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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Exxon CEO is now Trump's secretary of state favorite -transition official

Fri Dec 9, 2016 | 10:08 PM EST ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERA Week 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERA Week 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015. Reuters/Daniel Kramer/File Photo Exxon CEO is now Trump's secretary of state favori...X By Steve Holland | GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson emerged on Friday as President-elect Donald Trump's leading candidate for U.S. secretary of state, a senior transition official said. Trump met Tillerson on Tuesday and may talk to him again over the weekend, the official said. Trump appears to be in the final days of deliberations over his top diplomat with an announcement possible next week. Tillerson's favored status was revealed as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani formally withdrew from consideration for secretary of state. The transition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tillerson, 64, had moved ahead in Trump's deliberations over 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has met Trump twice, including at a dinner in New York. But the official said Romney was still under consideration for the job, along with John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, and retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis. Giuliani's withdrawal came after he was fully vetted by the Trump transition team for his overseas business ties in what was described by the Trump official as an "intense" effort by lawyers and accountants. Giuliani, who runs a global consulting firm, was given a clean bill of health, with Trump's aides concluding his business interests would not pose a risk to his confirmation. Should Tillerson be nominated, his business ties, too, will come under scrutiny. Exxon Mobil has operations in more than 50 countries and boasts that it explores for oil and natural gas on six continents. In 2011, Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Rosneft, Russia's largest state-owned oil company, for joint oil exploration and production. Since then, the companies have formed 10 joint ventures for projects in Russia. In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson his nation's Order of Friendship. But U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Crimea cost Exxon Mobil dearly, forcing it to scrap some projects and costing it at least $1 billion in losses. Tillerson has been a vocal critic of the sanctions. Trump has spoken of wanting warmer relations with Moscow, which has sparked concerns in Congress that he could lift or loosen some of the sanctions on Russia. Tillerson has been chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil since 2006. He is expected to retire from the company next year. Should Tillerson be nominated, climate change could be another divisive issue. The company is under investigation by the New York Attorney General's Office for allegedly misleading investors, regulators and the public on what it knew about global warming. (Reporting by Steve Holland and James Oliphant; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Exclusive: U.S. regulator set to fail Wells Fargo on community lending test - sources

Wed Dec 7, 2016 | 5:37 PM EST A man walks by a bank machine at the Wells Fargo & Co. bank in downtown Denver, Colorado, U.S. April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo - RTSSNGX A man walks by a bank machine at the Wells Fargo & Co. bank in downtown Denver, Colorado, U.S. April 13, 2016. Reuters/Rick Wilking/File Photo - RTSSNGX Exclusive: U.S. regulator set to fail Wells Fargo By Patrick Rucker | WASHINGTON A U.S. bank regulator is ready to fail Wells Fargo on a national scorecard for community lending, sources familiar with the decision said on Wednesday, in a move that could limit near-term expansion for the bank. Wells Fargo is due to be deemed a bank that "needs to improve" under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a law meant to promote lending to poor neighborhoods. The move is a two-notch downgrade from the "outstanding" tag Wells Fargo has held since 2008 and the change would give regulators a greater say on day-to-day matters like whether they may open new branches. The ruling from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the main regulator for national banks, is due by early January, said the sources with knowledge of the plans. A Wells Fargo spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesman for the OCC also declined to comment. Wells Fargo has struggled since September to overcome its admission that employees wrongly created as many as 2 million accounts without customer authorization. A downgrade on the bank's community service score could further tarnish the reputation of the San Francisco-based lender at a time when it hopes to move beyond the scandal. Wells Fargo may win an appeal to the downgrade through an independent arm of the regulator but no decision has yet been made, said sources familiar with the process. Consumer advocates have faulted the OCC for letting eight years pass between reviewing Wells Fargo's commitment to community development. "Regulators could have downgraded Wells Fargo years ago and maybe that would have stopped some of this wrongdoing," said Paulina Gonzalez, head of the California Reinvestment Coalition. Following the 2008 housing market collapse, the OCC faulted several national banks for their community lending. Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) lost its "outstanding" grade in 2011 when the OCC faulted the lender for "discriminatory or other illegal credit practices." JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) also slipped one notch from "outstanding" to "satisfactory" in 2013. But industry and regulatory sources said they knew of no other case where a national bank had slipped two notches in a single review of CRA compliance. (Reporting By Patrick Rucker, additional reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Bernard Orr)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Plane with some 47 people on board crashes in north Pakistan near Death Place of OBLD

