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Google bets on Android future

Google bets on Android future

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, in San Francisco


Google Android

Google has made no secret of its ambitions in the mobile space. There are mobile versions of all its key services, such as search, e-mail and calendar.

But the company is going much further. At the end of 2007 it lifted the lid on Android, an open mobile operating system that is being used to power a new generation of devices under the Open Handset Alliance, a group which involves firms like HTC and chip designer ARM.

Android is the creation of Andy Rubin, Google’s director of mobile platforms.

He believes that a lack of openness in the mobile phone space has stifled innovation to date.

“What Android enables for third party developers is the kind of programming we see on the internet,” he says.

“What it enables is agility and rapid innovation and the same kind of innovation that happens on the internet.”

Andy Rubin

Android was developed by former robot maker Andy Rubin

Mr Rubin says that by opening up the phones – from the operating system, released under open source, to the drivers and the application framework – developers will have more freedom to innovate, and more scope also.

But if you talk to Symbian and Microsoft, two companies that also build mobile operating systems, both claim to be open also.

Mr Rubin says: “There’s a distinction we have to make – and it’s an important one – between open source and open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

“APIs are essentially documentation, they’re the way that somebody like Symbian or Microsoft will allow third party developers to develop for their platform.

“Open source is a mechanism by which the source code of the operating system is actually for free and that way the carriers and OEMs are not really locked into a single vendor, nobody really owns this.

“It means they are free to take it into the direction that’s important to them; they can fix bugs, add enhancements so in the end the consumer has a better experience.”

Mr Rubin believes this will lead to greater variety of mobile experiences – driven not by the rules and regulations of an operating system but by the ideas of developers.

In essence, it could lead to greater variety of phones and of what those phones are capable.

Google has formed the Open Handset Alliance, with manufacturing partners like HTC and chip designers like ARM.

At the Mobile World Congress earlier this month the first reference handsets running Android were on show.

Android

The first Android phones are expected in the second half of 2008

Mr Rubin gave BBC News a demo of his handset and while the software was in pre-beta form, it was a good representation of what the phones will be able to do.

The browser was responsive and driven by both touch and a mini-track ball.

Google Maps supported Street View, the ability to see stills of real world locations, which has not been seen on a mobile device before.

Mr Rubin says Android is running on a phone powered by a 300Mhz chip, which puts the device in the mid-range of smartphones.

“A lot of applications we are seeing on phones today, in some of the newest and most powerful phones, are doing internet style web browsing.

There should be nothing that users can access on their desktop that they can’t access on their cell phone

Andy Rubin

“But that is just one of the components of the internet we need to bring to cellphones. There should be nothing that users can access on their desktop that they can’t access on their cellphone.

Mr Rubin points out that not all net experiences are available through the browser.

“Applications like Google Earth and YouTube have specific functionality that hasn’t yet effectively been brought to mobile.

“Up until Android that wasn’t possible on the phone – you could only access functionality given to you by the operating system.”

Apple iPhone, AP

The iPhone is a great 1.0 product said Mr Rubin

Mr Rubin says the open nature of Android will let developers take advantage of the web, of other applications, of the phone’s hardware capabilities, from 3D graphics to multimedia capabilities.

This is not Mr Rubin’s first foray into overturning the “natural order” of things.

A former roboticist and Apple engineer, he created Web TV, and the device which led to the pioneering Sidekick handset.

“One of my passions throughout my whole career is consumer products; making things my mom would use.

“That need wasn’t satisfied doing robotics. that was behind the scenes factory stuff.”

So what does he make of Apple’s first phone to the market?

“It’s a great 1.0 product; I use one.

“Apple has that great balance of being both a hardware and software firms so they have a lot of flexibility.

“One of the things that is a challenge for them is having an incredible footprint worldwide – there are different types of communications standards, regulatory issues, and different language issues.

“I’m hoping that doesn’t limit them.”

With about three billion people using mobile phones worldwide and the number of devices that can access the net climbing rapidly, the future of the web is definitely mobile. And with no one company dominating the mobile arena as yet, the race is very much on.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Google’s Android mobile unveiled

Google’s Android mobile unveiled

Advertisement

Rory Cellan-Jones takes a look at Android, the new mobile phone platform launched by Google.

