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REALLY: Senate probe finds little evidence of effective “torture”

“(Reuters) – A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.

People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups….”

Full article

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$WMT Walmart Not the Only Company Bribing Foreign Countries for Access

It appears that the main problem for Walmart was that they did not note donate enough to Obama’s super PAC. Why else would the focus be placed on Walmart execs when five major Hollywood studios are allegedly guilty of the same crime?

The Hollywood studio run by one of President Obama’s biggest donors is under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission for bribing Chinese officials to secure exclusive film rights in the communist country—rights secured in secretive negotiations that included Vice President Joe Biden.

The SEC is investigating at least five Hollywood studios—including 20th Century Fox, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation—for allegedly making illegal payments to Chinese officials, Reuters reported Tuesday.

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is the largest donor to the Obama reelection super PAC Priorities USA.

Read the rest here.

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NK Faces Their Impotency: Step 1, Denial

Read here:

North Korea is armed with “powerful modern weapons” capable of defeating the United States, a top military chief in Pyongyang said Wednesday amid increased speculation abroad about the nation’s missile arsenal and nuclear ambitions.

Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho emphasized the importance of strengthening the military to defend North Korea against threats it sees from the United States and South Korea. He called his nation a nuclear and military power and praised new leader Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his late 20s, as a “military strategist” who has been giving the army guidance for years.

“The Korean People’s Army is armed with powerful modern weapons … that can defeat the (U.S.) imperialists at a single blow,” he told party and military officials, using familiar descriptions of the country’s rivals.

The meeting, attended by Kim Jong Un, was held to mark the 80th anniversary of the army’s founding. The Associated Press was among foreign news agencies based in Pyongyang allowed to observe the closed meeting at the April 25 House of Culture.

Ri, who is chief of the army’s General Staff, did not provide further details about North Korea’s weapons, but his call to arms comes as the United States, Britain and others warn the nation against a provocation that would further heighten tensions. The Korean peninsula officially remains at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

North Korea is believed to have some nuclear weapons but not the technology to put them on long-range missiles.

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For First Time since Depression, More Mexicans Leave U.S. than Enter

By Tara Bahrampour, Published: April 23

A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.

“I think the massive boom in Mexican immigration is over and I don’t think it will ever return to the numbers we saw in the 1990s and 2000s,” said Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Mexican Migration Project, which has been gathering data on the subject for 30 years.

Nearly 1.4 million Mexicans moved from the United States to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, double the number who did so a decade earlier. The number of Mexicans who moved to the United States during that period fell to less than half of the 3 million who came between 1995 and 2000.

The trend could have major political consequences, underscoring the delicate dance by the Republican and Democratic parties as they struggle with immigration policies and court the increasingly important Latino vote.

Read the rest here.


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Gmail Meter Uncovers the Statistical Truths About How You Use Your Email

via LifeHacker

Ever wondered if you respond to emails too slowly, or what kinds of email you receive most often? Gmail Meter is a simple script designed for Google Docs that can get to the bottom of how you communicate, statistically speaking.

What will Gmail Meter uncover? How many emails you’ve received and sent, what your email traffic looks like each day, your various categories of email, word count, and—my favorite—how long it takes you to respond to a message (on average). It’s pretty easy to set up. Just watch the video above or follow these instructions:

Read the rest here.

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Doug and Jeff v. Goliath: County Clerks Sue Big Banks for Avoiding Fraudulent Mortgage Recording Fees

“Doug Welborn, state district court clerk of Baton Rouge, and Jeff L. Thigpen, register of deeds in Guilford County, North Carolina, are doing what millions of recession-weary Americans wish they could do: they are suing large banks and mortgage companies in court, alleging that their creation in 1995 of the Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, Inc., (MERS), to replace local county recording of property transfers, led to billions of dollars of fraud, victimizing not only millions of homeowners but state and local governments across the country. MERS, not coincidentally, was a key factor in the growth of the real estate bubble whose crash precipitated the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

Welborn’s action, filed in federal district court in Baton Rouge on behalf of court clerks across Louisiana, alleges that the 17 banks and mortgage companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act by controlling MERS in a scheme to cheat clerks of court of recording fees.
Historically, every time a mortgage was sold from one holder to another, it had to be recorded at the local courthouse. Welborn’s suit alleges that the banks used MERS to avoid recording fees on 10 to 12 mortgage transfers per property, each instance of non-paid fees costing local government. MERS was thus critical to the industry practice of bundling mortgages into securities that eventually were sold to investors. Although the complaint does not state a specific damage amount, attorneys for Welborn estimate statewide losses of $450 million; if proven, they could be trebled under RICO to $1.35 billion…”

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Argentina Cuts Computer Links Between YPF, Repsol

LONDON (Reuters) – Argentine oil group YPF has cut computer links with parent Repsol, two sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday, following Buenos Aires’ plans unveiled last week to seize control of the leading energy company.

The move is the latest in a string of actions that have shut Spain’s Repsol out of YPF, even before Argentina has implemented laws to provide the basis for the nationalization.

