Friday, July 31, 2009

Will Google Wave be ready for prime time in two months?

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Mark Milian

Google presented a private demonstration of its much-anticipated collaboration tool, Google Wave, this morning. Even after watching all of the videos and talking to the developers, the first thing that struck us is how rough it is around the edges.

To be fair, Google calls it a developer preview, meaning it's not meant for the prying eyes of the average user or critical journalist. Yet, the Times got an invitation anyway.

First, the good news: Wave has a lot going for it. Its function for letting users watch as you type each letter is punchy, just like it was in the demo, and works surprisingly well. At first, it feels sort of strange exposing your own typing habits and witnessing others'. But it really speeds conversations along.

Brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, the engineers behind Wave (and Google Maps) who walked us through the demo over the phone, say you'll eventually be able to turn off live editing. But that function probably won't be ready for the September release, Lars said.

Will Google Wave be ready for prime time in two months? | Technology | Los Angeles Times

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Google Summons Android for Smart-Phone Attack

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by Rich Jaroslovsky

Between now and the end of the year, a wave of new wireless smart phones running Android, Google Inc.’s much-discussed but so far little-seen operating system, will crash onto U.S. shores from makers such as Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Corp.

The first of these, the inelegantly named “myTouch 3G With Google,” goes on sale from Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile unit next week. I’ve been trying the myTouch for a week or so, and while there are some nice touches, it isn’t going to make you throw aside your iPhone, BlackBerry or Palm Pre and run down to the neighborhood electronics store to grab one.

Then again, that doesn’t seem to be Google’s game here: By making Android an open platform available to handset makers at no cost, it aims to establish the operating system as a de facto standard for the mass of wireless users intrigued by the new generation of smart phones but who haven’t yet made the leap.

Google Summons Android for Smart-Phone Attack: Rich Jaroslovsky -

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stop Subsidizing The Street

Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales

We have experienced the destruction wrought by the financial crisis. Now it's time to focus on the opportunities it brings. The first place to look is the site of the greatest destruction: the banking sector. While finance will remain a pillar of a well-functioning economy, it's unlikely that banking will survive for long in its current form. The current banking model is broken. Citigroup ( C - news - people ) has been on the verge of failing in three of the last four downturns: This is hardly a viable business model.

Even more important is that Americans are rapidly losing trust in their banks. A survey we conducted at the end of March showed that only 29% of Americans trusted banks, down from 34% three months earlier and 42% a year ago. Twenty percent of respondents felt that a bank had cheated or misled them in the previous 12 months, while 10% had withdrawn their FDIC-insured deposits and squirreled away the cash. The word "credit," speaking of telling etymologies, comes from the Latin credere, which means "to trust." Trust is essential in banking, and it's unlikely that banks can restore it. It's always difficult to regain trust; it's easier to start anew.

Stop Subsidizing The Street -

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In Search, Microsoft’s Gain Is Not Google’s Loss

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By Saul Hansell

The Microsoft-Yahoo deal announced Wednesday is likely to help Microsoft much more than it will hurt Google. And for Yahoo, it’s a mixed blessing.

The single biggest effect of the deal is that the now-separate auctions to place ads on the search engines of Microsoft and Yahoo will be combined. Since the two companies don’t have all the same customers, the total number of bidders will increase right away. And more bidders will be attracted to a marketplace that now has 30 percent of the search-ad inventory.

More bidders for the same supply should lead to higher prices. That means more money for Microsoft and also for Yahoo, which will get 88 percent of the revenue from searches on its sites.

But that doesn’t mean that Google will lose anything. It still has the largest marketplace, the best advertising technology and thus the highest revenue per search. Even if Microsoft earns more, the bids on Google won’t necessarily go down.

In Search, Microsoft’s Gain Is Not Google’s Loss - Bits Blog -

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TweetDeck updates - Creating an application with thought

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Ed Richardson

TweetDeck, like a few of the other social media enablers (StumbleUpon noticeably) seems to have been going through a spate of updates and releases recently.

They had a big upgrade a few months back that included the Facebook integration, but I've actually found the most recent ones more useful in terms of additional functionality.

