Olivier Knox, Yahoo News 1 hour ago
President Barack Obama will make a statement from the White House Rose Garden at 12:25 p.m. ET on Tuesday amid the first partial government shutdown in 17 years and the most serious test yet for his signature Affordable Care Act.The president’s remarks will come after he meets in the Oval Office at noon with Americans due to benefit from the launch of exchanges where they can purchase health insurance under the law popularly known as Obamacare. Related ImagesU.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the …Obama won’t sacrifice Affordable Care Act to prevent …01:42U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the …House Votes to Delay Obamacare 01:0U.S. President Barack Obama finishes a statement to …
Congress continues to squabble on first day of a government shutdown Chris Moody, Yahoo! News 1 hour agoView gallery WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted …On the morning of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, the political brinkmanship reached a stalemate when the Senate rejected a House request for a conference committee to take up a proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15 and delay a key part of the Affordable Care Act.The Democrat-controlled Senate on Tuesday voted to table the House bill passed overnight that proposed the committee. The House bill also included language that would prohibit congressional staff members from receiving subsidies for their health care plans and delay Obamacare’s individual mandate to buy health insurance for one year. By transitioning to a conference committee, the House and Senate would each appoint members to work out a deal to fund the government and end the shutdown. But appointing a committee would take the talks from public view to closed-door negotiating rooms where lawmakers and staffers could hash out their differences in private.The refusal to accept the Republican proposal will stretch the government shutdown, which began at midnight Tuesday, into the day. This is the first shutdown since federal operations closed down under former President Bill Clinton in 1996.Before turning down the latest House offer Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the upper chamber would not accept conference talks until the House approves a measure to fund the government for six weeks that includes no extra amendments such as the ones aimed at crippling the federal health care law. Until they pass a “clean” bill, he said, negotiations would stall.”We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Reid said on the Senate floor.The road to the shutdown came after House Republicans repeatedly refused to pass a bill to set federal spending levels unless the federal health care law was defunded or delayed. Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama repeatedly said they would not accept any spending bill that tampers with the law.Last week, the House passed a bill to completely defund the health law. When the Senate rejected it, the House passed another version that abolished a tax on medical devices and delayed the law for a year. When the Senate rejected that, House Republicans passed another bill that delayed the individual mandate and revoked health insurance subsidies for congressional staffers. After the Senate said no to that, the government shut down. That’s when the House asked for private negotiations — surprise, the Senate turned that down — and that’s where the parties stand now.Meanwhile, Obama, who has called on Congress to pass a clean bill to fund the government, called the shutdown “completely preventable.”„This shutdown was completely preventable,” Obama wrote in a letter to federal employees. “It should not have happened.”
Obama is scheduled to make a statement in the Rose Garden at 12:45 p.m. ET about the opening Tuesday of Obamacare insurance exchanges and about the government shutdown.The back-and-forth between the parties will continue throughout the day, as House Republicans recalibrate their strategy and Senate lawmakers huddle for partisan meetings this afternoon.Unless they can find a compromise, the government will remain shut down until further notice.
