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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rough justice in New York, cozy cops in London

NEW YORK — If the New York sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn ever goes to trial, much will doubtless be made of his accuser’s background. But what about his?

Prosecutors have already hinted they might like to peer into the former International Monetary Fund leader’s past. At his first court appearance, a prosecutor made a point of noting reports of “similar” conduct abroad — an apparent reference to the French writer who has now brought a criminal complaint in Paris about an attempted rape she says she suffered at Strauss-Kahn’s hands in 2003.

But given New York law, legal experts say it could be knotty, but not impossible, for prosecutors to try to introduce any allegations beyond the actual attempted rape and other charges stemming from Strauss-Kahn’s May encounter in May with a Manhattan hotel maid.

For now, it’s far from clear that the case will get to that point. But if it does, it could become a high-profile proving ground for a principle enshrined in a more than century-old case that was a sensation in its own right and yielded a landmark ruling.

The DSK case is different but the New York authorities by contrast showed little compunction about arresting someone who was extremely powerful and well-connected and charging him. He was held on remand in Rikers Island, and then on bail at home before released on his own recognisance.
One of the criticisms of the New York authorities was that Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, is an elected official. Some critics in France argued that this made him prone to populism rather than being motivated by justice.
There are fair criticisms of the behaviour of elected attorneys and attorneys-general in the US. In this case, however, his status may have made Mr Vance more confident about upsetting the powerful, compared with the supine attitude of the Met.
All in all, the cosiness of the relationship between the police, politicians and the media in the UK hardly sets a salutary example.

Bank of NY Mellon 2Q profit beats expectations

State Street Corp and Bank of New York Mellon , two of the world's biggest custody banks, each reported stronger second-quarter earnings as new demand for their products boosted revenue.

New York-based Bank of New York Mellon said on Tuesday net income climbed to 12 percent to $735 million while Boston-based State Street's earnings rose 19 percent to $513 million.

Each company earned more in investment management fees for overseeing trillions in assets for pension funds and other large clients. Bank of New York Mellon saw a 14 percent gain while State Street reported a 24 percent gain.

Some of the increase in fees was fueled by acquisitions.

Bank of New York Mellon last year inked a deal to buy PNC Financial Services Group Inc.'s global-investment services business while State Street acquired the Bank of Ireland's asset management business in January.

State Street reported a 15 percent gain in assets under management to $2.1 trillion. Bank of New York reported a 22 percent gain to $1.3 trillion.

The results were hurt by a 21 percent increase in noninterest expenses, which rose to $2.69 billion from $2.22 billion. The bank attributed that increase primarily to costs from acquisitions and higher legal expenses. The company acquired Global Investment Servicing last July and BHF Asset Servicing GmbH in August. With the acquisitions, the bank's employee total rose to 48,900 from 42,700 a year ago.

Nonperforming assets fell to $351 million from $406 million in the same period last year. About two-thirds of the total involved residential mortgages. There was no provision for credit losses in the latest quarter, compared with a charge of $20 million in last year's quarter.

Bank of New York Mellon also said Tuesday that its board declared a quarterly stock dividend of 13 cents per share. The cash dividend is payable on Aug. 9 to shareholders of record as of July 29.

Retired players join NFL talks Tuesday in New York

Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller and lawyers for retired NFL players are meeting with representatives of owners and current players at a New York law firm for talks aimed at ending the lockout.

The court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, is also at Tuesday's session, as the sides attempt to close a deal to resolve the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.

Judge Arthur Boylan, the court-appointed mediator in the NFL labor talks, arrives to the meetings in New York, Monday, July 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Owners are set to be in Atlanta on Thursday, when they could ratify a new agreement — if there is one in place. Executives from all 32 teams then would be briefed there Thursday and Friday on how the terms would affect league business.

Still, legal maneuvers continued in case of an unlikely collapse in negotiations.

In what the players said was strictly a procedural move, they filed for a motion of summary judgment with the district court in Minneapolis, asking that the owners’ lockout be declared illegal under antitrust law and that the court declare that the N.F.L. had breached player contracts for 2011.

Atallah said that the move was made only because Monday was the deadline for such a filing and the players had to protect their position in case a settlement was not reached.

