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Politics this week: 22nd – 28th July 2006

July 28, 2006 Leave a comment

A fortnight after Hizbullah fighters attacked Israel and nabbed two soldiers, Israel continued to pound Lebanon in an effort to get them back and to force Hizbullah out of the south. America’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, toured the region, ending up at a conference of European and Arab leaders in Rome, where she blocked calls for an immediate ceasefire but proposed a UN force to help the Lebanese government assert control of all its territory. See articleE+

Four UN peacekeepers were killed by Israeli bombs in southern Lebanon, making some governments warier of sending peacekeeping troops.

Israeli troops continued to fight Palestinian militants in Gaza in an effort to get back a captured soldier; 24 Palestinians were killed there, and 57 wounded, on July 26th.

After car-bombs killed scores more people in Baghdad, speculation grew that Iraq’s capital may have to be divided into sectarian zones, in the manner of Beirut during Lebanon’s 15-year war. Meanwhile, the trial of Saddam Hussein on charges of genocide resumed; the former dictator was being force-fed after spending the past two weeks on hunger strike. See articleE+

The mood in the Democratic Republic of Congo was tense in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections on July 30th. Riots broke out amid accusations of intimidation by backers of President Joseph Kabila, who is favourite to win. See articleE+

Minni Minnawi, leader of the only rebel group in the embattled province of Darfur to sign a peace agreement with Sudan’s government, met George Bush, who urged him to co-operate with the other two groups, which have not yet signed.

The threat of war increased when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia to protect that country’s weak transitional government against the Council of Islamic Courts, which now controls much of the south as well as the capital, Mogadishu. See articleE+

India declared that it would not accept any changes to a deal struck with George Bush allowing India access to American civilian nuclear technology. The United States Congress may try to toughen up the agreement as it considers the details.

China reportedly froze a number of North Korean accounts in a Macau branch of the Bank of China, apparently following an investigation into money-laundering. Accounts at another Macau bank were frozen last September, at America’s request.

Thailand’s three election commissioners were all sentenced to four years in prison for allowing unqualified candidates to run in a controversial election in April, which has since been annulled. The commissioners are to appeal against their convictions.

Three men convicted of the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia, in which 202 people died, are to be executed in August.

The first big meeting of leaders from Serbia and Kosovo was held in Vienna after six months of lower-level talks on Kosovo’s future. But the meeting made little progress. Kosovo’s leaders insist on independence; Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, said that there was no precedent that could be used as an argument for depriving Serbia of 15% of its territory.

EPA
EPA

Tensions rose between Georgia and Russia, as Georgia sent troops into a remote gorge in Abkhazia, a rebel-held region of the country. The Georgians are also demanding that Russian troops get out of South Ossetia, another breakaway enclave.

A week after George Bush cast his first veto, of a bill to permit federal funding of stem-cell research, the European Union decided that some of its public research budget could be used for the same end. Some central European members, supported by the Catholic Church, were against, but they were outvoted.

Europe was gripped by a heatwave as temperatures in Paris, London and Berlin exceeded those in Bangkok, Delhi and Hong Kong. The French government, mindful of the many deaths in a heatwave in August 2003, was on high alert. Many ministers and officials will, unusually, remain at work throughout August.

EPA
EPA

Venezuela officially joined Mercosur, a South American trade grouping whose original members are Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, at a summit on July 20th-21st. Cuba’s Fidel Castro joined Venezuela’s president, Hugo Ch��vez, in calling for resistance to free-market policies backed by the United States. See article

Donors pledged $750m in aid for Haiti, an impoverished and strife-ridden country whose fragile government was elected in February. That was more than the government had asked for to stabilise its economy, but it wants billions more to build roads and to improve health, electricity, security and institutions.

Andr��s Manuel L��pez Obrador, the leftist candidate defeated in Mexico’s recent presidential election, filed a complaint against the country’s election authority, claiming it allowed the illegal funding of ads by businesses opposed to his campaign. Mr L��pez Obrador has demanded a vote-by-vote recount of the ballot, which he says was tainted by irregularities.

Implying possibly the biggest change to America’s presidential nominating process for 30 years, a Democratic committee proposed that Nevada should hold its caucus before New Hampshire’s primary, and South Carolina shortly after it, in the 2008 contest. The decision should ensure that political issues dear to western and southern states become more prominent in the crucial early stages of campaigning.

