Sabtu, 10 Desember 2011

Samsung Loses Bid to Block Apple IPhone 4S Sales in France

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) failed to win a court order blocking Apple Inc. (AAPL) from selling its newest smartphone, the iPhone 4S, in France.

The Paris court rejected Samsung’s request for an emergency order against Apple while it considers the South Korean company’s patent-infringement claims.

Samsung, the biggest maker of smartphones, sought to block sales of the new handset in France, Italy and the U.K. days after it was unveiled in October, arguing Apple violated its wireless-communications patents. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung sued in Paris in July over earlier versions of the iPhone and Apple’s iPad tablet.

“The disproportionate character of the ban sought by Samsung against Apple is clear,” Judge Marie-Christine Courboulay said in the decision today.

The Paris court ruled Samsung must pay Apple 100,000 euros ($134,100) for legal fees while denying Apple’s request for damages. Samsung’s claim wasn’t “abusive” and the company’s infringement claims can move forward as a regular lawsuit, Courboulay said.

Florence Catel, a Samsung spokeswoman in Paris, declined to comment on the decision. Calls to Apple’s office in London for comment weren’t immediately returned.

Samsung has been locked in a global legal battle with Apple since the Cupertino, California-based company claimed in an April suit that Samsung’s Galaxy devices copied the iPad and iPhone. Samsung was the world’s biggest maker of smartphones in the last quarter, while Apple dominates the tablet market.
30 Lawsuits

The companies have filed at least 30 lawsuits in 10 countries and European Union regulators have started an antitrust probe of the companies’ use of smartphone patents.

A Milan court will hold a hearing Dec. 16 concerning Samsung’s Italian suit. Samsung won a Dec. 3 decision in California, when the U.S. District Court in San Jose rejected Apple’s request to block Samsung’s 4G smartphone and its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer.(
Jack Dorsey, left, co-founder and chairman of Twitter, and Dick Costolo, the company's chief executive, announce the new version of Twitter on Dec. 8, 2011, in a handout photo. The new design is intended to draw new users, keep them on the social network longer and, ultimately, attract more advertisers. (Twitter via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED TWITTER FUTURE BY SOMINI SENGUPTA. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED.

What is Twitter?

Almost six years after it stumbled into existence, that remains a surprisingly hard question to answer. And with hundreds of millions of users, with many of its social media peers lining up to go public, and with more than a billion dollars of private capital invested, you might think the pressure is building on Twitter to better define itself -- and, not incidentally, figure out a way to make more money.

But you'd be wrong. For the moment, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo makes it clear that the company known for instantaneous communication is going to take its own sweet time figuring out what it wants to become.

Running Twitter "doesn't come with a sense of pressure," Costolo said this week. "It feels like an opportunity I have to seize."

Costolo joined the company two years ago as chief operating officer, and took the CEO seat in October 2010 when co-founder Ev Williams stepped aside. He inherited a company closely associated with its founders even as it was still growing at a blistering pace.

As Costolo spoke Thursday, he was standing in the future headquarters of the San Francisco company. The company invited members of the media to get a first look at the space as part of a bigger product announcement.

Twitter plans to occupy three floors in an art deco building in one of the city's seedier neighborhoods. The city enacted a series of tax cuts earlier this year to entice Twitter to make the move, hoping
it would revitalize the area.

The space has been stripped down to its concrete bones inside in preparation for its big renovation. Indeed, many of the windows were smashed or missing, giving the space an arctic chill.

And yet, spending millions of dollars to fix up this space is just one of many signs of the company's confidence in its future. For all its impact, the company still has a relatively small number of employees: about 700. The new space will accommodate several thousand more.

"We're going to need those people to scale the company," Costolo said during a press conference.

Twitter continues to experience explosive growth, at times almost in spite of itself. Twitter can still be unreliable, and new users are frequently baffled about what to do when they first sign up.

The company knows that, and at the event Thursday announced a series of changes to its website and mobile-phone apps to make Twitter easier for non-techies to use it and find content they want. Costolo said the company is trying to think about how the next billion users will join the service by stripping away nonessential features.

