Daily Archives: February 13, 2015

House's top tax writer sees narrow window for reform

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives to hold a committtee hearing on the topic of U.S. economic growth at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives to hold a committtee hearing on the topic of U.S. economic growth at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 13, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst


(Reuters) – The Republican Party’s leading voice on taxes and budgets, Paul Ryan, said on Friday that the current Congress has only a few months to pull together a deal to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

“My guess is tax reform is a 2015 thing for sure and I think it’s got to be done by the end of the summer,” the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee chief told reporters.

Washington has not been able to summon the political will to reform the loophole-riddled tax code for 28 years. And with only a short window of opportunity this year, lawmakers will need to work quickly to find common ground.

Ryan said he would prefer to pass a comprehensive tax reform plan this year that simplifies and lowers rates for both companies and individuals. Democratic President Barack Obama has said he wants to push forward with a corporate-only tax reform.

Ryan said he is open to doing tax reform in phases, but if there’s no deal by fall for an initial phase, “it’s hard to see how that gets done.”

Congress’ energies in the autumn will be consumed with a new round of spending bills for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, he said. And in 2016, election-year politics will make tax reform more difficult to achieve.

A key hurdle for a corporate-only reform deal will be how to treat small business owners, whose profits are often taxed as individual income, he said.

Ryan said he still wants to cut the top corporate and individual tax rates to 25 percent from 35 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively, but he did not say how to do this.

He said a tax reform plan unveiled last year by his predecessor as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, former Representative Dave Camp, was helpful. “We see that as a starting point. We see it as something that educated us.”

On trade, Ryan said he would push ahead for a bill to grant the Obama administration “fast track” negotiating authority for major free trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership talks with 11 Asia-Pacific countries.

Many Democrats want any trade deals to have provisions aimed at thwarting currency manipulation, but Ryan said such provisions may be counterproductive, encouraging retaliatory tariffs or damaging the dollar’s reserve currency status.

Ryan departed Washington on Friday with seven other Ways and Means Committee members on a trade visit to Asia.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry)


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California has three new measles cases, Arizona says outbreak winding down

A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson


(Reuters) – California public health officials have confirmed three more cases of measles in an outbreak that began in late December, bringing to 113 the total number of people believed to have been infected in the state.

Health officials in Arizona, where seven cases of measles have been documented, said the outbreak would likely be considered over in that state if no further infections were reported over the weekend.

Across the United States, more than 150 people have been diagnosed with measles, many of them linked to an outbreak that authorities believe began when an infected person from out of the country visited Disneyland in late December.

The California Department of Public Health said 39 of the 113 people who contracted measles in the state were believed to have been exposed while visiting Disneyland. An additional 34 had contacts with those people in a household or community setting.

Forty cases stemmed from an unknown source of exposure, the department said.

Earlier this week, health officials warned tens of thousands of commuters on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system that they may have been exposed to measles after an infectious LinkedIn worker rode the train to and from work for three days.

That rider, who also spent time at a San Francisco restaurant and bar, represented the first case of measles confirmed in Contra Costa County.

In Arizona, Will Humble, the state’s director of health services, said the outbreak appeared to be largely winding down in that state because no “third-generation” cases had yet surfaced.

“Measles can take up to 21 days to develop in a person who has been exposed to the disease, so we’re not out of the woods quite yet … but if we don’t get any new cases by Valentine’s Day, this outbreak is likely over for Arizona,” Humble said in a message on the health department’s website.

The measles outbreak has renewed a debate over the so-called anti-vaccination movement, in which fears about potential side effects of vaccines, fueled by now-debunked research suggesting a link to autism, have prompted a small minority of parents to refuse inoculations for their children.

Some parents also opt not to have their children vaccinated for religious or other reasons.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 after decades of intensive childhood vaccine efforts. But in 2014 the country had its highest number of cases in two decades.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)


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China's Alibaba attracts attention from U.S. regulator

SAN FRANCISCO Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:54am IST

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province early November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song/Files

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province early November 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song/Files

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Friday it was asked by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for information about its dealings with a Chinese regulator, coming just five months after the company’s stock market debut.

