By Parisa Hafezi and Justyna Pawlak GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff. "We have reached an agreement," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also confirmed the deal. Iran will get access to $4.2 billion in foreign exchange as part of the accord, a Western diplomat said.
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - Caught flat-footed by the challenges of building the financial-management and accounting parts of the U.S. government's new online marketplace for health insurance, officials rushed to hire a familiar contractor without seeking competing bids, according to government procurement documents reviewed by Reuters. The documents dated in August - less than two months before the opening of online marketplaces established by President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law - showed the agency in charge had only "recently learned" that building the financial management functions was "beyond (its) currently available resources." The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) documents shed more light on the problems facing the agency as it worked on the marketplaces established by the law commonly called Obamacare and on its revelation this week that at least 30 percent of the marketplace is still being built. Those problems and others have been revealed by congressional oversight investigators who released emails and outside reports that paint an administration scrambling to meet the technological challenges of the marketplace - and usually failing to do so.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to London from Geneva on Sunday to meet British and Libyan officials, the U.S. State Department said. Kerry arrived in Geneva on Saturday to join talks between six major powers and Iran about reining in the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions on Tehran. Foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States attended the discussions. The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran of using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons.
By Andy Sullivan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Business groups waged a fierce lobbying campaign last month to convince Republicans to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling, but many of the most influential U.S. corporations have not cut off support to lawmakers who did not heed their appeal. Eight of the most active business PACs wrote checks totaling $84,750 to 56 Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives after they voted against an October 16 deal to re-open the government that had been shut down since October 1 and avert an imminent debt default, according to a Reuters analysis. They also gave $246,190 to Democrats and Republicans who voted for the deal. Political action committees of companies like Honeywell Inc and Northrop Grumman contributed to Republican lawmakers who defied the wishes of the business community during last month's government shutdown, according to disclosure documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
By Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi GENEVA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join talks on Iran's contested nuclear program in Geneva on Saturday, as Tehran and six world powers appeared to be on the verge of an elusive breakthrough in the decade-old dispute. The French, British and German foreign ministers, Laurent Fabius, William Hague and Guido Westerwelle, were also due to take part in intense negotiations on a deal under which Iran would curb its atomic activity in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions. Kerry left for Geneva "with the goal of continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
By Lesley Wroughton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will not attend a meeting in Ukraine of the OSCE, the European democracy watchdog, the State Department said on Friday, a day after the U.S. expressed disappointment about Kiev's decision to halt plans for trade and political deals with the EU. Kerry had been expected to attend a meeting of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in early December. The United States now will be represented by Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Kerry would not attend because of scheduling issues.
The Obama administration announced a flurry of fixes to its troubled HealthCare.gov website on Friday that officials said would soon double its current capacity, a crucial step toward getting the system working by a November 30 deadline. It also pushed back a deadline for people to enroll in insurance plans for 2014 under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act in a nod to millions of applicants who have been unable to sign up because of technical glitches for nearly two months. The healthcare reform, popularly known as Obamacare, aims to provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans. As a result, the administration is in a race against time to fix the website, an online insurance exchange, that is central to Obamacare.
By Patrick Temple-West WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service audit, already a feared ordeal, will get even sharper teeth in January when the IRS will start setting strict deadlines for delivery of information it wants from companies and wealthy people it is auditing. Initial requests for information will continue to be made under flexible deadlines negotiated by an IRS agent and the taxpayer. "It's a dramatic change and it has adverse consequences," said Larry Langdon, a former tax official at the IRS who also worked at Hewlett-Packard and is now with law firm Mayer Brown LLP. The new deadlines will have the biggest impact in "transfer pricing" audits, said Kevin Brown, a former IRS acting commissioner now at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
By Roberta Rampton and Sharon Begley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - HealthCare.gov, the ailing website handling health insurance sales under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, will soon be able to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, the top official charged with making it work said Friday. Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov troubleshooter, said that figure is the capacity the site's architects originally intended. The increase in capacity also will come from a doubling of the system's hardware capacity, planned for this weekend, he said. By going through the "punch list" of needed fixes to the information technology (IT) underlying the online insurance marketplace, Zients said, computer experts had improved the site's response time to less than one second, from the original eight seconds, and reduced the error rate to 0.75 percent from 6 percent a few weeks ago.