The most useful of the recent updates has been the creation of a TweetDeck account system that facilitates the syncing of TweetDeck groups wherever you use the application.

I'm a fan of TweetDeck's groups, they improve the functionality of Twitter as an application for me significantly. Something that I'd like all applications to do, facilitate the existing service offering and improve from that base.

Digital Signals: TweetDeck updates - Creating an application with thought

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Attention Shifts Back to the Foreclosure Crisis

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By James Kwak

The recent financial crisis began at least in part as a housing crisis. The toxic assets that initially threatened to bring down the global financial system were largely based on subprime residential mortgages; as borrowers began defaulting on those mortgages, whole classes of complex securities began plummeting in value.

The other side of banks losing money on their risky investments, of course, is homeowners losing their houses through foreclosure. In the dark months of September to February, it was common to say that the financial crisis would not end until the foreclosure crisis ended. Recently, however, as major banks have reported death-defying profits, one hears that sentiment less often; perhaps the financial sector can recover even as the foreclosure wave continues to crash down on communities across the country.

Today the Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on the foreclosure crisis, featuring a new report by the Government Accountability Office. And the evidence shows that the foreclosure crisis is very much not over, even if it is fading from the front pages.

The Hearing - Attention Shifts Back to the Foreclosure Crisis

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Top 10 Travel Gadgets Under $50

Matt Gross

In my romantic travel daydreams, I imagine myself marching off into the hills of Patagonia with nothing in my backpack but a change of underwear and a piece of flint. In reality, however, I — and most travelers today — bring gadgets. Lots of gadgets.

From iPods to noise-canceling headphones, from digital cameras to GPS trackers, they take up space, can consume electricity and distract us from actually enjoying the trip. Gadgets also tend to be expensive, small and easy-to-lose. But gadgets can be both useful and cheap — they can help even budget travelers make the most of their adventures. Here is a list of the 10 gadgets, all under $50, that I either own or have been lusting after.

Top 10 Travel Gadgets Under $50 - Frugal Traveler Blog -

Google Wave Developer Blog: Google Wave Federation Protocol and Open Source Updates

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Following Monday’s API Hackathon, we hosted Federation Day, which included 150 developers interested in learning more about Google Wave, contributing to the Google Wave Federation Protocol, and providing their own wave services. While these are still early days for the federation protocol and open source project, our vision for Wave recognizes the importance of encouraging and promoting third-party implementations, so users and businesses are able to customize and manage everything from the ground up (features, data, etc).

To kickoff Federation Day, we open sourced two components: 1) the Operational Transform (OT) code and the underlying wave model, and 2) a basic client/server prototype that uses the wave protocol. The OT code is the heart and soul of the collaborative experience in Google Wave and we plan that code will evolve into the production-quality reference implementation. The prototype is intended primarily as a simple "hello, world" implementation, to encourage experimentation using the Google Wave Federation Protocol. All of this code -- nearly 40,000 lines of Java code -- is available under the Apache 2.0 license, and we'll be open sourcing more code as wave evolves. Check out the source code and get started with the introductory documentation.

Google Wave Developer Blog: Google Wave Federation Protocol and Open Source Updates

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Financial Systemic Risk Problem Hasn't Been Fixed

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Michael Hirsh

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have reported huge profits, the Dow has made it past 9000, and Barack Obama has moved on to health care. The horror show seems to be over. But as in one of those clichéd Hollywood endings, the monster in this story isn't really dead, even if most people think he is. Lost amid all the premature self-congratulation is the fact that the deepest underlying problem that caused the financial disaster is not being solved. 

The problem: how to control and keep tabs on the market activities of giant firms that cause such a disruption to the system they can't be allowed to fail. Put simply, six months into the Obama administration there is as yet no coherent proposal for solving this issue, and serious differences remain between Tim Geithner's Treasury and Ben Bernanke's Fed. At hearings this week, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Bernanke bluntly that he didn't think anyone was up to that immense and vastly complex job. As Corker told me afterward in an interview: "Today there's a whole lot more questions about what systemic risk is and which powers a regulator should have than there are answers. And the last week has brought that to light."

