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    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    CNN - Justice David Souter to retire from Supreme Court, source says

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    Justice David Souter to retire from Supreme Court, source says


    After more than 18 years on the nation's highest court, Supreme Court Justice David Souter is retiring, a source close to Souter told CNN Thursday.

    Souter will leave after the current court term recesses in June, the source said.

    Filling Souter's seat would be President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court appointment -- and the first since George W. Bush's picks of Samuel Alito in 2006 and Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005.

    Souter, 69, was tapped for the court by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, but disappointed many conservatives when he turned out to be a typical old-fashioned Yankee Republican -- a moderate, with an independent, even quirky streak.

    Souter's departure will leave the two oldest justices -- and the most liberal -- still on the bench. Retirements for John Paul Stevens, 89, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, have been rumored for years, with many expecting that one or the other would be the first to give a new Democratic president a Supreme Court vacancy.

    Souter's decision came as something of a surprise, although he has long been known to prefer the quiet of his New Hampshire farmhouse to the bustle of the nation's capital.

    CNN - DNA leads to suspect in 1970s Los Angeles serial killings

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    DNA leads to suspect in 1970s Los Angeles serial killings


    A man who Los Angeles police believe raped and murdered dozens of women decades ago was arrested by cold case investigators this month after a computer matched his DNA to evidence from two killings in the 1970s.

    John Floyd Thomas Jr., 72, may have begun his killings as far back as 1955 and he could be one of the worst serial killers in United States history, according to Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.

    "We have yet to reach the depths of what he has done," Bratton said Thursday.

    Until his April 2 arrest, Thomas was a Los Angeles insurance adjuster. Police now call him the "Southland Strangler" -- named for the geographical section of Los Angeles County where they suspect he killed at least 30 women and raped many more.

    Thomas, who sits in a Los Angeles jail, has been charged with two killings -- in 1972 and 1976 -- but prosecutors will likely add more cases when he faces arraignment on May 20, Bratton said.

    While Thomas was arrested "a number of times between 1955 and 1978" for sex crimes and burglaries, detectives did not have the technology to identify him as a suspect when the region was terrorized by a series of killings then blamed on the "Westside Rapist," Bratton said.

    Officials, using new computer databases and software, are now "looking to see what the patterns were," said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

    "A lot of work has yet to be done," Beck said.

    Bob Kistner had just begun his law enforcement career in 1976 when his great aunt, 80-year-old Maybelle Hudson, was beaten, raped and strangled to death in the garage of her Inglewood, California, home.

    He had just retired as a sergeant with the Long Beach, California, Police Department when he got the call recently that investigators linked Thomas to her murder.

    "I waited my entire career for that phone call," Kistner said.

    It was a routine call to Thomas from an LAPD officer last fall that led to the break in the case.

    Thomas, a registered sex offender, is required by California law to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the state's database.

    Because of a backlog of cases, Thomas was not asked until October to report to a patrol station to have the inside of his cheek swabbed.

    "He was very cooperative," the patrolman who took the sample said.

    The California Department of Justice called LAPD cold case detectives on March 27 to tell them the DNA came up as a match to rape kit evidence collected from Ethel Sokoloff, who was 68 in 1972 when she was found beaten and strangled in her Los Angeles home.

    Those detectives had sent the biological evidence from the Sokoloff case to a state lab in 2002 as part of their review of about 6,000 unsolved murders in Los Angeles that happened between 1960 and 1996.

    DNA analysis in 2004 concluded that Sokoloff's killer also beat, raped and killed Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in 1976, Beck said.

    The murders of three other older women -- including Maybelle Hudson -- were also linked by DNA to a common killer, he said.

    "Because of Thomas's criminal background, the close proximity of his homes to murder locations, similar victim descriptions [white elderly females] and other evidence that suggests the type of modus operandi used by the suspect, detectives strongly believe Thomas is very likely the suspect in 'The Westside Rapist' cases," a police statement said.

    Thomas is single, although he has been married five times, police said.

    While he served about 12 years in prison between 1955 and the late 1970s for his previous convictions, he has no record since his last arrest in 1978, police said.

    Deputy Chief Beck said the growing use of DNA databases and computers to match them to crime evidence will likely lead to more cold case killers being identified.

    CNN - Scientists dig for lessons from past pandemics

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    Scientists dig for lessons from past pandemics


    If there's a blessing in the current swine flu epidemic, it's how benign the illness seems to be outside the central disease cluster in Mexico. But history offers a dark warning to anyone ready to write off the 2009 H1N1 virus.

    In each of the four major pandemics since 1889, a spring wave of relatively mild illness was followed by a second wave, a few months later, of a much more virulent disease. This was true in 1889, 1957, 1968 and in the catastrophic flu outbreak of 1918, which sickened an estimated third of the world's population and killed, conservatively, 50 million people.

    Lone Simonson, an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, who has studied the course of prior pandemics in both the United States and her native Denmark, says, "The good news from past pandemics, in several experiences, is that the majority of deaths have happened not in the first wave, but later." Based on this, Simonson suggests there may be time to develop an effective vaccine before a second, more virulent strain, begins to circulate.

    As swine flu -- also known as the 2009 version of the H1N1 flu strain -- spreads, Simonson and other health experts are diving into the history books for clues about how the outbreak might unfold -- and, more importantly, how it might be contained. In fact, the official Pandemic Influenza Operation Plan, or O-Plan, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based in large part on a history lesson -- research organized by pediatrician and medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan.

    A cheerful man with thick-rimmed black glasses and a professor's manner, Markel was tapped by the CDC to study what worked and what didn't during the 1918 flu disaster. Markel and colleagues examined 43 cities and found that so-called nonpharmaceutical interventions -- steps such as quarantines and school closings -- were remarkably successful in tamping down the outbreak. "They don't make the population immune, but they buy you time, either by preventing influenza from getting into the community or slowing down the spread," Markel told CNN.

    Markel describes a dramatic example in the mining town of Gunnison, Colorado. In 1918, town leaders built a veritable barricade, closing down the railroad station and blocking all roads into town. Four thousand townspeople lived on stockpiled supplies and food from hunting or fishing. For three and a half months, while influenza raged in nearly every city in America, Gunnison saw not a single case of flu -- not until the spring, when roads were reopened and a handful of residents fell sick. Life magazine: Killer epidemic of 1918

    Nonpharmaceutical interventions, or NPIs, also proved effective in big cities such as New York, according to Markel. In fact, the sooner cities moved to limit public gatherings or isolate patients, the less severe their experience tended to be -- as much as an eight- or ninefold difference in case and death rates, he says. Based on this guidance, the CDC preparedness plan devotes dozens of pages to potential NPIs, from voluntary isolation to reorganizing company work schedules to reduce the density of people sitting next to each other in the office or while riding trains and buses.

    If it seems odd to base medical strategy on 90-year-old newspapers, the approach is increasingly popular. "There's a big case for looking at history," says Simonson. "We call it archaeo-epidemiology. You go to libraries and places like that, dig around, collaborate with people like John Barry and try to quantify what really worked."

    Barry is the author of "The Great Influenza," perhaps the signature history of the devastating 1918 pandemic. He says the historical record shows that isolating patients worked to slow the spread of flu in 1918, but that attempted quarantines -- preventing movement in and out of cities -- was "worthless."

    While Barry supports the CDC's general containment strategy, in the past he has charged that Markel's findings rest on flimsy historical research. After the findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Barry wrote a letter in response, saying it wasn't swift action but rather an earlier wave of mild flu, acting like a vaccination, that was probably responsible for New York's relatively low caseload. In the letter, he noted, "New York City health commissioner Royal Copeland did tell reporters...that he would isolate and quarantine cases," but based on his own articles in the New York Medical Journal, he "apparently never imposed those measures."

    It looks superficially like an academic feud, but in this field, different conclusions can suggest radically different approaches to quashing a pandemic. Nowhere is this more true than in research that builds computer models to predict the spread of outbreaks, based on previous ones. Markel, along with most analysts, says that in prior pandemics, the so-called R-naught number -- the number of new infections caused by each infected person -- has been approximately 2.0. The current U.S. pandemic control strategy is based on computer simulations that assume a flu virus with an R-naught between 1.6 and 2.4.

    Last year, however, Simonson and Viggo Andreasen concluded that the true R-naught of the 1918 flu virus was probably somewhere between 3 and 4. Since an epidemic grows exponentially -- each person sickens three others, each of whom infects three more, and so on -- this is a tremendous difference. "It says it's going to be harder than we thought" to control a pandemic," Simonson says with grim understatement.

    Barry agrees. "I do think that some of these things, like isolating [sick people], will take off some of the edge. We hope they'll do more than that. But to think they'll stop a pandemic, that is just not going to happen."

    Simonson says control measures such as the steps taken by Mexico in recent days -- closing schools and restaurants, for example -- are still worth the effort. "It doesn't mean we should give up, because we don't know the R-naught [for swine flu]. We don't know how easily this spreads." But she adds, NPIs are at best a way to buy time. "We just badly need a vaccine. That's the most important thing."

    To date, the CDC has emphasized personal protective steps such as washing hands and using hand gels, as opposed to tightening border controls or issuing formal directives to close schools or limit public gatherings. Such steps have been left to state and local officials, who have responded in a variety of ways.

    One reason for the delay in stronger guidelines is that swine flu caught planners off guard; they had anticipated being able to recognize a pandemic overseas, weeks or at least days before it hit the United States. At the same time, CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser said Thursday that it's important to let officials tailor their response to local conditions. "They can take the recommendations we're providing and apply them locally. [By doing that] we hope to learn and see what are the most effective control strategies."