The SEC’s request follows an unusually public fracas between Alibaba and China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or SAIC, over the issue of fake products being sold on the company’s websites and a series of related lawsuits filed in the United States.

The e-commerce titan said in a statement it was cooperating with the SEC’s request, but gave no details about what the regulator specifically wanted.

“The SEC letter states it should in no way be construed as Alibaba Group having done anything wrong or there having been any violation of securities law,” Alibaba said.

Wall Street is becoming increasingly concerned that Chinese regulators are sharpening their scrutiny of counterfeit products on e-commerce sites, an endemic problem that Alibaba and others have fought for years.

Last month, SAIC said in a now-retracted “white paper” that it had met with Alibaba before the company’s blockbuster New York stock market listing to discuss the issue of fakes sold on its platform, but had withheld publishing any report so as not to affect the initial public offering in September.

Alibaba’s shares fell 4.4 percent the day the SAIC report was published, spurring lawsuits in the United States alleging that the company failed to disclose risk factors to investors.

Alibaba, whose $25 billion IPO was the world’s biggest, is sensitive to accusations about its efforts to suppress counterfeit products.

Meanwhile, Beijing, facing persistent U.S. pressure, has declared protecting intellectual property a government priority.

Shares of Alibaba were down 0.62 percent in extended trade on Friday, after closing up 2.24 percent at $89.05 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Writing by Noel Randewich; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Latvian man pleads not guilty over Gozi computer virus scheme

NEW YORK Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:39am IST

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Latvian man pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges stemming from his alleged role in an international cybercrime ring behind a virus that infected more than a million computers worldwide.

Deniss Calovskis, 29, entered the plea in federal court in Manhattan a day after being extradited from Latvia to face charges that he wrote some of the computer code that made the so-called Gozi virus so effective.

U.S. authorities have called the virus one of the most financially destructive in history, infecting at least 40,000 computers in the United States alone, including more than 160 NASA computers.

Prosecutors say it was used to access personal bank account information and steal millions of dollars from customer accounts globally.

An indictment against Calovskis was unsealed in January 2013 when prosecutors announced separate charges against Nikita Kuzmin, a Russian whom they say created the virus, and Mihai Ionut Paunescu, a Romanian who allegedly ran a service that enabled its distribution.

Prosecutors say Calovskis, who resided in Riga, Latvia, was hired to develop a computer code that altered how banks’ websites appeared in order to trick victims into divulging personal information.

Calovskis has been charged with engaging in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, access device fraud, computer intrusion, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 67 years in prison.

Kuzmin pleaded guilty in May 2011 and has been cooperating with the investigation. Pauneschu was arrested in Romania in December 2012, but he has yet to appear in U.S. court to face charges.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Genetic Technologies shares rise 30 percent in heavy trading

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – Genetic Technologies Ltd’s (GENE.O) (GTG.AX) U.S.-listed shares closed up 30 percent on Friday, capping a two-and-a-half week spate of heavy trading during which its market valuation increased by 533 percent.

U.S. shares in the Australian genetic testing company closed at $8.04 on Friday on no apparent news during the day. They rose as much as 54.6 percent earlier in the session to touch a nearly 12-month high of $9.49 per share.

The stock closed at $1.27 on Jan. 28, a day before the company announced that up to six new breast cancer diagnosis and treatment centers were expected to begin offering its BREVAGenplus product to at-risk patients between January and March. It describes BREVAGenplus as an enhanced version of its breast cancer assessment test.

“It hit a tipping point because of their news announcement and people noticed so they got the volume and it increased in price and after that it just snowballed,” said John Kirkland, managing director at Ironridge Global Partners in San Francisco.

Ironridge is Genetic Technologies’ biggest institutional shareholder, according to Reuters data based on the latest public ownership reports.

Kirkland said that while the news was not very significant, Genetic Technologies “was so unwatched it was the tree falling in the woods. The moment somebody paid attention to it, it just exploded.”

Genetic Technologies saw a 751-fold spike in trading volume on Jan. 29, when 39.69 million shares changed hands compared with 52,834 shares in the previous session, and its shares almost tripled to $3.61.