Financial Systemic Risk Problem Hasn't Been Fixed | Newsweek Voices - Michael Hirsh |

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Digsby Passes 1 Million Users

Digsby Mascot

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by Jeff Hester

Today dotSyntax announced that their popular multi-network desktop application Digsby has surpassed a major milestone: 1 million users. The desktop client integrates instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and email into a single desktop client, making it an attractive choice for people connected to multiple networks and social media sites.

Digsby Passes 1 Million Users | BigBlueBall

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Secretary Geithner’s China Strategy: A Viewer’s Guide

By Simon Johnson

According to official previews (i.e., the apparent contents of background briefings given to wire services), the economic topics are China’s concerns about the value of the dollar (i.e., their investments in the U.S.) and the amount of debt that the U.S. will issue this year.

This is absurd.

China decided to accumulate over $2trn worth of reserves, most of which they are presumed to hold in dollars.  No one compelled, suggested, or was even particularly pleased by their massive current account surplus (peaked at 11% of GDP in 2007, but still projected at 9.5% of GDP for 2009).  We can argue about whether this surplus - arguably the largest on modern record for a major country – was intentional or the result of various policy accidents.

Irrespective of underlying cause, any country that runs such a current account surplus is implicitly taking a great deal of currency risk – China was in effect deciding to take the biggest ever official long-dollar position.  The idea that the US government should spend time reassuring them is somewhere between quaint and not good strategy.

Secretary Geithner’s China Strategy: A Viewer’s Guide « The Baseline Scenario

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South Africa: Now City Workers Strike As Labour Unrest Sweeps the Country

Ernest Mabuza

27 July 2009

UP TO 150000 municipal workers are set to go on strike today, the latest action in a wave of labour upheaval in key sectors of an economy already hard hit by recession.

Another strike is looming at Telkom , where the Communication Workers Union is today expected to give the company a 48-hour notice to strike. And the chemical sector strike, which began last Monday and involves 40000 workers, is set to continue this week despite an improved offer from employers on Friday. Affected companies include Afrox , Sasol and Omnia .

The latest strike action comes against the background of increasingly strident service delivery protests, with police warning at the weekend that the protests could escalate further in the run-up to the 2011 local government election.

Communities in Siyathemba, Balfour, and Thokoza in Alberton last week protested against inadequate public services such as sanitation, housing and medical care. South Africa: Now City Workers Strike As Labour Unrest Sweeps the Country (Page 1 of 1)

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When Debtors Decide to Default

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Melissa Birks is being stalked. Her cellphone keeps ringing, always from a caller marked “unknown.” She says she knows it is her credit card company wondering why she stopped making payments. Ms. Birks, who owes $28,830, has nothing to say.

Those on the front lines of the debt industry say there is a small but increasingly noticeable group of strapped consumers who, like Ms. Birks, are deciding they will simply stop paying. After loading up on debt eagerly provided by the card companies during the boom times, these people now find themselves trapped in an endless cycle where they are charged interest on interest and fees upon fees while the lenders get government bailouts.

They are upset — at the unyielding banks and often at their free-spending selves — and are pre-emptively defaulting. They could continue to pay for a while longer but instead are walking away. “You reach a point where you embrace the darkness of default,” said Adam Levin, chairman of the financial products Web site

When Debtors Decide to Default -

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turning Japanese: Japan's post-bubble policies produced a "lost decade." So why is President Obama emulating them?

Anthony Randazzo, Michael Flynn and Adam B. Summers

The scenario was eerily familiar. A long real estate bubble that had expanded extra rapidly for the previous five years suddenly burst, and asset prices came crashing back down to earth. Banks and financial institutions were left holding piles of worthless paper, and the economy soon headed south. The national government responded to the crisis by encouraging more lending and spending previously unfathomable amounts of money on public works projects in an effort to stimulate consumer spending and restart growth.

But that stimulus did not save the Japanese economy in the 1990s; far from it. The ensuing period came to be known as the Lost Decade, characterized by multiple recessions, an annual average growth rate of less than 1 percent, and a two-decade decline in stock prices and corporate profits.

