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5 DIY Home Auto Repairs

2015-01-22-Screenshot2015012120.42.49.png

There aren’t enough sources, whether it’s via the Internet or in person, that encourage people to attempt to make some of their own auto repairs. To be clear, we’re not talking about any type of transmission repairs, any major engine repairs, electrical, etc. Those types of repairs are best left to a professional for a reason. They’re extremely complicated, dangerous (for certain repairs), and time consuming under the best of circumstances. That doesn’t tell the complete story of auto repair though. There are some repairs that can be done pretty easily at home, and will save you some money and time. When I say that these repairs will save you time, I mean that you don’t have to drive anywhere, you don’t have to wait around in a customer lounge for someone to get your car looked at, and finally to get it repaired and brought back to you.

The saving money part is pretty straight forward as well. If you do the labor yourself, you won’t pay as much for that repair, and we can all agree on that. There is another money-saving aspect that can get overlooked in certain circumstances – the parts. Just about every repair shop that you can take your vehicle to will charge a markup on the parts they install on your car. I want to be completely fair to the repair shops on this; this is a common practice by pretty much the entire industry, and they deserve to mark those parts up to maintain a profit. My point with that is that you’ll pay less for the parts of any repairs you can do on your own. So here’s a list of 5 DIY auto repairs for you to consider. Be sure to check here for a list of tools that you’ll need to do these repairs.

Note: there are more than 5 repairs that can be done at home. It will depend on your skill level and comfort with auto repair. These 5 are very basic and can be done by people with just about any skill level.

1. Engine air filter and cabin air filter (if equipped).

Let’s start with one of the absolute basic, easiest repairs anyone can do. For almost all engines you can buy an air filter from the local auto parts store for $15 or less, and replace it in 10 minutes or so. The average price at the repair shop will be between $20 and this one is pretty harmless. If it’s not immediately evident where the air filter is, or how to get it out, a quick search on YouTube will show you how and what to do. The cabin air filter is something that not nearly enough people know about. This filter helps to clean the air that you breathe while inside of your vehicle. It will be mounted in the incoming air stream for the HVAC housing. Again, YouTube will provide a quick and easy answer to changing this. Most places I’ve seen charge close to $50 for this repair and you can buy the part for around $20. It will only take about 20-30 minutes to replace on your own, and could easily be less as some only take about 5 minutes.

2. Throttle body cleaning.

We’re going to follow the air intake process one step further up the line, and talk about a throttle body cleaning. The idea here is to remove the carbon buildup at the air inlet (throttle body) for your engine. This is almost always packaged as a part of a fuel system service that costs between $190 and $250. A can of throttle body cleaner will cost you about $15. You just remove the air tube that runs from your air filter box to the engine and you’ll see the throttle body right there. You’ll also see where the carbon buildup is. Be sure to read your owner’s manual to make sure your throttle body can be cleaned with a cleaning agent. A small percentage will have a coating on them that effectively prevents a carbon buildup, but it’s a pretty small percentage. As for the other parts of the fuel system service, they aren’t needed. There have been multiple studies that have shown that fuel tank additives to clean carbon from the valves cause more problems than they fix, and the same goes with pressurized fuel injector cleaners. If it’s not clogged, why clean it? The port on a fuel injector that sprays fuel is so small it’s barely visible. If a hole that small was clogged, believe me, you’d know about it.

Now we’ll keep following the same flow into the engine. For the large majority of new vehicles, a tune-up consists only of replacing the spark plugs. On older vehicles, a tune-up consists of replacing the following: spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap, and rotor. The second version of a tune-up that I’ve listed is a more complicated repair. Unless you’re pretty comfortable under the hood of your car, I recommend taking that to a professional. However, in the early 2000s, auto makers started using a secondary ignition (this is the system that has the spark plugs) that has a coil-on-plug design. That means there’s an ignition coil for each spark plug and they don’t need to be replaced unless they happen to malfunction. So a tune-up for most modern vehicles means just removing the ignition coil and replacing the spark plug underneath. Four-cylinder engines are very easy, while 6- and 8-cylinder engines can be a little more time-consuming. It all depends on the type of car you have. Again, YouTube will be your best friend for this. For reference, a 4-cylinder tune-up usually costs $115 and up, and spark plugs are about $3 each. The more cylinders you’ve got, the more expensive the repair, but the price of the spark plugs stays the same. You can see how you could save a good bit of money by doing this yourself. One quick note about the price of spark plugs – platinum-tipped plugs are more expensive. Those will cost around $12-$15 per plug, so make sure to factor that into your decision.

This repair is surprisingly easier than most anyone would ever believe. You jack up the front of the vehicle, remove the tire, remove the caliper and/or mounting bracket that goes over the rotor, and then remove the rotor. Be sure to observe all proper safety precautions when jacking up the vehicle and removing any brake components, but it really is just as easy as the steps I’ve listed. Almost all repair shops will try to have you pay to have the rotors resurfaced. That hasn’t ever really made sense to me. If the rotors are warped, you’ll feel a brake pulsation when you apply the brakes. This is definitely a safety issue and resurfacing the rotors will take away the pulsation, but it’ll also take away some of the thickness of the rotor, which makes it easier for the same thing to happen again. It also adds to the labor the shop is charging in theory. Unfortunately, a lot of shops will charge you the same labor to replace the rotors as they will to resurface, and you pay a higher price for the rotors to boot. For a normal passenger car, you can buy front brake pads and 2 new rotors from the local parts store for $100 or less. At the repair shop, you’ll pay $220 and up for a front brake job that doesn’t include replacing the rotors. It will be somewhat time-consuming but should only take an hour or two out of your Saturday afternoon and potentially save you over $100.

