12.26.2011 – Occupy Wall Street Using Toy Helicopters to Record Cops (for TruTV.com Conspiratorium)

Occupy Wall Street Using Toy Helicopters To Record Cops

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
December 26, 2011 2:43PM

CopsCount Occupy Wall Street down, but not out.

The NYC faction of the movement has just invented a whimsical, but potentially effective, tool in response to what they say is overbearing surveillance, police violence, and the barring of photographers and journalists from protests: a toy helicopter.

Bought cheaply online, the device is controllable from an iPhone and rigged with a tiny camera that can record and stream video in real time to the social video website, Ustream…

Though just successfully tested a couple of days ago, the so-called “Occucopter” already has a Facebook page and is chronicling its adventures in counter-surveillance on its very own Twitter feed.

The mini-chopper is the brainchild of Tim Pool, a New York-based tech specialist, multimedia journalist and OWS supporter who has already gained some fame for his live chat-enabled Ustream broadcasts from Occupy encampments nationwide. Pool’s latest innovation: installing 3G cellular controllers to vastly extend the Occucopter’s range.

Will we soon see police battling hundreds of hovering, buzzing toy spy drones controlled by multiple operators, who could be thousands of miles away? And could this technology, intended to keep tabs on police abuses, be turned used for more nefarious purposes?

Some observers fear the ramifications of an escalating drone race much like the nuclear arms race of the 1980s, where authorities could justify their own use of drones by pointing to devices like the Occucopter. Think about it: a remotely-operated drone chopper could live-stream your wife taking a shower.

We may not have to wait long for the brave new world of Big Brother warfare. But for now, the live-streaming of Occupy events continues. Recently, Occupy Albany was being forced to move out of their encampment. Tim Pool – and his Occucopter – were there, documenting the eviction live on Ustream.

05.23.2011 – NY’s Top Public Companies Are Roaring Back – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

NY’s top public companies are roaring back

Crain’s list shows a collective 75% spike in income last year for the region’s 250 largest public businesses. The group’s $2.44 trillion-with-a-T market cap is now so big that it rivals the GDP of France.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 23, 2011 12:15 p.m.
New York Stock Exchange

Buck Ennis
The finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies.

Big business in New York is bouncing back from the Great Recession—big time, according to the latest Crain’s ranking of the region’s top publicly held companies.

The total stock-market value of the 250 biggest public companies in the New York metro area, for instance, climbed 11% last year, to $2.44 trillion, compared with a total market capitalization of $2.19 trillion for the top 250 in 2009.

To put that $2.44 trillion figure into perspective: The total market cap for New York’s 250 biggest public companies exceeds the gross domestic of the United Kingdom (around $2.25 trillion last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates) and comes in just under the GDP of France ($2.58 trillion).

Total revenue for the Crain’s 250 also rose 11% last year, to $1.75 trillion (that would be around the GDP figure for Canada), while overall profits soared 75% to $158.9 billion (somewhere between Peru and Romania).

Revenue winners last year included health care and consumer goods companies, such as Pfizer and PepsiCo, with gains of 35% and 33.8%, respectively.

But the finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies, mostly due to stronger markets and more acquisitions than in recent years.

Bank of New York Mellon, mainly a custodian of corporate assets, saw revenues shoot up more than 75%, to around $14.5 billion after its 2010 acquisitions of PNC Financial Services Group and BHF Assets. And at BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, revenues soared 83.2%, to more than $8.6 billion, in a year that saw BlackRock’s merger with Barclay’s Global Investors finalized.

05.15.2011 – Week on the Web – Hedge Funder Found Guilty – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Hedge funder found guilty

A jury finds Raj Rajaratnam guilty, while the city debates the cause of an alleged Census undercount and Goldman Sachs takes some heat.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 15, 2011 5:59 a.m.
Raj Rajaratnam Galleon

Bloomberg News
A jury last week found Raj Rajaratnam guilty of all 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.

The federal government netted its biggest hedge fund fish yet when a jury found Raj Rajaratnam guilty of all 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud. Jurors deliberated the insider-trading case for weeks, after listening to damning testimony from Wall Street bigs such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Lloyd Blankfein and former McKinsey & Co. director Anil Kumar. In the end, the government’s unusual wiretaps likely sealed Mr. Rajaratnam’s fate, as jurors repeatedly listened to more than 40 tapes of the defendant milking various industry players for inside information.

The Sri Lanka-born hedge fund executive faces as much as 25 years in prison; sentencing is set for July 29. Mr. Rajaratnam, 53, plans to appeal the verdict and will wear an electronic monitor during his house arrest in the interim.

