What’s Up: December 14, 2012?

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· GOV’T ARRESTS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT SENATE INTERN

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U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez employed as an unpaid intern in his Senate office an illegal immigrant who was a registered sex offender, now under arrest by immigration authorities, The Associated Press has learned. The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP.

Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, an 18-year-old immigrant from Peru, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in front of his home in New Jersey on Dec. 6, two federal officials said. Sanchez, who entered the country on a now-expired visitor visa from Peru, is facing deportation and remains in custody. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of Sanchez’s immigration case.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for further details.

Menendez, D-N.J., who advocates aggressively for pro-immigration policies, was re-elected in November with 58 percent of the vote. Congressional staffers who work for Menendez were notified about Sanchez’s case shortly after the arrest. Sanchez told ICE agents that he worked on immigration issues for the senator. A spokesman for Menendez said she was looking into the matter.

Online jail records did not indicate whether Sanchez has an attorney. Immigration officials there were relaying a request from the AP to speak with Sanchez in jail.

The prosecutor’s office in Hudson County, N.J., said Sanchez was found to have violated the law in 2010 and subsequently required to register as a sex offender. The exact charge was unclear because Sanchez was prosecuted as a juvenile and those court records are not publicly accessible. The prosecutor’s office confirmed to AP that Sanchez registered as a sex offender, although his name does not appear on the public registry.

Authorities in Hudson County notified ICE agents in early October that they suspected Sanchez was an illegal immigrant who was a registered sex offender and who may be eligible to be deported. ICE agents in New Jersey notified superiors at the Homeland Security Department because they considered it a potentially high profile arrest, and DHS instructed them not to arrest Sanchez until after the November election, one U.S. official told the AP. ICE officials complained that the delay was inappropriate, but DHS directed them several times not to act, the official said.

It was not immediately clear why federal immigration authorities would not have been notified sooner about Sanchez’s status.

During discussions about when and where to arrest Sanchez, the U.S. reviewed Sanchez’s application for permission to stay in the country as part of President Barack Obama’s policy to allow up to 1.7 million young illegal immigrants avoid deportation and get permission to work for up to two years. As a sex offender, he would not have been eligible. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, notified Sanchez of that shortly before his arrest, one official said.

During the final weeks of President George W. Bush’s administration, ICE was criticized for delaying the arrest of President Barack Obama’s aunt, who had ignored an immigration judge’s order to leave the country several years earlier after her asylum claim was denied. She subsequently won the right to stay in the United States after an earlier deportation order, and there was no evidence of involvement by the White House.

In that case, the Homeland Security Department had imposed an unusual directive days before the 2008 election requiring high-level approval before federal agents nationwide could arrest fugitive immigrants including Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father. The directive from ICE expressed concerns about “negative media or congressional interest,” according to a copy of that directive obtained by AP. The department lifted the immigration order weeks later. Story Continued:

· Berkshire buyback seen clashing with estate tax push

Warren Buffett’s $1.2 billion share buyback from a single unnamed investor likely helped that person’s estate save substantially on taxes, just one day after the Berkshire Hathaway CEO said the rich should actually be paying more, not less, when they die.

With the “fiscal cliff” looming and estate taxes set to rise dramatically in less than three weeks, the timing was seen as advantageous – and, according to Berkshire watchers, also out of place in the context of Buffett’s recent tax activism.

“I would say ‘Warren, would you please just keep your nose out of this.’ He’s not in a position to criticize what’s good for America and for everyone else’s estate,” said Anthony Sabino, a professor of business at St. John’s University. “He’s no doubt utilized the present tax code to maximum effect.”

Berkshire said it bought 9,200 Class A shares from “the estate of a long-time shareholder,” whom it did not name, at $131,000 per share, a price in line with where Berkshire has traded in recent weeks.

Buffett’s assistant didn’t respond to a request for comment on the shareholder’s identity. The shares represent 1 percent of Berkshire’s Class A stock.

The repurchase came less than a month ahead of the looming “fiscal cliff,” automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set for Jan. 1 that the White House and members of Congress have been negotiating to avoid.

