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    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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    Arthur C. Clarke

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    CNN - Author Arthur C. Clarke dies

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    Author Arthur C. Clarke dies

    Author Arthur C. Clarke, whose science fiction and non-fiction works ranged from the script for "2001: A Space Odyssey" to an early proposal for communications satellites, has died at age 90, associates have said.

    Clarke had been wheelchair-bound for several years with complications stemming from a youthful bout with polio and had suffered from back trouble recently, said Scott Chase, the secretary of the nonprofit Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

    He died early Wednesday -- Tuesday afternoon ET -- at a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since the 1950s, Chase said.

    "He had been taken to hospital in what we had hoped was one of the slings and arrows of being 90, but in this case it was his final visit," he said.

    In a videotaped 90th birthday message to fans, Clarke said he still hoped to see some sign of intelligent life beyond Earth, more work on alternatives to fossil fuels -- and "closer to home," an end to the 25-year civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and ethnic Tamil separatists.

    "I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible," he said. "But I'm aware that peace cannot just be wished -- it requires a great deal of hard work, courage and persistence."

    Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick shared an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay for "2001." The film grew out of Clarke's 1951 short story, "The Sentinel," about an alien transmitter left on the moon that ceases broadcasting when humans arrive.

    As a Royal Air Force officer during World War II, Clarke took part in the early development of radar. In a paper written for the radio journal "Wireless World" in 1945, he suggested that artificial satellites hovering in a fixed spot above Earth could be used to relay telecommunications signals across the globe.

    He is widely credited with introducing the idea of the communications satellite, the first of which were launched in the early 1960s. But he never patented the idea, prompting a 1965 essay that he subtitled, "How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time."

    His best-known works, such as "2001" or the 1953 novel "Childhood's End," combined the hard science he learned studying physics and mathematics with insights into how future discoveries would change humanity.

    David Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, told CNN that Clarke's writings were influential in shaping public interest in space exploration during the 1950s and '60s. Watch how Clarke stands among sci-fi giants

    "He was very interested in technology and also in humanity's history and what lay out in the cosmos," Eicher said. His works combined those "big-picture" themes with "compelling stories that were more interesting and more complex than other science fiction writers were doing," he said.

    Tedson Meyers, the chairman of the Clarke Foundation, said the organization is now dedicated to reproducing the combination of imagination and knowledge that he credited the author with inspiring.

    "The question for us is, how does human imagination bring about such talent on both sides of the brain?" he asked. "How do you find the next Arthur Clarke?"

    Clarke was knighted in 1998. He wrote dozens of novels and collections of short stories and more than 30 nonfiction works during his career, and served as a television commentator during several of the Apollo moon missions.

    Though humans have not returned to the moon since 1972, Clarke said he was confident that a "Golden Age" of space travel was just beginning. Watch Clarke talk about sci-fi vs. reality

    "After half a century of government-sponsored efforts, we are now witnessing the emergence of commercial space flight," he said in his December birthday message.

    "Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to Earth orbit -- and then, to the moon and beyond. Space travel and space tourism will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet."

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    Comments: RIP Arthur C Clark, author of "2001, A Space Odyssey"

    Arthur C. Clarke, inventor of satellite, visionary in technology, dead at 90


    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    Today is a very sad day in our little world. It's been reported that Arthur C. Clarke, among the most influential visionaries in technology and a personal hero of Engadget readers and editors both, has died in hospital care at the age of 90. Along with his many written works (such as the infamous and immeasurably influential 2001: A Space Odyssey), Clarke was possibly best known for conceptualizing the geostationary communications satellite -- clearly one of the most important technological innovations in history.

    Arthur, you'll be dearly missed.

    James patersons smasheroo


    Reuters - Microsoft, Intel to research parallel computing

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    Microsoft, Intel to research parallel computing

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 6:59PM UTC

    SEATTLE/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel Corp <INTC.O> and Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> committed $20 million over the next five years to create research centers focused on parallel computing at two U.S. universities.

    The two companies will work with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of California, Berkeley. Together, the two schools will contribute $15 million toward the research centers.

    Parallel computing allows computers to run faster by dividing tasks over multiple microprocessors instead of using a single processor to perform one task at a time, but not many software companies know how to write software to harness this computing power.

    "Parallelism is the path forward to the unprecedented levels of performance that are needed ... to keep this growth going," said Andrew Chien, director of Intel research, on a conference call to discuss the initiative.

    For decades, the technology industry has been driven by the 1965 observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the computing power of chips doubles roughly every two years, in what has become known as Moore's Law.

    But as Intel and the rest of the chip industry continued to crank up the speed at which their chips ran, they faced the problem of the chips producing too much heat and consuming too much power.

    In response, Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc <AMD.N> moved earlier this decade to start making chips that have multiple cores, or brains, in a sort of precursor to parallel computing.

    Parallel computing has been hyped for years as the next big thing in technology, but the time has come, Microsoft, Intel and the universities said, to make it a reality.

    It could lead to major advances in robotics or software that could translate documents in real time in multiple languages, for example, or a digital personal health care assistant.

    "We're really in the midst of a revolution in the computing industry," said Tony Hey, executive vice president of external research at Microsoft Research, "and it really will profoundly affect the way we develop software" for supercomputers, server computers that form the backbone of corporate networks, desktop and laptop computers, as well as, ultimately, handheld devices.

    The Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers at the two universities will include more than 100 faculty, graduate students, researchers and postdoctoral researchers.

    (Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi in Seattle and Duncan Martell in San Francisco; Editing by Brian Moss and Leslie Gevirtz)

    Reuters - Facebook adds privacy controls, plans chat feature

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    Facebook adds privacy controls, plans chat feature

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 9:29PM UTC

    By Eric Auchard

    PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) - Facebook said on Tuesday it is introducing new privacy controls that give users of the fast-growing social-network site the ability to preserve social distinctions between friends, family and co-workers online.

    Facebook executives told reporters at the company's Palo Alto, California headquarters of changes that will allow Facebook's more than 67 million active users worldwide to control what their friends, and friends of their friends see.

    The Silicon Valley company was founded in 2004 as a social site for students at Harvard University and spread quickly to other colleges and eventually into work places. Its popularity stems from how the site conveniently allows users to share details of their lives with selected friends online.

    While part of Facebook's appeal has been the greater degree of privacy controls it offers users compared with other major social network sites, the site has also been the target of two major rebellions by its users in response to new features many felt exposed previously private information to wider view.

