May 19, 2013 / 12:25 pm
"Star Trek: Into Darkness" has warped its way to a $70.6 million domestic launch from Friday to Sunday, though it's not setting any light-speed records with a debut that's lower than the studio's expectations.
The latest voyage of the starship Enterprise fell short of its predecessor, 2009's "Star Trek," which opened with $75.2 million.
Since premiering Wednesday in huge-screen IMAX theatres and expanding Thursday to general cinemas, "Into Darkness" has pulled in $84.1 million, well below distributor Paramount's initial forecast of $100 million. The film has added $80.5 million overseas.
The "Star Trek" sequel bumped "Iron Man 3" down to second-place after two weekends on top. Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero saga took in $35.2 million domestically and $40.2 million overseas to shoot its worldwide total to nearly $1.1 billion.
May 17, 2013 / 2:43 pm
A Los Angeles doctor was sentenced Friday to 14 years in federal prison for bilking patients out of more than $1 million by promising them that an herbal supplement she hawked could cure late-stage cancer and other diseases.
U.S. District Judge Robert Timilin also ordered Dr. Christine Daniel to forfeit $1,277,083.
Daniel, 58, was found guilty of 11 counts, including wire fraud, tax evasion and witness tampering in September 2011.
She enticed patients to take her herbal product and charged them as much as $100,000 for a six-month treatment program that she claimed could cure cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, authorities said.
Some of her patients, however, died from complications of cancer within three to six months after taking the supplement. In one case, prosecutors contend a 22-year-old woman who had a highly curable form of neck lymphoma died because she relied on Daniel's recommendation to avoid radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
"The scope of Daniel's fraud was breathtaking," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement after Daniel was sentenced. "Daniel robbed victims of more than money, she also stole their hopes and dreams for a cure. Daniel is responsible for a shockingly cold-hearted fraud that has brought her a richly deserved federal prison sentence."
Prosecutors sought a 27-year prison term, while Daniel's attorney argued that nearly six years behind bars was more appropriate.
In all, authorities believe Daniel siphoned about $1.1 million from dozens of families between 2001 and 2004.
Some patients also endured additional pain and suffering because they took the herbal tonic provided by Daniel.
At trial, experts called by federal prosecutors said chemical tests of the product showed it contained beef extract flavouring and a sunscreen preservative, among other ingredients.
"I live with the guilt that I should have seen that none of what she was going through was helping her, but instead was hurting her," Debra Harris wrote in a letter submitted to the court about her sister Barbara Davis, who was one of Daniel's patients and who later died. Harris said Daniel's patients were not only convinced they could be cured, but so were family members who "wanted to believe it just as bad."
Paula Middlebrooks also put her faith in Daniel, who billed her nearly $60,000 over a five-month period to help treat her terminal breast cancer. Eventually, Daniel pronounced Middlebrooks free of cancer and threw her a party. But in reality, the cancer was spreading and Middlebrooks died shortly after she returned to her home in Georgia.
May 17, 2013 / 6:32 am
The Canadian dollar was lower Friday as Statistics Canada reported that consumer prices rose last month at the slowest rate since October 2009.
The loonie fell a penny to 97.12 cents US.
The federal agency says the annual inflation rate dipped six-tenths of a point to 0.4 per cent, below what economists had been expecting.
There was also an outward decline month-to-month, with prices dropping 0.4 per cent from March. The biggest contributor to the decline was gasoline, which fell six per cent from last April.
On a month-to-month basis, gasoline, clothing, restaurant meals, furniture and mortgage interest costs were all lower last month than they were in March.
But the Bank of Canada's core inflation index, which excludes volatile items such as gasoline, just managed to stay within the central bank's desired one-to-three range, falling only three-tenths of a point to 1.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, gold prices continued to pull back. June gold bullion dropped $8.10 to US$1,378.80 an ounce, down nearly five per cent this week. On Wednesday, it closed under $1,400 an ounce for the first time in a month.
The June crude contract was up 65 cents to US$95.81 a barrel and July copper climbed four cents to US$3.33 a pound.
Overseas markets were subdued after the European Union statistics office reported that nine of the 17 countries that use the euro are in recession, including France. The combined economy of the 17 countries shrank by 0.2 per cent in the first three months of 2013 compared to the prior quarter.
