Guitar-playing bankruptcy judge tuned in to people PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press   
Monday, 09 December 2013 14:16

DETROIT (AP) — Much of what you need to know about Judge Steven Rhodes, friends and former colleagues say, can be gleaned from a handful of hours amid the hundreds he's logged overseeing the largest public bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

On a September day in Detroit's grand federal court building, the veteran bankruptcy judge invited retirees and residents to tell him what the city's massive restructuring would mean for them. Each had three minutes, but Rhodes was generous with the clock and let them have their say.

He didn't have to do it.

"There is no requirement that a bankruptcy judge has to listen to individuals who are represented by (lawyers)," said former bankruptcy Judge Ray Reynolds Graves, who worked with Rhodes for 17 years. "Steve put that to one side and had the retirees come into court and address him personally. Listening to people who could be adversely affected by having their pensions cut — that tells you something about the man's sensitivities."

Rhodes' character and conduct are more closely scrutinized since last week's ruling that Detroit was eligible to fix its broken finances in bankruptcy court. Friends and colleagues say the chief bankruptcy judge in Detroit — approaching retirement himself — aims to push the human impact to the front of an often arcane, impenetrable case of creditors and complex financial formulas.

AP Exclusive: Accusations dog Russian copter deal PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press   
Monday, 09 December 2013 07:46

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. military officials insisted a top-secret Pentagon study proved the need to buy Russian helicopters for Afghanistan's security forces. But the study actually recommended an American-made rotorcraft, according to unclassified excerpts obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpts show the U.S. Army's workhorse Chinook, built by Boeing Co. in Pennsylvania, was "the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over a 20-year" period.

The finding has triggered allegations the Defense Department misled members of Congress and improperly cut U.S. companies out of competing for a contract that has swelled to more than $1 billion.

More than two years since DOD announced it was acquiring Russian Mi-17 helicopters, a veil of secrecy still obscures the pact despite its high-dollar value, the potential for fraud and waste, and accusations the Pentagon muffled important information.

The unprecedented arms deal also serves as a reminder to a war-weary American public that Afghanistan will remain heavily dependent on U.S. financial support even after its combat troops depart.

Detroit ruling opens threat to N.Y. worker pensions PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press   
Monday, 09 December 2013 07:47

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A federal bankruptcy court's decision in Detroit last week putting that city's constitutionally protected public pension on the table for cuts cracks the door open for pension reductions in New York.

The concern among unions is that the assurance that New York's public workers have operated under since 1938 — that pensions "shall not be diminished or impaired" — could now be threatened by local governments fighting off insolvency.

"It's a turning point. ... What has been sacred — pensions — are not sacred anymore," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has been a leader in seeking action to save New York's distressed municipalities from insolvency. That has so far been avoided through higher taxes and layoffs and reducing services.

The Detroit decision could give struggling municipalities leverage in negotiating other concessions to avoid bankruptcy court.

Miner said Albany — where politicians' campaigns benefit greatly from organized labor's money, volunteers and votes — will also have to take notice. She and some other local leaders have long sought far more action from Albany, including relief from unfunded, state-mandated programs.

Now, inaction could drive a municipality to bankruptcy for relief and be worse for unions.

EU warns Nokia not to become 'patent troll' PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 09 December 2013 07:44

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Europe's top regulator has warned Nokia not to try to become a "patent troll" after the Finnish company sold most of its cellphone-making business to Microsoft Corp. this year but retained its patent portfolio.

Joaquin Almunia said in a speech in Paris on Monday he had approved the $7.2 billion sale as not presenting problems on Microsoft's side, but there is a danger Nokia will now attempt to "extract higher returns" from its patent portfolio. "In other words...behave like a patent troll, or to use a more polite phrase, a patent assertion entity."

Almunia, in charge of competition at the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, warned he will open an antitrust case against the company if it attempts to take "illegal advantage" of its patents.

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