Off the Wires

Takata puts worst-case recall costs at $24 billion

March 30th, 2016  |  Source:

Takata Corp., the supplier behind the auto industry's biggest recall ever, estimated that a comprehensive callback of its airbag inflators would cost about 2.7 trillion yen ($24 billion), according to a person familiar with the matter.

The worst-case recall scenario would involve 287.5 million airbag inflators, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the company's deliberations are private. Takata and the automakers still have to determine how the costs are shared, the person said.

A representative for Takata declined to comment.

The projection by Takata exceeds a February estimate by a Jefferies Group LLC analyst by about $7 billion and reinforces concerns about the company's viability. The worst-case cost figure is almost four times more than the revenue Takata has forecast for the fiscal year ending this month. It also amounts to almost six-times more than the total assets on its balance sheet as of the end of 2015.

Splitting costs

"Even if this is the worst-case simulation, it shows the company has seen some possibility," Ken Miyao, an analyst with Tokyo-based market researcher Carnorama, said. "The question is how much the carmakers want to split the costs. But even if Takata only bears half of the cost, this would still be beyond their scope."

Takata shares plunged by about 20 percent to 414 yen, hitting the lower daily limit in Tokyo trading.

Obama Administration Offers Desperately Needed Help For People Addicted To Opioids

March 29th, 2016  |  Source: HuffPo

HHS lays out its plan to raise the patient cap for doctors prescribing addiction medication.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule on Tuesday to double the number of patients a doctor can treat with an opioid addiction medication that public health officials consider essential. The change could help alleviate the long waiting lists in places hard hit by the opioid epidemic and tilt the U.S. drug treatment system toward a more evidence-based approach.

“This is an important step and I think it’s a very public signal of how we think about it and what we believe,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in an interview with The Huffington Post. She said she expects the rule to go into effect before President Barack Obama leaves office.

Read on here:

Sanders says party leaders may 'rethink' after wins

March 28th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

Fresh from Democratic presidential primary wins over the weekend in three U.S. states, Bernie Sanders said on Sunday he had political momentum that could help him win the backing of Democratic power brokers in his race against Hillary Clinton.

Sanders easily won nominating contests in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii on Saturday. His latest remarks reflect his plan to chip away at Clinton's commanding lead in the number of delegates needed to win the party's nomination for the November election.

Interviewed on Sunday by U.S. broadcasters, Sanders said Democratic "super-delegates," who can change their allegiance, might face pressure to rally behind him because most polls suggest he has a better chance than Clinton of beating a Republican candidate.

"Momentum is with us," Sanders, a senator from Vermont, said on CNN'S State of the Union news program. "A lot of these super-delegates may rethink their position with Hillary Clinton."

Sanders also criticized Clinton's reliance on wealthy donors to fund her campaign. He cited a fundraising dinner being hosted next month by actor George Clooney, where supporters will have to donate at least $33,400 to attend, or $353,400, nearly seven times the annual median income, if they want "premium" seating.

"It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big money people to fund her campaign," Sanders told CNN. "Our events, we charge $15 or $50 for people to come. So, it's not a criticism of Clooney. It's a criticism of a corrupt finance system."

About 85 percent of the votes at the July 25-28 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where a party nominee will be chosen to face the Republicans in the Nov. 8 election, are being determined by state nominating contests.

The other 15 percent is held by party power brokers who are free to vote as they like, meaning they could hold the key in a tight contest. Super-delegates include party leaders and elected senators, members of the U.S. Congress and governors.

After Saturday's contests, the former secretary of state led Sanders by just under 300 pledged delegates in the race for the 2,382 needed to be nominated.

Adding in the support of super-delegates, which the party created in the early 1980s to give leaders more control over the nominating process, Clinton had 1,712 delegates to 1,004 for Sanders, according to a tally by

The U.S. senator from Vermont needs to win up to two-thirds of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that awards them proportionally in all states.

