Paw Print Rewind #014: May 23, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the Paw Print Rewind, a daily look at the top news headlines.

House approves bill to end NSA bulk data collection

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that would end the NSA’s bulk collections of Americans’ telephone data.

The House overwhelmingly backed the country’s Freedom Act, which would end the bulk collection program and instead give intelligence agencies access to telephone data and other records only when a court finds reasonable suspicion about a link to international terrorism.

Maisonneauve leaves Pimco as funds close

Pimco-HQ

Virginie Maisonneuve, Pimco’s global equity chief investment officer, is leaving the firm after less than 18 months as the bond investment giant narrows its stock-investing focus, according to the firm.

The firm will liquidate two Pimco equity strategies: emerging markets, which Maisnneuve oversaw, and Pathfinder, which is managed by Anne Gudefin, and involves purchasing stocks trading at significant discounts to intrinsic value, according to the company.

Pimco’s equity business will remain an important part of the firm’s investing, according to CEO Douglas Hodge but will concentrate on areas “more fully aligned with our capabilities and clients’ needs.”

The company will continue to manage dividend and long-short strategies, including those in collaboration with its subadvisor, Robert Arnott’s Research Affiliates firm.

Arnott’s bread-and-butter “smart beta” strategy, systematically selecting, weighing, and rebalancing portfolio holdings on the basis of characteristics other than market capitalization, has been hugely successful.

Pimco, which has $1.59 trillion in assets under management as of March 31, will not fill Maisonneuve’s position.

“You don’t think of Pimco when it comes to equity investing. They’ve been attempting this for years.”

-David Schawel, Square 1 Financial vice president and portfolio manager

“They remain primarily known as a bond shop, and assets in their bond funds have declined as investors were concerned with leadership changes … and periods of underperformance.”

-Todd Rosenbluth, S&P Capital iQ ETF & Mutual Fund Research director

Pimco’s active and enhanced equities business has over $50 billion in assets under management.

Maisonneuve will direct the transition, but “in light of these changes she has decided to leave the firm after a transition period,” according to Hodge.

Portfolio managers and analysts associated with the Pimco equity strategies will also leave the firm.

GM wins dismissal of UAW retiree benefit lawsuit appeal

GMChandlerITInnovationCenter14.jpg

A three-judge panel of the sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by the United Auto Workers union claiming that General Motors was required to pay $450 million to cover medical benefits for an affiliate’s retirees.

GM assumed the obligation for the payment two years before its 2009 bankruptcy but a subsequent agreement with the union extinguished the company’s responsibility, according to the panel.

The payment was part of a 2007 contract between the old GM, bankrupt auto parts maker Delphi Automotive, and the UAW.

However, it was not included in a different contract on medical benefits signed in 2009 by the GM that emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Chapter 11 reorganization can allow debtors to shed obligations that predate their bankruptcies.

The new GM owed the money by virtue of Delphi’s own bankruptcy emergence in October 2009, according to the UAW.

The language of the 2009 agreement made clear that GM did not owe the payment, according to the sixth circuit affirming a lower court.

“[Under the agreement], the UAW forever discharged GM from all obligations related to any claim arising in connection with … the GM bankruptcy proceedings concerning the provision of retiree medical benefits.”

-Danny Boggs, circuit judge

GM was pleased with the decision, according to a company spokesman.

About 50,800 current GM workers are represented by the UAW, according to a union spokeswoman.

