Russia: U.S. Acting On ‘Distorted And Unfounded Perceptions’ By Imposing New Sanctions

MOSCOW, April 28 (UPI) — Russia described the new round of sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Monday as akin to “pouring oil on the flames.”

The United States imposed additional sanctions Monday against Russia, this time targeting seven individuals, including two regarded as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of advisers, and 17 companies. The new sanctions were imposed in response to “Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine,” the White House explained.

Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov condemned the new sanctions.

“By making this decision, the United States was guided by absolutely distorted and unfounded perceptions regarding the events in Ukraine and around it. Washington is pouring oil on the flames but has done nothing, has not taken even one step to bring its proteges in Kiev to their senses. The new attempt at diktat and ultimatum undertaken by America against us will add no chance for a constructive resolution of the problems. …

“… They will certainly not achieve the goals they are seeking. The situation will deteriorate. We will respond, and this will not be our choice. But we cannot leave this without reaction, practical reaction based on our own decisions.”

The deputy foreign minister did not specify how Russia intends to respond to the new sanctions.

New U.S. Sanctions Target 7 Russian Officials, 17 Businesses

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — The United States imposed additional sanctions Monday against Russia, this time targeting seven individuals, including two regarded as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of advisers, and 17 companies.

The sanctions involve travel bans and the freezing of assets of the individuals, as well as the freezing of company assets. 13 of the companies will face additional restrictions with the denial of export approval.

The White House said the sanctions were a response to “Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine.”

The list of individuals includes Igor Sechin, president of the state-owned Rosneft oil company; Dmitri Kozak, deputy prime minister; Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin’s deputy chief of staff; and Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia’s lower parliament, the Duma. Although the head of the energy company Gazprom, Aleksei Miller, was expected to be on the list, he was not.

Among the companies sanctioned were several banks, including Sobinbank, and the Stroytransgaz energy company.

In targeting Sechin, the White House sanctioned the chief of a partner with ExxonMobil, in numerous joint projects. It is unknown if he has U.S. assets to freeze, but he will no longer be permitted to enter the United States.

The sanctions “will increase the impact we have already begun to see on Russia’s own economy … Russian economic growth forecasts have dropped sharply, capital flight has accelerated and higher borrowing costs reflect declining confidence in the market outlook,” noted U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Coldest Star Ever Found By NASA Astronomers

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — If Earth orbited WISE J085510.83-071442.5, a nearby star newly discovered by NASA scientists, there would likely be no such thing as a bathing suit or short shorts. That’s because this “brown dwarf” — a star too small to enable nuclear fusion and radiate light — is as cold as the Arctic.

With its temperature fluctuating between minus-54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, the star is the coldest ever spotted. Because brown dwarfs give off minimal light and heat, they’re extremely hard to find without a telescope outfitted with an infrared lens. Astronomers have detected other brown dwarfs, but their temperatures have been around room temperature.

“It’s very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close,” said Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Penn State, in a statement released by NASA. “And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures.”

At a distance of at 7.2 light-years away, the icy cold ball of gas is the fourth-closest star to Earth’s solar system.

The frigid star was discovered by NASA’s Spitzer and WISE Telescopes. Its existence was confirmed by NASA scientists and collaborating astronomers from Penn State.

“It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun’s nearest neighbors,” said Michael Werner, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who works with data collected by Spitzer. “This exciting new result demonstrates the power of exploring the universe using new tools, such as the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer.”
Brooks Hays

The Fastest Animal In The World Is Not A Cheetah, But A Mite

CLAREMONT, Calif., April 28 (UPI) — Who would win a race: a cheetah of Paratarsotomus macropalpis, a type of mite? The answer depends on what kind of race it is. In a distance race, the remarkable bound of a slender cheetah is unbeatable. But if the race is measured in “body lengths per second,” nothing outpaces the mite.

That’s right, when speed is measured relative to body size, nothing in the world is faster than Paratarsotomus macropalpis.

“It’s so cool to discover something that’s faster than anything else, and just to imagine, as a human, going that fast compared to your body length is really amazing,” said Samuel Rubin, a junior physics major at Pitzer College who helped conduct the research. “But beyond that, looking deeper into the physics of how they accomplish these speeds could help inspire revolutionary new designs for things like robots or biomimetic devices.”

