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    Monday, May 5, 2008

    CNN - Relief groups scramble to aid Myanmar

    Sent from bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Relief groups scramble to aid Myanmar


    The United Nations and international relief organizations scrambled to get aid to Myanmar as aid organizations said Friday's cyclone was the worst disaster the country had suffered in years.

    The country has "massive, massive" needs, UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick told CNN. "I think it's the biggest disaster to hit this country in recent memory."

    "The destruction is unbelievable," Dr. Kyi Minn of the Christian relief organization World Vision said from Yangon. "Elderly people are saying this is the worst storm they have ever seen."

    The United Nations is prepared to send "urgent humanitarian assistance," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, adding he is "very much alarmed by the incoming news" that the government anticipates the count of those killed in Friday's cyclone will top 10,000.

    The U.N. made $30 million available from its central emergency fund.

    A U.N. humanitarian official told CNN a five-person disaster assistance coordination team has arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, but they will not know until Tuesday when they can enter Myanmar because they do not have visas and because night has fallen in the region.

    The official, who asked not to be named, said it is "too early to get a scale of the assessment so far. ... We don't know exactly what is needed."

    Separately, the United States made $250,000 available and offered to send a disaster assistance team, but State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Monday the military junta that rules Myanmar had not given the team permission to enter the country.

    U.S. first lady Laura Bush, who has a long-standing interest in Myanmar, urged the government to allow the team into the country, saying she expected Washington would provide "substantial" aid if it could conduct its own assessment of the situation on the ground.

    And she blasted the junta, saying the lack of warning before a deadly cyclone hit on Friday was the latest example of "the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs."

    She criticized a draft constitution the government plans to put to its people in a referendum on Saturday, saying pro-democracy activists and some ethnic groups had been excluded from the process of drafting it. She said it would be "very, very odd" if the referendum went ahead as planned this weekend after the devastating storm.

    The United States has sanctions in place against Myanmar, whose government is holding Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Casey said the sanctions might restrict what type of donations the United States can make, but will not prevent Washington from sending some type of assistance via the United Nations.

    "We are going to make sure whatever we can do to help relieve the immediate suffering of people there is done," he said.

    No U.S. ships are close enough to bring relief supplies within days, U.S. Navy officials said, and they have not been ordered to do so.

    First lady Laura Bush is due to make a statement about aid to the Southeast Asian nation Monday afternoon. It was not clear if she would announce aid in addition to what the State Department has already promised.

    Various international organizations have already begun to send aid.

    The Myanmar Red Cross has begin distributing what it calls "family kits," and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it will release 2,000 family kits and 2,000 shelters as soon as transport routes are available. The British Red Cross is making about $60,000 available.

    World Vision, a U.S.-based Christian humanitarian organization, has appealed for $3 million in donations and plans to send a team into affected areas, spokesman Casey Calamusa said.

    "The biggest need is getting water for the 2 million affected people," he said. Since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed as many as 100 people in Myanmar, the isolated country has yet to set up a water purification system.

    Church World Service, another aid group, issued an appeal for $50,000 to help disaster victims.

    A critic of the military junta that rules Myanmar -- traditionally known as Burma -- said the government does not have the same incentive to accept international aid that a democratic government would.

    The people of Myanmar will see it "as the generosity of the international community," said Tion Kwa, an Asia Society fellow based in Washington. "It undercuts the authority of the regime completely.

    Reuters - Nokia to offer "a lot" of new phones in the U.S.

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    Nokia to offer "a lot" of new phones in the U.S.

    Monday, May 05, 2008 1:19PM UTC

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia <NOK1V.HE> is going to introduce many new phone models through U.S. carriers in coming months to grab a bigger share of the lucrative cell phone market, the Finnish phone maker said on Monday.

    Nokia sells 40 percent of all phones sold globally, but in the United States its share has been staggering around 10 percent as the Finnish firm has dropped own production of phones using CDMA technology, popular in the U.S.

    Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat quoted Nokia chief designer as saying design cooperation with U.S. operators will bear fruit soon.

