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Times of India Epaper Feb 01 2012 Free Download

Google defends change to privacy policies

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - Planned changes to Google Inc's privacy policies that have caught the attention of U.S. lawmakers would not take away the control its customers have over how data is collected and used, the company said in a blog post on Tuesday

Google, whose offerings include its flagship search engine, Gmail, YouTube and Google+ products, announced last week that it was unifying 60 of its privacy policies.

When the new policy comes into effect on Wednesday, information from most Google products will be treated as a single trove of data, which the company could use for targeted advertising.

By consolidating numerous product-specific privacy policies into one comprehensive policy, "we're explaining our privacy commitments to users of those products in 85 percent fewer words," said Pablo Chavez, Google's director of public policy, on the company's public policy blog.

A bipartisan group of eight U.S. lawmakers questioned whether the new policy would allow Internet users to opt-out of data-sharing systems and expressed concern about the safety of customer data, in a letter sent to Google last Thursday.

In a letter dated Monday, Chavez responded directly to the lawmakers' concerns, stressing that, "the updated privacy policy does not allow us to collect any new or additional types of information about users."

The company defended its decision to consolidate the policies, saying it would create a better experience for users, and added that most of its product-specific policies already allowed information to be shared across product lines when users are signed onto their Google accounts.

But the previous varied policies did not allow Google to, for example, recommend cooking videos when a signed on user went to YouTube after searching for recipes on the search engine, the letter said.

"We want to change that so we can create a simpler, more intuitive Google experience - to share more of each user's information with that user as they use various Google services," Chavez said in the letter.

The letter also said the company's products can still be used without signing into a Google account. Google's privacy tools remain in place under the consolidated policy, allowing users to edit information stored in their account, change personalized ad preferences and control how their data is collected and used.

Google's response was sent to Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns, Joe Barton and Marsha Blackburn, and to Democratic Representatives Edward Markey, Henry Waxman, Dianne DeGette, G.K. Butterfield and Jackie Speier - the eight legislators who expressed concern that consolidation would make it more difficult for consumers to protect their privacy.

Following a messy rollout of Google's now defunct social network, Buzz, Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement in March last year that requires consent if Google collects information under one privacy policy, but then changes that policy.

In a separate letter sent to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz last Friday, Markey and Barton asked for a probe into whether the changes to how Google handles consumer data violated the agreement it made with the FTC.

U.S. regulators are already looking into whether the company manipulates its search results to favor its own products, among other issues.

Italian shoemaker pays record rent at London store

LONDON (iBBC News) - Italian luxury shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo is close to agreeing a deal to pay a record UK rent at its Bond Street store that will break the 1,000 pounds per square foot mark for the first time, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters.

The deal would break the previous record of 965 pounds per square foot for the valuable Zone A front section of a store set by jeweller Piaget on the same glitzy central London shopping strip in December 2009.

Under the deal between landlord NFU Mutual pension fund and Ferragamo, the retailer will extend its lease and increase its rent from 600 pounds to 1059 pounds per square foot at 24 Old Bond Street as part of a plan to expand its retail space, the source said.

Bond Street rents far exceed other central London shopping streets. Rents on the second most expensive strip of Oxford Street are on average 200 pounds per square foot lower and Marylebone High Street peaks at about 225 pounds.

NFU declined to comment. Ferragamo was not immediately available to comment.

Fierce competition for space on Bond Street, the UK's most expensive shopping stretch and the second priciest in Europe behind Paris' Avenue des Champs Elysées, has driven up rents and spurred deep-pocketed retailers to buy stores in order to guarantee ownership of top sites.

Unlike mid-market retailers, luxury brands have bounced back strongly from the depths of the 2008 downturn, helped by strong demand from emerging markets such as China and Russia.

The acute space shortage on the half mile stretch combined with strong demand from global brands that see a Bond Street presence as essential to European expansion plans, may boost rents to 1,500 pounds by 2013, consultancy Cushman & Wakefield said.

Midday Glance: Insurers companies

Insurers companies shares mixed at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top insurers companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

MBIA rose $.23 or 1.9 percent, to $12.23.