View gallery Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks to the United Nations Security Council after it unanimously …By Steve Gutterman MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia expressed doubt on Tuesday that Western nations can persuade Syrian opposition representatives to take part in an international peace conference in time for it to take place in mid-November.The doubts of Damascus’s most important ally followed remarks in which the international envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the target date of mid-November was „not 100 percent certain” and cited disunity among rebel forces.”Until recently we hoped our Western partners, who undertook to bring the opposition to the conference, could do it quite quickly, but they were unable to do it quickly, and I don’t know whether they will be able to do so by mid-November,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.A pledge by the Syrian government to abandon chemical arms has increased prospects for the peace conference, proposed by Russia and the United States in May, to go ahead.U.N. Security Council powers hope it can be held in mid-November. Lavrov said it must be organized soon since „radicals and jihadists are strengthening their positions” in Syria.”The task is to not lose any more time, and to bring to the negotiating table with the government those opposition groups that … think not about creating a caliphate in Syria or just seizing power and using it at their will, but about the fate of their country,” Lavrov said after meeting Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.Lavrov also called into question the thoroughness of a U.N. chemical weapons mission after suggesting that it had not examined a site outside of Aleppo where Russia and the Syrian government say rebel forces likely used chemical weapons.”The commission recently returned (to Syria) and already announced that it finished its work and is returning to New York,” said Lavrov.”As far as I understand, they examined several more places where there are claims chemical weapons were used near Damascus. And as before, the commission did not travel to the outskirts of Aleppo, where a serious incident of the use of chemical weapons occurred on March 19.”Syrian rebels blame Assad’s government for that attack.Russian experts visited the location earlier this year and took samples of material from the site that were later analyzed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Russia’s U.N. envoy said previously.The site was one of the places covered in the U.N. committee’s mandate. „And so we want to understand whether the mission’s report will be complete or incomplete,” Lavrov said, „considering that this mission was not able to visit all the locations named in its initial mandate.”(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mark Heinrich)
View galleryEuropean Union High Representative Catherine Ashton speaks to the media after a meeting of the foreign … CAIRO (Reuters) – European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton will encourage Egypt’s army-backed government and the Muslim Brotherhood to pursue reconciliation during talks this week, a European diplomatic source said.Egypt has been gripped by political turmoil since the army ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood in July after mass protests against his rule.”She (Ashton) is coming to explore the possibilities for a return to a transition in which all sides can participate,” the European diplomat said in Cairo.”Things are still not completely black and white, although the situation is extremely difficult and reconciliation is becoming a difficult word in Egypt.”Getting the army-backed government and the Brotherhood to compromise may be an impossible mission for Ashton, who failed on a previous visit, as did several Western envoys, to persuade the military to avoid using force against Mursi’s supporters.Security forces crushed pro-Mursi protest camps on August 14, killing hundreds of people, and have since been cracking down hard on the group.The Brotherhood’s leaders were arrested in a bid to decapitate the movement, which won every election since a revolt toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.A court has now banned the group and ordered its assets frozen.Ashton will meet government leaders and army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Mursi, as well as the few Brotherhood politicians who are not in jail.The army has promised that a political roadmap will deliver fair elections. But the Muslim Brotherhood refused to take part in the transition, saying that would legitimize what it calls a military coup against an elected president.Ashton is expected to explore whether there is still room for an initiative Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa el-Din, a liberal, put to the cabinet in August, and whether the constitution can be amended in an inclusive way.The proposal called for an immediate end to the state of emergency, political participation for all parties and guarantees of human rights, including the right to free assembly.”This is one of the possibilities that should be explored,” the diplomat said.Ashton wanted to see where each of the key players stand and what could be put on the table and report back to EU foreign ministers to see what steps the EU could take.(Reporting by Paul Taylor,; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Chemical weapons inspectors cross into SyriaView gallery RYAN LUCAS 1 hour ago PoliticsSyriaDamascusBEIRUT (AP) — An advance group of international inspectors arrived in Syria on Tuesday to begin the ambitious task of overseeing the destruction of President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program, kicking off a mission that must navigate the country’s bloody civil war as well as the international spotlight.Twenty inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog crossed into Syria from neighboring Lebanon on their way to Damascus to begin their complex mission of finding, dismantling and ultimately destroying an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal.The experts have about nine months to complete the task, which has been endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for Syria’s chemical stockpile to be eliminated by mid-2014. It is the shortest deadline that experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have ever faced in any nation, and their first mission in a country at war.The team arrived in Damascus late Tuesday afternoon in a 19-vehicle convoy that was escorted from the border by two representatives from the