    Markel agrees that the best response depends on the particular situation. "History is not predictive science. And the powers of public health officials [in 1918] were much greater. Another difference is that people's trust of doctors and government in 1918 was probably remarkably different.... But what I have found, studying epidemics, is that good planning and good relationships between local state and federal authorities, goes a long way."

    CNN - Confirmed swine flu cases leap

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    Confirmed swine flu cases leap


    Confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide increased to 236 on Thursday, up significantly from the previous day's total of 147, the World Health Organization reported.

    In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has confirmed 109 cases of swine flu, or 2009 H1N1, in 11 states, an increase of 18 from its previous total.

    Mexico, with 97 confirmed cases, showed the biggest increase in the world, WHO said. There were 26 confirmed cases Wednesday.

    The higher totals do not necessarily mean that incidence of the disease is increasing, but rather that health investigators are getting through their backlog of specimens, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of WHO.

    The latest tally was announced one day after WHO raised the pandemic threat level to 5 on a six-step scale. WHO did not change the threat level Thursday.

    "There is nothing epidemiologically that points to us today that we should be moving toward Phase 6," Fukuda said.

    The level 5 designation means infection from the outbreak that originated in Mexico has been jumping from person-to-person with relative ease.

    "It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic," said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general. "We do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them."

    The health department in Spain reported three new confirmed cases, bringing the total for the country to 13. H1N1 was suspected in 84 other cases.

    The health department in the United Kingdom also reported three new cases, to bring the total there to eight. An additional 230 cases are being investigated.

    On Thursday, Japan reported its first suspected case, which has not been verified by WHO.

    In the United States, New York has the most cases, with 50, followed by Texas, with 26. California has 14 cases.

    The CDC on Thursday added an 11th state, South Carolina, with 10 cases.

    "There are many more states that have suspect cases, and we will be getting additional results over time," said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

    By Monday, he said, all states will have additional antiviral drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile that can be given to people at high risk for flu. There hasn't been a decision on whether to attempt making a vaccine specifically for H1N1, he said.

    Swine flu is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs and can jump to humans. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    Reacting to comments earlier in the day by Vice President Joe Biden, who said he has advised his family to avoid "confined spaces" such as airplanes and subways, Besser said, "If you have a fever and flu-like symptoms, you should not be getting on an airplane. That is part of being a responsible part of our community. You don't want to put people at risk.

    "I think flying is safe, going on the subway is safe. People should go out and live their lives," he said, but added, "There is shared responsibility when it comes to preventing infectious diseases, shared responsibility when it comes to fighting a new infection for which we have incomplete information.

    "There's no one action that's going to stop this. There's no silver bullet, but all of the efforts ... will help to reduce the impact on people's health."

    Nowhere is the crisis more severe than in Mexico. Medics in Mexico City were tending to patients in tents set up outside hospitals while clad head-to-toe in biohazard suits, goggles and two pairs of glasses.

    The government has ordered a shutdown of about 35,000 public venues, mandated restaurants to serve takeout only and closed all nonessential government offices and private businesses.

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon took to television late Wednesday night, saying the country has enough medicine to cure the sick.

    "In times of difficulty, we've always come together," he said. "Together we will overcome this disease."

    In the United States, President Obama called on schools with confirmed or possible swine flu cases to consider closing temporarily.

    Ecuador joined Cuba and Argentina in banning travel to or from Mexico. Egypt began slaughtering all pigs Thursday, although no cases of swine flu have been reported in that country.

    Reuters - Facebook eyes additional funding: report

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    Facebook eyes additional funding: report

    Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 9:41AM UTC

    (Reuters) - Social-networking website Facebook has held meetings with private equity firms to explore raising another round of funding, the New York Post reported on Thursday, citing sources.

    Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Facebook held "valuation discussions" with Providence Equity Partners, General Atlantic, Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, among others, the paper said, citing multiple sources close to or involved in the situation.

    The process has been informal and no term sheets have been drawn up, the sources told the paper.

    The private-equity firms value the website in the $2 billion to $3 billion range, lower than Facebook's estimate of $5 billion to $6 billion, the sources told the paper.

    The talks have created friction with Facebook's existing investors, who have poured in $400 million into the website and would like a return on their investment before seeing their stakes diluted through a new round of funding, the paper said.

    Facebook's existing investors include Greylock Partners, Meritech Capital Partners and Microsoft Corp.

    (Reporting by Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; editing by Simon Jessop)

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    OBAMA PRIME TIME LIVE ON THE NET.

    Reuters - U.S. economy tumbles steeply in first quarter

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    U.S. economy tumbles steeply in first quarter

    Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 5:27PM UTC

    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy contracted at a surprisingly steep 6.1 percent rate in the first quarter, dragged down by a record plunge in business inventories and a slump in exports, data showed on Wednesday.

    However, the data did not change views the economy would emerge from the recession, now in its 16th month, in the second half of the year. Next month, the downturn is on track to become the longest since the Great Depression.

    The Commerce Department said inventories were drawn down by a record $103.7 billion -- potentially good news for the economy because it suggests businesses have cut the stockpile of unsold merchandise to levels that will let them start placing new orders, which would stimulate production.

    "The larger-than-expected decline in first-quarter GDP is good news for the upcoming quarters. We expect that the recession will be over in the second half of the year," said Harm Bandholz, an economist at Unicredit Markets and Investment Banking in New York.

    While the drop in gross domestic product, which followed a 6.3 percent fourth-quarter decline, was much steeper than economists had expected, investors were cheered as they saw it laying the groundwork for a recovery.

    U.S. stocks rose, further helped by unexpectedly strong earnings from Time Warner Inc and Qwest Communications International, with the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average up about 143 points at midday.

    GDP, which measures total goods and services produced within U.S. borders, has now dropped for three straight quarters for the first time since the 1974-1975 recession. That downturn, which started in 1973, lasted 16 months.

    The data came as the Federal Reserve resumed a two-day meeting. The Fed, which has cut interest rates to almost zero and pumped about a trillion dollars into the economy to try to break its downward spiral, is expected to nod to signs hinting at economic improvement in a post-meeting statement.

    SILVER LINING IN GRIM DATA

    Christina Romer, the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Reuters Financial Television the decline in inventories and a rise in consumer spending offered a silver lining in an otherwise bleak report.

    "To the degree that that's a sign that firms are bringing down some of their inventories ... that combined with consumers coming back to life could mean we need to start producing things again," she said. "It could put us in a position for perhaps a less dreary number going forward."

    The inventory plunge accounted for 2.79 percentage points of the drop in GDP. Excluding inventories, GDP contracted 3.4 percent. Business investment, which is typically made when companies are planning production increases, tumbled a record 37.9 percent in the first quarter.

    However, consumer spending, which accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 2.2 percent, after collapsing in the second half of 2008. Consumer spending was bolstered by a 9.4 percent jump in purchases of durable goods, the first advance after four quarters of decline.

    "We can expect some moderation in the pace of the economy's decline. The larger question now surrounds the intense weakness we have seen in business investment," said Bob DiClemente, chief economist at Citigroup in New York.

    "It's going to draw much attention as a potential source of aggravating factor for the recession going forward."

    HOUSING ACTIVITY STILL SLIDING

    Home-building activity slid at a 38 percent rate, the biggest decline since the second quarter of 1980. There are signs, however, that a big drop in construction activity is starting to slow and analysts expect this component to begin showing improvement in the quarters ahead.

    Exports collapsed 30 percent, the biggest decline since 1969, after dropping 23.6 percent in the fourth quarter as recession took hold around the globe. The decline in exports knocked off a record 4.06 percentage points from GDP.

    The Commerce Department said a $787 billion government package of spending and tax cuts, approved in February, had little impact on first-quarter GDP. Part of the stimulus package is designed to bolster state and local government spending, which fell at a 3.9 percent rate in the first quarter, the largest drop since 1981's second quarter.

    A separate report showed U.S. home loan applications fell 18.1 percent last week to the lowest level since mid-March, even as mortgage rates clung to record lows.

    (Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann in Washington and Lynn Adler in New York; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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    CEO Forum: Media mogul Diller on Twitter, Ticketmaster, etc.

    There's one consistent quality in IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) CEO Barry Diller's long career, one that has made him a force in television, movies, home shopping and the Internet. He loves to challenge conventional wisdom about business and himself.

    Consider Diller's most recent and controversial pivot: After years of opposing media mergers, he's earned the wrath of pop icon Bruce Springsteen and others with an effort to create a concert colossus.

    Diller, 67, wants to join the dominant ticketing and music-management company Ticketmaster, where he's chairman with Live Nation, the leading owner of arenas, which also now manages performers and sells tickets. The outcome is in the hands of antitrust officials.

    But the effort is characteristic of a CEO who has become a celebrity in his own right after shaking up entertainment programming at ABC, reviving Paramount with blockbuster movies including Saturday Night Fever and Raiders of the Lost Ark, creating Fox Broadcasting and then ditching Hollywood to become a retail and digital entrepreneur.

    His online empire now includes such disparate properties as Citysearch, Ask.com, Expedia, The Daily Beast, CollegeHumor, Match.com and Evite. With so many properties that depend on consumer spending and advertising, the gloomy economy poses the toughest challenge yet to Diller's programming and dealmaking skills.

