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For legion of fans, Apple retail jobs prove a letdown

Last year, during his best three-month stretch, Jordan Golson sold about $750,000 worth of computers and gadgets at the Apple Store in Salem, N.H. It was a performance that might have called for a bottle of Champagne — if that were a luxury Golson could have afforded.

“I was earning $11.25 an hour,” he said. “Part of me was thinking, This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.’ But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough.”

Within this world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues. Last year, the company’s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other U.S. retailer — wireless or otherwise — and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.

But most of Apple’s employees enjoyed little of that wealth. While consumers tend to think of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., as the company’s heart and soul, a majority of its workers in the United States are not engineers or executives with hefty salaries and bonuses but rather hourly wage earners selling iPhones and MacBooks.

—David Segal, The New York Times

Smoky haze over Malaysia signals a regional problem

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — For much of the year, the Petronas Towers, the world’s tallest twin buildings, are gleaming landmarks visible far from the city center here. But last weekend, the 88-story structures were shrouded in a smoky haze that prompted health warnings.

The haze, attributed mostly to fires burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has become a recurring summer blight, engulfing parts of Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore, and leaving a litany of health and economic costs in its wake.

Experts say that some progress has been made in the 15 years since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations first pledged to combat the problem, after one of the worst forest fires in the region’s history.

But they say better law enforcement and more international cooperation is needed to help clear the skies.

—Liz Gooch, The New York Times

For wealthy Romney donors, up close and personal access

PARK CITY, Utah - They schmoozed with Mitt Romney at a barbecue cookout at Olympic Park, pressing him on labor regulations and the threat of a nuclear Iran as downhill skiers performed midair flips behind them.

They rubbed elbows with Beth Myers, who is running Romney’s vice presidential search, in the packed lobby bar of the Chateaux at Silver Lake, over $15 glasses of Scotch.

And they mingled with Romney’s wife, Ann, during an intimate “Women for Romney victory tea,” held on an umbrella-shaded patio in this resort town.

The Romney campaign, whose fundraising prowess has defied assumptions about President Barack Obama’s financial advantages, offered wealthy donors and bundlers an extraordinary level of access to the candidate, his staff members, advisers and family this weekend at a three-day retreat that even seasoned political contributors said dwarfed previous presidential powwows.

Romney’s political operation seemed to all but shut down and relocate to the mountains of Utah. At least 15 senior campaign figures flew in for what blue-blazered guests from Texas, North Carolina and New York dubbed Republicanpalooza,

—Michael Barbaro, The New York Times