Archive: August, 2013
The Washington Post has published a summary of the U.S. government's $45 billion-plus "black budget," which is typically withheld from the American people (and even critics in Congress) but was stolen by the former government contract employee Edward Snowden (who has fled to Russia) and supplied to the newspaper.
Black budget highlights here, more about the Post's black budget reporting here. And here you can read then-Inquirer reporter Tim Weiner's ground-breaking reporting on the black budget, from 25 years ago.
After Weiner won a Pulitzer prize for his Pentagon and intelligence coverage, then-Inquirer editor Eugene Roberts relegated Weiner to a stint as a South Jersey assistant editor (where he edited one of my first stories here). Weiner got out of that gig pretty quickly, and went on to cover national intelligence for the NY Times (where Roberts joined him as boss) and to write the books "Legacy of Ashes" (on the CIA and its many failures) and "Enemies," a similarly critical but somewhat more hopeful book about the FBI.
Andrew and Aaron Bogdanoff, father and son, reversed their previous not-guilty pleas and pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia this morning in the Remington Financial/Remington Capital Group fraud case. They were among brokers accused of soliciting fees from hundreds of U.S. small businesses to arrange loans that never materialized; prosecutors say brokers kept millions in fees even though they knew there were no loans available for the hopeful -- or desperate -- borrowers.
Other Remington cases in other states have also brought guilty pleas. Former Remington boss Matthew McManus has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial Oct. 28.
"I'm ecstatic," California business owner Ingrid Robinson, who collected victims' stories to add to her own and relentlessly pressed prosecutors in several cities, including Philadelphia, to bring charges, told me. “We pushed this case so far that [several] men were, in the end, indicted. And now they’ve started to plead guilty.
Gov. Tom Corbett's insistence that cash-strapped Harrisburg not seek federal bankruptcy protection, and the eventual drafting of a financial restructring plan that creditors seem able to live with, has made him a hero to municipal finance pros appalled by woebegone Detroit's Chapter 9 filing and the disruptive threat that bankruptcy poses to the muni industry. Both states may be run by Republicans; but Pennsylvania, unlike Michigan, takes care of its bondholders and the people paid to feed and service them.
At first glance, the Harrisburg reorganization plan posted by state-appointed receiver William Lynch looks tough on lenders: It leaves Dauphin County and its insurer, Assured Guaranty (AGM), receiving only around $210 million of the $300 million Harrisburg owes them for backing the bonds that funded the city's infamously money-losing trash incinerator, notes Tom Kozlik, boss muni bond analyst at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia.
So they're short $90 million - a 30% haircut. But not really: The county and insurer "will potentially receive further payment from future parking operations" and other sources baked into Lynch's "Harrisburg Strong Plan," pending final approval by Commonwealth Court and a few remaining creditors like the city firefighters' union, Kozlik notes.
(Updated) Bill Glazer says Keystone Property Group, his Bala Cynwyd firm that buys and redevelops older suburban office buildings, has borrowed enough money to close on its previously-announced $233 million deal to buy 15 office buildings and three development sites from the Mack-Cali office real estate investment trust, which is pulling back from the Philadelphia area office market, where rents have been stuck at 1990s levels. Glazer wouldn't break down loan amounts and terms; here's the lenders:
- Deutsche Bank - 4 office buildings at 1000-1235 Westlakes Drive, north of Berwyn near Valley Forge;
- Cantor Fitzgerald - 3 buildings at Airport Business Center in Lester, Delco, near Philadelphia International;
- Purchase Money Mortgage - One Plymouth Meeting;
- Pacific Coast Capital Management - 150 Monument Road, Bala Cynwyd; Rose Tree Corporate Center (near Media), buildings I and II; 1000 Madison Ave., Lower Providence Township, near Norristown; and 4 and 5 Sentry Park, Blue Bell.
Mack-Cali also sold Keystone buildings in Moorestown Corporate Center and at 16 and 18 Sentry West, Blue Bell, last year.
