News & Current Affairs

July 31, 2008

Surveys: Many people are now watching TV online

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Surveys: Many people are now watching TV online

As much as 20 percent of all TV viewing in the US now happens online, says a survey released this week by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI), supporting other recent research which also indicates that the Internet is fast turning into the top choice for many.

For the first time this year, a significant part of the online audience for primetime TV episodes is not watching some portion of the show on TV, according to IMMI’s new survey results. Recent launches of sites like Hulu, offering full episodes of programs, is surely bolstering the trend.

For some shows, online viewing is higher than DVR playback. Yet the IMMI researchers also contend that only about one-third of American households own DVRs, whereas about 82 percent of them have Internet access.

About 29 percent of “traditional live TV viewers” use a DVR frequently, in contrast to just 22 percent of online TV viewers.

Around 50 percent of all online viewing was characterized by IMMI’s respondents as “TV replacement,” whereas 31 percent of the time, it was described as “catch-up viewing,” and 18 percent of the time as “fill-in viewing.”

Online TV as a “TV replacement” is certainly nothing new. As previously reported in BetaNews, in a study conducted by Burst during the recent Hollywood writer’s strike, almost half of those surveyed were spending more time than usual online, in order to avoid repeat programming on TV.

Although that particular study didn’t ask the TV defectors how they spent their time online, it’s probably a good bet that a lot of them were viewing videos.

Europe seems to be much further ahead of the US in watching TV online, according to a survey by Motorola. Even back in mid-2007, when that survey was published, 45 percent of respondents across the UK, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy claimed to be watching at least some TV online, with France taking the lead at 59 percent.

Given the choice, why do some people prefer watching TV online? Another recent survey — this one conducted by Simmons, a unit of Esperian — showed that viewers are 25 percent “more engaged” when watching TV online.

Released last December, the Simmons study defined “engagement” according to six characteristics that respondents identify with media: “personal time-out,” “social interaction,” “inspirational,” “trustworthy,” “life-enhancing,” and ad receptivity.

Although that could be, maybe people just find it interesting to get up off the couch, ditch the remote, and flip around between various Web sites – some showing TV programs, and others offering music, downloadable software, social networking, news, gaming, e-mail, search engines, and an endless array of other stuff.

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Microsoft posts videos of users who liked Vista after thinking it was new OS

Microsoft posts videos of users who liked Vista after thinking it was new OS

Microsoft has posted actual videos from its “Mojave Experiment,” an effort to dispel negative stereotypes about Vista by making Windows users think they were running a newer operating system that was actually Vista.

While not referring to Mojave by name, Microsoft first talked about the project publicly during a meeting with financial analysts last week, when Bill Veghte, a senior VP, mentioned an experiment done by Microsoft among PC users who “have a negative perception relative to” Vista.

“They’re not using it, but they are predisposed to think about it in a negative way,” according to Veghte, who heads up Microsoft’s Online Services & Windows Business Group.

Veghte said the subjects in the experiment consisted of a focus group chosen through a phone survey based on random dialing. He then rolled video showing how users who’d voiced anti-Vista leanings in the survey — but were then duped into thinking they were looking at a new OS codenamed Mojave — liked what they saw, even though they were actually viewing Vista.

In practically the same breath, Veghte mentioned another survey done by Microsoft, this one conducted among existing Vista users. “We have 89 percent satisfied or very satisfied, and 83 percent of those customers would recommend it to friends, family, et cetera. That is a very good result when you compare and contrast the satisfaction levels on other products,” he contended at the meeting.

When early reports about Mojave emerged online late last week, BetaNews contacted Microsoft to find out more about the two surveys discussed at the analyst meeting, and whether their relationship — if any — to one another.

As it turns out, Mojave and Microsoft’s “Vista satisfaction” survey are not related — not directly, anyway.

“The source of the [Vista satisfaction] survey was Penn Schoen and Berland Associates, which is a different company than Microsoft is working with on Mojave,” a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews today.

Mojave, on the other hand, was aimed at getting a better understanding of “the reactions of customers to Windows Vista, when they were not aware that they were using Windows Vista,” she said.

“The people we tested were were a collection of Mac, Linux, and Windows users who have not made the switch yet to Windows Vista,” BetaNews was told. “We look forward to showing them on July 29.”

BetaNews asked Microsoft whether the Mojave videos will be released in Microsoft ads. “We intend to use these videos as part of some upcoming Windows Vista marketing treatments. You can expect to continue to see ongoing product marketing efforts around Windows that communicates its value to our customers,” the spokesperson maintained.

