Oct 30, 2010

Big Oil to work in the Gulf of Mexico

Big Oil is ready to go back to work in the Gulf of Mexico, even with the U.S government promising to rule the waters with a heavier hand.

Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell are willing to endure the additional time to secure permits and extra costs that will result from new government regulations because they've come to depend on deepwater drilling to replenish their reserves. The companies outlined plans for the Gulf this week as most of them reported improved earnings for the third quarter.

These big oil and gas companies know the geology of the Gulf much better than other parts of the world. Taxes and royalties for projects in U.S. waters are considered to be much lower than foreign operations, and it's much easier and cheaper to deliver the oil to the consumer.

"It's one-stop shopping," said Fadel Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. "When you're working in the Gulf, you're sitting in the belly of the largest energy-consuming economy in the world."

Wells in the Gulf can be very profitable. Drilling projects there typically break even when oil sells for $50 to $60 per barrel. It's currently trading near $82 per barrel.

The oil companies' reliance on the oil-rich deposits below the Gulf grew as they became more adept at pumping crude from the sea floor. In March, a month before BP's well ruptured, the industry produced 52.6 million barrels of oil from Gulf wells. That's the highest total for that month in records dating back go 1981.

Shell's got 7 percent of its total oil and gas so far this year from wells in the Gulf. And before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April, BP's wells accounted for about 10 percent of its overall production.

The U.S. drilling moratorium brought well-drilling activity to a relative standstill over the summer. New production wells were put on hold.

As a result, Chevron expects Gulf production to fall as much as 10,000 barrels per day in the second half of the year. Shell predicts a similar drop and expects a further decline of 10,000 barrels per day in 2011.

"There could be further impacts into 2012," said Shell's Chief Financial Officer, Simon Henry. "We just don't know yet."

All the companies that reported third-quarter earnings this week, except Chevron, said profits improved thanks to higher oil and gas prices.

Exxon's net income rose 55 percent while ConocoPhillips' profit doubled. Higher prices helped Royal Dutch Shell increase earnings even though it booked more than $1 billion in asset write-downs. Chevron lagged its peers, however, reporting earnings of $3.77 billion, or $1.87 per share, down from $3.83 billion, or $1.92 per share, in the year-ago period.

And they all said it's time to get back to work in the Gulf.

The Interior Department ended its drilling ban on Oct. 12. New agency requirements will make it much harder for companies to obtain offshore drilling permits. The companies must submit to additional inspections on their rigs and they might need to add new equipment and train crew members. They'll also re-examine the worst-case scenario for a ruptured well. CEOs must certify that a company has met the new regulations.

Chevron said Friday it already has submitted one permit application to the government to drill again in the deep water, and expects to file several more in the next few months.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said earlier in the week that it's preparing to develop its Hadrian project in the Gulf, while Royal Dutch Shell said it filed a number of requests for offshore projects shortly after the moratorium was lifted earlier this month.

Analysts expect that BP, which hasn't yet disclosed its plans for the Gulf, should also report a decline in production. BP reports its results on Tuesday.

Analysts expect the British company will miss out on the bump in profits that Exxon, Shell, Total SA and Conoco enjoyed because of its huge costs related to containing and cleaning up the Gulf spill and paying damages.

Barclays Capital analysts say BP probably will add as much as $3 billion to its forecast for spill-related expenses. The company in July put that figure at $32 billion over the next several years.

Achievement of Australian Cricket in ICC World Cup

The prestigious Australian Cricket Team captured winning title of ICC Cricket World Cup for at least four times out of total nine events. Their continual three times win may be the most untouchable record for any other team in the history of Cricket World Cup.    

The Australian cricket team is the national cricket team of Australia. It is the joint oldest team in Test cricket, who played in the first Test match of the Cricket in 1877 marking also a win by 45 runs.

As of 20 January 2010, the Australian team has played 718 Test matches, winning 51.87%, losing 20.87% and drawing 26.98% of its games.It has a winning record against every other Test nation.The Australian national cricket team has also led the ICC Test Championship table for the majority of the time since the creation of the ICC Test table system in January 2001.

