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Showing posts from June 20, 2013

TV network wary after past racial slur by celebrity chef Paula Deen

One of U.S. celebrity chef Paula Deen's employers said on Thursday it was monitoring the controversy over her admission that she has used a racial slur in the past, while Deen's own company said the cooking star does not condone racism. In a May 17 court deposition that surfaced on Wednesday, Deen, who is white, was asked if she had used the so-called N-word, a racial epithet directed against African-Americans, to which she responded: "Yes, of course."   The Food Network, which broadcasts two popular shows featuring Deen and her Southern cooking, said it was keeping an eye on the flap resulting from her statements that have been widely criticized on social media. "Food Network does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion," the network said. The videotaped deposition was taken as part of a lawsuit by a former employee of Paula Deen Enterprises, Lisa Jackson, who is suing Deen and her brother Earl &quo

Gandolfini gone, 'Sopranos' may get only brief bump

A spike in sales of "The Sopranos" DVDs, downloads and merchandise based on the mafia series following star James Gandolfini's death may only be short-lived and likely won't provide much of a windfall for HBO and its parent Time Warner Inc. Sales of DVDs on the retail site Amazon shot up in the hours immediately following the 51-year-old star's death in Italy on Wednesday. "The Sopranos: The Complete Series," which sells for $124.99 on the site, by late Thursday had jumped to second place among best-sellers from 1,463 on that list.   The series' first season was also ranked No. 4 on Apple's iTunes list. "It's a one-day wonder, and it won't last," said Alan Gould, media analyst with Evercore Partners, who follows Time Warner. Old episodes will likely generate a lot of streaming, especially since kids are home from college, but it's unlikely to last beyond four to six months, said TV consultant, Adam Armbruster, a partn

UPDATE 1-U.S. senator says Booz Allen hired convict for classified job

Senator Bill Nelson said contractor Booz Allen Hamilton had hired an employee convicted of lying to the U.S. government for a position in which he would handle classified documents. Nelson, a Florida Democrat, called on the Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct an investigation broadly into how contractors are handling employees with top secret clearance. He said he is alarmed by the combination of this incident and the more recent revelation that a National Security Agency contractor who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton leaked sensitive government documents. Nelson, in a letter to Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein, said these incidents merit a probe "to determine more broadly how private contractors are managing the hiring and monitoring of employees who have top secret clearance from the government."   A spokesman for Booz Allen Hamilton declined to comment. Nelson said he was reminded earlier this week of a situation in which Booz Allen Hamilton hired a man

UPDATE 3-Sprint raises Clearwire bid, wins key investor support

Sprint Nextel Corp raised its buyout offer for Clearwire Corp to $5 per share on Thursday and announced support from a key group of dissident shareholders, likely ending a bitter battle with rival suitor Dish Network Corp. Sprint, currently Clearwire's majority shareholder, has been fighting publicly with Dish over Clearwire since January as both companies want Clearwire's vast trove of valuable wireless airwaves to help them compete in wireless services. Clearwire put its support behind the latest offer, representing the second major blow in a matter of days against Dish Chairman and founder Charlie Ergen, who wants to expand his satellite TV company into the wireless market.   Earlier this week Ergen had to back out, at least for now, from a battle with Japan's SoftBank Corp to buy Sprint itself. Dish declined comment on the new Clearwire offer. Several analysts said they now expect Sprint to prevail. "We believe Clearwire shareholders will approve the $5 off

U.S. FDA expands "morning after" pill approval after court order

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday expanded its approval of the so-called "morning after" contraceptive pill to include all women of child-bearing age to comply with an order from a U.S. District court. _0"> The FDA said the Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive, which is sold by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, would be made available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product without age or point-of-sale restrictions. Plan B One-Step is a single dose pill intended to reduce the chance of pregnancy following unprotected sex or suspected contraceptive failure, such as a broken condom. "Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States," Janet Woodcock, long-time director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. The FDA initially objected to, and appealed, a court decision ordering it to remove age restr

S.Korean shipper STX Pan Ocean seeks protection from US creditors

The bulk shipper STX Pan Ocean Co Ltd filed for protection under U.S. bankruptcy law on Thursday to shield its assets from creditors in the United States, less than two weeks after filing for court receivership in South Korea . _0"> STX sought protection under Chapter 15 under the U.S. bankruptcy code with the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan. The company had previously said it needed protection because it faced "a liquidity crunch" that left it unable to obtain sufficient funds to repay its debt, which recently totaled about 5.51 trillion won (now US$4.81 billion).   In Thursday's filing, two court-appointed administrators for STX said the company has struggled with a shrinking profit margin amid a decline in the value of dry bulk shipping contracts. They said STX has several long-term contracts that will prove profitable and around which it intends to reorganize. The filing seeks recognition of the Korean proceeding as a "foreign main proceeding

