the world as we write it

smiley status'

    eat my Twitter?

    The Black Rider

    authentic since 1981 'welcome to my bomboclot mind'

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Keith's Notes.

    Cool websites to streamline your business:,

    Cool codeing, AJAX. ASK YOUR iT dept. about it.

    New bluetooth ear piece is out, the "JAWBONE 5",

    Google Poppy Harlow on for companies that are hiring: WALMART, BANK of AMERICA, etc.

    Cool Twitter sites,,

    Other cool sites:, and and 2 get cool myspace themes.

    R U Job hunting? If you are age 45 and over, check out AARP.COM/REALRELIEF. Other cool sites:,, and

    Cool email to have for job hunting: She will help you out.

    Cool new tech stuff: Google the following; Bump Top, GestureTek, Vienda.
    Looking for a Tax extension, then you need tax form 4868IRS.

    Keith's Notes.

    NY Times: Why Twitter turned down facebook by Clair Cain Miller.

    Evan Williams: C.E.O. of Twitter, Co-founder.

    To search twitter, go to

    Filtr: A filter client for twitter.

    Re: Evan Williams founded Pyra Labs. Pyra Labs created Blogger a decade ago and sold it to Google in 2003.

    Yammer: Twitter copycat focused on Coorporate. It is founded by Jack Dorsey.

    Check out to make cool slideshows.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009

    Supercars do France part 4 - Top Gear - BBC Autos

    This is so seductive.

    Friday, May 29, 2009

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    Leap in U.S. debt hits taxpayers with 12% more red ink

    Taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

    The 12% rise in red ink in 2008 stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security.

    That's the biggest leap in the long-term burden on taxpayers since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003.

    The latest increase raises federal obligations to a record $546,668 per household in 2008, according to the USA TODAY analysis. That's quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.

    "We have a huge implicit mortgage on every household in America except, unlike a real mortgage, it's not backed up by a house," says David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general, the government's top auditor.

    USA TODAY used federal data to compute all government liabilities, from Treasury bonds to Medicare to military pensions.

    Bottom line: The government took on $6.8 trillion in new obligations in 2008, pushing the total owed to a record $63.8 trillion.

    The numbers measure what's needed today set aside in a lump sum, earning interest to pay benefits that won't be covered by future taxes.

    Congress can reduce or increase the burden by changing laws that determine taxes and benefits for programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

    Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., says exploding debt has focused attention on the government's financial challenges. "More and more, people are worried about our fiscal future," he says.

    Key federal obligations:

    Social Security.It will grow by 1 million to 2 million beneficiaries a year from 2008 through 2032, up from 500,000 a year in the 1990s, its actuaries say. Average benefit: $12,089 in 2008.

    Medicare. More than 1 million a year will enroll starting in 2011 when the first Baby Boomer turns 65. Average 2008 benefit: $11,018.

    Retirement programs. Congress has not set aside money to pay military and civil servant pensions or health care for retirees. These unfunded obligations have increased an average of $300 billion a year since 2003 and now stand at $5.3 trillion.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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    Kindle rival finally makes an appearance

    It's taking awhile to get here. But the thin Plastic Logic eBook reader initially unveiled at a Demo conference in September 2008 is progressing, however slowly.

    At the All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif, this week, Plastic Logic is providing a sneak peek of its prototypical electronic reader for business.  It's the first time the touch-screen user interface was unveiled publicly.

    It features content from Fortune Magazine, the Detroit Free Press (in a real newspaper and magazine-type layouts), and other business documents. Professionals are the target customers.

    On the left side of the screen are tabs representing the most recent documents you looked at. You can turn pages with "swipe gestures" and jump ahead to pages in a document by tapping on tabs on the right edge.

    You'll be able to read bestsellers too, and Plastic Logic plans to offer a wireless store (through a combination of Wi-Fi and 3G cellular), to offer an experience somewhat similar to what Amazon has done through the Kindle Store.

    Plastic Logic has not revealed the prices yet. 

    I was certainly impressed by how the thin the reader is. It's about a 1/3 of an inch thick and weighs less than a pound. The core technology is made of transistors made out of plastics.

    Alas, you'll still have to wait awhile though -- the reader isn't likely to be available until early 2010. Color is also on Plastic Logic's roadmap too, eventually. But that's a lot further out.

    Full disclosure: Plastic Logic has a content deal with USA TODAY.

    By Ed Baig

    Photo: Plastic Logic

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    NBA rescinds Howard's technical foul from Game 4

    The NBA league office rescinded a technical foul called against Orlando Magic star center Dwight Howard in Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Taking away the technical foul is of great importance to the Magic because Howard goes back to having five technical fouls in these playoffs. A player is suspended the next game after picking up a seventh technical foul.

    Howard was whistled for a technical foul at the time his sixth technical foul in the third quarter Tuesday night when he celebrated after converted a basket. Howard was grabbed around the shoulders and waist by Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and he exalted upon making the basket anyway.

    GAME 4: Magic take 3-1 lead over Cavs

    The Magic were not happy with the call and felt Howard did not deserve a technical foul for simply celebrating on the play.

    "I guess there is no problem grabbing a guy by the neck as he goes up in the air," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But you celebrate the basket, that's a problem."

    Howard, who would go on to score 10 of his 27 points in overtime to lift the Magic to a 3-1 lead in the series, hoped the league would reconsider the penalty after a review of the game tape.

    After all, the league had wiped out a technical foul on Kobe Bryant and three of them on Denver's Kenyon Martin earlier in these playoffs. And on Tuesday the NBA changed its mind on the flagrant one foul that Magic guard Anthony Johnson was whistled for in Game 3.

    "All I was doing ... I was just playing with emotion," Howard said. "You get in the game and you score a big bucket you let your emotions take over. I wasn't taunting Varejao or anything. My thing was, it was a tough play, he grabbed me around the neck and I made the shot, so hopefully they will look at it."

    Howard already was suspended one game in the Magic's first-round series for his elbow on 76ers center Samuel Dalembert. Howard had joked after receiving his fifth technical foul of the postseason that he was going to start wearing thick elbow pads and duct tape his mouth.

    "I might have to get some duct tape for real," Howard said after Game 4.

    Contributing: Wire reports

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    NBA rescinds Howard's technical foul from Game 4

    The NBA league office rescinded a technical foul called against Orlando Magic star center Dwight Howard in Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Taking away the technical foul is of great importance to the Magic because Howard goes back to having five technical fouls in these playoffs. A player is suspended the next game after picking up a seventh technical foul.

    Howard was whistled for a technical foul at the time his sixth technical foul in the third quarter Tuesday night when he celebrated after converted a basket. Howard was grabbed around the shoulders and waist by Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and he exalted upon making the basket anyway.

    GAME 4: Magic take 3-1 lead over Cavs

    The Magic were not happy with the call and felt Howard did not deserve a technical foul for simply celebrating on the play.

    "I guess there is no problem grabbing a guy by the neck as he goes up in the air," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But you celebrate the basket, that's a problem."

    Howard, who would go on to score 10 of his 27 points in overtime to lift the Magic to a 3-1 lead in the series, hoped the league would reconsider the penalty after a review of the game tape.

    After all, the league had wiped out a technical foul on Kobe Bryant and three of them on Denver's Kenyon Martin earlier in these playoffs. And on Tuesday the NBA changed its mind on the flagrant one foul that Magic guard Anthony Johnson was whistled for in Game 3.

    "All I was doing ... I was just playing with emotion," Howard said. "You get in the game and you score a big bucket you let your emotions take over. I wasn't taunting Varejao or anything. My thing was, it was a tough play, he grabbed me around the neck and I made the shot, so hopefully they will look at it."

    Howard already was suspended one game in the Magic's first-round series for his elbow on 76ers center Samuel Dalembert. Howard had joked after receiving his fifth technical foul of the postseason that he was going to start wearing thick elbow pads and duct tape his mouth.

    "I might have to get some duct tape for real," Howard said after Game 4.

    Contributing: Wire reports

    Reuters - Yahoo CEO says talking to Microsoft "little bit"

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    Yahoo CEO says talking to Microsoft "little bit"

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009 9:11PM UTC

    CARLSBAD, California (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc CEO Carol Bartz said any deal to spin off or combine its Internet search assets will require a partner with "boatloads of money," and her company is talking "a little bit" with Microsoft Corp about a potential partnership.

    Speaking at the All Things Digital conference on Wednesday, Bartz said the company's array of popular Web products, including Yahoo mail and its home page, remain the key assets that will return Yahoo to growth.

    Since taking the CEO job, Bartz has moved swiftly to revamp the company, cutting jobs, shuttering certain products and reorganizing the management structure.

    Bartz said the company would like to hold on and even increase its roughly 20 percent share of the U.S. Internet search market, but it was not necessary for Yahoo's success.