Among other levies, the estate tax is expected to rise in the new year package by as much as 20 percentage points, which may have spurred the anonymous shareholder to sell now.

Buffett was a signatory of an open letter released Tuesday that called for a lower starting point for the tax and a higher taxation rate, beginning at 45 percent.

“We believe it is right to have a significant tax on large estates when they are passed on to the next generation. We believe it is right morally and economically, and that an estate tax promotes democracy by slowing the concentration of wealth and power,” the 33 signers wrote in the letter released by the campaign, United for a Fair Economy.

He has also been publicly campaigning for more than a year for higher taxes on the wealthy, even lending his name to a proposal called the “Buffett Rule” that failed in Congress.

DEATH AND TAXES

Berkshire also said Wednesday it raised the threshold for future share buybacks to 120 percent of book value from 110 percent, the level it chose when it first approved a repurchase program in September 2011. The higher level allowed Berkshire to complete this latest buyback, which was above the old threshold.

After news of the buyback, Berkshire’s shares were up 3.1 percent at $134,850.

Based on the company’s book value at the end of the third quarter, the buyback limit would stand for now at $134,061.60. The stock has traded below that level for most of this quarter.

Buffett was always loath to offer share buybacks and consented to it last year only after Berkshire hit historically low valuations. In its most recent quarterly filing, Berkshire said it had not made any repurchases in the first nine months of 2012, after spending just $67.5 million on buybacks in 2011.

“I don’t expect a significant repurchase program to be announced as (Buffett) is clear that he is in acquisition mode,” said Michael Yoshikami, founder and CEO of Destination Wealth Management and a long-time Berkshire investor.

Berkshire ended the third quarter with $47.78 billion in cash, and Buffett has made no secret of his desire for a purchase in the $20 billion to $30 billion range.

Yet given his wealth and his own self-professed low tax rate, Buffett has been called out in some quarters for not practicing what he preaches.

“I have a problem with Warren, who’s basically done with this (issue), to say ‘yeah, raise the estate tax,'” Sabino said.

“I think, again, with all due respect for his sagacity at selling stocks, he’s being incredibly short-sighted.” Story Continued:

· Obama’s America Will Become Detroit – President Barack Obama travelled to Michigan this week and made his case for class war in defense of the welfare state.

We need to take more money from the rich, he said, or schools will not be able to afford books, students will not be able to afford college, and disabled children will not get health care.

“Our economic success has never come from the top down,” said Obama. “It comes from the middle out. It comes from the bottom up.”

Obama spoke these words a few miles from Detroit — the reductio ad absurdum of his argument.

If America continues down the road to Obama’s America — a road that began when President Franklin Roosevelt started building a welfare state here — our entire nation will become Detroit.

Obama’s economic and moral vision has played out in that city. What he seeks has been achieved there.

Last week, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, Michigan’s state treasurer told Detroit’s mayor and city council that the state may soon appoint an emergency financial manager for the city. Under Michigan law, the paper said, only such a manager can initiate the steps leading to a bankruptcy filing for the city.

By current calculations, Detroit faces obligations over the next six months that exceed its revenues by $47 million. The city, the Free Press reported, now pays $1.08 in benefits to municipal workers and retirees for every $1.00 it pays in salary.

What happened to Detroit? It is achieving socialism in one city.

Traditional two-parent families and the productive taxpaying citizens they produce have fled. In 1950, according the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit had 1,849,568 people and was the fifth-largest city in the nation. By 2000, its population had dropped to 951,270; by 2010, to 713,777; and by 2011, to 706,585.

What has happened to the people who remain? The Census Bureau estimates there are 563,055 people age 16 or older in the city who could potentially work and be part of the labor force. But only 54.3 percent of these — or 305,479 individuals — actually do participate in the labor force, meaning they either have a job or are looking for one.

Another 257,576 of Detroit residents age 16 or older — 45.7 percent of that demographic — do not participate in the labor force. They do not have a job, and they are not looking for one.

In fact, these 257,576 people in Detroit who do not have a job and are not looking for one outnumber the 224,846 residents who do have jobs. But of the 224,846 residents who do have jobs, 34,500 — or 15.3 percent — have jobs with the government. Thus, this city that boasted 1,849,568 residents in 1950 has only 190,346 private-sector workers today.

