New Orleans shooting 12 hurt

New Orleans shooting, New Orleans police say that a dozen people have been shot during a Mother’s Day second-line parade.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas told reporters at least 12 people were shot during the parade in the city’s 7th Ward.

Police say the incident happened about 2 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Frenchmen and Villere streets.

The Times-Picayune reports there were about 200 people at the event when gunfire erupted.

Serpas told reporters the victims include a 10-year-old who sustained a minor wound. WDSU-TV reports at least four people were in surgery and others had been taken to four area hospitals.

Nobody has been arrested. It’s unclear what sparked the gunfire.

Police are said to be looking for three people in connection with the attack.

New Orleans shooting: Dozen people shot at Mother's Day second line

New Orleans shooting: NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas says that at least 12 people were shot at a Mother's Day second-line parade in the 7th Ward.

The youngest victim in the shooting was 10 years old.

Police say there were 200 people at the corner where shots rang out, and 300 to 400 people at the second line in all.

EMS took nine people to University Hospital; eight were suffering from gunshot wounds, while another was injured in a fall while escaping the shooting. Three of those victims who were shot are in critical condition.

There were about 10 cops on the scene trying to control the second line when the shooting happened. There were reportedly two different guns involved.

Police believe three suspects were involved. They were seen fleeing toward Claiborne Avenue.

There was a shooting nearby just last week at Frenchmen and Claiborne.

We have a reporter at the scene and will have the latest during the 5:30 p.m. newscast

New Orleans shooting

New Orleans shooting, The NOPD is on the scene of a shooting near the intersection of Frenchmen and North Villere Streets where 12 people were shot during a Mother's Day second line.

Chief Serpas announced in a press conference that the youngest victim is believed to be a 10-year-old girl. Police say she suffered a graze wound.

Police say about 300 people were attending a second line when gun shots rang out.

Police are looking for three suspects in this incident.

Around 12:30 p.m., police responded to a separate shooting the 2400 block of South Saratoga Street in Central City where another man was shot. His condition is unknown at this time.

Seth Meyers replaces Fallon: Seth replaces Jimmy on late night time slot

Seth Meyers replaces Jimmy Fallon on his late night show time slot. On May 12, ABC News reported that this is going to happen in the upcoming season. What do you think of this news?

That doesn't mean that Jimmy Fallon won't still be on TV. He will just be in a different time slot and Seth Meyers will have a show at this normal time. Fall is moving up to replace Jay Leno on his show and will be in that time slot from now on.

News already came out about Fallon moving in to fill the shoes of Jay Leno. The fact that they are giving Seth Meyers has been a rumor, but is just now coming out for sure. Seth has been on the show "Weekend Update" and he is also a writer for "Saturday Night Live."

What do you think of the addition of Seth Meyer to late night? Do you plan to watch him?

Lamborghini Egoista: Concept car is extreme of hedonism says designer

Lamborghini Egoista: The Egoista was dramatically revealed by brand boss Stephan Winkelmann at a dinner held to mark the end of the week-long drive by 350 Lamborghinis through Italy, organized in celebration of the marquee’s 50th birthday.

Lamborghini has confirmed that the Walter De Silva designed car takes its name from the fact that it has just one seat.

The styling is said to be inspired by that of an Apache helicopter, and early reports suggest the lightweight car is extensively made of carbon fiber and that the cockpit canopy can be removed to save weight. Power comes from a 5.2-litre V10 engine.

De Silva is quoted as saying: "This is a car made for a single person, to have fun and to express their own personality. It is designed for people who want the most extreme and most special things in the world. This car represents extremes of hedonism; it is a car without compromise. In a word, it is selfish."

Few details of the Egoista concept are currently available, with Lamborghini having released little information and just a single official picture.

At the Geneva motor show earlier this year the Lamborghini Veneno was revealed as an initial part of the firm's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Least-safe cities

Least-safe cities, A recent poll found that residents around Memphis, Tenn. were the least likely to feel safe walking alone at night, while Minneapolis-St. Paul residents said they were most likely to feel safe.

Only around 55 percent of Memphis residents said they felt safe walking alone at nighttime, a poll from Gallup found.

In New Orleans, around 59 percent of residents felt safe, while only 61 percent of Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., residents said they felt safe, Gallup says. Sixty-three percent of Houston residents and 63 percent of Jacksonville, Fla., residents felt secure.

In contrast, 80 percent of those who lived in the Minneapolis area said they felt secure.

Regarding the most safe cities, 78 percent of Denver residents felt safe; 78 percent of Raleigh, North Carolina residents felt a sense of security; 77 percent of Boston residents felt the same; 77 percent of Salt Lake City residents said they felt safe; and 77 percent of Austin, Texas residents felt likewise, according to the poll.

“The average level of perceived safety among those living in the largest MSAs is 71 percent. The national average is slightly higher, at 72 percent,” Gallup said in a release.

It may be surprising to some that Detroit did not top the Gallup poll, which was released last month.

Last week, said that three neighborhoods in Detroit were the most dangerous in the United States, while three neighborhoods in Chicago were in the top 25.

Three neighborhoods in Memphis were also included.

Lamborghini Egoista

Lamborghini Egoista, Supercar concept unveiled by Lamborghini at their 50th birthday party tonight has an official name: the Lamborghini Egoista, which literally means "selfish" in Italian. Seriously. I am not joking.

A few of you commenters pointed out in the earlier story that the name was probably "Egoista", and you turned out to be right, contrary to early reports on Twitter and Facebook that called it "Ecosta" or "Ecosita." So why is it for selfish people? Because it only has one seat, that's why. You know how the McLaren F1 had three seats? This has two less than that. According to the Italian-only (for now) press release we were sent, the car has aviation-inspired styling with a ton of carbon fiber and a 5.2-liter V10 engine. Here's what designer Walter De Silva said, translated from Italian:

"This is a car ... made for a single person, to have fun and to express own personality to the Nth degree. And designed just for an audience who just wants things ipersofisticato most extreme and the most special in the world. Represents the extremes of hedonism, is a car without compromise, in a word: selfish. " The translation is a bit clunky, but we get what he means. Lamborghini also said that the one-seat cockpit is designed to mimic that of the Apache helicopter, and is a separate unit that can detach from the car itself. No details yet on how that will work exactly, and still no word on whether this is a concept for some upcoming car or just a one-off, but I hope we find out soon.

Seth Meyers replaces Fallon

Seth Meyers replaces Fallon, It’s official: Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers is NBC’s new late-night host.

NBC will hand the reins of the Late Night franchise to the SNL head writer and Weekend Update anchor next year.

Meyers will take over the 12:35 a.m. slot after current host Jimmy Fallon vacates the show to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno. Meyers has been the odds-on favorite to assume the post since March, as SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels is also the executive producer on Late Night.

“We think Seth is one of the brightest, most insightful comedy writers and performers of his generation,” said NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. “His years at SNL‘s Weekend Update desk, not to mention being head writer of the show for many seasons, helped him hone a topical brand of comedy that is perfect for the Late Night franchise.”

“I only have to work for Lorne for five more years before I pay him back for the time I totaled his car,” Meyers said. “Twelve-thirty on NBC has long been incredible real estate. I hope I can do it justice.”

Last fall the Emmy-winning Meyers returned for his 12th season on SNL, eighth season as head writer and seventh season as Weekend Update anchor. The Late Night with Seth Meyers premiere date was not announced, but debut either during or right after NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics is likely. Sources say Meyers will remain working on SNL through the fall until he has to begin preparations to take over Late Night. Michaels is executive producer; Michael Shoemaker will act as producer.

So with Last Call recently renewed, that means NBC’s new late-night lineup will go as follows: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Carson Daly.

LeBron James mocked

LeBron James mocked: LeBron James took a dramatic flop against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night and now Chicago is going after the Heat star for what they call a badly choreographed acting job.

Following the game Nate Robinson told Yahoo Sports:

“You see LeBron in a lot of commercials, a lot of good acting.”

NBA fans have long known that LeBron for all his skill on the court also loves to gain an edge wherever possible. Push him the wrong way and his giant frame goes flying, knock into him and suddenly its the worst offense in the history of professional basketball.

On Friday night LeBron James threw Nazr Mohammed to the ground as he attempted to stop a fast break. In response to his obvious attack James was handed a technical foul. Not believing he got all he deserved Mohammed Nazr quickly threw LeBron to the ground.

As James slide to the court he then appears to keep sliding backward for an infinite amount of time. On video the slide was an obvious embellishment but it was also enough to get Nazr ejected from the game.

After the game even Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau attacked the obvious LeBron James flop:

“From my angle, I just saw a guy flop.”

Bulls power forward Taj Gibson then compared LeBron to Michael Jordan, noting, ”MJ would get fouled and he would just keep playing. That’s old-school basketball.”

The Miami Heat in the meantime might get the last laugh, they continue play against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night and they do so with a 2-1 lead over Chitown.

Kristen Wiig SNL

Kristen Wiig SNL, Kristen Wiig makes her much-anticipated first return to Saturday Night Live tonight after leaving at the end of last season. After a week of weird last time with Zach Galifianakis, Wiig’s fans are likely hoping the show goes two-for-two on the zany front, allowing Wiig to bring back some of her favorites such as Penelope or Target Lady. (Sorry, but in my opinion the Gilly drink with Justin Timberlake was more than enough of that character this season.)

