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    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Reuters - Murdoch says papers should charge on Web

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    Murdoch says papers should charge on Web

    Friday, Apr 03, 2009 2:49PM UTC

    By Yinka Adegoke

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch, whose media company News Corp owns one of the few U.S. newspapers that makes people pay to read its news on the Web, said more papers will have to start doing the same to survive.

    Murdoch, who bought The Wall Street Journal and its parent company Dow Jones & Co in 2007, said online advertising, which most U.S. publishers hope will offset ad revenue declines at their print divisions, will not cover their costs.

    "People reading news for free on the Web, that's got to change," said Murdoch speaking at The Cable Show, an annual cable television industry event, in Washington, D.C.

    Murdoch pointed to the Journal's main rival in the United States, The New York Times, as an example. The Times has one of the most popular U.S. newspaper websites, but still cannot cover its costs with online ads, he said.

    Murdoch's newspaper empire includes the New York Post, the Times of London and other papers in Britain and Australia, which are available online for free. The Journal had been charging for access for years before News Corp bought it.

    His comments come as the Times holds a semi-public debate about whether it should revisit charging readers to get some or all of its news and commentary online. It canceled an earlier experiment, "TimesSelect", to charge for columnists and similar content because it made more money from ads.

    The Journal charges readers for access to its website, which Murdoch said was "not a gold mine, but it's not bad". When he first took over the paper, News Corp and Dow Jones executives considered making the site free, but determined it would be better to keep charging for most, but not all, content.

    As online ad revenue growth stumbles and in some cases falls, publishers are being forced to rethink whether charging for access is possible, or whether readers would simply stop going to their websites.

    Time is running out. Some U.S. publishers like Tribune Co have filed for bankruptcy. Others, including Hearst Corp and EW Scripps Co, have been shutting down big city dailies. Still others are furloughing employees, cutting pay and buying out or laying off thousands of workers.

    Even as they cut costs, publishers are looking for ways to get more people to read -- and pay for -- journalism.

    Murdoch also told Cable Show attendees that News Corp is investing with partners in a new portable device to let people read electronic versions of their daily papers.

    News Corp is investing in a reading device similar to Amazon.com's Kindle and Sony Corp's Reader but with a larger screen for reading newspapers, Murdoch said.

    Newspapers like Pearson PLC's Financial Times and Gannett's USA Today are working with a Mountain View, California company called Plastic Logic on newspaper-specific reading device expected to launch early next year.

    Murdoch did not clarify if it was the same technology and the company did not return calls seeking comment.

    Murdoch also addressed concerns among newspaper publishers that search engines like Google Inc and Yahoo Inc help users to find stories by aggregating links to newspapers websites and blogs -- but then wrest ad dollars from them that they think should be theirs.

    "The question is, should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyright... not steal, but take," said Murdoch. "Not just them but Yahoo."

    Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt is expected to discuss this topic when he speaks at the Newspaper Association of America's annual conference in San Diego next week.

    Separately, Murdoch said he is still "slightly pessimistic" about the economy and said he does not see things returning to previous levels for another two to three years. The recession, along with hurting newspapers, has contributed to ad revenue declines at News Corp's U.S. local television business too.

    Murdoch also talked about the financial industry's help in sparking the world economic crisis. While there have been some well publicized excesses by some executives, he said, the U.S. government should go easy on regulation.

    "We need to get an SEC that's awake and maybe a few more regulations but not too many," he said.

    (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

    CNN - At least 12 dead in upstate New York shootings

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    At least 12 dead in upstate New York shootings


    At least one gunman began shooting Friday in an immigration services building in Binghamton, New York, killing at least 12 people, Gov. David Paterson said.

    A gunman is among the dead, law enforcement officials said.

    A law enforcement source said more than a dozen were wounded.

    Two people were seen being led from the building in plastic handcuffs, WBNG reported. It was not immediately known whether the two were under arrest.

    The shootings began around 10:30 a.m. ET at the American Civic Association, which helps immigrants and refugees, the source said.

    The source said there may have been 20 to 40 people taken hostage.

    The local newspaper, the Press & Sun-Bulletin, said on its Web site that at least four people were shot and 41 people had been taken hostage.

    It said sharpshooters from the city's SWAT team were poised outside the building.

