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$BHP Will Cooperate With an Investigation Into Violations of Anti Corruption

“CANBERRA (Reuters) – BHP Billiton Ltd said it was co-operating in an investigation into possible violations of anti-corruption laws, and said in response to media reports that it believed its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics had complied with all applicable laws.

The Australian Financial Review said on Wednesday that allegations BHP provided inducements,hospitality and gifts to Chinese and other foreign officials were the subject of an investigation by theU.S. Department of Justice and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The U.S. Justice Department told the AFR, in response to a freedom of information request, it was conducting “law enforcement proceedings” involving BHP, which supplied materials for the gold, silver and bronze medals used in Beijing….”

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Shareholders Sue $CHK Over Proposed Bond Redemption

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chesapeake Energy Corp is facing a showdown with investors and a bond trustee over its plan to redeem $1.3 billion of notes early.

The natural gas company, which faces a projected $3 billion cash shortfall this year, is hoping to avoid an extra $400 million of payments on the notes, which carry a 6.775 percent interest rate and mature in 2019.

Chesapeake filed a lawsuit last Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking to block bond trustee Bank of New York Mellon Corp from interfering with the proposed redemption of the debt at 100 cents on the dollar, or par.

But in a court filing on Tuesday, investors who own roughly $250 million of the notes contended that the plan would shortchange them, saying the notes are worth more and that the move would violate Chesapeake’s contractual obligations.

Bank of New York Mellon also filed court papers opposing the redemption plan.

Jim Gipson, a Chesapeake spokesman, declined to comment.

Chesapeake believes it has the right to issue a notice of redemption by March 15 to avoid the extra $400 million payment, while the noteholders and Bank of New York Mellon believe that the actual redemption needs to take place by then….”

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$FB Reveals Secrets You Haven’t Shared

“The increasing amount of personal information that can been gleaned by computer programs that track how people use Facebook has been revealed by an extensive academic study. Such programs can discern undisclosed private information such as Facebook users’ sexuality, drug-use habits and even whether their parents separated when they were young, according to the study by Cambridge University academics.

In one of the biggest studies of its kind, scientists from the university’s psychometrics team and a Microsoft-funded research center analysed data from 58,000 Facebook users to predict traits and other information that were not provided in their profiles.

The algorithms were 88 percent accurate in predicting male sexual orientation, 95 percent for race and 80 percent for religion and political leanings. Personality types and emotional stability were also predicted with accuracy ranging from 62-75 percent.

Facebook declined to comment.

The study highlights growing concerns about social networks and how data trails can be mined for sensitive information, even when people attempt to keep information about themselves private. Less than 5 percent of users predicted to be gay, for example, were connected with explicitly gay groups…”

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Number of U.S. Gun Makers Unwilling to Sell to U.S. Government Triples

“….In just two weeks, the number of companies participating in what has been named the “Firearms Equality Movement,” has more than tripled from 34 companies to 118.

The Police Loophole lists every company and links to the statements that each has released regarding their new policies.

Wilson Combat, a custom pistol manufacturer located in Berryville, Arkansas, joined the movement on February 28 stating the following:

“Wilson Combat will no longer provide any products or services to any State Government imposing legislation that infringes on the second amendment rights of its law abiding citizens. This includes any Law Enforcement Department, Law Enforcement Officers, or any State Government Entity or Employee of such an entity. This also applies to any local municipality imposing such infringements.” …”

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$MCD Accused of Exploiting Cultural Exchange Students

“For Argentine college student Jorge Rios, a U.S. government cultural-exchange program had huge appeal: He would earn money and use it to explore the country. But after spending $3,000 to participate, Mr. Rios said he found himself at the mercy of aMcDonald’s Corp. MCD +1.67% franchisee who was his employer and landlord.

This week, he and 14 other foreign students demonstrated outside a McDonald’s after filing complaints with the State Department and Labor Department saying they were exploited at fast-food outlets in the Harrisburg, Penn., area and housed in substandard conditions. The students were on a three-month J-1 visa for work and travel.