Rubin assisted Jonathan Wright, a professor of biology at Pomona College, in studying the rapid leg movement of the mite. The student researcher and his professor observed the mite, both in the lab and in its natural environment, using speed cameras. Wright said keeping the mite in the camera frame was exceedingly difficult.

“We were looking at the overarching question of whether there is an upper limit to the relative speed or stride frequency that can be achieved,” Wright explained. “When the values for mites are compared with data from other animals, they indicate that, if there is an upper limit, we haven’t found it yet.”

Rubin presented the duo’s findings to attendees of the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego on Sunday.
Brooks Hays

Elon Musk, SpaceX Suing Federal Government For Opportunity To Launch Spy Satellites

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — Elon Musk, the head of private space launch company SpaceX, told reporters his company is filing a protest against the contract procurement procedures of the Air Force via the Court of Federal Claims.

Specifically, Musk wants the Air Force to renege its current multiyear deal with United Launch Alliance (ULA) — a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin — to launch several national security satellites. Musk thinks the so-called “bulk buy” should be cancelled and launch opportunities offered up in a competitive bidding process.

“[Bulk buying] blocks companies like SpaceX from competing for national security launches,” Musk told reporters in a conference call on Friday. “We feel that this is not right. National security launches should be competitive and not sole-sourced.”

Musk also questioned the fact that ULA’s rockets feature Russian-made engines. “How is that we’re sending hundreds of millions in US taxpayer dollars to Russia?” he asked.

Although SpaceX’s planned complaint is technically a “protest,” as the Washington Post reports, it carries the same weight as a lawsuit.

Jeff Foust, a space industry analyst and consultant at Futron, told Forbes he can’t see the Air Force being pressured to give up their ULA deal, but said it might encourage great political pressure.

“It may result in some more Congressional pressure on the Air Force to, if not undo the block buy, then to provide more launches that are open to competition,” Foust explained.

SpaceX has already launched several International Space Station resupply missions in cooperation with NASA. But this latest announcement is evidence of Musk’s eagerness to expand business and compete for military contracts.
Brooks Hays

Rosneft, Exxon To Explore Russian Arctic

MOSCOW, April 28 (UPI) — Russian oil company Rosneft said it was moving ahead with a joint effort with Exxon Mobil to explore for hydrocarbons in the arctic waters of Russia.

The board of directors said Monday they’d work to develop the Ust-Lensky reserve area in the northern Laptev Sea and the Severo-Vrangelevsky-1 in the Chukchi Sea in eastern Russia. Both sides would also explore parts of the Kara Sea under the terms of a joint venture operation, they said.

Neither side offered a reserve estimated of the targeted areas.

Changing weather patterns are leaving parts of the arctic ice-free for longer periods, giving energy companies a greater opportunity to explore frontier oil and natural gas basins.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace have expressed concern about drilling campaigns in the pristine arctic environment.

The environmental campaign group was critical during the weekend after it learned French energy company Total purchased oil from Russia’s arctic region.

Greenpeace oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe said the move only strengthens Moscow’s grip on the region’s energy sector.
Daniel J. Graeber

Kerosene Made From CO2 And Water

BRUSSELS, April 28 (UPI) — The European Commission said Monday a type of kerosene was manufactured in the laboratory using a process that involves solar power, carbon dioxide and water.

The EU said its so-called Solar-Jet project uses concentrated simulated solar radiation as a power source to convert CO2 and water into a form of kerosene.

“This technology means we might one day produce cleaner and plentiful fuel for planes, cars and other forms of transport,” European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said in a statement. “This could greatly increase energy security and turn one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming into a useful resource.”

Simulated sunlight is used in a laboratory setting to convert CO2 and water into a synthetic gas, which is then converted into kerosene using a special technique established by oil company Shell.

The European Commission said the project is in its infancy. A “glassful” of fuel was produced using the process, though it said the results of the experiment “give hope that in future any liquid hydrocarbon fuels could be produced from sunlight, CO2 and water.”
Daniel J. Graeber

Iran, Russia Discuss Electricity Deals

TEHRAN, April 28 (UPI) — Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said his government was hoping to work on modernizing the nation’s energy grid with help from Russia.