    Video from the scene showed a person on a stretcher being taken to an ambulance. Watch interactive view of shooting scene

    The Press & Sun-Bulletin said about 10 people came out of the building shortly after noon. They emerged with their hands on their heads. The police searched some of them, the newspaper reported.

    Around 12:40 p.m., another 10 -- clad in white sheets -- came out of the rear of the building, the newspaper said.

    Frank Rozboril, a spokesman for Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, which is in the city, said the hospital had one person who had been at the association in the emergency room. Rozboril said the patient, who arrived around 12:30 p.m., was being assessed.

    FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the FBI is sending hostage negotiators and an evidence response team to the scene. The agency has an office in Binghamton, and agents are being sent from offices in Albany and Syracuse as well.

    Nearby apartments were being evacuated and Binghamton High School is on lockdown, it said.

    "Within minutes [the situation] turned into one just flooded with police," Bob Joseph, news director of WNBF Radio, told CNN. Are you there? See submitted images, send your own

    The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to a United Way of Broome County Web site, which is affiliated with the association.

    Rashidun Haque, who owns a nearby convenience store, said police had him and his four customers stay inside and away from the windows.

    "I'm really shaky because this kind of thing -- it's a small city, it's a beautiful city -- but nothing goes down serious like this," Haque said.

    He said the Civic Association building is about a two-minute walk from downtown.

    New York Gov. David Paterson issued a statement saying it was "a tragic day for New York." He said he had directed state police to assist the Binghamton Police Department. "I speak for all of New York when I offer my prayers for the victims and families of this tragedy," Paterson said.

    Binghamton is about 140 miles northwest of New York City.

    CNN - Official: Hostages held after 'multiple' shootings

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    Official: Hostages held after 'multiple' shootings


    Authorities are at the scene of a building in Binghamton, New York, where there are "multiple" shooting victims and hostages are being held, a county spokesman said.

    Broome County Director of Emergency Services Brett Chellis said there is an "active" shooting situation at the American Civic Association, and that several law enforcement agencies are at the scene.

    Chellis did not provide numbers of victims or hostages, and had no further details.

    The local newspaper, the Press & Sun-Bulletin, said on its Web site that at least four people were shot and 41 people had been taken hostage. The newspaper reported that Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan, who was at the scene, said there was a hostage situation and said the shooter had a high-powered rifle.

    The newspaper said the incident began around 10:30 a.m. ET. Nearby apartments were being evacuated, it said.

    The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to a United Way of Broome County Web site, which is affiliated with the association.

    Binghamton is about 140 miles northwest of New York City.

    Reuters - Google could be in talks to buy Twitter

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    Google could be in talks to buy Twitter

    Friday, Apr 03, 2009 1:2PM UTC

    (Reuters) - Google Inc may be in talks to buy internet start-up Twitter, the free micro-blogging service that allows people to send short text messages to a network of friends, the TechCrunch website said late Thursday.

    TechCrunch's article by Michael Arrington said the two companies are also considering working together on a Google real time search engine.

    Google would pay for Twitter in cash or stock or a combination of the two, the website reported.

    Industry experts say Arrington has a mixed record but was the first to report the rumor that Google would buy video-sharing site YouTube in late 2006.

    Arrington said the talks were "fairly early stage."

    A Google spokesman in London told Reuters the company did not comment on rumors or speculation. A spokesperson for Twitter could not be reached immediately.

    San Francisco, California-based Twitter has enjoyed a surge in popularity since its creation three years ago, despite the fact that the company has yet to make any money.

    Twitter's co-founder Biz Stone said in March that the company was eager to partner with other companies, including Google, but was not considering a merger or buyout.

    (Reporting by Vikram S Subhedar in Bangalore; Editing by David Cowell)

    Reuters - Robot scientists can think for themselves

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    Robot scientists can think for themselves

    Friday, Apr 03, 2009 1:6PM UTC

    By Ben Hirschler

    LONDON (Reuters) - Watch out scientists -- you may be replaced by a robot.

    Two teams of researchers said on Thursday they had created machines that could reason, formulate theories and discover scientific knowledge on their own, marking a major advance in the field of artificial intelligence.

