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Archive for August 25, 2006

Business this week: 19th – 25th August 2006

August 25, 2006 Leave a comment

The pace of existing home sales in America fell by 4.1% in July, to its lowest level since January 2004. The drop deepened worries about the overall economy. Increases in house prices also slowed. The median price for existing homes was $230,000 in July, up 0.9% from a year earlier and the slowest annual gain in more than a decade. Shares fell on the news, with housebuilders particularly hard hit. See articleE+

An American central-bank official suggested that interest rates may rise further. Michael Moskow, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said further increases may be needed to slow inflation. There have been 17 increases in interest rates in the past two years.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, said attributable profit in the year ended June 30th rose 63%, to $10.45 billion. Although the firm plans a $3 billion share buyback, its shares fell on its concerns about rising wages and equipment costs. The results, spurred by strong prices for metals, come amid a strike at the Escondida copper mine in Chile, in which BHP is the biggest shareholder.

Banca Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI, Italy’s second- and third-largest banks, said they had proposed talks on a possible merger. Such a deal, if completed, would create a stronger rival to UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank. Intesa and Sanpaolo said they would hold board meetings by the weekend to discuss a merger. Before the announcements, their market capitalisations were euro28.1 billion ($35.9 billion) and euro23.3 billion, respectively. The Bank of Italy has encouraged consolidation in the banking sector.

Applications for corporate mergers in Europe are being filed at a record rate, European Commission statistics show. If the pace continues, merger filings this year will exceed those in 2000, the highest total to date.

New worries were raised about the proposed merger of Gaz de France and Suez. European officials are said to have concerns about their dominant positions in the gas and electricity markets of France and Belgium. See articleE+

VNU, a Dutch media company bought earlier this year by a group of private-equity firms, recruited David Calhoun as its chairman and chief executive. The veteran of General Electric was thought to have been offered compensation of at least $100m, which is double what he received at GE.

Prosecutors struck a deal with Frank Quattrone, a once-high-flying banker in Silicon Valley, to drop charges against him. Mr Quattrone, who has denied wrongdoing and will not face a fine, said he would resume his career as soon as possible.

Felix Rohatyn, a prominent figure in the financial world and a former American ambassador to France, will join Lehman Brothers as a senior adviser to the chairman and chief executive. See articleE+

Oil workers in Nigeria threatened to pull out of the Niger Delta because they fear for their safety, after a string of kidnappings and attacks. A union vote has been called for August 30th. Disruptions in oil supply from Nigeria have helped to push up oil prices.

Apple Computer will pay Creative Technology, a Singapore firm, $100m to settle a patent dispute over the iPod digital music-player.

China raised a benchmark interest rate in an effort to slow a boom in credit and investment. The People’s Bank of China raised banks’ one-year deposit and lending rates by 0.27 percentage points, the central bank’s second such move in the past four months.

Weyerhaeuser will merge its copier-paper business with Domtar, a Canadian firm. The $3.3 billion transaction is the latest restructuring in the paper industry. Under the deal, Weyerhaeuser will receive $1.35 billion in cash.

Net profit at Nestl��, the world’s biggest food company, rose by 11.4% in the first half, to SFr4.2 billion ($3.3 billion) on sales of SFr47 billion. The result, which surpassed many analysts’ predictions, was partly achieved through hedging and price increases to offset higher costs in energy and commodity inputs.

Confidence among German investors and financial analysts fell to a five-year low in August. A survey by ZEW, an economic-research centre, showed confidence at the lowest point since June 2001 on worries about higher taxes and higher borrowing costs. But a survey of business sentiment by Ifo, a research institute, showed that confidence did not fall as much as expected. The euro rose on the news.

Categories: Uncategorized

Politics this week: 19th – 25th August 2006

August 25, 2006 Leave a comment

ran gave its long-awaited reply to an offer of political and economic incentives from America, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany if it agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in accordance with a resolution from the UN Security Council. It said it was ready for “serious talks”, but would not stop enrichment by the end-of-August deadline. America’s State Department said the reply “fell short”. The Security Council will now have to discuss sanctions. See articleE+

A fragile ceasefire more or less held in Lebanon, despite various infractions, including an Israeli commando attack to stymie what Israel said was a Hizbullah operation to restock its arsenal. European Union countries continued to argue about sending soldiers to beef up the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. See articleE+

Meanwhile, Israel’s politics fell into turmoil. Army reservists protested against poor military planning and lack of equipment, there were disputes over how to hold an inquiry into the war, and two ministers and the president, Moshe Katsav, came under criminal investigation. Mr Katsav is accused of sexual assault on an employee, but denies the allegations.