Chitchian met Sunday in Tehran with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak to discuss upgrading Iran’s power plants and electrical transmission lines.

“Iran and Russia enjoy long-time joint experiences in the power industry and therefore, we hope that these negotiations would develop our cooperation in water and electricity industries,” Chitchian said.

Iran is working with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which includes Russia, on a deal that would allay Western concerns over a nuclear program Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

Russia supplies Iran with fuel needed to power its Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Novak said an electricity deal could include cooperation with neighboring Azerbaijan.

“In this regard, we are compiling a preliminary draft agreement among the three countries to enable us to reach results for modernizing construction of new power plants, building hydroelectric power plants and high-pressure electricity transmission lines in Iran,” he said.
Daniel J. Graeber

Gallup: About One-Third Of U.S. Adults Didn’t See Dentist In Past Year

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — About 1 in 3 U.S. adults did not visit the dentist with the past 12 months, a survey found — similar to results of a survey in 2008.

Gallup interviewed 178,072 U.S. adults in 2013 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and found 64.7 percent last year visited the dentist at least once.

The American Dental Association recommends adults visit a dentist at least once a year and the survey found one-third of U.S. adults did not meet this minimum level of dental care. Poor oral care has been linked to both heart disease and stroke, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Blacks, Hispanics, young adults ages 18 to 29 and those living in the South were the least likely to visit the dentist. Married people were more likely to visit the dentist then those unmarried.

More than 8 in 10 in households with an annual income of $120,000 said they visited the dentist, while 4 out of 10 who earned $12,000 a year said they saw a dentist within the year.

The telephone survey was conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2 to Dec. 29, 2013. The survey has a margin of error of 1 percentage point.
Alex Cukan

Researchers Create Artificial Skin Using Stem Cells

SAN FRANCISCO, April 28 (UPI) — An international team of researchers developed skin grown from human stem cells that may eliminate using animals for drug and cosmetics testing and help develop news therapies for skin disorders.

The team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center developed the first laboratory-grown epidermis — the outer layer of skin — similar to real skin.

“The ability to obtain an unlimited number of genetically identical units can be used to study a range of conditions where the skin’s barrier is defective due to mutations in genes involved in skin barrier formation, such as ichthyosis (dry, flaky skin) or atopic dermatitis, (eczema),” Dr. Theodora Mauro, leader of the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center team, said in a statement.

“We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired in different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery.”

The new skin is grown from human pluripotent stem cells — stem cells that have the potential to differentiate into almost any cell in the body. Under the right circumstances, the stem cell can produce almost all of the cells in the body.

The human induced pluripotent stem cells can produce an unlimited supply of pure keratinocytes, the predominant cell type in the outermost layer of skin that closely match keratinocytes generated from human embryonic stem cells.

The artificial skin forms a protective barrier between the body and the environment keeping out microbes and toxins, while not allowing water from escaping the body.

The findings were published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
Alex Cukan

Influenza B Has Stubborn Hold On Texas, Northeast, New York

ATLANTA, April 25 (UPI) — For the week ending April 19, overall U.S. flu activity was down except in Texas, the New England, New York and New Jersey where influenza B predominated.

The weekly flu report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said the national proportion of people seeing their healthcare provider for influenza-like illness decreased and remained below the national baseline of 2 percent. Baseline influenza activity is the level that clinical influenza activity remains throughout the summer.

Of the 5,061 specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System laboratories, 12 percent were positive for influenza a decrease from the previous week.

Influenza B viruses accounted for 56 percent of flu viruses nationally and are causing an increase in influenza-like-illness in parts of the Northeast, the report said.

Texas reported moderate influenza-like illness activity, while New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York City reported low influenza-like illness activity. Forty-four states experienced minimal influenza-like illness activity. Delaware did not have sufficient data to calculate an activity level.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island reported widespread flu activity — more than half of the state’s counties reported flu in the previous week.

Maine, New Hampshire and Oklahoma reported regional activity, while Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington reported local flu activity.

