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PARIS (Reuters) – The CEO of a U.S. tire company has delivered a crushing summary of how some outsiders view France’s work ethic in a letter saying he would have to be stupid to take over a factory whose staff only put in three hours work a day.
Titan International’s Maurice “Morry” Taylor, who goes by “The Grizz” for his bear-like no-nonsense style, told France’s left-wing industry minister in a letter published by Paris media that he had no interest in buying a doomed plant.
“The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three,” Taylor wrote on February 8 in the letter in English addressed to the minister, Arnaud Montebourg.
“I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!” Taylor added in the letter, which was posted by business daily Les Echos on its website on Wednesday and which the ministry confirmed was genuine.
“How stupid do you think we are?” he asked at one point.
“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs,” he said. “You can keep the so-called workers.”
As the leaked letter drew outrage in France, Montebourg penned a scathing response, spelling out the reasons why France routinely ranks as a leading destination for companies to invest, beating China and India in mid-2012.
“Can I remind you that Titan, the business you run, is 20 times smaller than Michelin, the French (tire) technology leader with international influence, and 35 times less profitable,” Montebourg wrote, in a two-page letter in French.
“This just shows the extent to which Titan could have learned and gained, enormously, from a presence in France.”
Montebourg’s letter, a copy of which was sent to Reuters, said Taylor’s comments, “as extremist as they are insulting”, illustrated his ignorance of France.
Union leaders also reacted furiously. CGT official Mickael Wamen said Taylor belonged more “in an asylum” than in the boardroom of a multinational and noted his views were based on a visit to a troubled plant whose operations had been cut back.
The vicious exchange made for another public knock to France’s business image after verbal attacks last year by Montebourg on firms seeking to shut ailing industrial sites prompted international derision.
Combined with concern over plans for a 75-percent “millionaires’ tax”, Montebourg’s antics drove London Mayor Boris Johnson to tell an international business audience that it seemed France was being run by left-wing revolutionaries.
Socialist President Francois Hollande may take some comfort in the view Taylor expressed of Washington: “The U.S. government is not much better than the French,” he wrote, saying Western leaders were failing to halt state-subsidized Chinese exports.
The row has pitted an outspoken former anti-globalization campaigner, the loose cannon of Hollande’s government, against a right-winger who revels in provocation and tough-talking.
Proud of being “The Grizz” — his group’s logo features a cartoon bear and its website opens to the roar of a grizzly — Taylor has clashed with unions before and once suggested that a U.S. judge was “smoking dope” after a ruling against his firm.
He built up Illinois-based Titan over 23 years into a global brand in tires for tractors and other off-road machinery and ran for the White House in the 1996 Republican primary, campaigning on a pro-business ticket.
At that time, he admitted to being “abrasive” in order to “get the job done”: “The politicians, they all want you to like them,” he told an interviewer. “I don’t care if people like me.”
To Montebourg, the author of “Kill All the Lawyers and Other Ways to Fix the Government” wrote: “You’re a politician so you don’t want to rock the boat … France will lose its industrial business because its government is more government.”
Taylor’s letter was a response to Paris having approached Titan as a possible buyer of U.S. group Goodyear’s Amiens Nord factory in northern France. Montebourg told reporters earlier on Wednesday that he would put his answer in a letter.
In it, he noted the United States is the No. 1 investor in France with 4,200 U.S. subsidiaries employing nearly half a million people in the country. He said those firms appreciated French productivity and “savoir-faire” and warned that Paris would fight others which exploit cheap labor.
Montebourg has often lashed out at cheap imports of manufactured goods from low-wage countries such as China and last year told the boss of Indian steelmaker ArcelorMittal he was unwelcome in a spat over a shuttered plant in France.
Despite having per-head productivity levels that rank among the best in Europe, economists blame France’s rigid hiring and firing laws for a long industrial decline that has dented exports. Many also fault the country’s 35-hour work week for diminishing competitiveness with Germany.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co’s Amiens Nord plant employs 1,250 people, who have been battling demands they work more shifts or accept layoffs. The site now faces closure.
Talks last year with Titan over a possible rescue fell down after a failure to reach a deal with unions on voluntary redundancies.
Taylor accused France of being at fault. “Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.”
(Additional reporting by Christian Plumb and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Giles Elgood)
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PHOENIX (AP) — The shooting of two U.S. Border Patrol agents near the Arizona-Mexico border may have been a case of friendly fire, a union chief for border agents and law enforcement officials said Friday.
The development could shake up the investigation into the death of one of the agents that re-ignited the political debate over security on the border.
