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    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    CNN - Obama, Biden, professor, officer sit down over brews

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    Obama, Biden, professor, officer sit down over brews

    President Obama sat down for a beer at the White House Thursday night with a top African-American professor and the police officer who arrested him earlier this month.

    They were joined by a previously unannounced guest, Vice President Joe Biden.

    Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates Jr., both dressed in suits, sat down with Obama and Biden, who both had their white dress shirt sleeves rolled up.

    Video from the meeting showed mugs of beer being delivered to the men, who sat at a round table at the edge of the White House's Rose Garden, munching peanuts and pretzels from silver bowls.

    The president was drinking Bud Light, Biden was drinking Buckler (a nonalcoholic beer), Gates was drinking Samuel Adams Light and Crowley was drinking Blue Moon.

    After the meeting, Crowley told reporters that the men had a "cordial and productive discussion," in which they agreed to move foward rather than dwell on past events.

    He said he and Gates plan to meet again and will speak by telephone to finalize details in the coming days. Both men bring different perspectives, he said, but he would like to hear more about Gates' views.

    "It was a private discussion. It was a frank discussion," Crowley said of the meeting, but would not divulge specifics except to say that no one apologized.

    Gates was arrested July 16 and accused of disorderly conduct after police responded to a report of a possible burglary at his Boston-area home. The charge was later dropped. The incident sparked a debate about racial profiling and police procedures.

    After the meeting, the renowned Harvard professor reflected on the significance of the event and thanked Obama for arranging the meeting.

    "It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand," Gates said in a statement on his Web site, The Root.

    "Let me say that I thank God that live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, and, more than ever, I've come to understand and appreciate their daily sacrifices on our behalf. I'm also grateful that we live in a country where freedom of speech is a sacrosanct value and I hope that one day we can get to know each other better, as we began to do at the White House this afternoon over beers with President Obama," he said.

    "At this point, I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination. I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal. Both of us are eager to go back to work tomorrow."

    After the incident, Obama himself quickly got involved, saying at a news conference that police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "acted stupidly."

    His comment itself drew criticism and later he softened his stance, saying, "I could've calibrated those words differently."

    After the meeting, Obama said in a statement he was thankful to Gates and Crowley for joining him at for "a friendly, thoughtful conversation.

    "Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentlemen spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them," the president's statement said. "I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

    Earlier Thursday, Obama said the chat was prompted by an exchange he had with Crowley, who said in a phone call with Obama, "Maybe I'll have a beer in the White House someday."

    The president replied that that could be arranged.

    On the meeting's being dubbed the "Beer Summit," Obama said, "It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day, and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other, and that's really all it is.

    "This is not a university seminar. It is not a summit. It's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved," he said.

    He said he would be surprised if the media makes the meeting out to be more important than his meeting Thursday with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, but "the press has surprised me before."

    Gates and Crowley brought their families to the White House, and the two toured the East Wing together before the meeting, officials said. The two met Obama in the Oval Office before moving out to the Rose Garden. Their families were touring the West Wing during the sit-down.

    Separately, a Boston, Massachusetts, police officer became part of the controversy by referring to Gates in a mass e-mail as a "banana-eating jungle monkey."

    Officer Justin Barrett later apologized, saying he's not a racist. He told a local television station on Wednesday night that he was sorry for the e-mail.

    "I regret that I used such words," Barrett told CNN affiliate WCVB. "I have so many friends of every type of culture and race you can name. I am not a racist."

    He was placed on administrative leave after the e-mail surfaced, and he might lose his job as a result.

    Barrett's attorney, Peter Marano, on Thursday offered an apology on his behalf.

    "Justin Barrett is a citizen, a husband, a father, a soldier, a police officer and a human being," Marano said in a statement. "He has made a mistake -- his poor choice in words is that mistake. His lack of thought into the possible outcome of using such words has caused this debate. Justin never intended for these words to bear such a racial connotation."

    Meanwhile, a black Cambridge police sergeant on the scene the day of Gates' arrest wrote a letter to Crowley, asking him to mention to Gates and Obama that he is now known as the "black sergeant" and to some others as an "uncle Tom."

    "I'm forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and colleague, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage," Sgt. Leon Lashley wrote. "Please convey my concerns to the president that Mr. Gates' actions may have caused grave and potentially irreparable harm to the struggle for racial harmony in this country and perhaps throughout the world."

    Lashley wrote in the letter he would like Gates to reflect on the incident and ask himself what responsibility he bears, what he can do to heal the rift and what he can do to mitigate the damage done to the officers' reputations.

    CNN - Will White House beer help nation chill on race?

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    Will White House beer help nation chill on race?

    Lucia Whalen strolled down a sidewalk near Harvard University, enjoying a lunchtime ritual she'd repeated many times in her 15 years working in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But on this day, July 16, her outing would become something else altogether -- the first steps in a national drama.

    An older woman approached Whalen, worried that she'd just witnessed two men breaking into a home. That's when Whalen, a first-generation Portuguese-American, called 911 from her cell phone -- alerting police to 17 Ware St. -- the home, as it turns out, of renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

    Whalen's call -- now clearly the well-intentioned act of a passerby -- ignited a firestorm over race and police relations, a national debate that went all the way to the White House. It was a call she says she never expected to be "analyzed by an entire nation."

    Gates was arrested by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley for disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped. Exactly what happened inside Gates' home may never be known, but it seems clear that the key players in this saga brought their own personal history with race to the moment. That was true of Gates and Crowley, as well as the nation's first African-American president.

    All three will meet for a beer today at the White House to help chill the furor over Gates' arrest and, in Obama's words, try to turn the events of the past two weeks into a "teachable moment."

    "White woman" targeted

    It's a bit ironic, said Whalen's attorney Wendy Murphy, that the three people who "reacted badly" will sit down together while the "one person who did not overreact" will be at work Thursday. "Maybe it's a guy thing," Murphy said, adding of Whalen: "She doesn't like beer anyway."

    Gates' arrest sparked heated rhetoric on TV, radio and the Internet. Initially, it seemed to break down along racial lines: African-Americans saw it as racial profiling by a white officer. Whites asked why the acclaimed scholar on black history didn't just show his ID to Crowley at the outset. Wasn't the officer just doing his job?

    Even Whalen, the Good Samaritan, got smeared in the initial response. The police report identifying her as a "white woman" resulted in a torrent of accusations that she racially profiled Gates and his driver when she first called 911.

    But a review of the call showed she never identified the suspects as "black" -- and even told a police dispatcher she wasn't sure it was a break-in. "The criticism at first was so painful for me. ... I was frankly afraid to say anything," Whalen said Wednesday, fighting back tears. "People called me racist and said I caused all the turmoil that followed, and some even said threatening things that made me fear for my safety."

    Whalen is sensitive to the issue of racial profiling, because of her own olive-skinned complexion, her attorney said.

    Two men; two views

    Inside 17 Ware St., Gates and Crowley exchanged words as the officer sought to determine whether Gates belonged in the home. Each blamed the other for a situation that escalated; each felt the other brought prejudices to the moment.

    Both had personal experience with racial profiling. iReport: Racial profiling, from both sides

    Long before his acclaim as a scholar of black history, Gates had faced the prejudice of a white man. Gates was just 14, and had suffered a hairline fracture in his hip.

    "The white doctor who examined Gates shortly afterward questioned the boy about his injury as well as his career plans. When the young Gates replied that he wanted to be a doctor and then correctly answered many questions about science, the doctor made his diagnosis," according to a biography of Gates posted on Gale, an online research tool.

    "He told Gates to stand and walk, and the young boy fell to the floor in intense pain. The doctor then turned to Gates's mother and explained that her son's problem was psychosomatic -- a black boy from Appalachia who wanted to be a doctor in the mid-1960s was an overachiever."

    Gates, now 58, walks with a cane as a result. "The most subtle and pernicious form of racism against blacks [is] doubt about our intellectual capacities," he once said.

    The typically soft-spoken Harvard professor is revered worldwide for being at the fore of African-American issues. His award-winning PBS documentaries have made him one of the most powerful forces of academia, admired by colleagues of all races.

    At the time of his arrest, Gates had just returned from China, where he had filmed the ancestral cemetery of Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma as part of an upcoming series on immigration in America.

    Gates told CNN's Soledad O'Brien that his arrest was a wake-up call.

    "What it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are -- how vulnerable all people of color are and all poor people to capricious forces like a rogue policeman," he said. "It was the fault of a policeman who couldn't stand a black man standing up for his rights right in his face."

    But those who know Crowley, including African-American colleagues, say not so fast.

    For years, Crowley taught a racial profiling class at a Massachusetts police academy -- hand-picked by an African-American police commissioner.

    He also tried to save the life of Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis in 1993 when the black athlete died during an off-season practice. "I wasn't working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn't working on a black man. I was working on another human being," he told the Boston Herald.

    Two black officers on the Cambridge force have stood solidly by their comrade.