Dawn News HOME LATEST POPULAR PAKISTAN TODAY'S PAPER OPINION WORLD SPORT BUSINESS MAGAZINE CULTURE BLOGS TECH Search Icon Pilot made Mayday call soon after take-off MOHAMMAD ASGHAR — UPDATED about 2 hours ago WHATSAPP 83 COMMENTS EMAIL PRINT RAWALPINDI: The pilot of the ill-fated ATR-42 made his first call to the air traffic control soon after Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-661 took off from Chitral on Wednesday with 42 passengers and five crew members on board. He said that the plane’s left engine was not functioning and moments later followed with a panicked: “Mayday! Mayday”. Then the plane crashed into the mountains of Batolni village of Havelian — 32 nautical miles from Benazir Bhutto International Airport — and vanished from the radar screen. An official at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport said the plane had taken off at 3.55pm and was scheduled to land in Islamabad at 4:40pm. Minutes before the plane crashed at 4.15pm, the pilot made the emergency call requesting permission for an emergency landing. The plane vanished from the radar screen soon after and the communication system stopped. Explaining the emergency code, a Civil Aviation Authority official said pilots used the code word Mayday to indicate an emergency. The call is not disturbed and the control tower staff focuses on the problem the pilot is facing, he said. Emergency was declared at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport soon after receiving the phone call. Arrangements were made for an emergency landing and the fire brigade was asked to reach the site, he said. The call about the plane crash was made by a resident of Batolni village who had witnessed the tragedy, the official said. He called the Benazir Bhutto International Airport at around 4:35pm and was asked to contact the airport manager as he was the relevant person, he said. Aviation Division Secretary Irfan Elahi told Dawn that an investigation team, led by Air Commodore Munir Ahmed, has been formed to find out why the ATR-42 had crashed. “At the moment, there is no other reason for the plane crash other than the failure of the left engine,” he said, adding that the investigators will also search for the plane’s flight data recorders. He said soon after the plane had crashed, emergency services, including a health services team and Rescue-1122 officials, were sent to the crash site. According to the CAA, the PIA ATR-42 was carrying five crew members, two air guards, and two infants when it plunged into the mountains of Havailian en route from Chitral to Islamabad. The CAA and the PIA have established help desks at the airport to facilitate the relatives of passengers who were visiting the facilitation desks. According to the CAA, 31 men, nine women and two infants were on board along with five crew members, including two airhostesses. The plane was carrying two Australians, Harald Kessler and Hervig Eichelbenger, and a Chinese national Han Quiang.The Chinese embassy refused to share details of the Chinese passenger who had died in the plane crash, despite several attempts to get information. A press statement from the Inter-Services Public Relaions (ISPR) said, Pakistan Army’s rescue teams had reached at the site. “As many as 40 dead bodies have been recovered and shifted to Abbotabad Ayub Medical and Teaching Hospital. However, the operation to recover the bodies of victims from plane debris is ongoing,” the statement issued to media said. Wed Dec 7, 2016 | 7:38 AM EST Plane with some 47 people on board crashes in...X A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane with about 47 people on board crashed in the mountainous north of the country on Wednesday, police and the civil aviation authority said. PIA said a plane bound for the capital, Islamabad, from the northern town of Chitral lost contact with the control tower en route. The aircraft was carrying "around 40 people", the airline said in a statement, but the civil aviation authority said 47 people were on board. It is not clear if there were any casualties. Laiq Shah, a senior police official in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said the plane had crashed in the province's Havelian area. "Rescue teams are reaching the scene of the crash, and then we will know more," Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George told Reuters. Geo News and Dawn News TV stations, citing civil aviation sources, said the plane lost contact with civil aviation authority at around 4.30 p.m. (1130 GMT). (Reporting by Asad Hashim; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Kay Johnson, Robert Birsel)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Trump on Boeing's Air Force One contract: 'Cancel order!'