MGIC Investments Corp. fell $.10 or 2.5 percent, to $3.85.

XL Group PLC rose $.09 or .4 percent, to $20.12.

Midday Glance: Finance companies

Finance companies shares up at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top finance companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Bank of America Corp. rose $.07 or .9 percent, to $7.14.

Citigroup Inc. rose $.50 or 1.7 percent, to $30.73.

JPMorgan Chase rose $.35 or .9 percent, to $37.36.

Midday Glance: Telecom companies

Telecom companies shares mixed at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top telecom companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

AT&T Inc. rose $.13 or .4 percent, to $29.47.

Sprint Nextel fell $.03 or 1.5 percent, to $2.13.

Verizon Communications Inc. rose $.03 or .1 percent, to $37.64.

Midday Glance: Internet companies

Internet companies shares down at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top internet companies are down at 1 p.m.:

Akamai Technologies Inc. unchanged at $32.04.

Amazon fell $.02 or percent, to $192.13.

eBay fell $.01 or percent, to $31.57.

Google fell $.59 or .1 percent, to $577.10.

Yahoo fell $.09 or .6 percent, to $15.46.

Midday Glance: Investment Banks companies

Investment Banks companies shares up at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top investment banks companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Goldman Sachs rose $2.05 or 1.9 percent, to $111.78.

Morgan Stanley rose $.34 or 1.9 percent, to $18.54.

Midday Glance: Oil companies

Oil companies shares mixed at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- Shares of some top oil companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Chevron fell $.44 or .4 percent, to $102.97.

ConocoPhillips fell $.62 or .9 percent, to $68.10.

Exxon Mobil Corp. fell $1.87 or 2.2 percent, to $83.62.

Marathon Oil Corp. rose $.23 or .7 percent, to $31.19.

World Trade Center design flaw could cost millions

A 'design miss' in World Trade Center's freight loading area could cost millions of dollars.

NEW YORK (iBBC News) -- The agency building the new World Trade Center says a design flaw could cost it millions of dollars.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Tuesday the loading dock under One World Trade Center won't be finished in time for tenants to move their equipment into the 104-story tower. So it's building five temporary loading bays above ground.

The problem is due to a temporary station that was built for the Port Authority Trans Hudson subway. That station can't be dismantled to make way for underground freight areas until crews finish the permanent station.

"Several years there was a design miss," said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, "Should it have been caught? The answer is, probably."

The temporary loading bays will add millions to the cost of One World Trade Center. The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that the cost of the building has soared to $3.8 billion, $700 million more than the last publicly released estimate in 2008.

Foye said the soaring costs will be examined in a review of the agency that is being prepared for the governors of New York and New Jersey. He would not confirm the $3.8 billion figure.

Foye said the loading docks "a short-term issue."

Other problems at the World Trade Center have included a dispute with the foundation that is building a 9/11 museum and financial troubles that have dogged the company that is laying steel.

Foye said the Port Authority still expects to finish One World Trade by the end of 2013.

Dems review NJ governor's 10 percent tax-cut plan

Democrats review NJ governor's proposal to cut income taxes for all by 10 percent.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Democrats in the New Jersey Senate took their first look at Gov. Chris Christie's plan to cut income taxes by 10 percent, and the details they got from the Legislature's budget expert confirmed their suspicions: The higher a resident's income, the bigger their tax reduction would be.

The biggest winners if Christie's proposal is enacted would be the top 1.6 percent of taxpayers, who earn $500,000 or more, David Rosen, the Legislature's chief budget officer, told the Senate Budget Committee. Treasurer Andrew Eristoff declined to testify at Monday's hearing.

"At a time when we should be doing anything and everything to spur the economy and to create jobs, a tax cut that disproportionately favors the wealthy appears to be the wrong thing to do," Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat, said at the start of the hearing.

Sarlo chairs the committee holding the hearing, leading Republicans on the panel to comment sarcastically about his open-mindedness on the issue.

Christie proposed a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut phased in over three years. The Republican governor is expected to unveil details of the plan — including how to pay for it — in his budget address on Feb. 21.