May 16, 2013 / 6:47 pm
President Barack Obama picked a senior White House budget official to become the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday, the same day another top official announced plans to leave the agency amid the controversy over agents targeting tea party groups.
Obama named longtime civil servant Daniel Werfel as the acting IRS commissioner. Werfel, 42, currently serves as controller of the Office of Management and Budget, making him a key player in implementing recent automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.
"Throughout his career working in both Democratic and Republican administrations, Danny has proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill," Obama said in a statement. "The American people deserve to have the utmost confidence and trust in their government, and as we work to get to the bottom of what happened and restore confidence in the IRS, Danny has the experience and management ability necessary to lead the agency at this important time."
Werfel replaces Steven Miller as acting IRS commissioner. Miller was forced to resign Wednesday amid the growing scandal, though he is still scheduled to testify Friday at a congressional hearing.
May 16, 2013 / 6:36 am
Telus is preparing to buy Mobilicity for $380 million, if it gets approvals from federal authorities. The announcement follows persistent rumours that the Vancouver-based telecommunications giant was in talks with Mobilicity, a small wireless carrier that has been struggling financially.
More to come.
May 16, 2013 / 6:12 am
The Canadian dollar headed lower Thursday as commodity prices continued to soften following a round of disappointing U.S. economic reports on unemployment and housing.
The loonie was down 0.10 of a cent to 98.21 cents US.
In addition to a pullback in commodity prices, the dollar could be affected by the Bank of Canada's release of three commentaries on topics ranging from monetary policy to the currency market.
June gold bullion fell $20.10 to US$1,376.10 an ounce and July copper dipped a penny to $3.25. The June crude contract was up 27 cents to US$94.57 a barrel.
Overseas, European markets fell after the European Union statistics office reported that nine of the 17 countries that use the euro are in recession, including France.
The combined economy of the 17 countries shrank by 0.2 per cent in the first three months of 2013 compared to the prior quarter.
May 15, 2013 / 6:52 am
The Canadian dollar headed lower Wednesday due to softening commodity prices, particularly copper.
The loonie was down 0.31 of a cent to 98.02 cents US.
The price of July copper dipped six cents to $3.23, signalling a weakening outlook for China and Europe and leaving the Canadian dollar vulnerable to more declines. The loonie is down two per cent, after it was flirting with parity against the U.S. greenback last week.
The June crude contract was down 93 cents to US$93.28 a barrel and June gold bullion dropped $18.10 to US$1,406.40 an ounce.
Meanwhile, weak economic data across the eurozone pushed European stocks lower, as news hit that the 17-country currency bloc is now in its longest-ever recession.
Europe's economic motor, Germany, returned to growth but still disappointed. Its gross domestic product rose 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year. That's less than the 0.3 per cent rise analysts were expecting. Meanwhile, the French economy, the bloc's second-largest, fell back into recession.
In morning trading in Europe, France's CAC-40 index was down 0.2 per cent to 3,958, while the DAX in Germany fell 0.1 per cent to 8,332. Britain's FTSE index of leading shares dropped 0.2 per cent to 6,672.
Earlier, Asian stocks focused instead on an improving U.S. economy. On Tuesday, a report from the National Federation of Independent Business showed a slight improvement in confidence among U.S. small business owners in the U.S. in April.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 per cent to close at 15,096.03, propelled by a falling yen and a surge in Sony's shares.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 per cent to 23,044.24. South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 per cent to 1,971.26. Benchmarks in India, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan also rose. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 per cent to 5,191.70.
May 14, 2013 / 10:18 pm
Hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre, real name Andre Young, and music industry entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine have donated a combined $70 million to create a new institute at the University of Southern California.
USC announced Tuesday night that the huge gift will be used to create the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.
The academy will provide a four-year program for undergraduates whose interests span several fields from marketing to computer science to the arts. It will include one-on-one faculty mentoring and interaction with entertainment industry luminaries.
Iovine is co-founder of Interscope Records, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M and a mentor on "American Idol."
Dr. Dre is best known as a producer and solo rapper and has his own label, Aftermath Entertainment.
May 14, 2013 / 7:34 pm
The Justice Department is investigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday, widening a probe that includes investigations by three committees in Congress.