    "In the next few months (U.S.) operators will carry a lot of new products from us," Alastair Curtis told the paper.

    A Nokia spokesman said the company would introduce a number of new models in the United States this year -- including CDMA phones, models tailored for the U.S. carriers and phones sold globally.

    (Reporting by Tarmo Virki)

    Reuters - Yahoo shares plunge after Microsoft's exit

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    Yahoo shares plunge after Microsoft's exit

    Monday, May 05, 2008 2:51PM UTC

    By Tiffany Wu and Michele Gershberg

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc's <YHOO.O> shares tumbled as much as 20 percent on Monday after Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> withdrew its $47.5 billion takeover offer, wiping about $7.6 billion off the Internet company's market capitalization and piling pressure on its leadership.

    In the aftermath, Internet search leader Google Inc <GOOG.O> seemed poised to reap the gains of the missed deal, which would have been one of the biggest mergers in the technology sector and may have threatened Google's steady expansion on the Web.

    Microsoft shares rose 2.6 percent on relief that it was not willing to overpay for Yahoo, while Google rose 2.2 percent.

    "The terminated Microsoft/Yahoo negotiations eliminate the risk for now of a stronger online advertising competitor to Google," Stifel Nicolaus analysts George Askew and Scott Devitt wrote in a research note. They raised their price target on Google to $675 from $610.

    Yahoo has been testing an advertising partnership that would give arch-rival Google part of its search listings. While some on Wall Street see this is a potential way out for Yahoo, it also represents a new fringe benefit to Google.

    The collapse of talks between Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang prompted Wall Street brokerages to cut their ratings and price targets on Yahoo, which held out for a $37 per share value despite a sweetened off from Microsoft for $33 per share.

    Shares closed at $19.18 on January 31, the day before Microsoft made its unsolicited offer for Yahoo. Yang, one of Yahoo's founders, owns about 4 percent of the company.

    Analysts expect a flurry of shareholder lawsuits against Yahoo management, even as the Web pioneer pursues possible deals with other Internet media and advertising companies, such as Time Warner Inc's <TWX.N> AOL.

    Yahoo is also likely to push for the Google partnership, sources familiar with the matter said. That should boost Yahoo's operating performance in the near term, but runs the risk of regulatory scrutiny over an alliance between the Internet's top two players.

    "Yahoo's execution remains the problem, as the company has not been able to execute better targeting and measurement on its own site effectively enough over the past 15 years," UBS analyst Heather Bellini wrote in a note to clients.

    Bellini said she would not give Yahoo "the benefit of the doubt that they can make meaningful improvement over the next three years," especially as the break up of talks creates an even more competitive backdrop for Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

    Some of Yahoo's shareholders have already started to make their discontent public.

    Bill Miller, a portfolio manager for Legg Mason, Yahoo's second-largest shareholder, told the New York Times on Sunday that he would have considered selling to Microsoft for $34 or $35 a share.

    While that was more than Microsoft's offer, it was less than the $37 per share Yahoo's board insisted on.

    "There is going to be a lot of pressure on Yahoo's management to deliver in the next year or two," Miller said, according to the New York Times.

    Yahoo shares fell 15 percent, or $4.43, to $24.24 after initially falling as low as $22.97. Google shares rose $12.99 to $594.28, while Microsoft shares jumped 57 cents to $29.81 on the Nasdaq.

    (Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Derek Caney)

    CNN - Myanmar death toll 'could reach 10,000'

    Sent from bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Myanmar death toll 'could reach 10,000'


    Almost 4,000 people have died and another 3,000 remain missing in Myanmar as a result of this weekend's devastating cyclone, state media reported Monday amid fears that the death toll could continue to soar.

    Diplomats summoned to a government briefing on Monday said the foreign minister acknowledged that as many as 10,000 could be dead as the reclusive southeast Asian country's ruling military junta issued a rare appeal for international assistance in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

    A state of emergency was declared across much of the country following the 10-hour storm that left swathes of destruction in its wake.

    The government of neighboring Thailand said Myanmar's leaders had already requested food, medical supplies and construction equipment, AP reported. The first plane-load of supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, a Thai spokesman said.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar" and pledged to mobilize international aid and assistance as needed.

