Sep 26, 2009

IMF raises 2010 global growth forecast to 3%

Pakistani stockbrokers watch the latest share prices on a monitor at the Karachi Stock Exchange, September 24. The International Monetary Fund foresees a stronger than anticipated recovery from the economic crisis, with global growth approaching three percent in 2010, world leaders have said.

The International Monetary Fund foresees a stronger than anticipated recovery from the economic crisis, with global growth approaching three percent in 2010, world leaders said.

The IMF had estimated in July a global contraction of 1.4 percent in 2009, followed by sluggish growth of 2.5 percent in 2010, but was more upbeat as Group of 20 leaders met in the US city of Pittsburgh.

"The IMF estimates that world growth will resume this year and rise by nearly 3.0 percent by the end of 2010," the Group of 20 developed and emerging economies said in a final statement to conclude a two-day summit.

Leaders of 19 rich and emerging nations plus the European Union pledged they would work together to help the world economy reach robust growth. Points: Key G20 agreements

"Our objective is to return the world to high, sustainable, and balanced growth, while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility and sustainability," the group said.

"We commit to put in place the necessary policy measures to achieve these outcomes."

Asia-led growth has lifted the world out of the doldrums and France, Germany and Japan have all now officially climbed out of recession with the United States, the world's biggest economy, expected to follow later this year.

But G20 leaders were still cautious and agreed not to roll back massive stimulus measures that helped them contain a severe global recession following last year's financial meltdown.

"We will avoid any premature withdrawal of stimulus," the leaders' statement said after a summit that endorsed a shift in voting rights at the IMF to give emerging nations, such as India and China, a greater voice.

"At the same time, we will prepare our exit strategies and, when the time is right, withdraw our extraordinary policy support in a cooperative and coordinated way, maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility," it said.

China, which fears US deficits will destabilize the dollar, has been cheering on those calling for cuts in Washington's massive stimulus measures that have been propping up key sectors of the global economy.

G20 leaders announced Friday a grand overhaul of economic governance centered on giving the IMF a greater monitoring role and addressing imbalances in global trade and budgets that are blamed for fueling the crisis.

"We agreed to launch a framework that lays out the policies and the way we act together to generate strong, sustainable and balanced global growth," the joint Pittsburgh G20 statement said.

Change in Subscription Accounting Rules to Benefit Apple, iPhone Profit Statements

The Financial Accounting Standards Board has approved a change in the way revenue can be recognized from products sold under the subscription accounting model, like Apple’s iPhone.

Apple uses a subscription accounting model for the iPhone (and Apple TV) to justify — under their interpretation of Sarbanes Oxley — adding new features for 2 year after the sale of the device proper. So, if they get $600 for an iPhone from AT&T, rather than putting that on the books immediately and in full, they spread it out over 24 months, recognizing a portion of the revenue each month. This also means that their earnings look smaller in the actual quarter of sale, which has led them to release two sets of numbers in recent quarters, GAAP and non-GAAP (generally accepted accounting practices).

Now, however, Apple and others, like Palm, will be able to book a large portion of that revenue up-front, in the actual quarter of sale, allowing a closer representation of actual earnings numbers.

iPod touch, of course, is not currently accounted for using the subscription method, which is why Apple believes they much charge a nominal fee for major OS updates. Whether or not that will change given the new rules is uncertain (though we hold to hope!)

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Crawford says Time Warner will sell magazine unit

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc will eventually sell the Time Inc magazine unit and could buy holdings in its core entertainment category, Gordon Crawford, managing director of its largest shareholder, said during a presentation this week.

"Time Warner just spun off their cable division, they are going to sell their print division, they are going to spin off AOL and they're just going to be Warner Brothers, HBO and the Turner Networks," said Crawford, managing director of The Capital Group.

"Now, they will make acquisitions ... but they're probably going to buy just stuff in their wheel house of those businesses. They're not going to, I don't think, go very far afield from their core competency."

Crawford made the comments during a September 24 discussion at University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication entitled "The Art of the Long View: The Media Company of 2020."

Time Warner declined to comment on Saturday.

Time Inc's magazines include popular titles such as People and Sports Illustrated. In the second quarter, revenue at Time Inc publishing, the largest U.S. magazine publisher, fell 22 percent to $915 million due to a 26 percent decline in advertising revenue.

While Crawford did not name specific acquisition targets, he did say there would be a "winnowing process" during which weaker companies in the sector would be gobbled up.

Capital Research Global Investors held 98.6 million shares of Time Warner, or 8.32 percent of the company's total shares outstanding, as of June 30.

The presentation, which was available online, was discussed in a BusinessWeek blog posted on Friday.

No injuries, evacuations from refinery fire in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles fire officials say they've choked off a fire burning at a Wilmington refinery, but nearby schools are being urged to keep students indoors until the smoke clears.

The fire at the 300-acre Tesoro refinery south of downtown was reported shortly after 5 a.m. and was confined to a coker unit. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A refinery spokeswoman says the fire will have minimal effect on operations.

The fire sent a huge plume of black smoke hundreds of feet into the air. Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda says fuel oil to the burning machinery was shut down and more than 100 firefighters helped extinguish the blaze in less than four hours. There were no injuries.

Officials say people within a mile have been asked to stay indoors as a precaution.

A Fifth UBS Client Pleads Guilty in Tax Case

Enter the dates in mm/dd/yyyy format.

A New Jersey businessman became the fifth UBS AG client since April to agree to plead guilty to concealing money from U.S. tax and finance authorities by using offshore accounts and companies.

In a federal court appearance Friday, Juergen Homann admitted to concealing more than $5 million in accounts at Swiss banks, including UBS. The Saddle River, N.J., man, who will be sentenced in January, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

In addition to a maximum fine of $250,000, Mr. Homann agreed to pay a civil penalty of 50% of the highest balance in the account, which comes to about $3 million. The penalty is for failing to file a Foreign Bank Account Report form notifying the IRS of the account's existence. U.S. taxpayers with offshore accounts are required to file the form every year.

Neither Mr. Homann nor his lawyer were available for comment.

The plea agreement stated that "Juergen Homann has clearly demonstrated a recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for the offense charged."

The efforts Mr. Homann undertook to conceal assets mirror those of other UBS clients who have agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. investigation of accounts held at Swiss banks. So far, two businessmen from Florida, one from New York, and one from California have agreed to plead guilty.

Hong Kong has featured as a key link to the UBS investigation. At least three UBS clients, including Mr. Homann, used enterprises set up in Hong Kong as conduits for assets or loans.

Another link to other cases: Mr. Homann was advised by Matthias Rickenbach, a Swiss lawyer who also advised businessmen who have agreed to plead guilty in the UBS inquiry. Last month, Mr. Rickenbach was indicted for conspiring to defraud the U.S.

