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German minister Schaeuble bows out, convictions intact

Published: Monday, October 09, 2017 @ 6:25 AM
Updated: Monday, October 09, 2017 @ 6:23 AM

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who championed austerity as the only way countries like Greece could avoid bankruptcy and continue to use the euro currency, is winning plaudits at his final meeting with European peers.

Schaeuble, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been a controversial figure at the eurogroup meetings over the past few years, not least because of his insistence that countries requiring financial bailouts had to implement tough austerity measures, such as big spending cuts and tax increases, in return for the money.

His supporters, mainly in northern Europe, argue that Schaeuble's approach helped stabilize the euro currency in what was its biggest crisis since its launch in 1999. They note that no country has ditched the euro and of the bailed-out countries, all but Greece are standing on their own two feet. Even Greece, with its annual budget in much better shape is due to exit its bailout era next year.

Schaeuble's critics though have accused him of being cold-hearted and impervious to the damage wrought to vast sections of society from the austerity prescribed. In return for the hundreds of billions of euros that allowed the bailed-out countries — Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus — to meet their debt obligations, governments have had to undertake wide-ranging reforms to their economies as well as pursuing strict budgetary constraint. In Greece, the austerity has been widely blamed for a deep recession that saw the Greek economy lose a quarter of its output, and unemployment and poverty levels rise markedly.

"Eight years is enough," said Schaeuble as he entered the eurogroup meeting of the bloc's 19 finance ministers in Luxembourg. "In a tough time, we kept the euro stable."

Since the euro's launch, Germany has always been the most-important member of the single currency bloc, both because of the size of its economy but also because of its well-earned reputation for financial stability over many decades. Under Schaeuble, the country's power became even more pronounced, particularly with regard to Greece after its debt crisis exploded in the autumn of 2009. In 2015, Greece came close to going bankrupt before the left-wing Greek government under new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras relented and accepted the country's third international bailout on similar terms to the previous two.

"He played a crucial role," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top official in the 19-country eurozone. "He will be missed," Dijsselbloem said, before adding "his sternness sometimes." He also said Schaeuble was known for his advice "sometimes asked, sometimes unasked, but always welcome."

Spain, which saw some of its banks bailed out during the crisis, had warm words, too.

"At the end of the day, he only looked to the best for the whole of the eurozone," said Finance Minister Luis de Guindos.


Dave McHugh contributed from Frankfurt.

Wells Fargo customers find accounts drained by mistaken double charges

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:49 PM

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Some Wells Fargo customers found their bank accounts drained to zero Wednesday when some sort of glitch caused their online bill payments to be processed twice.

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Numerous customers -- so many that Wells Fargo’s customer service phone lines were jammed Wednesday night -- were discovering that recent payments they had made using the bank’s online Bill Pay system had been deducted twice from their checking accounts.

In some cases, that sent customers’ balances to zero -- or below zero -- and triggered the possibility of overdraft protection fees. Some customers received email notices telling them that they now had no money in their checking accounts.

Customers who sat through the hour-plus wait to reach a customer service representative Wednesday night were being told that their accounts would be fixed overnight.

“We’re aware that certain Wells Fargo customers are experiencing issues with Bill Pay,” Wells Fargo communications manager Hilary O’Byrne said in a statement. “We apologize for this inconvenience, and are working to resolve the issue quickly.”

O’Byrne declined to say how many customers were affected or to describe how the double charges occurred.

In the meantime, customers took to social media to share their shock and frustration over not being able to access the money that should have been in their checking accounts.

Steve Bannon strikes deal in Mueller probe: reports

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 10:14 AM

Steve Bannon Makes Deal With Robert Mueller

Steve Bannon has struck a deal to be interviewed by a special prosecutor in the Robert Mueller investigation, according to reports.

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Check back for the latest updates in this developing story.

Trump White House exposé ‘Fire and Fury’ could be TV series

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:01 PM

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – What You Need to Know

“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” could be adapted from a book to a TV series.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the rights to the controversial Michael Wolff exposé of the Trump White House has been purchased by Endeavor Content for TV and film. Endeavor Content was created in 2017 as talent agency WME and talent management company IMG combined its film financing and scripted TV sales operations into one banner.

THR reported that Endeavor Content will start shopping the TV series adaptation, as a network is not yet attached to the project.

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“Fire and Fury” was written based on Wolff’s access to the Trump White House, and includes details from over 18 months of conversations with Trump and senior staff members. Some claims in the book include that Trump didn’t expect or want to win the 2016 election, he was upset that A-list celebrities didn’t come to his inauguration, he couldn’t get through a lesson on the U.S. Constitution and media mogul Rupert Murdoch called him an “idiot.”

Related: 10 stunning claims about Trump White House from ‘Fire and Fury’

Other claims say Trump eats fast food out of fear of being poisoned, Trump’s daughter Ivanka has goals of running for president, and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was aware of potential conflicts of interest with Russian ties.

The claims in the book have been denied by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who referred to the book as “complete fantasy and just full of tabloid gossip.”

Interest in the book grew when news from the book was leaked, and authorized excerpts were published soon after. The publication of the book was moved from Jan. 9 to Jan. 5 as the White House attempted to stop its release, and within two days of sales, “Fire and Fury” debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. THR reported that according to the book’s publisher, Henry Holt, more than 1.4 million hardcover copies were ordered and 700,000 copies have been shipped to date.

Dog found covered in icicles, sores, needs forever home

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 10:18 PM

A Memphis firefighter rescued a dog in the middle of a busy road (not pictured). The dog had icicles and sores on her body, according to the man.
Chad Cooper  (CC BY 2.0)
A Memphis firefighter rescued a dog in the middle of a busy road (not pictured). The dog had icicles and sores on her body, according to the man.(Chad Cooper (CC BY 2.0)

A firefighter was driving home from work when he saw a dog in the middle of the road. While many drivers honked their horns and continued past the dog, the firefighter, Justin Luttrell, stopped. 

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“She was freezing, shaking and terrified -- it was written all over her face with her tail tucked between her legs,” Lutrell said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Before I left work I checked the weather. It was -1 with wind chill. I pulled over to try and pick her up.”

Lutrell said the dog was nearly hit by cars. He used cooked chicken and lunch meat to get her close and he finally caught up to the dog a fourth of a mile down the road.

“She had icicles hanging off of her with multiple sores on her body and looked anorexic,” Lutrell said in the post. “Not knowing if she’d bite me or if she had rabies, etc., I picked her up and put her in the back seat of my truck.”

Lutrell said he drove to an Animal Emergency Center in Memphis, where he was told the dog was heartworm negative, didn’t appear spayed and did not have a microchip.

Lutrell made the public post in hopes of getting the dog adopted.

“She is extremely sweet and will be needing a home,” he wrote. “Please share this to find this sweetheart a good loving home and keep her off the streets.”