February 10th, 2012
CNet / Charles Cooper
C'mon, Google, admit it: You're getting into hardware, and you're gunning for Apple.
With more signs pointing to a Google entertainment device of some sort somewhere over the horizon, the company's recent FCC filing offers the latest hint of what's become an inescapable conclusion. The document echoes what Google has hinted, announcing in black and white that the company iis developing a prototype "entertainment device" of some sort.
As to the details:
Testing will include functional testing of all subsystems, including WiFi and Bluetooth radio. Users will connect their device to home WiFi networks and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment. This line of testing will reveal real world engineering issues and reliability of networks. The device utilizes a standard WiFi/Bluetooth module, and the planned testing is not directed at evaluating the radio frequency characteristics of the module (which are known), but rather at the throughput and stability of the home WiFi networks that will support the device, as well as the basic functionality of the device.
A couple of other clues:last spring Google gave developers at the Google I/O conference a peek at Android@Home devices playing music. And of course, there's that $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola Mobility which is just about to close.
- Google wants Android to be the device hub
- Google uncloaks once-secret server
- More bad news for Google TV
Still, there's no shortage of doubters. Matt Rosoff has an interesting post at Business Insider listing all the reasons Google's foray into hardware is destined to fail. He revisits all the right points about why Apple's been so successful transforming itself from a PC maker to a broad supplier of products and services for consumers. But he takes a dim view of Google's chances, based on its mediocre record up to date.
Fair enough. Google TV, unveiled in 2010, was supposed to be a unique way of bring the World Wide Web into the living room. Outside of the folks living in the Googleplex, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't believe the service has been a big disappointment. (It got a redesign last fall.)
But let's not be too quick to count Google out. Check out what my colleague Larry Dignan has to say about the import of the Motorola deal where he notes that while Google may not know hardware, Motorola surely does.
Motorola is bringing a large installed base of cable set-top boxes to the party. There are two set-top box players--Cisco and Motorola. Motorola Mobility brings home IP video, home digital video and home networking tools. In other words, Google will already have a big footprint in your living room as soon as the Motorola deal closes.
It remains unclear whether Google and Motorola can get the idiot proof integration done that the living room requires. But Google will have hardware expertise via Motorola. If Google's home entertainment foray works the Motorola purchase--and the profit margin pressure that comes with it--may be justified.
It's worth the gamble. Just this week Kodak reminded the world what happens when a super-dominant company clings too long to a fading business model.
There's nothing remotely bad about milking the search advertising business for all it's worth--and it's worth a lot. But nobody can guarantee it will remain as lucrative a decade or two from now. One thing you can bank on: People will still be watching entertainment in their living rooms in the year 2022--probably in 2032 as well.
Unlike most companies contemplating this sharp a change, Google has the resources to roll with it. If it fails, it's a one-time writeoff. If it succeeds, Google sheds the one-trick pony label and broadens its business beyond search in a big way. What's not to like?
February 10th, 2012
USA Today / By Catalina Camia and Jackie Kucinich
Newt Gingrich stressed his "bold solutions" to challenge the Republican establishment and defeat President Obama in November.
In his remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gingrich touted a long list of ideas -- from ending "Obamacare" to revamping job training programs -- that he says will revive the economy and bring fundamental change to Washington.
BLOG: Santorum at CPAC
The former House speaker, who is dropping in national polls on the GOP presidential race, sought to re-establish himself as the candidate with bold ideas for change.
He took aim at the "establishment," a criticism that he has leveled at times to government and the news media. This time, Gingrich made clear he is taking on a Republican establishment that "wants to manage decay."
"The establishment America is tied up in red tape, tied up in incompetence, tied up in interest groups," he said. "There is a mortal grip on the establishment. ... We intend to change Washington, not accommodate it."
Gingrich was the last of three GOP presidential candidates to address the Washington gathering, made up of more than 10,000 activists who are often the backbone of political campaigns.
The speech gave him an opportunity to revive interest in his campaign, which has been overshadowed this week by Rick Santorum's victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.
Gingrich now is third in Gallup's daily tracking poll, garnering 18% support from registered Republican voters. He was at the top of the GOP field shortly after his decisive victory over Romney in the South Carolina primary just a few weeks ago.