    "We are positioned as a place where people come to be informed; not just informed through a search, but informed through great content, with great editorial and great integration and a very local feel," Bartz said at the conference taking place north of San Diego.

    Yahoo is the No.2 player in the search market, behind Google Inc, which had a roughly 64 percent share of the U.S. search market in April, according to comScore.

    Bartz, 60, took the reins at Yahoo in January, replacing co-founder Jerry Yang in the wake of Yahoo's rejection of a $47.5 billion acquisition bid from software giant Microsoft.

    Yahoo and Microsoft have recently talked about various partnerships, possibly with Microsoft managing Yahoo's search advertising business and Yahoo handling display ads across Microsoft's websites, according to a source familiar with the situation.

    Asked if the talks between Yahoo and Microsoft about an Internet search deal continue, Bartz replied "a little bit."

    Bartz said any deal combining its search efforts with another company would have to meet a specific set of criteria for Yahoo.

    "There's two parties in all this. The other party has to have a boatload of money and the right technology, and give us the right data and so forth. It's that simple," said Bartz.

    Microsoft, the No.3 player in the U.S. Internet search market, is expected to provide details about improvements to its search engine at the conference on Thursday when CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage.

    Yahoo earned $118 million in the first quarter, while its sales declined 13 percent year-over-year to $1.58 billion.

    Given the challenging economic conditions, Bartz said she believes the company is performing strongly.

    Bartz said on Wednesday that the new organizational structure, which she said makes the management and reporting hierarchies more clear within the company, will help Yahoo infuse its products with personalization and social media features.

    Yahoo is adding social networking features such as status updates to its various properties. Last week, CEO Ari Blalogh said the company was also interested in acquiring outside companies to bolster its social efforts.

    Yahoo is facing increased competition from social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. On Tuesday, Facebook, which has 200 million active users, announced it had received $200 million in funding from a Russian Internet investment firm.

    Bartz said the company's core online properties can provide an Internet experience for Web surfers that Facebook cannot match, by providing a one-stop shop for people to read the news, check their stock portfolio and take care of other online tasks.

    And she stressed Yahoo's various online products remain some of the most popular on the Web.

    Yahoo has a 76 percent reach among U.S. Internet users, said Bartz.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Andre Grenon)

    Outlook for Outsourcing Spending Brightens -

    Wal-Mart Comes to India -

    Reuters - Microsoft to launch new Zune later this year

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    Microsoft to launch new Zune later this year

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009 3:22AM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp plans to launch a new version of its Zune portable media player later this year in the United States, incorporating high-definition video, touch screen technology and Wi-Fi connection.

    Microsoft said on Tuesday the new Zune, its answer to Apple Inc's popular iPod digital music player, will also come with an Internet browser and a built-in HD radio receiver that offers higher-quality sound than traditional radio.

    It did not give a price or a specific date except to say it was due in the fall.

    The company added new features to Zune's music service last year, enabling users to download music wirelessly and buy songs they hear on the device's built-in FM radio.

    (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Anshuman Daga)

    Reuters - Singer Chris Brown says he's "not a monster"

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    Singer Chris Brown says he's "not a monster"

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009 7:28PM UTC

    By Alex Dobuzinskis

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - R&B singer Chris Brown said he is "not a monster" in a video message posted online this week ahead of a court hearing over a criminal charge that he beat pop singer Rihanna, leaving her bruised and bloodied.

    Brown, who is not expected to attend the hearing set for Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, does not mention Rihanna by name in the video posted on the website and circulated online on Wednesday.

    But the 20-year-old singer of hits "Kiss Kiss" and "Run It" appears to address the accusations that he beat his girlfriend Rihanna in February while in a car in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy awards.

    "I just wanna say 'What up?' because I ain't been out there in a minute," Brown said in the video, marking the only time he has seemed publicly to address the incident beyond an initial statement in February.

    "Everybody that's haters, they just been haters. All my real fans, I love you all. I ain't a monster," he said.

    A representative for Rihanna, singer of hit songs such as "Umbrella," was not immediately available to comment.

    Brown is charged with assaulting Rihanna by "means of force likely to produce great bodily injury" and threatening to commit a crime "which would result in death and great bodily injury." He faces up to four years in prison if convicted, and has previously pleaded not guilty to the charge.

    In February, one week after the incident, he issued a statement saying "words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired." He added that he had sought counseling.

    At Thursday's hearing, Brown's attorney Mark Geragos is expected to contest the charges on grounds that a police photo of Rihanna, taken after she was beaten, should not have been leaked to the media. It showed Rihanna with her eyes closed and her lower lip bloodied and swollen.

    (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Will Dunham)

    Reuters - AT&T says to double mobile data speeds by 2011

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    AT&T says to double mobile data speeds by 2011

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009 7:4PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc said on Wednesday it would double its wireless data network speeds as part of an upgrade that it aims to kick off later this year and complete in 2011.

    The second biggest U.S. mobile service said its plan, which includes the expansion of its existing wireless data network from 350 metropolitan areas to 370 this year, would be covered by its previously announced capital spending budget of $17 billion to $18 billion for 2009.

    The increase to its mobile Web surfing speeds involves an upgrade of a network technology known as High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) that AT&T already uses. The upgrade is expected to increase AT&T's theoretical network speed to 7.2 megabits per second from current levels of 3 megabits per second, the company said.

    However, actual network speeds can vary hugely once a network is loaded with customers. AT&T said it would have multiple laptop network cards and smartphones available to take advantage of the upgrade later this year.

    The company also said it would start tests for its next network technology upgrade with a technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) in 2010 and plans to start building LTE into its network in 2011.

    Its bigger rival Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, plans to already start installing LTE into its network later in 2009, a year ahead of AT&T.

    Clearwire Corp is building a rival high-speed network based on WiMax, another emerging technology.

    (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Richard Chang)

    CNN - 'He would have found bin Laden'

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    'He would have found bin Laden'

    Sebastian Junger found him crouched on a battlefield in Afghanistan, fighting to stay alive.

    The Taliban had the man cornered and outnumbered. A sniper's bullet came so close to the man that it plucked dirt between his feet. But Junger watched him coolly orchestrate a cunning counterattack by his soldiers -- all while discussing his favorite poetry and international news.

    "He had tremendous magnetism," says Junger, a noted journalist and author who has written bestsellers like "The Perfect Storm," and "A Death in Belmont."

    "You didn't even need to speak his language to fall under his sway. That's the only time I've ever really felt that from another person."

    The man Junger met was Ahmad Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir." Today, Massoud is a national hero in Afghanistan, but he's also become something else: the prototype for the tough but enlightened leader Afghanistan desperately needs today, some Afghans say.

    Massoud was assassinated two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks by agents linked to al Qaeda. Though he died eight years ago, his legacy looms over any would-be leader in Afghanistan, Afghans and scholars say.

    'He would have found bin Laden'

    Afghanistan's government has been accused of being corrupt and weak. Massoud had a reputation for integrity and strength, says Junger, who traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to profile Massoud for his book, "Fire."

    "He would have been very hard for the warlords to intimidate," Junger says.

    Massoud had a reputation as a fierce nationalist who would not allow any outside group -- the Russians, Pakistan, the Taliban, even the United States -- to control Afghanistan, says Zieba Shorish-Shamley, an Afghan native and founder of the Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan.

    "All he wanted was to have Afghanistan for Afghanistan," Shorish-Shamley says. "If Massoud would have been in power, he would not sell out."

    Massoud made his name as a brilliant guerrilla leader. He was born in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley, the son of an Afghan army officer. He attended college as an engineering student where he became involved in student politics.

    Massoud became Afghanistan's most famous resistance leader after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Widely read, he studied the works of famous guerrilla leaders. His army fought back nine major offensives by the Soviet army in the Panjshir Valley.

    After the Soviet army retreated, Massoud then waged war against the Taliban, objecting to their rigid interpretation of Islam and treatment of women.

    While battling the Taliban, Massoud became a bitter foe of the group's chief ally, al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden.

    Shorish-Shamley, the women's rights activist, says Massoud was assassinated just before the 9/11 attacks because bin Laden feared Massoud. Massoud's military prowess combined with his knowledge of the Afghan-Pakistan border would have made him an even more formidable threat against the Taliban with U.S. military muscle backing him.

    "If they [al Qaeda leaders] were hiding under a rock, he would have found them,'' Shorish-Shamley says. "He was that type of person. He would have found bin Laden."

    'He was a charming killer'

    Yet there are others who say Massoud wasn't that different from the warlords who try to control Afghanistan today.

    After the Soviet army left Afghanistan, various Afghan resistance leaders cobbled together a coalition government to run the country. Massoud was appointed defense minister. But a civil war soon erupted as various factions fought for control of the country. Men under Massoud's command were accused of massacring civilians.

