Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Burial Set For Friday After Mother's Appeal Nixed

Anna Nicole Smith's estranged mother on Wednesday lost a court appeal to prevent her daughter's burial in the Bahamas, and the funeral is now set for Friday.

Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, had appealed to Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal against a lower-court ruling that gave custody of Smith's remains to the court-appointed guardian for her daughter, Dannielynn, for burial next to Smith's son, Daniel, in the Bahamas. Daniel died in September, three days after Dannielynn's birth.

The ruling came as the National Enquirer, a salacious tabloid weekly that has recorded numerous legitimate scoops in celebrity journalism, reported that Smith had died of severe pneumonia and not, as many had speculated, from a drug overdose. Smith, 39, died on February 8 after collapsing in a hotel room in Hollywood, Florida.

© 2007 DPA

Victoria Beckham To Star In US Reality TV Show

Victoria Beckham, wife of football superstar David Beckham, is to star in her own reality show on US television chronicling her move from Madrid to Los Angeles, NBC television said Wednesday.

The as-yet unnamed show will be produced by Simon Fuller, the man behind the most popular reality show on US television, American Idol.

The six-part series about Beckham, known as Posh Spice from her days with the 1990s pop group the Spice Girls, will screen in the summer as her husband begins his US playing career with the Los Angeles Galaxy team in August.

"The series will give viewers a glimpse into what makes Victoria so popular and admired as one of the most glamourous women in the world," said Kevin Reilly, head of NBC entertainment publicity. "She makes news wherever she goes, and our audience can now become insiders in this fascinating personal view."

The Beckhams have three children, but according to trade paper Variety, the show will focus less on their family life and more on the challenges involved in transplanting a superstar's support system - publicist, stylist, personal assistant and more - from Europe to America. The show will also portray her shopping for a new home and car, Variety reported.

"This show is really something different. It's pushing the boundaries, and I think it's going to surprise a lot of people," Beckham said.

There was no indication of how much the deal is worth, though Variety described it as "very rich". David Beckham's five-year deal with the Galaxy is estimated to be worth some 250 million dollars, the vast majority coming from endorsements.

© 2007 DPA

Command & Conquer 3 Demo Download

Looks like the rumours from earlier this month were right, dead on. So as previously hinted, EA has released a demo version for their upcoming real-time strategy game, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, giving us an early look at the return of Westwood's classic RTS franchise. Although I tremble in fear of how they might have desecrated Westwood's legacy - or what little was still left from it. Well, I'm about to find out...

The C&C 3 demo eats up almost 1.2 GB worth of bandwidth, and you can download it locally or from any of the (more or less-) official mirrors listed on C&C Den. Lion's website also mentions the following features for this single-player demo:

Tutorial Mission - The tutorial will take players through the basics of movement and construction. In other words, it will teach you how to play the game.

Campaign Missions - Play through two campaign missions as GDI. The first mission sends you, the player, to the North Carolina badlands, a yellow zone where some Nod activity has been detected. The second of the campaign missions is set in Alexandria Egypt, once again, a yellow zone. This particular area is serving as a major port for Nod's activities and weapons shipments.

Skirmish Play - Play as GDI and fight against Nod in this two player skirmish map called Small Town USA. Choose between four difficulty levels ranging from easy to brutal. Only one of the five AI personalities (Balanced AI) is included with the demo. You can expect to see rush, turtle, guerilla, and steamroller AI routines in the skirmish in the final product.

Expect the full (PC) version of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars to be released around March 28-29, depending on your territory. And don't forget that the game is also heading for the Xbox 360 later this year, in May.

U.S. to fund six cellulosic ethanol plants

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday it will provide $385 million in funding for six biorefinery projects during the next four years.

Energy Department Secretary Samuel Bodman said the six plants are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually, helping further the government's goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and, along with increased automobile fuel efficiency, reducing the United States' gasoline consumption by 20 percent within 10 years.

The projects selected and their funding were the

Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Chesterland, Mo., and its plant in Kansas, $76 million; ALICO Inc. of LaBelle, Fla., $33 million; BlueFire Ethanol Inc. of Irvine, Calif., $40 million; the Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, S.D., and its plant in Emmetsurg, Iowa, $80 million; Iogen Biorefinery Partners LLC of Arlington, Va., and its plant in Shelley, Idaho, 80 million; and Range Fuels Inc. of Broomfield, Colo., and its plant in Soperton, Ga., $76 million.

© 2007 UPI

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ghost Rider Review

When I saw the trailer for this movie I actually start to feel impatient because I wanted to watch this flick pretty bad. Plus I didn't see Nicolas Cage in a movie for a while, so a second reason to go and checked it out.

The day when I could watch the movie came and basically I was pretty much disappointed. Well, not that much because I already expected that from Hollywood. It's like a curse for them... every time they do a Marvel Comic related movie they pretty much screw it up. If they do a sequel of Ghost Rider maybe it's probably going to get better. That was the case for Spider Man... Or X-Men... They got a bit better in the sequels. Hellboy was not bad either and Guilermo del Toro deals with it, so I'm hoping for an even better sequel. So it depends what director they choose for the sequel...

But let's go back to our week-end issue: "Ghost Rider". This is a movie that stars one of my favorite actors Nicolas Cage and whatever actor for me... Eva Mendez. I actually didn't like Cage in this role, but not because he didn't play it good, but because it does not fit him. C'mon people, he's got that mellow, puppy sad eyes. Well, he can play a baddie role, but... this... an immortal dude who becomes a bounty hunter is too much. He's not... "spawn" enough and the script made him look too sappy.

But since Cage himself is a Ghost Rider fan, I can guess why he played this part. Probably he would do it again and for free. He even had to have his real Ghost Rider tattoo covered with makeup for some scenes.

Anyway, his story goes something like this: years ago, the daring stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze, our Nic Cage, was tricked into selling his soul to the devil to ease the suffering of his dying father, played by Brett Cullen.

What's funny is that the producers of this movie made it clear to us that in order to have an immortal soul, you have to give up your hot girlfriend, develop a taste for the timeless tunes of The Carpenters (how good it feel to be human) and being able to cheat death daily while performing the craziest aerobatics ever known to motorcycle.

So after Blaze sold his soul, he becomes the Ghost Rider by night, banishing the bad and collecting rogue demons for his eternally evil employer and he's expected to go and kill Mephistopheles' son, Blackheart - old enemy.

But let's not be so mean even if the flick just follows fairly standard, troubled hero rules, mixed with some horror movie clich├ęs. Whether you like it, hate it or just don't get it, this at least makes "Ghost Rider" an intriguing, maybe even witty experiment from beginning to end.

Now... because it's a movie based on a fictional story we need the special effects. These look pretty cool and clever, but I wouldn't argue with a person that would think that they look cheapish. And to think that they "threw" $120 million on the window only for the special effects.

Conclusion is that the movie isn't brilliant at all, but if you're a fan of Cage you can go and see it, for some strange reason you will like it. If you're a Ghost Rider fan you'll just get cranky and if you're none of them, you'll just be really bored.

Basic Instinct II Named Worst Film

On the eve of the Oscars, Sharon Stone's Basic Instinct II was named the worst film of 2006 Saturday night in the annual Golden Raspberry awards.
Also known as the Razzies, the annual worst of the worst film awards have become an established tradition every year, putting the glamour of Hollywood celebrated on the following night's Oscars into a more prosaic perspective.

The sequel to Stone's sexy Basic Instinct thriller from 1992 dominated the 27th annual awards, collecting the dubious honour of worst film, worst actress, worst screenplay and worst prequel or sequel.

The comedy Little Man picked up three Razzies, including worst remake or rip-off, and worst screen couple for Shawn and Marlon Wayans who also shared the prize for worst actor.

Indian filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan was named worst director and worst supporting actor for contribution to the expensive flop Lady in the Water.

© 2007 DPA

Nicole Kidman Wants Urban’s Child

In a tell-all interview with actor Russell Crowe, the Australian actress admitted that she is eager to have a child with her husband, country music singer Keith Urban.

Kidman opened up to her buddy and fellow Oscar winner, Russell Crowe, on Oprah Winfrey's Oscar special Thursday night and spoke about the life with her husband who was recently released from rehab.

"Keith is doing very well," Kidman told Crowe. "We've been through a lot," she added, but as Crowe went on with his questions, Kidman interrupted him saying "Let me finish that because that will be seen as a superficial answer and I don't like to give those."

Hinting at the ups and downs in her marriage, Kidman said she and her hubby "dug really deep. Three months into our marriage we had to dig really deep and that's what we are doing and we are in the process of doing that."

Seeming a little embarrassed when Crowe tried to find out more about her baby plans, Kidman, who is already the adoptive mother of two, didn’t hesitate and replied, “Am I going to have a baby? I hope so.”

Crowe then asked whether Kidman would have the child naturally, or adopt.

"Are you going to carry a baby?'' Crowe asked, "Yes, I would hope so,” the 39-year-old actress replied.

“Well, I just want to see you walk around barefoot and pregnant,'' Crowe said. “I'd like to see that too,” Kidman smiled.

Kidman confessed that she loves to love while she finds it hard to allow herself to be loved.

“Receiving the love and feeling like you deserve it is a pretty big struggle and I suppose that's what I've learned just recently is to allow myself to be loved,” she said.

The actress then told Crowe about a near fatal accident in a helicopter flying back from Mexico had changed her outlook on life.

"It was in that moment when we were all going 'This could be the moment when we die' and I always thought the moments before I died I'd be terrified, but I went into this state of calmness,'' Kidman said.

"That's when I realized my conscience was clear and that I had managed to purge myself of all the things that had weighed so heavy on me and that's when I realised I wasn't so afraid of death.''

Her other revelation revolves around a farm she and Urban intend to purchase soon.

