Current Events and Blog

17Feb 2018

Vikings Fan Attends Pro Bowl Thanks to 'Vikings Rewards' – Vikings.com


When Vikings Season Ticket Member Logan Runyan received a call telling him he’d been selected for a trip to the 2018 Pro Bowl, he thought it was a prank.

“My wife was in the room with me when I got the phone call, and the first thing she said was, ‘If they ask for your credit card number, hang up,” Logan recalled, laughing. “It was just too good to be true.”

But it was true. Logan had been selected from Vikings Rewards members who had used points and entered submissions for a chance at the trip.

Logan invited his older brother, Roman, who shares his love for football. The two grew up in central Iowa where college football is a major focus, and the family was a longtime season ticket holder for the University of Iowa. Logan remembers starting to become an NFL fan in the late ’80s. He first followed the Chiefs but was told about the Vikings by his father, who reminisced about making road trips to Met Stadium.

“When the Vikings drafted Chad Greenway, it made the team even more appealing to root for,” Logan said. “My son has a signed Greenway picture from when he was a Hawkeye, and now he has one for the Vikings. It’s been fun to see players come through different systems like that.”

Three years ago, Logan and his family moved to the Twin Cities and became Season Ticket Members.

“With the new stadium coming in, it seemed like the ideal time to really start and invest in the experience,” Logan said.

“I was at the Minneapolis Miracle with my son, and hopefully there are far more of those types of experiences in the future,” he later added.

Logan has enjoyed the Vikings Rewards program as part of his commitment to the team and was grateful for the opportunity to share the Pro Bowl experience with his brother.  

When asked about a highlight of the trip, Logan said he especially appreciated hearing from NFL alumni.

We had a chance to listen to LaDainian Tomlinson and Warrick Dunn speak,” Logan said. “We met Troy Vincent, who works for the NFL, and getting those behind-the-scenes conversations about their experiences and really hearing what they’re trying to do for the future of the league – it actually surprised me how much I enjoyed that.”

Logan and Roman enjoyed being up-close and personal with so many top-tier players from across the league, including Vikings teammates Kyle Rudolph, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and Adam Thielen.

The way Thielen, a Minnesota native, interacted with Vikings fans especially impressed Logan.

“I just sat there and watched, and he would – during the practice on Saturday, as well as during warmups on Sunday before the game – seek out those Vikings fans and try to make time for them,” Logan said. “It was cool to see him really embracing the opportunity to be there and the success he’s had and just appreciating the fans that had made the trip down.”

Logan said the three-day experience provided a deeper appreciation for the NFL and specifically for his now hometown team.

“Just the fact that the Vikings take the time to give regular fans like myself the opportunity to experience this, it definitely solidifies and amplifies my commitment to and fandom of the Vikings, for sure,” Logan said.

Logan is just one of the 45,000-plus fans who have created Vikings Rewards accounts and are racking up points by attending Vikings events, watching videos and reading Vikings.com content, and interacting on social media. Those points can then be exchanged for a number of fun perks, memorabilia items, experiences and rewards.

To sign up for Vikings Rewards, click here.

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17Feb 2018

Top aide to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announces departure two days after travel scandal explodes – CNBC


The chief of staff of the Veterans Affairs Department announced her retirement Friday, two days after being blasted for allegedly lying and altering a document to get the VA to pay European travel expenses for Secretary David Shulkin’s wife.

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The resignation of Vivieca Wright Simpson came as her boss Shulkin struggled to save his job amid questions of his own conduct surrounding the trip last year — and as the VA announced it has opened a formal investigation specifically of Wright Simpson’s actions.

At the same time, the VA said it also has launched an investigation into Shulkin’s claims that Wright Simpson’s email account had been hacked.

Shulkin’s allegations imply that an email which Wright Simpson was accused by the VA’s Inspector General’s Office of altering in connection with the trip to Europe actually may have been changed by someone else.

“President Trump has made clear that he expects VA leaders to hold themselves and other employees accountable when they fail to live up to the high standards taxpayers and veterans deserve,” VA spokesman Curt Cashour said in an email.