There are 264,209 households in Detroit, and 91,204 of them — or 34.5 percent — get food stamps.

Very few of the people who are staying out of the labor force in Detroit are staying out because they are stay-at-home moms with working husbands. Of the 264,209 households in Detroit, only 24,275 — or 9.2 percent — are married couple families with children under 18. Another 78,438 households — or 29.7 percent of the total — are “families” headed by women with no husband present. Of these, 43,742 have children under 18.

There were 12,103 babies born in Detroit in the 12 months prior to the Census Bureau survey, and 9,124 of them — or 75.4 percent — were born to unmarried women.

Of the 363,281 housing units in Detroit, 99,072 are vacant. Indeed, vacant houses have become a powerful visual symbol of what advancing socialism has done to the city. Traditional family life is nearing extinction in this once vibrant corner of America.

Obama said in Michigan that if the federal government does not take more money away from people who have earned it, the public schools may not be able to buy school books. But the Department of Education says that in the Detroit public schools — which have books — only 7 percent of the eight graders are grade-level proficient in reading and only 4 percent are grade-level proficient in math.

School books are not lacking here. Self-reliance, the spirit of individualism, and the Judeo-Christian values that support marriage and family are. They have been driven out by a government that wants the people to depend on it rather than on themselves, their families and their faith. Story Continued:

· McAfee: I’m Free

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Software mogul John McAfee has been released from detention in Guatemala City and is on a plane bound for Miami.

“They took me out of my cell and put me on a freaking airplane,” he told ABC News. “I had no choice in the matter.”

McAfee said, however, that Guatemalan authorities had been “nice” and that his exit from the Central American country was ‘not at all’ unpleasant.” It was the most gracious expulsion I’ve ever experienced. Compared to my past two wives that expelled me this isn’t a terrible trip.”

McAfee, 67, said he would not be accompanied by his 20-year-old Belizean girlfriend, but is seeking a visa for her. He also said he had retained a lawyer in the U.S.

When he was released earlier today, McAfee told the Associated Press, “I’m free. … I’m going to America.”

McAfee, who had been living in a beachfront house in Belize, went on the run after the Nov. 10 murder of his neighbor, fellow American expatriate Greg Faull. Belize police said they wanted to question McAfee about the murder, but McAfee said he feared for his life in Belizean custody.

He entered Guatemala last week seeking asylum, but was arrested and taken to an immigration detention center. He was taken to the hospital after suffering a nervous collapse and then returned to the detention center. The U.S. State Department has visited McAfee, who is a dual U.S.-British citizen, several times during his stay in Guatemala.

During his three-week journey, said McAfee, he disguised himself as handicapped, dyed his hair seven times and hid in many different places during his three-week journey.

He dismissed accounts of erratic behavior and reports that he had been using the synthetic drug bath salts. He said he had never used the drug, and said statements that he had were part of an elaborate prank.

Investigators in Belize said that McAfee was not a suspect in the death of Faull, a former developer who was found shot in the head in his house.

McAfee told ABC News that the poisoning death of his dogs and the murder just hours later of Faull, who had complained about his dogs, was a coincidence. Story Continued:

· What Election Day bounce? Voters’ outlook falls to Earth

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Forget the post-Election Day tradition of a more upbeat America in the weeks after voters go to the polls and make clear what they want from their leaders. A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that people are gloomy about the economy and Washington’s ability to make it better anytime soon.

And they’re not optimistic about the prospects for meaningful compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Sixty-two percent of voters nationwide think the already-strained relations between the White House and congressional Republicans won’t improve. The two sides face years of contentious issues, starting with next year’s budget and tax battles and very likely including an overhaul of the immigration system.

The downbeat mood has persisted for some time, as people watch Congress and the White House struggle to find common ground even on once-routine government business. The Dec. 4-6 McClatchy-Marist survey showed that attitudes about Obama, Congress and the state of the economy haven’t shifted since the Nov. 6 election.

“The election came and went and not too much has changed,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the national survey.