Much like Timberlake earlier this year, it’ll be interesting to see if the show plays like a DVD repeat of The Best of Kristen Wiig or if, together with the writers, Wiig creates some new crazy ladies to add to her diverse repertoire. Both the Jodi Arias trial and Charles Ramsey seem ready for the Saturday Night Live treatment. I can see her taking her standard silliness and battling against Nancy Grace (Kate McKinnon) for parking lot coverage of the trial or something like that.

Wiig will be joined by musical guest Vampire Weekend, who will be making their third trip to the late-night show promoting their upcoming album Modern Vampires of the City. Besides the band, will any famous faces appear alongside Wiig? In her send off, Mick Jagger dropped by to wish her well. She’s been a busy film lady since her last time in Studio 8H — perhaps new co-stars Darren Criss or Matt Dillon will drop by? Or maybe fellow one-year-out grad Andy Samberg will premiere a new Lonely Island video? They’ve got a new album out June 11, and this week kicked off their first video. Talk about the show in the comments below, and check back tomorrow morning for a full recap.

Castro brothers knew nothing

Castro brothers knew nothing, When Ariel Castro was arrested last week on charges of kidnapping and raping three women for more than a decade in his Cleveland home, police also detained his two brothers, showing their mugshots to the world.

Police released Pedro and Onil Castro a few days later, saying neither man had anything to do with the alleged abductions and torture of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

The men, both in their 50s, are now in hiding in an undisclosed location, as are other family members, including their 71-year-old mother. The brothers say their homes have had rocks thrown through the windows -- one of them was broken into -- and they have been receiving death threats online.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, which took place outside Cleveland, the Castro brothers say they are grateful the three girls are finally free and safe, but they are haunted by missing clues and hunted by the media.

Unable to go home, they say they are trapped for something they didn't do. And they worry that people will always believe that they played a role.
"Absolutely," Onil Castro says.

"Yes," Pedro Castro says.

Their friends, they say, cannot fathom them doing anything like that.

"And the people out there that know me, they know that Onil Castro is not that person and has nothing to do with that. Would never even think of something like that," he says, referring to the allegations against his brother, Ariel.

"I was a very liked person, individual. I've never had any enemies. No reason for anybody to think that I would ever do something like that. It's a shock to all my friends. They couldn't believe it," Onil Castro says.

"Same," says Pedro Castro. "I couldn't never think of doing anything like that. If I knew that my brother was doing this ... I would not be, not -- in a minute, I would call the cops because that ain't right.

"But yeah, it's going to haunt me down because people going to think, yeah, Pedro got something to do with this and Pedro don't have nothing to do with this. If I knew, I would have reported it, brother or no brother."

In more of the exclusive interview to be broadcast Monday, the brothers reveal many more details, including the one strange rule they say Ariel Castro demanded they follow when inside his home.

Opinion: Ariel Castro's alleged abuse, sadism is all too common

Goat jumps on pig

Goat jumps on pig, on any ranking of cuteness, baby goats have to be right up there with puppies and kittens.

The little kids – they’re usually born as twins and triplets – nuzzle one another, sniff your face and wobble about on knobby legs. 

So it’s no surprise that Noreen O’Connell loves her baby goats, and recently there’s been a lot to love.

Every other day in April it seemed baby goats were being born at her farm on Federal Hill Road.

Noreen and her husband, Tim, have been farming here for 37 years, and at one time or another they raised pigs, cows and chickens. But she didn’t love them the way she loves her little kids.

“I don’t know why we didn’t have goats 30 years ago,” Noreen said as she watched 2-day-old goats struggle to climb a step stool.

Butternut Farm has long produced a wide range of vegetables on about six acres, “arugula to zucchini,” as Noreen likes to say, as well as cut-your-own flowers and Christmas trees.

But it’s the goats Noreen is excited about now.

The O’Connells will be milking six does (female goats) when they all deliver their babies and will have up to 12 kids. Joseph is their wether (neutered male) and first born, and the babies are fathered by bucks owned by their daughter, Marcy, who runs the Holland Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on Osgood Road. She will be milking eight does and has 12 yearling goats and five newborns so far.

All that means there will eventually be an abundance of fresh goat milk.

The farm is now a New Hampshire-licensed dairy called the Milford Goat Dairy, selling milk, hard and soft cheese and goat milk soap. The O’Connells also sell Earthling Maple granola made by their other daughter, Jeannine, and will soon be bringing their products, which are sold at the farm, to Farmers Markets in Milford, Bedford and Nashua.

The idea of raising goats came to Noreen and Tim five years ago when they decided they wanted to have livestock again.

Goats were the best and easiest choice, Noreen said, because they are “personable, fun, give a healthy product” and their milk is “closest to human milk and easily digestible, sweet and creamy.”

Both farms welcome visitors and the O’Connells enjoy teaching people the benefits of locally grown/produced food.

Jack Butler dies

Jack Butler dies, Hall of famer helped revolutionize the way cornerbacks played in the NFL during his Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with a staph infection. He was 85.

Butler's son John said his father's heart stopped suddenly Saturday morning. The elder Butler had spent the last several months in the hospital dealing with a staph infection that plagued him since his career ended in 1959.

"It had been a long road," John Butler said. "It wasn't completely out of the blue." Abcnews reports

Unlike Butler's professional career.

The Pittsburgh native played wide receiver at St. Bonaventure and was planning on returning to school to get his master's degree when he received a phone call from Steelers business manager Fran Fogarty in the summer of 1951. To be honest, Butler assumed Fogarty had the wrong number.

"I didn't know anything about professional football," Butler said.

It didn't matter. Over the next nine years, Butler became one of the NFL's top defensive backs, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound wrecking ball known for his physical play and uncanny knack for getting to the ball. Butler intercepted 52 passes during his career, including a league-high 10 in 1957. He made the Pro Bowl four times and was chosen first-team All-NFL three times before a knee injury in 1959 ended his career.

Butler remained close to the game after his retirement, becoming a prominent scout who worked closely with the Steelers for over 40 years.

During one stretch from 1969-74, Butler's insight helped Pittsburgh draft nine players that would all precede him in the Hall of Fame, including Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene. The group became the core of a franchise for the better part of a decade, helping Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls in the span of six years.

"He was an excellent person both on and off the field, and he played an integral role in the BLESTO scouting program and our entire draft process before his retirement," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said. "His family was very close to the entire Rooney family, and he will be missed."

Butler served as the backbone of a string of mediocre to middling teams in the 1950s and his bruising style became a precursor to the "Steel Curtain" defense that has been the team's hallmark for most of the last 40 years.

He was in his prime in 1959 when a collision with Philadelphia Eagles tight end Pete Retzlaff put an end to his playing days. The details of the play remained vivid more than 50 years later.

"He caught the ball and I was coming over to hit him, to tackle him and before I got to him, he tripped or caught his foot or something," Butler said in July, 2012. "As he was going down, his shoulder hit my (left) knee."

Butler knew the second he looked down at the smashed joint — which appeared to be at a 90-degree angle with the rest of his leg — he needed to think about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

"It was just sticking out," Butler said. "I knew I was in a lot of trouble."

There was no such thing as arthroscopic knee surgery back then and given the severity of the injury, Butler's not sure he could have recovered if the injury happened today. He endured 10 surgeries and eventually had both of his knees replaced, procedures that limited his mobility later in life.

Jack Butler dies: Hall of Famer Jack Butler dies at 85

Jack Butler dies, Hall of Famer who helped revolutionize the way cornerbacks played in the NFL during his Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with a staph infection. He was 85.

Butler's son John said his father's heart stopped suddenly Saturday morning. The elder Butler had spent the last several months in the hospital dealing with a staph infection that plagued him since his career ended in 1959.

"It had been a long road," John Butler said. "It wasn't completely out of the blue."

Unlike Butler's professional career.

The Pittsburgh native played wide receiver at St. Bonaventure and was planning on returning to school to get his master's degree when he received a phone call from Steelers business manager Fran Fogarty in the summer of 1951. To be honest, Butler assumed Fogarty had the wrong number.

"I didn't know anything about professional football," Butler said.

It didn't matter. Over the next nine years, Butler became one of the NFL's top defensive backs, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound wrecking ball known for his physical play and uncanny knack for getting to the ball. Butler intercepted 52 passes during his career, including a league-high 10 in 1957. He made the Pro Bowl four times and was chosen first-team All-NFL three times before a knee injury in 1959 ended his career.

Butler remained close to the game after his retirement, becoming a prominent scout who worked closely with the Steelers for over 40 years.

During one stretch from 1969-74, Butler's insight helped Pittsburgh draft nine players that would all precede him in the Hall of Fame, including Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene. The group became the core of a franchise for the better part of a decade, helping Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls in the span of six years.

"He was an excellent person both on and off the field, and he played an integral role in the BLESTO scouting program and our entire draft process before his retirement," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said. "His family was very close to the entire Rooney family, and he will be missed."

Butler served as the backbone of a string of mediocre to middling teams in the 1950s and his bruising style became a precursor to the "Steel Curtain" defense that has been the team's hallmark for most of the last 40 years.

He was in his prime in 1959 when a collision with Philadelphia Eagles tight end Pete Retzlaff put an end to his playing days. The details of the play remained vivid more than 50 years later.

"He caught the ball and I was coming over to hit him, to tackle him and before I got to him, he tripped or caught his foot or something," Butler said in July, 2012. "As he was going down, his shoulder hit my (left) knee."

Butler knew the second he looked down at the smashed joint - which appeared to be at a 90-degree angle with the rest of his leg - he needed to think about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

"It was just sticking out," Butler said. "I knew I was in a lot of trouble."