    He shared his views about prospects for business, his companies, the Internet and traditional media with USA TODAY's David Lieberman at the 10th USA TODAY CEO Forum, in conjunction with the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

    The interview took place in front of an audience. Edited for length and clarity, here are Diller's thoughts on:

    Acquisitions

    Q: You're stockpiling cash. Are you waiting for prices to drop more before you buy something?

    A: I'd like to spend it intelligently. You can't have it get hot in your pocket. Unfortunately, it's really shocking to me, but I cannot find anything that is worthwhile buying today. I hope to God I do.

    Q: What kind of things are you looking at?

    A: We've been in the consumer part of the Internet for a long time. But I can't find anything in the Internet area. So, what you have to do when that happens is redefine what (your) area is so you can keep growing.

    Q: How about AOL?

    A: Oh, that's a good question. We talk with AOL a lot, and there's a lot of common relationships there. We're, I think, the seventh- or eighth-largest Internet network, and I think AOL is one or two slots behind us. There's a really good idea for a combination there, but it's complicated to do. It's inside Time Warner, which wants to get rid of it. It's hard to engineer because of its legacy. But, industrially, it makes sense.

    Q: Twitter?

    A: I'm sure there are some commercial applications for Twitter, but they don't really interest me. I mean, 140 characters? I am really not interested in Ashton Kutcher's daily walks. Not for me.

    Q: Facebook?

    A: Facebook's the real deal. Nobody can buy Facebook now. Everybody has taken an angle at it. But Facebook may be the place that organizes everybody's personal information. It's got a very good chance of being that.

    Paramount

    Q: Back in 1994 you tried to buy Paramount. With the benefit of hindsight, are you glad you lost?

    A: We lost Paramount in the sense that we didn't make the last bid. And I think it was a big mistake. I wish we owned Paramount.

    Q: Why?

    A: I would have loved to have played in (the digital media revolution) in television and motion pictures. I think it would have been interesting, and I think we would have done OK with that asset.

    I didn't do it because I was chicken. I had just come from being a corporatist, and I clutched at the last minute and I shouldn't have, and I know what it was due to. It was due to lack of experience. And it was a good lesson for me because it taught me not to do that.

    Broadband

    Q: You said a few years ago that you were concerned the cable industry would take over broadband. Is that still a concern?

    A: I very much believe in net neutrality. We have all lived through a world which has been dominated by distribution scarcity. There were only so many cable programs you could have because (cable operators) conned everybody into thinking that (their lines) could only carry so much. But, they were interested in it being scarce. They could say (to programmers): If you want to get on, give us half your business. It was a great scam while it lasted, this idea of scarcity.

    Well, the Internet is this miracle. It is an absolutely extraordinary idea that you can press a send button, and you are publishing to the world.

    And what cable companies want and telephone companies want, of course, is to say: No, wait a minute. If you're going to publish a book, you publish to us, and then we transmit it on from there. And, therefore, we want the Internet not to be neutral. We have invested all this money, and this is how we'll get our return. I think that's a horrendous idea.

    Q: Time Warner Cable's been talking about usage-based pricing for broadband.

    A: Well, I'm not against usage. You pay for electricity only by how much you use. I don't think there's anything wrong with paying, so long as it's a common carrier meaning there has to be regulated pricing like there is for utilities, which is not going to happen.

    So, I think the idea of charging for usage is a good idea. The problem is: If you've got little competition there, then the prices can just be, excuse me, ridiculous.

    Print and TV

    Q: What's the future of print media in the Internet age?

    A: If you've got ink on your hands, which means that you're a print person, you're finished. These news-gathering organizations depended upon being the only place in town. And everybody has advertising now. So, it's a very tough transition.

    You're going to pay for information that you want. And you're going to pay directly, which means there's going to be either micropayments or subscriptions. Advertising in the new world order can't support much of anything. Therefore, you're going to have hybrid business models that are going to have subscription revenues and other types of revenues.

    We're going to have professional news-gathering operations. I do not think we're going to be a world where we're going to have citizen reporters doing all of the work. I think that it's going to be a really tough period, it will get worse, and then I think it will come out the other end by being supported by other revenue streams.

    Q: How about TV's big-budget shows?

    A: No. Forty years ago you had three channels. Then, with cable, you had more channels. But we're just getting to the point where there's enough bandwidth that we're going to have unlimited opportunity to get whatever we want.

    Because there is no longer scarcity, an hour-long drama is not going to exist at the multimillion-dollar production level and not in the current distribution scheme. For everybody in that world, you talk about creative destruction. General entertainment is absolutely going to change for all of us.

    Ticketmaster

    Q: Live Nation is the country's largest owner of arenas. Ticketmaster is the largest ticketing company and has deals with several stars. Why shouldn't we be nervous about seeing them get together?

    A: Well, you can be nervous all you wish. It sounds awfully arrogant. It's not meant that way. The thing is: These companies don't compete with each other directly. We don't own venues as Live Nation does. And Live Nation just entered the ticketing business but they don't compete with us at this point. So, it's vertical, and there's nothing legally wrong with vertical.

    The issue is: Will consumers pay more? No. I actually think that what the combination will do will allow us to develop what was really lacking. The big players are getting rather old. The Rolling Stones are out there now. What we don't have is a great development process for new talent.

    The recorded music business now is, in a sense, the loss leader for live entertainment. And the truth is that they should have symbiotic relationships, and I think we can bring that. But it's under review at the Justice Department and we'll know whenever they get around to dealing with this.

    Q: Fleetwood Mac will be playing in St. Louis in a couple weeks. You can get a midpriced ticket for about $77, then there's a convenience charge of $9.70, a building facility charge of $2.50, and for the privilege of printing out my own ticket at home, I've got to pay you $2.50.

    A: I would tell you what a great privilege it is for you to be able to do that and how much infrastructure we had to create and desks we had to make in order for you to do that. But here's the thing: Ticketmaster is the definition of an unloved company. Many more people are denied tickets than we are able to give them because there are only so many seats in the house.

    The problem with the ticketing business is: It's the essence of non-transparency. And the reason is that everybody has an ax to grind. Artists do not want consumers to know that they have a take of different parts of the ticketing package. People who own venues want to put in service charges. So I think there's going to be legislation which is going to force transparency, and I think that would be great for everybody.

    Video on the web

    Q: You've been very excited about video on the Web. But no one's making money at it yet.

    A: That's definitely true. We have a site called CollegeHumor.com some of you have probably seen. A few years ago it started to produce videos, and over a relatively short period they built up this little group, about 30 people, and they now make about eight videos a week.

    And they're extremely successful in the sense that a lot of people view them. They get spikes in the millions of hits, and the quality is very good. And it's not expensive to produce a three- to five-minute video. Now people are getting used to the fact that they're going to have some commercial interruption of videos.

    Q: So what's the business opportunity?

    A: Go back almost 100 years to the beginning of the motion picture business. They began with "one-reelers." A lot of them were serials. They were at that time anywhere from seven to 10 minutes. Cecil B. DeMille, one of the great movie makers of all time, was making 30 of these a year.

    So, I see this little group who are using modern techniques. They're going to graduate as the form evolves just like the movie business did, from two-reelers to 10-reelers. In other words, it will expand as the Internet and bandwidth is able to deliver video that will not just be seen on small little form factors, but on screens in your house or screens of any size.

    The economy

    Q: The credit markets seem to be easing, but employment looks pretty grim. Have we seen a bottom yet or, as Paul Krugman says, is it just getting worse more slowly?

    A: It seems impossible that you could say that we actually know the duration or the depth (of the recession), because there are really three areas that most impact us.

    One is unemployment, which is undoubtedly going to rise from where it is now. We have not seen what will happen with commercial real estate, because commercial real estate is primarily based upon huge amounts of leverage.

    And the other area we haven't seen is corporate debt, which is also based upon huge amounts of leverage, and those two haven't yet washed through this.

    Q: So, what takes us out? Can you count on consumer spending coming back, or would it likely be some other engine?

    A: Well, for sure we're going to count on government spending coming back. I mean, they're throwing everything that can be imagined at this. Everything has a very short life span now; we may have this very sharp, quick resolution.

    Executive pay

    Q: A couple of years ago you were the highest-paid executive in the country. Do you think that, in retrospect, you went too far?

    Please go to corresponding website for complete details.

    Portfolio Mobile - The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story

    The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story





    The New York Times has provided a handy blogging point for today in the form of a long piece on the relationships Tim Geithner formed while head of the New York Fed. The story is based in part on the results of a Times FOIA request, for the contents of Geithner's daily calendar while at the bank, and bloggers have primarily approached the story as a search for potentially nefarious activities. As examples, we see Paul Kedrosky concluding that there's no real "smoking gun," and Yves Smith writing that the story is far too kind, as it mysteriously excises all the times Geithner was scheduled to dine on babies and puppies in the company of Satan and AIG executives.

    For the life of me, I don't know why we're not spending at least a little more time on the opening anecdote:



    Last June, with a financial hurricane gathering force, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. convened the nation's economic stewards for a brainstorming session. What emergency powers might the government want at its disposal to confront the crisis? he asked.

    Timothy F. Geithner, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank oversaw many of the nation's most powerful financial institutions, stunned the group with the audacity of his answer. He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.

    The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.



    Smith notes the line and proceeds to throw of a line constituting one of the most epic examples of point missing in recent memory:

    The story fails to note this was almost assuredly the most bank friendly program possible.