Sporadic influenza activity was reported by 25 states and Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee reported no influenza activity.
Alex Cukan

Vancouver Bar Tops $60 Cocktail With Burger, Pulled Pork And Chicken Wings

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 28 (UPI) — A bar in Vancouver has come up with a new twist on Canada’s equivalent of the Bloody Mary that is basically a super-sized brunch on top of a cocktail.

The Score on Davie’s new cocktail, the $60 Checkmate Caesar, is made with classic ingredients like vodka and tomato juice — but that’s not all.

The 5,000-calorie drink comes garnished with a roasted chicken, a burger, a pulled pork Sriracha-glazed slider, onion rings, chicken wings, a mac & cheese hotdog and a brownie for desert.

When news about the drink began to spread, diners and media outlets alike took notice.

“Media all over the world: Good Morning America, food blog sites. When you order it expect people to want to take pictures of you with it,” bar owner Jesse Ritchie told CTV News. “It’s a huge hit.”

The drink’s success has prompted the Score to come up with other Caesar beverage creations like the Grilled Chaesar, Ain’t no Thang and the Big Score.

“The night we made it, the Caesar felt like a celebrity with the entire full bar snapping photos and videos as we put the final pickle on the top! And, yes, you can drink it and it’s delicious!” Ritchie told Eater.
Evan Bleier

Oklahoma Little League Team Raises Money By Raffling Assault Rifle

ELK CITY, Okla., April 28 (UPI) — The way a Little League team in Oklahoma is raising money for equipment and travel hasn’t been a hit with many members of the local community.

The Elk City Outlaws have come under fire for raffling off an AR-15 rifle, but their coach had no problem defending the idea.

“This is western Oklahoma. There’s a lot of people that carry guns out here and are proud of their guns,” coach Denny Geno told KFOR. “If you raise your kid the right way and they understand the safety then I don’t think there is a problem with it.”

According to Geno, the raffle winner will have to pass a background check before receiving the gun. He also said other local groups have raffled firearms in the past.

“I can see where those parents have concerns especially if they weren’t brought up around here,” said parent Andy Shelton. “For some people guns are just not their thing, but for people out here it’s a popular sport, hobby and activity that a lot of families enjoy.”

Other parents also didn’t have a problem with the rifle raffle.

“I ended up getting my son a little bitty 22 when he was four years old,” Christy Ham said. “We enjoy guns and teach our kids safety.”
Evan Bleier

LiveLeak Video Shows Russian Father Teaching Toddler How To Smoke

MOSCOW, April 28 (UPI) — A video that appears to show a Russian father teaching his toddler how to smoke a cigarette has been making the rounds on social media after it was posted to LiveLeak.

The video, “Father “Of The Year,” has already been viewed more than 150,000 times.

According to a translation, the man asks the boy “Did it kick in?” during the clip. A woman can also be heard in the background giggling at certain times during the video.

Twitter was not impressed.

Father offers toddler cigarette, toddler smokes it. Parents who deserve to be shot film the whole thing http://t.co/e7QIQhaIKr— The Right Hon. JV (@ASAP_JV) April 26, 2014

This is child abuse isn’t it? http://t.co/0eWtdLOIQM— Ananyoch Aonputtha (@imananyoch) April 28, 2014

With nicotine having fast acting properties on a young one’s developing brain, this video is quite alarming and sad http://t.co/2Av8GPT2Ej— Health & Wellbeing (@HealthWellTrain) April 28, 2014

This isn’t right… “@Naijablogger: Shocking – Father & toddler son smoking cigarette : http://t.co/sE7scYicrd pic.twitter.com/qlihlxsIRE””— Kenzo Kurosaki (@FvckKenzo) April 27, 2014
Evan Bleier

Oregon Man Demands Marijuana And Mountain Dew During Eight-Hour Police Standoff

CLATSKANIE, Ore., April 28 (UPI) — An Oregon man and his girlfriend were arrested Saturday after an eight-hour standoff with police that involved marijuana, Mountain Dew and the male anatomy.

James Marco Bryan and girlfriend Carrie Hurley refused to surrender to police when the authorities attempted to bring Bryan in on outstanding warrants for reckless driving and absconding.

The 44-year-olds were so uncooperative that the Oregon State Police SWAT team was called in.