5. Rear differential service.

This repair doesn’t apply to any front-wheel-drive vehicle; this is only for rear wheel drives. This is a very basic service that’s along the same lines as an oil change and transmission service. You remove the cover from the read differential and allow all of the fluid to drain out, replace the gasket or scrape off the old sealer and clean to be able to apply new sealer, install the cover and fill with fluid. If you do this service every 35,000-40,000 miles, it will greatly extend the life of your differential gears. This service for a basic rear wheel drive vehicle starts at $100 and easily goes up from there. The differential doesn’t hold much fluid, only 2.5-3.5 quarts when it’s completely full. You can buy 4 quarts of differential fluid for about $7 a quart and the sealer will cost you about $10-$15. The fluid may cost more if it’s synthetic fluid, but you’ll still come in under the $100 mark and save yourself some money.

That’s the entirety of the list that I’ve got for you. You’ll notice I made one glaring omission from my list – an oil change! The reason I left this off of the list is because of the cost. All modern engines, and the vast majority of older engines, hold at least 5 quarts of oil. The standard price for a quart of oil is about $6. So you’ll pay $30 plus tax for enough oil to refill your engine, assuming you don’t have an engine that holds 6, 7, or even more, quarts of oil. All of that before you buy the oil filter — that will cost you about $10-$20. So if you go to the parts store and your engine has the cheapest oil change parts available, you’re going to pay about $40. Repair shops, especially dealerships, are always offering oil changes at greatly discounted prices. Sometimes as low as $18. They actually take a small financial loss on this repair, just to get you in the door and try to sell you other repairs when they do the free inspection. So, just take your vehicle to one of these places for an oil change and you’ll save yourself time and money, while having someone else do the work for you. It doesn’t get much better than that!

For more advanced repair info, technical assistance, and much more, be sure to visit mycheckenginelight.net

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-dillinger/5-diy-home-auto-repairs_b_6520216.html

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Tesla puts pedal to the metal, 500,000 cars planned in 2018 | Reuters

Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) said it was stepping up production plans for its upcoming Model 3 mass-market sedan and would build a total of 500,000 all-electric vehicles in 2018, two years ahead of schedule, but warned that spending will ramp up in tandem.

The company, which three months ago aimed to make a net profit in the final quarter of this year, gave no profit target on Wednesday and said capital spending would rise about 50 percent more than previously forecast this year, to around $2.25 billion.

New shares and debt will likely be issued at some point, Chief Executive Elon Musk added.

Tesla, which produces the luxury Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle, aims to become a high-volume automaker in a matter of years and already is valued on par with some of the biggest car companies in the world.

Shares of the company, run by tech entrepreneur Musk, rose more than 5 percent in after hours trade after it announced its first-quarter results and beefed-up production targets.

Musk’s ambitions for clean cars, as well as rocket and solar businesses, have attracted a personal following often compared to that of the late Steve Jobs, but skeptics are also legion.

Tesla reported a wider first-quarter net loss, although results broadly beat Wall Street targets. It also said it was on track to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 electric vehicles this year, as it accelerated its target for Model 3 output.

Tigress Financial Partners analyst Ivan Feinseth, who rates Tesla shares “neutral,” said growing pains were to be expected while Tesla ramps up, but the company’s cars were “close to perfect.”

“It’s going to be challenging, making cars is hard and there are all sorts of moving parts and competition will come from known and unknown places,” said Feinseth.

“I will suggest it’s going to take a lot of capital. But car manufacturing is a capital intensive business. (Musk) has had no problem raising money in the past.”

The Model 3 sedan, set to go into production in late 2017, has generated massive interest since its unveiling on March 31.

Some analysts have questioned Tesla’s ability to smoothly and quickly transition to higher-volume production, given the rocky start for its Model X. The technology-heavy SUV faced problems including parts shortages and quality issues, such as non-fastening doors.

Early on Wednesday, before announcing its financial results, Tesla said two top manufacturing executives were leaving the company.

Musk said the company had excelled at design and technology, but a new premium was being placed on manufacturing: “The key thing we need to achieve in the future is to also be the leader in manufacturing,” Musk said. “It’s the thing we obviously have to solve if we are going to scale and scale profitably.”

Standard and Poor’s Global Market Intelligence analyst Efraim Levy said the 500,000 unit production target sets a very high bar for Tesla.

“I would be betting that they don’t make it,” he said.

Musk also said a 2020 volume target was close to 1 million vehicles.

Tesla’s new 500,000 target is still a fraction of what traditional, full-line automakers produce annually. Ford Motor Co (F.N) sold nearly 800,000 of its best-selling F-Series pickups on the U.S. market last year.

Tesla’s net loss widened to $282.3 million, or $2.13 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $154.2 million, or $1.22 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company lost 57 cents per share. Analysts had expected a loss of 58 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose to $1.15 billion from $939.9 million. (bit.ly/1rVkm03). Non-GAAP revenue of $1.60 billion just topped the analyst consensus, by about $5 million.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; additional reporting by Kshitiz Goliya in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr and Tom Brown)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-results-idUSKCN0XV2JL

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J&J, Alphabet aim for smarter, smaller, cheaper surgical robot | Reuters

Johnson & Johnson and Alphabet Inc’s life sciences unit have formed an independent company to create far smaller, smarter and less costly robotic-assisted systems for surgery than those sold now by other companies, J&J said on Thursday.

Creation of the new company, Verb Surgical Inc, follows an announcement in March by J&J and Google Inc of their plans to pool their technologies and expertise to create robotics for the operating room. Google has since changed its name to Alphabet, and its life sciences unit is now called Verily.

J&J’s Ethicon division, world leader in equipment for general surgery, designed a basic prototype of the robot last year and expects it to be a “disruptive” alternative to existing products, Gary Pruden, global chairman of J&J’s medical devices group, said in an interview.

Current robotic systems, including those sold by market leader Intuitive Surgical Inc, are the size of a compact car and require the surgeon to sit at a control panel about 10 feet from the patient, Pruden said.

