- Created on 02 November 2012
DETROIT (AP) — Hyundai and Kia overstated the gas mileage on 900,000 vehicles sold in the past three years, a discovery that could bring sanctions from the U.S. government and millions of dollars in reimbursements to car owners.
The inflated mileage was uncovered in an audit of test results by the Environmental Protection Agency, which ordered the Korean automakers to replace fuel economy stickers on the affected cars. The new window stickers will have figures that are one-to-six miles per gallon lower depending on the model, the agency said Friday.
"Consumers rely on the window sticker to help make informed choices about the cars they buy," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator of the EPA's air-quality office. "EPA's investigation will help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field among automakers."
The EPA's inquiry into the overstated figures is continuing, and the agency would not comment when asked if the companies will be fined or if a criminal investigation is under way.
But the agency said it's the first case in which erroneous test results were uncovered in such a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer. Only two similar cases have been discovered since 2000, and those involved single models.
Hyundai and Kia executives said the higher figures were unintentional errors. They apologized and promised to pay owners of the 900,000 cars and SUVs for the difference in mileage. The payments, which will be made annually for as long as people own their cars, are likely to cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars.
The EPA's findings come at a bad time for Hyundai and Kia, which have seen explosive sales growth in the U.S. partly because of advertising campaigns that touted gas mileage. Hyundai even poked fun at competitors who promoted special high-mileage versions of their cars, claiming that its cars had high mileage across the model lineup.
The EPA said it began looking at Hyundai and Kia when it received a dozen complaints from consumers that the mileage of their 2012 Hyundai Elantra cars fell short of numbers on the window stickers. Staffers at the EPA's vehicle and fuel emission laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., included the Elantra in an annual fuel economy audit.
The audit turned up discrepancies between agency test results and data turned in by Hyundai and Kia, the EPA said. As a result, the two automakers will have to knock one or two miles per gallon off the mileage posted on the window stickers of most of their models. Some models will lose three or four miles per gallon, and the Kia Soul, a funky-looking boxy small SUV, will lose six mpg from the highway mileage on its stickers.
The companies said the mistakes stemmed from procedural differences between their mileage tests and those performed by the EPA
Automakers follow EPA procedures when conducting their own mileage tests, and the EPA enforces accuracy by auditing about 15 percent of vehicles annually. .
"We're just extremely sorry about these errors," said John Krafcik, Hyundai's CEO of American operations. "We're driven to make this right."
The errors involve 13 models from the 2011 through 2013 model years, including seven Hyundais and six Kias. Window stickers will have to be changed on some versions of the following models: Hyundai's Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent, Azera, Genesis, Tucson, Veloster and Santa Fe. Kia models affected include the Sorrento, Rio, Soul, Sportage and Optima Hybrid.
Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, said the companies have a program in place to reimburse customers for the difference between the mileage on the window stickers and the numbers from the EPA tests.
The companies will find out how many miles the cars have been driven, find the mileage difference and calculate how much more fuel the customer used based on average regional fuel prices and combined city-highway mileage. Customers also would get a 15 percent premium for the inconvenience, and the payments would be made with debit cards, Sprague said. The owner of a car in Florida with a one mpg difference who drove 15,000 miles would get would get a debit card for $88.03 that can be refreshed every year as long as the person owns the car, Sprague said.
If all 900,000 owners get cards for $88.03, it would cost the automakers more than $79 million a year.
For information, owners can go to www.hyundaimpginfo.com or www.kiampginfo.com .
Sung Hwan Cho, president of Hyundai's U.S. technical center in Michigan, said the EPA requires a complex series of tests that are very sensitive and can have variations that are open to interpretation. The companies did the tests as they were making a large number of changes in their cars designed to improve mileage. The changes, such as direct fuel injection into the cylinders around the pistons, further complicated the tests, Cho said.
"This is just a procedural error," he said. "It is not intended whatsoever."
Krafcik said the companies have fixed testing procedures and are replacing window stickers on cars in dealer inventories. Owners can be confident in their mileage stickers now, he said, adding that Hyundai will still be among the industry leaders in gas mileage even with the revised window stickers.
The mileage was overstated on about one-third of the Hyundais and Kias sold during the three model years, he said.
Through October, Hyundai sold 590,000 vehicles in the U.S., up 30 percent in two years. Kia sold more than 477,000, an increase of almost 60 percent. Strong warranties and improved styling, technology and quality have vaulted them into serious competition with larger auto companies.
Hyundai and Kia are owned by the same company and share factories and research, but they sell different vehicles and market them separately.
- Created on 02 November 2012
(CNN) -- The family of an American journalist believed to be held in Syria is planning a trip to Lebanon to help get him home, hopefully by the Thanksgiving holiday.
Debra Tice and her family are working for the release of her 31-year-old son, freelance journalist Austin Tice. He was in Syria on his way to Lebanon when the Tice family lost contact with him in August. In September, he showed up in a YouTube video blindfolded and held by gunpoint.