"We are going to get a farm and I really want a goat,'' Kidman confessed. "I just kind of have this thing where I'd like to have a goat,” she continued, adding that she would use it to make cheese.

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban got married in June 2006 and four months later, Urban checked himself into rehab for a three-month treatment. He told Matt Lauer of his relationship with Kidman: “They say grief makes hearts and closer bonds than joy ever can. We've been through a lot, and she's been extraordinary.”

Tips For Buying Used Laptops

Buying a used laptop instead of a new one can save you a lot of money. Older devices are available for as little as 200 to 300 dollars and can provide years of reliable service. Yet the question as to whether the purchase is worth it is largely determined by the intended use and the follow-on costs that can be expected. You should therefore figure out beforehand what still works and what might soon malfuction. A little luck doesn't hurt either.

"It's important to be clear about why you need the laptop in the first place," says Peter Leithaeuser from "Second," a Munich-based shop. An old used laptop is more than enough for simple word processing. Game freaks who rely on powerful up-to-date technology will be "in a pickle" if they try to use an old device. The age of the laptop isn't necessary all that important when selecting a machine.

"It's a question of how well cared-for it is," Leithaeuser adds. Key ingredients are few scratches and stains on the screen and a working keyboard.

"Scratches on the casing can't really be avoided, that's part of normal wear and tear," explains Juergen Rink from Hanover-based c't" magazine. Especially deep cracks may hint that the laptop was dropped, however. Particularly in the hinges, where laptops are subjected to extra strong stresses, the casing and cover must not show any cracks. Buyers should have a look at the USB ports as well.

"They can be bent if someone forced a USB plug in there with the wrong side up," says Rink. The casing should be subject to a thorough inspection as well: The battery ought to sit firmly in the holder.

Batteries lose their storage capacity with age, meaning that you shouldn't expect much from an original battery on a five year old laptop.

"You should check it out in advance if you can, but it's not so easy, and you have to be a bit lucky," says Philipp Petrasch from the ConCord-IT-Shop in Tuebingen. Buy a laptop with an unreliable battery and you'll be shelling out for a replacement battery sooner rather than later - which often costs as much as the entire rest of the computer. Yet persistent bargain hunters will also often turn up new batteries at a low cost.

The follow-on cost for new batteries can be calculated, but repair and replacement costs are much more difficult to peg, and represent a key risk when buying a used laptop instead of a new one.

"That's why you should take the time to try the device out," Leithaeuser advises. The safest bet is a model from a major brand name maker. "There are always replacement parts around," he says.

It's also a better idea to buy used business models instead of consumer ones, Petrasch recommends.

"Those devices are more expensive, but the differences in areas like workmanship are enormous."

The experts recommend against buying a computer from another private person. Such purchases are quite risky because private sellers are often not subject to guarantee laws.

Depending on where you live, buying used hardware from retail stores usually brings a guarantee with it. And regardless of the legally stipulated guarantee, many dealers offer their own voluntary warranties that go above and beyond the legal mandates. "We offer a one year guarantee on all devices," Petrasch says. "Only wear parts like batteries are excluded."

As there are more risks associated with these types of purchases, consumers should gather as much information as possible about the device. The risk averse should instead look for sales on new laptops. They are a bit more expensive, but do bring a certain peace of mind.

By Stefanie Zenke, Dpa

© 2007 DPA

Thursday, February 22, 2007

BitTorrent Most Popular in Australia

A web traffic analysis shows that BitTorrent is popular among Australians, more popular than in every other country in the world. Australia is followed by Romania and Greece, the US ranks 12th

This top 10 is based on the relative Alexa rank these countries have on the 5 most visited BitTorrent sites: mininova, torrentspy, the pirate bay, isohunt and torrentz.

Favorite Site: Mininova

02. Romania
Favorite Site: Mininova

03. Greece
Favorite Site: Mininova

04. Netherlands
Favorite Site: Mininova

05. Canada
Favorite Site: Torrentspy

06. United Kingdom
Favorite Site: Torrentspy

07. Sweden
Favorite Site: The Pirate Bay

08. Slovakia
Favorite Site: Torrentz

09. Malaysia
Favorite Site: Mininova

10. France
Favorite Site: Mininova

12 Unites States
Favorite Site: Torrentspy

It is remarkable to see that there are some clear differences in the origin of the visitors among BitTorrent sites. Mininova is the most popular BitTorrent site in Australia, Torrentspy in Canada, and perhaps less surprising, The Pirate Bay rules Sweden.

The numbers below show how popular these sites are. 59 for Australia means that mininova ranks 59th in the list of most visited sites in Australia.

59. Australia
78. Romania
78. Greece
81. France
92. Netherlands

63. Canada
68. Australia
77. United Kingdom
77. Croatia
84. United Arab Emirates

The Pirate Bay
17. Sweden
34. Norway
61. Denmark
64. Finland
127. The Netherlands

Note: Alexa’s data gathering is quite dubious. The exact figures may be not be completely accurate, but it is a great tool (especially the traffic rank) to compare sites within the same niche and to get a global impression of traffic shifts over time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Most Playful Games of 2006

Over the weekend, we have finally closed our "Best of 2006" polls, so it's now time to count the votes and announce the winners in each category. Once again, we focused heavily on PC games, with just a sole category dedicated to the very best of console games, however next year we'll most likely have dedicated polls for each of the major platforms (ed. - I just wonder if the Xbox will still be a "major platform" by then). So, without further ado, here are what you people voted as the most playful games of 2006:

Best PC Game in 2006
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2. Gothic 3
3. Company of Heroes

Best Action (PC)
1. Prey
2. Battlefield 2142
3. Splinter Cell: Double Agent

Best Adventure (PC)
1. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
2. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
3. Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

Best Driving (PC)
1. FlatOut 2
2. Need For Speed Carbon
3. GTR 2

Best MMO (PC)
1. Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach
2. Auto Assault
3. ArchLord

Best RPG (PC)
1. Gothic 3
2. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
3. Neverwinter Nights 2

Best Simulator (PC)
1. Flight Simulator X
2. Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
3. Combat Wings: Battle of Britain

Best Sport (PC)
1. Pro Evolution Soccer 6
2. FIFA 07
3. Football Manager 2007

Best Strategy (PC)
1. Company of Heroes
2. Heroes of Might and Magic V
3. Medieval II: Total War

Best Expansion (PC)
1. Half-Life 2: Episode One
2. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade
3. F.E.A.R. Extraction Point

Best Graphics (PC)
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2. Company of Heroes
3. Gothic 3

Most Original (PC)
1. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
2. Company of Heroes
3. Prey

Most Disappointing (PC)
1. Need For Speed Carbon
2. Gothic 3
3. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Best Console Game
1. Gears of War (Xbox 360)
2. Wii Sports (Wii)
3. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)

As for the best console games of 2006, Wii Sports had a great start, but it was ultimately defeated by Gears of War for the Xbox 360. Better luck next time, Nintendo. And of course Sony, who's PlayStation 3 games are just now starting to make a difference. Look forward to another playful year!

For the full list, you can still check our "Best of 2006" section.

It's interesting to note that, even though Oblivion took the crown as best PC game of 2006 overall (and best looking), it was Gothic 3 who prevailed as last year's best RPG (by a single extra vote). But at the same time, Gothic 3 was also one of the most disappointing PC games, right after NFS Carbon, who was barely passed by FlatOut 2 as the best driving game. In fact, most of the genre-specific battles were fiercely disputed, and most winners were decided by a margin of only 1-4 votes.

Kelly Osbourne Says HIV In Family

British singer Kelly Osbourne, daughter of heavy metal star Ozzy Osbourne, says a member of her family has tested positive for HIV.

The pop singer was speaking during a weekend benefit for the HIV support organization Body and Soul in London, Sky News said.

"This charity is really important to me because one of my family is HIV positive. And I am so, so proud of him," she said during the concert.

The TV personality and other members of the Osbourne family had been introducing a performance by the Scissor Sisters at the time.

Photographers at the concert reported that she started sobbing before leaving the stage, Sky News said.

The singer rose to fame on the reality TV show "The Osbournes," which followed the antics of her father and his dysfunctional family.

© 2007 UPI

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Britney ‘on the edge of a nervous

Fans and friends of Britney Spears rallied round the pop star last night as fears grew for her mental health.

The 25-year-old’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic, including reports that she had checked into a rehabilitation clinic but left after only 24 hours. In a bizarre sequence of events, Spears was filmed shaving her head in a Los Angeles hair salon on Friday evening before heading to a tattoo parlour, where she reportedly had a tattoo of a pair of lips put on to her wrist.

Psychologists said yesterday that the behaviour was worryingly erratic and required attention, while fans of the pop star set up a website — ‘Help Britney’ — to collect messages of support. Footage from a Los Angeles television station of Spears’s behaviour showed her taking the clippers to her hair in full view of the paparazzi gathered outside.

Esther Tognozzi, the owner of the salon, told US Weekly that after Spears had cut off her brunette hair extensions she “just looked in the mirror and said with tears in her eyes: ‘Oh, my God, I shaved it all off. My mom is going to be so upset with me’.”

Crowds of passers-by later gathered at the window of the Body and Soul tattoo parlour, as the singer, wearing a hooded tracksuit, and looking pale and drawn, ordered the tattoo.

“She just wanted something real small on her wrist, something dainty,” said Max Gott, a tattoo artist. “She got some cute little lips on her wrist.” Emily Wynne-Hughes, another employee, was quoted as saying that Spears “wasn’t making sense at all and you could tell she’s not in a good place at all, and that she is totally freaking out. After she left the shop we all just looked around and said to each other, we just saw a huge celebrity on the verge of a nervous breakdown”.