There was no such thing as arthroscopic knee surgery back then and given the severity of the injury, Butler's not sure he could have recovered if the injury happened today. He endured 10 surgeries and eventually had both of his knees replaced, procedures that limited his mobility later in life.

Still, he managed to make it to Canton, Ohio last summer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after being elected by the senior committee. It was an honor Butler had given up on long ago even as a campaign to get him into the Hall built steam. He was second in NFL history in career interceptions when he retired and still ranks 26th all-time, tied with Champ Bailey among others.

More than a dozen members of his family made the two-hour trip to Canton for the ceremony when the weight of Butler's accomplishments finally seemed to set in.

"If you'd asked him five years, 10 years ago, he'd have said it was no big deal," John Butler said Saturday. "But then when it happened, he was like, 'this is a big deal.' When they told him 25,000 players or so had been in the league and you're No. 268, he was like, 'Wow, that's pretty good.' He kind of really figured it out."

Butler didn't have a secret for his transformation from unknown to Hall of Famer. He knew he loved football. And he knew he could get away with the kind of contact today's defensive backs only dream about.

"You could bump'em and push'em and do things," Butler said. "You could grab onto his jersey so he doesn't get far from you. You could hold on a little bit. Now they're all over you. It's hard to do anything today."

There was no method exactly to Butler's success. He was smart, sure. And he could tell by a receiver's footwork where he was heading. Yet Butler says most of the credit should go to a work ethic and a little bit of naivety. He didn't know what he was doing when the Steelers signed him to a $4,000 contract in 1951.

"I must've been given some talents," he said. "Whatever talents I had, I worked like hell to improve what I had."

G7 to press on with bank reforms, Japan escapes censure

Group of Seven finance officials agreed on Saturday to redouble efforts to deal with failing banks and gave a green light to Japan's drive to galvanize its economy.

British finance minister George Osborne said the finance ministers and central bankers meeting 40 miles outside London focused on unfinished bank reforms, with signs that plans for a euro zone banking union are fraying.

"It is important to complete swiftly our work to ensure that no banks are too big to fail," Osborne told reporters after hosting a two-day meeting in a stately home set in rolling countryside.

"We must put regimes in place ... to deal with failing banks and to protect taxpayers and to do so in a globally consistent manner," he said.

The emergency rescue of Cyprus after a near meltdown in March served as a reminder of the need to finish an overhaul of the banking sector, five years after the world financial crisis began.

Germany has come under pressure to give more support to a banking union in the euro zone. The plan could help strengthen the single currency area, but Berlin worries it may pay too much for future bank bailouts if it signs up to a scheme to wind up stricken lenders.

While the first step - to create a single bank supervisor under the European Central Bank - looks set to be in place by mid-2014, a second pillar, a 'resolution' fund to close failed banks, is in doubt. And there is little prospect that a single deposit guarantee scheme will ever see the light of day.

A senior U.S. Treasury official said the talks at the 17th-century Hartwell House zeroed in on the need not just for better bank supervision but also to clean up balance sheets so lending can pick up.

"There was a sense of urgency among the euro area participants," the official said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble countered that the euro zone was no longer the main risk to the world economy.

As at previous international meetings, Japan escaped any censure for printing money on a scale that has pushed the yen sharply lower.

Osborne said the G7 - the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Canada - reaffirmed that fiscal and monetary policy should be aimed at domestic concerns, not currency manipulation.

"We will not target exchange rates," Osborne said. "I would say that the statement by the G7 of earlier this year was a successful statement and one that has been held to."

The yen hit a four-year low against the dollar on Friday, driven in part by Japanese investors shifting into foreign bonds, a move that had been expected since the Bank of Japan unveiled a massive stimulus plan.

But having urged Tokyo for years to do something to revive its economy, other world powers are not in a strong position to complain now that it is doing so. Then there is the fact that central banks such as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England have printed money in the way the Bank of Japan is.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said the G7 had leveled no criticism at Japan's monetary policy but Schaeuble said there had been "intense discussions" and that the situation would be monitored carefully.




Debate has also heated up about the need for governments to ease up on austerity, something Germany, Britain and Canada view with caution but Washington, Paris and Rome favor.


Osborne said there was less disagreement about whether governments should focus on debt-cutting or growth-boosting measures than is commonly assumed.


"Everyone is clear that there needs to be credible medium-term fiscal consolidation ... We also agreed that there needs to be flexibility," he said. "Growth prospects remain uneven and we can't take the global recovery for granted."


But his suggestion before the meeting that it should consider what more monetary policy could do to support economic recovery appeared to fall on deaf ears.


"There wasn't any call to do more," European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi told reporters after the meeting.


"It is quite clear that all central banks have done a lot, each one within its own mandate. So (the meeting) was just taking note of this ... All of us have really been active."


Several officials from visiting delegations questioned why Britain had called the gathering just three weeks after they and others met at International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, but Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the informal nature of the discussions had paid dividends.


"Freed from burden to agree a communiqué, the principals engaged more with each than I can recall before and as a result genuinely made real progress in taking forward some of the questions and issues that are facing the G7," he said.


(Additional reporting by David Milliken and Leika Kihara.; Writing by Mike Peacock; Editing by Mark Potter)


Chrysler recalls 469,000 SUVs worldwide over gearshift issue

Chrysler Group LLC is recalling about 469,000 SUVs worldwide to update software after some vehicles' circuit boards were found to be transmitting signals that trigger inadvertent gear shifts to neutral, the No. 3 U.S. automaker said Saturday.


Included are 2006- to 2010-model-year Jeep Commanders and 2005 to 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokees, of which about 295,000 are in the United States, 28,500 are in Canada and 4,200 are in Mexico. The remaining 141,000 are outside of North America.

Chrysler was aware of 26 accidents and 2 injuries related to the gearshift problem but no fatalities, a company spokesman said.

It was Chrysler's largest recall since more than 900,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs were recalled worldwide in November to fix a part that could cause airbags to deploy inadvertently.

Chrysler, an affiliate of Italy's Fiat SpA ( id="symbol_FIA.MI_0">FIA.MI), also said it is recalling 532 2013-model-year Ram 1500 pickup trucks in the United States and Canada, a third of which remain in dealer inventories, to inspect and possibly replace windshield defrosting and defogging components.

Additionally, the company said it is recalling about 5,330 right-hand-drive 2008 to 2012 Jeep Wranglers to install dust shields to prevent dust buildup that could compromise airbag operation. All of the vehicles, used mostly for rural mail delivery, are in the United States.

Chrysler said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries linked to the Ram and Wrangler recall issues.

The company said it will directly contact affected customers and make the repairs for free.

Chrysler, which emerged from a government-sponsored bankruptcy four years ago, last month reported a steep drop in quarterly profits due to an aggressive new-vehicle launch schedule, but said it was on track to meet its business targets, expecting a strong second half of 2013.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler and its Italian parent Fiat, which currently owns a 58.5 percent share of the U.S. automaker, said there was a 50-50 chance that Fiat's buyout of Chrysler would be finalized by June 2014.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Mark Potter and Jackie Frank)

Bloomberg CEO says client data access for reporters a mistake

Bloomberg LP customers, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, were examining on Saturday whether there could have been leaks of confidential information, even as the media company restricted its reporters' access to client data and created a position to oversee compliance in a bid to assuage privacy concerns.

The financial data and news company, whose computer terminals are widely used on Wall Street, had allowed journalists to see some information about terminal usage, including when customers had last logged in, and how often they used messaging or looked up data on broad categories, such as equities or bonds.

Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff said in a statement on Friday that the firm restricted reporters' access last month after a client complained.

The client, Goldman Sachs Group Inc ( id="symbol_GS.N_0">GS.N), flagged the matter to Bloomberg after a news service reporter in Hong Kong asked the bank about a partner's employment status, noting the person had not logged on in some time. Goldman found that journalists had access to far more information than the bank had known, and argued the information was sensitive and should not be seen by reporters.

"Having recognized this mistake, we took immediate action," Doctoroff said in the statement posted on Bloomberg's blog. He said the company had created a position of client data compliance officer to ensure its news operations never have access to confidential customer data. He added that even under the previous policy, Bloomberg reporters could not see which particular news stories clients read, or the specific securities they viewed. Bloomberg has about 2,400 journalists worldwide.

While some said the concerns were overstated, the news triggered fears about privacy of sensitive data at Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co ( id="symbol_JPM.N_1">JPM.N) as well as at the Fed and some U.S. government departments that use Bloomberg terminals.

A Fed spokeswoman said on Saturday that "we are looking into this situation and have been in touch with Bloomberg to learn more." A source briefed on the situation said the Treasury Department was looking into the question as well.

Senior Goldman executives argued that while the information Bloomberg reporters had was limited, a trader could easily make money just by knowing what type of securities some high-profile users were looking at, or what questions a government official raised with Bloomberg's help desk, people with direct knowledge of their views said.

They also began to worry about who else had access to such information. The issue made people inside the bank uncomfortable even with Bloomberg's marketing and sales team's access to information, they said.

For instance, if a trader pulls up quotes for a certain type of security several times, sometimes a message pops up from Bloomberg customer support staff offering other products and functions that might be useful. While this was once seen as a common practice, it has started to make traders uncomfortable about who has access to their personal information, the sources said.

Bloomberg pointed to Doctoroff's statement on Friday and declined to comment further.

Privately held Bloomberg gets the bulk of its revenue from terminal sales to financial institutions. The company has more than 315,000 terminal subscribers globally, with each Bloomberg terminal costing more than $20,000 a year. Last year, it posted revenue of $7.9 billion.