According to a Justice Department statement Friday, Mr. Rickenbach and an unnamed Swiss banker helped Mr. Homann with the use of two Hong Kong enterprises that were featured in the scheme. Mr. Homann, for example, held millions of dollars in a Hong Kong entity called ELM Finance Ltd. that had a UBS account. In 2005, Mr. Homann moved $5 million from the ELM account to a second Hong Kong entity. The goal, the Justice Department said, was to obtain financing for Mr. Homann's U.S. business without tipping off U.S. authorities to the assets held in the ELM account.

U.S. steps up prosecution of tax evaders

By Kim Dixon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. government is stepping up prosecutions of wealthy individuals dodging taxes through off-shore accounts, with new cases expected to be made public "every couple of weeks," a top government attorney said on Saturday.

U.S. officials have been sifting through about 250 client names obtained through a February settlement of a criminal probe against Swiss banking giant UBS AG , alleging the bank illegally helped U.S. taxpayers hide funds offshore.

That effort, along with an amnesty program encouraging tax evaders to turn themselves in, is speeding prosecutions, one of the top U.S. lawyers working on the cases at the U.S. Justice Department said."You can expect a few every couple of weeks," Kevin Downing, a senior attorney in the tax division of the Department of Justice told an American Bar Association tax conference.

On the sidelines of the conference, Downing also told Reuters that U.S. banks that helped U.S. clients hide money off-shore are a target.

"The folks in the United States that we get information on on are obviously the easiest ones for us to pursue," he said.

"So anybody in the U.S. ... the U.S. banks helping U.S. clients set these offshore accounts up, we are doing the same thing," in going after them, he said.

In August, UBS AG agreed to disclose the names of 4,450 American holders of secret accounts at the bank, ending a related lawsuit that has begun to show cracks in Switzerland's prized banking secrecy.

"The UBS case has been a great success for the government," Downing said. "It is not an anomaly. It is the beginning of what is now a resource-intensive," process of going after other banks and countries.

The government has secured six guilty pleas so far in its effort, including one on Friday, where a New Jersey man pleaded guilty for failing to report about $6.1 million he had held in a UBS AG Swiss bank account.

On a parallel track to the UBS case, the government last Monday extended a temporary amnesty program by three weeks to October 15, to encourage wealthy Americans with undeclared assets abroad to come forward.

Those taking part in the amnesty program pay reduced penalties and generally avoid criminal prosecution.

Downing also said the government has "made a lot of headway" in dealing with foreign banks, Downing said. "Let your clients know if they think it's just UBS they are mistaken," he told the group of tax lawyers.

Stock futures steady ahead of jobs, housing data

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK -- Stock futures are little changed as investors wait for more clues on how the economy is faring.

The quiet trading Thursday follows declines in markets overseas that came after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and said the pace of economic activity has improved.

The Fed's latest assessment, while slightly more upbeat, did not come as a surprise, and a brief rally in U.S. stocks that followed the statement Wednesday quickly faded.

Investors are looking toward impending reports on jobs and housing. Investors will also be keeping an eye on the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 1 at 9,718. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures are up 0.60 at 1,059, while Nasdaq 100 index futures are up 2 at 1,728.

G20 to police new world economic order

The Group of 20 rich and developing countries is to take on a new role as caretaker of the global economy, giving rising stars such as China and India more say in world affairs. The move means the G20 supplants the G7 and G8 - institutions dominated by rich Western economies, which will now remain forums for discussing geopolitical issues, diplomats said.

In another boost for countries such as China, the G20 unexpectedly reached a deal on reshaping the International Monetary Fund to shift more voting power to some developing countries. The deal recognized their growing economic clout and the vital role they must play in helping the world economy climb out of the the worst recession in generations.

Currently, China wields 3.7pc of IMF votes compared with France's 4.9pc, although the Chinese economy is now 50pc larger than that of France.

G20 leaders pledged in a draft statement to keep some stimulus supports in place until a recovery is clearer.

They also agreed to rein in financial industry excesses that led to the credit crisis, which first erupted in 2007, and to work together to tighten rules on how much capital banks must keep on hand to absorb losses.

The final version of the communique will be issued when the leaders wind up their meeting on Friday evening.

Man charged with conspiracy in US terrorism investigation

Najibullah Zazi targeted New York City subway system for attack, according to investigators
A young Afghan immigrant, Najibullah Zazi, has been charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in what investigators suspect was a plot to bomb New York's transport system.

According to the indictment against Zazi issued today, the 24-year-old airport bus driver spent the past year plotting the attacks but in the past fortnight began "urgently" looking for help to manufacture explosives and had recently bought bomb-making supplies from beauty stores. He is also alleged to have obtained instructions on how to make explosives and made notes on them that included the specifications for the bombs used in the 2005 attacks on the London Underground and the attempt by the alleged "shoe bomber", Richard Reid, to blow up a transatlantic flight.

Zazi, who had lived in the US for 10 years, has denied the accusations. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

According to court papers, Zazi "and others" travelled to Pakistan a year ago.

"Zazi received detailed bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and travelled to New York on 10 September 2009 in furtherance of his criminal plans," court papers say.

On returning from Pakistan earlier this year, Zazi moved to Colorado where he is alleged to have rented a hotel suite this month and used the kitchen to attempt to mix explosives. FBI tests found residue of bomb-making ingredients in the vent above the stove but searches of several properties have not turned up any explosives.

Zazi and unnamed associates are alleged to have bought unusually large amounts of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products from beauty supply stores around Denver over several weeks. The papers also say that Zazi searched the internet for home improvement stores in Queens, a New York borough, and then looked to see if the store stocked another explosive component, muriatic acid.

Shortly afterwards, Zazi rented a car and drove to the city. Bomb-making notes were also found on the accused man's laptop in the car, according to the court document, including information about heating bomb components to make them highly concentrated. The court papers say that on 6 and 7 September, Zazi attempted to communicate with another person "seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives".

"Each communication," the papers say, was "more urgent than the last."

The court papers do not specify the targets Zazi is alleged to have planned to attack but the US press has reported FBI agents as saying they believe that the New York subway train system was a likely target. They say the discovery of backpacks and mobile phones suggest that Zazi was planning an attack similar to the bombings of the London Underground and trains in Madrid.

Zazi was originally arrested in Denver with his father, Mohammed, 53, and a New York City imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, on charges of lying to federal anti-terrorism investigators about bomb-making literature.

The New York Times reported today that investigators were forced to move against Zazi earlier than they had wished after a second anti-terrorist force indirectly tipped him off that he was being monitored by approaching the imam for assistance.

The arrests were followed by warnings of possible attacks on transit, sports and entertainment complexes.

In a memorandum prosecutors filed in court seeking to deny Zazi bail they say that he was intent to the last on carrying out an attack.

"The evidence at trial will show that Zazi remained committed to detonating an explosive device up until the date of his arrest," the prosecutors say.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, said today that "any imminent threat" from the plot has "been disrupted".