Reached on his cellphone on Thursday, Andy Cheung, the owner of the Harrisburg McDonald’s locations, said he was too busy to comment. A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the Oak Brook, Ill., chain is looking into the claims and, on behalf of Mr. Cheung, added, “The well-being of my employees is a top priority. The employees that are working in my restaurants as part of a guest worker program are no exception.”

As Congress debates an immigration overhaul, the controversy in Pennsylvania highlights the challenges of creating and managing any new visa program, particularly for temporary workers. Arizona Sen. John McCain said this week that working with labor to revamp visa programs has emerged as one of the toughest issues in discussions over a framework to provide legal status with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

It also illustrates the challenges that employers, especially in businesses that rely on low-skilled labor, face as they struggle to fill jobs amid a crackdown on those that hire illegal immigrants.

The Harrisburg students arrived in the U.S. under the auspices of the Summer Work Travel Program, which the State Department’s website says provides the opportunity “to experience and to be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States.” In recent years, however, critics say it has served to supply low-wage labor for ski resorts, car washes and fast-food outlets from Colorado to North Dakota and New England.

“This is a cheap-labor program, nothing more,” said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles immigration attorney and former Immigration and Naturalization Service official. “Since when is flipping burgers a cultural exchange?”

Immigration attorneys said the J-1 visa program doesn’t face the same oversight as other temporary-worker programs, such as the H-1B, commonly used to bring in skilled workers, or the H-2A, for seasonal agricultural laborers. About 109,000 students came to the U.S. on the Summer Work Travel Program in 2011…..”

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$VIA Handed a Lawsuit by $CVC

“(Reuters) – Viacom Inc Chief Executive Philippe Dauman criticized Cablevision Corp on Monday for filing an “ill-advised and frivolous” antitrust lawsuit against Viacom that he said would just turn into a waste of legal fees.

Dauman’s remarks, his first public response to the lawsuit, come a week after Cablevision accused Viacom Inc of illegally forcing it to pay for more than a dozen low-rated cable networks in order to get access to Viacom’s most popular channels, including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

“The lawsuit that Cablevision filed is ill-advised and frivolous,” Dauman said, speaking at a Deutsche Bank investor conference in Florida.

“The bottom line is that the lawyers will get rich on this,” adding that Cablevision’s money would be better spent providing its subscribers with better customer service.

A Cablevision spokesman said on Monday that the “tactics employed by Viacom are illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong, and force Cablevision’s customers to take and pay for more than a dozen channels they don’t want in order to receive the Viacom channels they want.”

Last Thursday, Cablevision CEO James Dolan said that Viacom abused its market power, violated federal antitrust laws and “needs to be stopped.”

The case represents the latest flare-up in the contentious relationships between distributors and program makers….”

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Big Banks Show Mad Respect for Service Men and Women

“The nation’s biggest banks wrongfully foreclosed on more than 700 military members during the housing crisis and seized homes from roughly two dozen other borrowers who were current on their mortgage payments, findings that eclipse earlier estimates of the improper evictions.

Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo uncovered the foreclosures while analyzing mortgages as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement deal with federal authorities, according to people with direct knowledge of the findings. In January, regulators ordered the banks to identify military members and other borrowers who were evicted in violation of federal law.

The analysis, which was turned over to regulators in recent days, provides the first detailed glimpse into the extent of wrongful foreclosures amid the collapse of the housing market. While lenders previously acknowledged that they relied on faulty documents to push through foreclosures, the banks claimed borrowers were rarely evicted by mistake, including military personnel protected by federal law…..”

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The SEC Steps Up Investigation Against Aubrey McClendon

“(Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has escalated its investigation intoChesapeake Energy Corp and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon for a controversial perk that granted him a share in each of the natural gas producer’s wells.

The investigation, disclosed on Friday by Chesapeake in an SEC filing, comes nine days after it said an internal probe of the well program and McClendon’s finances revealed no “intentional” wrongdoing by the executive.

