March 24, 2023

Lots of Talk, but Little Agreement, on How Europe Should Rescue Banks

The effort was aimed at breaking the so-called doom loop, in which struggling governments take their states deeper into debt to save their banking systems, only to face sky-high sovereign borrowing costs.

Diplomats said ministers would try to reach a deal at a meeting on Wednesday.

On Thursday, as part of the effort to address the banking issue, the 17 ministers from the euro area agreed to allow a rescue fund to pump money directly into failing banks during the second half of next year.

But in the second day of talks, as ministers from the 10 remaining non-euro countries in the European Union joined the meeting, there was deadlock over how to stop disorderly bank bailouts from turning into national fiascos.

Olli Rehn, the economic and monetary affairs commissioner for the European Union, said Friday that he expected the thorny issues to force the meeting to run into Saturday morning.

“Midsummer is the longest day of the year, so we have plenty of time for finding an agreement tonight,” Mr. Rehn said. But diplomats said later that there was a chance that ministers would need to reconvene next week to try to reach a deal.

The rules being discussed on Friday would specify the order in which investors and creditors have to absorb losses so taxpayers do not have to bear the burden. Delegates were divided over how, and whether, to allow countries discretion to protect certain classes of creditors.

A deal could help prevent a recurrence of the chaos that ensued during a bailout for Cyprus in March, when governments and international lenders argued over how to impose losses on investors in the country’s troubled banks. The Cypriot bailout was so chaotic that an initial plan to penalize savers with less than 100,000 euros was abandoned in favor of a deal that penalized only larger savers.

A deal also would allow the leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states to endorse the policies at their meeting late next week in Brussels, their last scheduled summit meeting before the summer.

The tools discussed on Friday would become important building blocks in the future for a possible banking union, which includes a single supervisor under the European Central Bank overseeing about 150 of the bloc’s largest lenders. It is supposed to go into force in the middle of next year.

The knottiest issue on Friday was a split between countries like Britain, which wants to retain some flexibility on how to impose losses, and those like Spain, which was demanding a fixed rule book. The worry for Britain is that automatic losses for some creditors could set off fears of losses at other institutions, which could start bank runs. But Spain wants to ensure that bank investors do not flee to more prosperous countries like Germany, where mechanisms for resolving bank problems might be better capitalized and could be used to shield creditors from losses.

A proposal put forward by the Irish delegation, led by Michael Noonan, the country’s finance minister, would give countries like Britain the flexibility to choose where losses would fall as long as 8 percent of a failing bank’s total liabilities were wiped out first.

But that proposal was failing to gain traction. Sweden protested that the figure was too high.

The Dutch and the Germans said the Irish figure was too low, and they complained it still could induce risky behavior if bankers were overly confident of relying on mechanisms like national bailout funds to come to their rescue.

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Manhunt’s Turning Point Came in the Decision to Release Suspects’ Images

By that afternoon, however, the promising leads had collapsed, and officials confronted a risky decision: proceed without the help of the public to avoid tipping off the suspects or publicize images of them and risk driving them deeper into hiding or worse.

F.B.I. officials, who had been debating all week whether to go to the public, were ultimately convinced that they had to release the photographs because the investigation was stalling and bureau analysts had finally developed clear images of the suspects from hours of video footage.

“We were working the videos, and the footage was getting better and better as the week went on, and by Thursday we got a good frontal facial shot,” a senior law enforcement official said. “That tipped it.”

The official added: “With that type of quality photo, there was no doubt about who they were. We had these murderers on the loose, and we couldn’t hold back, and we needed help finding them.”

The decision — which involved Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I. — was one of the most crucial turning points in a remarkable crowd-sourcing manhunt for the plotters of a bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 170.

While the decision to publicize the suspects’ identities resulted in the arrest of one of the men, it set in motion a violent string of events that lasted for 26 hours. Over that time, a police officer was killed, one of the suspects died, several officers sustained life-threatening injuries and one of the country’s major cities was shut down.

On Saturday morning, the younger of the two suspects, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, remained in serious condition at a Boston hospital. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died early Friday after a shootout with the police.

The authorities knew that broadly distributing the images — some captured by ubiquitous surveillance cameras and cellphone snapshots and winnowed down using sophisticated facial-recognition software — would accelerate the digital dragnet, but they did not realize the level of chaos it would create.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials said the authorities in Boston weighed the risks of some mayhem against their growing fear that time was slipping away and that heavily armed and increasingly dangerous men, and possibly accomplices, could wage new attacks in the Boston area or beyond.

Federal authorities involved in the case had briefed administration and Congressional officials on their hopes to arrest the suspects early Thursday without revealing their hand. But those plans vanished by that afternoon.