Petrobras scheme moved $2.1 billion in bribes: prosecutors

Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. 10/09/2013. Fachada da sede da Petrobras, no centro do Rio de Janeiro. Documentos classificados como secretos e que vazaram da Agência de Segurança Nacional (NSA, na sigla em inglês) dos Estados Unidos mostram que a Petrobras, quarta maior petroleira do mundo, também foi espionada. Em nota distribuída à imprensa no fim da tarde ontem, a empresa   admitiu a possibilidade de "algum tipo de acesso a dados da Petrobras", mas não   comentou se identificou vazamento de informações estratégicas. - Crédito:FÁBIO MOTTA/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Código imagem:144098
Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. 10/09/2013. Fachada da sede da Petrobras, no centro do Rio de Janeiro. Documentos classificados como secretos e que vazaram da Agência de Segurança Nacional (NSA, na sigla em inglês) dos Estados Unidos mostram que a Petrobras, quarta maior petroleira do mundo, também foi espionada. Em nota distribuída à imprensa no fim da tarde ontem, a empresa admitiu a possibilidade de “algum tipo de acesso a dados da Petrobras”, mas não comentou se identificou vazamento de informações estratégicas. – Crédito:FÁBIO MOTTA/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Código imagem:144098

$2.1 billion in bribes were moved in a corruption scheme involving state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, according to prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol.

Prosecutors seek to restore $2.187 billion to public coffers through fines and the return of stolen funds, according to Dallagnol at a televised press conference to present criminal charges against 13 people including four former congressmen.

Three of the ex-lawmakers were preventively detained on April 10, the first politicians arrested in the 14-month-old probe. One is from the ruling Workers’ Party with the other three belonging to the smaller opposition Party of Solidarity.

The charges were “emblematic” and showed the prosecution entered the political nucleus of the kickback scheme, according to Dallagnol.

Prosecutors accused former Petrobras executives, and two dozen engineering firms, of inflating the value of service contracts and funneling the excess funds into their own bank accounts and to political parties.

The country’s Supreme Court in Brasilia is also investigating 34 sitting politicians on suspicion of receiving bribes but none have yet been formally charged. Elected officials enjoy legal protection in Brazil.

One of the former congressmen charged is suspected of taking bribes in exchange for helping a public relations firm and a biotech lab secure contracts with state-run bank Caixa Economica Federal and the health ministry.

Another is believed to be the main distributor of kickbacks to the Party of Solidarity.

All are tied to the Petrobras probe made by Alberto Youssef, the black market money changer who agreed to reveal beneficiaries of the corruption scheme in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Federal Judge Sergio Moro will decide whether or not to accept the charges. If he does, the former congressman will join the 97 other people who have been indicted.

Honda recalls 11,381 cars in India to replace air bags

honda-solar-charger-2014-01-15-02

Honda’s Indian unit will recall 11,381 vehicles in India to replace potentially faulty air bags, according to the company, after its Japanese parent recalled five million vehicles for the same reason.

Honda Cars India will replace the driver side air bag inflator of 10,805 Accord sedans made from model years 2003 to 2007, and passenger side air bag inflators on model year 2004 575 CR-V SUVs and one Civic sedan, according to the company.

Honda Cars India has no incident relating to this has been reported in the country so far.

Pandora will appeal court ruling giving BMI higher royalties

pandora-limiting-free-music

Pandora will appeal a rate court ruling that could force the streaming music service to pay higher royalties to Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) for music licenses.

The New York Rate Court ruled in BMI’s favor and agreed that the 2.5 percent of revenue royalty rate was “reasonable, and indeed at the low end of the range of fees of recent licenses.”

The ruling could increase Pandora’s content costs as a percentage of revenue by 80 basis points, according to a company statement.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling and will appeal to the same court that ruled in Pandora’s favor in the ASCAP case last week. We strongly believe the benchmarks cited by the court do not provide an appropriate competitive foundation for a market rate.”

-Pandora, in an emailed statement

That case was an effort by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) to charge Pandora more to license its music from 2013 onwards.

The latest court decision was “an enormous victory” for the over 650,000 songwriter, composers and publishers, which include Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Willie Nelson, that it represents.

Antarctic ice shelf a few years from disintegration: NASA

The last intact section of one of Antarctica’s mammoth ice shelves is weakening fast and will likely completely disintegrate in the next few years, contributing further to rising sea levels, according to a NASA study.