The first mobile telephone using Google’s Android software has been unveiled.

The T-Mobile G1 handset will be available in the UK in time for Christmas.

The first device to run the search giant’s operating system will feature a touch screen as well as a Qwerty keyboard.

It will be available for free on T-Mobile tariffs of over £40 a month and includes unlimited net browsing.

Other features include a three megapixel camera, a ‘one click’ contextual search and a browser that users can zoom in on by tapping the screen.

The handset will be wi-fi and 3G enabled and has built-in support for YouTube.

Users will also have access the so-called Android Market, where they will be able to download a variety of applications.

Prototypes

T-Mobile G1

The T-Mobile G1 is the first phone to use Android

Google announced its plans for the Android phone software in November 2007 with a declared aim of making it easier to get at the web while on the move.

To help develop Android, Google also unveiled the Open Handset Alliance – a partnership of more than 30 firms that would work to make phone software easier to work with.

The group includes operators such as Telefonica, handset makers such as HTC and Motorola as well as chip makers such as Intel and Qualcomm.

Many of the partners demonstrated early prototype Android phones at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona in mid-February.

The idea behind Android is to do for phone software what the open source Linux software has done for PCs. Developers of phone software can get at most of the core elements of the Android software to help them write better applications.

Smartphones

However, in launching Android, Google faces stiff competition from established players such as Nokia with its Symbian software and Microsoft with its Mobile operating system.

More recently Apple has been gaining customers with its much hyped iPhone.

The Android software is squarely aimed at the smartphone segment of the handset market which adds sophisticated functions to the basic calling and texting capabilities of most phones.

Current estimates suggest that only 12-13% of the all handsets can be considered smartphones.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fast forward for mobile broadband

Fast forward for mobile broadband

Man using laptop, AFP/Getty

Laptops have become the most popular form of personal computer

Phone firms, chip makers and PC manufacturers are uniting to push mobile broadband on laptop computers.

The alliance will build wireless modules into laptops to make it much easier to use the gadgets on future high-speed services.

Laptops with the wireless chips built-in will bear a service mark which shows they will work with the third and fourth generation wireless technology.

The branded laptops should be on shop shelves in 91 nations by Christmas.

Fast forward

Laptops and notebook computers bearing the “Mobile Broadband” logo will have on-board modules that will boost current third generation speeds and work with future fourth generation technologies.

At their fastest, these technologies – which include High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Long Term Evolution – support web browsing speeds of up to 7 megabits per second (Mbps).

“It’s comparable to fixed broadband services and close to what you get in a wi-fi hot spot,” said Mike O’Hara, a spokesman for the GSM Association which has brokered the tie-up on Mobile Broadband.

Mr O’Hara said the laptops would eventually be available where people now buy mobile phones.

…it’s not really necessary for what they are trying to achieve

Steven Hartley, Ovum


“You can go to an operator’s store, buy a laptop and it will be already fitted so you can go online instantly.

“That’s a powerful proposition.

“There’s a natural evolution such as we saw with wi-fi which at first used to need an external card and became embedded.”

Hugh Padfield, principal manager for PC connectivity at Vodafone, said: “The important thing for us is to make it as easy for customers to buy mobile broadband.”

He said the logo and branding scheme would help reassure customers about the laptops that will work with future fast net services.

“It will help to create even more momentum than what we have already seen with mobile broadband,” he said.

“It’s reached something of a tipping point even before it’s been built in.”

Mobile broadband logo, GSMA

This logo denotes a laptop fitted with high-speed wireless

The deal to produce the modules, build them in to laptops and the campaign around the Mobile Broadband logo has been brokered by the GSM Association – the trade body that represents 80% of the world’s mobile phone firms.

Most GSM operators are clustered in Western Europe and the Far East. US operators have broadly backed different technologies for mobiles.

The 16 firms in the Mobile Broadband alliance have pledged to spend about £554m ($1bn) to promote the logo and inform customers about laptops fitted with the technology.