    Paul Fitzgerald, co-author of "Afghanistan's Untold Story," says Massoud was a "charming killer."

    "He wasn't as bad at the worst," Fitzgerald says. "But from the Afghan point of view, they're all war criminals. They really didn't do any good for the Afghan people."

    The Taliban eventually stepped into the leadership vacuum created by feuding Afghan factions. When they gained control of Afghanistan, they pushed Massoud's army into the Panjshir Valley. There Massoud fought a rear-guard action against the Taliban while trying to warn the West about the global threat posed by bin Laden and the Taliban.

    Marcela Grad, author of the book "Massoud," says he was the only Afghan resistance leader who never left the country to live abroad. He fought constantly for Afghanistan's independence, but constant war didn't appear to destroy his humanity.

    "He had tranquility about him," says Grad, who journeyed to Afghanistan to talk to Massoud's friends for her book. "He brought his poetry books to battle."

    Grad says Massoud believed that his fight against the Taliban wasn't isolated but part of a larger battle against a Taliban-like Islam that threatened to spread across Central Asia.

    "If Massoud and the Afghans were not being a front against intolerance in that part of the world, we would have had al Qaeda everywhere -- it would have been much worse," Grad says.

    Junger, who had interviewed Massoud the year before, says he crushed by Massoud's death.

    "A lot of people who knew him felt that he was the best hope for that part of the world," says Junger.

    There may be another Massoud in Afghanistan's future.

    A year after Massoud's death, he was named him a "National Hero of Afghanistan." As dignitaries stepped on stage to honor Massoud, a thin adolescent with the same aquiline nose and almond-shaped eyes as Massoud stepped before the crowd.

    It was Massoud's only son, Ahmad, who was then 13 (he would now be about 20). CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who covered the event, reported that Ahmad said that terrorists may have killed his father but not his vision of a united and free Afghanistan.

    "I want to follow in my father's footsteps," Ahmad said. "I want to secure our country's independence. I want to be my father's successor."

    Reuters - Radio Canada rapped for Obama assassination joke

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    Radio Canada rapped for Obama assassination joke

    Monday, May 25, 2009 8:5PM UTC

    By David Ljunggren

    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's public broadcaster was wrong to show a skit that joked about the possible assassination of President Barack Obama and suggested he could be a thief, an industry panel ruled on Monday.

    The New Year's Eve "Bye Bye" comedy program -- shown by the French-language Radio Canada network -- generated more than 200 complaints. In one segment, two hosts discussed Obama's election in November 2008. Obama, who took office in January, is the first black U.S. president.

    "We're not racists. It will be good to have a Negro in the White House. It will be practical. Black on white, it will be easier to shoot him," one of the show's hosts remarked.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council said it found "nothing redeeming in the allegedly comedic notion that an American president should be shot, still less that this would be easier to achieve because of the color of the president's skin. It was a disturbing, wounding, abusive racial comment".

    The show also featured an interview with an actor pretending to be Obama. The host said, "The blacks, you all look alike," and then warned viewers to hide their purses.

    The council said the comments and sketches breached regulations, adding they went "too far in terms of Canadian broadcast standards."

    The producers of the show denied the skits had been racist, saying they had meant to mock the characters making the offensive remarks.

    Complaints about Radio Canada are usually handled by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In this case the CRTC asked the council -- which deals with commercial channels and has more experience in handling such complaints -- for advice.

    The CRTC, which is due to conduct its own probe into the show, does not have the power to fine Radio-Canada but can issue a public reprimand.

    A spokeswoman for the commission said such reprimands could cause problems for networks when it came time for them to seek renewal of their broadcasting license. Radio-Canada is due to apply for a license renewal in 2011.

    Polls regularly show that Canadians like Obama far more than they do their own leaders. Tens of thousands turned up to cheer him when he made a brief visit to Ottawa in February. A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy said she did not know whether the White House had complained about the show.

    (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway and Frances Kerry)

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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    Twitter has millions tweeting in public communication service

    It's tea time at Twitter. While that may evoke images of courtly discussion over Earl Grey and finger sandwiches, it's quite another thing at Silicon Valley's new "it" company.

    The idea is that any employee can step in front of the 43-person start-up and offer a no-holds-barred weekly critique on a Friday afternoon. Co-founders Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone often watch from the back, taking mental notes. Some employees recite poems; others make wacky slide presentations. The point is to express what the company means to them.

    PHOTOS: Behind the scenes at Twitter

    In another tradition, Alison Sudol, a musician with more than 500,000 followers on Twitter, this month spoke at headquarters, part of a monthly ritual in which artists and academics drop by to impart wisdom and entertain.

    Both events underscore the bottom-up culture fostered by Twitter's unassuming co-founders, who have become reluctant media stars. "Tech founders get a little too much emphasis," CEO Evan Williams says. "So many people here contribute to our success."

    Today, it seems everyone wants a piece of Twitter. There have been rumors of takeover overtures from Google, Facebook and Apple. Twitter, like Google, has become a verb (though the proper term is "tweet"). Twitter's co-founders have had a profound impact on how millions of people communicate. Yet, despite appearances on Oprah,The View and The Colbert Report, many refer to them as simply The Twitter Guys.

    "They've created a new way for people to communicate publicly and instantaneously," says Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist who is on the company's six-member board and an investor.

    The trio, all in their 30s, are college dropouts with a modest track record of success. Each helped start a company before Twitter. Dorsey invented the service out of his deep fascination with taxi dispatches and city grids. Williams began reading business books for fun as a teenager. Stone wrote two books on blogging, and is Twitter's de facto public relations department.

    They're sitting on a potential gold mine. The 3-year-old firm raised $35 million in February alone $55 million to date and was recently valued at about $100 million.

    To be sure, behind the feel-good vibes, meteoric growth and nationwide fixation, Twitter's founders face issues of user retention, outages and persistent questions about monetization. Such are the challenges for a highflying start-up trying to live up to its considerable hype in the worst economy in more than 70 years.

    Yet, industry leaders such as CEO Tony Hsieh are convinced Twitter is up to the task.

    "All three (Twitter founders) have the belief that Twitter can change the world and the passion to make it actually happen," says Hsieh, a Web sales guru and fan of Twitter.

    No slam-dunk

    Millions of people use Twitter to trade short messages of 140 characters or less think haiku via the Web and cellphones. The free service is the fastest-growing major website in the U.S. It had 17 million registered users in the U.S. in April up 3,000% from a year ago, according to market researcher ComScore.

    Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher (1.5 million followers) and athlete Shaquille O'Neal (950,000) have added to its popularity. CEO Marc Benioff, an occasional adviser, believes the service will lead to new categories on the Web "from real-time journalism to the next generation of customer service and call centers."

    Before it gets there, however, Twitter must navigate several hurdles. Look no further than to Twitter Quitters, the cutesy nickname for users who quit after less than a month. Twitter's retention rate people who return the next month is about 40%, Nielsen Online says. Facebook and MySpace have rates of more than 60%.

    There also is chronic second-guessing from users and tech analysts about Twitter's occasional outages and what it should do next particularly, how it will make money in a sagging economy and whether it will be sold. (For the record, Williams says there is "no interest in selling.")

    "Twitter must have the most armchair quarterbacks of any start-up in recent memory, except possibly Facebook," says Laura Fitton, a consultant and co-author of Twitter for Dummies.

    Twitter experienced second-guessing full bore when it abruptly dropped a feature used by less than 3% of its users that removes some comments. "We screwed up," says Stone, who notes Twitter will soon have a solution. "There is so much going on here, we let it fall through the cracks."

    Adds Williams: "We did a poor job of communicating. When you evolve the service, you may upset people in the process. If you stand pat, you risk being stagnant."

    The challenges don't end there. Twitter, like its social media peers, must produce revenue. "Eventually, companies like Twitter are going to be forced to choose between huge user numbers or a smaller, truly active network of people willing to pay a nominal fee," says Sayles Braga, CEO of YellowPin, a social-networking service.

    Twitter's brain trust has heard it all before. "It took Google four to five years for revenue," says Dorsey, who was just in Iraq to help the government improve communications with citizens. "We will be patient, too."

    The usually chatty Stone and circumspect Williams are vague on how Twitter will evolve from hip technology to moneymaker. But Stone allows the company has plans for tools and services by year's end that will help businesses serve customers, and it may charge fees for such services.

    "The idea of taking money to run traditional banner ads on has always been low on our list of interesting ways to generate revenue," Stone mused in a blog post last week. "However, facilitating connections between businesses and individuals in meaningful and relevant ways is compelling."

    One new effort was announced Monday: an unscripted TV series based on the site that, according to the Associated Press, would "harness Twitter to put players on the trail of celebrities in an interactive, competitive format."

