Friday, April 3, 2009

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler will receive bridge loans from the government of Canada and the provincial government of Ontario, however no more will be forthcoming from either Canadian or US governments unless the companies can reinvent themselves.

“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy. We are doing this on the assumption that we obviously cannot afford either in the United States or Canada a catastrophic short-term collapse.” said Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

“We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success,” said Barack Obama, President of the United States. “These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.”

Chrysler will receive CA$1 billion and may in fact be eligible for as much as CA$4 billion. If Chrysler succeeds in the next 30 days with a restructuring plan it would be eligible for a US$6 billion loan. A part of Chrysler’s restructuring plan must include a partnership with Fiat within 30 days to appease the US administration. Fiat is a supplier of smaller fuel-efficient vehicles, and the merger will help Chrysler to be viable in the North American market. A Chrysler court bankruptcy would inevitably lead to it being sold off.

As a part of Chrysler’s restructuring plans, Tom LaSorda, the president of Chrysler announced that Canadian operations would fold if it does not receive both the US commitment of $2.3 billion of aid and a new Canadian Auto Workers CAW contract to reduce all-in costs by CA$19 per hour. As a result of this announcement Chrysler’s auto sales volume in Canada dropped 23% compared to March of 2008.

GM has until the end of May to restructure its company to receive up to CA$7.5 billion. As part of the companies restructuring, General Motor’s chief executive Rick Wagoner was replaced Sunday with Fritz Henderson, the current chief operating officer. Henderson spoke out on Tuesday that GM has submitted a restructuring plan which would close five plants, and this may be increased to meet the requirements for financial aid. He is in full compliance with Obama’s auto task force to seek bankruptcy if GM cannot negotiate with their unions, bondholders and others.

GM recently brought forward the “GM Total Confidence” program providing consumer purchase protection for customers who lose their job for economic reasons within the first two years from purchase. As a result of Chrysler’s restructuring announcement in Canada, GM’s Canadian vehicle sales volume fell only 17.3% compared to 2008, an increase from the previous month.

GM must reduce some of its legacy costs which include its pensions and union health care costs. A part of GM’s ailments arose from investing in supplying truck and SUVs during an economy of high gas prices when consumers were demanding fuel efficient vehicles.

Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Industry, is hoping that the CAW will support the restructuring process and re-negotiate their agreement. Whereas a United Auto Workers negotiator has said, “I don’t see how the UAW will do anything until they see what the bondholders will give up.”

The Obama administration is looking toward bankruptcy proceedings for the automakers, “as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. [It will] quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down. What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognise that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts.” said Obama.

The auto parts suppliers and IT software exporters in India have already been affected by the declining auto sales. GM and Chrysler software contracts provide US$300 to 350 million a year to vendors in India. As well these two major automakers usually award US$1 billion contracts to auto parts suppliers. “We are worried and closely watching the developments in the US to gauge the impact. The decline in auto sales in the US has already hit the order books of Indian suppliers,” said a Delhi auto parts supplier.

“Going forward, the industry will undoubtedly be smaller, but if our efforts are successful it will be viable and it will support good jobs for Canadians,” said Clements.

Betty Sutton, Ohio’s Congresswoman put forward the CARS act which provides a US$3,000 to 5,000 incentive for those who trade in their vehicle for a fuel-efficient car. “It clearly stimulates the economy, and it gets the consumer into the showroom and gets them buying again. But importantly — and this is what I particularly like about it — it really helps the environment quite a bit in two respects.” said William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company has not come forward with requests for assistance.

Since December GM and Chrysler have received US$17.4 billion government loans.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

General Motors Corporation (GM), an American automaker which has filed for bankruptcy protection, announced on Friday that the Penske Automotive Group (PAG) was selected to purchase Saturn Corporation. The transaction should be completed in October.

The purchase includes rights to the Saturn brand, its five current models and its dealership network. Two models would be discontinued, the Sky and Astra. GM would continue building the Aura sedan, the SUV’s, Vue and Outlook for at least two more years.

Saturn has 350 dealers across the United States. The dealers employ more than 13,000 jobs and sell only the Saturn autos. Canadian Saturn dealers are not included in the deal.

According to Penske future Saturn vehicles will be fuel economy focused. An expert indicated that this would move Saturn back to its roots of a entry level car company. PAG is in talks with several international automakers to replace GM after 2011. Automotive News reports that Renault Samsung Motors of Korea is the most likely candidate.