Democrats have reacted with skepticism, calling the proposal a give-away to the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class, and wondering aloud how the governor intends to make up for more than $1 billion in lost revenue. They have suggested cutting property taxes instead, which are the highest in the country, averaging $7,576 per household in 2010.

For the state's wealthiest residents, a 10 percent income tax reduction could amount to tens of thousands of dollars saved. A similar cut for low-income wage earners won't equal enough for a week's worth of groceries, Sarlo said.

In the first year of the plan, taxpayers with $50,000 in taxable income could expect to save about $27, while those with taxable incomes of $150,000 would save $184 and those with taxable incomes of $1 million would save $2,422, according to Rosen's figures. Those same taxpayers would save $81, $551 and $7,266 in the third year, respectively.

Questions also arose about how the governor plans to pay for the tax cut, which would cost $1.4 billion when the plan is fully phased in after three years.

Sarlo said lawmakers should be wary of digging the state too big a financial hole, saying that its obligation to the pension fund will top $2 billion a year by 2016 and $1 billion or so will be needed to fund transportation projects through the Transportation Trust Fund. New Jersey is already among the most indebted states.

Gold back in vogue, posts biggest gain since Aug

LONDON (iBBC News) - Gold prices were on course for their biggest monthly rise since August on Tuesday, supported by a weaker dollar and raising the possibility of a climb toward last year's record high of just over $1,900 per ounce.

Sentiment for gold at the end of January compares starkly with late December, when prices dropped by more than 10 percent in their biggest monthly fall since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in an investor dash for cash.

A $400 price drop from last September's record $1,920.30 had left investors questioning whether gold had ended an 11-year rally.

Gold was up 0.8 percent at $1,743.40 an ounce by 1326 GMT, having earlier touched $1,744.80 - its highest since mid-December and up some 11.2 percent on the month to date.

The euro rose against the dollar on hopes for a Greek debt restructuring deal that would help the country avoid a disorderly default, possibly setting itself up for a test of a key chart level. A weaker dollar makes gold cheaper for holders of other currencies.

While recovering global share prices and hopes of a deal for Greece tempered gold's safe-haven gloss on Tuesday, concerns that Portugal could follow a similar path to Greece and data pointing to a poor first quarter in the euro zone was supportive.

More broadly, bullion was benefitting from a favourable monetary policy backdrop, with a jump of almost 5 percent last week after the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to keep interest rates near zero until at least late 2014.

"There's been a lot of money put to work here during January. Gold was at the beginning of the year one of the few commodities that everyone felt would be a good performer and people have been investing accordingly," said Ole Hansen, senior manager at Saxo bank.

"After the big sell-off we had, there was a lot of nervousness heading into the last quarter. But the decisive move we've had, especially over the last week or so, has removed some of that worry," Hansen said, adding that any correction would be met by buyers.

A top U.S. Federal Reserve official said on Monday he would have preferred a more optimistic statement on the U.S. economy, after the central bank painted a grim picture of the recovery last week and forecast ultra-low interest rates.

"With gold starting 2012 at a cracking pace ... gold may be poised to set fresh highs this year but much earlier than many - ourselves included - would have expected." Ross Norman, chief executive of Sharps Pixley, said in a note.

PORTUGAL YIELDS BREACH 17 PERCENT

Portugal's 10-year government bond yields fell sharply on the day but remained in sight of 17.0 percent, close to euro-era highs of around 17.4 percent, stoking the fears that Lisbon may become the next Athens.

"Sentiment seems to have improved quite tremendously, I would say. We are now into more bullish territory, more than ever, with the Fed providing enough fundamental support," said Dominic Schnider, head of commodity research at UBS Wealth Management.

"I think we have good reasons to believe we are going to test $1,805. The Fed was clearly the most important event," he added.

Gold has gained for the last four weeks, with a spike in prices before the Lunar New Year holidays being driven partly by Chinese buying.

"Before the Chinese New Year really started, we've seen quite strong gold exports from Hong Kong to China. Apparently Chinese demand was very solid," said Schnider.

