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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Feb 11, 2014: News Updates

House Votes to Raise Debt Ceiling, Without Conditions

WASHINGTON — Ending three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015 – without any conditions.

House Passes Clean Debt Ceiling 221-201 With Vast Majority Of Republicans Voting Against

 02/11/2014 17:32 -0500

The clean debt ceiling bill has just passed the House where it got the required majority in a 221 to 201 final vote, with just 28 Republicans voting Yea (and 199 voting Nay) which means that with a Senate passage assured, the US can now spend away until March 15, 2015. The final breakdown:

    GOP: Yea - 28; Nay -199
    DEM: Yea - 193; Nay -2
    Total: Yea - 221; Nay - 201

Considering that the vast majority of Republicans voted against John Boehner's latest "plan" to do the Democrats' work for them, and pass a clean debt ceiling, perhaps it is time to look for a speaker who represents the interests of more than just a tiny fraction of the party... and the Democrats of course.

“I’m grateful to the speaker and the Republican leadership for giving this House this opportunity to act in a way that is consistent with the constitution,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking in the chamber in advance of the vote. “I thank my Democratic colleagues for never wavering from this position and standing firm on behalf of all Americans.”

U.S. says Social Security computer outage to affect

Reuters- 13 hours ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday said people hoping to enroll in health coverage for March 1 may have trouble applying by Saturday's deadline because of a planned 62-hour maintenance shutdown of a Social Security Administration computer system.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), the lead Obamacare agency, said the shutdown will prevent applicants from verifying their Social Security numbers and other data through the federal website, Those unable to enroll because of the outage can request special enrollment for coverage beginning March 1, CMS said.

The Social Security computer system will be down from 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Saturday until 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, February 18, CMS said.

Regulators are driving the banks out of NY: Bove

 Published: Monday, 10 Feb 2014
 New York regulators will not stop filing suit against the big banks until they have successfully driven most large financial institutions out of the Empire State, banking analyst Richard Bove told CNBC on Monday.

From questionable hiring practices in China to concerns about the home foreclosure process in the United States, New York regulators have filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the big banks. And, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

Yellen says Fed on track to keep trimming stimulus

By Jonathan Spicer and Jason Lange 1 hour ago

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday the U.S. central bank was on track to keep reducing its policy stimulus, even as she acknowledged the labor market recovery was "far from complete."

In her first public comments as Fed chief, Yellen said the central bank would need to keep its eye on a broad range of labor market indicators, not just the unemployment rate, as it continued to assess the health of the jobs market.

Another Bitcoin Flash Crash Imminent? Second Major Exchange Follows MtGox In Suspending Withdrawals


Bitcoin plunged another 15% or so from its bounce highs this morning as volatility has picked up dramatically in the virtual currency. The reasons are numerous: JPMorgan has come out with a scathing attack - "bitcoin looks like an innovation worth limiting exposure to;" CoinDesk reports that major exchanges are under a "massive and concerted attack" by a bot system - creating a "fog of confusion" over the system; and perhaps most critically, BitStamp has followed Mt.Gox and halted withdrawals "due to inconsistent results from their bitcoin wallet" - due to the DDoS attacks...

 Goldman Partners Exercise $77 Million of 2008 Options

By Michael J. Moore Feb 10, 2014
Sixty-four partners exercised options last month that yielded them $77 million in shares, after covering the cost of the options and some tax withholding, according to a Feb. 7 regulatory filing. Gregory A. Agran, who runs the New York-based firm’s commodities unit, received $7.1 million of stock, while Steve Strongin, 55, head of global investment research, netted $4 million.

 Icahn to Drop Apple Buyback Proposal After ISS ‘No’ Vote

By Beth Jinks Feb 10, 2014 10:06

Activist investor Carl Icahn dropped his campaign urging Apple Inc. (AAPL) to buy back $50 billion of stock this year, after the company stepped up repurchases and a proxy-advisory firm criticized his efforts as micromanagement.