UPDATE 2-Sour gas leak prompts evacuations in Alberta town

A pipeline carrying deadly sour natural gas ruptured in Turner Valley in southern Alberta on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of some of the town's 2,100 residents, the Alberta Energy Regulator said.   The regulator said it is working with pipeline owner Legacy Oil and Gas Inc and the local government of Turner Valley, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Calgary, to respond to the leak. The gas contains 1 percent hydrogen sulfide. While no injuries have been reported due to the leak, hydrogen sulfide can cause serious injury or even death at levels as small as 100 parts per million. In smaller doses, it will cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat. "The Town of Turner Valley has evacuated some residents as a precautionary measure. Legacy Oil and Gas has enacted its emergency response plan and is taking measures to manage the incident," the regulator said in a statement. Turner Valley and many other municipalities in southern Alberta, including the city of

UPDATE 4-Oracle's software sales disappoint, stock plummets

Oracle Corp missed expectations for software sales and subscriptions for the second straight quarter, sending its shares plunging as investors worried CEO Larry Ellison may have trouble getting the technology giant back on track. On Thursday, Oracle executives forecast that new software sales and subscriptions will rise 0 percent to 8 percent this quarter and blamed weakness in the past quarter on disappointing sales in Asia and Latin America.   Oracle, which is trying to fend off and other increasingly aggressive rivals focused on providing software over the cloud or Internet, plans to move its stock listing to the New York Stock Exchange in July from the Nasdaq , a major win for the older bourse. Executives said the move was in shareholders' best interests, without elaborating. Oracle also said it would double its quarterly dividend to 12 cents a share. "Organic growth is slowing and the company has a lot of pressures it has to deal with. They're la

UK cost agency turns down Sanofi bowel cancer drug

Sanofi's new bowel cancer drug Zaltrap is not worth using on Britain's state health service given its high price, the country's healthcare cost watchdog said on Friday. _0"> The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said the medicine was clinically effective but it could not be considered a cost-effective use of National Health Service resources - even though Sanofi offered a discount.   The draft decision, which is now open to consultation, will be a disappointment for the French drugmaker and its U.S. biotech partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It is not a complete surprise, however, since NICE previously turned down a similar medicine, Avastin, made by Roche. Zaltrap, like Avastin but through a different approach, blocks a protein called VEGF that tumours employ to create blood vessels that provide them with nutrients. The cost of Zaltrap has also been in the spotlight in the United States, after doctors at New York's Memorial Sloa

UPDATE 1-Testing shows big improvement in Lockheed unmanned minehunter

An unmanned minehunting vehicle developed by Lockheed Martin Corp has shown improved reliability in new tests, moving it a step closer to use on U.S. warships, the Navy said on Thursday. An improved version of the Remote Minehunting System has completed 850 hours of testing, paving the way for 10 weeks of development and operational testing this fall, which should allow the system to go into use in 2015. "Ultimately, this system is going to take sailors out of the minefield," Steve Lose, the Navy's program manager for the Lockheed system, told Reuters in a telephone interview.   Hunting for mines in harsh, murky waters is a critical mission for the Navy. It is keen to shift that work to unmanned systems and keep sailors out of harm's way. Sea mines are inexpensive weapons that are readily available to terrorists, rogue nations and potential adversaries. Lockheed's Remote Minehunting System combines a diesel-powered, stealthy unmanned vehicle, or Remote Multi-

Second United Dreamliner diverted with oil-related problem

United Airlines said on Thursday one of its Boeing Co 787 Dreamliners was diverted from its trans-Atlantic flight plan because of a low oil indication, making it the second 787 flight in three days to be cut short due to an oil-related problem. _0"> United flight 125 from London's Heathrow airport to Houston diverted to Newark, New Jersey due to a low oil indication, United said in an emailed statement. The airline said the aircraft landed normally and without incident around 2:15 p.m. local time and customers were put on other flights.   The unscheduled diversion follows an incident on Tuesday, when a United 787 on its way to Tokyo from Denver was diverted to Seattle after an indication of a problem with an oil filter in an engine. That plane also landed without incident. Boeing said the two incidents were not related. "We will work with United and General Electric to complete the appropriate maintenance and testing activities, and return the airplane to service

Rio Tinto's says Oyu Tolgoi first exports delayed by Mongolia govt

Rio Tinto said its plan to start shipping copper from the $6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper mine on Friday has been delayed at the request of the Mongolian government. _0"> "Oyu Tolgoi is ready to start its first shipments of copper concentrate from its Mongolian mine and all necessary permits to do so have been received from relevant authorities," Rio Tinto spokesman Bruce Tobin said. "However, plans to start shipping on Friday 21 June have been postponed at the request of the Government of Mongolia."   The company, whose Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd unit owns 66 percent of the mine, had earlier planned an event to mark the first shipment on June 14 which was then rescheduled to June 21.

