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Monthly Archives: May 2012

GM Claims Legal Immunity On Old Vehicles

A General Motors Co. (GM) lawyer demanded the widow of a car-crash victim drop a plan to seek punitive damages from the auto maker, even though the company’s government-brokered overhaul doesn’t bar plaintiffs from going after such legal penalties.

The GM lawyer in a March 3 email told a lawyer representing the widow of a man killed in a GM-made U-Haul truck that GM couldn’t be sued for punitive damages in the case. Other lawyers say that assertion stretches beyond what they believe is GM’s legal exposure in product-liability cases. Even so, after receiving the email, the widow’s lawyer abandoned plans to make a claim for punitive damages against GM.

Punitive damages are intended to punish corporations and others for reckless or intentional wrongdoing, such as selling products despite knowledge of their dangerous defects. Their goal is to deter future wrongdoing by the defendant or others poised to engage in misconduct.

The dispute highlights questions now arising over how much legal protection GM and Chrysler Group LLC have in certain product liability cases following 2009 government rescues that exceeded $70 billion. A bankruptcy judge allowed Chrysler to immunize itself from new punitive-damage claims arising from alleged manufacturing defects in vehicles sold before its restructuring. Chrysler’s immunity was the subject of a Page One article in The Wall Street Journal on April 5.

The skirmish in the widow’s case raises complex legal issues involving federal bankruptcy rules that sometimes allow companies to discard product liability or other risks, overruling state laws that give consumers rights to sue for damages.

GM received a $50 billion government rescue at the height of the financial crisis and then sold its best assets to the U.S. Treasury in a 2009 bankruptcy sale–making it a new auto maker legally divorced from the company that manufactured the U-Haul and millions of other vehicles. The newly formed GM posted a record $7.6 billion profit last year.

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Payroll Tax Currently Equivalent To 3% Of US GDP

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The payroll tax cut you’ve enjoyed since last year may be going away in January.

And for most Americans, it’s one of the most concrete pieces of the so-called fiscal cliff — $7 trillion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect next year.

The payroll tax cut — worth 2% of the first $110,100 of one’s wages — started in 2011 and remains in effect until Dec. 31. It noticeably increased paychecks for workers. A person making $50,000 has enjoyed roughly $83 extra a month, while someone making $110,100 has been taking home an extra $183.50 a month.

Unless Congress decides to extend the policy for another year, workers’ take-home pay will be reduced by similar amounts starting in January. That’s because the payroll tax rate — temporarily set at 4.2% — will revert to its original 6.2%.

The cut in the payroll tax — which funds Social Security – was intended to temporarily bolster consumer spending and therefore help the economic recovery.

If it expires as scheduled, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal revenue will increase by $95 billion next year.

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Shocker: After Arab Spring, Egypt Still Sucks Balls

(CNN) — After the first competitive elections in Egypt’s history, many Egyptians find themselves straddling the divide between the deposed regime of Hosni Mubarak and its 84-year-old Islamist adversary, the Muslim Brotherhood. Polarization has long been a problem for Egypt. Now there is more of it than ever.

The two candidates who received the most votes will face off in the second round in mid-June. The Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, is trying to get liberals and leftists to hold their noses and vote for him. Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of the old regime, promises to save Egypt from the “dark forces” of Islamism. He is a largely unreformed autocrat who cites Mubarak as a “role model” and says the “strongest thing should be the state.”

The fault lines that run through Egyptian politics are ones that often appear during democratic transitions. In Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, for example, there was widespread concern over the so-called “Red Return” — the election of former communists to power. In most cases, the old autocrats distanced themselves from past abuses and repackaged themselves as newly believing democrats.

In Egypt, however, many members of the old regime, like Shafiq, remain unrepentant. He was prime minister while protesters were being killed during Egypt’s revolution, and now may become its first post-revolution president. This very real possibility raises the question: Should politicians of the old regime be allowed to return to government and serve in senior government posts in the new Egypt?

As Yale University’s Ellen Lust argues, “Retaining space for local elites helps to ensure that they buy into democracy instead of trying to subvert it.” But what if these elites use the democratic process to subvert it from within?

In Tunisia, by contrast, the transitional government banned elites of the old ruling party from running in elections. A Shafiq victory, if it comes to pass, may prompt other transitional countries to carefully consider how to use legal channels to block an electoral “restoration” of the old order.

