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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Citigroup Cuts 11,000 Jobs, Takes $1 Billion Writedown

Citigroup, the third-largest bank by assets in the U.S., announced today it will cut 11,000 jobs and take a $1 billion charge to pay for the layoffs. The measure, designed to cut costs, comes less than two months after Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit was unexpectedly pushed out and replaced with Michael Corbat. Since 2007, Citigroup cut its staff by a third. The bank has been struggling since the beginning of the financial crisis, having been forced to accept a bailout package of $45 billion from the government in 2009, then failing to regain stability. The bulk of positions being cut will come from the consumer banking unit, and 84 branches will be closed.

Obama Asks for $50 Billion for Sandy Relief

U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to ask Congress to authorize between $45 billion and $55 billion in emergency spending to help reconstruction in the states hurt by Hurricane Sandy, White House and Congressional officials said today. The Obama administration may send a request as early as this week. The number may seem high as Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives find themselves in the midst of negotiations for a budget that would reduce the deficit, though it falls short of what the states asked. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut requested a combined $82 billion. It is unlikely that this spending would be offset by spending cuts in other areas of government, making it likely it will increase the U.S.’ debt burden.

U.K. to Prolong Austerity on Grimmer Economic Outlook

U.K. tax increases and spending and welfare cuts will last one extra year to 2018 as the economy seems poised to recover much more slowly than previously thought, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said during a mid-year budget update today. Osborne added the country would be a year late to meet its self-imposed goal for the debt: it will not start to fall as a percentage of gross domestic product by 2016-17, as initially announced, but by 2018. The economy will grow 1.2 percent in 2013, Osborne said, down from the two percent predicted in March. The opposition Labour Party said austerity was hurting the nation’s chances for a recovery. “Britain is on the right track. Turning back now would be a disaster,” Osborne retorted.

Over 320 People Dead in Philippines after Typhoon Bopha

Typhoon Bopha, which crossed the south of the Philippines yesterday with gusts of 210 km per hour (130mph), claimed the lives of at least 320 people and forced the evacuation of another 87,000. The storm swept the southern island of Mindanao, wrecking hundreds of homes and cutting power and communication lines for thousands of residents. “Some of the roads and bridges are destroyed,” Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, told Al Jazeera. Entire villages were cut off by floods and landslides, and the authorities are still searching for missing people. Bopha is the 16th and worst typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.

Astronauts to Spend One Year in Space to Test Mental, Physical Health

Two experienced astronauts will spend a full year on the International Space Station (ISS) to be tested for physical and mental health, allowing Americans and Russians to gather more data as they research the possibility to send a manned mission to Mars. Mikhail Kornienko, from Russia, and Scott Kelly, from the U.S., will train for two years, take off in 2015 and return to Earth in 2016. Each of them has already spent around six months in space. They will be closely monitored to study the effects of microgravity, most notably on their muscle mass, bone density, strength, and vision. The record time spent in space is held by Russian Valeri Polyakov with 437 days.

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