World news in brief

By Drum Digital
22 January 2014

A round up of some of the stories making news world wide.

Yahoo braces for more mobile users in 2014

Struggling Internet giant Yahoo! will see more users accessing its services by mobile in 2014 than classic desktops, chief executive Marissa Mayer said on Wednesday at the Davos World Economic Forum.

"2014 will be the year of the crossover," Mayer said while sitting on a panel regarding the world digital context.

"By the end of this year we will have more mobile users than we have PC traffic. You have to be prepared for that," she said.

In December Yahoo was the most popular online venue visited from US desktop computers and the firm has been under pressure to switch its core of the business to the increasingly crucial world of smartphones.

Mayer has made improving Yahoo's popularity on smartphones and tablets a priority as the faded Internet search pioneer is re-invented.

Mayer, who was poached from Internet rival Google in 2012, has run into road bumps in recent weeks with the surprise exit of two top executives including her second-in-command.

Chief operating officer Henrique de Castro walked away with a $20 million dollar (14.7-billion-euro) stock award and other compensation after just 15 months on the job.

In Davos, Mayer said hiring was key to the next stage of the company's development.

"It is a matter of hiring the right people and making sure these people are really informed," she said.

The departure of Castro amid continued poor ad revenue left analysts wondering whether Yahoo! will disappoint in a quarterly earnings report due on January 28.

Mayer said she arrived to Yahoo! when the company had just suffered five years of turbulence and the staff she discovered were eager to turn the company around.

The employees "had all this pent-up energy" she said. - Sapa

Latvia gets first femal Prime Minister

Latvian lawmakers have confirmed the country's first government led by a female prime minister.

Sixty-four votes were cast in favor of Laimdota Straujuma's center-right government, while 27 were against. The remaining nine lawmakers in the 100-member Parliament either abstained or were absent Wednesday.

The 62-year-old Straujuma is regarded as a compromise figure after Latvia's president rejected several other candidates. A long-time civil servant, she joined the senior coalition party Unity earlier this month to take the post.

The previous government of Valdis Dombrovskis, the longest-serving prime minister in Latvia's history, resigned in November after a supermarket roof collapse killed 54 people and stunned the country.

Latvia will hold parliamentary elections in October, and it is unclear whether Straujuma will attempt to keep her position as head of government. - Sapa-AP

Vatican bank to crack down on unsuitable clients

The Vatican bank said Wednesday it is cracking down on unsuitable clients, a day after fresh charges were laid against a former accountant at the scandal-hit financial institution.

The bank, officially known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), said it had screened 55 percent of its customers -- some 10,000 client records -- by the end of 2013 as part of a mammoth anti-money laundering clean-up operation.

It has conducted an "externally assisted forensic transaction review" into "unusual transactions", the findings of which are "delivered to the board and to Vatican supervising and law enforcement authorities as appropriate".

The criteria for opening an account have been tightened, and customers must now be Catholic institutions, clerics, employees or former employees at the Vatican, or embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.

Accounts held by others "are being terminated," the bank said.

Screening of accounts is expected to take until mid 2014, "and will be subject to an assessment in the course of a forthcoming inspection by the AIF" -- the Vatican's financial authority -- it said.

In a review of the Vatican's efforts last month, the Council of Europe urged the Holy See's financial watchdog agency to carry out an on-site inspection of the scandal-hit institution.

The bank said it hoped its progress would convince Italy to resume banking relations frozen in 2010 amid an investigation into money laundering.

"The IOR looks forward to a resumption of full interaction with Italian financial institutions pending review by Italian regulatory authorities of the Holy See / Vatican City State's anti-money laundering provisions," it said.

The bank's progress report was released a day after a former Vatican accountant -- already under house arrest and on trial for alleged corruption and attempted money laundering -- was notified of fresh charges against him.

Italy's financial police said Tuesday that they had seized Monsignor Nunzio Scarano's luxury 17-room apartment and blocked nearly 9.0 million euros ($12 million) on current accounts linked to the senior Italian cleric.

The IOR said Wednesday it had "commissioned a detailed internal investigation" into the affair when the scandal broke last year, and Scarano's accounts "have been frozen since July 2013", it said. - Sapa-AFP

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