Laptop makers Dell, Toshiba and Lenovo have signed up to the alliance along with 3, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Ericsson, Orange, Qualcomm and Vodafone.

It is not yet clear when mobile operators will roll out the wireless technologies that will help buyers of the branded laptops use the high-speed services.

We need to know that we can move effortlessly between different wi-fi zones and providers and then onto the 3G network when appropriate

Rory Cellan-Jones

BBC technology correspondent


Mr O’Hara from the GSMA said laptops were just the start of the process of connecting more devices with mobile broadband technologies. The wireless modules would soon crop up in digital cameras, music players, cars and phones.

But Steven Hartley, senior analyst at consultancy Ovum, expressed scepticism about the deal.

“My feeling is that it’s not really necessary for what they are trying to achieve,” he said.

“If you look at the uptake of mobile broadband services do they really need an initiative like this?

“The operators and vendors are working together anyway to ensure these things are interoperable.”

Given that mobile broadband was already catching on, Mr Hartley also wondered how the success of the initiative would be measured.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it’s going to be implemented and what’s included in the package,” he said.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Web firms quietly win copyright victory in Congress

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — As the media turned its attention last weekend to battles on Capitol Hill over the fate of the proposed Wall Street bailout bill, Internet companies including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. quietly walked away with a legislative victory that could facilitate their use of copyrighted material.
The Senate on Friday passed the Orphan Works Act of 2008, legislation that weakens copyright protection for works whose owners cannot be located. The legislation has now been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation requires only that a company make a “reasonably diligent” search to locate a copyright owner before using their work in media including the Internet, and limits compensation required for the use of an infringed work.
Both Google

google inc cl

MSFT 25.67, +0.66, +2.6%) have advocated for reform of the current system for orphaned works, which automatically grants protections to their authors for decades, whether the authors realize it or not.

In comments sent to the U.S. Copyright Office in 2005, as legislation was brewing, Google General Counsel David Drummond wrote that orphaned works often “exist in a sort of purgatory,” and “represent an untapped wealth of information that can and should be made accessible to the public.”
Drummond cited the limits placed on orphaned works presented in Google’s then-nascent Book Search service, arguing that in many cases the author of an orphaned work would prefer to have it more prominently displayed via Google – but simply hasn’t realized that this is an option.
Drummond wrote that greater clarity on the status of orphaned works could provide comfort to companies such as Google, “that they can publish a work without fear of liability.”
In its own comments to the Copyright Office, Microsoft attorney Thomas Rubin wrote that the company “has on occasion experienced the challenges presented by orphan works,” noting that its online services make use of “both original and licensed content.”
Rubin wrote that changes in the law should be considered, including those that would afford certain legal protections to companies that have made a “good faith determination” that a copyrighted work has been orphaned before they use it.
A Google spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. A Microsoft spokesman was unable to comment.
Critics of the Orphan Works legislation, however, argue that it is too vague, and threatens to unnecessarily weaken the rights of copyright holders.
In an editorial written for the New York Times in May, Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig dismissed the legislation as “both unfair and unwise.”
Lessig argued that the definitions of what constitutes a “diligent” search for an orphaned work’s owner are unclear, and that the legislation requires too much unnecessary effort from copyright owners who have for many years been able to rely on automatic protections.
In a statement issued Monday, the National Press Photographers dismissed the Orphan Works Act as “a piece of special interest legislation,” and called on its members to voice opposition to it “as quickly, and loudly, as possible.”
In its own statement issued earlier, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists said the legislation “threatens the livelihoods of everyone who relies on copyright for a living.”
Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters has sought to reassure the legislation’s critics, writing in an online posting Thursday that it contains “clear conditions designed to protect copyright owners.”

Peters wrote that companies must, “Take all reasonable steps, employ all reasonable technology, and execute the applicable search practices” before using an orphaned work, which must then include an attached “orphan symbol,” in order to “increase transparency and the possibility that an owner may emerge.”

