Wednesday, 2 May 2012

President Barack Obama sees 'light of a new day' in Afghanistan

 One year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama flew to Kabul on Tuesday to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and delivered a prime-time address to an American television audience from Bagram Air Base. May 1 also marked the ninth anniversary of former President George W. Bush’s aircraft carrier landing in 2003 with a “Mission Accomplished” banner as a backdrop.

At the National Journal, Michael Hirsh writes that Mr. Obama’s surprise trip to Kabul was nothing like President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment.

Obama has spent most of the last three years reminding Americans that Bush left him with a titanic cleanup job, both of America’s badly misconceived wars and of a badly run economy. It is a habit that has begun to grate on many voters. But in this instance he may have a point. Obama does appear to be at least in reach of completing the task that the horrors of 9/11 set in motion so long ago. He has withdrawn from Iraq, is planning to do so in Afghanistan, while at the same time knocking off or capturing the worst culprits responsible for 9/11.

As the president himself acknowledged, the conflict may never be completely over.  The new agreement with Karzai makes clear that U.S. funds and U.S. trainers and counter-terrorism forces will be deployed in Afghanistan for at least another decade to come.  And many experts on the ground say the readiness of Afghan forces has been overestimated, just as the corruption of Karzai’s government and its lack of support inside the country tend to be underestimated.

But Obama’s closing peroration may still be one of his best campaign lines in 2012: “My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.”

It’s not “Mission Accomplished,” not yet. But it’s not bad. And it may help him to get re-elected.

The president left Afghanistan soon after his speech. But in a blunt reminder of the country's fragile security situation, three explosions occurred in Kabul just hours later. Police official Mohammed Zahir said the blasts were heard near a "camp for foreigners" in the eastern part of the capital. He said gunfire also was heard.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Sidiq Sidiqi said one of the blasts was a car bomb, possibly driven by a suicide attacker.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

After the pact was signed, Obama addressed U.S. troops at Bagram, crediting them with blunting the Taliban, driving al-Qaida out of Afghanistan and decimating its ranks.

But he warned that the conflict wasn't yet over.

"There's going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead," he told the 3,200 service members gathered at a hangar at the base. "But there's a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you've made."

And in a remark that drew loud applause, he noted that it was a year ago that "we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice."

"That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs," he said.

A report released Tuesday by the Pentagon detailed the gains in Afghanistan. It noted that so far this year, enemy attacks are down 16%, and the report says recent allied efforts "seriously degraded the insurgency's ability to mount a major offensive" this year.

Adis Medunjanin convicted in terror plot to bomb NYC subways

Adis Medunjanin, 28, was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to bomb the New York City subways, and he was eventually nabbed in a high-stakes chase that lasted only a few days. According to court documents, an associate of Medunjanin named Najibullah Zazi, 24—they pledged allegiance to al Qaeda at the same New York City mosque—first tipped authorities off to a possible plot in September 2009 when he emailed an alleged handler for al Qaeda from a computer in Denver. Zazi left Denver on Sept. 8, driving cross-country to New York, with U.S. national-security agents on his trail. Port Authority agents stopped Zazi, but let him go—but he panicked anyway, telling Medunjanin “we are done.” Zazi was arrested shortly after arriving in Denver, and the FBI arrested Medunjanin and another former classmate of theirs, Zarein Ahmedzay, in January 2010.

After less than two days of deliberation, a jury on Tuesday convicted Adis Medunjanin, 28, of Queens N.Y., of conspiracy and terrorism charges in connection with a planned suicide bombing attack on the New York City subway system in 2009. He faces mandatory life in prison when he's sentenced Sept. 7, officials said. An appeal of the conviction is expected.

Officials said they'd foiled one of the most serious terror plots since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon near Washington ushered in the age of Islamic terrorism aimed at the United States. Those attacks also brought the U.S. response, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continuing battles to keep Americans safe from a variety of foreign-inspired attacks, such as Medunhjanin’s plot and those involving explosives hidden in the shoes or underwear of suicide terrorists.

“I want to commend prosecutors for the conviction of Adis Medunjanin,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated. “His conviction stands as a stark reminder of terrorists' desire long after 9/11 to return to the city to kill more New Yorkers.”

“Adis Medunjanin was an active and willing participant in one of the most serious terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11. Were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, the suicide bomb attacks that he and others planned would have been devastating,” Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a prepared statement.

