Sunday, November 9, 2008

Banks finally shamed into 1.5 per cent rate cuts

BRITAIN'S banks bowed to huge public and political pressure today to slash mortgage rates for millions.

After a tense meeting with Chancellor Alistair Darling, the high street's leading names agreed to pass on "all, or most" of the Bank of England's shock 1.5 per cent base rate cut.

Treasury sources said that the bosses from Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, LloydsTSB, HBOS, HSBC, Nationwide and Standard Chartered all caved in after being read the riot act by Mr Darling over their failure to respond swiftly to help hard-pressed homeowners.

Crucially, the move came as the three-month inter-bank lending rate, or Libor, fell by more than one per cent, from 5.561 to 4.496 per cent.

Until now, LloydsTSB and Abbey were the only lenders to drop their standard variable rates following the Bank of England's move yesterday to reduce the base rate to three per cent, the lowest in 53 years.

However, hundreds of thousands of people with tracker mortgages were warned today they will not benefit from any future rate reductions. Lenders can now use small-print clauses in contracts to stop passing on cuts.

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IMF consortium 'to wrap up £3.8bn rescue deal for Iceland

Iceland is to get its $6 billion rescue package from an International Monetary Fund-led consortium, according to Poland, one of the contributors.

The group includes the UK, Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Poland as well as the Faroe Islands.

The UK has already come up with £800 million to compensate British savers who lost everything when Icelandic bank Icesave failed.

The IMF executive board has postponed until Monday a meeting to sign off on its $2.1 billion contribution in the form of a loan to Iceland. But Poland says the deal has effectively been approved.

The global financial crisis has led to the collapse of three of Iceland's top banks, with government support for them alone to cost as much as 1.1 trillion Iceland crowns (£5.4 billion).

The collapses have led to chaos in Iceland, where the central bank has interest rates at 18% and warns that inflation could soar to 20% next year.

Iceland's economy is set to shrink 8.3% next year, from July's estimate of only a 2% contraction.

The country's three main banks, Kaupthing, Landsbanki Islands and Glitnir Bank have total debt worth $61 billion, equivalent to about 12 times the country's GDP. About 230,000 British depositors with Landsbanki's Icesave will receive compensation to replace all of their lost savings.

The IMF yesterday approved a 17-month standby loan of $15.7 billion for Hungary, a country hard hit by the financial crisis. That comes on top of a $16.4 billion loan to Ukraine.

The fund has released $6.3 billion to Hungary immediately, which says it will start injecting the money into its banking system.

"Hungary was hard hit by the global deleveraging," the IMF said, adding that it was "among the first emerging market countries to suffer from the fallout of the current global financial crisis" because of its very high levels of debt.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Korean Star’s Suicide Reignites Debate on Web Regulation

Choi Jin-sil, a movie star, was the closest thing South Korea had to a national sweetheart.

So when Ms. Choi, 39, was found dead in her apartment on Oct. 2 in what the police concluded was a suicide, her grief-stricken homeland sought an answer to why the actress had chosen to end her life.

The police, the media and members of Parliament immediately pointed fingers at the Internet. Malicious online rumors led to Ms. Choi’s suicide, the police said, after studying memos found at her home and interviewing friends and relatives.

Those online accusations claimed that Ms. Choi, who once won a government medal for her savings habits, was a loan shark. They asserted that a fellow actor, Ahn Jae-hwan, was driven to suicide because Ms. Choi had relentlessly pressed him to repay a $2 million debt.

Public outrage over Ms. Choi’s suicide gave ammunition to the government of President Lee Myung-bak, which has long sought to regulate cyberspace, a major avenue for antigovernment protests in South Korea.

Earlier this year, the Lee government was reeling after weeks of protests against beef imports from the United States. Vicious antigovernment postings and online rumors on the dangers of lifting the ban on American beef fueled the political upheaval, which forced the entire cabinet to resign.

In a monthlong crackdown on online defamation, 900 agents from the government’s Cyber Terror Response Center are scouring blogs and online discussion boards to identify and arrest those who “habitually post slander and instigate cyber bullying.”

Hong Joon-pyo, floor leader of the governing Grand National Party, commented, “Internet space in our country has become the wall of a public toilet.”

In the National Assembly, Ms. Choi’s suicide set the country’s rival parties on a collision course over how to regulate the Web. The governing party is promoting a law to punish online insults; the opposition parties accuse the government of trying to “rule cyberspace with martial law.”

The opposition says that cyberspace violence is already dealt with under existing laws against slander and public insults. But the government says that a tougher, separate law is necessary to punish online abuse, which inflicts quicker and wider damage on victims.

To battle online harassment, the government’s Communications Commission last year ordered Web portals with more than 300,000 visitors a day to require its users to submit their names and matching Social Security numbers before posting comments.

The police reported 10,028 cases of online libel last year, up from 3,667 reported in 2004.

Harassment in cyberspace has been blamed for a string of highly publicized suicides. Ms. Choi made headlines when she married a baseball player, Cho Sung Min, in 2000. But tabloids and Web bloggers were relentless in criticizing her when the marriage soured and she fought for custody of her two children.

TV producers and commercial sponsors dropped her. The general sentiment was that her career was over.

But in 2005, she made a comeback with a hugely popular soap opera called “My Rosy Life.” In it, she dropped her cute-girl image and played a jilted wife who throws a kick at her errant husband, but reconciles with him when she learns she has terminal cancer.

This year, she broke another taboo by successfully petitioning a court to change the surname of her two children to her own.

But in an interview with MBC-TV in July, which was broadcast after her death, she said she “dreaded” the Internet, where posters had insulted her for being a single, divorced mother. The police said she had been taking antidepressants since her divorce.

In South Korea, volunteer counselors troll the Internet to discourage people from using the Web to trade tips on how to commit suicide and, in some cases, how to form suicide pacts.

“We have seen a sudden rise in copycat suicides following a celebrity death,” said Jeon Jun-hee, an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Mental Health Center, which runs a suicide prevention hot line. Mr. Jeon said the hot line had received 60 calls a day, or twice the usual number, since Ms. Choi’s suicide

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Of Idi Amin’s son, Journalism and Journalists

If Milton Obote was known as the ‘ Blood Sucker’ of Uganda, Idi Amin was the ‘Biggest Clown’. Idi Amin also earned other names,-’Big Dada’ and ‘Butcher’, the former for the huge physique he possessed as an African, and the other for slaughtering human beings. But, it was no secret that his brain was too small for his body. Amin was a self proclaimed ‘Master of all Arts and Economies’, who would even disturb Presidents’ of the West, over the telephone to teach them how to run those countries.

Among those who were inconvenienced by Idi Amin’s knowledge at midnight, when Amin was in fine ‘spirits’, were the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Britain and, those who were in power at that time in Germany and France. Idi Amin was a telephone maniac, who always carried a few portable phones with him, whereever he went. Idi Amin once claimed he was a well read man, with a huge collection of books in his library, a comment he made at Universities as the self proclaimed Chancellor of all Universities in Uganda.

The introduction of the Uganda’s ‘Biggest Clown’ was done at the start of this column, to pen an interesting story about Idi Amin’s son, Taban, also known as the ‘Junior Clown’, who forced himself to become the ‘Editor’ of the popular, ‘The Nation’, an English weekly in Kampala, the Capital of Uganda. Like father, like son, Taban had nothing ‘upstairs’. The ‘Big Clown’ decorated himself with many top positions.

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Nature loss 'dwarfs the bank crisis'

The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study.

It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion.

The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.

The study, headed by a Deutsche Bank economist, parallels the Stern Review into the economics of climate change.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Darling blamed as Iceland’s bank troubles spiral

Iceland today turned on Britain's Chancellor Alistair Darling as a third bank was nationalised.

Kaupthing, which owned City investment bank Singer & Friedlander and UK internet bank Kaupthing Edge, said its board had resigned and handed control to the Icelandic Government.

The declaration came as the London stock market gave a half-hearted welcome to the Government's £500 billion bail-out plan for High Street banks and yesterday's emergency half-point cut in interest rates.

The FTSE 100 index of leading shares rose 67.62 points to 4434.31.

But in Iceland the crisis continued to spiral. Landsbanki was put into receivership earlier this week and Glitnir followed yesterday. Kaupthing had been offered a €500 million (£390.7 million) loan by the government, led by Prime Minister Geir Haarde.

Hays warns recruitment slump is the worst ever

A 20% slide in City recruitment is like nothing that has been seen before, the boss of one of the Square Mile's top recruitment firms admitted today.

And yesterday's attempted rescue of the economy through a banking bailout and interest rate cut will not help either, Hays chief executive Paul Venables warned.

“It is unprecedented,” said Venables, whose agency specialises in filling middle and lower ranking professional jobs in London's banks, financial services companies and accountancy and legal firms.

“It is not like the downturn of five or six years ago [post-9/11 and the bursting of the dot-com bubble], which reversed pretty quickly. And it is very different to the employment slump we saw at the beginning of the 1990s,” he added.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Iceland teeters on the brink of bankruptcy

This volcanic island near the Arctic Circle is on the brink of becoming the first "national bankruptcy" of the global financial meltdown.