Despite more killings and suicide bombings in Baghdad, a British general and an American one both said that sectarian bloodshed in Iraq had declined in recent weeks.

Gun battles erupted in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, after results of the first round in the presidential election. Having won 45% of the vote, the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, is set to face one of his vice-presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in a run-off in October. See article

Two African Union peacekeepers from Rwanda were killed when their convoy was attacked by unknown assailants in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The South African government became embroiled in another controversy over its AIDS policies. At the end of an international AIDS conference in Toronto, the UN envoy responsible for tackling the disease in Africa accused the government of supporting theories worthy of a “lunatic fringe” and of being “obtuse, dilatory and negligent” in distributing anti-retroviral drugs. See articleE+

It emerged that the British government is likely to put restrictions on the free entry of workers from Bulgaria and Romania when those countries join the European Union next year. In May 2004 Britain took the moral high ground when it was one of only three member states to let in workers from the eight new central European members. See articleE+

German police arrested a suspected terrorist, a Lebanese man who, along with an accomplice, was said to have placed suitcases containing bombs on German trains in late July. A second suspect was arrested in Lebanon. See articleE+

On her return from holiday, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, faced demands to turn leftwards and spend more time on social policy. Ms Merkel, whose popularity has fallen sharply in recent weeks, rejected the calls.

A Russian airliner filled with holiday-makers crashed and burst into flames in Ukraine, killing all 170 people aboard. Officials believe it may have been struck by lightning. A spate of accidents has raised fresh concerns about the safety of Russian airlines.

In his first public comments since temporarily taking over the leadership of Cuba, Raúl Castro said he had mobilised the country’s army after the announcement that his brother Fidel was ill. This was to prevent an invasion by the United States, he said.

A block of free-trading countries on South America’s Pacific coast took firmer shape. Chile, which has said it will rejoin the four-country Andean Community, signed a trade agreement with Peru. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez recently withdrew his country from the group because of other members’ trade deals with the United States. See article

A strike in Chile’s Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, continued into a third week, keeping copper prices extremely high. The union rejected two pay offers by the mine’s operators.

In the Republican primary for the governorship of Alaska, the incumbent, Frank Murkowski, who was the state’s senator for 22 years, lost to Sarah Palin, a former mayor. Ms Palin won 51% of the vote and will face the Democrat Tony Knowles in November. See article

Getty Images
Getty Images

John Mark Karr was arrested in Thailand in connection with the killing ten years ago of JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old beauty queen. He agreed to be extradited to Colorado to face murder charges. JonBenet’s parents had previously been suspected of involvement in her death. See articleE+

A year after Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans, George Bush gave warning that it would take “a long time” to rebuild the city. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers criticised the reconstruction effort, saying that thousands of families were still without emergency housing and that corruption and incompetence were rife. See article

Thai police arrested 159 North Koreans, the largest group of suspected illegal migrants the country has yet seen.

Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, joined the race to succeed Junichiro Koizumi, who stands down next month. The favourite to win, Shinzo Abe, the cabinet secretary, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

Reuters
Reuters

Close to 100 Taliban militants were killed by foreign forces in clashes in Afghanistan’s southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, which are experiencing their bloodiest fighting since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.

Two Indian ministers resigned as their small regional party from the state of Andhra Pradesh left the unwieldy coalition government. They said the government had not made good on earlier promises to create a separate state in Andhra Pradesh’s northern Telangana region.

International peace monitors in Sri Lanka withdrew to the capital, Colombo, because fighting in the north-east is making their work too dangerous. The mission looks set to be crippled anyway by a demand from the rebel Tamil Tigers that all monitors from EU countries leave. The EU has declared the Tigers to be a terrorist outfit, but has said it will comply with the demand.

