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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Business Roundtable: Raise Age for Social Security, Medicare

“The Business Roundtable, which represents chief executives of major U.S. companies, proposed shoring up Social Security and Medicare by raising the eligibility age without increasing taxes on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

For Social Security, the group’s plan released Wednesday in Washington would gradually raise the retirement age to 70 from 67, scale back benefits for wealthier recipients and switch to a method of calculating inflation that would result in lower cost-of-living payments for current and future retirees.

“We have tried to gather three or four very pragmatic, despite their political firepower, relatively straightforward proposals that do the trick,” said Gary Loveman, chief executive and president of Caesars Entertainment Corp., chairman of the group’s health and retirement committee.

“This proposal dovetails very nicely with the demographic realities of the workforce,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T Inc. “We are going to need our employees to work longer just to fill the needs that we have in the work force.”

The group also offered a plan for the Medicare health program for the elderly that would raise the eligibility age to 70 and create a system of private plans to compete with the government-sponsored program. The proposal is similar to that proposed by House Republicans as part of their budget and was rejected by the Democrat-run Senate.

Means Testing…”

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Girls in Chicago Are Choking Out and Robbing Cab Drivers at Knife Point

Chicago is a disgusting city.


The Chicago Police Department has issued an alert in the 2nd District of Wentworth for several armed robberies that have occurred during the month of January.

The offenders, described as six to seven African American females with a light completion between the ages of 16 and 20, enter cabs in the Loop.

Upon arrival to their destinations on the South Side, one of the girl chokes the driver with a rope or cord, while another threatens the cab driver with a knife, demanding cash. Authorities say the group then jumps out of the cab.

“Yeah, if that happen, it’s scary, you know, it’s very dangerous,” one cab driver says.

Incidents have been recorded in the vicinity of the 4700 block of S. King Drive and the 4800 block of S. Forrestville.

One cab driver told FOX 32’s Amara Walker that the robberies don’t surprise him and safety is always a concern. Cab driver Ahmad Shakir says he’s been robbed before.

“As far as safety is concerned, we should divert going in the dark areas where there are not people, silent areas, or alleys,” Shakir says.

It is unclear how much cash the suspects took in these incidents.

No one was seriously injured in these robberies, but the Chicago Police Department is encouraging people to always be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity immediately.

Read more: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/20546398/alert-group-of-girls-sought-armed-robbery-cab-drivers?obref=obinsite#ixzz2ICD0rwmI

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$FB and $INTC Team Up to Create Open Source Collaborations

“Facebook announced today at the Open Compute Summit that it is open-sourcing more of its data center designs for storing pictures, high availability and power consumption in data centers.

The news couples with a series of announcements at the event here today:

  • Silicon photonics: Intel is contributing designs for its forthcoming silicon photonics technology, enabling 100 Gbps interconnects (enough to last multiple processor generations).
  • “Group Hug” board: Facebook is contributing a new common slot architecture specification for motherboards (nicknamed “Group Hug”); this can produce boards that are completely vendor-neutral and can accommodate up to 10 SOCs.
  • New SOCS: AMD, Applied Micro, Calxeda and Intel have all announced support for the Group Hug board; Applied Micro has built a mechanical demo of the new design.
  • New members: More than a dozen organizations have joined, including storage-oriented companies like EMC, Fusion-io, Hitachi, Applied Micro, ARM and Sandisk.

Facebook  stores 300 million pictures per day. They needed ways to store the pictures but not archive them so people could access them if needed.

Facebook used the OpenCompute “Open Rack” to create a cold storage rack for photos. The specs are now available for anyone to use.

The company is also contributing DragonStone — a design spec for a low-power database server, one CPU board and redundant power, for “cold data” storage. DragonStone has been integrated into Facebook’s data center in Lulea, Sweden, and is seeing 40 percent more efficiency.

Finally, Facebook is contributing Winterfell, a new web server design for fitting more servers on a rack.

Facebook needs the innovation that comes with opening data center designs…”

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3D Printing Helps Gunsmiths to Side Skirt Proposed Gun Laws

“Five months ago, the group of homemade gun enthusiasts known as Defense Distributed set out to create a lethal firearm that could be downloaded and 3D-printed entirely from scratch, circumventing all gun control laws. But as new gun bills have been proposed in the wake of recent shootings, creating a bootleg weapon with digital pieces may soon be far easier: As simple as printing a spring-loaded plastic box.

Over the past weekend, Defense Distributed successfully 3D-printed and tested an ammunition magazine for an AR semi-automatic rifle, loading and firing 86 rounds from the 30-round clip.

That homemade chunk of curved plastic holds special significance: Between 1994 and 2004, so-called “high capacity magazines” capable of holding more than 10 bullets were banned from sale. And a new gun control bill proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein would ban those larger ammo clips again. President Obama has also voiced support for the magazine restrictions.

But Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson says he hopes the group’s recent work demonstrates the futility of that proposed ban in the age of cheap 3D printing….”

