March 2007 Archives

March 1, 2007

Contractor Association accuses Lennar Corporation of extortion

“Throughout Southern California, various trade contractors working on building projects with Lennar Corporation have received letters from the builder directing subcontractors to reduce and resubmit invoices for previously contracted work. Within the letters, Lennar threatens the contractors with being shut out of future
work unless they meet the company’s demand to lower prices for work in progress and, in some cases, already completed. The January letters offer ‘trade partners’ the option of lowering their previously arranged prices or ‘be excluded from bidding future work for a minimum of 6 months.’ According to Beth Curran, executive director of the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors, Orange County/Inland Empire (CALPASC OCIE), this amounts to extortion and sets a dangerous precedent.”

Filed under Infrastructure and Construction, Legal and Criminal Issues by

University of California cited for nuclear safety violations at Los Alamos National Lab

“The Energy Department cited the University of California for 15 nuclear safety violations at the Los Alamos National Lab, the department announced Feb. 26.
The violations stem from a series of incidents at the New Mexico lab in 2005. The University of California was managing the facility at the time the violations occurred. It now manages the facility as part of Los Alamos National Security LLC, which also includes partners Bechtel National, Washington Group International and BWX Technologies. In two cases, lab workers were contaminated with nuclear radiation. One of the workers spread the contamination outside the lab and state, according to Energy. While the radiation levels in both cases were below Energy limits for radiation doses, “the effects could have been significantly greater,” according to a statement released by the department. Inspections of the lab in November 2005 found the university had not properly enacted health, environment and safety programs. At the time the violations occurred, nonprofit groups were exempt from civil penalties, so the university will not have to pay $1.1 million in fines that the violations carry.”

Filed under Education and Training, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Man accused of defrauding Cisco of millions

“A Massachusetts man is charged with defrauding Cisco Systems Inc. of millions of dollars worth of computer networking equipment. Michael A. Daly, 53, was arrested Tuesday during a search at his business… Cisco’s SMARTnet program allows customers to receive replacement equipment immediately, without having first to return the broken part. According to the complaint, Daly used false identities in 39 states to obtain networking equipment from Cisco under the program, carrying out the fraud at least 700 times, on each occasion obtaining equipment with a list price ranging from $995 to $25,000. After preliminary proceedings in Boston, Daly will appear in federal court in San Jose to face charges.”

Filed under Information Technology, Legal and Criminal Issues by

U.S. Department of Energy Awards cellulose ethanol plant $76 million

“Range Fuels announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company up to $76 million to build the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. The plant will produce ethanol from wood chips from unmerchanteable Georgia pine trees and forest residues. The plant will be located in Soperton, Georgia, approximately 100 miles west of Savannah. The grant was awarded to Range Fuels, which was founded by Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures”

Filed under Energy Industry, Venture Capital by

Agilent opens new R&D center in Beijing

“Agilent Technologies Inc. is expanding its investment in its integrated circuit characterization and analysis program device modeling software with a new R&D center in China, the company said Wednesday. Santa Clara-based Agilent (NYSE:A) said the center in Beijing is designed to serve the industry’s leading semiconductor foundries and respond to advancements in complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor modeling.”

Filed under China, Information Technology by

CSC gets $275 million contract with UK visa agency

“Computer Sciences Corp. has signed a business process outsourcing contract with UKvisas worth about $275 million, the company said Wednesday. UKvisas is a joint UK Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office directorate that operates as the overseas arm of the United Kingdom’s integrated border management. CSC said the agreement, which has a five-year base period and two one-year options, will be worth about $275 million if all options are exercised…El Segundo-based CSC is a global information technology services company.”

Filed under Information Technology, United Kingdom by

California Torture Treatment Centers Launch Awareness Campaign

“Torture treatment centers across the state are joining to raise awareness about torture survivors living in California. The campaign starts today and will culminate on June 26, the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The U.S. government estimates that 500,000 torture survivors live in the United States. University of the Pacific’s School of International Studies in Stockton, Calif. is in the process of developing baseline population data for torture survivors in California. The research will be conducted under the supervision of Professor Jean-Marie Stratigos, a former United Nations humanitarian affairs officer. ‘Survivors are a hidden population in our state and many obstacles prevent them from receiving adequate healthcare,” said Kathi Anderson, executive director of Survivors of Torture, International. “We hope that this campaign will build knowledge among both medical professionals and the general public’. “

Filed under Foreign Relations, Health and Medical by

California Lottery sales slowing

“The California State Lottery Commission approved a mid-year budget revision after sales showed an anticipated $400 million decrease in sales from what was budgeted. The revised budget predicts sales of $3.2 billion in the 2006-07 fiscal year. The lottery sold $3.58 million in fiscal 2005-06, and it had anticipated a slight increase to $3.6 billion in sales for the current fiscal year. Sales so far are not on track to hit that goal. The Lottery follows the state fiscal year, beginning July 1 and ending June 30.
The Lottery Commission, in a prepared statement, attributed the decline in Super LOTTO sales and MEGA Millions ticket sales to an unusual absence of large jackpots for the first six months of the fiscal year.”