Verb’s robot will be about 20 percent the size, allow the surgeon to work closer to the patient and likely be considerably less expensive than current systems, which can cost $2 million or more, he said.

And while robots today are used largely to remove cancerous prostate glands and in gynecological surgery, Verb’s system would be designed for wider use, including thoracic surgery, colorectal surgery and bariatric weight loss procedures, J&J said.

It would come loaded with technologies from Alphabet, including “machine learning,” in which the robot could analyze a video library of images from hundreds of previous surgeries in order to instruct the surgeon where to cut.

Pruden said further development of Verb’s robot will take a few more years.

“Our goal is to have a lower-cost product, with the smallest footprint, with greater capability, that helps to raise the standard of care,” Pruden said. “That would be a market disruption.”

Scott Huennekens, former chief executive of medical imaging company Volcano Corp, has been named CEO of Verb, which will be headquartered in Mountain View, California.

Verily already has several projects in the works, including the development of a smart contact lens in partnership with Swiss drugmaker Novartis that has an embedded glucose sensor. It would allow diabetics to monitor themselves continuously by measuring the blood sugar in their tears.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-johnson-johnson-robots-idUSKBN0TT1SB20151210

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Tiny Robots Use Gecko Power To Carry Heavy Weights

A pair of Stanford University PhD students at the school’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab have developed what they call MicroTugs, or mini bots that use adhesive power similar to what’s found on the feet of geckos and ants to pull off incredible feats of strength.

One robot weighing less than a third of an ounce can carry a 2.2-pound weight vertically up a glass wall.

Another robot weighs less than half an ounce, but can drag 2,000 times its own weight on a flat surface.

“This is the equivalent of a human adult dragging a blue whale around on land,” the researchers note.

What’s even more amazing is that the tests are actually bound by the limits of the actuators in the robots, not the adhesive power of the feet. That, the research team said in the video description, should allow them to pull almost twice as much — or the equivalent of a human dragging two blue whales.

The tiny bots contain a battery, a winch, a processor, a motor, wheels and an adhesive layer on the belly. The adhesive layer contains small rubber spikes similar to the “setae” that cover the toes of geckos, NBC News reports.

As the video above explains, the adhesive layer doesn’t stick unless the bot is pulling a load with its winch. When it does, the wheels lift and the belly lowers to stick to the surface. Once an object has been pulled, the adhesive belly lifts and the wheels come back down, allowing the robot to move freely again.

Eventually, the technology could be used on larger robots to carry heavy items around a construction site or in emergencies, such as bringing a rope ladder to someone trapped in a tall burning building, according to New Scientist.

The MicroTugs will be the subject of a presentation at next month’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle. The authors have also published two papers on their developments, which can be found here and here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/27/gecko-power-robots_n_7157692.html

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Poland’s roads to ruin | Reuters

MSZANA, Poland When Poland started handing out billions of euros worth of contracts for a wave of road-building five years ago, everyone was meant to benefit.

Poland would bring its decrepit transport system into the 21st century, European construction firms would win contracts at a time of recession, and the European Union, whose cash helped fund the work, could point to how it was helping.

Poland got its roads, for the most part. But in many other ways the enterprise, one of the biggest construction projects in Europe, went seriously wrong. Several contractors are in legal battles to recover billions of euros they say Poland owes them. Dozens of Polish companies are in bankruptcy, and multinational firms have blamed losses on the Polish contracts turning sour. Six European governments have complained to Poland about the way their companies have been treated. The European Commission is investigating what went wrong.

Here’s the twist: This is not so much a story of corruption as of cost-cutting zeal. Poland stuck to its budget and the prices agreed in its contracts. That was the problem. In an industry where firms routinely bid as low as possible and costs routinely overrun, Poland frequently refused to budge on cost. In its drive to keep costs down, it also ignored warnings – including some from independent engineers hired by the state – that designs and plans needed to be changed.

The drive to economize was repeated on dozens of projects, industry groups and construction company executives say, and left many involved in the projects struggling. One of the biggest losers was Alpine Holding GmbH, the Austrian unit of Spanish group FCC, which entered bankruptcy proceedings in June, becoming Austria’s biggest corporate collapse since World War Two.

A project that should have been a bonanza for Europe has turned into “a slaughter house for Polish and European firms,” Jaroslaw Duszewski, a former Alpine executive, wrote to the head of the Polish state roads agency in June this year. A spokesman for FCC declined to comment.

Five other firms have told Reuters they are still in dispute with the road agency over payment: Austria’s Strabag, the Polish unit of Germany’s Bilfinger, Ireland’s SIAC, a joint venture of Ireland’s Sisk and Roadbridge called SRB, and Budimex, a Polish unit of Spain’s Ferrovial. All but one said they had filed suits against the state road agency which were unresolved. Bilfinger’s subsidiary said it was seeking to resolve the dispute out of court.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has defended his officials, and said Poland will not bow to foreign pressure. His office referred reporters to the transport ministry, which defended the agency, saying it had acted within the terms of its agreements with contractors.

“RUSSIAN ROULETTE”

The problems relate to contracts awarded from 2008, when Lech Witecki, a former state auditor, was appointed as head of the road agency, known by its Polish acronym GDDKiA. Witecki was put in the job with a brief to get the best possible value just as European Union spending on Polish roads was about to reach an all-time peak. Roads were part of a 37.56 billion euro ($51.37 billion), seven-year EU infrastructure program for Poland – the European Union’s biggest ever development program in a single member state.

Witecki followed standard industry practice: His agency would announce a tender for a road project and contractors would bid. Usually, the winner would be the firm that offered to build the road for the lowest price.

But in two crucial aspects, Poland’s system differed from the way contracts are run in the rest of Europe, said Frank Kehlenbach, director of industry lobby group European International Contractors. First, executives from several construction firms have said, the Polish agency would in many cases not clarify project details when asked. That left companies with a choice: Take a risk and bid on incomplete information, or walk away.