“We thought we had good leads,” the senior law enforcement official said. “We were working on some stuff, and we got to a point where it leveled off, and then there was nothing imminent, so we moved with what we thought would result in identifying them.”

The authorities first developed information about the suspects’ whereabouts late Thursday when one of them was seen in video footage that was being reviewed from a convenience store in Cambridge that had just been robbed.

Shortly after the suspects left the convenience store, the authorities received a report that a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had been ambushed and killed.

And then, for two hours, there was no sign of the suspects.

It was only after the suspects decided not to kill the owner of a sport utility vehicle that had been carjacked and instead threw him out of his car around 1 a.m. — a decision that ultimately undid their plans to elude the authorities — that they re-emerged on the authorities’ radar.

“If he stayed in the car, they could have tried to drive to New Hampshire or something — it would have added some real time to things, which would have been bad and who knows what they would have done,” the law enforcement official said. “They were desperate and acting pretty crazy.”

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AMC Shifts ‘Hell on Wheels’ to Saturdays, With High Hopes

For almost a decade, Saturday night has been television’s version of Boot Hill — where series go to die.

Starting this summer, AMC, the channel behind some of television’s most talked-about dramas, like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” plans to march head on into the programming Death Valley that has been Saturday night with a strategy built around a simple premise: a lot of men still like watching cowboys.

This week, at the network’s upfront, the annual programming presentation for advertisers in New York, AMC, whose hits thus far have all come on Sunday night, will announce a plan to open up a second night of original drama. Starting Aug. 3, it will move its established western series, “Hell on Wheels,” to Saturdays.

And unlike most recent moves of shows to Saturdays, like NBC’s decision to exile its most painful recent flop, “Smash,” there, AMC executives say they are enthusiastic about this move.

“It’s an effort to open up another night of original programming, but also it’s strategic,” said Charlie Collier, the president of AMC. “I’m looking at the opportunity. We have decades of empirical evidence that western fans are available on Saturdays.”

Much of that evidence has come from AMC itself, which has filled its Saturday schedule with classic western movies like “Hondo” and “High Plains Drifter,” and more recently with classic cowboy television shows. The network acquired “The Rifleman,” and in the last 18 months has had remarkable ratings returns for that hit from the late 1950s.

Mr. Collier said: “We have been getting audiences for ‘The Rifleman’ on early Saturday morning of 300,000, even 500,000, viewers, better than some big networks do in prime time.” On one recent Saturday afternoon, “The Rifleman” attracted 509,000 viewers.

Looking to repeat that success, AMC will announce at its upfront that it has acquired another classic from that television era, “Rawhide,” which starred a young Clint Eastwood.

And AMC intends to use those series and its store of classic movies on Saturdays as “a 14-hour lead-in,” as Mr. Collier put it, to “Hell on Wheels,” a show about a former Confederate soldier working on the construction of the transcontinental railroad as he hunts for the Union soldiers who murdered his family.

In its first two seasons, the western drama has been a moderate success for AMC, and for cable dramas in general, attracting an average of 2.4 million viewers for its second season.

Now it will start a third season on a night where, except for sports or news shows like “48 Hours” on CBS, nothing of any ambition is scheduled in prime time. (“Saturday Night Live” on NBC, of course, continues to be the night’s steady phenomenon in its 38th year.)

Mr. Collier expects there to be skeptics, perhaps among the ad buyers who will attend the AMC upfront Wednesday.

But he insisted that the decision to transfer “Hell on Wheels” to Saturday is no demotion. “I look for the show to do as well as it’s done on Sundays and even to grow from there.”

Brad Adgate, the senior vice president of research for Horizon Media, a media buying firm, said there was risk but potential reward in the move.

“I think there is an audience there, especially since the broadcast networks have given up on the night,” he said. “It’s an opportunity.” He noted that another recent western shattered ratings records on cable. “ ‘Hell on Wheels’ is another example of cable taking a risk, like ‘Hatfields McCoys’ on the History Channel.”

Mr. Collier acknowledged that as much as 20 percent of the viewers that AMC sells to advertisers — adults ages 25 to 54 — are not watching television on Saturday nights. “But if you look at the competition in summer, they are delivering 36 percent fewer rating points” on Saturday nights, he said.

The disparity is more pronounced among male viewers, he said. With few strong sports attractions on Saturday nights in summer, and a network strategy to reach men ages 25 to 54, Mr. Collier said, “you can imagine that the western genre plays right into our wheelhouse. If you can picture that 40-something-year-old male looking for an option on Saturday night, I think we’re going to have one of the few original series that really super-serves that viewer.”

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Euro Zone Strives for Breakthrough in Bailout Package for Cyprus

BRUSSELS — Cyprus reached a long-awaited bailout agreement early Saturday that puts some of the burden for shoring up the island’s beleaguered economy on its bank depositors.

