Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4425 on: Jun 29th, 2011, 08:08am »
All Three Evening Newscasts See Ratings Increases in Second Quarter
It is the first time in a decade that broadcasts on NBC, ABC and CBS have collectively added viewers.
6/29/2011 by Marisa Guthrie
The evening newscasts have been fighting a war of attrition for years. But a particularly newsy second quarter with the Royal Wedding, the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan and the killing of Osama bin Laden has given the broadcasts a ratings shot in the arm.
All three newscasts added viewers in the second quarter; the first time they have seen a collective year-over-year increase in more than ten years.
The NBC Nightly News had its best quarter since second quarter 2006. ABC World News drew its biggest audience in three years (since second quarter 2008). And the CBS Evening News, which had Katie Couric pass the baton to Scott Pelley earlier this month, was up 8 percent compared to second quarter 2010 averaging 5.6 million viewers for the just ended quarter. Additionally, in Pelley’s first three weeks in the anchor chair, the broadcast has added more than a quarter of a million viewers.
Nightly News with Brian Williams continued as the top-rated newscast averaging 8.5 million viewers for the quarter up 12 percent year-over-year. World New with Diane Sawyer averaged 7.6 million viewers with 2.0 million in news’ target demographic of 25-54 year olds. Those mark gains of 9 percent in total viewers and three percent in the demo.
Collectively, the three evening news broadcasts averaged more than 21 million viewers a week during the quarter.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4428 on: Jun 29th, 2011, 3:26pm »
A Poem Worth Reading
He was getting old and paunchy And his hair was falling fast, And he sat around the Legion, Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in And the deeds that he had done, In his exploits with his buddies; They were heroes, every one.
And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors His tales became a joke, All his buddies listened quietly For they knew where of he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer, For ol' Joe has passed away, And the world's a little poorer For a Soldier died today.
He won't be mourned by many, Just his children and his wife. For he lived an ordinary, Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family, Going quietly on his way; And the world won't note his passing, 'Tho a Soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, Their bodies lie in state, While thousands note their passing, And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories From the time that they were young But the passing of a Soldier Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution To the welfare of our land, Some jerk who breaks his promise And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow Who in times of war and strife, Goes off to serve his country And offers up his life?
The politician's stipend And the style in which he lives, Are often disproportionate, To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Soldier, Who offered up his all, Is paid off with a medal And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians With their compromise and ploys, Who won for us the freedom That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, With your enemies at hand, Would you really want some cop-out, With his ever waffling stand?
Or would you want a Soldier-- His home, his country, his kin, Just a common Soldier, Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Soldier, And his ranks are growing thin, But his presence should remind us We may need his likes again. For when countries are in conflict, We find the Soldier's part Is to clean up all the troubles That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor While he's here to hear the praise, Then at least let's give him homage At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline In the paper that might say: "OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING, A SOLDIER DIED TODAY."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4433 on: Jun 30th, 2011, 07:46am »
U.S. caught China buying more debt than disclosed
By Emily Flitter NEW YORK | Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:44am EDT
The rules of Treasury auctions may not sound like the stuff of high-stakes diplomacy. But a little-noticed 2009 change in how Washington sells its debt sheds new light on America's delicate balancing act with its biggest creditor, China.
When the Treasury Department revamped its rules for participating in government bond auctions two years ago, officials said they were simply modernizing outdated procedures.
The real reason for the change, a Reuters investigation has found, was more serious: The Treasury had concluded that China was buying much more in U.S. government debt than was being disclosed, potentially in violation of auction rules, and it wanted to bring those purchases into the open - all without ruffling feathers in Beijing.
Treasury officials then worked to keep the reason for the auction-rule change quiet, with the acting assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets instructing subordinates to not mention any specific creditor's role in the matter, according to an email seen by Reuters. Inquiries made at the time by the main trade organization for Treasury dealers elicited the explanation that the change was a "technical modernization," according to a document seen by Reuters. There was no mention of China.
