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Friday, 14 February 2014

Feb 13, 2014: News Updates

Sorry my friends:  This article was done last night and posted at approx 23:30 in my time zone.  The article disappeared sometime between then and now.

China pushes mobile payments system, seeks to overtake cash and plastic

Published time: February 12, 2014 15:36
China is developing its first national single mobile payment platform. It's been created to lift domestic information consumption and boost economic growth, and could replace cash, credit and debit cards.

The system has been undergoing trials since the end of last year, China Daily reports.
...Mobile payment arms of China’s leading financial organizations, including China Construction Bank Corp, China CITIC Bank Corp Ltd, China Everbright Bank Co Ltd, China UnionPay have been connected to the country’s largest telecom operator China Mobile.

Debt limit hike means ‘nothing’ for US economy

Thu Feb 13, 2014 7:12PM GMT
An American analyst says the clean debt limit increase passed by US Congress means “nothing for the economy” and just removes “the public accountability” that used to exist in the US.

The US House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that would allow the federal government to borrow more money to pay its bills for another year.

The legislation, which has now gone to US President Barack Obama for his signature, would suspend the US debt ceiling until March 2015, making sure the Treasury would not default on its more than $17 trillion debt.

Mics were off during dramatic Senate debt vote

February 13, 2014, 3:26 PM

Wednesday’s critical procedural vote in the Senate on the debt ceiling was even more dramatic than it first looked: Roll Call reports the chamber kept some senators’ votes secret while the tally was underway.

After calling the name of each senator, clerks in the chamber customarily announce negative and affirmative votes. As explained by Roll Call: “After that, the clerk would key on the microphone for each senator casting a vote. That did not happen Wednesday, and exactly why remains a bit of a mystery.”

***The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet***

Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever

By Matt Taibbi
February 12, 2014 11:00 AM ET

Call it the loophole that destroyed the world. It's 1999, the tail end of the Clinton years. While the rest of America obsesses over Monica Lewinsky, Columbine and Mark McGwire's biceps, Congress is feverishly crafting what could yet prove to be one of the most transformative laws in the history of our economy – a law that would make possible a broader concentration of financial and industrial power than we've seen in more than a century.
But the crazy thing is, nobody at the time quite knew it. Most observers on the Hill thought the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 – also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – was just the latest and boldest in a long line of deregulatory handouts to Wall Street that had begun in the Reagan years.

Read more:

US Taxpayer "Bailed Out" BNP Paribas Probed By DoJ & Fed On Sudan, Iran, Libya Deals

 02/13/2014 13:32 -0500

TARP Recipient BNP Paribas got $4.9bn of bailouts from the U.S. Taxpayer - Today, as the WSJ reports we learn BNP Paribas has been funding transactions in Iran, Syria and other countries subject to U.S. Sanctions since 2002. The bank set aside $1.1 billion to settle investigations by the Department of Justice and the Federal Reserve but as the NY Times reports, investigations are playing out on multiple fronts - centering on whether the firm did "a significant amount" of business in "blacklisted" countires (and routed the deals through the US financial system).

 Feb. 13, 2014, 2:32 p.m. EST

BNP Paribas hit by $1.1 billion legal provision

BNP Paribas SA Thursday announced an unexpected slump in fourth-quarter profit after it set aside a $1.1 billion provision against possible penalties for allegedly violating U.S. laws that restrict financial transactions with countries under economic sanctions.
The Paris-based lender said that during an internal probe conducted by the bank over the past few years it had found “a significant volume of transactions that could be considered impermissible under U.S. laws and regulations including, in particular, those of the Office of Foreign Assets Contro
.... U.K.-based Standard Chartered PLC agreed in December 2012 to pay $327 million in penalties for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran, Libya and other nations.
The French bank didn’t say which countries these potential breaches involved.

UKIP seeks to push UK Labour party into EU referendum pledge

BRUSSELS Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:32pm GMT
(Reuters) - If Britain's opposition Labour party backs a referendum on membership of the European Union the chances of Britain leaving the EU will greatly increase, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said on Wednesday.

Italian Stocks & Bonds Fall As Government Collapse Looms

Having rallied yesterday and totally ignored the fact that Letta's 10-month-old government was about to collapse, Italian equity and sovereign bond markets are falling this morning by their most in two weeks. The main bone of contention for Renzi-Letta fight is jobs and growth - there is none of either - and while Prime Minister Letta assures that the Italian economy grew in Q4 (GDP data to be released tomorrow) for the first time in 10 quarters, as Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, real GDP is still smaller than it was in 2000.

13 February 2014 Last updated at 18:47

Italian PM Enrico Letta to tender resignation on Friday

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has said he will resign on Friday after his Democratic Party backed a call for a new administration.

US sees huge decline in press freedom: Dan Dicks

Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:8PM GMT
Press TV has conducted an interview with Dan Dicks, Press for Truth, from Seattle, about press freedom in the United States.
Dicks: We’re clearly seeing a huge decline in the freedom of the press in the United States, and this new report is just a testament to that fact. It shows and proves that there is an attack on the freedom of information and the freedom of the press in the United States.

