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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Treasury Department Worker Bought Prostitutes On Taxpayer Dime, Got Off Scot-Free

Add the Treasury Department to the list of federal agencies whose employees have allegedly solicited and seen prostitutes.

Newly disclosed documents show that a now-retired human resources specialist with Treasury was accused of meeting prostitutes on “three separate occasions” — and using his government-issued travel card to buy the hotel rooms for their rendezvous.

The documents, from the department’s internal investigations arm, were posted online by the site governmentattic.org. They were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents detail an array of alleged misconduct by department employees, ranging from sexual harassment to conflict-of-interest problems. The prostitution incident, in 2010, occurred well before the highly publicized prostitution scandal involving members of the U.S. military and Secret Service in Colombia earlier this year.

According to the official investigation report, the “human resources specialist” was accused in August 2010 of using department resources “to arrange sexual encounters with women advertising on Craigslist.”

The investigation found the specialist used government resources to view erotic sites every week and used his official email to communicate with women “offering a variety of adult/erotic services” — and later admitted to doing so.

According to the investigation, the ex-employee said he met them on three occasions, and had arranged to meet another prostitute in Atlanta, but ultimately broke off that encounter. He paid $100 as a “cancellation fee.”

Though the office found the employee, who worked in the federal government for 36 years, violated rules against “disgraceful conduct” — not to mention laws against prostitution — the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. declined to prosecute since the case didn’t involve “underage prostitutes or human trafficking.”

The name of the employee was redacted. He retired in October 2010.

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Persian Gulf To House Not 1, Or 2, But 3 US Naval Carriers

Supposedly just a small overlap until they can move one back out. Until they cancel, that is.

The Pentagon is sending an aircraft carrier to the Middle East several months early to make sure two will constantly be present in the troubled region.

There are two aircraft carriers in the area currently, but one was scheduled to leave before its replacement arrived.

Defense Department press secretary George Little says the USS John C. Stennis will be sent by late summer to fill the gap that would have occurred.

Questioned about whether the deployment is a response to problems with Iran or perhaps the violence in Syria, he declined to be specific.

Little said the need is “not about any one particular country or any one particular threat.”

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Sea Treaty Blocked In Senate, Dead

A treaty governing the high seas is all but dead in the Senate as two Republican senators announced their opposition Monday, giving conservative foes the necessary votes to scuttle the pact.

Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — both mentioned as possible running mates for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney — said they had serious concerns about the breadth and ambiguity of the Law of the Sea treaty and would oppose it if called up for a vote.

The Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes — to ratify a treaty; Portman and Ayotte bring the number of opponents to 34 along with Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

The development was a blow to the Obama administration, military leaders and the business community led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who had argued that the treaty would improve national security and enhance U.S. standing in the world. They had pressed for ratification of the treaty, which was concluded in 1982 and has been in force since 1994. The United States is the only major nation that has refused to sign the pact.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and other conservatives have led the campaign against the treaty, contending that it would undermine U.S. sovereignty. DeMint heralded the latest development on Twitter, saying, “34 Senators now oppose LOST, sinking the misguided treaty.”

The treaty establishes a system for resolving disputes in international waters and recognizes sovereign rights over a country’s continental shelf out to 200 nautical miles and beyond if the country can provide evidence to substantiate its claims. The United States has abided by the rules of the treaty since President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had told Congress in May that the treaty could be a boon to business as U.S. oil and natural gas companies now have the technology to explore the extended continental shelf, which could be more than 1 1/2 times the size of Texas and rich in resources.

But Portman and Ayotte were not swayed.

“Proponents of the Law of the Sea treaty aspire to admirable goals, including codifying the U.S. Navy’s navigational rights and defining American economic interests in valuable offshore resources,” the two said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “But the treaty’s terms reach well beyond those good intentions. This agreement is striking in both the breadth of activities it regulates and the ambiguity of obligations it creates. ”

The two also raised concerns about authorization of international and judicial entities. “The United States would be binding itself to yet-unknown requirements and liabilities. That uncertainty alone is reason for caution,” Portman and Ayotte wrote.

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Market Update

U.S. markets remain in negative territory. Today is an individual stock story day as some stocks posted good earnings or have merger plays going on. Overall the Euro remains weak and Europe continues to drag on our markets. Most of Europe is flat, but Spain continues to tank. By the end of the week Europe is expected to vot on the 100+ billion Euro bailout of Spain.

European Markets

Market update

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Ford Recalls 2013 Escape

“DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. is recalling more than 10,000 redesigned 2013 Escape SUVs to fix carpet padding that could get in the way of braking.

Ford says that wrongly positioned carpet padding could reduce space around the pedals and cause drivers to hit the side of the brake pedal when switching from the accelerator.”

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Experts See ‘Worsening Economic Conditions’ as Early 2012 Gains Wither

“Economists say the sales and profit gains of early this year are disappearing, and they are increasingly pessimistic about short-term growth.

They also are gloomy because of the potential impact in the U.S. from Europe’s financial crisis, the possible expiration of the Bush tax cuts in December, and the prospect of major cuts in federal spending.