The incident calls into question just how clear a handle the Treasury has had on who is buying U.S. debt. Chinese entities hold at least $1.115 trillion in U.S. government debt, and are thought to account for roughly 26 percent of the paper issued by Washington, according to U.S. government data released on June 15.
China's vast Treasury holdings are both a lifeline and a vulnerability for Washington - if the Chinese sold their Treasuries all at once, it could undermine U.S. markets and the economy by driving interest rates higher very quickly. Scenarios of this sort have been discussed in Washington defense-policy circles for at least a year now. Not knowing the full extent of these holdings would make it even more difficult to assess China's political leverage over U.S. finances.
The Treasury has long said that it has a diversified base of investors and isn't overly reliant on any single buyer to digest new U.S. Treasury issuance. Evidence that China was actually buying more than disclosed would cast doubt on those assurances.
THE 'GUARANTEED' BID
The United States sells its debt to investors through auctions that are held weekly - sometimes four times per week - by the Treasury's Bureau of the Public Debt, in batches ranging from $13 billion to $35 billion at a time. Investors can buy the bonds directly from the Treasury at auctions, or through any of the 20 elite "primary dealers," Wall Street firms authorized to bid on behalf of customers. The Treasury limits the amount any single bidder can purchase to 35 percent of a given auction. Anyone who bought more than 35 percent of a particular batch of Treasury securities at a single auction would have a controlling stake in that batch.
By the beginning of 2009, China, which uses multiple firms to buy U.S. Treasuries, was regularly doing deals that had the effect of hiding billions of dollars of purchases in each auction, according to interviews with traders at primary dealers and documents viewed by Reuters.
Using a method of purchases known as "guaranteed bidding," China was forging gentleman's agreements with primary dealers to purchase a certain amount of Treasury securities on offer at an auction without being reported as bidders in that auction, according to the people interviewed. After setting the amount of Treasuries the guaranteed bidder wanted to buy, the dealer would then buy that amount in the auction, technically on its own behalf.
To the government officials observing the auction, it would look like the dealer was buying the securities with the intent of adding them to its own balance sheet. This technicality does not preclude selling them later in the secondary market, but does influence the outcome of bidding in the auction, by obscuring the ultimate buyer. In fact, the dealer would simply pass the bonds on immediately to the anonymous, guaranteed bidder at the auction price, as soon as they were issued, according to the people interviewed.
The practice kept the true size of China's holdings hidden from U.S. view, according to Treasury dealers interviewed, and may have allowed China at times to buy controlling stakes - more than 35 percent - in some of the securities the Treasury issued.
The Treasury department, too, came to believe that China was breaching the 35 percent limit, according to internal documents viewed by Reuters, though the documents do not indicate whether the Treasury was able to verify definitively that this occurred.
Guaranteed bidding wasn't illegal, but breaking the 35 percent limit would be. The Uniform Offering Circular - a document governing Treasury auctions - says anyone who wins more than 35 percent of a single auction will have his purchase reduced to the 35 percent limit. Those caught breaking auction rules can be barred from future auctions, and may be referred to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Justice Department.
The Treasury Department generally does not comment on specific investors but a source in the department said China was not the only Treasury buyer striking guaranteed bidding deals.
People familiar with the matter named Russia as being among the guaranteed bidders. But Russia's total Treasury holdings, while significant, represent 2.8 percent of outstanding U.S. debt, versus one-fourth for China's.
CHANGING THE RULE
Traders at primary dealers did not have the same diplomatic concerns about the level of Chinese buying. But they did have reasons to dislike guaranteed bidding, and they began clamoring for a change. One trader said in an interview he first brought the issue to the attention of Treasury officials in 2007.