Ineffective management at the IRS allowed agents to improperly target tea party groups for more than 18 months, concluded one investigation, by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The inspector general's report, released Tuesday, lays much of the blame on IRS supervisors in Washington who oversaw a group of specialists in Cincinnati who screened applications for tax exempt status.
The report does not indicate that Washington initiated the targeting of conservative groups. But it does say a top supervisor in Washington did not adequately supervise agents in the field even after she learned the agents were acting improperly.
"The report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test."
Holder said he ordered the FBI to investigate Friday, the day the IRS publicly acknowledged that it had singled out conservative groups.
"Those (actions) were, I think, as everyone can agree, if not criminal, they were certainly outrageous and unacceptable," Holder said. "But we are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations."
Three congressional committees already are investigating the IRS for singling out tea party and other conservative groups during the 2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. But Holder's announcement takes the matter to another level, if investigators are able to prove that laws were broken.
Holder said he wasn't sure which laws may have been broken.
May 14, 2013 / 9:00 am
The Canadian dollar fell Monday as commodities continued to trade lower after beginning the week in negative territory.
The loonie was down of 0.42 of a cent to 98.49 cents US.
The June crude contract was down eight cents to US$95.09 a barrel and June gold bullion dropped $1.90 to US$1,432.40 an ounce. July copper dipped seven cents at $3.29 a pound.
Gareth Watson said he's been surprised by the "strength and resiliency" of the loonie, which has seen small declines but did not dip as low as its international counterparts, such as Australia's dollar.
Perhaps this is an indicator that what's good news for the U.S., in turn is good news for Canada.
"Maybe it's a reflection of the fact that we basically follow the States in terms of economic activity and if the United States is doing better than they were 12 months ago, then hopefully the Canadian economy would benefit from that," said Watson, Richardson GMP's vice-president investment management.
He does not foresee a significant drop in the value of the loonie, unless there is a "significant" drop in commodity prices in the next few months.
Meanwhile, overseas markets showed little reaction to a surprising one per cent rise in industrial production among the 17 European Union countries that use the euro.
The figure raised some expectations that the recession in the eurozone may have ended. The first estimate of the region's gross domestic product in the first three months is due for release Wednesday.
In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.6 per cent to 8,325 while the CAC-40 in France was 0.3 per cent higher at 3,956. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.6 per cent at 6,671.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 per cent to close at 14,758.42 â€” a modest retreat following two spectacular sessions that have seen the index rise to five-year highs.
The index has soared more than 42 per cent since the beginning of the year as the yen dropped sharply in response to the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary stimulus program.
South Korea's Kospi added 1 per cent to 1,968.83 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 per cent at 22,930.28. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1 per cent to 2,217.01. The Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1.4 per cent 960.81.
May 13, 2013 / 6:53 am
The Canadian dollar was slightly ahead Monday amid slightly better-than-expected retail figures out of the U.S.
The loonie was up 0.27 of a cent to 98.89 cents US.
The U.S. reported its retail sales for April edged up 0.1 per cent on gains in automobile and clothing sales. Monthly retail sales figures are considered a key component to how an economy is faring.
Investors were largely positive that the U.S. economy is gaining traction, particularly in the jobs market, but economists had expected a 0.3 per cent decline as a result of a higher U.S. tax on Social Security that kicked in this year.
The Canadian dollar neared parity against the U.S. dollar at some points last week amid heightened investor appetite and signs that the U.S. economy is recovering as it should.
But that period may soon be over, as the loonie begins to soften due to weaker economic growth in Canada, the pull-back of commodity prices and the strengthening outlook for the U.S. greenback as all factors.
Overseas, world markets fell on news that China had slightly smaller-than-expected increases in industrial production and retail sales in April.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 per cent to 2,241.92. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose 0.3 per cent to 974.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.4 per cent to 22,989.81.
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 per cent to 1,948.70 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 per cent to 5,210.30.
In Europe, the DAX fell 0.7 per cent to 8,222 while the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 per cent at 6,405. The CAC-40 in France was 0.5 per cent lower at 3,936.
The only exception to the weakening world markets was Japan's Nikkei, which rose 1.2 per cent to 14,782.21, its highest close since December 2007. The index has soared more than 42 per cent since the beginning of the year.