Early Monday evening, prior to the posting of the anticipated Mojave videos, a teaser site established over the past few days spilled a few other details about Mojave.

The Mojave Experiment took place over “three days in San Francisco, July, 2008,” according to postings on the site.

“Subjects get a live 10-minute demo of “‘the next Microsoft operating system – codenamed Mojave – but it’s actually Windows Vista,” the teaser site proclaimed.

More than 120 computer users viewed the “Mojave” demo, presented on an HP Pavilion DV 2000 with 2GB of RAM.

Study: Illegal residents decline

The number of illegal immigrants in the USA has fallen sharply as state and federal officials intensify a crackdown on undocumented migrants and jobs grow scarce in the faltering economy, according to a report Wednesday by a group that advocates reduced immigration.

Using Census data, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that the illegal immigrant population dropped by 10% to 11.2 million from August 2007 through May.

“Illegal immigrants are responding to changing conditions and leaving the country in significant numbers,” says Steven Camarota, director of research at CIS.

His study found that the number of legal immigrants rose from 26.6 million to 27.6 million over the same period.

“It doesn’t seem like America is more unpleasant for immigrants,” he says. “It seems more unpleasant for illegal immigrants.”

Camarota acknowledges that the study has limitations. The Census may undercount immigrants, he says, and his estimate of illegal immigrants calculates that 80% of those people counted by the Census as foreign-born Hispanics ages 18 through 40 with a high school education or less are in the USA illegally.

Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, uses the same Census data in his work. Camarota’s analysis “makes a lot of assumptions from what he’s actually measuring to what he’s concluding,” Passel says. “I don’t know if it’s right or not.”

The study says stepped-up enforcement is the primary reason for the exodus.

Pat Reilly, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, cites her agency’s workplace raids, deportations and efforts to track down illegal immigrants with criminal records. Tougher enforcement “has made entering and staying in the United States illegally less attractive as the probability of being arrested and detained is greater than ever before,” she says.

Groups that advocate for immigrants dispute the study’s findings.

Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, D.C., says the illegal immigrant population is “nearly impossible” to measure. She faults the study for ignoring non-Hispanics.

She questions whether immigrants are leaving the USA or just moving from one place to another within the country to find work.

“Once folks have their roots here, it’s very difficult to just go all the way back to their country,” she says.

McCain camp compares Obama to Spears, Hilton

McCain camp compares Obama to Spears, Hilton

AURORA, Colo. – John McCain’s presidential campaign on Wednesday released a withering television ad comparing Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, suggesting the Democratic contender is little more than a vapid but widely recognized media concoction.
Obama’s campaign quickly responded with a commercial of its own, dismissing McCain’s complaints as “baloney” and “baseless.”

McCain’s ad, titled “Celeb” and set to air in 11 battleground states, intercuts images of Obama on his trip to Europe last week with video of twenty-something pop stars Spears and Hilton — both better known for their childish off-screen antics.

“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world, but is he ready to lead?” the voiceover asks, noting the Illinois senator’s opposition to offshore oil drilling and suggesting he would raise taxes if elected.

It was the latest effort by the GOP hopeful to cast Obama as a lightweight with little experience in leadership or governing. It also was risky for McCain’s campaign to both acknowledge Obama’s worldwide fame and depict it as a weakness rather than a strength.

Campaigning in Missouri, Obama said the ad was the latest example of McCain’s negativity — a theme his campaign has tried to stress lately.

“He doesn’t seem to have anything positive to say about me, does he?” Obama said. “You need to ask John McCain what he’s for, not just what he’s against.”

Obama also said the link to Hilton shows Republicans are leaving no stone unturned in their attempts to tarnish him.

“I’ve never even met the woman,” he said.

Hilton’s spokesman Jason Moore also commented, saying “Miss Hilton was neither asked, nor did she give permission, for the use of her likeness in the ad, and has no further comment.”

The Obama campaign ad, released hours after McCain’s, shows images of the Arizona senator with President Bush and accuses McCain of practicing “the politics of the past.” The campaign said it could air as soon as Thursday.

It was the second Obama ad in as many days responding to negative spots by McCain. But it was unclear how broadly the campaign intended to run it. The campaign typically identifies states where its ads air, but on Wednesday only said this ad would appear “in some markets.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said McCain’s comparison of Obama to Spears and Hilton likely would not persuade many voters.

“The typical viewer will fail to see the analogy,” she said. “Voters believe Sen. Obama is a celebrity, but not in the same sense as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. So when you are asking, ‘What are they doing in the ad?,’ it distracts attention from the message of the ad.”

