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Sunday, August 5, 2012
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Russian female punk band trial hurtles towards verdict
Sun, Aug 05 08:03 AM EDT
By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Three young women from the punk band Pussy Riot could face sentence this week in a trial over their "protest prayer" in a church that has transfixed Russia and opened President Vladimir Putin to new accusations of a crackdown on dissent.
The first week of hearings divided the mainly Russian Orthodox country. Some believers want tough sentences but many others are calling for leniency, even though few approve of the unsanctioned performance at the altar of Moscow's main church.
The trial for hooliganism, punishable by up to seven years in jail, resumes on Monday in the same Moscow courtroom where oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky faced the second of two trials after defying Putin by taking an interest in politics.
His 13-year sentence has for Putin critics become a symbol of political pressure on the court system, and defense lawyers fear Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, are not getting a fair hearing.
"This trial will define the development of the country as a whole. Either we move toward 'Orthodox sharia law' or remain in a situation of 'velvet authoritarianism'," defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov said.
The trial started on July 30 and lasted late into the evening each day until Friday, with only brief breaks for the defendants - confined to a courtroom cage - and lawyers.
On one day, Alyokhina felt ill and received medical attention, but the defense's complaints that the trio were being deprived of sleep and food were ignored.
The defense team says the court hopes to finish the trial quickly, while many Russians' attention is diverted by summer vacations, and that a verdict is likely this week. Few people in Russia have much faith in the independence of the judiciary.
Putin faces international condemnation over the trial, and the organizers of the biggest protests since he rose to power in 2000 see it as part of a crackdown that includes a tightening of control over foreign-funded lobby groups, a toughening of rules governing the Internet and a sharp rise in fines for protesters.
Putin, who began a six-year term in May, said in London on August 2 that there was "nothing good" in the trio's performance, in which they burst into Christ the Saviour Cathedral on February 21 and urged the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out!".
But Putin said the three women "should not be judged too harshly" over the protest, which they said was not intended to offend believers but to highlight the close relationship between the church and state.
LAWYERS FEEL "CHEATED"
The band's lawyers initially seemed heartened by his remarks but later suggested they were intended to appease an international audience.
"Putin cheated us yet again," Polozov said on the social networking site Twitter on Friday. "The court continues pressurizing the defendants and ourselves."
The trial has mixed drama and farce, dividing Russian society into those who see the young women and heroes and others who see the three as blasphemers who should be punished.
"They spat on my soul," Lyubov Sokologorskaya, who sells candles and icons at the cathedral told the court on Monday, complaining that she could see under the women's skirts when they kicked their legs up in "aggressive" dance moves.
Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich have often looked tired and grim, but at other moments burst into laughter - such as when Judge Marina Syrova read out obscenities from their songs.
Some guards turned to the wall to conceal their laughter when defense lawyer Violetta Volkova said an expression used by the band in a song was not meant as an insult for church goers.
"This expression is a mere translation of the English 'Holy shit!', which, according to the Cambridge dictionary, means 'unpleasant surprise'," Volkova said, adding that the expression was often used in programs broadcast on Russian television.
Volkova also questioned the prosecution's references to rules on church behavior set by a Church Council held in Constantinople in 692, saying that the same council prohibited Christians from taking a bath with Jews.
The complaints of the defense team, who at times shouted at the judge, have often been met by silence from the prosecutors, who rolled their eyes in disbelief at some of their motions.
"They are sticking their necks into the noose themselves," one member of the prosecution team told another while discussing the defense team's plea for the judge to read out all 2,500 pages of the prosecution's case.
A group of Russian journalists published an open letter on Sunday complaining they were pushed and bullied at the court by black-uniformed bailiffs who carry automatic weapons designed for combat in confined spaces.
(Additional reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, Alissa de Carbonnel and Maria Tsvetkova, Writing by Gleb Bryanski, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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Apple's Jobs was open to making a smaller iPad: executive
Fri, Aug 03 21:28 PM EDT
By Poornima Gupta
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Steve Jobs was receptive to Apple Inc making a smaller tablet, a senior executive said in a 2011 email revealed on Friday, fanning speculation it plans to make a mini-iPad to take on cheaper gadgets from Google Inc and Amazon.
An Apple mini-version of the market-dominating 10-inch iPad could counter increasing inroads made by tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. But the company has never confirmed the intensifying talk of such a launch.