Penske wants Jill Lajdziak, Saturn’s general manager, and Tom LaSorda, former Chrysler President to head up the company when it is independent of GM.

Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc Township, Genesee County, Michigan, is in talks to take a partial ownership in a new Saturn lead by Penske.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NASA celebrated the launch of the first space shuttle Tuesday at an event at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. On April 12, 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-1, the first space shuttle mission.

NASA held a ceremony commemorating the date outside the hangar, known as Orbiter Processing Facility-1, for Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is being prepped for its final mission which will be STS-135, which will be the last Space Shuttle mission.

At the ceremony, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the locations that would be given the three remaining Space Shuttle orbiters following the end of the Space Shuttle program. The prototype orbiter, Space Shuttle Enterprise would be relocated from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.

Space Shuttle Discovery will take the place of Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Discovery has already been retired following the completion of STS-133 last month, its 39th mission. Discovery is undergoing decommissioning and currently being prepped for display by removing toxic materials from the orbiter.

Space Shuttle Endeavour, which will launch on STS-134 at the end of the month on April 29, will be sent to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California following its retirement. Finally, Atlantis will go on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex following the orbiter’s last flight which launches June 28.

Columbia was lost tragically back on February 1, 2003 when it disintegrated during re-entry killing all seven astronauts aboard. Space Shuttle Challenger was lost when it exploded 73 seconds after liftoff back on January 28, 1986 killing all six aboard.

“We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures,” said Bolden to the gathered crowd which contained many KSC employees. “This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA’s remarkable Space Shuttle Program. These facilities we’ve chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors.”

Over twenty locations looked to obtain one of the orbiters because of potential tourism booms from them.

This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA’s remarkable Space Shuttle Program.

Not all were pleased with the final choice of locations. U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas, issued a statement regarding the rejection of Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas as a location. “Like many Texans, I am disappointed with NASA’s decision to slight the Johnson Space Center as a permanent home for one of the Space Shuttle Orbiters. Houston has played a critical role throughout the life of the space shuttle, but it is clear political favors trumped common sense and fairness in the selection of the final locations for the orbiter fleet.”

Cornyn’s statement added, “There is no question Houston should have been selected as a final home for one of the orbiters—even Administrator Bolden stated as much. Today’s announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the State of Texas, and I’m deeply disappointed with the Administration’s misguided decision.” However, the JSC will recieve pilot and commander seats from the flight deck.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington was also proposed as another location for a shuttle, going so far as to build a new building to house an orbiter. In a statement, Governor of Washington Chris Gregoire said, “The Museum of Flight put a tremendous amount of effort into landing a retired shuttle in the Pacific Northwest. As the home of modern day air travel and the 747, which has gracefully transported shuttles for the last 30 years, Seattle would have been a perfect fit. While the Museum of Flight was in the top running, I’m disappointed that NASA did not choose them.

“However, the full fuselage trainer, that every astronaut including [former Museum of Flight CEO] Bonnie Dunbar has been trained on, will soon call the Museum of Flight home. The largest of the trainers, this addition will allow visitors to actually climb aboard the trainer and experience the hands-on training that astronauts get. Visitors will not be allowed in the other shuttles and this trainer is a true win for our dynamic museum. It will help inspire young people to the adventure of space and to the excitement of a career in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Today’s announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the State of Texas, and I’m deeply disappointed with the Administration’s misguided decision.

Other items include various shuttle simulators which will be given to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Oregon, and Texas A&M’s Aerospace Engineering Department. The nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and orbital maneuvering system engines for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

NASA is also offering shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students.

The 30th anniversary of the first shuttle mission coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight when Yuri Gagarin lifted off aboard Vostok 1 into space.

CIA gives up search and interrogation on Iraq WMDs

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20
May

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) says it finished interrogating the nearly 105 Iraqi scientists it held in its search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In many cases their information was helpful, but in other cases the wrong people were detained, and were subjected to questioning by “inexperienced and uninformed” interrogators.

From an update to the Comprehensive Report of the Special Adviser to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, “As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible. After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted.

“As far as the WMD investigation is concerned, there is no further purpose in holding many of these detainees. These individuals have shown no reluctance to engage in further discussions should the need for questioning arise about past WMD programs.”