“VA will continue to review the IG report and its recommendations in more detail before determining possible additional personnel accountability actions.”

A scathing report issued Wednesday from the VA Office of Inspector General on Shulkin and his chief of staff had noted that criminal charges should be considered for Wright Simpson, who worked for 32 years at the VA.

USA Today first reported that Wright Simpson had told colleagues on Friday morning that she would retire as the third most senior official at the VA, which has a $182 billion budget and more than 340,000 employees who oversee health care and benefits to military veterans.

The IG’s report examined an official trip that Shulkin took last year to Copenhagen and London.

The report found that most of the trip was taken up with personal time, and not official business — and that Shulkin had a subordinate arrange personal travel plans during the trip for him and his wife, Dr. Merle Bari, which the report called a “misuse” of the subordinate’s official work time.

Shulkin also improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament as a gift, according to the report.

The report also noted that Wright Simpson had “made false representations to a VA ethics official and altered an official record, resulting in VA improperly paying for Dr. Bari’s air travel.”

The record was an email from another VA employee, which Wright Simpson allegedly doctored and forwarded falsely claim that Shulkin would be receiving an award while in Denmark, which she understood would provide justification for Bari to travel with him at taxpayers’ expense.

IG investigators had referred Wright Simpson’s conduct to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. But the DOJ declined to bring charges.

When the report was released Wednesday, Shulkin was contemptuous of its findings, saying, “I have done nothing wrong.”

“The report is not accurate, not objective,” Shulkin told The New York Times that day. “I was horrified when I saw the way the investigator conducted himself.”

The Times also noted that Wright Simpson had denied the report’s conclusions, claiming that the dinner she had mentioned in the email justifying paying for Bari’s travel had actually occurred, and that she had not had a chance to review the report or respond to it before it was released.

But by the next day, while appearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Shulkin took a much different tone.

“I do recognize the optics of this are not good,” Shulkin said, according to The Washington Post. “I accept responsibility.”

Shulkin said he had written a check to the U.S. Treasury to cover the $4,300 cost of his wife’s travel with him last summer, as had been recommended by the IG’s report.

Shulkin also said he would follow another recommendation from the report, to pay for the Wimbledon tickets.

Later Thursday, Shulkin was reportedly summoned to the White House to speak with John Kelly, chief of staff to President Donald Trump.

The Post, citing a White House official, reported that at the meeting, “Shulkin defended himself … and sought to blame others within VA for not properly handling the trip’s preparations and its aftermath.”

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17Feb 2018

Bogus Charges, Surprise Fees: Inside Coinbase's Credit-Card Pain – Bloomberg


Coinbase, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, risks seeing its burgeoning business choked if it doesn’t work smoothly with the traditional finance industry.

Right now, both sides are bickering.

The troubles began snowballing early this month when several U.S. banks said they would block credit-card purchases of Bitcoin and other digital currencies on venues around the world. Soon, Coinbase users whose banks still supported sales were flocking to online forums to complain that hefty “cash advance” fees were appearing on card statements. Days later, phantom charges — typically duplicates of earlier purchases — began appearing, too.

Coinbase, which has said its business won’t work without public confidence, has been firing off accusations on Twitter, blaming banks and card networks such as Visa Inc. for the troubles. But behind the scenes, some in the financial industry are pushing back, noting there’s one common denominator: Coinbase.

Threat and Jab

“Coinbase has been informed that erroneous charges were not our fault,” the exchange said in a statement Friday. It said it’s working with firms involved in card purchases to resolve the issues quickly and fairly for customers.

It then upped the ante: “We will be evaluating our long-term payment methods to ensure our customers are not impacted in the future.”

And it tossed in a jab: “We’re the ones taking this the most seriously.”

Coinbase, one of the most prominent startups in the financial-technology world, relies on debit and credit cards for about 20 percent of its total sales, according to a person with knowledge of the company. The percentage is even higher for newer users, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing its finances. So cutting off those channels would be a drastic measure, signaling deep frustration.