    Sgt. Leon Lashley was outside Gates' house when the professor was arrested. He has no problems with the way Crowley handled the situation.

    "It happened to be a white officer on a black man, and the common call a lot of times is to call it a racist situation," said Lashley. "This situation right here was not a racial-motivated situation. ... There's nothing rogue about him. He was doing his job."

    Lashley acknowledged that if he, as a black officer, had entered the home first, it likely would've been a different outcome.

    Kelly King, another African-American Cambridge officer, said she has known Crowley for more than a decade and that he's "a good police officer, a good man with character."

    "I think Professor Gates has done a very good job of throwing up a very effective smokescreen, calling race into this. It had nothing to do with it," she told CNN's Don Lemon with Crowley at her side.

    She said people who have turned against Crowley need to "keep their minds open and realize that we would not support someone that we felt wronged someone else. ... We would not support anyone in blue doing the wrong thing."

    When she finished speaking, she and Crowley embraced. "You've got to be touched by that," CNN's Lemon said.

    The officer at the center of the controversy nodded his head, fighting off tears.

    Obama steps in

    A third player ratcheted up the controversy and he, too, brought history to the moment. President Obama entered the fray when he said police "acted stupidly." His comments outraged many in law enforcement, and he soon did a mea culpa, saying he could've "calibrated" his words differently.

    Obama is a friend of Gates. A graduate of Harvard Law School, the president also once studied under Charles Ogletree, the law professor who represents Gates.

    As state senator in Illinois, Obama pushed for a racial profiling bill in 2003. According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill created a means for police to track the race of drivers stopped for traffic infractions over a period of years.

    In his 2006 book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said his status insulated him from the "bumps and bruises" of the typical black man in America.

    But, he said, "I can recite the usual litany of petty slights that during my 45 years have been directed my way: security guards tailing me as I shop in department stores, white couples who toss me their car keys as I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet, police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason."

    "I know what it's like to have people tell me I can't do something because of my color, and I know the bitter swill of swallowed-back anger."

    As the three men sit down together at the White House, there are many lessons to be drawn from this most teachable moment. Not the least of which might be that race is still a major factor in perceptions, and misperceptions.

    As for Whalen, she says she would still make that 911 call if she had it to do over again.

    "I would hope people would learn not to judge others," she said.

    She added, "I was just trying to get lunch."

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Reuters - Niche social sites seek growth under Facebook's shadow

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    Niche social sites seek growth under Facebook's shadow

    Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009 7:3PM UTC

    By S. John Tilak

    BANGALORE (Reuters) - What do you do when you're a small online social network trying to compete against a behemoth like Facebook?

    The answer may be to try to carve out a separate path by becoming a niche website for a specific audience base that advertisers, hopefully, want to target.

    While this is no easy challenge -- given Facebook's intention to become everything to everyone -- some small social media sites appear to be finding their footing and growing at rapid rates, albeit from a very low base., which allows users to build their own social networks, opinion aggregator Sodahead and fansite Fanpop have shown triple-digit growth and notched up a few million users very quickly.

    "There will always be a place for niche sites that have a focus, whether the focus is gaming, or a regional focus, or a functional focus like Twitter, or a vertical or demographic focus," Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said, though he added that does not see them becoming as big as Facebook.

    Facebook's popularity with professionals and older users might be putting off some younger users, according to Chuck Schilling, a director at Nielsen Online.

    "The original people who were on Facebook -- those of college age -- are becoming a bit disenchanted and will soon find their own outlets, now that their parents are coming to Facebook in droves," Schilling said.

    "People are branching out from the popular sites. They are exploring," he said. "There's a lot of room in the game."

    Advertisers are spotting an opportunity with smaller sites.

    "The promise of niche social networks and social networking applications is a more targeted audience around a specific interest that will be extremely attractive to advertisers seeking relevant content and conversations against which to place their ads," IDC analyst Caroline Dangson said.


    Clearly, the gap between the biggest social networks and the rest is huge.

    Facebook had about 77 million U.S. users in June. With the exception of Facebook, News Corp's MySpace and privately held Twitter, only a couple of social media sites had more than 10 million U.S. users, comScore data shows.

    But there are many rapidly growing sites with 2 million to 10 million users, including Ning, Sodahead, Fanpop and Funadvice. And steadily growing in double digits are older sites like Hi5, Digg and LinkedIn.

    "The fact that this is such a growing space overall does enable other players in the space to ride the coattails of some of these bigger sites," comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said.

    Funadvice is a site where users give answers to all sorts of queries; Sodahead lets people to participate in instant polls; Fanpop gathers fans of movies, television and music under one roof.

    Then there is Imeen, which focuses on music, and Eons, which targets the baby boomer generation. United Online's helps users track acquaintances from school and college. Along ethnic lines, BlackPlanet is for African Americans and MiGente eyes Latinos.

    Behind some of these smaller sites are big names: Time Warner's AOL owns Bebo and Google owns Orkut.

    Being second rung to Facebook is no fun, especially as developers of applications that attract users to these sites, such as games, tend to flock the biggest players.

    Some of the second-tier social media sites have formed a consortium to address the problem. Google-led OpenSocial's members include Yahoo, Hi5, MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn.

    Advertisers go where users are, but it is no easy task to amass an audience. So some Internet startups have chosen to become an application provider rather than try build a site.

    Application maker Slide had an audience of 32 million in the U.S. in June; Rock You had 26 million, said comScore's Lipsman. Zynga provides social gaming applications. The three have a strong presence on Facebook.

    "In order to build a destination site, there are more challenges to gain that audience," Lipsman said. "So it's an increasingly viable business model to build an application that can reside or build off the infrastructure of other sites."

    (Editing by Tiffany Wu and Jarshad Kakkrakandy)

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Reuters - Media moguls rethink Web advertising in downturn

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    Media moguls rethink Web advertising in downturn

    Monday, Jul 27, 2009 1:10PM UTC

    By Gina Keating and Alex Dobuzinskis

    PASADENA, Calif (Reuters) - The recession-fueled advertising downturn underlines the urgency of using the Web to glean data and target consumers directly, rather than blasting them with a barrage of TV-style ads, media executives say.

    At the Fortune Brainstorm: TECH conference in Pasadena last week, Walt Disney Co Chief Executive Robert Iger opened a discussion about new ways to market to consumers, when he described himself as, "pretty bullish about what technology is going to allow in terms of behavioral tracking."

    Executives from AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc, News Corp and IAC/InterActiveCorp echoed similar hopes about the potential to reach consumers online.

    As advertising dollars grow ever more scarce, companies have been forced to rethink how they reach consumers and have moved away from the traditional 30-second spot to the kinds of targeted, Internet-driven marketing campaigns that have been talked about for years.

    Internet advertising in the United States -- a $23.4 billion market in 2008 -- was down 5 percent in the first quarter of this year and Iger and other executives say the sector may not return to the historic growth trajectory seen before the recession.

    Jonathan Miller, head of News Corp's Digital Media Group, believes advertising is undergoing, "fundamental changes ... and you have to tease them out of the recession effects.

    "Marketing is on an arc to become more efficient. My dollar should go further. And that says the advertising pool may not grow at the rate that it's traditionally grown at, even out of this recession."


    Targeting consumers via demographics, profiling, and their social networks, "you learn a lot about people and you can identify them," Miller added.

    The thinking among these media executives is that advances in technology is enabling them to build more detailed profiles of consumers -- which can then either be sold as a commodity or employed in their own marketing campaigns.

    AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong, former sales chief at Google Inc, also sees new marketing opportunities from consumer referrals and tracking.

    "Where people actually go, what they do, how they do it," he said. "It's not just about data, it's about the insight. If you're Procter & Gamble, or Kellogg's, or Coke or whatever, forget all the data. What is the insight you get out of it? How does that actually change your perception?"

    But Ed Moran, director of product innovation for Deloitte, said tracking tastes and developing profiles is fine, as long as advertisers do not make the old media mistake of finding their optimum consumers, only to show them a commercial.

    Moran said next-generation advertising will be driven by the tastes and habits of 14 to 24 year-old "millennials" whose lives center on social networks and Internet-enabled handsets.

    "A more effective way of reaching these young folks ... is to use their social networks as influencers, rather than bombarding them with ads," Moran said.

    To that end, Barry Diller, chief executive of Web giant IAC/InterActiveCorp, said Internet advertising must evolve from displays and become integrated into the content of websites.

    Even actor and media producer Ashton Kutcher chimed in at the conference, saying the billboard-style display ad is already outdated.

    "People who have grown up on the Internet have trained themselves not to see it," he added.

    (Reporting by Gina Keating and Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Edwin Chan and Andre Grenon))

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Reuters - Skype singled out as threat to Russia's security

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    Skype singled out as threat to Russia's security

    Friday, Jul 24, 2009 3:49PM UTC

    By Simon Shuster and Anastasia Teterevleva

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's most powerful business lobby moved to clamp down on Skype and its peers this week, telling lawmakers that the Internet phone services are a threat to Russian businesses and to national security.