Home to just 320,000 people on a territory the size of Kentucky, Iceland has formidable international reach because of an outsized banking sector that set out with Viking confidence to conquer swaths of the British economy — from fashion retailers to top soccer teams.

The strategy gave Icelanders one of the world's highest per capita incomes. But now they are watching helplessly as their economy implodes — their currency losing almost half its value, and their heavily exposed banks collapsing under the weight of debts incurred by lending in the boom times.

"Everything is closed. We couldn't sell our stock or take money from the bank," said Johann Sigurdsson as he left a branch of Landsbanki in downtown Reykjavik.

The government had earlier announced it had nationalized the bank under emergency laws enacted to deal with the crisis.

"We have been forced to take decisive action to save the country," Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde said of those sweeping new powers that allow the government to take over companies, limit the authority of boards, and call shareholder meetings.

A full-blown collapse of Iceland's financial system would send shock waves across Europe, given the heavy investment by Icelandic banks and companies across the continent.

One of Iceland's biggest companies, retailing investment group Baugur, owns or has stakes in dozens of major European retailers — including enough to make it the largest private company in Britain, where it owns a handful of stores such as the famous toy store Hamley's.

Kaupthing, Iceland's largest bank and one of those whose share trading was suspended last week to stop a huge sell-off, has also invested in European retail groups.

Thousands of Britons have accounts with Icesave, the online arm of Landsbanki that regulators said was likely to file for bankruptcy after it stopped permitting customers to withdraw money from their accounts Tuesday.

To try to wrest control of the spiraling situation, the government also loaned $680 million to Kaupthing to tide it over and said it was negotiating a $5.4 billion loan from Russia to shore up the nation's finances.

The speed of Iceland's downfall in the week since it announced it was nationalizing Glitnir bank, the country's third largest, caught many by surprise despite warnings that it was the "canary in the coal mine" of the global credit squeeze.

Famous for its cod fishing industry, geysers, moonscape and the Blue Lagoon, Iceland was the site of the Cold War showdown in which Bobby Fischer of the United States defeated Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in 1972 for the world chess championship. Last year, Iceland won the U.N.'s "best country to live in" poll, with its residents deemed the most contented in the world.

No more.

Despite sunny skies Tuesday after three days of unseasonably cold weather, Reykjavik's mood remained grim — cafes were half-empty, real estate agents sat idle, and retailers reported few sales.

"I'm really starting to get worried now. Everything is bad news. I don't know what's happening," said retiree Helga Jonsdottir as she headed to a supermarket.

Icelanders are also beginning to question how a relative few were able to generate the disproportionate wealth — and associated debt — that Haarde has warned puts the entire country at risk of bankruptcy.

Iceland's reinvention from the poor cousin in Europe to one of the region's wealthiest countries dates to the deregulation of the banking industry and the creation of the domestic stock market in the mid-1990s.

Those free market reforms turned Iceland from a conservative, inward-looking country to one of a new generation of internationally educated young businessmen and women who were determined to give Iceland a modern profile far beyond its fishing base.

Entrepreneurs become its greatest export, as banks and companies marched across Europe and their acquisition wallets were filled by a stock market boom and a well-funded pension system. Among the purchases were the iconic Hamley's toy store and the West Ham soccer team.

Back home, the average family's wealth soared 45 percent in half a decade and gross domestic product rose at around 5 percent a year.

But the whole system was built on a shaky foundation of foreign debt.

The country's top four banks now hold foreign liabilities in excess of $100 billion, debts that dwarf Iceland's gross domestic product of $14 billion.

Those external liabilities mean the private sector has had great difficulty financing its debts, such as the more than $5.25 billion racked up by Kaupthing in five years to help fund British deals.

Iceland is unique "because the sheer size of its financial sector puts it in a vulnerable situation, and its currency has always been seen as a high risk and high yield," said Venla Sipila, a senior economist at Global Insight in London.

The krona is suffering in part from a withdrawal by a falloff in what are called carry trades — where investors borrow cheaply in a country with low rates, such as Japan, and invest in a country where returns, and often risks, are higher.

After watching the free-fall for several days, the Central Bank of Iceland stepped in Tuesday to fix the exchange rate of the currency at 175 — a level equal to 131 krona against the euro.

Haarde said he believed the measures had renewed confidence in the system. He also was critical of the lack of an Europe-wide response to the crisis, saying Iceland had been forced to adopt an "every-country-for-itself" mentality.

He acknowledged that Iceland's financial reputation was likely to suffer from both the crisis and the response despite strong fundamentals such as the fishing industry and clean and renewable energy resources.

As regular Icelanders begin to blame the government and market regulators, Haarde said the banks had been "victims of external circumstances."

Richard Portes of the London Business School agreed, noting the banks were well-capitalized and had not bought any of the toxic debt that has brought down banks elsewhere.

Article Courtesy : JANE WARDELL, AP Business Writer Tue Oct 7, 3:40 PM ET

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mohammed book attack: trio in court

Three men are due to appear in court charged with conspiring to damage the home of a man who published a controversial novel about the prophet Mohammed.

The Metropolitan Police charged Ali Beheshti, 40, of Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, Abrar Mirza, 22, of Eastfield Road, London, and Abbas Taj, 30, of Forest Gate, London, on Thursday night.

The charges follow a suspected petrol bomb attack at 47 Lonsdale Square, Islington, north London, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The men are charged with conspiring without lawful excuse to damage the premises between September 8 and 27, intending to destroy or damage property with intent to endanger life, and "being reckless as to whether the life of another would thereby be endangered".

Beheshti was further charged with "possession of a weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of a noxious liquid or gas contrary to the Firearms Act", police said.

The men were remanded in custody and will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The property in question is the home and office of Martin Rynja, the director of Gibson Square, an independent publishing house which announced earlier this month it was planning to release the novel The Jewel of the Medina in the UK.

The novel, by American author Sherry Jones, was pulled by publishers in the US over fears it would anger Muslims, while a publisher in Serbia withdrew it from the shelves after protests from local Islamic leaders, who said it insulted Mohammed and his family.

Announcing the publication of the novel last month, 44-year-old Mr Rynja said he felt such books were an important part of a liberal democracy.

Croatia loses Davis Cup points

Madrid (AP): Croatia was penalised points and handed an undisclosed fine because the court used for Davis Cup matches against Brazil failed to meet international standards.

Croatia will lose 2,000 points as part of the Davis Cup Committee's ruling reached in Madrid on September 23, the International Tennis Federation said Thursday. Croatia's victory over Brazil will stand, however.

Croatia returned to the elite World Group with a 4-1 playoff victory over Brazil in the September 19-21 series on an indoor hard court at the Sportski Centar Visnjik stadium at Zadar.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Venezuela, Russia to join together on oil

Venezuela and Russia plan to create a giant oil consortium to invest in joint ventures, as Moscow plans to challenge the dominance of Opec in influencing world energy markets.

"They've offered us the chance to create an oil consortium...the largest in the world,” Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said in Moscow.

He said the consortium would include state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) and Russia's Lukoil, TNK, Rosneft and Gazprom.

Russian energy minister Sergei Shmatko said the country was seeking to increase influence over world oil markets and become a rival to the Opec cartel.

“Russia needs to take an active position on influencing the current market price of oil. There needs to be a Russian factor,” he added.

“We keep talking about Opec...but we believe that we occupy such a high place in the world's oil community that Russia should emerge as an active factor.”

Russia, supplying 12% of world crude, is vying with Saudi Arabia as the global top producer. Venezuela is fifth-largest producer of the 13 members of Opec.

The increasingly close military and economic relationship between Russia and the maverick Chavez is causing alarm in Europe and Washington.

President Vladimir Putin has made improving relations with Venezuela “a priority”.

A Russian naval squadron is sailing to Venezuela, and two Russian bombers this month carried out air patrols over the Caribbean.

Venezuela said the oil joint venture would initially develop projects in Venezuela, before expanding to other Latin American countries.
Chavez has proposed setting up a new bank – the PdVSA Bank – to raise capital to finance the projects.

He arrived in Moscow from Beijing, where he said oil exports to China could soar to a million barrels a day by 2012 from 330,000 now.

The two countries also plan to build four oil tankers and to construct three oil refineries in China capable of processing Venezuela's heavy, sulphur-laden crude.

“While the world enters an energy crisis, we are investing,” Chavez said.

Venezuela regards energy-hungry China as a key part of its strategy of diversifying oil sales away from the US, which still buys about half of Venezuela's oil despite political tensions.

Other plans for co-operation with China call for building a refinery in Venezuela and launching an oil-development project in the Orinoco River belt.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thank God it's Friday

The stock market staged a spectacular "freaky Friday" comeback today to end the most tumultuous week in the City for 80 years.

Shares gained more than £92 billion in value as the "rocket-fuelled" recovery propelled the FTSE-100 to its biggest one-day rise. By lunchtime, the blue chip index was up 389.3 points at 5269.3, a surge of eight per cent, breaking the previous 7.9 per cent record dating back to October 1987 in the aftermath of Black Monday.