In the last 12 days, volume has averaged 14.5 million shares compared with its 12-day average of just over 80,000 for Jan. 28. By the end of Friday 36.4 million shares had changed hands.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Paul Simao and Chris Reese)


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Zillow says Trulia deal may close next week

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>Feb 13 (Reuters) – Zillow Inc said the Federal Trade
Commission has decided to not take any action against real
estate website operator’s acquisition of Trulia Inc,
and the company now expects to close the deal as early as
Tuesday.

Zillow shares were up 6 percent in extended trading on
Friday.

The company said in July it would buy smaller rival Trulia
for $3.5 billion to cut costs.

Zillow also reported a 58 percent jump in quarterly revenue
on Friday, driven by a 41 percent increase in average monthly
unique users.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Joyjeet Das)


Source: Newsjyoti Hot Stock News

UPDATE 1-Genetic Technologies shares rise 30 pct in heavy trading

(Adds fund manager comment)

By Sinead Carew

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>Feb 13 (Reuters) – Genetic Technologies Ltd’s
U.S.-listed shares closed up 30 percent on Friday,
capping a two-and-a-half week spate of heavy trading during
which its market valuation increased by 533 percent.

U.S. shares in the Australian genetic testing company closed
at $8.04 on Friday on no apparent news during the day. They rose
as much as 54.6 percent earlier in the session to touch a nearly
12-month high of $9.49 per share.

The stock closed at $1.27 on Jan. 28, a day before the
company announced that up to six new breast cancer diagnosis and
treatment centers were expected to begin offering its
BREVAGenplus product to at-risk patients between January and
March. It describes BREVAGenplus as an enhanced version of its
breast cancer assessment test.

“It hit a tipping point because of their news announcement
and people noticed so they got the volume and it increased in
price and after that it just snowballed,” said John Kirkland,
managing director at Ironridge Global Partners in San Francisco.

Ironridge is Genetic Technologies’ biggest institutional
shareholder, according to Reuters data based on the latest
public ownership reports.

Kirkland said that while the news was not very significant,
Genetic Technologies “was so unwatched it was the tree falling
in the woods. The moment somebody paid attention to it, it just
exploded.”

Genetic Technologies saw a 751-fold spike in trading volume
on Jan. 29, when 39.69 million shares changed hands compared
with 52,834 shares in the previous session, and its shares
almost tripled to $3.61.

In the last 12 days, volume has averaged 14.5 million shares
compared with its 12-day average of just over 80,000 for Jan.
28. By the end of Friday 36.4 million shares had changed hands.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Paul Simao and Chris
Reese)


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Obama urges execs to cooperate more against cyberattacks

SAN FRANCISCO Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:24am IST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California February 13, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – President Barack Obama asked U.S. executives on Friday for closer cooperation in defending against hackers after high-profile attacks on companies like Sony that exposed weaknesses in America’s cyber defenses.

Speaking at Stanford University, Obama told Silicon Valley and financial services CEOs that they needed to share more information more quickly both with each other and with his administration.

“Government cannot do this alone. But the fact is that the private sector can’t do it alone either because it’s government that often has the latest information on new threats,” he told a gathering of CEOs.

Obama has moved cybersecurity toward the top of his 2015 agenda after the recent breaches but senior figures from the tech world who are at odds with the administration over government surveillance stayed away from his speech.

The Sony attack was particularly worrying for U.S. officials, who blamed North Korea for stealing data, debilitating computers and pressuring the studio to halt the release of “The Interview,” a satirical film about leader Kim Jong-un.

“There’s only one way to defend America from these cyber threats and that is through government and industry working together, sharing appropriate information as true partners,” Obama said.

He met privately with a small group of business leaders in Silicon Valley to try to mend fences with tech companies still smarting over damage to their businesses when government surveillance practices were exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Upset about the lack of reforms to surveillance programs, the CEOs of Google Inc, Facebook Inc and Yahoo Inc stayed away from Friday’s conference.