    To begin with, that's not even true. The most bank friendly program possible is handing the banks a lot of money with no strings attached. But how does Smith miss that this would not only have been a very smart and prescient move, but it might also have laid the groundwork for a much tougher bank policy? Guaranteeing all the bank debt was, of course, one of the key ingredients of the Swedish bank rescue so beloved by fans of nationalization. Smith just assumes Geithner is looking to help his Wall Street buddies, but he might just as easily have been reading directly from the Swedes' playbook.



    Moreover, this move would have entirely changed the calculus in September. It would have made the government much more reluctant to let Lehman fail, which I believe we can agree would have been a good thing. Had they nonetheless decided that Lehman should be allowed to go down, in the knowledge that the government would have to make the debtholders whole, then we would have avoided most of the negative effects of the actual Lehman collapse. No money market fund would break the buck. No freeze in commercial paper markets would have resulted. And no emergency rush to TARP would have followed. Correspondingly, no intense fear of bank failures or nationalizations would have cast its shadow over all subsequent decisions.



    This should be getting more attention, and it should also be causing Geithner-haters to rethink what they think they know about the man -- about his timidity, subservience, and allegiances. But it's already clear that it won't.Related Links
    Geithner's Brave New Regulatory World: An IMterview
    Finally, Drama! A Geithner vs. Bair Clash?
    Harder Times

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    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Portfolio Mobile - The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story

    The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story





    The New York Times has provided a handy blogging point for today in the form of a long piece on the relationships Tim Geithner formed while head of the New York Fed. The story is based in part on the results of a Times FOIA request, for the contents of Geithner's daily calendar while at the bank, and bloggers have primarily approached the story as a search for potentially nefarious activities. As examples, we see Paul Kedrosky concluding that there's no real "smoking gun," and Yves Smith writing that the story is far too kind, as it mysteriously excises all the times Geithner was scheduled to dine on babies and puppies in the company of Satan and AIG executives.

    For the life of me, I don't know why we're not spending at least a little more time on the opening anecdote:



    Last June, with a financial hurricane gathering force, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. convened the nation's economic stewards for a brainstorming session. What emergency powers might the government want at its disposal to confront the crisis? he asked.

    Timothy F. Geithner, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank oversaw many of the nation's most powerful financial institutions, stunned the group with the audacity of his answer. He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.

    The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.



    Smith notes the line and proceeds to throw of a line constituting one of the most epic examples of point missing in recent memory:

    The story fails to note this was almost assuredly the most bank friendly program possible.

    To begin with, that's not even true. The most bank friendly program possible is handing the banks a lot of money with no strings attached. But how does Smith miss that this would not only have been a very smart and prescient move, but it might also have laid the groundwork for a much tougher bank policy? Guaranteeing all the bank debt was, of course, one of the key ingredients of the Swedish bank rescue so beloved by fans of nationalization. Smith just assumes Geithner is looking to help his Wall Street buddies, but he might just as easily have been reading directly from the Swedes' playbook.



    Moreover, this move would have entirely changed the calculus in September. It would have made the government much more reluctant to let Lehman fail, which I believe we can agree would have been a good thing. Had they nonetheless decided that Lehman should be allowed to go down, in the knowledge that the government would have to make the debtholders whole, then we would have avoided most of the negative effects of the actual Lehman collapse. No money market fund would break the buck. No freeze in commercial paper markets would have resulted. And no emergency rush to TARP would have followed. Correspondingly, no intense fear of bank failures or nationalizations would have cast its shadow over all subsequent decisions.



    This should be getting more attention, and it should also be causing Geithner-haters to rethink what they think they know about the man -- about his timidity, subservience, and allegiances. But it's already clear that it won't.Related Links
    Geithner's Brave New Regulatory World: An IMterview
    Finally, Drama! A Geithner vs. Bair Clash?
    Harder Times

    Presented By:You Need the Speed of Norton 2009

    Introducing the revolutionary Norton Internet Security 2009. With a one-click, one-minute install, under 7MB of memory usage and fewer, shorter scans, it?s the fastest security suite anywhere. Get your FREE trial today!
    Click to Learn More www.norton.com/speed 
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    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Portfolio Mobile - The End of Innocence at Apple

    The End of Innocence at Apple







    It seems unthinkable today ? but more than two decades ago, when personal computers were still new and everybody listened to music on a Walkman, Steve Jobs was cast out of Apple. The year was 1985. IBM and Microsoft dominated the world of computing. The revolutionary Macintosh, launched with such fanfare just a year earlier, appeared to be foundering. And Jobs, the guiding force at Apple from the beginning, seemed not just expendable but a threat to the company he?d built. In West of Eden ? a national best-seller when it was first published in 1989, now updated in a new edition available on Amazon ? Wired contributing editor Frank Rose tells how it went down. In an essay excerpted from the introduction to the new edition, Rose recalls the downward spiral Apple fell into after Jobs was dismissed and ultimately how Jobs could be the fall guy one decade and Apple's savior the next.  



    Read the essay here.
    Related Links
    S.E.C. Opens Probe of Apple's Jobs Health
    The S.E.C. Catches Up With Steve Jobs
    What (Fake) Steve Jobs Thinks of the Music Industry

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    That?s the new IT intelligence.
    See why information technology is now intelligent technology.

    www.intel.com/business/xeon/index.htm  
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    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Portfolio Mobile - Conde Nast Closing 'Portfolio'

    Conde Nast Closing 'Portfolio'





    For nearly two years I've been covering the media industry's bad news on this blog, including some that's hit very close to home. Now it hits closer still: Condé Nast Portfolio is closing.

    Our editor in chief, Joanne Lipman, just broke the news to staff, saying the decision had been made "because of financial reasons at Advance," Condé Nast's parent company. "It's not anything that the company wanted to do." She said she was informed by Condé Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. this morning of the decision.

    Lipman said the magazine is ahead of its business plan on various business metrics, and also noted that it won a National Magazine Award last year after publishing only a handful of issues, a rare accomplishment. But a sharp and extended downturn in ad revenue has made success elusive. Over the past year, Condé Nast has made a series of other cutbacks, and has folded Domino and Golf for Women magazines.Related Links
    Magazine Awards: The Breakdown, by Company
    Mag Publishers Resist Rapid-Report Regime
    Idle Chatter: 'Playboy,' Time Inc., 'New York,' more





    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Q: How are you fighting the recession?

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    CNN - Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat

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

    Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat


    Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.

    The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

    "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement posted by his office on PoliticsPA.com.

    "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

    Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was greeted by a loud, sustained round of applause by dozens of constituents outside his Washington office shortly after the news broke.

    "I don't have to say anything to them," a smiling Specter said. "They've said it to me."

    President Obama called Specter shortly after learning the news during his daily economic briefing in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, according to a senior administration official.

    "You have my full support, and we're thrilled to have you," Obama told Specter.

    Jubilant Senate Democrats also welcomed the news.

    "Sen. Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican party," Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nevada, said in a written statement.

    "We have not always agreed on every issue, but [he] has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans."

    Reid called Specter a "man of honor and integrity" who would be welcome in the Democratic caucus.

    One key Senate Democrat, however, warned that reaching the 60-vote mark would not automatically ensure a Democratic victory on every major issue.

    "It's great news," North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad said. But it means "a lot less" than some people think.

    "The Democratic caucus is not homogenous. (There is a) lot of disagreement in the Democratic caucus, so this idea that it's some great watershed event ... I don't think so."

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele ripped Specter, calling him a Republican in name only who was out of step with the rest of the party because of his "left-wing voting record."

    "Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not," Steele said in a written statement. "Let's be honest --Sen. Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."

    Steele said Republicans "look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first."

    Specter was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.

    A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released last month showed Specter trailing the more conservative Toomey in a hypothetical primary matchup, 41 to 27 percent.

    A separate Franklin & Marshall survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 to 18 percent. Another 42 percent, however, were undecided.

    More than half of the Republicans polled in the Franklin & Marshall survey said they would prefer to see someone new in the Senate.

    Numerous Republicans are angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

    Specter, one of only three GOP senators to vote for the measure, has been part of a dwindling group of GOP moderates from the northeastern part of the country.

    The 79-year-old former Philadelphia district attorney won his first of five Senate terms in 1980. He has been a leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee for much of the past two decades, serving as its chairman from 2005 to 2007.

    Specter served on the Warren Commission, which investigated the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. He has survived bouts with cancer three times, most recently undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease in 2005.

    Reuters - Cablevision rolls out super-fast Internet access

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com

    Cablevision rolls out super-fast Internet access

    Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 8:45AM UTC

    By Yinka Adegoke

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp plans to roll out super-fast Internet access connections that can allow a customer to download a full-length high-definition movie in less 10 minutes.

    The New York-based cable operator said on Tuesday it is also doubling the speed of its Wi-Fi wireless Internet service -- free for subscribers -- as it steps up its offerings to counter the competitive threat of Verizon Communications' FiOS service.

    Cablevision customers will pay nearly $100 a month to use the new high-speed Internet service, which will deliver download speeds of up to 101 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 15 megabits per second. Such speeds can enable the download of up to 750 digital photos or 150 songs in one minute.

    The company plans to roll out the service across its entire market starting May 11. Currently Cablevision offers download speeds of 15 megabits per second for $45 to $50 a month.

    It remains to be seen how much customer demand there is for new super-fast Internet access, which cable companies charge premium prices for. Comcast Corp charges up to $139 a month for its 50 megabit Wideband service in certain markets, for instance.

    "Right now the real demand for 50 to 100 megabits is pretty limited," said Todd Mitchell, analyst at Kaufman Bros. "But over the next two to three years, the number of video applications we all use will grow exponentially so it will become a necessary level of service."