“He was kicking out windows, yelling and screaming, standing in the window making gestures with his penis and showing his buttocks in the nude,” Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover told the Oregonian. “At one point, he was wanting a pack of cigarettes, a Mountain Dew, some marijuana.”

The house that Bryan and Hurley were holed up in also had signs outside that contained “some graffiti-style writings like supremacist-type group stuff.”

During the standoff, the couple called local TV station KATU to complain about the Clatskanie police.

“Why would the Clatskanie cops keep on cruising by?” Bryan said by phone. “Because they want to take me out. Because I am going to … take this whole county down, that is why. I got the paperwork to the [expletive] SWAT team who’s out here in front of me. They read it. They don’t care.”

“They want me to come out so they can come in and shoot him or they can shoot me if I come out,” said Hurley. “They’re corrupt and we’ve got ‘em by the [expletive] and they [expletive] don’t even know what’s going on.”

After authorities eventually used tear gas to subdue the suspects, Hurley was charged with hindering prosecution and Bryan was charged with resisting arrest, indecent exposure and first-degree criminal mischief.
Evan Bleier

Plane Crashes Into Man On Lawn Mower During Landing At North Carolina Airport

ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C., April 28 (UPI) — An elderly North Carolina man lost his hand after he was struck by a plane while riding a lawn mower at Taylorsville Airport in Alexander County.

The pilot of the plane, 84-year-old Edward Eugene Sisson, didn’t see 74-year-old John Rufty on his lawn mower until just before impact. Rufty’s left hand was severed by the propeller of the plane during the collision.

State Highway Patrol Sergeant Brian Owenby told the New York Daily News that Sisson was touching down on the airport’s grass landing strip on his way to visit family in the area.

No one was on hand to warn Rufty about the plane because the airport doesn’t have a traffic controller.

“(Rufty) wouldn’t have been able to hear or see the plane coming,” Owenby said. “And the pilot was unable to see the driver until just before impact.”

The National Transportation and Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident but no charges are pending at this time.

Sisson was not injured during the accident.
Evan Bleier

N.C. Teen Accused Of Poisoning Grandmother’s Collard Greens After Cellphone Dispute

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., April 28 (UPI) — A North Carolina teen has been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder after she allegedly poisoned a pot of her grandmother’s collard greens while the 51-year-old woman was attending Easter services.

Tyt’ana Lisa-Nicole Johnson is accused of pouring insecticide and termiticide into the greens because she was upset that her grandmother, Gaylon Moody, took away her cellphone. Moody and a friend, Clifton Evans, had to be taken to the hospital after eating the greens.

“She was on punishment. I had taken her cellphone from her. She got mad because I took her cellphone from her, and she poisoned my food,” Moody told the Fayetteville Observer. “I’ll tell you one thing: It ain’t good to feel.”

According to arrest warrants, Johnson admitted to poisoning the collard greens. She also apologized to Evans for making him ill.

“I asked her about it. She said she didn’t mean for me to get sick,” Evans said. “Actually, it was all aimed at her grandmother. I didn’t really believe this thing could happen. You hear about this kind of stuff on television, but you don’t think it could happen to you.”

Moody hasn’t spoken to her granddaughter since the incident. “I was like, ‘Wow,'” Moody said. “Can she really do something like this over a cellphone?”
Evan Bleier

AOL Looks Into Data Breach, Says User Data Compromised

NEW YORK, April 28 (UPI) — AOL has asked millions of users to change their passwords and security questions after confirming a cyber attack affecting a small portion of its users.

AOL released a statement Monday that said the breach “involved unauthorized access to AOL’s network and systems,” giving the hackers access to mail addresses, postal addresses, address book contact information, encrypted passwords, and encrypted answers.

The company said roughly 2 percent of its users were affected, and that it wasn’t sure if its password encryption was broken or whether the company lost any financial data, including debit and credit cards. But as a precautionary measure users were asked to change their passwords immediately.

“We nevertheless strongly encourage our users and employees to reset their passwords used for any AOL service and, when doing so, also to change their security question and answer,” AOL said.

“We believe that spammers have used this contact information to send spoofed emails that appeared to come from roughly 2 percent of our email accounts,” the statement read.