Her behaviour came on the same day as a variety of US media reported she had checked into, then out of, a rehabilitation clinic owned by Eric Clapton. It was claimed that she lasted only 24 hours at the Crossroads clinic, on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Spears, who became famous in 1999 with the hit Baby One More Time, has sold more than 70 million albums in a career that has recently become as notable for bad behaviour as it once was for her teenage innocence. After her separation from her husband Kevin Federline, pictures of the singer baring her crotch have shattered her clean-cut image.

A short-lived friendship with Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress, and Lindsay Lohan, the actress, led her to admit that she had gone too far.

Last week a former personal assistant, Felicia Culotta, made public her concerns for the singer, posting an e-mail on a fan website suggesting that Spears was facing a huge personal crisis. “I cannot save her from herself nor can I commit her to any type of treatment programme against her wishes,” Ms Culotta wrote.

Last night fans besieged the singer’s MySpace website offering their support.

Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, said: “She’s obviously quite a disturbed girl at the moment, she doesn’t know who or what she is. I think it’s very worrying, and I hope there’s somebody out there, in her family or friends, who will take charge of her. Partly, we created that, we take these young kids and turn them into celebrities, but they don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to help them deal with the pressures they are going to face.”

Last night what purported to be the singer’s locks appeared on sale on eBay, the auction website. It was not immediately clear whether the item was genuine.

Bad press

— In 2004 Spears married Jason Allen Alexander in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted 55 hours

— In the same year, her video for Everytime had to be reedited to remove scenes showing her drowning in a bathtub after slitting her wrists

— She married dancer Kevin Federline in 2005. Their divorce was announced in November last year, just two months after she gave birth to a second son

— Fans were upset when photos were taken of her without underwear

Source: Times archive

Lottery Winners Sued As Nuisances

Portland is using a nuisance law to sue a couple who won the Oregon Lottery, saying their home is the scene of drug deals and fighting.

The Oregonian said the scenario described by the lawsuit against Elizabeth and Samuel Howard and two of their children is in sharp contrast to the one presented when the Howards won the lottery in 2005 and talked of helping young people addicted to drugs and alcohol. They accepted an $871,000 lump payment for their $2.6 million jackpot, the newspaper said.

The city's lawsuit seeks to board up the Howards' home for six to 12 months. It alleges a wild party scene with numerous police calls, public sex, drug use and fighting.

Police were called to the Howards' cul de sac 52 times between July 29, when the Howards moved in, and Nov. 24, The Oregonian reported. During the previous seven months, police were on the street just once.

Samuel Howard denied the accusations.

"I just feel like I'm a victim in the whole situation," he told the newspaper.
© 2007 UPI

MySpace Off The Hook In Child Sex Case

A US judge has ruled that is not liable in a case in which a 13-year-old girl was molested by a man she met on the social networking site, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The girl's parents had filed the 30 million dollars lawsuit against MySPace and its owner News Corp., claiming that the networking site failed to protect the girl and other users from predators.

Several other similar cases are pending in US courts and the ruling appeared to set a precedent in which social networking sites are not held liable for the actions of their users, according to legal experts quoted by the newspaper.

According to court documents, the 13-year-old girl known as Julie Doe listed her age as 18 when she joined MySpace. In April last year, when she was 14, the girl was contacted through the site by college student Pete Solis who later took her out on a date and sexually assaulted her in a parking lot.

"If anyone had a duty to protect Julie Doe, it was her parents, not MySpace," Judge Sam Sparks wrote in a ruling dismissing the case.

The ruling came as MySpace and its competitors are putting in place voluntary safety measures to verify users' age, identify possible molesters and allow greater parental control of what their children do on the sites.

Lawyer Adam J. Loewy, who represented the girl, said he was disappointed in the ruling and planned an appeal.

"We were prepared for a very long battle in this," Loewy said.

© 2007 DPA

Cisco And Apple Are Still Negotiating Over iPhone Trademark

If you are waiting to find out who will win the iPhone trademark then today it’s not your lucky day, because Cisco Systems said it agreed to give Apple more time to respond to the lawsuit it filed over the "iPhone" trademark, extending negotiations until February 21.

"Cisco has agreed to give Apple an extension until Wednesday, February 21," Cisco said in a statement. "Cisco is fully committed to using the extra time to reach a mutually beneficial resolution."

This is the second time this month when Apple and Cisco had agreed to extend the time that Apple would have in which to respond to Cisco's lawsuit regarding the iPhone trademark.

In January, just a day after the astonishing unveil of iPhone during the keynote of Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2007, Cisco announced that it has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Apple, seeking to prevent Apple from infringing upon and deliberately copying and using Cisco’s registered iPhone trademark.

Cisco obtained the iPhone trademark in 2000 after completing the acquisition of Infogear, which previously owned the mark and sold iPhone products for several years. Infogear’s original filing for the trademark dates to March 20, 1996. Linksys, a division of Cisco, has been shipping a new family of iPhone products since early last year. On Dec. 18, Linksys expanded the iPhone family with additional products.

“Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco’s iPhone name,” said Mark Chandler, senior vice president and general counsel, Cisco. “There is no doubt that Apple’s new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission. “Today’s iPhone is not tomorrow’s iPhone. The potential for convergence of the home phone, cell phone, work phone and PC is limitless, which is why it is so important for us to protect our brand,” Chandler concluded.

As Mark Chandler has said in his blog, money was not at the center of the negotiations between the two companies for the use of the iPhone trademark, but something else, much more important than some amount of money, even if bearing an endless number of zeros.

“What were the issues at the table that kept us from an agreement? Was it money? No. Was it a royalty on every Apple phone? No. Was it an exchange for Cisco products or services? No. Fundamentally we wanted an open approach. We hoped our products could interoperate in the future. In our view, the network provides the basis to make this happen—it provides the foundation of innovation that allows converged devices to deliver the services that consumers want. Our goal was to take that to the next level by facilitating collaboration with Apple. And we wanted to make sure to differentiate the brands in a way that could work for both companies and not confuse people, since our products combine both web access and voice telephony. That’s it. Openness and clarity. “, said Chandler on his blog.

As a response to Cisco’s claims, Apple argued that it’s entitled to use the name iPhone because the products are materially different. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said in January that Cisco's lawsuit is "silly" and se pointed out that there are already several other companies using the name iPhone for products like Cisco's that use the increasingly popular Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

As you would expect, the Cisco Apple’s trademark drama is not in court yet and negotiations have been resumed. It’s highly unlikely though that the two companies will not reach an agreement.

Spice Girls Comeback Concert In Autumn

The 1990s chart toppers, the Spice Girls, are returning to the stage for a charity concert in London and then a national tour.

Six years after the girl band split, all five original members are coming back together in hopes of running the concerts like a charity, possibly for Bono's Product Red campaign, the Daily Mail reported.

The campaign is raising money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"They are really keen to do it if there is a charity angle. They are talking about doing it for Bono's Red campaign. It's been on the cards for a while, at least a couple of months. They are all good friends now," said one source.

Executives at Emap TV, who want to broadcast the concert, are flying to Los Angeles for talks with Simon Fuller, the former manager of the girl band and the current manager of Victoria Beckham.

The concert will not take place until Baby Spice Emma Bunton gives birth to her first child during the summer.
© 2007 UPI

Playing Better With Vista: New Graphics Cards At CeBIT

Gaming and video fans are understandably eager for this year's CeBIT: the next generation of graphics cards will be on display at the computer fair in Hanover, ready to support the DirectX 10 standard that is integrated into Windows Vista. The new graphics chips will make even sharper images a reality. Many hardware makers are also redoubling their efforts for more powerful graphics solutions for laptops.

"Graphic chips from the new generation are above all else of interest to gamers," says Carsten Spille, editor at the magazine PC Games Hardware. The introduction of Windows Vista and the new DirectX10 graphics interface are intended to make games much more true-to-life. "Things like light calculations and shading can be depicted much more clearly," says Jens Neuschaefer from graphic chip maker Nvidia.

Improved processing of image data is also being aided by a new version of the "unified shader" architecture, allowing landscapes to be drawn more realistically, says Martin Grothe, a product manager from Elitegroup in Munich. The Taiwanese graphic card maker is using the CeBIT fair to exhibit a model from the Nvidia chip family, the N8800GTX-768MX: as with all cards with current Geforce-8 processors, the card possesses 768 Megabytes of GDDR-3 memory with 1.8 Gigahertz of processing power and a 575 megahertz chip.

Need your pixels to whiz even faster? Overclocked chips are probably the best option: Asus is presenting a water-cooled card at the CeBIT, the EN8800 GTX, which manages to milk roughly 11 per cent more power from the Nvidia chip. That adds up to a 630 Megahertz processor with two gigahertz of effective storage space.

Users can certainly expect new speed records in the competition between Nvidia and AMD-subsidiary ATI: ATI is using the CeBIT to premiere a new series of cards that, according to unofficial press reports, will be called X-2000 and feature a processor named R600. That will make the race for the speed title all the more narrow, Spille says.

"Nvidia has until now been way ahead of the competition-but with the new graphic chip AMD may catch up to them," says Spille. The ATI chip will also support DirectX 10 and offer improved "shader" graphics. It is expected on the market by the end of the first quarter, says ATI spokeswoman Almut Otto from Munich.

Video fans will also be well served by novelties at the CeBIT fair: the new crop of cards is particularly well suited for high- definition video content, Otto says. That means that the cards offer both DVI and HDMI input ports that are adapted for the new HDCP copy protection. These allow HD-DVDs or Blu-Ray media to be played back from a computer using a television or projector.

Hardware makers are also working hard on powerful graphics solutions for laptops.

"Laptops are getting more and more interesting for gamers," says Daniel Moll from Asus. Asus is displaying a laptop called A8Jr at the CeBIT. It contains ATI's new Radeon X2300 graphics chip for improved performance during 3D gaming.

Asus is also presenting the XG Station, an external graphic card adapter for laptops. The card slot allows gamers to equip their laptops with any PCI Express graphics card of choice.