In another blow to supporters of gay marriage, Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex nuptials was constitutional, overruling the decision of two lower courts, which said such a ban violated statutes on equal rights. New York state’s highest court also upheld a ban on gay marriage earlier this month.

Bill Clinton attended a rally in Connecticut in support of Joe Lieberman, a beleaguered senator who is facing a tough primary challenge from an anti-war candidate.

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Business this week: 22nd – 28th July 2006

July 28, 2006 Leave a comment

The Doha trade round collapsed in acrimony when Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation, said he was suspending negotiations because they had failed to reach a compromise on farm trade. His decision came after the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India, Japan and Australia held a meeting to try to save the talks. With an early resumption of the process unlikely, advocates for the Doha round expressed utter dismay. See articleE+

A consortium of investors and private-equity firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, set the record for the biggest-ever buy-out in a $33 billion deal for HCA, one of America’s largest operators of hospitals. Rumours flourished that a rival bid might be made for HCA, but with the family of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, playing a big part in the consortium (his father and brother founded HCA) the success of a counterbid seemed doubtful. See articleE+

In a busy week for KKR, it also agreed to buy France Telecom’s majority stake in PagesJaunes, a telephone-directory business operating in several European countries, for euro3.3 billion ($4.2 billion).

BP said it would increase spending on safety at its North American operations, which has attracted the ire of activists in the United States. The announcement came shortly before BP unveiled a quarterly profit of $7.27 billion. Separately, Lord Browne, the company’s chief executive, confirmed he would retire at the end of 2008.

Oji Paper said it wanted to buy Hokuetsu Paper, which is committed instead to selling a 24% stake to Mitsubishi Corporation. It is thought to be the first time a Japanese blue-chip company has made a hostile bid for a domestic competitor and may be a sign that Japan’s corporate culture is opening up to Western-style business practices.

General Motors pleased the market with its second-quarter earnings. The carmaker recorded a net loss of $3.2 billion, but the figure included charges relating to the early-retirement deal it struck with workers. Without the charges, GM made an adjusted profit of $1.2 billion. The company also exuded optimism about its cost-cutting targets, leaving analysts to ponder if all the good news would affect GM‘s potential alliance with Renault and Nissan.

Boeing reported its first quarterly loss (of $160m) in three years, as it booked more than $1 billion in charges, mostly stemming from its settlement with the Justice Department over an investigation into the aerospace company’s defence-contracting. See articleE+

The parent company of United Airlines said it expects to make its first profit in six years in the second quarter. The airline emerged from 38 months of bankruptcy protection last February, after a restructuring plan that cut jobs and pension benefits.

Hewlett-Packard announced its biggest acquisition since Mark Hurd took over last year, agreeing to buy Mercury Interactive, a provider of software systems to business. HP‘s share price fell on news of the deal, as investors feared that the $4.5 billion it will pay overvalues Mercury (which saw a number of executives leave last year amid a stock-option scandal).

Amazon’s share price fell to a three-year low after it reported a 58% drop in second-quarter net profit, compared with a year ago, to $22m and lowered its earnings outlook. The profitability of the online retailer is in doubt because of its heavy spending on new technology, including a widely anticipated digital-download service.

Advanced Micro Devices fed its rivalry with Intel by agreeing to buy ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion. The substantial deal marks AMD‘s entry into high-resolution graphics chips, used in computers, hand-held devices and gaming consoles.

At Vodafone’s annual general meeting, Arun Sarin suffered an embarrassment when investors holding almost 15% of the shares failed to back his re-appointment as chief executive. Sir John Bond, Vodafone’s new chairman, said he ���subscribed��� to statements of support for Mr Sarin, who is under increasing pressure to improve performance at the world’s biggest mobile-phone operator. See articleE+

Existing-home sales in the United States continued to soften in June, according to the National Association of Realtors. Further evidence of a slowdown in the housing market was reflected in the median home-price of $231,000, up just 0.9% on a year ago, and the number of unsold homes. At 3.7m, this represents 6.8 months’ of supply (at June’s rate of sales), the highest level since July 1997.

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Sorry AOL; iPod Killer; MySpace Beast

July 28, 2006 Leave a comment

Top Stories for the Week of July 24 – July 28

 How do you pay for your sins from Bubble 1.0? Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, apologized this week for the company’s merger with Time Warner (via Yahoo). “Sorry” doesn’t cut it, blogs Valleywag considering the deal snuffed roughly $200 billion in shareholder value (Case’s newest business venture is in healthcare-insert your joke here). But Case is once again just apologizing for the deal’s execution, says Techdirt, while insisting it could have succeeded if the delivery and creative sides had cooperated.