Regulators in the SEC’s Fort Worth, Texas, office have been looking into the Founder Well Participation Program (FWPP) that grants McClendon up to a 2.5 percent interest in every well that Chesapeake drills. He must also pay his share of well costs.

A Reuters investigation last April found that McClendon had arranged to personally borrow more than $1 billion from a big investor in Chesapeake, EIG Global Energy Partners, secured by his interest in the wells.

The board has since said the FWPP program would end in June 2014.

“I’m now confused because the board just said everything was fine,” said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer. “I really thought the board had an iron-clad, air-tight grip on the situation. Unfortunately the saga continues.”

Chesapeake was advised by the SEC in December that an informal inquiry, launched in May, was continuing as an investigation and subpoenas for information and testimony have been issued. Both the company and McClendon are providing information….”

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Einhorn Retracts His Lawsuit Against $AAPL

“SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Hedge fund manager David Einhorn’sGreenlight Capital has dropped its lawsuit against Apple Inc after winning a battle to stop the iPhone maker from a shareholder voteon a proposal to abolish its ability to issue preferred shares at its discretion.

The lawsuit’s withdrawal, disclosed in a court ruling, closed the chapter on what was the strongest challenge by an Apple investor in years….”

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$GRPN’s CEO Given the Old Heave-Ho

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason was handed a pink slip Thursday, fired after the company reported disappointing fourth-quarter results along with a dim outlook.

“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today,” Mason said in an email to employees announcing his departure.

“If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention,” he added. (Read the full text of the email below.)

Groupon shares shot up more than 10 percent following the news. What’s the stock doing now? Click here for the latest after-hours quote.

The stock has fallen more than 75 percent since its November 2011 IPO. In regular trading Thursday, the stock fell 25 percent after the disappointing fourth-quarter results came out late Wednesday.

The results revealed that the company has had to slash its fees from merchants to grow its business and that its new Groupon Goods business would decline in the first quarter. Mason was so confident on the earnings call, he drew criticism of being entirely out of touch. Twenty-four hours later the guillotine fell….”

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Michigan To Take Control of Bankrupt Detroit

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9etBGZMMqo 450 300]

Link for iPhone users: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9etBGZMMqo

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Dennis Rodman, AKA The Worm, Chills With Kim Jung Un Telling Him “You Have a Friend For Life”

“SEOUL, South Korea – Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman, known as “the Worm” during his pro career, sat with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang watching an exhibition basketball game today becoming the first American to meet the leader of the nuclear state.

“You have a friend for life,” Rodman told Kim while chatting without any translators as three visiting Harlem Globetrotters  competed together with 12 North Korean players. Rodman, wearing dark glasses and a black baseball cap with USA on it, sat to the left of Kim. Both were in large red chairs that were topped with white covers, not a typical courtside seat.

The North Korean leader later dined and drank with the Americans.

Kim, 30, is known to have been a Rodman fan since his teenage years at a Swiss boarding school before assuming power after his father Kim Jong-Il’s death in December 2011…”

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Two Singapore Traders Sue UBS After Rate Probe Dismissal

UBS AG (UBSN) was sued for wrongful dismissal by two former traders in Singapore who claimed they were fired in a bid by the bank to cover up its role in allegedly manipulating key reference rates.

Mukesh Kumar Chhaganlal, the bank’s former co-head of macro-trading for emerging marketsin Asia, and Prashant Mirpuri, a former executive director, said in separate lawsuits filed at Singapore’s High Court yesterday that they were given no opportunity to defend themselves against the bank’s claims of gross misconduct on their part….”

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Michael Milken Said to be Under SEC Investigation

“FORTUNE — The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the relationship between Michael Milken and Guggenheim Partners, Fortune has learned.

The federal agency is examining whether Milken, the one time king of junk bonds who agreed to a lifetime ban from the securities industry, is violating the terms of that ban in his dealings with Guggenheim, which manages $170 billion and led a consortium last year that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Milken has been a longtime client of the firm and at times has had as much as $800 million invested with Guggenheim, some of it in a hedge fund run by the firm’s president Todd Boehly. News of the investigation, as well as his relationship with Milken—who in the past sometimes spoke to Boehly multiple times a week—is contained in a cover story about Guggenheim in the March 18 issue of Fortune. (You can read the story here: Guggenheim is flexing its $170 billion muscles)

Milken’s settlement with the SEC for his role in the 1980s Wall Street scandals allows him to manage his own money. But he is banned from acting as an investment advisor or broker. The SEC is looking at whether Milken is violating that ban by effectively acting as a manager of Guggenheim investments beyond his own, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The question is: Has Milken provided advice in exchange for some form of compensation? The SEC is looking at a number of transactions that Milken has done with Guggenheim. In one instance being investigated, Milken and the firm jointly invested in an energy company called Milagro, which says the infusion helped it buy the Gulf Coast operations of Petrohawk Energy for $825 million in 2007.

Boehly has been subpoenaed by the SEC and the firm has handed over tens of thousands of documents, including trading records and emails, to investigators. SEC investigators are in regular contact with Guggenheim, but so far the probe—which has been going on for two years—hasn’t resulted in any formal action.

Guggenheim denies that Milken has managed others’ accounts. “Mike doesn’t have an ownership or managerial role of any kind at Guggenheim,” says its CEO, Mark Walter. “The firm’s interaction with him is no different than it is with a number of its clients, including during 2008-09 when many called several times a week at various times.”

SEC spokeswoman Christina D’Amico declined to comment…”

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Kindle Update for iOS Has a Major Bug Erasing Your Entire Library

“Amazon yesterday updated its Kindle for iOS app, which works across iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, to version 3.6.1. The update was meant to fix a few bugs as well as the registration process. Instead, that update seems to be wreaking havoc on bookworm-style iThing owners who watched as their Amazon digital libraries and saved settings were erased before their eyes.

Here’s just a taste of the reviews on Amazon’siTunes page:

The update deleted all books from my iPad, and I had to register again, creating a second name for the same iPad. It’s like starting all over again. Now I have to upload over 130 books from the cloud.

Amazon has acknowledged the bug right on its own iTunes page, saying “There is a known issue with this update. If you are an existing Kindle for iOS user, we recommend you do not install this update at this time.” …”

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$JPM To Pink Slip 17k by 2014

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Tuesday that it plans to cut 17,000 jobs by the end of 2014, representing about 6.6 percent of the company’s overall workforce, as the bank sheds staff that helped it deal with bad home loans.

The bank is optimistic that it can generate record income this year and is planning to add 4,000employees in commercial and investment banking and credit cards to help it win business, bank executives said at an investor conference.

That hiring will be more than offset by job cuts in areas like mortgage servicing and retail banking, where the bank is positioning for a recovering housing market and new forms of branch banking. The net impact of the additions and cuts will be 17,000 fewer employees on the bank’s payrolls.

The job cuts reflect the pressure that banks are under, even as the U.S. housing market and overall economy show signs of recovery. Many banks are looking to automate more of their businesses to make their staff more productive and improve profits.

For example, at JPMorgan’s branches, where it plans to cut about 6,000 tellers and other employees, the bank hopes customers will use automated teller machines for every day transactions and that remaining staff can focus on higher-margin activities like selling wealth management services….”

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Watch Elizabeth Warren Grill Bernanke on $83 Billion Subsidy for Big Banks

“Ben Bernanke was testified before the Senate Banking committee today, and for the most part, things proceeded as usual.

Until Elizabeth Warren took the mic.

Senator Warren grilled Bernanke on ‘too big to fail’ and the subsidy economists have calculated big banks get from the American tax payers through preferential borrowing costs. \

Here’s what she said (via Bloomberg):

“Now we have a double problem which is the big banks… have gotten bigger and at the same time… investors believe with too big too fail out there investors that it’s safer to put your money into the big banks and not the big banks, effectively creating an insurance policy for the big banks…. Last week Bloomberg did the math on it and came up with the number $83 billion, that the big banks get in what is essentially a free insurance policy… So I understand that we’re all trying to get to the end of TBTF, but my question Mr. Chairman is, until we do, should those biggest financial institutions be paying the American tax payer that $83 billion subsidy they’re getting.”