HSBC abandons £3.3 billion chase for Korea bank stake

HSBC, which has been linked to a range of deals to pick up distressed US banks, has today found itself with even deeper pockets after today walking away from it its long-running $6 billion (£3.29 billion) pursuit of Korea Exchange Bank.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Indian shoppers increase spending

INDIAN shoppers will spend close to $500 billion on consumer goods and services in 2010, up from $360 billion last year, according to a bullish outlook released on Thursday by India¿s fast-growing retail industry.

Despite the global market turmoil, retailers expect 300 million aspirational middle-class Indians will lead the cash-register assault, their confidence buoyed by likely wage rises of 15 percent a year over the next few years and an economy growing at around 8 per cent.

Total annual retail spending in India should hit 18.1 trillion rupees ($490 billion) by 2010, according to the India Retail Report 2009, which was released in Mumbai for the industry’s peak event, the India Retail Forum.

The report produced by New Delhi-based research group Images F&R Research, envisages that modern organised retailing is likely to have a 13 percent share ($62 billion) of the total spend, as Indian middle class shoppers increasingly turn to air conditioned malls, mini-marts, supermarkets and "big-box" outlets.

The shopping needs of India’s 1.2 billion people traditionally have been served by a combination of 12 million "mom-and-pop" corner stores, wet markets, bazaars and weekly or monthly rural fairs, plus a relative handful of department stores. It is only in the last decade that modern organised retail has begun to make an impact, with the opening of supermarket chains and shopping malls in India’s key cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

As recently as two years ago, modern retail’s share of the total consumer spending pie was only 3 to 4 per cent. According to the new report, modern retail grew at more than 40 per cent in 2007 and now has a share of 5.9 per cent.

But with the rapid growth has come a storm of protest from small traders’ associations, market middlemen and political groups opposed to large Indian business groups such as Reliance, Birla and Bharti entering the retail sector. The protesters argue that the big modern retailers will destroy the livelihoods of millions of street vendors, small traders and corner-store (or "kirana") operators.

In some states, Reliance Industries – which is controlled by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani -- has closed or scaled back its retail stores in the face of sometimes violent protests.

A government-initiated report released by the ICRIER think tank in May found that while there would be some initial loss of revenue for the kirana stores from competing modern retailers, the small corner stores would survive for many years to come and would often fo rm mutually beneficial relationships with organised retailers.

Activist groups such as India FDI Watch also oppose investments by overseas retailers, arguing that allowing in US giant Wal-Mart -- which has set up a wholesale cash-and-carry venture with the Bharti Group -- will spark a "race to the bottom" in terms of workers’ rights and conditions. For now, foreign entrants to India’s retail sector are limited to franchises, wholesaling and certain single-brand outlets.

According to the India Retail Report 2009, fears of job losses in the sector are groundless. "Modernising retail will see some 15 million people engaged in retail and retail support activities by 2010 – including front-end retail operations, supply chain management, logistics, process and infrastructure development and supplies," it says.

A much more pressing problem than fear of foreign investment is fixing India’s abysmal supply chain, particularly for refrigerated foodstuffs. As much as 40 per cent of the dairy, fruit and vegetables produced in India is lost or spoilt because of poor storage, handling, distribution and transport.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told the India Retail Forum this week that that the supply chain problem was India’s greatest agricultural challenge. Better handling techniques and infrastructure to reduce this wastage would deliver a substantial benefit to the retail industry, to farmers, and to the rural sector in general, he said.

Reflecting the needs of the hundreds of millions of Indians who survive on less than $2 a day, the 2009 report found spending on food and groceries is the dominant category, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total retail outlay of $360 billion. Clothing and accessories ranks second with a 10 per cent share share, followed by out-of-home food services with a 5.4 per cent market share. The report says this last category "largely reflects the massive employment opportunities to youngsters in the services sector and accompanying changes in consumer lifestyles."

The organised retail sector offers a different picture, with spending on clothing and fashion accessories the largest category at 38.1 per cent. This is followed by food and groceries 11.5 per cent, footwear 9.9 per cent and consumer durables 9.1 per cent.

Shoes and timepieces are the most organised of all retail categories, with more than 48 per cent of the money spent on these items going to the modern retail sector. They are followed by clothing and fashion accessories, where the modern retail sector controls 22.7 per cent of the market.

With incomes rising, the modern sector can expect even higher figures over the next few years. According to the 2009 report, 70 million Indians already earn more than $24,500 a year, and that number will likely rise to 140 million by 2011.

At the same time as incomes are rising, tastes and spending habits are changing in line with an Indian demographic profile that becomes ever younger. Already, 55 per cent of the population is under 25; by 2015, more than half the population will be 22 or younger, and will only have ever known an economically liberalised India.

This is why industry experts such as Arvind Singhal, chairman of Indian retail consulting firm Technopak, believe modern retail is well on its way to being the key driver of the Indian economy over the next decade. In their view, despite high real estate prices, hyper-competition, a difficult political environment and shortcomings in supply chain logistics and management skills, India’s consumer demand is simply unstoppable.

See India, then get a hip replacement

Timmi Ryerson, a San Diego stock market analyst, says her left hip actually works again, thanks to an orthopedic specialist in India.

Stacie Mason, a civil rights worker from West Virginia, couldn’t fully appreciate her 170-pound weight loss until a plastic surgeon in Panama removed 20 inches of excess skin from her stomach and back.

And Ford Davies, a firefighter from Roseville, Calif., sports a realigned jaw and a mouthful of straight, strong teeth courtesy of a dentist in Mexico.

What's new about these procedures is not the exotic locales the three chose, but the way they paid for their far-flung surgeries.

While at least 150,000 Americans travel abroad for medical care every year, according to the American Medical Association, Ryerson, Mason and Davies represent a small but growing category of medical tourist: patients whose insurance companies have agreed to foot at least part of the bill.

“I think that’s the solution to our health care crisis," said Davies, 53, whose company plan, Delta Dental, maxed out his dental benefit, about $2,500, toward the $30,000 he spent to repair damage caused by years of grinding his teeth, a procedure that would have cost an estimated $80,000 in the United States.

Increasingly, some of the nation’s larger employers and leading health insurers agree.

Once the province of the poor and uninsured, medical tourism is gaining attention of industry giants such as CIGNA, Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, who say they either have begun or are considering pilot programs that provide limited coverage for foreign care. One Montana firm, Employee Benefit Management Services Inc., recently began offering medial tourism plans to its 120 self-insured clients in the Northwest.

“That’s probably the big news in terms of all types of medical offshoring,” said Dr. Arnold Milstein, chief physician for Mercer Health & Benefits, an international health care consulting agency, and medical director for Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents 50 large regional employers.

“You’re beginning to see the point now that it’s changing from a market primarily of individuals without coverage or insurance to a circumstance in which this is going to be adopted by U.S. health insurance plans to extend to a much larger U.S. population.”

Lured by low-price luxury
It’s a trend applauded by insurers and patients lured by offshore prices that are a fraction of U.S. costs and care that advocates claim rivals luxury health spas.

But it also has sparked concerns among the nation’s doctors and wary insurance providers who worry about guaranteeing safety, quality and continued access to care when procedures are performed in foreign lands.

“It’s unclear at this time whether the risks outweigh the benefits,” said Dr. J. James Rohack, a board member of the American Medical Association, which recently issued first-ever guidelines for medical tourism.

Medical care outside the U.S. must remain an option, not a requirement, the doctors said. And incentives for offshore care should not be allowed to limit appropriate diagnosis, treatment or referral.

Patients should be referred only to institutions approved by the international arm of the Joint Commission, a key U.S. accreditation agency, or the International Society for Quality in Health Care, and they should have wide access to information about doctors' credentials and outcomes, the guidelines said.

It's important to plan ahead for follow-up care back home, the doctors warned. And patients should be advised about the risks of combining surgery with long flights and vacation activities.

"The concern is, you incentize patients to go someplace cheaper, they won't know all the risks," said Dr. Paul Sherman, a pediatrician and a medical director for Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.

Perks include air fare, lodging — for two
Insurers acknowledge they're considering a range of rewards aimed at motivating patients to choose foreign care.

"Basically, if you're going to present an option to an employee to get on a plane for five to eight hours, there will be a need to consider some sort of incentive," said Jackie Aube, vice president of product management for CIGNA.

Some plans may waive co-payments or reimburse patients for choosing less-expensive services. EBMS, the Montana firm, said that in addition to covering all medical costs, some plans will pay for air fare, lodging and other travel expenses for the patient — and a companion.

"The idea is if they choose to go offshore, the companion gets a little vacation," said Rick Larson, chief executive of EBMS.

Both proponents and critics acknowledge, however, that offering coverage could spark a medical tourism boom.

A May report by McKinsey & Co., a global consulting firm, estimated that if insurers began covering foreign medical care, between 500,000 and 700,000 Americans might head abroad for surgery each year.

Savings may top $20 billion a year
Savings for procedures performed on those patients could top $20 billion a year, the analysts said, providing a glimpse of the primary motive behind the burgeoning trend.

Countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore, Costa Rica and Korea offer medical procedures at a fraction of the cost of U.S. providers. A $130,000 heart-bypass surgery in U.S. may cost only $34,000 in Korea or as little as $6,650 in India, according to the newly formed Medical Tourism Association of West Palm Beach, Fla. A $20,000 hysterectomy in the U.S. might cost only $4,000 in Costa Rica — and it comes with a trip to Costa Rica.

No question, financial savings are at the heart of the interest, said Aube, of CIGNA, who noted that several large employers are considering offering coverage, but have not yet decided. But they're also motivated by the chance to provide more choice for consumers, she added.

That’s true, too, for Aetna, which has entered the market slowly, with a single employer, Hannaford Brothers, a Maine grocery store chain that has begun offering foreign coverage for hip and knee surgeries for its 27,000 employees. (So far, no one has taken them up on it, a spokesman said.)

And it’s behind the formation of Companion Global HealthCare Inc., a program of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of South Carolina, which provides overseas care as part of a package of health insurance plans. David Boucher, Companion’s assistant vice president of health care services, said he expects medical tourism to be a standard offering by 2015.

“I think the initial incentive will be for patients to avoid out-of-pocket costs and for employers to begin lowering their medical benefit costs a bit,” Boucher said. “But I am confident that what we will see is a steady stream of patients returning to the U.S. as true disciples of this opportunity.”

Top-notch care, a fraction of the cost
That’s certainly been the case for Mason, 43, whose $20,000 body lift in Panama last July included about $7,500 for surgery to remove a large flap of skin from her abdomen, a procedure called a panniculectomy. Because the excess flesh led to potentially dangerous skin infections, the surgery was deemed a medically necessary procedure, one that could be covered by her federal Blue Cross health insurance plan.

Mason paid the bill herself for the rest of the surgery, including breast augmentation and thigh lifts. Because her surgeries would have totaled $50,000 to $75,000 back home, she contracted with Planet Hospital, a California-based medical tourism service, to research the alternatives abroad.

“It’s outrageous here, the cost of medical care,” Mason said. Additionally, many U.S. doctors seem to have forgotten that they’re providing a service, added Mason, who described one plastic surgeon she interviewed as “an egotistical ass.”

Not so with Dr. Louis Picard-Ami, a Florida-certified plastic surgeon who also practices in Panama. After checking out his credentials and the hospital’s safety record, Mason decided to go ahead with the surgery.

Not only was Picard-Ami technically proficient, he was kind and the amenities were luxurious, said Mason. Her hospital room was as lavish as any elegant hotel suite and her care included round-the-clock services of a private nurse.

“I just think that others need to be aware that they are able to have a safe procedure done out of the country for a price at a third the cost,” she said.

Ryerson, 61, said her private Blue Cross plan paid 80 percent of a $7,000 hip resurfacing surgery in Chennai, India, that would have been about $55,000 in the U.S. — if she could get it at all.

In 2006, the hip resurfacing device necessary for her surgery had just been approved for U.S. use by the federal Food and Drug Administration and not many domestic doctors had experience with it. Dr. Vijay Bose, her U.K.-certified surgeon in India, had performed the surgery more than 1,100 times.

“Doctors here didn’t know what they didn’t know and I didn’t want to be a guinea pig," she said.

While she was there, Ryerson also had cosmetic surgery and dental work done at her own expense.

‘I'm not going to Tijuana to get my teeth done’
Davies, the California firefighter, wasn’t sure he’d go ahead with extensive dental work until he met the dentist, Jorge Quintanilla, and toured the modern Mexican clinic where the procedures were performed.

“At first I thought, I’m not going to Tijuana to get my teeth done,” said Davies, a former paramedic who quizzed the staff about where they got their water, how they cleaned their instruments and what sterile procedures they followed.

The dental staff was well-trained and compassionate, he said. And the assistants anticipated every need, from picking him up at the airport and filling painkiller prescriptions to driving him back over the U.S. border.

"They gave me what I wanted," he said.

Individual anecdotes are one thing, but critics of medical tourism said they worry about encouraging large numbers of Americans to seek care abroad. One of the reasons foreign care is so cheap is because of limited recourse for medical malpractice claims, for instance.

“It sounds great, two weeks’ safari and my hip for half the price,” said Sherman, of Group Health. “But what happens if something goes wrong? You are up a creek.”

The Joint Commission International certifies about 170 hospitals and medical centers worldwide. And many of the doctors who practice in hospitals frequented by medical tourists have been trained and certified in the United States.

Call for caution
Still, patients and insurers should remain cautious, especially in the early days of the burgeoning trend, noted Milstein.

“Without a doubt, just like for American surgeries, there will emerge as volume increases some horror stories, a terrible outcome preceded by a terrible hospital malfunction,” he said. “On the day that happens, the patient is going to point the finger at the insurance companies.”

That idea doesn’t deter the hip patient Timmi Ryerson, who said she won’t use U.S. hospitals for future surgeries.

“I really will not because of the cost and because of the quality of the medical care,” she said.

In fact, she’s planning now for a medical trip to Costa Rica in a few years. She figures she’ll need a mini face-lift and her new husband will require some work on his neck and his knees as well.

“They’ve got a place where you can go for medical care and it’s like going to a spa for month,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want that?”

Article courtesy :

Downturn Drives Up New York’s Jobless Rates

The unemployment rates for New York City and State shot up in August as the rapidly spiraling economic downturn left more people without jobs, the state’s Department of Labor said on Thursday.

The city’s unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent from 5 percent in July — the largest monthly increase in more than 30 years — as about 5,200 private-sector jobs were eliminated, the department reported. Many of the layoffs came in the tumbling financial sector, which is one of the city’s biggest employers and the provider of nearly one-fourth of its annual wages and salaries.

In the last 12 months, employment in the financial realm has declined by 5,300 jobs, according to James Brown, an analyst with the Labor Department. Some of those losses resulted from the collapse of the Bear Stearns investment bank in March. But many of the cutbacks at that firm and others on Wall Street still have not shown up in the official statistics.

For example, the August totals do not include the 1,500 layoffs that Lehman Brothers had planned to make before it was forced into a bankruptcy filing on Monday. Lehman, which employed more than 25,000 people, has sold its main trading operations to Barclays Capital, a London-based firm, but it is not known how many of the 10,000 employees of those operations will keep their jobs.

American International Group, the Manhattan-based insurance giant, was on the brink of failure before receiving an $85 billion lifeline from the federal government this week.

“Although the crises at Lehman Brothers and A.I.G. appear to be working out so as to avoid immediate large-scale layoffs, the continued financial-sector turmoil guarantees that job losses on Wall Street will climb rapidly over the next few months,” Mr. Brown said.

Despite the current deterioration in the job market, the city still had about 31,000 more jobs last month than it had in August 2007, when the unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, according to the report. Most of that job growth has come in the fields of education, health care, trade and transportation, and leisure and hospitality.

“Most of the professional business industries such as law firms lost a small number of jobs in August, but all in all, New York City has still yet to see any significant impact from the turmoil on Wall Street,” said Barbara Denham, chief economist for Eastern Consolidated, a real estate investment firm.

“This will undoubtedly change in the next few months, but the job losses from Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy and Bank of America’s purchase of Merrill Lynch may not hit the job numbers until November or later,” Ms. Denham said. “While New York City’s economy remains well diversified in health care and private education, the problems on Wall Street will likely spill over into the business travel industry, which would affect hotels, restaurants and entertainment.”

The jobless rates for the city and the state were lower than the national unemployment rate, which jumped to 6.1 percent last month, according to the Labor Department.

Statewide, the jobless rate also rose to 5.8 percent, from 5.2 percent in July. That was the largest monthly increase in the state’s rate since January 1991, said Peter A. Neenan, director of the department’s division of research. Still, the department reported that the state added 3,000 private-sector jobs in August.

CBN moves to shield Nigeria from global credit crunch

THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has allayed fears that the recent rumblings in the global financial system could take a toll on the country's economy.

Citing a healthy foreign reserve component, stable micro and macro economic policies coupled with a strong banking sector, the apex bank said yesterday that investors and even ordinary Nigerians have no cause to worry over happenings in the international economy.

Although the CBN admitted that Nigeria is not entirely insulated from global occurrences, it said that sound measures have been put in place to absolve any of such shocks. Such measures include a cut in interest rate to enhance liquidity in the economy.

CBN Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, told journalists after the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) special meeting in Abuja yesterday that "despite the recent threats to the global financial system, Nigeria's foreign reserves are safe. The banks are safe and sound. There is really no cause to worry much. All indicators show that the economy is well."

Finance Minister Shamsudeen Usman, also spoke on efforts to stabilise the economy, particularly the capital market yesterday when he hinted that the Federal Government must have shelved the idea of providing share stabilisation funds and combat the current bears dominance in the equities sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Usman, who spoke with journalists in Lagos, explained that the government has resolved to use market-oriented measures such as share buy-back to refuel the market.

Besides, he said the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), and Liquidity Ration (LR) have been reduced to enhance liquidity in the capital market.