Syrian Foreign Ministry. The inspectors were expected to meet with officials from the ministry later in the day.Experts at The Hague, where the OPCW is based, said Sunday the inspectors’ priority is to achieve the first milestone of helping Syria scrap its ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a Nov. 1 deadline, using every means possible. That may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.View gallery.”A Free Syrian Army fighter uses a rope to launch a mortar during what the FSA said was an offensive …Some of the inspectors will be double-checking Syria’s initial disclosure of what weapons and chemical precursors it has and where they are located. Others will begin planning the logistics for visits to every location where chemicals or weapons are stored.Within a week, a second group of inspectors is scheduled to arrive — fewer than 100 combined — and form teams that will fan out to individual sites. Their routes are secret — both for their safety and because Syria has the right not to reveal its military secrets, including base locations.The inspectors’ mission was born out of a deadly chemical attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21. The U.S. and its allies accuse the Syrian regime of being responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.The chemical attack prompted the Obama administration to threaten punitive missile strikes against the Assad regime, touching off weeks of frantic diplomacy that ended with the U.N. resolution Friday to purge Syria of its chemical weapons program.The resolution also endorsed a roadmap for political „transition” in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012, and it called for an international peace conference in Geneva to be convened „as soon as possible” to implement it.Raw: UN Team Returns to SyriaPlay video.”The negotiations planned for Geneva have been repeatedly delayed for months, with neither the Syrian regime nor the opposition showing much interest in attending while the war on the ground remains stalemated. Disagreements also have flared repeatedly over who should take part in the talks that aim to broker a political solution to the conflict.Efforts to bring the sides to the table received another blow over the weekend when Syria’s foreign minister said the government won’t talk with the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition. The coalition, meanwhile, faces internal splits over whether to attend a Geneva conference.Russia, a close ally of Syria, tried to smooth things over on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying that „reasonable” Syrian rebels could take part in prospective peace talks. Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Lavrov said Western powers should help encourage rebels who don’t harbor „extremist or terrorist views” to take part.The rebel movement on the ground also is riven by fissures, both ideological and political. Those differences have burst to the fore in recent months as Islamic extremist rebel brigades associated with al-Qaida have battled more mainstream rebel factions nominally linked to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.In an audio message posted on a militant website on Monday, a spokesman for one of the most powerful Islamic extremist rebel groups, the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant, accused more moderate rebels of „stealing” credit for battlefield victories from his group.UN Security Council Takes Historic Vote on SyriaPlay video.”Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said commanders of the Free Syrian Army are claiming territorial gains made by al-Qaida fighters. He points to the capture of the Mannagh air base in northern Syria as an example, saying some FSA fighters took part in the battle for the base and an FSA commander took credit for it, but it was actually captured by al-Qaida.Al-Qaida militants have in the past year emerged as some of the most organized and successful fighting forces on the opposition side in Syria.Syria’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and forced more than 2 million more to flee the country since March 2011, according to the United Nations. The U.N. casualty figure dates to late July.On Tuesday, a Syrian activist group that tracks the conflict put the death toll at more than 115,000. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said it had documented 115,206 people killed in the conflict. That tally includes 28,804 regime troops, 18,228 pro-government militiamen, and at least 21,531 rebels.Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said that both tallies are likely lower than the actual number of people killed.___Associated Press writer Laura Mills in Moscow contributed to this report.
Pope urges reform, wants church with modern spiritView gallery FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2013 file photo, Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Pope Francis convenes his parallel cabinet on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, for a first round of talks on reforming the Catholic Church, bringing eight cardinals from around the globe together in a novel initiative to get local church leaders involved in helping make decisions for the 1.2-billion strong universal Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)NICOLE WINFIELD 3 hours ago ReligionSociety VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis opened a landmark meeting Tuesday on reforming the Catholic Church, saying he wants a missionary church with a modern spirit that gives hope to the poor, the young and the elderly like his namesake St. Francis did.Francis convened his own parallel cabinet of eight cardinals from around the globe for three days of brainstorming on revamping the Vatican bureaucracy and other reforms. The move fulfills a key mandate of the cardinals who elected him pope to involve local church leaders in making decisions about the universal church.On the same day the meetings started, Rome daily La Repubblica published a lengthy interview with Francis, his second in as many weeks. For someone who has said he abhors giving interviews, Francis has made himself remarkably amenable to taking questions about his faith and vision for the church.In the interview, Francis denounced the „Vatican-centric” nature of the Holy See administration and acknowledged that popes past had been infatuated with the pomp of the Vatican and its „courtesans.”The pope also explained his affinity for his namesake St. Francis, whose tomb he will visit on Friday during a visit to Assisi, the hilltop town where St. Francis preached his