Obama isn’t even getting a small bump in polls after he decisively beat Republican Mitt Romney last month. His job-approval rating among registered voters was 50 percent, roughly the same as his popular-vote showing.

Republicans in Congress fared worse, even though the party retained a sizable majority in the House of Representatives. Congressional Republicans registered approval with about one in four people, down slightly from March.

Congressional Democrats, who control the Senate, don’t fare much better, with about one in three voters voicing approval.

Overall, registered voters thought the nation continues to head in the wrong direction: Fifty-six percent expressed concern, while 39 percent saw matters heading in the right direction. Fifty-three percent said the worst was yet to come, while 42 percent agreed the worst “is behind us.”

Voters see little help coming anytime soon. Forty-one percent expect that they’ll be about the same economically in the coming year, while 25 percent think they’ll be better off and 34 percent think things will get worse.

Experts warn that failure to avoid the “fiscal cliff” – the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts coupled with automatic federal-spending reductions due in January – could send the fragile economy into another recession. Even if negotiators find alternatives this month, no thaw in the public’s mood is anticipated and the public is as polarized as it’s ever been.

While Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the job Obama is doing, and Republicans strongly disapprove, independents are split, the poll found.

It suggests that the president has the most at stake politically in the years ahead, despite the low Republican numbers.

Miringoff called it astounding that for the past four years, George W. Bush got much of the blame for the sluggish economy, even though the recession formally ended six months after Obama took office.

“In the second term,” Miringoff said, “it becomes harder for Obama to make that case. People think he’s in the driver’s seat now.”

The poll makes that clear. Nearly two-thirds said Obama would have more influence over the nation’s direction in the next two years, while about one in four think congressional Republicans will wield more clout.

Obama, though, starts with a stronger base. More than seven in 10 Democrats think the second term will be better, and about the same number think the party is “about right,” neither too liberal nor too conservative.

Six in 10 Republicans see their party’s philosophy as about right, but one in five think the party is too liberal. Story Continued:

· CHAFFETZ: STATE DEPT HIDING BENGHAZI SURVIVORS

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Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) told Breitbart News on Wednesday that he has been “thwarted” by the State Department from seeing any Americans who survived the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Many people forget that there were Americans who survived the Benghazi attack, some of whom were badly injured and are still recovering.

“My understanding is that we still have some people in the hospital. I’d like to visit with them and wish them nothing but the best but the State Department has seen it unfit for me to know who those people are—or even how many there are,” Rep. Chaffetz said. “I don’t know who they are. I don’t know where they live. I don’t know what state they’re from. I don’t even know how many there are. It doesn’t seem right to me.”

“This is so patently different than any other experience I’ve had. Unfortunately, people have been killed and maimed and in harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq and in points beyond. It’s typically been the case that they would release those names but in this case, they won’t. My challenge is to the media. You try and figure it out. They won’t let Congress know. They won’t seem to let the media know either.”

Breitbart News sent an inquiry to the State Department regarding those who survived the attack in Benghazi and is awaiting a response. Story Continued:

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· Top GOP aide: ‘We’ll confirm Hagel, Kerry’ – The growing possibility of President Obama naming Democratic Sen. John Kerry as secretary of State and former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon is being embraced by Senate Republicans who predict confirmation.

“I think both of them will be questioned vigorously but confirmed,” said a top GOP Senate aide, meaning the GOP won’t put up a fight in the Democratically-controlled chamber. That will be a key selling point as Obama considers his choices.

Reports emerged Thursday that Hagel, a Vietnam vet from Nebraska, was the frontrunner to replace exiting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

At the same time, the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, president’s leading choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, withdrew her name from consideration. All eyes immediately turned to Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Obama’s sometime emissary overseas.

Kerry is best liked of the two among Senate GOP members. “I think Kerry would sail through as secretary of State since so many senators have already said that he has the right judgment and experience for that position,” said a top aide to a Senate Republican leader.

Another top aide agreed, adding that GOP criticism of Rice’s handling of the Benghazi, Libya attack helped knock her out. “I think Kerry gets through fine. We won by forcing Rice out. No one liked her.”