When somebody like Edward Snowden can reveal some of the things that are happening in the US government, and he is being considered as the enemy or a criminal, that just goes to show you just how far-gone things are getting and how bad it actually is.

We know that there’s a huge attack on the internet in the last few years and certainly they’re trying to clamp down on the freedom of the press in the United States.

The Tanks Are Rolling In Post-Devaluation Kazakhstan- 02/13/2014

Following the 20% devaluation of Kazakhstan's currency on Tuesday, the nation has quietly drifted into a very un-safe scenario. As the following clip shows, tanks and Humvees are lining the streets around Almaty as stores are closed and food is running desperately short. Local accounts note that the people are growing increasingly indignant. At a mere 192bps, the cost of protecting Kazakhstan sovereign debt from default (or further devaluation) seems cheap in light of this.

Greek Unemployment Hits New Record; People Employed Drops To Record Low; 61.4% Of Youth Without A Job

Something funny happened on the Grecovery: the Grecession.... Actually, make that the Gepression. In a nutshell - according to Elstat, Greek unemployment in November rose to a record high on both a seasonally adjusted and unadjusted basis with 28% of the labor force without a job, the number of people unemployed rose to a record high 1.382 million, even as the number of labor inactive people keeps rising, hitting 3.377 million and on its way to catch up with the rapidly declining 3.55 million people employed, which incidentally in November also posted a new record low. And tying it all together was the Greek youth unemployment rate which posted a record high for November at 61.4%, and after a few months of declines which gave some hope that things are indeed improving is back to its old, soaring ways.

Greece on high alert after extremists declare war on ‘German capitalist machine’

Published time: February 13, 2014 12:32
Greek authorities have stepped up security after a leftist extremist group declared war on the “German capitalist machine.” The group has claimed responsibility for attacks on a Mercedes-Benz branch and on the German ambassador’s residence in Athens.

Cypriot government at odds over privatizations, peace talks

NICOSIA Thu Feb 13, 2014 11:33am EST

Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades arrives at a European Union leaders summit at the EU council headquarters in Brussels December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

(Reuters) - Cyprus's cabinet approved a roadmap for privatizations on Thursday, but the agreement exposed deep rifts in the governing coalition.

The legislation approved on Thursday would govern the sale of three state-owned enterprises. But it also set off strikes by the island's telecoms and electrical-utility workers on February 14.
A party source told Reuters the party would probably decide next week whether it would remain in the government. Democratic Party support is crucial to passing the privatization plan in parliament and for Cyprus to get 236 million euros of aid from the EU and IMF. The Democratic Rally, the dominant party, does not have a majority in the 56-member parliament.

Venezuela seeks protest leader's arrest after unrest kills three

CARACAS Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:37pm EST
    Venezuela opposition leader Lopez faces jail over protest deaths
(Reuters) - A Venezuelan court ordered the arrest on Thursday of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on charges including murder and terrorism linked to street protests that resulted in the deaths of three people the day before.

Oman may sell assets, borrow abroad if oil prices drop -

DUBAI Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:44am EST
Feb 13 (Reuters) - Oman may have to start selling foreign assets or borrow on international markets in coming years if government spending rises during a period of lower oil prices and economic growth, a report in a magazine published by its central bank said.
..."The first option is to begin to liquidate assets abroad to support domestic spending. The second would be to start a programme of external borrowing next year at the earliest."

The author of the article was not named, and a note attached to the magazine said the opinions expressed in it were not necessarily those of the central bank. But an official in the central bank's media department, contacted by Reuters, said the article was in line with the bank's thinking.

BP must face shareholder suit over 2006 Alaska oil spill

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived a shareholder lawsuit against BP PLC (BP.L)(BP.N) over statements the company made in the wake of a 2006 oil spill in Alaska.
The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco allows shareholders to proceed with some securities fraud claims against BP after a lower judge had dismissed them.
Representatives for BP and the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment.

 John Ruiz, Morgan Stanley Municipal Debt Analyst, Dies at 53

By Laurence Arnold Feb 13, 2014 1:54 AM

John Ruiz, a municipal debt analyst who recently delivered a presentation on Puerto Rico for Morgan Stanley (MS), one of the biggest underwriters of the island’s debt, has died. He was 53.

He died suddenly on Feb. 4 at his home in Edgewater, New Jersey, according to his brother, James Ruiz. He had returned the day before from a business trip to Florida.

Feb 13, 7:06 AM (ET)

AMSTERDAM (AP) - Dutch police investigating the death of former health minister Els Borst - a key champion of euthanasia rights - say she was likely the victim of a crime.

Borst's body was found in her garage by friends on Monday evening.
In a statement, Utrecht police said her autopsy showed that the 81-year-old Borst had died of an injury.

Comcast takeover of Time Warner Cable to reshape U.S. pay TV

Thu Feb 13, 2014

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp's proposed $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc could face close scrutiny from U.S. antitrust regulators because of the deal's potential to reshape the country's pay TV and broadband markets.

The company resulting from the merger of the top two U.S. cable service providers would boast a footprint spanning from New York to Los Angeles, with a near 30 percent share of the pay TV market as well as a strong position in providing broadband Internet services.