McCain did not mention the ad at a town-hall meeting in Colorado, but reiterated many of his complaints about Obama.

“The beauty of his words have attracted many people, especially among the young to his campaign,” McCain told workers at Wagner Equipment, which rents and sells heavy farm machinery. “My concern with Sen. Obama is with issues big and small. What he says and what he does are often two different things.”

McCain ad paints Obama as celebrity, not leader

McCain ad paints Obama as celebrity, not leader

Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign released a TV ad Wednesday that compares Democrat Barack Obama’s popularity to that of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and questions whether being a “celebrity” qualifies someone to be president. It’s called Celeb.

The ad also, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said, makes the case that Obama is unsuited to be president like those two young pop stars and that the Illinois senator favors higher taxes.

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor replied that McCain had launched “yet another” false and negative attack. Paraphrasing Spears, Vietor said of McCain that, “oops, he did it again.”

Wednesday evening, the Obama campaign released an ad, which it plans to broadcast today, called Low Road. It says McCain is “practicing the politics of the past” with his “attacks.”

July 30, 2008

Radovan Karadzic extradited to The Hague

Radovan Karadzic extradited to The Hague

BELGRADE, Serbia – Authorities extradited ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the Netherlands to face genocide charges before the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Wednesday, hours after a violence-tinged protest by thousands of his supporters in downtown Belgrade .

U.N. spokesman Liam McDowall confirmed Karadzic was transferred to the U.N. detention center near The Hague, where he will stand trial.

A jet with Serbian government markings landed at the Rotterdam airport Wednesday morning, AP Television News footage showed. The plane with Serbian government markings taxied into a hangar, out of view of reporters and television cameras before anyone disembarked.

Less than an hour later, a helicopter landed behind the high wall of the detention center while another helicopter hovered overhead. Two black minivans drove through the prison gates moments earlier.

The Serbian government said in a statement issued early Wednesday that its justice ministry had issued a decree that allowed his handover to the U.N. court, despite a violence-tinged protest hours before by thousands of his supporters.

Karadzic is accused by the tribunal of masterminding the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica, Europe’s worst massacre since World War II. He is also charged with spearheading the three-year siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead.

Karadzic spent nearly 13 years on the run before being arrested last week in Belgrade, where he lived under the assumed identity of a health guru — sporting a long white beard and hair, and large glasses.

He is expected to be summoned before a judge within a day or two and will be asked to plea to each of the 11 charges he faces, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. He may postpone his plea for up to 30 days.

Karadzic’s lawyer, Svetozar Vujacic, said his client will not enter a plea but will instead ask for the full 30-day period.

Vujacic also acknowledged Wednesday that he has never filed an appeal against Karadzic’s extradition. Vujacic had claimed he sent the appeal by registered mail from Bosnia before a midnight Friday deadline.

The days-long uncertainty over the appeal helped stall Karadzic’s handover, Vujacic said.

Despite the war crimes allegations, Karadjic is still revered by many as a wartime hero for helping to create the Bosnian Serb mini-state.

Hours earlier, a demonstration against Karadzic’s extradition turned violent on its fringes as stone-throwing extremists clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

While most of the 15,000 demonstrators sang nationalist songs and waved posters of their “Serb Hero,” a few hundred hard-liners broke away from the gathering and threw rocks and burning flares at police in downtown Belgrade.

Later, police fired tear gas at large groups of protesters while pushing them from the square after the rally. Police blocked off several neighborhoods, stopping traffic and the passage of the demonstrators.

Belgrade’s emergency clinic reported 46 people injured, including 25 policemen and 21 civilians. Most were lightly injured, doctors said, adding that only one civilian and one policeman were hospitalized.

Streets looked like battlefields, with smashed shop windows and overturned garbage cans. Ambulance sirens blared through downtown. Police Chief Milorad Veljovic said the area was “under control” by midnight.

Riot police had taken up positions across the capital and heavily armed anti-terrorist troops guarded the U.S. Embassy as busloads of ultranationalists arrived from all over Serbia and Bosnia for the anti-government rally dubbed “Freedom for Serbia.”

Many protesters carried banners and wore badges with Karadzic’s name and picture. Some chanted slogans against President Boris Tadic and called for his death.

“Thank you for showing that Serbia is not dead, although it is being killed by Boris Tadic,” said Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which organized the rally. “Thieves and bandits are ruling Serbia.”

“We will fight for Serbia and Serbia will be free,” he added, setting off thunderous applause and chants of “Uprising! Uprising!”