Australia have made 6 world cup final appearances and have won the Cricket World Cup four times in total; 1987, 1999, 2003 & 2007. Australia have also won the ICC Champions Trophy twice in 2006 and in 2009 making them the first and the only team to become Back to Back champions in the Champions Trophy tournaments. Australia also have been the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup champions (Under 19 Cricket World Cup) in 1988, 2002 and 2010. Australia were runners-up in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010 (which was won by England).

Australia reconfirmed them the best and world's number one cricket player beating India in the World Cup final here in Johannesburg. India’s World Cup dreams were shattered by a savage batting assault from holders Australia who reaffirmed their status as the best one-day side with a comprehensive victory in the final on Sunday, March 23, 2003 for a record third title.

The 2003 Cricket World Cup (Official name: ICC Cricket World Cup 2003) was the eighth edition of the tournament and was played in South Africa from 9 February to 24 March. 2003 was the first time that the Cricket World Cup was held in Africa. The tournament featured 14 teams and 54 matches, the most in the tournament history up to that time.
Ponting hit eight sixes and his total of 140 not out is the highest score in a World Cup final
Australia won the match which was the 3rd win for them in the world cup held at Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa on 23rd March 2003.

India won the toss, and Ganguly, slightly strangely, asked Australia to bat, hoping to take advantage of a pitch left damp by dew and rain. On a lively Wanderers Stadium pitch, the Australian openers took advantage of very wayward Indian opening bowlers to get off to a flying start.

Adam Gilchrist (57 from 48 balls, 8 fours, 1 six) and Matthew Hayden (37 from 54 balls, 5 fours) shared an opening partnership of 105 runs in 14 overs, forcing Ganguly to bring on the spinners unusually early. The change of pace brought wickets with Adam Gilchrist, who had been swinging at everything, holing out off a sweep shot from the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. Matthew Hayden, looking somewhat better than he had throughout the tournament, soon followed for 37, leaving Australia at 2/125.
Smiling Ponting holding world cup trophy 2003 
Captain Ricky Ponting (140 from 121 balls, 4 fours, 8 sixes) and Damien Martyn (88 from 84 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) (playing with a broken thumb) then completed a partnership of 234 runs in 30.1 overs, an Australian record for one-day cricket. Ponting and Martyn started efficiently, putting away bad balls but mostly keeping the scoring going with good running, then letting loose in the last ten overs, taking 109 from them. Ponting in particular dispatched the bowling over the fence with fearsome regularity in scoring 8 sixes, the most from one batsman in any World Cup match at the time. The final Australian total of 359 (2 wickets, 50 overs), at a run rate of 7.18 runs an over, was their second highest ever in ODI history.

India's colossal run chase was made even more difficult after their trump card, Sachin Tendulkar, was out in the first over after skying a pull shot, Glenn McGrath completing the caught and bowled.

India's batsmen continued to throw wickets away in the chase as the run rate crept up past 7 an over, and they were finally bowled out for 234 (all out, 39.2 overs) at a run rate of 5.97 runs an over giving Australia an emphatic victory by a record margin (in World Cup finals thus far) of 125 runs, underlining their dominance of the tournament. Ponting was named "Man Of The Match", and Sachin Tendulkar, for his demolition of bowling attacks, was named "Player of the Series."

Australian captain Ricky Ponting holds the World Cup Trophy 2003 after defeating India in the finals in Johannesburg on March 23, 2003.

The final of the 1999 Cricket World Cup was played in Lord's, London on 20 June, 1999. This was fourth time when Lord's hosted the final of a Cricket World Cup, the last ones being in 1975, 1979 and 1983. Australia cricket team won their second title by defeating Pakistan by 8 wickets in the final. Shane Warne was declared Man of the Match.

In the one sided final match, Pakistan was shattered within 132 runs playing 39 overs and losing all wickets  while Aussies scored 133 for 2 playing 20.1 overs only.

The 1999 Cricket World Cup, the seventh edition of the tournament, was hosted primarily by England, but Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Netherlands also hosted some games. New Zealand and South Africa were the other semifinalists.