"We are investigating a wide range of leads related to this alleged conspiracy, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure that anyone involved is brought to justice," Holder said.

"We believe any imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted, but as always, we remind the American public to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement."

Obama Says 'Iran on Notice' in Nuclear Standoff

President Barack Obama says Iran is on notice following the disclosure of an underground plant to make nuclear fuel that could be used to build an atomic bomb.
President Obama said the international community has put Iran on notice with its response to the revelation that the Islamic regime has been secretly building a nuclear facility.

"You had an unprecedented show of unity on the part of the world community saying that Iran's actions raised grave doubts in terms of their presentation that their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes," Obama told reporters in Pittsburgh at a G-20 summit.

"So I think that Iran is on notice that when we meet with them on Oct. 1, they're going to have to come clean," Obama said, adding that Iran can choose to give up what the U.S. says is the desire for nuclear weapons and abide by international standards, or it can continue down a path toward confrontation.

The president would not rule out military options. But he added his preferred course of action is to resolve the standoff diplomatically.

Earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Obama, along with the leaders of Britain and France, will "regret" accusing Tehran of hiding a nuclear facility.

"It's not a secret site," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference in New York. "If it was, why would we have informed the IAEA about it a year ahead of time. "They will regret this announcement."

Ahmadinejad said the new facility won't be operational for 18 months, so Iran did not violate any requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency by not revealing its construction before this week.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, however, has rejected Iran's contention it must notify the agency of new facilities only six months before operations. The agency says Iran is obliged to make such a notification when it begins design of such facilities.

The Iranians said in March 2007 they were "suspending" the modification to their IAEA safeguards agreement requiring that early notification. But the IAEA countered that a government cannot unilaterally abandon such an agreement.

Obama earlier in the day demanded that Iran immediately allow international weapons monitors to inspect the nuclear facility the Islamic Republic now acknowledges it has been building for years.

Obama, joined by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the opening of the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, warned Iran that it will be "held accountable" to an impatient world community if it does not fully disclose its nuclear ambitions.

"Iran has the right for peaceful power, but the size of the facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program," Obama said. "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow, endangering the world non-nuclear proliferation regime ... and the security of the world."

Obama's demand was echoed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who called on Iran to "demonstrate readiness for full-scale cooperation" with inspectors.

Sarkozy said Iran has until December to comply or face sanctions. "This is for peace and stability," the French leader said. Brown accused Iran of "serial deception."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called for an immediate probe of the site by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Before the public condemnation, Ahmadinejad warned Obama to back off.

"If I were Obama's adviser, I would definitely advise him to refrain making this statement because it is definitely a mistake," Ahmadinejad told TIME magazine in an interview about an hour before Obama spoke.

Ahmadinejad told the magazine that Iran was not keeping anything from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We have no secrecy, we work within the framework of the IAEA," he said.

Click here to read the TIME article.

Iran revealed the existence of its covert uranium enrichment facility to the IAEA this week after it discovered the project's secrecy had been breached by Western intelligence agencies.

An official told FOX News that Iran revealed the existence of the second plant in a letter sent Monday to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

Iran is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment at what had been its single known enrichment plant, which is being monitored by the IAEA.

A senior administration official told FOX News that the U.S. has been tracking the secret project for years.

U.S. intelligence believes that the secret Iranian nuclear facility is in an underground tunnel complex on a military base controlled by the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The details were included in a document that Obama administration sent to U.S. lawmakers. Excerpts were provided to The Association Press by an official on condition of anonymity because the document, though unclassified, was confidential.

The document says the facility is "too small to be viable for the production of fuel for a nuclear power reactor, but may be well suited for a military purpose."

The location at the military base would also undermine Iran's claim that the program is for civilian purposes.

Iran's letter to the IAEA contained no details about the location of the second facility, when -- or if -- it had started operations, or the type and number of centrifuges it was running.

"They [Iran] have cheated three times, and they have now been caught three times," an unnamed official with access to the intelligence told The New York Times.

But one of the officials, who had access to a review of Western intelligence on the issue, said it was about 100 miles southwest of Tehran and was the site of 3,000 centrifuges that could be operational by next year.

Iranian officials had previously acknowledged having only one plant, which the IAEA has been monitoring, and had denied allegations of undeclared nuclear activities.

The last IAEA report on Iran in August said Iran had set up more than 8,000 centrifuges to churn out enriched uranium at the cavernous underground Natanz facility, although the report said that only about 4,600 of those were fully active.

The Islamic Republic insists that it has the right to generate fuel for what it says will be a nationwide chain of nuclear reactors. But because uranium enrichment can make both fuel and weapons-grade uranium, the international community fears Tehran will use the technology to generate the fissile material used on the tip of nuclear warheads.

The revelation of a secret plant further hinders the chances of progress in scheduled Oct. 1 talks between Iran and six world powers.

At that meeting -- the first in more than a year -- the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany plan to press Iran to scale back on its enrichment activities. Tehran has declared that it will not bargain on enrichment.

While Iran's mainstay P-1 centrifuge is a decades-old model based on Chinese technology, it has begun experimenting with state-of-the art prototypes that enrich uranium more quickly and efficiently.

U.N. officials familiar with the IAEA's attempts to monitor and probe Iran's nuclear activities have previously told the AP that they suspected Iran might be running undeclared enrichment plants.

The existence of a secret Iranian enrichment program built on black-market technology was revealed seven years ago. Since then, the country has continued to expand the program with only a few interruptions as it works toward its aspirations of a 50,000-centrifuge enrichment facility at the southern city of Natanz.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Gold Stabilises Following Thursday’s Sharp Fall

The Comex Gold futures have began to stabilise and regain some strength after traded as low as $992 per ounce this morning. Gold investors have been digesting Thursday’s events which saw a volatile gold market fall more than $20 within the space of an hour.

Gold future reached $1,021 on Thursday morning in London, before a slew of economic data and comment sent equity and gold markets scrambling late in the afternoon. The US Dollar Index gained 1% and gold fell $20 to trade below $1,000.

Comments from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank prompted a period of volatility in the forex markets, which saw sterling come under pressure and the dollar experienced a relatively broad based rebound.
Among other factors, US Initial Jobless data supported the US Dollar, as claims were reduced exceeding analyst expectations who expected a slight increase in claimants.

The most immediate evaluation of any market volatility usually prompts debate among analysts and investors alike. For Gold investors the key details arguably surround the Federal Reserves apparent confidence in the Dollar, with Timothy Geithner stating that ‘the US backs a strong dollar to ensure it stays the world’s reserve currency’.
On Thursday, the Fed stated that it would reduce the size of its Troubled Asset Fund (TAF) following signs that the economic recovery was beginning to take hold. In its comments the Fed also reiterated that it “remains prepared to expand” liquidity if needed.

The implied message taken by some economists was that the tone of Fed’s comments indicates that inflation may not become the significant issue that many have feared.