A person briefed on the situation at Bloomberg said on Friday that no Bloomberg clients had so far canceled their subscriptions because of the issue.

John Brynjolfsson, chief investment officer of hedge fund Armored Wolf, said the concerns were overblown.

"Everyone, with a single brain cell, personally assesses the tension between their privacy and their productivity," Brynjolfsson said. "Some I know keep their Bloomberg - and life more generally - locked down, so people can't even find their name to message them. They give their ID to those they want."

Thomson Reuters ( id="symbol_TRI.TO_2">TRI.TO) ( id="symbol_TRI.N_3">TRI.N), the parent of Reuters News, competes with Bloomberg. In a statement, Thomson Reuters said its news division operates "completely independently with reporters having no access to non-public data on its customers, especially any data relating to its customers' use of its products or services.


"Thomson Reuters collects and analyses customer data to improve product functionality and customer experience. No Reuters news staff have access to any of this data. There are strict controls in place that limit the access of this information amongst other Thomson Reuters staff," the company said.




At Goldman Sachs and other big clients including JPMorgan, the level of information Bloomberg reporters had access to deeply troubled executives, who were stunned to learn that what they considered sensitive financial information could become public, sources with direct knowledge of discussions inside the firms said.


After the Bloomberg reporter in Hong Kong approached the bank in April, Goldman representatives took up the issue with Bloomberg editors and executives of the company, including Doctoroff. Goldman staff also called former Bloomberg journalists to find out whether the practice of using clients' login information was common, and to find out precisely what journalists could see, these sources said.


At JPMorgan, the bank's public relations staffers also fumed to one another last year that reporters called repeatedly to inquire whether Bruno Iskil, the "London Whale" trader who was part of a team that lost more than $6 billion in losses, had left the bank because he had not logged onto his terminal in several days, a source with direct knowledge of these discussions said.


JPMorgan did not formally bring the matter to Bloomberg's attention, the source said. Bloomberg said it had no record of a complaint.


Bloomberg's terminal has various command codes that with the click of a few buttons allow users to look up news about specific companies or topics, and data on specific securities or broader markets. Subscribers can also see information on fellow Bloomberg users, such as phone numbers, work titles, email and Bloomberg messaging addresses. Inside Bloomberg, some employees have access to much more detailed and current user data, for sales and marketing purposes.


Journalists had access to some of that information, but not all of it.


(Additional reporting by Jennifer Ablan, Anna Yukhananov, Alister Bull and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Martin Howell and Peter Cooney)



Oil companies seeking new Arctic areas for exploration face a battle with environmentalists, fishermen and hotel owners over Norwegian islands where jagged snow-capped peaks rise sheer from the sea.

With oil production falling to a 25-year low this year and the state depending on oil revenues, Norway's ruling Labour Party is warming to drilling in Lofoten's pristine waters, setting up the issue as the year's biggest political fight ahead of elections in September.

"We've already got the winning lottery ticket by living in Norway. We shouldn't want to be even richer," said Erling Santi, a fisherman in Svolvaer, Lofoten's main town.

"Oil drilling could drive the fish away," said Santi who is also the managing director of Saga Fish, a cod packing plant.

Norway is one of the world's most prosperous nations with per capital GDP in excess of $100,000 but the fortunes of remote Lofoten, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Oslo, have been mixed. Unemployment remains above the national average and its young leave the area in search of jobs.

Lofoten has been off limits for exploration since Norway first struck oil in 1969, reflecting fears about nature in a scenic Arctic region that is a spawning ground for the world's richest cod stocks and home to sea eagles and puffins.

BP Plc's ( id="symbol_BP.L_0">BP.L) Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, may have added to scepticism.

After Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg came down in favour of studying drilling last month, Norway's top three parties on left and right are now open to the idea, pitting them against smaller parties and many of Lofoten's own residents.

The fight will also be a test for how the industry and politics handle the move northward, with sights firmly set on the high Arctic, including the frozen Svalbard archipelago.


Backers say oil and gas finds are getting scarcer and that new technology means the risks of accidents are low enough to explore waters off Lofoten and the neighbouring Vesteraalen islands where cod has been king since Viking days.

"We need Lofoten but most of all, Lofoten needs the oil industry," said Knut Saeberg, chief financial officer CFO.L of North Energy ( id="symbol_NORTH.OL_2">NORTH.OL), which is based in Alta higher in the Arctic. He said Lofoten needed jobs to counter a drift away.

Eivind Holst, the Conservative mayor of the Svolvaer region where the crest of arms depicts a large cod, said he was in principle in favour of oil and gas, partly as a source of jobs.

Lofoten's population has fallen to 24,000 people from above 30,000 in the early 20th century, with many moving to cities.

"There isn't necessarily a contradiction between running an industry and enjoying nature. It just has to be done carefully," he said. "Tourists don't come to Lofoten to see oil platforms in the midnight sun."

A ban on seismic surveys in the cod spawning season early each year and use of sub-sea installations were among measures that would protect fish stocks and tourism if the planned assessment gave a green light, he said.


A government report suggested that oil and gas in Lofoten could create 400 to 1,100 new jobs to the northwestern region. Hammerfest to the north has boomed as the landing area for gas from Statoil's ( id="symbol_STL.OL_3">STL.OL) Snoehvit field, he noted.


"The longer you wait, the fewer benefits you get," he said. "And there hasn't been an accident like the Gulf of Mexico here - knock on wood." He rapped his knuckles on a wooden table for good luck.




Oil output by Norway, the world's number seven exporter, fell to 1.5 million barrels per day in January and even a string of big finds, set to come online in the second half of the decade, will only halt the rate of decline.


"The industry needs access to new areas on a regular basis to sustain activities," said Einar Gjelsvik, chief executive of Noreco, an oil producer. ( id="symbol_NOR.OL_4">NOR.OL)


Lofoten could hold 8 percent of Norway's undiscovered oil and gas resources, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says.


It says that seismic tests have identified 50 prospects off Lofoten that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent.


"We are developing new technology to reduce the risk," said Leif Borge, CFO of Aker Solutions ( id="symbol_AKSO.OL_5">AKSO.OL). "Down the road, it's probably an important area."


Norway's worst oil spills were the Ekofisk Bravo blowout in the North Sea in 1977 that spilt 80,000 barrels and a spill of 27,500 barrels at the Statfjord field.


"You can never be relaxed about safety but you can see that Norway's controls are so much better than the Gulf of Mexico," said Geoff Turbott, CFO at Lundin Petroleum ( id="symbol_LUPE.ST_6">LUPE.ST). "Opening the area is many years away and even from then, the first drilling is 3-4 years away."


An opinion poll by InFact in February showed that 49 percent of almost 1,100 people in Nordland county, which includes Lofoten, opposed oil and gas production off the islands with 34 percent in favour and others undecided.


It also showed that 44 percent favoured an environmental impact assessment with 43 percent opposed. Lofoten's people will be consulted but will not decide on oil and gas.


Lofoten has Arctic winter darkness that complicates drilling but the warm Gulf Stream current keeps it ice free. It is warmer than where the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground off Alaska in 1989, even though it is further north.


Less chilly waters mean any oil would break down faster. "The problems for drilling here are the fish, the birds and the coastline," said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. "It's not typical of the Arctic."


The relative warmth makes Norway an exception for Arctic drilling - Shell has abandoned drilling off Alaska for this year after a string of setbacks in 2012.


Tourism operators fear that oil and gas could undermine business. "The oil can wait. We have had some big oil finds in recent years," said Ola Skjeseth, the biggest local hotel manager who runs 500 beds around Lofoten.


He said he was especially opposed to any oil or gas terminal on the islands, saying it would contradict publicly funded advertising campaigns that call Lofoten "the world's most beautiful coast" with white beaches and saw-tooth mountains.


And in winter, more tourists are starting to visit, hoping to see the northern lights, particles from the sun that can produce a show of green, pink and violet across the night sky.


Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's decision to favour an environmental impact study aligns Labour with the opposition right-wing Conservatives and the Progress Party. That makes a study likely after the September election, unless the balance of power falls to a small party opposed to drilling.


Mayor Holst said that a melt of Arctic sea ice caused by global warming was a bigger environmental threat than oil and gas because it raising risks of shipwrecks, including tankers, on a likely new route between the Pacific and the Atlantic.


That would be a turnaround for Lofoten, which has sometimes benefited from shipwrecks. Some old buildings in Svolvaer are built with timber washed from 19th century Russian wrecks - cold means trees don't grow big and thick enough on the islands.



London remains the top financing centre for the global transport industry, although it faces stiff competition from New York and capitals in Asia Pacific as companies seek to tap more funding sources, a survey showed on Friday.

Some 37 per cent of respondents from the global aviation, rail and shipping sectors ranked London as the key financial centre for transport, followed by New York at 14 percent and Singapore at 7 percent, the survey by international law firm Norton Rose found.

"London and New York remain key financial centres for the transport industry but are looking over their shoulders at Asia which is growing in importance," said Harry Theochari, global head of transport at Norton Rose.

Of those canvassed, 43 percent from the rail industry said London was most favoured as a financing hub, followed by 40 percent in the shipping sector and 31 percent in aviation.

The annual survey by Norton Rose, now in its fourth year, is one of the transport sector's leading barometers of market conditions, especially for the shipping community.