    Matt Cohler, Facebook's vice president of product management, told reporters the company was seeking to evolve beyond the simple privacy controls originally aimed at relatively homogenous groups of college-age users.

    "We have a lot more users, a lot more types of users, a lot more relationships, we have a lot more types of relationships," Cohler said.

    But only 25 percent of existing users have bothered to take control of their privacy using Facebook's existing personal information settings, the company said in a statement.

    Use of Facebook has exploded fivefold over the past year and a half. Two-thirds of its users are now located outside the United States compared with about 10 percent 18 months ago, when most members were student age and in the United States.

    Facebook members will be able to control access to details about themselves they share on the site at a group-level by creating and managing lists of friends that are granted different levels of access to such information. Users already control what individual friends see on a member's profile.

    The new privacy controls will be introduced in the early morning hours of Wednesday, California time, the company said.

    The group privacy controls take advantage of "friends lists," a feature the company introduced in December that help members organize friends in their network into groups. These private lists allow users to target messages to selected friends or filter what personal details those groups see.

    Users can create up to 100 different "friends lists."

    Late last year, Facebook allowed users to turn off a controversial feature called Beacon that monitors what Web sites they visit and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for not responding sooner to privacy complaints.

    Beacon is a way to keep one's network of friends on Facebook informed of one's Web surfing habits. Critics argued this transformed it from a members-only site known for privacy protections into a diary of one's wider Web activities.

    The company backed down in response to a petition signed by 50,000 Facebook users to scale back the Beacon feature.

    Cohler said the company faces what he called a "classic Silicon Valley dilemma" between adding new features, making sure they are easier to use by the widest number of people, while also protecting members from unexpected personal revelations.

    In addition, the company confirmed recent reports it is working on a new instant messaging chat feature that runs inside Facebook, allowing users to hold spontaneous back-and- forth chat with their friends on the site.

    Facebook Chat, as the feature is known, will be introduced in a matter of weeks, the company said. It works inside a Web browser without requiring that users download any special software, akin to services such as to allow one-on- one chats.

    (Editing by Andre Grenon)

    Nokia Concepts

    Fake Phone

    Reuters - Putting customers to work, Nokia takes on the Web

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    Putting customers to work, Nokia takes on the Web

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 1:43AM UTC

    By Tarmo Virki

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - A popular video on Youtube shows a 'concept phone' that could -- literally -- bend to fit your wrist. Called Nokia Morph, it's also an image of how the world's largest mobile phone maker wants to change.

    As the Internet goes mobile and companies like Apple and Google find cool ways to embrace the trend, the mobile market leader is rewriting its product development rulebook. Instead of working in secrecy and isolation, it wants to start sharing.

    "For Nokia this is probably the biggest throw of the dice since they entered the cellphone business," said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight, who has followed the Finnish firm since 1994.

    Besides putting up futuristic ideas on video-sharing sites -- like the Morph concept, which imagines a stretchable, flexible, solar-powered, self-cleaning device which also has a sense of smell -- Nokia has invited bloggers and tech-savvy media specialists to brainstorm on future mobile products.

    "We realized in early 2005 that if we only focused on innovation from within, we were limiting our scope for real breakthroughs," Chief Technology Officer Bob Iannucci told Reuters in an interview. "We want more wild ideas."

    At stake is a share of the next phase of Internet growth, to offset the commoditization of Nokia's signature product. Forrester Research expects the number of mobile Internet users to triple over next five years to 125 million in Western Europe alone, while Nokia knows its double-digit margins on handsets will shrink.

    To make its move in Internet services, Nokia plans to use its base of one billion customers -- one-sixth of humanity -- to consult on what works, what wows, and what doesn't. Compared with Apple's much-hyped iPhone, which has sales of just 5 million so far, its customers put Nokia in a strong position.

    The market for Internet services is approaching 100 billion euros, and Nokia is the first big cellphone manufacturer to embrace the Internet media business. Close rivals Samsung and Sony Ericsson could follow, but are a couple of years behind.

    Already the world's largest non-U.S. technology firm by market capitalization, controlling 40 percent of the world market for mobile devices, Nokia is still chasing growth.

    Technology shares are valued on sales growth expectations and Nokia trades at around 1.4 times 2008 sales, a deep discount to Google's 6.1 times and Apple's 4.4 times, Reuters Estimates data show. Shares in Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry that rules the mobile email niche, trade at 10 times 2008 revenues.


    Change may be in Nokia's genes. Founded in 1865 as a timber company, its brand -- now ranked fifth globally by Interbrand and valued at $33.7 billion -- was stamped on paper goods, wellington boots and television sets before the company focused on the mobile market 16 years ago.

    But the process of developing and testing new phone models was once like a state secret, and the results haphazard.

    Wood of CCS Insight said that in the past Nokia would develop products "behind closed doors in a room with no windows. With some products I asked them: had they shown them to anyone?"

    In 2003 reviewers and customers laughed at Nokia's gaming phone, which had to be held awkwardly, sideways, to make calls. The same year Nokia introduced its first media phone, the bulky 7700, but withdrew production plans after heavy criticism.

    Although its conservative designs had mass appeal, Nokia has also missed many big design trends in recent years -- clamshells, thin phones, touch screens, for instance.

    The Morph concept, which Nokia is exploring with researchers in nanoscience at Cambridge University, is one example of a more consultative approach: combining know-how about tiny particles and electronics to see, for example, if a stretchy circuit could be made. Another was the way Nokia in February floated the notion of a phone made almost entirely from recycled materials.

    "The ability to include large numbers of users into the development cycle means you can have a much more collaborative approach to development and you can try ideas out, refine them and move forward -- or fail fast and get out," said Nokia's Iannucci.

    Blogger Oliver Thylmann (, who took part in a Nokia product development workshop this month, believes many European companies are set to follow the more open model, leveraging customer input to grow.

    "Working with your customer is something where the world is going to," said Thylmann, who has been writing about technology since 2001.

    "As a company you cannot close yourself off from the world anymore. If you're locked in your ivory tower and there is discussion about you going on, it makes sense to get out there and take part in that conversation."


    In its bid to direct users to its Internet services instead of Google's, or to its music stores instead of Apple's iTunes, Nokia is not the first tech firm to turn from hardware to software and services. As the personal computer has been commoditized, IBM and HP have similarly sought new business.