Similarly comment from today’s G20 meeting is expected to emphasise the view that now that financial markets have stabilised. And going forward global leaders and regulators will tighten capital requirements.
Other commentators merely viewed yesterday’s events as a natural trading led correction rather than a fundamental shift in economic perspective.

Some reports suggest that the intraday spike in the Dollar triggered profit taking among bullish gold investors. Many of whom had been sitting on substantial gains following gold rise over the recent weeks and months.
Subsequently some analysts indentified that automated ‘stoploss’ orders may have been activated to add further pressure the declines through electronic trading.

Analyst views are mixed ahead of another day in which the debate will be lead by global finance ministers and central bankers, as the world focuses on the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Discerning investors will remain poised as market reaction unfolds further.

Gold Equities in London were generally flat this morning as investors asses their options following yesterdays steep declines.

Major international gold producer Randgold Resources (LSE: RRS) and the newly renamed mid-tier precious metal operator Petropavlovsk Plc (LSE: POG) were both unchanged on the day, while Canada based Yamana Gold (LSE: YAU) slipped 1%.

In London’s AIM market several junior gold equities made positive starts to the session although generally the trend was neutral across the sector.

Pan African Resources (AIM: PAF) lead the sector rising almost 10%, fellow African based junior GoldPlat (AIM: GDP) was also relatively strong on the AIM market today, rising over 5%.

Frontier Mining (AIM: FML) and Mariana Resources (AIM: MARL) both gained 2%.

Fiji focused gold producer Vatukoula Gold Mines (AIM: VGM) rose 1% today as it reported higher than expected gold production in the fourth quarter.

A few other gold stocks fared less well today. This morning, Western Australia operating miner Norseman Gold (AIM: NGL; ASX: NGX) maintained its full year production guidance and announced a positive pre-feasibility study of the ‘OK Decline’ project. However the stock eased 4 pence because first-quarter production was below the company forecast.

Uzbekistan focused gold miner Oxus Gold (AIM: OXS) dropped 4% this morning, while Philippines focused Medusa Mining (AIM & ASX: MML) traded lower, losing 4p per share.

Elsewhere gold equities continue to trade sideways, pending further developments.

Review: Surrogates Returns Bruce Willis to Smart-Guy Sci-Fi

Review in a Hurry: If you're thinking that Bruce Willis + guns + robots + based on comic book = big action movie, you may be disappointed. What we have here is more like T3 director Jonathan Mostow's most outlandish, rejected Terminator sequel concepts, superimposed onto a Fahrenheit 451-style cautionary sci-fi satire (same screenwriters as T3, too). And it's fun for what it is.

The Bigger Picture: Willis still takes a beating better than any action star in the business. But there are really only two significant action sequences in what's otherwise a murder mystery set in a future world. Oh, and pretty much everyone now owns a surrogate robot body—usually a blandly prettier version of themselves—through which they can live vicariously, feeling everything good that the surrogate experiences, but insulated from any damage it might sustain.

Those who don't choose to live this way are confined to a ghetto and dubbed "dreads," possibly because they are led by a dreadlocked leader named The Prophet (Ving Rhames) whose optimism for change is portrayed in some eerily familiar iconic posters.

Against this backdrop, society gets shaken up when a couple of dead bodies appear, who seem to have died at the exact moment their surrogates were killed—a Nightmare on Sim Street, if you will. Willis is on the case, in CG-face-lifted, artificially bewigged form (he wouldn't look out of place in Robert Zemeckis' animated Beowulf).

Though the movie appears, at first glance, to be using the same modern-futuristic, all-digital-displays template of I, Robot; Minority Report; and The Sixth Day (from which it also borrows a distinctive face clamp), the strongest aspect of Surrogates is how much more well-thought-out the world of the movie is than usual. From the Japanese electronics store that sells cut-rate models to the addictive, bong-shaped devices that deliver orgasmic charges when applied to surrogate bodies.

One gets the sense that there are plenty of other interesting stories going on, apart from the one we're watching.

Perhaps most subversive, though, is the way the film tries to push home the point that wrinkles are sexy. The perfected bodies of the surrogates become slightly unsettling after a while, even as Willis, James Cromwell and (in some scenes) a relatively makeup-free Radha Mitchell are shot to make every line in their faces look like a work of art. Not exactly what you're used to from Hollywood. And when surrogate flesh is peeled back to reveal grinning robot skulls, well, it's only mildly less subtle than the face-stretching in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Fans of actual sci-fi literature will probably enjoy this more than fans of slam-bang action. But at less than 90 minutes, it's not long enough to bore the haters too badly.

The 180—a Second Opinion: "Technology is bad and scary" is really an overly obvious moral at this point. And if everyone uses surrogates all the time for just about everything, wouldn't most of the users get morbidly obese and die young, as the recent Gamer implied?

Actor Randy Quaid freed on bail

Actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi have been freed on bail after being arrested for allegedly failing to pay a hotel bill of more than $10,000 (£6,245).

The couple are accused of using a credit card they knew to be invalid at a hotel in Santa Barbara, California.

They were arrested in Marfa, Texas on Thursday following the issue of a warrant in California.

While in custody, a local sheriff drove 58-year-old Quaid to a bank so he could withdraw the bail money.

"I like to help everybody out," said Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez. "It's a small town."

The Brokeback Mountain star remained in his custody during the trip but was not handcuffed. The sheriff said the actor received no special treatment.

The Quaids face charges of burglary, defrauding an innkeeper and conspiracy in June, according to the arrest warrant.

Josh Lynn, the chief trial deputy for the Santa Barbara District Attorney's office, told the Associated Press news agency that prosecutors were waiting to learn what court date would be assigned to the Quaids by Texas authorities.

"To the extent that they've tried to complete any restitution payment to the business in question, I'm sure that will help to resolve the case," Mr Lynn said.

He did not provide any further details.

Quaid, the elder brother of fellow actor Dennis, is best known for his roles in National Lampoon's Vacation, Independence Day and The Last Detail.

He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson in 1980s TV movie LBJ: The Early Years.

Record-breaking baby

A three-day-old baby boy weighing 8.7 kilograms (left) lies next to an average size newborn baby at a hospital in Kisaran, North Sumatra, on Thursday. A woman gave birth to the 62-centimeter-long unnamed baby boy by Caesarean section on Sept. 21. He is the heaviest newborn ever recorded in the country, a doctor said. AP/Andi Anshari

Massive police presence in Pittsburgh takes fight out of protesters Read more:

Police in riot gear lined the streets of the Group of 20 host city in an overwhelming show of force Friday as thousands of protesters chanted, waved signs and blew bubbles.

Unlike Thursday, when police tossed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to rout protesters who threw rocks and smashed store windows, Friday's "People's March" through the hilly streets of Pittsburgh produced no serious clashes.

The presence of hundreds of police sparked outrage among the demonstrators, who never got closer than half a mile to the G20 meeting site.

