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Monthly Archives: August 2011


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved new powers for the euro zone’s bailout fund on Wednesday, but she faces an uphill battle to convince party skeptics to back efforts to contain the crisis.

Concerned that Germany’s parliament has little control over the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), some members of Merkel’s center-right coalition are threatening to oppose boosting its powers when the Bundestag (lower house) votes on September 29.

If enough conservatives rebel and Merkel is forced to rely on opposition parties to pass the legislation, she could face pressure to dissolve parliament and call early elections, although the chances of that seem slim.

“I’ve reached the point that I just can’t support this anymore — pushing off enormous risks into the future,” said the most prominent dissident, Wolfgang Bosbach, who is normally a party loyalist with impeccable conservative credentials.


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Buying, Not Renting: Apple’s Future TV Model


You used to be able to rent a single episode of some of your favorite TV shows via iTunes, and access them for a short period for your viewing pleasure. No longer: Apple, in what might seem like a surprising move, sliced the service, which it used to tout as one of iTunes’ gems. Now you have to actually buy an episode for $1.99, though you then own it forever on any device and can watch it over and over wherever.

There’s some evidence the TV networks themselves were uneasy with the $0.99 rental price but are happier with the $1.99 purchase price (implying users weren’t watching many shows more than once–resulting in lower than expected revenues). But really this is all about the cloud, and how Apple’s future in content providing will play out. The company just updated its Apple TV code so you can stream purchased TV content directly from Apple’s server farms instead of having to download to your iPhone a show you’ve bought recently on your PC–it frees-up your storage space lets you avoid having iTunes constantly open on your home PC.

“iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows,” an Apple spokesperson told AllThingsD. That’s not to say “no one was renting” but that a small minority were. The Apple spokesman went on to say the upcoming iTunes cloud service “lets customers download and watch their past TV purchases from their iOS devices, Apple TV, Mac or PC allowing them to enjoy their programming whenever and however they choose.”

Apple’s trying to make you feel like you truly own the TV show you’ve bought, rather than merely borrowing it. Even if the acutal MP4 video file is sitting on Apple’s servers rather than in your PC, it’s flagged as something you’ve bought. It’s ownership that comes with a 21st Century bonus–whereas your DVD had to be carried with you if you were away from home and wanted to watch a favorite show, Apple now lets you access your “property” wherever you are.

This is actually Apple’s model for music and iTunes Match. The service has been in the news because it’s a way to legitimize previously-pirated tracks, as you pay Apple (and, indirectly, the music labels) to cloud-ify your music. But it’s also been mentioned this week as part of the hot debate about whether cloud iTunes will let you stream content to your devices–Apple says “no.” But it’s a technicality. From the user point of view, Apple will supply you any sort of content you like, from movies to TV shows to music, and it will pipe your previously-bought content to you via a super-slick interface when you’re mobile or accessing through a different device, behaving as if it’s a streaming service. All in the name of giving you seamless access to stuff you’ve bought.

That’s very different than the emerging business models from firms like Rhapsody or Spotify, which uses clever tech to make its music listening service seamless, but relies 100% on a rental model: If you stop subscribing, you lose access to your tracks. Netflix and Hulu’s streaming systems are effectively similar. And there’s a growing movement for renting movies through Facebook, leveraging the social network’s massive reach, and giving renters access for a short viewing window to the movies they’ve paid to see.

What Apple is doing is deliberately setting itself apart from  everyone else in the game. It wants to be the home base for TV shows you like enough to buy, rather than ones you’d merely rent. And Apple’s not totally distancing itself from the “rental” experience because the purchase price difference isn’t too much–another dollar doesn’t seem too steep, and the total price is still cheaper than a venti latte…so consumers may well think “Hhy not? I can always watch it again.” It’s possible that, sensing this market space, and sensitive to Apple’s huge reach, more and more TV show makers will pop free episodes online in the hope that an hour or so of Jersey Shore may get you addicted enough to buy the whole season. It’s just a simple click on your Apple TV’s remote to say “buy your favorites, instantly,” and then you can watch an episode or two at night, and one more via iPhone on your commute into work the next morning.

Looming large in the background here are increasily loud rumors that Apple’s going to turn its Apple TV “hobby” project into a real product, in an attempt to digitally revolutionize yet another market with a full-on Apple Television. Imagine how it’ll work: Apple’s slick UI will be slapped all over it, and an improved iTunes will be sitting behind it all, like the master control program–serving up purchase suggestions for TV shows, music and movies using Apple’s Genius system, and keeping tabs on where you are that particular episode of, say,The Wire so you can play from the same moment when you pick it up via your iPad later on. It’ll be a tight, controlled, monolithic system with a business model that Apple can easily sell to content providers.