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Russian warship demonstrates Moscow’s global reach

MOSCOW: Russia’s decision to dispatch a warship to pirate-infested waters off Somalia reflects its determination to project power worldwide. But it remains unclear what role the vessel might play in the latest hostage crisis there.

The Russian Navy has said only that it ordered the guided missile frigate Neustrashimy (Intrepid) to the northwest Indian Ocean to protect commercial shipping lanes and defend the lives of Russian citizens.

But there has been speculation Russia could try to free the hostages aboard a Ukrainian ship, the Faina, that was seized by Somalia-based pirates last week. Russia has dealt harshly with hostage-takers in recent years.

The pirates have demanded US$20 million for the release of the ship and its 20-man crew, which includes two Russians. Besides more than 30 battle tanks, the ship is loaded with armaments and the pirates warn they will fight to the death if attacked.

The seizure, analysts say, has given Russia another chance to display its might following its brief war with Georgia — which the Kremlin justified, in part, as an effort to protect Russian citizens living in two Georgian breakaway regions.
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“It’s another show of the flag intended to demonstrate that Russia would protect its citizens wherever it deems it necessary,” said Yevgeny Volk, the head of the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation.

A hostage rescue would play well with the many Russians nostalgic for the superpower status of the Soviet Union.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, said Russia might be tempted to use force against the pirates. “Neustrashimy is a well-armed frigate, which can do that,” he said.

But there was no word of any Russian forces being sent to the area besides the frigate. The ship is armed with cruise missiles, torpedoes and cannons and carries a helicopter for anti-submarine missions.

“It’s a pure propaganda effort,” Volk said, arguing that a single warship would be useless in the current situation and a special-forces mission would be needed.

Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, sought to restore Russia’s global power and prestige during his eight years as president. His successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, recently pledged to deploy Russian forces on regular maneuvers worldwide.

Earlier this month, a Russian Navy squadron sailed for Venezuela in the first Russian deployment to the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War. Its departure followed a weeklong visit to Venezuela by a pair of Russian strategic bombers.

Deputy chief of the Russian Sailors Union, Alexander Ageyev, argued that one nation or another needs to use its navy to battle the pirates who prey on shipping off Somalia’s coast.

“They feel impunity. And it will continue until navy ships, ours or others, use force,” Ageyev said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

But others warned there is little the Russian frigate can do without risking the lives of the Faina’s mostly Ukrainian crew.

“Any attempt to use force would lead to victims among the crew,” said Mikhail Voitenko, the editor of the Maritime Bulletin-Sovfrakht Web site who has closely followed attacks by Somalian pirates.

Since Putin’s first term as president, Russia has typically responded to hostage crises with force.

After Chechen rebels seized Moscow’s Dubrovka theater in 2002, taking more than 800 hostages, the government ended the three-day standoff by pumping opiate-based gas into the theater and storming the building with special forces. All 41 gunmen were killed, and more than 100 hostages died from the effects of the gas.

In September 2004, Russian security forces stormed a school in Beslan, where Islamic militants held more than 1,100 students, teachers and parents. The fire-fight killed 333 people, nearly half of them children.

Voitenko said the Ukrainian government should be negotiating with the pirates in the current crisis, and warning other nations not to use force.

The Kremlin has not publicly offered help to Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities have not publicly asked.

The seizure of the Faina comes at a time of strained relations between Ukraine and Russia. Russia is angry about Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, its threat to evict Russia’s Black Sea fleet from its Ukrainian base in Sevastopol and its criticism of Russia’s war in Georgia.

During the brief period of U.S.-Russia cooperation after Sept. 11, Washington and Moscow might have joined forces to free the crew. Not now.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the United Nations on Monday that an international effort was needed to fight Somali pirates. But Lavrov pointedly refrained from mentioning that U.S. warships were shadowing the Faina.

