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    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Sen. Obama

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    CNN - Obama goes on offensive against Clinton

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    Obama goes on offensive against Clinton


    After a weekend of playing defense about his "bitter" comments, Sen. Barack Obama went on offense Monday against his Democratic rival and the presumptive Republican nominee.

    Obama mocked Sen. Hillary Clinton for throwing back a shot of whiskey in front of TV crews over the weekend and said she must think she's "doing me a favor" by attacking him and toughening him up for a fall race against Republican Sen. John McCain.

    "I'm sure that Sen. Clinton feels like she's doing me a favor because she's been deploying most of the arguments the Republican Party will be using against me in November and so it's toughening me up. I'm getting run through the paces here," Obama told The Associated Press' annual meeting.

    Clinton has been hitting Obama hard after he referred to some small-town Pennsylvanians as "bitter" people who "cling to guns and religion" at a fund-raiser last week.

    Obama later said the remarks were badly phrased but accurate.

    On Sunday, Clinton called the comments "elitist, out of touch and frankly, patronizing," and added, "You know, the Democratic Party, to be very blunt about it, has been viewed as a party that didn't understand and respect the values and the way of life of so many of our fellow Americans."

    Obama opened his remarks to the AP making light of what is being called "bitter-gate."

    "I know I kept a lot of you guys busy this weekend with the comments I made last week. Some of you might even be a little bitter about that," he said to soft laughter.

    But his offensive began Sunday night when he mocked Clinton for acting like "Annie Oakley ... packin' a six-shooter" in her attempts to connect with gun owners.

    He was referring to Clinton's efforts over the weekend to appeal to Second Amendment supporters by hinting that she has some experience of her own pulling triggers. "I disagree with Sen. Obama's assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about trade and immigration simply out of frustration," she began.

    "You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl," she said.

    Asked Sunday when she last fired a gun or attended church services, Clinton said the query was "not a relevant question in this debate."

    Obama blasted Clinton Sunday shortly before the two appeared at Faith in Public Life's Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.

    "Shame on her," he told a Steelton crowd. "I expected this out of John McCain," Obama said in a decibel higher than his everyday stump tone.

    "But I've got to say, I'm a little disappointed when I start hearing the exact same talking points coming out of my Democratic colleague, Hillary Clinton. She knows better. Shame on her."

    On Monday, he attacked her for what happened at an Indiana campaign stop over the weekend.

    Saying too many candidates are giving voters only rhetoric, the senator from Illinois added, "They'll promise you anything. They'll even give you a long list of proposals. They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer."

    With the national media present, Clinton drank a beer and chatted with voters. After ordering her beer, the bartender asked, "You want a shot with that Hillary?" After some deliberation, Clinton settled on a shot of Crown Royal, a Canadian whiskey.

    Responding to Obama's remarks, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said, "With all due respect, this is the same politician who spent six days posing for clich├ęd camera shots that included bowling gutterballs, walking around a sports bar, feeding a baby cow and buying a ham at the Philly market (albeit one that cost $99.99 a pound). Sen. Obama's speeches won't hide his condescending views of Americans living in small towns."

    Clinton heard a few boos Monday as she continued to criticize Obama.

    "I understand my opponent came this morning and spent a lot of his time attacking me," she said at the same forum where Obama launched his assault.

    The crowd responded with audible grumbles, and a few in the hall shouted, "No!"

    Clinton continued, "I know that many of you, like me, were disappointed by the recent remarks he made."

    This time, a louder, sustained chorus of "No!" emanated from the audience.

    "I am well aware that at a fundraiser in San Francisco he said some things that many people in Pennsylvania and beyond Pennsylvania have found offensive," she said.

    Again, she was met with jeers, which the Clinton campaign said came from Obama supporters.

    CNN - Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket

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    Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket


    Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday.

    "This is the world's big story," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

    "The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend," he said on CNN's "American Morning," in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. "There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States."

    World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.

    "While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers.

