the world as we write it
Friday, August 29, 2008
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McCain picks Alaska Gov. Palin as running mate
Sen. John McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a senior McCain campaign official told CNN on Friday.
Palin, 44, who's in her first term as governor, is a pioneering figure in Alaska, the first woman and the youngest person to hold the state's top political job.
She catapulted to the post with a strong reputation as a political outsider, forged during her stint in local politics. She was mayor and a council member of the small town of Wasila and was chairman of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska's oil and gas resources, in 2003 and 2004.
The conservative Palin defeated two so-called political insiders to win the governor's job -- incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary and former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in the 2006 general election. iReport.com: What do you think of McCain's VP pick?
Palin made her name in part by backing tough ethical standards for politicians. During the first legislative session after her election, her administration passed a state ethics law overhaul.
Palin's term has not been without controversy. A legislative investigation is looking into allegations that Palin fired Alaska's public safety commissioner because he refused to fire the governor's former brother-in-law, a state trooper.
Palin acknowledged that a member of her staff made a call to a trooper in which the staffer suggested he was speaking for the governor.
Palin has admitted that the call could be interpreted as pressure to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was locked in a child-custody battle with Palin's sister.
"I am truly disappointed and disturbed to learn that a member of this administration contacted the Department of Public Safety regarding Trooper Wooten," Palin said. "At no time did I authorize any member of my staff to do so."
Palin suspended the staffer who made the call.
Palin has focused on energy and natural resources policy during her short stint in office, and she is known for her support of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a position opposed by McCain but supported by many grass-roots Republicans.
Her biography on the state governor's Web site says one of the two major pieces of legislation passed during her first legislative session was a competitive process to construct a gas pipeline.
Palin started Alaska's Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, an oversight and maintenance agency for the state's oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure. She created the Climate Change Subcabinet that would forge a climate change strategy, according to the Web site.
At present, Palin chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate panel "that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment," the biography says.
She has been named chair of the National Governors Association's Natural Resources Committee. That panel is focused on legislation to ensure that federal policies take state priorities into account in agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management.
She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and takes part in two of Alaska's popular pastimes -- fishing and hunting.
The governor's biography said Palin's other priorities have been "education and workforce development, public health and safety, and transportation and infrastructure development."
The biography touts other achievements during her time as governor -- the investment of $5 billion in state savings, overhaul of educational funding and implementation of a program to help low-income elderly Alaskans.
Born in Idaho, she is a longtime Alaskan and a Protestant. Her biography said she arrived in Alaska in 1964, "when her parents came to teach school in Skagway."
She graduated from Wasila High School in 1982 and received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987.
Her husband is Todd Palin, an oil production operator on Alaska's North Slope. They have five children, including a son who enlisted in the Army last year.
Congressional Quarterly notes Sarah Palin's other past occupations, including commercial fishing company owner, outdoor recreational equipment company owner and sports reporter.
Palin also made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, Congressional Quarterly said.
Bombed by The Black Rider at 8:25 AM
Nokia shares fall before MSCI index change: traders
Friday, Aug 29, 2008 12:26PM UTC
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Shares in the world's top cell phone maker Nokia <NOK1V.HE> fell sharply on Friday as an imminent change in a key MSCI index put pressure on the stock price, traders said.
Shares in Nokia were 2.6 percent lower at 17 euros by 8:11 a.m. EDT, weighing on the DJ Stoxx European technology index <.SX8P> which was 1.1 percent weaker. The shares traded as low as 16.90 euros.
"The index is being rebalanced tonight and the proforma number of Nokia shares is going to decrease," said an MSCI Barra spokesman.
Traders in Helsinki said the rebalancing in the closely followed index meant that some 8 million shares in Nokia were to be sold, hurting the stock.
Nokia declined to comment.
Traders added that Nokia was also pressured by gloomy comments from its closest rival Samsung <005930.KS> in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, which increased fears that the economic downturn would hurt consumer product demand during the key Christmas sales period.
"The seasonal gain is being overcome by the macroeconomic weakness," the paper quoted Samsung's investor relations head, Chu Woosik, as telling an investment conference in Seoul.
"We see the markets in the U.S. and Europe are softening quite a bit, although emerging-market demand seems to be holding quite well," he was quoted as saying.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki in Helsinki and Sitaraman Shankar in London; Editing by Erica Billingham)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 7:03 AM
EU, mobile operators clash over call billing
Thursday, Aug 28, 2008 3:11PM UTC
By Huw Jones
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Mobile phone operators may face legislation from the European Commission to crack down on what the EU executive sees as overcharging, but industry said such a step would amount to micro-management.