The all-stock deal, announced on Thursday, would put Comcast in 19 of the 20 largest U.S. TV markets, and could give it unprecedented leverage in negotiations with content providers and advertisers.

 13 February 2014 Last updated at 12:30

Lloyds Bank's Horta-Osorio defends £1.7m bonus to BBC

Lloyds Bank chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio says in an exclusive interview with the BBC that his bonus, worth £1.7m, is aligned with taxpayers' interests.

The UK bank is 33% owned by the UK government.

The bank has increased its overall pool of bonuses for all staff to £395m, up from £365m the previous year.

Lloyds Bank also reported a pre-tax profit, of £415m, for the first time since its £20.5bn bailout.

State-rescued Lloyds bank cuts annual net loss

9 hours ago
London (AFP) - Britain's state-rescued bank Lloyds cut net losses in 2013 and ramped up staff bonuses, but its performance was hit by a vast compensation bill for mis-selling, it reported on Thursday.
Losses after tax stood at £838 million ($1.39 billion, 1.01 billion euros) last year.
That compared with a net loss of £1.471 billion in 2012, Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) said.
The bank took a vast provision of £3.5 billion, primarily relating to compensation for customers who were mis-sold payment protection insurance.

Thousands of Britons unlawfully charged with bedroom tax amid bureaucratic mess

Published time: February 13, 2014 01:59
More than 16,000 people have been unlawfully charged as a result of a UK government mistake in the implementation of its bedroom tax. Meanwhile, two thirds of households affected by the controversial tax are in rent arrears, a survey has shown.

The number of people who have wrongly had their housing benefit cut is already three times as high as the government claimed, according to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) submitted by the UK Labour Party to local authorities.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said last month that between 3,000 and 4,000 people would be affected by the error, but the final figure could reach as many as 40,000.

Goodbye Jade Rabbit: China’s Yutu Lunar Rover Is Officially Lost Following Mechanical Glitch

on February 12 2014 3:01 PM
Update (4:20 p.m. EST):  Jade Rabbit is showing signs of life. is reporting it has detected a signal from Yutu. cites a Xinhua story that also is optimistic that Jade Rabbit may be alive.

China’s Yutu (Jade Rabbit) lunar rover has been officially declared lost. The lunar rover suffered a mechanical glitch that put China’s moon mission in jeopardy two weeks ago.
The state-run China News Service, which reported the news, did not elaborate on the brief statement nor provide details on the cause of the glitch nor what China’s space agency tried to do to restore communication.

It will be a long lunar night for the Chinese as they have no choice but to wait before attempting to re-establish communication with the Jade Rabbit. The lunar night lasts for two weeks and the rover shuts down as it is powered by energy collected by its solar panels.

Down but not out: Jade Rabbit comes back from the dead

By Euan McKirdy for CNN
February 13, 2014 -

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.

...."Jade Rabbit has fully resurrected and is able to receive signals, but still suffers a mechanical control abnormality," China's lunar program spokesman Pei Zhaoyu told Xinhua.
"The rover entered hibernation while in an abnormal state. We were worried it wouldn't be able to make it through the extreme cold of the lunar night. But it came back alive. The rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive."

Nuclear Fusion Just Got a Little Closer to Becoming a Reality

Atomic fusion could produce limitless energy—but scientists haven't been able to harness it. But a novel experiment suggests it could be achievable
By Michael Lemonick Feb. 12, 2014
 ...Controlled fusion—which amounts to taming the same awesome force that powers the Sun—has turned out to be much more difficult and more expensive than anyone guessed, and more than a half-century on nobody’s achieved it. Yet as a new paper just published in Nature makes clear, they haven’t given up. By focusing 192 powerful lasers on a tiny sphere encasing 170 millionths of a gram of hydrogen, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory forced atomic nuclei to combine, releasing a whopping 17 kilojoules of energy. “It is not surprising,” writes physicist Mark Herrmann of Sandia National Laboratories in an accompanying Nature commentary, “that fusion scientists throughout the world are cheering.”

Read more: Nuclear Fusion Achieved in Experiment |

At least 12 killed as epic snowstorm covers Northeast US

Published time: February 13, 2014 18:32

As the latest winter storm turns away from the southern United States and pounds the Northeast, it’s leaving a cold trail of deaths and destruction in its wake.

EU ministers link GM crops approval to future elections

Published time: February 13, 2014

Once Brussels announced it would approve the cultivation of US-developed genetically modified maize in Europe despite opposition of the majority of the EU member states, 12 ministers of national governments wrote a letter to European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, demanding that approval be blocked of GM maize grown for human consumption in Europe.
The European Commission fully backs this type of GM crop, saying extensive scientific research has confirmed that modern GM crops are safe. Meat of GM-raised animals is already being sold in Europe without restrictions.

Nazi Scientists May Have Plotted Malaria Mosquito Warfare

Concentration camp records suggest Nazi scientists studied offensive biological warfare.
Nazi scientists at the infamous Dachau concentration camp may have planned to use offensive biological warfare on Germany's World War II enemies. Newly found records suggest they made plans to release malaria-carrying mosquitoes from airplanes.