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    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Reuters - U.N. panel says world should ditch dollar

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    U.N. panel says world should ditch dollar

    Wednesday, Mar 18, 2009 3:16PM UTC

    By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent

    LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A U.N. panel will next week recommend that the world ditch the dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies, a member of the panel said on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the dollar.

    Currency specialist Avinash Persaud, a member of the panel of experts, told a Reuters Funds Summit in Luxembourg that the proposal was to create something like the old Ecu, or European currency unit, that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

    Persaud, chairman of consultants Intelligence Capital and a former currency chief at JPMorgan, said the recommendation would be one of a number delivered to the United Nations on March 25 by the U.N. Commission of Experts on International Financial Reform.

    "It is a good moment to move to a shared reserve currency," he said.

    Central banks hold their reserves in a variety of currencies and gold, but the dollar has dominated as the most convincing store of value -- though its rate has wavered in recent years as the United States ran up huge twin budget and external deficits.

    Some analysts said news of the U.N. panel's recommendation extended dollar losses because it fed into concerns about the future of the greenback as the main global reserve currency, raising the chances of central bank sales of dollar holdings.

    "Speculation that major central banks would begin rebalancing their FX reserves has risen since the intensification of the dollar's slide between 2002 and mid-2008," CMC Markets said in a note.

    Russia is also planning to propose the creation of a new reserve currency, to be issued by international financial institutions, at the April G20 meeting, according to the text of its proposals published on Monday.

    It has significantly reduced the dollar's share in its own reserves in recent years.

    GOOD TIME

    Persaud said that the United States was concerned that holding the reserve currency made it impossible to run policy, while the rest of world was also unhappy with the generally declining dollar.

    "There is a moment that can be grasped for change," he said.

    "Today the Americans complain that when the world wants to save, it means a deficit. A shared (reserve) would reduce the possibility of global imbalances."

    Persaud said the panel had been looking at using something like an expanded Special Drawing Right, originally created by the International Monetary Fund in 1969 but now used mainly as an accounting unit within similar organizations.

    The SDR and the old Ecu are essentially combinations of currencies, weighted to a constituent's economic clout, which can be valued against other currencies and indeed against those inside the basket.

    Persaud said there were two main reasons why policymakers might consider such a move, one being the current desire for a change from the dollar.

    The other reason, he said, was the success of the euro, which incorporated a number of currencies but roughly speaking held on to the stability of the old German deutschemark compared with, say, the Greek drachma.

    Persaud has long argued that the dollar would give way to the Chinese yuan as a global reserve currency within decades.

    A shared reserve currency might negate this move, he said, but he believed that China would still like to take on the role.

    (To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting; for the MacroScope Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope; for Hedge Fund Hub click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

    (editing by Patrick Graham)

    Reuters - China's last eunuch spills sex secrets

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    China's last eunuch spills sex secrets

    Monday, Mar 16, 2009 2:1PM UTC

    By Emma Graham-Harrison

    BEIJING (Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

    China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

    He had stories of the tortuous rituals of the Forbidden City, Emperor Pu Yi's last moments there and the troubled puppet court run by the Japanese during the 1930s. He escaped back to the heart of a civil war, became a Communist official and then a target of radical leftists before being finally left in peace.

    This turbulent life has been recorded in the "The Last Eunuch of China" by amateur historian Jia Yinghua, who over years of friendship drew out of Sun the secrets that were too painful or intimate to spill to prying journalists or state archivists.

    He died in 1996, in an old temple that had become his home, and his biography was finally published in English this year.

    It unveils formerly taboo subjects like the sex life of eunuchs and the emperor they served, the agonizing castrations often done at home and also often lethal, and the incontinence and shame that came with the promise of great power.

    "He was conflicted over whether to tell the secrets of the emperor," said Jia, adding that Sun preserved a loyalty to the old system because he had dedicated so much of his life to it.

    "I was the only person he trusted. He did not even confide in his family, after they threw away his 'treasure,'" Jia added, using traditional eunuchs' slang for their preserved genitals.

    They were discarded during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when having anything from the "old society" could put lives at risk.

    "He only cried about two things; when telling me about the castration and about the loss of his 'treasure'," said Jia, who works as an energy bureaucrat, but devotes all his spare time to chronicling the dying days of Imperial China after a childhood enthralled by the eunuchs and princes who were his neighbors.

    STERILITY AND POWER

    Over years of painstaking research, he has gleaned arcane details about every aspect of palace life, along with secrets about the emperor's sexuality and cruelty that would look at home on the front page of tabloid newspapers.

    For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City's private quarters were castrated ones. They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

    Sun's impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burned their house.

    His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun's urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

    He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him -- he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

    "He had a very tragic life. He had thought it was worthwhile for his father, but the sacrifice was in vain," Jia said, in a house stacked with old books, newspapers and photos.

    "He was very smart and shrewd. If the empire had not fallen there is a high chance he would have become powerful," Jia added.

    The young ex-emperor was eventually allowed to stay in the palace and Sun had risen to become an attendant to the empress when the imperial family were unceremoniously booted out of the Forbidden City, ending centuries of tradition and Sun's dreams.

    "He was castrated, then the emperor abdicated. He made it into the Forbidden City then Pu Yi was evicted. He followed him north and then the puppet regime collapsed. He felt life had played a joke at his expense," Jia said.

    Many eunuchs fled with palace treasures, but Sun took a crop of memories and a nose for political survival that turned out to be better tools for surviving years of civil war and ideological turbulence that followed.

    "He never became rich, he never became powerful, but he became very rich in experience and secrets," Jia said.

    (Editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Tarrant)

    Reuters - Washington Mutual sues FDIC for over $13 billion

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    Washington Mutual sues FDIC for over $13 billion

    Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 5:49PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Washington Mutual Inc, the failed U.S. savings and loan, has sued the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp for well over $13 billion in connection with the loss of its banking operations, which was acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

    In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the thrift's former parent accused the FDIC of having on January 23 made a "cryptic disallowance" of its claims, prompting the lawsuit.

    It also accused the FDIC of agreeing to an unreasonably low price in arranging the a $1.9 billion sale of the banking business to JPMorgan on September 25, when regulators seized Washington Mutual and appointed the FDIC as receiver.

    JPMorgan did not buy the parent holding company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the following day.

    In its complaint, Washington Mutual seeks to recover as much as $6.5 billion of capital contributions it said it made to its banking unit from December 2007 through the seizure.

    Washington Mutual also seeks the return of $4 billion of trust preferred securities it said were wrongfully transferred to the banking unit, and said it may be entitled to as much as $3 billion of tax refunds. It also seeks damages of $177.1 million related to unpaid loans made to the banking unit.

    The company also made claims on several other matters that together could add to any recovery. Washington Mutual is seeking a jury trial.

    In the January 23 letter, the FDIC said it disallowed Washington Mutual's claims because they lacked documentation or specificity, failed to state grounds to recover, appeared to be made against third parties, or had no legal basis.

    FDIC spokesman David Barr said the regulator does not comment on lawsuits.

    Seattle-based Washington Mutual failed after mortgage losses soared, and following a 10-day bank run when customers withdrew $16.7 billion of deposits. It had about $307 billion of assets, and remains by far the largest U.S. lender to fail.

    The parent is seeking to pay off creditors with amounts it recovers in the Chapter 11 proceedings.

    The case is Washington Mutual Inc v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 09-00533.

    (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, additional reporting by Karey Wutkowski in Washington, D.C., Editing by Eric Walsh)

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