GE to Purchase 25,000 Electric Cars in Largest Order Ever by 2015

Photo Courtesy - Chevrolet [dot] com(FAIRFIELD, Conn.) -- General Electric Co. announced Thursday it will purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, marking the largest order ever of battery-powered cars.

GE will begin buying electric vehicles in 2011.  Nearly half of their purchases -- 12,000 vehicles -- will come from General Motors Co., including the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

The new environmentally-friendly vehicles will comprise at least half of the company's fleet of 30,000 cars and leased vehicles from its GE Capital unit.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt said the company's order will help "move electric vehicles from anticipation to action."  He added that "wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will also drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama on Debt: "We're Going to Have to Make Some Tough Choices"

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- President Obama refrained on Thursday from addressing specific proposals put forward by his presidential Debt Commission to reduce the debt, but he called on politicians to hold their fire and work in a bipartisan way to solve the momentous problem of the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt.

“I have not seen the final report from the Deficit Commission,” the president said at a joint appearance with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, after a reporter asked him for reaction.  “I have said very clearly until I see the final report that I will not comment on it because I want them to have the space to do their work.  They are still in negotiations.”

Obama pointed out that the two co-chairs of the Commission -- former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson -- are trying to secure 14 out of 18 Senate Finance Committee votes for their recommendations to go forward, “and I want to make sure they’ve got the room and the space to do so,” the president said.

The draft report by the co-chairs presents some painful and politically unpalatable recommendations -- not merely $2 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade, but also means-testing Social Security, raising the retirement age to 69, expanding the payroll tax, closing one third of overseas U.S. military bases and raising the gasoline tax.

There is something in the proposal to offend everyone, whether doctor -- reducing Medicare fees for doctors); lawyer -- enacting tort reform to “reduce the cost of defensive medicine”; or Indian chief -- ending payments to Native American tribes for abandoned mines.

The president said he convened the commission “precisely because I am prepared to make some tough decisions” but noted that he “can’t make them alone.”

 “I need Congress to work with me,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to make some tough choices. The only way to make those tough choices historically has been if both parties are willing to move forward together.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Foreclosure Filings Flat in October, Says RealtyTrac

(IRVINE, Calif.) -- Some of the fallout from the robo-signing controversy is starting to become evident, according to foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac.
In their latest monthly release, the company says some 332,000 homes received some sort of foreclosure filing in October -- down four percent from the previous month and flat from the same period a year ago. Bank repossessions fell during the month, possibly the first sign that the foreclosure reviews are slowing the foreclosure process.
“The numbers probably would have been higher except for the fallout from the recent 'robo-signing' controversy -- which is the most likely reason for the nine percent monthly drop in REOs we saw from September to October and which may result in further decreases in November," said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac.
Nationally, one in every 389 homes had some sort of filing during the month.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Author of Amazon Pedophilia Book Speaks Out

Photo Courtesy - Amazon dot com(PUEBLO, Colo.) -- Thousands of people on the Internet may be protesting Amazon's decision to continue sales of a self-published book on pedophilia, but at least one person stands by its decision: the author.

Philip R. Greaves II, author of the electronic book The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct, said he was aware of the "stinging accusations" online, but argued that his critics are misunderstanding the point of his book.

"They're accusing me of wanting to hurt children. They're accusing me of encouraging pedophilia and all these other things. But that's not why I wrote the book," the 47-year-old from Pueblo, Colo. said. "I wrote the book to establish guidelines so that people would behave in a manner that is non-injurious to each other, for one, and, for two, to communicate the fact that these people who are so different in maturation, etc., that when they develop relationships, they use certain principles that regular people, adults, would be well to attend."

The book, which went on sale Oct. 28 and costs $4.79 to download, has sparked a wave of criticism online, with customers taking to Twitter and elsewhere to ask Amazon to remove the book from its online store and others calling for a total boycott of the company until it does.

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain rules for these adults to follow," the author wrote in the product description. "I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught."

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News. According to the website Business Insider, however, Amazon issued a statement defending the book's place in the online store.

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions," the company said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Economic Boost or Bad Policy? GOP Denounces New Fed Plan

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Reserve's new $600 billion monetary stimulus plan is designed to spur the country's sluggish economic recovery. But the central bank's program is now encountering a growing backlash both at home and abroad.

China and Russia have criticized Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's plan, while prominent Republicans are starting to voice concerns of their own.

"I would say that Bernanke is fundamentally wrong, that he is running -- he is fundamentally misreading the economy. This economy lacks confidence in the government. It doesn't lack cash," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC News Tuesday.

Under the plan dubbed QE2 -- which stands for quantitative easing -- the Fed will buy $600 billion worth of government bonds in a bid to make loans cheaper and get Americans to spend more. Doing so is designed help the economy and prompt companies to boost hiring.

The top Republican on the Senate Banking panel told ABC News that he is "worried" about the Fed's plan. "While I share Chairman Bernanke's concern regarding the condition of the economy, I am worried about the risks associated with his actions," said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. "However, Chairman Bernanke would not be in this position had President Obama and the Democrats used their power to enact pro-growth policies. Instead, they have grown government and created the most anti-business regulatory environment our country has ever seen."

The comments come on the heels of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's calls for the Fed to "cease and desist" with its new plan. "It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up Treasury bonds. And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this? We're printing it out of thin air," Palin told a trade association convention in Phoenix on Monday, according to the National Review.