In an interview after the announcement, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey described the new layout as "crisp, clean, simple."

"It just added clarity," Dorsey said. "We have a clearer sense of direction." While it doesn't completely solve the complexity problem, Dorsey added, "We're definitely getting there."

Making Twitter easier to use, though, is just one of its big challenges. While Costolo has run several startups, Twitter is already by far the largest company he has run and will get even larger as it hires thousands of employees in the coming years.

To that end, Costolo has been thinking about how to preserve Twitter's culture by trying to define its values clearly and hiring people with "passion and personality."

However, Costolo made it clear what those core values don't include: Making money. Perhaps the most frequently asked question about Twitter's future ("What's the business model?") is the one that seems to concern Costolo the least.

To be clear: Costolo understands that the company will have to generate revenue to support the size and impact he wants the company to have. But despite skepticism about the company's financial future, he refuses to make that his focus. For now, he's happy with the measured pace of early advertising products such as letting companies pay to promote tweets and accounts.

"We should think of revenue like oxygen," Costolo said. "It's necessary for life, but it's not the purpose of life. If we do the right things, the businesses are going to follow it."

Costolo said Twitter has enough money in the bank to sustain it for the foreseeable future. There is no sense of IPO-envy as companies like Zynga, LinkedIn, Groupon and Facebook graduate to the public markets.

"We can stay private and grow the business the way we want, as long as we want," Costolo said. "We never think about or talk about when we want to go public."

Twitter has already made a tremendous impact on culture and politics. But Costolo may be aiming for something even loftier: to transcend the profit-driven motivation that propels most companies.

As he puts it: "Twitter has the opportunity to be one of the great companies in the world."

Many talk about it, but few truly mean it. If Costolo fulfills that promise, that may be the biggest impact yet that he and Twitter can make.(
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched an attack on David Cameron for "isolating" the UK in Europe with his veto of changes to the EU treaty.

Sources close to the Liberal Democrat leader said he did not feel the failed eurozone crisis negotiations had resulted in a good deal for the UK.

The BBC understands Mr Clegg was dismayed when he was woken early on Friday to hear of the PM's decision.

Initially Mr Clegg said the coalition government was united in its position.

But now sources close to him have confirmed that he "doesn't think this is a good deal for Britain".

Mr Clegg "couldn't believe it", they said, when he was told the summit in Brussels had "spectacularly unravelled".

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant says the comments linked to Mr Clegg mark a considerable change in tone from Friday when he said he and Mr Cameron had worked together on the UK's negotiating stance.(

Strong quake shakes from Mexico City to Acapulco

MEXICO CITY — A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck in Mexico's western Guerrero state Saturday night, shaking buildings and causing panic in the nation's capital and the Pacific resort of Acapulco. There were no reports of deaths or serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Service initially estimated the quake at magnitude at 6.8, but downgraded it to 6.7. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage.

The USGS said the quake occurred 40.3 miles (64.9 kilometers) deep and was centered about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southwest of Iguala in Guerrero. That is 103 miles (166 kilometers) south-southwest of Mexico City.

A Twitter message from President Felipe Calderon said one person had been reported injured by a collapsed ceiling in the Guerrero town of Tuxpan, which is near Iguala. It said there were no other reports of casualties in the quake area.

High-rises swayed in the center of Mexico City for more than a minute, and shoppers were temporarily herded out of some shopping centers until the danger passed.

Mexico City's mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, reported by Twitter that no major damage had been reported. He said power failed in some parts of the city.

People in one part of Mexico City's upscale Condesa neighborhood ran out of their houses and gathered in the streets, hugging each other while some shook and began to cry.

On one street, a group of women joined hands in a circle, closed their eyes and began to pray.

"Please God, help us and let everything be OK," said one. "It's OK. It's OK. Everything is OK."