    But while Nokia experiments, its profit margin on phones, which rose to 23.6 percent in the quarter to December, is a cushion. Margins at Nokia's best-performing rivals -- Samsung and Sony Ericsson -- are at half that level.

    The shift to services means Nokia must get nimble.

    "In services it is hugely important to be on the market as early as possible," said Niklas Savander, head of Nokia's Internet services unit. "You will see a lot of beta launches, or limited-function launches, or limited-geography launches from us." Betas are public product tests.

    The company is looking to copy Google's approach to new business: try as many as you can, quickly.

    Its Beta Labs Web site, where it puts up software for testing to public, has more than a million visitors a month. The internal mantra is "Fail fast, learn fast, scale fast."

    The company's online music stores are in test mode and it is about to launch a global gaming service. Millions of people have downloaded programs or media from Nokia's new mobile activities site Mosh, also still in beta.

    However, there are limits to all this openness. Writing before he attended the Nokia development workshop, Thylman said: "Sadly I will not be able to blog about the contents."

    (For a video report on Nokia Morph, go to:

    (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; editing by Sara Ledwith)

    Reuters - EBay sets up affiliate network, hurting ValueClick

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    EBay sets up affiliate network, hurting ValueClick

    Monday, Mar 17, 2008 11:52PM UTC

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - EBay Inc has set up its own affiliate network to encourage Web sites to drive traffic to its eBay and Web sites, reducing its reliance on ValueClick Inc's network.

    In a statement on Monday, eBay said the online auctioneer and will no longer run their affiliate programs through ValueClick's Commission Junction platform but instead rely on the San Jose, California-based company's own newly created eBay Partner Network.

    Shares of ValueClick closed down 7.3 percent to $16.20 on Nasdaq after eBay disclosed the move. EBay stock fell 1.8 percent to $25.77 amid broad declines in the sector. The AMEX Internet Index closed down 2.3 percent.

    EBay's Tradera AB, ProStores, Inc; Reseller Marketplace; Media Marketplace; eBay Stores; and StubHub will continue to rely on Commission Junction to drive traffic to their sites. EBay affiliates working with other affiliate platforms, including Affilinet and Tradedoubler, will not be affected.

    The changes take effect April 1, 2008, eBay said. Affiliates affected by the changes must move to the eBay Partner Network by May 1, the online auction leader said.

    Since 2001 eBay has allowed affiliates and Web site publishers to be paid for driving Web surfers to eBay. eBay's Affiliate Program has more than 100,000 members globally.

    (Reporting by Eric Auchard, editing by Richard Chang)



    Reuters - Paulson admits U.S. economy in sharp decline

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    Paulson admits U.S. economy in sharp decline

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 2:10PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Tuesday described the economy as being in "sharp decline," the closest he has come yet to conceding an election-year recession has set in.

    Appearing tired after a weekend of helping to broker a fire sale takeover of Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns to keep it from outright collapse, Paulson pushed back against efforts to have him admit a recession was under way.

    "There's no doubt that the American people know that the economy has turned down sharply. So to me much less important is the label that's placed on it today. Much more important is what we do about it," he told NBC's Today Show.

    Paulson also appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" where he claimed the Bush administration's $152-billion fiscal stimulus program could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs once tax rebate checks begin flowing in May.

    "It will start making a difference here in the second and third quarter, maybe adding 500,000 or more jobs," he said without elaborating about the sectors that might create jobs.

    Checks of $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples are to start being issued on May 2.

    Treasury officials, in cooperation with the Federal Reserve, worked nonstop last weekend to help engineer the $2-a-share takeover of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan as they sought to restore some stability to shell-shocked financial markets.

    Fed policy-makers were meeting on Tuesday amid expectations their next step will be to slash interest rates by a whopping 1 percent to try to give the flagging U.S. economy a lift.

    But the turbulence that persists in markets, analysts say, stems substantially from a loss of confidence that has made ordinary investors wary and threatens to become an outright credit crunch as banks and financial institutions become reluctant to make loans or to take risks.

    Paulson insisted Treasury was "all over" the turbulence in capital markets and said he did not think Bear Stearns shareholders believe they have been bailed out by the Federal Reserve.

    "The big focus on the part of all policy makers is to minimize the spillover to the real economy. We need to keep our capital markets stable, functioning well," Paulson told NBC.

    He said he had great confidence in U.S. capital markets, saying they were resilient and flexible, but it would take some time to work through the turbulence.

    The latest evidence on Tuesday pointed to continuing and extended problems for economic policy-makers. Government data showed so-called core wholesale prices, excluding food and energy, measured by the Producer Price Index climbed at the fastest pace in February in more than a year.

    Construction starts on new houses declined another 0.6 percent and applications for building permits tumbled 7.8 percent in February, an indicator that the deterioration in the U.S. housing sector will continue to worsen for some time.

    (Reporting by David Lawder and Andy Sullivan; Writing by Glenn Somerville; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

    Index jumps

    Look to the sky

    CNN - Dow spikes 420 points on rate cut

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    Dow spikes 420 points on rate cut

    Stocks jumped Tuesday, with the Dow surging 420 points, its biggest one-day point gain in 5-1/2 years, after the Federal Reserve cut the fed funds rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, surprising investors looking for a larger cut.

    According to early tallies, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 420 points, its fourth-biggest one-day point gain ever, or 3.5%. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 4.2%, while the Nasdaq composite advanced around 4.2%.

    "The market reaction was certainly positive after a little pullback," said Matt King, chief investment officer at Bell Investment Advisors. "It seems like they found the sweet spot with the decision today."

    The central bank cut the fed funds rate, a key short-term lending rate that impacts consumer loans, by 75 basis points, to 2.25%, missing bets for a cut of 100 basis points. There are 100 basis points in one percentage point. (Full story).

    Stocks had rallied ahead of the news as investors welcomed better-than-expected quarterly earnings from Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. But the market stumbled in the minutes after the 2:15 p.m. ET Fed announcement, before recharging in the last hour of trade.

    The initial setback was likely a knee-jerk reaction because people looking for a bigger cut didn't get it, said Harry Clark, CEO at Clark Capital Management.

    However, after digesting it, Wall Street was perhaps realizing that 75 basis points was the right decision, Clark said, in that it suggest both that the Fed remains on top of the problems in the economy, but is not so panicked as to need to cut rates by a full percentage point.