Last Monday, President Cristina Fernandez announced plans to expropriate a controlling 51 percent stake in YPF by seizing most of Repsol’s shares, saying a failure of Repsol to invest sufficiently in YPF was contributing to an energy crunch in the country.

Repsol, which holds about 57 percent of YPF, said it had consistently raised investment at YPF and analysts said Argentina’s price controls on oil and gas were the reason companies had not invested more in production.

Local media said that even before Fernandez finished her speech, the government’s representative on YPF’s board of directors, Roberto Baratta, had entered YPF’s offices and read out the names of executives who would have to leave the premises immediately.

Hours after the expropriation was announced live on national television, the state-appointed interim administrator, Planning Minister Julio De Vido, occupied the company’s offices in the upscale neighborhood of Puerto Madero.

The two sources said that days later, YPF shut down electronic communications with Repsol, preventing Repsol from accessing information about YPF’s operations.

“Later in the week the connection was cut between Repsol and YPF,” one source said.

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Senate Will Get to the (Colombian) Bottom of this Secret Service Hooker Probe

via CNN

A Senate committee will expand its probe into the U.S. Secret Service this week following a scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia in advance of a recent trip by the president.

The Homeland Security Committee will send the Secret Service “some questions this week, as the beginning of our broader investigation, asking whether… this was an exception, or is there anything in the records that show this is a pattern of misconduct that has gone on elsewhere by Secret Service agents on assignment, but off-duty?” Sen. Joe Lieberman, the committee chairman, told “Fox News Sunday.”

“Why wasn’t it noticed if that was the case? What’s the Secret Service going to do to make sure it never happens again?”

Some Secret Service members and agents allegedly brought back several prostitutes to a hotel in Cartagena, according to sources familiar with the U.S. government’s investigation.

The Secret Service says 12 members of the agency have been implicated in the incident.

Across the Sunday political talk shows, officials expressed confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, saying they believe he has handled the scandal well and will get answers.

“History is full of cases where enemies have compromised” people with security or intelligence information through sex, said Lieberman, I-Connecticut. He added that based on what he has been told so far, “there is no evidence that information was compromised” in this case.

Down the road, the committee will hold a public hearing on the matter — perhaps more than one, Lieberman said.

“Anyone who’s found to be guilty” will lose his job, Rep. Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

King told CNN last week that four investigators were assigned to his committee’s probe.

One person who was “partially exonerated” will instead likely face administrative action, King said.

In a letter sent to Sullivan on Friday, King listed a series of questions, including how many employees were aware of the alleged incident and how many total employees were in Cartagena in support of President Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas when the incident occurred earlier this month.

“Please provide a comprehensive, minute-by-minute timeline of all known actions, locations, and possible violations of U.S. or Colombia law,” codes of conduct, and directives, King wrote in the letter.

But King and other officials are quick to emphasize that those allegedly involved in cavorting with prostitutes at a hotel in Cartagena are the exceptions.

“In any organization things can go wrong,” President Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I must say that in my experience the Secret Service has been completely professional, so impressive. I always felt like they were … willing to do anything to protect the president and the people around the president. And so this was really disappointing.

“Obviously we have to get to the bottom of it, but those problems should not denigrate the efforts of so many who do such a good job.”

Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of the House Oversight Committee suggested having more female agents could help avoid such scandals.

“I can’t help but wonder if there’d been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened,” Collins told ABC’s “This Week.”

Maloney agreed, and added that she was told 11% of agents in the Secret Service are women. The agency did not immediately confirm the figure to CNN Sunday.

“We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women,” she said.

Six Secret Service members have left their jobs in the wake of the incident in Cartagena, Colombia, which came while they were on a security detail in advance of President Obama’s trip for the Summit of the Americas.

One employee “has been cleared of serious misconduct, but will face administrative action,” the Secret Service said.

Five employees are on administrative leave and have had their security clearances temporarily revoked.

In addition, the U.S. military is investigating 11 of its own troops for possible heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes.

White House staff have not been implicated in the controversy.

After the scandal broke, President Obama called for a “thorough” and “rigorous” invsetigation. “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry,” he said.

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GOP Hopefuls Jockeying for Position as Rubio Plays it Cool

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, continuing to play down talk of his possible selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate, on Sunday tried to shift the speculation to another Sunshine State Republican: former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush recently said he hoped Rubio would accept a potential offer from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Romney to serve on the ticket, calling it “an extraordinary combination.” Rubio said he feels Bush should do the same.

“That’s very nice of Jeb. I hope he’ll say yes if future President Romney asks him,” the senator said on CNN’sState of the Union. “I think he’d be a fantastic vice president.”


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British Gameshow Contestant Puts On Badass Display Of Game Theory

Joe Weisenthal

This is so cool (via Gawker and Justin Wolfers): A British gameshow called “Golden Balls” invites contestants to play a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, wherein the two contestants have to decide whether they’re going to “split” or “steal” a pot of money.

If they both opt to split, they split the money. If one opts to split, and one opts to steal, the one who steals it gets the whole pot. And if they both opt to steal it, then neither get the money.

You have to watch this video to appreciate the raw game theory power move that one contestant pulled.

See the video here.