    In partnership with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's political party, the lobby created a working group to draft legal safeguards against what they said were the risks of Skype and other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services.

    VoIP software has used the Internet to let hundreds of millions of people talk long-distance for free, or at far cheaper rates than traditional service providers can offer.

    At a meeting of the lobby this week, telecom executives portrayed the most popular VoIP programs like Skype and Icq as encroaching foreign entities that the government must control.

    "Without government restrictions, IP telephony causes certain concerns about security," the lobby's press release said. "Most of the service operators working in Russia, such as Skype and Icq, are foreign. It is therefore necessary to protect the native companies in this sector and so forth."

    Skype was not immediately available for comment.

    In a presentation posted on the lobby's Web site, Vice President of TTK, a telecoms unit of state-owned Russian Railways, Vitaly Kotov, called on regulators to stop VoIP services from causing "a likely and uncontrolled fall in profits for the core telecom operators."

    Valery Ermakov, deputy head of Russia's No.3 mobile phone firm MegaFon, drove the point home with a picture of two hands in handcuffs, the caption running, "protect investments and fight VoIP services."

    Delegates at the meeting also warned that it has been impossible for police to spy on VoIP conversations, Vedomosti business daily reported on Friday.

    The lobby, called the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, forecast that 40 percent of calls could be made through VoIP services by 2012.

    As an alternative to Skype and its peers, the telecom executives proposed creating VoIP services inside their own firms, which would then make them safely available to the Russian public.

    "MegaFon is interested in this market. We're interested in providing analogous services. We don't support limiting competition, but we want the market to be civilized," Ermakov said.

    TTK's press service said on Friday that it will take until September for the relevant legal amendments to be drafted by the special committee, whose members include top telecoms executives and lawmakers from Putin's United Russia party.

    (Editing by Rupert Winchester)

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    CNN - Does your doctor judge you based on your color?

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    Does your doctor judge you based on your color?

    John Reid, a retired businessman, came home from a Caribbean cruise a few years ago with an infected toe as a souvenir. As a diabetic, he knew it was serious, so he went to the emergency room near his home in New York City. There, he says, the first doctor he saw ordered an immediate amputation, scheduling him for surgery right then and there.

    Horrified, he argued with the doctor, insisting there had to be a way to avoid lopping off his toe. "You'd better bring the head doctor in here," he said.

    Reid says the more senior doctor prescribed a long-term regimen of intravenous antibiotics and physical therapy -- a treatment much more expensive and time-consuming than an amputation -- and saved his toe.

    Reid, who is African-American, firmly believes that if he'd been a white man, the junior doctor wouldn't have been so quick to order the cheaper and more drastic solution over his objections.

    "I think it was very disrespectful. As a matter of fact, I think she was looking down on me," he said. "She just decided that, this guy was a minority [and] we're going to do whatever we feel like doing without consulting you."

    Reid says he thinks the young doctor assumed he wasn't smart enough to think through a medical decision. "She just felt like minorities are all the same -- they don't know anything, they're not intelligent, they're not educated," says Reid, a retired real estate agent who once ran his own business with nearly two dozen employees. "If she had known my background, I don't think she would have treated me that way."

    CNN contacted the hospital but Montefiore Medical Center refused to discuss his case.

    Studies show blacks and whites are treated differently

    While it's extremely difficult to tell in any given situation how much race -- consciously or subconsciously -- plays a role in a doctor's decision making, multiple studies over several decades have found doctors make different decisions for black patients and white patients even when they have the same medical problems and the same insurance.

    "It's absolutely proven through studies that a black man and a white man going to the hospital with the same complaint will be treated differently," Dr. Neil Calman, a family physician and president of the Institute for Family Health in New York, said. Calman is also Reid's regular physician.

    For example, a 2005 study found African-American cardiac patients were less likely than whites to receive a lifesaving procedure called revascularization, where doctors restore the flow of oxygen to the heart. The study authors at RTI International, a research institute, noted that all of the patients had Medicare, which covers the cost of revascularization.

    In a study conducted in 2007, Harvard researchers showed doctors a vignette about a 50-year-old man with chest pain who arrived at the emergency room, where an EKG showed he'd had a heart attack. Sometimes the researchers paired the medical history with a photo of black man and other times with a photo of a white man.

    The doctors were significantly more likely to recommend lifesaving drugs when they thought the patient was white than when they thought the patient was black.

    Is it racism or something else?

    "Racism in health care is a common experience of people of color," Calman recently wrote on his blog.

    But he said disparities in medical care are about much more than race. "[Race] is one very important factor in why people get bad medical care," he wrote. "So is poor education, poverty and lack of insurance."

    Dr. Cornelius Flowers, a cardiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia, agrees there are several reasons for racial disparities in medicine.

    "It's about respect. If a patient is of a low socioeconomic status, a doctor might think, why do I need to go out of my way for this guy? I'll just do the minimum I have to do and send him on his way," Flowers says.

    He adds that sometimes African-American patients don't insist on quality care.

    "Back in the 1950s and 60s, hospitals in places like Atlanta had a black side and a white side, and the care for blacks was second rate," he says. "People who remember those days still consider themselves second-class citizens, and a lot of times they allow people to treat them that way."

    Flowers said times are changing; younger minority patients are more likely to insist on good care, he says.

    "Younger people demand better. Younger people demand more," he says.

    Studies also show that doctors can be biased against patients because of their body size.

    A study out this week from researchers at the New York University School of Medicine found more than 40 percent of the doctors surveyed had a negative reaction to obese people.

    "The lesson learned is, I tell people all the time to seek a doctor who will care about you," Flowers says. "If you feel like you have a doctor who isn't genuinely concerned about you, just get another doctor next time."

    Reuters - Black scholar agrees to beer with Obama, policeman

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    Black scholar agrees to beer with Obama, policeman

    Saturday, Jul 25, 2009 6:24PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A prominent black Harvard University scholar has accepted an invitation to have a beer with President Barack Obama and the white police officer who arrested him in a racially charged case.

    Professor Henry Louis Gates said Saturday he was willing to have a peace-making beer with Obama and Cambridge, Massachusetts, police Sgt. James Crowley.

    Gates was arrested last week at his home after a neighbor called police to say that a man was breaking into the house. Obama said Cambridge police had "acted stupidly," prompting an outcry from police groups and a resulting media blitz.

    Obama later telephoned both men and, on Crowley's suggestion, invited the two to the White House for a beer.

    "I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt. Crowley for a beer with the president will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige," Gates said in a statement on, an Internet newsletter he edits.

    Gates said he hoped his arrest would help reduce racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.

    (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Reuters - Hacking Oracle's database will soon get easier

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    Hacking Oracle's database will soon get easier

    Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009 7:55PM UTC

    By Jim Finkle

    BOSTON (Reuters) - Hackers will soon gain a powerful new tool for breaking into Oracle Corp's database, the top-selling business software used by companies to store electronic information.

    Security experts have developed an easy-to-use, automated software tool that can remotely break into Oracle databases over the Internet to simulate attacks on computer systems, but cybercrooks can use it for hacking.

    The tool's authors created it through a controversial open-source software project known as Metasploit, which releases its free software over the Web.

    Chris Gates, a security tester who co-developed the Metasploit tool, will unveil it next week at the annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, where thousands of security experts and hackers will gather to exchange trade secrets.

    "Anyone with no skill and knowledge can download and run it," said Pete Finnigan, an independent consultant who specializes in Oracle security and who advises large corporations and government agencies.

    He has not yet studied the Oracle tool but is familiar with other Metasploit software and said it works by automating many of the complicated procedures required to hack into Oracle databases, allowing amateurs to hack into them.

    Oracle, which declined to comment, has already issued patches to protect against vulnerabilities that the Metasploit tool targets. But some companies are not diligent in upgrading their software to add the patches, so they are vulnerable to attackers using the new tool. They hire consultants like Gates to help them make sure they are protected.

    Metasploit hacks are available for other software programs, including Microsoft Corp's Windows as well as the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers.

    Gates said this is the first Metasploit program to target Oracle's database.

    "There is no way to keep these tools out of the hands of people who want to use them for nefarious purposes," said Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute. SANS trains security professionals in areas including use of Metasploit.

    Security testers and hackers have previously used other programs to break into Oracle databases, but the new software from Metasploit is easier to operate and runs more quickly than existing options, said Gates.

    Metasploit is the most widely used free hacking tool and has a loyal following in the security community.

    In addition to letting hackers break into databases over the Internet, the Metasploit tool allows rogue employees to access them from their work PCs.

    Workers could break into an Oracle system and secretly steal confidential data such as credit card numbers, give themselves pay raises or make other changes to corporate databases, said Finnigan, who has specialized in Oracle security for eight years.