“Russia now isn’t in a mood to engage in any kind of cooperation with the United States,” Volk said.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Critical to pass U.S. financial rescue soon, Bush says

Critical to pass U.S. financial rescue soon, Bush says

By Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch
Last update: 10:16 a.m. EDT Sept. 30, 2008

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Saying this is a “critical moment” for the economy, President Bush urged Congress on Tuesday to regroup and act quickly on legislation to prop up the U.S. financial system — one day after the House shocked Washington and the markets by rejecting a $700 billion rescue plan.
“I assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process,” Bush said. “I recognize this is a difficult vote for members of Congress. The reality is that we are in an urgent situation, and the consequences will grow worse each day if we do not act.”
The administration is working with leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill to move legislation forward. While the House typically moves forward first with legislation, and representatives are reconvening Thursday, there has been talk that the Senate could get the process started earlier.
Echoing prior warnings of dire consequences from delayed action or even no action, Bush said at the White House that the economy is depending “on decisive action” from government — and warned economic damage will be “painful and lasting” if the nation continues on its course.
“We’re facing a choice between action and the real prospect of economic hardship for millions of Americans,” Bush said.
He added that the legislation will ultimately cost taxpayers less than $700 billion as the value of the assets would increase over time.
Stocks plummeted Monday after the House rejected the $700 billion financial rescue plan, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 7% and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite faring even worse. U.S. stock indexes gained back some of those losses on the opening on Tuesday, however.
Meanwhile, overnight borrowing costs skyrocketed Tuesday, as the London interbank offered rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans soared. Overnight loans are frequently used to help fund routine business expenses such as meeting payrolls.
Waiting game
Congress wasn’t in session Tuesday in observance of Rosh Hashanah, but leaders were busy looking for ways to get the legislation approved when the House returns on Thursday. The lawmakers have several options, including letting the Senate take up the legislation next or giving the House another shot at a slightly altered version of the bill that was defeated.
A clearly disappointed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson issued another dire warning Monday afternoon about stressed world markets reducing credit availability — a threat to American jobs and livelihood.
“This is much too important to simply let fail,” Paulson said.
Finger-pointing followed soon after Monday’s vote.
Republican leaders accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of driving away some GOP votes with a partisan floor speech.
Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the financial services committee, responded that Republicans may be “covering up the embarrassment” of not having the votes.
“And because somebody hurt their feelings they decide to punish the country,” said Frank, D-Mass. “I mean, I would not have imputed that degree of pettiness and hypersensitivity.”
Political calculations
Some House members balked at giving the Treasury immense power — the ability to buy up hundreds of billions of bad debt. And there have been ongoing complaints over insufficient accountability, transparency and large-scale government intervention.
But Paulson, along with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, has been intent over the past week on broadcasting warnings about dire consequences of delaying the plan.
With the November elections fast approaching, lawmakers from both parties are under intense scrutiny — and many were nervous about voting for a plan that risks so much taxpayer money without any definitive promise of success.
In the end, there were 205 votes cast in favor of the legislation and 228 against.
Among Democrats, 140 voted in favor and 95 against. Among Republicans, 65 voted in favor and 133 against.

Critics also say the plan inadequately addressed job losses and a distressed housing market –problems that underlie current economic weakness. Meanwhile, those in favor of the plan were looking to treat a manageable symptom — the frozen credit market — if not the actual disease.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bush warning over bail-out delay

Bush warning over bail-out delay

George Bush says the cost of not acting will be higher than the $700 billion rescue deal

US President George W Bush has warned the US economy is at a “critical moment”, and vowed to get his Wall Street rescue plan through Congress.

He said the consequences would be “painful and lasting” if the $700bn (£380bn) deal rejected by the US House of Representatives was not passed.

He offered reassurances to citizens of the US and wider world that the current political deadlock would be resolved.

The New York stock market opened with prices up after Mr Bush’s statement.

The Dow Jones index was about 2% higher in initial trading, rebounding from Monday’s record losses.

Global shares have seen volatile trading since Monday’s vote.

In Brussels, the European Union earlier urged Washington to live up to its special responsibility and demonstrate statesmanship to resolve the global credit crisis.

‘Not the end’

Mr Bush said at the White House: “We are in an urgent situation and the consequences will grow worse each day if we do not act.”

The economy was depending on “decisive action on the part of our government”, he added.

He said he wanted to “assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process”.

“Our country is not facing a choice between government action and the smooth functioning of the free market,” he said.