Glazer, in a statement, said his firm "plans to modernize the office portfolio to enhance the quality of work life afforded to tenants." Plus he plans to develop parcels near his newly-acquired buildings, in Lester, Media and Berwyn. His goal: to build "vibrant, urban-inspired settings" amid the burbs.
When I heard founder Rick Nucci left Dell Boomi last Spring, two years after Dell bought the Berwyn corporate cloud-computing connector he'd built, and right around the time Dell pulled back from its Dell Cloud initiative -- laying off maybe 300 -- not knowing much, I feared the worst.
"The business is thriving," Nucci tells me, and it wasn't affected by the Dell Cloud move. Dell has put Chris McNabb in charge, and the group continues to hire engineers, programmers, salespeople. McNabb had joined Boomi as Nucci's deputy around the time of the Dell sale from SunGard Data System's former higher-ed division (SCT), where he ran engineering. "He's been great. The team loves him," says Nucci. "A really sharp guy. He hit the ground running."
Nucci says he's thriving, too. He spent the summer in Italy -- "Florence, Sorrento, Cortona, Rome." And now he's back -- no details yet -- but "I'm certainly looking forward todoing another startup in the cloud space. We're still in the emerging state of all things cloud. We've reached that tipping point where enterprises are adopting cloud a lot more than when we launched Boomi on the cloud, in 2008. I'm really looking forward to that."
By Halloween, Delaware plans to offer what it calls first-in-the-U.S. online casino-style gamblilng. Bettors will have to go to Delaware, but they will no longer have to visit the state's three casinos, to push their cash into slots, blackjack and poker.
Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway have set up "free play" gambling sites to familiarize gamblers with the new systems. ding slots, blackjack or poker, through Facebook accounts. Real gambling won't require Facebook, lottery director Vernon Kirk said in a statement.
Delaware hired Scientific Games International - 888 Holdings to develop the gambling systems. "We want our product to be winner–attractive, engaging, and easy to use," said state finance secretary Thomas J. Cook, who hopes gambling taxes will boost state revenues by a few million dollars a year.
AgustaWestland, which builds helicopters for corporate, local-government and other civil-aviation users at its plant near the Northeast Philadelphia Airport, says it's put in a bid to build its glass-cockpit model AW119Kx to sell to the Philadelphia Police Department "as a part of their recent procurement process." UPDATE: This particular ship is a new line with an improved cockpit, but the company says it sells for about the same as the existing AW119K3 model, which industry sources say retails for around $3.6 million.
AgustaWestland, owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, calls the model "a spacious top-of-the-range single-turbine helicopter" that provides "high productivity" and "enhanced safety" at "a competitive price." Features include "synthetic vision,' the "Highway in the Sky" moving map, pre-programmed terrain and obstacle data, thermal-sensing camera to see people behind walls, searchlight, radio, the works.
Can the Department be prevailed upon to buy local? “It is our hope that the Philadelphia Police Department will not only recognize that our aircraft provide superior safety and operational features at a competitive price, but also the cost saving advantages AgustaWestland can provide in terms of maintenance and technical support on site, right here in Philadelphia,” said the company's sales chief, Bob Brant, in a statement. AgustaWestland says it employs more than 560 assembling the AW119Kx and model AW139s, parts, maintenance, customization, and delivery for other models.
If Americans cared much about the 21 million Syrians, rather than their government's role as a friend of Russia and Iran, or an enemy of Israel, it's hard to believe we'd be preparing to add them to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the other countries where we're currently currently bombing. And if we cared about our own long-term economic, fiscal and national well-being, we wouldn't go there, adds Richard Vague, former head of First USA Bank and Energy Plus.
Anyone following the conflict knows this is a fight between bad guys. The Assad government is willing to bomb, gas and traumatize civilians, hitting more than we do in our drone strikes, to kill its enemies and its critics.
The most effective of the rebels fighting Assad, reporters tell us, are allied to Al-Qaeda and other Sunni Islamic supremacists. They kill Kurds, Shiites, Christians, leaders of Assad's Alawi sect, and members of other minority groups, and hate the United States.