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Phone hacking: News International faces nearly 50 new claims

Source: Guardian

The number of new civil claims for damages over alleged News of the World phone hacking faced by Rupert Murdoch's News International has reached nearly 50, including Sir John Major's former daughter-in-law Emma Noble, the high court has heard.

Others seeking damages for alleged invasion of privacy from News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now-closed Sunday tabloid, include former Conservative cabinet minister and chief whip Lord Blencathra and former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist.

At a case management conference at the high court in London on Friday, Hugh Tomlinson, QC, representing victims of alleged phone hacking, told Mr Justice Vos that he had 44 new cases filed while two others had submitted their claims via another legal representative.

It is expected that up to 200 new claims will be filed over the coming months, Tomlinson told the court in a previous hearing.

The cases are part of a second wave of civil actions which Vos is managing following the settlement of more than 50 cases earlier this year including claims by Jude Law, Charlotte Church and Lord Prescott.

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/apr/20/phone-hacking-news-international-claims

Citigroup CEO and directors sued over executive pay

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - Days after being rebuked by shareholders, Citigroup Inc (C.N) Chief Executive Vikram Pandit and the bank's directors have been sued by a shareholder accusing them of awarding outsized pay to top executives.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, said directors breached their fiduciary duties by awarding more than $54 million of compensation in 2011 to the executives, including $15 million to Pandit, though the bank's performance did not necessarily justify it.

At Citigroup's annual meeting on Tuesday, about 55 percent of shareholders participating in an advisory vote rejected Pandit's pay package. That marked the first time that investors had rejected a compensation plan at a major U.S. bank.

That vote "has cast doubt on the board's decision-making process, as well as the accuracy and truthfulness of its public statements," said the complaint, brought by shareholder Stanley Moskal. "Absent this (lawsuit), the majority will of the company's stockholders shall be rendered meaningless."

Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell said the lawsuit is without merit and that the bank will seek its dismissal, "consistent with court rulings in similar cases."

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/20/us-citigroup-pay-lawsuit-idUSBRE83J15720120420

Obama, courting youth vote, to launch student-loan push

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will use a tour of three election battleground states next week to push Congress to prevent the doubling of interest rates on federal student loans -- an effort aimed at re-energizing his support among younger voters.

Obama will speak at universities in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa, the White House said on Friday. All three states are considered critical to his re-election chances, and the youth vote is one of his key constituencies.

The two-day trip is part of a campaign by the Obama administration to get Congress to extend low interest rates on college loans to more than 7.4 million students.

If lawmakers fail to act, rates on the loans will double on July 1 to 6.8 percent -- this at a time when other loans boast near-record-low rates, with the average for a 30-year mortgage standing at 3.9 percent this week.

The new push jibes with the White House's strategy of casting the Democratic president as a champion of the middle class, to draw a contrast with congressional Republicans and Mitt Romney, his wealthy Republican presidential challenger.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/20/us-usa-obama-education-idUSBRE83J16J20120420

Audit finds 'significant' errors in oil spill compensation

WASHINGTON - An audit of the US$20 billion (S$25 billion) fund for paying victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill found "significant errors" that led to about 7,300 claimants who were underpaid receiving an extra US$64 million, the United States Justice Department said yesterday.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) was set up to compensate fishermen, hotel owners, property owners and others for losses from explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill from the BP well.

The independent audit, conducted by BDO Consulting, also found that some claimants were overpaid, but that the GCCF was not seeking to recover that money, according to the Justice Department, which had sought the audit.

Attorney General Eric Holder last summer asked for the independent audit after hearing from some individuals and owners of small businesses in the region who were concerned about claims. The fund has paid out more than US$6.2 billion to more than 220,000 people and businesses.


Are we on the deck of another Titanic?

New York, NY - Are we in a countdown to an economic collapse?

The other day, I was in a restroom papered over with pages of the New York Times from the Great Depression. It was very eerie - some of the stories sounded very contemporary.

Every day we seem to be reading about new waves of layoffs and cutbacks, when we hoped to be reading about new jobs and recovery.

Sony just announced it will "shed" ten thousand jobs worldwide (is that like a sheep shedding wool?). That's six per cent of its staff. Yahoo has also announced thousands of layoffs. Maybe, Facebook will offer us one its pricey new infographics showing where all the jobs are going.

Last week, world stock markets were in the toilet, with European markets leading the descent. Corporate profits are said to be way down.

Not surprisingly, writing in the Financial Times, billionaire moneyman George Soros now sounds like a very worried man:

"Far from abating, the euro crisis has recently taken a turn for the worse. The European Central Bank relieved an incipient credit crunch through its longer-term refinancing operations. The resulting rally in financial markets hid an underlying deterioration; but that is unlikely to last much longer.

"The fundamental problems have not been resolved; indeed, the gap between creditor and debtor countries continues to widen. The crisis has entered what may be a less volatile but more lethal phase."

That's another term to worry about - "lethal".

In the US, the Republicans are about to dump $200 million dollars into partisan TV commercials to blame Obama for the whole crisis, as if one politician can press a button and order the intricate global capitalist system to rise and fall.

At the same time, their failure to pass any legislation that can ameliorate the crisis has been motivated by kamikaze politics driven by the desire to bring Obama down, no matter the cost to the public.