But three people close to the situation say frustrations also are running high in the traditional financial world, where payments systems have been honed for decades and routinely handle trillions of dollars in transactions annually. In that realm, disagreements between parties are fixed discreetly — and especially not on Twitter.

Taking to Twitter

Earlier this month, Coinbase publicly accused Visa and Mastercard Inc. of changing the exchange’s so-called merchant classification code, prompting banks to treat card purchases on the venue as cash advances.

The codes are arcane but important: They help financial firms track lending risks and detect fraud. For Coinbase customers, it meant banks could charge a cash advance fee on transactions, making digital coins less attractive as a means of commerce or investment.

The problem with the codes started in November, when U.S. banks complained to networks about the credit risk associated with cryptocurrencies, according to one person familiar with the matter. Coinbase planned to meet with the networks in late January to discuss their concerns, the person said.

Hours before the meeting, Coinbase was told its code would change to 6051, a number for non-financial institutions like those involved in foreign currency, money orders and travelers checks, the person said. The change was take effect that day, the person said.

For their part, Visa and Mastercard have insisted there was no change in code. Instead, they said, they merely clarified to banks which code they should’ve been using all along for transactions at cryptocurrency exchanges. It’s then up to banks, not networks, to decide whether to impose fees, Mastercard spokesman Seth Eisen said last week.

Hurt Customers

Coinbase works with a so-called merchant acquirer, Worldpay Inc., which serves as a link to the credit-card world. Worldpay revised the code three weeks ago, and within days, customers raised alarms on Reddit about new cash advance fees. This week, more complaints rolled in from users who said they got charged twice for the same transaction.

In theory, Coinbase customers shouldn’t end up paying double if their bank reverses an initial transaction and replaces it with one using another code. But if a bank doesn’t promptly erase the first one, a double charge appears — and that can trigger other trouble. For example, if the maneuver drains a bank account, it can generate unfair overdraft fees. That’s what some customers are complaining about online.

Worldpay spokesman Andrew Ciafardini said the company is working with card networks, lenders, other processors and Coinbase to resolve the issue. Visa said it didn’t make any system changes that would result in duplicate transactions. And both companies said that any erroneous charges that did occur have been reversed.

“Our customers are being hurt and we need this to be made up to them,” Coinbase said. “At the end of the day, we want the best possible outcome for our customers.”

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16Feb 2018

Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues: What Rewards This Event Quest Gives – Game Revolution


Even though it hasn’t even been a month since launch, Capcom has been steadily dropping more and more content including a few new event quests today. One of these is the Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues event quest, perhaps one of the most important ones in terms of in-game rewards.

Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues tasks you with taking out numerous monsters you’ve faced before in the same quest. This is one that’s meant for players that are already rank 13 or higher, so that means it isn’t for the faint of heart. With 50 minutes to kill five monsters like the Aptonoth and Mernos, it is a fun challenge with some great rewards.

Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues Explained

Put simply, Monter Hunter World Deep Green Blues is an event quest that is meant solely for farming. Whether it’s together with your fellow hunters or on your own, this is a quest with rewards that certainly encourage farming over and over until it is removed as an event quest.

Beyond the nice, healthy chunk of cash that you get upon completion, the Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues event quest actually seems to give players a higher chance of receiving Gold Crowns, both Large and Mini, believe it or not. It is entirely possible to get multiple Large Gold Crowns in only one completion.

Farming this quest over and over is certainly worth doing. Here’s a couple of tips regarding farming the Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues event quest. For starters, it’s worth noting that because there are a total of five monsters to kill, it’s actually easier to kill them in this quest than it is normally. Each monster has around 30 percent of its normal health, so that will definitely help with time.

Even more important is this sort of little cheat that you can do with farming the Monster Hunter World Deep Green Blues quest. If you’re only looking to farm a specific monster for Large Gold Crowns or its gems and so on while taking advantage of the lowered health, we recommend killing it first and then choosing to return from the quest.