Soludo buttressed this when he said that the MPR had been cut by 500 basis points from 10.25 per cent to 9.75 per cent to shield the economy from the global credit-crunch.

Early this week, one of the United States (U.S.) largest banks, the Lehman Brothers, crashed like the Merry Lynch and others before it, a development which has sent jitters across America and Europe with the U.S. government initiating frantic efforts to bail out one of its largest insurance groups, the AIG, with huge funding.

The CBN chief said the decision to cut interest rate was one of the key strategies agreed upon to liquidify the system.

Also the CRR was reduced from four per cent to two per cent, with immediate effect; and the liquidity ratio from 40 per cent to 30 per cent. The apex bank only recently in what it explained as efforts to control inflation increased the CRR as part of strategies to mop up money in circulation.

The CRR is the least deposit funds banks are required to keep with the CBN as part of security against unpredictable happenstance. Its increase would require banks keeping more money with the apex bank while its reduction means making more funds at the disposal of commercial banks.

Indications that the CBN had changed strategy in its monetary policy posture first showed late July when after its MPC meeting for that quarter, it retained the MPR at 10.25 per cent, thus confounding economic watchers, who were used to the frequent upward adjustment of the MPR that modulates lending rate.

Soludo said the CBN would continue to monitor developments in both domestic and international economies and would be on the alert to take necessary steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the financial markets and the economy in general.

To lay credence to his assurances, he disclosed that the nation's foreign reserves are as high as $63 billion, representing about 16 months of total foreign exchange disbursements, adding that "Inflow of foreign investments remained strong at about $8.5 billion by the end of August 2008, compared to $5.8 billion for the corresponding period of 2007.

"In order to lubricate the system, the MPC has decided to ensure that the financial system remains liquid. The MPC accordingly, decided to reduce the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 10.25 per cent to 9.75 per cent; reduce Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from four per cent to two per cent with immediate effect; reduce the liquidity ration from 40 per cent to 30 per cent; allow repo transactions against eligible securities for 90 days, 180 days and 360 days," he said.

The CBN would also now buy and sell securities through the two-way quotes.

Soludo, who explained that the special MPC meeting was held to review the stance of monetary policies in the light of the evolving economies and financial developments in the world economies, maintained that Nigeria could not afford to be unmindful of the international financial developments.

He reeled out further details from the meeting. "The committee noted that while headline inflation and food prices have been on the increase, core inflation has been in single digit. The outlook on output for 2008 is strong, with non-oil Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing at over eight per cent. The committee acknowledges that growth in M2 and credit to the private sector have been high. Credit to the core private sector grew at 70.6 per cent yearly rate by end of August 2008. However, the increase in interest rates in August was mainly due to pressure of liquidity in the financial markets in general and in the inter-bank market in particular.

"The financial crisis has slowed down the industrialised economies. Reflecting the sharp fall in demand, crude oil prices have been softening in the international markets in recent weeks (below $100 per barrel), even as consumer inflation continues to be relatively high in relation to target levels. The policy makers in these countries are at present concerned mainly with managing risk in the financial sector and reviving growth," Soludo said.

He took the same message yesterday to the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS) in Kuru, near Jos, Plateau State, where he told reporters after addressing course participants, that though there had been a fall in the market value of stock and shares but that the prices in most of the sectors were still higher than their initial value.

He said the current dip in the value of shares was due to a panic created by shareholders who were anticipating a further appreciation of the value of their investments, noting that when that did not happen, most of them began to withdraw from the market.

The CBN boss said the reality is that most of the stocks still offer prices that triple their value during their initial public offers, which shows that the stock market is only responding to the vagaries of market forces.

On his part, Usman advised investors that this is the time to buy shares in the stock market, assuring that the market will soon bounce back.

"The stabilisation fund has been taken care of, as share buy-back has taken care of it. We believe the market will soon begin to respond to these measures later. My hope is that the market will rebound soon, but, it might take some time. It will rebound faster than we expect."

The minister said that the Federal Government intervention in the market has helped to hedge against the persistent fall in share prices.

On the subject of faith

TORONTO — Comedian Bill Maher says he’s not normally the type to make political donations, but he was so moved by the words of Republican vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin that he immediately cut a cheque — for her opponents.

Maher, in town to support his new film Religulous at the Toronto International Film Festival, has based a career on political humour and eagerly ripped into Palin when the topic was put before him.

"I tell you I do not ever make a habit of giving money to politicians, but when I saw her make that speech I ran to my chequebook and sent money to Barack Obama," Maher said.

"She is scary."

Religulous, director Larry Charles’s first film since the outrageous Borat, documents Maher’s travels around the world as he confronts Christians, Muslims and Jews about their faith.

The film’s underlying argument is that religion needs to be abolished before faith leads to the destruction of humanity.

Palin is a staunch Christian who has said, among other things, that the Iraq war is "a task from God."

Last week, Palin gave a fiery speech to the party faithful that pulled no punches against her Democratic rivals.

Maher’s appraisal of her oratory skills were succinct: "She snarls."

"It was like, wow, I will send (Obama) whatever I have to to keep this woman out of the White House."

Noting that Obama has also professed himself a man of faith, Maher quipped: "I hope he’s lying."

Faith and politics go hand-in-hand in America, Charles said in a separate interview.

"You cannot get elected anymore in the United States without being a person of faith, without professing your faith," he said.

"You’re a pariah in American society if you’re someone who questions these basic foundations of belief."

The film sees Maher posing those questions to hilarious effect — if audience reaction during a recent screening is any measure — to priests, rabbis, imams and, among others, a man who plays Jesus at a theme park.

The degree to which faith is ingrained in American politics can be blamed on former Democratic president Jimmy Carter, Maher said.

"He’s the first one that brought all of that into it, ‘my personal relationship with God’ and ‘my faith is so important to me,’ " Maher said.

"I put it on him, absolutely."

The Republicans seized on faith as a political virtue and "took advantage," Maher added.

"We have retrogressed. That is not progress, that is going in the opposite direction from a country that was founded very specifically on the idea of separation of church and state," he said.

"The founding fathers were very, very clear on that."

Palin’s beliefs may not accord with his views, but Maher says there is an upside to Republican presidential candidate John McCain choosing her as a running mate.

"When I saw her get the nomination, as a citizen I was not happy," he said.

"But I said selfishly, ‘This is not going to be bad for my little movie.’ "

Religulous opens in theatres on Oct. 3.

’You’re a pariah in American society if you’re someone who questions these basic foundations of belief.’

Article Courtesy : Bill Maher

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sony, Microsoft in Web Venture

Sony Music Entertainment and Microsoft Corp. are expected to begin selling digitally delivered songs this summer on the Internet under an agreement expected to be announced today, sources said.

This took place in the late 90's and yet it is generating attention - May be the real cause/ idea is yet to come forth.

Sony, which releases music by such acts as Ricky Martin and the Offspring, has signed an agreement to use a new Microsoft technology to transmit commercially available singles on the Web at prices comparable to those charged by traditional retailers, sources said.

The Microsoft format, which enables computer users to download digital music recordings twice as fast as anything currently available, is said to sound better than the popular MP3 compression technology and employs new security features added at Sony’s request, sources said.

Sony and Microsoft won’t begin downloading recordings until around July when Microsoft is set to roll out the launch of its new MS Windows Media Technologies 4.0. Through the alliance, Sony and Microsoft promise to provide fans with quick, easy access to Sony songs and music videos.

The deal between Sony and Microsoft comes just one week after Seagram Co.’s Universal-Music-Group announced a similar agreement with Intertrust Technologies.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kenyan leaders in call for peace

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has called for reconciliation during a tour of the Rift Valley, the area hardest hit by post-election violence.

Mr Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who were on a joint visit to the region, said those displaced by the unrest would soon be able to go home.

A BBC correspondent said local people welcomed the visit, but felt resettlement should not be rushed.

About 1,500 people died in clashes after December's presidential poll.

A further 600,000 were displaced, and 140,000 people are still homeless.

News-Clip Courtesy :

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Visiting Australia

It's funny whenever a holiday is planned, most people just take things into considerations as they are glad to get away as quick as possible. It is only when they get to the place of destination they regret on their not planning their vacation...infact; some of them have the misfortune to arrive at this decision while traveling itself.....

Basically, when we plan for a holiday or a getaway, there are many things we need to take into consideration, from booking a flight, hotels, renting a car and many other associated hassles. So, next time prior to departure, make sure you have everything in order

Australia has been my favorite vacation spot and also for many travelers.

And travelers going to Australia would want some travel information and facts about what to expect from traveling to Australia, before setting forth. Now, prior to planning a trip to Australia, try and visit online hotels and try and find the best prices and make your trip more affordable as they would generally have the best deals on hotels. These spots are the perfect guide for choosing the lowest rate hotels in Australia.

Sydney is one of the best locations in Australia and it is the large city and been home for the finest hotels. Also it has one the most beautiful buildings in the World - The Sydney Opera House. The Opera House lies on a small peninsula close to the impressive Harbour Bridge and is the ideal place to relax, enjoy the scenery and dine alfresco. The city is so big and there a lot more to see like Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Circular Quay, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo, The Rocks, Potts Point...the list is endless. Sydney is the second largest city in Australia and offers some of Australia's best cuisine for eating and drinking, historic arcades full of boutiques and cafes. Hotels in Sydney are the ideal way to relax and unwind and enjoy one of Australia's most cosmopolitan cities.