    Cablevision will be the first of the major U.S. cable operators to roll out new super-fast speeds to its entire network using a new cable technology called DOCSIS 3.0. Other cable operators like Comcast and Charter Communications started trying out the super-fast access speed in some of their regions last year.

    The cable companies are increasing access speeds in response to the launch of advanced digital services from phone companies Verizon and AT&T Inc, and also encouraged by the popularity of Web video services like Google Inc's YouTube and Hulu, a venture of News Corp and NBC Universal.

    Faster speeds will make it easier to watch video programing over the Web, but there are industry concerns that they might also make it easier for customers to 'cut the cord' of traditional cable TV subscriptions.

    "The cable operators are trying to walk a fine line," said Craig Moffett, analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

    Moffett said the challenge for the operators is how to preserve their current technology and speed advantage over phone companies without harming their core video offering.

    "They don't want to provide so much bandwidth that they foster the means to bypass their core service," he said.

    Cablevision is also doubling the speed of its wireless Internet access to 3.0 megabits per second using Wi-Fi technology. The company offers the service for free to Cablevision subscribers using their laptops and other mobile devices around certain locations in its local area.

    (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    For real-time mobile news, go to - http://usatoday.mlogic.mobi

    This story has been sent from the mobile device of bombastic4000@yahoo.com. For real-time mobile news, go to .

    From 'Wrestler' to 'Warrior': Bethesda lands Mickey Rourke for 'Rogue Warrior'

    Oscar-nominated actor Mickey Rourke will lend his vocal talents to Bethesda Softworks as the lead character in upcoming first-person shooter Rogue Warrior, says the publisher in a statement.


    The game -- based on a series of books by former Navy SEAL Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko -- is slated for release this fall.


    Rourke will voice the role of Marcinko, the leader of an elite Navy SEAL unit who must disrupt a suspected ballistic missile program in North Korea.

    On the game's official Web page, Bethesda says Rogue Warrior will differentiate itself in the crowded FPS arena by introducing a freeform battlefield, where players can freely complete missions any way they choose, " rather than heavily scripted events and tightly contained spaces traditionally used in this genre."  Bethesda also says the game will include a Brutal Kill system with 25 fatal attacks.


    The game will be available on PC, PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.  Readers, what's your take on Rogue Warrior?


    By Brett Molina

    Photo: Rourke at this year's Academy Awards (By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)

    Reuters - Bloomberg to expand even as terminal numbers fall: report

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com

    Bloomberg to expand even as terminal numbers fall: report

    Monday, Apr 27, 2009 5:47AM UTC

    (Reuters) - Bloomberg LP plans to expand its investment in its technology and news operations, even as net monthly installations of terminals is down 13 percent from a year-ago, its chairman Peter Grauer told the Financial Times.

    The company has seen a fall of just over 2.5 percent in terminal numbers since they peaked in November, implying about 7,500 net cancellations from a subscriber base of about 300,000, Grauer told the paper in an interview.

    Bloomberg expects to add 950 staff this year, including about 100 in its news operations, and will open offices in Abu Dhabi, Angola, Belgrade, Doha, Riyadh and Tallinn.

    Bloomberg's sales were up 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter, Grauer told the paper.

    (Reporting by Jennifer Robin Raj in Bangalore, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

    Reuters - Facebook seeks to export its network across the Web

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com

    Facebook seeks to export its network across the Web

    Monday, Apr 27, 2009 5:39PM UTC

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook regularly attracts more than 200 million people to its website, but the company is now looking for ways to permeate the lives of its users without the need to check-in to the Facebook site.

    The Palo Alto, California company unveiled tools on Monday that allow third-party Web developers to harness the wealth of content generated by Facebook users and to build new online products and services.

    Facebook said in a blog post announcing the so-called Open Stream API that Facebook's user-generated content could ultimately be available in a variety of places, from new online services that do not require a Web browser to specialized cell phone applications.

    "In the coming months, you'll be able to interact with your stream on even more websites and through more applications, in ways we're only beginning to imagine," Facebook engineer Justin Bishop wrote on the Facebook blog.

    The latest move represents Facebook's most significant effort to export its content across the Web and comes as Facebook continues to struggle to parlay the massive traffic on its website into meaningful revenue.

    "The overall goal for Facebook is to be the platform for connecting, whether it be on Facebook or outside Facebook. So I think having both strategies is pretty smart," said IDC analyst Caroline Dangson.

    Dangson says Facebook could eventually create an advertising network by forging revenue-sharing agreements with companies that build products based on content from Facebook users.

    As a private company, Facebook does not disclose its financial information. Some media reports have projected that Facebook's revenue could range between $400 million and $500 million this year.

    The two most popular U.S. online properties, Google Inc and Yahoo Inc, generated $5.5 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively, in the first quarter alone.

    Facebook has increasingly positioned the news stream -- the barrage of status messages, photos and videos that users post for viewing by their network of friends -- as the centerpiece of its service. Last month, the company redesigned its homepage, giving the news stream much greater prominence.

    Allowing other companies to leverage the news stream takes a page from the playbook of microblogging start-up Twitter, which has fostered a growing network of innovative websites and services based on the content generated by Twitter users.

    Facebook will be hosting a small event for developers at its headquarters later on Monday to brief them on the Open Stream API.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Andre Grenon)

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    CNN - Mexico warns no kissing as 81 dead in swine flu outbreak

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

    Mexico warns no kissing as 81 dead in swine flu outbreak


    No kissing to say hello. No large crowds. No close contact.

    That's the advice of the Mexican government as more and more people die of swine flu, which has turned into a "public health emergency of international concern," according to the World Health Organization.

    The WHO advised all countries to be on the lookout for "unusual" outbreaks of flu, following an emergency meeting Saturday as the seriousness of the outbreak became clear.

    By Sunday, 81 deaths had been deemed "likely linked" to a deadly new strain of the virus by health authorities in Mexico. Viral testing has confirmed 20 cases, said Dr. Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's health secretary.

    In Mexico City, the massive downtown Cathedral of Mexico City was open but Masses were not scheduled. Dozens of worshippers put on masks and went inside the church anyway to pray on their own.

    The H1N1 strain of swine flu is usually associated with pigs. When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat or fight off.

    Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

    In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control have confirmed cases of swine flu in eight students at a New York preparatory school, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. That brings the number of U.S. confirmed cases to 19. President Obama recently returned from a trip to Mexico, but has not shown any signs of flu-like symptoms, the White House said.

    White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the outbreak "is of great concern to the White House," and Obama is receiving regular briefings on the issue.

    "I would tell people it's certainly not a time to panic," Gibbs told reporters. "If you're sick, stay home, get treatment, go see a doctor." But he added, "The government is taking all the steps it needs to and must do to take the precautions to deal with whatever size and scope we may be facing."

    But in New Zealand, officials said 22 students and three teachers back from a three-week-long language trip to Mexico may have been infected with the swine flu virus.

    The 25 students and teachers at Auckland's Rangitoto College returned to New Zealand via Los Angeles on Saturday.

    Fourteen have shown flu-like symptoms, with four "more unwell than others," said Dr. Julia Peters, clinical director of Auckland Regional Public Health Service. It is not clear whether anyone else who was on the plane with them has shown signs of the disease.

    Health Minister Tony Ryall said 10 students tested positive for influenza A. The specimens will be sent to WHO to determine whether it is H1N1 swine influenza.

    H1N1 influenza is a subset of influenza A. The WHO results are expected back by midweek. The group remains quarantined at home.

    "It certainly has not been confirmed that they have swine flu," said Dr. Craig Thornley of Auckland Regional Public Health Service. "We already have provisional information that some of the group have influenza A. We won't know if they have the type of influenza A that is swine flu."

    A British Airways crew member developed flu-like symptoms during a flight from Mexico City to London and was tested for swine flu, but the results came back negative.

    "I can confirm that the patient doesn't have swine flu," said Jonathan Street, a spokesman for Northwick Park Hospital in north London. "We have done all tests, and they all came back negative."

    The flight attendant is back at work, British Airways told CNN.

    Britain is not putting travel restrictions in place, according to British Airways and Heathrow airport operator BAA, and the country's Port Health Authority has no reason for concern over swine flu, BAA said.

    The Mexico Tourist Board said Saturday there are no restrictions on travel to the country.

    In Israel, doctors are running tests on a man who recently returned from Mexico with light flu symptoms.

    U.S. health officials said Friday that some cases of the virus in the United States matched samples of the deadly Mexican virus.

    All the patients have recovered or are expected to.

    The panic over the virus prompted Canada to issue a travel health notice, saying the public health agency was "tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico."

    South Korea said it will test airline passengers arriving from the United States. Japan will convene a Cabinet meeting Monday to develop measures to block entry of the virus into the country.

    The United States has not issued any travel warnings or quarantines.

    But US Airways said Saturday it would allow passengers to change plans if they wanted to because of the outbreak.

    Airline spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said it was not asking people not to travel to Mexico, but wanted to "give them that flexibility" if "they don't feel comfortable."

    Gregory Hartl of the World Health Organization said the strain of the virus seen in Mexico is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains.

    "Any time that there is a virus which changes ... it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to deal with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to deal with this new virus," Hartl said.

    Mexico City has closed all of its schools and universities until further notice because of the virus.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    CNN - More cases of swine flu reported; WHO warns of 'health emergency'

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

    More cases of swine flu reported; WHO warns of 'health emergency'


    A potentially deadly new strain of the swine flu virus cropped up in more places in the United States and Mexico on Saturday, in what the World Health Organization called "a public health emergency of international concern."