Australian Captain Steve Waugh holding World Cup Championship Trophy 1999

After a high drama and emotion-draining excitement of the semi-final between Australia and South Africa, everybody expected the final match of the cricket World Cup to achieve similar peaks of sporting performance. The closing contest between Australia and Pakistan, however, was so much of an anti-climax that it almost registered as a non-event.

The match was over with two hours to spare and those spectators, especially Pakistanis, who had paid up to 500 pounds for a black market ticket at Lords felt very disappointed.

Their only recompense was briefly to see the bowling skills of a resurgent Shane Warne (4 wickets for 33 runs in 9 overs) and the ever-deadly Glen McGrath (2 for 13 in 9), the acrobatic catching and fielding of players like Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting and, above all, the steely determination of captain, Steve Waugh.

One felt sorry for the Pakistanis in having to meet the Aussies just as they reached the zenith of their individual talents and team affinity.

Australia won the toss in the final of 1987 World Cup held on November 8, 1987 at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, India. Aussies chose to bat first with David Boon (75 from 125 balls, 7 fours) top-scored for Australia, whose batsmen scored fluently.
Australian captain Allan Border with the 1987 world cup trophy
Australia posted 253 (5 wickets, 50 overs). Mike Veletta (45 from 31 balls, 6 fours) cut loose late in the innings, as Australia scored 65 runs from the last 6 overs of their innings.

In the English reply, opener Tim Robinson was bowled for a first ball duck. Bill Athey (58 from 103 balls, 2 fours) top-scored, and England were almost on target,when captain Mike Gatting (41 from 45 balls, 3 fours, 1 six) handed back the initiative with the loss of his wicket, which ended a growing partnership of 69 runs in 13 overs between him and Athey. Allan Lamb (45 from 55 balls, 4 fours) also posted a great innings, but it was in vain as the required run-rate for England began to rise. When England failed to score the last 17 runs from the final over, the cup went to Australia.

Terror alert in U.S. cities: Cargo planes and trucks inspected urgently

Cargo planes and trucks in several U.S. cities were inspected Friday after investigators found suspicious packages in at least two locations-Britain & Dubai- abroad, law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

However, nothing serious was found but toner cartridge only which sparked horror of terror attacks in the countries of U.S., U.K. and Middle East. Jewish community of U.S. and the world was very thoughtful over the apprehension. 

U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP, is behind the plot.
One suspicious package, found in the United Kingdom, contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge but tested negative for explosive material, the source said. It led to heightened inspection of arriving cargo flights in Newark, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a UPS truck in New York.

The package had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board, a law-enforcement source said; someone shipped it from Sanaa, Yemen, with a final destination of Chicago, Illinois. A similar package has been discovered in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the source said.

Authorities were looking for about 13 other packages shipped from Yemen, said a law enforcement source said. Some of them have been found and investigation of those has not indicated they are a threat, the source said.
There is no specific intelligence indicating the other packages are a threat or that they are in the United States, the source said, but authorities want to check them as a precaution.

A Yemeni diplomat in Washington said his government has opened a full-scale investigation into the incident but it was too early to speculate or reach any conclusions.

Investigators were looking for a "possible nexus to terrorism," a U.S. official said.
"We are taking this very seriously," the official said.

The plot could be a dry run to test Western security, another official told CNN.
The Department of Homeland Security said it "had taken a number of steps to enhance security," including "heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

"Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams and pat downs, among others," DHS said in a statement. "As always, we remind the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement."

Some Jewish religious leaders in Chicago were alerted Friday, said Linda Haase, spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"We were notified about this earlier this morning," she said. "We are taking appropriate precautions and we are advising local synagogues to do the same."

Lucille Price, a receptionist at Anshe Emet Synagogue, said Chicago police made them aware of the reports and asked them to keep an eye out for suspicious packages among any deliveries that arrived Friday.

But congregation leaders at two prominent Chicago synagogues, Temple Sholom and Chicago Sinai Congregation, told CNN they were not made aware of any attempts to ship bombs or hazardous material to them.

