Nation & World Briefs 06-20-14 GM could face another fine for Impala recall after email surfaces

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DETROIT -- An old email from a General Motors employee warning of a "serious safety problem" could help trigger another government fine against the automaker.

The Aug. 30, 2005, email surfaced Wednesday during a House subcommittee hearing on GM's delayed recall of 2.6 million small cars with ignition switch problem. This email outlined a similar issue with a larger car.

Employee Laura Andres wrote that she was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Impala home from work when she hit a bump and the engine stalled on busy Interstate 75 near Detroit. The car behind her had to swerve to avoid a crash. A GM mechanic told her the cause was likely a faulty ignition switch.

"I think this is a serious safety problem ... I'm thinking big recall," Andres wrote in an e-mail to 11 GM colleagues.

Yet it wasn't until Monday that GM recalled the Impalas, Buick LaCrosses and other models with the same switch, almost nine years after Andres' e-mail. Safety regulators received dozens of similar complaints about the cars during that time.

GM wouldn't comment Thursday on the possibility of another fine. NHTSA also wouldn't comment on the Impala case, but said it reviews all recalls to make sure they comply with the notification law and it takes "appropriate action" when it finds problems.

Gives public workers shield: The Supreme Court shielded public employees from being punished or fired if they testify in court against their superiors, ruling Thursday that the First Amendment protects those who tell the truth and reveal corruption. Such testimony is "speech as a citizen for First Amendment purposes" and deserves to be protected, the court said in a 9-0 decision. The ruling revives a lawsuit by former Alabama community college official Edward Lane. He testified against an influential state legislator who was drawing a paycheck from the college but doing no work. After his testimony, he was fired.

Stricter reporting guidelines: The U.S. government announced new proposed regulations Thursday that will require colleges and universities for the first time to publicly disclose more types of sexual violence and harassment. Under the new rules, schools must publish the number of incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking that occur annually on and around campus. In addition, hates crimes must also include incidents based on the alleged victim's gender or national origin. Public colleges and universities also must offer programs to prevent sexual assault and violence.

Gets nearly 12 years in prison: Shawn Dicken, of Bay City, Mich., has been sentenced to 11 years, eight months to 20 years in prison for taking part in an investment scheme that authorities say defrauded senior citizens out of at least $2 million. Midland County Circuit Judge Stephen Karras on Thursday sentenced Dicken, 40, on nine felony charges for her role in the scheme. A jury convicted her March 13. Dicken began working for The Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC in 2011. Joel Wilson owned the former investment company and also faces charges. Wilson was arrested in Germany in January.

Admit guilt through plea deals: The remaining three men accused in the brutal beating last April of Steven Utash on Detroit's east side admitted guilt Thursday through plea deals with prosecutors. Latrez Cummings, 19; James Davis, 24, and Wonzey Saffold, 30, all said they hit Utash at least once as the April 2 beating commenced near Morang and Balfour. All three men admitted guilt to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, the same plea codefendant Bruce Wimbush Jr., 18, made Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Charges against the men of attempted murder were dropped, and the two August trials are canceled.

Father charged with murder: The father of a 22-month-old boy left all day in an SUV has been charged with murder, according to Cobb (Ga.) County police. Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, was also charged with cruelty to children in the first degree, according to his arrest warrant, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The toddler was supposed to have been dropped off at day care Wednesday morning, sometime between 8:30 and 9, according to Sgt. Dana Pierce with Cobb police. Instead, he was left in the backseat of a Hyundai Tucson, and the father went to work, Pierce said.

Kraft Foods recalls Velveeta: Kraft said Thursday it is recalling its Velveeta cheese product from Walmart stores in as many as 12 states, including Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, mostly in the Midwest, because the cheese product lacks the proper amount of preservatives. Insufficient levels of sorbic acid has led to the recall of 260 cases of Velveeta original pasteurized recipe cheese product because it could cause the cheese product to spoil prematurely or cause food-borne illnesses. The company said the code on the packages is 021000611614. The packages also have a date stamp that reads "17 DEC 2014" and the timeframe is between 10:54 and 14:35.

Millionaires up 2M to record: Nearly two million people around the world became millionaires last year, a year-over-year increase of 15 percent, as surging stock and home markets lifted the fortunes of the wealthy. The increase raised the number of millionaires to a record 13.7 million. A report from consultant Capgemini and the Royal Bank of Canada estimated the combined net worth of millionaires at $53 trillion in 2013. That was up 14 percent from the year earlier -- the second-biggest increase since the two companies began issuing wealth reports with comparable data in 2000. The accelerating pace of wealth accumulation among the affluent coincides with a widening gap between the rich and everyone else in many developed countries.

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