    Such robo-scientists could be put to work unraveling complex biological systems, designing new drugs, modeling the world's climate or understanding the cosmos.

    For the moment, though, they are performing more humble tasks.

    At Aberystwyth University in Wales, Ross King and colleagues have created a robot called Adam that can not only carry out experiments on yeast metabolism but also reason about the results and plan the next experiment.

    It is the world's first example of a machine that has made an independent scientific discovery -- in this case, new facts about the genetic make-up of baker's yeast.

    "On its own it can think of hypotheses and then do the experiments, and we've checked that it's got the results correct," King said in an interview.

    "People have been working on this since the 1960s. When we first sent robots to Mars, they really dreamt of the robots doing their own experiments on Mars. After 40 or 50 years, we've now got the capability to do that."

    Their next robot, Eve, will have much more brain power and will be put to work searching for new medicines.

    King hopes the application of intelligent robotic thinking to the process of sifting tens of thousands of compounds for potential new drugs will be particularly valuable in the hunt for treatments for neglected tropical diseases like malaria.

    King published his findings in the journal Science, alongside a second paper from Hod Lipson and Michael Schmidt of Cornell University in New York, who have developed a computer program capable of working out the fundamental physical laws behind a swinging double pendulum.

    Just by crunching the numbers -- and without any prior instruction in physics -- the Cornell machine was able to decipher Isaac Newton's laws of motion and other properties.

    Lipson does not think robots will make scientists obsolete any day soon, but believes they could take over much of the routine work in research laboratories.

    "One of the biggest problems in science today is finding the underlying principles in areas where there are lots and lots of data," he told reporters in a conference call. "This can help in accelerating the rate at which we can discover scientific principles behind the data."

    (Additional reporting by Stuart McDill; editing by Maggie Fox and Tim Pearce)

    Reuters - U.S. economy sheds 663,000 jobs

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    U.S. economy sheds 663,000 jobs

    Friday, Apr 03, 2009 1:37PM UTC

    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. unemployment rate soared to 8.5 percent in March, the highest since 1983, as employers slashed 663,000 jobs and cut workers' hours to the lowest on record, government data showed on Friday.

    In a report underscoring the distress in the labor market, the Labor Department also revised its data for January to show job losses of 741,000 that month, the biggest decline since October 1949.

    The drop in non-farm payrolls in February was unrevised at 651,000.

    U.S. equity futures and government bond prices fell and the U.S. dollar rose against the yen after the data.

    The report, coming in the wake of recent data that have surprised on the upside, did little to alter perceptions the economy's downward momentum was slowing as unemployment was a lagging indicator and tended to peak well after the recession ended, economists said.

    "The report does not contradict the growing notion that the economy is finding a bottom. Employment will not turn on a dime and certainly there's no sign of strength, but at least it's not getting worse and worse and worse," said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics in New York.

    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast non-farm payrolls falling 650,000 in March. They had forecast the unemployment rate rising to 8.5 percent from 8.1 percent the prior month.

    Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the economy has shed 5.1 million jobs, with about two thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months, the department said.

    Job losses in March were broad based, with only education and health services adding jobs.

    The manufacturing sector shed 161,000 jobs in March, after eliminating 169,000 positions the prior month. Construction industries lost 126,000 jobs after bleeding 107,000 in February. The service-providing industry axed 358,000 positions after shedding 366,000 in February.

    "In March the number of individuals experiencing long spells of joblessness rose by 265,000 to 3.2 million. Nearly one in four of the unemployed had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, the highest ratio since mid-1983," Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall said in a statement.

    Rising unemployment is cutting into household incomes, which have already been decimated by the collapse in asset prices, restricting their spending ability.

    Illustrating the severity of the unemployment situation, a measure of unemployed people working part-time for economic reasons and those who have given up looking for work, raced to a record 15.6 percent from 14.8 percent in February.

    With companies cutting back in response to depressed demand conditions, the length of the workweek fell to 33.2 hours in March, the lowest on record, compared to 33.3 hours the prior month. The factory workweek edged down to 39.3 hours from 39.5 in February.

    Weekly overtime hours at factories was steady at 2.7 hours in March. Average hourly earnings rose marginally to $18.50 from $18.47 in February.

    (Additional reporting by Ellen Freilich in New York, Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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