Posts Tagged ‘Court

12
Aug
10

BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

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BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BP has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine related to the deadly 2005 blast at its Texas City refinery and spend $500 million on safety improvements, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The fine relates to BP’s repeated failure to meet safety standards both before and after the explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

BP has also been slapped with huge fines for the pollution released from the troubled facility.

Those fines pale in comparison to the billions the British energy giant is liable for in the wake of the massive oil spill unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico after a deadly explosion sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration initially fined BP a record $21 million after it determined that BP failed to protect its workers ahead of the 2005 blast.

The penalty was increased to $50.6 million in 2009 after inspections found that BP failed to correct significant safety deficiencies.

‘This agreement achieves our goal of protecting workers at the refinery and ensuring that critical safety upgrades are made as quickly as possible,’ said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

‘The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day.’

The settlement does not impact ongoing litigation over the $30 million fine imposed for 439 new ‘willful violations’ discovered in the 2009 inspection.

‘It is perfectly within BP’s means to make that facility safe,’ OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab said in a conference call.

The settlement ‘commits them to a schedule to address those issues and it provides OSHA with an unprecedented level of oversight to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do,’ he added.
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07
Aug
10

A New Supreme Court Justice

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A New Supreme Court Justice
Honoring Elena Kagan

Saturday, August 07, 2010

“This is a good day,” said the President this afternoon. And it was, especially for Elena Kagan, who was being congratulated on her on confirmation as the next Supreme Court Justice. He thanked the other Justices in attendance for coming, and thanked the Senate – in particular Judiciary Chairman Leahy – for their work in the process.

The President noted the bipartisanship in the final vote and recounted the broad support her nomination received across the ideological spectrum:

These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career – as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent – and often irreverent – sense of humor.

These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice – one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes – Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)

In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court – and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.

It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives – how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time.

For her part, Kagan echoed the gratitude for those who worked so hard in the process, and gave a special note of thanks to her family:

Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today – my brothers and sister-in-law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins – and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.

And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying – and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well – is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation – an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.

Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.

Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able.

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• Source(s): The White House
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25
Jul
10

Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

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Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

Sunday, July 25, 2010

••• Ten years to the day after Concorde plunged from the skies near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, victims of the tragedy have been remembered.

Families of the 113 people killed gathered at Gonesse just outside the French capital where the supersonic jet crashed onto a hotel after take-off.
All of the mainly German passengers on board the New York-bound flight perished alongside its Air France crew and four people on the ground.

The Concorde programme itself never recovered. The mythical aircraft was finally retired in 2003.
Controversy still surrounds what went wrong. The verdict in a manslaughter case is due in December.

Continental Airlines and five men went on trial amid claims a small metal strip from a Continental DC10 punctured the Concorde’s tyres on the runway. They all deny the charges against them.

Some defence lawyers argue the supersonic was on fire before it ran over the titanium strip.
» Related: Ten years on, French court asks who’s to blame for Concorde crash
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20
Jul
10

Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

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Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and co-defendant in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the bank defrauded investors, on Monday asked the court to dismiss the case filed against him by the U.S. Regulators.

Tourre, whose emails about a collateralized debt obligation were at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC’s complaint, denied that he made any materially misleading statements or omissions, or behaved wrongly in connection to complex mortgage-linked securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York Tourre “specifically denies he made any materially misleading statements or omissions or otherwise engaged in any actionable or wrongful conduct” stemming from the CDO known as Abacus.
Tourre also argued that neither he nor his employer had a “duty to disclose any allegedly omitted information” in the marketing and sale of the CDO.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the investment bank that it did not reveal that one of its clients, Paulson & Co, played a significant role in the selection of securities contained in the Abacus mortgage portfolio and which was later sold to investors.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the securities in that mortgage portfolio – Abacus – lost more than $1 billion.
Goldman said it was a “mistake” to state that the loans contained in the CDO had been selected by a third party without mentioning the role of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund that bet against the security.

Last week, in a settlement, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges brought in by the SEC. This is reportedly the largest ever for a financial institution and is less than the $1 billion fraud that the Commission alleged.

Tourre, who is the only Goldman Sachs executive named as a defendant in the SEC’s fraud lawsuit, has yet to settle with the regulator. Goldman also agreed to co-operate with the SEC in its case against Tourre.

Goldman Sachs declined $0.49 or 0.34 percent and closed Monday’s regular trading at $145.68. After hours, Goldman Sachs declined further $1.68 or 1.15 percent and traded at $144.00
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02
Jul
10

Judge Grants Bail to One of Alleged Russia Spies

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Judge Grants Bail to One of Alleged Russia Spies

Friday, July 2, 201

••• A prosecutor has warned that a powerful and sophisticated network of U.S.-based Russian agents was eager to help defendants in an alleged spy ring flee the country on bail.

U.S. authorities also said one defendant confessed that he worked for Russia’s intelligence service and others had large amounts of cash.