    "I think a one-point move would have been too much, even if its what the Street thought it wanted," said Clark. "I think it was the right thing to do."

    The Fed also cut the discount rate, which affects bank loans, by three-quarters of a percentage point, leaving it at 2.25%, after announcing an emergency quarter-point cut to that rate this weekend.

    In the statement accompanying Tuesday's decision, Fed policy makers acknowledged the continued strain in the financial markets, the softer consumer spending environment and labor market, and also talked about higher inflationary pressure. (Read the statement here.)

    The Fed has cut rates steadily since September as a means of shoring up the economy and combating a credit market crisis that has left Wall Street in its most precarious position in years.

    The Fed has also injected billions into the economy. Most recently, the bank announced over the weekend that it has created another lending facility that allows big Wall Street firms access to short-term funding.

    More moves along this line are what is needed said Clark, rather than additional rate cuts.

    "All the rate cuts in the world won't solve the problem if no one wants to lend," Clark said.

    Financial earnings impress. Lehman Brothers surged 38% after it reported lower quarterly sales and earnings that beat estimates, despite taking $1.8 billion in writedowns for bad mortgage bets.

    Lehman also sought to reassure investors that it was not in danger of seeing a fate similar to that of Bear Stearns. The company said it has maintained a strong liquidity position. Lehman shares plunged Monday on worries about its solvency.

    Goldman Sachs managed to report another quarter of better-than-expected sales and earnings, despite the ongoing market turmoil. Results, however, were sharply lower versus a year ago. Shares gained 13%.

    Bear Stearns added 43% to trade at nearly $7 a share after tumbling 84% Monday on news that it had sold itself to JP Morgan Chase for $2 a share, marking a stunning collapse for the former No. 5 Wall Street brokerage. The stock traded at roughly $160 per share a year ago. Here's why the stock is trading so far above that $2 a share price.

    Economic news. New home construction fell in February to an annual pace of just over a million properties, beating forecasts for a bigger drop. Building permits, a measure of builder confidence, tumbled more than expected.

    The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures inflation at the wholesale level, rose as expected in February. But core PPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, came in higher than expected.

    Other markets. U.S. light crude oil for April delivery climbed $2.22 to $107.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices hit a record $111.80 in electronic trading Monday.

    COMEX gold for April delivery fell $1.50 to $1,001.10 an ounce. Gold hit an all-time trading high of $1,033.90 an ounce on Monday.

    Treasury prices slumped, as investors cashed in after the previous session's big rally. The selloff raised the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 3.46% from 3.30% late Monday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

    In currency trading, the dollar fell against the euro but held above the all-time low it hit on Monday. The greenback also gained against the yen after touching a more than 12-year low Monday.

    CNN - Fed cuts rates by 3/4 of a point

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    Fed cuts rates by 3/4 of a point

    The Federal Reserve slashed a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point Tuesday, the latest in a series of moves by the central bank to try and restore confidence in the economy and battered financial markets.

    The Fed cut its federal funds rate, an overnight bank lending rate, to 2.25%. It is the sixth cut in the past six months and comes at a time when the Fed is trying to keep the economy from slipping into recession - although many think it's already entered one.

    Interest rate cuts are usually viewed as beneficial for the economy since they typically lead to more lending. The federal funds rate affects how much consumers pay on credit cards and home equity lines of credit, as well as the rate paid by many businesses on loans tied to banks' prime rate. But some experts think lower rates won't solve the credit crunch paralyzing Wall Street.

    The Fed cited a weakening labor market and a slowdown in spending by consumers, as well as a continued crisis in financial markets and tight availability of credit to justify the cut. U.S. employers have cut 85,000 jobs so far this year, according to the Labor Department, the most in four years.

    But two members of the central bank's policymaking body - Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser both voted against the cut. According to the Fed's statement, they "preferred less aggressive action."

    Some economists have argued the rate cuts will cause a continued weakening in the value of the dollar and a further spike in commodity prices -- which could lead to higher prices for gas, food and imported goods. According to a new national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Tuesday, Americans said inflation is their top economic concern.

    The Fed acknowledged in its statement that inflation pressures have grown more than expected, and it promised to monitor prices in the months ahead. But it said it still believed the greater risk to the economy was that of slowing growth, not a spike in prices.

    To that end, many investors were hoping the Fed would cut rates even further. According to federal funds futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, investors had priced in a 100% chance of a full percentage point cut Tuesday. What's more, traders are betting on another half-point cut by the end of April, the Fed's next meeting.



    A standard

    Reuters - EU backs Nokia standard for mobile TV

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    EU backs Nokia standard for mobile TV

    Monday, Mar 17, 2008 3:41PM UTC

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission moved to simplify the nascent mobile phone TV sector by adopting a standard backed by Finland's Nokia, but mobile operators said Brussels was acting too quickly.

    The Commission said setting the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) as the preferred European Union standard would give the industry a boost.

    "For mobile TV to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology," European Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement on Monday.

    DVB-H is the only standard with a global presence although South Korea, Japan, the United States and China are embracing local rivals, such as one set by U.S. company Qualcomm.

    The European Union executive said its decision sent "an important signal" to other countries preparing to decide whether to opt for DVB-H or other standards.

    EU countries will now be required to encourage the use of DVB-H, the Commission said.

    Some EU member states, such as Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, had been opposed to setting DVB-H as the single standard in the bloc.

    But the EU executive said on Monday it was the one most widely used in Europe and is between trials and commercial launch in 16 countries.

    The GSM Association representing mobile operators in Europe said it was staying neutral on mobile TV technology as it should be the market that decides on the standard.

    "An official endorsement does carry weight but it's not clear if DVB-H is necessarily the best standard," a GSM Association spokesman said.

    Broadcasters said the question of which standard is being endorsed was almost irrelevant as the fundamental issue was whether mobile television packages would pay their way.

    "How do you design a compelling service that people will want? Even if it's free and financed by advertising, how many ads do people want to see on a small screen?" said Ross Biggam, director general of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe.

    Most countries have seen trials of mobile TV, such as sports, news and music videos although Italy is one of the rare EU states with a commercial-type service running, Biggam said.

    The Commission hopes this year's soccer European Championship and the Olympic Games will boost consumer take-up of television services over mobile phones, a potential new money-spinner for telecoms operators and broadcasters.