Of course an Apple Television will also let you watch “normal” TV, but it’s likely show rental will not be part of the plan. Apple may–as it did with the cell phone industry–be trying to shake up the long-standing business model: TV providers like the idea of briefly letting you see a show when they decide, or forcing you to pay a premium to buy a DVD at a later date. But if an Apple Television sells well, Apple will be able to say “charge less, but let the user own it.” And that will definitely appeal to the digital TV watcher of 2012.

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Today’s Winners and Losers

No. Ticker % Change
1 FTWR 45.68
2 OPWV 31.29
3 STXS 16.96
4 HOLI 15.99
5 VRA 14.85
6 EEE 14.55
7 RNIN 14.04
8 AMCF 13.49
9 MITK 13.37
10 BTUI 13.11
11 GENE 12.56
12 PARD 12.44
13 ZBB 11.65
14 DHRM 11.49
15 FUEL 11.37
16 CLWR 11.11
17 SVBL 10.94
18 LPR 10.78
19 SEMG 10.63
20 TFM 10.62
21 GOK 10.44
22 TAT 10.38
23 HMPR 10.30
24 SUTR 10.09
25 MRNA 9.63
No. Ticker % Change
1 CDII -18.28
2 HRZ -15.33
3 ZLC -14.11
4 JVA -14.10
5 LTXC -13.92
6 BEAT -12.73
7 RCON -12.50
8 CPY -12.02
9 XFN -11.23
10 HEB -10.61
11 CGNX -10.60
12 ERII -10.18
13 FRAN -10.09
14 OMN -10.00
15 NQ -9.87
16 PCRX -9.12
17 GNOM -9.06
18 ASTI -8.91
19 BTX -8.86
20 MHLD -8.77
21 CWTR -8.65
22 FLOW -8.24
23 CPF -8.17
24 BLDR -8.13
25 PZN -7.86

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FUCKTARD FLASH ALERT: Boehner Asks Obama to Delays Jobs Speech Until Thursday

“As your spokesperson today said, there are considerations about the Congressional calendar that must be made prior to scheduling such an extraordinary event.”

Because the fucktards in Congress are on vacay until 6:30 on Wednesday, Boehner furthered, “it is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks.”

“As such, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership and membership of both the House and Senate, I respectfully invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in the House Chamber, at a time that works best for your schedule,” Boehner said.


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D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan has accused a District HIV/AIDS service provider of spending nearly $330,000 in federal tax dollars to open a strip club.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Nathan said Miracle Hands Inc. promised the city it was using the cash to renovate a warehouse in Northeast for use as a job training center for residents with HIV/AIDS. Instead, the warehouse was turned into the Stadium Club, a strip club that continues to operate, the suit says. Miracle Hands shares an address with the club, according to the company’s website. Nathan asked in the suit that the city be awarded at least $988,959 in damages.

D.C. Councilman David Catania requested in a February letter to Nathan that the attorney general open an investigation into Miracle Hands and its relationship with Stadium Club.

“I am pleased that the attorney general has decided to take action regarding this egregious impropriety,” Catania said Tuesday.

Attempts to reach Miracle Hands owner Cornell Jones were not successful. Jones is a self-described former D.C. drug kingpin with convictions for narcotics distribution on his record.

In 2009, federal authorities told the Washington Post they had started an investigation into how the money was spent. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

The grants for the renovations to the warehouse at 2127 Queens Chapel Road NE, were first given to Miracle Hands in 2006 by the District’s HIV/AIDS administration. Earlier this month, an inspector general’s audit of the administration found that during the four-year tenure of the agency’s former director, Debra Rowe, little attention was paid to how dollars were spent by service providers, even as the city’s HIV/AIDS rate reached epidemic levels.

When Rowe was fired in 2008, she went to work for Miracle Hands as its executive director. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In November 2006, nearly one year after Miracle Hands first won its grant to renovate the Queens Chapel Road warehouse, a city grant monitor visited the site and found little work had been done toward meeting a March 2007 deadline, the lawsuit said.

The monitor advised Rowe that Miracle Hands’ funding should be cut. But Rowe, called a “close friend of Jones” in the lawsuit, reportedly said the project was on pace and kept the funding in place. By then, though, Jones had already transferred a liquor license from a strip club he owned in Southeast to the Miracle Hands warehouse in Northeast, the suit said.

In March 2007, “the renovation work … was at best, many months from completion,” the lawsuit said. In April 2007, HIV/AIDS administration gave Miracle Hands an additional $139,000 to continue the renovations, adding another year to the nonprofit’s deadline.

In the middle of that year, Miracle Hands informed the administration that it had decided to open the job training center at a different warehouse and it would be applying the funds to that project, the suit said. A job center never opened at either location. Stadium Club opened in early 2010.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/08/ag-hivaids-group-used-dc-dollars-open-strip-club#ixzz1WdCys3mv


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S&P rates subprime mortgages higher than U.S. government

Look I definitely am skeptical about the quality of U.S. paper, whatever the bond market thinks. But this just continues to beckon the question: why is anyone, most especially regulated mutual funds, supposed to take what the agencies have to say seriously?