‘There are a lot of Russian government officials in the United States who are actively assisting this conspiracy,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on Thursday as he argued that those arrested last weekend should remain held without bail.

Ellis ruled that two defendants, Cynthia and Richard Murphy, should remain in custody because there was no other way to guarantee they would not flee since it was unclear who they were.

But he set bail of $250,000 for prominent Spanish-language journalist Vicky Pelaez, a U.S. citizen born in Peru, saying she did not appear to be trained as a spy.

The judge required electronic monitoring and home detention and said she would not be freed before Tuesday, giving prosecutors time to appeal.

Ellis ruled after Farbiarz said the evidence against the defendants continued to mount and the case was solid.

‘Judge, this is a case where the evidence is extraordinarily strong. Prosecutors don’t get cases like this very often,’ he said.

The decision to set bail for one defendant came as police in Cyprus searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find a man who had been going by the name Christopher Metsos, who disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail.

‘This is a case that in the course of less than a week has gotten much, much better,’ Farbiarz said, citing $80,000 in new, hundred dollar bills found in the safe-deposit box of two defendants who had been living in Montclair, NJ.
Farbiarz said a criminal complaint filed against the defendants was ‘relatively long but the complaint is the tip of an iceberg’.

The prosecutor said new evidence included the discovery of multiple mobile phones and multiple currencies in a safe deposit box and other ‘tools of the trade when they’re in this business’.

He said the spy ring consisted of people who for decades had worked to Americanise themselves while engaging in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink, encrypted radio and techniques so sophisticated that prosecutors chose not to describe them in court papers.

If freed, Farbiarz warned, the defendants would certainly flee, using co-conspirators in the United States to disappear and the tentacles of ‘one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world’.

Farbiarz said the defendants have a ‘powerful sophisticated network they can call upon in the United States’.

The prosecutor’s claims were countered by lawyers for several defendants who said that their clients, accused of going undercover in U.S. cities and suburbs, were harmless and should be released on bail.

‘It’s all hyperbole, your honour,’ lawyer Donna Newman said on behalf of Richard Murphy.

She said Murphy was a stay-at-home-dad who did the chores while his wife Cynthia earned a good living.

Farbiarz said the couple was proof that the defendants carried out ‘deception and lies at a systematic level’.

He said U.S. agents had been surveilling them for years and yet ‘after all those years of listening, there is no inkling at all that their children who they live with have any idea their parents are Russian agents’.

Ellis said the disappearance of Metsos after he was granted bail on the Mediterranean island did not affect his ruling.

‘I don’t know what they do in Cyprus,’ the judge said.

Lawyers for Juan Lazaro asked to postpone his bail hearing just hours after prosecutors revealed in a letter to Ellis that Lazaro had made incriminating statements.

U.S. authorities said in their court filing that Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his June 27 arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation, which prosecutors said involved Russian moles on a long-term mission to infiltrate American society.

Among other things, prosecutors said, he admitted that Juan Lazaro was not his real name, that he wasn’t born in Uruguay and wasn’t a citizen of Peru, as he had long claimed, that his home in Yonkers, NY, had been paid for by Russian intelligence and that his wife, Pelaez, had passed letters to the ‘Service’ on his behalf.

He also told investigators that even though he loved his son, ‘he would not violate his loyalty to the ‘Service’ even for his son,’ three assistant U.S. lawyers wrote in a court memo.

They added that Lazaro, who investigators claim spent at least part of his childhood in Siberia, also wouldn’t reveal his true name.

Federal prosecutors said they had searched a safe-deposit box belonging to the Murphys this week and found eight unmarked envelopes each stuffed with $10,000.
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28
Jun
10

Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

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Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Obama administration says it intends to nearly double the available amount of wireless communications spectrum over the next 10 years in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing demand for high-speed video and data transmission to cell phones, laptops and other mobile devices.

The White House said President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Monday committing the federal government to auctioning off 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum.

Revenue from the auctions would be spent on public safety, infrastructure investments and deficit reduction.

National Economic Council director Lawrence H Summers will explain the new policy in a speech on Monday at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

In an excerpt released by the White House, Summers said, ‘This initiative will catalyse private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.’

The administration said it hopes to encourage the spread of wireless broadband across the country, including rural areas.

The auction is intended, in part, to counter fears of a potential ‘spectrum crunch’ as smart phones and laptop computers become more popular and new wireless devices hit the market.
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12
Jun
10

Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

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Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US securities regulators are hunting for fresh dirt on Goldman Sachs Group, hoping to bolster their lawsuit against the bank and perhaps force it to settle on terms more to the regulators’ liking.

Two months ago the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wall Street’s most powerful bank with civil fraud in connection with a subprime mortgage-linked security.

The case hinges on whether Goldman misled investors when it marketed Abacus 2007, a mortgage-linked security that turned toxic during the mortgage crisis.

Now, the SEC is also looking at other collateralized debt obligations that turned toxic, including Hudson Mezzanine Funding, a source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.