 Microsoft is working it’s own delivery angle with its new iPod killer called Zune, blogs Ubergizmo. But Om Malik wonders why create another closed media player system? Wouldn’t it make more sense to let in Real Networks, MTV, Napster and others for brand differentiation? Meanwhile, TechCrunch found two places where creative and delivery are humming along nicely. Three Rhode Island college students created Amie Street, which combines ease of uploading and listening to music with powerful social tools for recommending songs. Then there’s the inevitable porn version of YouTube-PornoTube Beta-with all videos tagged and browsable via tag cloud or by straight or gay content.

In other tech news, Amazon is getting into the video download service, Amazon DV, which will offer a download-to-burn option but also requires a software download for DRM. Red Herring figures pricey new services like this-which Amazon needs to compete with everyone from Toys R Us to Best Buy-are why Amazon’s revenue took that 58 percent hit last quarter. Technorati also relaunched and got a fresh round of financing, including a new Discover feature that puts Technorati in competition with Techmeme to be the blogosphere’s newspaper. And Web 2.0 isn’t just companies that do cool things; it’s also become a highly recognizable graphical vocabulary. John Battelle links to a site where people are “Web 2.0”-ing well-known corporate logos, from Quaker Oats to Alaska Airlines.

News Corp.’s quest to make money from the MySpace beast continues. A giddy Fox Interactive Media president Ross Levinsohn sees MySpace as a “peer recommendations framework for leads on everything and anything” including children’s playgrounds in L.A., while a calmer Washington Post article touts the harder road of getting MySpacers to watch ads, subscribe and buy (via Read/Write Web). Speaking of revenue models, several blogs report on a $1 billion YouTube valuation-what are the founders smoking, considering that much of YouTube’s core content is copyrighted? And don’t forget the lack of revenue and those huge bandwidth bills. Still, Lifehacker passes on an easy way to subscribe to your favorite YouTube video tags: try “http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/elvis+presley.rss” for “Elvis Presley”. And if you’re missing music videos and  sports clips on YouTube, try Gotuit, which just launched with a deep library of premium content and near-instantaneous video play.

Political bloggers had plenty to cover this week too: Iraq’s president Noori al-Maliki visited the White House and President Bush pledged to move more U.S. troops into Baghdad in an attempt to restore order there (via Huffington Post ). Maliki’s visit is touchy because, as Think Progress writes, he hasn’t joined many Arab leaders and condemned Hezbollah for starting the current round of fighting with Israel. But at least President Bush is admitting the Baghdad situation is “terrible,” writes Andrew Sullivan. It’s not so hot in northern Iraq, either, where Talking Points Memo says Turkey is running out of patience with deadly attacks by Kurdish separatists within Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to ignore calls for a cease-fire in Lebanon in favor of more enduring solutions (via Huffington Post).  The only silver lining for the U.S. now is that jihadis may shift their resources from Iraq to Lebanon, writes Blogs of War. Back in D.C., Scotusblog covers the controversy over “signing statements” President Bush has attached to certain legislation. The American Bar Association opposes the statements, in which the president specifies his objections to laws and even an intent to not enforce certain parts of them. On the lighter side of politics, Stephen Colbert asks NAACP chair Julian Bond for help in picking a new-black-friend (via Comedy Central).

In sports, despite needing a hip replacement, American Floyd Landis pedaled to glory and won the 2006 Tour de France. Other peloton racers couldn’t believe that Landis’ breakaway ride-the day after his disastrous mountain stage-was anything but suicide. Tour de France 2006 rounds up reaction to the most exciting Tour in years. But was it too good to be true? Floyd tested positive for high levels of testosterone after his Stage 17 triumph, and may be stripped of his victory. Say it ain’t so.