Categories: Uncategorized

Politics this week: 19th – 25th August 2006

August 25, 2006 Leave a comment

ran gave its long-awaited reply to an offer of political and economic incentives from America, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany if it agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in accordance with a resolution from the UN Security Council. It said it was ready for “serious talks”, but would not stop enrichment by the end-of-August deadline. America’s State Department said the reply “fell short”. The Security Council will now have to discuss sanctions. See articleE+

A fragile ceasefire more or less held in Lebanon, despite various infractions, including an Israeli commando attack to stymie what Israel said was a Hizbullah operation to restock its arsenal. European Union countries continued to argue about sending soldiers to beef up the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. See articleE+

Meanwhile, Israel’s politics fell into turmoil. Army reservists protested against poor military planning and lack of equipment, there were disputes over how to hold an inquiry into the war, and two ministers and the president, Moshe Katsav, came under criminal investigation. Mr Katsav is accused of sexual assault on an employee, but denies the allegations.

Despite more killings and suicide bombings in Baghdad, a British general and an American one both said that sectarian bloodshed in Iraq had declined in recent weeks.

Gun battles erupted in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, after results of the first round in the presidential election. Having won 45% of the vote, the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, is set to face one of his vice-presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in a run-off in October. See article

Two African Union peacekeepers from Rwanda were killed when their convoy was attacked by unknown assailants in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The South African government became embroiled in another controversy over its AIDS policies. At the end of an international AIDS conference in Toronto, the UN envoy responsible for tackling the disease in Africa accused the government of supporting theories worthy of a “lunatic fringe” and of being “obtuse, dilatory and negligent” in distributing anti-retroviral drugs. See articleE+

It emerged that the British government is likely to put restrictions on the free entry of workers from Bulgaria and Romania when those countries join the European Union next year. In May 2004 Britain took the moral high ground when it was one of only three member states to let in workers from the eight new central European members. See articleE+

German police arrested a suspected terrorist, a Lebanese man who, along with an accomplice, was said to have placed suitcases containing bombs on German trains in late July. A second suspect was arrested in Lebanon. See articleE+

On her return from holiday, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, faced demands to turn leftwards and spend more time on social policy. Ms Merkel, whose popularity has fallen sharply in recent weeks, rejected the calls.

A Russian airliner filled with holiday-makers crashed and burst into flames in Ukraine, killing all 170 people aboard. Officials believe it may have been struck by lightning. A spate of accidents has raised fresh concerns about the safety of Russian airlines.

In his first public comments since temporarily taking over the leadership of Cuba, Raúl Castro said he had mobilised the country’s army after the announcement that his brother Fidel was ill. This was to prevent an invasion by the United States, he said.

A block of free-trading countries on South America’s Pacific coast took firmer shape. Chile, which has said it will rejoin the four-country Andean Community, signed a trade agreement with Peru. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez recently withdrew his country from the group because of other members’ trade deals with the United States. See article

A strike in Chile’s Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, continued into a third week, keeping copper prices extremely high. The union rejected two pay offers by the mine’s operators.

In the Republican primary for the governorship of Alaska, the incumbent, Frank Murkowski, who was the state’s senator for 22 years, lost to Sarah Palin, a former mayor. Ms Palin won 51% of the vote and will face the Democrat Tony Knowles in November. See article

Getty Images
Getty Images

John Mark Karr was arrested in Thailand in connection with the killing ten years ago of JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old beauty queen. He agreed to be extradited to Colorado to face murder charges. JonBenet’s parents had previously been suspected of involvement in her death. See articleE+

A year after Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans, George Bush gave warning that it would take “a long time” to rebuild the city. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers criticised the reconstruction effort, saying that thousands of families were still without emergency housing and that corruption and incompetence were rife. See article

Thai police arrested 159 North Koreans, the largest group of suspected illegal migrants the country has yet seen.

Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, joined the race to succeed Junichiro Koizumi, who stands down next month. The favourite to win, Shinzo Abe, the cabinet secretary, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

Reuters
Reuters

Close to 100 Taliban militants were killed by foreign forces in clashes in Afghanistan’s southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, which are experiencing their bloodiest fighting since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.