The only new economic initiative they and the Democrats have agreed to is a so-called JOBS act that many experts fear will neutralise financial regulations and lead to a new wave of financial crime.

That doesn't mean that Obama doesn't share responsibility by what he's done, or failed to do.


For He’s a Jolly Good Scoundrel: On Sanford Weill

How evil is this? At a time when two-thirds of US homeowners are drowning in mortgage debt and the American dream has crashed for tens of millions more, Sanford Weill, the banker most responsible for the nation’s economic collapse, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

So much for the academy’s proclaimed “230-plus year history of recognizing some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders.” George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Albert Einstein must be rolling in their graves at the news that Weill, “philanthropist and retired Citigroup Chairman,” has joined their ranks.

Weill is the Wall Street hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law, which long had been a barrier between investment and commercial banks. That 1999 reversal permitted the merger of Travelers and Citibank, thereby creating Citigroup as the largest of the “too big to fail” banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.

Those restrictions were initially flouted when Weill, then CEO of Travelers, which contained a major investment banking division, decided to merge the company with Citibank, a commercial bank headed by John S. Reed. The merger had actually been arranged before the enabling legislation became law, and it was granted a temporary waiver by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The night before the announcement of the merger, as Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley writes in her book “Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World... and Then Nearly Lost It All,” a buoyant Weill suggested to Reed, “We should call Clinton.” On a Sunday night Weill had no trouble getting through to the president and informed him of the merger, which violated existing law. After hanging up, Weill boasted to Reed, “We just made the president of the United States an insider.”


ALERT: Severe Thunderstorm Watch for portions of OK, TX until 1:00am CDT

Severe Thunderstorm Watch 183


George Zimmerman wants meeting with Martin family, new judge assigned

Source: Bay News 9


George Zimmerman wants to meet with Trayvon Martin's parents.

During a one-on-one interview Wednesday, attorney Mark O'Mara revealed Zimmerman wants to meet with the family of the 17-year-old he shot and killed in February.

O'Mara did not explain why his client wants the meeting, but said is that if it were to happen, it would be private -- just Zimmerman and Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.

"I've talked a couple of times about the conversation that, hopefully, will occur directly to the Martin family, a private conversation," said O'Mara. "To the community, I think he would just say don't prejudge him."

In the weeks leading up to April 11, when Zimmerman was arrested for second-degree murder, O'Mara said his client was in hiding. The worldwide attention and high emotion attached to the Trayvon Martin shooting made him and his family fear for their safety.

O'Mara said many people have already made up their minds about the night Trayvon Martin was killed. That's why he has not ruled out the case could be tried outside Central Florida

Read more: http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2012/4/18/trayvon_martin_judge.html?cmpid=twitter

Pretty Much Everything is Now a Bet on the Central Banks of the World

Via the Financial Times, here's an interesting bit of color coded data from HSBC Global showing the level of correlation between various asset classes. The version on the left is from 2005, and it shows about what you'd expect. Deep red means a pair of asset classes are highly correlated — that is, when one goes up or down, the other moves in the same direction — and the red square at the top left represents various U.S. stock market indexes. Unsurprisingly, when the NASDAQ goes up, so do the Dow Jones and the S&P 500. The red square next to it is European stock markets. And the red square at the bottom represents corporate and government bonds. When one kind of bond moves up or down, so do all the rest.

No surprises there. But take a look at the version on the right from April 2012. Practically everything in the top half is moving together. At the bottom right, bonds are moving together even more tightly than before. And stocks and bonds (bottom left) are moving tightly in opposite directions. There's a bit of stuff in the middle that's not correlated with anything else, but that's all.

What this means is that it's hard to diversify a financial portfolio these days because everything is moving in sync. HSBC's view is that this is because the world economy is in such fragile shape that basically everything now depends on how well governments cope. If they cope well, the global economy will recover smartly and pretty much all asset classes will do well. If they cope poorly, everybody and everything is screwed. In other words, when you buy an asset these days — any asset — you're not really making a bet on the asset itself. You're making a bet on how well the governments and central banks of the world handle the current economic mess. No wonder everyone's so nervous. There's no escape from the Great Recession.



Michele Bachmann accuses President Obama of ‘waving a tar baby in the air’

Source: NY Daily

Bachmann's press secretary insists Bachmann's statement 'had nothing to do with race'

Michelle Bachmann is back, and as incendiary as ever.

The Minnesota congresswoman and former Republican presidential candidate accused President Obama of "waving a tar baby in the air" on Thursday following his proposals that would give government regulators more authority to limit price manipulation in the oil market.

"This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem," Bachmann told Florida-based conservative news organization Shark Tank on Wednesday.

"I have never seen a more irresponsible president who is infantile in the way that he continually blames everyone else for his failure to first diagnose the problem and second to address the problem. It's always everyone else's fault," the Tea Party darling added.

The term originates from the "Uncle Remus" stories, in which a doll made of tar and turpentine is used to snare Br’er Rabbit.

While "tar baby" is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself," it has long been recognized as a derogatory term for African Americans.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/michele-bachmann-accuses-president-obama-waving-a-tar-baby-air-article-1.1064289
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