"We don't need the United Police States of America," said Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar advocate who famously protested outside former President George W. Bush's ranch in Texas. "I was telling the cops, 'You're facing the wrong way. Face the banks.'"

The patchwork group of demonstrators voiced their opinions on a myriad of issues, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to workers' rights to the national debate on health care.

They chanted, "We all live in a fascist bully state" to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."

On Thursday, when demonstrators hit the streets without a permit, sparks flew. About 70 people were arrested and a slew of businesses were damaged.

Mike Nance, 28, a graduate student from Philadelphia, said he had no problem with so-called anarchists vandalizing businesses.

"I don't think property violence is particularly immoral," he said.

Read more:

Water On Moon: NASA Hails ISRO

In a landmark discovery, scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the moon, courtesy ISRO and India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I, NASA said today.

Instruments aboard three separate spacecrafts, one of them the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a NASA instrument onboard Chandrayaan-I revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small, it added.

"Water ice on the moon has been something of a holy grail for lunar scientists for a very long time," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"This surprising finding has come about through the ingenuity, perseverance and international cooperation between NASA and the India Space Research Organisation," he said.

From its perch in lunar orbit, NASA said M3's state-of-the-art spectrometer measured light reflecting off the moon's surface at infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colours of the lunar surface into small enough bits to reveal a new level of detail in surface composition.

When the M3 science team analysed data from the instrument, they found the wavelengths of light being absorbed were consistent with the absorption patterns for water molecules and hydroxyl.

"For silicate bodies, such features are typically attributed to water and hydroxyl-bearing materials," Carle Pieters, M3's principal investigator from Brown University said.

She added that by 'water on the moon,' they did not mean lakes, oceans or even puddles. Water on the moon means molecules of water and hydroxyl that interact with molecules of rock and dust specifically in the top millimetres of the moon's surface.

NASA said the M3 team found water molecules and hydroxyl at diverse areas of the sunlit region of the moon's surface, but the water signature appeared stronger at the moon's higher latitudes.

Data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS, on NASA's Cassini spacecraft and the High-Resolution Infrared Imaging Spectrometer on NASA's EPOXI spacecraft contributed to confirmation of the finding.

"The data from Cassini's VIMS instrument and M3 closely agree," said Roger Clark, a US Geological Survey scientist in Denver and member of both the VIMS and M3 teams.

"We see both water and hydroxyl. While the abundances are not precisely known, as much as 1,000 water molecule parts-per-million could be in the lunar soil. To put that into perspective, if you harvested one ton of the top layer of the moon's surface, you could get as much as 32 ounces of water," Clark said.

For more, see NASA

Gunshots disrupt Gaza funeral

Five people have been injured after shots were fired at a funeral in Gaza City for two of three Palestinians killed in an Israeli air raid, Palestinian medical sources have said.

The gunshots rang out from across the border with Israel, Palestinian sources told Al Jazeera, as thousands of Palestinians turned out in the streets for the funeral on Saturday.

Israel has yet to confirm whether gunfire came from their side of the border, but has said that it is looking into the incident.

"The funeral procession was taking place very close to the border with Israel, [near] the Nahal Ouz crossing - obviously that border that splits Gaza from Israel is very heavily guarded by Israeli forces," Sherine Tadross, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, reported.

"During the procession, mourners started firing shots up into the air - as is tradition to show their defiance, their protest and anger.

"Israeli forces on the border saw that as an act of aggression and started firing," she said.

Weapons fired

The incident is also the first time guns have been fired during a protest since the end of Israel's offensive on Gaza at in January that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians.
The brandishing of weapons in Gaza City was a rare show of force by the Islamic Jihad movement, and came despite strict rules against the public display of weapons enforced by Hamas.

The group banned the bearing of weapons in public after it seized power in Gaza in June 2007.

"We call on all Palestinian resistance factions to resume martyrdom operations inside the Zionist entity," one protest leader at the funeral yelled through a megaphone, referring to suicide bombings.

The funeral was for fighters from Islamic Jihad, killed on Friday evening by Israeli aircraft in a strike that severely wounded three other people.

Israeli air raid

The three men killed in the Israeli air raid were travelling in a car when it was struck by a missile, Moaiya Hassanain, an official at the Gaza health ministry, said.

The Israeli military said the Palestinian militants were hit from the air as they unloaded rockets from their vehicle.

An Israeli military spokesman said the army had "targeted three terrorists in the Gaza Strip on their way to launch rockets at Israel".

Islamic Jihad issued a statement blaming Israel for what it said was a "cowardly crime" and calling on all Palestinian armed groups to confront it.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, condemned the violence.

"These crimes are the result of a Zionist attitude based on killing, violence and destruction, especially in the absence of a strong Arab and international position, which ought to protect the interests of the Palestinian people," he said.

Earlier in the day a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel without wounding anyone, according to the Israeli military.

Canada to host 'transition' summit in 2010

Harper announces Canada will play host to what amounts to two back-to-back summits next year, marking shift from wealthy nations club to broader group of major developing power
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada will host a transition summit next year – technically two summits back to back – that will mark the shift of power from a club of wealthy nations to the major developing powers like China, India, and Brazil.

Canada will still host a G8 summit in Muskoka next June, but a broader club, the Group of 20, is now officially superseding it as the world's major economic forum, so a G20 summit will tacked alongside it. Officials said the G20 is also expected to be in and around Muskoka, but it's not clear if it will be before or after the G8.

“We are seeing changes to accept the realities of the whole world,” Mr. Harper told reporters at a press conference Friday morning.

The decision to make the G20 the real power club was formalized at a dinner of G20 leaders at their summit in Pittsburgh last night. But efforts to hash out the transition, including strenuous opposition from G8 member Italy, have been discussed for some time.

South Korea was to host the next G20 summit in April; but because of the transition from G8 to G20, and two summits piling up in quick succession, that has been postponed to November. Mr. Harper asked South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to co-chair the G-20 portion of the summit in Canada, in return for his co-operation in changing the summit schedule so Canada's G8 did not be the last hurrah of a near-defunct club.

Mr. Harper insisted that the G8 will still continue, but with a more limited and still-unclear mandate, which he suggested might centre on international-security issues and development aid. But the G8 forum's importance is now a shadow, and it is not clear how long U.S. presidents will want to continue them, given the proliferation of international summits.

The G20 Leaders Summit idea had been pushed heavily by Canada, especially by former prime minister Paul Martin, but then-President George W. Bush was long against it. Mr. Harper was cool to the idea after he took power, but the global financial crisis convinced Mr. Bush to convene the first-ever G20 leaders summit last year.

It has managed to convene summits in Washington and London that responded to the global economic crisis with massive global stimulus spending – a common commitments by leaders representing 85 per cent of the world's gross domestic product – and a trillion-dollar development funding package.

Where will banks make up lost overdraft fees?