By Tobias Schorman, Dpa
© 2007 DPA

Escape the Bomb from AddictingGames

Maybe the drugs will help me defuse the bomb…

OK, I will give my short walk through since i have not completed the game yet. OK first pick up the piece of paper in the middle of the room. Next go to the beige drawers and open the top drawer get the screwdriver, then open the next drawer and pick up the cup and then pick up the cross. (For some reason you can put the cross between the two candles which I did). After that go to the computer desk and pick up the pill. Next pick up the piece of paper from the trash, unscramble it and it will have the characters "2-104420".

After that go to the clock in the room and click the right border of the clock, the clock should come off and then there will be a key, but don't leave, look for the battery slot on the clock and click it and then take the battery. After the key, go back to the beige drawers and click the key and then open the third drawer.

In the drawer should be more ripped up papers. Unscramble those to find the characters "C36965QT". Once you find those look at the other piece of paper and put them together as if they were ripped apart. Read the characters from left to right. It should spell out "C36926510QT4420". Now that you have that you need one more code. Go to the calender hung up on the wall. Flip to December and you will find December 25 circled saying "My Birthday" That is the code.

The date 12/25 (without the backslash) is the code for the master lock on the computer desk. Put 1225 in the lock and open the drawer. In the drawer are some scissors. Next go to the mini fridge and pull out the ice cube maker. Go to the faucet and fill the cup and ice cube maker with water, and put the ice cube maker in the fridge again(I haven't figured out what this is for yet).

After a minute the ice cubes should be frozen. Once frozen, observe the cup and put the ice cubes in the cup. The ice and water thing was completely useless at this point. Now go to the laptop. Type C36926510QT4420 into the computer code and then it will go to the main screen. This is as far as I can help you. Please if you get any more info post it. If I beat it I will post the rest.

First off, you don't have to do most of the things that AKA123 posted. If you want to have a very short version of what to do, here it is:
1. Go to the desk and unlock the lock with code 1225. Take the scissors

2. Put the codes together, and enter C36926510QT4420 in the password field on the computer.

3. Click under the dresser, and get the other screwdriver. This is on the bottom left side, under the shelf with the cross. This is the only screw driver you will need. It will unscrew the compartment behind the calender

4. Look at the right side of the dresser, on the bottom, and click. You will find another key. This key will open the compartment behind the calender. Get the lighter.

5. Go to the computer and go to safe mode setting 2. Execute this. This will allow you to cut the yellow wire next to the desk, that disables the infrared sensor on the bomb outside the door.

6. Take the lighter, and put it up to the smoke detector on the ceiling. An alarm will sound, then stop, and just wait.

That's it. You don't need anymore stuff. The bomb in the room, is not to worry about. Hope I didn't spoil it for anyone. But you seemed to want to know.

Make-up - Cool Gallery

Click to view these girls after the makeover (you'll be surprised)

How to steal electricity ?

Check out this crazy amount of wires from people stealing electricity.

How many cables you can count in there? It's a network and it's actually working. It doesn't seems to bother anybody that no one can't see the sky through that net. I think it's in Pakistan or India...

44 years of Michael ''Air'' Jeffery Jordan (Video)

One of the most famous players in basketball history, Michael Jeffery Jordan was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. His family headed to Wilmington, North Carolina when Jordan was still little and, being the youngest of three children, he was considered the laziest of the three. Although he slacked through school, when he hit high school, things began to turn around for him. He began to get better grades and showed more of an interest in school itself, along with three different sports: football, baseball, and basketball, where he lettered in all three.

During his sophomore year, he was cut from the basketball team because he only stood 5'9. Over the summer, he continued to train and grew a whopping 4 inches, consequently, he wasn't cut from the team again. And, during his senior year, was selected for the McDonald's All-American Team. When he headed off to college at the University of North Carolina, he was not yet the star that he would become. Although he did help to lead his team to a win in the 1982 NCAA Championship, he quit school to enter the draft for the NBA in 1984, where he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

During his NBA career, he stayed for thirteen straight seasons with the Bulls, and then headed to the Washington Wizards for two seasons. It was here in the NBA that Jordan really made his mark, earning the MVP award five times, leading his team to win six NBA Championships, and was even named Rookie of the Year. During his first few seasons, he became the only other player in history, besides Wilt Chamberlain, to score over 3,000 points in one season. His game only got better the longer that he was in the NBA, earning him multiple All-Star game positions. It was not long before Jordan's face and clips of his basketball skills were everywhere around the world, including his famous clip from the 1990-1991 season when he switched hands in mid-air while playing the LA Lakers. It was also during this season that Jordan won the NBA Finals MVP award and cried on camera while holding the trophy.

Throughout his career, he has retired several times, sometimes amidst massive amounts of controversy. In 1993, he announced his retirement, and then was accused of loosing over $50,000 during his gambling days along with many other accusations that came out during this same time about his gambling problems. In 1994, he headed to the baseball fields, where he played for the Chicago White Sox. But, his baseball game wasn't quite as good as his basketball game, and, even though he played for a couple of different minor league teams, he finally gave it up to return to the court. This same year, he headed back to the court, and to the Bills, scoring over 50 points in several games, proving to the world that he was, indeed “back”. Yet, after playing for five more years, he once again announced his retirement in 1999.

But, in 2000, he returned to basketball, except for the Washington Wizards this time, just not as a player. Jordan became part owner and the President of Operations for the team. Although he won several awards during his time as a basketball executive, many people just didn't quite know what to make of his management skills and career. And, when he bored of that hat, he again donned a jersey and headed back to the court with his new team in 2001. But, age was catching up with the star and many fans began to realize that if he left this time, there would be no coming back.

After injuring himself during the 2001-2002 season, he returned for the 2002-2003 season with special shoes to help his knees. Knowing that this would truly be his last season, the seats sold out for every game, and many teams and players alike began to throw tributes to the all-star player, and he received one of the highest honors when he was presented with the flag that flew over the Pentagon on September 11, 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld. Thus, Jordan left the court for good.

  • Michael Jordan was selected in 1996 as one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History"
  • He has been the Six time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player
  • Five time NBA Most Valuable Player
  • Michael Jordan has won the Slam Dunk Contest twice in 1987 and 1988
  • For 842 games he consecutively scored in the double digits giving him an NBA record
  • For 10 seasons he lead the NBA league.
  • He took the Chicago Bulls to 6 time championship wins.
  • For 7 consecutive seasons he was leading the league in scoring giving him a shared NBA record with Wilt Chamberlain.
  • He was selected for the All-NBA First Team 10 times
  • Michael was selected for a record nine times for the NBA All Defensive Firts Team.
  • He has participated in 13 NBA All Star Games
  • Entering the 2002-03 season Michael ranked 1st in NBA history in scoring average with 31.0 points per game.
  • He ranked 2nd in steals with 2,391 steals
  • 4th in total points with 30,652 points.
  • He had made 11,513 filed goals and ranked 4th.
  • 7,061 free throws made ranking 5th and 8,448 free thows attempted placing him in 8th
  • He had also attempted 23,010 field goals ranking him 6th
  • He was the Chicago Bulls all time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, games played, field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made and free throws attempted
  • In 1993 he set an NBA Finals record for the highest single series scoring average of 41 points per game
  • He also holds the NBA Playoffs record for highest career scoring average with 33.4 points per game
  • He also established an NBA Playoff record with 63 points in a game.
  • In 1989 and 1993 he recorded two playoff career triple doubles
  • In 1997 he recorded his 28th career triple double with 30 points, 11 rebouinds and 10 assists.
  • In 1997 he made the 1st triple double in an All Star Game scoring 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
  • He still holds the NBA single game record for the most free throws made in one half with 20 free thows made.
  • He shares the NBA single game record for most free throws made in one quarter with 14 free thows made.
  • Named the MVP of the 1988, 1996 and 1998 NBA All-Star Games

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Romania leader in deadly road accidents

Romania is counted among the countries with the highest rate of fatalities in road accidents, within the European Union, according to a Eurostat report. The European Statistics office shows that, despite the accelerated progress during the past few years, the East and the West are still at a distance in Europe.

The Eurostat study employs data since 1994 through 2004. According to the data, Romania, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia recorded the highest figures in fatality rates. The difference, compared to Western countries, is hallucinating.

For one million passengers, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania and Slovakia recorded an average of 752, 749, 571 and 507 individuals, respectively, all deceased in car crashes. On the other hand, Malta, Sweden, UK, Holland and Germany had the lowest average rates: 61, 117, 121, 126, and 129 dead respectively, per one million registered cars.

Feb 16, 2007

Russian investments offensive: 400 billion dollars before 2015

Russia will invest some 400 billion dollars in 304 projects until 2015, said Alexander Khloponin, governor of the Krasnoyarsk province, as quoted by Kommersant. The investments will be made on Russian soil only, but experts say this is only the first step of the “financial offensive” Moscow is about to launch.

The investments are designed to increase the productivity in Russia, with a major impact on the economic expansion worldwide, international analysts say.

59 projects are targeted towards the Eastern Russia, namely Siberia. “The industrialization will bear an emphasis in the Eastern Russia, the future of Siberia and of the entire Eastern region being closely tied to Russia’s economic development”, the governor said.

The oil and gas field cover some 200 billion out of the expected expenses.

Feb 16, 2007

What the newspapers say: February 16, 2007

Still dazzled after the uninominal vote, the Romanian media finds nothing but minor news to work on, since the political crisis is in its first day without important actions and statements from the politicians.

NATO doesn't tolerate any violent actions in Kosovo, says the NATO secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, after the tragic incident in the area.
A street meeting this weekend ended with two victims, supposedly killed by Romanian gendarmes' rubber bullets, Evenimentul Zilei reads.

