Aflac fires comedian as voice of insurer’s quacking duck

Aflac has fired Gilbert Gottfried, the comedian who is the voice of the insurer’s quacking duck.

Gottfried, who has voiced the duck in numerous commercials since 2000, posted a string of mocking jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on Twitter over the weekend.

“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘There will be another one floating by any minute now,’ ” he tweeted Saturday.

Aflac Inc., which does 75 percent of its business in Japan, says the jokes do not represent the feelings of the company. Chief Marketing Officer Michael Zuna said “there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.”


Travel to Japan ‘in limbo’ in wake of deadly disaster

Americans are canceling or postponing upcoming trips to Japan as the country deals with a nuclear power scare and faces months of rebuilding after a deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Both leisure and business travelers are reconsidering their arrangements. The U.S. government has warned travelers against going to Japan.

The Japan National Tourism Organization doesn’t yet have any statistics about booking cancellations.But tour operators and travel agents say they’re swamped with calls from travelers wondering what to do.

Travel to Japan “is truly in limbo” said Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet Travel in Pennsylvania. The company has canceled an April 19 trip and expects to scrap more tours. The company sends about 500 tourists a year to Japan on 10-day trips starting at $3,200 per person.

Japan saw more than 8.6 million visitors last year with 727,000 of them coming from America, according to the tourism organization.


Financial impact of crisis could hike cost of U.S. debt

Japan’s need to raise huge amounts of money for reconstruction after the disastrous earthquake raises the prospect of higher U.S. costs to finance its own budget deficit and ultimately higher costs to American consumers on financing everything from houses and cars to credit card debt.

Tokyo has long been a major purchaser of U.S. Treasury bonds, helping to keep demand for U.S. debt high and the cost of financing it low. Last year, Japan bought about $130 billion in Treasuries, much of it with funds accumulated from the nation’s trade surplus.

Now, as it begins the costly process of rebuilding, Japan will almost certainly be buying less Treasury debt and other foreign assets. That in turn could push the United States to pay higher rates to attract new buyers .

“Interest rates may go up; investors may refuse to take on more Japanese bonds, like Greek and Irish bonds,” said Takeo Hoshi, an expert on Japan’s economy at the University of California-San Diego.