gospel of poverty and caring for the most destitute.Francis said he wanted a missionary church like that sought by St. Francis: „We need to give hope to young people, help the aged and open ourselves toward the future and spread love.”He said the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the church into the modern world, had promised such an opening to people of other faiths and non-believers, but that the church hadn’t made progress since then.”I have the humility and ambition to do so,” he said.The agenda of the cardinal cabinet meetings is unknown, but one issue is certain to be discussed: overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy, an antiquated administration that is universally disparaged as unhelpful to both the pope and the bishops it’s designed to serve.The scandal over leaked documents last year showed the Vatican bureaucracy to be a dysfunctional warren of political infighting and turf battles, fueling calls for reform from the cardinals who elected Francis pope.Beyond the scandal, local church leaders have long bemoaned that Vatican courts take years to process requests for annulments and that Vatican offices are simply unresponsive to requests from them and the lay faithful.Francis himself is a critic: Just this weekend he told the Vatican police force that it was their job to stop the „devil” from creating internal wars through Vatican employees spreading gossip.”It’s a war that you don’t fight with weapons but with your tongue,” he said.The Vatican bureaucracy is organized according to a 1988 document „Pastor Bonus,” which metes out the work and jurisdictions of the congregations, councils, courts and other offices that make up the governance of the church. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who heads the pope’s advisory commission, said the planned reform won’t just make changes to the document here and there.”No, that constitution is over,” he told the Catholic channel Salt and Light Television. „Now it’s something different. We need to write something different. But it’s not going to take one month or two months.”Indeed, no decisions are expected this week from the talks, and the pope has said reform takes time.In fact, another Vatican reform is taking its own, separate course.On Tuesday, the scandal-plagued Vatican bank issued its first-ever annual report in another step toward showing greater financial transparency. The Institute for Religious Works reported a profit of 86.6 million ($116.95 million) in 2012, a four-fold improvement over 2011.Francis has appointed a commission of inquiry to look into the bank’s legal structure and activities, one of the many moves he has taken to get a handle on the Vatican’s murky finances.Such decisiveness comes despite having been „invaded by anxiety” in the moments after he was elected. In the interview with Repubblica, Francis said after the shock of the election, he immediately excused himself from the Sistine Chapel, closed his eyes in a small room off to the side and tried to relax.”At a certain point, a great light invaded me, it lasted a moment but it seemed very long to me,” he told Repubblica’s editor. „Then it disappeared and I got up.”He went back into the room where he signed the document accepting the job and headed out onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Square to be introduced to the world.___Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
Kenya tells Somalia ‘put house in order’ after mall attackRichard Lough and James Macharia 1 hour ago PoliticsSomaliaKenyaView galleryMen look at a newspaper cutting shows pictures of the slain victims who were killed in the recent Westgate …By Richard Lough and James Macharia NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s president told Somalia’s leaders on Tuesday to „put their house in order”, in a sign of frustration at the festering instability in the neighboring country after members of a Somali militant group attacked a Nairobi shopping mall.The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group said it raided the Westgate center, killing at least 67 people, in revenge for Kenya’s military campaign against its fighters inside Somalia.The attack bore out widespread fears that Somalia, whose cash-strapped government exerts little control beyond the capital Mogadishu, remained a training ground for militant Islam and a launchpad for attacks beyond its borders.Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he would not be bullied into withdrawing his soldiers, who are part of an African peacekeeping force.He also took aim at the Somali government, which a source close to the Kenyan presidency said had also recently called for Kenyan troops to leave before withdrawing the demand under pressure from regional leaders.”If their desire is for Kenya to pull out of Somalia, my friends, all they need to do is what they should have done 20 years ago, which is put their house in order,” Kenyatta told religious leaders at a multi-faith prayer meeting.There was no immediate reaction from the Somali government.Mogadishu has been angered by Kenya’s perceived close relationship with a former Islamist warlord now in control of Somalia’s southernmost region, which borders Kenya.The Westgate raid was the worst attack in Kenya since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassy there in 1998, killing more than 200 people, mostly Kenyans.Hours after the militants struck, spraying people with bullets and hurling grenades, al Shabaab accused Kenya of turning a deaf ear to repeated warnings to end its military intervention in Somalia.But Kenyatta said his country had only deployed forces there after tourists and foreign aid workers were targeted in a string of kidnappings on Kenyan soil.”Let me remind them that it is they who, having had enough of killing themselves in their own country, decided to come and interfere in Kenya,” Kenyatta said. „We did not go there, they came here.””I want to be categorically clear: We will stay there until they bring order in their nation,” he added.Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya told Reuters on Friday his country’s security agencies were working closely with Nairobi after the mall attack.(Additional reporting by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)
Government shutdown? Here’s an example of working together at the state level Last year I broke ranks with majority Democrats to work with Republicans on the Washington state budget. I got angry emails and the cold shoulder, but I helped produce a historic bipartisan budget. To find common ground, you first have to find the courage to step onto it.