Medunjanin was born in Bosnia but raised in Queens. Former classmates Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, who testified as part of a plea deal, told the jury how the trio became radicalized and sought terror training. They went to Pakistan in 2008 to learn how to take revenge on the United States for its invasion of Afghanistan.

“Adis Medunjanin’s journey of radicalization led him from Flushing, Queens, to Peshawar, Pakistan, to the brink of a terrorist attack in New York City – and soon to a lifetime in federal prison,” said U.S. Atty. Loretta E. Lynch, whose office handled the prosecution.

It was in the training areas in the south Waziristan region of Pakistan that Al Qaeda encouraged the men to go back to the United States and carry out a suicide mission that would spread fear and damage the economy. Among the targets discussed were the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and movie theaters, the men testified.

Mitt Romney is a Swiss-bank-account-owning liar

Wednesday afternoon Newt Gingrich is expected to announce that he will suspend his presidential campaign. After yo-yoing from the bottom of the heap to the top of the pack and back down to the bottom again, his time to win delegates and the opportunity to raise money both have finally ran out.
There is an overwhelming temptation among many in the world of political commentary to dismiss this news as the inevitable prevailing over the impossible.  “Newt never stood a chance against Romney.  He had no money, no organization, no institutional support” likely summarizes the conventional wisdom about the end of his short-circuited campaign.
However, Gingrich is hardly a victim.  As has been the case throughout the year, he makes it easy for his critics to marginalize and lampoon him, mainly because his ego is considered as “big” as his ideas.  
Take Wednesday’s announcement as an example. The Gingrich campaign attempted to generate massive build up around an event that essentially features the former House Speaker dropping out of the race.
Few outside Gingrich's intimate group of family and advisers think his speech today, focused on  "the important role citizens can play in stopping a second Obama term and helping Mitt Romney and the Republican Party build a governing coalition in Washington”; will ultimately have any impact on the race.  So what justifies such a prolonged exit from the political stage?

“As a man who wants to run for president of the United States who can’t be honest with the American people, why should we expect him to level about anything if he’s president?” the former House speaker asks matter-of-factly in one clip.  

Next question: Is it Romney’s business record that Newt supports?

“You’d certainly have to say that Bain at times engaged in behavior where they looted a company leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people,” Gingrich says, referring to the private-equity firm that Romney formerly headed.

Then: “There was a pattern, in some companies, a handful of them, of leaving them with enormous debt, and then within a year or two or three, having them go broke. I think that is something he ought to answer.”

Follow that with slams on Romney’s Swiss bank account, a “Romney machine” that’s “not capable of inspiring positive turnout,” positions that are “anti-immigrant,” and another attack on Romney’s honesty, and you’ve got a tidy message against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Romney finished the competitive part of the primary season with the lowest likability of any major-party nominee in modern history – thanks in part to attacks from Gingrich and the other GOP candidates. Now Gingrich is reportedly set to endorse Romney in the next couple of weeks. The Obama campaign is making sure we don’t forget what Gingrich thought just a few months ago.

Rick Perry: God will forgive his 'oops' moment

AUSTIN, Texas — God forgives people for their "oops moments" even if the American electorate does not, failed Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Wednesday at a breakfast to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

The Texas governor famously muttered "oops" during a presidential debate when he couldn't remember the third federal department he'd promised to eliminate if elected. It has become one of the campaign's signature moments.

"Every one of us has `oops moments' every day" Perry told hundreds of faithful packed into an Austin hotel ballroom.

"America may not forgive you for it," Perry said, drawing laughter and applause. "But God will."

Perry is an evangelical Christian and often attends prayer gatherings. A week before officially beginning his run for president in August, he hosted a national day of prayer that drew 30,000 to a Houston arena.

Perry has kept a relatively low profile since dropping out of the presidential race two days before the South Carolina primary in January. But he is in his element at religious events and it showed Wednesday, with the relaxed and self-effacing governor playing to a sympathetic crowd that frequently interrupted him with cries of "Amen!"

His speech kicked off state celebrations of the National Day of Prayer a day early. The annual event, held on the first Thursday of May, attracts people of all faiths who pray for the country. It was created in 1952 by a resolution in Congress, and signed into law by President Harry Truman.