    The most recent reports Saturday afternoon were of two confirmed cases of the virus in Kansas -- bringing the number of confirmed U.S. cases to 11.

    Those joined nine confirmed cases in Texas and California and an apparent outbreak at a private school in New York City, where officials say eight children likely have the virus.

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Saturday issued an executive decree detailing emergency powers of the Ministry of Health, according to the president's office.

    The order gives the ministry with the authority to isolate sick patients, inspect travelers' luggage and their vehicles and conduct house inspections, the statement said.

    The government also has the authority to prevent public gatherings, shut down public venues and regulate air, sea and overland travel.

    The WHO's Gregory Hartl said the strain of the virus seen in Mexico -- which may have killed as many as 68 people there, according to that nation's health agency -- is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains.

    "Any time that there is a virus which changes ... it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to dealing with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to dealing with this new virus," Hartl told CNN.

    In Mexico, otherwise young and healthy people have been hit by the virus -- "one of the pieces of the puzzle that is worrying us," he said.

    Mexico City has closed all of its schools and universities because of the virus, and the country's National Health Council said all Saturday's soccer games would be played without public audiences.

    WHO has sent experts to Mexico at the request of the country's government, Chan said.

    Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, was expected to officially announce the two cases later Saturday, a written statement from the state said.

    All of the eight U.S. patients in Texas and California have recovered, Dr. Richard Besser, the acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday. Two of the cases were in Texas, near San Antonio, and six of the cases were in southern California, the CDC said.

    U.S. health officials said Friday they were concerned that some cases of the swine flu virus, which has infected eight people in the United States, matched samples of a virus that may have killed at least 68 people in Mexico.

    More than 1,000 people have been sickened in Mexico, and officials are trying to determine how many of those patients have swine influenza, the country's health minister, Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, said.

    U.S. health officials said Friday that some cases of the virus matched samples of the deadly Mexican virus.

    On Saturday, New York's Bureau of Communicable Diseases said preliminary tests from a Queens school suggest that eight out of the nine cases of the virus found there are probably swine flu.

    Dr. Don Weiss said the samples will be sent to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, to determine the subtype of the strain. The results will likely come back either Sunday or Monday.

    He said the samples, which were taken from oral and nasal swabs from nine students at St. Francis Preparatory School, came back positive for "Type A" flu and the tests will need to determine the samples' subtype -- which could be swine flu.

    He said up to 200 students at the school reported feeling ill.

    "What's concerning about this is, first, that it's likely swine flu; second is that at this time it is spreading from person to person," Weiss said.

    When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat or fight off.

    The people sickened in Kansas are a man who traveled to Mexico on business and his wife, Eberhart-Phillips said. The man had flu-like symptoms when he returned and went to his doctor, and his wife got sick about three days later, officials said.

    Neither of them was hospitalized, and one is still sick, he said.

    The United States had not issued any travel warnings or quarantines by Saturday afternoon.

    The Canadian Public Health Agency had issued a travel health notice, saying, "The Public Health Agency of Canada is tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico."

    Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC said.

    Besser advised people with flu-like symptoms to stay home from work or school and to see a doctor.

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Reuters - Conficker virus begins to attack PCs: experts

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    Conficker virus begins to attack PCs: experts

    Friday, Apr 24, 2009 9:32PM UTC

    By Jim Finkle

    BOSTON (Reuters) - A malicious software program known as Conficker that many feared would wreak havoc on April 1 is slowly being activated, weeks after being dismissed as a false alarm, security experts said.

    Conficker, also known as Downadup or Kido, is quietly turning thousands of personal computers into servers of e-mail spam and installing spyware, they said.

    The worm started spreading late last year, infecting millions of computers and turning them into "slaves" that respond to commands sent from a remote server that effectively controls an army of computers known as a botnet.

    Its unidentified creators started using those machines for criminal purposes in recent weeks by loading more malicious software onto a small percentage of computers under their control, said Vincent Weafer, a vice president with Symantec Security Response, the research arm of the world's largest security software maker, Symantec Corp.

    "Expect this to be long-term, slowly changing," he said of the worm. "It's not going to be fast, aggressive."

    Conficker installs a second virus, known as Waledac, that sends out e-mail spam without knowledge of the PC's owner, along with a fake anti-spyware program, Weafer said.

    The Waledac virus recruits the PCs into a second botnet that has existed for several years and specializes in distributing e-mail spam.

    "This is probably one of the most sophisticated botnets on the planet. The guys behind this are very professional. They absolutely know what they are doing," said Paul Ferguson, a senior researcher with Trend Micro Inc, the world's third-largest security software maker.

    He said Conficker's authors likely installed a spam engine and another malicious software program on tens of thousands of computers since April 7.

    He said the worm will stop distributing the software on infected PCs on May 3 but more attacks will likely follow.

    "We expect to see a different component or a whole new twist to the way this botnet does business," said Ferguson, a member of The Conficker Working Group, an international alliance of companies fighting the worm.

    Researchers had feared the network controlled by the Conficker worm might be deployed on April 1 since the worm surfaced last year because it was programed to increase communication attempts from that date.

    The security industry formed the task force to fight the worm, bringing widespread attention that experts said probably scared off the criminals who command the slave computers.

    The task force initially thwarted the worm using the Internet's traffic control system to block access to servers that control the slave computers.

    Viruses that turn PCs into slaves exploit weaknesses in Microsoft's Windows operating system. The Conficker worm is especially tricky because it can evade corporate firewalls by passing from an infected machine onto a USB memory stick, then onto another PC.

    The Conficker botnet is one of many such networks controlled by syndicates that authorities believe are based in eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, China and Latin America.

    (Editing by Jason Szep and Philip Barbara)

    Reuters - Deadly new flu strain erupts in Mexico, U.S.

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    Deadly new flu strain erupts in Mexico, U.S.

    Friday, Apr 24, 2009 9:57PM UTC

    By Alistair Bell and Noel Randewich

    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and has also appeared in the United States, where eight people were infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday.

    Mexico's government said at least 20 people have died of the disease in central Mexico and that it may also have been responsible for 40 other deaths.

    Mexico reported more than 1,000 suspected cases and four possible cases were also seen in Mexicali, right on the border with California.

    The World Health Organization said tests showed the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients was the same genetically as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, seen in eight people in California and Texas.

    "Our concern has grown as of yesterday," U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acting director Dr. Richard Besser told reporters in a telephone briefing.

    Global health officials were not ready to declare a pandemic -- a global epidemic of a new and deadly disease such as flu. "So far there has not been any change in the pandemic threat level," Besser said.

    But the human-to-human spread of the new virus raised fears of a major outbreak and Mexico's government canceled classes for millions of children in its sprawling capital city and surrounding areas. All large public events like concerts were suspended in Mexico City.

    Close analysis showed the disease is a never-before-seen mixture of swine, human and avian viruses, according to the CDC.

    Most of the Mexican dead were aged between 25 and 45, a Mexican health official said, in a worrying sign. Seasonal flu can be more deadly among the very young and the very old but a hallmark of pandemics is that they affect healthy young adults.

    Mexico has enough antiviral drugs to combat the outbreak for the moment, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said.

    The WHO said the virus appears to be susceptible to Roche AG's flu drug Tamiflu, also known as oseltamivir, but not to older flu drugs such as amantadine.

    "In the last 20 hours, fewer serious cases of this disease and fewer deaths have been reported," Cordova told reporters.

    Humans can occasionally catch swine flu from pigs but rarely have they been known to pass it on to other people.

    NO CONTAINMENT

    The CDC's Besser said it was probably too late to contain this outbreak. "There are things that we see that suggest that containment is not very likely," he said. Once it has spread beyond a limited geographical area it would be difficult to control.

    But there is no reason to avoid Mexico, CDC and the WHO said. "CDC is not recommending any additional recommendations for travelers to California, Texas and Mexico," Besser said.

    Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year, but the flu season for North America should have been winding down.

    The U.S. government said it was closely following the new cases. "The White House is taking the situation seriously and monitoring for any new developments. The president has been fully briefed," an administration official said.

    Mexico's government cautioned people not to shake hands or kiss when greeting or to share food, glasses or cutlery for fear of infection. Flu virus can be spread on the hands, and handwashing is one of the most important ways to prevent its spread.

    The outbreak jolted residents of the Mexican capital, one of the world's biggest cities with 20 million residents.

    One pharmacy ran out of surgical face masks after selling 300 in a day.

    "We're frightened because they say it's not exactly flu, it's another kind of virus and we're not vaccinated," said Angeles Rivera, 34, a federal government worker who fetched her son from a public kindergarten that was closing.

    The virus is an influenza A virus, carrying the designation H1N1. It contains DNA from avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses, the CDC has said.

    The CDC is already working on a vaccine.

    Scientists were working to understand why there are so many deaths in Mexico when the infections in the United States seem mild, Besser said.

    The CDC said it will issue daily updates at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swine/investigation.htm.

    The last flu pandemic was in 1968 when "Hong Kong" flu killed about a million people globally.

    (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    CNN - How Bernie Madoff did it

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

    How Bernie Madoff did it


    Since Bernard Madoff was arrested in December and confessed to masterminding a multi-billion Ponzi scheme, countless people have wondered: Who else was involved? Who knew about the fraud? After all, Madoff not only engineered an epic swindle, he insisted to the FBI that he did it all by himself. To date, Madoff has not implicated anybody but himself.

    But the contours of the case are changing.

