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World Bank blames U.S. for unruly capital flows

TOKYO/ PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) – Surging capital inflows threaten Asia's economic stability, the World Bank warned on Tuesday, a day after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sought to draw the venom from a global row over currencies by vowing not to devalue the dollar.

The World Bank buttressed the argument made by China and others that U.S. policies are sending a wave of cash flowing into higher-yielding emerging markets, undermining their export competitiveness and pumping up inflation and asset bubbles.

"We are seeing an effort by developing East Asia to deal with the large amounts of liquidity driven in very large part by the monetary policy easing in the United States," Vikram Nehru, the bank's chief economist for Asia-Pacific, told reporters in Tokyo.

Nehru, presenting a semi-annual report, urged policymakers to learn the lessons of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, when an influx of footloose global capital inflated property and equity prices, only for them to collapse when the money flows reversed.

"The authorities in East Asia need to take adequate precautions to ensure that they do not repeat the same mistake twice in slightly over a decade," the report said.

While capital controls were not very effective in controlling long-term investment flows, Asian countries had an array of instruments to deal with rising inflows, the World Bank said.

"If this liquidity abundance is sustained and increases, I think they are going have to take further action," Nehru said.

Thailand introduced a withholding tax on foreign purchases of government bonds last week, and Brazil on Monday increased an existing tax on foreign bond buyers to 6 percent from 4 percent.

Foreign investors in Brazil will also have to pay more tax to trade currency derivatives, blamed in part for driving up the real, the country's currency, to a two-year high.

"Our objective is to reduce foreign investment into Brazil," Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Sao Paulo.


Strains over the constellation of exchange rates needed to put global growth on a more solid, sustainable footing are likely to dominate a meeting of finance ministers of the Group of 20 major economies in South Korea starting on Friday.

The dispute boils down essentially to the exchange rate of the yuan, also known as the renminbi.

The United States, supported by most economists, believes Beijing is unfairly holding the yuan down to give its exporters an advantage in global markets.

This is causing a broader misalignment of global currencies, Washington contends, because other developing countries are reluctant to lose competitiveness versus China by permitting their own currencies to appreciate in isolation.

Speaking in Palo Alto, California, Geithner said he believed China would continue to let the yuan rise to aid the rebalancing of its economy away from exports and toward domestic growth.

"You can't know how far it should go. What you know now is that it's significantly undervalued, which I think they acknowledge, and it's better for them, and of course very important for us, that it move. And I think it's going to continue to move," Geithner said.

China would endorse that assessment. The disagreement arises over the pace of adjustment.

China says a spike in the yuan would drive many exporters to the wall, destroying millions of jobs, but would do nothing to address what it sees as America's deteriorating competitiveness and shortfall in savings.

"We must try to minimize any possible negative impact in further exchange rate reform," a Chinese central bank spokesman said in remarks reported on Tuesday.

"We must make sure that the currency movements are controllable and avoid any possibility of over-adjustment of the yuan exchange rate driven by market forces," he told the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

True to its word, China let the yuan drift slightly lower on Tuesday for the second day in a row following a relatively brisk 2.5 percent rise against the dollar since the end of August.


China's big fear is that Washington, having largely exhausted fiscal and monetary stimulus, is resorting to benign neglect of the dollar to galvanize its economy as part of President Barack Obama's drive to double U.S. exports within five years.

Geithner flatly rejected this charge.

"It is very important for people to understand that the United States of America and no country around the world can devalue its way to prosperity, to (be) competitive," he said. "It is not a viable, feasible strategy and we will not engage in it."

But the treasury chief said the United States needed to "work hard to preserve confidence in the strong dollar" -- his first utterance of the mantra "strong dollar" since February -- by maintaining growth and restoring budget discipline.

Geithner said he had delayed a report due last Friday into whether Beijing manipulates the value of the yuan to win time to drum up support within the G20 for "improvements" in the currency policies of China and other emerging economies.

This week's G20 finance ministers' meeting in Gyeongju precedes a summit of the group in Seoul on November 11-12.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he hoped the meetings would lead to increased currency cooperation.

"This is important so that we avoid the kinds of retaliatory actions that nations can take where they feel that they are aggrieved by the policies of particular countries," he told reporters in Ottawa.

Investors are alert to the risk of a descent into tit-for-tat protectionism, but, for now at least, many are confident that policymakers will succeed in averting conflict.

"We expect international portfolio flows to continue to create rising tension on asset markets over the next several months, but we do not believe we are as yet at the brink of 'currency wars'," Ray Farris and Kasper Bartholdy, foreign exchange strategists at Credit Suisse in London, said in a note.

(Writing by Alan Wheatley in Beijing; Editing by Neil Fullick)

'80s icon Rick Springfield bares all, again, in memoir

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rick Springfield, who became a pop icon with the 1981 song "Jessie's Girl" and appeared naked in the TV drama "Californication", is baring even more of himself in a new autobiography -- including a revelation that he killed a man during the Vietnam war.

In 1968, at age 17, the Australian musician was entertaining U.S. troops in Vietnam, when the Americans came under attack. Springfield helped load mortars to repel the onslaught, and one of them killed a Viet Cong soldier.

"That was a war situation but it is still something that to this day sends a shiver down my spine," Springfield said, calling it one of his deepest, darkest secrets.

