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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Feb 25, 2014: News Updates

James Stuart Jr., prominent Lincoln banker, found dead

February 23, 2014 6:30 pm  •  By CHRIS HEADY / Lincoln Journal Star
A successful Lincoln businessman and member of a prominent local family died last week. Former National Bank of Commerce CEO James Stuart Jr. was found dead in Scottsdale, Ariz., the morning of Feb. 19.
A family spokesman did not say what caused the death. A Scottsdale, Ariz., police spokesperson could not be reached over the weekend.

Western spy agencies build ‘cyber magicians’ to manipulate online discourse

Published time: February 25, 2014 03:40
Secret units within the 'Five Eyes" global spying network engage in covert online operations that aim to invade, deceive, and control online communities and individuals through the spread of false information and use of ingenious social-science tactics.
Such teams of highly trained professionals have several main objectives, such as “to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet” and “to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable,” The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reported based on intelligence documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Bank Run Full Frontal: Ukrainians Withdrew 7% Of All Deposits In Two Days

Well that escalated quickly. It seems the ouster of Yanukovych, heralded by so many in the West as a positive, has done nothing to quell the fear of further economic collapse in Ukraine:
This is around a 30 billion Hyrvnia loss in just 2 days for the banks and the new central bank chief is considering "stabilizing loans" to help banks deal with the liquidity crisis (though Ukraine's reserves stand at a mere $15 billion).

Welcome To The Currency Wars, China Yuan Devalues Most In 20 Years!

February 25th, 2014
The last 7 days have seen the unstoppable ‘sure-thing’ one-way bet of the decade appreciation trend of the Chinese Yuan reverse. In fact, the 0.95% sell-off is the largest since 1994 (bigger than the post-Lehman move) suggesting there is clear evidence that the PBOC is intervening.

Ukraine Currency Crashes To Record Low

Russia's earlier "default" warning (or threat) has not just impacted Ukrainian bonds but the currency is crashing. The Hyrvnia is down a stunning 6.8% today - the biggest drop since Feb 2009 - to a record low 9.8 to the US Dollar.

Updated: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:14:05 

JPMorgan to cut 8,000 jobs this year

JPMorgan Chase plans to eliminate a total of 8,000 jobs this year as its mortgage business shrinks and as the giant bank aims to control costs at its branches.
About half of those job cuts had already been announced. JPMorgan Chase now plans to cut more jobs as it tries to reduce $2 billion in consumer banking expenses by the end of 2016.

Former Defense Minister Serdyukov seeks amnesty - report

Published time: February 25, 2014 09:51
Anatoly Serdyukov, currently on trial over suspected criminal negligence that allegedly enabled multi-million-dollar embezzlement schemes in the Defense Ministry, is reportedly seeking amnesty from law enforcers.

U.S. expels Venezuelan diplomats in tit-for-tat move over unrest

CARACAS Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:40pm EST
(Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday ordered three Venezuelan diplomats to leave in reprisal for President Nicolas Maduro's expulsion of three American embassy staff accused of fomenting unrest that has killed at least 13 people.

'Pony' botnet steals bitcoins, digital currencies: Trustwave

BOSTON Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:23pm EST
(Reuters) - Cyber criminals have infected hundreds of thousands of computers with a virus called "Pony" to steal bitcoins and other digital currencies, in the most ambitious cyber attack on virtual money uncovered so far, according to security firm Trustwave.
Trustwave said on Monday that it has found evidence that the operators of a cybercrime ring known as the Pony botnet have stolen some 85 virtual "wallets" that contained bitcoins and other types of digital currencies. The firm said it did not know how much digital currency was contained in the wallets.

GLOBAL MARKETS-Yuan drops most in 3 years, Wall Street near all-time high

LONDON Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:53pm GMT
(Reuters) - The repatriation of investors' cash into developed markets was underscored on Tuesday as Wall Street opened at an all-time high after China's yuan suffered its worst day in over three years.

Germany against giving Greece autonomy on reform moves

BERLIN Tue Feb 25, 2014 6:09pm GMT
(Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are opposed to any relaxation of the reform conditions for Greece if it needs a third bailout package, a conservative leader in parliament said on Tuesday.

Riot Police Get On Their Knees To Beg For Forgiveness For Taking Part In Ukraine Crackdown

Feb. 25, 2014, 5:37 AM    48,777 3
During a rally in central Lviv on Feb.24, local riot police knelt as they apologized to residents for taking part in the crackdown on protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, aka Maidan (though they insisted that they did not beat protesters).

Russian Ships Carrying Soldiers Said To Be En Route To Sevastopol

Thailand army chief says military will not step into political crisis

February 25, 2014 -- Updated 0720 GMT (1520 HKT)
Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thailand's army chief said the military -- one of Thailand's most powerful institutions -- would not step into the current political crisis, saying that the country's laws were enough to confront deadly protests that have punctuated a three-month power struggle.
In a televised address, Gen. Prayuth Chanocha said the military did not want to exacerbate an already volatile situation.

Turkey opposition calls on government to resign

Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:8PM GMT
Turkey's main opposition party has demanded the government to quickly step down in the wake of a wiretap leak incriminating Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of corruption.
“It is unacceptable that someone who is in the middle of these dirty relations leads Turkey from now on. This government has lost all legitimacy after this hour,” the Republican People's Party (CHP) spokesman Haluk Koc said on Tuesday.

