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Tuesday, Sep 30th

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How robots are eating the last of America’s—and the world’s—traditional manufacturing jobs

Baxter, the robotBaxter, the affordable, humanoid industrial robot recently unveiled by Rethink Robotics, is so easy to program that I once did it one-handed and drunk. We were at a party at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he was standing in the corner, looking lonely. No, really—Baxter has expressive eyes projected on a touchscreen where you’d expect it to have a face, virtually guaranteeing that you’ll anthropomorphize it.

Drink in hand, I walked over and, with only the vaguest sense of how to get it to respond to my touch, grabbed it by the wrist. I guided its “hand” over to a box full of small objects. Its caliper-like fingers closed on a widget. Then I moved its hand, which offered almost no resistance at all, to another position on the table. It dropped the object.

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Facebook Is Getting a $429 Million Tax Refund This Year

facebookFebruary really is the cruelest month because, on top of all this snow, one is forced to start contemplating death, or at least filling out one's taxes. (The distinction was always lost on us.) You might be left scratching your head, and wishing you had a better accountant, when you hear how Facebook is getting hundreds of millions in a tax refund this year.

Thanks to a statement from Citizens for Tax Justice, Bloomberg Businessweek's Peter Coy brought an interesting little nugget of information from Facebook's public filing to our attention. Because of the way Facebook treats stock options distributed to investors and employees instead of cash compensation on its balance sheets, the company is able to claim paying a tax liability worth hundreds of millions of dollars when the reality is they're getting paid:

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S&P expects to be sued by Department of Justice over ratings on mortgage-backed bonds

Standard and PoorStandard & Poor’s says the government plans to file a lawsuit alleging wrongdoing by the agency when it gave high ratings to mortgage-backed securities that later plunged in value and fueled the 2008 financial crisis.

S&P said Monday that it has been told by the Department of Justice that it intends to file a civil lawsuit focusing on S&P’s ratings on some mortgage-backed securities in 2007.

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Chinese firm wins A123 despite U.S. tech transfer fears

Chinese buy A123China's largest auto parts maker won U.S. government approval to buy A123 Systems Inc (AONEQ.PK), a maker of electric car batteries, despite warnings by some lawmakers that the deal would transfer sensitive technology developed with U.S. government money.

The sale of the lithium-ion battery maker to a U.S. unit of Wanxiang Group was approved by a U.S. government committee on foreign investment, according to a statement from the Chinese company.

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Report: Treasury approved excessive pay for executives at bailed-out AIG, GM and Ally

US Treasury The U.S. Treasury Department disregarded its own guidelines by allowing large pay increases for executives at three firms bailed out during the financial crisis, a report released Monday says.

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said Treasury approved all 18 requests it received for executive raises at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. Of those requests, 14 were for $100,000 or more. One raise, for the CEO of a division at AIG, was for $1 million.

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American unions suffer steep decline in membership

Union membership fallsThe nation's labor unions suffered sharp declines in membership last year, led by losses among public sector workers in cash-strapped states, cities, counties and towns.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the unionization rate fell from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent of all workers, the lowest level since the 1930s. Total union membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million.

TVNL Comment: Union busting is a planned and well orchestrated political move across the United States.  American labor is being depleted of any power, and will be at the absolute mercy of predatory corporations.

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Fed missed warning signs in 2007 as crisis gained steam

Fed missed warning signsTop policymakers at the Federal Reserve felt for most of 2007 that problems in housing and banking were isolated and unlikely to tear down the U.S. economy as they ultimately did.

Even as crisis signals started flashing red with the freezing of credit markets during the summer, Fed officials believed the troubles would be moderate and short-lived, according to transcripts of the 2007 meetings released on Friday after the customary five-year lag.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, said during an emergency telephone call on August 10 of that year that most of Wall Street was still doing fine.

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