    A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is on stand-by to assist the government in responding to humanitarian needs if required, the statement said.

    Scenes of the destruction showed extensive flooding, boats on their sides in Yangon harbor, roofs ripped off buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines after cyclone Nargis battered the Irrawaddy delta with 150 mile (241 km) an hour winds throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, dumping 20 inches of rain.

    "After about noon, the sky cleared and everybody came out and were just stunned," said Shari Villarosa, U.S. Charge D' Affaires in Yangon. "People on my compound who had been there for about 15 years say they had not seen anything like this here, ever."

    Residents of Yangon trudged through knee-deep swirling brown waters Monday as the delta city remained mostly without electricity and phone connections.

    Hakan Tongkul, with the United Nation's World Food Programme, said residents in the capital "need urgent assistance." "This has pushed people to the edge. All that they have has been blown away."

    A spokesman for the Red Cross said the emergency aid group was working with its Myanmar agency to provide drinking water, temporary shelters and blankets and warned that urgent action was needed to limit outbreaks of disease.

    "I think one of the biggest needs right now is to stave off disease," said spokesman Eric Porterfield. "We will be helping with the distribution of clean drinking water and setting up shelters."

    Relief agencies met at the United Nations' Bangkok headquarters Monday to coordinate their response to the disaster. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had released 200,000 Swiss Francs (about $190,000) to help with the aftermath.

    The U.S. aid group World Vision also said it had responded to a government request for assistance.

    "The biggest need is getting water for the two million affected people," World Vision spokesman Casey Calamusa told CNN, adding that it was rare for the military government to ask for help.

    A state of emergency was declared Sunday across five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled.

    "Most Burmese with whom we've been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe," said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

    Most telephone and cell phone service was down in Yangon, a city of about 6.5 million people, according to a CNN correspondent there

    Earlier Monday, an editor for an independent Myanmar newspaper based in Thailand told CNN that people in the Southeast Asian nation were angry over the response to the disaster by the ruling military junta.

    "People are very angry with the slow response coming from the military government," said Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy news magazine.

    Khin Maung Win, a spokesman for the Democratic Voice of Burma -- a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates -- said the whole of the delta region had been affected and entire villages had disappeared.

    Pictures from inside the country showed a cyclone-ravaged region with tin huts crushed under trees. Bicyclists navigated around large branches that littered the deserted roads.

    A man with his pant legs rolled up waded through knee-deep water and strained to clear massive limbs that were blocking the entrance to a house.

    "The cleanup is beginning, but this will take a long time," the diplomat said. "The damage around town is intense."

    "Fuel is not easily available. International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days. There is no food for eating," Win said.

    Food prices -- already rising steeply -- climbed further. Long lines could be seen at gas stations in Yangon. Many of the stations were operating on generators. At one gas station more than 100 buses lined up to refill.

    Despite widespread damage, Myanmar's junta plans to proceed with a referendum on the country's constitution on May 10 -- the fourth step of a "seven-step road map to democracy" -- according to state-run media reports.

    A critic of Myanmar's government said the referendum most be postponed.

    "They would be very stupid to go ahead with it," said Khin Maung Win with Democratic Voice of Burma, a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates. "Thousands of people are dying or missing. It is very difficult to get around or get food and water. How can people vote?"

    Myanmar, formerly called Burma, last held multi-party elections in 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy handily won. The military junta ignored the results. Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest, has been in detention without trial for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

    CNN - Myanmar death toll 'could reach 10,000'

    Sent from bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Myanmar death toll 'could reach 10,000'


    Almost 4,000 people have died and another 3,000 remain missing in Myanmar as a result of this weekend's devastating cyclone, state media reported Monday amid fears that the death toll could continue to soar.

    Diplomats summoned to a government briefing on Monday said the foreign minister had acknowledged that as many as 10,000 could be dead as the reclusive southeast Asian country's ruling military junta issued a rare appeal for international assistance in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

    A state of emergency was declared across much of the country following the 10-hour storm that left swathes of destruction in its wake.