While London has a 300-year history as a leading finance, insurance and legal centre for the shipping industry, the survey said companies were looking at alternatives due to tough trading conditions, exemplified by a warning last month from Frontline ( id="symbol_FRO.OL_0">FRO.OL), one of the world's biggest tanker operators.

Frontline said it may miss bond repayments due in 2015 and be forced to restructure again if the market's depression continues.

"A dramatic reduction in the availability of debt finance in the London market means that shipping is increasingly turning to structured finance and private equity," Theochari said.

"This gives New York a distinct advantage, as it has the largest capital markets in the world and far greater access to private equity than any other global financial centre."

The survey canvassed views from 1,006 participants from a range of companies involved in transport including financiers, ship owners and operators, manufacturers, builders and industry advisors. Those polled comprised 383 from the aviation sector, 314 from rail and 309 from shipping.


Synonymous with film photography, lilacs and classical music, Rochester offers an unusual array of attractions for a mid-sized U.S. city that brought industrial prowess to a scenic river gorge on Lake Ontario's southern shore.

From top-ranked golf courses and national-landmark house museums to a children's emporium of play and America's oldest municipal park-garden cemetery, the city in western New York is crammed with surprises for visitors of all interests.

Its glacier-carved linchpin is a trio of waterfalls trumpeting the Genesee River's thunderous descent into Lake Ontario.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in Rochester (pop. 210,855), variously known over two centuries as the Flour City, the Flower City and, less so of late, the World's Image Center.


5:30 p.m. - Dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue (, a honky tonk rib joint tucked into a former railroad station overlooking the river. Take in a view of the unstoppable torrent from the adjacent Court Street Bridge before digging in to brisket, cornbread and tomato-cucumber salad.

7 p.m. - Head back across the bridge to Blue Cross Arena ( for a dash of ice-hockey escapades hollering on the Rochester Americans. For spring and summer alternatives, catch a Rochester Red Wings baseball game at Frontier Field ( or the Rochester Rhinos soccer team at Sahlen's Stadium (

For people who prefer stage or dance, there's Geva Theatre ( or an occasional hometown performance by the top-notch Garth Fagan dance troupe (

9:30 p.m. - End the day with a Genesee cream ale or Finger Lakes Riesling and a twirl on the dance floor at one of an assortment of bars and music halls that abound in the lively East End.


9 a.m. - Try yogurt and granola plus an egg Danish - caramelized onions baked in fluffy pastry topped with an egg - at Flower City Bread in the Rochester Public Market ( This magnet for bargain food shoppers, situated since 1905 on Union Street in the gritty northeast section, has a ring of casual eateries.

10:30 a.m. - Head to the Genesee River at its most spectacular stretch north of downtown for a peek into the city's water-powered origins. Repurposed factories and remnants of a once flourishing flour industry form a ghostly backdrop to the 90-foot (27.4 meter) cascade known as High Falls.

Among panoramic vantage points above the waterfall and its wide gorge basin are a pedestrian bridge and the rooftop patio of a pub-style restaurant in Genesee Beer and Ale brewery (

For more outdoors adventure, take a short drive north to a path behind Maplewood Park's rose garden that descends close to river level in the nearly 200-foot-deep gorge.

11:30 a.m. - The red-brick Victorian home of women's rights crusader Susan B. Anthony ( is a highlight among memorials concentrated in upstate New York that extol women's achievements in molding the nation.

Step into the parlor where Anthony was arrested after daring to vote in 1872. The home contains the trademark alligator bag she carried on frequent travels, and the bed she died in after delivering her "Failure is Impossible" speech in Washington in 1906.


12:30 - Cross downtown into the South Wedge neighborhood for lunch at Mise en Place (, a modest grocery-cum-diner with window tables looking out at a string of rib restaurants, pubs and bakeries along South Avenue. Cheesy Eddie's is a stalwart for cheesecake, while newcomers include The Little Bleu Cheese Shop and Hedonist Artisan Chocolates and Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream.


1:30 p.m. - Memorial Art Gallery (, located for 100 years in an Italian Renaissance-style architectural gem in the East-side arts district, features an eclectic collection of 12,000 works of art, from Impressionist paintings to metal sculptures by hometown luminary Albert Paley.


Search out the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America, a 600-pipe, fully restored instrument built around 1770 that is played at periodic recitals by students at the acclaimed Eastman School of Music.


Children in tow? A popular alternative is The Strong (, the second-largest museum devoted to children in the United States. Among dozens of interactive educational exhibits are a butterfly garden, a streetscape from television's Sesame Street and a whaling ship.


3 p.m. - Stroll from the art gallery along University Avenue. Dawdle over coffee or antiques at the Flatiron building or photo art at Image City Photography Gallery.


3:30 p.m. - The walk extends to George Eastman House (, the world's oldest museum of photography and motion pictures with an archive of 400,000 images stretching back to 1830s daguerreotypes.


View old cameras, famous original photos and film reels at Eastman's majestic 1905 Colonial Revival mansion and villa-style gardens. The patriarch of popular photography, Eastman founded Eastman Kodak Co, which ruled the world of film photography for over a century but has been brought to its knees by a swift shift to the digital technology it helped pioneer but couldn't capitalize on.


6:30 p.m. - For a cut-above meal, try the restaurant Good Luck ( Its tapas-style dishes are meant to be shared, from red lentils to smoked pork shank.


9 p.m. - Head to The Little ( for an indie, foreign or art film in a funky 1929 Art Deco theater on East Avenue.




8:30 a.m. - Start the day with French toast or Eggs Benedict at The Frog Pond ( in the fashionable Park Avenue district.


10 a.m. - On the edge of downtown is Mount Hope Cemetery (, a 196-acre arboretum favored by dog walkers, history buffs and curious souls. A classic example of a pre-Civil War "rural cemetery," Mount Hope is a heavily wooded jumble of ridges, ravines and meadows with gravestones and mausoleums set amid fountains, ornate sculptures and stone terraces fringed with wildflowers and pines.


11 a.m. - Across the street, stroll through Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Highland Park (, famous for its lilac bushes and a floral, food, art and musical festival in May that serves as the true advent of spring in a city where snowfall tops 100 inches (2.5 meters) in a typical winter.


12:30 - Lunch at The Food Bar in the suburb of Pittsford.


1:30 p.m. - Tee off at one of the Rochester region's 90-plus golf courses to get a feel for the undulating, tree-framed terrain the world's top golfers will encounter at two majors here this year: the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Pittsford on August 5-11 and the Wegmans LPGA Championship at nearby Locust Hill from June 3-9 (


Spending a night between destinations in a stopover city and need a place to stay? Online boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith ( have come up with 10 hotels for a memorable stopover. Reuters has not endorsed this list.


1. Best for resort relaxation: Capella Singapore, Singapore Languishing on Sentosa Island, just a 15-minute taxi hop south of the city centre, Capella Singapore hotel in Singapore feels a relaxing world away. A tranquil resort, the 112-room heritage-modern hybrid has a graceful colonial building, art works dotted around the manicured grounds and a triple-tier pool with South China Sea views.

2. Best for gourmet dining: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, China

A day-spa with 113 contemporary guest rooms, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong gives good stopover. This stylish skyscraper is in the heart of Central's retail district. After a hard day's shopping, bag a table at two-Michelin-starred Amber restaurant, a gold-hued space where chef Richard Ekkebus whips up modern French cuisine.

3. Best for sports-meets-shopping: Desert Palm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Desert Palm hotel in Dubai is sister to the Maldives' Huvafen Fushi. This 38-room Italo-Arab urban retreat sprawls over a private polo estate. Saddle up at the riding school, play a game of tennis or soak up views of the polo fields from the lavish outdoor pool. Juggle bargain-hunting in the souks with holistic pampering at in-house spa Lime.

4. Best for a riverside retreat: The Siam, Bangkok, Thailand

The art-deco Siam hotel in Bangkok has a calm aura thanks to its riverside setting in the exclusive royal Dusit quarter. Boasting Bangkok's only pool villas, it has 39 spacious boudoirs with a Thai cooking school, a Muay Thai kickboxing gym, screening room and Spa by Sodashi.

5. Best for chilling out: Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A sanctuary in the capital's leafy embassy enclave, Villa Samadhi hotel in Kuala Lumpur takes its name from the Sanskrit word for 'journey'. There are 21 private rooms arranged around a curvy, central pool. In-house Mandi-Mandi restaurant serves Malay and Italian fare or the hotel can point you to its smart sister restaurants in town.

6. Best for city buzz: Dean Street Townhouse, London, UK

The ultra-central Dean Street Townhouse hotel in Soho is in the middle of the action. Surrounded by a warren of happening cafés, bars and restaurants and tempting shopping, you can access all areas here, including theatres, museums and art galleries. With just 39 rooms, this hip haven also plays host to a very British brasserie, peppered with art works by Hirst, Emin and co..

7. Best for rooftop romance: Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles, United States

Just off Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Petit Ermitage boutique hotel in Los Angeles brings bohemian romance to a sojourn in LA. Dine in the outdoor restaurant which doubles as a butterfly and hummingbird haven, watch the sunset from the deck by the outdoor fireplace or sip a mojito by the rooftop pool. The owner's art collection adds drama to the 80 suites.

8. Best for surf style: The Modern Honolulu, Honolulu, United States

The Modern Honolulu boutique hotel near Waikiki Beach makes for a soft landing. Surfboards decorate the lobby and the 353 white rooms star ukuleles and vibrant sarongs. Hawaiian culture continues with Lomi Lomi spa massages and there are two pools.