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 23, 2009; 6:05 PM

NEW YORK -- Banks are backing off harsh overdraft fees and policies. That's the good news. The bad news is they'll probably look to make up that lost profit elsewhere.

It's a worrisome prospect for the vast majority of customers who never overdraw their funds and have grown accustomed to perks like free checking accounts.

"Banks are going to have to get creative. Rather than generic free checking accounts, you're going to see lots of different flavors of products," said Bob Meara, a senior analyst with Celent, a Boston-based consulting firm for the banking industry.

That might mean the return of monthly fees or minimum balances for checking accounts, or the bundling of accounts with other services for a fee.

Customers could also be steered toward lower-cost services like online banking, Meara said. Use of debit cards, which bring banks revenue from store interchange fees, may be encouraged. And networks of bank branches across the country could shrink too.

Such changes could help offset the steep losses banks face as they overhaul their overdraft programs, which have come under intensifying scrutiny in the past year. Critics say automatic enrollment in overdraft programs, which has become an industry standard, is deceptive because most people assume they can only spend money they have when using debit cards.

But at Bank of America, overdrawing an account by as little as $6 currently results in a $35 fee. That charge can be applied multiple times in one day. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank and JPMorgan Chase now say they're easing up and putting caps on such fees. More important, customers will soon have to opt into overdraft programs, rather than being automatically enrolled in them. The changes will apply to new Bank of America customers. At New York-based JPMorgan, even existing customers will have to opt in to overdraft programs.

If customers choose not sign up, it could mean an enormous loss of profits.

In 2007, banks earned about $29 billion from overdraft fees, according to Oliver Wyman, the parent company of Celent. That's more than the $28 billion consumers spent on major appliances and the $14 billion they spent on books, according to the research firm.

However, only 5 percent of customers accounted for 68 percent of revenue from overdraft fees. Meanwhile, 74 percent of customers didn't incur any overdraft fees.

Once given the choice, it's likely most people won't opt into overdraft programs, said Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer Action, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. But she noted that banks will probably put a new emphasis on getting people to sign up.

"There going to find new ways to push the same product," Sherry said.

Obama issues ultimatum to Iran on nukes

The Associated Press
Saturday, September 26, 2009; 6:10 AM

WASHINGTON -- Not letting up on Iran, President Barack Obama said Saturday that the Islamic republic must take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions after the discovery of a covert nuclear facility or it will be held accountable by the world's nations.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said that evidence showing Iran building an underground plant to enrich uranium that could be used for an atomic bomb "continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion" that jeopardizes global nonproliferation.

He urged Tehran once again to open the site to international inspectors, or face consequences. The chief option is tougher economic sanctions, but on Friday Obama and administration officials did not rule out military action.

"My offer of a serious, meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue remains open," Obama said. "But Iran must now cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions."

"Iran's leaders must now choose - they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations. Or they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people."

Evidence of the clandestine facility was unveiled Friday by Obama and the leaders of Britain and France at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, where it overshadowed developments on regulating financial markets and reducing fossil fuel subsidies.

Soon after, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, at his own news conference, urged Iran to cooperate, as did Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei. He, however, did not endorse sanctions against the country.

"On this, the international community is more united than ever before ... that Iran must fulfill its responsibilities," Obama said.

Iran, so far, hasn't budged.

At a news conference in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country had done nothing wrong and Obama would regret his actions.

Ahmadinejad said the plant - which Iranian officials say was reported to nuclear authorities as required - wouldn't be operational for 18 months. But he sidestepped a question about whether Iran had sufficient uranium to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

The head of Iran's nuclear program suggested that U.N. inspectors may be allowed to visit the site. Ali Akbar Salehi called the incomplete facility "a semi-industrial plant for enriching nuclear fuel," but he gave no other details, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Obama, and other world leaders, will be looking to see where Iran stands next week during a meeting of major nations on the nuclear issue.

Obama said Saturday the negotiations have taken on added urgency.

Air Force restarts $35B tanker competition

AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Air Force on Friday launched its third attempt to award a $35 billion tanker contract to either Boeing Co. or Northrop Grumman Corp.

The Air Force said it will be "crystal clear" in its requirements for new tankers that refuel military planes in flight in order to avoid errors from previous selection processes. The service also now wants a plane that's war-ready on day one.

Los Angeles-based Northrop, and its partner Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. N.V., are offering a tanker based on the Airbus A330. Northrop said it will review the draft request for bids and provide comments to the Air Force soon.

Chicago-based Boeing said it will conduct a detailed review of the service's request to assess which plane it will offer - the 767-based tanker, the larger 777-based tanker, or perhaps both.

Both the companies and lawmakers have 60 days to comment on the Air Force's proposal before a final version is released.

The Air Force has failed twice to award a contract to replace its Eisenhower-era fleet of 179 tankers. The last award in early 2008 to the Northrop team was overturned on an appeal by Boeing after congressional investigators found the Air Force failed to evaluate both proposals on the same merits. That led Pentagon leaders to temporarily revoke the service's authority to award a contract.

The 2004 award to Boeing was undone by an ethics scandal that resulted in prison terms for a former company executive and a former Air Force official.

Lawmakers already have started bickering over the exclusion of language that would have required the Air Force to consider the World Trade Organization's interim ruling earlier this month that European loans for Airbus were illegal subsidies. A separate ruling on a European Union counter-complaint against the U.S. is expected in about six months.

States like Washington, Kansas and others who stand to gain jobs if Boeing lands the award want the Air Force to consider the WTO ruling in its tanker selection. Northrop supporters in Alabama, where a new plant would be built in Mobile, disagree.

Some lawmakers also wanted the Air Force to ink deals with both companies, but the service still plans to make a single award next summer.

Bank of America rejects SEC claims in bonus suit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp formally denied U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims accusing it of misleading shareholders about bonuses it let Merrill Lynch & Co pay employees before the companies' January 1merger, and said it is seeking an order dismissing the regulator's complaint.

The bank's response, in a Friday filing, was expected, and came 11 days after U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff rejected its $33 million settlement with the SEC over the $3.6 billion of bonus awards.

Rakoff, who is still handling the case, was upset that the accord did not require disclosure of the names of executives and lawyers who vetted the bonuses and the decision not to disclose them, and yet left shareholders on the hook for a fine. He called the settlement a "contrivance" that violates "the most elementary notions of justice and morality."

In its answer to the SEC's complaint, Bank of America maintained that the proxy statement for the merger did not contain false or misleading statements, or omit key facts. It also said it was not negligent in preparing the proxy statement.

SEC spokesman John Heine said: "As we alleged in our complaint, Bank of America did not provide investors with complete and accurate information about the bonuses to be paid by Merrill Lynch to employees."

"We intend to prove in court that their disclosure failure violated the federal securities laws," said Heine.