    The brain trust

    The weight of all of the lofty expectations rests squarely on the slight shoulders of Williams, 37, who oversees daily operations. The Clarks, Neb., native succeeded Dorsey as chief executive in October. He has successfully navigated a start-up before. As co-founder of Blogger, one of the first applications for creating and managing blogs, he helped sell it to Google for an undisclosed amount in 2003.

    Following Blogger's sale, Williams was not long for Google. He eventually hooked up with a friend, Noah Glass, to start Odeo, at the time a podcasting company. It was there that the Twitter concept was born.

    "Ev is the total package," says Chris Sacca, one of Twitter's first investors and an adviser. "He reminds me so much of (Sacca's former Google bosses and co-founders) Sergey (Brin) and Larry (Page). They understand products and how they can fit in the future."

    The son of a now-retired farmer, Williams showed a predilection for commerce as a teenager. He read business books on real estate, marketing and publishing. "I realized I could buy books and learn something that people spent years learning about," says Williams, who dropped out of the University of Nebraska just as the Web was becoming a phenomenon, in 1994.

    While Williams bears the operational brunt of running Twitter, the tireless Stone is the marketing hub. On a typical day, he fields 100 media requests.

    "Ev is the technology builder, and Biz is the evocative and communicative one," says Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, the popular business-networking service.

    Their partnership was born of a close working relationship and friendship built after starting out as business competitors. In 2000, Stone co-founded, a website that hosts blogs and social-networking profiles. It "looked a lot like MySpace before MySpace," he says. Its rival was Williams' Blogger.

    After Google bought Blogger, Williams asked Stone to join Google to help reboot Blogger with a new design and features. "I didn't really know Evan then," Stone says. "We were just familiar with each others' work. There was a mutual admiration."

    By 2005, they left Google for Odeo. Stone's timing could have been better he gave up his Google stock options because he wasn't there long enough to be vested but Odeo was where Twitter was born.

    "Twitter is so many things: a messaging service; a customer-service tool to reach customers, as proven by Zappos, Comcast and others; real-time search; and microblogging," says Stone, 35.

    The least visible co-founder, Dorsey, 32, is rarely around the office and already onto his Next Big Thing. But the St. Louis native is the mastermind behind the notepad sketch in 2000 that led to Twitter. "My whole philosophy is making tech more accessible and human," Dorsey says.

    When an image of the sketch was uploaded on the Internet in 2006, Dorsey wrote: "I had an idea to make a more 'live' LiveJournal. Real-time, up-to-date, from the road. Akin to updating your AIM status from wherever you are, and sharing it. We're calling it twttr."

    "Jack's original vision was staggering for its potential, as well as its simplicity," Sacca says.

    These days, Dorsey is chairman of the company's board of directors and a strategic adviser, but is devoting his energies to a top-secret start-up. He won't say much about the new venture only that it involves tech and communications, and that it may make its debut this summer.

    In many ways, the boyish-looking Dorsey best captures the spirit and look of Twitter. He bears a forearm-length tattoo that he says represents an F-sharp, an integral symbol from mathematics, and a human clavicle the only bone, he says, with "free range of motion."

    "I'm a very low-level programmer," Dorsey says, chuckling. "This idea of a short, inconsequential burst of activity (Twitter) turned out pretty well."

    For real-time mobile news, go to -

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    Calif. Supreme Court upholds gay marriage ban

    The state Supreme Court has upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, but also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.

    The decision Tuesday rejected an argument from gay rights activists that the ban revised the California constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.

    The announcement of the decision caused outcry among a sea of demonstrators who gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling.

    "Today's ruling is a huge blow to Americans everywhere who care about equality. The court has allowed a bare majority of voters to write same-sex couples out of basic constitutional protections," said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, the USA's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

    "This ruling is painful, but it represents a temporary setback. There will be a groundswell to restore marriage equality in our nation's largest state, and HRC will not give up until marriage equality is restored in California."

    Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a conservative group that opposes gay marraige, said, "This is a great victory for the people of California and the millions of supporters around the country for traditional marraige. I am elated."

    However, he said he wishes the court would "not have validated" the 18,000 marriages conducted between last June and Election Day.

    "This is going to present another litigational mess. It's a conundrum. The court in their way wanted to provide an out, a win-win scenario at the end of the day, the other side will vigorously contest and try to repeal Prop 8 and we will fight them every step of the way."

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, "I know today?s decision is a tremendous disappointment for many people. But I also know that the opinions of Californians are changing on this issue, and I believe that equal marriage rights will one day be the law in this state. This is already the case in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. So, I believe this issue will come before the voters again, and I am very hopeful that the result will be different next time."

    Contributing: Andrea Stone and Steve Marshall in McLean, Va., and the Associated Press

    Reuters - Facebook has $200 million investment from Russian firm

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    Facebook has $200 million investment from Russian firm

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 6:26PM UTC

    By Anupreeta Das

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Facebook has received a $200 million investment from a Russian Internet investment firm that values the social networking site at $10 billion, seeking a cash buffer as it grows rapidly through the recession.

    Digital Sky Technologies, which has invested in leading Russian web properties like and, will take a 1.96 percent stake in Facebook in exchange for preferred stock, the two companies said on Tuesday.

    Digital Sky also plans to buy at least $100 million of Facebook common stock from existing stockholders to provide liquidity for current and former employees with vested shares of Facebook stock.

    In recent months, Facebook has held discussions with several groups interested in investing in the company, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call.

    Digital Sky won because its founders Yuri Milner and Gregory Finger have strong experience running Internet properties in Eastern Europe and Russia, and "a deep, advanced understanding" of social networking technology, Zuckerberg said.

    "Ultimately (it was) this deal and my comfort with Yuri and the team," said Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in a Harvard University dorm room five years ago.

    In 2007, Microsoft Corp invested $240 million in Facebook, which valued the company at $15 billion at the time.


    Founded in 2005, Digital Sky has raised and invested more than $1 billion in over 30 companies, according to the firm's website.

    Milner, who attended Wharton Business School and was CEO of Russian web portal, said Digital Sky hopes to bring its expertise in making money off other web properties to Facebook.

    It was "a very simple exercise of applying what we've learnt in other parts of the world to Facebook," he said, adding that he was comfortable with the $10 billion valuation.

    Facebook, which now has more than 200 million members, will use the $200 million as a "cash buffer" to help it grow comfortably, Zuckerberg said.

    He reiterated that the social networking company was on track to increase 2009 revenue by 70 percent year-over-year, and would become cash flow positive by next year.

    The Digital Sky investment will also give Facebook the flexibility to pursue strategic options, although the Palo Alto, California-based firm has not been very acquisitive so far.

    (Reporting by Anupreeta Das and Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Derek Caney and Gerald E. McCormick)

    CNN - Obama nominates Sotomayor to Supreme Court

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    Obama nominates Sotomayor to Supreme Court

    President Obama on Tuesday nominated federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Sotomayor, 54, would be the first Hispanic and third female U.S. Supreme Court justice if confirmed.

    Obama announced the nomination Tuesday morning in the East Room of the White House.

    "Thank you, Mr. President, for the most humbling honor of my life," Sotomayor said.

    "My heart is bursting with gratitude," she said. She gave special recognition to her mother, who was sitting in the audience.

    "I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences," Sotomayor said.

    Obama called Sotomayor "an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice."

    She "has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breath of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice," he added.

    Obama said Sotomayor "would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed."

    The president met with Sotomayor at the White House for an hour Thursday, according to senior administration officials. He was impressed with Sotomayor's personal story and professional qualifications after meeting her, but he did not immediately offer her the job, two senior administration sources added.

    Obama made his final decision Monday, the sources said.

    Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was named a U.S. District Court judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and was elevated to her current seat by President Clinton.

    Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, rose from humble beginnings at a housing project in the South Bronx and went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law School.

    She has minimal personal assets compared with many of her judicial colleagues; a 2007 financial disclosure form showed her with a checking and savings account valued at between $50,000 and $115,000.

    Supporters say her appointment history, along with what they call her moderate-liberal views, would give her some bipartisan backing in the Senate.

    A senior White House official said that Sotomayor was "nominated by George Bush -- then Bill Clinton -- [and has] more judicial experience than anyone sitting on the court had at the time they were nominated."

    Another senior administration official said that Obama "was looking for someone with a balance of skills: very, very smart; independent thinker; highly regarded for integrity and commitment to the law."

    "He found all of those things with her, including his goal of selecting someone with the empathy factor -- real world, practical experience and understanding of how the law affects real people."

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, issued a statement calling Sotomayor's record "exemplary."

    "Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench," Leahy said. "I believe [she] understands that the courthouse doors must be as open to ordinary Americans as they are to government and big corporations."

    Sotomayor, however, has suffered through recent stinging criticism in the media and blogs from both the left and right over perceived -- some defenders say invented -- concerns about her temperament and intellect.

