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    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Reuters - U.S., Google take hard line on China Web censorship

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    U.S., Google take hard line on China Web censorship

    Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 4:25AM UTC

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc said it may pull out of China because it is no longer willing to accept censorship of its search results, in a surprise retreat from the world's largest Internet market by users.

    The announcement on Tuesday comes amid growing tensions between China and the United States over Internet freedoms, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set to announce a technology policy next week to help citizens in other countries gain access to an uncensored Web.

    Google said it had uncovered a sophisticated attack on the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists using its Gmail service, and that more than 20 other companies were similarly attacked.

    "These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered -- combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the Web -- have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said in a statement posted on the company's blog.

    "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China."

    The search market in China, while small in revenue terms, has 360 million Internet users and is viewed as a critical battleground for Google. It is one of the rare markets where the U.S. company is not in the lead, lagging homegrown rival Baidu Inc, which commands a 60 percent share of the Chinese Internet search market versus Google's 30 percent.

    Shares of Google fell 1.3 percent in after-hours trading following the news that it might withdraw from China, while shares of Baidu jumped 6.8 percent.

    China's tough stance on Web censorship has put it at odds with Western technology firms in recent years. The latest dispute had pit personal computer makers against a Chinese government that said it was intent on keeping pornography out of the hands of China's youth, though many believe the move involved censorship and invasion of privacy.

    In June, Beijing ordered Google to block overseas sites with "vulgar" content from being accessible through the Chinese language version of its search engine. Google said then that it met with Chinese government officials and was taking necessary steps to ensure search results on its Chinese site complied.


    Google said the hackers had tried to access the Gmail email accounts of Chinese human rights activists but only managed to access two unidentified accounts, and then only subject headings and other data such as when the account was created.

    It did not say what information the hackers tried to access from the other corporations, nor which they were. Google said it was now notifying the other affected corporations, adding that it was working with the U.S. authorities.

    A Google spokesperson said the company was still investigating the attack and would not say whether Google believed Chinese authorities were involved.

    The "implication here is that the government is somehow responsible for conducting this cyber-attack and I guess they feel they cannot operate in that kind of an environment," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Stephen Ju.

    "This is a complete 180 turnaround (for Google). Just about every earnings call recently has been that they are focused on the long-term growth opportunities for China and that they are committed."

    Google generated 53 percent of its $5.9 billion in revenue in the third quarter outside of the United States. It does not disclose the size of its business in China, where it maintains the Chinese-language which the company says complies with local laws.

    Google has faced a rocky road in China, where its video site YouTube has been inaccessible since March. Many of Google's primary services, such as Gmail and, became briefly inaccessible to many Chinese users last year.

    "We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," Drummond said.

    Human rights have been a frequent source of tension between the United States and China, which is the largest holder of U.S. Treasuries, with total holdings of $798.9 billion.

    Last week, Clinton dined with tech heavyweights such as Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Microsoft Corp research and strategy chief Craig Mundie, and Cisco Systems Inc Executive Vice President Sue Bostrom. It was not clear if the meeting was related to Google's revelation, and the companies had no immediate comment.

    According to a JPMorgan estimate this month, the search market in China hit $1 billion in 2009 and will grow to $1.5 billion in 2010. But search advertising is still less than 50 percent of the total online ad market in China, compared with 67 percent in the United States, according to JPMorgan.

    "What makes Google the largest search engine and one of the leading Internet companies is that they care about users' privacy, and if that privacy comes under challenge it may impact their global business," said Collins Stewart analyst Sandeep Aggarwal. "They obviously did not appreciate the attack ... We should not take the Google threat lightly."

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan; Additional reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Peter Henderson, Steve Orlofsky and Richard Chang)

    CNN - 7.0 quake hits Haiti; 'Serious loss of life' expected

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    7.0 quake hits Haiti; 'Serious loss of life' expected

    A major earthquake struck southern Haiti on Tuesday, knocking down buildings and power lines and inflicting what its ambassador to the United States called a catastrophe for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

    Several eyewitnesses reported heavy damage and bodies in the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where concrete-block homes line steep hillsides. There was no estimate of the dead and wounded Tuesday evening, but the U.S. State Department has been told to expect "serious loss of life," department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington.

    "The only thing I can do now is pray and hope for the best," the ambassador, Raymond Alcide Joseph, told CNN.

    Pictures sent to CNN's iReport show what appear to be homes and small businesses in Haiti that have collapsed.

    Are you there? Submit an iReport

    The magnitude 7.0 quake -- the most powerful to hit Haiti in a century -- struck shortly before 5 p.m. and was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It could be felt strongly in eastern Cuba, more than 200 miles away, witnesses said.