Do not abandon the quest; only return from it. Doing it this way will give you the rewards you desire without having to complete the whole entire thing. Good luck!

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16Feb 2018

Cryptocurrency investors on Coinbase got hit with thousands of dollars in 'ghost' charges after a credit card … – Business Insider


Coinbase’s newly appointed president Asiff Hirji stands with co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong.Coinbase

  • Coinbase users reported seeing thousands of dollars in repeat ghost charges after buying cryptocurrencies from the popular exchange.
  • One person reported having 50 repeat charges — totalling $67,000 — hit their credit card at once.
  • Coinbase confirmed that it had an issue with its credit card processor and would “ensure” that its customers got their money back.
  • The response from Coinbase shows that the $1.6 billion startup’s customer service might be improving.

Some bitcoin investors are up in arms, after a glitch with Coinbase’s credit card processor sparked reports on Reddit that the cryptocurrency exchange had hit them with multiple erroneous charges worth many thousands of dollars.

“Welp officially broke, charged 17×1000$ on my account,” says one recent post to the Coinbase Subreddit community.

Coinbase, a $1.6 billion startup, is one of the premiere places for people to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

In a Twitter post, Coinbase laid the blame with Visa, its credit card processor. The company also responded in a blog post, saying it “will ensure that each affected customer will be refunded in full for any erroneous charge.” The company says that refunds should be issued directly through banks.

Here’s what happened

Some users buying cryptocurrencies from Coinbase using a credit or debit card may have had their purchases refunded and reprocessed this week, the company confirmed in a blog post Thursday. The glitch impacted purchases made between January 22 and February 11.

Some of those users have seen their purchases reprocessed more than once. One Reddit user reported facing 50 repeat charges, costing them a total of $67,000. Many others on the Coinbase subreddit described having duplicate transactions in the single digits, while at least one person said they had $5,000 transferred into their account. 

It attributed the glitch to a new policy among credit card companies and banks which changed the merchant carrier code (MCC) that cryptocurrency companies use when working with credit card networks. The credit card processor didn’t update its codes in time and had to reprocess large numbers of transactions. 

Along with the MCC update, some banks now charge additional cash advance fees to users buying cryptocurrencies. Chase, Bank of America, Citi and Capital One have all also blocked credit card customers from buying cryptocurrencies on credit, noting that it’s a high risk purchase because of price volatility. 

Coinbase responded faster to the issue than it has in the past

Though thousands of dollars in ghost transactions is a huge deal coming from any company, Coinbase appears to have learned some lessons when it comes to crisis management. 

The company has a reputation among bitcoin investors for being slow to respond to customer service inquiries, even when there are large amounts of cash on the line. Many customers have complained online about weeks-long email conversations with representatives for issues which only got resolved when the customer took the issue public on forums or in the press. 

Coinbase has taken several steps in recent months to rectify is bad reputation and improve customer service. The company launched phone support in September, and more recently hired a customer service veteran and ex-Twitter executive Tina Bhatnagar to grow Coinbase’s support team.

The company committed to using part of its $100 million Series D, announced in August 2017, to expand support operations. 

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16Feb 2018

'Vikings Rewards' Members Receive Super Bowl Surprise – Vikings.com


Laura Bethke has been a lifelong Vikings fan but never imagined she would have a chance to attend a Super Bowl. But thanks to the Vikings Rewards program, she and her husband, Joe, received the surprise of a lifetime.

In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium, Laura decided to enter her accrued Vikings Rewards points into a sweepstakes to attend the Walter Payton Man of the Year Fan Forum.

When she received a call from the Vikings telling her that her name had been drawn for the unique experience, Laura was ecstatic.

“I was so excited,” Laura recalled. “Not only to get up close and personal with the players and [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] but just to be kind of inserted into all of the Super Bowl hype.”

Laura, a native of Northeast Minneapolis whose family has been Season Ticket Members for more than 30 years, especially appreciated the “intimate setting” with other NFL fans who received tickets to the forum.