Romney leads in the national survey, with 34%, followed by Santorum at 22%.
In his remarks, Gingrich touted his plan for an optional 15% flat tax, no taxes on capital gains and a 12.5% corporate income tax.
Gingrich also called for a new Environmental Solutions Agency to replace the Environmental Protection Agency, and personal savings accounts in Social Security for young workers.
See photos of: Newt Gingrich
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February 10th, 2012
The American Spectator / By David Catron
There is no conservative writer that I admire more than Ann Coulter. She's smart as hell and, more importantly, she is courageous. She has always been willing to write what other conservatives believe but don't have the guts to say in print. She has never played it safe and has certainly never adjusted her opinions for the sake of conforming to the conventional wisdom of Old Guard Republicans. In 2008, for example, she declared that she would not merely vote for, but actively campaign for Hillary Clinton if the Republican Party were foolish enough to nominate John McCain for President: "If you are looking at substance rather than if there is an R or a D after his name, manifestly, if he's our candidate, than Hillary is going to be our girl, because she's more conservative than he is."
But something has happened to Coulter. I don't have firsthand knowledge that she was kidnapped by RINO Team Six and taken to an offshore medical facility where she was forced to undergo a gruesome surgical procedure, but many of her recent columns suggest that something of the sort must have occurred. What else could explain her endorsement of Mitt Romney? Once immutable where her core convictions were concerned, she has executed a vertigo-inducing volte-face in order to promote a brazen opportunist whose positions on the big issues were the opposite of hers before he began running for President. She relentlessly trashes Republican "moderates" like McCain, yet now supports a candidate who makes the Arizona Senator look like Barry Goldwater by comparison.
It first became apparent that something awful had happened to Coulter last November, when she wrote a column asking "If Not Romney, Who? If Not Now, When?" In this surreal effusion, she claimed that the media were "pushing Newt Gingrich" and other alternatives to Romney "because they are terrified of running against him." This, as many pointed out at the time, was preposterous. The only thing that terrifies the media about Romney is that he might not get the GOP nomination. This is the man they want to run against. Unlike Coulter, the media and the Obama reelection team know that Romney can be easily portrayed as a Wall Street parasite whose only memorable "accomplishment" as the Governor of Massachusetts was the enactment of a health "reform" law that renders him unable to credibly denounce ObamaCare.
Which brings us to the latest evidence that Coulter has been somehow altered. Her inexplicable support for Romney has led her beyond being merely wrong about his chances in the general election to writing things that are either deliberately disingenuous or genuinely ignorant. The latest example of this tragic development is a column titled, "Three Cheers for RomneyCare." As its title suggests, this piece actually defends the Massachusetts "universal" health law. When I first read it, I could hardly believe such horse manure had emanated from Coulter's keyboard. The column opens with this howler: "If only the Democrats had decided to socialize the food industry or housing, RomneyCare would probably still be viewed as a massive triumph for conservative free-market principles -- as it was at the time."
First, Coulter apparently didn't notice, but the Democrats did socialize housing, and it triggered the most dangerous financial crisis since the Great Depression. More to the point, her suggestion that Romneycare was viewed by conservatives as a free-market triumph is revisionist nonsense. Coulter attempts to support this claim by naming a couple of conservatives who initially supported the law. Somehow, though, she neglects to mention the large number who opposed it. As Merrill Matthews pointed out in Forbes, when Newt Gingrich claimed in a debate that most conservatives once supported the mandate as a way of countering HillaryCare, "That's wrong. There was, in fact, a heated battle among conservatives, with a handful pushing for the mandate and the large majority opposing it."
Nor does Coulter mention that one of the two conservatives she cites as supporters of Romneycare and its mandate has long since recanted. Robert Moffitt of the Heritage Foundation, whom Coulter tells us was so excited about Romneycare that he "flew to Boston for the bill signing," realized years ago that mandates were not an effective mechanism for eliminating the "free-rider" problem. Since 2008, he has vigorously advocated "far better alternatives to the individual mandate." And Moffitt's buyer's remorse is by no means an isolated case. As Matthews puts it, "[V]irtually all conservatives… have come to realize that the mandate is the gateway drug to control the health care system." Coulter, in a journalistic sin of omission worthy of the New York Times, fails to note any of this.