 Finally in entertainment, Ken Jennings, who won 74 times on Jeopardy!, blasted show host Alex Trebek as a robot-and then as merely a cyborg with some Canadian organic parts-on his Web site, according to Yahoo News. The NY Post and AP also picked up the story but it turned out to be all satire. Brad and Angelina’s kid Shiloh is synthetic now, courtesy of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum (via Just Jared). Speaking of synthetic, Paris Hilton immortalized herself again saying: “Every decade has an iconic blond like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana, and right now I’m that icon.” And Britney Spears ��� who is 7 months pregnant-was ordered by doctors to cut down on the Cheetos. Seriously.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sorry AOL; iPod Killer; MySpace Beast

July 28, 2006 Leave a comment

Top Stories for the Week of July 24 – July 28

 How do you pay for your sins from Bubble 1.0? Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, apologized this week for the company’s merger with Time Warner (via Yahoo). “Sorry” doesn’t cut it, blogs Valleywag considering the deal snuffed roughly $200 billion in shareholder value (Case’s newest business venture is in healthcare-insert your joke here). But Case is once again just apologizing for the deal’s execution, says Techdirt, while insisting it could have succeeded if the delivery and creative sides had cooperated.

 Microsoft is working it’s own delivery angle with its new iPod killer called Zune, blogs Ubergizmo. But Om Malik wonders why create another closed media player system? Wouldn’t it make more sense to let in Real Networks, MTV, Napster and others for brand differentiation? Meanwhile, TechCrunch found two places where creative and delivery are humming along nicely. Three Rhode Island college students created Amie Street, which combines ease of uploading and listening to music with powerful social tools for recommending songs. Then there’s the inevitable porn version of YouTube-PornoTube Beta-with all videos tagged and browsable via tag cloud or by straight or gay content.

In other tech news, Amazon is getting into the video download service, Amazon DV, which will offer a download-to-burn option but also requires a software download for DRM. Red Herring figures pricey new services like this-which Amazon needs to compete with everyone from Toys R Us to Best Buy-are why Amazon’s revenue took that 58 percent hit last quarter. Technorati also relaunched and got a fresh round of financing, including a new Discover feature that puts Technorati in competition with Techmeme to be the blogosphere’s newspaper. And Web 2.0 isn’t just companies that do cool things; it’s also become a highly recognizable graphical vocabulary. John Battelle links to a site where people are “Web 2.0”-ing well-known corporate logos, from Quaker Oats to Alaska Airlines.

News Corp.’s quest to make money from the MySpace beast continues. A giddy Fox Interactive Media president Ross Levinsohn sees MySpace as a “peer recommendations framework for leads on everything and anything” including children’s playgrounds in L.A., while a calmer Washington Post article touts the harder road of getting MySpacers to watch ads, subscribe and buy (via Read/Write Web). Speaking of revenue models, several blogs report on a $1 billion YouTube valuation-what are the founders smoking, considering that much of YouTube’s core content is copyrighted? And don’t forget the lack of revenue and those huge bandwidth bills. Still, Lifehacker passes on an easy way to subscribe to your favorite YouTube video tags: try “http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/elvis+presley.rss” for “Elvis Presley”. And if you’re missing music videos and  sports clips on YouTube, try Gotuit, which just launched with a deep library of premium content and near-instantaneous video play.

Political bloggers had plenty to cover this week too: Iraq’s president Noori al-Maliki visited the White House and President Bush pledged to move more U.S. troops into Baghdad in an attempt to restore order there (via Huffington Post ). Maliki’s visit is touchy because, as Think Progress writes, he hasn’t joined many Arab leaders and condemned Hezbollah for starting the current round of fighting with Israel. But at least President Bush is admitting the Baghdad situation is “terrible,” writes Andrew Sullivan. It’s not so hot in northern Iraq, either, where Talking Points Memo says Turkey is running out of patience with deadly attacks by Kurdish separatists within Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to ignore calls for a cease-fire in Lebanon in favor of more enduring solutions (via Huffington Post).  The only silver lining for the U.S. now is that jihadis may shift their resources from Iraq to Lebanon, writes Blogs of War. Back in D.C., Scotusblog covers the controversy over “signing statements” President Bush has attached to certain legislation. The American Bar Association opposes the statements, in which the president specifies his objections to laws and even an intent to not enforce certain parts of them. On the lighter side of politics, Stephen Colbert asks NAACP chair Julian Bond for help in picking a new-black-friend (via Comedy Central).

In sports, despite needing a hip replacement, American Floyd Landis pedaled to glory and won the 2006 Tour de France. Other peloton racers couldn’t believe that Landis’ breakaway ride-the day after his disastrous mountain stage-was anything but suicide. Tour de France 2006 rounds up reaction to the most exciting Tour in years. But was it too good to be true? Floyd tested positive for high levels of testosterone after his Stage 17 triumph, and may be stripped of his victory. Say it ain’t so.