Read here:

Standard & Poor’s is giving a higher rating to securities backed by subprime home loans, the same type of investments that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, than it assigns the U.S. government.

S&P is poised to provide AAA grades to 59 percent of Springleaf Mortgage Loan Trust 2011-1, a set of bonds tied to $497 million lent to homeowners with below-average credit scores and almost no equity in their properties. New York-based S&P stripped the U.S. of its top rank on Aug. 5, saying Washington politics were making the country less creditworthy.

Treasuries gained about 1.95 percent and U.S. borrowing costs have fallen to record lows as investors repudiated the downgrade, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. S&P has awarded AAAs to more than $36 billion of securities in the U.S. this year that were created by bankers who continue to gather thousands of loans, bundle them into bonds of varying risk and pay ratings firms a fee to assign credit rankings.

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Portugal plans deep cuts to government budget

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s government plans “unprecedented” spending cuts next year to meet debt-reduction targets agreed in return for a euro78 billion ($112.7 billion) bailout, the country’s finance minister said Wednesday.

Portugal has to abide by debt targets to qualify for bailout loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund, which are conducting quarterly reviews of the country’s progress before disbursing the money in portions.

The rescue package spared debt-heavy Portugal from bankruptcy, and aimed to ease Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, but Lisbon has struggled to keep its fiscal recovery plan on track.

It previously announced it is levying a one-off tax, taking 50 percent of workers’ Christmas bonus, to help reach the 5.9 percent target for the budget deficit this year. The bonus is equivalent to a month’s pay.

“In 2012 we will have to make an extra effort to abide by our commitments,” Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar told reporters.

The plans will bring more pain for families and companies already finding it hard to make ends meet amid tax hikes and welfare cuts. Unions have vowed to fight the measures and plan demonstrations Oct. 1, though Portugal so far has not witnessed any of the street violence seen in Greece, which also took a bailout.

Gaspar said the number of civil servants will be reduced by 2 percent annually over the next three years while civil service salaries will be frozen over the same period.

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First Bolsheviks Stormed Winter Palace, Now They Raid BP’s Moscow Office

Bailiffs raided BP’s Moscow offices Wednesday, causing new problems for the British oil company a day after ExxonMobil signed a deal that ended BP’s hopes of developing Arctic offshore oil fields with Russia.

The morning raid, in which about 15 black-clad special force officers entered the central Moscow headquarters of BP Trading and sealed it off, was part of a legal battle being waged over BP’s failed attempt to partner Russia in the Arctic.

A spokeswoman for the bailiffs said they were looking for documents for use in a case in which minority shareholders in TNK-BP, BP’s Russian joint venture, have sued BP over its failed Arctic alliance with state-owned Rosneft.

“We were ordered to leave the office and work from home,” a BP source said, adding that only senior company officials and lawyers remained in the building with the bailiffs.

BP said it was cooperating with the Russian authorities.

The raid highlighted BP’s problems in Russia since it fell out with the authorities this year over adeal with Rosneft that would have allowed it to explore the same fields that U.S. rival ExxonMobil will now have the chance to develop.

Yevgeny Minchenko, director of Russia’s International Institute for Political Expertise, said BP was now vulnerable and short of allies in Russia.

“I don’t think that it was the Kremlin or the government that sent the order to the bailiffs (to carry out the raid). It’s just that the people who carry out the decision understand that the authorities won’t stand up for BP,” he said.

But political analyst Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said the raid did not mean BP would now face frequent harassment from the police or legal authorities.

“Although there is a coincidence in timings between what is happening with BP and the announcement of the Rosneft-Exxon deal, I wouldn’t say the search is a sign that BP will be pressured by the law-enforcement bodies,” he said.


Tuesday’s pact gives Exxon access to potentially substantial reserves in Russia, the world’s top oil producer.

Rosneft gained by being able to bring in one of the few companies capable of drilling in the harsh, deep waters of the Arctic.

The deal was a big blow for BP, ending its chances of salvaging its own agreement with Rosneft. That agreement collapsed shortly after it was announced in January following objections from TNK-BP shareholders who also prevented a parallel $16 billion share swap deal between BP and Rosneft going ahead.

Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), the consortium that represents the shareholders, objected to the BP-Rosneft pact, saying that BP was obliged to pursue all its Russian ventures through TNK-BP.

They say they suffered big losses when the venture collapsed.

Tuesday’s raid was not the first time BP has been subjected to such treatment in Russia.

Security forces searched BP’s headquarters in Moscow in 2008 during a corporate standoff at TNK-BP which resulted in TNK-BP boss Bob Dudley, who is now CEO of BP, being forced out of Russia.


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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is blocking AT&T’s $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA, saying the acquisition of the No. 4 wireless carrier in the country by No. 2 AT&T would reduce competition and raise prices.

The deal has faced tough opposition from consumer groups and No. 3 carrier Sprint since it was announced in March.


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