9. Best for intimate affairs: Hotel DeBrett, Auckland, New Zealand


The intimate 25-room Hotel DeBrett in Auckland , right in the CBD, is just a stroll from the best shopping, bar-cruising and island-hopping. Art deco goes Pop indoors, with rainbow-bright, stripy rugs, retro furniture and kooky bedheads. Outside, High Street hosts many of the best NZ fashion labels for smart souvenirs.


10. Best for a hipster haven: Hôtel Americano, New York, United States


Hip Hôtel Americano in New York is just a hop from artsy Chelsea. This 56-room hot spot is a hit with the fashion set. Bedrooms have a minimal ryokan feel, with sleek, low-rise platform beds and there is an edgy rooftop pool and bar.

Amplats scales back South African mining job cuts plan

Anglo American Platinum ( id="symbol_AMSJ.J_0">AMSJ.J) said on Friday it would cut 6,000 South African mining jobs, fewer than half the 14,000 initially proposed, as it tries to restore profits without provoking a backlash from the government and restive unions.

The world's top platinum producer, a unit of Anglo American ( id="symbol_AAL.L_1">AAL.L), added it would also keep open one of four shafts slated for closure near the platinum belt city of Rustenburg.

Amplats aims to slash platinum production by 10 percent or 250,000 ounces this year, equal to 4.5 percent of global output. Another 100,000 ounces will go in the medium term.

Under an original plan announced in January, it aimed to cut output by 400,000 ounces. The reduced job losses are likely to soften the blow for the African National Congress (ANC) government, which faces an election next year, but it remains to be seen if it appeases the anger of powerful local unions.

"Everyone is surprised. We were not expecting any retrenchment at all. We can't allow this," Sphamandla Makhanya, a worker committee member at Amplats in Rustenburg told Reuters. "But before we do anything, we are going to have a mass meeting with the workers to decide what to do next."

For Amplats, reining in costs and cutting output to underpin the price of platinum, used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in vehicles, is crucial to getting back to profit.

The company said it would now aim to produce 2.2 to 2.4 million ounces a year, up from the 2.1 to 2.3 million ounces targeted in the original plan. The revisions should deliver 3.8 billion rand ($423 million) in savings by 2015.

"This is a significant step back to where we were and it doesn't feel like it addresses the radical problem of oversupply of material, weak or deteriorating demand environment," said analyst Paul Gait of Sanford Bernstein in London.

"The positive is this is an undoubted improvement from the kind of announcement we used to have from Anglo Platinum, which was a blithe disregard for market fundamentals, the cost base of their production - and a single minded focus on producing."

Amplats' shares extended losses on the day to be almost 3 percent lower in mid-afternoon trade in Johannesburg.

Sources told Reuters last week the plan would be watered down after talks with the government.

Chief Executive Chris Griffith said the company would discuss it with unions over the next two to three months.

He signaled the jobs target could be reached over time, saying on a call with analysts the company would look at reducing numbers by as much as 3,000 to 4,000 a year through attrition and would consider proposing early retirement for 1,500 employees over the age of 55.

Some older workers around Rustenburg on Friday said they were ready to hang up their tools.

Dressed in white overalls, Karel Mokgoatsi, a rock driller at Khomanani, one of the affected mines, said: "For others this will be bad news but for me it is good news. I am 60 years old and I am ready to go and have some rest."



Hours before the announcement, activists from the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) in Rustenburg said they would not tolerate any job losses.


"Where will 6,000 people in this economy go? They will engage in criminality," said Simon Hlongwane, an AMCU branch secretary at Amplats. "We as AMCU stand ready to fight."


Social tensions are running high after violence rooted in a labor turf war between AMCU and the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) killed more than 50 people last year and provoked illegal strikes that hit production.


The unrest was a major reason why Amplats suffered its first loss last year. But with unemployment at more than 25 percent, the government has taken a strong line with Amplats.


The average South African mineworker has eight dependants, so the social and political consequences even of reduced lay-offs will be far reaching.


AMCU miners briefly closed several mines when the initial Amplats plan was unveiled in January. Its leaders said on Thursday they would not back such wildcat strike action.


AMCU emerged as the dominant union in the platinum shafts after it poached tens of thousands of disgruntled members from NUM, a political ally of the ruling African National Congress.


The union power struggle explains why the ANC and the government have dug in on the proposed Amplats cuts, a striking contrast to the past when the gold industry was allowed to cut tens of thousands of jobs to remain viable.


General elections are due next year, and for the ANC, the union war means it has lost tens of thousands of potential voters and their many dependants as the NUM is a vehicle for campaigning and getting out the working class vote.


($1 = 8.9894 South African rand)


(Additional reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas in Johannesburg and Clara Ferreira-Marques in London; Writing by Ed Stoddard and Ed Cropley; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Stamp)


Peregrine Financial may have "viable" claims versus banks: trustee

Peregrine Financial Group's bankruptcy estate may have "viable" claims against JPMorgan Chase & Co and U.S. Bancorp for harm done to clients of the now-failed brokerage, and may pursue them in court, Peregrine's trustee said in a filing this week.


The trustee, Ira Bodenstein, wants the federal bankruptcy court in Chicago to put on hold a lawsuit by the firm's former clients against the father-son duo that formerly ran the brokerage and the banks that handled their business. In the filing, Bodenstein said the lawsuit could interfere with his efforts to return money to creditors and former Peregrine Financial customers.

The firm, once one of the largest U.S. independent futures brokerages, filed for bankruptcy last July after its founder and CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. confessed to bilking his clients of more than $100 million in a nearly 20-year-long fraud.

Wasendorf Sr. is now serving what is expected to be a lifelong sentence in a high-security prison.

His son, Russell Wasendorf Sr., says he had nothing to do with the scam and is on the verge of bankruptcy himself. <ID:L2N0DN1U4>

But the banks that held money for the brokerage and its customers are seen as having deeper pockets, and for months the trustee has had them in his sights.

JPMorgan has $18.2 million and U.S. Bank hold $6 million of Peregrine Financial's funds, according to the trustee's statement of cash dated April 15. The banks say that at least some of that money is theirs.

A JPMorgan spokeswoman and a U.S. Bancorp spokesman declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.

"Although the Trustee's investigation remains ongoing, the facts reviewed to date suggest that the Estate possesses a number of viable claims against the Wasendorf Defendants as well as the Bank Defendants," the trustee said in Wednesday's filing.

The allegations in the lawsuit by clients "provide ample basis to conclude that the Wasendorf Defendants and the Bank Defendants breached a variety of duties owed to PFG and caused harm to all of PFG's creditors," the filing continued.

If that lawsuit is not stayed, the trustee argued, the banks could use it as a defense against the trustee's claims.

Wasendorf Sr. stole over $215 million from clients over the years, using faked bank statements to fool regulators, U.S. prosecutors said. Most customers have gotten less than a third of their money back.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; editing by Andrew Hay)

April budget surplus is biggest in five years

The United States posted its biggest monthly budget surplus in five years in April, the Treasury Department said on Friday, adding that revenues are running at a record high so far this year thanks to higher taxes and an improving economy.

The April surplus was $113 billion, about $6 billion higher than economists' expectations and the highest surplus since April 2008, according to the Treasury. The surplus in April 2012 was $59 billion.

Treasury usually posts a surplus in April, when most Americans pay their taxes, but Washington's budget fortunes are shifting more quickly than most analysts had anticipated.

The better state of the government's finances will likely be a factor in budget battles in Congress over whether further belt-tightening is needed.

The administration and Republican lawmakers both seek a broad deal to cut the budget deficit, but clash over the White House's insistence that any reductions in spending on health and retirement programs be offset with higher taxes.

More cash means the United States also gets more time before it runs out of borrowing room under the legal limit on the nation's debt. While a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling expires on May 18, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Friday said the nation will be able to keep borrowing until at least early September as the Treasury deploys emergency cash maneuvers.

The government has received $1.6 trillion in taxes so far this year, a record high for this time period and 16 percent above last year's level for April, due to an expiration of payroll tax cuts, higher taxes on richer Americans, and an improving economy.

Tax receipts for last month, at $407 billion, were 28 percent higher than receipts in April 2012.

Because of the higher revenues, the U.S. government has said it expects to pay down debt this quarter for the first time in six years.

The cumulative deficit for the fiscal year, which started in October, was $488 billion in April, down 32 percent from the first seven months of fiscal 2012. That puts the United States on track to have its first yearly deficit below $1 trillion in five years.

Government spending was $294 billion in April, in line with figures from last month and above the year-ago level of $260 billion. In the past seven months, government spending has fallen 1 percent to $2.1 trillion compared to the same period last year.

U.S. judge orders Hewlett-Packard to face shareholder lawsuit

Hewlett-Packard Co ( id="symbol_HPQ.N_0">HPQ.N) must defend against a lawsuit accusing former management at the world's largest personal computer maker of defrauding shareholders by abandoning a business model it had long touted, causing more than $16 billion of market value to be wiped out.

District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana, California said shareholders had raised a "strong inference" that officials including former Chief Executive Leo Apotheker in June and July 2011 misled them about HP's commitment to the WebOS operating system and related products, including the TouchPad tablet PC.

"It is far from implausible that a corporate executive who had spent months building excitement and momentum around important, new technology products might recklessly misrepresent the inability to deliver on those promises," the judge wrote in a decision dated May 8 and made public the next day.

The lawsuit was filed after Apotheker shocked investors on August 18, 2011 by announcing plans to refocus the company on business services and products.