In Acapulco, hundreds of anxious tourists congregated in the streets after fleeing rocking buildings. City officials said no structural damage was reported. The Pacific resort was about 87 miles (140 kilometers) from the quake's epicenter.(AP)

Why the Euro Isn’t Finished

If there’s one thing practically everybody seems to be able to agree upon, it is that the euro is destined to collapse, and with it the great post-war vision of European integration. Whether you listen to newspaper columnists, financial bloggers, Wall Street analysts, or hedge-fund managers, the message you hear is the same. All these efforts to save the euro are ultimately doomed. They might as well give up now, let it crash around them, and start over.

Take the reaction to Friday’s news that seventeen of the twenty-seven countries in the European Union have agreed to forge closer economic ties, with more centralized control over the tax and spending policies of individual governments, and nine of the ten other countries have agreed to consider such a move. (Britain was the sole country to reject the idea out of hand.) The reaction fell along familiar lines: too little, too late; a Band-Aid where surgery is needed; yet another effort to kick the can down the road. (Mastery of stale metaphors appears to be a necessary qualification for Wall Street analysts.)

Up to a point, the skeptics have a point. Friday’s deal doesn’t tackle the issue at the heart of the continent’s problems, which is the same issue in all debt crises: bad debt. But the decision to move closer to a fiscal union is another important step in creating an institutional framework for resolving the fundamental issues. While the crisis isn’t going to end next week, or next month, the outlines of a long-term solution are coming into view. Whether there is time for this solution to play out hinges crucially on the European Central Bank, which is the other key player in this game of governments versus markets.

When it comes down to it, the euro zone has two problems, which have been clear all along: a solvency problem and a liquidity problem. The governments of several peripheral countries—Greece, Portugal, Ireland—have issued debts they can’t hope to pay back. (Insolvency.) And the governments of several core countries—Italy, Spain, and even France—have debts big enough that in a crisis they could find difficulty rolling over their existing bonds and issuing new ones. (Illiquidity.)

In the past couple of months, the moment of crisis has arrived. With investors shunning most European bonds, countries like Italy and Spain have seen their funding costs soar to unsustainable levels. As always happens in big financial crises, a self-reinforcing spiral has come into effect, which threatens the entire system: buyers get scared, which causes prices to fall, which scares off more buyers, which causes further falls in prices until the market virtually freezes up.

To bring the debt crisis to an end, the European governments will ultimately have to deal with the solvency problem, which will involve further restructurings and write-offs. Until recently, there was no mechanism to do this. Every time Greece or Ireland wanted a bailout, they had to deal with all the other E.U. members, who can seldom agree on anything. In the past few months, though, the Europeans have set up two bailout funds: an interim European Stability Mechanism and a permanent European Financial Stability Facility, which will start operating in July, 2012. Through these institutions, the E.U., together with the International Monetary Fund, will have the capacity to further restructure the debts of the heavily indebted peripheral countries.

But that is going to take time, and it hinges on stabilizing the situation in solvent but illiquid countries, such as Italy and Spain, and preventing the contagion from spreading to other countries, such as France. This is where the European Central Bank comes in. For only it has the ability, through its capacity to create money and spend it on financial assets of its choice, to reverse the self-fulfilling “run” on the debt markets of Italy in particular. If the E.C.B. said tomorrow that it was committed to acting as the buyer of last resort in the bond markets of euro-zone governments that are fundamentally solvent but which face short-term funding issues, the crisis would recede.

Until now, the E.C.B. has resolutely avoided saying any such thing, giving the upper hand to hedge funds and other institutions that are busy shorting euro-zone debt. This is partly because the European Union treaty that set up the central bank doesn’t anywhere mention it acting as a lender of last resort to member governments. (The E.C.B. does act like a lender of last resort to European banks. Earlier this week, it expanded these lending facilities.) But the main thing that has held back the E.C.B. is a desire to force member countries to deal with their own problems, particularly irresponsible ones like Greece and Italy.

For the past couple of months, a game of chicken has been playing out in which the markets and the troubled governments have been pleading with the E.C.B. to step in, and the E.C.B. (and Germany, which holds an effective veto on its actions) has been saying that it first wants to see real commitments to reform.