Elsewhere, “Some may have other issues to account for, including Regime finance questions, but certainly some have been quite helpful toward the compilation of an accurate picture of the Regime’s WMD efforts and intentions over the last three decades.”

The comments were addenda and an accompanying note, supplemental to the original report, which was issued last autumn, and seen as the final report of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). They were added by Charles Duelfer, head of the ISG, and Special Adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence in Baghdad.

Deulfer emphasised that more information is likely to emerge naturally, over time, from people with differing viewpoints and interests. And a backlog of documents recovered from the former regime remain to be examined.

He described the ISG investigation as hampered by:

  • The security situation
  • The quality of identification, detention, and interview of those involved in the Iraqi WMD effort
  • Other internal procedural weaknesses
  • Constant personnel rotations.

A preference for reinforcement of short-term security on the part of the coalition forces over anti-proliferation efforts, fear of arrest and detention on the part of the Iraqi personnel, and other factors in the continuing conflict of the post-war environment, all impacted on the effort by the ISG.

The report confirms the expressed opinion of former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, that Iraq had no significant WMDs. “[T]here was not a single intelligence service in the world that said Iraq maintained massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,” Ritter said at the time.

Duelfer summary of the intelligence obtained, as understood by the ISG, includes, “[T]he risk of Iraqi WMD expertise of material advancing the WMD potential in other countries is attenuated by many factors and is presently small …”

And, “So far, insurgent efforts to attain unconventional weapons have been limited and contained by coalition actions.”

Also, “There continue to be reports of WMD in Iraq. ISG has found that such reports are usually scams or in misidentification of materials or activities. In a very limited number of cases they have related to old chemical munitions produced before 1990.”

The new addenda included information on the Iraqi Military Industrial Commission, the “state-run military-industrial complex” which played a “central role in the evolution of all the Regime’s weapons programs”.

Several groups seek to purchase Saturn auto brand

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19
May

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Penske Automotive Group, Inc., an Ohio-based investment group and Telesto Ventures have indicated separately that they are interested in purchasing the Saturn auto brand from General Motors (GM).

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nissan-Renault is interested in purchasing Saturn. Bloomberg, however, indicated that Nissan-Renault may be a partner of Penske’s potential bid. If Penske acquired the brand, they would distribute Saturn vehicles and outsource the assembly.

GM revealed that the Saturn brand along with Saab and Hummer were up for sale when unveiling their restructuring plans to Congress for governmental loans. While the Pontiac brand was originally to be a niche brand, GM had changed their plans recently and decided to eliminate the brand.

Telesto Ventures is an investment group that includes private equity firm Black Oak Partners LLC of Oklahoma City and several Saturn dealerships. Initially, Telesto will purchase Saturn branded cars from GM then act as a general retailer for foreign brands. Telesto is in talks with several foreign manufacturers.

The Ohio group includes many former senior auto company managers plus private financial backers, chemists and engineers who live in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Florida. This group plans to initially purchase cars from GM then purchase existing but closed plants due to automaker restructuring. Additionally, one of the partners indicated a willingness to accept some “legacy” cost in relation to the United Auto Workers. The Ohio group is also pursuing possible loans or other support from national and state governments.

GM is reviewing several offers for Saturn. GM has contracted with S.J. Girsky & Co. to advise them on the sale.

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News briefs:June 2, 2006

Posted by: in Uncategorized
18
May

The time is 18:00 (UTC) on June 2nd, 2006, and this is Audio Wikinews News Briefs.

Contents

  • 1 Headlines
    • 1.1 Consensus reached on incentive package for Iran
    • 1.2 Two Iraqi women, one pregnant, killed by US soldiers
    • 1.3 90 days of hard labor for Abu Ghraib dog handler
    • 1.4 World conference of expatriate Greeks to take place in Athens
    • 1.5 Federal and NSW governments withdraw Snowy Hydro shares
    • 1.6 “Metric tonne” of date rape drug was bound for US
    • 1.7 US accused of sinking The Pirate Bay
    • 1.8 New Zealand’s Taupo Airport worst in the world
    • 1.9 Katharine Close, 13, wins Scripps National Spelling Bee
  • 2 Closing statements

Sunday, September 6, 2009

24-year-old Aman Kassaye, of no fixed abode, is to face a charge of attempted murder for his alleged role in an armed robbery that netted £40 million ($65 million) worth of jewelry from a London store.

