Tens of thousands camp out after Indonesian quake: official

JAKARTA, Feb 21, 2008 (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people camped outside their homes on the Indonesian island of Simeulue after a 7.5-magnitude quake that killed three, an official said Thursday.

The quake hit just off the remote island located near Sumatra on Wednesday, triggering panic across the region lashed by the earthquake-triggered 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 168,000 people in Indonesia.

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A ‘Moral Hazard’ for a Housing Bailout: Sorting the Victims From Those Who Volunteered

WASHINGTON – Over the last two decades, few industries have lobbied more ferociously or effectively than banks to get the government out of its business and to obtain freer rein for “financial innovation.”

But as losses from bad mortgages and mortgage-backed securities climb past $200 billion, talk among banking executives for an epic government rescue plan is suddenly coming into fashion.

A confidential proposal that Bank of America circulated to members of Congress this month provides a stunning glimpse of how quickly the industry has reversed its laissez-faire disdain for second-guessing by the government – now that it is in trouble.

The proposal warns that up to $739 billion in mortgages are at “moderate to high risk” of defaulting over the next five years and that millions of families could lose their homes.

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As China’s inflation soars, world fears knock-on effects

Inflation from the factory floor up is soaring in China.

As China’s factory floors feel the pressure from spiralling costs, there is growing nervousness in the rest of the world that the Asian giant’s next big export could be inflation.

From air-conditioned US shopping malls to bustling African street markets and remote Asian villages, shoppers have become accustomed over recent years to the vast array of ultra-cheap Chinese goods on offer.

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China’s trade surplus last year reached 262.2 billion dollars, a more than 10-fold rise from 2003.

But now a confluence of factors, led by soaring domestic inflation that hit an 11-year high of 7.1 percent in January, is ramping up the costs of doing business in China, with potential knock-on effects for the rest of the world.

Read moreAs China’s inflation soars, world fears knock-on effects

Russia quietly prepares to switch some oil trading from dollars to rubles

MOSCOW: Russia, the world’s second-largest oil-exporting nation after Saudi Arabia, has been quietly preparing to switch trading in Russian Ural Blend oil, the country’s primary export, from the dollar to the ruble. But the change, if it comes, is still some time off, industry analysts and officials said.

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“The role of the key reserve currencies is under review,” said Dmitry Medvedev, the likely successor to President Vladimir Putin, “And we must take advantage of it.”

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Pharmaceuticals lurking in U.S. drinking water

AP probe found traces of meds in water supplies of 41 million Americans
A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

From California to New Jersey
In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

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Sarkozy and Merkel draft agreement detailing role of nations on EU’s southern border

BRUSSELS: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will end months of wrangling Thursday by presenting a joint plan to strengthen Europe’s ties with countries on its southern borders.

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Banks to Seize Carlyle Capital Assets

NEW YORK — The likely liquidation of Carlyle Capital Corp.’s remaining assets sent the fund’s shares plummeting more than 90 percent Thursday and rattled stock markets around the globe. It was also a high-profile setback for private equity fund Carlyle Group.

Carlyle Capital said late Wednesday that it expected creditors to seize all of the fund’s remaining assets _ investment-grade mortgage-backed securities _ after unsuccessful negotiations to prevent its liquidation.

Its shares, which went public at $19 a share in July and traded at $12 just last week, tumbled 93.6 percent to 18 cents on the Euronext exchange.

Read moreBanks to Seize Carlyle Capital Assets