What hasn’t been fully appreciated, particularly on this side of the Atlantic, is how significant those commitments have been. In Greece and Italy, we have witnessed ineffective but democratically elected governments replaced with national-unity governments headed by technocrats committed to fiscal austerity. In Spain, too, a new government has come to power and promised not to let up in the drive to cut spending and deficits.

The other thing that the E.C.B. and Germany wanted was a Europe-wide commitment to fiscal discipline, and that is what Friday’s agreement in Brussels delivered. In future, countries that run large budget deficits will face automatic sanctions unless they can persuade a majority of other member states to exempt them, which won’t be easy. Hence Angela Merkel’s verdict: “The breakthrough to a stability union has been achieved.”

We shall see about that. Much now depends on the E.C.B., which is emitting mixed signals. On Thursday, Mario Draghi, its Italian head, seemed to downplay the suggestion that it would now step up its bond purchases. But on Friday he hailed the new agreement as “a very good outcome for euro area members” which would “be the basis for a good fiscal compact and more disciplined economic policy in euro area countries.”

After all that has happened, I cannot believe that the E.C.B. will simply stand pat and allow the bond traders to bring down the euro. Some critics portray it as a remote, out-of-touch institution that cares about but one thing: price stability. That is going too far. Draghi, an Italian who holds an economics Ph.D. from M.I.T. and spent three years working at Goldman Sachs, is a moderate technocrat rather than an ideologue. Just as important, the two new German representatives on the board of the E.C.B. are both close to Merkel, and can be expected to do her bidding.

I don’t expect any dramatic announcements next week from the E.C.B. That would look too much like it was buckling to the politicians. But over the coming weeks and months, I expect it to step up its bond purchases, both through its Securities Markets Program and, eventually, through a policy of quantitative easing that mimics what the Fed has done here. If this happens, other buyers should return to the continent’s stricken bond markets, and yields should go down, easing the immediate crisis.

Such a turnaround wouldn’t solve all of Europe’s problems, but it would buy the E.U. some more time to tackle them. In concert with further restructuring of the debts of places like Greece and Ireland, the continent’s big banks are going to have to be properly recapitalized, possibly via a European version of the TARP. And in order to head off a lengthy and grinding recession, the governments of the less affected countries, notably Germany and France, are going to have to boost demand by introducing a fiscal stimulus. (Quantitative easing, by lowering the value of the euro from its current overvalued level, would help with this, too.)

None of this is going to be easy. It is going to be a long, hard grind, and along the way there is always the possibility that confidence in the markets will evaporate completely, prompting a crisis that would prove the skeptics right. If the E.C.B. fails to play its allotted role, such an outcome is highly likely. We shouldn’t underestimate the possibility of disaster. But nor should we underestimate the commitment of the European countries, and especially Germany and France, to muddle through and hold the euro zone together. They’ve done it so far, and made more progress than many give them credit for.(

West warns Syria against storming rebel city

BEIRUT (Reuters) - France called on world powers to "save the Syrian people" on Saturday as it joined the United States and Britain in raising an alarm that President Bashar al-Assad's forces may be about to storm the rebel stronghold of Homs.

In Damascus, the government denied any crackdown, while accusing its opponents of taking up arms and warning the rebels' supporters in the West that Syria could count on Russia, China and others to oppose any foreign intervention in its affairs.

In Homs, a pro-democracy activist said there was no clear sign of a troop build-up other campaigners had reported around the city on Friday. Opposition groups have called for businesses and labor not to work on Sunday, the first day of the working week in Syria, in what they have called a "Strike for Dignity."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition website, said 12 people were killed across the country on Saturday plus a man who died of his wounds and three bodies returned to families whom it said had died of torture.

"France is extremely concerned about information of a massive military operation being prepared by Syrian security authorities against the city of Homs," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, echoing concerns raised in Washington, London and neighboring Turkey.

"France warns the Syrian government and will hold the Syrian authorities responsible for any action against the population.

"The entire international community must mobilize itself to save the Syrian people," Valero added in a statement.

On Friday, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said: "It is extremely concerning that in places like Homs we have huge number of reports that they are preparing something large-scale.

"They are not going to be able to hide who's responsible if there is a major assault on the weekend."