Vice President Eddy Cue urged then-chief operating officer Tim Cook in January 2011 to build a 7-inch tablet, according to an email from Cue that Samsung Electronics presented as evidence in a U.S. patent trial.
In an email addressed also to software chief Scott Forstall and marketing head Phil Schiller, Cue said he believed there was a market for a 7-inch tablet and that "we should do one."
Cue's brief email was introduced on Friday as part of a high-wattage trial that will play out in a San Jose courtroom this summer and is expected to transfix the technology industry.
"There will be a 7-inch market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time," the executive wrote in the email. "I found email, books, Facebook, and video very compelling on a 7-inch. Web browsing is definitely the weakest point, but still usable."
Cue had previously forwarded an article entitled "Why I just dumped the iPad (hint: size matters)". He wrote: "Having used a Samsung Galaxy, I tend to agree with many of the comments below (except actually moving off the iPad)."
Apple and Samsung are going toe-to-toe in a patents dispute mirroring a struggle for industry supremacy between two rivals that control more than half of worldwide smartphone sales.
The U.S. company accuses Samsung of copying the design and some features of its iPad and iPhone, and is asking for billions of dollars in damages and a sales ban. The Korean firm, which is trying to expand in the U.S. market, says Apple infringed some of its key wireless technology patents.
Cue, who rose to prominence overseeing the iTunes and Apps stores, became the company's senior vice president of Internet software and services in September. His email was introduced by Samsung during a cross-examination of Forstall on Friday.
In the email dated January 24, 2011, Cue said he had broached the idea of a smaller tablet to Jobs several times since Thanksgiving, and the co-founder was receptive "the last time."
That appeared to run counter to Jobs' famous dislike of smaller tablets. In 2010, Jobs told analysts on a conference call that 7-inch tablets should come with sandpaper, so users could file their fingers down to a quarter of their size.
"There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them," Jobs, who died in October after a years-long battle with cancer, said at the time.
"This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet Apps."
Apple still dominates the global tablet market, but rivals are closing in. Google unveiled the Nexus 7 in July to strong reviews. And Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, with a price tag about half the iPad's, has encroached on Apple's market share. Analysts say smaller, cheaper tablets entice cost-conscious buyers unwilling to spend $500 or more for an iPad.
The trial began this week and has already granted Silicon Valley an unprecedented peek behind the curtain of Apple's famously secretive design and marketing machine.
Forstall described the early days of the iPhone's top-secret inception. The smartphone that went on to revolutionize the mobile industry was developed in a building engineers nicknamed the "purple dorm." Security was so tight employees sometimes had to swipe their badges four times just to get in, he said.
Earlier on Friday, Schiller told a packed courtroom that Apple's strategy in maintaining its market momentum is to "make the product the biggest and clearest thing in advertising."
The 15-year Apple veteran told the jury the company has spent about $647 million on advertising for the iPhone, launched in 2007, and over $457 million for the two-year-old iPad.
Dressed in a dark suit and yellow tie, Schiller -- who favors blue jeans and is among a handful of executives reporting directly to CEO Cook -- said Samsung's copying of Apple's designs has hurt its sales and disrupted its marketing.
"I was pretty shocked at the appearance of the Galaxy S phone and the extent it appeared to copy Apple products," he told the jury, adding that he was even more shocked when he saw the Galaxy tab. "I thought they've done it again, they're just going to copy our whole product line."
Justin Denison, Chief Strategy Officer for Samsung Telecommunications America, took the stand after Forstall, stressing that the world's largest technology company by sales was also no slouch when it came to design and marketing.
Denison told the court Samsung spent $1 billion on U.S. product marketing in 2011 and employs over 1,200 designers.
Before Schiller took the stand, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected Apple's request for severe sanctions against Samsung over the conduct of one of the Korean firm's attorneys, though she said such conduct risked tainting the jury.
A Samsung statement this week contained links to documents Koh ruled could not be admitted at trial. Attorney John Quinn, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, acknowledged he authorized the statement but said it was not designed to sway the jury.
Apple had asked Koh to punish Samsung by ruling that Apple's phone design patents were valid, and had been infringed. Koh rejected that request but said there may be a post-trial investigation.
"I will not let any theatrics or any sideshows distract us from what we are here to do," Koh said.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, No. 11-1846.
(Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr, Gary Hill)
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