European Union Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding is concerned that some mobile operators are charging by the minute rather than second for calls made while traveling between EU states, her spokesman said.
"In some cases operators are charging you for a call of one minute two seconds what they can charge you for two minutes. This leads to overcharging on average of 24 percent for calls made and 19 percent for calls received," the spokesman told a news briefing.
Mobile operators say they should have the fundamental right to determine their own prices in a competitive market as long as they are transparent about billing increments.
"The regulation of billing increments within the Eurotariff or any other roaming tariff would amount to micro-management and would risk further erosion of competitive differentiation in the market," said David Pringle, spokesman for the GSMA mobile industry lobby.
"Billing increments are a point of differentiation that operators can use to appeal to customers with different preferences," Pringle said.
In France, Spain, Lithuania and Portugal, operators have to bill by the second, but national legislation is not practical for roamed calls, the Commission spokesman said.
"This is an issue national regulators have recommended the European Commission to address ... If you tackle this issue you have to tackle it in EU legislation. This is something the European Commission will consider in the weeks to come," he added.
The EU has already adopted a law to cap the price of roamed voice calls for three years, with the cap due to be lowered on Saturday and in August next year before the law expires in 2010.
Reding is due to unveil proposals by early October to extend the voice roaming caps for another three years to 2013 and introduce a cap on roamed text messages.
She is also keen on capping the price of using a laptop or mobile phone to surf the Web while traveling in other EU states but it is unclear whether the rest of the Commission will back her.
Any plan for mandatory billing by the second would be included in her proposal. EU states and the European Parliament would have the final say.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 6:59 AM
Microsoft to buy ciao.com price comparison firm
Friday, Aug 29, 2008 11:54AM UTC
LONDON (Reuters) - Microsoft has agreed to buy Greenfield Online, owner of European price comparison website ciao.com, for about $486 million to boost its Internet search and e-commerce business in Europe.
Microsoft, whose $47.5 billion bid to buy Yahoo earlier this year failed after a protracted battle, said on Friday the acquisition should benefit its Live Search platform.
Internet search is dominated by Google, which has 62 percent of the global search market and 79 percent in Europe, according to the most recent data published by Web usage tracker ComScore.
Microsoft has a 2 percent market share in Europe and 9 percent worldwide, behind both Google and Yahoo. In Europe, Microsoft is also outranked by online auction site eBay and Russia's Yandex.
"The team at Ciao has built a passionate consumer community based on intuitive technology and extensive merchant relationships that we believe will deliver incremental benefit to the Microsoft Live Search platform," said Microsoft's vice president for Windows and online services, Tami Reller.
Ciao.com offers advice on purchases, mainly of consumer electronics, and encourages users to join a network of shopping experts to share opinions. It makes its revenues from e-commerce, merchant referrals and advertising sales.
Microsoft's offer of $17.50 per share betters an earlier proposal by media-focused U.S. buyout firm Quadrangle Group to acquire the company for $15.50 a share, and represents a slight premium to Greenfield's closing price of $17.25 on Thursday.
On August 26, Greenfield had said it had received a $17.50 per share offer but did not reveal from whom. The latest offer represents a premium of about 10 percent over Greenfield's closing share price on August 25.
Microsoft said it had agreed to sell off Greenfield Online's main business, which surveys consumer opinion online and sells the results to market researchers, to an unnamed financial buyer.
The companies expect both deals to close during the fourth quarter of 2008. Completion of the Greenfield sale to Microsoft does not depend on Microsoft's disposal of the online survey business, the two companies said.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty in Bangalore; Editing by Quentin Bryar)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 6:56 AM
Gameworld: Videogaming enters the Third Dimension
Friday, Aug 29, 2008 5:1AM UTC
By John Gaudiosi
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Videogamers, your glasses to transport you into three dimensional space.
Visual computing technology company Nvidia <NVDA.O> has unveiled the first mainstream 3D gaming technology at the inaugural NVISION 08 conference in San Jose, which focused on the convergence of technology with Hollywood, games and business.
With Hollywood migrating to 3D for event movies like "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and next year's "Avatar" from James Cameron, the electronics and gaming industries have created new technology that lets home systems and PCs also deliver true 3D.
This technology uses clear 3D glasses similar to those used at an IMAX theater.
On the show floor, games like upcoming Spore and Call of Duty: World at War and recent releases like Race Driver Grid, Devil May Cry 4, and Unreal Tournament 3 were playable on 73-inch Mitsubishi 3D Ready 1080p DLP TVs and Viewsonic 3D Ready 120Hz LCD displays.
