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from Full Focus:

Big U.S.

Recent figures confirm that the United States is the most obese country in the world, with 34% of the adult population classified as obese. This follows a trend noted in a report that obesity rates are climbing across the nation, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call it "a major public health threat". Photographer Rick Wilking set out to document the story by breaking it down into sub-topics like an obesity research study, youth and teen obesity solutions, the “Biggest Loser” TV show phenomenon, bariatric surgery and a 500 pound proponent of "fat acceptance" who says obesity isn't always a bad thing.

from Reuters Investigates:

Club Fed: the ties that bind at the Fed

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USA-FED/BERNANKE We're getting a lot of good feedback on our special report on cozy ties between Wall Street and the Fed. As one Wall Street economist put it: "I've never seen the 'Fed Alumni Association' used more extensively for back-channel communications with the Street than has been the case since June."

The story pulls back the veil on the privileged access that Federal Reserve officials give to big investors, former Fed officials, money market advisers and hedge funds.

from FaithWorld:

GUESTVIEW: The Qur’an cannot be burned!

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The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Aref Ali Nayed is Director, Kalam Research & Media, Dubai.

koran

By Aref Ali Nayed

Years ago, in Toronto, I read on the concrete walls of a highway bridge the following bold and sacrilegious message: “God is dead! Signed: Nietzsche,” and under it “Nietzsche is dead! Signed: God!”

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

The U.S. and soccer – that joke isn’t funny anymore

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SOCCER-USA/Even though the results of the United States team in international competition indicate the country has become a respectable force in the game, in the past 12 months beating European champions Spain and drawing with presumed World Cup contenders England for example, there remain many who doubt whether soccer can ever capture the imagination of the sporting public in the United States.

The main problem Europeans, in particular English fans, appear to have with the status of soccer in the U.S. is that it is not the number one sport in the country. Not even number two or three in fact. And the fact is that there is no-one in the soccer business in the U.S. who would pretend they are in a position to overtake, on a day-to-day basis, the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Ball not to blame for goalkeeping howlers

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The standard of goalkeeping in the early stages of this World Cup has not been the best but blame cannot lie with the controversial Jabulani ball.

Keepers and even strikers have criticised the adidas ball for being too light but the makers have said it is the roundest and truest ball ever created.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Could you just talk us through the goal, Bob….

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USA SOCCERAfter little more than four hours' sleep, plenty of driving and the inevitable drop in adrenalin following a big game such as Saturday's U.S. v England match, there were a few weary souls among the reporters following the United States when we headed to team HQ at Irene Farm on Sunday morning for a press conference with coach Bob Bradley and defender Steve Cherundolo.

There was no sign of jadedness from Bradley, though, who when touching upon Steven Gerrard's fourth minute opener for England, described it in the following terms:

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Nothing ‘meaningless’ about U.S. defeat

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SOCCER-WORLD/

USA 2 Czech Republic 4 was hardly a morale boosting result for American fans as their team prepares for the World Cup finals, which begin for the U.S against England on June 12.

Of course, as the ESPN commentators were at pains to point out, perhaps worried about viewers turning off from the team before the tournament has even begun, the squad on the field last night was missing key starters such as Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra (who instead was spotted chomping chicken wings in the stands) and Clint Dempsey. And as the ESPN crew also repeatedly reminded us, the result of games like these are “meaningless”.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Goldman Getting Ahead of Bad News?

Goldman Sachs’s disclosure pendulum appears to have now sharply swung in the other direction, Matthew Merrin of Thomson Reuters Westlaw Business Currents writes.

In so doing, Goldman may be charting a new course for itself, and arguably for the broader world of besieged public companies, by disclosing, with detailed exhibits, the filing of several lawsuits against the firm’s leadership. This extensive disclosure stands in marked contrast to its much-criticized decisions to not disclose its 2009 receipt of a Wells Notice from the SEC, among other things.
On its face, this move seems intended to help Goldman get ahead of the steady drip of bad news and lawsuits. While certainly more forthcoming than the once-reticent bank has been, even this apparent openness is selective. The lawsuits by the shareholders were in response to a complaint filed by the SEC…yet the SEC’s own filing is not attached. Likewise, a class action recently filed by named plaintiff Ilene Richman (representing a class of allegedly harmed shareholders in the firm) is also not attached. Both are alluded to in subtle descriptions in the disclosure text itself.
In particular, Goldman has disclosed that multiple shareholders have filed a succession of derivative lawsuits against certain officers and each member of the board of directors. The lawsuits come on the heels of the SEC filing last month charging Goldman Sachs with fraud. The shareholders are accusing Goldman Sachs of failure to implement risk management controls while engaging in the offer and sale of the ABACUS 2007-AC1offering, a complex synthetic collateralized debt obligation. The lawsuits also accuse Goldman of breach of fiduciary duty and corporate waste. Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein has also been named in some of the lawsuits.
Goldman has also been criticized for its failure to disclose to shareholders its receipt of a Wells Notice regarding the ABACUS 2007- AC-1 offering. According to the recent SEC filing, Goldman expects further shareholder lawsuits.
To remind, the original claims against Goldman stem from SEC accusations that the firm failed to notify investors that the securities underlying the synthetic collateralized debt obligation were selected by John Paulson, a billionaire hedge fund investor, which were betting on the CDO to lose value.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