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Reuters - Amazon buying shoe seller Zappos

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    Amazon buying shoe seller Zappos

    Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009 11:54PM UTC

    By Nicole Maestri and Alexandria Sage

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - made an aggressive move to grab market share in shoes and apparel on Wednesday, announcing a deal to buy online shoe retailer Inc for $927.9 million, mostly in stock.

    Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, should benefit from the fiercely loyal customer base at Zappos, which had about $1 billion of gross merchandise sales last year.

    Zappos is known for its attentive customer service, free shipping and a free returns policy which inspires shoppers to gamble on shoes. The company said Amazon will allow it to continue running its business as it always has.

    Analysts applauded the deal. Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay called it an "outstanding acquisition." But the move also signaled Amazon had fallen short in its online shoe site, launched in 2007.

    "This is, in some ways, Amazon throwing in the towel on footwear because they've tried to compete with Zappos," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "If you can't beat them, buy them."

    Amazon, which began as an online bookseller, has greatly expanded its range of offerings while also allowing third-party sellers to showcase their own items on its site.

    That has allowed the company to post robust online sales in recent years, outpacing brick-and-mortar retailers, even as former online stalwarts like eBay Inc, have stumbled.

    "A big part of the reason why Amazon is interested in us is because they recognize the value of our culture, our people, and our brand," said Zappos Chief Executive Tony Hsieh in a letter on its blog. "Their desire is for us to continue to grow and develop our culture (and perhaps even a little bit of our culture may rub off on them)."


    An irreverent company, Zappos' website calls its executives monkeys and Hsieh joked in his letter that the deal's headline should read "Zappos and Amazon sitting in a tree ...," a reference to a nursery rhyme.

    Zappos has put customers at ease buying shoes online because it guarantees free shipping on deliveries as well as returns. It also places a big emphasis on service, saying its No. 1 core value is to deliver "wow" through service.

    "To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that's above and beyond what's expected," it states on its website.

    Pacific Crest analyst Steve Weinstein said the deal allows Amazon to dominate a big new category.

    "It ( certainly hasn't been as successful as Zappos," he said. In shoes I think Zappos is clearly the brand in the mind of consumers."

    The acquisition is slated to close this autumn, and Amazon said the Zappos management team will remain intact. Zappos said it will be run as an independent entity and its brand will be separate from the Amazon brand.

    "We think that there is a huge opportunity for us to really accelerate the growth of the Zappos brand and culture, and we believe that Amazon is the best partner to help us get there faster," Hsieh said in his letter to employees.

    Amazon said it will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Zappos and assume its outstanding options and warrants in exchange for approximately 10 million shares of Amazon common stock. It will provide Zappos employees with $40 million of cash and restricted stock units.

    Based on Amazon's closing price of $88.79, the deal is valued at about $927.9 million.

    The Zappos website says the company, founded in 1999, has more than 1,300 employees and stocks more than 3 million shoes, handbags, clothing items and accessories from more than 1,136 brands.

    Morgan Stanley, and Fenwick & West advised Zappos on the deal. Lazard Ltd advised Amazon.

    (Editing by Gary Hill, Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)

    Reuters - Microsoft releases Windows 7 code to PC makers

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    Microsoft releases Windows 7 code to PC makers

    Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009 10:1PM UTC

    SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it is releasing the code for Windows 7 to PC manufacturers, keeping the software company on track to have machines running its new operating system in the stores by late October.

    The move means Hewlett-Packard Co, Dell Inc, Acer Inc and other computer makers can start to load up new PCs, laptops and netbooks with the operating system, the successor to the unpopular Vista.

    Both Microsoft and the manufacturers are hoping the full launch of Windows 7, scheduled for October 22, will help lift PC sales out of the slump caused by the global economic downturn, and give the holiday shopping season an extra lift.

    Manufacturers have been testing early versions of Windows 7 for several months, but this week marks the release of the "gold code," according to a Lenovo Group Ltd executive, referring to the software industry jargon for the finished product.

    PC makers no longer have to fly discs in helicopters to their manufacturing plants, as the transfer is now done electronically. But it still marks a dramatic day as manufacturers hustle to get new products into stores in time for the release date.

    Machines that have Windows 7 installed, or devices that are compatible with it, will simply have the Windows 7 logo on them, a Microsoft executive said. The company will not be splashing the word "capable" around in marketing efforts, after it received complaints at its last launch that some machines branded "Windows Vista Capable" could only run the lower-end versions of the software.

    Few industry watchers expect such problems to hit Microsoft this time around as the company has spent more time making sure PCs will be able to run the new software.

    (Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

    CNN - Obama: Health care reform central to economic recovery

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    Obama: Health care reform central to economic recovery

    President Obama said Wednesday that health care reform is "central" to successfully rebuilding the U.S. economy after the current economic crisis.

    "Even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before -- and health insurance reform is central to that effort," Obama said in a nationally televised news conference Wednesday night.

    Spiraling health care costs are bankrupting Americans, causing 14,000 people to lose their health insurance coverage every day, and also will bankrupt the nation if allowed to continue, Obama said.

    "Let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket," he said.

    "These are the stakes of the debate we're having right now."

    As he laid out the list of benefits that health care reform offers, he dropped a direct reference to a government-funded public health insurance option.

    Until now, Obama has consistently touted the government-funded public option as competition for private insurers in expanding access to health coverage.

    It was unclear if Obama changed the wording to avoid a label opposed by Republican supporters, or if he was signaling a policy shift toward a compromise being negotiated by the Senate Finance Committee to have health insurance cooperatives rather than a government-funded public option.

    Instead, he promised that his plan would offer "security" and "stability" to sick and healthy Americans.

    "It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, move, or change your job, you will still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money," he said.

    He also said his program would not add to the deficit over the next decade, addressing concerns from Republican opponents and fiscally conservative Democrats over the costs of the program.

    "Already, we have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over $100 billion in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare -- subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors," he said.

    Earlier Wednesday, Obama worked the phones, urging lawmakers to embrace health care reform, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said Wednesday.

    It follows the president's Tuesday meeting with Democrats at the White House, dubbed a "serious working session" where "major progress" was made, Dunn said.

    Officials said Obama will be taking a more hands-on approach with members of Congress in the days and weeks to come regarding the health care debate.

    Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman of California and six other committee members met at the White House for more than two hours -- and during one hour the president was with them, aides said.

    During that meeting the six so-called Blue Dog Democrats gave their list of 10 demands on how they want the bill changed, including ways to cut costs, according to aides.

    Some argued the Medicare advisory council, which advises Congress in setting rates for reimbursement to medical providers under the Medicare program, should be empowered to make changes in cost-related issues. White House aides said they want the panel to be empowered to make cuts in benefits and increases in premiums, and to force those changes, unless Congress rejects.

    While lawmakers say a tentative deal was reached on this point, White House officials would only say the president "agreed with the lawmakers he met with [on] the need to cut costs."

    They refused to confirm there was a verbal agreement because there was "not an actual ink agreement" regarding the council. "The process is still going on," one official said.

    White House aides say the administration is concerned about three centers of serious opposition from House Democrats: the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who are worried about the cost of a public health care plan; the freshmen and other Democrats from high-income districts who are concerned about taxes for high-income Democrats, and the anti-abortion Democrats who are concerned about federal funding going for abortion services, and whether health care providers can opt out of certain procedures.

    One official said the administration is aware that "if any of these three groups abandon the effort the bill would be impossible to get out of committee, much less pass."

    Aides say the president and lawmakers also discussed the public option versus a co-op option.

    Reuters - Apple smashes profit forecasts, iPhone shines

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    Apple smashes profit forecasts, iPhone shines

    Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009 10:29AM UTC

    By Gabriel Madway

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc's quarterly profit blew past Wall Street forecasts thanks to strong sales of Macs and iPhones and higher-than-expected gross margins, boosting its shares 4 percent on Tuesday.

    The company continued to defy the global recession with a solid 13 percent jump in fiscal third-quarter net profit. It sold more than seven times as many iPhones -- 5.2 million units of its latest signature device -- as the year-ago period.

    "The numbers are great. Their gross profits continue to surprise people and there is a return to product momentum ... a return to growth in the Mac business," said Andy Hargreaves, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities. "And then the iPhone is doing tremendously well and that is a potent combination."

    Apple reported a net profit of $1.23 billion, or $1.35 a share, for its fiscal third quarter ended June 27, up from $1.07 billion, or $1.19 a share, in the year-ago period.

    Earnings per share beat by far the average Street forecast of $1.18 according to Reuters Estimates, and topped even the most bullish "whisper" numbers of $1.30 to $1.35.

    Sales of Macs and iPhones both beat analysts' expectations, helped by product refreshes and lower prices, while iPod shipments were toward the low end of forecasts.

    Apple said it sold 2.6 million Macs, up 4 percent from a year ago, and 5.2 million iPhones in the June quarter, during which the company launched its third-generation iPhone 3GS and cut the price on the second-generation model to $99.