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook gave an address and CEOs from PayPal, Intel Corporation, Visa and other financial services companies attended.

Cook warned about unspecified threats to privacy.

“We still live in a world where not all people are treated equally. Too many people are not free to practice their religion, or speak their mind, or love who they choose,” Cook said. “If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right to privacy, we risk far more than money … we risk our way of life.”

American Express Co CEO Kenneth Chenault said there was ample room for improving cooperation against hacking.

Though the card issuer scans constantly for threats, Chenault said only 5 percent of the cases the company finds are already the subject of warnings from other members in the financial sector’s well-regarded Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Only 1 percent of the threats has already been flagged by the federal government.

“Information-sharing may be the single highest-impact, lowest-cost and fastest way to implement capabilities we have in hand as a nation to accelerate our overall defense,” Chenault said.

MALICIOUS ACTIVITY

The White House wants businesses to exchange more information about any attacks as rapidly as possible.

While at Stanford, Obama signed an executive order aimed making that happen by promoting hubs where companies can share information with each other and with the Department of Homeland Security.

If emails hit employees at one company with a link to a website loaded with code that can give hackers access to the network, that company should feel free to warn its competitors without worrying about antitrust or privacy rules, the White House argues.

The administration would like to automate the process as much as possible, so that machines would be informed what malicious websites or email addresses to block within minutes.

“The information we want to be moving is the information on things that actually indicate malicious activity. And so that’s malware indicators, that’s indicators of compromise, that’s bad IP addresses,” Michael Daniel, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, told reporters.

Obama’s executive order is one step in a long effort to make companies as well as privacy and consumer advocates more comfortable with proposed legislation that would offer firms protection from being sued for handing over customer information to the government.

Some executives said cybersecurity issues were leading to greater fragmentation of global business, and that the private sector could not overcome that without more serious discussion between governments.

“There’s a protectionism developing,” said Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. “You’ve got to store the data here, you’ve got to use these providers.”

(Additional reporting by Joseph Menn, Julia Edwards and Amanda Becker; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by John Whitesides and Christian Plumb)

Source: Newsjyoti India Technology

Maine Governor LePage asks top U.S. court to weigh in on Medicaid fight

(Reuters) – Maine Governor Paul LePage has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute with the federal government over the state’s effort to trim some young people from its Medicaid rolls.

In a 172-page petition, the Republican LePage administration questioned a lower court ruling that affirmed the federal government decision to reject the state’s plan to cut 19- and 20-year-olds from Medicaid.

“The federal government’s path of reckless welfare spending is one that we decline to pursue,” Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said on Friday.

A judge for the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November that Maine’s move would violate President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act, citing a provision that ensures “children do not lose health insurance as the country transitions from the pre-ACA Medicaid regime to the post-ACA Medicaid regime.”

Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income and disabled people.

Maine is one of several states that have challenged Obamacare, as the healthcare reform law is known, and congressional Republicans, bolstered by big wins in November elections, have renewed attacks on the law.

The state contends that the federal government has run afoul of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that allowed each U.S. state to decide whether to accept the expansion.

Following that ruling, 22 states, including Maine, have declined to expand Medicaid.

LePage, who campaigned on a platform of welfare reform, was re-elected in November after handily beating Democratic challenger and five-term U.S. Representative Mike Michaud.

His administration has long argued that welfare funds should be directed toward “the truly needy, not job-ready adults.”

Cutting the Medicaid rolls would have saved Maine $3.7 million, according to the LePage administration, which has sought to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare spending overall.

(Editing by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)


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Fighting rages in run-up to Ukraine ceasefire

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride on armoured personnel carriers near Debaltseve

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride on armoured personnel carriers (APC) near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine, February 12, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich


(Reuters) – Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels fought fiercely across the east of the country on Friday despite a new peace deal brokered by Germany and France.

 

A ceasefire is due to come into effect from Sunday under the agreement, which also envisages a withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 casualties in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago.

Kiev said pro-Russian rebels had built up their forces across separatist-held zones since the deal and both sides accused each other of killing civilians.