The Japanese government’s easing of credit rates, instead of spurring real demand, created artificial demand. Federal loans and stimulus spending were not economically productive, and they vastly increased the nation’s debt and prolonged the economic malaise. Worse, businesses spent critical time on the sidelines, waiting for government bailouts and other centralized actions, instead of speedily consolidating their losses, clearing their balance sheets of bad investments, and reorganizing.

Turning Japanese: Japan's post-bubble policies produced a "lost decade." So why is President Obama emulating them? - Reason Magazine

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Friday, July 24, 2009

No Longer Alone, Ron Paul Fights the Fed

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By Sudeep Reddy

Rep. Ron Paul usually stands far outside the mainstream in Congress, particularly in his campaign to kill the Federal Reserve. But the Texas Republican now has the bulk of his colleagues standing alongside him in a fight against the central bank’s autonomy.

His bill to audit the Fed, just three pages long, has 274 co-sponsors — every House Republican and almost 100 Democrats — and counting. “People are upset,” he says. “People are demanding more transparency of the Fed, and they’re supporting me on this.”

The longtime Fed critic would prefer an economy without a central bank, where the market sets interest rates and troubled firms are left to sink. He blames the Fed for the past century’s financial bubbles and worries about its ability to monetize debt to finance government spending, even though Fed officials insist they’d never allow it.

Mr. Paul sees transparency as a first step in making the public more aware of the Fed’s ability to electronically print money to support the banking system. The revelations from an audit will “expose to the American people exactly how the Federal Reserve operates,” he says. “Because when they fully understand how they operate, what they do, how they manipulate monetary policy and interest rates, they will finally figure out that it’s the Fed that has caused all the mischief.”

No Longer Alone, Ron Paul Fights the Fed - Real Time Economics - WSJ

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How free is the Fed?

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THE Federal Reserve's independence is a topic of heated discussion today, based in part on a Congressional effort to audit the Fed, a measure being pushed by Ron Paul. Ron Paul doesn't much care for the Federal Reserve, or indeed for fiat money. He's a supporter of the gold standard; a curious passion in these times, given the extremely harmful effects the standard had on the global economy during the early years of the Great Depression. But Mr Paul has long given Ben Bernanke a hard time when the chairman comes to visit the Capitol. Only now it seems that he has others offering criticism alongside him.

Mr Paul is aiming for greater transparency at the Fed, as are his colleagues, but their goals are somewhat different. Most lawmakers are concerned by the outsized role the central bank has played in supporting the financial system during the crisis, offering unprecedented access to funding to banks and near-banks. These concerns are often valid—many economists would like to know how the Fed will unwind many of these programmes (here's part of the answer)—and are occasionally silly, but they're generally of a different character altogether from Mr Paul's complaints

How free is the Fed? | Free exchange |

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thunderbird 3's latest beta out now


by Seth Rosenblatt

Thunderbird 3 beta 3 is now available to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux users. The beta introduces some significant improvements to the open-source desktop client, from performance to interface.

The new beta is built on Mozilla's Gecko platform, keeping it up to date with the latest changes that affect Firefox. Mozilla also claims that there are more than 500 changes in this version, and hints at more alterations to come by stating in a press release that many of them are ''laying the groundwork for future changes''. On his blog, Chief Technical Officer of Mozilla Messaging Dan Mosedale said that many of the improvements will help support the new global database search engine. Based on these comments, more betas of Thunderbird 3 are expected.

The interface and behavioral changes in this beta are significant and should be easy to spot for longtime 'bird-watchers. The biggest is that Thunderbird now supports e-mail tabs. If you've checked out the highly unstable Shredder version of Thunderbird, or Postbox, a competitor that's based on Thunderbird's own open-source code, you've known that this feature has been due for a while.

Thunderbird 3's latest beta out now | The Download Blog -

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SEACOM is here!

The long awaited SEACOM cable is officially ready for service after eighteen months of logo.pngfeasibility studies and shareholder agreements, a nine month marine survey and a nineteen month cable construction period. 

The $600-million, 15 000 km submarine fibre-optic cable system has a design capacity of 1.28 Tbps and will effectively link Cape Town and Johannesburg with London using Neotel as a partner.