    As she has risen through the judicial ranks, Sotomayor increasingly has drawn the ire and opposition of conservatives. A majority of Republican senators opposed her elevation to the appellate court in 1998.

    However, an official with the Republican National Committee promised that the GOP will be equitable toward Sotomayor.

    "The Republicans are going to strike a tone that's fair, that allows the vetting process to happen like it should, and that's in stark contrast to how the Democrats dealt with Judge Roberts when you look back a couple years ago," the official said, referring to the 2005 confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts.

    In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that Senate Republicans "will thoroughly examine [Sotomayor's] record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences."

    McConnell said he trusts that the Democratic majority "will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications."

    Conservatives point to, among other things, her authoring of a 2008 opinion supporting the city of New Haven, Connecticut's decision to throw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam because almost no minorities qualified for promotions.

    The Supreme Court heard an appeal of the case in April; a final opinion is pending.

    "Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written," said Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.

    "She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one's sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench. ... She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

    However, the senior White House official said Sotomayor has had "99 percent of her decisions" upheld by a higher court.

    Some Hispanic groups expressed concern after a skit last week on "Late Show With David Letterman" compared Sotomayor with a noisy Spanish-speaking judge on a popular TV courtroom show that settles petty legal disputes.

    Obama said Saturday he wants intellectual firepower and a common touch in the next Supreme Court justice and said he doesn't "feel weighed down by having to choose ... based on demographics."

    Obama's nominee will replace retiring Justice David Souter, who announced this month he would step down when the court's current session ends this summer.

    There had been wide speculation that Obama would name a woman to the court, which has one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    Obama also had been under pressure to nominate a Hispanic justice to the court.

    Obama's nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate.

    The nominee is not expected to have difficulty being confirmed in the Democratic-controlled Senate in time for the new court session in October.

    The president has said he hopes to have hearings in July, with the confirmation completed before Congress leaves for the summer.

    Reuters - Asustek aims to be No.3 laptop vendor in 2011

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    Asustek aims to be No.3 laptop vendor in 2011

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:1PM UTC

    By Kelvin Soh

    TAIPEI (Reuters) - Netbook PC pioneer Asustek aims to double its market share to become the world's No.3 laptop vendor, riding the rising popularity of low-cost laptops among budget-conscious consumers during the global downturn.

    Asustek is currently No.5 in the world; Acer and Hewlett-Packard occupy the first and second positions.

    Asustek pioneered the wildly successful low-cost netbook PC in 2007, but has been gradually losing market share as other brands enter the market, and as it grapples with a reorganization following its fourth-quarter loss last year.

    Asustek will be introducing five new laptop models based on Intel's consumer ultra-low voltage chip (CULV) this year, as part of its strategy to grow its share of the market.

    "We call it the three-three policy, to be ranked third by market share in 2011," Asustek Chief Executive Jerry Shen told Reuters in an interview at the company's headquarters on Tuesday.

    "Our current market share is about 5 percent, and it would have to be about 10 percent to become number three."

    Shen gave a similarly bullish outlook for the company's prospects in China, where he said he expected to be on par with second-ranked Hewlett-Packard by market share in 2010.

    "We don't think Asustek can take first place in China, but to be on equal footing with the current No.2 player should be possible next year in the laptop PC segment," Shen said.

    Asustek and crosstown rival Acer now share fifth place in China by market share, according to research firm IDC. Both companies were included in a list of approved brands under a Chinese stimulus package that allows them to sell computers on the mainland.

    The two Taiwanese rivals had previously faced considerable headwinds competing in China, which is dominated by home-grown brands such as Lenovo and Founder.


    Shipments to the United States have increased multi-fold because of the growing popularity of the company's Eee PC line of netbook PCs.

    Demand in Europe, which provides the largest share of the company's revenue, is sluggish, as consumers cut back on their spending.

    "In the United States, we're shipping as many computers monthly as we used to annually," said Shen, who became Asustek's CEO last year. "But Europe isn't growing at all."

    Asustek is in the midst of a reorganization following its fourth-quarter loss in 2008, which it blamed largely on inventory write-offs and foreign-exchange related losses.

    Shen said the company would implement a new policy from 2010 where employees who are placed in the worst-performing 5 percent for two straight years will be asked to go, as part of the company's efforts to streamline operations.

    "The number will be higher than 5 percent this year because of the changes we are making internally, but that's what we're looking at from next year onwards," Shen said, but declined to elaborate on how many staff would be laid off this year.

    Shen repeated the company's previous comments that it should be able to turn in an operating profit in the third quarter, saying it had implemented the necessary measures to return to profitability.

    "It's actually a very conservative forecast, and in situations like this, it's better to be conservative and be able to meet the forecast than bullish and miss it," he said.

    The company announced a surprise first-quarter profit late last month despite an operating loss, largely due to earnings at its fully-owned subsidiaries and one-time foreign-exchange related gains.

    (Additional reporting by Roger Tung; Editing by Rupert Winchester)

    Reuters - Twitter eyes foray into TV

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    Twitter eyes foray into TV

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 3:37AM UTC

    By Nellie Andreeva

    LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - How's this for a tweet? Twitter is coming to a television near you.

    The social-networking and micro-blogging service is developing the first TV series that incorporates Twitter into the action of the show.

    Created by novelist Amy Ephron, sister of Nora and Delia Ephron, the untitled show will feature ordinary people competing while on the trail of celebrities.

    Twitter has partnered on the project with production companies Reveille ("The Office") and Brillstein Entertainment Partners ("Samantha Who?").

    (Editing by Dean Goodman)

    Reuters - Obama to pick Sotomayor for Supreme Court

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    Obama to pick Sotomayor for Supreme Court

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:42PM UTC

    By David Alexander

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will nominate Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, a White House official said on Tuesday, selecting a woman who would be the court's first Latino to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

    Obama's choice of Sotomayor, a 54-year-old judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, was unlikely to change the ideological makeup of the high court because Souter, 69, was part of the panel's liberal wing.

    The court hands down rulings on such divisive social issues as abortion rights and the death penalty as well as deciding business and property rights cases. Its members are appointed for life but require Senate confirmation.

    Conservatives quickly moved to criticize the choice but political analysts said that, barring an unexpected scandal, there was little chance the nomination could be derailed.

    Sotomayor, a child of Puerto Rican parents, is most widely known for her decision as a trial judge in 1995 to bar Major League Baseball from using replacement players, ending a nearly year-long strike.

    An announcement of the nomination was scheduled for 10:15 a.m. (1415 GMT), the White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Hoping to show a consultative approach, Obama had been meeting with key Democratic and Republican members of the Senate, which must vote to approve the nominee, as he weighed a short list of mostly women to replace Souter.


    Analysts, noting that Obama, a former senator, voted against Republican President George W. Bush's two Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, said it was unrealistic for him to expect conservatives not to resist his pick.

    Some Republicans indicated they planned a fight over the nomination, angered by Obama's decisions loosening limits on stem cell research and eliminating other Bush administration restrictions favored by abortion opponents.

    But Senate Republicans would need 60 votes to block the nomination with a procedural hurdle known as a filibuster. To do that, all 40 would have to stand together -- something that is far from guaranteed.

    Wendy Long, a counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, called Sotomayor a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written."

    Sotomayor has been a Court of Appeals judge in New York since 1998. Before that she served as a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York.

    She began her law career in 1979 as an assistant district attorney in New York County, and later practiced law at the firm of Pavia & Harcourt.

    Her focus at the firm was on intellectual property issues and international litigation and arbitration of commercial and commodity export trading cases, according to a court biography.

    Sotomayor grew up in a housing project in the Bronx in New York City. Sotomayor, who is divorced, excelled as a student and graduated from Princeton University and then Yale Law School.

    (Additional reporting by James Vicini and Ross Colvin; Editing by Bill Trott)

    Reuters - Mike Tyson's daughter critical after mishap: reports

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    Mike Tyson's daughter critical after mishap: reports

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 3:18AM UTC

    PHOENIX (Reuters) - Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson's 4-year-old daughter is in critical condition after she was found with a cord around her neck following an accident, according to media reports on Monday.

    Exodus Tyson was playing near some exercise equipment when she accidentally got tangled in a cord or rope hanging from a treadmill, the Arizona Republic reported on its website.

    The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately return phone calls.

    ABC News reported that the child was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in central Phoenix, where she was listed in critical condition on life support.

    Police said that based on the initial investigation, the incident appeared to be "a tragic accident," ABC reported.

    Tyson is the subject of a new documentary by director James Toback. He was not in Phoenix at the time of the accident, but was shown later on television news arriving at the hospital.