    (Reporting by William Schomberg and Huw Jones; Editing by Jason Neely)

    Sen obama

    Get over it

    Reuters - Obama denounces preacher, urges race healing

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    Obama denounces preacher, urges race healing

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 5:7PM UTC

    By Caren Bohan

    PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized his preacher's racially charged sermons but said he could not disown him in a speech urging Americans to move past their "racial stalemate."

    Obama sought to quell a political firestorm ignited when news outlets called attention to sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which the Illinois senator attended for two decades.

    "We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism," he said. "Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, 'Not this time.'"

    Wright, who retired recently, has railed that the September 11 attacks were retribution for U.S. foreign policy, called the U.S. government the source of the AIDS virus and expressed anger over what he called racist America.

    "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community," Obama, who would be the first African-American president, said in a speech about race in America that borrowed Abraham Lincoln's desire for "a more perfect union."

    Flare-ups over race have roiled the campaign trail as Obama battles for the Democratic nomination with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman president. They are vying for the right to face Republican candidate John McCain in the November election.

    Obama said Wright's remarks were not simply controversial but instead "expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic."

    Obama said his own life as the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas had seared into his makeup the idea that racial divisions can be overcome.

    "This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years," he said. "But I have asserted a firm conviction -- a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people -- that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds."

    As the Democrats' battled it out, Arizona Sen. McCain was holding his own in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll reflecting hypothetical matchups. Obama led McCain by two percentage points and Clinton led him by one.

    McCain, on a Middle East and Europe swing, said in Jordan that a U.S. troop build-up in Iraq is succeeding and that a premature withdrawal would dramatically enhance Iran's influence in the region.

    The Obama campaign is worried the uproar over the pastor's comments could cost him support with white voters in states like Pennsylvania, which holds an important voting contest on April 22.

    "Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely," said Obama.

    But he said the snippets of Wright's sermons circulating on cable television and the Web in recent days do not tell the whole story about Wright.

    "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children," Obama said.

    The Wright comments have threatened to overshadow Obama's central message that he would bridge divisions in the United States, including those involving race.

    Last week, Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and 1984 vice presidential candidate, attributed Obama's lead in the Democratic race to his being black.

    Obama said the discussion of race took a divisive turn when it was implied "that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap."

    Blacks took offense when Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, in January compared Obama's victory in the South Carolina primary to success there by Jesse Jackson, a black candidate who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. Critics saw the remarks as a bid to marginalize Obama as a candidate only for black America.

    But Bill Clinton told television interviewers on Monday it was a "myth" that the Clinton campaign engaged in racial politics in the Southern state.

    "I went through South Carolina and never said a bad word about Senator Obama -- not one," Bill Clinton said in an interview with an MTV college station in New Orleans.

    In his speech, Obama clearly disagreed.

    "We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary," he said.

    Hillary Clinton's advisers have had little to say about the controversy involving Wright, deflecting questions by saying the issue was something voters would have to keep in mind.

    (Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, writing by Steve Holland, editing by David Wiessler)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

    Sen obama

    I know everything

    CNN - Obama: We can move beyond some of our racial wounds

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    Obama: We can move beyond some of our racial wounds

    Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he chose to run for president because he believes "we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together."

    Obama said that his belief that all people want to move in the same direction comes from his "unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story."

    Obama emphasized his upbringing -- "the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas."

    "I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible," he told an audience at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.

    "It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts -- that out of many, we are truly one."

    Obama has mostly avoided focusing on race during his campaign. His speech comes after spending the weekend on the defensive over racially charged statements from his former minister.

    He said that race only became a divisive issue in the campaign during recent weeks.

    Obama admitted he had sat in church and heard his former minister Jeremiah Wright make controversial remarks.

    "Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed."

    The remarks that caused the most recent firestorm "were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity," Obama said.

    Obama said that if he knew Wright only through the clips played on television and YouTube, he, too, would see reason to distance himself from the former minister.

    "But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man," he said.

    "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me," Obama said, after describing his experience at the Trinity United Church of Christ.

    Obama insisted he was not trying to justify Wright's comments.

    "The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through -- a part of our union that we have yet to perfect," he said.

    Obama said Wright's mistake was not that he spoke of racism in our society -- "it's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made."

    "But I have asserted a firm conviction -- a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people -- that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union," he said.

    Obama said playing the race card creates distractions the prevent change.

    "This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected," Obama said.

    Obama was looking to explain the Trinity United Church of Christ and its worldview to voters who are aware only of the Wright's headline-grabbing comments.

    The senator from Illinois' biggest challenge is the same as that faced by Republican Mitt Romney, who gave a major speech during his presidential run to reach voters unfamiliar with his Mormon faith.

    And Obama's most pressing task will be his attempt to take control of the campaign narrative after days of tough headlines.

    "I would say that it has been a distraction from the core message of our campaign," he conceded to interviewer Gwen Ifill of PBS on Monday.

    Some old sermons delivered by Wright came under fire after an ABC News report last week.

    Obama was not, as some reports placed him, in attendance the day Wright delivered his controversial comments, according to his campaign. But it would be difficult for him to distance himself completely from the retired minister of the Chicago church where Obama has worshipped for two decades. Watch the latest on Obama's former minister

    The title of Obama's 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon delivered by Wright, who officiated the senator's wedding, baptized both of his children and was a spiritual adviser to his presidential campaign until Friday.

    Sen. Hillary Clinton and her campaign have publicly steered clear of any criticism of Obama over the issue, saying it's one for the senator to address. But that restraint has not diminished the uproar over Wright's comments, which have become a YouTube phenomenon.

    Obama -- who initially tried to downplay the remarks -- denounced them again Monday. "The statements that were the source of controversy from [the] Rev. Wright were wrong, and I strongly condemn them," he said on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, though he added, "I think the caricature that is being painted of him is not accurate."

    Obama's recent move to distance himself from Wright has been lauded by some of his supporters -- and criticized by others. Watch what Obama says about Wright's comments

    More than 50 black ministers from around the country participated in a 90-minute conference call Sunday with representatives of the Obama campaign, according to Dr. Frederick Haynes, one of the participants. Haynes said the pastors -- some of whom were angry with Obama -- felt something had to be done to address the concerns of African-Americans, particularly those in the black ministry.