Hagel, some said, will be pressed on his criticism of Israel, but it’s less of an issue at the Pentagon.

“I’d need to talk to more folks about Hagel at DoD. But he’ll probably be fine,” said one GOP aide. Another said, “He’s a former senator and that surely will grease the wheels for him.” Story Continued:

· A Potential Conflict of Interest for Chuck Hagel – Potential Defense nominee advises bank under investigation for violating Iran sanctions

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Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, on the shortlist for secretary of defense in the second Obama administration, sits on the board of a bank that is under investigation for allegedly violating United States sanctions on Iran.

The revelation could complicate the possible nomination of Hagel, who has come under sharp criticism for what critics describe as his troubling foreign policy views, which include calling for direct unconditional talks with Iran. Hagel reportedly met with President Barack Obama on Dec. 4 to discuss the Secretary of Defense position, according to Bloomberg News, and has passed the White House counsel’s vetting process.

Hagel was appointed in 2009 to Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board. The paid position placed him in close contact with the bank’s senior leadership.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank is reportedly being probed by U.S. authorities for violating a trade embargo on Iran’s oil and energy sector, which is believed to play a key role in Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Deutsche Bank denies these allegations.

Hagel’s opponents tell the Free Beacon that the former Senator has many questions to answer about his ties to Deutsche Bank.

“The key question for the committees during a confirmation process will be what did Mr. Hagel know, when did he know it, and why has he remained affiliated with Deutsche Bank throughout this process?” asked a senior senate aide involved in the potential confirmation process.

“Why has this man not resigned yet from this advisory council?” the source asked.

Senate insiders have told the Free Beacon that Hagel would face staunch opposition if he were to be nominated by the president. He has been criticized by the pro-Israel community for what they claim is his sharp criticism of Israel and for his support for the elimination of America’s nuclear arsenal.

Hagel’s relationship with Deutsche Bank raises troubling questions and could pose a serious conflict of interest, sources said.

“Somebody who willingly stands by as an official of a company helping the Iranian regime acquire nuclear weapons capabilities cannot credibly stand up as the secretary of defense for a country that may need to go to war with Iran,” said the senate source.

Attempts to reach Hagel through the Atlantic Council, where he currently serves as chairman, were unsuccessful.

A source close to Deutsche Bank’s American division told the Free Beacon that Hagel would not have had knowledge of any possible dealings with Iran and would not have been briefed on the issue.

Deutsche Bank in Germany is reported to be one of four European banks under investigation for doing business with Iran. Deutsche Bank officials deny the allegation.

The bank allegedly admitted in its quarterly earnings report this year that it was being investigated by U.S. authorities for its dealings with Iran, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“The possible violation deals with a financial transaction with the Islamic Republic in U.S. dollars,” according to the report. “Deutsche Bank says it will now cooperate with the authorities, though it had previously refused to comment on the allegations.”

A source close Deutsche Bank confirmed that there was an inquiry, but maintained that it related to the bank’s “historical” dealings with Iran and would have pre-dated Hagel’s affiliation with company.

It is believed that Deutsche Bank “funneled billions of dollars through their American branches for Iran, Sudan, and other sanctioned nations, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the cases,” the New York Times reported earlier this year.

Hagel joined Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board (AAB) in 2009, soon after leaving the Senate, where he served for 12 years.

“We are extremely proud to add yet another member to the Board with strong business experience and a distinguished record of service to his country,” Seth Waugh, Deutsche Bank Americas’ CEO and a member of the Group Executive Committee, said at the time. “The collective knowledge and experience assembled on these boards has been exceptionally beneficial for Deutsche Bank and its clients, and we look forward to Chuck’s participation going forward.”

Hagel’s position involves advising and consulting with “Deutsche Bank executives and clients on a wide range of strategic and market issues, including business development and growth as well as economic, industry, political and social trends,” according to a statement. “Board members also advise on client initiatives.”

Hagel serves on the board in a non-governmental role and has no fiduciary responsibilities related to the bank.

Prosecutors raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters Wednesday in a tax-evasion investigation, according to The New York Times. The bank revealed Thursday that it expects weak earnings. Story Continued:

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