View galleryNorth Korean Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Pak Kil-yon speaks during the 68th session of the General …UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea is blaming the „hostile policy” of the United States for continuing tension on the divided Korean Peninsula.Vice foreign minister, Pak Kil Yon, told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday the U.S. is aiming at military domination of Northeast Asia and has designated North Korea as „its first attack target.”Pak also contended that the U.S. was abusing the power of the U.N. Security Council, and that a January resolution that tightened sanctions on the North for a long-range rocket launch was unfair.Pak did not mention the subsequent nuclear test explosion that was also condemned by the council and deepened concern over the North’s weapons programs.The U.S. says military exercises it regularly conducts with South Korea have no aggressive intent, and are meant to deter North Korea.
Australian PM welcomes Indonesia joint ventures on cattleKanupriya Kapoor 11 hours ago PoliticsForeign PolicyIndonesiaForeign direct investmentAustraliaView galleryAustralia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks beside Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during …By Kanupriya Kapoor JAKARTA (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday threw his support behind Jakarta’s plans to invest in Australian cattle farms to help end a trade dispute that has devastated his country’s cattle industry and boosted beef prices in Indonesia.Abbott’s comments came on the final day of an official visit to Indonesia, his first overseas trip as prime minister, in which he was keen to focus on strengthening trade and business ties and move on from tension over refugee boats.Indonesia has said it could buy up to 1 million hectares of Australian farmland for cattle grazing, to improve future supplies and keep prices stable under a long-term plan to be self-sufficient.Beef trade has been a contentious issue in the past. In 2011 Australian live cattle exports to Indonesia were briefly suspended after Australian television broadcast images of cruelty in an Indonesian abattoir.”If some Indonesian joint ventures in cattle are an important part of getting this trade re-started, well, please bring them on, bring them on,” Abbott said.Foreign investment in Australian farms is a sensitive issue for Abbott, who has already promised greater scrutiny of foreign investment in agriculture and who governs in partnership with the rural-based National Party, which has a more protectionist view of foreign investment in the sector.Tighter scrutiny aimed to show Australians how investments were good for the country, Abbott said in his first comments on the issue.”This is not designed to lock up our country,” he said. „This is designed to ensure that the Australian people understand that the foreign investment we have and the foreign investment we welcome really is in our own best interests.”I just want to scotch any suggestion that might be out there that somehow trade and investment is bad for Australia. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Trade and investment is good for Australia.”Indonesia relaxed quotas on Australian beef imports in May and Jakarta has since outlined plans for state enterprises to invest in Australia’s cattle industry.Abbott told business leaders in Jakarta he wanted to boost trade with Indonesia at a time when tension over asylum-seekers has threatened to overshadow his trip. Trade between the neighbours stood at $10 billion in 2012.Abbott was accompanied by a 20-strong delegation of bankers, mining chief executives and agricultural barons to highlight Australia’s willingness to expand bilateral trade.As disposable incomes rise in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Australia’s businesses are keen to cash in on the demand from Indonesia’s burgeoning middle class.Abbott identified several sectors for investment, from infrastructure to education and financial services.Some Australian business people lauded Abbott’s efforts, but said Indonesia could do more to improve its investment climate.”Australian businesses certainly know the potential of Indonesian markets and Prime Minister Abbott is sending a positive message by being here,” said Peter Fanning, vice president of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council.”But the reality on the ground is often different and boards back in Australia are often not as confident or comfortable about investing here … because of legal uncertainties and bureaucracy.”Abbott played down diplomatic tension over refugees in a joint statement on Monday with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.”Of course we stand by our policies. But above all else, we want to work effectively to stop the boats,” he said on Tuesday, adding that Australia would work with Indonesia.About 400 boatloads of asylum seekers have arrived in Australia over the past 12 months and about 45,000 asylum seekers have arrived since late 2007, when the former Labor government eased border policies before tightening them again, spurred by a voter backlash.($1=1.0695 Australian dollars)(Additional reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