The research focused on a remnant of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, which has existed for at least 10,000 years but partially collapsed in 2002. The amount left covers about 625 square miles, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

Antarctica has dozens of ice shelves, which are massive, glacier-fed floating ice platforms that hang over the sea at the edge of the continent’s coast line. The largest is roughly the size of France.

Larsen B is located in the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends toward the southern tip of South America and is one of the continent’s two principal areas where scientists have documented the thinning of these ice formations.

“This study of the Antarctic Peninsula glaciers provides insights about how ice shelves further south, which hold much more land ice, will react to the warming climate.”

-Eric Rignot, study co-author, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory glaciologist

Almost 200 countries have agreed to negotiate a United Nations pact by the end of the year to combat global climate change, which most scientists expect to bring about more flooding, droughts, heat waves, and higher seas.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cited an at least 95 percent probability that accelerated warming of the planet has been triggered by human activities, led by atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

The study, published online in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal, was based on airborne surveys and radar data.

Analysis of the data reveals that a widening rift in Larsen B will eventually break it apart completely, according to the study’s lead scientist Ala Khazendar, probably around the year 2020.

Once that happens, glaciers held in place by the ice shelf will slip into the ocean at a faster rate and contribute to rising sea levels, according to scientists.

The study also found Leppard and Flask, two main tributary glaciers of the ice shelf, have thinned by between 65 and 72 feet in recent years, and the pace of their shrinking has accelerated since the aftermath of the 2002 partial ice shelf collapse.

#BostonBombingTrial: Tsarnaev sentenced to death

FILE - This file photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention but that knowledge of such case "does not equate to disqualifying prejudice." (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation, File)
FILE – This file photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention but that knowledge of such case “does not equate to disqualifying prejudice.” (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation, File)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for committing the Boston Marathon bombing.

The same seven-woman, five-man jury that found the 21-year-old guilty in the April 2013 attack reached their verdict after deliberating for over 14 hours over three days. The only alternative was life without parole.

The jury sentenced Tsarnaev to death on six of the 17 counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing of a public place, and malicious destruction of property. A death sentence required a unanimous vote from the jury members, but if they failed to agree on it, the life sentence would have been imposed automatically.

Tsarnaev displayed no reaction as the jury’s decision was announced. Tsarnaev “comported himself with composure and propriety” throughout the trial, according to District Court Judge George O’Toole. Tsarnaev was then released into the custody of U.S. marshals and will be formally sentenced this summer, when he’ll have the opportunity to address the court.

“We know all too well that no verdict can heal the souls of those who lost loved ones, nor the minds and bodies of those who suffered life-changing injuries from this cowardly attack, but the ultimate penalty is the fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families.

-Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney General

“It is bittersweet … There are no winners today.”

-Liz Norden, mother of two sons who each lost a leg in the bombing

Norden thought that the death penalty was an “appropriate sentence.”

“[The death penalty] will only compound the violence, and it will not deter others from committing similar crimes in the future. It is outrageous that the federal government imposes this cruel and inhuman punishment, particularly when the people of Massachusetts have abolished it in their state.”

-Steven Hawkins, Amnesty International USA executive director

“I stand with most people in Massachusetts – I’m shocked. This is a liberal state. We don’t have the death penalty. I thought for sure there would be at least one juror who said I can’t do this.

“What the survivors want is to stop hearing his name. We want the trial to be over to stop making him famous. It’s disappointing that this is going to go on for another five, 10 years and that his name will keep coming up.”

-Lynn Crisci, bombing victim who suffered hearing loss, brain injury, chronic back pain

“That’s what I’ve done to bring closure: Not really pay attention [to the trial]. Out of sight, out of mind.

“I’m a citizen of the United States, so I stand behind the legal system. If I was in that position, I’d have to look at the evidence and everything myself and try to be objective.”

-Jarrod Clowery, bombing survivor

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