“We’re facing a choice between action and the real prospect of economic hardship for millions of Americans,” he warned.

Republicans and Democrats have been blaming each other for the failure of the rescue plan, which was rejected by 228 to 205 votes in the House of Representatives on Monday.

About two-thirds of Republican lawmakers refused to back the rescue package, as well as 95 Democrats in tense scenes rarely seen on the House floor.

The House is not due to meet again until Thursday as many members have gone home for a Jewish holiday.

Both US presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain back the rescue plan, although each has accused the other of injecting politics into horse-trading over the deal.

For the second time in as many days on Tuesday, Western European governments stepped in to prop up an ailing financial institution.

The French and Belgian governments rescued the Franco-Belgian financial services group, Dexia, with a package totalling more than $9bn (£5bn).

Its share price had fallen sharply following reports that it was seeking extra funds after governments bailed out its rival, Fortis.

As Dexia’s chairman and chief executive both quit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met banking leaders, urging them to keep their credit lines open to businesses.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barack Obama and John McCain Spin Debate Performances

olls show voters think Obama won the debate, but both campaigns are working to capture voters

Posted September 29, 2008

The campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain are furiously spinning their own versions of the first presidential debate to make the case that their man won. But the initial polls suggest that Obama made the best impression and did the most for his candidacy, at least temporarily.

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (L) (D-IL) and Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shake hands at the beginning of the first of three presidential debates.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain shake hands at the beginning of the first of three presidential debates.
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The candidates faced off at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.

The candidates faced off at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.
(Charles Dharapak/AP)

The latest USA Today/Gallup Poll shows 46 percent of those who watched Friday night say Obama did a better job than McCain while 34 percent said McCain did better. Fifty-two percent said Obama offered the best proposals to solve the nation’s problems, compared with 35 percent who preferred McCain’s proposals. Three in 10 said their opinion of Obama became more favorable after seeing the debate, while 14 percent said their view of Obama became less favorable, and 54 percent said it made no difference. About 21 percent of those who watched said it gave them a more favorable view of McCain, while 21 percent said less favorable and 56 percent said it didn’t change their minds.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll of debate watchers found that 51 percent said Obama did the best job in the debate to 38 percent who preferred McCain. Fifty-eight percent said Obama would better handle the economy, voters’ top concern, while only 37 percent said McCain would.

A CBS poll of undecided voters found that 40 percent felt Obama won the debate and 22 percent said it was McCain who won.

In the past, however, surveys have shown that voters’ instant opinions can change after they assess media coverage in the days following a debate. As a consequence, both campaigns are working hard to influence that coverage and to put their candidate in the best possible light.

Each candidate followed up by repeating his main talking points from the debate in campaign appearances over the weekend. McCain, a veteran GOP senator from Arizona, attacked Obama, a first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, for lacking experience and for failing to understand major international problems. Obama attacked McCain for being willing to continue President George Bush’s unpopular policies on the economy and other issues.

Obama hammered on the economy and said McCain’s policies over his 26 years in the Senate, when he was strongly in favor of deregulation, helped create the current financial crisis. “You can’t make up for 26 years in 26 days,” Obama told a rally in Detroit. “For most of the 26 years, he’s been against the common-sense rules and regulations that could have stopped this problem…. His first response to the greatest financial meltdown in generations was a Katrina-like response. He sort of stood there, said, ‘The fundamentals of the economy are strong.’ “

A McCain spokesman said Obama has a record “of opposing middle-class tax relief” and added: “Barack Obama voted 94 times in just three years for higher taxes.” McCain surrogates argued that Obama showed that he isn’t ready to be president because he misunderstood many international issues, from the need to win the Iraq war to the folly of meeting with leaders of rogue nations without preconditions.

Neither man made a major error in the debate, and the fact that Obama could demonstrate parity with McCain in discussing complex issues and that he seemed “presidential” probably helped him. That’s what happened to Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy in his first debate with Vice President Richard Nixon in 1960. JFK’s performance seemed to elevate him to Nixon’s stature and helped ease concerns that he was too young and inexperienced—the same charges that Obama is now facing.