    Fortune has learned that Frank DiPascali, the chief lieutenant in Madoff's secretive investment business, is trying to negotiate a plea deal with federal prosecutors. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he would divulge his encyclopedic knowledge of Madoff's scheme. And unlike his boss, DiPascali is willing to name names.

    According to a person familiar with the matter, DiPascali has no evidence that other Madoff family members were participants in the fraud. However, he is prepared to testify that he manipulated phony returns on behalf of some key Madoff investors, including Frank Avellino, who used to run a so-called feeder fund, Jeffry Picower, whose foundation had to close as a result of Madoff-related losses, and others.

    If, for example, one of these special customers had large gains on other investments, he would tell DiPascali, who would fabricate a loss to reduce the tax bill. If true, that would mean these investors knew their returns were fishy.

    Explains the source familiar with the matter: "This is a group of inside investors -- all individuals with very, very high net worths who, hypothetically speaking, received a 20% markup or 25% markup or a 15% loss if they needed it." The investors would tell DiPascali, for example, that their other investments had soared and they needed to find some losses to cut their tax bills. DiPascali would adjust their Madoff results accordingly.

    (Gary Woodfield, a lawyer for Avellino, and William Zabel, the attorney for Picower, both declined to comment. Marc Mukasey, DiPascali's laywer, says, "We expect and encourage a thorough investigation.")

    These special deals for select Madoff investors have become a key focus for federal prosecutors, according to this source and a second one familiar with the investigation. The second source describes the arrangements as "kickbacks" and "bonuses." A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney declined to comment.

    But a little-noticed line in a public filing by the prosecutors in March supports at least part of these sources' account. The document that formally charged Madoff with his crimes asserted that he "promised certain clients annual returns in varying amounts up to at least approximately 46 percent per year." That was quite a boost when most investors were receiving 10% to 15%. It appears to reflect the benefits that accrued to those who helped bring large sums to Madoff.

    The emergence of this potential star witness is the best news to surface publicly for the Madoff family since the case began. DiPascali has every incentive to implicate high-profile names to save his skin -- and nobody is more under scrutiny than the Madoffs, many of whom worked for the firm. (Representatives for all of the family members have asserted their innocence.) It should be noted that DiPascali is not in a position to say what the Madoffs knew -- this should not be construed as an exoneration. But the fact that a high-ranking participant in the investment operation is not implicating them is telling.

    The DiPascali revelations are part of a special Fortune investigation into the inner workings of Madoff's firm. It chronicles Madoff's rise -- how he started his firm in 1960 with only $200, rose to become a pioneer of electronic trading, and became notorious for his investment operation -- a strange, secretive world supervised by DiPascali.

    DiPascali was a 33-year veteran of Madoff's firm. A high school graduate with a Queens accent, he came to work in an incongruously starched version of a slacker's uniform: pressed jeans, a sweatshirt, and pristine white sneakers or boat shoes. He could often be found outside the building, smoking a cigarette.

    Nobody was quite sure what he did or what his title was. "He was like a ninja," says a former trader in the legitimate operation upstairs. "Everyone knew he was a big deal, but he was like a shadow."

    He may not have looked or acted like a financier, but when customers like the giant feeder fund Fairfield Greenwich came in to talk, DiPascali was usually the only Madoff employee in the room with Bernie. Madoff told the visitors that DiPascali was "primarily responsible" for the investment operation, according to a Fairfield memo.

    And now DiPascali may be primarily responsible for taking the ever-surprising Madoff case in yet another unexpected direction.

    Reuters - Facebook surfing while sick costs Swiss woman job

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    Facebook surfing while sick costs Swiss woman job

    Friday, Apr 24, 2009 4:25PM UTC

    ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss insurance worker lost her job after surfing popular social network site Facebook while off sick, her employer said on Friday.

    The woman said she could not work in front of a computer as she needed to lie in the dark but was then seen to be active on Facebook, which insurer Nationale Suisse said in a statement had destroyed its trust in the employee.

    "This abuse of trust, rather than the activity on Facebook, led to the ending of the work contract," it said.

    The unnamed woman told the 20 Minuten daily she had been surfing Facebook in bed on her iPhone and accused her employer of spying on her and other employees by sending a mysterious friend request which allows access to personal online activity.

    Nationale Suisse rejected the accusation of spying and said the employee's Facebook activity had been stumbled across by a colleague in November, before use of the social network site was blocked in the company.

    (Reporting by Emma Thomasson, editing by Paul Casciato)

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    CNN - Florida pharmacy says it wrongly prepped horse meds before match

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    Florida pharmacy says it wrongly prepped horse meds before match


    A veterinary pharmacy in Florida acknowledged Thursday that it incorrectly prepared medication used to treat 21 horses who all died around the time of an international polo match last weekend.

    The deaths of the ponies, witnessed in full view by spectators Sunday in a dramatic scene where horses collapsed one after another, have shaken the prestigious polo tournament at the marquee International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida.

    An internal investigation by Franck's Pharmacy in Ocala, Florida, "concluded that the strength of an ingredient in the medication was incorrect. We will cooperate fully with the authorities as they continue their investigations," the company said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

    "We extend our most sincere condolences to the horses' owners, the Lechuza Polo team and the members of the United States Polo Association. We share their grief and sadness," the pharmacy's chief operations officer, Jennifer Beckett, said in the statement.

    A memorial ceremony for the horses is scheduled for Thursday at the U.S. Open Polo Championship, where officials hope to resume play after matches were postponed by rain Wednesday. The memorial service will include a brief speech and a wreath-laying on the field.

    The pharmacy said it prepared medication for the horses on orders from a veterinarian.

    Liz Compton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told CNN that the agency is awaiting toxicology results from the animals and could not comment on the pharmacy's disclosure.

    "Obviously, we are going to follow any and every potential lead to get to the bottom of this," she said.

    The horses were trained by Lechuza Polo, a Venezuela-based team. Its captain, Juan Martin Nero, told an Argentine newspaper earlier this week that he had "no doubts" vitamins administered to the animals were at fault.

    "There were five horses that did not get the vitamin, and those were the only ones that survived," Nero said.

    The horses collapsed one after another in front of spectators at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida, while being prepared for a tournament Sunday. Most were dead within an hour. Post-mortem examinations done by a University of Florida laboratory found significant hemorrhaging in several horses, but the findings did not single out a specific cause.

    Reuters - Echelon, T-Mobile USA form smart meter alliance

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    Echelon, T-Mobile USA form smart meter alliance

    Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 12:11PM UTC

    By Matt Daily and Ritsuko Ando

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Smart power grid company Echelon Corp <ELON.O> and T-Mobile USA <DTEG.N> said on Thursday they had formed an alliance to use T-Mobile's wireless network to link "smart meters" to utilities.

    T-Mobile will provide embedded SIMs inside a cellular radio module in Echelon's smart meters, which collect power usage and other data for the company's network.

    Several U.S. utilities have begun testing smart meters in pilot projects that are designed to measure power demand at the consumer level and help the electricity providers generate and distribute power more efficiently.

    Smart meters are a key part in the rollout of "smart grid" technology that power companies hope will enable the United States to use electricity far more efficiently.

    Experts say upgrading the nation's power grid is essential to help accommodate the growth of green power sources such as wind and solar, as well as enabling the system to eventually supply a fleet of electric cars.

    Echelon, which has shipped more than 100,000 of its smart meters to U.S. utility owner Duke Energy <DUK.N> and more than 1.6 million worldwide, said the partnership with T-Mobile would provide a cost-effective communications tool for the meters.

    Its meters cost about $100 apiece excluding installation.

    Eventually, companies like Echelon hope to link smart meters to "smart appliances" which consumers can program to operate during hours when electricity demand is low.

    Currently, utilities pay more for power generated during "peak" daytime hours. They hope to shift some of that usage to early morning or evening hours when demand is lower, allowing them to buy cheaper power and pass the savings on to consumers.

    That technology is already in use for some businesses and factories that have agreed to reduce their electricity usage during periods when supplies are stretched. Those companies receive power at lower prices in exchange for agreeing to reduce their demand during those periods.

    T-Mobile USA said the embedded SIM, slightly larger than the head of a pin, will be built of silicon rather than plastic, making it very durable, since too much heat, vibration, or humidity can damage traditional SIM cards.

    Durability problems have been a key obstacle for the adoption of remote, smart grid devices, and T-Mobile expects the potential market to be huge.

    "There are 300 million electric meters. You've got gas and water on top of that. It's a very, very large opportunity ... billions of dollars," John Horn, national director of T-Mobile USA's M2M division, told Reuters.

    The partnership's wireless technology will be deployed on low-voltage transformers, which typically provide electricity connections to between four and 10 homes or businesses.

    Data provided from the transformers to a central collection point at the utility will allow the power provider to easily pinpoint problems in the network and reduce cost and duration of power outages, the companies said.

    (Editing by Matthew Lewis)

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Portfolio Mobile - Stanford Prosecutor Arrested for Assault

    Stanford Prosecutor Arrested for Assault





    When R. Allen Stanford, the Texas financier accused of running a $8 billion Ponzi scheme, finally broke his silence and spoke to reporters on Monday, he teared up when discussing his legal troubles: "You have no idea what this is like for me."

    Well um, one of the SEC lawyers prosecuting his case may feel at least some of Stanford's pain.

    J. Keith Edmundson, assistant regional director at the SEC's Ft. Worth office was arrested on Saturday for public intoxication and assaulting a police officer. In his mug shot (right), he looks about as happy as Stanford did facing the media in his lawyer's office in Houston two days later.