    The iPhone is often thought of as more of a consumer device, but Apple said nearly 20 percent of Fortune 100 companies have bought at least 10,000 units and it is unable to make enough iPhone 3GSes to meet demand -- a shortfall the company said it is working to address.

    Although the smartphone segment continues to grow more crowded with competitors, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said on a conference call the company is "years ahead of other people" in its competitive position.


    The install base for the iPhone and the iPod Touch -- which share operating systems -- is now 45 million, Apple said.

    "The iPhone is the biggest driver right now, because the profitability is really high," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Ronald Gruia. "It's been an absolute success."

    Yet there had been some concern about margin pressure heading into the results, given the product price cuts and the trend of higher component costs.

    Although Mac units rose, revenue in the segment fell 8 percent from a year ago as average selling prices came down, a trend seen throughout the PC industry.

    But Apple posted a gross margin of 36.3 percent, above the 34 percent some analysts predicted. That compared with 36.4 percent in the last quarter and 34.8 percent a year ago. The company saw margins at 34 percent in the September quarter.

    Apple said component costs rose, but not as much as expected and it spent less than it planned in several areas.

    "The overall takeaway is that Apple continues to execute in this tough environment," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu.

    "They do the hardware, software and service, and that really allows them to have a leg up against competitors."

    Investors have pushed Apple's stock about 75 percent higher this year, well ahead of other big technology issues.

    Apple issued a typically conservative outlook for the current quarter, forecasting earnings of $1.18 to $1.23 a share on revenue of $8.7 billion to $8.9 billion.

    While that was below the average analyst estimate of $1.30 in earnings per share and $9.1 billion in revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter, it had little impact on investors.

    Revenue rose 12 percent to $8.3 billion in the June quarter, versus analysts' average estimate of $8.2 billion.

    Cash and marketable securities totaled more than $31 billion, one of the biggest cash hoards in all of technology.

    The results demonstrated the consumer appeal of Apple's products despite a troubled economy that has dented sales at competitors selling less expensive products.

    Apple reported relative strength in consumer demand, and weakness in education, one of its key markets.

    But iPods were a chink in its armor. Apple shipped 10.2 million iPods in the quarter, down 7 percent on the year. As iPod sales slow down, analysts see alternative catalysts on the horizon, with the expected launch of an iPhone in China and a rumored tablet PC or Internet device in the works.

    Cook said the company hoped to have an iPhone in China within a year.

    Chief Executive Steve Jobs did not make an appearance on the company's conference call, despite rumors that he might. Jobs recently returned from a nearly six-month medical leave, where he underwent an a liver transplant.

    Shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple closed at $151.51 on Nasdaq and rose to $158.34 in extended trading.

    (Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Additional reporting by Doris Frankel and Tiffany Wu; Editing by Edwin Chan and Richard Chang)

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Reuters - Movie studios try to harness "Twitter effect"

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    Movie studios try to harness "Twitter effect"

    Saturday, Jul 18, 2009 2:27AM UTC

    By Alex Dobuzinskis

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Audiences are voicing snap judgments on movies faster and to more people than ever before on Twitter, and their ability to create a box office hit or a flop is forcing major studios to revamp marketing campaigns.

    The stakes are especially high this summer season when big budget movies like "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which opened on Wednesday, play to a core audience of young, plugged-in moviegoers.

    Box office watchers say Twitter, a micro-blogging service that allows anyone to post on-the-fly wisecracks for all the world to see, is the latest weapon in an arsenal of cell phones and computers that audiences use to critique films quickly, often when they are still sitting in theaters.

    Such word-of-mouth publicity from fan to fan can boost, or bomb, ticket sales.

    "Has everything speeded up? The answer is yes," said Adam Fogelson, Universal's president of marketing and distribution. "Depending on how big your opening day audience is, word-of-mouth starts playing a factor immediately," he said.

    Film marketers look at weekly declines in ticket sales to judge fan buzz. In recent years those "drops" have widened significantly as communication has speeded up thanks to the Internet and more recently social networking services like Twitter and Facebook.

    This summer, which is the most lucrative movie season and can make up as much as 40 percent of annual box office, ticket revenues for new films have dropped 51 percent, on average, from week No. 1 to week No. 2, a figure matched only in 2007, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.

    "If people don't like the movie now on Friday it can die by Saturday," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Box Office.


    Last Friday, actor Sacha Baron Cohen's gay-themed comedy "Bruno," which was distributed by Universal Pictures, made an impressive one-day debut of $14.4 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices, but the next day it suffered a large single-day drop, falling 39 percent to $8.8 million.

    Media reports speculated that "Bruno" suffered from the "Twitter effect," meaning audiences reacted quickly online to raunchy scenes of sex and nudity, scaring people away.

    Soon after the movie's opening, Twitter was awash with comments such as this from user Cathy Zhang: "Some scenes from Bruno I'll never erase from my mind." On the flip side, many Twitter commentators raved about "Bruno."

    Universal's Fogelson said even Twitter comments that seem critical can be good publicity because they show people are passionate about the movie and can spark discussion that increases attendance. He attributed "Bruno's" lopsided opening day not to negative fan buzz, but to an unusually large crowd of Cohen's fans rushing to see the film on its first day.

    Hollywood has a long history of both embracing and spurning new technology. In the case of Twitter, it is giving an early embrace. Sony Pictures, for instance, has been notably aggressive, creating Twitter pages for upcoming movies "District 9," "Julie & Julia" and "The Ugly Truth."

    Using Twitter, actor Ashton Kutcher has raised his profile and that of his production company among the most tech-savvy, and he is not alone. Filmmakers and actors often "tweet" from the set with the blessing of publicists looking to create interest in a film.

    "As much as it seems chaotic, it's not. It's just extremely quick and real-time," said online marketing consultant Gordon Paddison.

    (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Reuters - Google sees YouTube profitable in near future

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    Google sees YouTube profitable in near future

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 5:41PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Web video site YouTube will be profitable for Google Inc in the near future, the Internet search leader said on Thursday.

    Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, but has lost money on the site that lets people post and share videos free.

    Analysts have raised concerns about the huge costs involved in streaming millions of videos with only a tiny swathe of them being supported by advertising.

    "YouTube is now on a trajectory that we're very pleased with," Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said during an earnings call on Thursday.

    He added that Google is helping marketers and advertising agencies create "great ads easily" for YouTube.

    Google executives have recently made bullish remarks on YouTube's revenue growth. Schmidt told reporters at the Sun Valley technology and media conference this month that new advertising formats, such as pre-roll ads that appear before a Web video program, will draw in more revenue.

    On Thursday, Google's head of product management and marketing, Jonathan Rosenberg, said "monetized views" -- people viewing videos that are supported by advertising -- more than tripled in the past year.

    "We're now monetizing billions of views of partner videos every month," he said.

    In response to an analyst question, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said recent efforts to introduce new ad formats and promote videos have helped to establish YouTube's home page among advertisers as relevant and "desirable for customers."

    "We're really pleased both in terms of (YouTube's) revenue growth, which is really material to YouTube, and... in the not long, too-long-distant future, we actually see a very profitable and good business for us," Pichette said.

    Google reported a quarterly profit on Thursday that beat Wall Street expectations, but its revenue growth was not as stellar as some investors had hoped, sending its shares down nearly 3 percent.

    (Reporting by Anupreeta Das; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Goldman makes peace with blogger in trademark case

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    Goldman makes peace with blogger in trademark case

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 6:33PM UTC

    By Martha Graybow

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc has quietly reached an agreement to end a legal dispute with a blogger who will be allowed to keep running a website critical of the investment bank.

    The agreement required blogger Michael Morgan to post a disclaimer on his website, saying it has no affiliation with the financial firm.

    Morgan, a Florida investment adviser, uses his blog -- whose name combines Goldman's name with numbers used to evoke connotations with the devil -- to criticize the bank and its large profits.

    The bank this week posted a 33 percent increase in quarterly earnings on blowout trading results, putting its employees on pace for big bonuses at a time when many Americans are struggling.

    A Goldman attorney had sent Morgan a cease-and-desist letter in April, contending he was violating the firm's intellectual property rights by using its trademark. Morgan then filed a complaint in federal court in Florida, seeking a ruling that he had not infringed on any trademarks.

    The two sides agreed to have the litigation dismissed in court papers filed last month. The agreement was reported by The Am Law Daily legal publication.

    Goldman spokeswoman Gia Moron said on Friday that "our concern about this site ceased when Mr. Morgan posted a prominent disclaimer making it clear that his site was not associated with Goldman Sachs."

    (Reporting by Martha Graybow; editing by Andre Grenon)

    Reuters - ooVoo takes on Skype, Cisco in video conferencing

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    ooVoo takes on Skype, Cisco in video conferencing

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 10:48PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Start-up ooVoo is hoping to take on everybody from Skype, the Internet telephony arm of eBay, to Cisco Systems with a new video conferencing offer for small businesses.