US revises anti-money laundering manual

Bank regulators revised an anti-money laundering examination manual. But government watchdogs said financial regulators are still not doing enough outreach to local law enforcement agencies to aid in the battle against terrorist funding and drug smuggling, reports Thomson Reuters WG&L Accounting & Compliance Alert.
Bank regulators on April 29, 2010, issued the revised Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) examination manual.
The manual provides guidance to safeguard banks and other financial companies from money laundering and terrorist financing.
The last time it was updated was August 24, 2007.
The Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the State Liaison Committee revised the manual in collaboration with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the administrator of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The manual can be found on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council website.
Separately, the Government Accountability Office looked into the efficacy of suspicious activity reports (SAR) that banks need to file to inform regulators of suspicious transactions. They determined that FinCEN needs to do a better job of developing its process to revise SAR forms.
Banks have long been concerned about the resources required to file SARs and the extent to which SARs are used.
From 2000 to 2008, total SAR filings increased from 163,000 to 732,000 per year, according to the GAO report released on April 28, 2010.
Automated monitoring systems that flag multiple indicators of suspicious activities increased the filings. Also, several public enforcement actions against a few banks prompted other banks to look more closely at clients and their accounts.
The USA Patriot Act, passed in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, expanded the scope of SAR filings to include most nonbank financial companies.
After a 2006 revision of the SAR form that could not be used because of technology limitations, FinCEN in 2008 developed a new process making revisions intended to increase its collaboration with law enforcement groups. The agency said it is taking other steps to work with law enforcement agencies, but the GAO said it is too soon to determine whether the steps have been effective.
In a separate report also dated April 28, the congressional watchdog recommended that FinCEN step up its communication efforts about the data it gathers and how it analyzes it to better support law enforcement agencies in catching money launderers.
Some law enforcement agencies complained that FinCEN does not provide enough information about the types of analysis it does.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Goldman Sachs’ soul search – sincere or strategy?

   By Steve Eder and Rachelle Younglai
   NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, April 28 (Reuters) - Contrary to popular belief, Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> has a soul - and it is even spending time searching it.
   In the closing hours of Goldman's marathon showdown with a Senate panel in Washington on Tuesday, Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein shared that the Wall Street giant is in the midst of an internal cleansing in which a top executive is leading a business practices committee and "going over everything."
   A day after the hearing, some were questioning whether the reflective side of Blankfein was a sincere revelation that foretold a settlement of Securities and Exchange Commission charges against the firm, or if it was just a strategy.
   "There is not a thing that will arise here and elsewhere that won't be the subject of some big soul-search and some tightening up of standards," Blankfein testified during a particularly introspective moment late in the roughly 11-hour hearing in which a Senate panel grilled past and present Goldman executives about whether the firm put its own profits ahead of its clients' interests.
   Goldman officials - still confronting imagery left behind by a Rolling Stone article last year that labeled the firm a "giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" - declined to elaborate on the firm's soul-search.
   Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, no stranger to negative publicity himself, said Blankfein had a delicate balance to strike during the hearing.
   "He didn't want an article that said there was no self reflection," Spitzer said at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit in New York on Wednesday. "He didn't say we acted in a way that didn't comport with our ethical obligations."
   Blankfein was quick to point out that the soul-searching was not part of a legal requirement or ordered by the SEC, but something that the firm was doing on its own. Although he added that "everything that's been the subject of criticism will be tightened up."
  
   NOT BACKING DOWN
   Despite Blankfein's inward look, Spitzer doubted that Goldman would seek a quick settlement with the SEC, which has accused the firm of fraud for failing to tell clients that the debt securities they were buying had input from hedge fund Paulson & Co, which stood to benefit if the securities lost value.
   "To settle now is to wave the white flag," Spitzer said. "That would do real harm to the brand of the firm."
   Blankfein, who left one of his trademark voicemail messages for the firm's employees late Tuesday night, did not appear to be backing down.
   "The questioning during the hearing was rigorous, but we tried to remain focused on providing a complete context of our business, how we manage our risk, and the value we provide for our clients and to the broader system," Blankfein said.
   He said Goldman took seriously the ethical concerns raised during the hearings, but he steered clear of admitting the firm had done anything wrong.
  
   TO SETTLE OR NOT?
   A former SEC official agreed that Goldman would not settle quickly given that the bank has already born the brunt of the bad publicity that can sometimes be avoided upon settlement.
   "I see no necessary correlation between that statement by Blankfein and the likelihood of settlement," former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt said of Blankfein's comment that the firm is reexamining its business practices.
   However, he said "neither Goldman nor the SEC can afford to take this case to trial."
   Goldman is expected to file a motion to dismiss the case on legal grounds, but is not expected to go to war with the SEC. Too much is at stake for Goldman, which has had a good relationship with the SEC and will have to deal with the regulator on other issues.
   "Given the combative posture Goldman has taken, I assume they will try to get the case dismissed and or move for summary judgment before attempting to settle," Pitt said.
   Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray told the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit that how Goldman proceeds could be influenced not only by the merits of the SEC's case, but by pressure from the public or clients, reputational damage, and whether additional charges are expected.
   "I certainly think they will begin to realize that the landscape for them is much worse than they originally thought," Cordray said. (Reporting by Steve Eder in New York and Rachelle Younglai and Karey Wutkowski in Washington; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Dave Zimmerman) ((Reuters email: steve.eder@reuters.com; +1 646 223 6069)) Keywords: GOLDMAN/SOULSEARCH 
  
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 Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:41:18RTRS [nN28138911] {EN}ENDS

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