Two people were killed and six wounded when a shell hit a cafe in the Kiev-controlled town of Shchastya near rebel-held Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, a local official said, adding that other shells had struck elsewhere in the town.

“The town’s heating system is broken, power lines are damaged as well as the water supply … So this is how a comprehensive ceasefire is prepared for,” the head of the Kiev-controlled administration, Hennadiy Moskal, said online.

The rebels accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and the town of Horlivka, where they said on their website that three children had been killed.

The sound of artillery could be heard in the outskirts of Donetsk and clouds of black smoke hung over its suburbs.

Outgoing fire from the Ukrainian side was visible on the road between Kiev-controlled Kramatorsk and rebel-held Donetsk and rebels at a checkpoint near Donetsk said they had been hit by mortar strikes. They mocked the impending truce.

“What sort of ceasefire? Don’t make me laugh. This is already the second or third ceasefire,” one said.

The deal, sealed by the leaders of Germany and France on Friday after 16 hours of all-night talks in Minsk, capital of Belarus, with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, was soon overshadowed by the clashes.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said 11 soldiers had been killed and 40 wounded in the past 24 hours. “The enemy continues to build up forces in the main areas of the armed conflict,” Andriy Lysenko said.

Fighting was intense around Debaltseve, a railway junction linking the two main rebel areas, where separatists used rockets and artillery to attack government forces holding the town.

“Rebels are repeatedly storming the strongholds and base camp of Ukrainian forces,” in and around Debaltseve as well as firing artillery, mortars and rockets, Lysenko said, stressing that government troops had held their positions.

The United States and Europe have threatened further sanctions against Moscow if the rebels seize more territory.

DISAGREEMENTS

Ukraine’s pro-Western president said he was not naive and wanted to make clear the country was a long way from peace.

“Nobody has a strong belief that the peace conditions which were signed in Minsk will be implemented strictly,” Petro Poroshenko said.

Away from the battlefield, disagreements surfaced over whether a rebel amnesty or the release of a Ukrainian pilot detained by Russia were part of the ceasefire deal.

Western diplomats said the European Union would go ahead on Monday with already planned sanctions against 19 Ukrainian separatists and Russians, despite the ceasefire.

NATO and the United States said the fighting ran counter to the spirit, if not the letter of the agreement and U.S. officials said further sanctions were still on the table.

At an EU summit in Brussels, the leaders of Germany, France and the European Council also said new sanctions were possible.

On Friday, the Kremlin said the four leaders remained in touch over the Ukraine crisis, and that he expected a phone conversation in the coming days, RIA news agency reported.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow expected all points of the deal to be implemented, but that Russia had not promised to free detained Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko. Savchenko’s case would be decided by a Russian court, he said.

Ukraine, for its part, said it had not agreed to an amnesty for all rebels, drawing an angry response from the separatists.

Sanctions by the EU and United States have piled intense economic pressure on Russia’s economy, which has also been hit by a collapse in oil prices.

Russia’s economy minister said he hoped sanctions would be lifted soon.

VAST “BUFFER ZONE”

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the agreement with Russia on Ukraine as a good start but said undertakings must now be respected.

Ukraine reported a new, mass influx of Russian armour into rebel-held eastern Ukraine as the agreement was being finalised.

The deal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line when and if the ceasefire has taken hold, and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.

The rebels have advanced far past an earlier ceasefire deal, agreed in September, and the new agreement appears to envisage them pulling their guns back around 75 km, to take them back behind it, while Ukrainian guns would move 25 km back.

This would leave a buffer zone 50 km wide, a challenge for the monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who are expected to patrol it. It also appears to take more territory outside Kiev’s control.

The White House, under pressure from Congress to provide arms to the stretched Ukrainian military, said the deal was “potentially significant” but urged Russia to withdraw soldiers and equipment, and give Ukraine back control over its border.

Russia denies arming the rebels and sending troops to fight alongside them, despite what Ukraine and its Western allies say is overwhelming evidence.

(Additional reporting by Alessandra Prentice, Pavel Polityuk, Richard Balmforth, Gabriela Baczynska and Alexander Winning; writing by Philippa Fletcher; editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)


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