The billionaire as recently as last week publicly urged the company to buy back more stock, after saying in December he would seek a shareholder vote to unlock funds held by Cupertino, California-based Apple, which had $159 billion in cash and marketable securities as of Dec. 28. The stock rose 1.8 percent to $528.99 at today’s close in New York.

 11 February 2014 Last updated at 04:36

EU agrees to launch negotiations with Cuba

The European Union has agreed to launch negotiations with Cuba aimed at restoring full bilateral relations with the Communist-run island.

The talks, which could begin as soon as next month, will try to increase trade and investment, and include a dialogue on human rights, officials said.

Another Fed "Taper" Casualty: Kazakhstan Devalues Currency To Weakest On Record

With only $24.5 billion left in FX reserves after valiantly defending major capital outflows since the Fed's Taper announcement, the Kazakhstan central bank has devalued the currency (Tenge) by 19% - its largest adjustment since 2009. At 185 KZT to the USD, this is the weakest the currency has ever been as the central bank cites weakness in the Russian Ruble and "speculation" against its currency as drivers of the outflows (which will be "exhausted" by this devaluation according to the bank). The new level will improve the country's competitiveness (they are potassium heavy) but one wonders whether, unless Yellen folds whether it will help the outflows at all. The Kazakhstan stock index is up 12% on the news...
Via Bloomberg,
The tenge, introduced in 1993 after the breakup of the Soviet Union two years earlier, weakened the most against the dollar last month since July. Kazakhstan devalued its currency by 21 percent in February 2009, as the biggest energy producer in central Asia spent billions of dollars to support the economy and bail out its biggest lenders following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
“The devaluation was a surprise for many people, considering the central bank’s assurances that the exchange rate is stable,” Damir Seisebayev, director of the analytical department at ?? Private Asset Management in Almaty, said by e-mail. “But you have to be realistic. What is the tenge? It’s the ruble rate multiplied by five. This is a tested formula.”

Barclays Bonuses Up 10% As 7,000 Jobs Are Cut

The bank's investment arm staff get bonuses more than twice the average UK worker's income, as 7,000 job cuts are announced.

9:07am UK, Tuesday 11 February 2014

Barclays bank has pushed up staff bonuses by 10% despite seeing both its revenue and profit fall, as it admits 7,000 UK job cuts will occur this year.

The bank said it would pay £2.378bn in "incentives", following the release of its annual results for 2013.

It said investment banking staff would receive two-thirds of the bonus pool - £1.57bn

 Singapore Stocks to Extend Region’s Biggest Rout: Southeast Asia

By Jonathan Burgos and Jasmine Ng Feb 10, 2014 11:56 AM GM

Baring Asset Management Co. and Bank Julius Baer & Co. expect a deepening slump in Singapore stocks, the worst performers this year among Southeast Asian markets.

1 February 2014 Last updated at 15:17

Algerian military plane crashes, 'killing 103'

An Algerian military transport plane has crashed in the north-east of the country, with 103 passengers and crew feared dead, local media say.

The plane - believed to be a Hercules C-130 - crashed in a mountainous area of Oum al-Bouaghi province. It was en route to Constantine from Ouargla in bad weather, an "informed source" told radio station Ennahar. The plane was said to have been carrying military personnel and family members. Its original departure point is believed to have been the Sahara Desert city of Tamanrasset in the south, but it had made a stop in Ouargla.

 11 February 2014 Last updated at 10:43

Berlusconi in Italy trial for 'bribing' senator

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has gone on trial in Naples for allegedly bribing a senator to join his party in 2006, in the latest case against him.

The move was allegedly aimed at destabilising a rival centre-left government in power at the time.

Berlusconi lost his parliamentary immunity last year when he was expelled from the Senate over a tax fraud conviction.

No sign of $40 million in donations

February 11, 2014 --

Documents obtained by CNN show that Charity Services International, a private South Carolina company, claimed to have shipped nearly $40 million in medicines and other donations on behalf of 15 small charities to Guatemala in 2010. Those same charities also reported sending another $10 million to Guatemala the next year.