When Laura and Joe arrived early to the event, they were welcomed, told they were the first pair of Vikings fans to arrive, and directed to a seat. They met and interacted with fans of other teams as well, and the group then heard from Man of the Year finalists Greg Olsen (Panthers), J.J. Watt (Texans) and Benjamin Watson (Ravens).

Laura even had the opportunity to ask a question of the panel.

“I congratulated all of them and said they are truly are inspirations and role models for kids these days. So I asked them who inspired them as they were coming up to be the men that they are today,” Laura said. “They all responded to my question, and Benjamin Watson said it was his parents, who were actually there – so that was really fun.”

Laura wondered if she and Joe, recognized as the first Vikings fans to arrive, might have a chance to snap a photo with the three players and Goodell. But as the panel wrapped up, she received a surprise that far exceeded any possible expectations.

Olsen announced to the audience that the NFL had placed envelopes under three of the guests’ chairs.

“So I take a look … sure enough, there was an envelope,” Laura said. “Greg Olsen said, ‘You guys are going to the Super Bowl,’ and I just lost my mind.”

Two days later, Laura and Joe found themselves once again walking into U.S. Bank Stadium, this time to watch Super Bowl LII.

Laura called the experience “once-in-a-lifetime.” She and Joe had discussed the possibility of attending if the Vikings advanced past the NFC Championship game but ultimately decided it wasn’t within their means.

“When we got there, it was a little crazy since we go to U.S. Bank Stadium all the time … so that part of it was comfortable,” Laura said. “But then when you sit back and think, ‘Oh my gosh, we are here for the biggest game of the year.’ It took a while to sink in.”


Laura is just one of the 45,000-plus fans who have created Vikings Rewards accounts and are racking up points by attending Vikings events, watching videos and reading Vikings.com content, and interacting on social media. Those points can then be exchanged for a number of fun perks, memorabilia items, experiences and rewards.

To sign up for Vikings Rewards, click here.

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16Feb 2018

Public confrontations prompted Pruitt to switch to first-class travel, EPA says – Washington Post


Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, at headquarters in November. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

This story has been updated.

Verbal confrontations with members of the public prompted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to switch to flying first or business class whenever possible, officials said Thursday.

Henry Barnet, who directs EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, said in an interview that the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Pasquale Perrotta, recommended in May that he fly in either first or business class to provide “a buffer” between him and the public. His memo was prompted by an incident that month when a person approached  Pruitt “with threatening language” that was “vulgar,” Barnet said.

Barnet said he did not believe any physical altercation was involved. But compared to Pruitt’s immediate predecessors, he added, verbal insults and threatening language have been “much more prevalent with this administrator, and he’s recognized much more when he travels.”

The EPA did not immediately release details about that May incident or the memo that Barnet received with the new security recommendation. The agency also had declined to release the travel waiver that it uses to justify Pruitt’s premium-class flights, or to say who signed off on the decision.

Asked whether a member of Pruitt’s security detail always travels in first or business class with him, Barnett declined to provide specifics out of security concerns but said, “We try to have an agent with the administrator at all times, near the administrator.”

Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, flew coach for every trip she took except for one trip to Davos, Switzerland, when she was upgraded, according to a former EPA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security arrangements. A member of McCarthy’s security detail would sit in an “adjacent or adjoining seat,” the official added, whether behind her or just across the aisle.

Pruitt’s travel practices have come under renewed increasing scrutiny after The Washington Post detailed this week how his trips have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. His many first-class flights include a $1,641.43 trip from Washington, D.C. to New York City last June and a $7,003.52 round-trip ticket to Italy last summer. Pruitt also has taken numerous first-class flights — typically ranging from $2,000 to $2,600 — to events in his home state of Oklahoma, where he often stays the weekend.

In a subsequent interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Pruitt alluded to the fact that his upgrades stemmed from public confrontations “in the March-April time frame.”

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” he told the paper. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace, and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”

Pruitt emphasized that members of his security detail decide his travel arrangements: “I’m not involved in any of those decisions. Those are all made by the detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.”