She instead claims that conservatives dislike Romneycare "because both ObamaCare and Romneycare concern the same general topic area -- health care -- and can be nicknamed (politician's name plus "care")." To this ridiculous charge she adds the irrelevant point that mandates are constitutional when enacted by states rather than by the federal government. This is true enough, but it misses what should be an obvious point. Health care consumers are less concerned with constitutional nuances relating to federal versus state powers than with the reality that they will be forced to buy insurance whether they wish to or not. That the mandate was passed by a state legislature rather than Congress will not render voters less inclined to resent such government interference in their private transactions.
Coulter then reminds us that Romney has pledged to repeal Obamacare, but that promise will ring hollow once Axelrod & Co. inform the voters that the law is virtually identical, in its effect on their individual lives, to a law her candidate signed in Massachusetts. The damage this will do to Romney's credibility will be exacerbated when Obama's many friends in the "news" media point out that his reversal of position on health reform is part of a larger pattern of opportunism. They will gleefully report, for example, that Romney is also guilty of shameless flip-flops on Second Amendment rights and abortion. On the latter issue he has reversed himself no fewer than three times. When the voters see MSM "reporters" relentlessly pound him for such "evolution," they will realize that his campaign promises are meaningless.
Yet Coulter, once the scourge of such malleable "moderates," has gone through some sort of transformation that has rendered her blind to Romney's cheap opportunism. And if the primary voters are foolish enough to follow her advice, they will rue the day they listened to her and the establishment Republicans with whom she has now made common cause. As Coulter herself pointed out last year when she spoke at CPAC, Barack Obama will be reelected in 2012 if the Republican Party nominates Mitt Romney for President.
February 10th, 2012
Christopher Helman, Forbes Staff
In the past few hours, Twitter has exploded with unsubstantiated rumors that the new North Korean dictator died in Beijing today and that a coup is underway in North Korea. So far there is no indication at all that these rumors are true. The rumors originated on China’s twitter-like platform Weibo (fyi: here’s the fascinating Google translated page of original Weibo posts), and quickly got picked up by Gawker.com and retweeted in the U.S.
As the story goes, a couple assassins barged into Kim’s room in Beijing and shot him, before being shot and killed themselves by bodyguards. Twitter user @ChristianJMay posted that the rumor is “based on news that a host of blacked out cars have descended upon embassy in Beijing, where he was visiting.” Nevermind that as far as anyone can tell, Kim wasn’t even in Beijing.
What’s interesting is how in this era of social media, the rumors have taken on a life of their own. A post this afternoon on the fake twitter account @BBCLiveNews got retweeted broadly. It stated: “Confirmed breaking news. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un assassinated. Updates to follow.”
I think it has something to do with the flamboyant, self-caricaturizing craziness of Kim’s father Kim Jong-il (see “Team America: World Police,” by the makers of South Park), but the denizens of the Interwebs take glee in joking about the possible death of the new young dictator.
Twitter user @Rocco_Castoro is as good a source of information as anybody else out there with his tweet: “This just in: Kim Jong-un’s cause of death was being force-fed hotdogs and having a basketball bounced off his head repeatedly for 20 hours.”
Kim Jong-Un’s name is fertile fodder, as@AngryMnkyFight demonstrates: “Kim Jong Un dead or Kim Jong Undead. Remember kids, spacing is the difference between assassinations and zombies.” So’s the leader’s weight, as comedian Chris Jenkins shows us: “Due to mistranslation, there are rumors that Kim Jong Un was assassinated in China. What it actually said was that he assassinated a buffet.”
We’ll find out soon enough if Little Kim has followed his father Kim Jong-Il into the hereafter. If he is alive and well, this day of rumors will mark the real beginning of his rule. Kim was expected, after his father’s death on Dec. 17, to abide by a 100-day mourning period, like his father did upon the death of Kim Il-Sung in 1994. Yet an article in the Korea JoongAng Daily this week (from before the rumors) notes that Kim has already come out of mourning, and has been seen traveling North Korea, visiting tourist traps like “the Seoul Ryu Kyong-su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang.”