Pollsters say McCain’s testiness and his repeated attacks on Obama might have hurt him among undecided women voters, who tend to dislike political confrontation.

Obama and McCain have two more debates on their schedule, but on Thursday night, the attention will shift to the vice presidential candidates when Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin go head to head in St. Louis.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

U.S. stocks rebound after bailout failure

(CNN) — U.S. stocks bounced back Tuesday after Congressional lawmakers rejected a $700 billion bailout plan aimed at stabilizing the financial system, triggering economic turmoil around the world.

Women watch a large screen displaying India's benchmark share index in Mumbai.

Women watch a large screen displaying India’s benchmark share index in Mumbai.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 236 points in early trading Tuesday, after a record 777-point fall the day before that marked the worst percentage drop for stocks since the 1987 crash.

That sharp slide continued in Asian markets Tuesday, although most of the indexes there closed off their low of the day.

Japan’s Nikkei lost 483 points, or 4 percent, while Australia’s markets fell 4.3 percent and Taiwan’s stocks lost 3.6 percent. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed narrowly higher, and Europe’s major indexes were mixed in early trading there.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist for Jefferies & Co., told CNN that a possible rebound in the stock market — and for bank stocks in particular — was not just a case of bargain hunting.

He said Tuesday’s market action looks like it will be driven by hope that Congress will pass a modified financial bailout bill in the next few days. “If the sell-off was predicated on us not passing a rescue package yesterday, then there’s a common belief that we’ll get a rescue package sometime this week,” Hogan said.

The credit crisis that prompted the bailout proposal, and attempts to revive the plan, are likely to be the focus of attention for investors once again Tuesday.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Tuesday he remained disappointed by the House’s failure to pass the financial bailout package, but he would continue to work for its approval.

“I am disappointed by the outcome but I assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process,” the president said in televised remarks from the White House.

European markets were modestly mixed on Tuesday, with Britain’s FTSE 100 little changed at 4,820 at 1310 GMT and France’s CAC down 0.7 percent.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said the London market clung to hopes of a fresh vote in the U.S. later in the week.

“This deal is not dead in the water and there are hopes that when Congress reconvenes it could still go through,” he told the Press Association.

In Russia stock exchanges suspended trading soon after markets opened Tuesday after shares on the main index plunged more than 8 percent.

Both exchanges — the main RTS index and the MICEX currency exchange — reopened later in the day, the indices said.

The Bank of Japan on Tuesday morning pumped another 2 trillion yen ($19.23 billion) into money markets, amid an effort among the world’s central banks to calm worries about a global financial crisis, The Associated Press reported.

The Bank of Japan in recent weeks has been injecting trillions of yen by the day to add liquidity into the system. The latest brings the bank’s infusion to a total of 20 trillion yen ($192.3 billion), AP reported.

And the Irish government said it would guarantee all deposits in Irish banks following a massive drop in the value of Irish bank stocks on Monday.

The Belgian government announced Tuesday morning a €6.4 billion ($9.2 billion) plan to rescue faltering bank Dexia, which ran up huge losses in its U.S. operations. Shares in the French-Belgian bank fell nearly 30 percent Monday, triggering emergency talks with government officials.

The latest market turmoil around the world started after U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Monday voted against the biggest proposed government intervention in the U.S. economy since the Great Depression of 1929.

The bailout proposal would have granted the Treasury secretary authority to buy up toxic mortgage-related assets in troubled banks in hopes of easing the flow of credit and reviving the moribund housing market.

Government officials, Treasury chiefs and political leaders from both sides of the political divide thought they had agreed Sunday on the details of the $700 billion rescue plan.

Republicans and Democrats blamed each other when the plan was rejected Monday in the House of Representatives by 228 to 205 votes. And as it became apparent the vote was lost, the Dow Jones plunged.

Monday’s plummet wiped out $1.2 trillion in market value, the first post-$1 trillion day ever, according to a drop in the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000, the broadest measure of the stock market. However the 7 percent decline does not rank among the top 10 percentage declines.