    "The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.'s World Food Programme to meet emergency needs," he said. "Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now."

    The White House announced Monday evening that an estimated $200 million in emergency food aid would be made available through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    "This additional food aid will address the impact of rising commodity prices on U.S. emergency food aid programs, and be used to meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere," the White House said in a news release.

    "In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."

    The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.

    "This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth," Zoellick said.

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, also spoke at the joint IMF-World Bank spring meeting.

    "If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries ... will be terrible," he said.

    He added that "disruptions may occur in the economic environment ... so that at the end of the day most governments, having done well during the last five or 10 years, will see what they have done totally destroyed, and their legitimacy facing the population destroyed also."

    In Haiti, the prime minister was kicked out of office Saturday, and hospital beds are filled with wounded following riots sparked by food prices.

    The World Bank announced a $10 million grant from the United States for Haiti to help the government assist poor families.

    In Egypt, rioters have burned cars and destroyed windows of numerous buildings as police in riot gear have tried to quell protests.

    Images from Bangladesh and Mozambique tell a similar story.

    In the United States and other Western nations, more and more poor families are feeling the pinch. In recent days, presidential candidates have paid increasing attention to the cost of food, often citing it on the stump.

    The issue is also fueling a rising debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. The basic argument is that because ethanol comes from corn, the push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol has created a new demand for corn that has thrown off world food prices.

    Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, has called using food crops to create ethanol "a crime against humanity."

    "We've been putting our food into the gas tank -- this corn-to-ethanol subsidy which our government is doing really makes little sense," said Columbia University's Sachs.

    Former President Clinton, at a campaign stop for his wife in Pennsylvania over the weekend, said, "Corn is the single most inefficient way to produce ethanol because it uses a lot of energy and because it drives up the price of food."

    Some environmental groups reject the focus on ethanol in examining food prices.

    "The contrived food vs. fuel debate has reared its ugly head once again," the Renewable Fuels Association says on its Web site, adding that "numerous statistical analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil -- not corn prices or ethanol production -- has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation."

    Analysts agree the cost of fuel is among the reasons for the skyrocketing prices.

    Another major reason is rising demand, particularly in places in the midst of a population boom, such as China and India.

    Also, said Sachs, "climate shocks" are damaging food supply in parts of the world. "You add it all together: Demand is soaring, supply has been cut back, food has been diverted into the gas tank. It's added up to a price explosion."

    J.K. Rowling

    I cry 4 my work

    Reuters - Rowling tells court she's stopped working

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    Rowling tells court she's stopped working

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 8:59PM UTC

    By Christine Kearney

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - An emotional J.K. Rowling said on Monday she had stopped working on a new novel because her creativity was stifled by a fan's bid to print an unofficial encyclopaedic companion to her Harry Potter series.

    The 42-year-old British author and Warner Bros. are suing independent U.S. publisher RDR Books, which plans to publish "The Harry Potter Lexicon," a 400-page reference book written by Steve Vander Ark and based on his popular fan Web site (www.hp-lexicon.org).

    Rowling told a New York court on Monday that the demands of the case had caused her to halt work on a new novel. The author, who wrote seven novels about the boy wizard, said the stress has "decimated my creative work over the past month."

    A lawyer for RDR books said the book by Vander Ark, a librarian who has spoken at Harry Potter conferences in several countries, would promote Rowling's series and not hurt her sales.

    Rowling, whose Harry Potter series has sold around 400 million copies, gave no further details about her new book, but has previously said she has half-finished a children's book.

    When asked what Potter meant to her, the mother-of-three said: "I really don't want to cry, because I am British ... It's like asking how do you feel about your child."

    "This is very personal to me," said Rowling, who wrote the first Potter book as a poverty-stricken single mother and is now estimated by The Sunday Times to be worth about $1 billion. "I am an author -- 17-years of my work is being exploited here. This is not about money."

    Rowling has said she plans to write her own Harry Potter encyclopaedia, which would include material that did not make it into the novels, and donate the proceeds to charity.