George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing about 17,000 border agents, said he has learned new details from Border Patrol administrators that make him believe friendly fire could have played a part in the shooting.
“The only thing I can say is that the possibility of friendly fire is a higher likely scenario,” McCubbin said, declining to elaborate on the new details.
Two law enforcement officials also told The Associated Press that the FBI is investigating the possibility that the fatal shooting of 30-year-old Agent Nicholas Ivie and the wounding of another agent early Tuesday five miles from the border was a case of friendly fire.
The probe is examining whether the two agents exchanged gunfire in the mistaken belief that each was being fired on by a hostile gunman.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.
FBI officials in Washington and Phoenix declined to comment.
Investigators trying to determine whether friendly fire occurred in a shooting involving police would compare the ballistics of officers’ guns with bullet slugs that were either recovered from or passed through an officer’s body, said David Klinger, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and an expert in police shootings.
The officers involved in the case and any known witnesses also would be asked to provide accounts of such a shooting during interviews with investigators. And investigators would try to establish where officers and witnesses were positioned at the time of the shooting, Klinger said.
The Border Patrol couldn’t immediately comment on the frequency of friendly fire incidents at the agency, but they appeared to be rare.
Neither McCubbin, who has served in the Border Patrol since 1985, nor Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, had ever heard of any friendly fire incidents in the Border Patrol.
“I know of absolutely none in the past, and my past goes back to 1968,” Lundgren said, citing the year he joined the Border Patrol. “I’m not saying it never happened. I’m just saying I’ve never heard of it.”
The shooting occurred in a rugged hilly area about five miles north of the border near Bisbee, as the agents responded to an alarm that was triggered on one of the sensors that the government has installed along the border.
The wounded agent has been released from the hospital, while the third agent was uninjured.
Ivie’s death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a firefight north of the Arizona-Mexico border that killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.
An indictment in federal court in Tucson charged five men — at least four of whom are from Mexico — with murdering Terry. Authorities say the five men came to the U.S. from Mexico in order to rob marijuana smugglers.
Terry’s shooting was later linked to that “Fast and Furious” operation, which allowed people suspected of illegally buying guns for others to walk away from gun shops with weapons, rather than be arrested.
Authorities intended to track the guns into Mexico. Two rifles found at the scene of Terry’s shooting were bought by a member of the gun-smuggling ring being investigated. Critics of the operation say any shooting along the border now will raise the specter that those illegal weapons are still being used.
Twenty-six Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty since 2002.
Yost contributed from Washington.
Oliver Stone has smoked great marijuana all over the world, from Vietnam and Thailand to Jamaica and South Sudan. But the filmmaker says the best weed is made in the USA and that pot could be a huge growth industry for taxpayers if it were legalized.
Stone, whose drug-war thriller “Savages” opens Friday, has been a regular toker since his days as an infantryman in Vietnam in the late 1960s and knows a good herb when he inhales one. He insisted in a recent interview that no one is producing better stuff now than U.S. growers.
“There’s good weed everywhere in the world, but my God, these Americans are brilliant,” said Stone, 65, who sees only benefits from legalizing marijuana. “It can be done.
It can be done legally, safely, healthy, and it can be taxed and the government can pay for education and stuff like that. Also, you can save a fortune by not putting kids in jail.”
Stone is known for mixing polemics and drama in films such as “JFK,” ”Born on the Fourth of July,” ”Wall Street” and “Nixon,” his saga of the president who declared the war on drugs 40 years ago. Yet “Savages” may be closer to a pure thrill ride than anything he’s done, the action coming without much in the way of preaching for legalization.
Still, the film offers a fictional portrait of violence among a Mexican drug cartel and California pot growers that makes legalizing marijuana seem like a sane option.
“That would be my personal solution, but as a politician, I would fight for decriminalization first, because that is the immediate by-product of this mess that we got ourselves into. It’s very hard to pull out of a $ 40 billion-a-year industry, which is the prison industry.
It’s probably more than $ 40 billion. But they will fight you tooth and nail to keep these prisons as big as they are,” Stone said.
“It’s worse than slavery, per capita. In the black community, it is a form of slavery, this drug war, because it imprisons a huge portion of people, destroys their lives, coarsens our culture. And why? Marijuana is much less harmful than tobacco and prescription drugs in many cases and certainly alcohol. This puritanical strain got started with Nixon. It was a political issue for him, and it’s gotten worse. It’s like the Pentagon. You can’t stop it.”
“Savages” co-star Salma Hayek had some worries that the film could have become a sermon in favor of drug legalization. She was glad the film wound up sticking to a good story and generally keeping politics out of it, even though she agrees that legalization makes sense for marijuana, at least.