 Finally in entertainment, Ken Jennings, who won 74 times on Jeopardy!, blasted show host Alex Trebek as a robot-and then as merely a cyborg with some Canadian organic parts-on his Web site, according to Yahoo News. The NY Post and AP also picked up the story but it turned out to be all satire. Brad and Angelina’s kid Shiloh is synthetic now, courtesy of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum (via Just Jared). Speaking of synthetic, Paris Hilton immortalized herself again saying: “Every decade has an iconic blond like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana, and right now I’m that icon.” And Britney Spears ��� who is 7 months pregnant-was ordered by doctors to cut down on the Cheetos. Seriously.

Categories: Uncategorized

YouTube Economics; Frat-House Politics

July 21, 2006 Leave a comment

Top Stories for the Week of July 17 – July 21

YouTubeIt’s all YouTube all the time: The online video service not only gets phenomenal participation–about 65,000 video uploads a day (via Mashable!), it serves 100 million videos a day–60 percent of all videos watched online in the U.S. TechCrunch credits the success to social features, a catchy URL, and early movement into MySpace. Lost Remote agrees, quoting a MySpace stat that 40 percent of YouTube video plays come off MySpace pages. No Man’s Blog analyzes the all-time top 100 videos on YouTube. The breakdown: 58 user-generated videos, 31 music videos, four commercials, three commercial “virals,” two movie trailers and two Asian “candid camera” bits. But can YouTube make money  against Mojoflix, Grouper, Vimeo, eefoof and others? Maybe with the help of old media like CBS, whose CEO Les Moonves met with YouTube founder Chad Hurley to explore putting CBS clips on YouTube for greater exposure.

Speaking of MySpace, Wal-Mart’s MySpace clone is getting universal pans from bloggers. Wal-Mart launched TheHub as a kid-friendly “safe” alternative to MySpace’s racy free-for-all, but it’s prepopulated with thinly disguised video ads, screens all incoming videos, and e-mails kids’ parents to let them know a kid has joined–without letting kids e-mail each other (via Mashable!). Calling users “hubsters” is painfully uncool, as is luring them to post video content by dangling a spot in a Wal-Mart commercial, blogs Huffington Post. One MetaFilter reader wonders whether the 12-year-old Cambodian sweatshop workers get to have a page. At the same time as it courts video on TheHub, Wal-Mart is also trying to slow the video download market by pressuring Hollywood studios–but look what happened to the music-recording industry when it tried to resist, writes TechDirt.

The new Yahoo home page is up, and TechCrunch describes the fresh look and a bigger deal: This may be millions of people’s first exposure to Ajax. Read/Write Web says Yahoo did the transition the right way–gradually, in tweaks–and is also inviting its 500 million users to participate in a homemade video competition.

 Of course, Apple’s getting into the video business too–or so says ThinkSecret, which claims CEO Steve Jobs will announce movie rentals for iTunes at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in three weeks. That’s movie rental not purchase, blogs TechCrunch, which says the big studios may try purchase schemes with smaller vendors but are cautious with iTunes for now. Regardless, Techdirt thinks an iTunes deal will limit the movie studios’ audience to the small group who already have video iPods. Apple is also lobbying Detroit and Tokyo for tighter iPod integration into cars–but Gizmodo would rather spend the extra sticker price on Taiwanese hookers.

Meanwhile, The New York Times will shrink in April 2008, going to a smaller paper format to save $42 million a year. This eliminates hundreds of production jobs while saving newsroom jobs–but also cuts news space by 5 percent (via Huffington Post). BuzzMachine thinks it’s not enough; NYT should just go tabloid like other successful papers in London and New York. They’re not the only ones looking for revenue: the Wall Street Journal will soon put ads on its formerly sacred front page (via The New York Times).

 Poltical bloggers were busy this week as President Bush’s trip to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg featured multiple gaffes, including frat-house banter with Tony Blair that culminated in the president cursing into a live microphone. You’d think the president would have learned from the last time a mic was left on, but not so, writes Wonkette. BuzzMachine wondered whether the Prez should be fined for indecency–that’ll be $325,000, please! Much, much worse was the unsolicited back massage Bush gave to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summit. Truthdig rounds up blogger reactions, complete with video links. Put this together with the president’s fixation on a barbecuing pig in the former East Germany and his urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to adopt a democracy “like Iraq’s,” and Carpetbagger Report thinks you’ve got a real diplomatic coup. Amazingly, Jon Stewart predicted the Merkel grope the night before it happened, blogs Truthdig.