Some primary dealers began expressing concern that the deals were opaque in a way akin to the Salomon Brothers Treasury trading scandal in the early 1990s. In that case, traders from the securities firm submitted false bids under other bidders' names in Treasury auctions in order to more closely control the results, and their bids altered the auction prices. The idea that unseen bidders were again influencing auction prices raised similar concerns among traders.
There were also commercial concerns: Dealers say that knowing that the practice was going on at other firms made them less confident they could see and understand overall patterns of buying in the Treasury market. Such visibility can be one of the greatest benefits of being a primary dealer, since the service itself often doesn't pull in big profits directly.
Some traders at primary dealers say they simply refused to do the deals and ended up turning away customers, including China. That irked sales colleagues who were promising clients guaranteed bidding deals.
At the beginning of 2009, Treasury officials began discussing the issue of guaranteed bidders, with a focus on China's behavior, internal documents seen by Reuters show. The culmination of their efforts was a change to the Uniform Offering Circular published on June 1, 2009 that eliminated the provision allowing guaranteed bidding.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was in Beijing that day meeting with Chinese government officials on his first formal visit to China since taking up his cabinet post. There is no evidence he discussed the rule change with Chinese officials there.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department said: "We regularly review and update our auction rules to ensure the continued integrity of the auction process. The auction change made in June 2009 eliminated some ambiguity in auction rules and increased transparency, which ultimately benefits taxpayers and investors."
The rule change had an immediate impact.
In the first auctions conducted after guaranteed bidding was banned, a key metric rose sharply: the percentage of so-called indirect bidders, those who placed their auction bids through primary dealers. Indirect bidders are seen as a proxy measure for foreign central bank buying, because foreign central banks most often bid through primary dealers. With the elimination of the guaranteed bidder provision, far more buyers were put in this class in reports to the Treasury Department.
The seven-year U.S. Treasury note, which was sold in sizes of between $22 billion and $28 billion once a month from February 2009 to September 2009, had an average indirect bid percentage of 33 percent from February through May. But from June to September the average indirect bid rose to 63 percent.
Shortly after the Treasury revised the auction rules, U.S. officials learned from dealers that some bidders were seeking to continue using guaranteed bids. According to a Treasury document, a large client asked one primary dealer whether the Treasury might make an exception to the new rule for them. Neither the client nor the dealer were named.
Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, RBS Securities and UBS all received calls from clients asking for secret bid arrangements immediately after the rule change went into effect, according to the internal Treasury document, a summary of inquiries received seeking guidance from dealers after the rule change.
Deutsche Bank, according to the document, said their client canceled a bidding deal. Goldman told Treasury that a large client would be going to other dealers who in the past had done the deals after Goldman turned them away, the document said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4437 on: Jun 30th, 2011, 11:41am »
MSNBC suspends journalist for using foul language about Obama By Daniel Strauss - 06/30/11 10:44 AM ET
MSNBC suspended journalist Mark Halperin after Halperin used strongly worded language to criticize President Obama's performance at Wednesday's press conference.
"Mark Halperin's comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers," the network said in a statement. "We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst."
In the MSNBC statement Halperin repeated his earlier apology and agreed with the channel's decision.
"I completely agree with everything in MSNBC’s statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate," he said. "Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it."
During a spot on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, Halperin, the co-author of "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime" was asked by host Joe Scarborough what he thought of the president's strong criticism of Republicans during Wednesday's press conference.
"I thought he was kind of a d*ck yesterday," Halperin said.
Soon after, while still on the air, Halperin apologized.
A few hours later MSNBC announced that Halperin had been "suspended indefinitely."
Halperin's comments and the fallout came a day after Obama castigated Republicans for refusing to agree to increase taxes on the wealthy, as well as rebutting arguments by some Republicans that the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling was not real.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4438 on: Jun 30th, 2011, 11:47am »
Making ends meet in a fragile Egypt
A knife sharpener and his son walk the streets looking for scarce work in a nation where the economy has yet to recover from the revolution.
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times June 30, 2011 Reporting from Cairo
He walks the streets of the rich with a grindstone on his back and his son at his side.