At least 18 people died and dozens are feared trapped in rubble after earthquake strikes off Aceh province in Indonesia Tue Dec 6, 2016 | 8:56 PM EST 5h ago | 01:43 Trump asks to cancel order on Air Force One Trump on Boeing's Air Force One contract: By Andrea Shalal and Amy Tennery | WASHINGTON/NEW YORK U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government on Tuesday to cancel an order with Boeing Co for a revamped Air Force One - one of the most prominent symbols of the U.S. presidency - saying costs were out of control. It was the latest example of Trump using his podium, often via Twitter messages, to rattle companies and foreign countries as he seeks to shake up business as usual in Washington. Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, took aim at what he called cost overruns even though the plane is only in development stages. "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!" Trump said on Twitter. It was not immediately clear what prompted the timing of his complaint. Trump, who has vowed to use his skills as a businessman to make good deals that benefit American taxpayers, then made a surprise appearance in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, where he amplified his comments. "The plane is totally out of control. I think it's ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money but not that much money," he told reporters. Boeing, which has built planes for U.S. presidents since 1943, has not yet begun building the two replacements for the current Air Force One planes, which are scheduled to be in service by 2024. Boeing has not yet been awarded the money to build the proposed replacements. "We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States," the company said in a statement. Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg called Trump after his remarks and they had a constructive dialogue, sources familiar with the conversation told Reuters. Muilenburg told Trump the cost of the airplane could be lowered if the U.S. Air Force changed its requirements and the issue would likely be resolved without a major dispute, the sources said. NOT A 'VANILLA' JUMBO JET The Air Force, which operates the presidential planes, announced in January 2015 that Boeing's 747-8 would be used to replace the two current presidential planes. The planes can fly direct from Washington to Hong Kong, 1,000 miles (1,600 km) farther than the current Air Force One. They are designed to be an airborne White House able to fly in worst-case security scenarios, such as nuclear war. President Barack Obama, who flew on the aging Air Force One to Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, has called the plane one of the best perks of the presidency. His spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters on board that the contracting arrangements for replacements were "rather complicated" and said the recommendations for upgrades had been made by national security experts. The budgeted costs for the replacement program are $2.87 billion for the fiscal years 2015 through 2021, just on research and development, testing and evaluation, according to budget documents seen by Reuters. The current Air Force plan envisions extensive modifications to a Boeing 747-8 plane, adding military avionics and advanced communications to a self-defense system. An Air Force officer opens the door of Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Joint Base Andrews from New Jersey and New York, in Maryland November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo 9/9 An Air Force officer opens the door of Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Joint Base Andrews from New Jersey and New York, in Maryland November 2, 2015. Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 1/9 Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to members of the news media in the main lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid 2/9 U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to members of the news media in the main lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. Reuters/Brendan McDermid Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 3/9 Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 4/9 Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 5/9 Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque Journalists board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, on the morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 6/9 Journalists board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, on the morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 7/9 Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque The Boeing 747 Air Force One carrying U.S. President Barack Obama and his family flies over a neighborhood of Havana as it approaches the runway to land at Havana's international airport, March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Alberto Reyes/Files 8/9 The Boeing 747 Air Force One carrying U.S. President Barack Obama and his family flies over a neighborhood of Havana as it approaches the runway to land at Havana's international airport, March 20, 2016. Reuters/Alberto Reyes/Files An Air Force officer opens the door of Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Joint Base Andrews from New Jersey and New York, in Maryland November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo 9/9 An Air Force officer opens the door of Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Joint Base Andrews from New Jersey and New York, in Maryland November 2, 2015. Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 1/9 Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington U.S. December 6, 2016, the same morning that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel purchase of Boeing's new Air Force One plane saying it was ''ridiculous'' and too expensive. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque › "Of course it’s not like buying a vanilla Boeing jumbo jet," said defense consultant Loren Thompson, who has close ties to Boeing and other companies. A March 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated the cost of the overall program at $3.21 billion, including the purchase of two aircraft. But the GAO estimated the costs for research and development would be lower, at just under $2 billion. If the GAO report used the same Air Force estimate for research and development, then its estimate would be around $4 billion. Boeing shares dipped after Trump's tweet but closed up 0.1 percent at $152.24. LATEST BROADSIDE Trump's broadside against Boeing comes as Washington's business lobbyists are bracing for a wild ride. A New York real estate developer, Trump took aim at big corporations during his campaign, saying that they often harmed ordinary Americans by sending jobs abroad. Since winning the Nov. 8 election, he has taken credit for pushing United Technologies Corp and Ford Motor Co to backtrack on outsourcing plans. Trump’s attack on Boeing was the main topic of discussion at the annual luncheon of the Aerospace Industries Association, where the group’s chief executive, Dave Melcher, urged the new administration to promote trade and bolster the high-paying manufacturing jobs that the $143 billion-a-year sector offers. Industry executives say they are seeing willingness from the Trump team to take another look at export controls that limit exports of U.S. weapons. But in the short term, his tweets and comments on Boeing put defense contractors on notice. "The chilling effect on industry is huge, if you are a contractor," said Franklin Turner, a partner specializing in government contracts at law firm McCarter & English. Boeing relies on the U.S. military and other arms of the federal government for a significant share of its defense, space and security business which is worth $30 billion a year. The company clashed during the past year with Republicans in Congress over the Export-Import Bank, a federal program Boeing uses to finance sales to certain overseas customers. Boeing executives have also been outspoken supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Asia, which Trump opposed. (Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner, Emily Stephenson, Mike Stone, Susan Heavey, Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Ayesha Rascoe aboard Air Force One; Steve Holland, Alana Wise, Jeffrey Dastin, and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Amanda Becker; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Truck driver's passenger charged over fatal crash on Swanport Bridge

... www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-17/truck-drivers-passenger-charged.../6628680 Jul 16, 2015 - A truck driver's passenger has been charged over a fatal collision near Murray Bridge in Adelaide last month after the court heard she was in the cabin. Belinda Thornton, a 30-year-old woman from Victoria, was a passenger in a B-double truck driven by Kenneth Lawrence Pillar, 54 ... Brief court appearance for truck driver's passenger charged over fatal ... www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-18/passenger-truck...bridge-fatal...court/6786712 Sep 17, 2015 - A truck driver's passenger appears briefly in court for the first time, ... Driver charged over night time fatal smash on the Swanport Bridge ... Swanport Bridge fatal smash: Victorian truck driver pleads not guilty in ... www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-21/murray-bridge-fatal-smash-driver.../6792220 Sep 20, 2015 - A Victorian truck driver will go on trial after pleading not guilty to dangerous driving over a fatal crash at Murray Bridge in South Australia, while ... Truck driver distracted with girlfriend in cabin at time of Murray Bridge ... www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-05/truck-driver-distracted-with...in.../8093196 11 hours ago - Members of the District Court will inspect the site at Swanport Bridge on Tuesday for up to an hour from 11:00am, with lengthy traffic delays ... Truck driver distracted with girlfriend in cabin at time of Murray Bridge fatal accident, prosecution says By court reporter Rebecca Opie Updated about 11 hours ago Kenneth Laurence Pillar and his girlfriend Belinda Thornton outside court. PHOTO: Kenneth Laurence Pillar and Belinda Thornton were both in the truck's cabin. (ABC News: Candice Prosser, file) RELATED STORY: Truck driver's coughing fit again disrupts court hearing about fatal crash MAP: Murray Bridge 5253 A truck driver charged over a fatal crash at Murray Bridge in 2015 "made up" that he had a coughing fit and blacked out at the time of the collision, the prosecution has alleged in the Adelaide District Court. Kenneth Lawrence Pillar, 55, has gone on trial after pleading not guilty to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The