    Mike Godfrey, an American contractor working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said "a huge plume of dust and smoke rose up over the city" within minutes of the quake -- "a blanket that completely covered the city and obscured it for about 20 minutes."

    Witnesses reported damaged buildings throughout the capital, including the president's residence and century-old homes nearby, and The Associated Press reported that a hospital collapsed. President Rene Preval is safe, Joseph said, but there was no estimate of the dead and wounded Tuesday evening.

    He said an official of his government told him houses had crumbled "on the right side of the street and the left side of the street."

    "He said it is a catastrophe of major proportions," Joseph said.

    Impact Your World: How you can help

    Frank Williams, the Haitian director of the relief agency World Vision International, said the quake left people "pretty much screaming" all around Port-au-Prince. He said the agency's building shook for about 35 seconds, "and portions of things on the building fell off."

    "None of our staff were injured, but lots of walls are falling down," Williams said. "Many of our staff have tried to leave, but were unsuccessful because the walls from buildings and private residences are falling into the streets, so that it has pretty much blocked significantly most of the traffic."

    Read what people in Haiti are saying via social media

    Haiti's government is backed by a U.N. peacekeeping mission established after the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

    The headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Port-au-Prince collapsed, a U.N. official told CNN.

    There was no immediate report of any dead or wounded from the building, but Alain Le Roy, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations said of the 9,000-member, Brazilian led-force, "For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for." Outside the capital, several people were hurt when they rushed to get out of a school in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, said the Rev. Kesner Ajax, the school's executive director. Two homes in the area collapsed and the top of a church collapsed in a nearby town, he said, but he did not know of any fatalities.

    Les Cayes, a city of about 400,000 people, is about 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince.

    The quake was centered about 6 miles (10 kilometers) underground, according to the USGS -- a depth that can produce severe shaking. At least 10 aftershocks followed, including two in the magnitude 5 range, the USGS reported.

    Appeals for aid after quake strikes Haiti

    Jean Bernard, an eyewitness in Port-au-Prince, told CNN the city had no electricity Tuesday evening. The first quake lasted 35 to 40 seconds, he said.

    "A lot of houses [and] buildings went down, and people are still running all over the streets," Bernard said. "People are looking for their wives, looking for their husbands and their kids. It's scary."

    Luke Renner, an American staying in Cap-Hatien, a city nearly 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince, said he was sitting at his home when "the whole world started to shake."

    "It felt like our whole house was balancing on a beach ball," Renner said. "We heard the whole community screaming and in an uproar during that whole 20- to 30-second window."

    "I haven't seen any structural damage here," Renner continued. "With the sun setting it may be difficult to tell. In the morning we'll know for sure."

    Because of the earthquake's proximity to the capital, and because the city is densely populated and has poorly constructed housing, "it could cause significant casualties," said Jian Lin, a senior geologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

    In Washington, President Obama said the U.S. government would "stand ready to assist the people of Haiti." At the Pentagon, the U.S. military said humanitarian aid was being prepared for shipping, but it was not yet clear where or how it would be sent. A U.S. aviation source said the control tower at the Port-au-Prince international airport collapsed, possibly hindering efforts to fly relief supplies into the country.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that Washington is offering "our full assistance" to Haiti."

    The deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Haiti, David Lindwall, told Clinton that he saw "significant damage" from the quake and said U.S. officials there expect "serious loss of life," Crowley said.

    And Clinton's husband, former President Clinton -- now the U.N. special envoy for Haiti -- said the world body was "committed to do whatever we can to assist the people of Haiti in their relief, rebuilding and recovery efforts."

    The United States has been heavily involved in Haiti commercially, politically and militarily for most of the last century. U.S. intervention under Clinton restored Aristide to power in 1994 after a 1991 coup, and a U.S. jet hustled him out of the country again in 2004 following a rapidly spreading uprising against his government.

    The disaster is the latest to befall the country of about 9 million people, roughly the size of Maryland. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and among the poorest in the world.

    With people stripping the trees for fuel and to clear land for agriculture, the mountainous countryside has been heavily deforested. That has led to severe erosion and left Haitians vulnerable to massive landslides when heavy rains fall.

    Hurricane Gordon killed more than 1,000 people in 1994, while Hurricane Georges killed more than 400 and destroyed the majority of the country's crops in 1998. And in 2004, Hurricane Jeanne killed more than 3,000 people as it passed north of Haiti, with most of the deaths in the northwestern city of Gonaives.

    Gonaives was hit heavily again in 2008, when four tropical systems passed through.

    In addition, a Haitian school collapsed in November 2008, killing more than 90 people and injuring 150 -- a disaster authorities blamed on poor construction.

    Eighty percent of Haiti's population lives under the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook.

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