“In Germany or other European countries you say: ‘I have a request for clarification.’ Then you have a meeting and it is clarified for all tenderers,” said Kehlenbach, who has worked for the organization since 1997. “In Poland … they say: ‘If you have a problem with the tender documents, do not submit the bid.'” The transport ministry said companies which believe they have inadequate information can appeal to an independent adjudicating body, but it had no sign any company had done that.

Secondly, when contractors who had begun work encountered unforeseen problems – World War Two bombs on the site, say, or a design flaw – and needed to adjust the project costs, the agency would consistently reject any change, say executives with construction firms who have dealt with the GDDKiA. Normally when a problem arises, Kehlenbach said, the contractor and client sit down together and clarify the cost. But the Polish authorities did not negotiate on such matters, and instead referred contractors to the courts.

“I have never experienced anything like what happens in Poland,” he said.

Jan Biliszczuk, a Polish engineer working as a consultant for Alpine on one project, told a site meeting in May 2013 that the dynamic between contractors and the road agency was “a game of Russian roulette over project costs.” GDDKiA regularly withheld payment on the grounds contractors were not delivering, and made several firms forfeit the multi-million euro bonds they had lodged as a guarantee, according to GDDKiA’s own records.

Witecki told Reuters his agency did show flexibility on contracts, approving modifications in many cases, but only when this was justified. He said he and his officials acted in line with Polish law, and only tried to enforce the contracts which the contractors themselves had signed. He said he had delivered thousands of kilometers of good quality highways, and provided good value for taxpayers.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR

An unfinished motorway bridge at Mszana, near Poland’s border with the Czech Republic, stands as one example of the road agency’s tough approach.

When the design for the bridge was being drawn up, it was intended to be a bold architectural statement fitting for a newly-confident Poland. The ravine the bridge had to span isn’t wide, or especially deep. In fact the brook at the bottom of it is only about four meters across – the length of a small family car.

But there were problems from the start.

Most modern motorway suspension bridges are made up of concrete slabs supported on two sides by wire cables hung from towers. This one had towers and a set of wire cables running down the middle of the roadway only.

The man hired by GDDKiA to design it, Stefan Jendrzejek, has a long track record of building road bridges in Poland. He believed that the bridge could withstand the additional stresses resulting from the unusual design, but there would be little margin for error.

In 2007, Alpine Bau, the construction arm of Austria’s Alpine Holding, won a tender to build the bridge and a stretch of the A1 motorway either side of it. The company had already completed high-profile construction projects in Poland, and in 2009 would be picked to build the country’s new national soccer stadium.

On the motorway contract, Alpine said it could not proceed unless the road agency changed the project design; GDDKiA said Alpine was not fulfilling its obligations, and the contract was torn up in 2009. It was put up for tender again a year later and Alpine Bau won it again, in August 2010 – a week after the government agency had written to ask the firm to clarify if its price included all the work on the project, including the bridge.

From then on, more than 300 pages of official documents exchanged between the agency and the builder record how the project descended into recriminations between Witecki’s road agency and the contractor.

According to the documents, which Reuters has seen, three highly qualified engineers who were or had been employed by the agency said the design of the bridge was unproven and too ambitious. But the agency disagreed with most of them. It took the view that the contractor was raising problems with the design to excuse its failures and inflate costs, the documents show.

By late 2011, the bridge was taking shape. But Alpine’s engineers discovered that a section of the concrete span had crumbled at the point where some supporting cables were anchored.

One expert the agency had hired, Professor Kazimierz Flaga, proposed adding extra ribs to strengthen the concrete span – advice which the agency did not follow, the documents show. Flaga declined to comment for this article.

The road agency said in a statement to Reuters in July this year: “GDDKiA follows expert advice arising from in-depth analyses.”

In a document written this year and seen by Reuters, Jendrzejek wrote that his concept was sound. He did not respond to a request for comment.

By early 2012, cracks had appeared in one of the concrete sections on the underside of the bridge. The regional construction inspectorate stepped in and ordered a halt to the work. The inspectors demanded fixes.

In July 2012, Flaga and three other engineers wrote to the road agency to say they had reservations about the proposed fixes. They were still concerned the bridge would not be strong enough. The road agency rejected the alternatives they suggested and disputed the content of the letter.

Witecki told Reuters the principal reason for the problems with the contract was not the design of the bridge but mistakes by Alpine. He said the price it offered to carry out the contract was unrealistically low.

Despite the disputes, on July 20, 2012 Alpine Bau signed a contract with GDDKiA to carry out corrective work and complete the bridge. According to Duszewski, the former Alpine Bau executive, the company was by this stage trapped: If it refused to sign the new contract it would not receive the millions of euros it was owed for work already done.

Problems soon resurfaced: Alpine Bau complained about missing plans and components.

“GUN TO THE HEAD”

Things were taking a toll on Alpine Bau financially. From the early days of the contract, GDDKiA withheld interim payments to the firm. The transport ministry said it withheld payments in line with the contract, which stipulates payments can only be made when work in the schedule is completed.

In June 2012 the road agency also called in a bond worth more than 13 million euros that Alpine Bau had lodged with a bank as security in case it failed to meet the terms of the contract. Then in February this year it wrote to the bank, saying it wanted to call another bond, also worth about 13 million euros. A few days later, it wrote to the bank again, asking it to postpone – a process it repeated six times, before it finally claimed the cash in May this year.

That, said Duszewski, the former Alpine Bau executive, felt like a tactic to keep the company under constant financial pressure. He said it was “like a gun to the head.”

GDDKiA said in a statement to Reuters it had postponed calling in the cash to show “good faith” while there was a chance of reaching an agreement.

On May 14, Alpine Bau announced it was pulling out, claiming the GDDKiA’s decision to call the bond was proof the agency was not interested in a constructive solution, which the agency disputes. The following month, Alpine Bau entered insolvency proceedings. A week later, the parent group, Alpine Holding GmbH, followed suit.