"Each November, our family gathers to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, a time of shukr, when we feast and give thanks for all our blessings," Debra Tice said in a statement Thursday, using the Arabic word for thankfulness. "Right now, there is an aching hole in our family, a beloved son who is missing from our table."
Those holding her son, she said, have the responsibility "to keep him safe, care for his needs and return him to us quickly, so our family can be complete when we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving."
"Someone knows where Austin is, someone has the power to reach him and to restore him to our family. We ask that person, those people, to show compassion. Allow Austin to contact us, release him to come home," she said. Tice said the family is planning to visit Beirut soon.
The circumstances surrounding the 47-second video -- including when and where it was shot, as well as specifically who it depicts -- remain unclear.
The shaky video, apparently shot on a cell phone, is set in a remote and rugged area. Men armed with machine guns -- and, in one case, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher -- are depicted talking loudly as they lead a man -- believed to be Tice -- up a hill.
The camera then focuses on the man, dressed unlike the others, in tattered clothes and with his eyes covered by a large blindfold.
Clearly distressed, he says a garbled prayer in Arabic. He then adds, "Oh Jesus, oh Jesus," before adding in Arabic, "Oh Allah."
Tice's last public post on Twitter was on August 11, when he wrote about attending a pool party with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army. His mother said the family lost contact with him on August 13.
He was believed to have been working in Damascus when he went missing, according to reports.
Two news organizations he worked for -- McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Post -- both identified Austin Tice in the video, which was posted online to YouTube on September 26.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. authorities believe that Syrian authorities detained Tice soon after, though the Damascus government has not said that it took him into custody.
The video was posted on a Facebook page supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with a message saying it will make "many Western media outlets ... embarrassed for blaming Syrian security forces for his detention."
A version of the video posted on YouTube by someone aligned with the opposition, meanwhile, asserted that it "stages (a) fake 'jihadi' video" and that al-Assad's forces are to blame for Tice's abduction.
There is no obvious indication as to who was with Tice, why he was outside being walked up a hill, or even why the video was shot in the first place. The footage differs significantly from others in recent memory showing kidnappers and their captives.
Syria has been embroiled in warfare, a crisis now in its 20th month. The tensions rippling through Syria have spilled over to neighboring Lebanon, and disappearances have been a grim feature of the Syrian civil war. Debra Tice said her family is aware that thousands of Syrian and Lebanese families have loved ones "who simply disappear" and are wracked with anxiety.
"As we work to be reunited with our son, we are keenly aware of the many families in this region who are also living with uncertainty and longing," she said.
She said her son's love for the people of the region "compelled him to come here as a journalist. We know it is also his fervent hope that these children and their families may live in peace."
- Created on 31 October 2012
LONDON (AP) — His career is in ruins and now an effigy of Lance Armstrong is about to go up in smoke.
The disgraced American cyclist has been chosen as the latest celebrity to be burned in effigy during an English town's nationally famous Bonfire Night celebrations.
Edenbridge in southeast England has built a 30-foot (9-meter) model of Armstrong, who was stripped recently of his seven Tour de France titles for doping offenses.
The effigy, to be burnt Saturday, sports a sign saying "For sale, racing bike, no longer required."
Towns across Britain light bonfires and set off fireworks on Nov. 5 to commemorate Guy Fawkes' failed plot in 1605 to blow up Parliament.
The bonfires are traditionally topped with an effigy of Fawkes but have been decorated with contemporary figures over recent years.
Previous Edenbridge effigies include comedian Russell Brand and soccer star Wayne Rooney.
- Created on 01 November 2012
The Donkey and the Elephant dominate national politics, but occasionally, an Independent, a Green Party Candidate or a Libertarian on the ballot break through.
But the most difficult way to win an election is as a write-in candidate, and the 21 on the ballot in Cook County for the Nov. 6 election face a daunting task.
Write-in candidates are often first-time candidates with little political clout and a lot of inexperience - but sometimes candidates choose the write-in route to increase their chances of victory.
Anthony Williams is a candidate for Illinois 2nd congressional district as a write- in. He has run for office a total of six times, affiliated with different parties.
In 2004 he ran as a Democrat, in 2006 as a Libertarian, and in 2008 as a republican candidate.
"The status-quo party's loyalty is to their candidate and unless someone has deep pockets it's very difficult to climb that mountain." Williams said.
"I used the art of citizenship, "Williams adds. "Whatever party it took to defeat Jackson (incumbent since 1995). I was willing to take that gamble based on constitutionality and citizenship."
Williams did get 10,564 votes as a Green Party candidate for the 2010. But that was still only 5.65 percent of the votes - a sound defeat but not enough to keep him down in the long run.
"Voters should look at a person's credentials and their body of work," said Williams. "I am an unusual write-in candidate because a good number of people already knew me from my work in the community and my previous campaigns."
Some write-in candidates face an even tougher fight, and they are the first-time candidates with little experience, support, or money to have an impact and get their name and message to the public.
First-time candidate Chris Michel is running for the 11th congressional district seat. He said he miscalculated what it would take to defeat a major party incumbent.