UPDATE 1-CME raises margins for gold as prices drop

The CME Group Inc, parent of the Chicago Board of Trade, raised initial margins for Comex gold after prices plunged to their lowest in three years on Thursday. Gold prices plunged over 5 percent to the lowest in three years on Thursday, leading a global market rout one day after the U.S. Federal Reserve gave its most explicit signal yet that it plans to wind down the era of easy money. The exchange operator raised Comex 100 Gold Futures (GC)initial margins for speculators 25 percent to $8,800 per contract from $7,040.   Spot gold hit a low of $1,276.19 an ounce on Thursday, marking its lowest level since Sept. 21, 2010. US Gold hit a low of $1,275.40. CME also lifted Platinum futures NYMEX (PL) initial margins for speculators by 12.5 percent to $3,465 per contract from $3,080. Platinum dropped 4.2 percent to $1,363.80 an ounce on Thursday. It touched a low of $1,355.20. Spot gold was trading up 0.40 percent at $1,282.76 and spot platinum was trading up 0.18 percent at $1,359 b

UPDATE 2-ADM says in talks to sell multi-billion dollar cocoa unit

Archer Daniels Midland Co said on Thursday it is in talks to sell its cocoa business in a further sign that the U.S. agribusiness giant is focusing on expanding its footprint in the burgeoning global grains sector. A sale of ADM's cocoa division, one of the world's largest and estimated to be worth $2 billion, would be the second major deal in the industry in just over six months. "We are currently engaged in discussions about the potential sale of our cocoa business," a statement said. The company is one of the four "ABCD" companies that have dominated the global trade in agricultural goods for decades.   The identity of potential suitors is not known, although the Illinois-based company first sounded out potential purchasers about 18 months ago and has held more discussions recently, the Financial Times reported on Thursday citing people familiar with the situation. The newspaper was the first to report the talks. Few other details were available, bu

Asteroid-mining firm meets $1 million crowd-funding goal

A start-up asteroid mining firm that launched a crowd-funding campaign to gauge interest in a planned space telescope reached its $1 million goal, company officials said on Thursday. Bellevue, Washington-based Planetary Resources intends to build and operate telescopes to hunt for asteroids orbiting near Earth and robotic spacecraft to mine them.   The company, whose financial backers include Google's founders, also envisions a companion educational and outreach program to let students, museums and armchair astronomers make use of the first telescrope that Planetary Resources plans to build, called Arkyd. Three weeks ago, Planetary Resources launched a crowd-funding initiative on Kickstarter to assess interest in the project and set a goal of raising $1 million by June 30. "It surpassed that amount Wednesday night," company spokeswoman Stacey Tearne wrote in an email. "We currently have 12,000-plus backers who have pledged just over $1.07 million," Tearne

UPDATE 2-Mongolia tells Rio Tinto to delay Oyu Tolgoi copper exports

Rio Tinto said its plan to start exporting copper from the $6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper mine on Friday has been delayed at the request of the Mongolian government, ahead of a presidential election on June 26. Journalists had been invited last week to attend a ceremony at the copper and gold mine on June 14 to mark the first exports. That was postponed to June 21, but the event was again cancelled at the last minute.   "Oyu Tolgoi is ready to start its first shipments of copper concentrate from its Mongolian mine and all necessary permits to do so have been received from relevant authorities," Rio Tinto spokesman Bruce Tobin said on Friday. "However, plans to start shipping on Friday 21 June have been postponed at the request of the government of Mongolia." The company declined to comment on what was behind the latest delay. The event on June 14 had been postponed due to a demand from the government that Rio Tinto keep all export revenue in Mongolia, Prime