He also announced plans to scrap WebOS, whose rights HP had obtained when it bought Palm Inc in 2010; pay $11.1 billion for British software company Autonomy Plc; and possibly spin off HP's personal computer business. The company also halted sales of the TouchPad, after just seven weeks on the market.

The news sparked a two-day selloff in which HP's share price fell 24.8 percent, causing the company's market value to drop by about $16.2 billion. Apotheker was fired the next month. The shares still trade below where they had fallen to at the time.

Michael Thacker, an HP spokesman, said the Palo Alto, California-based company does not discuss pending litigation.

Guilford dismissed part of the lawsuit, including claims related to statements that HP had made in early 2011.

Other challenged statements that remain in the case were made by Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's printing and personal systems group, its largest business unit.

"We're extremely satisfied and happy with the court's decision, and will be moving the case into discovery," Jonathan Gardner, a partner at Labaton Sucharow representing the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview.

Lawyers for Apotheker and Bradley did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lead plaintiffs include the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System; the Labourers' Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada in Oakville, Ontario; the LIUNA National Pension Fund and LIUNA Staff & Affiliates Pension Fund in Washington, D.C.; and Union Asset Management Holding AG in Frankfurt, Germany.

Guilford had last August dismissed the entire lawsuit, but given the plaintiffs a chance to amend their complaint.

Now run by Meg Whitman, HP is cutting costs and expanding in areas such as enterprise computing services as part of a multi-year plan to stimulate growth.

The company revamped its board, kept its PC business, and in November announced an $8.8 billion charge for Autonomy, accusing officials there including former Chief Executive Mike Lynch of accounting fraud. Lynch has denied the allegations.

In February, HP reentered the consumer tablet market with a $169 tablet powered by the Android operating system.


The case is Gammel et al v. Hewlett-Packard Co et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 11-01404.


(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)


Wall Street ends up, posts third week of gains

The Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs on Friday, and stocks posted a third consecutive week of gains as a rise in Google and other technology shares offset a slide in energy stocks.

Nasdaq led gains, boosted by a 1 percent rise in Google's ( id="symbol_GOOG.O_0">GOOG.O) stock, which also led the S&P 500's rise.

Indexes were flat for much of the session but managed a late-day surge. On Thursday, the S&P 500 broke a five-day streak of record closing highs.

Stocks have risen on the Federal Reserve's accommodative monetary stance and some encouraging corporate earnings, but analysts said momentum could wane without further positive signs.

"I think it's going to hard to maintain these levels in the short term," said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investment Management, which has about $13 billion in assets.

"There are not a lot of positive catalysts to keep it going," she said, noting that spending cuts by the federal government could pressure the economy in the near term.

Oil prices tumbled as the U.S. dollar hit a 4 1/2-year high against the yen and the dollar index .DXY was on track for its strongest week against other major currencies in 10 months. A strong dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback, such as gold and oil, more expensive for foreign investors, pressuring shares of energy and basic materials companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 35.87 points, or 0.24 percent, at 15,118.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 7.03 points, or 0.43 percent, at 1,633.70. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 27.41 points, or 0.80 percent, at 3,436.58.

The S&P 500 is up 14.6 percent for the year. For the week, the Dow rose 1 percent, the S&P 500 1.2 percent and the Nasdaq 1.7 percent.

Exxon Mobil ( id="symbol_XOM.N_5">XOM.N) lost 1 percent to $90.14 and helped drag on the Dow. The S&P energy index .SPNY dropped 0.5 percent as Brent and U.S. crude oil prices fell.

Shares of Priceline ( id="symbol_PCLN.O_7">PCLN.O) jumped 3.9 percent to $765.41, a day after the online travel company reported a first-quarter profit that topped estimates.

It was among several stronger-than-expected profit reports this week that have helped stocks as the first-quarter earnings period draws to a close.

Shares of electric carmaker Tesla Motors ( id="symbol_TSLA.O_8">TSLA.O) jumped 10.6 percent to $76.76, adding to Thursday's gain of 24.4 percent and making it one of the Nasdaq's top percentage gainers.

Tesla is part of a group of companies with heavy bets against them from investors. Recent upbeat results have triggered a wave of short-covering.

In contrast, shares of Hess Corp ( id="symbol_HES.N_9">HES.N) slid 2.3 percent to $69.30. Chief executive John Hess, son of the company's founder, is being stripped of his duties as chairman as the oil and gas company scrambles to avoid an embarrassing defeat by an activist investor.

Volume was roughly 5.7 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, below the average daily closing volume of about 6.4 billion this year.


Volume has been weak throughout the market's rally, and this week has seen below-average volume on every day except Thursday when the market fell.


Advancers outpaced decliners on the NYSE by nearly 9 to 5 and the Nasdaq by a ratio of about 2 to 1.


T. Rowe Price manager Milano quits New America Growth Fund

T. Rowe Price Group ( id="symbol_TROW.O_0">TROW.O) lost one of its top stock fund managers on Friday, as Joseph Milano quit to pursue other opportunities.


Milano, who ran the $4 billion New America Growth Fund( id="symbol_PRWAX.OPRWAX.O) for the past decade, will be replaced by Dan Martino, manager of the Baltimore firm's Media and Telecommunications Fund ( id="symbol_PRMTX.OPRMTX.O) and related accounts, spokesman Brian Lewbart said. Milano could not be immediately reached.


Under Milano, the New America fund has been among the better performers in its category, according to data from Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters.


The fund gained an average of 9.15 percent a year over the past 10 years through the end of April, better than 62 percent of similar funds. Over the past five years, the fund's average annual return of 6.74 percent beat 79 percent of its peers.

But the fund's performance lagged this year, weighed down by top holding Apple ( id="symbol_AAPL.O_3">AAPL.O), whose shares have dropped 15 percent in 2013. The fund gained 11.64 percent this year through May 9, trailing 69 percent of similar funds, according to data from Morningstar.

The sudden departure follows T. Rowe's loss of another top performer, former Health Sciences Fund manager Kris Jenner, who quit in February to start his own hedge fund.

The two departures were not related, spokesman Lewbart said. "We have succession plans and a deep bench of analysts and managers that are ready to step in," he added.

(Reporting by Aaron Pressman; editing by Carol Bishopric)

Fiat's U.S. dealers anxious for broader product lineup

A meeting of U.S. Fiat dealers to discuss future products, including the arrival of Alfa Romeo models, has twice been postponed and no new date has been set, several Fiat dealers said this week.

Some of the 204 U.S. Fiat dealers are struggling to turn a profit selling several versions of the Fiat 500 subcompact and some dealers said they anxiously await more details from Chrysler and its Italian parent, Fiat SpA ( id="symbol_FIA.MI_0">FIA.MI), on plans to expand products beyond what has been already announced.

Fiat returned to the U.S. market in March 2011 with 40 dealers after a 16-year absence selling a single product, the two-door Fiat 500, largely known outside North America as the Cinquecento.

The Italian carmaker, led by hard-charging Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, took over management of Chrysler after the No. 3 U.S. automaker's 2009 bankruptcy, partly on the promise it would make the company less reliant on gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs.

The Fiat brand's return to the United States was not part of the bankruptcy deal. Fiat the corporate parent owns 61.5 percent of Chrysler and Marchionne hopes to buy the remaining shares and merge the two companies.

Gary Brown is the new chairman of the Chrysler Dealer Council. He owns a Fiat dealership on Long Island in New York, which sits 60 feet from his primary store, which sells the higher volume Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Truck brands.

Brown says he has full faith that Marchionne and his executives will make Fiat dealers successful in the long run, but he is among those having a hard time selling only one style of car.

"I'm struggling to break even," said Brown. "With the one car in a small (volume) segment, it's a tough go right now."

Brown said he is counting on the launch of the longer, four-door 500L this summer, which is expected to arrive at showrooms in June or July. A limited edition of a two-seat sports car called the 4C will be the first Alfa Romeo to hit the U.S. market late this year or in early 2014, but a higher-volume Alfa car is not expected until 2014.

"The real key is rolling out new product, additional offerings," said Brown. "The four-door (500L) is really going to be a shot in the arm. It will put a franchise on more people's radar as they are shopping for a small car."

Brown and several other Fiat dealers said Chrysler officials did not inform them why a Fiat dealer meeting to be held at Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on April 20 was postponed to May 20 only to have that one postponed as well.

One dealer who wished to remain anonymous assumes there is another delay in the schedule to bring Fiat's sporty lineup from Alfa Romeo to the United States.

A Fiat spokesman declined to comment on the meetings, saying they are internal matters between the company and its dealers. He pointed to plans to introduce the bigger, four-door 500L this summer and for the first Alfa Romeo, a limited-edition two-seat sports car, the 4C, to arrive late this year or early 2014.

Tom Libby, lead analyst for Polk's North American forecasting, said that initially, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback was to get to the U.S. market in April 2010. That has been pushed back several times to April 2014, he said.

And the larger sedan, the Giulia, is now expected to arrive in June 2015, Libby said.

Chrysler and Fiat officials declined to comment on the arrival dates for the Giulietta and the Giulia.




In 2012, Fiat sold 43,772 500s in the United States.


Through April this year, Fiat's U.S. sales were up 6 percent to 13,511, in line with the growth of the domestic new vehicle market.


While sales are still relatively slight for Fiat, it made it to 40,000 annual sales in its second full year in the U.S. market.