Perry also presented a proclamation formally recognizing May 3 as Texas Day of Prayer. Organizers of the breakfast promised mass prayer events statewide on Thursday.

The Republican could not remember the name of the third federal agency he'd like to eliminate during a presidential debate. His fumbling for an answer, punctuated by him saying "oops" at the end of the excruciating-to-watch scene, is one of the indelible moments of the 2012 campaign.

The governor ended his White House bid in January.

"Every one of us has 'oops moments' every day," Perry told an Austin crowd gathered today to kick off the National Day of Prayer. "America may not forgive you for it. But God will."

Perry often touched on his faith in his short-lived presidential campaign and is known for his evangelical ties. The National Day of Prayer is tomorrow.

According to the Associated Press story of Perry's remarks this morning, his speech was well-received and punctuated with cries of "Amen" from the crowd. Perry also asked for prayers for President Obama.

"Let's pray for our president, for his wisdom," Perry said. "I pray that God pierces his heart."

Occupy Wall Street -- fresh fury, or fizzling out

 April showers didn’t bring May flowers this year – they bloomed early – but May Day did bring some new people into the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Occupy movement's May Day marches and demonstrations across the country were intended in part to revive the movement, which had lost some momentum over the winter months, and gain new support.

"What they need to do is showcase the movement as a relevant voice,” says Catherine Wilson, a professor of political science at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. “They are trying to reignite the movement by partnering with like-minded groups to effect change.”

Darting from the crowd wedged into New York's Financial District, the youngster dodged a dozen police officers and managed to slap the famous bronze bull statue that has become a totem of US capitalism and hate symbol for the anti-corporate left.
The man was cuffed and forced to the ground within seconds. Yet to the delight of cheering protesters, this rebel with a cause was not finished.
Two cops tried to pick him up. He wriggled free. Six cops tried to put him in a squad car. He kicked the door open. They pushed, pulled. They still couldn't manage.
By now at least 20 police, including several senior officers, were involved.
Crowd cheers became jeers.
"This is what a police state looks like!" came the chant.
When cops finally slammed the squad car door, the protester kicked out a rear window, showering his captors with glass. They looked astonished.
A second vehicle arrived and a third. Up came an officer with a straightjacket.
"All of you against just one person. Shame on you!" yelled one heckler.
"A straightjacket. Why don't you just shoot him, huh?" chimed in another.
The obvious discomfort of the police, surrounded by thousands of people, was a moment of triumph for the crowd, proof that their mantra of "take back the streets" had been fulfilled.
Or perhaps not.
Soon the hecklers moved on. The bull and the financial system it represents remained standing. A van hauled away the anonymous protester.
He didn't even get his picture in Wednesday's New York papers.
Leslie Feldman, a politics professor at Hofstra University, said the jury remains out on how much the Occupy movement matters.
"It's captured the imagination of the country. It has captured the imagination, possibly, of the voters," she said.
A particular achievement, she noted, was Occupy's shifting of public discourse over wealth, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for example, constantly on the defensive over his fortune.
But will street marches bring concrete change in what Occupy sees as unfair, elitist government and bank policies?
"No," Feldman said. "I don't think there's going to be a bailout, say, of college debt.... They'd have to run for office, go as a group and visit congressman and senators."
Certainly marchers on Tuesday were thrilled at their sheer numbers, the noise and vibrancy of the crowd, and brief victories in cat-and-mouse game with police.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Family dead after surviving car crash

Homicide officers were last night trying to piece together the Sharma family's last days after they were found dead at their Glen Waverley home, in Melbourne's southeast.

The bodies of accountant Nilesh Sharma, 36, his wife Preetika, 32, their son Divesh, 5, and daughter Divya, 3, were discovered when police were called to make a welfare check.
The two children were found in beds in separate bedrooms. It is believed Mr Sharma was found hanged.
The children's great uncle, Abhay Singh, yesterday said the family had seemed happy when they attended his son's birthday party last week.
"They were very happy, they had a drink and we had fun," he said.
"The kids were very amicable, well mannered, polite and well presented. We are all devastated. Very shaken - a whole family is destroyed."
Last December the family were lucky to escape after a car crash in the Dandenong Ranges. Mr Sharma was taken to hospital with chest, abdominal and pelvic injuries and burns.

The uncle of the two children, Abhay Singh, said the family was very close and they were "absolutely shattered". He said he "fell into pieces" when his daughter broke the news to him.