Finally, in this week’s most embarrassing blog post, The Superficial records Pamela Anderson’s plans … to marry … her beloved … Kid Rock … again. Runner-up is Justin Timberlake, who told a British magazine that while he’s done drugs and been caught with his pants down, he’s no Courtney Love.

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Politics this week: 15th – 21st July 2006

July 20, 2006 Leave a comment

Politics this week

Jul 20th 2006
From The Economist print edition

AP
AP

Israel continued to batter Lebanon in response to an attack on July 12th by the militant group Hizbullah, which still holds two Israeli soldiers captive. Israel hit targets across the country, causing some 300 deaths in the past week for the loss of at least 25 Israeli soldiers and civilians, many killed by Hizbullah rockets reaching as far south as Haifa, Israel’s third city. Israel also continued to attack Hamas militants in Gaza in an effort to get them to free another recently captured Israeli soldier. See articleE+

Sectarian mayhem continued apace in Iraq, with two suicide-bombings alone (one in the holy city of Kufa) killing more than 120 people, mostly Shia Arabs. An Iraqi group swearing loyalty to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Kufa attack.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, several people were shot dead at an election rally in Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Kivu. Separately, the UN-backed committee overseeing the elections called for the army to be confined to barracks until the poll on July 30th.

The Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army started talks in the southern Sudanese town of Juba. They had yet to agree the terms for a ceasefire. See articleE+

At a conference in Brussels, Western governments agreed to increase aid to the African Union peacekeeping force in the region of Darfur, in Sudan. The force will now have to stay there until at least the end of the year, when the UN may take over.

Several hundred thousand supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the defeated candidate in Mexico’s presidential election, took part in a rally in Mexico City to support his demand for a vote-by-vote recount. Mr López Obrador has called for a campaign of civil resistance. See articleE+

Panama’s government announced that a referendum on a $5.3 billion project to widen the Panama Canal will be held on October 22nd. Opinion polls suggest that the scheme will be approved.

Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, whose four-month old government has been rocked by protests over education policy, sacked three of her ministers.

AFP
AFP

A tsunami struck southern Java, in Indonesia, killing more than 500 people. An early-warning system, proposed after the 2004 catastrophe, is not yet operational, but might not have helped much. See articleE+

American-led coalition forces said they and Afghan troops retook two Taliban-held towns in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand.

North Korea halted family reunions with the South, following the latter’s cancellation of food aid last week. That, in turn, had followed North Korea’s testing of seven missiles.

Authorities in India blocked access to several websites, including some of those that host the country’s 40,000 blog sites, apparently as a security measure in the wake of the bombings in Mumbai. Free-speech advocates in India criticised the decision.

Australia started to withdraw its troops from Timor-Leste as the security situation there began to improve.

George Bush used the first veto of his presidency to overturn a decision by Congress to lift restrictions on federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells. Mr Bush ordered the ban in 2001 on ethical grounds, but scientists and public opinion are against him. Democrats think the issue will resonate in November’s mid-term elections. See articleE+

In Georgia’s primary elections, Cynthia McKinney, a black congresswoman who became embroiled in a race row after she hit a policeman, faces a run-off after failing to win a majority in her solidly Democratic district. And Ralph Reed, the former leader of the Christian Coalition and once the darling of the right, lost the Republican primary for lieutenant-governor. His campaign was dogged by his former ties to Jack Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist. See articleE+

The space shuttle Discovery returned safely from its trip to the international space station. Relieved NASA officials hailed the mission’s success.

Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, filed a lawsuit against Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Karl Rove, the president’s chief adviser, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr Cheney’s former chief of staff, claiming the trio had sought to discredit them after Mr Wilson, a former ambassador, criticised the White House over Iraq.

Fresh from its success in persuading Warren Buffett to give it most of his money, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced its latest spending plan. Over the next five years, $287m will be available for research leading to the creation of a vaccine against HIV. So far, the search for such a vaccine has been a dismal failure.