Syria rejected that characterization of events: "There is no policy of crackdown," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told Reuters in an e-mail. "The Syrian forces are there to protect civilians and maintain law and order that is breached by those who are carrying arms against the State.

"The story of peacefulness of the protest is no longer a valid story in some places," he said. "Syria needs evolution and not armed confrontation."

Separately, the official Syrian news agency SANA said the so-called BRICS group of developing economic powers - Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa - "reiterated its absolute rejection to any interference in Syrian affairs."

It cited a message from Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin to the United Nations Security Council, which has been the forum for sharp divisions over Syria between the Western powers on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.

Such differences, and Syria's pivotal position at the heart of a web of regional conflicts, mean few see much possibility for the kind of Western military action seen this year in Libya.

The Arab League has been pressing Syria, under threat of sanctions, to remove troops from its towns and let in observers. Egypt's MENA news agency said on Saturday Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo at the end of the week to discuss a response to what it called a conditional Syrian acceptance of monitors.

Turkey warned Syria on Friday it would act to protect itself if the crushing of protest threatened regional security and unleashed a tide of refugees on its borders.

The opposition Syrian National Council said in a statement about Homs on Friday: "News reports, videos and information from activists indicate that the regime is preparing to commit a massacre in the city to extinguish the flame of the revolution and 'discipline' the rest of Syria's cities."

However, some activists questioned whether the SNC statement was intended principally to galvanize international action.

One campaigner in Homs, a city of 1.5 million, saw little sign of an imminent offensive on Saturday: "I have been hearing this since yesterday. I did a tour around the city and I did not see anything unusual.

"It's the same checkpoints and the same number of soldiers."


Peaceful demonstrations calling for reform began in Syria in March, inspired by the Arab Spring, but were met almost from the outset by lethal force. Activists say about 4,600 Syrians have been killed, about a quarter of them from security forces.

President Assad says some "mistakes" may have occurred but denies giving any shoot-to-kill order over the past nine months of violent repression, which has prompted defections from the military and led to the creation of a rebel Free Syrian Army.

The Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army are separate organizations. The Council has urged the rebel army to stop attacking the army and limit itself to purely "defensive" actions, in order to avoid starting an all-out civil war.

U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay repeated her call for investigators to be allowed into Syria. She is due to brief the Security Council on Monday at the request of France.

In Oslo, where this year's Nobel Peace Prize was presented on Saturday to, among others, a Yemeni campaigner whose part in the Arab spring helped push that country's veteran autocrat to the exit, the head of the prize selection panel said Assad would inevitably have to yield before the "wind of history."(

Thousands Gather in Russia to Protest Legislative Elections

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of Russians gathered peacefully in central Moscow on Saturday to shout “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin,” forcing the Kremlin to confront a level of public discontent that has not been seen here since Vladimir V. Putin first became president 12 years ago.

The crowd overflowed the square where it was held, forcing stragglers to climb trees or watch from the opposite riverbank, and organizers repeatedly cleared a footbridge out of fear it would collapse. It was the largest anti-Kremlin protest since the early 1990s.

The crowd united liberals, nationalists and Communists, a group best described as the urban middle class, so digitally connected that some were broadcasting the rally live using iPads held over their heads. The police estimated the crowd at 25,000 while organizers put the figure much higher, at 40,000 or more.

The rally was a significant moment in Russia’s political life, suggesting that the authorities have lost the power to control the national agenda. The event was too large to be edited out of the evening news, which does not report criticism of Mr. Putin, and was accompanied by smaller demonstrations dozens of other cities, including St. Petersburg.

The government calculated that it had no choice but to allow the events unfold. There was a large police presence, including rows of troop carriers, dump trucks and bulldozers, but remarkably when the crowd dispersed four hours later, no detentions had been reported.

On Saturday many in the crowd said the event was a watershed moment.

“People are just tired, they have already crossed all the boundaries,” said Yana Larionova, 26, a real estate agent. “You see all these people who are well dressed and earn a good salary, going out onto the streets on Saturday and saying, ‘No more.’ That’s when you know you need a change.”

