Bernanke keeps remarks on stimulus generic
WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke left out specifics Tuesday but said the central bank was prepared to take further steps to stimulate the economy.
The remarks on extra stimulus were brief and generic, but turned a slump in equity markets around, anyway, as stocks on three major Wall Street indexes turned from declines to advances in late-morning trading.
Bernanke noted the economic recovery has slowed to a crawl since early in the year. "The U.S. economy has continued to recover, but economic activity appears to have decelerated somewhat during the first half of this year," he said to members of the Senate Banking Committee in remarks prepared for a semi-annual report.
The economy had added jobs at a rate of 200,000 per month in the later part of 2011 and early in the year, but that "shrank to 75,000 per month during the second quarter," he said.
Bernanke had been expected to tell lawmakers the Fed was poised to embrace new stimulus measures without saying when, economists said in advance of the chairman's testimony.
HSBC concedes lapses in controls
WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- Executives from a British multinational bank told a Senate committee the bank has tightened controls after exposing U.S. entities to drug and terror financing.
A Senate report earlier this month said HSBC Holdings and its U.S. affiliate exposed the U.S. financial system to money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorist financing risks because of poor controls.
David Bagley, head of group compliance for HSBC Holdings PLC, told the committee, "While there have been successes on many compliance issues, I recognize that there have been some significant areas of failure ... despite the best efforts and intentions of many dedicated professionals, HSBC has fallen short of our own expectations, and the expectations of our regulators.
"This is something that a bank seeking to conduct business in the United States, and globally, must acknowledge, learn from, and most importantly, take steps to avoid in future."
Annan hopes for U.N. action on Syria
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 17 (UPI) -- U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday he hopes the U.N. Security Council will decide on a course of action to end the Syrian conflict.
"I would hope that the council will continue its discussions and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together for us to move forward on this critical issue," Annan told reporters in Moscow after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The comments came as fighting raged in Damascus for a third day and on the heels of a BBC interview with Syria's former ambassador to Iraq who said he fears Syrian President Bashar Assad is getting ready to use chemical weapons to put down the uprising.
Annan said his discussion with the Russian leader was "very good" as it focused on what measures are needed to end the carnage and how to proceed with a political transition, the United Nations said in a release.
Annan's six-point peace plan has withered as the Syrian military and opposition fighters waged what the International Red Cross has labeled essentially a civil war.
Glacier calves Manhattan-sized iceberg
NEWARK, Del., July 17 (UPI) -- An island of ice twice the size of Manhattan broke off from Greenland's largest glaciers Monday, a U.S. researcher reports.
University of Delaware ocean scientist Andread Muenchow blogged the "calving" from the Petermann Glacer, one of the two largest glaciers left in Greenland connecting the great Greenland ice sheet with the ocean via a floating ice shelf.
Muenchow, who credits the Canadian Ice Service for first noticing the fracture, said the discovery was confirmed by re-analyzing data from NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.
At 46 square miles this latest ice island is about half the size of the event that occurred at the same glacier two years ago that saw an island four times the size of Manhattan break free.
"While the size is not as spectacular as it was in 2010, the fact that it follows so closely to the 2010 event brings the glacier's terminus to a location where it has not been for at least 150 years," Muenchow said in a university release.
Boy Scouts to keep ban on gays
IRVING, Texas, July 17 (UPI) -- The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday it will keep its policy of banning open homosexuals from membership.
The organization said the decision was made after a two-year review by a special committee of professional staffers and volunteers.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," said Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive. "While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."
The membership rule applies mainly to adult volunteers and staffers within the organization, because there are relatively few openly gay boys. GLAAD, one of the country's largest gay and lesbian groups, in a news release responding to the Boy Scouts' decision cited two recent leaders who were dismissed because of their sexual orientation.
Eric Jones, a New York-area Eagle Scout, was dismissed as a camp counselor after he told the director at a Boy Scout camp he is homosexual.