New York City Opera

New York City Opera (NYCO) is an American opera company and the second largest opera company, after the Metropolitan Opera, in New York City. The company, called "the people's opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943 with the aim of making opera financially accessible to a wide audience, producing an innovative choice of repertory, and providing a home for American singers and composers. In addition to producing a busy opera schedule, the company has extensive education and outreach programs, offering arts-in-education programs to 4,000 students in over thirty schools. The company has been a part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts since 1966, however plans announced in May 2011 for the financially troubled company's future include a proposal to leave Lincoln Center and perform in various locations throughout the city. 
During its more than sixty year long history, the NYCO has helped launch the careers of many great opera singers including, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Carol Vaness, José Carreras, Renée Fleming, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Bejun Mehta, Samuel Ramey, Gianna Rolandi, and Beverly Sills, the latter of whom served as the company's director from 1979-1989. Internationally acclaimed American singers who still call NYCO home include David Daniels, Mark Delavan, Mary Dunleavy, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, and Carl Tanner.
NYCO similarly champions the work of American composers; approximately one-third of its repertoire has traditionally been American opera. The company's American repertoire ranges from established works (e.g., Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah and Leonard Bernstein's Candide) to new works (e.g., Rachel Portman's The Little Prince and Mark Adamo's Little Women). NYCO's commitment to the future of American opera is demonstrated in its annual series, Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab, in which operas-in-progress are showcased, giving composers a chance to hear their work performed by professional singers and orchestra. The company also occasionally produces musicals and operettas such as works by Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert & Sullivan.

2008 to Present
A note of uncertainty about the company's future emerged in November 2008, when Gérard Mortier, who was scheduled to begin his first official season as General and Artistic Director of the company in 2009, abruptly resigned. The company announced that "The economic climate in which we find ourselves today has caused us both to reconsider proceeding with our plans." Mortier had reportedly been promised a $60 million annual budget, which was cut to $36 million due to the economic climate. Michael Kaiser was appointed to advise the board on a turnaround strategy, including the recruitment of a new general director.
In January 2009, the company announced the appointment of George Steel as general manager and artistic director, effective 1 February 2009. The David H. Koch Theater (previously known as the New York State Theater) underwent major renovations during the 2008-2009 season. During the construction the company did not stage opera in its home at Lincoln Center. Instead, New York City Opera presented a concert version of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra at Carnegie Hall in January 2009, as well as other concerts and programs around the city, and it continued to make classroom presentations in New York City's public schools. The company presented three concerts at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 2009, I'm On My Way: Black History at City Opera, One Fine Day: A Tribute to Camilla Williams and a 60th Anniversary concert production of William Grant Still's Troubled Island. In June 2009 Bloomberg reported that the company had incurred a $11 million deficit for the year ending June 2008. Revenue fell 23 percent to $32.9 million, expenses rose 11 percent to $44.2 million.

2009-2010 season
In November 2009, under the leadership of George Steel, the company returned with an opening night program called American Voices consisting of excerpts from American opera, a revival of Hugo Weisgall's Esther, and a new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni directed by Christopher Alden. The spring season opened in March 2010 and included Emmanuel Chabrier 's L'étoile directed by Mark Lamos and Handel's Partenope directed by Andrew Chown; original production directed by Francisco Negrin. The company also continues to collaborate with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Opera Noire of New York to highlight the role of opera in African-American history including the programs Opera at the Schomburg, A Tribute to Robert McFerrin, and X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X in February - May. In 2010 New York City Opera's VOX Contemporary Opera Lab featured new works of emerging and established composers at NYU in late April.  The 2010-2011 season collaboration with the Schomburg Center includes "A Tribute to Betty Allen" in February and a concert version of Scott Joplin's opera, Treemonisha, in June 2011.

2010-2011 season
Amongst the rarely performed or more unusual operas, New York City Opera announced the 2010-2011 season which will include a new production of Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place directed by Christopher Alden, Richard Strauss's Intermezzo directed by Leon Major, with a new production called Monodramas which is composed of John Zorn's La Machine de l’être, Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung, and Morton Feldman's Neither. New York City Opera is also staging Séance on a Wet Afternoon, the first opera of Stephen Schwartz, veteran of Broadway musicals including Godspell, Pippin and Wicked.
In addition, the company will feature concert performances including An Evening With Christine Brewer, Lucky To Be Me: The Music of Leonard Bernstein, John Zorn & Friends (with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Mike Patton, Marc Ribot, Dave Douglas and Uri Caine), a family opera concert of Oliver Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are with a libretto by Maurice Sendak and Defying Gravity: The Music of Stephen Schwartz with Kristin Chenoweth and Raúl Esparza.