May 12, 2013 / 7:42 pm
SAO PAULO - The cars roll endlessly off the local assembly lines of the industry's biggest automakers, more than 10,000 a day, into the eager hands of Brazil's new middle class. The shiny new Fords, Fiats, and Chevrolets tell the tale of an economy in full bloom that now boasts the fourth largest auto market in the world.
What happens once those vehicles hit the streets, however, is shaping up as a national tragedy, experts say, with thousands of Brazilians dying every year in auto accidents that in many cases shouldn't have proven fatal.
The culprits are the cars themselves, produced with weaker welds, scant safety features and inferior materials compared to similar models manufactured for U.S. and European consumers, say experts and engineers inside the industry. Four of Brazil's five bestselling cars failed their independent crash tests.
Unsafe cars, coupled with the South American nation's often dangerous driving conditions, have resulted in a Brazilian death rate from passenger car accidents that is nearly four times that of the United States, according to an Associated Press analysis of Brazilian Health Ministry data on deaths compared to the size of each country's car fleet. In fact, the two countries are moving in opposite directions on survival rates â€” the U.S. recorded 40 per cent fewer fatalities from car wrecks in 2010 compared with a decade before. In Brazil, the number killed rose 72 per cent, according to the latest available data.
Dr. Dirceu Alves, of Abramet, a Brazilian association of doctors that specializes in treating traffic accident victims, said poorly built cars take an unnecessary toll.
"The gravity of the injuries arriving at the hospitals is just ugly," he said, "injuries that should not be occurring."
Automakers in Brazil point out that their cars meet the nation's safety laws. Some said they build even tougher cars for the country because of its poorly maintained roadways and rejected any notion that cost-cutting in production leads to fatalities.
But the country's few safety activists perceive a deadly double standard, with automakers earning more money from selling cars that offer drivers fewer safeguards â€” a worrisome gap for new middle-class households, whose surging spending power has outpaced consumer protections taken for granted in more developed countries. The problem extends beyond Brazil, with economic forecasts showing the majority of global growth in auto sales taking place in emerging-market nations as the world's auto fleet doubles to 1.5 billion by 2020.
"Entry-level cars in Brazil are incredibly dangerous, it can't be denied. The death rate from accidents is far too high," said Maria Ines Dolci, co-ordinator of the Rio de Janeiro-based consumer defence group Proteste. "The manufacturers do this because the cars are a little cheaper to make and the demands of the Brazilian consumers are less; their knowledge of safety issues is lower than in Europe or the U.S."
Manufacturers earn a 10 per cent profit on Brazilian-made cars, compared with 3 per cent in the U.S. and a global average of 5 per cent, according to IHS Automotive, an industry consulting firm.
May 12, 2013 / 7:27 pm
Bangladesh's government plans to raise the minimum wage for garment workers after the deaths of more than 1,100 people in the collapse of a factory building focused attention on the textile industry's dismal pay and hazardous working conditions.
A new minimum wage board will issue recommendations for pay raises within three months, Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiky said Sunday. The Cabinet will then decide whether to accept those proposals.
The wage board will include representatives of factory owners, workers and the government, he said.
The April 24 building collapse was one of the world's worst industrial disasters and has raised alarm about conditions in Bangladesh's powerful textile industry that supplies retailers globally.
Working conditions in the $20 billion industry are grim, a result of government corruption, desperation for jobs, and industry indifference. Minimum wages for garment workers were last raised by 80 per cent to 3,000 takas ($38) a month in 2010 following protests by workers.
Rescue workers said 1,125 bodies had been recovered by late Sunday from the ruins of the fallen Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. Teams were using hydraulic cranes, bulldozers, shovels and iron cutters to uncover bodies more than two weeks after the eight-story building collapsed.
"We are still removing the rubble very carefully as dead bodies are still coming up," said Maj. Moazzem Hossain, a rescue team leader.
Hossain said they are trying to identify badly decomposed bodies by their identity cards. "If we get the ID cards with the bodies then we are lucky," he said.
On Friday, the search teams received a much-needed morale boost when they found a seamstress who survived under the rubble for 17 days on dried food and bottled and rain water.