UN begins to look like a simple pawn when China and Russia, two countries holding 40% of the worldwide populace and, fifth of the world economy and over half of the nuclear weapons, decide to sign a strategical partnership, same Evenimentul Zilei reads. Adding India, the East rises to the same position it had during the Cold War.

"There are moments when one supports one idea just because he believes it's the public's ideal" is the head title in Gandul. "He refused to talk about the uninominal vote a few month ago, now he praises it. He accused politicians living in state-owned villas, now we know he over-stayed in one", the paper reads.

It's good to know that the political class isn't everything in Romania. In business, the Central Bank begun to have profits in December, officials, say, for the first time after 1990. The governor, Mugur Isarescu, declared that profit is the target of the Central Bank at the end of 2006, when CB recorded severe losses for the past two years, Gandul reads.

The news isn't good enough for school teachers, who leave their jobs in order to become baby sitters. The wage as a baby sitter in Romania almost double, compared to a school teacher's income (300 euros per month, instead of 170), but it can grow up to 1,000, Adevarul found out.

Same Adevarul counts the Romanian and Bulgarian students who prefer the Western Europe in their studies and find out that the number of applications for UK schools increased 200% for Romania and 184% for Bulgaria.

One may find it normal, since Romania is not to be trusted. Even the Police officers, Cotidianul reads, make massive illegal moves on the real estate market. A
Many high-ranked officers bought their "work apartments" at low prices, despite the fact that they already owned a personal home.

And finally, the same Cotidianul offers a piece of news with the official reaction of PM Tariceanu regarding the uninominal vote referendum: "The president once again acts as if he was in a pub. Ordering and living under the impression that he consulted the waiter"., Feb 16, 2007

Traian Basescu: Political clients have access to national economy resources

President Traian Basescu held a speech on Thursday in front of the Romanian Academic Society, discussing once again the political influence in Romania's economy. He also approached issues like labor force crisis, the lack of a national post-accession strategy and the over-inflated energy consumption.

The president considers that Romania must avoid a division between rich and poor after the accession to he European Union. "Romania has an economy that can be labeled in many areas as "only for the privileged", where the equal opportunity policy doesn't work and ordinary people haven't got a chance, because they didn't get to know politicians", said Basescu.

Still, the president is optimistic, with a series of positive predictions for the economy, like a 6% growth in 2007 and a 5% inflation rate, figures that may even improve., Feb 15, 2007

4.3% inflation rate challenged by wage growth

The average inflation rate for 2007 is estimated at some 4.3%, the Central Bank Governor, Mugur Isarescu, said on Thursday. The salaries' growth represents the highest inflation risk this year, added Isarescu, thus reopening the series of warning he addressed to the Government.

Isarescu's warning comes the same day president Traian Basescu discussed the same problem with the Romanian Academic Society, where the president said that the labor force will continue to emigrate towards the West, unless salaries grow.

The current account deficit, on the other hand, increased 46% in 2006, compared to 2005, up to 9.97 billion euros.

The Central Bank Governor also presented three scenarios for the average inflation rate, all depending on the December 2007 inflation rate. For a December with 4 to 5% rate, the average annual inflation rate will range from 4.2 to 4.6%., Feb 15, 2007

JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers to operate on Romanian Stock Exchange

Rough days are coming for the Romanian brokerage institutions. 21 foreign investment companies received approval to operate on the Romanian market, including major players like J.P.Morgan Securities or Lehman Brothers Asset Management.
In other words, any Stock Exchange investor will be able to let his portfolio be managed by J.P Morgan instead of any of the 72 Romanian companies.

Out of the 21 one new players, 20 are headquartered in London, only one - WOOD & Company Financial Services - coming from Prague.

After Romania's accession to the EU, all brokerage companies authorized in any of the EU member states may enter the local market, without special authorization, requiring only a notification and a 50,000 euros tax., Feb 15, 2007

What the newspapers say: February 15, 2007

President Basescu addressed the Parliament yesterday. Instead of the expected unveiling on corrupt politicians, or instead of peace-making apologies, Basescu simply announced a referendum for the introduction of the uninominal vote.
Basescu's move and the echoes of the simple motion the Senate passed against the Justice Minister make most of the news today.

"Referendum for the uninominal vote" is the title in Evenimentul Zilei, Romania Libera and Jurnalul National. Simple, dry as a perfect martini, almost leading us to believe newspapers are objective.
"Basescu's "apologies": Uninominal vote used as a bat" is the title in Gandul. "Basescu's referendum wipes the floor with the elected PMs", Cotidianul reads, closer to having some attitude.

Another problem with Basescu is that the elections for the European Parliament might be postponed, in case the president's suspension procedures continue, PM Tariceanu warns, according to Gandul.

Moving to Tariceanu's cabinet, the Justice Minister's seat has an unknown status. The Constitutional Court is the only institution that might have an answer in Monica Macovei's resignation, after the Senate passed a simple motion against her.
Some say she's as good as resigned, others say it's up to the party that nominated her. All arguments available at Gandul.

Still, since there is no scandal without some corruption charges, a deputy accuses Macovei of having bought recently a 200,000 euros villa in a residential area in Bucharest, Adevarul reads.

European Parliament has a bone to pick with America's friends. The final version of the report on CIA activities in Europe was adopted yesterday, maintaining the criticism against Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, Poland and Romania. The report still holds the suspicion that detention facilities might have existed in Romania, Evenimentul Zilei reads.

And another piece of bad war news: the UN chief of Police in Kosovo was fired because of the excessive use of force by Romanian gendarmes, Gandul reads.

Good news, bad news: home made spirit for one's own use requires endless bureaucracy procedures (Gandul). Windows Vista makes PC market grow 10%. (Romania Libera). Peasants with healthier livers will live longer to play Solitaire.

Good and bad news: Renault invests 450 million euros in a technology center in the small city of Titu, but demands some incentives from the Romanian state, Gandul reads.

Good or bad news (?): 12% of the petroleum products sold in Romania are counterfeit, according to Dinu Patriciu, Rompetrol CEO. Sounds bad, but the figure was 40% in 2003, Adevarul informs.

In the end, plain bad news for Europeans: the anti corruption prosecutors solved 11 files on European funds frauds in 2006. The result: four minor jail sentences, all suspended, as Adevarul found out.

All hail euros!, Feb 15, 2007

President calls for referendum on uninominal vote

President Traian Basescu held his speech in front of a half-empty hall, with Conservatives, Social-Democrats and far right Great Romania representatives refusing to participate in the session, along with several Liberals who felt offended by recent statements made by Basescu.

Instead of a pledge in favor of Monica Macovei, unveilings on the laws issued by the Parliament just to protect criminals and other issues expected, Basescu surprised everyone with his main goal: launching the procedures for a national referendum designed to introduce the uninominal vote.

In his speech, Basescu emphasized the fact that most parliamentarians are rather interested in making their party leaders happy, answering in front of the party boards, instead of the people that voted for them.

Basescu re-stated some of the phrases that annoyed the officials, but just to prove that his word caused parliamentarians a mass over-reaction., Feb 14, 2007

EP approves Fava report on CIA actions in Europe

The final report on referring to the CIA actions in Europe was adopted on Wednesday by the European Parliament, with 382 votes in favor, 256 against and 74 abstentions.
ALDE, the Liberals' and Democrats' Alliance for Europe and the Socialist deputies voted in favor, while the Popular Party representatives stood against, claiming there is no clear evidence in the report's fundamentals.

Populars suggested an amendment to clearly specify tat there was no evidence found about the existence of any CIA headquarters in on Romanian soil.

On the other hand, socialists, liberals and ecologists demand the EU governments to answer to the testimonies of all those who lam being kidnapped from the European soil and tortured by American agents.

In his final report, the European Deputy Claudio Fava mentions 1,245 CIA flights in the European air space for possible transfers of terrorism suspects., Feb 14, 2007

Romanian gendarmes accused of killing two Albanians

International media comments that two Albanian ethnics manifestants were killed on Saturday during the street demonstrations in Kosovo, most likely because of the rubber bullets shot by Romanian gendarmes in the UN peace corps.
The Romanian Gendarmerie officials, contacted by, didn't confirm the information, saying only that the Romanian policemen acted according to the regulations.

The possibility for Romanian military to be involved in the tragic incidents is under investigation since Monday, according to sources in Kosovo.

"The local police force, KPC, was assisted by several UN police and gendarmerie units, from Ukraine, Poland and Romania. As far as we know, only the Romanian troops were equipped for intervention", says Jeta Xharra, reporter for the Balkans Media Investigation Network (BIRN-Kosovo).

Xharra avoided to point at anyone but said he watched six hours of video footage, seeing rubber bullets being shot at head level, with high frequency.

Other 70 people were injured during the events., Feb 14, 2007

Senate passes motion against Justice minister Macovei

Romanian Senators voted on Tuesday in favor of a simple motion tabled by the opposition that calls for the dismissal of Justice minister Monica Macovei, which is accused of doing too little for the reform of the Justice system in the country. 81 Senators voted in favor of the bill, which means at least 7 MPs representing the governing coalition supported the coalition move.

Both Liberals (PNL) and Democrats (PD), who form the governing coalition in Bucharest, had said on Monday they would oppose the move and would stand by Macovei, one of the very few Romanian ministers that has received full support from the European Commission for her efforts to reform Romanian Justice.

Macovei met coalition MPs prior to the Senate session. PNL sources told the Liberals assured Macovei of their support on one condition - to put an end to her criticism about the Romanian Government which she is a member of.

PD leader Emil Boc says there is no constitutional constraint that would force Macovei to resign as the motion voices only a point of view of the government. But the main groups of the opposition - the Social Democrats (PSD), the Greater Romania Party (PRM) as well as the Conservative Party (PC) - claim otherwise.

One PRM official warning that unless Macovei resigns the processes involving both the government and the Parliament on Justice matters would be blocked.

