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In brief: Balloon breaks high-altitude record at 120,000 feet

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Arizona company says it has successfully completed the first small-scale test flight of a high-altitude balloon and capsule being developed to let tourists float 20 miles above the Earth.

World View Enterprises of Tucson said Tuesday that it launched the flight last week from Roswell, New Mexico.

CEO Jane Poynter said the system broke the world record for highest parafoil flight, lifting a payload to 120,000 feet.

The system uses a balloon similar to that used in 2012 to lift Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner 128,000 feet to make a world-record-breaking 24-mile sky dive.

The company is still planning to begin its $75,000 per-person flights in 2016, she said. The balloons will lift a capsule carrying six passengers and two crew members 20 miles up, where they will float under a parafoil for about two hours before floating back down to Earth. The capsule will be big enough for the passengers to walk around.

Other space-tourism ventures under development will rocket passengers the full 62 miles into space but on much shorter flights.

Fed stretches banks’ deadline

WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it is giving Citigroup Inc. and three other big banks another six months to amend their capital plans, changes required after they fell short in the Fed’s annual “stress tests.”

The Fed said it is extending to Jan. 5 the deadline for the third-largest U.S. bank and the U.S. divisions of Britain’s HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as for Spain’s Banco Santander. The original deadline was Thursday.

In the March stress tests, the Fed ruled that the banks’ capital plans were inadequate. That prevented them from raising their dividends or boosting their stock buybacks.

Citibank has been cutting jobs and trimming some businesses in an effort to improve its finances.

Paper clips

• A senior partner at a New York accounting firm pleaded guilty to criminal charges Tuesday, saying he unwittingly played a role in financier Bernard Madoff’s “horrific and evil Ponzi scheme.” Paul Konigsberg, a 78-year-old accounting firm executive, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of falsifying books and records in federal court in Manhattan. He also agreed to forfeit $4.4 million in cash and property. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.

• Walgreen’s fiscal third quarter earnings jumped 16 percent compared with last year, aided in part by a lower income tax rate, but the drugstore chain’s performance again fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. The Deerfield, Illinois, company executives said they are considering their option to complete a takeover of Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots – a move that could involve an overseas reincorporation – but they won’t be ready to discuss their next step until late July or early August.

• A backlog of grain shipments across the Great Plains has been reduced but not eliminated, so U.S. regulators are requiring BNSF and Canadian Pacific railroads to provide weekly updates on their efforts to catch up before harvest. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board told BNSF and Canadian Pacific to submit plans to address the backlog by this Friday and begin filing weekly updates. The delays in grain shipments have been especially pronounced in northern Plains states, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. Critics blame increased crude oil and freight shipments for the delays, but the railroads have said a brutally cold winter and rail congestion in Chicago caused the backlog.


 

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