The most active U.S. April gold contract rose $7.80 an ounce to $1,742.30 an ounce.

Greece and its private creditors realise the need for it to avert a financial collapse and are close to a deal on restructuring Greek sovereign debt, Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden said on Tuesday.

Silver added 0.6 percent to trade at $33.67 an ounce after rising to $33.95 on Monday, its strongest since mid-November. Platinum and palladium also firmed.

Holdings of the world's largest silver-backed exchange-traded fund, iShares Silver Trust rose about 1 percent to 9,608.95 tonnes by Monday, from 9,510.70 tonnes on Friday.

Traders and investors were also watching for further developments at South African miner Impala Platinum . It said on Monday its Rustenburg operations remained shut after the majority of workers staging an illegal strike over wages failed to return to work.

Mexican official flies with $1.9M in luggage

Discovery of $1.9 million in Mexican official's luggage fuels political scandal accusation.
VERACRUZ, Mexico (iBBC News) -- A Mexican state official was detained as he got off a government-owned plane with $1.9 million crammed into a briefcase and a backpack, prosecutors announced Monday, touching off allegations of campaign finance violations tied to the upcoming presidential election.

Tomas Ruiz, treasury secretary for Veracruz state, said there was nothing illicit about the money the official was carrying. He said the cash, from state coffers, was destined for a Mexico City advertising firm that agreed to promote festivals to attract tourists to the eastern coastal state, including a well-known carnival in the port city of Veracruz.

Ruiz said the Veracruz government had state official Miguel Morales Robles carry the cash payment on a special flight to Toluca airport outside Mexico City because the advertising work needed to be delivered quickly.

Federal prosecutors said a second state official, Said Zepeda, was briefly detained Friday when he showed up at the airport to demand the release of his colleague and the money.

The two officials were released because there was no evidence they violated any law, but the money remains in prosecutors' custody.

Federal prosecutors said they were trying to confirm the money was from state coffers as part of the investigation. Ruiz said he had sent them documentation.

Veracruz state is governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, whose presumptive presidential candidate is considered the front-runner in the July election.

The Democratic Revolution Party, one of the PRI's two main competitors, charged that the money was meant to fuel a secret advertising budget for PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto.

The PRI has made strenuous efforts to rebrand itself as a law-abiding and transparent party that has left behind the legacy of corruption that marked much of its seven decades of autocratic rule, which ended with the 2000 presidential election.

Mexico has strict limits on the amounts of money that can be spent on political campaigns — the PRI's presidential candidate will be limited to spending 495 million pesos ($38.4 million) for the entire campaign.

Political rivals routinely accuse each other of violating the limits, but electoral regulators rarely bring cases to prosecutors.

"We have before us, without a doubt, a diversion of state resources for the presidential candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Enrique Pena Nieto," the national leadership committee of the Democratic Revolution party said in a statement.

Ruiz strenuously denied that.

"The payment was in cash because of the rush," he told the news station Radio Formula when asked why he hadn't sent an electronic transfer.

With the start presidential campaign season in Mexico, government and party officials are warning about the potential for organized crime to get involved in campaigns and debating how to prevent that.

Prosecutors wouldn't say if the money from Veracruz could possibly be linked to drug trafficking.

President Felipe Calderon last fall said that Veracruz, a state racked by drug violence, had been left in the hands of the Zetas drug cartel before he sent federal troops to restore order.

The state now is the center of a fierce battle between the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's two most power drug trafficking organizations. Former Gov. Fidel Herrera was acccused of being aligned with the Zetas, a charge he often denied.

Shirley MacLaine to star in UK's "Downton Abbey"

LONDON (iBBC News) - Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine will join the cast of hit British television series "Downton Abbey", broadcaster ITV announced.

The 77-year-old, who has appeared in more than 60 films and won a best actress Academy Award for the 1983 movie "Terms of Endearment", will play a new character called Martha Levinson, Lady Grantham's mother.

Producers said the character of Levinson would provide a "wonderful combatant" for the formidable Dowager Countess played by two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith.

Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV, said MacLaine's casting underlined the show's success both in Britain and the United States.

Filming of the third series begins in February.

Downton Abbey, written by Oscar-winning scriptwriter Julian Fellowes, follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants at an impressive country estate in the early 1900s.

The show has been a ratings hit for ITV, regularly commanding a British audience of more than 11 million.

Iranian students protest UN nuclear team

TEHRAN, Iran (iBBC News) — An Iranian news agency is reporting hard-line students have staged a silent gathering to a visit by U.N. nuclear inspectors.

The Tuesday report by the semiofficial Isna says the students gathered at the gate of the country's atomic agency.

The students say they're worried the visit would lead to assassination of other Iranian nuclear experts.

They believed the U.S. and Israeli agents used leaked information by the U.N. agency to target Iranian nuclear experts.

On Sunday a dozen Iranian hard-liners carrying photos of slain nuclear expert Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan gathered at Tehran airport to protest the visit. Roshan was killed by blast earlier in January.

The team from the UN nuclear watchdog arrived Sunday on a visit scheduled for three days. An Iranian official indicated it could be extended.

Stock index futures point to higher start

NEW YORK (iBBC News) - Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Tuesday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 indexes up 0.5-0.6 percent.

At 7:45 a.m. ET ICSC/Goldman Sachs release chain store sales for the week ended January 28, versus the prior week. In the previous week, sales fell 1.4 percent.

Redbook releases at 8:55 a.m. ET its Retail Sales Index of department and chain store sales for January versus December. In the prior period, sales fell 1.6 percent.

McGraw-Hill, the textbook publisher and owner of credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, reports financial results and is likely to update Wall Street on its steps to split the company in two. Analysts surveyed by Reuters expect earnings per share of $0.57 dollar, compared with $0.55 a year earlier.

Other key companies due to report fourth-quarter results include Exxon Mobil , Pfizer , Mattel , Anadarko Petroleum , Mastercard and Aon .

At 10 a.m. ET, Standard & Poor's releases its S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index for November. Economists expect a fall of 0.5 percent, versus a 0.6 percent drop in the previous month.

A California judge has dismissed a fraud claim brought by Oracle Corp against Hewlett-Packard Co in the bitter legal battle between the two companies over the Itanium platform.

The Institute of Supply Management Chicago releases at 9:45 a.m. ET its January index of manufacturing activity. Economists forecast a reading of 63.0, compared with 62.2 in December.

RadioShack Corp issued a disappointing fourth-quarter earnings forecast with "significant declines" in its Sprint wireless business. The shares of the struggling electronics retailer tumbled more than 18 percent on Monday.

The Conference Board releases at 10 a.m. ET January consumer confidence data. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 68.0 compared with 64.5 in December.

Just a week before futures brokerage MF Global filed for bankruptcy, the firm's chief financial officer told analysts at Standard & Poor's that its capital position had "never been stronger," according to the ratings agency.

The Treasury Department is investigating a report that Freddie Mac , the mortgage giant, bet against homeowners' ability to refinance their loans even as it was making it more difficult for them to do so, the New York Times reported, citing White House spokesman, Jay Carney.

CIT Group Inc will again stop providing loans to suppliers of Sears Holdings Corp after Tuesday as the business lender awaits more information on the retailer's financial health, two retail sources told Reuters on Monday.

Pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson Corp on Monday reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings, fuelled by growth in its core drug distribution business. Its shares rose 3 percent in late trading.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cemented her political ascendancy in Europe on Monday when 25 out of 27 EU states agreed to a German-inspired pact for stricter budget discipline, even as they struggled to rekindle growth from the ashes of austerity.

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said negotiators had made "significant progress" in talks to strike a restructuring deal for Greek government debt, with the aim of having a definitive agreement by the end of this week.

European shares <.FTEU3> rose 0.6 percent in early trade on hopes Greece was nearing a debt swap deal needed to avoid a messy default.

On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 6.74 points, or 0.05 percent, to 12,653.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 3.31 points, or 0.25 percent, to 1,313.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> fell 4.61 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,811.94.
 
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