In its statement, GDDKiA said it had shown flexibility with Alpine Bau, for example paying its sub-contractors directly when it was having financial problems, and bringing forward payments to Alpine. It said it worked successfully with many contractors, but the onus was on them to make sure that they bid realistically and carried out the work responsibly.

“THE STATE IS RESPONSIBLE”

In July, an alliance of Polish construction industry lobby groups wrote to the Polish government accusing the road agency of using its power to wreck contractors.

“The state is responsible for the bankruptcy of hundreds of construction companies and for the army of thousands of unemployed Poles who until recently were employed by the construction industry,” the letter said.

In June the ambassadors to Poland of Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal wrote a letter of complaint to deputy prime minister Janusz Piechocinski. The letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the government should intervene “to avoid negative implications to the image of Poland’s business environment.” The value of claims against the roads agency lodged by contractors with Polish courts stands at about 2.35 billion euros, according to the letter.

Shirin Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the European Commission in Brussels, said it was looking into whether the contracts were managed in line with EU procurement rules. The Commission has not given details of the investigation, but diplomats say it is linked to contractors’ complaints about the road agency.

On a weekday afternoon in August, the only sign of construction work at the still-unfinished Mszana bridge was a lone man in a high-visibility jacket pacing around, and a forklift truck that delivered a water tank. The motorway between Poland and the Czech Republic is blocked at the bridge, forcing vehicles to make a detour, squeezing through narrow country roads. ($1 = 0.7312 euros)

(Additional reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez in Madrid, Georgina Prodhan in Vienna, Jack Watling in London and Adrian Krajewski in Warsaw; Edited by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-roads-specialreport-idUSBRE99N05920131024

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Contraction in Chinese manufacturing eases in December, service industries continue expansion

BEIJING A monthly survey shows that a contraction in Chinese manufacturing eased slightly in December, while service industries continued to expand.

The numbers were a potential sign of recovery among exporters in the world’s No. 2 economy, while reflecting the government’s efforts to shift the economy’s focus from manufacturing and exports to services and domestic consumption.

The purchasing managers’ index for manufacturers, compiled by the Chinese Federation for Logistics and Purchasing, came in at 49.7 in December, up from 49.6 in November which was its weakest point in three years. A similar index for service industries continued an expansion, coming in at 54.4 for December, up from 53.6 in November.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/12/31/contraction-in-chinese-manufacturing-eases-in-december-service-industries.html

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Technology, Media & Telecommunications News Headlines

News and Media Division of Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is the world’s largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.

http://www.reuters.com/news/archive/innovationNewsTechMediaTelco

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Hacking Your Phone – CBS News

The following script is from “Hacking Your Phone” which aired on April 17, 2016. Sharyn Alfonsi is the correspondent. Howard L. Rosenberg and Julie Holstein, producers.

A lot of modern life is interconnected through the Internet of things — a global empire of billions of devices and machines. Automobile navigation systems. Smart TVs. Thermostats. Telephone networks. Home security systems. Online banking. Almost everything you can imagine is linked to the world wide web. And the emperor of it all is the smartphone. You’ve probably been warned to be careful about what you say and do on your phone, but after you see what we found, you won’t need to be warned again.

We heard we could find some of the world’s best hackers in Germany. So we headed for Berlin. Just off a trendy street and through this alley we rang the bell at the door of a former factory. That’s where we met Karsten Nohl, a German hacker, with a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Virginia.

hackingyourphone.jpg

Sharyn Alfonsi, left, and Karsten Nohl, a German hacker,

CBS News

We were invited for a rare look at the inner workings of security research labs. During the day, the lab advises Fortune 500 companies on computer security. But at night, this international team of hackers looks for flaws in the devices we use everyday: smartphones, USB sticks and SIM cards. They are trying to find vulnerabilities before the bad guys do, so they can warn the public about risks. At computer terminals and work benches equipped with micro lasers, they physically and digitally break into systems and devices.

Now, Nohl’s team is probing the security of mobile phone networks.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Is one phone more secure than another? Is an iPhone more secure than an Android?

Karsten Nohl: All phones are the same.

Sharyn Alfonsi: If you just have somebody’s phone number, what could you do?

Karsten Nohl: Track their whereabouts, know where they go for work, which other people they meet when– You can spy on whom they call and what they say over the phone. And you can read their texts.

We wanted to see whether Nohl’s group could actually do what they claimed — so we sent an off-the-shelf iPhone from 60 Minutes in New York to Representative Ted Lieu, a congressman from California. He has a computer science degree from Stanford and is a member of the House committee that oversees information technology. He agreed to use our phone to talk to his staff knowing they would be hacked and they were. All we gave Nohl, was the number of the 60 Minutes iPhone that we lent the congressman.

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Sharyn Alfonsi calls Rep. Ted Lieu from Berlin

CBS News

Sharyn Alfonsi: Hello congressman? It’s Sharyn Alfonsi from 60 Minutes.

As soon as I called Congressman Lieu on his phone, Nohl and his team were listening and recording both ends of our conversation.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I’m calling from Berlin.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I wonder if I might talk to you about this hacking story we’re working on.

Karsten Nohl: What hacking story?

They were able to do it by exploiting a security flaw they discovered in Signaling System Seven — or SS7. It is a little-known, but vital global network that connects phone carriers.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Congressman thank you so much for helping us…

Every person with a cellphone needs SS7 to call or text each other. Though most of us have never heard of it.

Nohl says attacks on cellphones are growing as the number of mobile devices explodes. But SS7 is not the way most hackers break into your phone–

Those hacks are on display in Las Vegas.

John Hering: “Three-days of non-stop hacking.”

johnherringoffice.jpg

John Hering, cofounder of Lookout

CBS News

That’s where John Hering guided us through an unconventional convention where 20,000 hackers get together every year to share secrets and test their skills.

