Ford Motor Company Taking a Dive

July 24, 2008


Ford Motor Co. posted the worst quarterly performance in its history Thursday, losing $8.67 billion in the second quarter.

The company also said it will retool two more North American truck and sport utility vehicle plants to build small, fuel-efficient vehicles, and it announced plans to bring six new small vehicles to North America from Europe by the end of 2012.

The net loss includes $8.03 billion worth of write-offs because the sharp decline in U.S. truck and SUV sales has reduced the value of Ford’s North American truck plants and Ford Motor Credit Co.’s lease portfolio. Even excluding those items, Ford lost 62 cents per share, worse than Wall Street expected. Twelve analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, on average, expected a 27 cent loss per share.

Including the write-downs, Ford lost $3.88 per share in the April-June quarter, compared with net profit of $750 million, or 31 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

The second-quarter loss surpassed Ford’s previous record quarterly loss, $6.7 billion in the first quarter of 1992.

Second-quarter revenue was $38.6 billion, down $5.6 billion from the year-ago period. Analysts expected $34.6 billion.

Ford has been successful selling cars in Europe, and the company is banking on the new European models to boost sales and revenue as it deals with a market shift from trucks to cars brought on by high gasoline prices.

The company said it has sufficient liquidity to weather the latest downturn in the U.S. auto market without additional borrowing. Ford borrowed $23.4 billion in 2006 to fund its North American turnaround.

“We are pleased that we went to the capital markets at the right time,” Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said in a conference call with investors and media. “We have the scale, the expertise and the financing to execute our plan.”

Wall Street wasn’t impressed, at least initially. Ford shares dropped 58 cents, or 9.6 percent, to $5.45 in morning trading.

The company said it will retool the Michigan Truck plant in suburban Detroit, shifting its products from large SUVs to make global vehicles off the European Focus platform by 2010.

The SUVs made at Michigan Truck — the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition — will be shifted to the Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville, which makes Ford Super Duty pickups.

The company also will retool the Louisville Assembly Plant, which now builds the Ford Explorer midsize SUV, to produce vehicles on the European Focus frame, starting in 2011.

The company had previously announced it would retool its pickup truck factory in Cuautitlan, Mexico, to build the Fiesta subcompact for North America starting in 2010.

Ford also said its Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minn., will continue producing the Ranger small pickup through 2011. The plant was scheduled to close next year, but Ranger sales are down just 4 percent in the first half of this year, versus 18 percent for the U.S. light truck market as a whole.

The company also plans to revamp the body shops in nearly all its North American assembly plants so that they will be more flexible and able to respond more quickly to changes in market demands. Chief Financial Officer Don Leclair said it costs about $250 million per plant to make those changes.

Leclair said Ford’s capital expenditures will reach $6 billion annually between now and 2010 because of the cost of revamping plants and introducing new products and engines. Ford plans to upgrade or replace all of its engines by 2010.

“What you’re seeing is kind of a bubble that we’re going to go through … but early on we’re going to see cost savings because of the economies of scale that we’re getting as we develop more and more vehicles off of fewer platforms,” he said.

Cost cuts also will come from employee layoffs. Ford said 4,000 U.S. hourly workers took buyouts in the second quarter, and the company will continue offering buyouts at targeted U.S. plants. Ford also has announced plans to cut its salaried costs by Aug. 1 through voluntary and involuntary layoffs.

The company said its write-offs included $5.3 billion in North American auto operations and $2.1 billion for Ford Credit because of the drop in the value of the plants and equipment that make trucks and SUVs, and the lower price Ford Credit can fetch for them at auction when leases expire. Leclair said 85 percent of the Ford Credit write-down was triggered by the drop in truck and SUV values.

Ford reported a pretax loss of $1.3 billion in North America because of the deteriorating U.S. market and the shift away from trucks. U.S. sales overall were down 10 percent in the first half of the year, with Ford’s sales down 14 percent.

The company, though, continued to be profitable overseas, posting a $582 million profit in Europe and $388 million in
South America. The company also made $50 million at its Asia-Pacific-Africa division.

“The second half will continue to be challenging, but we have absolutely the right plan to respond to the changing business environment and begin to grow again for the long term,” Mulally said in a statement.

Ford said it does not expect a U.S. economic recovery to start until early 2010.

The company identified only three of the European small vehicles it will bring to North America: the Transit Connect small van, the European Focus and the subcompact Fiesta. Most will be built in North America, and Leclair said some might be exported. Ford already has announced that the Transit Connect will be imported from Turkey.