    (Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Cooney)

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Reuters - Opposites attract in human search for mate

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    Opposites attract in human search for mate

    Monday, May 25, 2009 2:52PM UTC

    By Kylie MacLellan

    LONDON (Reuters) - When it comes to choosing a mate, opposites really do attract, according to a Brazilian study that found people are subconsciously more likely to choose a partner whose genetic make-up is different to their own.

    They found evidence that married couples are more likely to have genetic differences in a DNA region governing the immune system than were randomly matched pairs.

    This was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction because genetic variability is an advantage for offspring, Maria da Graca Bicalho and her colleagues at the University of Parana in Brazil reported.

    "Although it may be tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities, our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate," Bicalho said in a statement.

    Scientists said it was not clear what signals attract the body to people who are genetically dissimilar to themselves, but suggested body odor or even face structure could play a role.

    Many researchers have found evidence than animals are attracted to members of the opposite sex with differences in major histocompatibility complex or MHC, an immune system factor that also plays a role in having healthy offspring.

    Bicalho, who will present her findings at a conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Vienna on Monday, said the team compared genetic data from 90 married couples with data from 152 randomly generated control couples.

    They found the real couples had significantly more dissimilarities in MHC.

    "Parents with dissimilar (genetic regions) could provide their offspring with a better chance to ward infections off because their immune system genes are more diverse," they wrote in a summary prepared for the meeting.

    "If MHC genes did not influence mate selection we would have expected to see similar results from both sets of couples. But we found that the real partners had significantly more MHC dissimilarities than we could have expected to find simply by chance," Bicalho said.

    "Our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate," she added.

    Previous studies have suggested animals may use body odor as a guide to identify possible mates as being genetically similar or dissimilar, she added, but other physical factors may also be involved.

    "Other cues such as face symmetry might play a role as well, but they are still in the field of speculation," she said.

    (Editing by Charles Dick)

    Reuters - Nokia starts roll-out of Apple App Store rival

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    Nokia starts roll-out of Apple App Store rival

    Monday, May 25, 2009 3:33PM UTC

    By Tarmo Virki, European technology correspondent

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia on Monday began rolling out its much-anticipated online software and content store, Ovi Store, as it aims to follow the success of Apple's App Store.

    Nokia said it had started moving Ovi Store to production servers, preparing for the global commercial launch, and the store was opened to users of a few of its phone models in Australia and Singapore on Monday.

    Nokia has promised to open the store globally this week.

    To cope with slowing phone demand Nokia is building a new business from mobile Internet services -- like games or maps -- but is scaling back separate investment plans due to the slowdown, and focusing on merging the delivery of services.

    Nokia, which made its first ever quarterly pretax loss in January-March, is cutting annual costs at its key handset unit alone by more than 700 million euros ($979.7 million) to counter plunging phone demand.

    The Apple App Store has proved extremely popular, with one billion applications downloaded in less than a year, and operators and technology firms including Vodafone Nokia, and Microsoft now want a piece of the pie.

    However, analysts say firms will likely struggle to match the success of Apple's store when creating their own stores, hampered by technical issues, a lack of applications and increased competition.

    "Ovi Store is in some ways the last castle for Nokia - both N-Gage and 'Comes with Music' are industry laughing stocks," said Global Crown analyst Tero Kuittinen.

    Games and music have been spearheads of Nokia's services push, but its mobile gaming offering has had little success, and its much-hyped music offering, which bundles free music downloads with a sold phone, has also found few clients.

    Nokia will also sell games and music through the Ovi Store.

    "Ovi Store is where Nokia tries to re-group and muster its forces for a counter-offensive," Kuittinen said.

    After Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, handset vendor rivals all focused their efforts on building similar, sleek devices with large touch screens -- a situation that is being repeated in 2009 in the rush to build a rival App Store.

    Research firm Strategy Analytics has forecast the value of the mobile content market -- including downloadable games, ringtones, wallpapers, video, mobile TV, text alerts and mobile Web browsing -- to grow 15 percent this year to $62 billion.

    Nokia shares rose slightly on the news, up 1.3 percent at 10.76 euros at 1501 GMT.

    The store will combine Nokia's legacy software distribution channels such as the Download! service, which has been pre-installed on more than 200 million phones. However, only a fraction of those phones have ever been used to buy a program through the service.

    In late April, Nokia said it would have operator billing -- something it expects to boost takeup -- in place in eight countries for its launch, but dropped an earlier goal of including the key U.S. market from the start.

    ($1=.7145 Euro)

    (Additional reporting by Brett Young; editing by Simon Jessop)

    Reuters - YouTube star who witnessed shooting comes clean

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    YouTube star who witnessed shooting comes clean

    Monday, May 25, 2009 2:48PM UTC

    CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australia woman's account of a late night shooting in Sydney has turned her into an Internet sensation with T-shirts, mugs and a dance remix made in her honor but there's just one problem -- she made it up.

    Sydney woman Clare Werbeloff's dramatic account of a shooting, with her "chk chk boom" firing of a gun and imitation of the men involved, made her an overnight hit on video sharing website YouTube, prompting about 500,000 viewings.

    The 19-year-old has since received invitations to appear on various TV shows and even the offer of a bikini photo shoot.

    But the Australian media were left red-faced when the first task of Werbeloff's newly hired agent Adam Abrams was to admit his client did not actually witness the shooting, and told police that she made the story up for a TV camera on site.

    Abrams told Australian media that Werbeloff would not detail her reasons for fabricating the story but denied the video was an advertising setup. Werbeloff had gone into hiding after media camped outside her home.

    The 27-year-old victim of the shooting, Sydneysider Justin Kallu, was not amused as he nursed a wounded knee.

    "I'm just a bit upset about the fact that I've been shot and that I almost lost my life and there's this girl all over the news getting popular, all because she has no brains," Kallu said in emailed comments to newspapers.

    (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Reuters - Top U.S. military officer pushes Guantanamo closing

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    Top U.S. military officer pushes Guantanamo closing

    Sunday, May 24, 2009 10:21PM UTC

    By Will Dunham

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer on Sunday pushed for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison despite rising resistance in Congress, saying it serves as a "recruiting symbol" for America's enemies.

    Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, rallied behind President Barack Obama's move to close the detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, which is operated by the U.S. military.

    "Well, the concern I've had about Guantanamo in these wars is it has been a symbol -- and one which has been a recruiting symbol for those extremists and jihadists who would fight us. ... That's at the heart of the concern for Guantanamo's continued existence," Mullen said on ABC's "This Week."

    "Well, I've advocated for a long time now that it needs to be closed. President Obama made a decision very early after his inauguration to do that by next January. And we're all working very hard to meet that deadline," Mullen added.

    Obama on Thursday laid out his case for closing the prison, saying he was trying to clean up a legal "mess" he inherited from former President George W. Bush, who opened the facility in 2002. Many critics, including some close U.S. allies, have condemned prison, with saying torture has been used there.

    In a vigorous defense of the Guantanamo prison that same day, former Vice President Dick Cheney assailed what he called "this recruitment tool theory" that U.S. treatment of foreign terrorism suspects held there has helped al Qaeda and other U.S. enemies attract new members.

    "It's another version of that same old refrain from the left, 'We brought it on ourselves,'" Cheney said on Thursday.


    Republican Senator Jon Kyl, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," embraced Cheney's view. "I think it's palpably false to suggest that the existence of Gitmo created terrorists. And yet the president gets away with (saying) that," Kyl said.

    The U.S. Senate last week dealt a blow to Obama's plans to close the prison, denying him $80 million he sought to shut it until he presents a detailed plan on what to do with the 240 foreign terrorism suspects held there.

    Obama has run into resistance, not only from Republicans but from his fellow Democrats who control Congress.

    "Whether it's closed or not, we have to have a plan in place that outlines how we deal with the people who are incarcerated there," Democratic Senator Ben Nelson said on "Fox News Sunday."

    Obama said Guantanamo prisoners will be tried in U.S. courts and held in super-maximum-security U.S. prisons while others could be tried by in special military trials, but his speech on the issue left many questions unanswered.

    "I don't know why it is better to have somebody in a so-called super max facility in, say, Colorado, than it is to keep them in Guantanamo, a state of the art facility that we built not too long ago for the explicit purpose of holding these people. There's nothing wrong with the prison at Gitmo," Kyl said.

    (Editing by Sandra Maler)

    Reuters - Indie filmmakers in Cannes still dreaming of 3-D

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    Indie filmmakers in Cannes still dreaming of 3-D

    Sunday, May 24, 2009 5:44PM UTC

    By Bob Tourtellotte

    CANNES, France (Reuters) - When rock band U2 played at the Grand Palais of the Cannes film festival in 2007 to trumpet their new three-dimensional concert movie, backers of modern 3-D films hailed the coming of a new era in movies.

    Two years later, independent producers and distributors making films outside Hollywood's major studios are still waiting for that day to dawn.

