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Mid-day Update

PODCAST: Ringing in earnings season and Gotham Garage

Jeff Horwich Jan 8, 2013
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Corporate earnings season is here yet again. The first of the big industrial bellwethers reports after the bell today — that would be Alcoa, the aluminum company.

Monsanto, from St. Louis, known for dominating the market for genetically engineered seeds — corn and soybeans especially — outgrew analyst expectations in the latest quarter. Among other things, more farmers in Latin America are turning to Monsanto-brand seeds. And keep an eye on Sears’ share price today. The CEO has abruptly left, citing family health matters. In the meantime, the hedge fund king who owns the lion’s share of the department store is stepping in to take over day-to-day operations.

Here’s one more little palate cleanser: Riddle me this, riddle me that. Who owns the rights to the big, black bat? Time Warner and D.C. Comics, that’s who. A court date is set later this month for an alleged rogue maker of full-scale Batmobiles. D.C. Comics says this fellow in Southern California is infringing copyrights by selling replicas and Batmobile conversion kits. The custom automaker maintains his innocence, but the name of his business probably will not help: It is called Gotham Garage.

Speaking of stealthy cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants new rule that would require some cars to make more noise. Specifically, those mostly silent electric and hybrid vehicles.

Crowds of people gathered for the second time today outside the offices of a prominent newspaper in China. They’re in an open revolt against government censorship of a publication called Southern Weekly.

From a blog called ChinaSmack, a quick story of a woman setting a good financial example for her kids. Yu Youzhen is a mother of two. She is also a former vegetable farmer who became a millionaire landlord by steadily investing in local property. Even as she came into great wealth, Yu has hung onto a job she’s had for the past 15 years — as a city sanitation worker. Six days a week, she sweeps streets and washes trashcans in her reflective orange vest and hat. She claims to love the job. But also says she intends to demonstrate a solid work ethic for her kids.

This week, the Television Critics Association winter press tour is going on — it’s supposed to woo TV critics, who then drive audiences to tune in. Advertisers get in on the game, and…you know, people make money. But almost half of American homes now have a DVR, so viewers can watch shows later and breeze through commercials. That has upset the model that has reigned for decades — but advertisers are coming around to the concept.

Finally, you may be familiar with the debate over corporate “personhood.” Since 1819 the Supreme Court has held that corporations are “people” in many critical legal contexts. It’s had big implications for campaign finance, among other things. Well, an activist in California has made a creative bid to challenge that long-held precedent: Jonathan Frieman founded a corporation, and loaded a bunch of documents from it into his car. Then he went cruising in the carpool lane… where he was pulled over for driving alone. Ah, not so! says Frieman — my corporation is a person, and it was in the car with me. Frieman’s Marin County court fight over his $500 ticket begins this week. Next stop: Washington. Or not.

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