Barnet, a seven-year EPA veteran, said he doesn’t “approve or do anything with the administrator’s travel — that goes through the administrator’s office.” But he said he is responsible for dispatching agents to accompany Pruitt at all times.

While the agency’s Office of Inspector General does not publicly discuss the actual number of threats against Pruitt or others at the EPA, it has said investigators opened more cases during fiscal year 2017 than in the previous year. Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson, each of whom led the EPA under President Barack Obama and were controversial figures in their own right, had security teams composed of about a half-dozen individuals. That number has roughly tripled under Pruitt and become a 24/7 operation.

The Post reported last fall that agents normally charged with probing environmental crimes were being pulled off their normal duties to bolster Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail.

Barnet said the agency had hired enough agents that it was no longer having investigators do that job.

“We are up to speed in terms of the size of the team we need to protect the administrator,” he said, though he declined to disclose numbers.

Read more:

First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure

EPA brings in billions in enforcement fines — but most stem from Obama era

How Scott Pruitt turned the EPA into one of Trump’s most powerful tools

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15Feb 2018

Airbus Reaps Rewards of Rising Plane Production – Wall Street Journal


Airbus has been struggling with the supply of engines on its popular A320neo plane and that has slowed deliveries.
Photo:

regis duvignau/Reuters

TOULOUSE, France—Shares in Airbus SE on Thursday soared 9% after the European plane maker signaled it was starting to cash in on higher plane production and joined rival

Boeing Co.
BA 0.49%

in promising to build even more airliners.

Airbus delivered a record 718 planes in 2017 helping it generate a better-than-expected €2.95 billion ($3.68 billion) in free cash flow before mergers, acquisitions and customer financing. It had targeted about €1.4 billion, on par with the year-earlier period. The rise signals Airbus is starting to turn higher plane deliveries into stronger cash flow at a time when output is rising.

Airbus said it was raising output to around 800 airliners this year. Airbus already announced plans to boost single-aisle plane production to 60 aircraft a month next year, from around 50 in 2017, and is considering further increases because of strong demand. Airbus Chief Executive

Tom Enders

said commercial demand could potentially support production of as many as 70 A320 type planes a month, though the company hasn’t yet committed to that output level.

Airbus and larger rival Boeing have benefited from a surge in demand for commercial planes. Global economic growth has lifted passenger numbers, filling aircraft, and driving airline appetite for expansion.

The world’s two biggest plane makers have built a backlog of orders stretching ahead for seven years or more on some of their most popular models. Boeing last month said it planned to lift production to 810 to 815 planes this year from 763.

Mr. Enders said the company’s 2017 earnings “endorse our earnings and cash growth story for the future.”

Airbus’s operating earnings, which strip out some one-time items—such as the charge on the A400M program—were €4.25 billion, compared with €3.96 billion a year earlier. Net profit rose sharply to €2.87 billion. Its year-earlier figure was impacted by a noncash accounting adjustment on currency hedges.

Profit was dented, though, by continued problems on the beleaguered A400M military transport plane where Airbus has been running behind. The company took a €1.3 billion charge on A400M against full-year earnings, raising to more than €8 billion the combined earnings hits Airbus has suffered on the unprofitable program.

Mr. Enders said a recent agreement with governments to adjust delivery timelines and technical content on the plane “significantly reduce the remaining program risks.”

The Toulouse-based company reported €66.8 billion in sales, little changed from a year earlier, with stronger commercial airliner revenue offset by weaker helicopter and defense and space activities.

Boosting plane production hasn’t been without its challenges for Airbus. The company has been struggling with the supply of engines on its popular A320neo plane and that has slowed deliveries. Last week, Airbus said problems with one of the engines, made by

United Technologies Corp.

, were delaying some planes and put a hold on deliveries. Airbus said it was still assessing the impact of the problem on deliveries.

Rival engine supplier CFM International, a joint venture between

General Electric Co.

and France’s

Safran SA,

also has been behind schedule on delivering its equipment.

Airbus also is wrestling with other issues. The company faces regulatory probes in multiple jurisdictions, including the U.S., about the improper use of middlemen to win military contracts.