    But she told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Patterson that she was now not sure if she had "the will or the heart" to publish her own encyclopaedia and that if she did, "I would rather lock it away; it's associated with stress."

    She said she felt betrayed by Vander Ark and described his book as "sloppy, lazy work" and said she was concerned that the [lexicon would deter people from reading the whole Harry Potter series. "It's the reading experience that is in danger here."

    SALES THREAT?

    The lawsuit filed in October names Michigan-based RDR Books and unidentified persons. It seeks to stop publication and requests damages for copyright and federal trademark infringement and any profits to be gained.

    Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc, which owns the copyright and trademark rights to the Potter books.

    "This is a case about the massive wholesale copying," Dale Cendali, a lawyer for Rowling and Warner said in court. "The lexicon is drawn almost entirely from Ms. Rowling's work."

    Cendali said it was not a research guide as it lacked original material.

    RDR Books has said Vander Ark, had spoken at Harry Potter academic conferences in Britain, Canada and the United States and that a timeline he created was used by Warner Bros. in DVD releases of the Harry Potter films.

    The company and Vander Ark have said the book would only promote the sale of Rowling's work and that Vander Ark's Web site, used by 25 million visitors, had been called "a great site" by Rowling herself.

    "The lexicon is not a plausible substitute for any of the Harry Potter novels," said Anthony Falzone, a lawyer for RDR Books. "It's simply not plausible to argue that Ms. Rowling's sales will be hurt in any meaningful way."

    He said Vander Ark's Harry Potter interest began "as a labour of love" and his expertise was so sought after that Warner Bros. flew him to the set of the fifth Harry Potter movie and used his lexicon everyday during production.

    "It is, above all else, a reference guide," Falzone said. "Profit was never the point."

    (Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    Reuters - Wal-Mart to film gun sales in bid to fight crime

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    Wal-Mart to film gun sales in bid to fight crime

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 8:6PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, unveiled plans on Monday to film its gun sales in the United States and create a computerized log of purchases in a bid to stop guns falling into the wrong hands.

    Wal-Mart, which is the largest seller of firearms in the United States, agreed a 10-point code, which also includes rigid inventory controls, with a bipartisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns led by New York's Michael Bloomberg.

    The retailer said it will develop a first-of-its-kind computerized crime gun trace log that will flag purchases by customers who have previously bought guns later recovered in crimes.

    "Wal-Mart currently uses a strong point of sale system," said J.P. Suarez, senior vice president and chief compliance officer of Wal-Mart. "This code is a way for us to fine-tune the things we're already doing and further strengthen our standards. We hope other retailers will join us."

    The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership is designed to strengthen the points in the gun purchasing system that criminals have exploited in the past, Wal-Mart and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns said.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 46 percent of its criminal gun trafficking investigations involved cases in which someone who is not legally allowed to purchase a firearm does so through the use of a proxy, known as a straw buyer.

    (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

    Reuters - Dollar flat as bleak U.S. outlook offsets G7 impact

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    Dollar flat as bleak U.S. outlook offsets G7 impact

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 8:14PM UTC

    By Steven C. Johnson

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar was little changed on Monday as more banking sector stress added to worries about the U.S. economy, overshadowing a Group of Seven warning on the threat sharp exchange rate moves pose to financial stability.

    A surprise first-quarter loss at Wachovia Corp <WB.N>, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, suggested more credit market turmoil ahead, prompting traders to sell dollars, mostly against the euro and sterling.

    That helped wipe out dollar gains seen after finance officials from the G7 developed countries on Friday expressed concern about sharp currency fluctuations, the first change to the group's boilerplate foreign exchange language since 2004.

    The dollar had rallied briefly overnight on the view that G7 countries may start buying the dollar to slow its decline.

    By Monday in New York, though, investors were betting the G7 would not back up its words with action, especially with the Federal Reserve likely to cut interest rates further to support a U.S. economy many fear may already be in recession.