John Hering: It’s proving what’s possible. Any system can be broken it’s just knowing how to break it.

Hering is a hacker himself, he’s the 30-something whiz who cofounded the mobile security company “Lookout” when he was 23. Lookout has developed a free app that scans your mobile phone for malware and alerts the user to an attack.

Sharyn Alfonsi: How likely is it that somebody’s phone has been hacked?

John Hering: In today’s world there’s really only– two types of companies or two types of people which are those who have been hacked and realize it and those who have been hacked and haven’t.

Sharyn Alfonsi: How much do you think people have been kind of ignoring the security of their cellphones, thinking, “I’ve got a passcode, I must be fine?”

“Any system can be broken it’s just knowing how to break it.”

John Hering: I think that most people have not really thought about their phones as computers. And that that’s really starting to shift.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And that’s what you think– it’s like having a laptop now?

John Hering: Oh absolutely. I mean, your mobile phone is effectively a supercomputer in your pocket. There’s more technology in your mobile phone than was in, you know, the space craft that took man to the moon. I mean, it’s– it’s really unbelievable.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Is everything hackable?

John Hering: Yes.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Everything?

John Hering: Yes.

Sharyn Alfonsi: If somebody tells you, “You can’t do it.”

John Hering: I don’t believe it.

John Hering offered to prove it — so he gathered a group of ace hackers at our Las Vegas hotel. Each of them a specialist in cracking mobile devices and figuring out how to protect them.

hackingpreview.jpg

Adam Laurie: Would you put your money in a bank that didn’t test their locks on their safes? We need to try and break it to make sure the bad guys can’t.

Sharyn Alfonsi: How easy is it to break the phone right now?

Jon Oberheide: Very easy.

Adam Laurie: As you’ve seen, pretty trivial.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Do I need to connect to it? OK.

It started when we logged onto the hotel Wi-Fi — at least it looked like the hotel Wi-Fi. Hering had created a ghost version–it’s called spoofing.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I mean, this looks legitimate.

John Hering: It looks very legitimate. So you’re connected?

Sharyn Alfonsi: I am.

John Hering: And I have your email.

Sharyn Alfonsi: You have access to my email right now–

John Hering: Yeah. It’s coming through right now. I actually can s– I know have a ride-sharing application up here, all the information that’s being transmitted, including your account ID, your mobile phone, which I just got the mobile number. Then, more importantly, I have all the credit cards associated with– with that account.

Jon Oberheide pointed out the greatest weakness in mobile security is human nature.

Jon Oberheide: With social engineering, you can’t really fix the human element. Humans are gullible. They install malicious applications. They give up their passwords every day. And it’s really hard to fix that human element.

John Hering warned us he could spy on anyone through their own phone as long as the phone’s camera had a clear view. We propped up a phone on my desk and set up cameras to record a demonstration. First he sent me a text message with an attachment to download.

John Hering: “We’re in business.”

Then Hering called from San Francisco and proved it worked.

John Hering: I installed some malware in your device that’s broadcasting video of your phone.

Sharyn Alfonsi: My phone’s not even lit up.

John Hering: I understand, yeah.

Sharyn Alfonsi: That’s so creepy.

Katie: It’s pitch black for us.

In this case, when I downloaded the attachment, Hering was able to take control of my phone. But Congressman Lieu didn’t have to do anything to get attacked.

All Karsten Nohl’s team in Berlin needed to get into the congressman’s phone was the number. Remember SS7 –that little-known global phone network we told you about earlier?

Karsten Nohl: I’ve been tracking the congressman.

There’s a flaw in it that allowed Nohl to intercept and record the congressman’s calls and track his movements in Washington and back home.

Karsten Nohl: The congressman has been in California, more specifically the L.A. area, zoom in here a little bit, Torrance.

The SS7 network is the heart of the worldwide mobile phone system. Phone companies use SS7 to exchange billing information. Billions of calls and text messages travel through its arteries daily. It is also the network that allows phones to roam.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Are you able to track his movements even if he moves the location services and turns that off?

Karsten Nohl: Yes. The mobile network independent from the little GPS chip in your phone, knows where you are. So any choices that a congressman could’ve made, choosing a phone, choosing a pin number, installing or not installing certain apps, have no influence over what we are showing because this is targeting the mobile network. That of course, is not controlled by any one customer.

Sharyn Alfonsi: …despite him making good choices. You’re still able to get to his phone.

Karsten Nohl: Exactly.

Karsten Nohl and his team were legally granted access to SS7 by several international cellphone carriers. In exchange, the carriers wanted Nohl to test the network’s vulnerability to attack. That’s because criminals have proven they can get into SS7.

Karsten Nohl: Mobile networks are the only place in which this problem can be solved. There is no global policing of SS7. Each mobile network has to move– to protect their customers on their networks. And that is hard.

Nohl and others told us some U.S. carriers are easier to access through SS7 than others. 60 Minutes contacted the cellular phone trade association to ask about attacks on the SS7 network. They acknowledged there have been reports of security breaches abroad, but assured us that all U.S. cellphone networks were secure.

Congressman Lieu was on a U.S. network using the phone we lent him when he was part of our hacking demonstration from Berlin.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I just want to play for you something we were able to capture off of your phone.

Mark on recording: Hi Ted, it’s Mark, how are you?

Rep. Ted Lieu on recording: I’m good.

Mark on recording: I sent you some revisions on the letter to the N.S.A., regarding the data collection.

Rep. Ted Lieu: Wow.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What is your reaction to knowing that they were listening to all of your calls?

Rep. Ted Lieu: I have two. First, it’s really creepy. And second, it makes me angry.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Makes you angry, why?

Rep. Ted Lieu: They could hear any call of pretty much anyone who has a smartphone. It could be stock trades you want someone to execute. It could be calls with a bank.