Ford said the other three vehicles would be identified later, including one that is unique within its segment.

Other possible vehicles are the Kuga small crossover, the C-Max small van and the Mondeo midsize car.

Ford also announced that the next-generation Ford Explorer midsize SUV will come out in 2010 and be built on car underpinnings, making it more fuel efficient than the current truck-based model. And it announced it will build a seven-passenger car-based crossover vehicle for Lincoln in mid-2009.

This story was originally posted on Yahoo News

Andre Jetmir for iNPLACENEWS

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.


Famous Reporter Novak Allegedly Runs Old Man Over

July 23, 2008


The pedestrian who was struck by prominent Washington columnist and commentator Robert Novak is in worse shape than first thought, a hospital source tells ABC 7 News.

The victim, a 66-year-old man, is undergoing surgery and was only semi-conscious, the source said.

In an exclusive interview with ABC 7 News, Novak said felt “terrible” about striking a pedestrian Wednesday morning while on his way to work in downtown D.C.

Metropolitan police cited Novak with failure to yield to a pedestrian about 10:07 a.m. at 18th and K streets NW, Novak confirmed to ABC 7 News.

Novak spoke to ABC 7 News as he emerged from a police car at the scene. Novak said he did not know he had struck anyone. Novak said he didn’t know anything was wrong until a bicyclist rode ahead of him and blocked traffic. The bicyclist informed Novak he had hit a pedestrian.

In an interview, the bicyclist told ABC 7’s Suzanne Kennedy the pedestrian was splayed across Novak’s windshield, and there was no way that Novak could not have known he struck someone. The cyclist, David Bono, also said that the pedestrian was in a crosswalk and had the right of way.

Novak admitted he was emotionally shaken by the incident.

Metropolitan Police Department (web|news) officers detained Novak at the scene for about an hour. He was not arrested

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said the pedestrian complained of pain in his arm and was taken to George Washington University Hospital with what were described as minor injuries at the time.

Stay with ABC 7 News for the latest information.

Story provided by ABC 7 in Washington, DC

Andre Jetmir iNPLACENEW


Secrets of the New XFiles Movie

July 23, 2008

Producers of the new X-Files film, I Want to Believe, have gone to great lengths to keep major plot points a secret, and now it seems as if they’re getting a little other-worldly help. Exclusive, one-on-one interview tapes in which Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny explicitly confirm a belief held by many of the show’s fans — but never officially admitted in the show or the first movie — that Mulder and Scully had a baby named William, have mysteriously disappeared, leaving only low-resolution, digital dubs as proof that they ever existed.

The interview was conducted at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills by a Filmazing reporter late Saturday afternoon and recorded on beta video tapes. The tapes were dubbed onto a computer hard drive, then sat safely in a studio for the duration of the weekend. The tapes were then taken to a UPS store in Studio City, California, late Monday morning. The destination was to be Comcast’s Backstage daily entertainment show, which is broadcast on CN8 throughout the East. Their studios are located near Boston. On Monday, host Sara Edwards had promised viewers the exclusive scoop on the X-Files movie the next day.

But the interview tapes, showing Anderson and Duchovny chatting about the baby, never arrived. UPS was contacted and is still searching frantically for the tapes, but couldn’t even locate the tracking number. It’s as if the tapes never existed, or disappeared into the ether. It would have been clearly impossible for anyone related to this film to interfere with the tapes in order to squelch a potential spoiler. X-Files fans might conclude that some other, unseen forces are at work. Viewers can decide for themselves what they Want to Believe.

Article courtesy of Filmazing.com

iNPLACENEWS


McCain: 3 Strikes and You Are Out

July 23, 2008

Here, while appearing on NBC News with Diane Sawyer John McCain possibly misspoke when talking about the “Iraq/Pakistan Border” which, according to maps (and facts), is not geographically possible.
Iraq and Pakistan do not border each other, and they are separated by Iran.

Read about Strike 2 here.

iNPLACENEWS


Once is a Mistake, Twice is Senility

July 23, 2008

First, McCain refers to a country that has been closed and split for over a decade: Czechoslovakia.

Now, he thinks Putin is the President of Germany. Not only is henot the President of Germany, Putin is NOT the President ANYWHERE.

What’s next? giving the orders to nuke North Korea or Iran then forgetting he said it?

Experience or not, McCain is TOO OLD and forgetful. All the experience in the world is not going to help him remember anything.