Kassaye is the seventh man to be charged, and is also facing prosecution for conspiracy to rob the Graff store in New Bond Street, false imprisonment, and using a handgun to resist arrest. He will appear at Wimbledon magistrates court on Monday.

The other six men have already been remanded in custody until October 23, when they will appear at Kingston Crown Court. All are facing charges of conspiracy to rob, and two of them are also charged with a firearms offense.

43 diamond rings, watches, and bracelets were taken from the store. The theft occurred when two armed and suited men walked in and took an employee hostage. It has been reported they used prosthetic masks made from liquid latex but police have not confirmed this. Amateur footage also shows a shot was fired. No-one was injured.

The robbery is one of the biggest the United Kingdom has seen. After the crime a string of getaway vehicles was used, with police believing several more offenders assisted with this stage of the plan. Although The Telegraph claims no stolen property has yet been recovered, this is also unconfirmed by police.

Toyota accused of misleading public over recalls

Posted by: in Uncategorized
17
May

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota has been accused by a U.S. House of Representatives committee with misleading the public and investigators over its recent recalls.

The accusations, in a statement from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claim that Toyota both relied on a flawed study in its assessment of the issue of sticking accelerator pedals at the heart of the recalls, and then made misleading statements about its response. According to the authors of the letter, Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, Toyota dismissed, rather than investigated, the idea that the cars’ computers were at fault. In a statement, James Lentz, the president of Toyota’s American division, claimed that hardware issues were to blame, and that dealers were repairing the faulty part. Toyota also released a study commissioned from the research firm Exponent that said electronic systems were not to blame.

According to the House committee, however, the study involved only six vehicles, none of which had problems with their electrical systems, and was insufficient to produce an accurate result. “Our preliminary assessment is that Toyota resisted the possibility that electronic defects could cause safety concerns, relied on a flawed engineering report and made misleading public statements concerning the adequacy of recent recalls to address the risk of sudden unintended acceleration.”

The company is under a criminal investigation, and has received two subpoenas for documents from two House committees relating to the recalls, although whether they are directly related to the letter is unclear. The documents are related to accelerator issues in several models, as well as brake problems with the Prius hybrid car, and were served earlier in in February by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Toyota has released upwards of 75,000 pages of documents under the requests.

In a separate, though related, development, it has emerged that Toyota last year negotiated a limited recall for two models, the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES, that were affected by the accelerator recalls, saving the company an estimated $100 million. A confidential internal presentation in July 2009 made the claim, and a month later, a Lexus ES, one of the models under the limited recall crashed in California, killing four people. The claims apparently referenced a September, 2007 recall of floor mats that could trap gas pedals, the same problem that triggered a full recall of numerous Toyota cars to fix the same problem. In the same presentation, the company claimed to have avoided recalls of another model related to rust, as well as delaying new federal safety regulations.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I had an unofficial phone call from Gay Talese last Tuesday. He had just flown back from Colombia and he was cranky. “I’m happy to do an interview with you,” he said, “but what the hell could you ask me that’s not already out there? Have you even bothered to look?!”

“Jeez, Mr. Talese, lots of things,” was my response. I lied. The truth is that when I call people to interview them, I do not have a set of preconceived questions. My agenda is to talk to them and gain a sense of who they are; to flesh them out as humans. To find out what they think about the world around them at that moment. With Gay Talese I had little interest in talking about Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and with Augusten Burroughs I had little interest in discussing Running with Scissors. I want to know what they think about things outside of the boxes people have placed them in.

With a memoirist like Burroughs, even this is a challenge. What parts of his life he has not written about himself, other interviewers have strip-mined. When we met for dinner at Lavagna in the East Village, I explained to Augusten this issue. I suggested we make the interview more of a conversation to see if that would be more interesting. “Instead of you in the catbird seat,” I said, “let’s just talk.”

We struck an instant rapport. What set out to be an hour and half interview over dinner had turned into four hours of discussion about our lives similarly lived. I removed half of the interview: the half that focused on me.

Below is Wikinews reporter David Shankbone’s conversation with writer Augusten Burroughs.


Contents

  • 1 On addiction and getting sober
  • 2 On the Turcottes and his mother
  • 3 On his work
  • 4 On the response to his work from addicts
  • 5 On belief in a higher power
  • 6 On the gay community
  • 7 On his new book, A Wolf at the Table, a memoir about his father
  • 8 On women’s breasts and tattoos
  • 9 On losing his hair
  • 10 Sources