Vox,Contemporary Opera Lab
Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab (formerly known as Vox: Showcasing American Composers) is an annual concert series dedicated to the development of contemporary American operas. Founded by New York City Opera in 1999, the festival offers composers and librettists the opportunity to hear excerpts of their works performed with professional singers and musicians. Up to twelve excerpts of previously un-produced operas are performed at each festival. Many of the operas that have been presented at Vox have gone on to be presented in full production by New York City Opera and various other opera companies, including Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner. Since 2006, the Vox performances have been presented at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

World premieres at the New York City Opera
William Grant Still's Troubled Island (1949)
David Tamkin's The Dybbuk (1951)
Aaron Copland's The Tender Land (1954)
Nevit Kodallı's Van Gogh (1957)
Mark Bucci's Tale for a Deaf Ear (1958, first professional production)
Robert Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik (1958)
Hugo Weisgall's Six Characters in Search of an Author (1959)
Norman Dello Joio's The Triumph of St. Joan (1959, the premiere of the third version)
Robert Ward's He Who Gets Slapped (1959)
Douglas Moore’s The Wings of the Dove (1961)
Robert Ward's The Crucible (1961)
Abraham Ellstein's The Golem (1962)
Carlisle Floyd's The Passion of Jonathan Wade (1962)
Jerome Moross' Gentlemen, Be Seated! (1963)
Lee Hoiby's Natalia Petrovna (1964)
Jack Beeson's Lizzie Borden (1965)
Ned Rorem's Miss Julie (1965)
Vittorio Giannini's The Servant of Two Masters (1967)
Hugo Weisgall's Nine Rivers from Jordan (1968)
Gian Carlo Menotti's The Most Important Man (1971)
Thea Musgrave's The Voice of Ariadne (1977)
Leon Kirchner's Lilly (1977)
Dominick Argento's Miss Havisham's Fire (1979)
Stanley Silverman's Madame Adare (1980)
Thomas Pasatieri's Before Breakfast (1980)
Jan Bach's The Student from Salamanca (1980)
Leonard Bernstein's Candide (operetta) (Opera House Version) (1982)
Anthony Davis’s X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986, first staged production)
Jay Riese's Rasputin (1988)
Hugo Weisgall's Esther (1993)
Ezra Laderman's Marilyn (1993)
Lukas Foss's Griffelkin (1993, premiere of revised version)
Deborah Drattell's Lilith (2001, first staged production)
Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories (2004)

N.Y. Attorney General to Block Opera’s Lincoln Center Getaway

Unions representing New York City Opera performers have questioned whether the company's intention to vacate its home at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is prudent. Now they are questioning whether it's legal.

Two unions, the American Guild of Musical Artists and the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, have asked state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office oversees charities, to investigate whether the opera breached its fiduciary duties.

City Opera will quit Lincoln Center because it no longer can cover costs there, Artistic Director George Steel said at a press conference last week. Steel said by performing at smaller venues around the city, with orchestras and choruses of various sizes, it can survive without further raiding its endowment.
The off-campus plans have provoked protests by artists who have performed at the opera and would void the most recent contracts with the singers and musicians.
The Wallace fund, the source of the $24 million, was set up in 1982 to benefit Lincoln Center’s constituent companies. The unions said that leaving Lincoln Center “flouted” the fundamental purpose of the fund.
In May, AGMA, which represents singers, stage directors and stage managers, had appealed to the National Labor Relations Board to block City Opera’s exit. AGMA Executive Director Alan Gordon said he didn’t know whether the request of the attorney general will prove effective.
“I have no idea whether they’ll do anything, but you gotta try,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Schneiderman confirmed that the office had received the letter and declined to comment. Schneiderman’s father, Irwin Schneiderman, is a former City Opera chairman.
Maggie McKeon, a City Opera spokeswoman, called the letter “another distraction from the real issue. We take strong exception to the suggestion that we have misled anyone. That accusation is ridiculous.