He said the family attended his son's birthday party last week and everyone seemed happy.

Mr Singh said the couple did not have marital problems, and he believes they had died from a gas tank explosion.

"It's a real mystery, we just do not know what has happened," Mr Singh said. "We are all devastated. Very shaken -- a whole family is destroyed."

Mr Singh said Nilesh was an accountant and Preetika was also a professional. He said he visited the family regularly and they never seemed to have any problems.

"It is shattering," he said. "I don't know how anyone can recover from that."

Shocked neighbours who spoke to The Australian said they did not usually see much of the Sharma family, saying they always kept to themselves.

Several neighbours, who did not want to be named, said they had seen the children playing in the street during the summer and several times seen the mother, but they never knew that a man, the father, lived there.

RBA cash rate cut ups pressure on banks

SYDNEY—Australia's slowing economy was given a shot in the arm Tuesday when the central bank cut a hefty half-percentage point from official interest rates, signaling a shift in its focus away from fighting inflation and toward safeguarding growth amid an uncertain global outlook.

Growth in the world economy slowed in the second half of 2011, and is likely to continue at a below-trend pace this year," said Glenn Stevens, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, in a statement following the decision to lower the official cash rate to 3.75%, its lowest since early 2010. "Growth in China has moderated, as was intended, and is likely to remain at a more measured and sustainable pace in the future."

Australia's economy depends greatly on resource exports to China, the country's largest trading partner. In the first quarter, China's economy grew 8.1%, its slowest rate in three years.

Mr. Stevens said that inflation, which was spurred last year by the mining boom and a series of natural disasters that pushed up food prices, has eased to a lower-than-expected level and is likely to remain within the bank's target range of 2% to 3% for the next two years. That gives the RBA scope to focus on helping segments of the economy, such as real estate and manufacturing, that have suffered from higher interest rates and the persistent strength of the Australian dollar even as the mining industry has prospered.

Although the forecast-beating cut was widely welcomed, business leaders called for even deeper rate cuts, saying they are necessary to get the economy back on track, according to The Australian.

"One rate cut is not enough to turn around confidence," Stockland chairman Graham Bradley said, according to the newspaper. "People are scared about their jobs, so what we need to see is a trend emerge. If the RBA was confident the banks would have passed on all of a 25-basis-point move I think they would have done two cuts of 25 basis points, but they weren't confident of that happening."

Mr Bradley, who is also chairman of HSBC Australia, also called on commercial banks to pass on most of the 50-basis-point cut, according to The Australian.

All 16 economists surveyed by AAP last week expected the RBA to cut the cash rate at its May 1 board meeting.

In a statement accompanying the decision, RBA governor Glenn Stevens said growth in the world economy slowed in the second half of 2011, and is likely to continue at a below-trend pace this year.

"A deep downturn is not occurring at this stage, however, and in fact some forecasters have recently revised upwards their global growth outlook," Mr Stevens said.

"Conditions in Europe remain very difficult, while the United States continues to grow at a moderate pace.

"Commodity prices have been little changed, at levels below recent peaks but which are nonetheless still quite high.

"Australia's terms of trade similarly peaked about six months ago, though they too remain high."

Mr Stevens said financial market sentiment had improved this year and that capital market are supplying funding to corporations and well-rated banks.

Sirius XM Canada

Sirius XM Canada is a Canadian radio broadcasting company, which operates as a Canadian affiliate of Sirius XM Radio. The company received approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on April 11, 2011 to merge the formerly distinct XM Radio Canada and Sirius Canada services, following the merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio in the United States. The merger was subsequently completed as of June 21, 2011.
John Bitove's Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., the licensee of the former XM Radio Canada, holds 30.3% and effective control of the new company. Slaight Communications and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the primary shareholders in the former Sirius, each hold 20.4%, and the American parent Sirius XM holds 25%. Both Bitove and Mark Redmond, the former president and CEO of Sirius Canada, hold executive roles with the new company.