Sanders is turning his attention to his native New York, where Democratic voters will divide up 247 delegates on April 19th. His campaign manager on Sunday wrote a letter to Clinton's manager insisting that a planned televised debate between the candidates in April be held in the state, which Clinton represented as a U.S. senator for eight years. Jeff Weaver said in the letter that the Clinton campaign had resisted holding the debate in New York.

"Is the Secretary concerned about debating before the people who twice elected her to the U.S. Senate?" Weaver wrote.

Spokesmen for Clinton did not respond to requests for comment.

Crucifixion re-enactment in the Philippines

March 25th, 2016  |  Source:

For approximately 73 million Catholic Filipinos, this is a special time of year when penance and sacrifices are made prior to the resurrection of their Lord Jesus. They say Filipino faith can move mountains, and in some cases it can even influence them to nail their hands to a cross or be cut by whips in order to endure the suffering of Jesus. It may sound a bit weird, but Filipinos take the word sacrifice very seriously. 

Every Good Friday, thousands of locals and tourists flock to small towns throughout the Philippines, such as Pampanga or Jordan, to witness the crucifixion acted out in what is known as "Pagtaltal sa Guimaras." This re-enactment of Christ's Passion includes the last supper, scourging at the pillar, carrying of the cross, the seven last words and the crucifixion. Leading up to the crucifixion re-enactment, thousands of penitents will whip themselves in this voluntary ritual. The practice of crucifixion itself is controversial and not encouraged by the church—willing participants have their palms nailed into a cross. For over thirty-three years the crucifixion re-enactment has been taking place every Good Friday and ends at 3 p.m. when the person portraying the role of Jesus is nailed on the cross. According to Catholics, this is also the exact time when Jesus died. 

The people who portray the role of Jesus during the crucifixion re-enactment say they do it for sacrifice, personal penance, good will and blessings. Over the years, different people have portrayed the role of Jesus, including females and even visiting tourists. Whether you're Catholic or not, the crucifixion re-enactment is a shockingly bold introduction to the Filipino faith.

Radovan Karadžić sentenced to 40 years for genocide at Srebrenica

March 24th, 2016  |  Source: The Guardian

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić has been found guilty of genocide over the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica and sentenced to 40 years in jail.

The key verdict from a United Nations tribunal in The Hague was delivered 18 months after a five-year trial of Karadžić, who was accused of being one of the chief architects of atrocities during the 1992-95 Balkans war.

The 70-year-old, who insisted his actions were aimed at protecting Serbs during the Bosnian conflict, was found guilty of 10 out of the 11 charges he faced at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

This gun looks exactly like a smartphone

March 23rd, 2016  |  Source:

Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just... carrying an iPhone?

The Ideal Conceal handgun has made waves for what its maker calls an “ingenious” design that looks exactly like a smartphone when in the “locked” position.

Ideal Conceal says on its website that, indeed, hardly anybody will notice it: “Smartphones are EVERYWHERE, so your new pistol will easily blend in with today’s environment. In its locked position it will be virtually undetectable because it hides in plain sight.”

The Ideal Conceal weapon is a .380-caliber derringer. Two bullets in two barrels. While the gun is still patent-pending, It’s expected to be available by mid-2016 for $395 each.

“From soccer moms to professionals of every type, this gun allows you the option of not being a victim,” the company says. “Most threats will occur in less than a 30’ range. Ease and speed of deployment will mean the difference in the outcome. With the Ideal Conceal pistol you can be quick on the draw stopping a threat effectively and immediately.”

Ideal Conceal looks to be tapping into the gun market at an opportune time. Earlier this month, firearms giant Smith & Wesson SWHC, +0.57%  rode a groundswell of demand to surprisingly strong quarterly results. The stock has more than doubled in the past year, as uncertainty over gun laws and the rising threat of terrorism have caused customers to load up.

U.S. airlines cancel Brussels flights after blasts

March 22nd, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

U.S. airlines including Delta, United and American canceled flights on Tuesday after two deadly blasts in a packed departure area of the Brussels Airport at Zaventem.

A suicide bomber blew himself up in one of the Tuesday morning airport explosions, which public broadcaster VRT said killed 14 people. Another 20 were killed when a blast tore through a rush-hour metro train in the European capital shortly afterward, VRT said.