Secretive Vatican bank takes step to transparencyView galleryFILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010, file photo, Italian financial police officers talk to each other in front of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Vatican took another step in its efforts to be more financially transparent by publishing a first-ever annual report for the Vatican bank on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. It comes as Italian prosecutors investigate alleged money-laundering there, a Vatican monsignor remains in detention and the pope himself probes the problems that have brought such scandal to the institution. (AP Photo/Angelo Carconi, File)NICOLE WINFIELD 1 hour agoVATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican took another step in its efforts to be more financially transparent by publishing a first-ever annual report for the Vatican bank on Tuesday. It comes as Italian prosecutors investigate alleged money-laundering there, a Vatican monsignor remains in detention and the pope himself probes the problems that have brought such scandal to the institution.Net earnings at the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, rose more than four-fold to 86.6 million euros ($116.95 million) in 2012, the report said. More than 50 million euros of that was given to the pope for his charitable works.The improvement in earnings was driven by profits made on the value of securities that the bank held and sold — net trading income rose to 51.1 million euros from a loss of 38.2 million euros in 2011.The picture may not be so rosy for 2013, with rising interest rates cutting into profits and millions of euros earmarked for the IOR’s ongoing transparency process, which has involved hiring outside legal, financial and communications experts to revamp its procedures, review its client base and remake its image.”Overall, we expect 2013 to be marked by the extraordinary expenses for the ongoing reform and remediation process, and the effects of rising interest rates,” bank president Ernst von Freyberg said in a statement.He said the publication of the report meets the bank’s commitment to providing transparency about its activities.Aside from the earnings, the 100-page report published Tuesday provides some fascinating reading about the secretive institution: The IOR in 2012 had 41.3 million euros in gold, metals and precious coins, owned a real estate company and was bequeathed two investment properties worth 1.9 million euros. It also made some 25.8 million euros in loans in 2012.The Vatican has long insisted the IOR isn’t a bank but a unique financial institution aimed at managing assets for religious or charitable works — a distinction that presumably helped it avoid typical banking regulations. Yet in the past year, the IOR has slowly revealed itself to work very much like a bank, providing asset management services to its clients, earning some 12.2 million euros in fees and commissions for such services in 2012 and making loans.The Vatican is about to enter a second round of international scrutiny by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval committee, which helps countries comply with international norms to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. The Vatican passed Moneyval’s inaugural inspection last year, but evaluators gave the IOR and the Vatican’s financial oversight agency poor or failing grades for insufficient controls to ensure that its clients and assets were clean.The report was released as Rome prosecutors continue to investigate a Vatican accountant, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested in an alleged plot to bring 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland without declaring it at customs. Scarano is also under investigation in his native Salerno for allegedly laundering money through his IOR account. His lawyer has insisted the money was clean and that he was only trying to help out friends.The IOR’s former top managers, Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, meanwhile, are under investigation by Rome prosecutors for alleged violations of Italy’s anti-money laundering norms. Rome financial police launched the investigation in 2010, seizing 23 million euros ($30 million) from a Vatican account at an Italian bank after determining that the IOR hadn’t provided sufficient information about the transaction. The Vatican has said it was a misunderstanding and money was eventually ordered released.Cipriani and Tulli resigned in July.Around the same time, Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry into the IOR to look into every aspect of its operations to get to the bottom of the scandals that have bedeviled it. The commission has wide-ranging authority to obtain documents, data and information, even overriding traditional banking secrecy rules to get it. Francis also named a trusted prelate to be his eyes inside the bank to figure out what really goes on inside the tower just inside the Vatican walls.The Vatican bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII. It employs 114 people, runs the Vatican pension system and oversees about 6.3 billion euros in customer assets. Its customer base has been reduced from some 21,000 customers in 2011 to 18,900 last year, thanks to efforts to close inactive accounts. Customers include religious orders; Vatican offices, embassies and employees; individual cardinals, bishops and priests and foreign embassies accredited to the Holy See.___Report is at www.ior.va___Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield___Report is at www.ior.va___Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