Earlier this week, Rakoff agreed to a schedule to bring the case to trial by March 1, 2010, one month later than he earlier had wanted. He called the March 1 date "firm and fixed."

Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, faces many lawsuits and investigations by lawmakers and regulators over the Merrill merger, which made it the largest U.S. bank.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has threatened to sue bank officers, perhaps including Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray plans on Monday to update the status of a shareholder class-action lawsuit against the bank.

Bank of America shares dropped 38 cents to $16.60 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. They traded at $33.74 before the Merrill purchase was announced on September 15, 2008.

The case is SEC v. Bank of America Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 09-6829.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel with additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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New Jersey man pleads guilty for hiding UBS account

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A New Jersey man pleaded guilty on Friday to failing to report about $6.1 million he had held in a UBS AG Swiss bank account, the Justice Department said, the latest plea in the U.S. crackdown on tax fraud.

Juergen Homann agreed to plead guilty to failing to report his UBS account on his U.S. income tax return as well as the income he received from the account, according to the Justice Department.

Back to Google News Yen climbs after Japan minister's G20 remarks

LONDON — The yen climbed against the dollar and the euro on Friday after Japan's new finance minister said at Group of 20 talks that Tokyo did not intend to intervene to weaken the Japanese currency.

The dollar fell to 90.56 yen in London morning trade from 91.26 in New York late Thursday.

The euro rose meanwhile to 1.4691 dollars from 1.4654 dollars.

"Investors are monitoring remarks made by key financial figures of the new government led by the Democratic Party of Japan," said Masaki Fukui, senior market economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank's forex division.

Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii told US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh that Japan would stay away from an "intentional" currency policy that would lead to a weaker yen.

Fujii, who took office last week after his centre-left party's election win, has said that in principle he does not support market intervention to achieve a weaker yen, which is good for exporters but makes imports more expensive.

Selling by Japanese exporters repatriating their overseas earnings also pushed down the dollar against the yen, dealers said.

Geithner for his part reaffirmed Washington's support for a strong currency, saying: "A strong dollar is very important to the United States."

The G20 leaders were set to say that economic stimulus measures to cope with the global financial crisis should be maintained "until a durable recovery is secured," according to a draft of their joint statement.

"The G20 draft communique does not appear to hold many surprises to rattle the markets," said Calyon analyst Stuart Bennett.

"In line with cautious comments that have flowed from policymakers prior to the meeting, the Group appear to have agreed to avoid a premature withdrawal of stimulus measures.

"This approach underlines the fact that despite the pick-up in activity, the global recovery remains vulnerable."

Bennett added that the safe-haven dollar should win some support as many investors become less willing to take risks amid an unconvincing performance on global stock markets.

In London on Friday, the euro was changing hands at 1.4691 dollars against 1.4654 dollars late on Thursday, at 133.03 yen (133.75), 0.9162 pounds (0.9127) and 1.5115 Swiss francs (1.5097).

The dollar stood at 90.56 yen (91.26) and 1.0290 Swiss francs (1.0300).

The pound was at 1.6033 dollars (1.6053).

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold retreated to 999.94 dollars an ounce from 1,009.75 dollars an ounce late on Thursday.

Stability of US dollar key to global recovery: China

By P.Parameswaran (AFP) – 21 hours ago

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — China has called on the United States to ensure the stability of the weak US dollar, saying it was critical to global recovery driven by trade in the key reserve currency.

While showing apparent concern over the status of dollar, which dived to a year low against the euro on Wednesday, a Chinese central bank official said Beijing remained supportive of the dollar.

"Since US dollar is a major reserve currency and a major trade settlement currency, the stability of the US dollar has a key influence on the stability of the world economic recovery," said Xie Duo, director general of the People's Bank of China on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh.

"We support the stability of major reserve currencies."

But Xie reminded the United States not to allow its "domestic policies" to damage the reputation of the greenback as an international reserve currency.

"The US government has to strike a balance between these two functions," he said.

Xie was answering a question on the impact of the embattled dollar on Chinese exports as well as its 800 billion dollar US Treasury bond holdings and more than two trillion dollars in dollar reserves.

Before Xie spoke, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reaffirmed Washington's strong-dollar policy Thursday, saying: "A strong dollar is very important to the United States."

Underscoring Beijing's concern over the dollar's weakness, Xie said the Chinese central bank and other Chinese government agencies "are watching very closely where the US dollar is headed.

"We are also analyzing the causes of this and making our own assessment on the future exchange rate of the US dollar."

The dollar issue has become a subject of debate at the G20 as US President Barack Obama and other leaders of the forum consider a new framework for tackling the so called global "economic imbalances" blamed for fuelling the latest financial crisis.

Some argue that the latest financial crisis resulted from imbalances between savings and investment in major economies, which have led to large current deficits, as evident in the United States, and surpluses, as enjoyed by China.

Beijing was the first to call for a new global currency as an alternative to the US dollar as the US deficit rocketed -- the White House estimates it could reach nine trillion dollars over a decade.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern as early as March over the safety of his country's massive US bond holdings that virtually made China the largest creditor to the United States.

Then, Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who supervises more than two trillion dollars worth of dollar reserves, the world's largest, raised the stakes by calling for a new reserve currency in place of the dollar.

He wanted the new reserve unit to be based on the SDR, a "special drawing right" created by the International Monetary Fund, drawing immediate support from Russia, Brazil and several other nations.

"These countries realize that they would suffer losses if inflation eroded the value of the dollar securities they own," said Richard Cooper, a professor of international economics at Harvard University.

But he said there were no feasible alternatives to the US dollar as a widely used international currency, discounting even IMF's synthetic SDR currency, comprising a basket of the dollar, euro, yen and the pound.

"The dollar will remain the dominant world currency, thanks to the stability of our political system and the rule of law that isn't a feature of many other economies," said Irwin Stelzer, director of economic-policy studies at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. Video Network Markets

G20: Banks to be forced to double capital levels

Banks will be forced to more than double capital levels for the riskiest parts of their operations as a result of the key regulatory reforms at the heart of the G20 summit's conclusions.
Although the international body – which is to replace the G8 as the world's leading economic forum – last night stopped short of placing specific minimum requirements for both capital and liquidity, world leaders agreed the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision will draft new rules for each by the end of this year.

The change is part of the drive to strengthen the global banking system to withstand shocks and make it less likely to rely on government capital in the event of future crises.

Full details of banks' new commitments were contained in the final report of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), details of which were released shortly after the final communiqué was issued.

On capital, banks were put on notice that they should be retaining profits now to meet those future capital requirements, by restricting dividends, share buy-backs and compensation where necessary. For trading books, banks were told that the capital they hold to cover positions will be likely to at least double by the end of next year.

The rules are aimed at increasing both the amount and quality of capital that the banking system requires, so that banks holding minimum required levels will be viable in the event of a future economic crisis.