“You put a number of things together and then it becomes harder to defend against all of them,” said Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham University School of Law professor and a former federal prosecutor

“So you finally cry uncle and say, ‘Fine, I’ll settle.'”

The expanding investigation of Goldman’s CDOs comes as federal prosecutors probe some of the complex mortgage-linked transactions that Wall Street firms cobbled together and which helped spark the worst financial crisis in decades.

Even the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is getting into the act.

Reuters has learned the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency recently began its own investigation into whether Wall Street banks violated customary sales practices in hawking CDOs to institutional investors.

A document reviewed by Reuters reveals FINRA is looking into potential improprieties in the structuring of the deals and the relationship between the CDO underwriters and mortgage lenders.

Former Goldman customers also are putting pressure on the bank and its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.

Reuters previously reported that SEC lawyers had looked at the $1 billion Timberwolf deal before filing the Abacus lawsuit in April.

The SEC’s interest in the $2 billion Hudson CDO was first reported by the Financial Times.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, during a hearing in April of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, raised Abacus, Timberwolf and Hudson while questioning a cast of past and present Goldman employees, including Blankfein.

In a Senate floor speech in May introducing legislation to curb conflicts of interest in Wall Street deals, Levin zeroed in on Hudson Mezzanine 2006-1.

“When Goldman first sold the securities to its clients, more than 70 percent of Hudson Mezzanine had AAA ratings,” he said. “But … within 18 months Hudson was downgraded to junk status, and Goldman cashed in at the expense of its clients.”

The Hudson deal closed in November 2006 and went into liquidation in May 2008.

The myriad investigations, coupled with the Timberwolf litigation, could create a tipping point at which Blankfein and other Goldman executives decide they have no choice but to reach some sort of comprehensive settlement, according to legal experts.

“Will there be more stuff? At this point, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me,” said White.

At the least, the SEC could be looking to bolster its Abacus case, which some saw as weak. SEC commissioners voted to bring the lawsuit in a split decision.

Fordham’s McAvoy said the SEC’s strategy could be to strengthen the initial case by adding new material from other deals.

“A lot of folks don’t think the initial case is as strong as the SEC made it out to be,” McAvoy said.

Goldman shares are down more than 25 percent since the SEC filed its lawsuit on April 16. The shares were off 2.4 percent to $133.49 in Thursday morning trading.
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05
Jun
10

British Airways cabin crew begin third walkout

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British Airways cabin crew begin third walkout

Saturday, June 5, 2010

NEWS

••• Strike pay has been increased for British Airways cabin crew as they launch their latest wave of five-day walkouts in their bitter row with the airline.

Unite said on Saturday it will pay its members $65 a day, up from $43.36 in previous strikes, and is considering offering interest-free loans of $1.445 for hardship cases.

BA said more crew than expected turned up for work on Saturday at Heathrow airport, meaning it could operate additional flights.

The cabin crew on Saturday staged their 18th day of action since March and will stay out until next Wednesday, raising the cost of the industrial action to BA to well over $216.77 million.

The union is threatening to ballot its members again if the deadlocked row is not resolved, which could disrupt flights throughout the busy summer months.

The impact of the dispute was revealed this week when the airline announced a 14.2 percent dip in passenger numbers last month.

A BA spokesman said on Saturday: ‘Our global operations went very well last week and we have got off to another good start today at the beginning of this strike period.

‘The numbers of crew reporting for work at Heathrow on Saturday has been higher than we expected and as a result we have been able to operate additional flights to Los Angeles, Washington, Mexico City and Phoenix.

‘These flights are in addition to the larger schedule previously announced at Heathrow for this period of strike action.
‘We will continue to operate 100 percent of our schedule at Gatwick and London City airports and our cabin crew at Gatwick continue to ignore Unite’s strike calls and work as normal.’

BA is aiming to operate around 80 percent of long-haul flights from Heathrow over the next five days, up from 70 percent and 60 percent in the past two strike periods, and 60 percent of short-haul flights, up from 55 percent and 50 percent.

Talks between Unite’s joint leader Tony Woodley and BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas ended without agreement last week, with little sign of any progress.

An agreement in principle has been struck over cost-cutting, the original cause of the dispute, but the removal of travel concessions from strikers is now blocking a deal.

Unite has urged BA to fully restore the travel concessions, arguing it would not cost the airline any money.

The union said it believes the next series of strikes will be strongly supported by cabin crew and will have a ‘huge impact’ on flights.

Singer Billy Bragg performed an impromptu gig for the strikers at a football ground near Heathrow on Saturday.

An Acas spokesman said: ‘Acas and the TUC have continued to maintain contact with both BA and Unite since talks were adjourned.

‘It is expected that a date will be agreed shortly for talks to resume.’
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
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• Source(s): British Airways PLC
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23
May
10

British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

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British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

Sunday, May 23, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways cabin crew will go ahead with a wave of strikes from tomorrow after hopes of a last-minute deal collapsed.

