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Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 2:51 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 2:50 PM
DETROIT — For the third time in the past three years, General Motors has asked the U.S. government for permission to avoid recalls of potentially deadly Takata air bag inflators.
The company disclosed its third petition to escape the recalls on Tuesday in a filing with securities regulators . The financial stakes are high. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lets GM out of the recalls, the company says it could save $1 billion and avoid recalling up to 6.8 million full-size pickup trucks and SUVs from the 2007 to 2011 model years.
Takata inflators can explode with too much force and hurl shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 22 people have been killed worldwide and more than 180 injured. The problem forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection and touched off the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history. Takata has agreed to recall up to 69 million inflators in the U.S. and 100 million worldwide.
Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate air bags. But high humidity and hot temperatures can cause the chemical to deteriorate and burn too fast, blowing apart metal canisters designed to contain the explosion.
In its annual report posted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, GM said it filed recall paperwork and a petition to avoid the recalls with NHTSA on Jan. 9.
In the filing, GM says the front-passenger inflators were custom-made for its trucks by Takata with bigger vents and stronger steel end caps than other inflators. No truck inflators have blown apart on roads or in extensive laboratory testing, the company says.
GM disclosed that it hasn't set aside money for the recalls, and if required to do them, "we estimate a reasonably possible impact to GM of approximately $1.0 billion," the filing says. The company is in discussions with regulators outside the U.S. and continues to gather evidence and share its findings, according to the filing.
As part of a consent agreement with NHTSA in May of 2016, Takata agreed to recall all of its inflators that use explosive ammonium nitrate as a propellant but don't have a moisture-absorbing chemical in them. The recalls are being phased in through 2020, with older vehicles in southern states getting top priority. Takata has filed recall paperwork for 2016, 2017 and this year declaring the inflators defective, including those made for GM trucks.
GM filed petitions seeking to avoid the recalls in November of 2016 and in January of 2017 , but NHTSA has yet to rule on them. Until it makes a decision, GM is not required to recall the trucks and SUVs. The agency gave GM until Aug. 31, 2017 to do research on the inflators.
The company has said it will design replacement inflators so it's ready if NHTSA decides the recalls have to be done.
NHTSA, the government's highway safety watchdog agency, said in a statement that it "is reviewing all of the relevant data and information regarding the pending GM petitions and will issue a decision as soon as possible."
Curtis White, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, near Louisville, who owns a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban SUV, called GM's actions a "corporate cover-up." The inflator on White's SUV was recalled in 2016, but his dealer tells him nothing can be done to fix it. "They do everything they can to avoid doing anything to help people," the 71-year-old retiree said.
Since the Suburban is his only vehicle, White says he has to let people ride in the front passenger seat. "It's still scary," he said. He's also upset with NHTSA because it hasn't made a decision. "I don't think the government does anything with any sense of urgency at all," White said on Wednesday.
Ford and Mazda also have petitioned NHTSA to escape from recalls involving about 3 million vehicles, mostly made by Ford, but no ruling has been made yet.
As of Jan. 5, automakers had recalled 40.1 million inflators, according to NHTSA's website. Of those, only about 53 percent had been replaced, despite the risk of injury or death. Problems with the inflators date to 2001.
The GM recalls cover two of its top-selling models, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. Also included are big SUVS such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson would not comment Wednesday, deferring to paperwork the company has filed with NHTSA.
GM hired Orbital ATK, a Virginia rocket science firm that determined the cause of Takata's air bag explosions, to test its truck inflators. As of December, Orbital ATK had checked 648 GM inflators by simulating heat and humidity cycles, finding that they would perform as designed for 30 years, according to GM. The automaker said that in 4,907 more inflators tested in labs and in 63,000 air bag deployments on real roads, none of the truck and SUV inflators malfunctioned.
Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 3:43 AM
Updated: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 3:43 AM
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A survivor of Wednesday's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, slammed President Donald Trump, lawmakers and the National Rifle Association in a scathing speech Saturday at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale.
"Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving," said Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "But instead, we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the founding fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed, but our laws have not."
Gonzalez called out one of Trump's tweets following the shooting that left 17 people dead.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!" Trump wrote Thursday morning.
Gonzalez said Saturday: "We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn't know this kid, OK? We did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife."
She added: "If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association."
She went on to criticize him and other lawmakers.
"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!" she said, prompting the crowd to chant, "Shame on you" in response.
Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 7:34 AM
Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 7:34 AM
Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 5:52 AM
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An 11-year-old Orange County, Florida, girl was found Sunday afternoon at a Georgia hotel room with a 24-year-old Illinois man who had abducted her, Georgia's Bibb County Sheriff’s Office said.
PLEASE RETWEET!— FDLE (@fdlepio) February 18, 2018
FLORIDA MISSING CHILD ALERT issued for Alice Johnson, W/F, 11yo, 5'5", 140lbs, blue eyes, last seen 9000 block of Eastport Terrace, Orlando. Short blue & brown hair, blue & white striped backpack. Have info? Contact Orange County SO at 407-836-4357 OR 911. pic.twitter.com/EDK2jFkc7n
UPDATE: The MISSING CHILD Alert for Alice Johnson has been resolved. The child has been found safe. Thank you for sharing!— FDLE (@fdlepio) February 18, 2018
Alice Amelia Johnson was reported missing at about 9 a.m. Sunday from a subdivision near University Boulevard and North Econlockhatchee Trail in Orange County, deputies said.
Investigators said they tracked Alice's cellphone while she was traveling with John Peter Byrns, of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Orange County deputies contacted Bibb County deputies, who were contacted by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent two hours later, officials said.
Byrns and Alice were found shortly before 6 p.m. in a room at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites near Macon, deputies said.
Investigators said charges are pending against Byrns, who is being held at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center.
Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 6:28 AM
SEATTLE — A self-proclaimed white nationalist was banned from a Fremont gym after the owners learned he is a leader in the alt-right community.
The owners of Northwest Fitness Project say Greg Johnson is longer welcome there.
“The trainer terminated his contract and we banned him from the gym,” said Kyle Davis, a co-owner of the gym.
It's a move that has some people wondering if it violates a city ordinance that says "places of public accommodation" can't discriminate based on a person's beliefs.
But the owners of the gym say that ordinance doesn't apply -- because it’s not a public space. To use the space, you must be the client of a trainer.
“There’s no open gym membership, it's not like people can come and go as they please,” Davis said. “Trainers come and run their own businesses out of this location."
“There's a right of first refusal of the independent trainer. And (the trainer) chose to not work with him anymore due to the harm it would cause his reputation, and not wanting to be associated with those views,” Davis said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Greg Johnson an "international figure for white nationalism” and “one of the leading voices of the far-right.”
In September 2017, the New York Times interviewed him undercover and posted it on its website.
In the interview, Johnson says, “I would identify myself as a white nationalist. That states the goals I have politically.”
When asked about people who are Jewish, Johnson says, “The solution would ultimately (be) to expel them.”
Davis said he’s disturbed to hear Johnson’s views.
“I would feel threatened, yes,” he said. “I'm converting to Judaism, my fiancée is Jewish and we want to raise our kids Jewish.”
The owners say after Johnson was banned, a white nationalist publication told followers to post negative reviews on the gym's Yelp and Facebook pages.
“We were at a five (star average review); it went down to a three,” said Matthew Holland, the other co-owner of Northwest Fitness Project.
But hundreds of people supported the gym on social media, helping it bounce back.
“Now we're to like a 4.8,” Holland said. “We have a great community and we didn't realize how awesome they all were. Going through a rough time like this, it was just so encouraging.”
The Puget Sound Anarchists first published last week that Johnson lives in Seattle. It’s also how the gym owners found out about Johnson’s beliefs.
Johnson did not comment.