Sirius XM CEO doubts FCC will side with Liberty

Shares of Sirius XM (SIRI) were up slightly Tuesday and have now gained 25% so far this year. Sirius XM is still is trading well below its all-time highs from 2000. But the company has enjoyed a remarkable rebound after many investors left it for dead during the worst of the Great Recession three years ago.
Sirius XM has finally become a company that generates real profits. You can actually value the stock with tried and true metrics like a price-to-earnings ratio. On that basis, Sirius XM still looks a tad expensive ... but not absurdly so.
Shares trade at 32 times 2012 earnings estimates. That's a lot pricier than the broader market, not to mention tech giants like Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500).
Sirius XM also trades at a premium to other pure play publicly traded radio companies like CC Media Holdings (CCMO, Fortune 500) (the old Clear Channel) and Cumulus Media (CMLS) as well as media giant CBS (CBS, Fortune 500), which has a big radio operation.
Pandora's popularity is a double-edged sword
But analysts do expect earnings to grow at a nearly 20% clip a year, on average, for the next few years. John Tinker, an analyst with Maxim Partners in New York, wrote in a report Tuesday that Sirius XM deserves a higher valuation than traditional radio companies due to its better growth prospects.

Sirius XM faces a potential battle with Liberty, which last month requested approval from federal regulators to take de facto control of Sirius XM now that restrictions on its stake have expired.

Liberty executives have said the company could boost its stake above 49.9 percent. It already holds five of Sirius XM's 13 board seats.

Karmazin said on the conference call that he did not think the Federal Communications Commission would side with Liberty.

"We believe the FCC will conclude based on precedent that a 40 percent shareholder, even one with influence, is not in de facto control," Karmazin said.

But he also said he had not heard from the FCC and did not know what Liberty Media planned to do besides keep its options open.

He said Sirius XM would protect its shareholders if Liberty did take control of the company. He said Sirius XM was not currently "combative" with Liberty.

Sirius XM Radio

Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) is an American broadcasting company that provides two satellite radio services (SDARS) operating in the United States, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio. The company also owns a minority interest in Sirius XM Canada, an affiliate company which provides Sirius and XM service in Canada. The company in its current incarnation was formed following the acquisition of XM Satellite Radio, Inc. by Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. on July 29, 2008.
On February 19, 2007, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio announced a merger that would combine the two radio services and create a single satellite radio network in the United States. The merger brought the combined companies a total of more than 18.5 million subscribers based on current subscriber numbers on the date of merging.
The proposed merger was controversial because, in 1997, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted only two licenses and, in order to ensure a state of competition, stipulated that one of the holders would not be permitted to acquire control of the other.
Each share of XM stock was replaced with 4.6 shares of Sirius. Each company's stockholders initially retain approximately 50% of the joined company. Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin became CEO of the new company, and XM chairman Gary Parsons was named chairman. XM CEO Hugh Panero stepped down in August 2007.
In 2011, SiriusXM announced that the company will offer personal radio channels like Pandora. The new features will allow listeners to replay, skip and ban songs, along with five hours' worth of time-shifting capabilities on most channels and some on-demand features.

Can Occupy Wall Street Replace the Labor Movement

The boisterous musical parade of Occupy Wall Street protesters took an unfortunate right turn Tuesday and wound up in some unfriendly territory.

After tearing through a midtown Manhattan tour past a slew of big corporate offices, the noisy chants of the occupiers were interrupted on West 46th Street by a group of hard-hats not in the mood for populist rabble-rousing.

Whereas the OWS crowd proclaimed "we are the 99 Percent" and "banks got bailed out, we got sold out," a band of construction workers delivered chants of their own.

"Get-a-job! Get-a-job!" several workers atop a work site repeatedly hollered.

"Get a job! Stop wasting the cops' time!" yelled another, reffering to the large detail of officers clad in riot gear that accompanied the Occupy procession.

They were similiar exchanges with more colorful language such as...well, you can imagine what happens once a group of construction workers meets up with a band of raggedy-attired anti-capitalists.

It wasn't pretty, and certainly not suitable for a family web site.

But such were the ups and downs of Occupy Wall Street's May Day demonstration, which certainly found its fair share of support around the bustling rain-drenched metropolis, but had trouble living up to the advance billing.

