becomes “one of the cheapest sources of power generation that's out there.” (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

GM talks continue after strike

Negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors picked up again late yesterday, even after more than 73,000 GM workers walked off the job. (Reuters) UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said the strike—GM’s first walkout since 1998 and its first nationwide labor action since 1970—was prompted by stymied job-security demands, not a watershed health-care trust fund proposal. (MarketWatch) Analysts see the continuing talks as a sign that the strike will not be protracted. If the UAW were looking for a long fight, it “would walk out in a huff and say, ‘Call us when you’re ready to talk,’” said labor lawyer Jules Crystal. (Bloomberg)

Life in the nicotine lane

Life is hard for traveling smokers, as airports, hotels, and rental car companies are increasingly going smoke-free. Westin hotels and Marriot's 10 brands banned all indoor smoking last year, and more than 120 U.S. airports allow no smoking anywhere inside. But 21 percent of U.S. adults smoke, and some hotels and airports—like the Detroit airport—have decided to throw smokers a bone. “People who need to have a cigarette are going to find a place to smoke,” explains Detroit airport spokesman Michael Conway, “and they’re going to be smoking in places you don’t want them.” (The New York Times, free registration required)