According to its tax filings, one of those American charities, The Breast Cancer Society of Mesa, Arizona, claimed to have shipped $22 million of donations by itself in 2010.

But a joint investigation by CNN, the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting could find no trace of even a fraction of those donations.

 China and Taiwan hold historic talks

The two governments have not met since they split 65 years ago, following a brutal civil war that left millions dead.
Last updated: 11 Feb 2014 11:34

China and Taiwan held their first government-to-government talks since they split 65 years ago after a brutal civil war - a symbolic yet historic move between the former bitter rivals, AFP news agency reported.

The next step: 3D printing the human body

As 3D printing advances at an astonishing rate, will it soon be possible to 3D print a human body? Rhiannon Williams investigates

Domino’s Pizza Caught Stealing Wages, 61 Domino’s Workers to be Paid $1.28 Million

February 11th, 2014
What would you do if you were fired for simply telling your boss that you hadn’t been paid correctly? A Domino’s franchise in New York City is learning the hard way that they can’t underpay workers and wrongly fire employees, and get away with it without paying a hefty price. 61 workers will receive $1.28 million from Domino’s, winning a case proving that the company was stealing wages.

 It's spring at last in Bosnia and Herzegovina

An anti-privatisation protest in the city of Tuzla has exploded into general social insurrection.

Last updated: 11 Feb 2014 06:42

Whatever little semblance of legitimacy the constitutional order in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) may have enjoyed at the beginning of this week went up in flames on Friday night. BiH's three Presidents, two entities, one special district, ten cantons and internationally appointed High Representative - the entirety of its bloated bureaucracy - witnessed the storming of their government offices in the cities of Tuzla, Sarajevo, Zenica, Bihac and Mostar.

As a result, at least two regional governments have collapsed, in the Tuzla and Zenica-Doboj cantons. What began as a local, anti-privatisation protest on Wednesday in Tuzla had grown by Friday into a general social insurrection.

11 February 2014 Last updated at 15:31

Nazi loot probe: More art found at Gurlitt Austria home

Dozens more art works have emerged at the Austrian home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the German collector found in 2012 with hundreds of paintings believed stolen by the Nazis.
The latest finds in Salzburg include paintings by Renoir, Monet and Picasso.

Hwang wins US patent for human stem cells

Scientist Hwang Woo-suk has been granted patents for human embryonic stem cells and the related technology in the United States, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Tuesday.
It marks the second time for the veterinarian to win patents outside Korea ― he received ones from the Canadian government in 2011 after several years of efforts in some 20 countries.

British and Dutch authorities have reignited the controversial dispute over the collapse of online lender Icesave at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 by filing a lawsuit for up to IKr1,000bn (£5.6bn) against Iceland’s bank guarantee fund.

Frustrated by Karzai, U.S. Shifts Afghanistan Exit Plans

New Military Approach Would Give Obama Flexibility on Afghan Troop Decision

 Feb. 10, 2014 9:37 p.m.

 Puerto Rico Faces $940 Million Bill as Debt Is Cut to Junk

Feb 7, 2014 10:32 PM GMT+0100
Puerto Rico is trying to refinance debt or negotiate with creditors to avoid making a $940 million payment, almost 10 percent of its budget, after the U.S. commonwealth was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.

 Massive 50ft-Deep Sinkhole Opens Up On M2 In Kent, Causing Delays

PA  |  Posted: 11/02/2014 16:23 GMT

A 10-mile section of a busy motorway has been closed in both directions after a huge, 50ft-deep hole appeared in the central reservation.

National Tuesday 11 February 2014 - 21:13

Magistrate’s refusal to deny involvement in freemasonry ‘unacceptable’ – Fenech Adami

Opposition’s spokesman for justice Beppe Fenech Adami says government should have first presented impeachment motion against Magistrate Carol Peralta.