By comparison, BMW AG's ( id="symbol_BMWG.DE_1">BMWG.DE) Mini subcompact took four years to reach that level after it was introduced in 2002, according to


The lineup of Kia Motors Corp ( id="symbol_000270.KS_2">000270.KS) also passed 40,000 in sales in its fourth year in the United States, according to


Three analysts, Libby, Alec Gutierrez of KBB and Kristen Andersson of TrueCar each said they think Fiat will be successful in the U.S. market and dealers who are not turning a profit now will be once the product lineup broadens.


"I'm more optimistic than I was about year ago" about Fiat's U.S. success, said Libby.


The brand will gain as more Americans turn to smaller cars that are more fuel-efficient. The subcompact segment is growing, he added.


(Additional reporting by Jennifer Clark in Milan and Andre Grenon)


BofA fires back at New York over modification violations

Bank of America Corp ( id="symbol_BAC.N_0">BAC.N) has fired back at New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after he threatened to sue the bank for violating the terms of a $25 billion settlement designed to end mortgage servicing abuses.

In a letter to Schneiderman, lawyers for Bank of America said they were "surprised and disappointed" the attorney general thought the bank engaged in "flagrant violations" of the timeline to process mortgage modifications.

The lawyers also said Schneiderman cannot sue until the bank has an opportunity to cure any alleged violations.

"Bank of America has not committed any potential violations ... let alone failed to cure those potential violations," attorneys Meyer Koplow and Theodore Mirvis, of Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz, wrote in the May 7 letter. Reuters obtained a copy of the letter on Friday.

Schneiderman announced on Monday that he planned to sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo & Co ( id="symbol_WFC.N_1">WFC.N) for violating the terms of last year's National Mortgage Settlement, which was brokered between five major banks and 49 attorneys general.

Schneiderman did not say how the other three banks - JPMorgan Chase & Co ( id="symbol_JPM.N_2">JPM.N), Citigroup Inc ( id="symbol_C.N_3">C.N) and Ally Financial Inc - were performing.

He said Bank of America had 129 violations since October and Wells Fargo had 210 and that their tardiness put homeowners at greater risk of foreclosure.

On Friday, Wells Fargo said it was committed to abiding by the settlement.

"We expect that a constructive pathway may still develop with the New York AG," the bank said in a statement.

Asked about the Bank of America letter, Schneiderman's spokesman, Damien LaVera, said: "At least Bank of America will respond to one New Yorker promptly."

LaVera said the attorney general has "the right to bring a suit against parties that violate the servicing standards and will do so."

Schneiderman has said he would seek injunctive relief and an order requiring the banks to comply with the settlement. His statement did not say he was seeking damages or penalties.

It is unclear how far he can take his efforts because they come outside the primary channel authorized by the settlement to address any potential violations. The settlement's monitor is authorized to first work with a servicer to correct any potential violations and sue only if the errors are not fixed.

Bank of America said that, under the terms of the settlement, the attorney general's office has no right to commence an enforcement action and requested that the notice of intent be publicly withdrawn.

The bank's letter asked for evidence of any violations so it could provide remediation to homeowners without waiting for any "adversary process."

(Reporting By Karen Freifeld. Editing by Andre Grenon)

In Vegas, investors strip hedge fund managers of their secrets

In Las Vegas this week, hedge fund investors rubbed shoulders with big-name managers, Hollywood heavies and political swells against a Bellagio hotel backdrop of glitz and gambling.

For the fifth straight year, private jets dropped off billionaire managers to schmooze clients and share success recipes with legions of hedge fund faithful who came on commercial airliners for the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, which ran from Tuesday evening through Friday.

Anthony Scaramucci, founder of conference sponsor SkyBridge Capital and affectionately known as "the Mooch," played host to Daniel Loeb, one of the few managers producing big returns this year; Al Pacino; former French President Nicolas Sarkozy; and former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

For many of the people attending what has become the $2.25 trillion industry's biggest annual event, the caliber of the panelists (including Jane Buchan who runs PAAMCO and Leon Cooperman who runs Omega Advisors) and the chance of discovering even one new or unusual investment idea were the main drawing cards, followed by a concert by Grammy Award-winning band Train, blackjack and cocktails by the pools.

Clayton Cheek, a managing director at hedge fund Onex Credit, has attended the conference for four years, believing that what he learns here enables him to stay competitive by networking with contacts and hearing about hot-button topics: "If you stop evolving in this industry, the Darwin effect diminishes your business very quickly."

Behind the scenes, investors jockeyed to find the next star manager - this generation's George Soros or Stanley Druckenmiller. John Paulson was one of a handful of top-tier speakers who headlined the event, though according to people who saw him he flew commercial after two years of heavy losses.

Investors with the power to write multimillion-dollar checks groused about recent sluggish returns. The average hedge fund gained 4.6 percent through April, according to eVestment, while the S&P 500 Index rose 12 percent.

The industry's white-hot appeal has also been cooled by ongoing regulatory probes. This week Philip Falcone, who headlined here last year, agreed to a two-year industry ban to settle fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Steven A. Cohen, who spoke two years ago, extended his investors' redemption deadline as his SAC Capital Advisors scrambled to keep clients in the midst of the government's insider trading probe. Neither Cohen nor SAC has been accused of wrongdoing.

"I'm not here to be a critic of hedge fund managers," said Frank Caprio, Rhode Island's former state treasurer who is running for the job again next year. "But any alternative investment has to be justified by superior long-term returns." He added that if hedge funds don't deliver, "There is no place for them under my watch."

Caprio, who oversaw the state's $7 billion pension fund from 2007 to 2011, wasn't alone in his blunt assessment.

Jim Berardo, who invests for a wealthy family and is based in Houston, turned his back on hedge funds several years ago. Still, he wanted to participate and maybe find new talent. "We've done so well everywhere else since then, we've felt no need" to put money back into hedge funds, he said, adding that the high fees many hedge funds charge for mediocre performance were "ridiculous."

What irritates investors most are the dull ideas, several attendees said, with too many managers talking the same talk.

"There was a panel on investment opportunities in credit, and all of the panelists sounded the same," said one investor. Berardo said he wanted to see if "anybody out there was not following the herd."

As more people chase fewer good ideas and making money is becoming harder, investors are firing the underperformers more quickly. The conference was witness to their skepticism.

Philip Weingord's $2 billion Seer Capital Management gained 26 percent last year, far more than many bigger and more prominent names. His fund, which invests in debt, drew interested inquiries at Bellagio.

"The level of sophistication among investors is far more advanced now, and they are asking very good and detailed questions."

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Prudence Crowther)

JPMorgan board unanimously backs Dimon as chairman, CEO: letter

Two ranking JPMorgan Chase & Co ( id="symbol_JPM.N_0">JPM.N) directors issued a letter to shareholders on Friday arguing against recommendations by proxy advisory firms to split the duties of Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and vote against some directors.

The board is unanimous in its view that it is best for Dimon to hold both roles and the current governance structure "is working effectively," according to the letter signed by presiding director Lee Raymond and William Weldon, who is chairman of the corporate governance and nominating committee.

The letter warned that a vote against current directors or to split the CEO and chairman roles "could be disruptive to the company and is not in shareholders' best interests."

The letter is a direct response to reports in the past seven days from advisory firms Institutional Investors Services and Glass Lewis & Co. The firms concluded that investigations of the bank's $6.2 billion loss on the "London Whale" derivatives trades showed the board had failed in its oversight of JPMorgan executives.

The incident is cited in policy debates in Washington as evidence big banks need to be broken up or required to hold much more capital for the safety of the financial system.

Both advisory firms recommended JPMorgan shareholders vote against re-election of three board members who served on the board's risk policy committee when the losses occurred.

The advisory firms generally take the view that having a board chairman who is separate from the CEO in a company leads to better oversight. They said the London Whale episode showed that JPMorgan was no exception.

The board letter on Friday said the firms "and others have incorrectly and unfairly characterized management's mistakes as a failure by the risk policy committee."

The letter was issued ahead of the bank's annual meeting on May 21 when shareholders will vote on the board's recommendation that all 11 directors be re-elected for another year.

The ballot also includes a non-binding resolution proposed by some shareholders that calls on the board to have a chairman who is independent from the CEO.

The vote on splitting the roles has come to be seen as a referendum on Dimon, 57, who was widely praised for leading the bank profitably and safely through the financial crisis and then saw that reputation tarnished by the trading debacle.

The seven-page letter came one year to the day after the company announced it was losing billions of dollars on the trades. Dimon had previously dismissed news reports of possible losses as a "tempest in a teapot."

The letter said the advisory firms focused "too narrowly" on the losses and a broader view of the company's performance shows Dimon and all of the board members should be supported in the voting.

The company reported record earnings and scored well on measures of profitability, including 15 percent returns on tangible common equity, every year for the last three years, the letter said.

"We highlight the performance of the Company not to diminish the events of last year or the lessons learned from them, but to provide important context," the letter said.

The letter defended by name the three directors on the risk policy committee who ISS said should not be re-elected. It said the three directors--David Cote, who is also chairman and CEO of Honeywell International Inc, ( id="symbol_HON.N_1">HON.N) James Crown, who is president of private investment firm Henry Crown and Company, and Ellen Futter, who is president of the American Museum of Natural History--had worked diligently and have "accomplished backgrounds."


The letter said there was no reason that the trio should have seen that a trading strategy which had successfully hedged the bank's credit risk had turned into a losing bet.


The directors said it depends on the situation whether it is best to have one person or two as chief executive and chairman. They noted that the board had split the roles when Dimon first became CEO and when his predecessor, William Harrison, first became CEO under another chairman.


(Reporting By David Henry in New York; writing by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andrew Hay)