A second fault line in Egypt is between majoritarianism and consensus-driven politics. Many liberals believe that the Muslim Brotherhood betrayed the spirit of the revolution by trying to assert full control over the country’s elected institutions. Most controversial was the formation of the constituent assembly, which was dominated by the Brotherhood as well as ultraconservative Salafis. Liberals responded by withdrawing from the assembly.

The presidential election results have provoked a similar debate, with liberals calling on Mohammed Morsi to commit to sharing power with the two runner-up candidates by appointing them as co-presidents or vice-presidents with considerable powers. Others have called on the Brotherhood to appoint a technocratic government with a non-Islamist prime minister.

The Brotherhood, meanwhile, believes in a distinctly majoritarian form of democracy. It won 47% of seats in the lower house of parliament and more than 50% in the upper house, the Shura Council. Where liberals argue that one party should not dominate both the parliament and the presidency, the Brotherhood, in the run-up to elections, argued the opposite: Because the legislative branch remained relatively weak, the group needed the presidency to fulfill the promises it made to the electorate.

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Why Pay Attention To Confidence Surveys?

(AP) – U.S. consumer confidence fell sharply in May and is at the lowest level since January, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Conference Board.

The findings contradicted Friday’s survey by Thompson Reuters/University of Michigan, which showed consumer sentiment at its highest level in four and a half years.

Neither is wrong, economists said. They were taken at different times during the month and were affected by a range of changes in the economy, including slower job growth, lower gas prices and volatility in the stock market.

Economists say the two indexes usually track each other over time, though occasionally they diverge.

Brian Bethune, an economist at University of Amherst, said the two indexes will likely converge in the coming months.

“The truth probably lies somewhere in between,” he said.

Read the ways surveys differ here:

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US commandos parachuted into N. Korea: report

This seems weird to me, and I would like to see more coverage of this. Probably not the best idea to make this public information, right?

US and South Korean special forces have been parachuting intoNorth Korea to gather intelligence about underground military installations, a US officer has said in comments carried in US media.

Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley, commander of US special forces in South Korea, told a conference held in Florida last week that Pyongyang had built thousands of tunnels since the Korean war, The Diplomat reported.

“The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Tolley said, according to The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine. “So we send (South Korean) soldiers and US soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance.”

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Tim Cook Speaks At ‘All Things D’ Conference Tuesday

Apple CEO Time Cook will be having a chat Tuesday night at the D10 conference — in only his second public interview in recent months.

In February, Cook appeared at the Goldman Sachs annual Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco where he discussed Foxconn workers, Apple’s product line, and the company’s long term financial outlook. Today’s talk at D: All Things Digital, an annual gathering of technology insiders in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., is expected to cover similar themes.

Some are hoping the discussion will shed light on Apple’s product pipeline: the buzzed about iPhone 5, Apple’s game-changing TV (wherever it is), or maybe even an iPad mini.

Just don’t get your hopes up. The iPhone-maker doesn’t typically announce major products at non-Apple events, and Apple’s own World Wide Developers Conference, where it has introduced new iPhones in the past, is just weeks away.

Cook, despite efforts to stamp his personal brand on the company, has respected certain traditions, notably the company’s infamous secrecy.

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Espionage Cyberworm Deals Havoc On Middle East Nations

I feel like these deadbeats are being reminded just who invented computing.

The most sophisticated and powerful cyberweapon to date — a Swiss Army Knife spy tool that can evolve and change to deal with any situation — has been discovered on the loose in several Middle Eastern countries, security researchers said Tuesday.

The Worm.Win32.Flame threat, or “Flame” for short, was likely built by the same nation-state responsible for the Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear power plant in 2010. But this new weapon is twenty times the size of that cyberbomb and far more powerful, making it practically an army on its own, said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior security researcher with Kaspersky Labs.

“Flame is a cyberespionage operation,” he told FoxNews.com.

Its prime goal: capturing data from a machine. To accomplish that task, this unusually large and complex espionage tool is made up of several modules designed to accomplish specific tasks, explained Liam O Murchu, operations manager with Symantec Security Response.