New York Mets fall below .500 after 4-1 loss to Florida Marlins

NEW YORK — One minute, Jose Reyes is going to be traded. The next, he's staying. This newspaper has him wearing a New York Mets uniform for the rest of his career. That radio talk show has him vanishing into the night.
After nearly eight dynamic years in Queens — plus a 2011 season in which he's in the running for the National League MVP award — Reyes is waiting to see if he will be traded, leave as a free agent after the season or stay with a long-term contract.
The speedy shortstop whisks back his long dreadlocks and slowly breaks into a sheepish smile. He has no idea what's going to happen. How could he when his employers aren't sure, either?
The Mets are one of many teams trying to determine whether to buy, sell or stand pat at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Through Sunday, there were 17 teams within six games of a playoff spot and others like the Mets (47-47, 8½ games out of the wild-card lead) on the fringe of contention.
Tuesday night against the Cardinals at least, the team anticipates enough improvement in Beltran's flu-like virus, and Reyes' strained hamstring, to allow both stars to return.

"No doubt about it, they are game-changers," Capuano said.

Let us stop for a moment and praise these lesser-known Mets hitters who made the spring and early summer interesting. Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Willie Harris, Scott Hairston - they have all had their moments. They have delivered a competitive team to this town, which is more than we expected after so many stars succumbed to injury.

But really, that success could stretch only so far before snapping, and the Mets lineup was simply too depleted Monday night. The starting nine had combined for 22 home runs all season, and that was before Hairston and his five dingers left with a bruised shin.

Collins, who rightly believes that his job is to deal with reality as it is, not as he wishes it could be, did not want to hear it. He would not accept that missing so many important players caused the recent losses."

"I don't sit there on the bench and think about who isn't here," Collins said. "I'm thinking, hey you've got to get out there and get a ball to hit. You've got to put a good swing on it, and we just didn't do that."

Fortunately for Collins, two stars return Tuesday night, with another, David Wright, expected this weekend. Although the reunion will occur too late for a playoff race, it should at least provide more entertainment, and stave off doldrums like these.

NFL labor laws

NFL owners unanimously voted in 2008 not to continue with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) following the 2010 season, after previously voting to extend it in 2006. That last labor agreement gave players 57 percent of the league’s $9 billion in revenue, after the owners took $1 billion for growth and development of the league. A major reason for opting out is that the owners want a better deal to help pay for investments they have made on new stadiums and other expenditures. Part of the previous CBA involved a transfer of revenues from the higher earning teams to the lowest, even though some of the higher earners also have higher costs. Players are very skeptical that the owners are losing money as a result of their payments to players, and believe the current pay dispute was deliberately generated by some owners in order to renegotiate their own revenue sharing agreements which are attached to the CBA. The players are resisting any pay cuts across the board.
As bargaining chips, the owners proposed to extend the regular season from 16 to 18 games, establish a rookie wage scale and/or rookie salary cap that would limit first-round draft pick compensation to 40% of the current level, begin routine testing for human growth hormone, and implement other health and safety issues. But the players are concerned that these health and safety proposals would be offset by the potential injuries that might occur during those two extra games.
Anticipating a lockout initiated by the owners if no deal is made, a number of players voted in Fall 2010 to agree to decertify the union, which would expose the owners to potential antitrust lawsuits. However, the players would then lose the ability to collectively bargain with the owners. The league is also exempted from most facets of antitrust laws as a result of Public Law 89-800, passed in the wake of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, complicating any potential lawsuit against the league. The players union has also hired firms to lobby members of the U.S. Congress on their behalf, claiming that a work stoppage could potentially cost each NFL city $160 million in lost business, a figure that the league owners say is inflated.Congressmen have indicated a willingness to intervene if necessary.