    "At the end of the day, they didn't mention the dollar directly, they didn't talk about intervention, and unless the Fed is willing to end its easing cycle, there's little (the G7) can do," said Mark Frey, head currency trader at Custom House, a global payments dealer in Victoria, British Columbia.

    Analysts said the statement may slow the dollar's decline, but would not alter the currency's broad weakness.

    Late in the afternoon, the euro was trading at $1.5806, near its closing level on Friday. It fell as low as $1.5670 after the G7 statement but also traded up at $1.5885, not far from an all-time high above $1.59.

    Sterling rose 0.3 percent to $1.9758, while the dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 101.04 yen after earlier falling to 100.31 following news of Wachovia's losses.

    The dollar got some support on Monday from data showing U.S. retail sales for March unexpectedly rose, though details of the report suggested the headline number was driven mainly by soaring gasoline costs, not by resilient consumers.

    FED STILL LIKELY TO EASE

    The Fed has cut the benchmark interest rate by 300 basis points since credit turmoil began in late August and is likely to reduce it again when it meets later this month.

    The European Central Bank, meanwhile, has held rates at 4 percent for more than a year, and comments from policy-makers on Monday clearly indicated the bank's lack of interest in cutting rates, adding additional support to the euro.

    ECB Governing Council member Yves Mersch was quoted on Monday as saying there is no room for rate cuts this year.

    Any official attempt to weaken the euro and boost the dollar would run up against the respective monetary policies of the two central banks, limiting the impact of intervention.

    In addition to Wachovia, Merrill Lynch & Co Inc <MER.N> and Citigroup Inc <C.N> are due to report first-quarter results later in the week, and analysts say both banks may announce billions of dollars in write-downs.

    "We had gone through a period in recent months in which the Fed's focus seemed to be shifting away from financial stress and toward economic stress, but the Wachovia announcement puts financial stress back into the Fed policy mix," said Robert Sinche, head of liquid products strategy at Bank of America in New York.

    He said that means investors are likely to make another run at pushing the euro to a new record peak around $1.60, particularly as the Fed's April 29 meeting draws near.

    (Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Dan Grebler)

    Reuters - Bayou co-founder sentenced to 20 years in prison

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    Bayou co-founder sentenced to 20 years in prison

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 9:55PM UTC

    By Leslie Gevirtz and Martha Graybow

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge sentenced the "mastermind" behind the collapsed hedge fund Bayou Group to 20 years in prison on Monday, a sentence that reflects the big losses suffered by investors in the $400 million fund.

    Samuel Israel III, 48, is the last of three officials at the defunct fund to be sentenced for their role in bilking investors in Connecticut-based Bayou out of millions. The fund's demise rocked the $1.8 trillion hedge fund industry and led to calls for more oversight.

    U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon rejected requests for leniency by Israel's lawyer -- who cited the Bayou founder's lengthy list of medical problems, including a bad back, heart problems, and gout. She said he was the "mastermind of this scheme."

    "You were, in every meaning of the sense, a career criminal," McMahon told Israel, who leaned on the defense table for support and repeatedly wiped sweat from his bald head and neck.

    "You ruined lives," she said, saying investors had lost their retirement funds and money for their children's and grandchildren's education. "They want justice," she said.

    "Financial fraud, white-collar crimes are every bit as heinous as every other type of crime and they will be punished severely," McMahon said.

    Israel was also ordered to make $300 million in restitution. In addition, the judge ordered him to forfeit his interests in a Bank of America Corp account that held a little more than $100 million. She ordered Israel to surrender no later than June 9 to begin serving his sentence.

    Israel pleaded guilty in September 2005 to charges of conspiracy and fraud in connection with stealing from Bayou investors over an eight-year period.

    Israel and his co-defendants, former Bayou Chief Financial Officer Daniel Marino and co-founder James Marquez, admitted that they lied to customers about their funds' profits and losses, fabricated audits and financial statements, and created a brokerage that, while executing money-losing trades for clients, generated millions in commission for themselves.