“It can record your keystrokes, it can record from the microphone on your computer, it can take screen shots, and it sends this info to a remote computer for someone to siphon off,” he told FoxNews.com.

Flame can grow and change, too: What makes this cyberweapon so powerful is the ability to be reconfigured with new modules that turn an infected PC or industrial control system into whatever tool a spy dreams up.

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Sen. Graham Calls For Syrian “No Fly” Zone

A top U.S. senator said Tuesday he would support a no-fly zone over Syria in the wake of Friday’s massacre, though the Obama administration pushed back on the question of military force — so far limiting the latest U.S. response to the expulsion’s of Syria’s top diplomat to Washington.

In a coordinated effort, the United States joined allies around the world Tuesday in kicking out Syria’s diplomats. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. government gave Syria’s charge d’affaires 72 hours to leave the country.

Administration officials described the move as a statement by world powers about their collective “revulsion” toward the “vile” killings carried out by the regime and its “thugs.”

But it immediately raised further questions about whether any of those countries, including the U.S., are edging toward the possibility of military action in the country.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday that he would support a no-fly and no-drive zone in Syria, suggesting the U.S. faces a greater call to get involved militarily in Syria than it did in Libya last year.

“Compared to Libya, the strategic upside of taking out (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is far greater,” he said. “We’ve used force to stop slaughter less strategic and egregious than this.”

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FLASH: $RIMM CRASHES 15% BECAUSE THEY ARE “The Modern Day Rotary Phone”

Research In Motion provides business update says ‘financial performance will continue to be challenging for the next few quarters’; sees Q1 operating loss; hires JP Morgan & RBC to assist the company in reviewing RIM’s business and financial performance (11.23 +0.23)
Co’s CEO Thorsten Heins stated “In terms of challenges, as I mentioned on the March financial results conference call, RIM is going through a significant transformation as we move towards the BlackBerry 10 launch, and our financial performance will continue to be challenging for the next few quarters. The on-going competitive environment is impacting our business in the form of lower volumes and highly competitive pricing dynamics in the marketplace, and we expect our Q1 results to reflect this, and likely result in an operating loss for the quarter. We are continuing to be aggressive as we compete for our customers’ business – both enterprise and consumer – around the world, and our teams are working hard to provide cost-competitive, feature-rich solutions to our global customer base. On the positive side, we expect to further increase our cash position in Q1 from the approximately $2.1 billion we had at the end of fiscal 2012.”

“The CORE (cost optimization and resource efficiency) program we told you about previously is focused on delivering key operational savings through various initiatives. The financial objectives for the CORE program are targeted to drive $1 billion in savings by the end of fiscal 2013, based on our Q4 run rate…While there will be significant spending reductions and headcount reductions in some areas throughout the remainder of the fiscal year, we will continue to spend and hire in key areas such as those associated with the launch of BlackBerry 10, and those tied to the growth of our application developer community. We will share more details regarding our progress throughout the year as programs are implemented or changes are completed.”

“To further enhance our commitment to successfully completing our transformation, after the release of our year-end financial results, we engaged J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and RBC Capital Markets to assist the Company and our Board of Directors in reviewing RIM’s business and financial performance.”

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Today’s Rally Was No Bull

Markets have broken a pattern. Rally in the morning and early afternoon only to pare gains or close negative. Today despite bad news from Europe the markets managed to take a mid day blow and recover to close at the highs of the day.

DOW UP 127


S&P UP 16

The bulls ran with Spain and won…

Today’s action

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIiUqfxFttM 450 300]


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A New Report Claims Chips Have Back Doors or Malicious Intent

For decades we fought against the spread of communism around the world. Now we let communist countries make chips that control just about everything in our technological society. A new report is suggesting that chips used in a variety of important and sensitive military and civilian infrastructure have back doors or malicious applications to allow for sabotage.

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Spain Will Issue New Bonds to Bolster Bankia

“MADRID (Reuters) – Spain, battling a debt crisis that is shaking itsgovernment, banks and companies, will soon issue new bonds to fund ailing lenders and indebted regions despite borrowing costs nearing the 7 percent level that drove other states to seek a bailout.

The move will dent the country’s strong liquidity position and further worsen public finances under scrutiny from investors and European officials who fear the euro zone’s fourth economy may go the same way as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.”

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