IMF issues warning on South African economyView galleryCranes at a building site in Cape Town on August 28, 2008 (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch)3 hours ago Budget, Tax & EconomyPoliticsSouth AfricaInternational Monetary FundEconomyUnemploymentAfrican National CongressJohannesburg (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that South Africa is trailing other emerging markets and must quickly implement reforms if it wants to avoid crisis.The IMF, in an annual report on Africa’s largest economy, pointed to painfully high unemployment and a plethora of other economic troubles staking the country.”South Africa’s growth has underperformed and vulnerabilities have increased considerably,” the IMF said, predicting „continued sluggish growth” of 2.0 percent this year and 2.9 percent in 2014.”Absent structural reforms, growth will be insufficient to reduce unacceptably high unemployment” the report said, pointing an economy „increasingly vulnerable to shocks.””Risks are tilted firmly to the downside.”Unemployment is officially at 25 percent, but is closer to 35 percent including those who have given up looking for work. Around 50 percent of all young people are without a job.While South Africa has made „important strides” to correct disparities caused by decades of apartheid rule, the Washington-based institution said systemic problems have „come to the fore” in recent years.”The economy has underperformed other emerging markets and commodity exporters, exacerbating South Africa’s already high levels of unemployment and inequality and contributing to rising social tensions.”Nearly two decades after Nelson Mandela swept to power South Africa is among the most unequal countries in the world.Street protests are common across the country, often prompted by the lack of basic services or the presence of foreign workers.A series of strikes have also hit the mining, automotive, transport, public and manufacturing sectors, halting production and often resulting in deadly clashes with police and between rival unions.The ruling African National Congress has pointed to the economic crises in Europe — a key trading partner — as the main cause of the country’s economic malaise.The IMF agreed that „contributed” to weak growth, but said „domestic factors were an important reason why South Africa’s growth has been below that of other emerging markets.”The IMF warned serious domestic reforms were needed to the labour market as well as improvements in the business climate and trade liberalisation.A far-reaching economic plan — dubbed the National Development Plan — put forward by the government in 2011 has been put on ice amid opposition from within the ruling ANC and its trade union and communist allies.”Prompt progress on NDP implementation could build reform momentum and reduce policy uncertainty,” the IMF stated.”Limited reform progress leads to an inexorable build-up of vulnerabilities.”But with general elections due within the year, quick implementation is unlikely.
Romania mass grave bolsters communist-era probeView gallery13 minutes agoBUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Authorities on Tuesday confirmed the existence of a mass grave containing prisoners’ remains near the site of a former communist labor camp in eastern Romania. The discovery bolsters the case of investigators seeking genocide charges against the former commander of the penal colony.A statement from the government’s Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism laid out the official findings. It said five skeletons were found — one’s right foot was missing, one had a dislocated spine and another’s legs were tied together.Institute chief Andrei Muraru said the discovery revealed „brutality and primitivism in the management of the colony.”The excavation, initiated by the institute, took place from Sept. 14 to Sept. 19 in a remote part of the Danube Delta near the former labor camp. Archeologists helped authorities piece together the evidence.The institute wants prosecutors to charge the former Periprava camp commander, Ion Ficior, with genocide for the deaths of 103 political prisoners. Although the five skeletons were believed to be those of prisoners at the camp, it was not immediately clear if they belonged to any of the 103.Muraru said Periprava camp inmates died from malnutrition, beatings, a lack of medicine and from drinking dirty water from the Danube, which caused dysentery. Ficior, now 85, was deputy commander and then commander of the camp from 1958 to 1963. He denies wrongdoing.The institute plans to hand over evidence against 35 former guards who ran a range of prisons for political detainees in the 1950s and 1960s. About 3,500 former Romanian political prisoners from that era are still alive, down from 40,000 who were alive when communism was overthrown in 1989.___On the Web: www.iiccmer.ro