North America Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Wed, 27 May 2015 23:56:08 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb Less active North Atlantic hurricane season forecast: US imageWASHINGTON: This year's North Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be less active than usual, the US government said Wednesday.

There is a 70 percent chance of six to 11 tropical storms during the span from June 1 to November 30, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Of those, three to six could strengthen into hurricanes, including one or two of category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of at least 111 mph (178 kph).

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Wed, 27 May 2015 20:41:15 +0000
Hackers steal personal data from US tax agency IRS imageWASHINGTON: Hackers stole information on 100,000 taxpayers from the online computers of the US Internal Revenue Service, the federal tax agency said Tuesday.

The IRS said the unidentified cyber thieves used information on the specific taxpayers from sources outside the agency to access the accounts, which included crucial identifying information such as birth dates, addresses and social security numbers.

"These third parties gained sufficient information from an outside source before trying to access the IRS site, which allowed them to clear a multi-step authentication process, including several personal verification questions that typically are only known by the taxpayer," the agency said.

The IRS said the theft involved its online "Get Transcript" system, which allows users to view all their transactions and reports with the agency.

The hackers tried to access about 200,000 accounts between February and mid-May, and were successful in about half those attempts.

The IRS said the "Get Transcript" service is on a separate computer system than the one that handles online tax submissions for millions of Americans each year.

"That system remains secure," it said.

It said it has shut down the "Get Transcript" service, and its inspector general and criminal investigation offices were reviewing the case.

It did not identify the source of the information that allowed hackers to enter the accounts.

The agency is notifying owners of all 200,000 accounts to warn them about the hacking and provide free credit monitoring for those whose accounts were entered.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Wed, 27 May 2015 06:46:31 +0000
Congress makes Wall St look like paragon of virtue imageNEW YORK: US lawmaker Paul Ryan and colleagues claim a recent court ruling exempts them from a self-imposed ban on insider trading. That's lame in any event, but also hypocritical: They're mulling bills to expand constituents' liability.

They should get their own houses in order.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission on May 18 criticized the House Ways and Means Committee, including Chairman Paul Ryan, for claiming that a recent federal court ruling immunizes members of Congress and their staff from insider-trading investigations.

- In a letter filed with US District Judge Paul Gardephe, the commission said the May 8 ruling on congressman Charles Rangel's challenge to an ethics probe did not extend constitutional protections for congressional debates to leaks of material, non-public information.

The SEC is looking into whether a staff member of the House committee illegally passed along confidential information about a change in healthcare policy that prompted a rise in the value of insurance company stocks.

The 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act prohibits members of Congress and their aides from disclosing non-public information about legislative and other matters that could affect stock prices.

- Congress is considering three bills that would broaden the definition of illegal insider trading.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Tue, 26 May 2015 19:28:08 +0000
South Korea's Park to visit Obama June 16: White House

imageWASHINGTON: President Barack Obama will welcome South Korean President Park Geun-hye to the White House on June 16, the White House National Security Council said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Tue, 26 May 2015 19:27:15 +0000
California beach town cleans up after oil spill imageSANTA BARBARA: A small army of clean-up workers toiled Friday to scoop up crude oil deposits from a picturesque California beach, three days after a pipeline rupture unleashed thousands of gallons into the ocean.

The scenic Refugio State Beach and its neighbor El Capitan would usually be swarming with tourists over America's Memorial Day weekend, but were closed until further notice following Tuesday's spill.

Plastic bags filled with blackened sand piled up, and the stench of oil could be smelled from miles around. Workers had made significant progress on the beach but rocks remained coated in oil.

"The beaches are starting to look a lot better than they did a couple of days ago, but still it will be a long process," said David Mosley, a Coastguard spokesman.

"Something like that, it can take days or weeks to get back to pre-spill."

Some 300 clean-up workers have been mobilized and new teams are still arriving. Their ranks are boosted by many volunteers, but these need equipment and to undergo a brief training session before they can get to work.