The British Airways cabin crew strike set to start at midnight will be suspended if Willie Walsh reinstates staff travel perks, Unite joint leader Tony Woodley has said.

In a last-minute appeal to the BA chief executive outside the union’s HQ in London, Mr. Woodley said he was ‘making a goodwill gesture to the public’.

He added: ‘As a sign of good faith, I’m making this offer now to Willie Walsh.

‘Turn round and reinstate our people’s travel without the unnecessary, vindictive removal of their service and this union will call off tonight’s strike and suspend the action.’

Earlier, it was announced the first of three five-day walkouts will go ahead after a ‘catastrophic’ breakdown in negotiations.

It was thought Mr. Woodley had told union officials there was no chance of resuming talks after the previous meeting was dramatically halted by a Socialist Workers Party protest.

Union sources claimed Mr. Walsh withdrew from further talks this morning – but the airline has said it is ‘willing, available and able’ to return to the negotiating table.

However, now Mr. Woodley has said a deal is ‘very close’ and ‘an agreement in principle on the business issues’ had been reached.

In a sideswipe at the protesters, Mr. Woodley said ‘fantastic progress’ had been made before the meeting was ‘rudely interrupted by our friends from the SWP’.

Only this morning, the BA boss had said there was still ‘an opportunity’ to avoid a strike – but warned contingency plans are in place.
‘British Airways will be flying tomorrow. We will not be grounded by the actions of a tiny minority who are clearly out of touch with reality,’ he told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show.

‘If the strike goes ahead at midnight we are ready.’

Speaking outside Heathrow Airport, Sky News’ Simon Newton said: ‘BA says it plans to operate 60% of long-haul and 50% of short-haul flights out of Heathrow.

‘The advice for passengers is to check with the British Airways website.’

There was a further twist when BA accused Unite’s other joint leader, Derek Simpson, of giving a ‘running commentary’ of the discussions via Twitter.

Mr. Walsh told Marr he had been ‘shocked and angry’ to learn of the tweets, adding: ‘That really does undermine the discussions that took place.
‘If it wasn’t for Derek’s actions and clearly then the mob storming the building, we may have been able to make significant progress.’

The messages which appeared on Twitter were posted under the name derekamicus next to a picture of Mr. Simpson.

One read: ‘Willie and Tony locking horns over accusations of unequal treatment of allegations of bullying.’

It was followed by another which read: ‘Arguments over the 8 sacked workers,’ and then: ‘Fear of more sackings to come.’

But Mr. Woodley said: ‘Never mind travelling the airwaves on Twitter, let’s deal with the issues that matter to the British travelling public.’
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp. and British Airways PLC

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21
May
10

British Airways posts another record annual loss

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British Airways posts another record annual loss

Friday, May 21, 2010

British Airways has posted a record annual net loss of $754 million, due to the recession, a tough winter and strikes by cabin crews in March.

Friday’s earnings update from the carrier – which is currently facing 15 more days of walkouts in a bitter dispute with cabin crews over changes to pay and working conditions – is slightly better than had been feared.

The loss for the year ending March 31 compares with a loss of $517.883 million in the previous year. Revenue dropped 11 percent to $11.558 billion.

British Airways (BA) says it is making progress on a cost savings program that has included cutting jobs. It has warned the Unite union that the disputed changes are necessary for the airline to survive in a post-financial crisis world.

The airline said revenues had plunged by $1.447 billion, although this was offset by falling fuel costs as well as savings elsewhere in the business.

Chief executive Willie Walsh also fired a broadside at unions after Unite on Thursday won its appeal against the latest strikes being ruled out on a technicality.

‘Returning the business to profitability requires permanent change across the company and it’s disappointing that our cabin crew union fails to recognise that,’ he warned.

He added that the current financial year ‘could hardly have had a worse start’ due to the disruption caused by Iceland’s volcanic eruption, which closed most of European airspace for almost a week in April.

Following the court decision, 15 days of strikes are due to kick off on Monday.

But the group said market conditions were showing improvement and BA is expecting to break even this year following its heavy losses.
• Source(s): British Airways PLC and Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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20
May
10

British Airways Strike Injunction Overturned

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British Airways Strike Injunction Overturned

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways cabin crew will go on strike for five days from Tuesday after the Unite union won an appeal against a High Court injunction blocking the action.

A series of five-day walkouts had been due to start this week but last Tuesday the High Court ruled in favour of British Airways as the airline made a last-ditch bid to stop the walkouts, Sky News reported today.

Overnight, two out of three judges sitting at the Court of Appeal in London accepted the union’s challenge to the High Court ruling.

After the decision, Unite announced a five-day strike from Tuesday next week.

British Airways said it was “disappointed for its customers” that Unite’s appeal had been upheld and described the strikes as “unjustified and pointless.”

It said, “We are confident that thousands of cabin crew will ignore Unite’s strike call and help us fly more than 70 percent of the customers who were booked to fly with us in the period targeted.”