Filed under California Government by

USC will help Homeland Security monitor social networks

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is paying Rutgers $3 million to oversee development of computing methods that could monitor suspicious social networks and opinions found in news stories, Web blogs and other Web information to identify indicators of potential terrorist activity. The software and algorithms could rapidly detect social networks among groups by identifying who is talking to whom on public blogs and message boards, researchers said. Computers could ideally pick out entities trying to conceal themselves under different aliases. The Rutgers Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science will lead the team made up of researchers from the University of Southern California, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pittsburgh. The group includes researchers from AT&T Laboratories, Bell Labs’/Lucent Technologies, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Texas Southern University. The DHS will fund the project with $10.2 million grant over three years.”

Filed under Defense and Military, Information Technology by

Fired U.S. Attorney may get Congressional Subpoena

A House subcommittee may issue subpoenas for four of the eight U.S. attorneys who were abruptly fired two months ago, including Carol Lam of San Diego. In December, the Department of Justice forced eight U.S. attorneys to resign firing six on a single day. The dismissal of Ms. Lam raised suspicions because she had successfully prosecuted Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham and had indicted the former third in command at the Central Intelligence Agency. Just before she was forced to leave her job, Lam helped get former CIA Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo indicted by a Grand Jury on 11 counts of corruption for his illegal award of covert CIA contracts to his long-time friend Brent R. Wilkes. Wilkes had been a Republican party “Pioneer” who raised more than $100,000 for Bush’s 2004 reelection. At first, the Department of Justice claimed the U.S. attorneys were dismissed for “performance reasons.” It has subsequently been revealed, however, that all but one of those U.S. attorneys had positive job evaluations.

Filed under Legal and Criminal Issues, U.S. Government by

March 2, 2007

Oracle buys Hyperion to compete with Germany’s SAP

“Oracle Corp. said today it has signed a $3.3 billion deal to buy Hyperion Solutions Corp. in a move that underscores CEO Larry Ellison’s aggressive bid to dominate the business software industry. Hyperion is a key player in the roughly $10 billion market for business intelligence software that companies use to get detailed reports on how a business is doing and to forecast how it would perform in the near future. The company is also known for software used for managing a company’s finances. Oracle, which has bought more than two dozen companies over the past two years, made clear that buying the company was a competitive move meant to undercut a major rival, SAP of Germany.” Both companies are headquartered in the Bay area: Oracle in Redwood Shoresand Hyperion in Sunnyvale.

Filed under Germany, Information Technology, Mergers and Acquisitions by

L.A. hockey teams to open season in London

“The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will open the 2007-08 National Hockey League regular season with contests at The O2 in London, the first time the NHL has played a regular season game in Europe, the teams said Thursday. The O2, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, is owned by Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, which also owns the Kings.>

Filed under Sports and Recreation, United Kingdom by

Texas Pacific Group disses the Lone Star State

“The private equity firm formerly known as Texas Pacific Group has dropped Texas from its name. It quietly switched its name to TPG Capital — skipping geography altogether. The giant investment organization, which is managing $30 billion in capital, specializes in turnarounds, management buyouts and leveraged recapitalizations… TPG has offices in San Francisco, New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo as well as Fort Worth, Texas, and elsewhere.”

Filed under Venture Capital by

Taiwanese-Americans Remember Massacre

“Immigrants from Taiwan are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident, a brutal crackdown that began on Feb. 28, 1947 and led to the massacre of as many as 30,000 people in Taiwan by the Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government… Until the late 1980s, when the first Taiwanese president took office, anyone who talked about the massacre would be persecuted. At a memorial concert at Stanford University on Feb. 25, about 300 people gathered to hear Taiwanese musicians. Another concert was staged on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles, where Taiwanese-Americans lit 600 candles to commemorate the anniversary. Family members of victims spoke at press conferences in cities across the country from New York to Los Angeles.”