    Haynes, pastor of the 10,000-member Friendship-West Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas -- who considers Wright a "mentor" -- said there was a sense of "outrage," a feeling that Wright was "being lynched in the media" and reduced to sound bites by those "ignorant of black culture, black expression and the black church."

    Reuters - Fed poised to slash rates as jitters ease

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    Fed poised to slash rates as jitters ease

    Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008 1:41PM UTC

    By Mark Felsenthal and Christian Plumb

    WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve policy-makers opened a meeting on Tuesday that was expected to lead to the biggest interest rate cut since 1982 as two major Wall Street firms provided some relief to investors with better-than-expected earnings.

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc on Tuesday reported that profits fell less sharply than feared, boosting U.S. stock markets ahead of an expected one percentage point cut in interest rates by the Fed.

    The absence of shocks from two of the four biggest investment banks calmed nervous investors only two days after the fifth-biggest bank Bear Stearns was forced to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase & Co in a rescue deal engineered by the Fed.

    Goldman said first-quarter earnings fell by half after the largest U.S. investment bank recorded steep losses on corporate loans and other assets, yet the results exceeded expectations that have been lowered in recent weeks.

    Lehman Brothers, whose shares have been pummeled in recent days on concern that it is the most vulnerable to troubled mortgages and leveraged loans next to Bear Stearns, suffered a sharp fall in bond trading revenue but benefited from rising merger advisory revenue.

    Traders expect the Fed to slash rates in an effort to stop hemorrhaging in financial markets and boost the flagging economy. The Fed is expected to announce its decision around 2:15 p.m..

    The Fed has cut overnight rates by 2.25 percentage points to 3 percent since mid-September as a rise in defaults on subprime mortgages has escalated into a financial crisis.

    Financial markets expect the Fed to fire off its biggest rate cut in 26 years, adding to a series of radical steps in an attempt to stabilize the financial system.

    It narrowed the gap between the discount rate -- the rate at which it lends directly to banks -- and the federal funds rate, the overnight rate banks charge each other for loans and the Fed's main policy tool, from three-quarters of a percentage point to a quarter point.

    The U.S. central bank also unleashed a barrage of other unorthodox steps to provide liquidity, including $30 billion in financing to enable JPMorgan to buy Bear Stearns. In addition, it set up a new program to provide cash to a wider range of big financial firms through loans at the Fed's discount window.


    Against the market upheaval, fears that a seizing up of the financial system could plunge the U.S. economy into deep recession have overtaken worries about inflation fueled by high oil and commodity prices.

    "With the recent market turbulence, those inflation concerns are now taking a backseat, and the (Fed) has to think about the action that not only is appropriately aligned with the forecast but that also supports financial markets at a time of extraordinary turbulence and systemic risk," Laurence Meyer, a former fed governor now with forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers, said in a note to clients.

    The Fed has focused efforts in recent days on surprise steps to make funds available to banks and Wall Street firms, offering hundreds of billions of dollars in auctions and credit to thaw frozen credit markets.

    Policy-makers may have hoped that recently announced emergency actions would remove the need for a deep interest rate cut. However, officials will have to take stock of gloomy data on hiring, factory output and retail sales.

    (Editing by Tom Hals)

    CNN - Court decision on gun-control is personal for 2 women

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    Court decision on gun-control is personal for 2 women

    Shelly Parker wants to know why she cannot keep a handgun in her house. As a single woman she has been threatened by neighborhood drug dealers in a city where violent crime rates are on the rise.

    "In the event that someone does get in my home, I would have no defense, except maybe throw my paper towels at them," she said. But Parker lives in the nation's capital, which does not allow its residents to possess handguns.

    Elilta "Lily" Habtu thinks that is how it should be. She knows about gun violence firsthand, surviving bullets to the head and arm fired by the Virginia Tech University shooter nearly a year ago.

    "There has to be tighter gun control; we can't let another Virginia Tech to happen," she said. "And we're just not doing it, we're sitting around, we're doing nothing. We let the opportunity arise for more massacres."

    On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether Washington's sweeping ban on handgun ownership violates an individual's constitutional right to "keep and bear arms," setting the stage for a potentially monumental legal and social battle, just in time for the 2008 elections.

    The issue is one that has polarized judges and politicians for decades: Do the Second Amendment's 27 words bestow gun ownership as an individual right, or is it a collective one -- aimed at the civic responsibilities of state militias, and therefore subject, perhaps, to strict government regulation?

    "What the Supreme Court says will really set the terms of the debate on gun control for years to come," said Orin Kerr, an expert on criminal procedure at George Washington Law School. "So everyone's waiting to find out what the justices will do."

    The Supreme Court has generally steered clear of settling the individual-versus-collective argument. It last examined the issue in 1939 without fully delving into the broader constitutional questions.

    Similar weapon-control laws could be in jeopardy, and jurisdictions such as the states of Maryland and Massachusetts and the cities of Chicago, Illinois, and San Francisco, California, filed briefs supporting the District of Columbia.

    Thirty-one states along with groups like the National Rifle Association support the gun owners.

    But both sides have privately expressed concern over how the justices will decide the issue, because the legal and political implications could be sweeping in scope.

    After a federal appeals court in March ruled the handgun ban to be unconstitutional, city leaders urged the high court to intervene, saying refusal to do so could prove dire.

    Several Washington citizens, including Parker, challenged the law, some saying they wanted to do something about being constant victims of crime.

    She said her community activism earned her the anger of local drug dealers, who vandalized her property and made repeated verbal threats and taunts. After her car window was broken, she called police, who offered some friendly advice.

    "I said to the police, 'I have an alarm, I have bars, I have a dog, what more am I supposed to do?" recalled Parker. "The police turned to me and said, 'Get a gun.' "

    Habtu, a 23-year-old Eritrean-born woman, was in a Norris Hall classroom in April when fellow Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho burst in and began shooting. He eventually killed 32 people and wounded dozens more before taking his own life. It was the nation's deadliest school shooting.

    "That was one of the worst days of my life. I was injured, I had one gunshot wound in my jaw, and the bullet is still lodged one millimeter away from my brain stem," she said.

    Since graduating, Habtu has devoted her time to speaking in favor of gun control, including tightening laws on Internet gun sales, and preventing loopholes that allow mentally ill people like Cho to buy weapons.