    Marino received 20 years in prison. Marquez, who left the fund in 2001, was held less responsible for the long-term fraud and sentenced to four years and three months.

    The sentences for Israel and Marino are among the longest ever handed down in a white-collar case. Their punishments were particularly severe because federal sentencing guidelines call for long sentences when there are substantial economic losses to investors in a financial fraud.

    Former Adelphia Communications Corp finance chief Timothy Rigas is serving a 20-year prison term; former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers received a 25-year sentence; and ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling got 24 years.

    Under the guidelines, the judge could have sentenced Israel to up to 30 years in prison.

    "When I went into this exercise, I thought you would do all of those 30 years or close to it," she told him. But citing the government's statements that Israel had cooperated, she ordered him to serve 20 years, followed by three years of supervised release.

    Ron Geffner, a lawyer for hedge funds and a former enforcement official at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Israel's lengthy sentence should serve as a deterrent.

    "I don't think the sentence is excessive given the fraud that he's convicted of and that it impacted the financial well-being of potentially hundreds of people," said Geffner, a partner at New York law firm Sadis & Goldberg. "The judge is sending a message at a time our country is struggling economically."

    (Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Nokia, Ericsson and others in mobile tech agreement

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    Nokia, Ericsson and others in mobile tech agreement

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 3:14PM UTC

    By Tarmo Virki

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - A number of the world's largest technology companies agreed to commit to a licensing framework for their patents for the emerging mobile network technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE).

    The companies, which include the world's largest cellphone maker Nokia and top mobile network gear maker Ericsson, said on Monday they were aiming to boost take-up of the new technology by agreeing to license their patents on fair and reasonable terms.

    LTE promises to make everything from mobile-video sharing to music downloads speedier, but it may not show a visible boost in sales for the network equipment industry any time soon as the first networks are not expected for two years and many operators will wait longer until the technology matures.

    "Today's announcement is a step towards establishing more predictable and transparent licensing costs in a manner that enables faster adoption of new technologies," Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Nokia's intellectual property rights said in a statement.

    The companies have committed to keeping royalty levels for essential LTE patents in handsets below 10 percent of the sale price, with the maximum royalty in LTE-enabled notebooks staying below $10.

    The group also included Alcatel-Lucent, NEC Corp, NextWave Wireless, Nokia Siemens Networks and Sony Ericsson.

    Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, has decided to build out an LTE network, while China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile provider, said earlier this year it would test LTE.

    Alcatel-Lucent and Japan's NEC signed a joint-venture deal to pool their development and marketing of the technology. Even Qualcomm Inc has promised chips for LTE, a competitor to its own Ultra Mobile Broadband technology.

    (Editing by David Holmes)

    Superphone

    The future is now

    Reuters - Japan Willcom shows off world's 1st Intel Atom phone

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    Japan Willcom shows off world's 1st Intel Atom phone

    Monday, Apr 14, 2008 12:49PM UTC

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Carlyle-controlled Japanese handy-phone firm Willcom Inc rolled out the world's first phones featuring Intel Corp's Centrino Atom microprocessors, as it fights for new users in a saturated market.

    Willcom, which held 4 percent of Japan's mobile market at the end of March, said it aims to grab an annual 50,000 to 100,000 users with its D4 phone, which runs Microsoft Corp's Windows Vista operating system.

    Dwarfed in a market dominated by mobile phone carriers NTT DoCoMo Inc and KDDI Corp, Willcom has been focusing on high-end, pricey phones with PC-like capabilities targeting corporate users and students.

    It has so far sold 150,000 to 200,000 such smartphones in three years. Willcom's user base numbered 4.6 million at the end of March.

    Willcom's newest phone, which comes with a touchpad made by Sharp Corp, goes on market in mid-June priced at 128,600 yen

    ($1,272). Earlier this month, Intel launched its Centrino Atom chips with integrated graphics, aiming to give PC-like power to mobile devices without burning out the battery.

    (Reporting by Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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