Video at the airport, which was shut down, showed devastation, with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor. Some passengers emerged from the terminal with blood spattered over their clothes.

While there were no credible threats to U.S. airports or transportation hubs, police presence was beefed up as a precaution in the nation's major cities, including New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Delta Air Lines Inc said its flight DL42 from New York to Brussels was diverted to Amsterdam. Another flight, DL80 from Atlanta, had landed safely at the Zaventem airport and was parked remotely while the airline's local staff helped passengers exit safely.

News of the multiple blasts, which have Brussels on lockdown and have snarled some cross-border traffic, sent shares of U.S. airlines and travel-related companies lower. Delta was down 2.1 percent at $49.04 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading, while United Continental Holdings Inc fell 1.4 percent to $69.34.

United Airlines, which had two flights due in Brussels on Tuesday morning, said both landed there safely.

The company said it was suspending all remaining flights to and from Brussels.

American Airlines Group Inc said it had canceled flight 751 from Brussels to Philadelphia and would accommodate its passengers when the airport reopens.

The explosions did not occur where American's check-in operates, the company said, so all of its airport employees are safe and accounted for.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc said all of its hotels in Brussels were on lockdown, along with the rest of the city.

Facebook Inc said it had activated its "safety check" feature, which allows its users to check on friends who were in the area of the blasts.

Defense Department agency aims to tap into Boston's cybersecurity industry

March 21st, 2016  |  Source:

The head of U.S. Cyber Command said he'd like to see the military cybersecurity agency establish a unit in Boston.

U.S. Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers told lawmakers in Washington last week that his goal is to allow the U.S. Department of Defense to set up an outpost of CYBERCOM in Boston. It would be the second satellite location for the agency; a similar outpost was set up in Silicon Valley.

The Boston effort would function on its own, but the command would also rely "on a cadre of former military people who work in the area and can act as advisers and intermediaries," according to Politico.

CYBERCOM's goal would be to try to tap into technology being developed at local companies and apply them to government cybersecurity-related missions.


Rogers told lawmakers that working with the private sector is the “next big area we need to get into."

CYBERCOM, based in Fort Meade, Maryland, reports to the Defense Department's United States Strategic Command. The agency's goals include defending the U.S. against cyber attacks from other countries or state actors as well as supporting combatant commanders.

The U.S. Is Exporting Its Oil Everywhere

March 18th, 2016  |  Source: Bloomberg

Three months since the U.S. lifted a 40-year ban on oil exports, American crude is flowing to virtually every corner of the market and reshaping the world’s energy map.

Overseas sales, which started on Dec. 31 with a small cargo aboard the Theo T tanker, have been picking up speed. Oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp have joined independent traders such as Vitol Group and Trafigura Pte in exporting American crude.

The "growing volumes of exports" from the U.S. are now "spooking the markets," Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultants Energy Aspects Ltd. in London, said in a note. The "flurry of export activity" is helping to support spot oil prices in the U.S. relative to contracts for later delivery, she wrote.

With American stockpiles at unprecedented levels, oil tankers laden with U.S. crude have docked in, or are heading to, countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, China and Panama. Oil traders said other destinations are likely, just as supplies in Europe and the Mediterranean region are also increasing.

Small Scale

That said, the U.S. is likely to remain for the foreseeable future a small exporter compared with OPEC giants Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq and non-OPEC producers Mexico and Russia. Ian Taylor, chief executive of Vitol, the company behind the first export, believes exports will remain a "very marginal business.”

Yet, tanker by tanker, overseas sales are growing.

Enterprise Products Partners LP, one of the biggest operators of oil ports in the U.S., told investors this month it alone expected to handle exports of crude and condensates -- a form of ultra-high quality oil -- of about 165,000 barrels a day during the first quarter, up almost 28 percent from the 2015 average.

Cheaper Transport

One reason behind the rise in exports is cheap pipeline and railway fees to move crude from the fields in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota into the ports of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Another is that U.S. oil prices have been trading at a discount to Brent crude, allowing traders to move oil from one shore of the Atlantic to another at a profit.