A survey by the National Association for Business Economics released Monday also found less evidence of hiring, confirming the trend in recent monthly jobs reports from the government.”

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$GM is Having Trouble Digesting Opel

“(Reuters) – Just hours after General Motors (GM.N) abruptly fired Karl-Friedrich Stracke as chief executive of Opel last week, industry observers were already beginning to ask whether it was time to start writing the troubled European unit’s epitaph.

Since GM emerged from bankruptcy three years ago, Opel has racked up $3.5 billion in underlying losses thanks to an ever shrinking European car market, a bloated fixed cost base and an image that GM has helped bring low.”

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Rich Bernstein Explains Why Missing Earnings Estimates These Days Is Such A Disaster

“In recent years, more and more companies have announced quarterly earnings that have beaten analysts expectations.

“This is likely attributable to Investor Relations officers guiding the Street analysts to an earnings number the companies know they can beat,” says Rich Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors.

As such, the information that comes from a positive earnings surprise is pretty much worthless.”

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Business Inventories Climb 0.3% in May

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Business inventories rose in May as motor vehicle dealers restocked to meet demand, although sales at companies edged lower for the second straight month, the Commerce Department said on Monday.

Inventories increased 0.3 percent to $1.58 trillion, after rising by an downwardly revised 0.3 percent in April.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories rising 0.2 percent in May.”

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State of the Kleptocracy

“Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, cheated at least 34,000 minority homeowners during the 2004-2008 housing boom, either charging them more for their mortgages or steering them into risky loans. For these acts of discrimination the bank has agreed to pay a penalty of $175 million, while not admitting any wrongdoing.

Out of the $175 million settlement, the bank will pay $125 million to the black and Hispanic individuals who were victimized by Wells Fargo’s racist lending practices. The other $50 million will go towards direct down payment assistance to borrowers in communities that were hit hard by the housing crisis and disproportionately impacted by the bank’s discriminatory loans.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it went after Wells Fargo after finding it had conned black and Hispanic borrowers into paying more than white homeowners—“not based on borrower risk, but because of their race or national origin.”

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Sands Gets OK on Macau Project Extension -$LVS

“Earlier this year, Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS) was denied land rights to an expansion project on Macau. The land, called Parcels 7 and 8, was part of a larger project on which the company had already spent more than $100 million. Today, the Sands China unit said that the company received an extension to its expansion on the “Parcel 3″ part of the project.”

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ISI Survey: Weakening Revenue Trends Likely (Chart Porn)

“The ISI Company Survey (conducted by the ISI Group) is a weekly corporate activity indicator, covering some 300 firms. See this document for information on the index methodology.

The overall ISI Index had a significant drop this week from 50.4 to 49.3, the largest one week drop in 18 months. This does not bode well for earnings going forward.”

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Deutsche Bank’s Bianco: Next Big Move for Stocks Is ‘Likely Down’

“Stocks are poised for a correction that could take them down more than 5 percent, says the normally bullish David Bianco, U.S. equity strategist for Deutsche Bank.

The economy stagnated during the middle of 2010 and 2011 just like it is this year, Bianco writes in his monthly report, obtained by Business Insider.

The stagnation triggered a slump for stocks in each of the past two years, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index falling 16 percent during the stagnation of 2010 and 19 percent in 2011.”

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Poll: Fewer US Companies Planning to Hire Amid Fears of Europe

“American companies are scaling back plans to hire workers and a rising share of firms feel the European debt crisis is taking a bite out of their sales, a survey showed on Monday.

Only 23 percent of the firms polled in June plan to add to staff in the next six months, the National Association for Business Economics said on Monday.

NABE’s prior survey, conducted in late March and early April, had shown 39 percent of companies planning to add workers.”

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Four Trends In The Public Technology Market

“Over the next five weeks, I invite you to journey through an analysis of the public and private technology markets. Each weekend of the subsequent month we will uncover trends in the private technology markets and ultimately seek predictive factors to inform fund raising decisions. We begin by placing the broad technology market in a historical context.”

Full article

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Calling All Bears and Chart Chompers: “The Ultimate Death Cross”

“We will get into the punchline from Albert Edwards’ latest missive shortly, but first we wanted to share his view on analyst sentiment, and how it relates to the US economy:

 Regular readers will know that we have always followed analyst optimism closely (optimism here defined as the percentage of analysts EPS forecast changes that are upgrades). We have shown previously that it is not the level of analyst optimism that is important for the equity market, but the change in optimism (see right-hand chart below). Somewhat surprisingly we have found that the change in analyst optimism tends to be a very good leading indicator of economic activity (it mirrors almost exactly the OECD and Conference Board leading indicators), but it is published on a far more timely basis, and more importantly it is not subject to revision in the way the economic data and leading indicators are.”

Full article & chart porn

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Goldman Cuts Its Q2 GDP Estimate Again To 1.1%

“Just as we speculated less than an hour ago, here comes Goldman with its take of retail sales and its impact on GDP: “Retail sales decline more than expected in June. We revised down our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by two tenths to +1.1%. The Empire manufacturing survey rebounded somewhat in July although the details were mixed.”

Full note:”

Full report

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