The union originally announced four five-day stoppages from May 18-22 inclusive, then from May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9, the last strike ending just two days before the start of the World Cup in South Africa.

Joint Unite leader Tony Woodley repeated his claim the original dispute between British Airways and its cabin crew had been agreed in principle.

He said British Airways now had an “ideal opportunity” to settle the dispute despite the legal wrangle.

Mr. Woodley accused the airline of being “incredibly petty and vindictive” by refusing to fully restore travel concessions to staff who went on strike in March and over disciplinary action taken against more than 50 union members.
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp. and British Airways PLC
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17
May
10

British Airways in court attempt to block strike

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British Airways in court attempt to block strike
Unite spokesman Steve Turner calls a High Court injunction against a planned strike by British Airways cabin crew an ‘affront to democracy’.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways has blocked a series of four five-day strikes by cabin crew after the High Court in London granted an injunction just hours before they were due to start.

The airline, facing mounting chaos because of the industrial dispute coupled with the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, succeeded in its legal action after successfully claiming the cabin crew union’s strike ballot failed to follow rules.

Members of the Unite union had been due to walk out from Tuesday to May 22, with further strikes planned on May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9.

The airline argued Unite had not properly complied with the requirement to send everyone eligible to vote details of the exact breakdown of the ballot result and therefore the strike action was unlawful.

The judge, Richard McCombe, expressed sympathy for the union and its members, but said: I am unable to say it is sufficiently clear that the union took the steps required by law at the time they were required.

Unite, which is locked in an increasingly bitter battle with BA over staffing and pay, strongly criticised the ruling and vowed to appeal.

This judgment is an absolute disgrace and will rank as a landmark attack on free trade unionism and the right to take industrial action, said the union’s leaders, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson.
British Airway said: We are delighted for our customers that Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead.

The airline said it had already been forced to rearrange much of its schedule to accommodate the planned strike, but promised to restore a full flying program at its London Heathrow base by the weekend.

British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, who held separate talks with both sides earlier on Monday, said the judgment was good news for passengers.

I want (both sides) to use this breathing space to resolve this dispute, both to avoid disruption to passengers and to safeguard the future of the airline, he said.

British Airway chief executive Willie Walsh spent three hours in talks on Monday with the Unite leaders and adjourned shortly after the court decision.

There will be further talks but events have been overtaken by the court’s decision, said Walsh.

A British Airway spokesman said: “We are delighted for our customers that Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead. We are sorry the court judgment cannot undo the disruption already suffered by some customers who were due to travel during the early days of the union’s industrial action.

“As Unite knew, we had to announce last Thursday the rearrangement of our Heathrow schedule to give customers as much notice as possible about changes to their travel plans necessitated by the strike call. Ash disruption permitting, we will aim to restore a full flying programme at Heathrow by the weekend. We will also offer a full programme at Gatwick and London City, as planned.”

Unite’s national officer Steve Turner said: “It’s an affront to democracy and our members and we will be fighting back tomorrow.”

It is the second time in the long-running dispute that BA has succeeded in halting a cabin crew strike through legal action.

The airline won a High Court battle in December to stop a 12-day walkout over the busy Christmas and New Year holidays, when a judge granted an injunction.

British Airway also argued on this occasion that Unite’s ballot of staff was invalid.

The airline’s cabin crew staged walkouts in March, which were marked by sharp disagreements between the union and British Airway over the impact of the industrial action.
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Independent Television News (ITN) and British Airways PLC
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17
May
10

No-fly zone lifted from North West airports

NEWS
No-fly zone lifted from North West airports

Monday, May 17, 2010

Earth

••• Planes will be allowed to fly through volcanic ash under new measures announced today by the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.

The announcement of a new Time Limited Zone (TLZ) was made after all UK airspace was reopened yesterday evening.

The CAA said the TLZ – introduced from midday today (local time) – would allow flights for a limited time at higher ash densities than are currently allowed.

To operate in the new zone, airlines need to present the CAA with a safety case that includes the agreement of their aircraft and engine manufacturers.

The CAA said this meant that in future some areas of UK airspace that would have previously had to close would be able to remain open.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “I’m pleased that the huge efforts we’re all making across aviation to keep flying safe while minimising the disruption from the volcano have resulted in further progress.”

The measures follow heavy criticism of the no-fly zones from airline industry chiefs.

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh said blanket bans on flying were “a gross over-reaction to a very minor risk”.

And Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson described the situation as “beyond a joke”.

The announcement came after the U.K.’s National Air Traffic Service confirmed that British airspace was to reopen from 02:00 pm EDT time on Monday until 08:00 pm EDT.

A no-fly zone would remain over parts of the North Sea, affecting some helicopter flights.

The majority of U.K. airports reopened today with only a few – including some in the Shetland Isles – still closed.