Clean-up operations also aim to pump slicked oil from the ocean. About 105,000 gallons (40,000 liters) are estimated to have spilled.

Only a portion of this made it to the sea, but this was enough to form an oil slick about nine miles (14 kilometers) long.

Workers were also cleaning the hill overlooking Refugio beach, the site of the rupture. The leak affected a pipeline operated by Plains All America Pipeline.

Patrick Hodgins, a senior director with the company, said it could take months to find out what happened to the two-foot (60 centimeter) wide pipeline which dates back to 1987.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Sat, 23 May 2015 07:14:59 +0000
Bacteria blamed in indigenous Mexican baby deaths imageMEXICO CITY: Bacteria -- and not a contaminated vaccine as initially suspected -- were to blame for the recent deaths of two Mexican babies and for sickening 29 others, according to an official investigation.

The babies, from the indigenous town of Simojovel in southern Chiapas state, became sick after receiving Hepatitis B shots earlier this month.

Mexican health authorities said Friday that studies carried out on the babies detected a type of Staphylococcus bacterium that is commonly found on people's skin.

Experts concluded that "bacterial contamination occurred during the process of handling and application of the vaccine," and that this came from a single source of infection, officials from the IMSS national public health care system said in a statement.

As of Friday, two infants remained hospitalized while 27 others had been discharged.

On May 8, health care workers arrived in Simojovel to give tuberculosis and Hepatitis B vaccines. A total of 32 of the 52 children who were vaccinated had some sort of reaction, and two of them died that night.

Many indigenous communities in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico, are far from cities and lack access to health services.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Sat, 23 May 2015 07:02:10 +0000
US Senate approves fast-track trade authority for Obama imageWASHINGTON: The US Senate overcame bitter divisions on trade policy Friday and passed legislation that gives President Barack Obama authority to swiftly forge international trade pacts, including a landmark Pacific Rim accord under negotiation.

The measure now heads to the House of Representatives where its fate is uncertain.

While Senate passage is a dramatic victory for Obama, the bill clearly faces a fierce debate in the lower chamber, where lawmakers signalled there is intense opposition from within Obama's own Democratic Party.

Passage of the so-called trade promotion authority bill allows the administration to finalize negotiations with 11 other Asian and Pacific nations and bring the trade deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, with lawmakers not permitted to make changes.

The bill, which pushes Obama's top legislative priority in his second term, passed on a 62-37 vote, with all but a handful of Republicans backing their rival in the White House.

TPA is "likely the most important bill we'll pass this year," said Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, who co-wrote the legislation that lays out 150 ambitious US trade priorities including human rights, environment and labor protections.

"It shows that when the president is right we will support him."

But most Democrats voted no, highlighting some of their fiercest opposition to Obama in his six-plus years in office.

Senate Democrat Jeff Merkley crystalized the sentiments of many free-trade critics, who say the accord will promote a hemorrhaging of American jobs, much like the North American Free Trade Agreement is blamed for doing a generation earlier.

"We have lost five million jobs and 50,000 factories," Merkley told his colleagues. "This is simply the wrong direction to go."

Supporters said the Pacific trade accord -- the largest in history -- will eliminate trade tariffs and level the playing field for US exports.

And TPA will ensure the most progressive framework of any global trade deal, they said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Sat, 23 May 2015 05:31:02 +0000
Canada inflation drops to 0.8pc in April imageOTTAWA: Low oil and gas prices brought inflation down in April but Canadians paid more for almost everything else, the government statistical agency said Friday.

The consumer price index fell to 0.8 percent in the month, according to Statistics Canada.

Analysts had expected a rate of 1.0 percent after it was 1.2 percent in March.

Statistics Canada said the prices of meat, fresh vegetables, restaurant meals, passenger vehicles, clothing and footwear increased.

Gasoline, natural gas and mortgage interest costs fell.