While Liberal PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu had said Macovei would not have to resign, other PNL members think otherwise. Liberal politician Crin Antonescu said he believed Macovei should leave the government but admitted that all responsibility falls on PM Tariceanu’s shoulders, who might or might not call for her resignation.

And Verestoy Atila of the Hungarian Democrats (UDMR), who are also part of the government, said Macovei received a politicall lesson today and should be more open to dialogue from now on.

69 votes were needed for the motion to pass. And 69 senators the opposition from a total of 72 were present at the session today. Leaving apart independent MPs, that means at least seven senators of the governing coalition voted against Macovei today.

Brussels officials dodged a public position on the issue, with a spokesman for EC vicepresident Franco Frattini refusing to comment when contacted by “Even if Mr. Frattini supported Ms. Macovei permanently, this vote is a domestic issue for Romania and cannot be commented upon”, the spokesman said., Feb 13, 2007

Economy Ministry to propose energy strategy spanning to 2030

Procedures to list Romanian gas transport company Transgaz at the stock exchange will conclude this year, when similar procedures will be launched for Romgaz, Hidroelectrica and Nuclearelectrica, other major energy companies in Romania, as part of a longer-term energy strategy pushed by the Economy Ministry in Bucharest.

The strategy will span three phases up 2030, Economy minister Varujan Vosganian announced on Tuesday.

A first phase, in 2007-2008, will have Romania focus on meeting its obligations as a EU member state. The priorities will be market liberalization, an institutional strengthening of the market, aligning domestic prices to international ones, improving ecology measures in the mining sector and improving the legislation in the energy sector.

The next phase, due to last until 2014, will have Romania conclude its nuclear energy program by starting operations at the second reactor of the Cernavoda nuclear plant this year and of two others in 2014. Romania will also focus on its involvement in larger projects such as Nabucco or Constanta-Trieste as well as on developing renewable energy programs.

The aim of the third and last phase, to end in 2030, will be to balance the domestic production with existing resources and to diversify energy resources for the country., Feb 13, 2007

False bomb alarm at Romanian Presidential HQ

The 112 emergency call service (similar to America’s 911 service) for the county of Teleorman in Southern Romania received a call on Tuesday warning about the presence of a bomb at the Cotroceni Palace, the headquarters of the Romanian Presidency in Bucharest.

The voice of the caller seemed to be a child’s and security services spokesman Bogdan Onea said shortly afterwards that checks proved it was a false alarm.

The Presidential Administration said employees were not evacuated from offices following the call and that the situation was calm.

Such threats are a criminal offence in Romania and authors risk sentences 3 to 12 years if caught. If the author is a child then parents risks fines., Feb 13, 2007

All contractual energy prices to be made public

All prices included in energy procurement contracts will be made public starting February 23, Romanian Economy minister Varujan Vosganian announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

He said for the time being 40% of electricity on Romanian market goes to the regulated sector (private consumers), 30% goes to intermediated contracts, 7-8% goes to bilateral contracts and 12-15% is reserved for next day necessities.

Vosganian said the volume of bilateral contracts is expected to grow to 40-50% of the total energy contracts within years. The move will lead to the disappearance of intermediaries - the so-called “smart guys” that have become the subject of a large scale investigation into energy-related organized crimes in Romania.

And it would also establish market mechanisms as the only way to set prices, he said.
Vosganian said that since the beginning of 2007 no contracts have been signed between producers and intermediaries directly. And he warned all producers concluding such contracts that they would be dismissed from office.

Vosganian said he expected 7-8% higher energy prices this year according to efforts to keep energy price growth close to the inflation rate., Feb 13, 2007

"Global warming" affects Romanian football clubs

Mircea Sandu, the head of the Romanian Football Federation - FRF, has said that if winter days kept being as warm as this year than the calendar of football matches in Romania might change and the holiday season for football players might get shorter.

Sandu, quoted by Associated Press, said the fall season might conclude on December 23 and the spring season may start on January 15. This would shorten the winter break by almost a month.

Romania recorded unprecedented warm days in January and February this year, with temperatures rising well above 10 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country, compared to usual temperatures of 0 degrees or below.

Feb 13, 2007

IKEA to open first store in Romania on March 21

The first IKEA store in Romania will be inaugurated in the Baneasa area just north of Bucharest on March 21, a company press release says. Situated in the Baneasa Commercial Area, it will provide over 7,000 articles of furniture and accessories to Romanian clients.

The total investment in the 26,000 square meter, 2-storey project stands at about 25 million euro. It will be operated in franchise system by Moaro Trading, according to a deal with IKEA System BV, the owner of the concept.

According to August 2006 data, IKEA holds 237 stores in 34 countries on four continents with a worldwide consumer base of 500 million.

The Baneasa Commercial Areas includes the cash&carry network Metro, the Feeria commercial gallery, a Carrefour hypermarket, Bricostore and Mobexpert stores., Feb 13, 2007

Details of opposition Social Democrats' call for suspension of Romanian President

A call for the suspension of Romanian President Traian Basescu, compiled by Romanian opposition group the Social Democratic Party (PSD), spreads over 25 pages and is structured in six chapters referring to no less than 27 Constitutional articles. has obtained the document and published it fully on the Romanian-language version of the website.

Among others The document says President Traian Basescu started his term by repeatedly manifesting tendencies of authoritarian rule, in breach with Constitutional boundaries. It said the head of state has taunted the civil society against public authorities instead of acting as a mediator.

It dismisses Basescu’s statements suggesting an unconstitutional behavior fall in line with rules regulating opinion immunity and claims his deeds have had serious consequences.

The document claims the President defied Constitutional norms that demanded a neutral stance and balance towards political parties. It says accuses Basescu of naming the incumbent prime minister without prior consultations with parliamentary parties and claims he defied the principle of parliamentary autonomy.

And it says the President’s recent statements that MPs have only pushed “laws for criminals” ignores the thousands of laws promoted by the Romanian Parliament over the past several years to support Romania’s EU accession.

The document also charges the President of trying to become a substitute of the Government and to subordinate ministries and ministers directly.

The opposition Social Democrats have been threatening with a call for the suspension of President Traian Basescu for weeks. They received the support of the governing Liberal Party-PNL, which shares power with Basescu’s Democrats, for changes to a law that simplifies referendum rules to suspend the head of state.

But overall support for a proper call for the suspension, expected this week, is yet unclear., Feb 12, 2007

President Basescu calls Hungarian autonomy referendum "unconstitutional and illegal"

Romanian President Traian Basescu met visiting Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Solyom in Bucharest on Monday and followed tete-a-tete talks with a joint press conference where the Romanian head of state blasted a "referendum" currently under way in Romanian territories with a Hungarian majority.

The National Council of Szeklers (ethic Hungarians living in Romania) is currently organizing what it calls a referendum to evaluate the support of ethnic Hungarians for extended autonomy in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mures.

According to Basescu, the referendum is "unconstitutional and illegal" and the Romanian state will "apply the Constitution and state laws without hesitation" once the Council tries to use the result of this "test" in its own interest.

For his part, Solyom said that during talks with Basescu he called for an open dialogue on various opportunities of self-regulation of the Hungarian minority in Romania.

But he said that while "cultural autonomy is natural in the European Union and territorial autonomy is possible, nowhere is it directed against the territorial integrity of a state".

Feb 12, 2007

Inflation rate down to 4.01% in January 2007

The inflation rate for the past 12 months stood at 4.01% in January this year with a monthly rate of 0.2%, down from 0.74% in December 2006, according to new data from the National Statistics Institute-INS. In January, the most significant price rise was reported in the services sector (+1.04%) and food products (+0.28%), while non-food product prices dropped by 0.2%.

The lower prices for non-food products were set by lower natural gas prices (-3.5%), drugs (-1.8%), fuel (-0.8%) and others.

And higher tariffs for services such as car insurance, water supplies, sewage services, urban transport, postal and telecom services led to increased prices in the sector.

The annual inflation rate stood at 4.87% last year, within whe national bank BNR target of 5%+/-1%. BNR set an inflation target of 4%+/-1% for 2007 with an inflation forecast of 4.7%., Feb 12, 2007

Global support centres - a new tendency on Romanian labor market

A new tendency is taking shape on the Romanian labor market. After years years when large Western companies opened or moved production units to Romania, now it’s the turn for technical support centres and “intelligence services” department.

Big names such as Microsoft, Renault, IBM and recently Ericsson have created or are about to create global support centres on Romanian territories. They suggest foreign companies are still more interested in Romanian trained personnel, beyond the usual interest in cheap, low-qualification labor.

Three are the reasons for the trend: the still low taxes, cheam work force and the geographical coverage of such centres.

The first steps were made several years ago, but it is only now that Romania can speak of a real tendency in this regard, as the country’s accession to the European Union is making an impact.

One principle that makes foreign companies move is that instead of paying higher salaries to educated immigrants they’d better come to the home countries of those migrants, have them work at lower salaries and expand their own markets. It is a sort of “inward exodus” of grey matter.

Educated Romanians are no longer leaving to work for companies abroad, but instead turn their eyes to similar companies who move operations to Romania. Microsoft and Ericsson are good examples in this regard.

Swedish group Ericsson announced last weekend it would open a global support centre in Romania. Prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu met Ericsson representatives in Bucharest on Friday, February 9 to discuss the possibilities in this regard.

Ericsson is the biggest telecom equipment producer worldwide. And its announcement came less than two weeks after Bill Gates inaugurated Microsoft’s Technical Support Center in Bucarest to provide services and technical support to Microsoft clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa starting this year.

And Renault also announced plans to invest in a similar project in Romania recently., Feb 12, 2007

PM says Justice minister doesn't have to resign over Senate vote

The National Liberal Party-PNL do not support a simple motion against Justice minister Monica Macovei tabled by the Conservative Party-PC in the Senate and Macovei should not regisn if the motion passes PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the PNL president, said during a TV talk-show on Sunday.