Heathrow and Gatwick were among the airports that had closed late on Sunday (local time) when the volcanic ash cloud moved south.
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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01
May
10

Goldman Sachs under criminal investigation

NEWS
Goldman Sachs under criminal investigation

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary criminal investigation into alleged fraud at Goldman Sachs, sending shares in the Wall Street bank plunging.

Sources confirmed the U.S. attorney’s office had begun liaising with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought civil charges against Goldman two weeks ago, accusing it of misleading investors over a $1 billion derivatives deal.

Prosecutors have not yet determined whether there is evidence to bring criminal charges.

Goldman shares fell more than 9 percent on Friday to close at $145. Before the commission sued the company on April 16, its stock stood at $184.

The commission claims the bank cheated customers in a 2007 deal concerning a mortgage-backed security. Goldman allegedly failed to tell investors that U.S. hedge fund Paulson & Co was going “short” by betting that the security would decline in value. Paulson was allegedly allowed to stuff it with mortgages doomed to default. Royal Bank of Scotland backstopped the deal and was left with an $840 million liability.

The British Financial Services Authority is also investigating.

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07
Apr
10

Federal court curbs FCC authority on Web traffic

NEWS
Federal court curbs FCC authority on Web traffic

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to force Internet service providers to keep their networks open to all forms of content, throwing into doubt the agency’s status as the government guardian of the Web.
The FCC has long sought to impose rules requiring Internet providers to offer equal access to all Web sites, a concept known as network neutrality. But in a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the agency lacked the power to stop cable giant Comcast from limiting traffic to a popular file-sharing site called BitTorrent.

While the Comcast case centered on the issue of network neutrality, the court’s ruling could hamper other agency initiatives, including an ambitious plan to expand high-speed Internet service nationwide and enforce new rules that hold carriers to promises of certain speeds for consumers.

The decision could spur the FCC or Congress to rewrite rules or laws to more concretely make the agency a regulator of Internet services.

The agency had intentionally kept its authority over broadband services vague, in hopes of spurring growth by keeping the market for Internet services largely deregulated. A reversal of that framework — which consumer groups have urged — would be strongly opposed by companies that operate Internet networks.

“Comcast swung an ax at the FCC to protest the BitTorrent order and they sliced right through the FCC’s arm and plunged the ax into their own back,” said Ben Scott, police director for public interest group Free Press.
The FCC’s predicament stems from Comcast’s challenge of sanctions the FCC issued against it in 2008.

In a 3-2 vote, the agency found that Comcast had violated open-Internet guidelines by slowing traffic to the BitTorrent file-sharing site. Those guidelines were meant to force broadband providers to treat all traffic equally on their networks, so as not to put any application at a disadvantage.

Comcast appealed the FCC sanction, saying the agency’s order was outside its scope. The court on Tuesday agreed.

Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman, said the company was “gratified” by the decision.

“Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation,” she said.

As a practical matter, the court ruling will not have any immediate impact on Internet users because Comcast and other large Internet providers are not currently restricting specific types of Web content and have no plans to do so.

The decision came as Comcast is pursuing agency approval of its proposed $30 billion merger with NBC Universal.

The cable giant has opposed FCC efforts to impose rules requiring that Internet providers offer equal access to all Web sites. The company argues, as it did in the BitTorrent case, that it needs to be able to limit some users from activities that could slow network operation for many customers, such as downloading massive movie files.

But in hearings on the merger, some lawmakers have said net neutrality rules would ensure that the combined company would not unfairly use its weight against competing Web sites.

Other companies such as Google and Facebook have supported government efforts to push net neutrality. Tuesday’s ruling may encourage the FCC to respond with what Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett calls the “nuclear option” — moving broadband providers into the same category as phone providers, which would subject them to many more rules.

That “would have sweeping implications far, far beyond net neutrality … and would bring back a raft of regulatory obligations from the days of monopoly telecommunications regulation,” Moffett said.

The decision puts in doubt dozens of policies the FCC hopes to roll out as part of the national broadband plan it released last month. It may complicate some reallocation of $8 billion in phone subsidies to build new broadband networks and hinder creation of a wireless public safety network for first responders, public advocacy groups say.

The FCC did not say specifically how it plans to respond to the court’s decision. Agency spokeswoman Jen Howard said it was important that the FCC’s broadband agenda rest on a “solid legal foundation.”

Michael Copps, a Democratic FCC commissioner, said in a statement: “It is time we stop doing the ‘ancillary authority’ dance and instead rely on the statute Congress gave us to stand on solid legal ground in safeguarding the benefits of the Internet for American consumers.”
• Source(s): Federal Communications Commission and Cisco Systems, Inc.

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19
Mar
10

Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

NEWS
Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

Friday, March 19, 2010

Court filings released on Thursday in the bitter $1 billion copyright fight between Viacom and Google’s YouTube show just how far apart the companies remain, as the 3-year-old case winds through federal court.