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Firearm Industry May Hobble, But Will Not Be Crippled by Draconian Gun Measures

“…Obama told lawmakers that he wanted them to swiftly pass a assault-weapon ban and limit magazines to 10 bullets. This would mean reinstating the gun-control law created in 1994 that expired a decade later. Significantly, that will need Congress’ acquiescence, and many conservatives and gun-rights groups like the NRA have vowed to fight any legislation they feel infringes on the Second Amendment.

…a Bushmaster AR-15 manufactured by the Freedom Group, the largest long-gun manufacturer in America. The ban would likely parallel the one signed into law in New York yesterday: there, any rifle with even one militarized feature,  like a pistol grip or a flash suppressor, is now now illegal.

Any sort of ban on modern sporting rifles will greatly affect the closely held Freedom Group and also impact Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger, too. Modern sporting rifles are among the most profitable weapons that gunmakers produced, says Rommel Dionisio, a Wedbush Securities analyst, as well as one of its fastest-growing segments. Freedom Group has said that modern sporting rifles are a useful tool in driving youth interest in firearms….”

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Ichan Allegedly Takes Down Some Pieces of $HLF

“Activist money manager Carl Icahn and his deputies have told other investors that he has taken a stake in Herbalife Ltd., HLF -2.45% joining a heavyweight battle that has already drawn prominent hedge-fund managers William Ackman and Daniel Loeb.

One of the investors said Mr. Icahn bought a “small” position in the nutritional-supplements firm after Mr. Ackman unveiled a large bet against Herbalife stock and called it a pyramid scheme during a Dec. 20 presentation.

Mr. Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management has sold more than 20 million shares short at a cost of more than $1 billion, has said regulators would shutter Herbalife.

It was unclear Wednesday where Mr. Icahn, a veteran of numerous skirmishes with corporate executives and other investors, housed his Herbalife shares and how large his stake is, or even if he still owns the stock….”

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China Gets a Dose of Off Shoring Factory Work

“BEIJING—China is losing its competitive edge as a low-cost manufacturing base, new data suggest, with makers of everything from handbags to shirts to basic electronic components relocating to cheaper locales like Southeast Asia.

The shift—illustrated in weakened foreign investment in China—has pluses and minuses for an economy key to global growth. Beijing wants to shift to higher-value production and to see incomes rise. But a de-emphasis on manufacturing puts pressure on leaders to make sure jobs are created in other sectors to keep the world’s No. 2 economy humming.

Total foreign direct investment flowing into China fell 3.7% in 2012 to $111.72 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday, the first annual decline since the fallout from the global financial crisis in 2009.

Then, a 13% fall in foreign investment into China reflected dire conditions for business in the U.S. and Europe, and global risk aversion, which choked off capital flows. Economists say the drop in 2012 is also partly cyclical, driven by slowing overall growth in China and Europe’s prolonged debt crisis.

But it also is the result of a long-term trend of rising wages and other costs that have made China less attractive, especially for basic manufacturing, economists say.

By contrast, foreign direct investment into Indonesia was up 27% in the first nine months of last year…..”

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$DOW Prepares for a Fight in Court Over Conspiracy to Fix Chemical Prices

“(Reuters) – Dow Chemical Co is preparing to defend itself at trial against allegations it took part in a conspiracy to fix prices of chemicals used to make a wide range of foam products found in cars, furniture and packaging.

Dow was one of several chemical company defendants named in a class action lawsuit that started nine years ago. But Dow was the only defendant not to settle and is scheduled to go trial on Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas.

The stakes are high. The plaintiffs, direct purchasers of the chemical products, estimate damages exceed $1 billion. Under federal antitrust law, damages are trebled so the final judgment against Dow could exceed $3 billion.

The lawsuit alleges that Dow, along with its competitors, began fixing prices for urethane chemicals no later than 1999 when the market was falling and the industry was plagued by excess demand. The conspiracy to keep prices high continued into 2003, according to the plaintiffs.

At trial, the plaintiffs plan to call at least five witnesses who they say will provide direct testimony supporting their case of a price-fixing agreement. Those witnesses include executives of the companies allegedly involved in the conspiracy. The class representatives are Seegott Holdings Inc, Industrial Polymers Inc and Quabaug Corp.

Dow has denied engaging in any price-fixing conspiracy. It has contended that no witness from any of the defendants in the case has testified that they actually entered into an agreement to fix prices….”

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Mali War Goes Global as Hostages are Taken

NATO to the rescue?

“(Reuters) – Islamist fighters have opened an international front in Mali’s civil war by taking dozens of Western hostages at a gas plant in the Algerian desert just as French troops launched an offensive against rebels in neighboring Mali.

Nearly 24 hours after gunmen stormed the natural gas pumping site and workers’ housing before dawn on Wednesday, little was certain beyond a claim by a group calling itself the “Battalion of Blood” that it was holding 41 foreign nationals, including Americans, Japanese and Europeans, at Tigantourine, deep in the Sahara.

Algerian media said a Briton and an Algerian were killed in the assault. Another local report said a Frenchman had died.

One thing is clear: as a headline-grabbing counterpunch to this week’s French buildup in Mali, it presents French President Francois Hollande with a daunting dilemma and spreads fallout from Mali’s war against loosely allied bands of al Qaeda-inspired rebels far beyond Africa, challenging Washington and Europe.

