09/14/2014 (12:28 pm)

Scottish independence could mean messy divorce

Filed under: USA, stocks |

LONDON (AP) — How do you divorce after a 300-year union? It’s complicated, and there is a deadline.

If Scots vote yes to separation on Thursday, a clock starts ticking down to March 24, 2016 — the independence day declared by the Scottish government.

The British and Scottish administrations have agreed that they will recognize the outcome of the referendum and appoint negotiators to work out the details of separation “in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.”

But there is disagreement on many issues, and only 18 months to redraft laws, establish international agreements and work out relationships with international organizations.

Robert Hazell, head of the Constitution Unit at University College London, says that is an “impossible timetable,” and estimates it could take up to three years to hammer out the details.

Some of the key issues:

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DIVIDING THE ASSETS

The Yes and No campaigns have very different assessments of Scotland’s financial picture, including its share of Britain’s national debt and North Sea oil reserves.

The pro-independence Scottish government says Scotland would be entitled to 90 percent of Britain’s oil wealth — based on divvying up the two countries’ waters — but only liable for about 8 percent of its 1.3 trillion pound ($2.1 trillion) national debt, based on its share of the U.K. population.

The British government disputes this, pointing out that Scotland has higher per capita public-sector spending than England and so is more indebted.

Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond has signaled he could play hardball.

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COUNTRY CLUBS

Salmond says that Scotland wants to remain in the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, and he anticipates little difficulty in keeping those seats.

Opponents say re-admission cannot be guaranteed. NATO, in particular, may be perturbed by Salmond’s promise to remove nuclear weapons from Scottish territory.

That’s not so much a problem for Scotland — nuclear weapons are not a membership requirement — as for Britain, whose entire nuclear arsenal is based aboard submarines at the Faslane naval base in western Scotland.

Adm. Mark Stanhope, a former head of the Royal Navy, has said that moving the weapons “would add a dangerous period of destabilization in our nuclear defense posture at a time when the international picture is clearly deteriorating.”

The Royal United Services Institute, a military think-tank, estimates that moving the weapons could cost several billion pounds (dollars) and take until 2028. In the shorter term, Salmond may seek to use the base as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Britain.

Opponents of independence also say the loss of Scotland would sharply reduce Britain’s clout on the world stage. It could endanger its place in the G-7 group of wealthy industrialized nations and its seat on the United Nations Security Council, although Salmond says Scotland would support Britain in efforts to keep the security council seat.

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THE CURRENCY QUESTION

The day after an independence vote, the pound sterling will remain Scotland’s official currency. The Scottish government wants to keep it in the long term as well — as a key prop of stability amid the uncertainty independence would bring.

British officials and bankers say it’s not that simple. Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said that “a currency union is incompatible with sovereignty.”

Salmond thinks the British government is bluffing. He says “a common-sense agreement on a common currency” is in everyone’s best interest.

Another unknown is whether businesses will pull out of Scotland. Financial institutions including the Royal Bank of Scotland and insurance giant Standard Life have announced plans to transfer some operations south of the border to ensure they remain part of British tax and currency systems.

Salmond says these are administrative measures and that the firms will keep most of their thousands of jobs in Scotland — but only time will tell.

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DRAWING A BORDER

At the moment only a blue-and-white billboard informs motorists and train passengers that they have passed from England into Scotland, and border checks will not be set up the day after an independence vote.

Salmond said there is “no danger” of such border formalities, saying Scotland would become part of the passport-free Common Travel Area Britain operates with the Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland.

He says Scotland, like Britain, will be a member of the EU. But opponents say membership cannot be guaranteed; countries such as Spain, that face strong secessionist movements, may be uneasy about quick recognition.

If Scotland remains outside the EU — or if Britain leaves, as some London politicians wish — there may be no alternative to border checks. Britain could also take umbrage if Scotland adopts much more liberal immigration policies.

Scots will be getting different passports if they opt for independence, even if they don’t need them to cross the border. The Scottish government says all British citizens living in Scotland will automatically be considered Scottish citizens, as will Scotland-born Britons who live elsewhere. They will be able to apply for Scottish passports from independence day in 2016, and would be allowed to retain dual Scottish and British nationality.

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KEEPING THE QUEEN

One thing both sides agree on — Queen Elizabeth II will continue to be the Scottish monarch after independence.

Scotland and England shared a monarch for a century before they united politically in 1707, and the queen remains head of state in Canada, Australia and several other former British colonies.

The queen will keep her Balmoral estate in Scotland, the royal family’s traditional summer-vacation destination.

Many other symbols of state are up for grabs. Scotland will likely adopt the Saltire, a blue-and-white flag that already flies alongside the Union Jack over government buildings in Edinburgh.