    While Skype has the higher profile, New York-based ooVoo has quietly built up 7.5 million registered users in the last few years with a service that supports video chats between up to six people and up to six phone participants.

    Now, the fledgling company is adding a desktop sharing option that will let business colleagues view each other's computer screens and enable remote collaboration. It will also block advertising for business users who pay a monthly fee.

    "We took what we had with the consumer and packaged it with a business plan," said ooVoo CEO Philippe Schwartz who said that about 20 percent of the company's current users were business customers even before its business-targeted plan.

    Cisco's development of a telepresence video conferencing system, which uses large screens and shows life-like images, has created renewed interest in video communications in recent years. But such systems cost thousands of dollars to install, at a time small businesses are looking to shave costs.

    A few years ago, Cisco also bought firm WebEx, which lets people share documents and collaborate online.

    Schwartz hopes to double ooVoo's customer base this year and increase business users to as much as 40 percent of total customers as companies look to cut costs in a weak economy.

    "You're seeing people use more video because of the economy and the need to travel less," Schwartz said.

    ooVoo's business service costs $39.95 a month per person or less, depending on the number of users in a company, ad-free. The consumer service starts at no fee to as high as $17.95 a month for six-way chats. Voice calls to phones are extra.

    In comparison, Skype, which had 443 million customers at the end of March, does not charge a fee for video chat between computers, but charges per-minute for calls to telephones.

    Skype recently added the option of screen sharing, which allows users to share all or part of their screen, and says it does not charge for this service.

    But Skype, which provides voice conferencing options for up to 25 people, only provides one-to-one video and does not offer the call recording feature that ooVoo has.

    IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen said that ooVoo's ability to combine video and phone participants in the same call is a big plus for attracting business customers. She also noted that the option of setting up a Web video call with non-ooVoo users could help it attract new customers.

    But she said Skype would likely be a formidable rival.

    "They also are starting to focus heavily on the business market, which leads me to believe more features and functionality are on their way," Swensen said.

    Howard Lichtman, president of consulting firm Human Productivity Lab, said that while large companies would be more likely to opt for a high-end telepresence system, many smaller companies would be content with a cheaper option.

    "There's a kind of a virtuous cycle going on in that more and more companies are deploying video, so more and more people want to use it," he said. "A lot of little companies are saying, we'll just use Skype or WebEx or some of these other services."

    (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Verizon says it will limit new handset deals

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    Verizon says it will limit new handset deals

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 7:55PM UTC

    By Diane Bartz and Sinead Carew

    WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless is dialing back on its exclusivity agreements with handset makers after pressure from U.S. lawmakers and smaller carriers.

    The biggest U.S. mobile service said on Friday it will limit exclusivity periods with cellphone makers to six months and then allow the country's smallest wireless service providers to sell the devices.

    The move comes after reports that the U.S. Department of Justice was taking a preliminary look into whether U.S. operators had violated antitrust laws by obtaining exclusive deals to sell specific phones.

    Exclusivity deals are common among the biggest U.S. carriers but have recently faced strong opposition from small, rural carriers, which say they lack the clout to make deals to carry the most popular advanced phones.

    The iPhone has drawn such deals into the spotlight because AT&T Inc <T.N>, the second biggest U.S. wireless service, has had exclusive U.S. rights with Apple Inc <AAPL.O> since 2007.

    In an apparent effort to preempt any regulatory changes, Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications <VZ.N> and Vodafone Group <VOD.L>, sent a letter to major lawmakers on July 17 offering to limit exclusivity.

    Verizon said the offer would apply to carriers with 500,000 or fewer subscribers. However, Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said it applies to all "small" operators, without giving a specific definition. Cellular South, a vocal activist against phone exclusivity deals would be able to avail of the offer even though it has roughly 800,000 customers, he said.

    However, the offer will not extend to larger companies such as U.S. Cellular Corp <USM.N>, which has about 6 million customers and has been a vocal opponent of the practice, Nelson said. U.S. Cellular did not immediately comment.

    "Effective immediately for small wireless carriers ... any new exclusivity arrangement we enter with handset makers will last no longer than six months -- for all manufacturers and all devices," Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said in the letter.

    He said 24 small wireless carriers had asked Verizon to eliminate its long-term exclusive handset agreements with LG <066570.KS> and Samsung <SAGR.UL> in February. The company was now expanding that idea to all handsets.

    Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast described the letter as a "significant move to diffuse the heightening pressure for regulation to curtail" exclusive deals and said it would put pressure on other big carriers to follow suit.

    "It will likely not be the end of the debate, in our view, as US Cellular, one of the more vigorous advocates for eliminating exclusives, will not benefit," Arbogast said, but she said the move would take pressure off of the U.S. telecom regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, to change laws.

    But Consumers Union, a Washington based consumer advocate, said Verizon's focus on the smallest carriers would mean more phone choices for a very limited number of consumers.

    "For the rest of the hundreds of millions of wireless consumers its not nearly enough," said Consumers Union policy analyst Joel Kelsey. "This is Verizon trying to dodge tough questions about its anti-competitive behavior."

    A spokeswoman for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment. The DoJ's preliminary examination is believed to be focused on deals like AT&T's with Apple and Sprint's <S.N> with Palm's <PALM.O> Pre cellphone. Another is Verizon's deal with LG for its Voyager phone.

    AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel declined to comment on how it might respond to Verizon's move, but defended exclusive deals.

    "Without question exclusive handset deals have given America's wireless customers big benefits, including more choices, lower prices, and a level of innovation that is the best in the world," he said in an emailed statement.

    Sprint declined immediate comment and a spokesperson for the FCC was not immediately available for comment.

    Arbogast said AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 U.S. mobile service owned by Deutsche Telekom <DTEGn.DE>, would come under pressure to follow suit.

    The letter was sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, and committee members John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. The letter also was sent to Representatives Rick Boucher, Henry Waxman, Joe Barton and Cliff Stearns.

    Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, who met with McAdam on Friday, praised Verizon's actions.

    "Verizon has taken an important and forward-looking step. I think it does ensure that smaller carriers get rapid access to the latest devices," Boucher told Reuters.

    Smaller telecommunications companies and consumer advocacy groups also have complained that bigger companies use their size to squeeze out smaller rivals by refusing roaming deals, or block applications like the Skype Web-based phone service.

    (Additional reporting John Poirier; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Tiffany Wu, Richard Chang and Carol Bishopric)

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    CNN - Tracking Michelle Obama's slave roots

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    Tracking Michelle Obama's slave roots

    In many places across the South you can walk in the footsteps of slaves, and if you understand the history, it is not a happy journey. The same is true at Friendfield Plantation outside Georgetown, South Carolina.

    It's not exactly "Gone With the Wind," but what makes this overgrown 3,300 acres of marsh and pine trees stand out is this: The family of first lady Michelle Obama believes her great-great grandfather was held as a slave here and labored in the mosquito-infested rice fields.

    It makes Friendfield Plantation a symbol of something more than servitude. It's the symbol of something that's never happened before: One important segment of an American family's journey from the humiliation of slavery to the very top of the nation's ruling class.

    CNN recently was the first television network allowed to visit the plantation and shoot video. It's not a museum. It's just private land, still with shadows of its past.

    Friendfield's most distinctive historical feature, perhaps, is the dirt road known as Slave Street.

    Six white-washed little shacks are all that remain of the slave quarters, even though rows of these houses once stood on the property. About 350 slaves lived here during the 19th century.

    The houses are nothing special -- no plumbing, of course. The wooden walls are paper thin in places. It would have been hot and humid in summer, and most certainly cold in winter, although the shacks had fireplaces.

    They would have been crowded: probably one or two families living in a space smaller than a modern-day garage.

    The White House is some 472 miles from Georgetown, South Carolina. But long before Michelle Obama was born, her great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, likely toiled in the fields here six days a week, from sunup to sundown.

    The place he probably called home was a little white shack smaller than -- by comparison -- a Secret Service security shed on the grounds of the executive mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    All told, hundreds of people lived like this, on this one plantation alone.

    "Anywhere between 200 to 500 at different times," said Ed Carter, the property manager. "The older the plantation got, they kept adding on more cabins. [Some] cabins are 1847.

    "There was some on the other street that were about probably 1820s. And when they added on, got a bit more wealthy, they just kept adding on more slaves, more cabins."

    The shacks probably weren't much refuge from the vicious clouds of mosquitoes, chiggers, fire ants, and other pests that still impinge on a person's every move on the plantation. Then, consider the dangers of the alligators and snakes.

    There was also the oppressive heat and humidity of South Carolina. And on the day CNN visited, the skies opened up in a violent rainstorm.

    Add up all of these factors and you begin to get a picture of what life probably was, and was not, for the slaves on Friendfield Plantation. Workers on the rice plantation -- and Friendfield was one of the largest in these parts -- faced all these elements, plus the threat of disease, including malaria and yellow fever. And unlike the CNN crew, the slaves were not free to leave.