Labor organizers hoped that Solidarity Day would mark the beginning of a campaign that would halt the Reagan administration in its tracks. This was not to be. Instead, it might have been the labor movement's last shining moment -- the final point at which it was capable, within weeks, of organizing a vast bloc of working-class Americans in protest against government policy.
In 1981, the labor movement was already in decline, and the trend accelerated afterward. In 1960, one-third of the private-sector workforce had been represented by trade unions. Today, only 8 percent is. The missing army of private-sector union members -- that is, the number of additional workers that the movement would include today if unionization rates had stayed at levels of the 1960s and 1970s -- is about 20 million people.
We've recently seen the political consequences of this collapse. By many measures, economic conditions today are worse than in the summer of 1981. Real gross domestic product was actually increasing in the four years before 1981, but it flat-lined between 2007 and 2011. The unemployment rate was also higher in 2011 -- stuck at more than 9 percent for almost three years. And the labor-force participation rate declined from 2006 to 2011, while it increased from 1976 to 1981.
Conditions have been ripe for labor protest the past few years. But labor has lost the capacity to mobilize effectively. True, the AFL-CIO did join with other groups to organize a rally on the National Mall in 2010. But turnout was a fraction of what it had been for Solidarity Day. Labor's turnout was lower than for Glenn Beck's Tea Party rally five weeks earlier.
As unions have declined, new forms of mobilization have gained prominence, such as the loosely structured protest networks that have dogged international economic summits over the past decade. These networks have supplanted unions as the main vehicles for articulating resistance to economic liberalization. And they have space to grow because liberalization has crushed the labor movement: They're like the new species that thrive after a wildfire destroys an old-growth forest.
However, this doesn't mean that new forms of protest are equally effective. One problem is the inability of loosely structured networks to mobilize quickly. The economic crisis was already three years old when Occupy began. And there is a problem of representativeness. The Occupy protesters are younger, better educated, whiter and more politically radical than the population at large. This raises the question of whether the movement can articulate grievances with the same legitimacy that once belonged to a broad-based labor movement.
Assuming, of course, that Occupiers can articulate grievances coherently at all. The consensus-based decision making they adhere to makes it harder to define precise demands for action. Although the protesters' coolness toward engagement in everyday politics helps to keep more radical elements inside the tent, it lowers the probability that demands will produce results. The labor movement had similar internal difficulties. But it also had a structure that enabled it to manage those difficulties and express its demands more effectively.
Certainly, the Occupy movement has helped to highlight the problem of inequality. But influencing the policy agenda is only the first step in actually reducing inequality. The question now is whether these new forms of economic protest can evolve to perform the tasks once undertaken by the labor movement: translating broadly felt anxieties into policy demands, mobilizing large numbers for political action and negotiating with policy makers to get results.

Manufacturing Picks Up as Construction Rises

Manufacturing grew in April at the strongest rate in 10 months in the United States, easing concerns that the economy had lost momentum at the start of the second quarter.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Tuesday that its index of national factory activity rose to 54.8 points from 53.4 in March. The figure beat expectations for a decline to 53.0 in a Reuters poll.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector, while a number above 50 signifies expansion.

“The view on the economy has swung from optimism to pessimism of late, and this could bring us back to the middle,” said Nick Bennenbroek, head of FX Strategy for North America at Wells Fargo. “I.S.M. suggests there’s no real reason to get too concerned about the path of the U.S. economy at this point.”

The organization's gauge of employment also rose to its highest since June, to 57.3 points from 56.1. The forward-looking new orders component racked up its best reading in a year at 58.2 points, up from 54.5.

The strong labor figure comes ahead of the larger government nonfarm payrolls report due on Friday, which is forecast to show the economy added 170,000 jobs last month, including 22,000 manufacturing positions.

The report bucked the trend of recent data that suggested the economy lost some steam as the second quarter got under way, highlighting the bumpy nature of the recovery.

Manufacturing grew in April at the strongest rate in 10 months in the United States, easing concerns that the economy had lost momentum at the start of the second quarter.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Tuesday that its index of national factory activity rose to 54.8 points from 53.4 in March. The figure beat expectations for a decline to 53.0 in a Reuters poll.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector, while a number above 50 signifies expansion.

“The view on the economy has swung from optimism to pessimism of late, and this could bring us back to the middle,” said Nick Bennenbroek, head of FX Strategy for North America at Wells Fargo. “I.S.M. suggests there’s no real reason to get too concerned about the path of the U.S. economy at this point.”

The organization's gauge of employment also rose to its highest since June, to 57.3 points from 56.1. The forward-looking new orders component racked up its best reading in a year at 58.2 points, up from 54.5.