Publishers like Ubisoft <UBIP.PA>, which is developing the game based on "Avatar," are already taking advantage of this new technology for new gameplay experiences to be released next year.
"Stereoscopic technology will have gamers going back two or three years and playing older games just to see how they look in 3D," said Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia.
A packed theater of thousands of engineers, designers, developers, gamers and business professionals from around the world put on 3D glasses and watched a spectacular castle siege in Microsoft's 2005 PC strategy game, Age of Empires III.
Huang also focused on the future of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. There are currently over 100 million active global gamers playing MMO games like World of Warcraft, EverQuest II and Pirates of the Caribbean Online.
"We believe the notion of an MMO and a social network will converge and create a new type of virtual world where people can meet and hang out and just chat with their friends," said Huang.
Korean developer Nurien showed off its Nurien Social Network, a hybrid game world that allows players to create and dress their avatar and then design their home.
This home serves as a 3D homepage for web browsing, watching videos and playing games like a dancing competition.
Tricia Helfer, who starred virtually last year as General Kilian Qatar in Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars game, showed how 3D technology is influencing Hollywood and her Sci-Fi Channel show, "Battlestar Galactica."
"What they're doing with visual computing is transforming a lot of industries," said Helfer. "I see on the set in Hollywood every day what computer technology is doing for entertainment."
Acclaimed game creator Lorne Lanning told the conference how game technology is opening up new opportunities for filmmakers.
"Videogame engines provide an entirely different logic to how we're thinking about making films," said Lanning.
"The game design industry grasps this easily. The filmmakers are taking some time to figure this out, but eventually they're going to get it. Hollywood loves it because using a game engine brings the budget down."
(Editing by Belinda Goldsmiht)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 6:54 AM
GeoEye signs deal to provide imagery to Google
Friday, Aug 29, 2008 9:10AM UTC
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - GeoEye Inc on Thursday said it will provide imagery from its new $502 million high-resolution GeoEye-1 satellite to Google Earth and Google Maps after the spacecraft is launched on September 4.
GeoEye spokesman Mark Brender said the Google logo was on the first stage of the Delta II rocket that will launch the new satellite, which will provide the highest resolution commercial color imagery available on the market.
"Google is interested in collecting the highest quality satellite imagery available and as a symbol of this commitment has agreed to put the company logo on the first stage of our launch vehicle," Brender said.
He said Google did not have any direct or indirect financial interest in the satellite or in GeoEye, nor did it pay to have its logo emblazoned on the rocket.
If all goes well with the launch, GeoEye's new satellite will be the world's highest resolution commercial earth-imaging satellite, offering images at .41 meters resolution in black and white and 1.65 meters in color.
Under current government rules, the company can only offer the public half-meter images.
Google spokeswoman Kate Hurowitz said Google would begin receiving half-meter resolution imagery from the new satellite after 45 to 60 days, during which the company will make sure all the satellite's systems are up and running.
"The combination of GeoEye's high-resolution, map-accurate satellite imagery from GeoEye-1 and Google's search and display capabilities provides users with access to rich, interactive visual image maps of the Earth," Hurowitz said. She gave no details on the financial terms of the agreement.
Google already uses imagery collected by another high-resolution GeoEye satellite, IKONOS, as well as imagery from other sources, including GeoEye's main rival, Digital Globe, which plans an initial public offering this year.
DigitalGlobe launched its new high-resolution satellite, WorldView-1, in late 2007, which offers half-meter resolution and can collect up to 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) of imagery each day, albeit only in black and white.
Google will continue to use imagery from other providers, but GeoEye will provide its imagery exclusively to Google, not any other on-line mapping websites, Brender said.
GeoEye, which went public in September 2006, has expanded dramatically over the past five years, quadrupling its work force and reporting large revenue and profit increases.
Its shares were hammered in recent months on news of a delay in the launch of the new satellite, which was originally planned in April, and given a slump in orders from the Pentagon's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
But GeoEye Chief Executive Matthew O'Connell said the launch of GeoEye-1 should help spur U.S. government orders and buoy the company's shares. He predicted strong growth over the next five years, bolstered by growing commercial, global and government demand for satellite imagery.
GeoEye's shares closed 2.4 percent higher at $23.18 on Thursday, up sharply from a low of $16.05 in May, but still well below a 52-week high of $37.37 in January.
(Editing by Gary Hill)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 6:51 AM
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