Saturday, February 13, 2010

Obama Raises Debt Ceiling

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a law that will allow the U.S. to borrow nearly $2 trillion more than before.

The president signed the bill Friday night at the White House with little public fanfare.

The maximum debt the U.S. can carry is now $14.3 trillion. The U.S. was already poised to exceed the previous maximum.

The change comes at a time when the American public is increasingly concerned about the government deficits.

In an attempt calm those fears, the bill also included a "pay-as-you-go" provision. Originally enacted in the 1990s under then President Bill Clinton, the law requires any new spending or tax cut to be offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere.

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Mr. Obama praised the "pay-as-you-go" law, saying it was how a "responsible family or business" manages money.

Mr. Obama used his address to blame the current debt and deficits on the previous administration of U.S. president George W. Bush and the U.S. congress during his tenure. He said they ignored the "common sense rule" of pay-as-you-go and passed tax cuts and created a drug program without paying for it.

Verizon, Skype to Hook Up At MWC

Igniting a firestorm of speculation across the Web – well, maybe a brushfire – Skype and Verizon Wireless(VZ) said they will hold a joint press conference at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The companies did not divulge details of the pending announcement. Participating in the presser will be John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Verizon Wireless, and Skype CEO Josh Silverman. The most likely outcome is that Skype’s VoIP service will run across Verizon’s 3G network.

That would be a remarkable development considering that Verizon has, until recently, been among the most adamant of the major carriers in resisting VoIP services on its network. Skype, meanwhile, has loudly criticized the big carriers, noting that little progress has been made on their promises to open their networks to outside applications, including VoIP services.

A Verizon-Skype hook-up would be the latest in a series of partnerships, or outright acquisitions, involving major carriers and VoIP providers.

AT&T, the exclusive provider for the iPhone last year said it would allow the Skype iPhone app to work on its 3G network. BT Group(BT) two years ago acquired VoIP provider Ribbit, in one of the first major acquisitions of a VoIP startup by an established carrier. And last month Telefonica(TEF), a major Euro-telco, finalized its purchase of U.S. VoIP startup Jajah.

Cable companies are also moving rapidly to build out their VoIP capabilities. Comcast Corp.(CMCSA) – already the leading provider of VoIP in the country, with 7.4 million subscribers – said last week it would acquire wholesale VoIP provider New Global Telecom, Inc..

The Verizon-Skype press conference will be held at 5:15 p.m. local time in Barcelona, or 11:15 a.m. East Coast time.

Blast in a bakery near ashram kills 8 in India

NEW DELHI — A top official says the blast on a bakery near a meditation center in western India was apparently caused by a bomb.

Federal Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said one foreigner was among eight people killed Saturday.

He said the explosion in the western city of Pune also wounded 32 people, including one foreigner.

Their nationalities were not immediately known.

If confirmed, it would be the first major terror attack in India since the militant assault on Mumbai in November 2008.

Pillai said it appeared that an unattended package was noticed in the bakery by one of the waiters who apparently attempted to open the package when the blast took place.

The bakery lies close to the Osho Ashram frequented by foreigners.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW DELHI (AP) — A powerful explosion ripped through a crowded bakery in the western Indian city of Pune on Saturday, killing at least eight people and injuring 32 others near a famed meditation center frequented by foreigners, an official said.

Ashok Chavan, the top elected official of Maharashtra state, said police were investigating whether it was a cooking gas cylinder that exploded by accident or a bomb.

But Press Trust of India quoted federal Home Secretary G.K. Pillai as saying that it was most probably a terror attack. Top police officer Rajender Sonawania was also quoted as saying the initial indications were that it was a bomb blast.

"But it's not confirmed," Sonawania told reporters.

India's financial hub Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra state were put on high alert, said Chhagan Bhujbal, the state deputy chief minister.

The explosion occurred in German Bakery close to the Osho Ashram, a mediation center of a famed Indian guru, often frequented by foreigners.

Indian television news channels said the casualties included some foreigners.

Sonawania said "we are not sure about that, but police are trying to identify the nationalities of the victims."

The bakery and some nearby shops were badly damaged by the blast. Most of the victims were in the bakery.

PTI said the explosion site was splattered with thick patches of blood and severed limbs.

"I was traveling by an auto-rickshaw. I heard a loud explosion and the ground shook," said Santosh Kumar, who was injured in the blast.

Sonawania said the blast occurred around 7 p.m. local time (1330 GMT). The injured have been hospitalized.

Pune is nearly 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Mumbai.

A major terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008 killed 166 people.