In the United Kingdom, police were investigating the suspicious package at a freight distribution center at East Midlands Airport, about 100 miles north of London, said airport spokesman Russell Craig. Officials said they were not certain how the package arrived there, whether by air or land.

Authorities seemed most focused on inspecting cargo planes.
Investigators examined two UPS planes that landed at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, said Mike Mangeot, a UPS spokesman. Authorities later gave the "all-clear" at the airport in Newark, U.S. and U.K. officials said.

Authorities are focusing on flights coming from Yemen into the United States, according to the source.
In Philadelphia, six packages from Yemen were found aboard the two UPS planes that were sitting on the tarmac, said a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation. Though there was no specific threat related to the two planes, U.S. authorities said they decided to check the cargo to be extra cautious, the source said.

All cargo on the planes was to be inspected, even packages that did not originate in Yemen, a process that will take several hours, the source said Hazardous material teams were using mobile equipment to check for biological, radioactive and chemical material as well as explosives, the source said.

One plane was parked in a remote area of the airport, by Gate 11. The other was near the UPS terminal, which is far from the passenger terminal.

The Transportation and Security Administration said authorities acted "out of an abundance of caution."
UPS said it is cooperating with authorities, and its shipment is being removed from the aircraft.

In Newark, investigators examined another UPS plane, Mangeot said. Police determined that there was no threat.

In New York, the bomb squad responded to a report of a suspected explosive device inside a package aboard a UPS truck, said deputy police commissioner Paul Browne. Police later concluded that the truck at the Metro Tech Center facility contained nothing harmful.

Courtesy: CNN.com

Voting to select host of 2018 and 2022 WC tournaments on December 2, 2010

Fifa president Sepp Blatter says the vote to decide who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments will still take place on December 2 this year.

Fifa has made the decision despite two of its executive members being suspended for allegedly selling votes.

"We are five weeks from the final decision so there was never a question of changing anything," said Blatter.

"So on 2 December the Fifa executive committee will decide in a secret ballot the hosts for 2018 and 2022."

Although Fifa has decided to press ahead with the voting schedule Blatter did admit it may have been a mistake to run the bidding process for the two competitions at the same time.

The two Fifa executive members who have been suspended are Nigerian Amos Adamu and Tahiti's Reynald Temarii, and the pair are under investigation by the organisation's ethics panel.

Blatter confirmed that a ruling on their future is expected on 17 November and, if the two are not reinstated, then only 22 Fifa executive members will cast a vote instead of the full 24.
"This is an uncomfortable situation for Fifa but we must say that inside Fifa we have the necessary instruments to react properly," said Blatter at Fifa headquarters in Zurich.

"The ethics committee is addressing a case that involves allegations of possible corruption. We will deal with them according to current regulations.

"If and when people are suspended for the vote on 2 December they will not be replaced."
In a campaign process dogged by controversy, the Fifa ethics committee is also looking into claims of collusion between the joint Spain and Portugal bid and that of Qatar, although both teams have denied all allegations.

Spain and Portugal are vying with England, Russia and a joint bid from the Netherlands and Belgium to stage the 2018 World Cup.

In the race to host the 2022 competition, Australia, Qatar, Japan/South Korea and the United States are in the running.

Meanwhile, as the bidding process intensifies Russia sports minister Vitaly Mutko has issued an apology to England's campaign team.

England 2018 had lodged a complaint with Fifa following comments from Russia bid chief Alexei Sorokin denigrating London.
Drawing a line under the incident, Football League president Lord Mawhinney said: "I gather in Zurich everybody has had a figurative hug and we move on to the decision on 2 December. "I look forward to helping to make the final presentation of England's case. I think we are very competitive."

In terms of choosing the World Cup hosts, the 2018 vote will take place before the 2022 vote. Ahead of the voting, each campaign will get a 30-minute slot to deliver a final presentation - this will happen on 1 December for the 2022 candidates and 2 December for the 2018 hopefuls.

A bid must earn a majority to claim victory, and if two bids are tied then Blatter will have the deciding vote.

After the drawing of lots, Belgium/Netherlands will be the first presentation on 2 December, followed by Spain/Portugal, England and Russia.