The article includes this heart-melting passage:
Kim Jong-un is already showing a different public personality than that of his father. While Kim Jong-il maintained a distance from the public, wearing sunglasses and rarely having physical contact with the public, the young successor doesn’t hesitate to act friendly and intimately with the people. That is the kind of behavior associated with his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. In a documentary aired recently by the North’s Korean Central Television, Kim Jong-un’s broad smiles and bold gestures were shown. He whispered in the ears of other soldiers and held the hand of a wife of a military leader. During a visit to an Air Force unit on Jan. 20, he hugged soldiers. When he visited Mangyongdae Revolutionary School on Jan. 25, Kim touched the faces of students and tasted soy sauce.
Soy sauce! Who doesn’t like soy sauce? Still, I would have advised him to tuck into a big bowl of kim-chi, the spicy pickled cabbage that is Korea’s equivalent of apple pie with ice cream.
(Note in response to sensitive commenters below: my point is that soy sauce is … meh. Whereas kim-chi is awesome. If I’m the dictator of North Korea and I get to choose my photo-ops, I’m going to go to the kim-chi factory instead of the soy sauce factory. Furthermore, to anyone who takes issue with the comparison, if you really believe that “as Korean as kim-chi” is not a viable analog to “as American as apple pie” then please let me know what food is more central to Korean cuisine.)
He’s friendly; he hugs soldiers; maybe this Kim is not so bad after all. He’s even said to love the iPad 2 and is set to allow Egyptian mobile operator Orascom Telecom to set up internet connections in North Korea.
February 10th, 2012
By Steve Watson
A privacy advocacy group has swayed Congress to hold a hearing next week into the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of monitoring social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as media reports and organizations, including The Drudge Report.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently obtained close to 300 pages of documents, as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, detailing the federal agency’s “intelligence gathering” practices on the web.
Among the documents were guidelines from DHS instructing outside contractors to monitor the web for media reports and comments that “reflect adversely” on the agency or the federal government.
As Reuters reported last month, in early 2010 contractors were asked to spend 24 hours monitoring news media coverage on popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks, as well as news sites including the Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.
The contractors were required to provide the DHS with feedback on any potential “threats and hazards”, as well as “any media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government and the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) ability to prevent, protect and respond, to recovery efforts or activities related to any crisis or events which impact National Planning Scenarios.”
The documents also state that the program should highlight “both positive and negative reports on FEMA, C.I.A., C.B.P., ICE, etc., as well as organizations outside of D.H.S.”
The documents obtained by EPIC indicate that following the exercise, a procurement official awarded an $11.3 million contract to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in order to carry out the monitoring on a “24/7/365 basis”.
EPIC director Ginger McCall notes that monitoring what people are saying about government policies goes too far and has a chilling effect on free speech.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of political dissent has no legal basis and is contrary to core First Amendment principles,” she said.
“The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly,” said McCall. “This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties.”
DHS officials have admitted that monitoring of social networks for negative opinion was undertaken by the agency, but claim that the operation was a one off test and was quickly dropped as it did not meet “operational requirements or privacy standards,” which “expressly prohibit reporting on individuals’ First Amendment activities.”
EPIC argues otherwise and has presented evidence that suggests the practice is being held up by the DHS an an example that should be emulated.
“They are completely out of bounds here,” McCall said. “The idea that the government is constantly peering over your shoulder and listening to what you are saying creates a very chilling effect to legitimate dissent.
The Congressional hearing, DHS Monitoring of Social Networking and Media: Enhancing Intelligence Gathering and Ensuring Privacy, will be held Thursday February 16th.
However, it is already apparent where the House subcommittee for intelligence and counter-terrorism stands on the matter. As reported by Reuters, the top two members of the subcommittee, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), wrote to DHS Intelligence Chief Caryn Wagner last month, pressing her to more carefully monitor users’ posts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to help detect “current or emerging threats.”
As we have also previously reported, The DHS has openly announced that it is actively monitoring social media for signs of “social unrest”, in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.