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Leading Economic Indicators

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The U.S. government's $100 billion stimulus distributed to taxpayers this spring achieved mixed results, according to economists, but at least the Internet pornography industry flourished (according to a July trade association spokesman). Adult Internet Market Research Co. reported that "20 to 30 percent" of "adult" Web sites reported that sales rose during the time checks were being issued. However, Nevada brothels were suffering, even though Hof's Bunny Ranch ran a stimulus-check special: Hand over your $600 check and get the usual $1,200 "party" ("three girls and a bottle of champagne").

A July Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that professional fundraisers keep so much of the money donated to charity by conscientious, generous-minded people that 430 different California charities over the last 10 years got not one penny of the contributions. In fact, in 337 cases, the charity paid an additional fee on top of getting nothing back (but did come away with the donors' names and addresses, for further solicitation). Philanthropy watchdogs say fundraisers should never keep more than 35 cents on the dollar, but the Times found the overall average was 54 cents, and for missing-children charities, fundraisers kept 86 cents. (Fundraisers for an organization called Citizens Against Government Waste kept 94 cents.)

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