By Edith Honan and Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former New Jersey official on Friday claimed Governor Chris Christie knew about politically motivated traffic jams as they happened, re-igniting a political scandal that has taken a toll on the prominent Republican. The letter from a former official at the agency that oversees the busiest U.S. bridge sparked a quick response from Christie, who again denied wrongdoing, and prompted a top New Jersey newspaper to suggest the governor could face impeachment. David Wildstein, who resigned his Port Authority post late last year, said in a letter that he had proof of the “inaccuracy” of some of Christie’s statements about the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, which polls show has already started to weigh on Christie’s potential 2016 White House bid. Since the scandal first came to light, Christie has denied knowing the cause of the George Washington Bridge lane closings, which occurred after the mayor of Fort Lee declined to endorse the governor in a re-election bid and caused four days of massive traffic jams in that city.
Position: Incoming Federal Reserve Chair Incumbent: Janet Yellen Date of Birth: August 13, 1946 Term: Appointed to a four-year term as chair beginning February 1, 2014; Yellen will be sworn into office on February 3, but has authority as vice chair to exercise all duties of the chair until then. Key Facts: – Yellen is often seen as a monetary policy dove because of her long-held view that the Fed should tolerate slightly higher inflation if that is the cost of fighting high unemployment. – As Fed vice chair, Yellen was an outspoken proponent of the Fed's aggressive stimulus efforts during and after the 2007-09 crisis, and played a lead role in refining the central bank's communications strategy.
By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pressure for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline increased after a State Department report played down the impact it would have on climate change, irking environmentalists and delighting the project's proponents. But the White House signaled late on Friday that a decision on an application by TransCanada Corp to build the $5.4 billion project would be made "only after careful consideration" of the report, along with comments from the public and other government agencies. "The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement includes a range of estimates of the project's climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary (of State John) Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.
China's factory growth eased to an expected six-month low in January, hurt by weaker local and foreign demand, a survey showed, a soft start for the year that heightens worries of an economic slowdown. The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) edged down to 50.5 in January from December's 51, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, in line with market expectations. The change reinforces concerns that China's economy is stuttering and could drag on financial markets on Monday as global investors, already nervous about capital flight in emerging markets, find another reason to sell riskier assets. Saturday's PMI showed China's factories saw fewer export orders and slacker growth in new orders last month.
By Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Indian diplomat whose December arrest led to a major international dispute holds no immunity from U.S. prosecution and should continue to faces charges of visa fraud, Manhattan federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Friday. Devyani Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on charges that she lied to U.S. authorities about what she paid her housekeeper. She was stripped-searched while detained in Manhattan federal courthouse, which led to a diplomatic firestorm between India and the United States that continued for weeks. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office argues in the court filings that Khobragade is a former diplomat and not immune from prosecution.
By Brendan O'Brien MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker flexed his fundraising muscle in 2013, building a campaign war chest more than triple the size of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, finance reports filed on Friday showed. At the end of 2013, Walker's campaign had $4.6 million, according to the reports filed with the state, compared with the $1.3 million Burke's campaign said it had in its coffers on December 31. A victory in the governor's race in November could thrust Walker further into the national political spotlight where he could emerge as a top-tier candidate for president in 2016. Burke is the daughter of the founder of bicycle manufacturer Trek, based in Wisconsin.
By Karen Freifeld NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state judge on Friday approved most of Bank of America Corp's $8.5 billion settlement with investors over toxic mortgage securities, but left a caveat that could complicate the bank's efforts to implement the deal. Justice Barbara Kapnick ruled that Bank of New York Mellon , the trustee representing investors, had acted mostly in good faith in agreeing to the settlement. But she withheld her approval for one part of the settlement where she said the trustee had not acted reasonably. A spokesman for Bank of America said the bank did not expect that Kapnick's exclusion would hold up the accord.
By Jennifer Dobner SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – A school district in Utah has suspended two people and opened an investigation after lunchroom workers touched off a furor by snatching food trays from several dozen children whose parents were behind on meal payments, a district spokesman said on Friday. Cafeteria workers handed out the lunches on Tuesday at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, but then seized and tossed out the meals after realizing the children’s accounts had not been paid, district officials said. The incident at Uintah Elementary School has enraged parents, sparked a social media frenzy and drawn the attention of lawmakers, who say they will consider whether state legislative action is needed. “This was an unfortunate attempt by the district to humiliate kids so they would go home and tell their parents and the account problems would be remedied.” The Salt Lake City School District posted a written apology on its Facebook page, saying the situation “could have and should have been handled” differently.
The catalysts that drove the Dow and the S&P 500 to their worst monthly performances since May 2012 have not gone away. Demand in China has been particularly sluggish, which affected Apple Inc's results, as the company's iPhone sales were worse than expected, and Wal-Mart Stores , which closed some locations in that country, as well as in Brazil.
By Nadia Damouni and Bill Rigby NEW YORK/SEATTLE (Reuters) – The race to determine the next head of Microsoft Corp looks to have ended where it began, with the software giant poised to take the route of least risk and tap rising internal star Satya Nadella for the job. After a bruising, five-month selection process, the list of contenders was cut to six serious candidates, with the chief executive job nearly going to Ford Motor Co CEO Alan Mulally, an outsider favored by investors lobbying for radical change. If Nadella wins the day, as expected, it will be for his innovative work on Microsoft's growing server and tools business, which provides online computing and storage for companies, said a source briefed on the search process. Nadella is in discussions with the board, and is likely to ask that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates drop his chairman role and help Nadella more closely on technology, two sources said.