Boeing Woes Balloon as Battery Fix Remains a Mystery

Boeing 787 DreamlinerWould you be willing to fly on a newly developed jumbo airliner with battery technology that has been known to cause fires, whose exact cause is still unknown, but whose manufacturer has claimed to find a temporary “fix” that would allegedly contain –but not prevent – future flaming flights?

Boeing bets you would. Airbus bets you wouldn’t.

On Sunday the Seattle Times reported that Boeing might propose a plan as early as this week to get the troubled Dreamliner airborne again, after two incidents involving fires with the jet’s sizable lithium ion battery packs shut down all 50 of the units now in service. The rumored remedy doesn’t appear to be an actual repair of the volatile battery itself, but instead “includes a heavy-duty titanium or steel containment box around the battery cells” and high-pressure tubes to vent dangerous gases outside the fuselage in case of what engineers call “thermal … Read More ➡

Inspector General Confirms Fun & Games at LG Chem

LGChem logoThe employees of battery maker LG Chem still haven’t found anything to do worthy of their pay since they were caught playing games and watching videos four months ago, and now the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy has embarrassed the company into returning some – but not much – of the $142 million (out of a $151 million grant) in taxpayer money they took.

Gregory Friedman released his report – which was based on an inquiry spurred by the original media stories in the fall about the mostly idle workers in Holland, Mich. – last week. Turns out the reports about workers on-the-clock playing Texas Hold ‘Em and video games, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and volunteering at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, were not exaggerations.

In the words of the inspector, “We confirmed the allegations.” The work that was supposed to be done under DOE’s stimulusRead More ➡

New York Times Came to Us For Info on Menendez, Not The Other Way Around

Lipton photoThe New York Times has an article today titled, “Inquiry of Democratic Senator Started With Partisan Push.” The story by Eric Lipton describes our success in getting media coverage for our original research about Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his relationship with a major donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Lipton then states that to Menendez and his staff our work is “proof that the news media frenzy focusing on his actions to help a Florida eye doctor is at least in part a political smear.”

The only problem with this story line is that the New York Times approached us shortly before the January 29 FBI raid on Melgen’s eye practice in Florida and asked us if we had any information on Melgen. We did not seek to place it with any news organization because there was (and is) even more to the story, and we were (and are) still researching it.… Read More ➡

More on GM’s Non-GAAP Earnings and $35 Billion Tax Benefit

GM logo/ObamaYesterday’s earnings’ report by General Motors threw up some red flags that I reviewed here. In recent quarters, the media seemed to give quite a bit of coverage on GM’s earnings, but not so this time. I wanted to follow up and discuss what the financial news networks obviously will not.

The most glaring number that warrants further discussion was the $35 billion deferred tax valuation allowance. This tax credit is not allowed under GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) but that does not stop many companies from using it as they tout non-GAAP earnings. It is the huge amount of GM’s credit that makes it worthy of scrutiny. Let’s look at what other sources have to say about this confusing accounting strategy that saved GM from having to explain its GAAP earnings loss of about $30 billion.

From Investopedia:

The amount of deferred income tax is based on

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GM’s Mysterious Earnings Report

General Motors reported earnings today that appeared non-eventful on the surface. Upon further inspection there are some underlying concerns, including a glaring one-time event that stands out. That is an adjustment to earnings with a tax benefit (as opposed to paying taxes) of $35 billion for a “deferred tax valuation release.” This was coupled with a goodwill impairment charge of about $27 billion, which allows GM to reduce the previously unusually high goodwill assets that were recorded on its balance sheet.

GM uses non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) to calculate its calendar year operating income of $7.9 billion. The GAAP number does not allow the tax benefit and is a bit more troubling at a LOSS of $30.4 billion. I do not claim to be an accountant, but the huge numbers thrown around here could be a concern and should be further investigated. My understanding of the tax benefit, in … Read More ➡

Taxpayer Millions, Lithium Ion and Rich People Just Don’t Mix Well

Elon MuskUndoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) – like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker – is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?

After the experience recounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.

The Times published Broder’s devastating account on Friday. The plan was for the reporter to set out from the Washington, D.C. area and examine the claims that the Model S battery has a 300-mile range on a full charge, utilizing the carefully spaced new superchargers located at rest areas in Newark, Del. and Milford, Conn. – approximately 200 … Read More ➡

Malibu Lags Competition as GM Maintains Green Focus

Perhaps General Motors should have put more focus on competing in the largest segment of the auto market instead of focusing on being the market leader in the least popular, plug-in, electric vehicle (EV) field. A Detroit Free Press article reported that GM had to slash Chevy Malibu prices by hundreds of dollars to try and catch up with vehicles like the Toyota Camry, which is currently eating the Malibu’s lunch.

Chevy spokesman Michael Albino is quoted as admitting that, “The midsize segment is the largest and most competitive in the industry.” Maybe GM should have realized that when they spent so much time and money hyping the Chevy Volt instead of building the most competitive car that they could in the best-selling, midsize field. In fact, the Toyota Camry (built in America), which is the market leader in the segment, sold 31,897 units in January to make it the … Read More ➡

Interior Nominee Would Likely Continue Bad Policies

Sally JewellConsidering the anti-fossil fuel track record of President Obama and his first-term cabinet members Lisa Jackson (EPA), Steven Chu (Energy Dept.) and Ken Salazar (Interior Dept.), there is no reason to expect that Department of Interior nominee Sally Jewell (photo courtesy Fortune Live Media) would impose a different agenda – especially since the president no longer has to worry about re-election.

While there might not be anything to prevent her confirmation by the Senate, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah is weary of the resource development haters the administration keeps producing for its energy and environment regulatory regime. Jewell, the CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) who always tilts for nature preservation rather than human utilization, looks like she would carry on the anti-exploratory and –drilling policies of Obama and Salazar.

“I have some reservations about President Obama’s selection of Sally Jewell,” Bishop, a Republican, said in a statement issued on … Read More ➡

Sen. Menendez Denial on Permuy is ‘Howler of the Day’

Permuy photoYesterday, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm questioned Senator Robert Menendez’ veracity after his office claimed that he did not know that his ex-aide Pedro Pablo Permuy (in photo) was involved with ICCSI, a company partly owned by his mega-donor Salomon Melgen. Menendez sought to pressure administration officials to support a contract for port security in the Dominican Republic that would have provided a windfall for Melgen.

In a Miami Herald story today, Marc Caputo reports:

Sen. Bob Menendez’s ties to a former Miami aide who could benefit from a controversial overseas port contract, which the Democrat pushed for, extend to an international business group that last year feted Spain’s king and the U.S. secretary of state.

Menendez and Pedro Pablo Permuy hold high-level posts on the United States-Spain Council, funded by major special interests — from ATT to Bacardi to Wal-Mart– as well as a little-known investment company of the

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Sen. Menendez Claims He Didn’t Know Ex-Aide Was Part of Port Deal

Menendez photoFrances Robles reports in the New York Times that an ex-aide to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) stood to benefit from a Dominican port security deal, along with Menendez benefactor Salomon Melgen. From the Times:

Mr. Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has pushed United States government officials to help enforce a contract that a company owned in part by one of his major donors, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, has with the Dominican government, which has refused to honor it.

A top executive at Dr. Melgen’s security company will be Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former national security adviser and senior legislative aide to Mr. Menendez, according to a cousin of Dr. Melgen. Mr. Permuy’s ties to the senator go back at least 20 years.

But Menendez’ office told the Times that this is all news to the Senator:

Tricia Enright, a spokeswoman for Mr. Menendez, said the senator had no knowledge

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