"Knife sharpening!" Ahmed Hamid yells.
"Knife sharpening!" echoes 5-year-old Yusef.
They stroll through sunlight and shade, past landscapers and junkmen, down lanes where houses peek through flowered trees and palms in dense gardens of privilege. The police watch Hamid, but don't bother him for bribes anymore, not since the revolution, which changed everything, not all for the better.
Hamid's Egypt is fretful and fragile. The economy has yet to recover from the throes of revolt. Labor strikes ring across cities and villages; tourists are scant; prices are rising. Hamid calls out in his musical voice, but fewer knives are sent his way and his grindstone is being used longer than it should.
"Some days are good," he says, "but many days I don't have enough money to go home with. Business is down everywhere. It's not just me. There's no savings. I'm lucky if I go to sleep with money for the next day's breakfast."
Yusef listens but doesn't understand; he wonders whether Hamid will buy him juice. He gets a juice box for the bus ride home if his father earns more than the usual $5, $6 or $7 a day. They walk a bit and stop in the shade. A man brings them a dull knife and two scissors.
Hamid slips the grindstone off his back. He unfolds its stand, which looks like an easel fastened to a bicycle rim and wooden pedal. He pumps the pedal, the rim spins and a battered leather strap held together by twisted wires rotates the spindle and brings the grindstone to life. The knife flashes in his hands, which are softer and smaller than you might imagine, and hot steel shines along the blade's edge.
Yusef stands at Hamid's elbow. Before they learn too much, boys want to be their fathers. Hamid became his father. Grew up like Yusef, following his old man through the alleys of his hometown, Beni Suef, until the day he lifted his own grindstone and went his way. He married a village girl at 16 and eight years ago moved closer to Cairo and its many knives and promises of opportunity.
But in Egypt, even this new Egypt with its slogans and yearnings, promises of better things are sweetest when they're imagined.
Hamid is 22 and has three children. In good times and bad he probably will not change from what he is: a knife sharpener. This is the way of things for a young man from the provinces, but sometimes he wonders, especially in this neighborhood, where water flows endlessly through hoses to keep the grass green and the desert at bay, if there were secrets to life that have been kept from him.
Hamid watched the revolution on TV; he still can't believe what happened that February day when Hosni Mubarak resigned and flew away from the palace. They danced and sang in the streets in Hamid's district of Helwan. Car horns blared, flags waved and people wept. Hamid hoped that even the fortunes of a man like him would rise and that all of Egypt's stolen and locked-away riches would be returned to the people.
"Since I was born this was the life and the country I knew," he says. "Then it changed."
But not in the ways he expected. Weeks later Hamid sold the TV to feed his family. Nights now seem awfully long. In the mornings, Hamid and Yusef catch a bus past Tora Prison, where Mubarak's sons await corruption trials, hopping off at a traffic circle near women with chauffeurs and a market that sells a jar of peanut butter for more than Hamid makes in a day.
"I can't read or write but I'd like Yusef to go to school so he doesn't have to walk around carrying a grindstone. They told me it would cost 300 pounds [about $52] to send him to school. I can't afford that. I hope he doesn't grow up to hate me or to be mad at his dad for not giving him more than this."
Hamid's customer waits. Scissors slide across the stone, back and forth, back and forth, like the flapping of a bird's wings.
A big shirt billows around Hamid's thin frame; a lavender scarf drapes at the shoulders. When it gets hot, he wraps the scarf around his head. Yusef pretends not to be bored, watching passing cars and stray dogs. Hamid speaks of folded away ambitions. His biggest dream wasn't even that grand: He wanted to buy a car and hire himself out as a driver, to race along the corniche and out beyond the ring road. He never got a license and, besides, a man who sells the family TV can't afford a car.
"If we ever get justice, Egypt could be the best country to live in," Hamid says. "Maybe that's coming. Before the revolution, the police took me to jail four times because I didn't have money to pay them off. Now, the police just pass and say hi to me."