Viacom, in 108 pages of court documents, portrays YouTube’s founders as reckless copyright violators who were far more concerned with increasing traffic to their site than obeying the law. Even executives at Google, which acquired YouTube for $1.7 billion in October 2006, questioned the ethics of building a site through questionable copyright practices, according to the Viacom filings.

But in the 100-page document filed by Google, perhaps not surprisingly, the search engine tells a different story. Viacom is painted as a media giant trying to play it both ways: demanding that YouTube take down videos even while third parties were uploading Viacom content on the entertainment giant’s behalf. More intriguingly, the parent company of MTV and Paramount Pictures was at one point interested in acquiring the video-sharing site, according to the documents.

“We believe YouTube would make a transformative acquisition for MTV Networks/Viacom that would immediately make us the leading deliverer of video online, globally,” according to an internal Viacom slide that Google filed with the court.

Interesting as the documents may be, it’s not clear which side will benefit most from the disclosures. Google argues that it is protected by the safe-harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says, in short, that if a Web site acts in good faith to take down copyrighted content as soon as it learns of it, and it has not benefited financially through advertising or other means, it is protected from a lawsuit. Viacom is attempting to pierce that protection by proving that YouTube employees, at the very least, knew of rampant copyright violations on their site and did little about it.

U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton, in the Southern District of New York, set March 5 as the deadline for filing for summary judgment and gave the parties until April 30 to file opposing arguments to each other’s motions. All the arguments should be completed sometime in June. If the case proceeds to trial, it should occur sometime this year.

Legal scholars believe that the outcome of this landmark suit could well determine who gets to profit the most from content: the people who pay for its creation, or the people who help disseminate it over the Web. It could also determine whether YouTube, by far the most popular video site, suffers from an original sin of rampant copyright violation before Google took over.

Ill-gotten rewards, destroyed e-mail?
While there are still questions as to how much money Google is or is not making from YouTube, there is little doubt that YouTube’s founders profited handsomely from selling their company less than two years after building the site. According to court records, YouTube founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim walked away with $334 million, $301 million, and $66 million, respectively.

According to Viacom, those were ill-gotten rewards. The three young men had already planned to look the other way, as far as copyright violations were concerned, court documents claim. Their intent was to create the online-video equivalent of Napster and then sell it. To do that, Viacom claims that the team sought ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Viacom said in one e-mail that Chen urged associates to “concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.”

Viacom suggests that it may not have been given the benefit of finding out the whole story at YouTube, whose managers did not turn over some e-mails belonging to Hurley. The reason Google gave for any missing correspondence was that Hurley’s e-mails were accidentally destroyed when his computer suffered a malfunction sometime before the Google acquisition. Viacom said, however, that it was able to retrieve some of Hurley’s e-mails from Karim.

Those e-mails show that YouTube managers knew that employees uploaded unauthorized content and applauded such moves, Viacom claimed.

Google argues that Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails while doing a sloppy cut-and-paste job on some of the YouTube e-mails. In one e-mail from Chen to Karim, it said, Viacom omitted the word “stop” from this passage: “In other news, Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site.”

Google provides several e-mails showing that from the earliest days of YouTube’s existence, the founders sought to protect copyright. In one April 25, 2005, e-mail, Chen tells the other co-founders that videos would be rejected that violated one of the following rules: “video must be about you, must be appropriate for all audiences, cannot contain contact information, no copyrighted material.”

In an apparent attempt to underscore YouTube’s usefulness and to suggest that Viacom is being hypocritical, Google noted that Viacom continues to do business on YouTube.

Even after waging the court battle against Google and YouTube, Viacom continues to permit some of its materials to be posted there, according to a statement entered into the record by David King, who oversees YouTube’s Content Identification System, the technology designed to filter out copyrighted materials and block them from being reposted to the site.

“For some of its reference files, Viacom has instructed the site to block, which means take it down and prevent it from going up again,” King wrote. “But on others, Viacom has instructed YouTube to leave the clips up and provide the company with information “about how YouTube users are engaging with the matching videos.”

Viacom’s attempt to buy YouTube
According to Google, Viacom “thought so highly of YouTube that it tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it” in 2005, the search company wrote. After Viacom’s negotiations to buy YouTube fell through, it took a “strong-arm approach” in talks with Google as the new owner and at that time “deliberately allowed its content to remain on YouTube” to boost the ratings of TV shows.

Viacom, according to Google, was serious enough about acquiring YouTube that it extended an offer. What Viacom suggested to YouTube was that Viacom and Google buy it and operate the service together.

“So the idea would be Viacom and Google buy YouTube,” Adam Cahan, a former executive vice president at Viacom-owned MTV Networks and now the CEO of Auditude, wrote in a cited e-mail. “Viacom legitimizes the content on the site by providing content and developing a business model.”

Some YouTube supporters are bound to wonder whether Viacom’s lawsuit was just retaliation for being outbid by Google.

On the other side, Viacom argues that it was always the intent of YouTube’s founders to draw an audience by piggybacking on the popularity of professionally made clips. But first, Viacom claims that the team tried to come up with ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Google says Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails.