The motion was tabled to the permanent board of the Senate last week and is due to be debated on Tuesday afternoon.

Its signatories - MPs representing the PC and the opposition Social Democrats (PSD) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM) - call for Macovei’s resignation because she allegedly failed to present “a minimal coherent, realistic program to at least suggest a fundamental idea about the reform of the Justice system” in Romania.

Macovei has the support of President Basescu and his followers in the Democratic Party, who share the government with Tariceanu’s Liberals. She also has the full support of many members of the European Commission, who have hailed her efforts to reform the Justice system in Romania.

But Tariceanu’s statements are the first to suggest the Liberals would support Macovei against the motion, since PNL joined the opposition over the past several weeks in approving legislative moves aimed at bringing down President Traian Basescu, Tariceanu’s arch-rival, in a referendum., Feb 12, 2007

Hungarian President to visit Romania as Szeklers vote for autonomy

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom will visit Romania on Monday and Tuesday, the first such visit a Hungarian head of state pays to Romania officially. His visit comes as a referendum is under way in three Romanian counties to provide more autonomy to ethnic Hungarians there.

According to a Romanian Presidency press release, his visit will include talks with his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu on bilateral cooperation within the EU, the protection of national minorities and the evolution in Western Balkans and the Black Sea region.
And Solyom will visit the Transylvanian cities of Targu Mures and Cluj Napoca, which have a large Hungarian minority, for talks with local officials there.

The visit comes as the National Szeklers Council (CNS) is organizing a referendum in the counties of Covasna, Harghita and Mures, which have a large Szekler (ethnic Hungarians living in Romania) population, on a plan to demand extended autonomy for the region.

The referendum started on Saturday and is due to conclude on February 18.

Council representatives quoted by Radio Romania said that while the referendum was not official it was aimed at proving the interest in self-determination among Hungarians living in the three counties.

But the referendum has sparked renewed disputes between the Szeklers Council and the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR, the main political force representing Hungarians in Romania, who has accused the CNS of splitting the Hungarian electorate here.

And many political groups and NGOs in the area have protested the referendum and questioned the real interests behind it., Feb 12, 2007

Locomondo to represent Romania in Eurovision contest

The song “Liubi, Liubi, I Love You” by Locomondo was chosen on Saturday to represent Romania in this year’s edition of the European song contest Eurovision, due to take place in Helsinki onn May 12.

Locomondo received the best votes of both the jury (50%) and of TV viewers (50%) in the national preliminaries for Eurovision, which were marred by multiple scandals related to the value and originality of the songs.

Locomondo is thus entitled to follow the footsteps of Romania’s popular representatives to Eurovision over the past two years - Luminita Anghel&Sistem in 2005 and Mihai Traistariu in 2006., Feb 12, 2007

Two Romanian gendarmes wounded in Kosovo

Two Romanian gendarmes were wounded in street fights that broke in Kosovo capital Pristina on Saturday, according to TV news reports in Romania. The head of the Romanian unit in Kosovo, Mircea Olaru, told news station Realitatea TV that the two suffered only minor injuries during the confrontations.

About 2,000 ethnic Albanians protested in Pristina on Saturday, calling for unconditional independence for their province. 72 people were injured during the events, 25 of which needed medical intervention. According to Reuters, two people died in the confrontations.

The protest comes as UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari has tabled a plan for a new status for the UN-administered Serbian province., Feb 12, 2007

France beats Romania in Davis Cup, advances to quarters

Romania let France advance to the Davis Cup quarterfinal last weekend when Andrei Pavel lost 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to Richard Rasquet in Clermont-Ferrand pm Sunday. Gasquet let Pavel no chance in his attempt to get the third point against Romania. Pavel&Co. retain a chance for a tie to remain in the World Cup.

Once the victory established, Arnaud Clement replaced Sebastien Grosjean for the final match against Florin Mergea and won 7-5. 7-6 (3), sealing an overall 4-1 over Romania. On Saturday, Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau defeated Clement and Michael Llondra in the doubles to keep their country in the race after Gasquet beat Hanescu and Grosjean defeated Pavel on Friday,

On Sunday, younger Gasquet had little trouble to down Pavel, 33, whose risks could not overturn the situation as Gasquet won five gains after a surprising 5-2 for Pavel I the third set., Feb 12, 2007

What the newspapers say: February 12, 2007

Romanian newspapers on Monday preview possible moves on the tense political stage this week and tackle background issues such as the relationship between the current president and his predecessor and the prime-minister’s schemes to improve his image.

They also discuss a referendum in the Romanian territories with a Hungarian majority, investigate how easy it is to dodge British restrictions on Romanian workers and herald Romania’s representative to this year’s Eurovision contest.

The opposition Social Democrats (PSD) may call officially on Monday for the suspension of President Traian Basescu, Cotidianul writes.

But PSD’s arguments for their move would apply very well to what Basescu’s predecessor, PSD’s own Ion Iliescu, did when he was in power: ignoring the role of the president as a political mediator, interference with the Justice system, and traffic of influence.

Romania libera delivers a nice conspiracy read according to which the relationship between Basescu and Iliescu is a key aspect in the political crisis that lead to the possibility of PSD launching the suspension procedure against the President.

The newspaper insinuates Basescu would be somehow of a former crony of Iliescu’s who left the path of his master in a strange swap of support from the United States to Romanian leaders old and new.

For its part, Evenimentul Zilei focuses on PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who’s been running a major campaign to change his image as a weak leader to one of an authoritarian, determined politician.

In an exhaustive analysis, EVZ considers the prime minister has taken over the role of political mediator from President Basescu and opted to apparently drop his support for opposition moves to suspend the head of state.

Gandul is interested in another political event - an unofficial referendum organized in several Hungarian-dominated counties in Central Romania, to evaluate the support of Hungarians there for regional autonomy.

The paper reports that even some ethnic Romanians were persuaded to vote in the referendum, despite it is opposed by local authorities and NGOs.

Elsewhere in the papers, Jurnalul National publishes an investigation pursued in Britain by a reporter of Antena 1, a TV station that belongs to the same media group as Jurnalul. The reporter tried to get employed in Britain, a country that applies a series of restrictions for Romanian workers, and succeeded by means of self-employment.

But he says it is not easy to get to work legally there, as living costs in England are many times higher than in Romania and, while possible, it is difficult to obtain working documents by legal means.

The same Jurnalul National also tells the story of some 1,650 minor Romanians who spend their youth behind bars in Italy by describing the lives of six juveniles who must share their fear and gratitude for local NGOs who deal with foreigners in penitentiaries and reeducation centres.

Speaking of Romanians abroad, Gandul reports that a US doctor bron in Romania, Joshua Arie Perper, was named to decide the cause of death for ex-Playboy star Anna Nicole Smith, who died in Florida last Thursday.

The newspaper reports that there’ve been some differences between the conditions of Smith’s death in Perper’s view and those presented by police quoted in the American media.

Also in Gandul, Romania has elected its representative to this year’s edition of the European song contest Eurovision, due to take place in Helsinki in May.

A vote on Saturday, which put an end to weeks of Eurovision-related scandals, decided that Romania would be represented by “Liubi, Liubi, I Love You”, a sort of kazachok by Locomondo.

The band that compensates the lack of “voice quality” with a European message and who brings together characters as diverse as a former Italian carabiniere and a reformed “music hooligan”, according to the paper., Feb 12, 2007

“I hold Macovei in high regard”

The simple motion submitted in the Romanian Parliament against the Justice Minister, Monica Macovei, caused worries in Brussels. The European Commissioner for Justice, Franco Frattini, declared for Deutsche Welle he has the highest regard for minister Macovei.

According to DW, sources in the European Commission say that Frattini is worried with the “negative elements that might change the positive trend in the Romanian Justice”.
In his public statements, Frattini hasn’t made any statements about the Romanian Parliament, simply saying he would trust its decision.

Latest Update:
President Traian Basescu decided to convoke the speakers of the two parliamentarian chambers for a meeting on Tuesday, 30 minutes before the motion against Macovei is scheduled for debate., Feb 9, 2007

Car builders against EC pollution policy

Car producing companies stand firm against the European Commission's project to impose the construction of less polluting cars. According to BBC News, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) attacked in a press release the suggestions recently made by the European Commission, considering that approving such measures would affect the entire European economy.

Less employees and new markets to be found are the main concerns of the car producers, who also claim the price per unit might rise for cars that comply with the new regulations.

In 1998-1999, most car producers selling units in Europe promised to build cars with less than 140 CO2 grams per kilometer (gpk) before 2008 or 2009. Still, the average was 162 gpk in 2005.
Emissions caused by street transport increased 30% since 1990, representing nowadays some 25% of all CO2 emissions., Feb 9, 2007

Renault to build ultra-cheap Logan

The Renault group plans to build a new version of the successful Logan, but one a lot cheaper than the current, the company's Executive Manager, Carlos Ghosn, declared for Financial Times.

"The new Logan generation will be a lot more competitive", Ghosn said, adding that the car may cost between 2,000 and 4,000 euros, but failing to offer any other details.

Often referred to as a 5,000 euros car, the Logan arrived on the market at 7-10 thousand euros, for full-versions.

Logan is currently produced in Romania, Russia, Morocco and Columbia, with production starting this year in India, Iran and Brazil., Feb 9, 2007

Parliamentarians demand public presidential apologies

Romanian parliamentarians consider themselves offended by a recent speech held by president Basescu during a session of the National Anti Corruption Prosecution Office. "In the spirit and according to the articles in the Constitution, we demand president Basescu to publicly withdraw the statements made…", a PM's common statement draft reads.

