Head of troubled bitcoin exchange still in Japan PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:21

TOKYO (AP) — The head of troubled bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox says in a web post that he is still in Japan, and "working very hard" to find a solution to the Tokyo-based organization's problems.

The exchange has suspended trading amid accusations it suffered a catastrophic theft and its website went blank Tuesday, sparking speculation that it has collapsed.

Bitcoin, created in 2009, is an online currency that allows people to make transactions across borders without involving third parties such as banks or credit card issuers.

Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was one of the world's biggest exchanges for bitcoins.

CEO Mark Karpeles, who has disappeared from the public eye, said in a two paragraph post on the Mt. Gox website dated Wednesday that he has the support of different parties in finding a "solution to our recent issues."

Latest airline perk: Safe distance from the masses PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:04

NEW YORK (AP) — On flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong, first-class passengers can enjoy a Mesclun salad with king crab or a grilled USDA prime beef tenderloin, stretch out in a 3-foot-wide seat that converts to a bed and wash it all down with a pre-slumber Krug "Grande Cuvee" Brut Champagne.

Yet some of the most cherished new international first-class perks have nothing to do with meals, drinks or seats. Global airlines are increasingly rewarding wealthy fliers with something more intangible: physical distance between them and everyone else.

The idea is to provide an exclusive experience — inaccessible, even invisible, to the masses in coach. It's one way that a gap between the world's wealthiest 1 percent and everyone else has widened.

Many top-paying international passengers, having put down roughly $15,000 for a ticket, now check-in at secluded facilities and are driven in luxury cars directly to planes. Others can savor the same premier privileges by redeeming 125,000 or more frequent flier miles for a trip of a lifetime.

Royal Bank of Scotland: $13.7 billion pre-tax loss PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:18

LONDON (AP) — Taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland took a whopping 8.2 billion-pound ($13.7 billion) pre-tax loss for 2013 as it announced a new plan Thursday to transform itself, streamlining the bank to make it smaller and safer.

Chief Executive Ross McEwan said RBS will now focus on Britain, signaling a rollback from the global ambitions the institution held before the onset of the financial crisis. In a somber speech in London, McEwan pledged he would do the "hard graft" to regain the trust of its customers.

"So let me spell it out very clearly: the days when RBS sought to be the biggest bank in the world — those days are well and truly over," McEwan said. "Our ambition is to be a bank for U.K. customers, the best bank for U.K. customers. A bank that gets the basics of everyday banking right."

British taxpayers rescued RBS in 2008 with a 45 billion-pound ($71 billion) capital injection after former swash-buckling CEO Fred Goodwin brought the bank to near-collapse with an aggressive global expansion strategy that included the ill-fated purchase of Dutch lender ABN Amro. The public owns just over 80 percent of the institution.

Report: Keystone contractor followed federal rules PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:02

WASHINGTON (AP) — A consulting firm that helped write an environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline complied with federal rules regarding possible conflict of interest, the State Department's inspector general said Wednesday in a report that buoyed supporters of the controversial pipeline and disappointed critics.

The report said the contractor, Environmental Resources Management, fully disclosed that some staff members who worked on the State Department report had previously done work with the pipeline operator, Calgary-based TransCanada. None of the work for TransCanada involved Keystone XL, and all of it occurred before the staff members began work at ERM, the report said.

The State Department followed federal guidelines regarding use of outside contractors, the report said, "and at times was more rigorous than that guidance."

Still, the report said the State Department's process for hiring outside contractors can be improved, adding that requirements for documenting how contractors are selected were "minimal."

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