REUTERS SUMMIT-Box's sales model evolves as "inevitable" IPO nears -CEO

Box, the closely watched data storage company, is shifting its growth strategy ahead of an initial public offering that could come in 2014, Chief Executive Aaron Levie told the Reuters Global Technology Summit . In its early years as a scrappy startup, Levie advocated a sales strategy that sought to convince individual employees or small units within larger companies to use his service for free, before charging them for additional features.   The 8-year-old Mountain View, California-based company has swapped that "freemium" business model and is now investing heavily in selling directly to chief information officers at the top of the corporate hierarchy, Levie said. He acknowledged the expense associated with such a strategy but said it was necessary. "You get to a certain scale where that business model hits a limit. There's no way to sell to Procter & Gamble, Coke, Disney, Walmart" without a direct sales effort, Levie said at the summit in San Franci

Gandolfini gone, 'Sopranos' may get only brief bump

A spike in sales of "The Sopranos" DVDs, downloads and merchandise based on the mafia series following star James Gandolfini's death may only be short-lived and likely won't provide much of a windfall for HBO and its parent Time Warner Inc. Sales of DVDs on the retail site Amazon shot up in the hours immediately following the 51-year-old star's death in Italy on Wednesday. "The Sopranos: The Complete Series," which sells for $124.99 on the site, by late Thursday had jumped to second place among best-sellers from 1,463 on that list.   The series' first season was also ranked No. 4 on Apple's iTunes list. "It's a one-day wonder, and it won't last," said Alan Gould, media analyst with Evercore Partners, who follows Time Warner. Old episodes will likely generate a lot of streaming, especially since kids are home from college, but it's unlikely to last beyond four to six months, said TV consultant, Adam Armbruster, a partn

UPDATE 2-U.S. contractor that vetted Snowden is under investigation

A U.S. government watchdog is examining a contractor that conducted a 2011 background investigation into Edward Snowden, the source of recent leaks about U.S. secret surveillance programs. Patrick McFarland, the inspector general for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, told lawmakers on Thursday that his office is probing USIS, a Falls Church, Virginia-based company that is the largest private provider of federal government background checks. The USIS investigation predates the Snowden scandal, but McFarland told the homeland security subcommittee hearing that there are now concerns that USIS may not have carried out its background check into Snowden in an appropriate or thorough manner.   The hearing helped underscore questions lawmakers have about the widespread use of contractors in sensitive intelligence work and the oversight of those employees. Not only is much intelligence work handled by contractors, but private contractors also conduct roughly 75 percent of federal g

UPDATE 1-USDA tests grain, probes Colorado storage site in GMO wheat mystery

The U.S. Agriculture Department, probing how a genetically engineered trait entered an Oregon wheat field and the extent of the contamination, has tested a dozen wheat samples and is looking at a national seed storage facility in an effort to resolve the mystery and calm a troubled market for U.S. wheat exports, a spokesman said on Thursday. The government has tested eight samples of seed and four grain samples and none of the more than 100 tests conducted have turned up positive for the experimental genetically engineered trait that was found contaminating the Oregon wheat field this spring, said Ed Curlett, a spokesman for the USDA.   Curlett said the government tested nine "pools" from each of the 12 samples for detection of as small a contamination level as 0.003 percent, or roughly one in about 30,000 kernels. "Our ongoing investigation seeks to determine how the incident with GE wheat in Oregon occurred, and all leads are being pursued," he said. Industry

Plane makers squeeze suppliers as sales soar

It should be a bonanza for suppliers: $135 billion in new orders booked by Boeing ( id="symbol_BA.N_0"> BA.N ) and Airbus ( id="symbol_EAD.PA EAD.PA ) at the Paris Airshow this week. _1"> Yet companies that make everything from overhead bins to cockpit controls are under mounting pressure to cut prices.   One such company is Renton Coil Spring, which has products on the biggest world's jetliner, the Airbus A380, on Boeing's jets and even fighter aircraft including the F16. Boeing and others are asking it to make production more efficient and to share the savings in a growing "pay-to-play" system, said Charles Pepka, CEO of the company based in Renton, Washington. Partnering for Success is what Boeing CEO Jim McNerney calls it - a way for Boeing to help suppliers to install the same lean-manufacturing techniques Boeing is using to improve quality and speed at its own factories. From Boeing's point of view, this helps suppliers to cu