Melbourne is also the perfect vacation spot for travelers who want to see more of Australia's beautiful spots. Melbourne city is home for shopping and they can enjoy watching spectacular sea and wild life scenery. On the other hand, Brisbane is the third largest city and it is the capital of Queensland. The Portside Wharf is quite amazing and it is a must see place in Brisbane.

Being a popular tourist destination, Perth in Australia has also emerged as the home to a number of hotels. Perth also has the distinction of being the most isolated metropolitan in the world. Today the city attracts travelers from different parts of the world for its attractions and caters the visitors with the warm hotels and well knitted transport network to make their stay memorable. The city is a blend of modernity and scenic beauty.

It is said that a vacation really becomes your home away from home. It's never as comfortable as the real thing, but a great place to stay always makes your trip definitely more enjoyable. Whatever may be your choices, all you want is a stress free and fun holiday. It is until you experience the speed breaker, you contemplate that you should have planned better. Don't wait until then....

Any time is a good time to be in Australia. The city has a comfortable average temperature of 22 degrees throughout the year. Its endless sun baked horizons to dense tropical rain forest to chilly southern beaches. Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors. Imagine, going to see a sophisticated opera in Sydney one night and meet Crocodile Dundee the next night!

Try and visit it someday.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One of a kind

After a restrained start, the opening night of Stewart Lee’s comedy heroes series certainly made its mark. Lee compered with his slow-burn satire and support act Simon Munnery garnered respectable giggles as punk pamphleteer Alan Parker but it was Johnny Vegas who ignited proceedings by diving into the audience.

The slimmer, newly divorced Vegas showed no sign of ring-rustiness. Despite his success, he was still the same savage tornado of shameless self-loathing, bitterness and regret that rocketed him to prominence in the Nineties. Only his trademark pottery wheel was missing............................

For more details - CLICK HERE

News-Clip Courtesy : By Bruce Dessau, Evening Standard

Monday, May 5, 2008

Microsoft to pass on buying Yahoo

Microsoft Corp. has withdrawn its $42.3 billion bid to buy Yahoo Inc., scrapping an attempt to snap up the tarnished Internet icon in hopes of toppling online search and advertising leader Google Inc.

The decision to walk away from the deal came Saturday after last-ditch efforts to negotiate a mutually acceptable sale price proved unsuccessful.

Microsoft was willing to pay $47.5 billion, or $33 per share, up from the bid's current value of $29.40 per share, according to a letter from Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang

"Clearly a deal is not to be," Ballmer said

More details at :,0,1942094.story

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Search for lost plane

THE coast guard is searching for a small plane carrying four British businessmen that vanished off the coast of northeastern Brazil.

A major coastal search is under way for the plane, which disappeared minutes before it was due to land at Ilheus yesterday.

Staff at the city's airport said today that four aircraft were looking for the plane, which made its last call to air traffic controllers when it was 15 miles away from its destination.

The flight was operated by Aero Star, a small charter firm based in Salvador, in the north-eastern Brazilian province of Bahia, around 750 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.

The twin-engined Cessna 310 is one of nine planes in the company's fleet.

Set up in 1995, Aero Star offers scenic flights out of Salvador airport, as well as charter services around Brazil.

The company's website says its pilots have more than 10,000 hours of flying experience.

Ellen Duarte, business manager for Aero Star, said the plane disappeared just nine minutes before it was to land.

The weather was good, she added, and the two Brazilian pilots had not reported any problems with the aircraft

News Clip courtesy : The Sun

For more details :

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Adword Equalizer

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Infosys intranet named among world’s 10 best intranets

Sparsh, the Infosys Technologies intranet, has been selected as one of “The Year’s 10 Best Intranets” by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g), a user experience research firm that advises companies on human-centered product and service design.

Infosys is the first Indian company to be selected for the Group’s Intranet Design Annual Award.

“We are honored to receive world-wide acclaim for our intranet.

The award shows Infosys’ commitment to employee communication by leveraging technology. Sparsh has provided the much-needed impetus to create a small company culture in a fast-growing environment,” says Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, Joint Managing Director and COO, Infosys Technologies Ltd.

More details at :

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

G.M. to lay off 3,550 workers

General Motors said in Detroit that it would slash production of big trucks and sport utility vehicles by nearly 140,000 units this year, a move that would eliminate assembly shifts at four plants and cause about 3,550 workers to be laid off.

More details at -

Kerkorian Buys Stake in Ford

Kirk Kerkorian, shown at a boxing match in Las Vegas last year, could gain a 5.6 percent stake in Ford and a potentially powerful voice in the future of the automaker.

In a surprise announcement, the 90-year-old billionaire’s investment firm, the Tracinda Corporation, said Monday that it was placing a big bet on the fortunes of the Ford Motor Company, acquiring 100 million shares of Ford stock and planning to buy another 20 million shares.

More details at :

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wendy's chain bought for $2.3bn

Burger chain Wendy's is to be bought by Triarc, the parent firm of Arby's restaurants for $2.34bn (£1.18bn).

The news came after Wendy's saw a 72% fall in first quarter profits to $4.14m from $14.7m a year earlier. Wendy's said the deal would help to cut costs.

Wendy's and fellow fast-food chain Arby's will remain as separate brands.

News-clip courtesy :

Media and the present situation

There’s too much mental telepathy at work these days.

Imagine how much easier it would be if everyone simply stated what they wanted. Rather than making grand assumptions about other people’s motives, we might actually start getting our needs met.

Lies seem to be the in thing. It has no origin, and has lost its actual source and flavor. Nowadays, a lie is so obvious, something to be made mockery of. It sucks.

Hey, I didn't say that........

Say what ?

Well then it may have been somebody else’s soliloquy, but I feel your anger. This is the usual form of conversation these days

It's become very difficult to function with images nowadays, i.e., on a virtual reality basis.

Although it has becoming a bit stabilized, nonetheless, cries of MTV coming in now and then. Blank as it may seem, there is an enormous amount of loose data going to waste, but where seems to be the general question.

When the image game is over, who is responsible for the mess ?

The feeder or the doer ?

It appears that it is both. Now how is this possible ?

The “image feeder” does in most cases, with a malicious intention (naturally there are exceptions), but the doer being innocent, jumps upon thinking it is an opportunity not to be wasted and commits the action.

But then again, the main idea is that someone is performing, without which the system won’t function.

We are the generation that made investment banking a exciting and sexy profession.

We are the generation that said, "Just do it".

Then there are some of us who fall in the category of knowing the situation but not functioning.

As mentioned earlier, things don't just come, ideas must flow spontaneously, for which obviously there must be a source or reservoir of information.

We all know that a vision (“nowadays media introduced images”) without a task is but a dream. In other words, a thought without action is useless, and an action with no sense of thought is even more useless. It has no meaning. So we have little choice but to perform, whatever the action may be.

There is however, an interesting scenario here.

Despite the fact that most ideas are created from media induced sources, there are instances that this manipulated information could prove exceedingly useful. But then again, allowing yourself to be passively manipulated and not getting involved is risky. Because once caught in that cycle, it's rather difficult to find a way out.

To put it in a different perspective, we can either make ourselves miserable or strong and the amount of work involved is almost the same.

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand these imaged based junk inflows of various sources that practically nobody understands.

What we are seeing here is the ultimate of waste, the paradigm, and maximum symbol that could define human mental waste, as there is absolutely no productivity.

A fantastic exchange of ideas that destroys itself immediately and cannot be utilized anymore. It is even more sad as some of those ideas can be passed on to someone.

Financially, it appears that mutual funds are making a comeback. Bankruptcies are yet to raise its head. Appears embezzlements are out of fashion. Fudging the books is slowly poking its head up, and laundering is still a baby. But, where have the good old Cambodians gone. Perhaps we ought to come up with a grant so as to support this ailing industry.

If something is not done, there would not be countries to buy depleted weapons, which as a result there would be an increase in taxes again. Well, if this continues, it appears politicians eventually have to fund themselves, apart from an occasional handout.

Nonetheless, there is capital being wasted away, but if we focus, the reverse is sure to happen. Mainly because when we have a capital base of practically nothing and a solid debt base, I cannot theoretically visualize anything but gain

The stink has also started permeating to the common man, but somebody has to answer for the enormous amount of capital invested for every nonsensical action or a “war expense”, besides providing a very justifying tax plan to substantiate the expenses. What happens should it come to be known it was investment worth wasting.

No it's not worth discussing it.......... realization is what matters.

The answer primarily lies in the media.

Unfortunately majority of the decisions are made based on television reports, something unthinkable.

After the glitter fades, beneath the leather and lace, we're just scared, trying to learn how to love, amid the gaudy after images of popping flashbulbs of the paparazzi. And when darkness falls, and we crouch naked and are alone in our slack, aging bodies, snuffling with fear, and snarling at the grinning phantasms of our toilet-flushed dreams, with a fistful of pills to keep us company.