Two Indian ministers resigned as their small regional party from the state of Andhra Pradesh left the unwieldy coalition government. They said the government had not made good on earlier promises to create a separate state in Andhra Pradesh’s northern Telangana region.

International peace monitors in Sri Lanka withdrew to the capital, Colombo, because fighting in the north-east is making their work too dangerous. The mission looks set to be crippled anyway by a demand from the rebel Tamil Tigers that all monitors from EU countries leave. The EU has declared the Tigers to be a terrorist outfit, but has said it will comply with the demand.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blogging for $; Bubble 2.0; Heads Roll at AOL

August 25, 2006 Leave a comment

Top Stories for the Week of August 21 – August 25

 What’s in a blog? Windows Live claims to be the world’s largest blogging service so Scobleizer decided to define what a blog is and measure who had the most. This prompted an argument with Windows Live’s Mike Torres over whether private spaces are blogs, and Scoble asked whether empty spaces count, public or not? /Message gripes about Scoble’s public-vs.-private distinction–of course private spaces are still blogs–and breaks down the value of splogs, plazas and link blogs. Meanwhile, splogs may destroy everything, writes Micro Persuasion, quoting studies showing that up to 56 percent of active English-language blogs are spam.

 But the blog-value debate quickly degenerates into whether “A-list” bloggers and readers are more valuable to advertisers than others–an idea that’s too Old Media for words, says Publishing 2.0. So what do those A-List bloggers really make? Lots, estimates business2blog: from a low of $720,000/year for Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch to around $7 million annually for Drew Curtis at Fark. Scripting News chimed in with real numbers: $2.3 million last year on expenses of roughly $1,000 a month. Silicon Beat admired Michael Arrington’s star turn at CNN Money and just knew he was going to be big, but wonders where that “1.5 million regular” readers figure came from.

Maybe Web 2.0 is a special kind of bubble, writes John Battelle, without insane IPOs but also with companies that fail to fail. Other signs of the bubble: Friendster recapitalized at $10 million and Facebook is valued at $500 million (via SiliconBeat), plus online video startup Grouper sold to Sony for $65 million (via Mashable!). If no one’s bought your company yet, TechCrunch recommends Bullshitr, which automatically creates everything you need to sell it to Yahoo. And hurry up, before anyone  else hears Tim Berners-Lee dissing Web 2.0 as Web 1.0 (via Read/Write Web).

TechCrunch covers the cluster$!%& over AOL’s user-data disclosure: Heads rolled, including the CTO, but are they the responsible heads? Stephen Colbert’s got tips for protecting your identity on AOL, like don’t type using your dominant hand so the password won’t appear in your handwriting. Mashable! also describes YouTube’s launch of branded channels, starting with a Paris Hilton channel that has 13 videos. Maybe ads on these channels will solve YouTube’s ludicrous bandwidth expenses, but if not, the Wall Street Journal reports YouTube video ads are on the way.

In politics, the whereabouts of kidnapped Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig are still unknown, but Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas claims the two are safe, blogs Huffington Post. A previously unknown Palestinian group, the Holy Jihad Brigades, demanded the release of unspecified “Muslim prisoners” within 72 hours in exchange for the two. Speaking of impossible demands, Pat Buchanan told Fox’s Bob Beckel that Hispanic immigrants aren’t assimilating into America because they’re into “rap culture” (via Think Progress). And Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who ruled against the Bush administration in her NSA wiretapping decision, has a potential conflict of interest, writes Blogs for Bush: She’s on the board of a foundation that donated money to the plaintiff, ACLU of Michigan. Even if this helps the administration’s appeal, what’s really needed is a full-blown Supreme Court review of the NSA program, blogs Captain’s Quarters.

JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr awaits extradition to Colorado (via Foxnews.com). A writer says he has already secured rights to the Karr family’s story, according to NBCSandiego.com, which also reports Karr’s distress at appearing in court in an orange jumpsuit. Karr isn’t half as upset as Boulder residents, who are back in the media spotlight yet again (via Boulder, CO). Bizarre off-screen behavior got Tom Cruise canned from his sweet production deal with Paramount, blogs Gossipist, who can see scolding Lindsay Lohan but not somebody who can make three phone calls and own half of Korea. Here’s a round-up of Cruise headlines plus all the headlines newspapers should be using. And despite overwhelming blogger hype, Defamer reports that Samuel Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane just barely edged out Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights for the weekend box-office crown.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blogging for $; Bubble 2.0; Heads Roll at AOL

August 25, 2006 Leave a comment

Top Stories for the Week of August 21 – August 25

 What’s in a blog? Windows Live claims to be the world’s largest blogging service so Scobleizer decided to define what a blog is and measure who had the most. This prompted an argument with Windows Live’s Mike Torres over whether private spaces are blogs, and Scoble asked whether empty spaces count, public or not? /Message gripes about Scoble’s public-vs.-private distinction–of course private spaces are still blogs–and breaks down the value of splogs, plazas and link blogs. Meanwhile, splogs may destroy everything, writes Micro Persuasion, quoting studies showing that up to 56 percent of active English-language blogs are spam.

 But the blog-value debate quickly degenerates into whether “A-list” bloggers and readers are more valuable to advertisers than others–an idea that’s too Old Media for words, says Publishing 2.0. So what do those A-List bloggers really make? Lots, estimates business2blog: from a low of $720,000/year for Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch to around $7 million annually for Drew Curtis at Fark. Scripting News chimed in with real numbers: $2.3 million last year on expenses of roughly $1,000 a month. Silicon Beat admired Michael Arrington’s star turn at CNN Money and just knew he was going to be big, but wonders where that “1.5 million regular” readers figure came from.

Maybe Web 2.0 is a special kind of bubble, writes John Battelle, without insane IPOs but also with companies that fail to fail. Other signs of the bubble: Friendster recapitalized at $10 million and Facebook is valued at $500 million (via SiliconBeat), plus online video startup Grouper sold to Sony for $65 million (via Mashable!). If no one’s bought your company yet, TechCrunch recommends Bullshitr, which automatically creates everything you need to sell it to Yahoo. And hurry up, before anyone  else hears Tim Berners-Lee dissing Web 2.0 as Web 1.0 (via Read/Write Web).

TechCrunch covers the cluster$!%& over AOL’s user-data disclosure: Heads rolled, including the CTO, but are they the responsible heads? Stephen Colbert’s got tips for protecting your identity on AOL, like don’t type using your dominant hand so the password won’t appear in your handwriting. Mashable! also describes YouTube’s launch of branded channels, starting with a Paris Hilton channel that has 13 videos. Maybe ads on these channels will solve YouTube’s ludicrous bandwidth expenses, but if not, the Wall Street Journal reports YouTube video ads are on the way.

In politics, the whereabouts of kidnapped Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig are still unknown, but Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas claims the two are safe, blogs Huffington Post. A previously unknown Palestinian group, the Holy Jihad Brigades, demanded the release of unspecified “Muslim prisoners” within 72 hours in exchange for the two. Speaking of impossible demands, Pat Buchanan told Fox’s Bob Beckel that Hispanic immigrants aren’t assimilating into America because they’re into “rap culture” (via Think Progress). And Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who ruled against the Bush administration in her NSA wiretapping decision, has a potential conflict of interest, writes Blogs for Bush: She’s on the board of a foundation that donated money to the plaintiff, ACLU of Michigan. Even if this helps the administration’s appeal, what’s really needed is a full-blown Supreme Court review of the NSA program, blogs Captain’s Quarters.

JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr awaits extradition to Colorado (via Foxnews.com). A writer says he has already secured rights to the Karr family’s story, according to NBCSandiego.com, which also reports Karr’s distress at appearing in court in an orange jumpsuit. Karr isn’t half as upset as Boulder residents, who are back in the media spotlight yet again (via Boulder, CO). Bizarre off-screen behavior got Tom Cruise canned from his sweet production deal with Paramount, blogs Gossipist, who can see scolding Lindsay Lohan but not somebody who can make three phone calls and own half of Korea. Here’s a round-up of Cruise headlines plus all the headlines newspapers should be using. And despite overwhelming blogger hype, Defamer reports that Samuel Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane just barely edged out Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights for the weekend box-office crown.

Categories: Uncategorized