Exchange of gunfire between N. Korea and S. Korea before G-20 summit

Military units of North Korea and South Korea exchanged gunfire near their border on October 29, 2010 (Friday), South Korean authorities said. However, no casualties were reported.

The exchange happened after North Korean forces fired two rounds from a 14.5 millimeter machine gun at a South Korean military guard post near the border town of Chorwon, South Korea, about 73 miles (118 km) northeast of Seoul, according to an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff at South Korea.

The incident occurred just two weeks before the G-20 summit to be held in Seoul. The G-20 includes industrialized nations and developing economies, which focus on economic issues and economic policy coordination. Authorities said a total of 50,000 police and riot police will be deployed during the summit on November 11 and 12, according to Yonhap.

The South Korean unit responded with three "warning shots" from a .50-caliber machine gun and warned the North Korean guard post by loudspeaker to desist, the official said.

The demilitarized zone at the location of the shooting is 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) wide. Chorwon was the scene of heavy fighting during the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea on Friday threatened to retaliate against its neighbor for shunning bilateral military talks. The gunfire exchange apparently won't cancel reunions of families separated by the Korean War, which ended in a truce but no formal peace treaty. The weeklong reunions begin Saturday at Mount Kumgang, the two countries' joint mountain resort in the North.

North Korea has requested record shipments of rice and fertilizer in exchange for concessions on the reunions, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported earlier this week.

While there are occasional shooting incidents across the demilitarized zones, the tensest flash point on the peninsula in recent years has been the disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea.

There were fatal naval clashes there in 1999 and 2002. In March this year, the sinking of a South Korean vessel killed 26 in what a South Korean and international investigation team concluded was a North Korean torpedo attack. North Korea continues to deny involvement.

The prickly relationship between the countries since the Korean War has had periodic conciliatory moves and flare-ups.

Oct 29, 2010

Better growth and more spending saves US from Double-dip recession fear

The U.S. economy is going ahead on its path of growth in the third quarter with some positive indicators compare to the previous quarter, according to the government's initial reading published on October 29, 2010.

The fear of double-dip recession in the U.S. economy has been over as depicted in the recent data which shows better growth and more household spending in the economy.  

Gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the economy, grew at an annual rate of 2% in the three months ended in September 2010. While that's slightly better than 1.7% growth in the previous quarter, it is still considered too weak to create jobs.

"The U.S. economic recovery is still stuck in second gear," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics in a note Friday. "The economy isn't growing rapidly enough to reduce the unemployment rate,” he added.

The average growth rate during U.S. economic expansions over the last 30 years is 3.6%, and growth had been as strong as 5% at the end of last year. But the last two quarters of weak growth have raised concerns that the economic recovery could be stalling out.

Economists are not expecting significantly better growth any time soon. The forecast is for 2.5% growth in the fourth quarter, and 2.8% for all of 2011.

Besides, overall spending by households increased at a 2.6% pace, the best reading for that measure since the end of 2006. But disposable personal income was nearly flat in the quarter, which Ashworth said means consumers were dipping into savings.

Considering all, fears of the economy diving into double-dip recession have abated somewhat recently. Thursday, the Economic Cycle Research Institute, which published a widely-followed set of leading economic indicators, said it now believes the risk of a double dip has passed, although it does not forecast any pickup in growth in the foreseeable future.

And there were some bright spots in Friday's report, including strong spending by consumers on big-ticket durable goods, such as cars and appliances, as well as strong spending on services.

"That's good, because services are where the jobs are," said Robert Brusca of FAO Economics. "I think the economy is a half-full glass that is filling. If fears of a double-dip start to recede, that might make businesses more confident about hiring, which will feed growth even more."

The Federal Reserve is already widely expected to announce plans to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy when it meets next week. And Friday's report supports the argument that the economy needs a push to get moving again.

Oct 27, 2010

Google grants 5 million USD for journalism innovation programs

Google has granted $5 million to non-profit organizations to be used toward journalism innovation programs.  The Knight Foundation is the recipient of $2 million of that coffer, while Google is looking to invest the other $3 million in similar organizations outside the United States.