Victorian truck driver was driving a semi-trailer that veered onto the wrong side of the Swanport Bridge on June 16 last year, colliding head on with a car driven by 61-year-old Maria Dowdell. Ms Dowdell was a home economics teacher at Grant High School in Mount Gambier. In his opening address, prosecutor Patrick Hill told the court Pillar had recently separated from his wife and had his new girlfriend Belinda Lee Thornton, 31, in the cabin and was distracted at the time of the crash. "The prosecution says whatever was going on in that cabin, Pillar was not paying attention," he said. The court heard Pillar was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Mr Hill said claims by the accused that he had had a coughing fit and blacked out were psychogenic. "On the prosecution's case this is something that Pillar has made up to escape responsibility for Ms Dowdell's death," he said. Coughing fits staged at police station The court heard that during police interviews after the crash, Pillar said he did not know what had happened but that his girlfriend told him he had a coughing fit and appeared to lose consciousness. But it heard Thornton had told police in her initial interviews she did not know what had happened. Mr Hill said Thornton "later picked up on the lie" and changed her story, telling police in secondary interviews Pillar had had a coughing fit. He said the pair had later staged a coughing fit at a police station. "On the Crown's case this was put on by Thornton and Pillar to bolster their claim," he said. "The coughing and blackouts have been made up and are not supported by medical evidence." The court also heard the details of a phone call made by Pillar to Thornton while he was in custody. "Stories don't change ever," Pillar said. "I've talked about this. I'll wait in jail and if the stories change, you'll be with me. "The stories don't change." The jury was warned that Pillar would be seen to close his eyes and put his head back in the dock during the trial, at which point proceedings would pause. Mr Hill paused four times during his opening address. Members of the District Court will inspect the site at Swanport Bridge on Tuesday for up to an hour from 11:00am, with lengthy traffic delays expected. Drivers of B-double trucks have been advised they will not be able to travel through the town of Murray Bridge as a detour. Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, disasters-and-accidents, murray-bridge-5253, adelaide-5000, sa

Death toll rises to at least 36 from California warehouse inferno

Mon Dec 5, 2016 | 4:46 PM EST Oakland warehouse fire death toll rises to 36 By Curtis Skinner and Peter Henderson | OAKLAND, Calif. The confirmed death toll from a blaze that engulfed a converted warehouse during a weekend dance party in Oakland, California, rose to 36 on Monday, the greatest loss of life from a U.S. fire in over a decade, and officials said they were certain to find more bodies. What sparked the fire, which erupted late on Friday in a sprawling two-story building that housed an artists' collective, has yet to be determined, but authorities were believed to be examining possible safety violations at the site, which was already under investigation for reports of illegal construction. Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives identified an "area of interest" on the ground floor that was still out of reach, according to Sergeant Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. He declined to elaborate, though authorities said their first priority remained the recovery of victims and support for their loved ones. "We are no closer to finding the cause, and we absolutely believe that the number of fire fatalities will increase," Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told a news conference at the site. Authorities have said arson was not immediately suspected. But a team of criminal investigators from the Alameda County District Attorney's Office has been activated, and prosecutors are monitoring the recovery process, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said on Sunday. The nature of the fire has raised questions about whether building code violations might have been a factor. City officials have said the warehouse, known locally as the Ghost Ship, was under scrutiny for complaints of illegal construction inside, and that an inspector visited the property on Nov. 17. FIRE HAZARDS Municipal authorities also cited reports that people were living in the structure even though it was not permitted for residential use. A number of individuals who had been inside the warehouse described it as a potential fire trap. The first floor of the building, which housed a group of artists who called themselves the Satya Yuga Collective, was a cluttered warren of partitioned studio spaces and rooms crammed with furniture, musical instruments, antiques, sculptures, wall-hangings and rugs, according to photos posted on social media before the fire and accounts of survivors and city officials. Two recreational vehicles believed to have been used as living quarters and work space was found parked on the ground floor inside, Kelly said. The dance party was held on the second floor, which partially collapsed when the roof gave way in the fire. The building lacked sprinklers or smoke detectors, and a makeshift stairway between the first and second