The strong labor figure comes ahead of the larger government nonfarm payrolls report due on Friday, which is forecast to show the economy added 170,000 jobs last month, including 22,000 manufacturing positions.

The report bucked the trend of recent data that suggested the economy lost some steam as the second quarter got under way, highlighting the bumpy nature of the recovery.

New iPad 4G claims scrutinized in UK

For those looking for a lightweight web-browsing, media consuming, and casual game-playing machine for 2012, the current Ultrabook lineup doesn’t always add up against the iPad. Though notebooks and desktop computers have been around for quite a few more years than the iPad, the latter essentially wrote the book on a vertically integrated hardware and software experience with Apple. 

Netbooks died because they couldn’t replace what the laptop did for them for computing power – now the Ultrabook is here with plenty of power that the average person simply does not need. Is the iPad that perfect medium for the post-PC era.

Nokia Lumia 800 mod enables Touchstone charging

The Nokia Lumia range will soon be four-strong, but what are the technical differences between the Nokia Lumia 610, Nokia Lumia 710, Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 900? In the first part of a new series we take a look at the difference in processing power between the four.
Nokia Lumia 610, 710, 800 and 900: which is right for you?

Since the release of the Nokia Lumia 800 people have marvelled at how quick and smooth everything feels on a Nokia Lumia phone. A large part of this is down to the highly efficient Windows Phone OS.

In fact, the Windows Phone operating system thrives on single-core processors while its key rivals have made the somewhat unnecessary jump to multi-core. Considering the vast majority of current smartphone tasks and apps simply aren't programmed to take advantage of this, the drain on battery life and high cost of production just doesn't seem worth it.

Especially when the Nokia Lumia range has such capable single-core processor. In actual fact, three of the Lumia range - the Nokia Lumia 710, Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia Lumia 900 - run on nigh-on identical processor technology. That would be the 1.4GHz Scorpion CPU from Qualcomm.

This processor is the fastest currently running in any Windows Phone device, which means that these three phones offer the optimum Windows Phone OS experience.

In addition, all three of these Nokia Lumia phones feature the Adreno 205 GPU, which is responsible for driving the graphics. This capable and flexible unit is the reason you can get the stunning 3D world of ilomilo as well as the fluid scrolling of the Windows Phone IE9 web browser.

It doesn’t look particularly easy, with some room having to be made to accommodate the copper wire that needs to be installed. Even the user found it difficult, noting that it took around 12 hours of experimenting before finally figuring out how to make the mod work. A minimal amount of metal inside the phone was removed in order to make the charge work, after which the conductive coil was taped inside the phone using electrical tape.

A little bit of soldering later (always a risky proposition when it comes to an expensive smartphone), the end result is a Nokia Lumia 800 that can be charged via the Touchstone. It looks like the receiver takes a couple of seconds to register the phone, but once it does, everything seems to work without issues.

RIM presents BlackBerry 10 to developers

Research In Motion's new chief executive unveiled Tuesday a prototype BlackBerry powered by revamped operating system. The company has pinned its future on the software.

Thorsten Heins, who took the CEO job in January, revealed features of the BlackBerry 10 operating system running on a prototype device at the company's BlackBerry World conference in Orlando. He provided no update on the software's launch date.

Heins, who is trying to rally developers to make applications for the new operating system, promised that each developer at the conference will go home with the prototype BlackBerry. In a speech that was broadcast on the company's BlackBerry World website, Heins stressed that the device is not the finished product.

The once iconic company has had difficulty competing with flashier, consumer-oriented phones such as Apple's iPhone and models that run Google's Android software.

The camera on the Dev Alpha device allows a user to go back and forth in a photo shoot to pick the best image from a session, such as a person with eyes open rather than closed.

RIM also posted a a 47-second video (see below) on YouTube that shows the new swipe features in BB 10, the predictive text capability and the photo shooting feature.

Developers will use the Dev Alpha device and the the new developer tools to build apps for the new BlackBerry 10.

RIM released a BlackBerry 10 native software developer kit as well as the Cascades SDK, to allow developers to build graphics apps in C/C++ using Qt Markup Language. RIM offered explanations of the tools via its developer blog on both the BB 10 native SDK and the BlackBerry 10 Cascades, for its user interface.

Cascades was created by The Astonishing Tribe, a software company that RIM purchased in 2010. It offers developers many shortcuts to pick out a certain user interface effects, which will automatically create code to be written into their apps.