    Sgt. Pedro Criado of Ft. Worth Police Department said Edmundson ignored a police officer who was directing traffic at an arts festival in the city's downtown area Saturday night. He crossed the street despite her repeated orders to wait. She chased after him and grabbed him by the wrist and smelled alcohol on his breath. A scuffle ensued.



    Other officers rushed over and Criado says Edmundson had to be "pushed against a wall to be subdued and handcuffed." He was taken to jail. His friend, fellow Ft. Worth lawyer Richard Roper dragged himself out of bed to get Edmundson released on his own recognizance. "He basically promised to appear at any future proceedings," said Roper.

    Ft. Worth attorney Tim Moore has taken over the case. Neither he nor Edmundson returned calls seeking comment but SEC spokesman, John Nester said, "We are aware of the incident and it is under review. We take such matters seriously and are prepared to take any appropriate action."

    by Kate Murphy

    Photo courtesy of Ft. Worth Police Department
    Related Links
    A Ponzi By Any Other Name
    Stanford: Criminal Charges Almost Certain
    Is Hedge Fund Synonymous With Ponzi Scheme?




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    Portfolio Mobile - Happy 20th Birthday, Game Boy

    Happy 20th Birthday, Game Boy



    Twenty years ago this week, Nintendo released the Game Boy, its first handheld video game console. Excited Japanese customers snatched up the innovative monochrome handheld by the thousands, which retailed for 12,500 yen (about $94 at 1989 rates) at launch?a small price to pay for what seemed to be an NES in your pocket. Nintendo initially offered four games for the new Game Boy: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a mahjong game), but the number of available titles quickly grew into the hundreds.


    Later that year, the Game Boy hit the US at $89.99 with a secret weapon?Tetris as its pack-in game. Selling over a million units during the first Christmas season, the Game Boy proved equally successful in the US, and that success was by no means short-lived: to date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (not including Game Boy Advance) worldwide, making it the longest running dynasty in the video game business. So in honor of the Game Boy's twentieth anniversary, we give you six reasons why the Game Boy dominated the handheld video game market during most of its astounding two-decade run.1. Tetris



    It's common pop-marketing knowledge these days that every new hardware platform needs a "killer app" to truly succeed. In the Game Boy's case, Tetris filled that role perfectly.

    Alexey Pajitnov's block-stacking classic was easy to play in short sessions, and its simple graphics and mostly non-action gameplay proved perfect for the Game Boy's limited screen capabilities. (If you'll recall, the first Game Boy had a slow LCD response time, which translated to blurry "ghosting" during movement in action games.) Nintendo of America's management made a gutsy and intelligent move to pack in Tetris with its new handheld instead of a proven name like Super Mario Land, and that move proved essential to the Game Boy's long-term success.



    Tetris didn't start with the Game Boy, of course (Pajitnov created it for the PC in 1985), but the Game Boy made it mainstream. Ultimately, Tetris proved so popular that it quickly drove sales of Nintendo's handheld console into the millions. Tetris's grown-up gameplay also attracted adults to Nintendo's new platform, expanding Game Boy's potential audience beyond the usual adolescent NES set.2. Battery Life

    The original Game Boy boasted anywhere from 10 to 30 hours of battery life on four AA batteries, according to different sources (the more generous estimates came from Nintendo itself at launch). Nintendo achieved this feat of longevity by using a non-backlit monochrome screen and a low-power 8-bit processor in its first handheld. By contrast, Nintendo's competitors were obsessed with color backlit LCD displays and more beefy processors that made their units into battery guzzlers. The NEC TurboExpress, Sega Game Gear, and Atari Lynx only managed to squeeze out 2-5 hours of play time on 6 AA batteries, which could prove quite expensive for their owners over time.



    From a hardware design standpoint, Nintendo's first concern with the Game Boy always seemed to be battery life. It makes sense, because an electronic device's portability is directly related to how long you can use it without being tethered down by a power cord. So when it came to adding color to the Game Boy line, Nintendo took its sweet time?nine years, in fact. Why did it take so long? Nintendo wisely waited until it could provide a low-cost, low-power color LCD display that would not only keep the cost of the Game Boy Color low, but provide it with a long battery life comparable to its earlier monochrome cousins.

    Ultimately, Nintendo's obsession with battery efficiency proved pivotal. While the Game Boy's early competitors possessed technologically superior displays and more processing power, consumers chose the Game Boy in large part because of the lower cost of operation (fewer batteries to buy) and greater portability afforded by its economical battery usage. Before long, the color power hogs drowned in Nintendo's wake while the Game Boy captured the portable gaming market.3. The Nintendo Brand



    In addition to battery life, the Game Boy had a major advantage behind it that its competitors lacked: a monster brand name?Nintendo?that dominated 80% of the video game market. Sure, Atari was Atari?once a video game giant, but by the late '80s it was a tarnished shadow of its former self. Sega's success in the home console wars was still brewing, and NEC's relatively low profile and short history in the video game business didn't resonate with consumers.

    By contrast, Nintendo's 8-bit home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (and the Famicom, its Japanese counterpart), found itself near the peak of its popularity between 1989 and 1991?key years in the handheld wars. Consumers on both sides of the Pacific trusted the Nintendo name to deliver a high quality gaming experience. They knew they could count on Nintendo to provide world-class first-party software for the new console year after year, especially thanks to an enviable set of popular franchises like Super Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus.



    Perhaps more importantly, Nintendo also brought to the handheld a dedicated group of skilled third party developers who knew they could rely on the Game Boy as a strong platform for their software. Plentiful third party support meant plentiful titles, which is always good news for the long-term health of any game system.4. Price

    The Game Boy retailed for $89.95 at launch in the US. Compare that to its closest competitors at their launches: the TurboExpress sold for $249.99; the Game Gear, $149.99; and the Lynx, $189.95. Nintendo could afford to offer the Game Boy at a lower price primarily because of the unit's less expensive non-backlit monochrome LCD screen. The Game Boy also gained an advantage over its rivals in total cost of ownership: as previously mentioned, Nintendo's handheld cost less to operate over time due to its more conservative use of disposable batteries.



    Launch price wasn't the only factor in Game Boy's success. Over time, Nintendo continued to lower the price of its portable console as production costs decreased, keeping the Game Boy affordable and price competitive despite significant improvements in technology.5. Pokémon

    Tetris may have driven the public's ravenous early appetite for Game Boy, but Pokémon cemented it to legendary status. The monster collecting RPG for the original Game Boy sold a combined 20 million copies in the US and Japan and proved that the aging Game Boy platform was still relevant in the late 1990s. And having a new hot title for the handheld at the time proved especially important in the face of a new breed of portable platforms like the Neo Geo Pocket, Bandai Wonderswan, and Tiger Game.com that had learned a few tricks from Nintendo's portable wunderkind. Lacking an absolute must-have game like Pokémon, those new portable contenders quickly fell by the wayside.



    Interestingly, Pokémon's success kept more than just the Game Boy alive. 1996-2006 were lean years for Nintendo on the home console front. While the Nintendo 64 and GameCube didn't sell particularly well, sales of Game Boy and Game Boy Advance hardware remained strong, largely driven by the Pokémon craze. In fact, after disappointing sales of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo decided to bring the blockbuster franchise to its ailing console. Sales of the N64 briefly tripled after the release of Pokémon Stadium in 1999. Even so, it wasn't enough to stay on top of the home console race. If Game Boy sales hadn't been so strong, it's possible that Nintendo might have left the hardware business entirely by now. So in some ways, Pokémon and Game Boy kept Nintendo afloat during tough times. Nintendo, and Game Boy, lived on to see another day.6. Flexibility



    Throughout two decades of history, the Game Boy has clearly been a hardware franchise that would not sit still. As technology improved, Nintendo followed, regularly refreshing its handheld console to provide better battery life, sharper displays, and more compact form factors. As of 2009, Nintendo has released seven distinct models in the Game Boy series (all but one are completely backwards compatible with earlier units): Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light (Japan only), Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Advance SP, and Game Boy Micro. Within those seven models, Nintendo provided many color variations and even a few minor hardware revisions. Nintendo also released three home console adapters that allowed users to play Game Boy games on a TV set: Super Game Boy and Super Game Boy 2 (Japan) for the Super NES, and Game Boy Player for the GameCube.



    At the moment, Nintendo's dominance in the handheld gaming business continues with the Nintendo DS line of consoles. The Nintendo DS launched in 2004 with Game Boy Advance backwards compatibility as a major feature, making the DS a spiritual successor to the Game Boy line. Even with the DS firmly in the spotlight, Nintendo still sells the Game Boy Micro, a compact version of the Game Boy Advance. So even now, the "Game Boy" name remains alive, although it's on life support. Unfortunately, Nintendo chose to remove Game Boy Advance compatibility from its latest handheld, the Nintendo DSi. As we look ahead, the future of the Game Boy brand remains uncertain at best, grim at worst, but it has been one hell of a ride. Happy 20th birthday, Game Boy. Next year, I'll buy you a beer.SourcesGame Boy Launch Date (Japan)Game Boy Sales NumbersGame Boy Sales in 1989Number of GB Titles ReleasedApril 21st, 1989 Game Boy Launch Titles and PricesNintendo Market Share in 1989Pokemon HistoryPokemon Offsetting Nintendo 64 Sales



    by Benj Edwards, for Ars TechnicaRelated Links
    Nintendo is Trouncing Its Competitors
    The Gym Arcade
    Take Two Locks Up Rockstar Talent





    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

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