Even if it eventually passes, the bailout is seen as the beginnning of a long process at cleaning up the bad debt mess. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he would continue to work with congressional leaders to draft a new plan that will be passed.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Historic ship blaze blamed on vacuum cleaner

LONDON, England (CNN) — An industrial vacuum cleaner left switched on inside the historic Cutty Sark ship was the most likely cause of the fire last year that gutted the 19th-century tea clipper, police said Tuesday.

The blaze gutted the historic vessel, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.

The blaze gutted the historic vessel, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

The vacuum cleaner was being used to remove waste from the vessel as it underwent an extensive three-year $50-million restoration project. Police said their investigation showed the vacuum had inadvertently been left running for 48 hours before the fire broke out.

In their report, issued Tuesday, police said the fire started accidentally and there was no evidence the fire was caused by arson.

The fire began before dawn on Monday, May 21, 2007 and took more than 40 firefighters several hours to extinguish. It reduced the Cutty Sark, a popular London attraction, to a skeleton.

The clipper — a very fast multi-masted sailing ship used for transporting high-value goods such as tea and wool — was once regarded as the pinnacle of merchant sail vessel development.

Investigators on Tuesday detailed a series of fire safety problems at the Cutty Sark site that they said increased the possibility of fire. Staff failed to follow a fire safety plan that called for regular fire alarm checks and a daily inspection with a fire marshal, police said.

“We believe that lack of this fire check on Friday, 18th of May, is a significant factor in the fire,” said Dave Garwood, the lead investigator in the case for London’s Metropolitan Police. “It was a missed opportunity to prevent the fire, in our view.”

The fire safety plan stipulated that two guards were to be on duty at the ship overnight, with hourly patrols of the interior until their shift ended at 7 a.m., police said. But the guards on duty that night, Garwood said, weren’t doing their jobs.

“We discovered that they had falsified their occurrence book by prewriting entries up unto and including 7 a.m. on the 21st of May, 2007, with the entry booked, ‘Off duty, all is in order,'” Garwood said. “The page bearing this entry was then torn from the book once the fire had clearly started and a clumsy attempt was made to hide it in the wastebin.

“It appears that one of the guards had intended to leave at 5 a.m.,” Garwood said. “It is not unfair to conclude that the fire could have been detected earlier had they patrolled correctly.”

Physical evidence and surveillance camera footage show the fire started at the rear of the ship’s lower deck, police said, where the vacuum was among several items of electrical equipment being used during restoration.

Fire investigator Nick Carey of the London Fire Brigade said witnesses reported previous problems with the vacuum. It had overheated in the past, the witnesses said, and had already been sent to the supplier once for repair.

A week before the fire, an employee discovered the vacuum had been left running overnight, Carey said. Witnesses said other equipment had also been left plugged in in the past.

Officials with the Cutty Sark Trust, which is in charge of the restoration, did not respond to details in the report but thanked the police and fire services for conducting the investigation.

“It could have been so much worse,” said Richard Doughty, chief executive of the trust. “We came very close to losing the ship altogether.”

He said only a small percentage of the ship’s original fabric was lost. Restoration work will continue, he said, even though the fire delayed completion by about two years to the summer of 2010.

“The overall cost, because of the extensive cleanup, redesign, and the need for replacement materials, has increased substantially,” Doughty said. “The fire added approximately £10 million ($18.1 million) to the project costs, but we now need in excess of £3 million ($5.4 million) to complete the final presentation of the ship.”

The Cutty Sark had been on display since the 1950s. More than 15 million people had visited the ship in its dry dock at Greenwich, a World Heritage Site on the southern bank of the River Thames.

The vessel rose to prominence after leaving London on its first voyage February 16, 1870, and sailing around Cape Hope to Shanghai. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 17.5 knots and covering more than 360 miles a day, it outstripped most other vessels.

In 1885, the 85-meter (280 feet) ship achieved a record-breaking wind-powered voyage from Australia to England, completing the distance in 72 days. But its glory days were short-lived as steam ships quickly came to replace sail.

Doughty has called the Cutty Sark “the epitome of speed under sail.”

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment