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Tue, 29 Nov 2022
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US Sues Royal Bank of Canada for Massive Fraud

Royal Bank
© Agence France-Presse/Alain Jocard
US regulators have announced charges against Royal Bank of Canada, accusing the major Canadian bank of "washing" hundreds of millions of dollars through fraudulent trading.

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on Monday said it had filed a complaint in federal district court in New York accusing RBC of "conducting a multi-hundred million-dollar wash sale scheme in connection with exchange-traded stock futures contracts."

The Canadian bank and financial services company does business in New York.

"The trading scheme was allegedly designed as part of RBC's strategy to realize lucrative Canadian tax benefits from holding certain public companies' securities in its Canadian and offshore trading accounts," the CFTC said.

CFTC also charged that the bank concealed material information from, and made material false statements to, a futures exchange.

"From at least June 2007 to May 2010, RBC allegedly non-competitively traded hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of narrow based stock index futures (NBI) and single stock futures (SSF) contracts with two of its subsidiaries that RBC reported as 'block' trades on OneChicago," it said.


Russian plane crash kills 31, exposes safety record

© Reuters/Sergei Drachev
Emergency service workers investigate the wreckage of the UTair airlines ATR 72 passenger plane that crashed near the Siberian city of Tyumen April 2, 2012.
Moscow, Russia - A passenger plane crashed and burst into flames after takeoff in Siberia on Monday, killing 31 people and putting the spotlight on Russia's poor air-safety record before Vladimir Putin's return as president.

Thirteen survivors were pulled from the wreckage but one later died after being rushed by helicopter to hospital in the city of Tyumen, some 1,720 km (1,070 miles) east of Moscow, emergency officials said.

Television footage showed the UTair airlines ATR 72, which had snapped in two, lying in a snowy field with only the tail and rear visible. Emergency workers sifted through the wreckage and cleared away the snow.

An investigative committee said the most likely cause of the crash was a technical malfunction as the 21-year-old twin-engine, turbo-prop plane carried its four crew and 39 passengers on a flight to the oil town of Surgut.

"I went out on to my porch and heard a bang, saw a small flash and smoke came out. It turned, with smoke coming out, started to lose height and came down in the field. If it had turned a bit further, it would have hit us," a local resident, identified only as Alexei, told RIA news agency.

He said he often saw aircraft fly past, and the plane appeared not to be on the usual flight path: "It should have been behind my house but it was in front of it."


French academic Richard Descoings found dead in NY hotel room

© Flickr
Richard Descoings Dec. 8 2010
A prominent French academic, Richard Descoings, was found dead in the nude in a New York hotel room on Tuesday afternoon. New York police have opened an investigation because they believe the circumstances of his death are suspicious.

A law enforcement source told Reuters that the body of Descoings, director of the prestigious Institute of Political Studies in Paris and a member of France's Council of State, a government advisory body, was found Tuesday afternoon in his room at the Michelangelo Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Descoings was in New York to attend a conference at Columbia University but did not show up on Tuesday morning when the conference was due to begin, the source said.

Colleagues subsequently phoned the hotel. When staff members first went to his room, they believed they heard snoring and let the matter drop.


America's Smallest Town Up for Sale

Town For Sale
© Associated Press
Buford, Wyoming. Starting price? $100,000 US.

An outpost billed as America's smallest town is up for sale this week, complete with its own schoolhouse and gas station, with bidding starting at an enticing $100,000 ($121,000 NZ).

For a sum which would barely buy a one-room apartment in most places - and a lot less in big cities - the purchaser of Buford, Wyoming would get over 10 acres of land including a three-bedroom home, a garage, and a cellphone tower.

The Buford Trading Post - store - benefits from regular traffic along the I-80 interstate, with Wyoming capital Cheyenne just 50 kilometres to the east, and San Francisco 1,800 kilometres) to the west.

It once had 2,000 inhabitants, but then the railroad dropped it as a stopping point, and locals gradually moved out, until now it boasts the rare road sign: "Buford. Pop. 1. Elev 8,000."


Forget Modesty, Narcissists Best Suited for Job Interview Success

Interview Panel
© Shutterstock
Interview Panel

Modesty may be the best policy in many situations, but a job interview is not one of them. That's the finding of a new survey that looked at the way people performed on job interviews. In that survey, narcissists, who promoted themselves in the interview, were rated more highly than those who were modest.

This is because narcissists come across as being confident, and engaging when speaking. Narcissists are also able to promote themselves in the interview setting as well.

"This is one setting where it's OK to say nice things about yourself and there are no ramifications. In fact, it's expected," Peter Harms, assistant professor of management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-author of the study, said. "Simply put, those who are comfortable doing this tend to do much better than those who aren't."

Narcissists were also highly rated because of their use of gestures and smiles. These gestures and actions were determined to further establish the likability and credibility of the interviewee in the eyes of the interviewer.


ACLU Finds U.S. Police Using Cell Phone Tracking, Sometimes Warrantless

© hurriyetdailynews.com
The ACLU got its hands on 5,500 pages of internal records from 205 police departments all over the country

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has obtained documents that show that federal agencies aren't the only ones using cell phone tracking -- it has become a regular practice for both small and large police departments throughout the U.S. as well.

The ACLU got its hands on 5,500 pages of internal records from 205 police departments all over the country. The documents show that many police departments are putting cell phone tracking to major use with little safeguards, but they're not talking about it. Wireless carriers are in on it too, making a pretty penny by offering surveillance fees to police departments that want to collect information like a cell phone's location, or trace phone calls or texts.

Some specific examples from the internal documents include Gilbert, Arizona, which spent $244,000 on its own tracking equipment; Ogden, Utah, where the Sheriff's Department leaves it up to the cell carrier to collect information on a cell phone; California, where state prosecutors suggested that local police get carriers to duplicate a phone and download the test messages when it is turned off, and certain cities in states like Nevada and North Carolina have managed to get carriers to track cell phone signals back to cell towers in non-emergency situations in an effort to determine which callers are using a specific tower.


Teen Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use and Abuse Starts Earlier Than You Might Think

© wellsphere.com
Alcohol affects the teen brain differently because of the critical brain development occurring from ages 12 through 20, often until age 25.
A survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. teenagers suggests that most cases of alcohol and drug abuse have their initial onset at this important period of development, according to a report published in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

Alcohol and drugs use patterns in adolescence are increasingly seen as indicators of later substance abuse, the authors write in their study background.

Joel Swendsen, Ph.D., of the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues examined the prevalence, age at onset and sociodemographic factors related to alcohol and illicit drug use and abuse by U.S. adolescents. Their cross-sectional survey included a nationally representative sample of 10,123 adolescents ages 13 to 18 years.

Their study results indicate that by late adolescence, 78.2 percent of teenagers reported having consumed alcohol; 47.1 percent having reached regular drinking levels of at least 12 drinks within a year; and 15.1 percent having met the criteria for lifetime abuse. The opportunity to use illicit drugs was reported by 81.4 percent of the oldest adolescents, drug use by 42.5 percent and drug abuse by 16.4 percent.


Foreclosures Slow Detroit's Rebirth, Razes Historic Homes and All

© Krishnan Anantharaman/Wall Street Journal
Mitt Romney's boyhood home is among 3,000 derelict structures Detroit plans to demolish by the end of September as it attacks blight and crime.
Detroit riddled with repossessions from height of housing meltdown

More than a quarter of homes whose loans failed at the height of the foreclosure crisis in 2006 and 2007 have already been razed or are on the demolition list, becoming a huge obstacle to the city's rebirth, a Detroit News analysis shows.

In neighborhoods on the far west side and the northeast corner of the city, as many as two-thirds of the properties that went into foreclosure just five years ago are in the city's crosshairs or already on the ground. The worst-hit areas almost mirror perfectly parts of the city where the most subprime mortgages were issued before they helped trigger the collapse of the banking industry.

And more vacancies could be on the way: Although the rate has slowed, lenders have foreclosed on 28,000 more homes since 2007, according to records from RealtyTrac.


Surprise surge for hard left could scramble French election results

french elections 2012
© Unknown
An opinion poll published yesterday put Mr Mélenchon, 60, in third place with 15 per cent of the vote
Three weeks from the first round of voting, a surge in support for the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon threatens to scramble forecasts for the French presidential elections.

An opinion poll published yesterday put Mr Mélenchon, 60, in third place with 15 per cent of the vote - the highest for a candidate of the anti-capitalist left since the heyday of the French Communist party 30 years ago.

The rise of Mr Mélenchon, a kind of Gallic George Galloway who fulminates eloquently against the mainstream élites of both centre-right and centre-left, has relegated Marine Le Pen's far right National Front into fourth position. For President Nicolas Sarkozy and his principal challenger, the Socialist candidate François Hollande, the emergence of Mr Mélenchon is a double-edged sword - helpful but dangerous.

Yesterday's poll by LH2 for Yahoo! showed Mr Hollande retaining a narrow lead of 28.5 per cent to Mr Sarkozy's 27.5 per cent in the first round on 22 April. Other recent polls have suggested that Mr Sarkozy, boosted by his hard-right rhetoric and exploitation of the Toulouse murders, has taken a one or two-point first-round lead.

All polls still show Mr Hollande winning the two-candidate run-off on 6 May by a 10-to-six point margin.

But two factors threaten to throw the machinery of electoral strategy and political forecasting into a spin: the growing disenchantment of the French electorate with all mainstream politicians and a campaign that has failed to grapple convincingly with national, European and global economic crises.

Cell Phone

George Zimmerman Was Not The One Crying for Help to 911, Experts Say

George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin
© unknown
George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin
A forensic voice identification expert who analyzed the recordings said "without a doubt" that Trayvon Martin was the one screaming.

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old teen Trayvon Martin in Florida last month, was not the one screaming for help on the 911 tapes of the incident, according to two forensic experts who analyzed the evidence.

Trayvon Martin's family has insisted from the beginning that their son was the one heard screaming on the recordings, though Zimmerman's family disagreed, Slate reported. Zimmerman has claimed he shot Martin as an act of self-defense, and told police he was the one screaming for help.

Tom Owen, a forensic consultant and chair of the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to analyze the tapes at the Orlando Sentinel's request. Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio engineer and forensics expert, also examined the 911 recordings using different techniques. Both experts concluded that the voice calling for help is not Zimmerman, according to the Sentinel.