The attack was detected after a flurry of complaints regarding spoof and spam emails coming form AOL users. According to AOL, “spoofing is when a spammer sends out emails using your email address in the From: field. The idea is to make it seem like the message is from you – in order to trick people into opening it.”

AOL said its working with law enforcement to investigate the breach and has also contacted the SEC as protocol. The company has yet to detect the exact time and nature of the attack.
Ananth Baliga

BAE To Continue Servicing Cruisers, Destroyers At Pearl Harbor

ARLINGTON, Va., April 28 (UPI) — U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers, homeported or visiting Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, are to receive maintenance, repair and modernization services from BAE Systems.

The work will be performed under a multi-ship, multi-option contract from the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command that continues services performed by BAE Systems at Pearl Harbor for the past seven years.

“Our sustained, outstanding performance on the first MSMO award paved the way for this follow-on contract,” said Bill Clifford, president of Ship Repair at BAE Systems. “The Navy clearly recognizes our achievements and success in maintaining and modernizing these ships to ensure the readiness of the fleet. This award speaks volumes about the dedication and commitment of our highly skilled workforce, as well as our island suppliers and small businesses.”

A total of nine ships are covered under the five-year award: the USS Chafee, USS John Paul Jones, USS Chung-Hoon, USS Hopper, USS Michael Murphy, USS O’Kane, USS Halsey, USS Milius, and USS Preble.

The value of the contract was not disclosed.

BAE Systems holds similar contracts for ships in Norfolk, Va., Mayport, Fla., and San Diego, Calif.
Richard Tomkins

Pfizer Confirms $100 Billion Bid For AstraZeneca

LONDON, April 28 (UPI) — Pfizer has contacted AstraZeneca to buy the company in a multibillion dollar deal, the second such attempt after the latter rejected a roughly $100 billion offer in January.

News of the offer saw AstraZeneca stocks rise sharply, at the same time Pfizer’s share were up 2.7 percent around 12:30 p.m. Pfizer said it had made an initial approach in January but AstraZeneca rejected the offer saying it “significantly undervalued” the company.

Pfizer said the deal was “a highly compelling opportunity” for AstraZeneca’s shareholders. The cash and shares deal represented a 30 percent premium on AstraZeneca’s stock price in early January.

AstraZeneca said it was confident in its strategy and said it would continue to create value for its shareholders.

“The Board remains confident in the ongoing execution of AstraZeneca’s strategy as an independent company,” it added.

Pfizer, in the meantime, said that post-merger it plans to establish a new holding company in the U.K. with management both in the U.S. and U.K. The company headquarters would continue to be New York and shares would be listed on the NYSE.

AstraZeneca manufactures drugs in 16 countries focusing on treatments for diabetes, cancer and asthma as well as antibiotics.

“We have great respect for AstraZeneca and its proud heritage,” said Pfizer chairman and chief executive Ian Read.

“The strategic, business and financial rationale for a transaction is compelling,” he added.
Ananth Baliga

Math Error Halts Bank Of America’s Stock Buy Back And Dividend Increase

WILMINGTON, Del., April 28 (UPI) — Bank of America has had to halt its proposed stock buy back and dividend increase because of a math error in its stress test submission to the Federal Reserve.

The bank will have to hold off its proposed plans after it discovered an error in the way it calculated its capital levels. It will now have to resubmit its stress test numbers within 30 days before going ahead with any other proposed actions.

“Bank of America is by far not the first big bank to make a mistake in its CCAR submission,” David Hilder, an analyst at Drexel Hamilton in New York, told Bloomberg.

The Fed had approved on March 26 Bank of America’s request to increase its dividend from a penny a common share to five cents and to buy back $4 billion in shares. But with the errors in its reporting, the bank would have to lower its request.

The error means the bank has less high-quality capital than it previously reported, although it still has enough to meet regulatory requirements. Bank of America said the error had no impact on its recently announced earnings.

Bank of America noticed the error last week while preparing its Q10 quarterly regulatory filing and immediately notified the Fed. The error had reportedly gone undetected since Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2009, a person close to the matter told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.

This mistake is another setback for the bank and CEO Brian T. Moynihan, who have been dealing with regulatory issues stemming from the acquisitions of Merrill Lynch and mortgage-lender Countrywide Financial Corp. during the financial crisis.
Ananth Baliga