"And if it doesn't work, what do we do then? Print even more money? What's the end game here?," Palin asked. "Where will all this money-printing on an unprecedented scale take us? Do we have any guarantees that QE2 won't be followed by QE3, 4, and 5, until eventually -- inevitably -- no one will want to buy our debt anymore? We shouldn't be playing around with inflation."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Big Banks to Shoulder Bigger Piece of the Premium Pie

(WASHINGTON) – Larger banks will shoulder a greater share of paying for the FDIC’s deposit insurance funds, taking pressure off of smaller banks, according to a new provision in Congress’s financial overhaul bill.

The Wall Street Journal reports that when the provision goes into effect next year, banks like J.P Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup will owe an additional $1 billion in government fees.

The law will change how the FDIC calculates premiums by looking at a bank’s assets rather than just the measure of their domestic deposits.

The change, set to go into effect on April 1, would increase the share of the premiums owed by big banks to 80 percent, from 70 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Housing Downturn Reaching Great Depression-Era Declines

(SEATTLE) – As the U.S. housing market slips into its 17th consecutive quarter of decline, a new report warns that the housing crisis may reach depths not seen since the Great Depression.

According to third-quarter Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, home values have fallen 25 percent since peaking in 2006, a drop reminiscent of the Great Depression era, which saw a 25.9-percent drop in home values over five years.

"While not unexpected, the unceasing declines in home values signal that we're in for a long, bleak winter of continued troubles for the housing market," said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist.

The percentage of homeowners underwater on their mortgage has also reached a new peak. In the third quarter, 23.2 percent of single-family homeowners were in trouble with their mortgage. That is the highest percentage since Zillow started to track the figure in 2009.
Foreclosures have also reached an all-time high as 1.2 out of every 1,000 homeowners in the U.S. lost their homes to foreclosure in September.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Labor Board Says Firing Employee Over Facebook Comments May Be Unfair, Company's Internet Policy Too Broad 

Photo Courtesy - NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time ever, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint that an employer engaged in unfair labor practices for firing an employee who made derogatory posts about her supervisor on Facebook.

The labor board issued the complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut last week for firing medical technician Dawnmarie Souza after she criticized her supervisor online. The board also said that the firm had an overly-broad employee Internet policy.

Images of Souza's Facebook page, provided by a lawyer for the company, show remarks including, "looks like I'm getting some time off. love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor," using the company's terminology for a psychiatric patient. Another post describes the supervisor with expletives.

Calls to Souza were not immediately returned.

An attorney for American Medical Response, which provides emergency response and dispatch services, said that Facebook comments were not the reason for the termination of Souza on Dec. 1, 2009. John Barr, a partner with Jackson Lewis, said there were two complaints about Souza from patients and hospital staff within 10 days of each other from October to November 2009.

Barr said the company, based in Colorado, began an investigation into the two behavioral complaints. Souza, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 443 union, requested that a union representative be present during an investigatory interview on Nov. 8, 2009. The request was denied by her supervisors, which is when Souza engaged in "concerted activities with other employees" criticizing her supervisor on Facebook, according to the NLRB complaint.

"The chief reason she was terminated was her rude and unprofessional conduct," said Barr. "The two complaints were the reason for the termination. If she had not engaged in this inappropriate conduct, it's very unlikely that she would have been terminated."

The labor relations complaint against American Medical Response also stated the company's "blogging and Internet posting policy" in its employee handbook is too broad.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Urges G-20 Leaders to Back Plans for US Economic Growth

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JAKARTA, Indonesia) -- Amidst criticisms the U.S. is trying to ‘devalue its way back to prosperity,’ President Obama wrote a letter to G-20 leaders arguing the world needs the American economy to recover, adding the U.S. dollar's strength and global economic health hinge upon it.

“A strong recovery that creates jobs, income and spending is the most important contribution the United States can make to the global recovery,” President Obama wrote on the eve of the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea.  “The dollar’s strength ultimately rests on the fundamental strength of the U.S. economy.”

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s plan for “quantitative easing” -- which essentially means pumping $600 billion into the U.S.  economy through the purchase of Treasury securities -- has met with criticism from fellow G-20 nations.

At the International Finance Forum in Beijing, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China Ma Delun said this week that the Fed plan  "may add risks to the global economic imbalance, put pressure on emerging markets to adjust their international balance of payments and could also stir the formation of asset bubbles, all of which require our vigilance.”

And German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in an interview with Der Spiegel called the move “clueless” and said he has “great doubts about whether it makes sense to pump unlimited amounts of money into the markets.  There is no shortage of liquidity in the U.S. economy.  I can't see the economic argument for this move."

Schaeuble said “it doesn’t add up when the Americans accuse the Chinese of currency manipulation and then, with the help of their central bank’s printing presses, artificially lower the value of the dollar.”

Asked in India if the move by the Fed may look hypocritical to other world leaders, President Obama said “the Federal Reserve is an independent body.  It doesn’t take orders from the White House, and it’s important as a policy matter, as an institutional matter, that we don’t comment on particular Fed actions.  I will say that the Fed’s mandate, my mandate, is to grow our economy.  And that’s not just good for the United States, that’s good for the world as a whole.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


IBM Wants to Make 100 Cities ‘Smarter'

Photo Courtesy of IBM(ARMONK, N.Y.) – IBM on Tuesday announced an initiative to create 100 smarter cities across the globe. Through the Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM plans to provide $50 million in technologies and services to improve the growth, services, efficiency and citizen engagement in 100 cities that make the strongest case for their involvement.

Pilot grants have begun in Baltimore; Austin, Texas; and Mecklenburg County, N.C. to ensure the program’s success.

The Smarter Cities Challenge represents the single largest philanthropic investment currently planned by IBM.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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