The entire fuss is around a part of Basescu's speech in which he referred generally to politicians (not only parliamentarians) who passed laws in order to exonerate a single criminal, a fact that proves, Basescu says, the connection between the organized crime and the political class.

Basescu also mentioned, without pointing at anyone, the cases of "politicians sponsored by businessmen". The Permanent Bureaus of the Senate and in the House of Deputies "firmly reject such statements".

According to the Senate speaker, Nicolae Vacaroiu, the statement draft was adopted with a huge majority - 18 votes in favor, 2 against and one abstention., Feb 8, 2007

Romanian PM urges all political parties to postpone suspension procedures against President

The political crisis in Bucharest suffered a new twist on Wednesday as prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu urged all political parties to postpone a possible procedure for the suspension of President Traian Basescu until after elections for the European Parliament are organized in Romania.

He said that otherwise the parties would make a big mistake that would affect the whole political class in Romania.

The statement comes a day after Tariceanu’s National Liberal Party joined the opposition in supporting changes to the referendum law, which would allow easier terms for the suspension of the head of state through a referendum. The changes also include a provision that would prohibit elections six months before or after such a referendum.

As the opposition Social Democrats (PSD) have said they would be ready to launch the suspension procedure as early as next week, elections set for May 13 would be jeopardized.

But following Tariceanu’s statement PSD leader Mircea Geoana said Tariceanu did not provide any solution to the “serious crisis we’re in”, nor did he talk about the real issues of his cabinet, including the restructuring of the government apparatus.

Tariceanu has been involved for weeks in an open conflict with President Basescu and the Democratic Party with which PNL shares power, but which is a vivid supporter of the head of state., Feb 7, 2007

Three Swiss journalists accused of publishing secret data on CIA activities in Romania

Military prosecutors in Switzerland have charged three journalists in the country of publishing secret information on CIA activities in Romania. According to Romanian radio station Europa FM, the data resulted from a fax which spoke about an alleged interrogation of terrorism suspects at a US base in Romania.

The journalists are charged with publishing in early 2006 a faxed document on supposed „detention centers and interrogation methods” practiced by CIA agents. The fax showed 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens were interrogated at the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase in Romania, which is used by the US.

The document was strictly confidential and had been issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and then intercepted by Swiss intelligence services. It was the first such document where a state confirms the presence of CIA prisons in Europe., Feb 7, 2007

Former Economy minister in hearings over sale of 8% stake in Petrom

Romanian former Economy minister Codrut Seres faced renewed hearings on Wednesday in a case where he is accused of treason and transfer of secret information regarding the fate of an 8% stake in oil company Petrom. He is investigated by DIICOT, the main anti-graft, anti-organized crime body in Romania.

Prior to the hearings Seres told the media that he would talk about the promotion of a law regarding the sale of an 8% stake of Petrom, which belongs to company employees. He said his Ministry complied with all legal procedures when it initiated the legislation.

Prosecutors’ resolutions show that throughout 2005 Seres has had several meetings with Bulgarian citizen Stamen Stancev, suspected of organizing a criminal network in relation with the privatization of Romanian energy companies.

They say the meetings were aimed at setting the lines of a bill to be promoted by the Government, for the sale of the 8% stake in Petrom to the company’s employees.

The hearings are part of a larger investigation related to alleged abuses in the privatization of major energy assets in Romania, including Petrom, which is now part of the OMV group., Feb 7, 2007

Italy would not withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Italian PM Romano Prodi has confirmed that his country would maintain troops in the international coalition in Afghanistan, as disputes with the United States and several other countries including Romania intensify.

Prodi said that after last minute consultations with coalition partners in Rome his government decided to keep the Italian troops in Afghanistan.

But he said he was surprised by a letter six ambassadors to Rome - including the representatives of the US and Romania - published in an Italian newspaper last weekend, urging the Italian people to agree with maintaining the Italian troops in the Asian country.

The letter was first commented by Italian Foreign minister Massimo D’Alema, who said he was surprised with and disapproved of the six ambassadors’ move, which he said may be seen as a form of foreign interference with domestic politics.

While Romanian PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu called for an inquiry into how the Romanian ambassador came to sign such a document without his knowledge, the Washington Administration hailed its ambassador to Rome for a position that falls in full compliance with American policies., Feb 7, 2007

Romanian Ambassador to Denmark considered for Foreign minister seat

A new name has been circulating to take over the seat of Foreign minister after the resignation of minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu on Monday. It is Theodor Paleologu, Romania’s Ambassador to Denmark, whom sources within the Liberal Party leadership called the closest to an “ideal minister” as a young, well known person with an untainted past.

The sam sources say that for the moment the only thing preventing his nomination is his own refusal to be named as head of the Ministry. A career diplomat, the son of reputed Romanian writer Alexandru Paleologu is said to have rejected the offer. But Liberals say they might convince him to change his mind next week.

Paleologu, 33, is married and a father of one.

Other names circulated for the seat are Liberal politicians or Foreign Ministry officials Adrian Cioroianu, Cristian David, Teodor Melescanu and Mihai Lupoi.

Minister Ungureanu was forced to resign for failing to inform PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu on the situation of two Romanian workers who had been retained under suspicion of espionage in Iraq last autumn. The two were released last week and returned to Romania yesterday., Feb 7, 2007

Alexandropolis pipeline deal to be signed on Wednesday

Greece, Russia and Bulgaria on Wednesday will sign a deal for the construction of a new pipeline carrying Russian oil across SE Europe, from the Bulgarian city of Burgas to Alexandropolis in Greece. It is yet another project where Romania fails to make an appearance despite its efforts to become a key player in the sector, in this part of the continent.

The 280 km-long pipeline will cost about 700 million euro and will be operated by Russia, which holds a 51% stake. The rest is shared by Greece and Bulgaria.

The pipeline will transport oil to the Mediterranean Sea at a low price, which strengthens Russia’s domination on the European energy market and the role of Greece and Bulgaria as an energy hub in SE Europe.

The 17-year old project benefited of renewed interest from the three countries with the fast growth of oil prices over the past two years. Russian President Viadimir Putin, his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Parvanov and Greek PM Costas Karamanlis held negotiations on the issue in Athens in September 2006.

The projec is due to be concluded by 2010, when will start carrying over 700,000 barrels daily with a maximum capacity of 1 million barrels.

The pipeline will be a direct competitor for the AMBO project linking Burgas to Vlore in Albania, via Macedonia. No news, however, of another major project, the EU-supported Nabucco, which involves Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Botas in the Trans European Network program., Feb 7, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

10 Things We Learned About Blogs

Blogging Can Get You Fired
When Delta flight attendant Ellen Simonetti, 30-a leggy blond and self-styled "queen of the sky"-began her blog, she thought it would be fun to post pinup snapshots of herself in uniform. Delta wasn't amused and promptly fired her. Undaunted, Simonetti retitled the blog Diary of a Fired Flight.


Bloggers Get Scoops Too
After book editor Russ Kick read that the U.S. military was clamping down on press photos of coffins coming back from Iraq, he didn't just pen an angry rant on his blog, the Memory Hole. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request-and embarrassingly for the Pentagon, was mailed a CD from the Air Force with 361 coffin snaps, which he promptly posted. The national press, which hadn't thought to ask whether the military had pictures, beat a path to Kick's door.


Bloggers Keep News Alive
So your blog hasn't succeeded in getting national attention for your pet issue? Don't lose heart. Just blog, link and repeat. It worked for conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who trumpeted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's claims this summer, as well as for liberal blogs like Daily Kos, which investigated evidence that President Bush wore a wire in his first debate. Some of the issues had questionable merit, but persistent bloggers made the subjects tough to ignore. Say it enough times online, and someone is bound to hear you.


Bloggers Can Be Titillating
In May a blog graphically detailing the sex life of an anonymous Capitol Hill staff member prompted D.C.'s most intriguing game of guess-the-author since Primary Colors. Jessica Cutler, a.k.a. Washingtonienne, was later outed and fired by her boss, Ohio Republican Mike DeWine, for "inappropriate use of Senate computers." (Her site is not for kids.) In another sign of the times, her first postfiring interview was with Wonkette, another Washington blogger.


Bloggers Can Be Fakers
Plain Layne, a highly personal blog supposedly belonging to a Minnesota lesbian named Layne Johnson that drew thousands of fans over 3 1/2 years before mysteriously disappearing, was revealed to be a hoax. Hundreds of fans helped track down the real author, Odin Soli, 35, a male entrepreneur from Woodbury, Minn. Later in the year, fake Bill Clinton and Andy Kaufman blogs became hits.


Bloggers Make Money
Earn a living in your pajamas! Online ads (along with Google's automated ad server) allow popular bloggers to go pro. Joshua Micah Marshall of, a political blog, says he makes $5,000 a month from banner ads-enough to hire a research assistant.


Most Bloggers Are Women
Men may have taken the lead in the early (read: geeky) days of blogging, but that's not the case now. According to a survey of more than 4 million blogs by Perseus Development, 56% were created by women. More bad news for the boys: men are more likely than women to abandon their blog once it's created. Call blogging a 21st century room of one's own.


Candidates Love Blogs
O.K., so Howard Dean never wrote his blog. But his campaign workers posted a surprisingly intimate online diary of life on the road, and Dean had collected $20 million in contributions via the Internet alone by the end of January 2004. It didn't take long for other politicos to catch on. When New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer announced that he was running for Governor this month, he did so on his blog.


Pets Have Blogs Too
It started as an in-joke among feline-friendly bloggers: why not post pictures of their cats every Friday afternoon? Friday catblogging became a hit, and soon even NASA was playing along by posting pictures of the Cat's Eye nebula.


Anyone Can Do It
Blogs wouldn't be such a democratic medium if they weren't so easy to set up. The most popular service, Blogger, owned by Google, boasts features like push-button photoblogging. Microsoft has launched a trial version of its own blogging service.


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