    Even in death, the slaves stayed. Three cemeteries are on the Friendfield grounds. The one slave cemetery CNN visited had mostly unmarked graves, but Jim Robinson -- who was born into slavery and died a free man -- is believed to be buried there somewhere.

    The cemetery clearly has been segregated from the rest of the property. Slave cemeteries were typically situated on land unsuitable for any other use.

    Surrounded by trees, it might have been a beautiful place. Now, it is hard to tell that you are standing in a cemetery -- except for half a dozen grave markers, some made of wood, bearing no names.

    All that's known about Jim Robinson's life comes from the few remaining records that mention him. Slaves weren't documented as individuals in the census, nor in life and death certificates. They were property, not people.

    But Michelle Obama's great-great grandfather was a teenager when slavery was abolished, so as a free man, he started to leave a paper trail.

    The 1880 census shows he was born about 1850, in South Carolina, and that his parents were born in South Carolina as well. He married a woman named Louiser, and in 1880 they already had three children, two boys and a girl, ages 1, 2, and 3.

    The son that would become Michelle Obama's great grandfather was not born yet. The census lists Jim's occupation as a farmer, and Louiser's as "keeping house."

    They are both recorded as unable to read or write. It's good fortune to uncover even this much information; the original handwritten census got wet, the ink ran and it is nearly illegible. Proof of life, nearly washed away.

    There are a lot of unknowns concerning Michelle Obama's ancestry -- how many generations of slaves there were, or what route they took to this hemisphere.

    The Obama election campaign commissioned a study of Michelle's genealogy by the research group Lowcountry Africana, but they couldn't make the link back to Africa. As with so many African-Americans' family histories, the paper trail runs dry.

    "I don't think that that sort of information is available for anyone from Friendfield Plantation at this point," historian Tori Carrier, of Lowcountry Africana, said. "Very, very few, if any, of the Friendfield records actually survived except in public records: wills and estate inventories. ...

    "There's not a real Friendfield Plantation records set, or plantation journals that have been preserved ... and there's certainly not a shred of documentary evidence right now which would even suggest to us what the African origins would be," Carrier said.

    Back in Georgetown, South Carolina, Margretta Knox remembers attending the Bethel AME church with the first lady's grandparents -- Jim Robinson's grandson and his wife -- when she was a girl. The couple spent many of their years in Chicago, but returned back South after they retired.

    "My father knew that Frasier Robinson's father sold newspapers," she recalled. "He made his kids read them. Mr. Robinson was very, very smart, he could recite poetry. ... Their grandfather could recite poetry and that kind of thing. ... Her grandfather and her grandmother, they were both very smart people."

    But the family ties to the old plantation just got lost. "We let our parents die before we really thought about asking them questions," Knox said.

    "We didn't think about it until much later, and then it was too late. They were already gone. So there was no history after that. ...

    "Because we live here, we don't think about it. It's just like, you've been around it all of your life, it doesn't cross your mind. You're just living for today."

    In that same way, it probably never crossed Jim Robinson's mind, as a slave in a white-washed cabin, that one day his great-great granddaughter would be living in a white house so very, very different from his own.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Reuters - Website publishes sensitive hacked Twitter info

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    Website publishes sensitive hacked Twitter info

    Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009 10:21PM UTC

    By David Lawsky

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Technology news website TechCrunch published on Wednesday sensitive internal documents belonging to Twitter, including financial projections, offering a rare glimpse into the wildly popular microblogging site.

    Twitter has a targeted revenue run rate of $140 million by the end of 2010, with the expectation it would record its first revenue -- a modest $400,000 -- in the third quarter of this year, according to a document Techcrunch published that it said was sent by a hacker.

    Dated February, the document was labeled a Financial Forecast and outlined how Twitter expected to take in $4 million in revenue by the fourth quarter and maintain $45 million of cash in the bank.

    By the end of 2013, Twitter hoped to sign up 1 billion users, post $1.54 billion in revenue, employ 5,200 people and make $111 million in net earnings, according to TechCrunch.

    Techcrunch, which said it negotiated the publication with Twitter itself, added in the report that the document was unofficial and "certainly no longer accurate."

    Twitter was not immediately available to comment on the projections. The document published by TechCrunch did not provide details about how Twitter planned to get the revenue.

    "We are in touch with our legal counsel about what this theft means for Twitter, the hacker, and anyone who accepts and subsequently shares or publishes these stolen documents," Twitter said in an official blog post.

    TechCrunch said earlier on Wednesday that an anonymous hacker had gained "easy access" to hundreds of pieces of internal Twitter information -- from pass codes to meeting minutes -- and then forwarded the data to the news website.

    TechCrunch initially posted a single document, a discussion about a proposed reality television show. Within hours of its posting, hundreds of readers condemned the site for the move.

    Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, defended its right to make the material public, saying it would exercise restraint on material such as personnel records.

    "We've spent most of the evening reading these documents. The vast majority of them are somewhat embarrassing to various individuals, but not otherwise interesting," Arrington wrote.

    "But a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it's appropriate to publish them."

    Twitter, which permits users to post "Tweets" of up to 140 characters, has won a loyal fan following of millions and catapulted to prominence after it was used by protesters in Iran following a disputed election there.

    The company is trying to parlay the popularity of its free service, into a money-making business. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told Reuters earlier this year the company had decided to generate revenue in 2009, a year earlier than planned.

    Stone also said Twitter was more interested in generating revenue from premium add-on features, such as analytic tools, than from traditional online advertising.

    Twitter's surge in popularity, and its real-time search feature, have captured the attention of Web giants such as Google Inc, which has had unspecified discussions with the company, according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

    "Obviously Twitter is a very attractive target for hackers or attackers, because of its high profile as a very popular media website," said Joris Evers, a spokesman and security expert at McAfee, which protects against Internet threats.

    (Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Reuters - Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to Web

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    Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to Web

    Monday, Jul 13, 2009 5:6PM UTC

    By Jim Finkle

    BOSTON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp will release three versions of its dominant Office software that users can access over the Web, catching up with products that rival Google Inc launched three years ago.

    The news helped send shares in the world's largest software maker up 2.7 percent by midday, more than double the gain in the Nasdaq Composite Index.

    It is the latest salvo in an intensifying war between Microsoft and Google. Google announced plans last week to challenge Windows with a free operating system. Microsoft introduced a new search engine, Bing, last month.

    "Microsoft is finally making the conversion through the Web-based world. First, we saw that through Bing. Now we are seeing that through Office," said Jefferies & Co analyst Katherine Egbert.

    Microsoft will offer for free to consumers Web-based versions of its Office suite of programs, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and a note-taking program.

    Microsoft will also host one Internet business version of Office at its own data centers, charging companies a yet-to- be-announced fee. Companies with premium service contracts will have the choice of running a second Web-based version from their own data centers at no extra cost.

    The company hopes to make money by using the free software to lead users to its ad-supported websites, including Bing. Analysts have said that Bing's early signs of success suggest Microsoft may be rounding the corner in efforts to turn around its money-losing Internet division.

    Still, a free version of Office could hurt sales of Microsoft's top-selling and most profitable unit. One of Office's most popular titles is a home version that sells for $150. It includes the four programs that Microsoft will give away.

    "Microsoft is in a tough spot. Their competition isn't just undercutting them. They are giving away the competitive product," said Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research.

    The Office division rang up operating profit of $9.3 billion on sales of $14.3 billion in the first three quarters of the software maker's current fiscal year.

    McLeish expects Microsoft to overtake Google in the market as the hundreds of millions of people who use Office flock to try out the Internet version.

    Microsoft will release the web offerings when it starts selling Office 2010, it next major release of the product, sometime in the first half of next year. Its current version came out in January 2007.

    The software maker unveiled an early release on Monday at a conference for business partners in New Orleans. It will be distributed to tens of thousands of testers.

    Company spokeswoman Janice Kapner said the free Web version will provide "a very rich experience" and probably have more functionality than Google.

    Office 2010 is among a wave of upgrades to Microsoft programs planned over the next year. A new version of its ubiquitous Windows operating system is coming out in October and a new version of its widely used email server is also in the works.

    Microsoft shares rose 2.7 percent to $23, while the Nasdaq was up 1.2 percent at 1777.50

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Reuters - North Korea leader Kim has pancreatic cancer: report

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    North Korea leader Kim has pancreatic cancer: report

    Monday, Jul 13, 2009 2:18AM UTC

    By Jack Kim

    SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, 67, has life-threatening pancreatic cancer, South Korean broadcaster YTN said on Monday, citing information gathered from Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

    The report raises questions about leadership in Asia's only community dynasty and who will make decisions concerning its nuclear programs.

    Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the reclusive state but he is widely thought to have suffered a stroke a year ago, although there has never been official confirmation.

    YTN said the diagnoses of the cancer came around the same time as the stroke.

