US District Court Dismisses Apartheid Suit Against Ford and IBM

After lingering in the US justice system for 12 years, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit which accused the Ford Motor Company and IBM of aiding and abetting human rights violations in what was then apartheid South Africa.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin justified the dismissal by explaining that the plaintiffs, who are black South Africans, did not show “relevant conduct” within the US by IBM and Ford to find the companies responsible.

IBM and Ford, in addition to other companies, were accused of helping the government of South Africa, which was practicing apartheid at the time; commit serious human rights violations including torture and murder, by selling military vehicles and computers to the security forces of the regime.

The lawsuit was brought under a 1789 law known as the Alien Tort Statute. This law allows non-US citizens to bring lawsuits against US entities who may have committed crimes violating international law. In April last year the US Supreme Court said that the law only covered laws broken in the US; or violations outside the US that “touch and concern” US territory “with sufficient force.”

The following August the federal appeals court in Manhattan asserted the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that the cases against IBM and Ford should be summarily dismissed.
This past April Judge Scheindlin allowed the plaintiffs to have just one more chance to try and meet the standards set by the Supreme Court’s decision. This past week Scheindlin announced that the plaintiffs did not meet that standard. She said that any supposed violations of international law were performed by the company’s South African subsidiaries, and off of US soil.

“It’s been 12 years. We’re devastated by the decision,” said Diane Sammons, a partner at Nagel Rice in Roseland, New Jersey, who represents some of the plaintiffs.

New Home Sales Stuck in the Mud

New Home Sales Slower than Expected

New Home Sales Slower than Expected

The Commerce Department announced disappointing new home sales for the month of July, worrying officials that an important source of jobs is still showing signs of weakness.

The decline in sales of new homes was 2.4 percent during the month from June to July, down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000. In a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, prominent economists had predicted a yearly figure of 425,000.

New home sales have consistently refused to get out of the starting gate, staying stuck in the 2013 figures which totaled 429,000 new homes sold. In contrast the numbers for already existing homes have continued to climb, with four months in a row of better sales through July.

The reason economists focus on the strength of new home sales, despite this sector only representing 10 percent of US home buying, is because building homes usually provides high-paying, middle-class jobs.

Research Reveals Four Texas Cities Among 50 Best US Cities for Work and Play

Canadian tourism strategy development and branding agency Resonance Consultancy Ltd

Four Texas cities among US 50 best destinations

Four Texas cities among US 50 best destinations

took a new approach to evaluating US cities for their desirability as destinations for business and pleasure.

Traditionally cities are judged for their potential for tourist development mostly by examining how many visitors a place has and the money that is generated there. The Resonance study took a different approach. They instead used 16 different criteria to judge a city’s value as a potential place for tourist development. Those data points included things like how many major league sports teams that were housed there; direct flights to the city; hotel rooms; and on-line reviews such as Yelp and Trip Advisor.

It is not a surprise that Los Angeles and New York came in second and first place, respectively. Four major Texas cities also made the list, but in a somewhat unexpected order: Dallas ranked third; Houston came in twelfth; San Antonio, 21st; and in 23rd place was Austin.

US Business Inventories and Sales Looking Good in June

Although not as strong an upward climb as in May, June’s inventories showed a continued surge with a 0.4 percent rise, not quite meeting May’s 0.5 percent. The figures were supplied by the US Department of Commerce which also revealed that there was a small gain in stock prices for non-automobile retailers.

The figures released last week for wholesale and manufacturing inventories point to a second-quarter growth estimate which may be slashed as much as a half of a percentage point by the time the government publishes its revisions on its predictions later this month.

Smaller inventories are a good sign for the third-quarter of GDP.

Sales are also on the rise. In June business sales went forward by 0.3 percent, matching a similar gain in May. If Junes pace were to continue it would take businesses to clear their shelves of their inventory in 1.20 months, the same as in May.

Highlights from the Ninth Annual Napa Valley Festival del Sole with Barrett Wiseman

Barrett Wiseman, Sophia Loren, Robert Redford and others

Barrett Wiseman, Sophia Loren, Robert Redford and others


IMG Artists with Barrett Wiseman just completed the Ninth Annual Napa Valley Festival del Sole. This celebration of music, dance and the arts featured Napa’s wines, culinary experiences and wellness programs.

As Barrett Wiseman, the IMG Artists’ Chairman and the Festival’s Artistic Director said,

“IMG Artists is deeply gratified by the success of this year’s Festival, from record-breaking fundraising numbers to the many successful programs featuring preeminent musicians, dancers, vintners, chefs and more. We are thankful for the tremendously positive response from Festival attendees, as well as the entire Napa Valley region, to whom we remain grateful for their continued support and warm welcome. We couldn’t have achieved this success without the efforts of our Partner and Festival Director Rick Walker and the Festival staff, IMG Artists’ Festival Producer Charles Letourneau and the IMG Artists team, and the core lineup of extraordinary artists including Joshua Bell, Pinchas Zukerman, Polina Semionova, Alondra de la Parra, James Valenti, Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Matthew Polenzani, Nadine Sierra, James Valenti, Carlo Ponti, among many others. A special thanks goes out to our distinguished guests who made the “Bella Italia!” Tribute a wonderful success including Sophia Loren, Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg and Francis Ford Coppola. I would also like to thank the Napa Valley Festival Association Board and its Chairman Darioush Khaledi, Gala Chair Maggie Oetgen and the many extraordinary donors, vintner partners and sponsors that work with us on the Festival.”

Dr. Aaron P. Dworkin, the Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization said, “The opportunity to partner with Festival del Sole was simply invaluable. Sphinx was thrilled to feature its top musicians, whose commitment to artistic merit complemented the Festival’s own objectives. The Sphinx Symphony, as well as the Sphinx Virtuosi, were honored to share the stage with legendary artists and be able to bring their musicianship to share with the engaged and committed Napa Valley community. We are tremendously excited about the future of this partnership.”

Barrett Wiseman and Francis Ford Coppola

Barrett Wiseman and Francis Ford Coppola









Some of the special highlights of this year’s festival included the “Bella Italia!” tribute to Academy Award-winning actress Sophia Loren at the Far Niente wine estate. The tribute program included emcee Whoopi Goldberg, actor Robert Redford, director Francis Ford Coppola and others. In addition, during the festival the Sphinx Organization presented the Napa premiere of its Sphinx Virtuosi and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with performances by both the Virtuosi and Symphony Orchestra.

Next year, the Napa Valley Festival del Sole will celebrate its tenth anniversary from July 17-26, 2015.