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European stocks drift lower on Spanish recession

PARIS — Stocks fell modestly in Europe on Monday, after confirmation that Spain had slumped back into recession in the first three months of 2012. The Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent in the January-March quarter, the same rate of contraction as in the last quarter of 2011, the National Statistics Institute said in Madrid.

In morning trading, the Euro Stoxx 50 index, which groups eurozone blue-chip shares, fell 0.5 percent. The FTSE-100 index in London was down 0.2 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures ticked upward, suggesting Wall Street would open with a modest rise. The S&P 500 rose just over 0.2 percent Friday.

The Spanish economic news was not quite as bad as anticipated — a Reuters poll had found a market consensus for a quarterly contraction of around 0.4 percent. Compared with the first quarter a year earlier, the Spanish economy shrank by 0.4 percent.

—David Jolly, The New York Times

For Wal-Mart, accusations test good-citizen relationships

WASHINGTON — Besides its success in selling goods that range from groceries to televisions, Wal-Mart has also shown a highly developed ability to sell itself.

The country’s biggest retailer has adroitly used millions of dollars in campaign contributions, charity drives, lobbying campaigns, and its work for popular causes like childhood nutrition and lower carbon emissions to build support in Congress and the White House.

It also uses these methods to increase its “favorable” ratings, especially with liberals. And as Wal-Mart’s top lobbyist explained to investors in 2010, the company thinks the strategy has worked.

“Across the board, our reputation with elected officials is improved, not only here in the U.S. but around the world,” the lobbyist, Leslie Dach, boasted as he ticked off poll numbers that he said demonstrated the company’s improving public profile. That popularity, he said, “makes it easier for us to stay out of the public limelight when we don’t want to be there.”

—Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times

Software engineer identified in Google project scandal

At the center of the uproar over a Google project that scooped up personal data from potentially millions of unsuspecting people is the company software engineer who wrote the code.

Google has declined to identify the engineer, as has the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC recently closed its 17-month inquiry into the project, Street View, with a finding that Google broke no laws but had obstructed its investigation.

The agency also said it was unable to resolve all the issues it was considering because the engineer — whom it referred to in its report on the inquiry as Engineer Doe — cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk.

Now a former state investigator involved in another inquiry into Street View has identified Engineer Doe. The former investigator said he was Marius Milner, a programmer with a background in telecommunications who is highly regarded in the field of Wi-Fi networking, essential to the project.

On his LinkedIn page, Milner lists his occupation as “hacker,” and under the category called “Specialties,” his entry reads, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi.”

The former state investigator spoke on the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. Although the FCC declined to identify the engineer, a footnote in the full text of its report said Google told the agency the identity of Engineer Doe “only because it had disclosed his name to state investigators on December 17, 2010.”

Google declined to comment.

—Steve Lohr and David Streitfeld, The New York Times