See the story of his last and final strike here.

iNPLACENEWS


Five South Koreans Kidnapped in Mexico For Ransom

July 22, 2008

Five South Koreans, one woman and four men, were kidnapped while driving in Reynosa, a Mexican border city across the border from McAllen, Texas, police and embassy officials said Tuesday, and their captors reportedly are demanding a $30,000 ransom.

According to the South Korean Yonhap news agency, the captors falsely identified themselves as police, a common practice among criminals in Mexico. Mexican officials are investigating but had no leads in the case yet. In a statement made by a South Korean Embassy spokesman, the ransom had not been paid. He added that the kidnapped group had been looking into working in Mexico but did not elaborate. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the five were alive, but Kim said officials were still trying to confirm that. Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnappings for ransom in the world.

Many abductions are never reported to police, in part for fear officials themselves might be involved or that they would bungle a possible rescue.

iNPLACENEWS


Are US and North Korean Relations Improving?

July 22, 2008


The United States has proposed a mechanism for verifying North Korea’s claims about its nuclear past, Washington’s top envoy to the nuclear talks said Monday.

The proposal was made in Beijing last week, and the U.S. is waiting for a response from Pyongyang, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters.

After giving North Korea the proposal “we … asked them to come back with specific comments,” said Hill, who will assist U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in talks between the foreign ministers of the six nations involved in the nuclear negotiations – China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s main nuclear envoy confirmed the proposal was made to the North.

“The ball is actually in the North Korean court because they already received the draft of verification protocol,” Kim Sook told reporters after talks with Hill. Details of the proposal were not known.

Hill said the six-party talks, to be held Wednesday on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore, are likely to discuss the verification issue.

North Korea submitted a long-delayed list of its nuclear programs last month, though it omitted details about nuclear weapons, alleged uranium enrichment program and possible nuclear proliferation.

In return, Washington announced it would remove the North from its terrorism blacklist and relaxed some economic sanctions on the communist nation. That led Pyongyang to blow up the cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor, to demonstrate its commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.

Six-nation nuclear negotiations were then held in Beijing less than two weeks ago – for the first time in nine months – and produced an agreement on principles for proceeding with verification of North Korea’s claims. One of the principles says the procedure should involve interviews with North Korean nuclear experts.

Hill has said earlier that the U.S. wants to reach agreement with the North on a specific verification protocol by early September. Last week’s proposal offered to the North is believed to be the first draft of the envisioned protocol.

“We’ve always maintained that verification is essential,” Hill said Monday. “We hope to make some progress on that very soon.”

Wednesday’s session would mark the highest-level meeting in the six-country negotiations, which began in 2003 with the aim of convincing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

It would also be the first time Rice has met North Korea’s top diplomat.

China, host of the nuclear talks, praised the planned meeting as a good chance to progress on denuclearization.

“This is the first time that the high-level delegations to the six-party talks have held an informal meeting,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi after talks with his Japanese counterpart. “I think it will be very good for advancing the agenda of the talks.”

Still, Hill played down the meeting’s significance.

“I would not exaggerate its importance,” he said. “I think it’s an opportunity for people to get together and exchange some thoughts informally.”

Article by Jae-Soon Chang
iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Danica Patrick Gets In Girl Fight With Milka Duno

July 21, 2008

Danica Patrick gets into a girl-fight with another female racer, Milka Duno this past weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Watch the clip here.

Andre Jetmir


John McCain Is Not Internet Savvy Compared to 106 Year Old

July 21, 2008

If Sen. John McCain is really serious about becoming a Web-savvy citizen, perhaps Kathryn Robinson can help.

Robinson is now 106 – that’s 35 years older than McCain – and she began using the Internet at 98, at the Barclay Friends home in West Chester, Pa., where she lives. “I started to learn because I wanted to e-mail my family,” she says – in an e-mail message, naturally.

Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain’s admission that when it comes to the Internet, “I’m an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get.” And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides “go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself.”

How unusual is it for a 71-year-old American to be unplugged?

That depends how you look at the statistics. Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online, according to data from April and May compiled by the Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.

But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. “About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet,” says Susannah Fox, director of the project.

“John McCain is an outlier when you compare him to his peers,” Fox says. “On one hand, a U.S. senator has access to information sources and staff assistance that most people do not. On the other, the Internet has become such a go-to resource that it’s a curiosity to hear that someone doesn’t rely on it the way most Americans do.”

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan presented a somewhat updated picture when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday: “He’s fully capable of browsing the Internet and checking Web sites,” Buchanan said. “He has a Mac and uses it several times a week. He’s working on becoming more familiar with the Internet.”