More than 2,500 survivors were rescued soon after the collapse, but until 19-year-old Reshma Begum was found the crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.
Doctors said she was improving after treatment for dehydration, insomnia, stress and weakness.
The Rana Plaza owner and eight other people, including garment factory owners, have been detained in the collapse investigation. Authorities say the building owner added floors to the structure illegally and allowed the factories to install heavy equipment that the building was not designed to support.
May 12, 2013 / 2:49 pm
The Regus offices are officially open for business in Kelowna. These turn-key flexible work spaces include a common area kitchen, reception, and business lounge and are available to rent for the hour or the month.
May 12, 2013 / 8:43 am
Gatsby looks almost as great as a superhero at the weekend box office.
Leonard DiCaprio's "The Great Gatsby" partied like it was the Roaring Twenties with a $51.1 million debut that made it a surprisingly strong runner-up to comic-book blockbuster "Iron Man 3."
Studio estimates Sunday put "Gatsby" at No. 2 behind Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero sequel, which pulled in $72.5 million domestically to raise its total to $284.9 million after just 10 days in U.S. theatres.
With an additional $89.3 million in its third weekend overseas, "Iron Man 3" lifted its international total to $664.1 million and its worldwide haul to $949 million.
"The Great Gatsby" far exceeded industry expectations, which had pegged its opening weekend as low as $30 million.
May 11, 2013 / 9:30 am
Chrysler is recalling 469,000 Jeep SUVs worldwide because they can shift into neutral without warning on startup.
The recall affects 2005 to 2010 Grand Cherokees and 2006 to 2010 Commanders.
U.S. safety regulators say cracks in a circuit board can cause a faulty signal as the SUVs are being started. If the vehicles shift into neutral they can roll away.
Chrysler says the problem has caused 26 crashes and two injuries.
Chrysler will notify owners and dealers will update software to take care of the problem. Chrysler found cracks in a circuit board that turns the four-wheel-drive system on and off.
Repairs will be made at no cost to owners.
The recall covers 295,000 vehicles in the U.S., 28,500 in Canada, and 4,200 in Mexico. The remaining 141,000 are outside North America.
The company says in documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Administration that it began looking into the problem after a customer complained that an SUV rolled away in January of 2012 after being started remotely.
May 10, 2013 / 8:43 am
Bell says it would walk away from buying Astral Media if it's asked to sell any more of the TV specialty and radio company's assets to make the $3.4-billion merger work.
Chief executive George Cope says there wouldn't be any "strategic rationale" to buy Astral if it had to sell more of its assets to get regulatory approval from the CRTC.
Cope says Bell wouldn't be able to make its strategy of more content available on multiple platforms and more competition in Quebec if forced to do so.
Astral CEO Ian Greenberg says the consequences for his company would be severe if the CRTC doesn't approve the deal the second time round.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission turned down the deal last fall, saying it wasn't in the best interests of Canadians.
Bell (TSX:BCE) is making its final pitch to the CRTC to buy Astral (TSX:ACM.A), and it's revised proposal would, among other things, see Bell sell all of Astral's English language specialty services and one of its English pay TV services. However, it would keep eight of Astral's channels including the pay TV service, The Movie Network.
May 10, 2013 / 6:06 am
The Canadian dollar continued to dip Friday after climbing on strong closes in the world markets and rising commodity prices.
The loonie was down 0.27 of a cent to 98.89 cents US.
The dollar has been flirting with parity with the U.S. dollar this week amid heightened investor appetite and signs that the U.S. economy is recovering as it should.
However, TD Bank (TSX:TD) forecasts the loonie may be in for a rough ride this year and could drop to as low as 90 cents US by the end of the year.
The bank cited weaker economic growth in Canada, the pull-back of commodity prices and the strengthening outlook for the U.S. greenback as all factors working against the loonie.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported there were job gains of 12,500 in April, slightly missing expectations. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.2 per cent, in line with what was predicted.
Analysts had expected Ottawa to announce an increase of 15,000 jobs after it reported a dismal loss of 54,500 jobs in March.
Commodities continued to weaken. The June crude contract fell $1.85 cents to US$96.54 a barrel.
July copper was unchanged at US$3.34 a pound while June gold bullion was down US$36.10 to $1,432.50 an ounce.
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