The red, white and blue British flag combines the emblems of its member regions, including England’s red-and-white Cross of St. George and Scotland’s blue. A redesign of the iconic banner may be in order.

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09/09/2014 (4:48 pm)

Morocco Mojo Building From Moody

Filed under: legal, marketing |

Moroccan bond yields are tumbling to records as an increase in issuance boosts liquidity amid a stable political backdrop, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

The yield on the North African nation

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09/06/2014 (10:56 am)

Severe thunderstorm warning issued for Toronto

Filed under: marketing, mortgage |

Environment Canada has upgraded a severe thunderstorm watch to a warning for Toronto Friday evening.

The national weather agency is advising people to take shelter when a thunderstorm strikes, noting that “damaging wind gusts, large hail and torrential rainfall are all threats”.

Other southern Ontario regions are currently under severe thunderstorm warning, including Haliburton, Halton-Peel, and York-Durham.

Lightning kills up to 10 people a year in Canada, according to Environment Canada statistics.

The severe heat warning for Toronto has ended.

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09/04/2014 (7:04 pm)

U.S. stocks rise on European Central Bank stimulus

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology |

NEW YORK • U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday after the European Central Bank surprised traders by trimming its main interest rate to a record low and announcing that it would purchase asset-backed securities in an effort to stimulate that region’s ailing economy.

The prospect of improving global growth is underpinning demand for stocks in the U.S.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose eight points, to 0.4 percent, to 2,008 in morning trading. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 69 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,149. The Nasdaq composite added 24 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,596.

MORE CUTS: The ECB said it had trimmed its benchmark interest rate to 0.05 percent from a previous record low of 0.15 percent. In a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi also said the bank would also start purchases of private sector financial assets in October. The program aims to make credit cheaper, helping investment and growth at a time when the economy of the 18-country eurozone has stalled.

DOLLAR RISES, EURO SLUMPS: Europe’s single currency, which has been in retreat over the past few weeks on expectations that the ECB may pursue further stimulus measures, fell 1 percent to $1 need a personal loan with bad credit.3008 following the ECB’s announcement. The currency is trading at its lowest level since July 2013.

UKRAINE: Amid the economic developments, geopolitical issues remain. Russia and Ukraine have said they are working on a deal to halt months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, but Western leaders expressed skepticism, noting it wasn’t the first attempt to end the deadly conflict.

BONDS, METALS: U.S. government bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, climbed to 2.43 percent, down from 2.40 percent late Wednesday. In metals trading, rose $2.40, or 0.2 percent, to $1,272.90 an ounce.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 46 cents to $95.08 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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09/03/2014 (3:52 am)

Video purporting to show beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff released online

Filed under: money, news |

BEIRUT— An Internet video purports to show the beheading of U.S. reporter Steven Sotloff by Islamic State group.

The gruesome video comes two weeks after a video was released that shows the execution of American journalist James Foley by the same group.

The latest video also threatens the life of British hostage David Cawthorne Haines.

In the new video, Sotloff says he is “paying the price” for American intervention in Iraq.

Sotloff disappeared while reporting in Syria a year ago.

His mother issued a video plea to Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi, calling for his return.

In his plea, Sotloff chastises American President Barack Obama for his foreign police.

In the video, Sotloff says: “Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for the preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life. Am I not an American citizen?”

“From what little I know about foreign policy, I remember a time you could not win an election without promising to bring our troops back home from Iraq and Afghanistan and to close down Guantanamo. Here you are now, Obama, nearing the end of your term, and having achieving none of the above, and deceivingly marching the American people in the blazing fire.”

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08/30/2014 (10:04 pm)

Three pedestrians

Filed under: business, legal |

It was a dangerous night on Toronto’s roads: Three pedestrians are in critical condition at Sunnybrook Hospital after three separate accidents early Saturday morning.

A man believed to be in his thirties or forties lost his life after he was struck by a van in the St. Clair Ave. W. and Keele St. area.

EMS said the man was found with no vital signs around 5 a.m. He was revived and rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital, but passed away later that morning.

Toronto Police said the driver of the van did not remain at the scene.

A teenager was hit by a car shortly after 1 a.m. in the Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave. W. area. EMS said the young woman, 16, was thrown by the force of the impact and suffered life-threatening head injuries savings account payday advance.

Paramedics rushed the teenager to the hospital where she underwent emergency surgery and remains in critical condition, police said.

Another serious accident occurred earlier in the morning. A man in his sixties was struck by a car in the area of Lawrence Ave. and Warden Ave. E. He was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital with serious injuries, police confirmed.