    "No one here is trying to fight against your right to have a gun," she said in a soft voice. "What we want is for dangerous people not to get access to one, and today it is just too easy. We cannot keep sacrificing innocent people because you have a fear that you're not going to have your right to own a gun."

    A ruling is expected in late June.

    The Jim McGreevy 'Ouvre'

    USA TODAY - Amazon: Major package of Vista fixes goes online

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    A major package of updates and security fixes for Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system will be available for download Tuesday, according to's website.

    The retailer is selling copies of Vista without the service pack and advising customers that they can download the free SP1 upgrade starting Tuesday.

    Amazon is also taking pre-orders for boxed copies of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, which it said it will start shipping Wednesday.

    In an e-mailed statement, Microsoft said it is on track to release SP1 in mid-March. The software maker acknowledged Amazon's claim that the upgrade would be available Tuesday online, but didn't confirm the date.

    Microsoft previously announced plans to post SP1 to its Windows Update site and to its download center in mid-March, then push out the upgrades in mid-April to computer users who have set their PCs to receive automatic updates.

    Many of the fixes in Vista SP1 have already been released as part of regular monthly updates in the year since the operating system went on sale to consumers. Microsoft has said SP1 improves Vista's reliability, security and performance. Some early testers of the service pack have noticed improvement in performance when copying files over a network and playing video games that weren't designed for Vista.

    So far, the software maker has determined that only a handful of programs will break down in some way after SP1 is installed.

    Microsoft said SP1 will block several applications from running for "reliability reasons." The list includes BitDefender Anti-virus and Internet Security, version 10; Fujitsu's Shock Sensor hard drive protection for rugged laptops; two versions of Jiangmin KV Anti-virus software and Check Point Technologies' Zone Alarm Security Suite.

    The company said a few programs won't run on SP1, such as Web application design program Iron Speed Designer, while others will stop working well, like The New York Times Reader application.

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    USA TODAY - 'Super delegate' win would be unfair, voters say

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    By Susan Page, USA TODAY

    A majority of Democratic voters say it would be unfair for Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the presidential nomination through the support of "super delegates" if she lags among the convention delegates elected in primaries and caucuses, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

    If that happens, one in five say they wouldn't vote for the New York senator in the general election.

    FULL RESULTS: Potential voters sound off on Clinton, Obama and McCain

    The findings in the survey, taken Friday through Sunday, underscore some of the perils ahead for Democrats as the closely fought nomination battle between Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama continues.

    By 55%-37%, Democrats and independents who "lean" Democratic say an outcome in which Clinton lost among pledged delegates but prevailed with the help of super delegates would be "flawed" and unfair" including 77% of Obama supporters and 28% of Clinton supporters.

    Super delegates are party leaders and elected officials who can vote at the national convention and aren't bound by the results of their state's primary or caucus.

    Most at risk is Democratic support from independents. Nearly two-thirds of those voters call that result unfair, and one-third say they would then vote for the Republican or stay home in November.

    "It goes back to this notion: As this race winds down, it's not how we started the campaign, it's how we end it," says Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 campaign, expressing concern that divisions in the party will present "obstacles" to a Democratic victory in November.

    "I feel the emotions on both sides," says Brazile, herself an uncommitted super delegate. "I feel the pain and I feel the bruising."

    Obama leads Clinton by 1,617 delegates to 1,498, according to an Associated Press count.

    Neither candidate is likely to reach the 2,024 needed for nomination without including the support of super delegates.

    The two campaigns have clashed over whether the super delegates should feel obligated to support the candidate with the most pledged delegates.

    In the nationwide poll, Obama leads Clinton 49%-42% among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, a narrower margin than his record 12-percentage-point lead late last month.

    In another shift from the February survey, Clinton does better than Obama against the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, though the numbers are within the poll's margin of error of +/3 points.

    Clinton beats McCain by 51%-46%. Obama leads McCain by 49%-47%.

    The survey of 1,025 adults also asked Americans to assess the traits of the major presidential contenders.

    Among the findings:

    Obama rates highest on five of 10 characteristics. He is seen as a candidate who "understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives" and "would work well with both parties in Washington to get things done." His weakest showing was in having "a clear plan for solving the country's problems."

    McCain ranks first on three characteristics: As "a strong and decisive leader," as honest and trustworthy, and as someone who could "manage the government efficiently." His lowest rating also is on having a clear plan to solve the nation's problems.

    Clinton rates highest on two traits, on having a vision for the country's future and a clear plan for solving the nation's problems. Her lowest rating is as someone who is honest and trustworthy.

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    1000 Arrested in Tibet

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    March 18, 2008

    1,000 Tibetans arrested in Chinese crackdown

    Rioters in Lhasa


    Rioters in Lhasa: many have been rounded up by the Chinese authorities

    Close to 1,000 Tibetans have been detained in two days of sweeps across the capital, Lhasa, by paramilitary police hunting down those who took part in last week’s deadly anti-Chinese riots.

    Sources in the city said around 600 people had been detained on Saturday and another 300 had been picked up on Sunday. They said it was not clear where those rounded up were being detained because the main Drapchi prison in Lhasa is already believed to be virtually full.

    Those detained could be taken to the old Number One prison in the Sangyip district in the northeast of Lhasa that is currently not believed to be in use.

    They may be held in the nearby Number Four detention centre and the New Lhasa prison in the same district that has recently been used as a re-education-through-labour centre. They could even be taken to the new Chushur prison some distance outside Lhasa where most political prisoners are believed to be jailed after sentencing.

    Chinese officials were not available to confirm the total number of arrests.

    With the expiry on midnight yesterday of a deadline for the Tibetan protesters who on Friday stabbed and hacked ethnic Han Chinese, hurled rocks and set fire to offices, shops and schools, the search for those involved has gathered momentum.

    In the Karma Lunsang district, a warren of old Tibetan homes in the east of the city that the authorities suspect has served as an important hideout for the protesters, police and paramilitary were going house to house to check identity papers. One witness said: “Many people have been taken away, but we don’t know how many.”

    The sources said it was not known how many people might have surrendered in return for promises of leniency before the midnight deadline or how many had been arrested since Monday.

    Police and troops were manning checkpoints across the city, checking all identity papers and it was still quite difficult for people to move easily through the streets.

    Foreign journalists travelling in areas near Tibet have reported seeing movements of troops in the direction of the Himalayan region. Sources said garrisons of the People’s Liberation Army around Lhasa have been placed on a grade one alert in case of more trouble.