floors was at least partly constructed from wooden pallets, officials said. The 10,000-square-foot structure, which occupied about half a city block, had just two exterior doorways. The recovery of three more bodies from the charred ruins brought the official fatality count to three dozen, a tally that made it the deadliest blaze in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island. About 70 percent of the Oakland site had been searched by the time recovery crews suspended operations in the early morning hours due to a wobbly exterior wall, but their work resumed at about 9 a.m. local time. As of Monday morning, 11 of the dead had been identified, police said. YOUNG VICTIMS Most victims were in their 20s and 30s, though some were teenagers, officials said. According to Kelly, the warehouse was known as a "safe-place" haven for young members of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Some victims were from other parts of the country or overseas, including an unspecified number from South Korea, Finland and South America, Kelly said. With many of the dead burned beyond recognition, families were asked to preserve items that might contain their DNA to help identification. Kelly said some had died from smoke inhalation. Officials were unsure how many people were present when the fire erupted. One survivor has estimated 60 to 70 were inside at the time. Related Coverage VIDEOResidents lay flowers for Oakland fire dead VIDEOWorried friends, relatives await news on California warehouse fire Death toll rises to at least 36 from California warehouse inferno Some warehouse visitors saw warning signs in advance of Oakland fire Musicians, student among first list of Oakland fire victims The warehouse was one of many converted lofts on the east end of San Francisco Bay in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood, a mostly Latino district where rents are generally lower than in the rest of city. Survivors recounted fast-spreading flames and smoke that quickly filled the interior, blinding occupants trying to flee. Chris Nechodom, 30, said he was on the ground floor when he saw flames race across the ceiling. As he fled, he heard a loud noise and saw a plume of thick black smoke. "It blew out maybe 10 feet out of the entrance," Nechodom said. "After that, I saw a few more people crawl out." Police will use body camera footage from first responders, emergency calls and other information to help determine the cause of the fire and whether criminal charges should be filed. Exhaustion has taken its toll on fire crews who have worked around the clock. One of those killed was the son of a sheriff's deputy, Kelly said. "This tragedy has hit very close to home," he said. (This story has been refiled to add missing word in second paragraph) (Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York, Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago, and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Califorinia; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Gorman; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Lisa Shumaker)

Abacus Property Group confident on residential settlements despite council slowdown

Aug 21 2016 at 4:09 PM Updated Aug 21 2016 at 6:19 PM Abacus Property Group, which owns commercial, retail and storage property across Australia, says Sydney's council amalgamations are stalling valuable residential developments. Supplied Share on twitter Share on Google Plus by Matthew Cranston Abacus Property Group managing director Frank Wolf says Sydney's council amalgamation has stalled valuable residential property developments but that the new regime was something that had to be introduced and would deliver improved efficiencies. Dr Wolf made the comments when delivering a strong full-year result for the private equity-style real estate investment trust, with a $190 million net profit up 39 per cent, largely from property revaluations and stronger income from its storage division. Abacus, which owns commercial, retail and storage property across Australia, also controls about 9000 units or land lots. The group's residential project in Camellia, Sydney has been delayed largely because of the disruption following the council amalgamation. "[The amalgamation] has caused delays to a number of rezoning applications and has created uncertainty to delivery and realisation timings," Mr Wolf said. Managing director Frank Wolf delivered a strong full-year result for Abacus on Friday. Managing director Frank Wolf delivered a strong full-year result for Abacus on Friday. Michele Mossop "We are disappointed with the delays in our residential development approvals that have eventuated as a result of the council amalgamations in Sydney," he said. "But we are confident that these timing delays will not ultimately impact our anticipated returns." "Once the councils get tidied up I think it will be a positive. [Premier Mike] Baird has done what should have been done decades ago – I think he has shown great strength and character to do this." Confident about settlements Abacus has about $500 million invested in residential projects in inner city markets across the eastern seaboard of Australia and is confident that hundreds of settlements due in the next few months will go ahead without any concerns. While Abacus enjoyed strong transactional returns from a number of development projects during the year, it