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SEC Charges British Twin Brothers Touting “Stock Picking Robot” in Internet Pump-and-Dump Scheme


Washington, D.C., April 20, 2012The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged twin brothers from the U.K. with defrauding approximately 75,000 investors through an Internet-based pump-and-dump scheme in which they touted a fake “stock picking robot” that purportedly identified penny stocks set to double in price. Instead, the brothers were merely touting stocks they were being paid separately to promote.

The SEC alleges that Alexander John Hunter and Thomas Edward Hunter were just 16 years old when they set their fraud in motion beginning in 2007. They disseminated e-mail newsletters through a pair of websites they created to tout stocks selected by the robot – which they described as a highly sophisticated computer trading program that was the product of extensive research and development. Their claims were persuasive as the Hunters received at least $1.2 million from investors primarily in the U.S. who paid $47 apiece for annual newsletter subscriptions. Some investors paid an additional fee for the “home version” of the robot software.

In reality, the SEC alleges that the Hunters used a third website to offer their services as stock promoters, claiming that they could “rocket” a stock’s price and increase its volume by sending out newsletters. The Hunters were consequently paid at least $1.865 million in fees from known or suspected stock promoters, and they did not disclose to their newsletter followers the conflicting relationship between their two businesses.

“The Hunters used the anonymity of the Internet and the promise of easy riches to prey on investors,” said Thomas A. Sporkin, Chief of the SEC’s Office of Market Intelligence. “While touting their supposed breakthrough investment technology on two websites, the Hunters were racking up fees as stock promoters through a third.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Hunters created websites Doublingstocks.com and Daytradingrobot.com to falsely tout that a former trading algorithm programmer from a large investment bank had designed a stock picking robot that they named “ Marl.” The robot could purportedly analyze the over-the-counter securities markets and identify penny stocks that were set to experience large price increases. The brothers offered investors paid subscriptions to their e-mail newsletter that would contain the robot’s latest stock pick.

The SEC alleges that the brothers separately created the website Equitypromoter.com where they marketed their newsletter subscriber list to penny stock promoters and boasted, “One email to this list of people rockets a stock price.” The Hunters were in turn paid to send selected penny stock ticker symbols to their subscribers, who were misled to believe that the stock “picks” were the product of the robot. The Hunters sent out their newsletters near the beginning of the trading day, and the price and volume of the promoted stocks spiked dramatically as newsletter subscribers rushed to purchase shares. However, the stocks typically fell precipitously shortly thereafter, leaving investors with shares worth less than they had purchased them for earlier in the day.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the Hunters also offered subscribers a downloadable version of the stock picking robot for an additional fee of $97. Rather than performing the analysis advertised, the software was actually designed to just deliver users a stock pick supplied by the brothers. In soliciting bids in 2007 from free-lance coders to create the software, Alexander Hunter wrote that the software should “not actually find stocks at all. It should connect to my database and simply request any new stocks I have put in.” He bluntly explained that the software “is almost a ‘fake’ piece of software and needs to simply appear advanced to the user.” Like the newsletter, the home version of the stock picking robot was no more than a fraudulent delivery vehicle for stock symbols that the Hunters had been compensated to promote.

The SEC’s complaint charges the Hunters with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the U.S. securities laws, namely Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Adam M. Schoeberlein. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Robert I. Dodge.

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Sanctions Against Iran Have No Effect: Study


“An updated industry report published on Wednesday appeared to show tightening international sanctions were having no impact on Iranian crude exports.

The latest publication of data by the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI) listed Iran as having produced 3.752 million barrels per day (bpd) in February, marking the highest output since December 2008.

The 32,000 bpd increase over January mostly went into exports, which climbed 3.2 percent.

JODI, an initiative coordinated by the International Energy Forum (IEF), depends on participating member states for data collection.

The IEA said in its report on April 12 that sanctions on Iran could see “output could plummet to 2.6-2.8 mb/d by mid-summer, unless alternative buyers can be found”. Total production in Iran was placed at 3.35 million bpd in February, further decreasing to 3.3 million bpd in March.

Norway was among the most prominent gainers in the JODI report, adding 282,000 bpd, an increase of 19.5 percent. Other additions were recorded for Canada, were production increased to 2.375 million bpd.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter, reported a minor decrease for JODI of 18,000 bpd in February versus a month earlier to reach 9.853 million bpd, falling short of the 10 million bpd IEA assessment. After a jump last month, exports eased by 22,000 bpd.

Russia’s production level remained under 10 million bpd for the second month running, although it still edged Saudi Arabia by 90,000 bpd to remain the world’s largest oil producer. No details were available as to how exports fared in February, but added data for January indicated that most of the drawback hit exports.

Production in Iraq was also lower, coming in 107,000 bpd less to reach 2.54 million bpd. Libya and the United Arab Emirates, notable players in the world oil markets, once again did not provide any information in time for publication.

The IEA maintained that higher output from Iraq, Libya and the UAE “more than offset reduced Iranian and Angolan supplies” in March.

Inconsistencies and delays in data submissions from member states have been contentious issue within the IEF. More transparency, the IEF argues, would help reduce price volatility seen as detrimental to long-term industry investment.”

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