Reuters
Reuters

World leaders met in St Petersburg for the G8 summit. The agenda was inconsequential and the talk was dominated by the Middle East. But the host, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, was in triumphant mood since he avoided serious criticism for his slide away from democracy. George Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair were embarrassed after being caught by a rogue microphone in an unscripted exchange, which included the memorable greeting, “Yo, Blair!”. See articleE+

Serbia’s prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, offered European foreign ministers a plan to capture Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb general wanted by The Hague war-crimes tribunal. The country’s talks with the European Union on possible membership will remain frozen until Mr Mladic is handed over.

The European Commission proposed the creation of a “rapid-reaction” team of border guards to help member governments that are struggling with waves of illegal immigrants. Spain’s Canary Islands were overwhelmed in May; in the past two weeks, it has been the turn of Malta.

A Dutch court rejected a request to ban a paedophile political party that wants to run in November’s election on a platform of lowering the age of consent and legalising sex with animals. With only three known members, it is unlikely to win any seats.

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Business this week: 15th – 21st July 2006

July 20, 2006 Leave a comment

Business this week

Jul 20th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Online gambling companies suffered heavy stockmarket losses after America’s Department of Justice signalled a crackdown on the industry by arresting the British boss of a Costa Rica-based gambling firm on racketeering charges. The indictment maintained that gambling online is illegal in the United States, an issue Congress is addressing with legislation that aims to prohibit the popular activity. See articleE+

The scandal surrounding backdated stock options intensified as civil, and possibly criminal, charges were readied in the United States. Scores of companies are being investigated by regulators. See article

Amid the usual spree of announcements for aircraft orders at the Farnborough air show near London, Airbus unveiled its redesigned A350XWB. The $10 billion revamp of the mid-size aeroplane, which Airbus hopes will win it more customers than Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, comes in response to a demand for more cabin space and greater fuel efficiency. See articleE+

Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation was delayed for at least three months after a row with the United States over meat exports to Russia prevented a much-heralded “breakthrough” at the G8 summit in St Petersburg. Trade officials tried to get the negotiations back on track after Russia also grumbled about negative Western attitudes towards Russian firms. After the falling out, Gazprom, the country’s state-controlled natural-gas monopoly, announced a further delay in naming foreign partners for the lucrative $12 billion Shtokman project in the Barents Sea.

Shares in Rosneft began trading in London after a last-minute attempt by Yukos, a rival to the state-controlled Russian oil firm, to halt the partial flotation was rejected by a British court. Rosneft’s public offering raised $10.4 billion when it was priced last week (making it one of the world’s biggest), but Yukos claims the offering is based on the value of assets that were illegally seized from it and sold at state auction. See articleE+

Phelps Dodge, an Arizonan copper miner, sweetened its offer to buy Inco and Falconbridge, two Canadian nickel and copper mining companies. Amid high metal prices, Phelps Dodge plans to create one of the world’s biggest mining concerns, but some of its investors have voiced doubts. In response, Xstrata, a Swiss-based mining firm, again raised its offer for Falconbridge in a bid to woo shareholders’ support for a separate merger.

The share price of Yahoo! fell to its lowest level in two years after it announced a delay to improvements in the technology that marries searches on its website with online advertisers, seen as vital to the firm’s competitive strategy.

Microsoft and Nortel Networks formed an alliance to develop an internet-based communications system for businesses that will incorporate a range of e-mail and video technologies. The tie-up follows other recent pacts in the telecoms and network-equipment industry.

Citigroup’s second-quarter profit and revenue rose, compared with a year ago, boosted by the performance of its investment and corporate-banking business. But despite the solid results the firm’s share price fell, apparently because its earnings per share came in one cent short of most analysts’ predictions.

The parent company of the New York Mercantile Exchange, which trades in energy and commodity futures, filed preliminary plans for a public offering. Nymex’s decision mimics a host of other American exchanges that have decided to end their membership-based ownership structure by launching themselves on the stockmarket.

As Japan exits the deflationary era, its government published an economic report that cautioned the Bank of Japan to be “prudent” about the pace of further interest-rate rises because of the fragility of the economic recovery. Last week, the central bank ended its policy of zero interest rates, lifting its key rate to 0.25%. See article

Ben Bernanke’s testimony before Congress was interpreted positively by stockmarkets—the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed more than 200 points higher—providing some welcome relief. Events in the Middle East caused global markets to fall sharply last week; the price of oil, which had surged past $78 a barrel, fell back somewhat. See articleE+

China’s economy grew by 11.3% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, the fastest rate of growth in a decade. With a bonanza in exports, economists warned that Beijing needs to do more to ensure against an overcapacity in manufacturing. See articleE+

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