The Knight Foundation will use $1 million of Google money toward the News Challenge and the other $1 million for grants. On average, the Knight Foundation invests $35 million annually from its trust  in new projects and initiatives and the Google gift adds to the purse.

“Clearly journalism is fundamental to a functioning society and democracy,” said Chris Gaither senior manager of news industry relations at Google.  ”We have been doing lots of things working directly with news publishers to try and figure out ways to ease the transition to digital.”

 For those unfamilar with the Knight Foundation, it is almost akin to an angel investor for journalism with a trust started in the1940s from four Knight newspapers — the Miami Herald, the Charolotte Observer, the Akron Beacon Journal and the Detroit Free Press — as well as huge contributions from brothers John S. and James L. Knight and their mother Clara.

It  has funneled more than $100 million in several different initiatives including the Knight News Challenge, which spawned such projects as EveryBlock, a hyper local data sourcing site that was snapped up by MSNBC, and Spot.us, a crowd-funded site for reporters.

“What is different about this is it is from a digital industry media leader,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibarg├╝en.

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz sentenced to death

A high tribunal of Iraq on Tuesday passed a death sentence on Tareq Aziz, once the international face of dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, over the persecution of Islamic parties, the court said.

The death sentence was the first to be handed down to Aziz, who was well known in foreign capitals and at the United Nations before Saddam's downfall. He rose to prominence at the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War, when he was foreign minister.

"The court today issued the death sentence on Tareq Aziz and four others for committing crimes against humanity. The charge of elimination of religious parties was classified as crimes against humanity," Judge Mohammed Abdul-Sahib, a spokesman of the Iraqi High Tribunal, told the media.

"The nature of the crimes is willful killing, torture and the enforced disappearance of persons."

Last year, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the killings of dozens of merchants in 1992 and to a further seven years for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from northern Iraq during Saddam's rule.

He surrendered to invading U.S. forces in April 2003 but was handed over to Iraqi prison authorities this year. In August he accused U.S. President Barack Obama in a jailhouse interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper of "leaving Iraq to the wolves" because of U.S. plans to withdraw.

Aziz's Amman-based lawyer, Badie Arif, said the decision was politically motivated.

"It is a political verdict and not legal. He (Aziz) expected that, especially when the U.S. administration handed him over to the Iraqi government," Arif said.

Sahib said Aziz, as well as four other defendants in the case who were also sentenced to death, were expected to appeal the decision. Iraqi law provides for an automatic appeal for all death-sentence and life-imprisonment cases, even if the defendants do not lodge an appeal themselves.

The four other defendants sentenced to death were former interior minister and intelligence chief, Sadoun Shakir, Abed Hamoud, a former private secretary to Saddam, Saddam's half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan and, a former top Baath party official, Abdul Ghani Abdul Ghafour.

An official in the court's media office said the evidence provided to court and the statements of witnesses had proved sufficient to convict them.

During Saddam's rule, only the Baath party was allowed to exist. The Sunni dictator crushed attempts to establish rival political organizations, and in particular carried out constant campaigns against Islamic parties.

Their leaders were assassinated, imprisoned or forced into exile. One of his main targets was the Islamic Dawa party of current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim.

USA falls from top 20 nations in global least corrupt table, says TI Report

The United States of America has dropped out from the "top 20" in a global league table of least corrupt nations, tarnished by financial scandals and the influence of money in politics, Transparency International said on Tuesday.

Somalia was judged the most corrupt country, followed by Myanmar and Afghanistan at joint second-worst and then by Iraq, in the Berlin-based watchdog TI's annual corruption perceptions index (CPI).

The USA has fallen down to 22nd from 19th last year, with its CPI score dropping to 7.1 from 7.5 in the 178-nation index, which is based on independent surveys on corruption.

This was the lowest score awarded to the USA in the index's 15-year history and also the first time it had fallen out of the top 20.

In the Americas, this put the USA behind Canada in sixth place, Barbados at 17th and Chile in 21st place.

Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore are jointly heading the index with 9.3 point.They were also at the top of the table last year. The table is designed in such a way that a score of 10 indicates a country with the highest standards and 0 as highly corrupt. 

Somalia scored 1.1. The watchdog group said its table was based on "different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions."

Nancy Boswell, president of TI in the United States, said lending practices in the subprime crisis, the disclosure of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme and rows over political funding had all rattled public faith about prevailing ethics in America.

"We are not talking about corruption in the sense of breaking the law," she said. "We are talking about a sense that the system is corrupted by these practices. There's an integrity deficit."

Various financial scandals at state and city level had encouraged the impression that the regulatory oversight was weak and that influence could be bought, she added.

The index showed a number of countries -- including Iran -- climbing up the chart significantly from 2009, though TI said this could often be ascribed to the fact that different surveys were being used that offered no direct comparison to last year.

The fact that nearly three quarters of the countries scored 5.0 or less showed corruption was still a major global problem, said Robin Hodess, director of policy and research at TI.

However, the watchdog identified Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait, and Qatar as states where improvement had been made over the past year.

By contrast, it highlighted the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States as nations where perceptions had deteriorated.

Oct 26, 2010

British economy grows twice marking 2.8% GDP increase

Britain's economy grew twice as fast as expected in the third quarter of this year, easing fears the recovery is tripping out and lowering the chance of more quantitative easing from the Bank of England.

On the year, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.8 percent, the fastest annual rate in three years and up from 1.7 percent in the previous quarter.

British finance minister George Osborne said the figures gave him confidence that a steady recovery was underway, although economists maintained a sharp slowdown next year looked inevitable.

The Office for National Statistics said the economy grew 0.8 percent between July and September, down from a nine-year high of 1.2 percent in the second quarter but at the very top end of economists' forecasts.

Sterling jumped against the dollar and the euro and gilts hit a one-month low as investors reckoned BoE policymakers would struggle to make the case for more monetary stimulus next month, even if growth is expected to slow sharply at the start of 2011.

"It's much stronger than expected," said Alan Clarke, UK economist at BNP Paribas. "It certainly makes it challenging for the Monetary Policy Committee to deliver (more) quantitative easing as early as the November meeting."

In political terms, the main opposition criticism of the spending cuts has been that they go too far too fast and may cripple growth going forward.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's on Tuesday raised its outlook on Britain's triple-A credit rating to 'stable' from 'negative', saying the spending review showed the government's resolve to cut a bulging budget deficit.

Taking both the second and third quarters together, Britain enjoyed its strongest six-month growth spurt since the first half of 2000.

However, this momentum is not expected to last. Cuts to public sector jobs and spending start in earnest next year, and a rise in value-added tax and reductions in some benefits will take money out of consumers' pockets.

Patchy overseas demand for British exports and tight credit from banks add to the difficulties the private sector will face in replacing public sector activity.

"It does not fundamentally change our view that growth will be markedly slower going forward," said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

A quarter of Britain's third-quarter expansion was due to the construction sector, which enjoyed its second successive quarter of strong growth following disruption from an unusually icy winter. On the year, construction output grew 11 percent, its best showing since 1988.

However, the boost from construction is already starting to wane. Public works contracts have been one of the first casualties of Britain's austerity drive and house prices have weakened over the summer.

"Looking ahead, with the cuts already set out in the comprehensive spending review, contractors face a difficult period ahead and optimism in the civil engineering sector is not high for 2011," said the Civil Engineering Contractors' Association's head of industry affairs, Alasdair Reisner.

Services growth held steady at 0.6 percent on the quarter but industrial output growth slowed to 0.6 percent from 1.0 percent in the previous quarter.

The EEF, which represents manufacturers, said Britain's recovery appeared steadier than that after past recessions, but that future growth could not be guaranteed.

"Below the headline number we are still only seeing tentative signs of the economic rebalancing the UK needs," said EEF senior economist Jeegar Kakkad. "The rising risk of a currency war, coupled with cautious consumers at home, could still derail recovery."

The statistics office said the third quarter was the first this year not to have been distorted by weather-related effects which depressed output in the first quarter and boosted it in the second.