The most contentious issue in months of negotiations was whether to force Cypriot depositors to take losses in order to make the country’s debt more manageable. The Cypriot authorities had sought to head off any such initiatives on the grounds that they would do lasting damage to their financial services sector.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, after 10 hours of talks, finance ministers from euro area countries, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank agreed on terms that include a one-time tax of 9.9 percent on Cypriot bank deposits of more than 100,000 euros, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks who asked not to be identified while ministers still were hammering out details in private.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the group of ministers, told a late night news conference that lenders had reached “a political agreement” to aid Cyprus. The challenges to reaching a deal were “of an exceptional nature,” he said.

Going into the meeting, finance ministers sought to limit the overall costs of the rescue plan while Christine Lagarde, the president of the I.M.F., pushed for a deal that is generous enough to enable Cyprus eventually to pay the money back.

The Cypriot authorities wanted a plan that ensures that the island remains attractive to investors, who include many Russians with large deposits in the country’s banks.

Ms. Lagarde was blunt about the need for ministers to agree to a realistic package of measures. “All I know is that we don’t want a Band-Aid,” she said. “We want something that lasts, something that is durable and that will be sustainable.”

The key to a breakthrough was finding a way to bring down the bailout package, estimated at 17 billion euros ($22.2 billion). That amount is small compared with the rescue deal for Greece, but represents almost as much as Cyprus’s gross domestic product, which is about 18 billion euros.

The deal that emerged on Saturday morning was for a bailout of up to 10 billion euros, Mr. Dijsselbloem said.

Cyprus asked for the bailout in June last year. But talks faltered when the former president Demetris Christofias, a Communist, balked at measures like privatizations. The talks sped up after the election last month of Nicos Anastasiades of the Democratic Rally, a center-right party, to the presidency.

The other elements of a deal were expected to involve Cyprus raising its low corporate tax rate, privatizing state assets and overhauling its banks to ensure that they are not havens for money laundering.

Russia also was expected to contribute to the arrangement, perhaps by agreeing to lower the interest rate on a loan worth 2.5 billion euros it has already made to Cyprus.

Mujtaba Rahman, a senior analyst with the Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, said it was likely that countries like Germany and Finland would ultimately reach a deal with the I.M.F.

“The fact is that some governments in the north of Europe need the I.M.F. also to be contributing money to Cyprus in order to convince their parliaments to give approval to a deal,” Mr. Rahman said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 15, 2013

Because of an editing error, a headline on an earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the country in talks to receive a bailout. It is Cyprus, not Cypress.

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Bits Blog: Amazon Web Services Knocked Offline by Storms

Trees littered the east lawn of the Capitol in WashingtonJonathan Ernst/ReutersTrees littered the east lawn of the Capitol in Washington.

People who tried to watch Netflix on Friday evening saw nothing but red. Instagram users couldn’t upload or view photos. And a number of other Web sites and services were knocked offline. Storms had disrupted Amazon Web Services, which stores vast amounts of data for companies worldwide.

The problems first began around 11 p.m., when a roiling storm caused numerous electrical failures on the East Coast that left two million people without power and at least six people dead.

Late Friday, on the company’s status blog, Amazon said it was “investigating elevated error rates impacting a limited number” of customers. The company noted that the failure had happened at a server facility in Virginia and it was because of the lighting storm in the area.

While Amazon continued to update its status blog, information on the troubles remained relatively sparse throughout the evening.

As of Saturday morning, the company said it had managed to get some services back online, but was still working to resolve a number of remaining shutdowns. ”We are continuing our recovery efforts for the remaining EC2 instances,” the company wrote at 11:38 a.m. on the status blog. EC2 is the name of the server system used for storage.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for details about the problems and when it expected all the servers would be back to normal.

Many of the companies that use Amazon Web Services were left waiting for updates, too, passing along snippets of information to their customers.

Instagram, the photo-sharing service, said on Twitter, “Due to severe electrical storms, our host had a power outage, no data is lost – we’ve been working through the night to restore service.” Instagram users reshared the message more than 31,000 times.

Netflix and Pinterest, which were both completely offline for most of the evening, also took to Twitter to tell users the status of the failure. Foursquare was partly affected and updated its own status blog to tell customers.

Most of these public-facing sites were back online by Saturday morning, although some services seemed spotty.

As a number of services, and customers, have come to rely on Amazon for storage, these shutdowns leave companies and analysts questioning the viability of cloud-based storage for businesses — specifically when many companies don’t have a fallback option as a backup.

Amazon has suffered repeated failures in recent months. The company was offline from a major shutdown in June. In April areas of the company’s storage facility went down for several days.

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