Just before the CBA expired on March 3, both the players and the league owners agreed to extend the negotiations by one week. However, talks eventually broke down, and on March 11, the union formally decertified, after which a group of ten players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league. (The players involved are Tom Brady and Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers, Ben Leber and Brian Robison of the Minnesota Vikings, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, Von Miller who was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the second pick overall, Osi Umenyiora of the New York Giants, Mike Vrabel of the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as several former NFL players including Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs.) In response to the decertification, the league officially locked out the players. On July 5, 2011, a group of retired NFL players led by Carl Eller, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen and Paul Krause filed its own class-action lawsuit against both the NFL and NFLPA, stating that the decertification disqualified the NFLPA from bargaining on the former NFL players' behalf.
On July 6, 2011, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into the league for possible violations of New York State's antitrust law, the Donnelly Act.
This is only the second time in which a labor dispute could jeopardize the preseason. The other was during the 1974 NFL season, in which the College All-Star Game was canceled due to the threat of a work stoppage; an agreement was struck shortly thereafter, and the rest of the preseason, beginning with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, was unaffected. The 1982 and 1987 strikes began after the regular season was already underway. The lockout is the longest in the NFL's history, but because all of it to date has taken place during the offseason, it has not yet forced the cancellation or postponement of any games.

Attorneys for NFL, Players Meet in New York Ahead of Special Meeting

As players prepared to consider the terms of a new labor deal, negotiators met again in New York, haggling over the final few details standing in the way of an agreement in principle to end a lockout that started March 12.

At issue is a demand by the players' lawyers for $320 million the owners did not have to pay in benefits because 2010 was a year in which there was no salary cap. The absence of benefits payments was a provision of the last collective-bargaining agreement, but players want that money as part of the settlement that also would include the resolution of an antitrust case and a television-damages case.

Players could also seek a rule that would limit how often the franchise tag can be used, either on all players or only the plaintiffs in the antitrust suit against the league.

With the federal mediator, Judge Arthur Boylan, rejoining talks in New York, the last issues are expected to be smoothed out by Wednesday. Benefits for retired players are to be discussed Tuesday.

Both parties are meeting on Monday at a Manhattan law firm to try and finalize an agreement to get NFL players back on the field.
The court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, is expected to arrive in New York later Monday to oversee talks aimed at ending the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.
The owners have a special meeting set for Thursday in Atlanta, where they potentially could ratify a new deal -- if one is reached by then. Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league, and the NFLPA's 32 team representatives.
Resolution of the proposed deal could open in training camps on time, meaning no delay to the start of the 2011 season and no loss of tickets for season-ticket holders. The first scheduled preseason game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams is Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.

Oil Gains in New York as U.S. Supplies

Oil prices rose above $96 a barrel Tuesday in Asia amid expectations U.S. crude supplies dropped last week, a sign demand may be improving.
Benchmark oil for August delivery was up 66 cents to $96.59 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude fell $1.31 to settle at $95.93 on Monday.
In London, the September contract for Brent crude rose 17 cents to $116.22 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Crude inventories likely fell 1.3 million barrels last week while gasoline supplies probably dropped 450,000 barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
The American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to report its weekly supply data later Tuesday while the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration releases its report Wednesday.
Some analysts are concerned Europe's debt crisis and the lack of an agreement so far among lawmakers to raise the U.S. debt ceiling could undermine global financial stability and economic growth.
"The global economy simply faces too many serious headwinds for us to believe that growth rates will accelerate in second half of 2011 and the start of 2012," energy analyst Richard Soultanian of NUS Consulting said. "It will be sluggish at best and, at worst, we could see the start of a double dip recession.

Brent advanced as much as 1 percent as the euro strengthened against the dollar after Greece’s Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said a solution is “attainable” at a summit of European leaders to be held in two days. A weaker U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated assets such as oil more attractive. A U.S. government report tomorrow that may show crude inventories dropped a seventh week.
“The market is focusing on the robust, medium-term fundamentals and ignoring bearish factors,” said Torbjoern Kjus, senior analyst at DnB NOR in Oslo, who correctly predicted in May that supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would rise. “Based on the news flow over the past two months, Brent should be lower, maybe down to $100.”
Brent oil for September settlement rose as much as $1.11 cents to $117.16 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was at $116.89 at 9:41 a.m. London time. Prices are 55 percent higher the past year.
Crude for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 82 cents at $96.75 a barrel after gaining as much as $1 to $96.93. The contract yesterday declined to $95.93, the lowest since July 14. The more actively traded September future climbed 81 cents to $97.06 a barrel.