Karsten Nohl’s team automatically logged the number of every phone that called Congressman Lieu — which means there’s a lot more damage that could be done than just intercepting that one phone call. A malicious hacker would be able to target and attack every one of the other phones too.

Sharyn Alfonsi : So give us an idea, without being too specific, of the types of people that would be in a congressman’s phone.

Rep. Ted Lieu: There are other members of Congress– other elected officials. Last year, the president of the United States called me on my cellphone. And we discussed some issues. So if the hackers were listening in, they would know that phone conversation. And that’s immensely troubling.

Nohl told us the SS7 flaw is a significant risk mostly to political leaders and business executives whose private communications could be of high value to hackers. The ability to intercept cellphone calls through the SS7 network is an open secret among the world’s intelligence agencies — -including ours — and they don’t necessarily want that hole plugged.

“We live in a world where we cannot trust the technology that we use.”

Sharyn Alfonsi: If you end up hearing from the intelligence agencies that this flaw is extremely valuable to them and to the information that they’re able to get from it, what would you say to that?

Rep. Ted Lieu: That the people who knew about this flaw and saying that should be fired.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Should be fired?

Rep. Ted Lieu: Absolutely.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Why?

Rep. Ted Lieu: You cannot have 300-some million Americans– and really, right, the global citizenry be at risk of having their phone conversations intercepted with a known flaw, simply because some intelligence agencies might get some data. That is not acceptable.

John Hering: I’d say, the average person is not going to be exposed to the type of attacks we showed you today. But our goal was to show what’s possible. So people can really understand if we don’t address security issues, what the state of the world will be.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Which will be what?

John Hering: We live in a world where we cannot trust the technology that we use.

2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-hacking-your-phone/

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Rising in the East – CBS News

The following script is from “Rising in the East” which aired on April 10, 2016. Holly Williams is the correspondent. Michael Gavshon and David Levine, producers.

The Chinese economy is in trouble plagued by slowing growth and uncertainty in the stock markets. But there’s one industry that isn’t suffering: the movie business. In February, the Chinese box office brought in over a billion dollars for the first time ever, beating the U.S. and Canada. China, with its 1.3 billion people, is expected to become the biggest movie market in the world as early as next year. Hollywood has taken notice, partnering with Chinese studios and making blockbusters as much for Chinese audiences as American ones. But the U.S. film industry is also facing competition from Chinese moguls and movie stars with big ambitions. Tonight, a journey to a new Hollywood, rising in the East.

In the remote hills of Eastern China, this is a magic kingdom that not even Walt Disney could have dreamed up. It’s called Hengdian World Studios and at over 7,000 acres, it’s the largest film lot on the planet.

A palace for every dynasty, a village for every era, where some of the biggest movies in China have been filmed over the last two decades. These sets aren’t flimsy facades but full-scale brick and mortar replicas of China’s imperial past.

And when the films wrap, a brief silence before the sets are flooded by 15 million tourists who visit every year. It’s all the domain of Xu Wenrong, a one-time farmer who realized his fields were fertile ground for a new industry.

Permission is hardly ever granted to film in the real Forbidden City, China’s iconic landmark, so he built his own.

Holly Williams: It took several hundred years to build the real Forbidden City, and it took you five years to build this one.

Holly Williams: And you made the whole thing from cement?

Xu got the idea for this place 20 years ago after a visit to Hollywood. Movies weren’t big business in China back then, but he spent a billion dollars gambling on their growth.

Holly Williams: Do you feel a bit like an emperor when you come here?

Holly Williams: No, you’re just an ordinary guy…

An ordinary guy whose empire hosts 30 different productions every day. As the film crews compete for space with tourists, who crowd the sets straining to get a glimpse of the stars.

When the cameras start rolling, “movie magic.”

The movie business is booming across China. Shopping malls have popped up everywhere, and with them, theaters. Twenty-two new movie screens open every day, that’s right, every day. In the last five years, box office receipts have grown a staggering 350 per cent!

chinamain.jpg

It’s created a kind of a mass hysteria and something China’s never seen before: star culture. Li Bingbing has been described as China’s Angelina Jolie.

Holly Williams: It feels as if the movie industry here in China is getting more and more like Hollywood.

Li Bingbing: The speed of the development, you can’t imagine, even for us.

Holly Williams: It’s changing so quickly.

Li Bingbing: So quickly. You–

Holly Williams: And–

Li Bingbing: –even you don’t even react, it’s already changed.

libingbing.jpg

CBS News

And transformed into a multibillion dollar industry. Chinese studios produce over 600 features a year, action movies, sci-fi, thrillers.

Behind them is a group of pioneering movie moguls like Dennis Wang. He once worked as a Chinese food deliveryman in New York and is now chairman of the Huayi Bros, one of the largest studios in the country. The movie business has made him a billionaire, a capitalist with Chinese characteristics. Last year, he spent $30 million on a Picasso which he keeps in his pocket and in one of his other homes.

Holly Williams: So that’s the Picasso and you bought it from the Goldwyn family, who owned the MGM studios in Hollywood?

Holly Williams: So it’s not so much as a passing of the torch as a passing of the Picasso.

The biggest prize isn’t Picassos, but Hollywood itself. This year, a Chinese company purchased a Hollywood studio for $3.5 billion, others have been investing in multi-movie production deals with American companies to make films for the global market.

Holly Williams: You’re gonna use Hollywood directors, Hollywood stars–

Dennis Wang: Yes.

Holly Williams: –to make English-language films to compete with Hollywood?

Dennis Wang: Yes.

Holly Williams: And make global blockbusters?

Dennis Wang: Yes. I think we’ll be doing it in the next one or two years. Maybe in five years we’ll be doing it really well.

Holly Williams: In five years you’ll be competing with Hollywood.

Dennis Wang: I think we can do it.

Even though China’s economy has slumped in the last year… Dennis’ brother James, the Huayi Bros CEO, says the movie business is recession-proof.