Airbus said U.S. authorities have asked for information on French and British probes about the use of unauthorized sales agents to win commercial plane deals, widening the scope of the U.S. investigation.

Airbus has warned any financial impact could be “material,” though it was too early to judge what the consequences of the investigations could be.

The investigations caused Airbus, almost two years ago, to lose access to export credit financing support, which can be critical to support deliveries to financially weaker customers. Chief Financial Officer

Harald Wilhelm

said that under an agreement with European governments limited customer financing backing would resume this year.

Even so, Airbus forecasts that adjusted earnings this year should increase 20%. Cash generation should be similar this year to 2017, the company said.

Airbus said it planned to increase its dividend 11%.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

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15Feb 2018

Inspector: 'Serious Derelictions' By VA Secretary Related To Overseas Travel – NPR


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Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this month.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to Wimbledon and his staff lied about the nature of a trip to Europe so that his wife could accompany him at taxpayer expense, according to a report released Wednesday by the department’s inspector general.

Those were just two instances among several “serious derelictions,” the internal investigator detailed in an 87-page report issued by the VA’s inspector general, Michael Missal.

Shulkin is just one of several Cabinet members facing scrutiny over their official travel. In September, Health and Human Secretary Tom Price resigned over his use of private jets. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and EPA chief Scott Pruitt have also acknowledged using government or private flights, which they say were preapproved.

The report on Shulkin and his staff cited “poor judgement and/or misconduct” on the part of the secretary. A story by The Washington Post in September sparked the investigation.

Less than two weeks after Shulkin issued a memo to VA managers directing them to decrease employee travel “and generate savings,” for the department, the secretary and his wife, Dr. Merle Bari, embarked in July on an 11-day trip to Europe, at a cost of at least $122,334, according to the report.

The trip included official meetings in Copenhagen and a conference in London as well as “significant personal time for sightseeing and other unofficial activities.” According to Missal, official business was slated for only about half of the schedule, with the rest reserved for leisure.

The report said that VA ethics officials approved airfare expenses for Shulkin’s wife, amounting to $4,312, only after his chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson altered emails to represent falsely “that Secretary Shulkin would receive an award while in Denmark, which Ms. Wright Simpson understood to be the criterion that would justify Dr. Bari’s travel at VA expense.”

The inspector general’s office said that Wright Simpson’s “false representations and alteration of an official record may have violated federal criminal statutes” and would therefore be referred to the Justice Department.

In London, Shulkin and Bari, who is a dermatologist in private practice, attended the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Shulkin, who tried unsuccessfully to purchase tickets to the tournament, received them instead as a gift from Victoria Gosling, a former CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games, who was described as a friend of Bari’s. The gift was neither reviewed nor approved by the ethics counsel, although the secretary told reporters that it had been, the report said.

The Inspector General’s office said when it reached Gosling, she could not remember the name of Shulkin’s wife.

Shulkin, who was President Trump’s pick to become secretary after serving as undersecretary of Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration, wrote a letter to the inspector general, insisting that conclusions in the report were based on “subjective and arbitrary criteria.”

“It is outrageous that you would portray my wife and me as attempting to take advantage of the government,” he wrote.

Later, speaking to USA Today, Shulkin said he mailed a check for the $4,312 to the government on Wednesday to reimburse his wife’s airfare. He insisted that “We act with the highest ethical character.”

“I relied upon my staff to do this, and in retrospect, I wish that I had asked more questions,” he told the newspaper.

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15Feb 2018

Coinbase May Be Refunding Credit Card Cash Advance Fees On … – Seeking Alpha


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Seeking Alpha

Coinbase May Be Refunding Credit Card Cash Advance Fees On …
Seeking Alpha
Credit card companies look to reduce their exposure to the crypto market by classifying cryptocurrency purchases as cash advances. Cash advance classification could lead to further declines in demand for cryptocurrency. At least one Coinbase user says
Coinbase Discontinues Credit Card Registration for Cryptocurrency …ETHNews

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