Calls for protest have been mounting since parliamentary elections last Sunday, which domestic and international observers said were tainted by ballot-stuffing and fraud on behalf of Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia. But an equally crucial event, many said, was Mr. Putin’s announcement in September that he would run for the presidency in March. He is almost certain to win a six-year term, meaning he will have been Russia’s paramount leader for 18 years.

Yevgeniya Albats, editor of the New Times magazine, said that the gathering was the most striking display of grassroots democracy that she had seen in Russia, and that the involvement of young people was a game-changer. When Mr. Putin revealed his decision to return to the presidency, a full six months before presidential elections, she said, “this really, really humiliated the country.”

“Today we just proved that civil society does exist, that the middle class does exist and that this country is not lost,” Ms. Albats said.

The authorities had been trying to discourage attendance, saying that widespread protests could culminate in a disaster on the scale of the Soviet collapse, which occurred 20 years ago this month. Officials have portrayed the demonstrators as revolutionaries dedicated to a violent, Libya-style overthrow. Mr. Putin last week said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had set off the wave of activism by publicly criticizing the conduct of the parliamentary elections.

“She set the tone for some actors in our country and gave them a signal,” Mr. Putin said. “They heard the signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began active work.”

The demonstration’s organizers have put forward several demands: the immediate release of prisoners arrested last week in connection with the protests; the scheduling of new parliamentary elections; the ouster of Vladimir Y. Churov, who runs the Central Election Commission; investigation of election violations; the registration of so-called nonsystem opposition parties, ones that have been unable to win seats in Parliament or put forward presidential candidates.

Speakers said they would give the Kremlin two weeks to satisfy the demands, and hold another large protest on Dec. 24.

Aleksei Navalny, a popular blogger who has helped mobilize young Russians over the last year, sent an address from the prison where he is serving a 15-day sentence for resisting the police. Mr. Navalny was arrested Monday night after the first of three demonstrations.

“Everyone has the single most powerful weapon that we need — dignity, the feeling of self-respect,” read the address, which was delivered by a veteran opposition leader, Boris Y. Nemtsov. “It’s impossible to beat and arrest hundreds of thousands, millions. We have not even been intimidated. For some time, we were simply convinced that the life of toads and rats, the life of mute cattle, was the only way to win the reward of stability and economic growth.”

“We are not cattle or slaves,” he said. “We have voices and votes and we have the power to uphold them.”

The blogosphere has played a central role in mobilizing young Russians this fall. During the parliamentary campaign, Russians using smartphones filmed authority figures cajoling, bribing or offering money to their subordinates to get out the vote for United Russia. More video went online after Election Day, when many Russians in their 20s camped out in polling stations as amateur observers.

“The Putin system, over many years, repeats the same mistakes and ignores public opinion,” said Leonid Gigen, 26. “We have a lot of evidence. A lot was shot on video. And then Medvedev says these videos are fake,” a reference to President Dmitri A. Medvedev. “But people saw it themselves, because they voted.”

The ruling party, United Russia, lost ground in last Sunday’s election, securing 238 seats in the next Duma, compared with the 315, or 70 percent, that it holds now. The Communist Party won 92 seats; Just Russia won 64 seats; and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party won 56 seats.

The vote had come to be seen as a referendum not only on United Russia but also on Mr. Putin and his plans to stay on as Russia’s paramount leader. Mr. Putin remains by far the country’s most popular political figure — the independent Levada Center reports his approval ratings at above 60 percent — but that approval has been diminishing gradually despite the authorities’ efforts to shore it up.

It seems unlikely that the authorities will accede to the protesters’ demands. A deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission told the Interfax news service that the final report on the election results was signed Friday, and that he saw no reason to annul them.

“The elections are declared valid, and there is no reason for any other assessment,” the official, Stanisav Vavilov, said. “There is no reason to revise the results of the elections.”

One of the few official remarks on the gathering on Saturday came from Andrei Isayev, the deputy secretary of the presidium of the general council of United Russia, who told demonstrators that they risked becoming “cannon fodder.”

“Do not allow yourself to become a pawn in the hands of those who want to destroy our country,” he said.(