Ukraine Calls Russia's Bluff, Slashes Nat Gas Imports By 80%

Twice in recent years, Russia has suspended gas supplies, or notably raised prices, as the somewhat well-known "trump card" of Russia's oil and gas supply to Ukraine (and Europe for that matter) remains Putin's easiest option for clenching his iron-first against the divided nation. Following a pre-emptive move in November by Ukraine to diversify its energy supply,  Russia had reduced the price of gas for the highly indebted Ukraine in December (to entice Ukraine under Russia's wing); but, after recent events, Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Monday that the price could be raised again. However, today we find that Ukraine's state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia's Gazprom by  stunning 80% in February as Ukraine tries to show Russia it can't be pushed around... of course, with limited (and more expensive) alternative supplies, we fear this could well shoot them in the foot.

Spanish court demands answers from Hu Jintao on Tibetan genocide allegations

US, KSA, Jordan helping rebels plan Syria attack

Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:53PM GMT
The US, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are reportedly helping foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria to prepare for an attack starting in southern Syria and spreading to Damascus.
According to a report recently published by The Washington Post, a military headquarters for coordinating actions in Syria has been established in Jordan, and between 200 and 250 terrorists receive exercises at the training base near the western Jordanian city of Salt.

‘Westminster’s threats and speculation over Scottish independence are unfounded’

Published time: February 25, 2014 00:15

RT: David Cameron promises to boost Scotland's oil and gas industry with projects worth up to 200 billion pounds, but only if the union stays together. Can Scotland afford to turn this down?

Pat Kane: I think what Scotland can’t afford to do is not to look at the example of Norway which is just over the water from Aberdeen, where both the cabinets were today. That’s an example of a nation that discovered oil at the same time as Scotland and is the same size as Scotland, and in the last 40 years has built up a sovereign wealth fund of about 450 billion pounds. In the same period, Westminster has run up a debt of 1.2 trillion pounds, so I think the example for Scotland to follow is not any advice that comes from the Cameron cabinet [but] the example of Norway as how to become a prosperous and sophisticated small nation with the full benefits of oil and gas.

Supreme Court rules Drug Companies exempt from Lawsuits

Washington. In case readers missed it with all the coverage of the Trayvon Martin murder trial and the Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the US Supreme Court also made a ruling on lawsuits against drug companies for fraud, mislabeling, side effects and accidental death. From now on, 80 percent of all drugs are exempt from legal liability.

In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s ruling and award for the victim of a pharmaceutical drug’s adverse reaction. According to the victim and the state courts, the drug caused a flesh-eating side effect that left the patient permanently disfigured over most of her body. The adverse reaction was hidden by the drug maker and later forced to be included on all warning labels. But the highest court in the land ruled that the victim had no legal grounds to sue the corporation because its drugs are exempt from lawsuits.
Posted on Feb 24, 2014 at 14:30

More retired NY firefighters, cops arrested in pension fraud probe

By Victoria Cavaliere 2 hours ago
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A second wave of retired New York firefighters and police was arrested on Tuesday on disability fraud charges tied to a September 11 pension fraud, said a source involved in the investigation.
A massive ongoing investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office had, in January, led to disability fraud charges against 106 suspects - 80 of them retired New York cops and firefighters - with some accused of falsely claiming to have been traumatized by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the city.;_ylt=AwrTWf1RyAxTxVwAJuvQtDMD

Israel Apartheid Week to be observed across globe

Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:2PM GMT
The 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) has kicked off in the United States and Britain with similar events expected to be held in other parts of the world in March.
....Israeli Apartheid Week is being held in the United States and UK between February 24 and March 2. It is expected to be also observed in over 200 cities around the world.

The Queen and Prince Charles cash in on tens of thousands of pounds' worth of benefits every year

    Feb 24, 2014 22:40
Hard-up families struggling to cope with crippling rises in living costs are already angry that private ­landlords rake in thousand of pounds from housing benefits.
Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall Estate, which has an array of properties across the South West, raked in at least £111,000. from a string of councils providing cash to households.
And the Crown Estate, which gives the Queen 15% of its revenue, received at least £38,539 in housing benefit payments from just one town hall last year.

Autopsy: Men on Maersk had respiratory failure, suspected heart attack

February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
(CNN) -- Autopsy results indicate two American security officers found dead on the container ship Maersk Alabama last week died of respiratory failure, coupled with a suspected heart attack, police in the Seychelles said Tuesday.
Further forensic analysis will be carried out to establish if the two men, Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, had consumed a substance that may have brought on these events, a police statement said.

Pentagon plans to shrink US Army to pre-WWII level

By Dan De Luce 17 hours ago

Washington (AFP) - The Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II, signaling a shift after more than a decade of ground wars.
Saying it was time to "reset" for a new era, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended shrinking American forces from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000.;_ylt=AwrTWf1X8gtTyCsAGVTQtDMD

Tylenol During Pregnancy Linked to Higher Risk of ADHD
By Alice Park 19 hours ago
Pregnancy is already a fraught time for expectant moms, as more research shows how quickly the foods that women eat, the air they breathe and the compounds to which they are exposed can traverse the placenta and affect their growing child. Now there’s another thing to add to the growing list of agents — including tobacco from cigarettes, mercury from fish, and alcohol — that may affect their babies’ development.

GMO crops may cause major environmental risks, USDA admits

Published time: February 24, 2014 21:26
A new report published by the United States Department of Agriculture demonstrates that the vast majority of corn and soybean crops grown in America are genetically-engineered variants made to withstand certain conditions and chemicals.
But while GMO seeds have been sowed on US soil for 15 years now, the latest USDA report reveals that Americans still have concerns about consuming custom-made, laboratory-created products, albeit nowhere near as much as in Europe.