Filed under Taiwan by

Intel to invest 65 million in Taiwan`s Powertech

“Intel Corp, the world’s largest chip maker, will invest 65 million US dollar in Taiwan’s Powertech Technology to boost its flash memory business. Intel will make the investment in Powertech, a memory-chip packaging and testing company, through its venture capital arm, Intel Capital, the companies said today. The agreement was confirmed by Intel Capital Singapore-based spokesman. The acquisition is aimed at expanding Santa Clara, California-based Intel’s Nand flash memory business, giving it access to components and the supply chain, he said. Nand flash is used to store data such as music and photos in MP3 players, digital cameras and other consumer electronics.”

Filed under Information Technology, Taiwan by

Still More Subprime Delinquencies

“In another indication of trouble in the subprime mortgage market, Countrywide Financial Corp. said Thursday that payments were late on almost 20 percent of the subprime loans the mortgage giant manages for other lenders. The Calabasas-based lender said that delinquencies of 30 days or more on subprimes grew to 19 percent at the end of 2006. Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, services more than $1 trillion in loans. A surge in bad mortgages has forced more than 20 lenders to close or seek buyers in the past year, the company said in a filing. “

Filed under California Economy, Real Estate and Housing by

United Nations in Silicon Valley to discuss global digital divide

“Officials from the United Nations met on Wednesday with Silicon Valley executives to discuss the ‘digital divide’ _ the growing gap between the world’s wealthiest and most computer literate people and the impoverished masses without Internet access. The meeting, organized by Intel Corp. and the U.N.’s Global Alliance for Information and Communications Technology and Development, was billed as the first between U.N. officials and technology executives and venture capitalists. More than 100 executives and officials from more than 30 countries attended the half-day conference. They discussed low-cost ways to get broadband Internet access to Africa, build computer centers throughout the developing world and encourage entrepreneurship. “

Filed under Information Technology, International Development, Silicon Valley by

Crystal Meth cause of soaring identity theft in San Joaquin Valley

“Heat and smog aren’t the only hazards of the central San Joaquin Valley. Valley cities had some of the nation’s highest rates of identity theft in a recent Federal Trade Commission report. The Madera area ranked No. 2 for the number of complaints per capita, behind No. 1 Napa. Fresno, the Hanford-Corcoran area and the area including Visalia and Porterville all ranked in the top 50 of about 400 metropolitan areas with more than 100,000 population nationwide in 2006. Why? No one knows for sure, said FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell. But Fresno police Sgt. Doug Goertzen suggests there’s one major reason: methamphetamine. ‘We’re seeing a correlation between drug use and identity theft,’ he said. ‘It’s just a way of generating money to purchase drugs.’ Crooks who once robbed convenience stores for a couple hundred dollars now find they can get thousands of dollars via identity theft, Goertzen said.”

Filed under Legal and Criminal Issues by

March 3, 2007

Schwarzenegger says California needs $500 billion to rebuild

Governor Schwarzenegger was quoted in a Reuters interview as saying that California needs $500 billion in bonds to rebuild:

“I was at a meeting this morning where someone said, ‘Look, we need $150 billion just for infrastructure and transportation.’ It’s true – We need $500 billion to rebuild California the way it ought to be,” he added. “But this is of course too big for people to digest, so you don’t talk about that.”

Speaking about the total of $42.7 billion in general obligation bonds authorized by voters last year for public works spending, Schwarzenegger said: “This was only the foot in the door, to whet the appetite.”

In the short term, Schwarzenegger acknowledged California could face lower tax revenues than projected in his January budget plan, but said he opposed new taxes. “We have done tremendously with the revenue increases, but we do not want to do a tax increase.”

He said he does not expect California to issue less debt if the economy slows. “I don’t think we have to do that,” he said.

The blog “Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis” called this “fiscal insanity” and calculated that it “translates to a staggering $22,176 liability for every working age person”. Mish concluded, “The kicker is that Schwarzenegger thinks this can be paid for without increasing taxes, in the face of falling revenues, even if the economy heads into a recession. Mark my words California, your taxes are going to skyrocket if anything remotely close to this proposal passes.”

Filed under California Government, Governor Schwarzenegger by

March 4, 2007

California loses 4,500 payroll jobs in January

“California employers cut payrolls by 4,500 jobs in January, led by declines in the leisure and hospitality industry, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, unchanged from December and down from 5.1 percent in January 2006. The number of Californians looking for work in January rose to 877,000 in January from 871,000 in December… The leisure and hospitality industry shed 8,000 jobs in January. Three other sectors posted smaller declines: manufacturing; information; and professional and business services. The job losses were partly offset by gains in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 5,000 jobs.”

Filed under California Economy by

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