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WASHINGTON — It’s that special shopping day that site right between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s called “Small Business Saturday,” and businesses in Old Town Alexandria and across the county are hoping to highlight local independent businesses that normally might have trouble competing with the big dogs.

Jeff Albert owner of Decorium Gift and Home (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)Jeff Albert, owner of Decorium Gift and Home in Old Town. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The idea is to shop small and local. The first ever shop “Small Business Saturday” took place in November 2010 and each year it continues to grow. According to American Express, which launched the annual event, an estimated $14.3 billion will be spent at small and independent businesses on Saturday across the country.

“I think it’s great,” says Jeff Albert owner of “Decorium Gift and Home” on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. He opened his interior design store early again this year for “Shop Small” day. Last year he opened early while other stores along King Street, which is known for its unique boutiques and restaurants, didn’t open until 10 a.m.

“Usually it’s a great day,” he says, admitting it’s tough to go up against the big box stores like Walmart, and Internet giants like Amazon.

But what these small businesses offer is something you can’t buy on the Internet, and his customers are not just customers. “We build relationships, it’s our friends, it’s our family. We’ve been here for 15-years so we’ve developed quite a relationship with our people.”

Shari Simmans-Bolouri, VP, Marketing and Events with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, says more than 50 businesses in Old Town are involved with this year’s “Small Business Saturday.”

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Alexander StubbFinance Minister Alexander Stubb during a session of Parliament on November 24. Image: Jarno Mela / lehtikuva

Finland’s leading opposition parties are upset about Finance Minister Alexander Stubb’s misleading comment this week during parliamentary debate of a government plan to change Finland’s policy requiring direct holding of investments. Stubb admitted in a TV1 television appearance early Saturday morning that he had stated the wrong figures and that he was “sorry about that.”

He claimed that 90 percent of civil servants consulted showed support for the government's proposed plan, although investigation from the country's leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat discovered that only 2 of 21 experts asked to give their opinion supported the idea.

Stubb = Jäätteenmäki?

On Twitter, Greens Party Chair Ville Niinistö compared Stubb’s position now to that of Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Finland’s first female prime minister. In 2003, Jäätteenmäki resigned after just three months in office for allegedly lying to Parliament and the public about how she had acquired confidential Foreign Ministry documents. In 2004, the Helsinki District Court acquitted Jäätteenmäki on all counts, but Green’s Chair Niinistö said Stubb’s position is now similarly at stake.

Left Alliance Chair Paavo Arhinmäki wrote on his Facebook account that Stubb’s position as a reliable minister should be put to a confidence vote in Parliament over the issue.

Social Democratic Party Chair Antti Rinne for his part said that Stubb’s manner of behaving was “very odd”. Rinne said he imagines that the incident may even require an official investigation in Parliament. He would not take a position on whether Stubb had made an honest mistake or whether his intent was to wilfully mislead the MPs that were present.

A push to add indirect holding

The government wants to open up Finland’s investment policy to allow indirect securities holdings. Current legislation limits investment activity to direct holdings, meaning investments are recorded under the investor’s name in the interests of transparency. By expanding the law to include indirect holding as well, securities could be held under a bank or investment firm’s name, in effect making it possible to hide the investor’s identity.

The government claims a new EU regulation obligates Finland to open up its securities custody rules to competition. It claims the reform will link Finland even more effectively to the European capital markets and encourage related actors to stay in Finland. The ministry website states the reform will not affect the authorities’ access to information when the custodies are in Finland.

In his Facebook status Saturday, Arhinmäki said the preparation of the government plan to change investment regulations has been “shrouded in mystery from the beginning: feedback from the comment rounds have not been made public, certain reporters have been banned from press conferences and today’s Aamulehti paper exposed a memo that shows the government has been consciously selecting reporters who share their perspective”.

MACAU - The theft of millions of dollars from investors in a Macau junket operator has sparked months of protests and hastened the demise of a business model that greased the wheels of the $44 billion global gambling hub for over a decade.

Brandishing banners and loudspeakers, dozens of investors have protested outside Wynn Macau Ltd's casino for two months, demanding the return of money stolen by an employee of junket operator Dore Entertainment Co. Ltd and accusing Dore's head of dodging responsibility.

The crime has left the junket industry's reputation in tatters and sped up the Chinese territory's shift away from VIP gamblers - who used to account for more than 80 percent of its gaming revenues - to the mass-market segment of less wealthy Chinese tourists.