    A gaunt Kim with thinning hair made a rare public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father and state founder Kim Il-sung. The stark figure he cast furthered speculation he was still ill.

    South Korea's National Intelligence Service could not immediately comment on the report, nor could U.S. officials.

    South Korean financial markets took the YTN report with caution, saying it cast a shadow over sentiment.

    "Such news highlights South Korea's geopolitical uncertainty and risks and one thing that investors hate is any uncertainty," said Lee Kyoung-su, a market analyst at Taurus Investment & Securities.

    North Korea has been raising tension in Asia through missile launches and a nuclear test on May 25 which was met by U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting off it arms trade, one of its few sources of hard cash.

    South Korean officials said this military grandstanding was aimed at helping Kim build internal support as he prepares for succession, with his youngest son seen as the likely heir.


    The U.S. National Cancer Institute puts the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer at 5.5 percent. The pancreas makes insulin and other hormones which help the body use or store energy from food.

    Pancreatic cancer occurs more often in people who have diabetes than in those who do not, it said, and Kim has been long thought to suffer from diabetes.

    Kim Jong-il took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82. He assumed the title of general secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and chairman of the National Defense Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

    His youngest son Kim Jong-un, born in late 1983 or early 1984 and educated in Switzerland, is regarded as the most capable of Kim's three known sons with striking resemblance to his father.

    If Jong-un were to take over soon, he is likely to remain weak, vulnerable and at the mercy of the North's old guard for years, experts said.

    North Korea places great emphasis on seniority and the ruling elite around Kim Jong-il, mostly men beyond 70, are not about to take orders from the son, an intelligence source said.

    Separately, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei of China was holding talks in Seoul on Monday to try to resume six-way talks his country hosts aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear arms program in return for massive aid and diplomatic rewards.

    (Additional reporting by Jungyoun Park; Editing by David Fox)

    Reuters - News Corp won't buy Twitter, won't sell MySpace

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    News Corp won't buy Twitter, won't sell MySpace

    Thursday, Jul 09, 2009 3:44AM UTC

    SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - News Corp is not interested in buying popular microblogging site Twitter and will not sell its struggling social network MySpace, said the media conglomerate's chief executive, Rupert Murdoch.

    Murdoch, who arrived on Wednesday at the Allen & Co investment bank's Sun Valley media and technology conference, said Twitter would be a tough investment to justify because it has not yet come up with a sustainable way to make money.

    "Be careful of investing here," he said of Twitter.

    Speculation is running rampant at the 27th Sun Valley conference over which company might want to buy Twitter. The service, which lets people post to Web what they are thinking or doing in 140 characters or less, is growing in popularity.

    Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is widely considered one of the darlings of this year's conference. Sun Valley often features hot Internet start-ups that older media conglomerates would like to buy to enhance their own businesses.

    Asked if he was considering buying Twitter, Murdoch said, "No." Asked about selling MySpace, he said, "Hell no."

    News Corp bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million when the social networking service was nearing the height of its popularity, particularly among younger Internet users.

    Since then, it has ceded ground to rival Facebook as well as Twitter. News Corp recently ousted MySpace co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe and installed its own management team.

    In a bid to cut costs, MySpace also has laid off more than 400 workers, or 30 percent of its staff, in the United States. It also has laid off more abroad.

    Murdoch expressed confidence in MySpace and criticized Facebook.

    "Facebook is like a directory," he said. "How they make money is another matter."

    (Reporting by Robert MacMillan, editing by Tiffany Wu, Matt Daily and Steve Orlofsky)

    Reuters - News Corp won't buy Twitter, won't sell MySpace

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    News Corp won't buy Twitter, won't sell MySpace

    Thursday, Jul 09, 2009 3:44AM UTC

    SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - News Corp is not interested in buying popular microblogging site Twitter and will not sell its struggling social network MySpace, said the media conglomerate's chief executive, Rupert Murdoch.

    Murdoch, who arrived on Wednesday at the Allen & Co investment bank's Sun Valley media and technology conference, said Twitter would be a tough investment to justify because it has not yet come up with a sustainable way to make money.

    "Be careful of investing here," he said of Twitter.

    Speculation is running rampant at the 27th Sun Valley conference over which company might want to buy Twitter. The service, which lets people post to Web what they are thinking or doing in 140 characters or less, is growing in popularity.

    Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is widely considered one of the darlings of this year's conference. Sun Valley often features hot Internet start-ups that older media conglomerates would like to buy to enhance their own businesses.

    Asked if he was considering buying Twitter, Murdoch said, "No." Asked about selling MySpace, he said, "Hell no."

    News Corp bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million when the social networking service was nearing the height of its popularity, particularly among younger Internet users.

    Since then, it has ceded ground to rival Facebook as well as Twitter. News Corp recently ousted MySpace co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe and installed its own management team.

    In a bid to cut costs, MySpace also has laid off more than 400 workers, or 30 percent of its staff, in the United States. It also has laid off more abroad.

    Murdoch expressed confidence in MySpace and criticized Facebook.

    "Facebook is like a directory," he said. "How they make money is another matter."

    (Reporting by Robert MacMillan, editing by Tiffany Wu, Matt Daily and Steve Orlofsky)

    Reuters - Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case

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    Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case

    Sunday, Jul 12, 2009 7:20PM UTC

    LONDON (Reuters) - An opposition blogger in Azerbaijan has been remanded in custody pending trial on hooliganism charges, prompting protests from his employer, oil major BP Plc, a media rights group said on its website.

    Adnan Hajizade, a video blogger and member of the "OL!" opposition movement, was arrested along with youth activist Emin Milli at a cafe in Baku on July 8, after they were beaten up by two men, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

    The pair were remanded in custody by a judge for two months, RSF said.

    The incident came ahead of Monday's visit to Britain by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who is expected to meet government and BP officials.

    Hadjizade suffered a broken nose in the attack and Milli sustained a leg and other injuries, RSF said.

    Hadjiazde, 26, has worked for BP's public relations team in Baku for several years. A spokesman for BP -- one of the biggest foreign investors in Azerbaijan -- said the company was making representations to the authorities.

    "This is something BP is very concerned about and is taking very seriously," a spokesman said.

    Critics accuse Aliyev of adopting an increasingly authoritarian style including, in recent months, a plan to place curbs on non-governmental organizations.

    Rights groups and Aliyev's opponents accuse the West of muting its criticism on human rights because Azerbaijan is a supplier of oil and gas to the West in the strategically important South Caucasus.

    (Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Jon Boyle)

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    Reuters - Web manager won't say if others saw Goldman code

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    Web manager won't say if others saw Goldman code

    Friday, Jul 10, 2009 6:58PM UTC

    By Laurence Fletcher

    LONDON (Reuters) - The owner of a website onto which a purportedly stolen Goldman Sachs Group Inc computer code was downloaded has declined to say whether or not other people accessed the code while it was on the site.

    Roopinder Singh, who runs file storage website, told Reuters in London on Friday that computer files show whether or not the valuable code -- which U.S. prosecutors have charged former Goldman employee Sergey Aleynikov with stealing -- was viewed by others, but he declined to say what they show due to the scale of the case.

    According to Singh, accounts at initially have a privacy setting that only lets the user see them. However, users can change that setting to allow other people to view files.

    "Private is the default," he said. "You then have the option ... You can explicitly either share it (or keep it private)."

    He declined to say what the settings on Aleynikov's account were.

    Singh also said German authorities had taken hardware from the website on Monday, while the UK's Serious Organized Crime Agency visited his flat in south east London several hours later that evening. He said his website was down until Wednesday morning.

    "On Monday afternoon the hard drives were seized -- German authorities took away the hard drives to do forensic work on them.

    "I wasn't really (initially) told it was connected to the Goldman case," Singh said. "On Wednesday morning they came back to my place and I deleted the data."

    The FBI in New York said earlier this week it had taken measures to prevent code being sent from the server in Germany.

    "Working through our assistant legal attache in Frankfurt and with the authorities in Germany, the FBI has taken steps to ensure that the appropriated code was not distributed," FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said.

    Singh said that he had previously had no connection with Aleynikov and that anyone could set up an account on the site.

    Aleynikov's lawyer said on Friday that there was confusion over what was being said and written about the code.

    The lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said: "They talk about open source code and proprietary information as though it were the same thing."

    Shroff said: "He (Aleynikov) has not said anything about sharing proprietary information. In fact he denies guilt. There is no guilt, and there is no harm to Goldman Sachs."

    The purported theft of the code could cost Goldman Sachs "millions upon millions of dollars", a U.S. prosecutor, Joseph Facciponte, said at 39-year-old Aleynikov's initial court appearance in New York on Saturday. He was arrested on Friday night and interviewed by the FBI.

    Goldman Sachs declined to comment while a Serious Organized Crime Agency spokesman was unable to comment.

    (Additional reporting by Grant McCool and Steve Eder in New York, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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