“Yeah, marijuana, if it’s legalized and controlled,” Hayek said. “Some of the other drugs that are on the market are really, really dangerous. The legal drugs. That your doctor can prescribe. And they can kill you with it slowly.”
Hayek plays the merciless boss of a Mexican cartel aiming to seize control of a California pot operation whose leaders (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) grow the best marijuana on the planet. The film co-stars Benicio Del Toro as Hayek’s brutal lieutenant, John Travolta as a corrupt Drug Enforcement Agency cop and Blake Lively as Johnson and Kitsch’s shared lover, whose kidnapping puts the two sides at war.
Stone, who has two Academy Awards as best director for 1989?s “Born on the Fourth of July” and 1986?s “Platoon” (the latter also won best picture), has had a fitful career since the mid-1990s, with critical bombs such as “Alexander” and modest box-office results for “W.”, “World Trade Center” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
With gorgeous Southern California scenery, wicked humor and relentless action, “Savages” may have more commercial appeal than anything Stone has done in decades. While the film itself doesn’t preach, it has given Stone a soapbox to play devil’s advocate, even landing him on the cover of the marijuana magazine High Times, smoking a joint.
“He’s Oliver Stone for a reason. There’s no filter, and he is who he is, and I admire that,” said “Savages” star Kitsch. “At the end of the day, who you’re going to be facing is yourself. If you can stay true to that — and I tell you, this business tests every minute of it — I love that. I love to see someone that is like, ‘Look, this (expletive) movie is what I’ve done. Take it or leave it.’ It’s an admirable quality, especially in this business.”
Stone considers his pot use part of a healthy regimen.
“It doesn’t hurt me,” he said. “As you can see, I’m still functioning at my age. My mind feels good. I may not be the brightest rocket in the room, but I certainly feel like I’m competent.”
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: David Germain, The Associated Press
Published: July 5, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The Associated Press
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York woman who donated a kidney so her ailing boss would move up the transplant waiting list says she was fired shortly after the operation, according to a complaint she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
Deborah Stevens said her former employer, Atlantic Automotive Group, discriminated against her over disabilities brought about by complications from the surgery, and she plans to sue the company for lost earnings and damages.
The company, which runs car dealerships on Long Island, said Stevens’s complaint is groundless.
“My gal is just a good-natured woman who’s trying to save a life and as soon as she did it, everything changed,” said Stevens’ attorney Lenard Leeds on Tuesday.
“When she wanted to take time off, she was scolded, she was yelled at,” he said. “Instead of being sympathetic, they were very hostile towards her.”
Stevens, of Hicksville, New York, said she learned that Jacqueline Brucia, who worked at Atlantic Automotive, was in need of a kidney in November 2010. Stevens had worked there as well but at the time had temporarily moved to Florida.
Stevens said she told Brucia she would donate a kidney.
“Brucia declined, but told her, ‘You never know, I may have to take you up on that offer one day,’” the complaint said.
Stevens learned the company would rehire her following her return to New York and not long afterward, Brucia told her a potential donor had not been approved by the hospital and asked if she was still willing to donate.
Stevens now believes Brucia was “grooming (Stevens) to be her ‘back-up plan,’” the complaint said.
Stevens’s kidney was not a good match for Brucia, but she agreed to donate it to a stranger in St. Louis, Missouri, setting up a transplant chain that enabled Brucia to receive a better-matched kidney from a donor in San Francisco.
Surgeons removed Stevens’s left kidney in August, and she returned to work about a month later. The surgery left her with damaged nerves in her leg, digestive problems and mental health issues, her lawyer said.
At work, Brucia became “curt and dismissive,” the complaint said. Stevens said she was berated for taking sick days and forced to relocate to a less desirable office after she complained to human resources about Brucia’s behavior.
On April 11, the company fired her, citing performance reasons.
Stevens’s lawyer said the complaint filed with the Division of Human Rights last week was a necessary step before a federal lawsuit is filed against Brucia and the company.
Telephone calls to Brucia’s home were not answered on Tuesday.
Atlantic Automotive released a statement saying: “It is unfortunate that one employee has used her own generous act to make up a groundless claim.
“Atlantic Auto treated her appropriately and acted honorably and fairly, at every turn,” it said.
(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)
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The former president of Sony Computer Entertainment, Kaz Hirai, may soon be taking on the role of president once again, only this time it will be for the entirety of Sony.
According to Japanese publication Nikkei (as reported by Mashable) Hirai will soon be promoted to the role of president of Sony Corporation, a position he may assume as soon as this April. Current president Howard Stringer would vacate the role but continue on as CEO and chairman.