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08/22/2014 (3:48 pm)

Emerging-Market Shares, Copper Rise as Europe Stocks Slip - Bloomberg

Filed under: economics, stocks |

Emerging-market stocks climbed and European equities pared their biggest weekly advance since February before a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Copper rose for a third day, Italian bonds gained, and corporate bond risk in Europe slid for a second week.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index advanced 0.3 percent at 10:13 a.m. in London. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 0.2 percent, trimming its gain to 2.2 percent this week, while Standard & Poor

08/21/2014 (4:28 am)

U.S. rescue mission in Syria failed earlier this summer

Filed under: USA, loans |

WASHINGTON—Amid global revulsion over the beheading of an American captive in Syria, the White House revealed Wednesday an audacious rescue attempt deep inside enemy territory earlier this summer ended in failure.

“Dozens” of U.S. soldiers shot their way into an undisclosed Syrian location in a Special Forces mission reminiscent of the raid that captured Osama Bin Laden, Pentagon sources confirmed.

But after killing several Islamic State fighters and sustaining one minor injury of their own, the American raiders came away empty-handed because no hostages were present.

White House officials confirmed the rescue attempt but declined to provide additional details, citing “the need to protect our military’s operational capabilities.”

The rescue attempt “should serve as another signal to those who would do us harm that the United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people and will spare no effort to secure the safety our citizens and to hold their captors accountable,” the White House said in a statement attributed to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

The disclosure came as U.K. and U.S. investigators scoured digital clues in an effort to identify the British-accented executioner of American photojournalist James Foley, whose videotaped beheading continued to send shock waves.

The Guardian, citing unnamed sources, reported the killer was known as “John,” the de facto leader of three British jihadists known to Foley and other hostages as “The Beatles” because of their British accents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a holiday, saying he was “deeply shocked” and urged “patience” as Scotland Yard works to unravel the role of possible British passport-holders in the grisly killing in Syria.

Obama interrupted a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to condemn Foley’s murder, saying, “No faith teaches people to massacre innocents.

“ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings,” said Obama. “They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbours and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to an empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behaviour personal loans for bad credit.”

With U.S. air strikes intensifying near the Iraqi city of Mosul — at least 14 more aimed at halting the march of the rampaging Islamic State fighters since the gruesome Foley video emerged online Tuesday — concern deepened for a second U.S. hostage, Time magazine freelancer Steven Sotloff.

Obama made no mention of Sotloff, who was shown in the same video as Foley as next in line for execution if the U.S. does not halt air strikes.

Foley’s bereaved parents, meanwhile, braved a media throng outside their home in Rochester, N.H., to praise their son as “the best of America” and to plead for mercy on behalf of Sotloff and other hostages.

John Foley said his son was “courageous to the end.” But in speaking earlier Wednesday with Obama, the elder Foley said he urged the president to “do whatever he could possibly do” to save the lives of Sotloff and others.

The family had held out hope for a breakthrough in the latter part of their son’s 444 days in captivity and was considering a fundraising drive to buy his freedom. But a week before his murder, hope faded with the arrival of an email from Islamic State intermediaries announcing the intention to kill their son.

Foley’s execution also is shining rare light on the murky world of kidnap negotiations and the mismatched ransom policies that see American hostages perish while others, including four French and two Spanish journalists released by Islamic State extremists in April, go free in exchange for large sums of cash.

David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist who managed to escape his Taliban captors without any exchange of money, called Wednesday for an end to secrecy over ransom payments.

“The payment of ransoms and abduction of foreigners must emerge from the shadows,” wrote Rodhe. “It must be publicly debated. American and European policymakers should be forced to answer for their actions.”

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08/19/2014 (1:28 pm)

Patient advocates say insurers avoiding the sick

Filed under: stocks, technology |

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ending insurance discrimination against the sick was a central goal of the nation’s health care overhaul, but leading patient groups say that promise is being undermined by new barriers from insurers.

The insurance industry responds that critics are confusing legitimate cost-control with bias. Some state regulators, however, say there’s reason to be concerned about policies that shift costs to patients and narrow their choices of hospitals and doctors.

With open enrollment for 2015 three months away, the Obama administration is being pressed to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions. Some regulations have been issued; others are pending after more than four years.

More than 300 patient advocacy groups recently wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to complain about some insurer tactics that “are highly discriminatory against patients with chronic health conditions and may … violate the (law’s) nondiscrimination provisions.”

Among the groups were the AIDS Institute, the American Lung Association, Easter Seals, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Kidney Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. All supported the law.

Coverage of expensive drugs tops their concerns.