"I couldn't make it by collecting signatures and getting my name on the ballot. I couldn't get any support or any assistance doing it - it just wasn't feasible for me," he said.
But he didn't give up his campaign, and was encouraged to stay the course.
"People said I shouldn't give up and being a write-in candidate was the next logical step." Michel said.
"I started off with a full head of steam thinking if I could get a few things to line up properly that I'd have a good shot at winning," Michel said. "But I'm at the point where I thought I would get 10 percent or 10,000 votes, but now I'll be lucky if I get 100 votes."
Williams, with several years of campaigning experiences, recognizes his long-shot status, but also embraces 21st century technology to help boost his campaign's profile.
"You have to work harder in terms of getting your message out," he said. "But because of social media I'm touching every citizen by the way of Tweeter and
Facebook, email and email commercials."
"I'm also at the polls everyday - people are clear that they do not need an absentee congressman," Williams said, referring to Jesse Jackson Jr., who's been absent from congress for several months.
The challenge of taking on the two major parties, along with the paperwork of getting on a ballot are difficult, and both need to be challenged Michel said.
"The only way to get any headway is to be a Republican or Democrat because the system isn't designed for anything other than those two parties."
"It's along shot," he adds. "Nobody pays much attention to write-in candidates at all."
- Created on 30 October 2012
JOHANNESBURG — African leaders joined thousands of Ugandans Tuesday on an airstrip in the capital of Kampala where 50 years ago Uganda announced independence from British rule.
The East African country has come a long way from the days when brutal dictators were in charge, but it has not had a single peaceful transfer of power since 1962 and the potential for instability remains as opposition activists intensify their campaigns and authorities clamp down.
President Yoweri Museveni took power by force in 1986 and has ruled since. He has not said if he intends to run in the 2016 vote, but some in the ruling party are starting to demand his retirement, saying his long stay in power hurts the party's popularity. For opposition activists, the fact that Museveni has held power for more than half the time Uganda has been independent is reason enough to use the anniversary to demand his unconditional exit.
"We have to show the whole world that there is no independence in Uganda," said Ingrid Turinawe, a prominent political activist. "Why should we celebrate? What is there to celebrate?"
Military police surrounded the home of Uganda's top opposition leader on Monday, effectively putting Kizza Besigye out of circulation. Besigye had threatened to stage a rally in Kampala to spotlight the government's alleged failures.
David Mpanga, a lawyer for Besigye, said his client's house has been "besieged" by police and his movements restricted. Police last Thursday fired teargas to disperse a rally called by Besigye, who was then taken into a police cell before being allowed to return to his heavily monitored home.
"We are not yet there," said Nicholas Opio, an independent political analyst, talking about good governance in Uganda. "We are still on the road. There are bigger questions to be asked of this government. There is an aura of paranoia on the part of the state and this paranoia is a result of the increasing unpopularity of the regime."
Henry Kyemba, an author and politician who worked for Ugandan dictator Idi Amin before fleeing to England, said the country had progressed from the days of Amin, who ruled by military decree and whose regime killed thousands of Ugandans. He describes Uganda today as hopeful despite the lack of peaceful political transitions.
"That is a most unfortunate situation and we should try and reverse it," said Kyemba, whose 1977 book about Uganda under Amin is titled "A State of Blood.".
The national celebrations Tuesday were attended by at least 15 heads of state, including two of the longest-serving leaders in Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. Britain's Queen Elizabeth was represented by Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who in 1962 handed over the symbolic instruments of power to a young Ugandan politician who would be overthrown eight years later by the army chief, Amin.
Uganda's population has since grown from 7 million to 34 million. The World Bank says Uganda has sustained a record of "prudent macroeconomic management and structural reform." In 1996, at least 44 percent of Uganda's population lived below the poverty line. By 2009, according to the World Bank, the figure had fallen to 24.5 percent.
Angelo Izama, a political analyst with a Kampala-based think tank called Fanaka Kwawote, said that while Uganda has made progress on issues such as women's rights, poverty reduction and the rule of law, the country remains in a perpetual state of political crisis.
"Unfortunately, Uganda advances through crises," Izama said. "The next crisis will be the question of succession. The oil resource has upped the ante on what succession means."
In 2006 Uganda discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Rift, along the border with Congo, raising expectations in a country that exports mostly cash crops such as coffee and tea. Officials now estimate Uganda's crude oil deposits at 3.5 billion barrels, the basis for Museveni's claim last month that the country will achieve middle-income status in about 50 years.
But some suspect the discovery of oil may have given Museveni a new incentive to hang on to power as well as a source of money to build and maintain that patronage networks that have enabled him to rule so long.
"A number of independent and donor-funded studies have characterized today's government of Uganda as one of neo-patrimonial rule," the watchdog Global Witness said of Uganda shortly before Museveni was re-elected last year. "This is a system of government which is dominated by an individual leader whose personal authority is indistinguishable from that of the state and in which political power is maintained through a combination of patronage and the selective use of intimidation and force."