    Many of them face the same hurdles major studios face -- a lack of theaters equipped to play 3-D films, especially in Europe and Asia, and questions over who will pay for the special eyeglasses to watch them.

    They also face a hurdle of their own, lack of money, because independents are rarely as well financed as studios.

    But much as The Walt Disney Co. did in 2005 with its 3-D version of "Chicken Little," a few indie producers are wading in, lured by the possibility of bigger box office from higher ticket prices and more fans.

    Their involvement is good news for film fans, because in recent years independents have made many of the best movies with original tales like Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire."

    Jonathan Wolf, executive vice president of U.S.-based trade group the Independent Film and Television Alliance, said that when special effects-filled movies became big business, people wondered if indies could keep pace with the majors.

    At the time the answer was yes, and it is the same with 3-D.

    "Anywhere there is commercial viability, there will be a market," Wolf said.

    Three-dimensional images date back to early movies and gained popularity in sci-fi films of the 1950s. But they quickly faded due to unsophisticated technology.

    New 3-D movies use improved eyeglasses and new digital projectors that improve the quality and theatrical experience.


    The opening night film in Cannes this year was Disney/Pixar's "Up," which will have 2-D and 3-D versions.

    DreamWorks Animation Inc. enjoyed a $334 million global success this year with its $175 million "Monsters vs. Aliens," some of which came from 3-D, and Hollywood has a large slate of 3-D pictures ahead.

    Ticket prices for 3-D films can range from $2 to $5 higher than normal, and distributors find the excitement of seeing some types of movies -- animated family films, action, fantasy and horror -- in 3-D lures more fans to theaters.

    U.S. independent Lionsgate enjoyed a strong, $71 million global box office with its "My Bloody Valentine 3-D," which had a reported production budget of $15 million.

    Joe Drake, president of Lionsgate's motion picture group, said his company saw opportunities in 3-D, but initially did not know how to make a 3-D movie. Still, it forged ahead, learned the technology and after a time, found it workable.

    "The fact is, it's a very accessible, and not actually an over-complicated thing," Drake said.

    He declined to give a figure on how much making 3-D added to "Bloody Valentine," but said it ran into "the millions."

    Technology experts said 3-D can add as much as 10-15 percent to the cost of making a film, and DreamWorks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg has said the additional cost for making one of his big-budget flicks is $15 million.

    For now, the higher cost keeps 3-D in the realm of major studios or independents like Lionsgate that are well-financed and have their own -- or easily accessible -- distribution.

    The expense precludes low-budget filmmakers whose costs are $5 million or less from venturing into 3-D. Moreover, the human dramas or comedies made on low budgets for limited release in art-houses have little to gain from 3-D, industry experts said.

    However, the rule of technology is that costs decrease over time as commercial markets heat up, and executives envision a young Danny Boyle, for example, one day making a 3-D film that is as big a hit as Slumdog Millionaire, which he made in 2-D.


    So I watched a 60 minutes segment on Resveratrol, a product from cirtris research, just purchased byt Glaxo Smith Kline, to slow down and or slow down the effects of ageing and disease that is produce by red wine.  Then lo and behold in my igoogle I see that it is the number one search query of the last two hours.  Wow.

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    Reuters - Positive data needed to lift stocks

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    Positive data needed to lift stocks

    Saturday, May 23, 2009 2:22AM UTC

    By Chuck Mikolajczak

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street may feel more pressure next week unless a raft of economic data, including

    consumer confidence, home sales and GDP, restores the optimism that had driven a two-month rally before fading in the past few days.

    Investors cited the potential bankruptcy of General Motors <GM.N> as a concern, as further job losses could imperil the U.S. economy. Such an event, even though it is anticipated, would not help sentiment, which is already subdued after the major U.S. stock indexes fell on Thursday and Friday due to worries about the U.S. budget deficit.

    GM is facing a June 1 deadline to work out its issues with creditors if it wants to avoid a bankruptcy filing. On Friday, a spokesman for some of GM's creditors said the biggest bondholders of roughly $27 billion in debt plan to reject GM's current offer for a 10 percent equity stake.

    "That's the biggest risk for the market here," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont. "We are going to lose a lot of jobs as it is, with closing of dealerships both from Chrysler and GM.

    "A (GM) bankruptcy throws everything into chaos."

    Deutsche Bank analyst Joseph LaVorgna has forecast that a General Motors bankruptcy could lop 4 percentage points off of U.S. gross domestic product.

    Since the markets peaked two weeks ago on May 8, stocks have given back some of their gains over doubts about the speed of the economic recovery. U.S. stocks were higher through most of the session Friday, but sagged at the end of the day as investors sought to reduce positions heading into the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

    For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 0.1 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500<.SPX> gained 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> advanced 0.7 percent.

    For the year, both the blue-chip Dow and the broad S&P 500 are in the red -- the Dow is down 5.7 percent and the S&P is down 1.8 percent -- while the Nasdaq is up 7.3 percent.


    With investors skittish over the indebtedness of the United States, stocks could be subjected to more volatility if the allure of U.S. assets dims further.

    The Chicago Board Option Exchange Volatility Index <.VIX>,or VIX, best known as Wall Street's fear gauge, climbed 4.1 percent on Friday to end above 30, a key psychological level, according to analysts.

    Next week, the U.S. Treasury will auction $101 billion in bonds, matching the record, with $2 trillion in new bonds expected to hit the market in fiscal 2009 alone.

    "What happens if the demand isn't there from the foreign entities?" said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc, an investment advisory firm, based in Toledo, Ohio.

    "There's $2 trillion of U.S. Treasuries owned by foreign central banks, and if all of a sudden, they lose their appetite for U.S. Treasuries, there's only one way to pay this debt, and that will be to increase interest rates. And then you get the potential problem of higher inflation, a lower dollar and higher interest rates, like we had in the 1970s."

    The S&P 500 has risen 31 percent since hitting a 12-year closing low on March 9, which some analysts said put it at risk of a pullback, while the holiday-shortened week could exaggerate moves in the market due to light trading volume.

    U.S. markets are closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

    "Traditionally, the story has been 'sell in May and go away.' We are heading into the summer doldrums," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

    "But the other side of things is that also normally leads to light trading volume and light trading volume can magnify reactions."


    The economic calendar is fairly busy despite the short week, and may prove to be the bright spot to reaffirm investors' recent optimism that the recession is ebbing.

    Friday marks the preliminary reading of U.S. gross domestic product for the first quarter. GDP, which measures output of goods and services within U.S. borders, is forecast to shrink at an annual rate of 5.5 percent, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

    Also on tap are readings on May consumer confidence and the final reading for May on consumer sentiment from the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

    The housing market, whose slump has been at the center of the economic downturn, will get more scrutiny when existing home sales are released on Wednesday and new home sales are released on Thursday. Both reports will cover April data.

    U.S. existing home sales are estimated to have risen in April to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 4.66 million units, up from 4.57 million in March, according to the Reuters poll. New home sales are projected to have inched up to an annual pace of 360,000 units in April from 356,000 in March.

    On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts fell 12.8 percent to an annual rate of 458,000 units, the lowest since the government began keeping records in January 1959.


    Earnings season has nearly come to a close, as 484 companies in the S&P 500 had reported through Friday, leaving just a handful of retailers, including Tiffany & Co <TIF.N> and Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> for next week.

    Of the 484 companies, 65 percent beat analysts' estimates, 9 percent matched and 26 percent missed, according to Thomson Reuters data.

    Also on the docket for next week is Dell Inc <DELL.O>. The

    No. 2 PC maker said on Thursday that it is still cautious about corporate technology spending, but plans to make acquisitions and aggressively pursue enterprise customers in an attempt to win back market share in the United States.

    (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Additional reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; Editing by Jan Paschal)

    Reuters - Tokyo park plays high-pitch tone to teen vandals

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    Tokyo park plays high-pitch tone to teen vandals

    Friday, May 22, 2009 6:48AM UTC

    TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A Tokyo park has started playing a high-pitched tone at night that only young people can hear to help drive away teenagers who keep vandalizing the toilets and other facilities.

    "We were having trouble improving the situation and trying to decide what to do, when we found out about The Mosquito and decided to give it a try," said Haruyuki Masuda, an official in charge of parks in Tokyo's Adachi district.

    "The Mosquito" is a device that emits a high-frequency tone that is unbearable to those who can hear it, Masuda said.

    The local authorities decided to act after young people hanging out in the district's Kitashikahama Park inflicted damage amounting to around 700,000 yen ($7,400) there last year.

    "We could not do anything about it from just patrolling," Masuda said.

    People's ability to hear high frequencies falls as they age. The device produces a high-pitch tone of around 17 kilohertz, which teens can hear but older people cannot.

    While such devices are used at some convenience stores in Japan also troubled by teens, Masuda said district officials were hesitant at first.