Scott Brown benefits from health care act

 Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) is going further in linking himself to President Obama in a new radio ad supporting his re-election.
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell flags this new radio ad in Massachusetts in which Brown, in his own voice, talks up his bipartisan initiatives and the pride he felt in attending a signing ceremony at the White House in which Obama signed a vets' jobs bill that Brown had authored.
"Standing with President Obama on the day he signed it into law was another one of those great experiences," Brown says in the ad. "Whatever else may separate us, we are Americans first. To me, that means we need to work together now."
First Read has written in the past about Brown's efforts to embrace Obama as he seeks a full Senate term in deep-blue Massachusetts. His attendance of the signing ceremony referenced in the ad, along with another signing to ban insider trading on Capitol Hill, was seen as part of an effort to further that linkage in the mind of voters.

Brown — who voted for Massachusetts’ health care reform law, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 — has previously expressed support for the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan. But Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney hit back at Brown’s comments, saying that the senator’s determination to repeal Obama’s health care law makes him a hypocrite.
“Republican Sen. Scott Brown has gone Washington,” Harney said in a statement. “He says he likes being able to keep his daughter on the family health insurance plan; what he doesn’t say is that he voted to stop other parents from doing the same.”
She added, “Brown’s still promising to repeal the very reforms that allow him and the parents of 2.5 million other young adults to keep their kids covered. It’s not right. Scott Brown spells health care: H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y.”
A provision in the Affordable Care Act — one of Obama’s signature first-term accomplishments — allows young adults to stay under their parents’ health care plan through the age of 26. According to the Obama administration, some 2.5 million young adults have received health insurance coverage through their parents’ plan since the federal law was enacted.
Ayla Brown, the elder of Brown’s two daughters, is a former “American Idol” contestant and has been the Philadelphia 76ers’ national anthem singer for the 2012 season. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Brown campaign had paid Ambient Entertainment, which represents the aspiring musician, to perform at the senator’s campaign events.

John Edwards' attorneys question wife of ex-aide

The wife of the key witness against John Edwards admitted in court today that her husband took Ambien and drank "a lot" during the time he was helping to hide Edwards' mistress, but denied that he has memory problems.

Cheri Young and her husband Andrew have been the first two witnesses in Edwards' trial and both have claimed that Edwards assured them that it was legal to funnel more than $1 million through Cheri Young's personal account.

The money from wealthy backers was meant to help hide Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress who had gotten pregnant after Edwards' wife demanded that he end the affair.

Edwards was running for president during the 2007-08 coverup and is accused of illegally using campaign donations to keep his mistress a secret. If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cheri Young, 38, was cross examined today by Edwards' lawyer Alan Duncan who questioned the accuracy of her testimony as well as her husband's testimony.

They kept about $1 million secretly provided by two wealthy campaign supporters while the couple was helped hide and care for the pregnant mistress. The Youngs also made hundreds of thousands of dollars from Andrew Young's 2010 tell-all book about the affair and by selling the movie rights to their story.
Cheri Young agreed they had made money, but reiterated that it was Edwards' lies that prompted them to go public. Edwards had promised to admit the baby was his after Hunter gave birth in February 2008, but instead went on national television to lie about the affair, even after tabloid reporters photographed him with the mistress and his baby that summer.
"I came here because I had to come here," said Young, who testified because of a subpoena. "The only reason my husband had to write the book is because Mr. Edwards did not come forward and tell the truth."
After years of adamant public denials, Edwards acknowledged paternity of Hunter's daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, days before the release of Andrew Young's book in 2010. The girl, now 4, lives with her mother in Charlotte.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign-finance violations. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted on all counts.
At issue are payments from a wealthy Texas lawyer, Fred Baron, who served as Edwards' campaign-finance chairman and an elderly heiress, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Andrew Young, who testified last week under an immunity agreement, has acknowledged that he kept about $1 million in payments from the two campaign supporters.
Earlier on Tuesday, Duncan questioned Young about her chronic migraine headaches, and her husband's prescription sleep medication and drinking. Duncan was trying to convince the jury the couple had problems with their memory.
Young, a pediatric nurse, conceded her husband had sometimes drank too much years ago. She said she didn't know whether her husband ever took the medication while consuming alcohol or what the potential side effects that might cause.