James Wang: When the economy is weak, the movie business does really well. When times are bad, people go to the movies and feel happy and it doesn’t cost them much money.

Holly Williams: So the bad times, actually could be good for the film industry?

James Wang: In the last 20 years, the biggest box office earners have come out when the economy is bad. It’s interesting.

The sheer size of the Chinese market has Hollywood salivating and desperate to get in on the action. Dede Nickerson is an American film producer who’s spent the last 20 years making movies in China.

Dede Nickerson: Today, if you sit in a green light meeting in a Hollywood studio at any of the studios, at any of the major six studios, there– China is part of every green light discussion.

Holly Williams: They’re wondering, “Will Chinese audiences–“

Dede Nickerson: Well, they have to.

Holly Williams: –“like this film?”

Dede Nickerson: They– they have to because oftentimes the Chinese box office is larger than the U.S. box office. Especially for the big blockbuster films.

[Transformers: Whoever they are, there remains a price on my head.]

Blockbusters like Transformers 4, which made $300 million in China, was partly filmed there and co-stars Li Bingbing.

But the Chinese government has a quota system, which only allows 34 foreign films into the country every year. To get around the rule, Hollywood has been co-producing movies in China with local studios.

[Kung Fu Panda: I lost my father. I am so sorry.]

Kung Fu Panda 3 was animated in California and Shanghai at the SAME time and co-produced by DreamWorks and its spinoff, Oriental DreamWorks. CEO James Fong showed us how they were tailoring the movie for both audiences.

James Fong: What we’ve done is actually we are re-animating everything around the mouth and the throat so when you look at a Chinese version of the movie you no longer have a misalignment between the voices and the lip movement

Holly Williams: So in the Chinese version they look as if they are speaking in Chinese.

James Fong: That’s correct.

Holly Williams: Whereas in the U.S. version they look as if they’re speaking English. Has this ever been done before?

James Fong: This has never been done before?

For years, the only movies anyone could watch in China were communist propaganda, revolutionary heroes, patriotic peasants and guerilla soldiers. Those who strayed too far from the party line were thrown in jail, or worse.

As a teenager filmmaker, Chen Kaige was pressured to denounce his own father, also a director, as an enemy of the state.

Chen Kaige: I felt very, very guilty.

Holly Williams: But you were forced to do that by the political situation in China. You were only 14 years old.

Chen Kaige: No, I still feel guilty. Because I had a choice. I had a choice.

In the 90s, after things had loosened up, Chen chose to make films that were critical of the regime like “Farewell My Concubine,” which earned two Oscar nominations and tells the story of opera singers who are persecuted by Communist henchmen.

That movie helped put Chinese film on the map, but today, Chen, one of China’s most venerated filmmakers finds it hard to keep up.

Holly Williams: It’s become big business?

Chen Kaige: Exactly.

Holly Williams: Chinese people want–

Chen Kaige: Chinese people–

Holly Williams: –to see popcorn movies? Want to see blockbusters–

Chen Kaige: That’s totally understandable. You know, they don’t give a s**t. They just say, “Hey, we’re here to watch a movie.”

They’re a generation that’s grown up on China’s booming consumer culture — and on the surface their lifestyles look more and more like young peoples’ in the West.

Prosperity has transformed China. It’s no longer a closed Communist country. But amidst all this modernity the Chinese government still censors films and decides which ones can be shown in theatres. We asked to speak with the government officials who oversee the film industry here but they declined to be interviewed. Some things haven’t changed.

It’s not easy filming anything in China…those were just private security guards, but when it comes to making movies, the government’s involved in almost every step of the process from deciding which movies get made, to screening the final cut.

Censors held up this World War II epic, “City of Life and Death” for the better part of a year because the film depicted soldiers from Japan, China’s wartime enemy, in a flattering light. Lu Chuan was its director.

Lu Chuan: Because some– some newspaper does– put me as a traitor of–

Holly Williams: A traitor?

Lu Chuan: Yes, yes, yes.

Holly Williams: Because you dared to show a Japanese soldier as a human being?

Lu Chuan: Yes. Yeah.

He wasn’t certain his latest film, a monster movie, “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe,” would fare any better even though it has nothing to do with politics.

Holly Williams: It’s very realistic looking. It’s very frightening–

Lu Chuan: That’s my– that’s my goal.

Three years ago the government didn’t allow monster movies. Today it does. Navigating the whims of the censors can be treacherous and confusing.

Lu Chuan: They will determine the fate of your movie, you know?

Holly Williams: And can you argue with them?

Lu Chuan: You can talk. You can argue, yes. You–

Holly Williams: Does it work?

Lu Chuan: Sometimes. But you have to compromise.

Hollywood’s been compromising to please the censors too, cutting whole sections out of films before they’re released in China. Like scenes depicting Chinese bad guys in Men in Black 3.

[Men in Black: You arrest me, that’s a hate crime.]

But Dede Nickerson, the China-based American producer, thinks U.S. studios are learning how to avoid that kind of meddling by the government.

Dede Nickerson: You’ll see less and less of that because China is so important to Hollywood that I would say that those decisions are going to get made when a film is being green lit to be careful about what may be offensive to Chinese people or to the Chinese authorities. Because–

Holly Williams: So they won’t need to cut scenes.

Dede Nickerson: They won’t need to cut because–

Holly Williams: They just won’t make them in–

Dede Nickerson: because–

Holly Williams: –the first place.

Dede Nickerson: –they won’t make them in the first place.

Self-censorship is the cost of doing business in China and a price U.S. studios are willing to pay. But Hollywood’s biggest challenge isn’t Chinese government interference. It’s competition from a young and dynamic industry.

Dede Nickerson: They are smart. They understand storytelling. They are super well-versed in what works in their own country. They are super well-versed in what works globally. I couldn’t be more excited. So I would say– you know, Hollywood, watch out.

2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-china-film-industry-booming/

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