    "We were a little worried about whether the local government should be using such a device to exclude certain people, even if these are young people that are causing problems," Masuda said.

    "But we have been unable to resolve the issue and many people said we should try it," he said, adding that the device would be tested at the park from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. each night until March 2010.

    (Reporting by Yoko Kubota, editing by Miral Fahmy)

    Reuters - Tech companies look for deals as values fall

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    Tech companies look for deals as values fall

    Friday, May 22, 2009 5:3PM UTC

    By Anupreeta Das

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cheap valuations and glimmers of economic recovery are tempting cash-rich technology companies to seek acquisitions, and the second half of 2009 could see some steady dealmaking.

    Having assessed the damage to their balance sheets -- at least for now -- from the recession, tech companies from behemoths like IBM to niche players like NetSuite Inc are turning their attention to new growth opportunities.

    Already this year, Oracle Corp scooped up Sun Microsystems Inc for $7.1 billion. Chipmaker Broadcom Corp is in a hostile pursuit of Emulex Corp for $764 million. And NetApp Inc announced a deal this week to buy Data Domain Inc for $1.5 billion.

    The pace of acquisitions is going to quicken in coming months but most deals will be small to medium-sized, top U.S. technology executives said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York this week.

    They agreed that potential targets on their shopping lists were cheaper now than even a few months ago. But they were divided on whether valuations have hit rock bottom or if they could fall further, since the feeble signs of improvement in the economy could be temporary.

    "Valuations could go lower," said Sybase Inc Chief Executive John Chen. "Somehow everybody thinks things are on the rebound. I think we're going to stay low for a while."

    Sybase is on the lookout for acquisitions to help expand its mobile enterprise business. Chen said he frequently gets calls from venture capitalists and private equity firms wanting to sell him their start-up companies.

    "Some of the start-ups are under the gun a little bit ... But we're cautious. There is no hurry," Chen said.


    Symantec Corp Chief Executive Enrique Salem also said he is patient about dealmaking because he expects valuations to fall further in the next few months.

    "We have $2 billion in cash, very little debt, high recurring revenue, so we have the opportunity to do M&A," Salem said. He added that Symantec wants to buy companies to pad up its core security, storage and systems management businesses.

    But "private companies' valuations need to be reset. I don't think private companies at this point have realized that there's been a change in the economy," Salem said.

    Other executives felt that valuations are low enough to go on buying sprees.

    Yahoo Inc Chief Technology Officer Ari Balogh said it was "amazing" how much lower valuations are compared to a few months ago.

    "It's a good time to be buying now," Balogh said, as Yahoo adds more social networking features to its properties as part of a renewed turnaround focus. I can guarantee you there will be some acquisitions."

    Mark Loughridge, chief financial officer of International Business Machines Corp, was also bullish about his company's appetite for deals.

    "I go through a deal review every week," he said, adding that the economic climate provided a "fertile" hunting ground for acquisitions.

    Even a company like Corning Inc, which has traditionally not been an aggressive acquirer, is on the prowl. Chief Financial Officer Jim Flaws said the specialty glass maker is looking to hire to expand its mergers and acquisitions team.

    Companies that were too expensive to buy earlier are now available at attractive prices, Flaws said, as the recession takes it toll.

    "Right now we have the money to do small acquisitions ... and we are actively looking," he said.

    Attractive prices apart, Dell Inc President Steve Shuckenbrock also suggested companies ought to act quickly or they risk losing potential targets to competitors amid a wave of consolidation in the industry.

    (Reporting by Anupreeta Das; Editing by Tiffany Wu, Phil Berlowitz)

    Reuters - Russian group mulls Facebook investment: report

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    Russian group mulls Facebook investment: report

    Saturday, May 23, 2009 1:40AM UTC

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A Russian Internet group, Digital Sky Technologies, has offered to invest $200 million in Facebook in a deal that would value the social networking site at $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

    "Facebook is a private company, so as a matter of policy, we don't typically share details about our financial plans or comment on rumor and speculation," the company said in a statement.

    Russia's Digital Sky Technologies was not immediately available to comment on the report.

    Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told the Reuters Global Technology Summit this week that, "If there's an investment to be done on very good terms, we will consider it if for no other reason than to have more buffer if we want to do something in the future."

    "Some of the rumblings that people are reporting on, are just different conversations that have happened, but there's really nothing new to talk about there," he added.

    Digital Sky Technologies, which owns a stake in Russia's Web site, offered an investment of $200 million in the company's preferred stock, which would value it at $10 billion, and an additional $100 million to $150 million investment in the company's common stock, which would value it at $6.5 billion, the report said.

    Facebook last got funding from Microsoft Corp in 2007, when the software company paid $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the company.

    Facebook has more than 200 million active users, double the number it had last August. The company also ranks as one of the top photo-sharing websites, with more than 15 billion pictures uploaded onto its service.

    (Reporting by Peter Henderson and Clare Baldwin in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Reuters - Target faces Ackman showdown at annual meeting

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    Target faces Ackman showdown at annual meeting

    Friday, May 22, 2009 7:41PM UTC

    By Nicole Maestri

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - One of the season's most high-profile proxy battles will culminate in an unfinished Target Corp <TGT.N> store in Wisconsin next week as the retailer's shareholders decide whether to elect a slate of directors proposed by activist investor William Ackman.

    Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management owns a 7.8 percent stake in the retailer, is seeking a seat for himself and four other nominees on Target's board. In the increasingly contentious battle, Target is running four incumbent directors for election at the May 28 meeting.

    If he wins, Ackman will be in a stronger position to push the retailer to sell the rest of its credit card operations or spin off its real estate holdings.

    For Target, a win would show support for its current management team, which has argued that it is best suited to position the retailer for success over the long term.

    What has made the proxy contest unusual is that analysts and investors have praised Target as a best-in-class retailer with a capable management team -- not the type of company that typically becomes the target of an activist investor.

    But some have acknowledged that Ackman, who is known for well-researched and often successful proxy battles, could bring a fresh perspective to Target's board and prod the insular retailer to explore new business opportunities.

    Greenwood Capital Associates portfolio manager Walter Todd said he voted for Ackman's slate, except for Ackman himself.

    "I don't have a real issue with what management has done and what they are doing," said Todd, who holds roughly 70,000 Target shares, a very small stake in the retailer.

    But he added: "I think the idea of having the best possible people, having some new fresh ideas on the board ... I don't think that's a bad thing."

    On the other side, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board has voted in support of all of Target's nominees. It owns roughly 2 million Target shares, or a 0.27 percent stake in the retailer, according to regulatory filings.

    Determining the outcome of the proxy battle remains uncertain. Headed into the annual meeting, the two sides appeared unwilling to reach a compromise, with Ackman telling Reuters on Thursday that settlement talks were not ongoing.

    "If either side believes it has a chance of winning, they won't settle," said Charles Elson, Director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. "You only settle when you're convinced that you're going to lose."


    Ackman is planning to attend Target's annual meeting, but he has ribbed the retailer for choosing the location, an unfinished store that has yet to open to the public.

    Investors who do not attend the meeting will also be at a loss to follow the action. Although Target has webcast from meetings in the past, it will not provide one this year.

    Spokeswoman Susan Kahn said she did not have a comment on Target's decision not to webcast. Target also said it has held its annual meetings in unfinished stores for several years.

    Corporate governance executives said Ackman faces an uphill battle in his proxy contest, although they said it is easier to win over shareholders by running a short slate of candidates -- as Ackman has -- instead of seeking full control of the board.

    Ackman has won the support of RiskMetrics, the leading shareholder advisory firm, which recommended Target shareholders vote to elect him and former Starbucks CEO Jim Donald to the board. Target disputed the RiskMetrics' report, saying it contained statements that were "inaccurate or misleading."

    Meanwhile, proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co recommended that shareholders vote for all of Target's nominees, while Proxy Governance recommended that shareholders elect two of Ackman's five dissident board nominees.


    The annual meeting marks the culmination of a proxy contest that was launched in March, but whose seeds were planted in 2007, when Ackman began accumulating his Target stake.

    After seeing his investment wither as Target's stock plunged during the economic downturn, Ackman pushed Target to buy back its stock and sell its credit card operations.

    While Target partially complied with those requests, Ackman launched his proxy contest after the retailer rejected his idea that it spin off the land under its stores into a real estate investment trust, which he said would boost its stock price.

    Ackman has publicly praised Target's management team, but said its board lacks critical expertise in real estate, credit cards and food retailing. That left it more vulnerable than Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> to the recession, he said, after shoppers stopped buying its high-profit margin trendy clothes and stuck to buying basics, like groceries.

    Shareholders will also need to vote to determine the size of Target's board, which the retailer contends is 12 but Ackman contests is 13.

    (Reporting by Nicole Maestri; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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