The exports could relieve pressure on storage capacity in the U.S. after stockpiles rose to the highest level in official data going back to 1930. The tanks at the oil hub of Cushing, the biggest in the country and the delivery point for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude, are 92.5 percent full, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The risk is that the U.S. could shift the glut into Europe and the Mediterranean, where there are higher-than-usual loadings from the North Sea and the arrival of the first barrels of Iranian crude to the region since 2012.

Texas to Sicily

The export ban was imposed in the aftermath of a 1973 to 1974 oil embargo by the Arab members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It crippled the U.S. economy and highlighted its dependence on imports.

Before it was lifted, the U.S. sold as much as 500,000 barrels a day overseas, from Alaska and a few other origins allowed under federal law.

Exxon in early March became the first major U.S. oil company to ship American crude from elsewhere, sending the Maran Sagitta tanker from Beaumont, Texas, into a refinery it owns in Sicily, Italy. Days later, Sinopec lifted on the Pinnacle Spirt tanker a cargo of U.S. crude, a first for a Chinese oil group.

Oil traders are starting to export American crude to store it overseas and profit from a market condition called contango. That’s where prices of oil for delivery today are lower than those in future months. Buyers with access to storage can fill up their tanks with cheap crude and sell higher-priced futures contracts to lock in a profit.

Gunvor Group Ltd., a commodities trader with main offices in Geneva, plans to ship 600,000 barrels of U.S. crude to a storage terminal in Panama. It’s then likely to ship the crude in Europe.

Oil traders are expecting more vessels to depart over coming weeks, with companies seeking to open new export routes from the U.S. West Coast and also moving barrels from new locations, including directly out of Cushing.

Diamond Hunters Scent Hidden Fountainhead of Huge Gems in Angola

March 17th, 2016  |  Source: Bloomberg

The diamond explorers known for discovering some of the world’s most-valuable gems in recent years, including a 404-carat stone sold last month, say they’re closing in on the source of their finds.

Lucapa Diamond Co., the Perth, Australia-based company that’s unearthed a stream of discoveries sifting through Angola’s gem-rich soil, is using cash from such sales to seek the “kimberlite” diamond-bearing rock where the stones probably originated.

“We’re finding some of the very best diamonds in the world,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Wetherall said in an interview in London. “It’s telling us there is something big close by.”

Lucapa are currently alluvial miners, combing for diamonds that have been washed out of the kimberlite core. However, about 85 percent of the world’s diamonds are found by directly mining the cores, carrot-shaped pipes formed when violent explosions forced molten rock from the Earth’s mantle up to the surface, carrying a diamond lode.

Tell-Tale Signs

This is what Lucapa is hoping for next. While alluvial gems are easier to mine, it’s hard to tell how long any deposit will last. Hitting kimberlite is where the big money is made.

The CEO and his team say they’re finding tell-tale signs of kimberlite beneath the area they’re currently mining. Using cash from their share of the $16.7 million raised from the 404-carat diamond, the biggest ever found in Angola, the company is bringing in drill rigs and hopes for a better idea of what they have by the end of the second quarter.

Lucapa has also discovered five more gems greater than 50 carats this year.

Discovering kimberlite is no guarantee of success. Of the more than 6,000 such pipes that have been tested in the past 140 years, only 60 have been worthwhile mining, according to De Beers, the former monopolist and still the biggest producer of diamonds. No more then 10 of those have been so-called super deposits, capable of shifting global supply.

Another obstacle is Angola, not always an easy place to operate. De Beers has cut back its operations there, while BHP Billiton Ltd., Petra Diamonds Ltd. and Trans Hex Group Ltd. also surrendered deposits in the past. Producers must sell their stones through Angola’s Sodiam state marketing unit, resulting in discount prices relative to global trading hubs.

Should Lucapa find the conditions it’s seeking, the Australian-listed miner will probably look to London and its mining-investor base to fund the expensive business of building a mine.

“London understands diamonds and London has the pockets,” Wetherall said.

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