At the peak of his career, the Galleon Group founder managed more than $7 billion and was revered on Wall Street. In his defense, his lawyers tried to convince jurors that Mr. Rajaratnam was simply well-researched and only moved on information that was publicly available. Prosecutors, however, painted the hedge funder as the very definition of an inside trader.

Undercount debate

A Census official said a “processing issue” was one of many possible causes for a population undercount in the city—not that Tony Farthing, the bureau’s regional director, would confirm said undercount. He spoke at a City Council hearing in response to a Brooklyn councilman’s incredulity over Census-reported apartment vacancies in Bay Ridge. The city, which has yet to officially challenge the 2010 census count, hopes to reclaim 80,000 residents it says were missing from the rolls and thereby boost federal funding by $2.4 billion over the next 10 years.

A tough week for Goldman Sachs

Not only did Goldman get the heads-up that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission might soon charge it with civil fraud relating to its clearing services for a broker-dealer, it also admitted to receiving more subpoenas concerning its ill-fated mortgage product Abacus 2007-AC1. That piece of work has already attracted global scrutiny.

AIG starts selling

Uncle Sam wants to unload a thin slice of its 92% stake in American International Group Inc., offering 200 million shares in a sale that commenced last week. The government’s breakeven point is $28.72. Just 1.6 billion shares to go.

Met names board chairman

Daniel Brodsky was named chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s board. The developer admits he’s no expert when it comes to art, yet he was a driving force behind Lincoln Center’s recent renovations, and he’s a trustee of not only the Met but also the New York City Ballet and New York University. In his spare time, he manages 6,200 apartments in 68 Manhattan buildings.

Battery Park City residents relieved

Many Battery Park City residents are breathing sighs of relief after their managing agency agreed to cap the neighborhood’s total ground-lease rents at $525 million over the next 30 years. The agreement prevents projected hikes that could have cost the community $279 million more than that. A product of the 1980s, ground leases require tenants to pay a rental fee on the underlying city-owned land, in addition to apartment fees.

A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2011 print issue of Crain’s New York Business.

01.30.2011 – The Week on the Web: Jan. 24-30 – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

The Week on the Web: Jan. 24-30

Retailers expect super sales

By Benjamin J. Spencer
January 30, 2011 5:59 a.m.


The sought-after jerseys won’t be Jets green, but Super Bowl-related retail spending this year is expected to top $10.1 billion—a 13% increase over 2010’s take, according to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.

Football fans, possibly piqued by a showdown between perennial powerhouses the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, are expected to shell out big-time this year for team apparel, food and beverages, and electronics, with an average tab of $59.33, according to the association. For instance, at least 4.5 million people, or about 4.5% of the game’s estimated audience, are expected to buy new televisions for the event; that’s up from 3.6 million last year, when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.

Even without a New York team hitting the field, local electronics retailers are gearing up for a run on flat-screens. Best Buy, with seven city locations, hopes the TV sales will help it regain ground after a lackluster holiday season, and Manhattan’s own J&R is slashing prices on some giant sets by as much as $600 leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

NASSAU COUNTY LOST ITS INDEPENDENCE when the state’s Nassau Interim Finance Authority took over the county’s finances, after reports of flawed bookkeeping and flat revenues led to a dismal Moody’s credit rating. The takeover halts the county’s short-term borrowing for operating expenses and could result in wage freezes for county staffers. New York state bailed Nassau out once before, in 2000, to the tune of $100 million.

… THE PACKED SIDEWALKS OF SOHO should get a little cleaner now that the City Planning Commission has approved the creation of a SoHo Business Improvement District. The green light came amid objections by some residents and the local community board. The proposed BID will add to the 63 other business improvement districts currently spread over the five boroughs. Some residents had argued that a SoHo BID was unnecessary, since SoHo already draws lots of tourists. The BID still needs City Council and mayoral approval.

… J.C. PENNEY’S BIGGEST SHAREHOLDER JOINED ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS on the same day that the retail chain announced plans to close 25 stores. William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, who bought up a 16.5% share in the retailer last October, has a reputation for buying into and then shaking up companies he thinks are undervalued. Vornado Realty Trust’s Steven Roth, whose company owns 9.9% of the retailer’s stock, was also named to the board.

… THE NONPROFIT CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY PAID OFF ITS LONG-STANDING DEBT after an 18-month capital campaign flushed out some generous donors, including the Fairholme Foundation, which gave $6.8 million. Another 19 donors helped erase the $30 million debt incurred since moving to its West 16th Street location.

… ADVERTISERS CONTINUED TO SHED SKINS, MTV’s new teen drama that has drawn criticism for its frank depiction of sex and drug use among the underage crowd. Subway shops and Schick razors withdrew their advertising, following the flight path of Taco Bell, L’Oréal and Foot Locker.

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2011 print issue of Crain’s New York Business.