WASHINGTON: The US Senate Finance Committee yesterday voted yesterday to back President Barack Obama’s nominee Jack Lew as Treasury secretary despite qualms about his reputation as a doctrinaire Democrat and his ties to Wall Street. Senators voted 19-5 in favour of Lew, with several Republicans joining with the majority Democrats, paving the way for a full Senate vote today. Obama nominated Lew, formerly his White House chief of staff, to replace Timothy Geithner, who stepped down last month after four years marked by the country’s deepest economic crisis since the 1930s. While Lew’s confirmation was always likely, his reputation as a dogged defender of Democratic party stances in tough negotiations with White House opponents raised hackles among Republicans.
Steenkamp’s family hires lawyers
JOHANNESBURG: The family of Reeva Steenkamp said yesterday that they have hired an attorney amid a media frenzy over her death linked to her boyfriend, the South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius. In a statement, the family said they had appointed attorney Mike Venter and advocate Dup de Bruyn “to look after and protect our interests”. “We fully understand the intense media interest. However this is a very sad and traumatic time for us,” the family said. “For the time being there will be no interviews or discussions with the media whatsoever. We humbly request the media to respect our privacy.” The Port Elizabeth based family have spoken frequently and emotionally through Reeva Steenkamp’s uncle Michael Steenkamp, while refusing to pass judgement on the case. Pistorius was released on bail last week and is due back in court on June 4.
British frozen food sales slump
LONDON: British sales of frozen beef burgers collapsed by 43 percent and ready meals by 13 percent in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, data showed yesterday from retail consultancy Kantar Worldpanel. However, many Britons have changed the products they buy rather than where they shop, according to Kantar. “The issue has so far only affected the performance of individual markets rather than where consumers are choosing to shop,” said Kantar Worldpanel Director Edward Garner. “For the four weeks ending 17 February, frozen burger sales were down by 43 percent and frozen ready meals declined by 13 percent.” Equine DNA was first discovered on January 16 in beef burgers in Britain and Ireland, sparking a Europe-wide health scare which is still ongoing.
Powerful Cyclone Rusty nears Australia
SYDNEY: Authorities in northwest Australia yesterday urged residents to evacuate as a powerful cyclone whipped up huge seas and the weather bureau warned of “phenomenal rainfall” and hurricane-force winds. Wild weather was pounding the north of Western Australia as tropical cyclone Rusty, upgraded to a severe category three storm, neared the coast and a second low-pressure system formed in the Indian Ocean. Australia’s major iron ore export ports were shut as Rusty approached and authorities ordered evacuations in the sparsely-populated region. The cyclone was expected to make landfall as a category four storm today afternoon north of Port Hedland, about 1,300km north of Perth. Agencies