Bernanke responded that those subsidies are coming from the market’s expectation that the government will bail out banks, when it reality, the government has figured out a way to wind them down. He also added that the government wiped out the shareholders at AIG.

To which Warren countered, “excuse me Mr. Chairman but you did not wipe out the shareholders at the big banks… Whatever you say, Mr. Chairman, $83 billion says there will be a bailout for financial institutions.” …”

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Got Ass? Donkey Now Found in “Beef” Products

“JOHANNESBURG — Worried about horse meat in your beef? Try water buffalo, donkey and goat.

South African food scientists said they have found all three in mislabeled foods including beef burgers, ground beef and sausages.

A study published by three professors at Stellenbosch University found that 68 percent of 139 samples contained species not declared in the product label, with the highest incidence in sausages, burger patties and deli meats.

The study found soya and gluten were not labeled in 28 percent of products tested, it found undeclared pork in 37 percent and chicken in 23 percent.

“This study confirms that the mislabeling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labeling regulations but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” co-author Professor Louwrens C. Hoffman said Tuesday.

He said tests the past two weeks on hundreds of samples of imported meat have found no horse meat….”

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$GOOG Accused of Privacy Violations Again

“Google is in hot water once again after application developers have discovered that the Silicon Valley giant is sharing its users’ personal information without obtaining their consent.

Non-profit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has sent a letter to the United States Federal Trade Commission that implores for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to intervene in the latest goof-up courtesy of Google.

According to watchdog group, Google could be forced to pay over billions of dollars in penalties after violating its own privacy promises yet again.

“Google has become a serial privacy abuser and the FTC must change its tactics to curb the Internet giant’s abuses,” John M. Simpson  of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project said at a news conference held this week to discuss the group’s complaint. “Google’s wanton disregard for its obligations under the law demonstrate the need for meaningful penalties – in this case a fine in the billions of dollars.”

Consumer Watchdog’s call for action was made after news circulated that the programmers responsible for applications sold through Google’s online store are provided with the detailed personal information pertaining to customers who’ve made purchases, despite no warning being given.

“If you bought the app on Google Play (even if you cancelled the order) I have your email address, your suburb, and in many instances your full name,” Australian app developer Dan Nolan warns on his personal blog“Let me make this crystal clear: every App purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred,” he says.

In an issue that’s echoed in the Consumer Watchdog letter, Nolan says that letting developers have unfettered access to this information could pose quite a few problems for the consumers, not to mention the Silicon Valley company that is quickly finding itself entangled in yet another privacy snafu….”

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KKR & Co. and TPG Capital Face The Largest LBO Bankruptcy Since Chrysler

“Five years after their record- setting leveraged buyout of Energy Future Holdings Corp., KKR & Co. and TPG Capital are moving closer to a possible new milestone: the biggest bankruptcy of a private equity-backed company since the failure of Chrysler Group LLC.

Texas Competitive Electric Holdings, the utility’s wholesale power unit, faces an October 2014 deadline on the maturity of a portion of its loans. Informal restructuring talks already have taken place, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Senior lenders — including Franklin Resources Inc., Apollo Global Management LLC, Oaktree Capital Group LLC and GSO Capital Partners — probably would seek to seize the unit if there is a bankruptcy, said one creditor, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

The buyout of Energy Future, the Dallas-based company formerly known as TXU Corp., in 2007 for $48 billion marked the peak of a private-equity boom that went bust a year later with the onset of the financial crisis. A bankruptcy would wipe out much of the $8.3 billion investment made by buyers including KKR, TPG and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners in what was the biggest LBO in history. It would be the highest-profile private equity-backed company to go under since Chrysler was bailed out by the U.S. government in 2009….”

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