World and Nation

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New Hampshire Governor Says He Supports Civil Unions

New Hampshire's governor said Thursday that he would sign a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples.

For weeks, the governor, John Lynch, declined to express his views on the civil union bill, which was passed by the State House of Representatives and is expected to be passed by the State Senate next week. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats for the first time in more than a century.

The measure would make New Hampshire the fourth state to allow civil unions, following the lead of Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey. California allows domestic partnerships with benefits similar to civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage.

"It's a matter of conscience, of fairness and preventing discrimination," the governor, a Democrat, told reporters in Allenstown, N.H., according to his spokesman, Colin Manning.

Manning said the governor opposes same-sex marriage, adding that "the civil unions bill does extend the rights that married couples do enjoy — hospital visitation, crime victims' rights, health insurance — but at the same time it preserves the distinction of marriage."

Hedge Funds' Activism Creates New Wealth For Law Firms

For corporate lawyers of a certain age, it seems like the 1980s all over again.

Proxy fights, once the exclusive domain of investors like Carl C. Icahn, are on the rise. The primary cause is easy to spot: "The resurgence of shareholder activism is a direct result of the growth of hedge funds," said Marc Weingarten, a partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel.

And the re-emergence of proxy fights is a reason that mergers-and-acquisitions lawyers, along with longtime fund-formation lawyers, are redefining the hedge fund practice.

The result is a boon both to law firms that originally advised hedge funds, like Schulte Roth; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; and Seward & Kissel, as well as to those with more traditional corporate finance practices, like Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Sidley Austin; Sullivan & Cromwell; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher, among others.

Chinese Growth Shows Little Restraint, Rising 11.1 Percent

China's economy continues to accelerate at a blistering pace, growing 11.1 percent in the first quarter of this year from the first quarter of 2006, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics released Thursday.

The surge in growth is almost certain to force Beijing to step up efforts to cool the economy. Pressure is also mounting on officials to allow the value of the currency, the yuan, to appreciate more quickly.

A benchmark Chinese share index — anticipating higher interest rates and perhaps other measures aimed at taming domestic stocks — plunged 4.5 percent Thursday, ending a robust rally that had driven prices to record highs in recent days.

Despite the big drop, the Shanghai Stock Exchange composite index closed at 3,449.02, up more than 200 percent in the last 16 months.

More than a dozen interest rate increases and other moves to tighten money and lending over the last three years have failed to tame growth in China, the world's fastest-growing major economy.