    The government of neighboring Thailand said Myanmar's leaders had already requested food, medical supplies and construction equipment, AP reported. The first plane-load of supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, a Thai spokesman said.

    United Nations Secretary-General ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar" and pledged to mobilize international aid and assistance as needed.

    "As a first step, a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (team) has been organized and is on stand-by to assist the Government in responding to humanitarian needs if required, the statement said.

    Scenes of the destruction showed extensive flooding, boats lilting on their sides in Yangon harbor, roofs ripped off buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines after cyclone Nargis battered the Irrawaddy delta with 150 mile (241 km) an hour winds throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, dumping 20 inches of rain.

    "After about noon, the sky cleared and everybody came out and were just stunned," said Shari Villarosa, U.S. Charge D' Affaires in Yangon. "People on my compound who had been there for about 15 years say they had not seen anything like this here, ever."

    Residents of Yangon trudged through knee-deep swirling brown waters Monday as the delta city remained mostly without electricity and phone connections.

    A spokesman for the Red Cross said the emergency aid group was working with its Myanmar agency to provide drinking water, temporary shelters and blankets and warned that urgent action was needed to limit outbreaks of disease.

    "I think one of the biggest needs right now is to stave off disease," said spokesman Eric Porterfield. "We will be helping with the distribution of clean drinking water and setting up shelters."

    Relief agencies met at the United Nations' Bangkok headquarters Monday to coordinate their response to the disaster. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had released 200,000 Swiss Francs (about $190,000) to help with the aftermath.

    The U.S. aid group World Vision also said it had responded to a government request for assistance.

    "The biggest need is getting water for the two million affected people," World Vision spokesman Casey Calamusa told CNN, adding that it was rare for the government to ask for help. The ruling junta under sharp criticism from many nations for using force to suppress pro-democracy protests last year.

    A state of emergency was declared Sunday across five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled.

    "Most Burmese with whom we've been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe," said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

    Earlier Monday, an editor for an independent Myanmar newspaper based in Thailand told CNN that people in the Southeast Asian nation were angry over the response to the disaster by the ruling military junta.

    "People are very angry with the slow response coming from the military government," said Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy news magazine.

    Zaw said communication was down across large areas of the country. He also said the casualty figures could rise.

    "Very few people have access to these areas to estimate damage and how many people have been killed."

    Khin Maung Win, a spokesman for the Democratic Voice of Burma -- a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates -- said the whole of the delta region had been affected and entire villages had disappeared.

    Pictures from inside the country showed a cyclone-ravaged region with tin huts crushed under trees. Bicyclists navigated around large branches that littered the deserted roads.

    A man with his pant legs rolled up waded through knee-deep water and strained to clear massive limbs that were blocking the entrance to a house.

    "The cleanup is beginning, but this will take a long time," the diplomat said. "The damage around town is intense."

    "Fuel is not easily available. International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days. There is no food for eating," Win said.

    Food prices -- already rising steeply -- climbed further. Long lines could be seen at gas stations in Yangon. Many of the stations were operating on generators. At one gas station more than 100 buses lined up to refill.

    "International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days," the diplomat said.

    Despite widespread damage, Myanmar's junta plans to proceed with a referendum on the country's constitution on May 10 -- the fourth step of a "seven-step road map to democracy" -- according to state-run media reports.

    The government has said elections would be held in 2010 to choose a representative government to replace the military junta.

    An official at the Myanmar consulate in Canberra, Australia, said she believed the referendum would go on as scheduled. "We haven't had contrary information," she said.

    But the announcement was met with skepticism from pro-democracy opposition leaders.

    "It looks as though it would be impossible to have a referendum on Saturday in those areas," Larry Jagan, a freelance journalist who has covered Myanmar affairs for many years, told CNN.

    "The question is, will the regime decide to postpone the referendum in those particular areas, and hold it in other parts of the country?. Or will they go ahead and hold it anyway, and do the best they can?"

    Myanmar last held multi-party elections in 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy handily won. The military junta ignored the results. Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest, has been in detention without trial for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

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