As a result, the quality and consistency of core tier-one capital – the classic regulatory measure – will be increased, and the Basel framework will also require banks to be counter-cyclical, building up capital in the good times to provide a buffer in the bad.

On liquidity, the Basel committee will draft rules by the end of the year for a "minimum global liquidity standard," introducing a liquidity coverage ratio to be applied across international borders. This aims to ensure global banks have assets that are of a high enough quality to be able to continue to fund them should there be a further downturn.

The measures on capital and liquidity, along with those on compensation, sit at the centre of the reforms adopted by the G20, which also included commitments to strengthen accounting standards and surveillance of over-the-counter trading, as well a system of peer reviews of regulations and standards.

As part of the reforms, the FSB itself will be institutionalised, with a permanent executive, led by chairman Mario Draghi, put in place.

The G20 itself will become the permanent economic council for world leaders, something which Prime Minister Gordon Brown said was necessary given the current make-up of global financial institutions has not really evolved since 1945.

However, when asked how such a plan would work without countries discussing currencies, Mr Brown said that although "imbalances are clearly an important issue," they are "not the only issue."

No reference was made in the final communiqué to the value of China's yuan against the US dollar – the key imbalance – although Chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed that the Chinese delegation had been willing to discuss it at the summit.

The G20 also committed to widening the group of countries who are members of the exclusive International Monetary Fund "club" in order to give developing countries such as Brazil and India a seat around the table, and to reflect China's importance in the world economy.

But the two-day summit stopped short of delivering actual changes to the make-up of the IMF, instead giving a commitment that the organisation itself will agree the changes by 2011.

The summit ended without any fresh commitment on global trade, other than a reaffirmation of the need to end the World Trade Organisation's current Doha round "as quickly as possible."

Lawyer Dan Horowitz at Holman Fenwick Willan said that international leaders' undertaking is too vague, and that it should have committed to a firm timetable for the conclusion of the talks.

King of Pop offers praise for Princess Diana, Adolf Hitler in new book 'The Michael Jackson Tapes' Read more:

She was my type for sure and I don’t like most girls,” Jackson told Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the explosive new book, “The Michael Jackson Tapes,” which hits stores Friday. “It takes a very special mold to make me happy and she was one of them.”

It’s just one of several revelations Jackson shared with former friend Rabbi Boteach during 30-plus hours of conversations, which Boteach claims were made with Jackson’s permission. The bizarre and wide-ranging discussions cover everything from Jackson’s love for his children to Adolf Hitler.

“Hitler was a genius orator,” the pop star tells the Rabbi during one of his characteristically strange moments. “To make that many people turn and change and hate, he had to be a showman and he was.”

When Boteach inquires whether Jackson thinks he could have helped change the German dictator who was responsible for one of the worst atrocities of modern time, Jackson replies, “Absolutely. You have to help them, give them therapy, teach them that somewhere, something in their life went wrong.”

Among the other odd love revelations Jackson makes are his claims that Cindy Crawford flirted with him, and that he considered dating his longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor, but feared they would be labeled “the odd couple."

The “Thriller” star also says that he thought Madonna was “in love with me” but jealous of his success. “We had nothing in common,” Jackson says. “She is not sexy at all.”

Boteach, 42, who is based at Oxford University, recorded the conversations between 1999 and 2001. He appears Friday on “Dateline” in an interview with Meredith Viera where, Boteach discusses his relationship with Jackson and the conversations.

Perhaps it is no longer surprising that the tapes reveal a man who, in spite of his vast success and undisputed talent, was lonely and yearned for a way to overcome his insecurities around people, reports NBC.

“Anybody else would probably be dead by now, or a junkie, with what I've been through, Shmuley,” Jackson tells Boteach, according to NBC.

At one point, Boteach asks Jackson if he feels God gave him a certain healing power. The “Beat It” singer replies, “Yes …and I've seen children just shower all over me with love. They want to just touch me and hug me…and mothers pick their babies and put them into my arms. ‘Touch my baby, and hold them, touch my baby, touch my baby.’”

There’s also a chilling revelation on the tapes, where Jackson expresses his fear of aging, saying “I don’t want to grow old." Jackson died of a drug related heart attack that was later ruled a homicide and is still under investigation on June 25.

Read more:

Reports on manufacturing, housing weigh on stocks

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK -- Investor confidence suffered another blow Friday as disappointing reports on manufacturing and home sales stirred worries that the economy will struggle to recover.

Stocks fell for a third straight day to post their biggest weekly losses since early July. The reports on durable goods and sales of new homes reminded investors that while the economy might be improving, it might not do so in a straight line.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42 points, bringing its three-day loss to 165.

Durable goods orders, a key indicator for the manufacturing industry, fell unexpectedly in August. The Commerce Department said orders for goods expected to last at least three years slid 2.4 percent, after rising 4.8 percent in July. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast an increase of 0.5 percent.

It was the second drop in three months and the latest sign that any rebound inside the nation's factories is likely to be slow.

Meanwhile, the government also reported that new home sales inched up to 429,000 last month, below analysts' expectations. The tepid improvement followed four months of stronger gains in new home sales that had raised investors' hopes that the troubled housing market was improving.

The market was already starting sour on housing, and had fallen on Thursday following a separate report showing a surprise drop in existing home sales in August. Stocks also fell Wednesday on worries that the Federal Reserve would be too quick to withdraw its financial supports from the economy.

The week's economic reports have hit shares of industrial companies, which have been logging big gains as investors pile into stocks of companies that could see big jumps in profits if the economy improves. The reports ran counter to other data that had boosted hopes for a rebound in manufacturing.

Technology shares fell Friday after quarterly results from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. fell short of expectations. That weighed on Nasdaq composite index, which contains a big pool of tech stocks.

The day's losses - and even those for the week - are still modest considering how far stocks have rocketed since major indicators tumbled to 12-year lows on March 9. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the basis for many mutual funds, is up 54.4 percent since then. Analysts have been calling for a break in the advance so the economy can catch up with investors' expectations.

"We really have come a long way and the markets are taking a pause to reflect the fact that we were up 60 percent," said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist, Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Conn. "We still think things should stay relatively orderly in the pullback and we're still likely to see further gains."

On Friday, the Dow fell 42.25, or 0.4 percent, to 9,665.19. The index hasn't fallen three straight days since the first week of the month. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.40, or 0.6 percent, to 1,044.38, and the Nasdaq fell 16.69, or 0.8 percent, to 2,090.92.

Falling stocks narrowly outpaced those that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 4.6 billion shares compared with 5.6 billion Thursday.

For the week, the Dow lost 1.6 percent. It was the biggest slide since the week of July 10 and only the third losing week of the last 11. The S&P 500 index slid 2.2 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq fell 2 percent.

The week's economic data marked an improvement from a few months ago but still disappointed the market by coming in well shy of analysts' expectations - a sign that investors might be underestimating how long it will take for the economy to recover. The market will likely need more convincing evidence that the economy is on track before moving higher again.