Well anyway TV stations have boosted their ratings, young things have started prancing around enjoying their newfound status, as there is somebody to pay for it.

The biggest and scariest trend is that there is more and more stimulation in our culture.

It is lights, camera, action-everybody, all the time.

It's going to be good for the drug companies; at least, they're going to be the ones trying to calm us back down. I know people who have come up with creative ways to disguise the banners that scroll along the bottoms of their television sets. People put yellow sticky notes on the top of revolving logos on their TV screens.

There's just too much stimulation everywhere.

Whatever happens, I hope that the media is not subjected to more censorship.

What is essential here, is that newcomers are explained the basic objectives of media and media communication, or else more and more live events have to be recorded.

Otherwise, we would have to learn to interpret articles such as these, so as to rectify and make sense of it.

All we are saying is, let's wait and watch… [give peace a chance.. sounded better]

It is our subconscious within which can have answers to most of these problems, and how essential it is to preserve that subconscious. To put it in a different perspective, we can either make ourselves miserable or strong and either way the amount of work involved is almost the same.

Because, by some inexplicable (and unjust) force of dumb chance or intergalactic intelligence, this generation has landed in its 20s at an especially opportune moment in human history.

Reckon Mr. Greenspan was right in requesting the kids and students to make mistakes, so as to reduce the level of perfection and so that we mortals can perform.

One must note that our greatest fear should not be of being inadequate but it is the fact that we know that we could be and we are powerful beyond measure.

If we at least try and stop now, then perhaps there is some kind of hope.

I think we are not far from it either............

Monday, April 21, 2008

Five Hollywood studios join to start video-on-demand service


Viacom Inc. and five Hollywood studios are joining forces to create a television channel and video-on-demand service.

The companies said Sunday that the new venture will combine movies and television series from Paramount, Paramount Vantage, MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate, starting in fall 2009.

It will also have access during the pay-per-view television window to recent movie releases from the studios, including 'Iron Man','Star Trek', and 'Love Guru' 'Movies from the studios' archive libraries and new TV series created by the studios also will be featured.

Viacom will provide marketing and other operational support through its MTV Networks division.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pyramid Saimira to invest Rs. 400 crore this fiscal

Bollywood Trade News Network

Chennai-based Pyramid Saimira Group, the world's fastest growing entertainment conglomerate has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the China Society Music Research Board, which is under the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China. The Jiangsu Pyramid Longzhe Group has been formed as a follow up of this MoU. As per the details of the Joint Venture, the Jiangsu Pyramid Longzhe Group will operate theatres, distribute films and engage in other entertainment, arts and cultural activities in China. The new entity plans to launch one screen per day in Mainland China and further generate non-box office revenues also.

Speaking about the MoU and the newly formed venture, Mr. P S Saminathan, Managing Director, Pyramid Saimira Group, said, "It is a proud moment for the Pyramid Saimira Group to become the first Indian entertainment company to foray into China. This is a landmark deal for us, given that the entertainment sector in China is highly regulated. We see great potential for the entertainment sector in China as there is a significant increase in the disposable incomes of the entire population, as well as the willingness of new generation to avail multi faceted entertainment product & services."

Further speaking about the newly formed venture, Mr. Saminathan added, "We are looking to invest close to Rs. 400 crore in the Jiangsu Pyramid Longzhe Group in the first year of operation itself which will be deployed in exhibition / distribution / television content / music and production infrastructure seeding. Through this venture, we will create a huge theatre chain network / food courts / gaming parlours and offer other entertainment services. We will bring international content to China and will also showcase and market local Chinese content across the world. This entry will strengthen the growing exhibition & content business of our group and will, in a very short time, make us the largest exhibitor in the world. "

Mr. Venkatakrishnan, COO, Jiangsu Pyramid Longzhe Group, said "We are extremely happy to partner with the China Society Music Research Board to bring in international entertainment content into China. We already have an established track record in operating multiplexes and stand-alone theatres in India, USA, Singapore and Malaysia. We are confident that we will now be able to leverage and extrapolate our expertise in the larger market of China."

Commenting about the cultural cooperation agreement Mr Luo Shi Zheng Assitant- Secretary General Assistant, The Association of Social Music Research in China (ASMRC) said "China is actively pursuing strong cultural ties and would like to strengthen Sino - India people to people cultural exchange & cooperation. Ultimately cultural communication will play a significant role in helping china and India to work together. We are extremely happy to partner with Pyramid Saimira Group in this endeavour."

Expressing her happiness about the formation of the new venture with Pyramid Saimira, Ms. Li, Chairperson, Longzhe Group, said "Relations between China and India have undergone a sea change in the last few years. Pyramid Saimira is one of the fastest growing companies in the world today and we are extremely happy to partner with them to grow and nurture the entertainment sector in China."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Technorati Profile

Technorati Profile

Recently started to use the services of technocrati as one of my friends suggested me to have a Technorati Profile.

Technorati Profile as its a good website for bloggers. It gives all information on blogging and lets you to publish content and get famous amongst millions of other technocrati users. So watch my Technorati Profile and help me be famous too.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Al Gore Caught Warming Globe To Increase Box Office Profits

This is quite an old one but a good one......

With due apologies Al

Dozens of eyewitness reports indicated that former vice president Al Gore deliberately attempted to raise the earth's temperature in order to boost box office receipts for An Inconvenient Truth, his documentary film about global warming that was released in May.


Former vice president Al Gore takes a flamethrower to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to boost weekend ticket sales for An Inconvenient Truth.

"We have accounts from concerned citizens that Mr. Gore purchased a Cadillac Escalade SUV several months before [his film] opened in theaters," said Kimberly Blume, spokeswoman for the California-based environmental group Friends Of The Earth. "Not only did Mr. Gore use his new gas-guzzler to make short trips to the grocery store, he also left the vehicle running 24 hours a day in the driveway of his Tennessee home with the air-conditioning on full-blast."

In the weeks following the film's release, witnesses reported additional sightings of Gore engaging in activities such as discharging can after can of 1980s-era, CFC-laden aerosol into the air, and single-handedly clear-cutting over 6,000 acres of Amazon rain forest.

Gore is also rumored to have set a four-acre tire fire outside Akron, OH, and ordered his Secret Service detail to shoot on sight anyone who attempts to put it out.

"It's sad to see a man we thought was a passionate defender of the environment despoiling it for his own monetary gain," Blume said.

Blume said that she and many environmentalists had momentarily expressed relief in late November when Gore appeared to cease his months-long practice of dismantling old refrigerators in order to release ozone-destroying freon into the atmosphere. Blume soon learned, however, that Gore had resumed the activity in Antarctica, where the earth's ozone layer is most fragile.

Environmental groups have called for the federal government to step in and put a stop to Gore's actions, but officials say they do not have the power to stop him.

"There is no legal recourse anyone can take against the former vice president," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said. "Mr. Gore is well within the emissions standards set by the current administration."

By year's end, Gore failed to slow his assault on the planet's delicately balanced climate systems. Satellite surveillance revealed what many believe to be a snowshoed Gore jumping up and down on an ice shelf in Greenland, chainsawing glaciers in the Alaskan wild, and urinating in the Gulf Stream waters off the coast of Newfoundland.

News Clip From Onion.Com [December 18, 2006 | Issue 42•51 ]

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Craigslist - From Little Idea Into Big Money

The website devouring the classified industry could hit $100 million in revenue in 2009 with a couple of minor changes, with the old-line newspaper industry helplessly watching from the sidelines.

Craigslist looks like what it is, a site launched years ago as a personal project that never forgot its users.

Though the powers that be at Craigslist, founder and customer service rep Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster, aren't commenting on the story from industry analysts Classified Intelligence (CI), they are pulling in an appreciable amount of money on the famously minimalist site. They could do even better.

CI said in its report on Craigslist that the implementation of its $25 job listing fee in three more locations could boost the company's revenue into nine-digit territory. Through assessment of Craigslist postings in January and March, CI pegs 2008 revenue for Craigslist at $81 million.

Take the job recruiting fee of $25 Craigslist charges in a handful of major metropolitan areas. Kick it up to $75 across the board (that's the price in San Francisco), and revenue for 2009 should climb to $150 million for a company based in a Victorian-style house that looks like it saw much better days a half-century ago.

The customer service credo of Craigslist, and its modest appointments both in headquarters and in site design, stand in stark contrast to the glassy offices of the newspapers that bore the brunt of the no frills, no fee approach to classifieds that are a hallmark of the site. Craigslist looks like what it is, a site launched years ago as a personal project that never forgot its users.

Some feel like Craigslist should do more, namely the bombastic VP and general manager of eBay's classifieds competitor, Kijiji, Jacob Aqraou. He doesn't care for the dated look of Craigslist, or the English-only listings that have only branched out into other languages in recent months.

As CI noted, the sniping comes across as odd, since eBay happens to own a 25 percent stake in Craigslist. The competition is real, however, with Kijiji, Freecycle, and the Village Voice's Backpage all trying to present themselves as a better classifieds option.