The advocates also say they are disappointed by how difficult it’s proved for consumers to get a full picture of plans sold on the new insurance exchanges. Digging is often required to learn crucial details such as drugs covered, exact copayments and which doctors and hospitals are in the network.

Washington state’s insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler, said “there is no question” that discrimination is creeping back. “The question is whether we are catching it or not,” added Kreidler, a Democrat.

Kansas’ commissioner, Sandy Praeger, a Republican, said the jury is out on whether some insurers are back to shunning the sick. Nonetheless, Praeger said the administration needs to take a strong stand.

“They ought to make it very clear that if there is any kind of discrimination against people with chronic conditions, there will be enforcement action,” Praeger said. “The whole goal here was to use the private insurance market to create a system that provides health insurance for all Americans.”

The Obama administration turned down interview requests.

An HHS spokeswoman said the department is preparing a formal response to the advocates and stressed that today’s level of consumer protection is far superior to what existed before President Barack Obama’s law, when an insurance company could use any existing medical condition to deny coverage.

The law also takes away some of the motivation insurers have for chasing healthy patients. Those attracting a healthy population must pay into a pool that will reimburse plans with a higher share of patients with health problems. But that backstop is under attack from congressional Republicans as an insurer “bailout.”

Compounding the uncertainty is that Washington and the states now share responsibility for policing health plans sold to individuals.

Although the federal government is running insurance markets in 36 states, state regulators are still in charge of consumer protection. A few states refuse to enforce any aspect of the law.

Kreidler said the federal government should establish a basic level of protection that states can build on. “We’re kind of piecemealing it right now,” he said.

Much of the concern is about coverage for prescription drugs. Also worrisome are the narrow networks of hospitals and doctors that insurers are using to keep premiums down. Healthy people generally shop for lower premiums, while people with health problems look for access to specialists and the best hospitals.

Before Obama’s overhaul, insurance plans sold on the individual market could exclude prescription coverage. Now the debate is over what’s fair to charge patients.

Some plans are requiring patients to pay 30 percent or more for drugs that go for several thousand dollars a month. HIV drugs, certain cancer medications, and multiple sclerosis drugs are among them.

Although the law sets an overall annual limit on what patients are required to pay, the initial medication cost can be a shock.

California resident Charis Hill has ankylosing spondylitis, a painful, progressive form of spinal arthritis. To manage it, she relies on an expensive medication called Enbrel. When she tried to fill her prescription the pharmacy wanted $2,000, more than she could afford.

“Insurance companies are basically singling out certain conditions by placing some medications on high-cost tiers,” said Hill. That “is pretty blatant discrimination in my mind.”

Hill, a biking advocate from the Sacramento area, has been able to get her medication through the manufacturer’s patient assistance program.

The insurance industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans says there’s no discrimination because patients have many options on the insurance exchanges. Gold and platinum plans feature lower cost-sharing, but have higher premiums. Standard silver plans generally require patients to pay a greater share of medical bills, but some have fairly robust drug coverage.

“There are plans on the exchanges that are right for people who have these health conditions,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the group.

For 2015, the administration says it will identify plans that require unusually high patient cost-sharing in states where Washington is running the exchange. Insurers may get an opportunity to make changes. Regulators will collect and analyze data on insurers’ networks.

“People who have high cost health conditions are still having a problem accessing care,” said law professor Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee University in Virginia. “We are in the early stages of trying to figure out what the problems are, and to what extent they are based on insurance company discrimination, or inherent in the structure of the program.”

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AP Business Writer Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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08/17/2014 (6:56 pm)

German man with record piercings denied entry to Dubai

Filed under: management, money |

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—A heavily tattooed German man whose face is embellished with horn implants and more than 100 piercings said Sunday he was refused entry to Dubai without reason, forcing him to skip a planned appearance at a nightclub.

His look may have been a step too far for the Gulf’s most liberal city, where a carefully cultivated reputation for tolerance and cutting-edge cosmopolitanism occasionally clashes with the region’s conservative Islamic values.

Rolf Buchholz, 55, was travelling to the Middle Eastern commercial hub for the first time last week to appear at a circus-themed venue that woos partygoers with over-the-top attractions such as sword swallowers and burlesque dancers.

He told The Associated Press that immigration agents initially stamped his passport and let him through, but that he was stopped again before he was able to exit customs. He soon found himself in a room with other deportees.

The club said in an emailed statement that airport authorities cited “security reasons” in denying him entry. Buchholz said airport workers told him officials were concerned he could be a practitioner of black magic, though authorities did not say so directly.

At the end I got an answer why I can’t enter Dubai: The Immigration thought I am Black Magic. Stupid people.

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