“From today, the 1.28Tbps 15,000km undersea fibre-optic cable system will provide African retail carriers with equal and open access to affordable bandwidth, removing national backhaul and international infrastructure bottlenecks, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of east and southern African economies,” SEACOM said in its official blog.

SEACOM is here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Google Wave: Is the World Ready?

Disruptive Wave

Image by curiouslee via Flickr

 by Ben Parr

On May 28th, tech circles went wild when Google (Google) revealed Google Wave (Google Wave) at its Google I/O conference. The response to and the questions about the new communication platform were staggering. Is it something I should use? Is it a game-changer? Could it kill email itself?

This type of lofty rhetoric will always raise hopes and draw scrutiny. We want to believe that new and radical technologies like Wave will change the very way we live. And while our experiments with Wave have brought us to the conclusion that this platform may indeed be a game changer, it won’t happen if there isn’t widespread adoption. So instead of asking whether Wave will kill email, the better question to ask is this: Is the world ready for Wave-based communication?

Google Wave: Is the World Ready?

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

California Budget Deal Reached By Legislators, Schwarzenegger

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, #2

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By Michael B. Marois and William Selway

California lawmakers reached an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger over how to close a $26 billion budget deficit that pushed the most-populous U.S. state to the brink of insolvency.

The deal, reached by legislative leaders after two months of frequently acrimonious negotiations, would slash spending for schools, public works and welfare programs amid the longest recession since the 1930s. If approved by the full Senate and Assembly, the agreement will also siphon money from municipalities, force companies and individuals to pay income taxes sooner and make it more difficult to receive state aid.

“We came to a basic agreement, a budget agreement,” Schwarzenegger told reporters outside his office last evening. “This is a budget that has no tax increases and this is a budget that is cutting spending and it deals with the entire $26 billion deficit.”

California Budget Deal Reached By Legislators, Schwarzenegger -

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Fiscal ruin of the Western world beckons

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By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Events have already forced Premier Brian Cowen to carry out the harshest assault yet seen on the public services of a modern Western state. He has passed two emergency budgets to stop the deficit soaring to 15pc of GDP. They have not been enough. The expert An Bord Snip report said last week that Dublin must cut deeper, or risk a disastrous debt compound trap.

A further 17,000 state jobs must go (equal to 1.25m in the US), though unemployment is already 12pc and heading for 16pc next year.

Education must be cut 8pc. Scores of rural schools must close, and 6,900 teachers must go. "The attacks outlined in this report would represent an education disaster and light a short fuse on a social timebomb", said the Teachers Union of Ireland.

Nobody is spared. Social welfare payments must be cut 5pc, child benefit by 20pc. The Garda (police), already smarting from a 7pc pay cut, may have to buy their own uniforms. Hospital visits could cost £107 a day, etc, etc.

Fiscal ruin of the Western world beckons - Telegraph

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Japan’s Smartphones Haven’t Gone Global


At first glance, Japanese cellphones are a gadget lover’s dream: ready for Internet and e-mail, they double as credit cards, boarding passes and even body-fat calculators.

Competition is fierce in the relatively small Japanese cellphone market, with eight manufacturers.

But it is hard to find anyone in Chicago or London using a Japanese phone like a Panasonic, a Sharp or an NEC. Despite years of dabbling in overseas markets, Japan’s handset makers have little presence beyond the country’s shores.

“Japan is years ahead in any innovation. But it hasn’t been able to get business out of it,” said Gerhard Fasol, president of the Tokyo-based IT consulting firm, Eurotechnology Japan.

The Japanese have a name for their problem: Galápagos syndrome.

Why Japan’s Smartphones Haven’t Gone Global -

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U.S. foreclosures defy industry, government effort

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By MarketWatch

U.S. properties in the process of foreclosure in the second quarter rose to a record quarterly level of nearly 890,000, RealtyTrac reported on Thursday.

The total is up 11% from the first quarter and 20% from the year-earlier period, the Irvine, Calif., online marketplace and research firm reported.

In June, properties in foreclosure totaled 336,000, exceeding 300,000 for a fourth month and driving the second-quarter total to the highest level since RealtyTrac began its survey in the first quarter of 2005.

As of June 30, nearly 1.53 million U.S. properties were subject to a default notice, auction-sale notice, or bank repossession, RealtyTrac reported.

Nearly 1.2% of all U.S. housing units -- 1 in 84 -- were subject to a foreclosure filing in the first half, RealtyTrac reported.

U.S. foreclosures defy industry, government effort - MarketWatch

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Dollar depreciation – how big and how soon?

May_30_Health_Care_Rally_NP (547)

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The link below explains the underlying problem that it seems has no resolution and explains in part why Obama is so desperate to get health care reform.. there is no money to pay out on Medicare.

If this happens, and it seems it must, there can only be a very big depreciation in the $... and a rise in gold.. whether the rise in gold will only mirror the loss in value of the $ or go further is the question... my guess is that it will go further, considerably further in the short run...

Other than the American taxpayer who should be very annoyed at this development, the Chinese, Japanese and Indians are not much charmed either as they hold huge $ reserves, all of which will depreciate.. if one of these countries tries to avoid the inevitable by selling treasuries first, before the $ drop, expect catastrophe.. but a much smaller holder, even a private holder could start this run at pretty much any time.

The world is holding its breath and hoping that the $ depreciation goes smoothly...


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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meet Google, Your Phone Company

Google Voice muy pronto!

Image by marcopako  via Flickr

Om Malik

Can Google be your phone company? The answer is yes. I came to that conclusion after I met with Vincent Paquet, co-founder of GrandCentral (a company acquired by Google) and now a member of the Google Voice team. Earlier today he stopped by our office to show the mobile app versions of its Google Voice service for Blackberry and Android. Google recently announced that it was going to make the Voice service widely available to users in the U.S. soon.

These mobile versions of the Google Voice service will allow folks to not only manage their Google Voice connections –- to access and playback voice mails, send and receives SMS messages and read message transcripts — but also make local and long distance calls from mobile phones. The apps are fully integrated with each phone’s contacts, so you can call via Google Voice straight from your address book. This is how it works:

Meet Google, Your Phone Company

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Gravity-Defying Dollar

Gary Dorsch

Three decades of massive trade deficits have turned the United States from the world's top lender to the world's largest debtor, dependent upon the whims of the so-called emerging nations – who are laden with huge foreign currency reserves – to finance the bailout of Wall Street oligarchs and President Barack Obama's social programs.

Foreigners own roughly half of the US government's publicly traded debt, some $3.47 trillion, representing nearly 25% of the size of the US economy, the highest level in history. If foreign lenders were to significantly reduce their purchases of US Treasury notes, without even dumping their current holdings, US long-term interest rates could zoom higher, and the US Dollar could crumble.

That would deal a double whammy to the US economy. Higher yields on Treasury debt could translate into higher mortgage borrowing rates for homebuyers, weighing on the housing market, while a weaker US Dollar could lift the price of crude oil to above $70 per barrel again, inducing a fresh "Oil Shock" to the world economy.

The Gravity-Defying Dollar | Gold News

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The Joy of Sachs


Published: July 16, 2009 image

The American economy remains in dire straits, with one worker in six unemployed or underemployed. Yet Goldman Sachs just reported record quarterly profits — and it’s preparing to hand out huge bonuses, comparable to what it was paying before the crisis. What does this contrast tell us?

First, it tells us that Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America.

Second, it shows that Wall Street’s bad habits — above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis — have not gone away.

Third, it shows that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis, and, in fact, has made another crisis more likely.

Let’s start by talking about how Goldman makes money.

Op-Ed Columnist - The Joy of Sachs -

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Wallabies expect ferocious Tri-Nations opener

The Tri Nations Trophy

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The Wallabies are braced for a fast and ferocious war of attrition when they confront the All Blacks in Saturday's opening Tri-Nations clash.

The outcome may well turn on the battle between two of the world's best ball winners who are desperate for victory to cement personal milestones -- Richie McCaw in his 200th first-class game and George Smith in his 100th Test.

Australian coach Robbie Deans said he expected the contest to be resolved in the crucial breakdown area.

Wallabies expect ferocious Tri-Nations opener - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

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