New Heinz owners shake up management after takeover

H.J. Heinz Co announced the departure of 11 executives on Thursday in a management shakeup less than two weeks after its new owners, 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway Inc ( id="symbol_BRKa.N_0"> BRKa.N ), closed their $28 billion acquisition. _0"> The world's largest ketchup maker revealed a new management team of 11 executives, nine of whom are already with Pittsburgh-based Heinz.   "This announcement demonstrates the power and potential of meritocracy at work here at Heinz," said Bernardo Hees, who recently became chief executive officer after leading Burger King Worldwide Inc ( id="symbol_BKW.N_1"> BKW.N ), another 3G investment. Two of the new executives have ties to 3G, a private equity firm with Brazilian roots and a reputation for aggressive cost-cutting. One is Paulo Basilio, whose appointment as chief financial officer was announced on June 7, when the deal closed. The other is Eduardo Pelleissone, who joins as executive vi

SEC charges China MediaExpress, CEO with fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged defunct company China MediaExpress and its chief executive officer on Thursday with misleading investors, the agency's latest case alleging fraud at a U.S.-listed China-based company. The SEC alleges that China MediaExpress falsely reported increases in its business operations, profits and overall financial condition as soon as it became a publicly traded company in October 2009 through a backdoor method known as a "reverse merger."   Its chairman and chief executive, Zheng Cheng, also signed and attested to the accuracy of false public filings, and later tried to pay off a senior accountant who was investigating possible fraud at the company, the SEC alleged. An attorney for the company did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment. Nasdaq delisted the company's stock In May of 2011. The SEC deregistered its securities in March 2012. The China MediaExpress case is the latest in a long-running crackd

VW's Audi swaps R&D chiefs as criticism grows: source

Volkswagen's ( id="symbol_VOWG_p.DE_0"> VOWG_p.DE ) Audi unit will swap development chiefs for a second time in less than a year, causing a stir at the luxury carmaker as it fights to close the gap with rival BMW. Wolfgang Duerheimer, previously CEO of ultra-luxury brands Bentley and Bugatti, will be sacked 10 months after becoming Audi development chief and replaced by VW brand research head Ulrich Hackenberg, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday. German magazine Spiegel Online reported the latest reshuffle earlier in the day. The departure of Duerheimer, a former Porsche executive, follows growing criticism by top managers at VW group who think their premium brand's surge is losing momentum. Audi, which touts "advancement through technology", has become a follower of technology trends too often set by luxury-market leader BMW ( id="symbol_BMWG.DE_1"> BMWG.DE ) and is too dependent on China , a senior VW group exe

Perelman company reaches another settlement with government

A company owned by Ronald Perelman has agreed to pay $720,000 to settle Department of Justice charges over a stock purchase, the second time this month that the billionaire financier agreed to penalties to resolve civil charges by the federal government. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings agreed to make the payment to end an antitrust case over its failure to report its June 2012 purchase of more shares in Scientific Games Corp ( id="symbol_SGMS.O_0"> SGMS.O ), which provides lottery and gaming services, despite passing an ownership threshold requiring such reporting, the Justice Department said. The accord follows an unrelated June 13 settlement in which Revlon Inc ( id="symbol_REV.N_1"> REV.N ) agreed to pay $850,000 to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it deceived shareholders and independent directors about a failed 2009 transaction with Perelman to take the cosmetics company private. MacAndrews & Forbes owns more than three

Facebook rolls out video for Instagram

Facebook Inc introduced video for its popular photo sharing application Instagram in an attempt to go to head-to-head with rival Twitter. The world's No. 1 social network said on Thursday its more than 130 million Instagram users can now record and post 15 second videos on the platform.   The move takes aim at Twitter's Vine video platform that allows users to record and share six-second videos. "There's definitely a one-upmanship going on," said Brian Blau, research director, at Gartner. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom were on hand to unveil the offering at Facebook's Menlo Park, California headquarters. Among the features of Instagram video, which works with Apple's iOS and Google Android operating system, are a video stabilization technology and spate of custom design filters. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012 as a way to keep its users hooked on new features weeks before the s

Madoff trustee cannot sue big banks, U.S. court rules

The trustee seeking money for Bernard Madoff's victims suffered a big defeat as a federal appeals court rejected his bid to recover nearly $30 billion from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other banks he accused of aiding in the swindler's fraud. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said on Thursday trustee Irving Picard lacked standing to pursue a variety of claims on behalf of former Madoff customers.   It also said that because Picard "stands in the shoes" of the former Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, he could not pursue other claims on behalf of the firm's bankruptcy estate over a fraud that the firm itself orchestrated. Thursday's 3-0 decision, written by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, is a victory for JPMorgan, which had been Madoff's main bank, as well as Britain's HSBC Holdings Plc, Italy's UniCredit SpA and Switzerland's UBS AG. Unless Picard successfully appeals, it also limits how much he will have to distribu