did book a large impairment on its Muswellbrook residential development as a result of the downturn in the resources sector. In the group's commercial operations, like-for-like rent growth was just over 2.7 per cent for the period. The commercial portfolio delivered a 5.7 per cent increase in value or $74 million in fiscal 2016. Abacus continued to create third-party capital joint ventures where it maintains management of the asset and increases earnings from fees and rental income. It entered into agreement with Goldman Sachs to acquire 201 Pacific Highway in Sydney for $115 million and with the Zenonos Group to acquire Lutwyche City Shopping Centre in Brisbane for $65 million. Abacus' self-storage portfolio was the standout performer, delivering a $69 million profit for the year – a 45 per cent increase on the previous year. The group delivered a distribution of 17¢ per security for the full year, but has not provided guidance. Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/abacus-property-group-confident-on-residential-settlements-despite-council-slowdown-20160818-gqw93m?utm_content=buffer7c2e4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer#ixzz4RxIgfUXS Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook ============================ Distributions & Tax Distribution Policy Abacus Property Group’s distribution policy is to maintain or grow distributions per security, subject to the financial performance of the Group and the cash requirements of delivering future growth. Security holder distributions are sourced from the underlying profits of the Group. Payment of distributions Abacus Property Group currently pays distributions six monthly. Distributions are paid within two months of the end of each period, usually in February and August each year. Distributions may comprise distributions from Abacus Trust, Abacus Income Trust and Abacus Storage Property Trust and dividends from Abacus Group Holdings Limited, Abacus Group Projects Limited and Abacus Storage Operations Limited. You can choose to have your distributions: •paid directly into your nominated bank account; or •reinvested in additional securities via the Distribution Reinvestment Plan. Distribution reinvestment The Distribution Reinvestment Plan is a convenient way to increase your holding in Abacus Property Group securities without incurring brokerage. Before applying you should read the terms of the DRP. Click here for a copy of the DRP terms. The DRP is currently in operation and, if you have elected to participate, distributions are converted into new securities at the relevant DRP issue price. There is currently a 2.5% discount applied to the DRP issue price. If you want to participate in the DRP, or vary or terminate your participation, please visit our registry Investor login facility to update your instructions online or call 1300 139 440 . Record of distributions and DRP pricing Table of historic pricing and distributions Tax Information Abacus Property Group’s financial year end for tax purposes is 30 June, at which time the components of the distribution are determined. The total annual distribution and tax components are reported in the Annual Tax Statement which is mailed to securityholders who received distributions in August each year. This will include the information you require to maintain your taxation records. A copy of your Annual Tax Statement can be downloaded online by using the Investor login facility. You will need to log in using your SRN/HIN, surname and postcode. Non-resident investors Security holders who are not Australian residents for Australian tax purposes should seek their own investment and taxation advice. For more information, visit the Australian Tax Office website. Tax components For a record of tax component information for previous financial years and estimates of tax components for the current financial year, click below. Table of tax components. Half year tax components are estimates only. The final taxation components of the current year distributions will be shown on your Annual Tax Statement which will be issued by the end of August. Cost base Abacus Property Group securities are stapled securities. Each security comprises one unit in Abacus Trust, one unit in Abacus Income Trust, one unit in Abacus Storage Property Trust, one share in Abacus Group Holdings Limited, one share in Abacus Group Projects Limited and one share in Abacus Storage Operations Limited. For capital gains tax purposes, investors who sell their Abacus Property Group securities will need to apportion the cost of each security and the consideration received on disposal of each security between the units in the trusts and the shares in the companies. Detailed information on the CGT consequences of disposal of stapled securities is provided on the Australian Tax Office website. To assist investors in calculating their CGT position, the following information is provided on the apportionment of the security price between the trusts and the companies. Table of cost base information TFN/ABN Provision of your TFN (Tax File Number) or ABN (Australian Business Number) is not compulsory. However, if a TFN/ABN is not provided, we are required to deduct tax at the highest marginal tax rate plus Medicare levy from all distributions paid. You can provide your TFN/ABN by contacting our registry on 1300 139 440 or via their Investor login facility.