    Chinese authorities have blamed Tibetan mobs manipulated by the exiled Dalai Lama for the deaths of 13 people in the riots on Friday. Tibetan exile groups have said as many as 100 people may have been killed as troops backed by armoured personnel carriers moved in to the city to quash the biggest protests against Chinese rule in 19 years.

    Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier, in his first remarks on the unrest, accused the rioters of trying to disrupt the Olympic Games that start in Beijing on August 8. “They wanted to incite the sabotage of the Olympic Games in order to achieve their unspeakable goal."

    Although L0hasa was quiet, the unrest had spread to nearby provinces with large Tibetan populations. In northwestern Gansu, which borders Tibet, large numbers of ethnic Tibetans took to the streets late on Sunday, burning shops and business belonging to ethnic Han Chinese and Hui Muslims and burning 16 cars, said one witness.

    From Monday night, all government offices had been ordered to remain on duty around the clock. A local government order said: “Without a notice, no one may leave their posts.”

    In neighbouring Sichuan province, an ethnic Tibetan told Reuters he knew of no fresh outbreaks of unrest since Monday. “Now they are bringing back stability. There are so many police and People's Armed Police it will be difficult for anything to spread. I'm sure the People's Liberation Army is waiting too. In the background waiting, if the situation really gets out of hand."

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    Senator Barack Obama to give major speech on Race today

    March 18, 2008

    Obama to Confront Racial Issues

    Associated Press Writer

    Democrat Barack Obama is seeking to distance himself from statements by his longtime pastor that have aggravated racial divisions in the contentious Democratic primary battle. He is calling for both sides to tone down their rhetoric.

    The Illinois senator is using a speech at a site near the nation's birthplace to present what his campaign said would be a comprehensive take on "race, politics, and unifying our country."

    Among other things, the Illinois Democrat was seeking to calm the uproar over racially tinged sermons by his former pastor at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, remarks that have threatened to undercut Obama's campaign theme of easing the racial divide.

    Wright had been Obama's pastor for nearly 20 years until retiring recently, and officiated at Obama's wedding and baptized his two daughters. His inflammatory statements have been cited by Obama detractors, including comments that blacks continue to be mistreated by whites and a suggestion that U.S. "terrorism" helped bring on the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Obama was addressing supporters at the National Constitution Center, a museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.

    Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman, said that Obama wanted to deliver the speech because "the issue of race has received an enormous amount of attention" over the past few weeks and "he thought it was an appropriate moment to discuss his thoughts on the issue."

    Obama, seeking to be the first black U.S. president, has been calling on Democrats to look past racial divisions and to guard against intemperate rhetoric that he says has been sprouting on both sides.

    These include Wright's fiery comments and a recent statement by former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and fundraiser, suggesting he had gotten so far mainly because he was black. "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro said in an interview with a California newspaper.

    Obama last week called on the Clinton campaign to repudiate the remarks as "a perpetration of the same divisive politics that has done us so much damage." Ferraro later stepped down as a member of an advisory panel to Clinton after Clinton said she did not agree with her remarks.

    Earlier, a top Obama foreign-policy adviser, Samantha Power, was forced to step down after calling Clinton a "monster" in an interview with a Scottish newspaper.

    Obama, in a speech in Indiana on Saturday, decried "the forces of division" over race and gender that he said were intruding into the Democratic nomination contest.

    "We've got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We've got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. ... This country wants to move beyond these kinds of things," Obama said.

    British PM Gordon Brown Promises probe into 'Iraq War'

    What an about face from Tony Blair, Gordon Brown show some 'cajones' and promises an Inquiry to the 'Iraq war'.

    The 'Paterson' ouvre

    Hard Lines Drawn on conflict in Tibet

    Dalai Lama Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao

    Hard lines are drawn in the sand on the conflict in Tibet. Click here for AP video report.

    'O'bama' to provide transitional housing for vets

    March 18, 2008

    Obama Tells Vets No Lower Drinking Age

    Associated Press Writer

    Democrat Barack Obama on Monday promised Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans help with their grievances — save one. "I know it drives you nuts. But I'm not going to lower the drinking age," the presidential candidate said.

    Army veteran Ernest Johnson, 23, of Connecticut, said one of the things that peeved him before he turned 21 was that he couldn't come home and drink a beer — even though he was old enough to serve in the armed services and die for his country.

    Obama told Johnson he sympathized, but that setting the legal drinking age at 21 had helped reduce drunken driving incidents and should remain.

    The Illinois senator was taping a round-table discussion with eight veterans that is to be broadcast by MTV on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

    Howard Noel, 28, of New York City, told Obama he "looked at the military as a good thing" when he enlisted. But when he returned, he said he was scorned by friends and, for a while, was homeless.

    "The problem has not been our military — the problem has been our civilian leadership," Obama said. "There's no way you should end up homeless." He said he would, if elected, put into force a program that would guarantee at least transitional housing for homeless veterans.

    Seven of the eight veterans raised their hands when Obama asked who had suffered emotional or mental problems as a result of their service.

    Christina Correa, 23, of California, said she believed she might have post-traumatic stress disorder, but that it was especially hard for women to find treatment. "They took my name down, but I never heard back," she said.

    "The notion that you wouldn't have services available to you is inexcusable," Obama said. He said the military should start the process of treating soldiers suspected of post-traumatic stress disorder "before you are discharged."

    The segment, sponsored by MTV and The Associated Press, was taped in the back room of "Whistles," a sports bar where a full blown St. Patrick's Day celebration was under way. Before the taping, Obama circulated among the celebrants at the bar, shaking hands and getting his picture taken — in a pale blue tie.

    Asked why he wasn't wearing green, Obama said, "This is embarrassing." But his campaign signs were green, instead of the customary blue, and his name appeared as "O'bama," in a nod to the Irish ancestry from his mother's side of the family that he sometimes speaks of.

    Obama explained that since his Chicago hometown held a big St. Patrick's Day celebration two days ago, "I sort of lost track" of the actual date.

    But he said he would rectify the oversight later Monday when he addressed a St. Patrick's Day dinner sponsored by the Irish Women's Society. He wore a green necktie. "I confiscated one from one of my staffers," he said.

    About Me

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    If you know me then you know my name. I am The Black Rider and the world is my Flame. The rider writes, observes, creates, produces, and learns the world around him. Ride on. Ride on!

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