Hamid pumps the pedal. A breeze lifts off the grindstone
"I tried other jobs. Waiter. Grocery clerk. Worked in shops. The money was never as good as this. I'm my own boss and I like walking."
Elections for a new parliament are to be held in September. After that, a new president will be voted in, a strange phrase in country that has known only one leader for the last 30 years. Hamid is pleased with all this change, although, without a TV and unable to read a newspaper, he doesn't quite feel a citizen of the new Egypt he should be. "I won't vote. I'm not educated and wouldn't trust my own choice," he says.
The knife is sharpened; the scissors done. Hamid stuffs his pay in a pocket. He folds his stand and hoists the grindstone over his shoulders. He straightens himself, takes Yusef's hand and balances the weight of the grindstone by leaning slightly forward as if walking into a stiff wind. They move in father-and-son rhythm, Yusef's arm swinging at his side. They turn down a road of orange and white flowers and long stretches of shade.
The afternoon is hot. It will be hours before Yusef knows whether they have earned enough money to buy a juice box for the bus ride home.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4439 on: Jun 30th, 2011, 11:49am »
Wired Threat Level
Judge: Google Can Be Sued for Wiretapping in Street View Debacle By David Kravets June 30, 2011 | 11:09 am Categories: The Courts, privacy
A federal judge has found that Google can be held liable for damages for secretly intercepting data on open Wi-Fi routers, dealing the search giant a serious legal setback for activity it has engaged in across the United States for years.
That ruling, the first of its kind, was handed down late Wednesday by a Silicon Valley federal judge presiding over nearly a dozen combined lawsuits seeking damages from Google for eavesdropping on open Wi-Fi networks from its “Street View” mapping cars. The vehicles, which strolled through neighborhoods across the country, had been equipped with Wi-Fi–sniffing hardware to record the names and MAC addresses of routers to improve Google location-specific services.
“The court finds that plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to state a claim for violation of the Wiretap Act. In particular, plaintiffs plead that defendant intentionally created, approved of, and installed specially-designed software and technology into its Google Street View vehicles and used this technology to intercept plaintiffs’ data packets, arguably electronic communications, from plaintiffs’ personal Wi-Fi networks,” U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled. “Further, plaintiffs plead that the data packets were transmitted over Wi-Fi networks that were configured such that the packets were not readable by the general public without the use of sophisticated packet sniffer technology.” (.pdf)
Judge Ware’s ruling is important not only to Google, but to the millions who use open, unencrypted Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, restaurants or any other business trying to attract customers. The decision comes on the heels of a Federal Trade Commission antitrust probe into Google’s search and ad businesses, and comes as attorneys general from several states are settling an inquiry into the Wi-Fi affair.
Google, in seeking a dismissal, claimed it is was not illegal to intercept data from unencrypted, or non-password-protected Wi-Fi networks. Google said open Wi-Fi networks are akin to “radio communications” like AM/FM radio, citizens’ band and police and fire bands, and are “readily accessible” to the general public — a position rejected by Ware.
Google said it didn’t realize it was sniffing packets of data on unsecured Wi-Fi networks in about a dozen countries over a three-year period until German privacy authorities began questioning what data Google’s Street View cars were collecting. Google, along with other companies, use databases of Wi-Fi networks and their locations to augment or replace GPS when attempting to figure out the location of a computer or mobile device. Google told the public the affair was a “mistake.”
According to the Wiretap Act, it’s not considered wiretapping “to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public,” according to the text of the federal wiretapping statute.
But Judge Ware said that interpretation did not apply to open, unencrypted Wi-F networks and instead applied only to “traditional radio services.”
“The matter before the court presents a case of first impression as to whether the Wiretap Act imposes liability upon a defendant who allegedly intentionally intercepts data packets from a wireless home network,” Ware ruled.