Although some may dispute Craigslist's real impact on newspaper classified revenue, one publishing professional cited by CI called Craigslist a catalyst that forced newspapers to reconsider their business models.

There isn't one cause for newspaper fortunes to be in decline. Craigslist is a popular target, especially since CI said in 2004 that San Francisco newspapers lost as much as $65 million in recruitment ad revenue alone due to the site.

Craigslist simply found a niche where demand existed, and they make as much money as they care to earn. One can imagine how much they would make if they tossed an AdSense ad unit into their templates. But to Newmark and company, such a prospect looks unfathomable.

News Clip Courtesy : David Utter
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business and can be reached at dutter @ webpronews dot com

Bottomline :
Craig Newmark's story is inspiring. He took a little email project and turned it into a multi-million dollar headache for the newspaper industry. Even after all the success, craigslist remains humble, simple, and end-user focused.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Residual Damage

Residual Damage

Straight to the point!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spanish police detain 76 in major Internet fraud probe

Police in Spain have detained 76 people across the country as part of what they described Sunday as their biggest-ever probe into Internet fraud.

The suspects defrauded their victims of over three million euros (four million US dollars), police said in a statement.

Part of the suspects allegedly offered big-ticket items like television sets or cars for sale online and then disappeared with the money without ever delivering the goods. Other suspects are believed to have illegally obtained the codes of online bank accounts and then carried out money transfers in their favour.

The majority of those who were detained, 47, were Spaniards. Five Ukrainian nationals, five Guineans, four Romanians, two Russians and two Moroccans were among the remaining detained suspects.

Police said Internet fraud was rising rapidly due to the weak penalties applied and the little equipment that is needed to carry it out and they urged great caution with online transactions and purchases.

News Clip - 1st April, 2008.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yahoo, Google, MySpace form OpenSocial Foundation

Yahoo said on Tuesday that it is backing a program by rival Google to make software work fluidly across different social networks, and will create a joint foundation to promote the effort.

The normally fierce competitors are working together in the OpenSocial network, which Google formed in November to lure web software developers and other social network sites away from the emerging market leader in social networks, Facebook.

Many social networks — including News Corp's MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn — support OpenSocial, a set of technical specifications that lets software developers build applications such as games and photo shows that can run on any social network, expanding the audience for such software.

However, neither Facebook nor Microsoft, which gave Facebook $240m (£120m) in backing last year, has signed up to support OpenSocial. Microsoft, which has mounted a $42bn hostile takeover bid for Yahoo, also has an agreement to sell advertising on Facebook's site.

One industry analyst says OpenSocial is in catch-up mode.

"There is only one place developers go right now, and that is Facebook," Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li said.

"OpenSocial makes it easier for everybody else to get in the game," said Li.

The scope of OpenSocial is increasing and OpenSocial applications reach more than 200 million users, Joe Kraus, a Google director of product management, said in a conference call. Supporter MySpace alone counts 110 million active users.

"If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together," Kraus said of the OpenSocial effort, which is currently endorsed by more than 15 companies.

Kraus founded JotSpot, a maker of software for building small group websites, which Google acquired last year.

Yahoo, Google and MySpace also said on Tuesday that they will create the OpenSocial Foundation to maintain a neutral, community-governed forum for developing applications. It will be set up as a not-for-profit entity, with assets to be assigned to the new organisation by 1 July.

In a show of Yahoo's willingness to work with Google, a potential ally in its attempt to fend off Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid, Yahoo vice president of platforms Wade Chambers took the unprecedented step of posting the news on an official Google corporate blog aimed at developers.

"Openness is in the Internet's DNA and it's also a major aspect of our culture here at Yahoo," Chambers posted on the Google blog.

Chambers declined, on the joint conference call, to give specific examples of how Yahoo plans to use OpenSocial applications.

Yahoo executives have showcased new versions of their flagship email service, Yahoo Mail, and software for using the internet on mobile phones that have deeply integrated social-networking features. A key stated goal of Yahoo is to become a primary starting point for web users, not just to reach Yahoo's own media properties but also other social networks and sites.

Facebook, which has had the greatest momentum among social networks in attracting new users over the past year, has remained aloof from OpenSocial. It offers its own simple set of technical specifications for application developers.

Independent developers have built 19,000 applications that run inside Facebook, which now has 67 million active users.

Yahoo's Chambers said it would welcome Microsoft or any other company that wants to sign on.

"Any large player should be open to participate," Chambers said.

News Clip Courtesy : Reuters, 26 Mar, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tamil actor Raghuvaran passes away

CHENNAI: Veteran Tamil actor Raghuvaran, who carved a niche for himself in character roles, died on Wednesday after a brief illness.

Raghuvaran, 49, is survived by his wife Rohini, from whom he had separated, and a son. A heavy smoker, he was having health problems for quite sometime and was admitted to a private hospital about a week ago.

Raghuvaran, who had carved a niche for himself in roles that displayed sadism, had acted in more than 80 films in Tamil and Malayalam and had bagged many awards, including the Tamil Nadu government's 'Kalaimamani' (artiste of excellence) and best character artiste awards.

He had acted with top actors, including superstar Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan. He had also figured in Hindi films Shiva , the first Hindi directorial venture of Ram Gopal Varma, and in Lal Badshah .

His portrayal of the father of a mentally-challenged daughter in Anjali , which was also dubbed in Hindi, earned him critical acclaim.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Foreign journalists expelled from Tibet

China has expelled journalists from Lhasa in Tibet and suspended permits for foreigners to travel to the region.

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association has issued a statement saying reporters from at least six Hong Kong media groups were ordered to leave Lhasa by plane.

The association called the expulsion unacceptable and said it contravened new government regulations allowing greater access for foreign journalists prior to this year's Beijing Olympics.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said it had details of two dozen foreign reporters who were expelled from Lhasa and other Tibetan areas.

Some reporters were told they were barred due to police action, the club said.

Extended government censorship of the Internet and international television broadcasts since the protests began last week was also hampering journalists, it said.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau reported that staff from international non-governmental organizations were also ordered to leave Lhasa by Monday, raising fears that troops could toughen their crackdown on the protestors once a deadline for protestors to surrender passed at midnight Monday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spitzer call girl, an aspiring singer, says she’s no monster

NEW YORK, MARCH 13: She left a broken home on the Jersey Shore at 17 and came to New York City to work the nightclubs as a rhythm and blues singer. Now, at 22, she is the unwitting, and as yet unseen, star of the seamy drama that is the downfall of Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York.

Kristen, the prostitute described in a federal affidavit as having had a rendezvous with Spitzer on February 13 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, has spent the last few days in her ninth-floor apartment in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. On Monday, she made a brief appearance in federal court, where a lawyer was appointed to represent her. She is expected to be a witness in the case against four people charged with operating a prostitution ring called the Emperor’s Club VIP.

In a series of telephone interviews on Tuesday night, she said she had slept very little over the past week, with all the stress of the case.

“I just don’t want to be thought of as a monster,” the woman said as she told the tiniest tidbits of her story.

Born Ashley Youmans but now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, she spoke softly and with good humor as she added with significant understatement: “This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated.”

She has not been charged. The lawyer appointed to represent her, Don D Buchwald, told a magistrate judge in court on Monday that she had been subpoenaed to testify in a grand jury investigation. Asked to swear that she had accurately filled out and signed a financial affidavit, she responded affirmatively.

A person with knowledge of the Emperor’s Club operation confirmed that the woman interviewed by The New York Times was the woman identified as Kristen in the affidavit. Buchwald confirmed various details of Dupré’s background but would not discuss the contents of the affidavit.

Dupré said by telephone Tuesday night that she was worried about how she would pay her rent since the man she was living with “walked out on me” after she discovered he had fathered two children. She said she was considering working at a friend’s restaurant or, once her apartment lease expires, moving back with her family in New Jersey “to relax.”

She did not say when she had started working for the Emperor’s Club, or how often she had liaisons arranged through the ring. Asked when she met Governor Spitzer and how many times they had seen each other, Dupré said she had no comment.

Music is her first love, and on the MySpace page, Ms. Dupré mentions Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, Christina Aguilera and Lauryn Hill among a long list of influences, including her brother, Kyle. (She also lists Whitney Houston, Madonna, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse as her top MySpace friends.) In the interview, she said she saw the Rolling Stones perform at Radio City Music Hall on their last tour after a friend gave her two tickets. “They were amazing,” she said.

On MySpace, her page says: “I am all about my music and my music is all about me. It flows from what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and how I feel.”

She left “a broken family” at age 17, having been abused, according to the MySpace page, and has used drugs and “been broke and homeless.”

“Learned what it was like to have everything and lose it, again and again,” she writes. “Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone.

“But I made it,” she continues. “I’m still here and I love who I am. If I never went through the hard times, I would not be able to appreciate the good ones. Cliché, yes, but I know it’s true.”

Dupré’s mother, Carolyn Capalbo, 46, said that after her daughter finished sophomore year in high school, Dupré moved to North Carolina. “She was a young kid with typical teenage rebellion issues, but we are extremely close now,” Capalbo said in a telephone interview Wednesday.