At 2.3 percent, the core inflation rate used by the Bank of Canada in setting key lending rates, however, remained above the central bank's 2.0 percent target.

Its next rate announcement is scheduled for Wednesday.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Fri, 22 May 2015 15:41:43 +0000
Obama praises US senators for 'big step forward' on trade imageWASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama praised US senators on Thursday for advancing legislation that would help him complete a trade pact with Asian countries, a major policy priority for the White House.

"I want to thank a bipartisan group of senators who took a big step forward this morning on a trade agenda that is consistent with strong labor standards, strong environmental standards," Obama said at the beginning of a meeting with members of his cabinet.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Thu, 21 May 2015 19:55:09 +0000
BP oil spill caused dolphins' lung disease, deaths: study imageMIAMI: Dolphins swimming in the oil-contaminated waters of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP spill suffered unusual lung lesions and died at high rates because of petroleum pollution, US scientists said Thursday.

The latest findings in the journal PLOS ONE present the strongest evidence to date that the environmental disaster that was unleashed when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, pouring 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, was the reason for an unusually high number of dead or dying bottlenose dolphins washing up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Dolphins take big, deep breaths right at the surface of the water, where oil sheens are most concentrated, and "where there is a good chance of inhaling oil itself," said lead author Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation.

"Dolphins were negatively impacted by exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and exposure to these compounds caused life threatening adrenal and lung disease that has contributed to increased dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico."

- Unusual lesions -

Unusual lesions in the lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones and stress response, were a key sign that something was wrong with dolphins in the area of the spill, according to the research which compared autopsies of 46 dolphins that were stranded and died in the spill area from June 2010 to August 2012 to a comparison population of stranded dolphins off the Gulf coast of Florida.

"We found that dolphins that died after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas," said Kathleen Colgrove, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois.

"These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the US."

One in three of the stranded dolphins in the spill area had a thinned adrenal gland cortex, a rate that was significantly higher than the reference population of stranded dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, in which one in 10 had such a condition.

"The thinning of the adrenal gland cortex was a very unusual abnormality for us, that has not been previously reported in dolphins in the literature," Colgrove told reporters during a conference call to discuss the findings, which are the latest in a series of research papers on dolphin health in the region after the spill.

- Bacterial pneumonia -

One in five of the oil spill dolphins had bacterial pneumonia, a serious lung disease that was severe enough to cause or contribute to the animals' deaths.

By comparison, bacterial pneumonia was found in just one of 50 of the Florida dolphins to which the autopsies were compared.

Studies in other animals have shown that inhaling oil can cause adrenal dysfunction, lung disease and bacterial pneumonia, which Venn-Watson described as "one of the most common outcomes of chemical inhalation injury in other animals."

Scientists ruled out other diseases known to have killed dolphins in high numbers in the past, such as brucellosis and morbillivirus, saying that the pathogens were found at similar levels in the oil spill dolphins and the reference group of dolphins in Florida, indicating that they were not the primary cause for the increase in strandings.

They also ruled out cancers, autoimmune diseases, fungal infections and tuberculosis.

"No feasible alternative causes remain that can reasonably explain the timing, location and nature of these distinct lesions," said Venn-Watson.

A 2013 study on cetaceans in Louisiana's Barataria Bay, found that dolphins were missing teeth, had lung lesions and high prevalence of disease after the worst oil spill in US history.

"We feel that this study is a critical link in the chain," said Venn-Watson.

More than 1,200 dolphins have washed up in area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by the spill since April 29, 2010.

An additional 114 were stranded from February, two months prior to the spill, until April 20, according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In response to the study, BP took issue with the scientific findings.

"According to NOAA, the Gulf 'unusual mortality event' (UME) began in February 2010, months before the spill," said Geoff Morell, BP senior vice president for US communications and external affairs

"Even though the UME may have overlapped in some areas with the oil spill, correlation is not evidence of causation."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Wed, 20 May 2015 20:20:40 +0000