While some of the accusations that each of the parties are flinging at the other are intriguing, many of them will have little or no bearing on the relevant issues. What’s most important now is the judge’s reading of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

Google’s legal defense rests on the wording of the DMCA, whose safe-harbor provision says that as long as the Web site does not have knowledge of “apparent” infringing activity, and as long as it does not receive a “financial benefit”–such as displaying advertisements on the page–it will generally be immune from lawsuits.

Viacom insists that Google doesn’t qualify for the safe harbor because it not only profited by selling ads on the site, but it also built up a large fan base that was drawn by the unauthorized copies of films and TV shows. In addition, Viacom argues that Google had knowledge of copyright violations, as is evidenced in the e-mails from YouTube’s founders.

Whichever way Stanton rules, the losing party will probably appeal. The final outcome of the case will likely help clarify whether protecting intellectual-property rights on the Internet is the responsibility of a copyright owner or a Web site operator.

Regardless, it’s fun reading, if you’re into this kind of thing. Note the concern among Viacom executives that News Corp. would end up owning YouTube instead of them.

Viacom’s statement of undisputed facts

Google’s statement of undisputed facts

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10
Mar
10

Ten years on, French court asks who’s to blame for Concorde crash

NEWS
Ten years on, French court asks who’s to blame for Concorde crash

February 03, 2010

••• U.S. airline Continental and three French aviation officials went on trial outside Paris on Tuesday in connection with the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde leaving Charles de Gaulle airport in which 113 people died.

Nearly a decade after Air France Concorde Flight 4590 crashed shortly after take-off, effectively grounding the legendary supersonic aircraft, the trial of five people in connection with the crash got underway at a specially enlarged courtroom in a Parisian suburb on Tuesday to re-examine the causes of one of aviation’s most high-profile disasters.

U.S. airline Continental, along with two of its employees and three French aviation officials, face charges of manslaughter for the deaths of 113 people in the accident. The victims included 100 passengers, most of them German holidaymakers, as well as nine crew members and four hotel staffers, who were killed when the aircraft rammed into a hotel 1.25 miles from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport after catching fire as it left the ground.

The July 25, 2000, Concorde crash marked a bitter milestone in the history of commercial supersonic flight. After briefly resuming service after the crash, Air France and British Airways suspended their transatlantic supersonic service in April 2003.

Conflicting explanations

Tuesday’s trial is set to examine conflicting accounts of the causes of the crash. The official explanation for the tragic accident is that the aircraft’s undercarriage tyre exploded after rolling over an 18-inch strip of titanium that dropped onto the runway from a Continental Airways plane that took off just before the Concorde. The burst tyre penetrated a fuel tank in the left wing, causing a fire, a loss of power and ultimately the crash.

Continental Airlines is under fire for using titanium, a metal much harder than aluminium or stainless steel, for a temporary repair on one if its aircraft, which is a breach of security rules. Two of its ground staff in Paris, John Taylor and Stanley Fort, are accused of ignoring the titanium ban to complete the repair job.

Continental, however, rejects these accusations, claiming that several witnesses saw the Concorde catch fire 2,600 feet (800 metres) before it reached the part of the runway where the titanium strip fell.

“There is no dispute over the immediate causes of the accident. What muddies the waters in this case are the alleged safety problems of Concorde’s actual design. There were 65 instances of burst tyres on Concorde planes before the fatal crash,” says Christopher Moore, speaking from outside the courtroom.

In press interviews prior to the trial, Continental’s main defence lawyer, Olivier Metzner, said investigators had ignored evidence to “obscure the truth”. Metzner instead claimed that a mistake in the repairing of the Concorde’s undercarriage caused the burst tyre and the subsequent crash.

Air France lawyers maintain that Continental is solely to blame for the crash.

The design of the aircraft itself is also in question, with two Concorde engineers (Henri Perrier, 80, and Jacques Herubel, 74) accused of deliberately playing down or ignoring evidence of weaknesses in the aircraft’s tyres and wing fuel tanks to keep the pride of French and British aviation in the air.

Claude Frantzen, director of technical services at the French Civil Aviation Authority, or DGAC, from 1970 to 1994, faces similar charges.

“You could say that the entire Concorde project itself, once the pride of the British andFrench aviation industries, is in the dock,” Moore says.

A successful prosecution would result in a maximum fine of 375,000 euros for the airline and up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 75,000 euros for the individuals involved.

Hefty compensation

The trial has also put a focus on the compensation and criminal charges resulting from air disasters.

According to news reports, Air France, Concorde manufacturer EADS, Continental Airlines and tyre-manufacturing company Goodyear jointly paid the families of the victims 100 million dollars in compensation.

The families of the four hotel staff, which the airline’s insurance refused to cover, received no compensation. They have pressed charges, as has the family of Concorde pilot Christian Marty.


» Related: Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): France 24, INA, AFP and APTN
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