Off the Wires

IRS official in Star Trek spoof apologizes for lavish conference

June 6th, 2013  |  Source: Reuters

A top official at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Thursday acknowledged that it was "embarrassing" how much the tax agency spent on training videos, including a Star Trek spoof, and other lavish expenses during a 2010 conference in California.


AIG, GM Rejoin S&P 500 Nearly Five Years After Bailout

June 4th, 2013  |  Source:

American International Group and General Motors will rejoin the S&P 500 index this week, marking a key milestone in the recovery of two companies that needed billions of dollars to stay afloat during the financial crisis.

AIG and GM will rejoin the S&P 500 after the stock market closes on Thursday, the S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Monday.

The move represents a symbolic victory for AIG and GM, which have taken steps to overhaul their operations and return to viability since their near-collapse about five years ago.

Barry Diller Is Shopping Newsweek. Here's Why.

May 30th, 2013  |  Source: Forbes

Most rational business people wouldn’t go out of their way to deprecate the value of an asset a few weeks before they try to sell it. As he has made abundantly clear throughout his career, however,Barry Diller is not most people.
So, barely a month since he went on Bloomberg television and declared his purchase of Newsweek a “mistake” that he regretted, the billionaire IAC chairman is attempting to find a buyer for the magazine, according to a report by Variety, which I’ve independently confirmed. Despite its current owner’s best efforts, a source with knowledge of the situation says there’s significant interest, although the identity of any potential buyers remains a secret.

Read on here:

Finland Turns to Venture Funds to Rescue Economy

April 5th, 2013  |  Source: Bloomberg

Finland is turning to venture capital financing as it searches for ways to jolt the economy out of a recession without jeopardizing its AAA rating.

The northernmost euro member wants to attract investors for a new 1 billion-euro ($1.28 billion) program and help startup companies without adding to its budget deficit. Finland is promising that investors who buy into the venture will take the lion’s share of potential profits. The program will also target growth companies.

“The debt crisis caused investors to retrench from this riskier startup funding,” Petri Peltonen, head of the enterprise and innovation department at Finland’s Economy Ministry, said in a telephone interview. “We’re now trying to attract private investors to take more risk that will help boost economic growth and create jobs.”

While Finland has weathered the crisis better than southern Europe, its economy contracted for a second time in four years in 2012, stretching government finances as the nation faces a fifth consecutive year of budget deficits. Finnish bonds with maturities longer than one year have lost 0.2 percent this year, compared with a 0.7 percent gain for euro-area government bonds, according to Bloomberg/EFFAS indexes.

Full Story here:

Wal-Mart Customers Complain Bare Shelves Are Widespread

April 2nd, 2013  |  Source: Bloomberg


More than 1,000 e-mailed complaints signal that Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s (WMT) restocking challenges are more widespread than the world’s largest retailer has said.

Wal-Mart customers from Hawaii to Florida and from Texas to Vermont wrote to express their frustration afterBloomberg News reported March 26 that there aren’t enough workers in the stores to keep shelves stocked, cash registers manned and shoppers’ questions answered. In response to the original article, Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said in part: “The premise of this story, which is based on the comments of a handful of people, is inaccurate and not representative of what is happening in our stores across the country.”

High-Frequency Trading Prospers at Expense of Everyone

December 26th, 2012  |  Source: Bloomberg


Finally, a bit of evidence, rather than anecdote, about the costs of high-frequency trading.

In a new study, Andrei Kirilenko, the chief economist at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, along with researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington, examined high-frequency trading in a futures contract called the e-mini S&P 500, between August 2010 and August 2012.

The study looked at only the expiring contracts (which trade electronically on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) that are used to bet on the direction of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. The researchers also did something they’d never been able to do before: Use actual trading data from individual firms, though none were identified.

Dick’s Suspends Rifle Sales Nationwide Post Shooting

December 18th, 2012  |  Source: Bloomberg

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS), the largest U.S. sporting-goods chain, has suspended sales of modern sporting rifles nationwide in the wake of the shooting in Newtown,Connecticut, as the community mourns victims of the massacre.

Sales of all guns have been stopped at its store closest to the shooting, the Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based company said today in an e-mailed statement.

Dick’s is pulling the products after 26 people -- mostly children -- were killed during a Dec. 14 shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown. The chain, which has more than 500 stores in the U.S., sells guns and ammunition in stores and not online, according to its website.

“We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week,” the company said in the statement. Dick’s is removing the guns “out of respect for the victims and their families.”

America’s gun industry is booming

December 3rd, 2012  |  Source:

A recent Gallup survey indicates 47 percent of American adults keep guns -- the most since 1993

When James Holmes carried out the latest in a series of grisly American mass murders by killing 12 people and injuring 59 others during a shooting rampage in a Denver movie theater last July, he used an AR-15 assault rifle and also carried two Glock pistols and a Remington shotgun — all American-made.

The United States produces the vast majority of firearms in this country. It’s also the world’s leading weapons exporter by far.

America exported $336.5 million worth of firearms in 2011, according to customs data compiled by the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers, NISAT. That’s $200 million more than Italy, the next leading exporter.

Marijuana-dispenser stock gets too high

November 19th, 2012  |  Source: Market Watch


A company that creates medical-marijuana dispensing machines says its stock is getting way too high.

Medbox MDBX +150.00%   shares surged 3,000% this week -- from roughly $4 Monday to $215 Thursday -- before falling to $100 after executives sought to dampen investor enthusiasm.

In a news release today, the company said that the stock’s rocket launch, which sent its market cap skyrocketing from $45 million at the start of the week to a staggering $2.3 billion, was ignited by a MarketWatch story Tuesday on how to invest in legalized marijuana (see How to invest in legalized marijuana .) (That’s about double the market capitalization of retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers.) The stock, which fell around 50% in early trading Friday, still hovers at $100. “We believe an appropriate trading range is between $5 and $10 but, alas, the market will do what it will do,” says Medbox founder Vincent Mehdizadeh.

Nelson Mandela banknotes issued in South Africa

November 9th, 2012  |  Source: BBC


The first banknotes featuring the face of Nelson Mandela have gone into circulation in South Africa.

They are the first South African notes to bear the image of a black person - they replace notes with wild animals and rural and industrial scenes.

President Jacob Zuma says the banknotes were a "humble gesture" to express South Africa's "deep gratitude".

Mr Mandela, 94, is one of the world's best loved figures after spending 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid.

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