That’s a good thing, says Tobey Dichter, CEO of Generations on Line, a group that helps bring seniors – including the 106-year-old Robinson – into the digital age.

“He needs the self-empowerment” of going online himself, says Dichter. “There are too many people surrounding John McCain who are willing to print an e-mail for him” -or do a search on his behalf, like the aides who, he says, show him the Drudge Report.

“But that cheats him of an opportunity to let his own mind take him to the next link,” says Dichter. “If he doesn’t know what links are available, he will only get exactly what he’s asking for, and nothing more.”

Why do most of us – 73 percent of Americans – use the Internet? The top three reasons are, in order, e-mail, informational searches, and finding a map or driving directions.

But there are dozens of other conveniences: Online banking, shopping, travel or restaurant reservations, job searches, real estate listings, and of course, the news (McCain, like many people over 30 or so, prefers his newspapers the old-fashioned way.) “The Internet is the ultimate convenience appliance,” says Fox.

McCain may be in “digital denial,” as Dichter calls it, but his family sure isn’t: His wife, Cindy, has been seen scrolling away on her Blackberry, and daughter Meghan, one of his seven children, blogs from the campaign trail on McCain Blogette.

As for McCain’s Democratic rival, Barack Obama is 46, and thus in an age group where fully 85 percent of Americans are plugged in. A CNN clip available on YouTube shows him so engrossed with his Blackberry while crossing a street that he bumps into the curb.

McCain’s frank admissions of his offline state have led to discussion of whether being wired is a qualification for leading the free world. One aide, Mark Soohoo, defended the senator’s lack of wiredness at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York in June by assuring the panel: “John McCain is aware of the Internet.”

One blogger opined last week that all the fuss is silly. McCain, wrote Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, hasn’t become computer literate because he hasn’t needed to. “When aides are responding to your messages and briefing you on every imaginable subject, the incentive to get online sort of disappears,” he wrote.

McCain is hardly the only prominent, wealthy, powerful man in the country to lack an affinity with computers. To take one, Sumner Redstone, the 85-year-old chairman of Viacom, “is not an avid user,” says a spokesman, Carl Falto. “He’s capable of going on but doesn’t do it frequently.”

On the other hand, famed Broadway director Arthur Laurents, 91, whose “Gypsy” is now a hit on Broadway, is known to respond faster to e-mails than to phone calls.

Among fellow senators, aides to Sen. Robert Byrd, 90, say he has a computer but prefers to speak directly to his staff and doesn’t carry a Blackberry.

What keeps some American seniors unwired? Some lack immediate access to a computer, Dichter says. But intimidation, she says, is the greatest problem.

“One has to be compassionate with a person who hasn’t gotten onto the information highway early, because the cumulative vocabulary is so intimidating,” she says. Also, many older people “feel they have a perfectly happy life without it. They feel that the world is overrun with electronic devices already.”

But, Dichter says, such people often change their minds when they realize they can get family pictures via e-mail – not to mention health information, support groups, and local community news. And Fox, of Pew, notes that seniors outpace other age groups in tracing their family’s genealogy online (a third of them say they do so, compared to a quarter of all Internet users.)

Robinson credits her computer with helping her withstand the effects of a stroke she suffered in 2003. “In my case I had a stroke and as a result could not talk,” she says in her e-mail. “The computer has been a lifesaver for me.”

Article by Jocelyn Novec

Andre Jetmir iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


John McCain’s Adviser Quits After Insulting America

July 19, 2008

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm resigned Friday from his role as GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign co-chairman, hoping to quiet the uproar that followed his comments that the United States had become a “nation of whiners” whose constant complaints about the U.S. economy show they are in a “mental recession.”

Gramm, a past presidential candidate, made the remarks more than a week ago. McCain immediately distanced himself from the comments, but they brought a steady stream of criticism just as McCain is trying to show he can help steer the country past its current financial troubles.

Gramm said in a statement late Friday that he is stepping down to “end this distraction.”

“It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country,” Gramm said. “That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain’s ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country’s problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters.”

Gramm made the comment to The Washington Times and later explained that he was talking about the nation’s leaders not the American people. Democrats claimed at the time that the Gramm comments showed that McCain is out of touch with voters’ concerns over high gas prices, the struggling housing industry and the shaky economy in general.

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Gramm’s departure will make little difference to McCain’s economic policies.

“The question for John McCain isn’t whether Phil Gramm will continue as chairman of his campaign, but whether he will continue to keep the economic plan that Gramm authored and that represents a continuation of the polices that have failed American families for the last eight years,” said Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan.

Article by Devlin Barrett
iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.