In the memoir "Late, Late at Night", Springfield, 61, writes of his lifelong battle with depression in spite of sold-out concerts, more than 17 million album sales and his stint as Dr. Noah Drake on the soap opera "General Hospital".

At 16, he tried to hang himself in his backyard shed, but the rope's knot unraveled.

"Having suicide ride on my shoulders was not a lot of fun through a lot of my life and surviving that was a real high point for me," Springfield told Reuters.

"Once puberty hit, I was pretty much skimming along the bottom, and I am (now) living long enough to understand how to deal with it," said Springfield.

After surviving the suicide bid, Springfield saw a window opening: music, which led him to Vietnam, and then in 1972 to the United States, where he became a teen heartthrob and lived the Hollywood high life with girlfriend Linda Blair, at that time the teen star of hit movie, "The Exorcist."

The career dry spell that followed was resurrected by the Grammy-winning song "Jessie's Girl" -- voted in 2007 as the No.1 karaoke song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The song found a new generation of fans when it was used in hit musical TV comedy "Glee" earlier this year.

"I am amazed actually. I didn't think it would have the legs it has. I didn't think it was a hit. There are better songs on the record," he said.

The song has overshadowed his 16 other Top 40 hits, like "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "Love Somebody".

"The great thing is it is an iconic song. The bad thing is a lot of people think it is the only song I ever wrote. But I understand that, and I certainly don't get upset about it."

Springfield said a lot of his best songs have come from the depression that still haunts him despite years of therapy. "I think good art does come from a dark place. It's our struggle to come to terms with things in our own life that, as writers, you write about."


The Darkness, or "Mr. D," as Springfield calls depression, hit again in 1989, and Springfield took a 10-year break from recording music to deal with it.

He rebounded in 1999 and has since made six albums, plays more than 100 concerts a year and an annual four-day festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In November, the third annual Rick Springfield cruise sails from Miami to the Bahamas.

"Thank God women like to get together and have a drink. It's pretty awesome," said Springfield of the cruises, which attract thousands of predominantly female fans.

Springfield said he has acquired new, male, fans after his role as a sex and drug-addicted guy in the TV series "Californication".

"I guess I finally proved to them I am now not gay. And they like the music...I write from a guy's point of view."

Springfield said that having grown up in a band, he believed it didn't mean anything to cheat on girlfriends, or on his wife of 26 years, Barbara.

"It doesn't excuse me from having done it, and I wear that guilt. But I am human and we want to be together and we want it to work," he said of his marriage.

Springfield is currently making a new album, has a documentary coming out next year, plans more acting and completely rules out appearing in "Dancing with the Stars."

"That would be a reason my wife would divorce me."

After a traumatic experience going under the knife to remove the bags under his 23 year-old eyes, Springfield says he is adamantly against facelifts.

"You can tell when someone has had a facelift and I haven't had a facelift, and I look like I haven't had a facelift...I wouldn't do that. I am saying it now, but I am hoping I stick to it," he laughed.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte)


Rapper T.I. sentenced to 11 months in jail

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Grammy Award-winning rapper T.I. was sentenced on Friday to serve 11 months in jail for violating the terms of his probation after he was arrested in September on suspicion of possessing ecstasy.

"I screwed up. I screwed up big time and I am sorry," the singer told U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, who also ordered him to serve a year of supervised release.

T.I., 30, has won three Grammy Awards, most recently in 2008 for "Swagga Like Us" and has been nominated 12 times. Even by the standards of U.S. hip-hop stars, T.I. has undergone a remarkable few years.

In 2007, he faced a possible 30 years in prison on federal gun charges after he was arrested the same day he was due to have starred at the Black Entertainment Television awards where he had been nominated for a series of honors.

A judge eventually sentenced him to just one year in jail after he pleaded guilty and agreed to do 1,000 hours of community service, warning young people about the dangers of drugs and gangs -- work for which he was widely praised.

T.I. on Friday acknowledged he violated the terms of his probation when police stopped him for a traffic violation in Los Angeles on September 1 and found drugs in his car.

But the hearing turned on what penalty he should pay, given that he had already received what U.S. Attorney Sally Yates described as an "unprecedented reduction" in his original sentence. Yates requested a two-year sentence.


Defense lawyers provided evidence that no one has been jailed in the last 10 years in the northern court district of Georgia for a first drug violation of their probation.

They also argued that TI was an addict who stayed clean for years but slipped back into using occasional drug use during a period of intense pressure at work.

To highlight T.I's positive influence on young people, a university professor testified that T.I.'s music helped her relate life lessons to her students and a fellow member of T.I.s Narcotics Anonymous group spoke on his behalf.

Atlanta police officer, James Polite, also recounted how on Wednesday, T.I. played a leading role in persuading a man not to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of a 22-story building in midtown Atlanta in a highly-publicized incident.

Pannell appeared unpersuaded by the arguments.

"This case was an experiment," he said, referring to T.I.'s sentence for the 2007 offense. "Mr. Harris, you sure have dumped a lot of smut all over the experiment."

T.I.'s career began as a rapper in 2001 but he has since branched out into other areas of the music and film industry, finding success both as a producer and actor.

He founded Grand Hustle Records in 2003, which operates as a subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)