A French businessman with employees at the site said the foreigners were bound and under tight guard, while local staff, numbering 150 or more, was held apart and had more freedom.

Led by an Algerian veteran of guerrilla wars in Afghanistan, the group demanded France halt its week-old intervention in Mali, an operation endorsed by Western and African allies who fear that al Qaeda, flush with men and arms from the defeated forces of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, is building a haven in the desert.

Hollande, who won wide praise for ordering air strikes and sending troops to the former French colony, said little in response. In office for only eight months, he has warned of a long, hard struggle in Mali and now faces a risk of attacks on more French and other Western targets in Africa and beyond.

The Algerian government ruled out negotiating and the United States and other Western governments condemned what they called a terrorist attack on a facility, now shut down, that produces 10 percent of Algeria’s gas, much of which is pumped to Europe…”

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The Fed’s Beige Book Shows Little Change in Economic Activity

“Economic activity across the United States expanded at either a moderate or modest pace in recent weeks with consumer spending picking up, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday, suggesting little change in strength of the recovery.

The U.S. central bank painted a cautiously positive picture of an economy gathering steam across its 12 districts, with businesses and consumers made more wary by uncertainty over the outlook for fiscal policy and conditions in Europe.

“Hiring plans were more cautious for firms doing business in Europe or in the defense sector,” the Fed noted in its Beige Book report….”

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Newly Completed Pipeline Will Help Supply to Flow and Potentially Send Gas Prices Higher

“…….Here’s the situation:

For years now, there’s been a massive bottleneck of crude at the deposit hub in Cushing, Okla. thanks to America’s domestic crude production boom.

It’s at Cushing that drillers send their product to be bought by refiners. (And it’s where the West Texas Intermediate benchmark price gets its name.)

But because of the supply glut, wholesalers have been able to bid down the price they’ve been paying.

As a result, states with easy access to Cushing product, especially in the Midwest, have enjoyed lower prices in recent years than other states on the East and West Coasts.

Those coast states must buy their oil at the worldwide Brent price.

But the new pipeline, called the Seaway, now has the capacity to carry all that new crude to the coast for export.

This means the bottleneck at Cushing will ease, which means less supply for people who buy at Cushing.

This means…higher gas prices.”

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$BA’s Dreamliner Glitches May Turn Out to Be a Nightmare Giving Engineers a Bargaining Labor chip

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – An escalating series of mishaps on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner has dealt engineers pushing for a new contract a strong card to play at the negotiating table.

The engineers are considered by aviation experts to be crucial to a safety review of the 787 that the Federal Aviation Administrationlaunched last week after a fire, fuel leaks and other failures sparked widespread fears about the new jet.

The safety concerns threatened to turn into a full-blown crisis for Boeing on Wednesday when Japan’s two leading airlines grounded their 24 Dreamliner passenger jets when one of the aircraft made an emergency landing after instruments indicated a battery error and smoke. [ID:nL1E9CGFCI] The Japanese aircraft account for nearly half the 50 Dreamliners now flying.

On Wednesday, the union made a “best and final” offer to Boeing, proposing to incorporate areas where the two sides had already agreed into the expired contract and extend it for four more years.

This would end “protracted and increasingly contentious negotiations that appear headed for a strike,” the union said and allow Boeing and its workers “to focus on reaffirming confidence and proving the 787 is the reliable and safe product employees know it to be.”

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the offer.

Experts said a walkout by engineers would impede both the safety review and Boeing’s ambitious effort to double production of the 787 this year because key people with knowledge of the aircraft and the clearance to certify that production lines are meeting FAA requirements would be taken away….”

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$EBAY Tops Estimates, Pops in A.H., Guides In Line

“SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – EBay Inc reported holiday quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations as the e-commerce company benefited from a boom in mobile shoppers, but it gave a 2013 forecast in line with analyst estimates, restraining share price gains.

The stock rose 1 percent to $53.43 in after-hours trading following the announcement.

Expectations were high ahead of the results because sales data from outside sources suggested strong sales growth from eBay’s online marketplace and a solid increase in transactions processed by the company’s PayPal payments business.

EBay’s online marketplace, one of the largest in the world, has lagged behind the growth of e-commerce and Amazon.com Inc for several years. But under Chief Executive John Donahoe, eBay has invested to improve the buying experience by upgrading search capabilities and prodding sellers to provide more services such as free shipping and easier returns.

The explosive growth of mobile shopping and popular mobile shopping applications have also attracted millions of new consumers to eBay’s marketplace and PayPal in the past year.

“These are great numbers,” said Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management, which owns eBay shares. “The marketplace business used to be a noose around their neck, but now it’s a key destination for people wanting to buy new goods as well as existing goods.”

Amazon shares edged up less than 1 percent to $269.50 in after-hours trading, close to a record. The world’s largest Internet retailer is due to report fourth-quarter results on January 29.

On Wednesday, eBay said fourth-quarter revenue jumped 18 percent to $3.99 billion. Profit came in at $927 million, or 70 cents a share, in the period. That compares with profit of $789 million, or 60 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

EBay was expected to earn 69 cents a share on revenue of $3.98 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S….”

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