Still, police estimated the turnout at only 15,000 people — far fewer than expected. The last major nationalist rally, in February after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, drew 150,000 people and led to an attack on the U.S. Embassy amid a violent looting spree.

Tuesday’s protest was seen a test for Tadic’s government, which is much more pro-Western than its predecessor. The president warned the right-wing extremists to remain peaceful.

“Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but they should know that law and order will be respected,” Tadic said.

The U.S. Embassy had predicted that up to 100,000 protesters could show up and advised Americans to avoid downtown Belgrade. The embassy was heavily guarded during the rally by special troops armed with machine guns wearing masks.

After February’s mass rally, the U.S. Embassy was partly burned and protesters went on a looting spree, smashing shops and McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s was targeted again Tuesday night, and three people were arrested for smashing windows at one of its hamburger shops, police said.

Serbia’s new, pro-Western government hopes Karadzic’s arrest will strengthen the country’s bid for membership in the European Union. Serbia had been accused of not searching for war crimes fugitives sought by the U.N. tribunal.

Hull sign Spurs’ Gardner on loan

Hull City have completed the loan signing of Tottenham defender Anthony Gardner until January.

The 27-year-old centre-back, who has been capped once by England, spent the latter part of last season on loan at Everton but failed to play for them.

Boss Phil Brown told Radio Humberside: “We’ve agreed terms of a loan with a view to a permanent deal.

“The original asking price was a little bit rich so we backed off, but the asking price has come down a wee bit.”

Meanwhile, Hull have ended their interest in Borussia Dortmund midfielder Delron Buckley.

The South African international trained with Hull for a fortnight recently and the club made a bid for him.

But Brown revealed: “They’ve refused the bid – that’s more or less dead in the water unless they come down in their valuation.”

Moyes nears new Everton contract

Moyes nears new Everton contract

Everton manager David Moyes is “very close” to signing a new contract with the club and expects to do so within the next fortnight.

Moyes, 45, admits that trying to sign new players recently has delayed him from agreeing terms on a new deal.

“I want the best for Everton and don’t want to let the players down,” he said.

“I have told them that there will be more players coming to help them along the way. I want to make sure that is done before anything else.”

He added: “That is more important to me just now. But [the new contract] is very close.”

“Hopefully in the next week or so I will get it tied down and get it done.”

Moyes, who joined Everton as manager in 2002, confirmed in mid-July that he had opened talks on a new contract with chairman Bill Kenwright.

The Scot has 12 months left on his current deal but made it known that he wanted assurances on this summer’s transfer budget and the club’s future direction.

Everton, who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, are yet to make a major signing this summer – though Sporting Lisbon claim they have turned down an £11.8m offer from the club for Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho.

Moyes submitted an ambitious five-year plan to owner Kenwright that was designed to build on the club’s last campaign but it remains to be seen how much cash he has to spend.

“Every manager wants to get as much as he can and I’m no different but I do think I’ve always been supported and I’ll always be grateful for that,” Moyes told the Liverpool Echo on 14 July.

“When I took this job I knew that there were not vast sums of money.”

Everton are on the verge of selling striker Andrew Johnson to Fulham, in a deal which could eventually rise to £13m.

The England international had a medical with the London club on Tuesday.

July 28, 2008

Liverpool close in on Keane deal

Liverpool close in on Keane deal

Courtesy BBC

Liverpool are expected to complete the £18m signing of striker Robbie Keane from Tottenham within 24 hours.

He underwent a medical on Monday and may be able to fly to Spain with the Liverpool squad ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against Villarreal.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez completed the final stages of his negotiations with the 28-year-old over the weekend.

The Republic of Ireland star is expected to sign a five-year deal worth about £80,000 per week.

As a child growing up in Dublin, Keane was an avid supporter of the men from Anfield – and Liverpool will now become his sixth club after spells at Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan and Leeds, before his switch to Tottenham in 2002 for £7m.

Keane had become Benitez’s number one summer target over recent weeks, with the need to replace Peter Crouch, who joined Portsmouth earlier this month, seemingly more important than pursuing the complicated and protracted move for Aston Villa’s 27-year-old midfielder Gareth Barry.

With the prospect of Xabi Alonso now remaining at Anfield, Liverpool may now decline to respond to Villa manager Martin O’Neill’s demand that they make their intentions regarding Barry clear.

Liverpool’s response is that Villa have turned down four bids for Barry and the Merseysiders are not prepared to pay £18m for the England international.

Benitez will now be unwilling to allow full-back Steve Finnan, a possible makeweight in a deal for Barry, to leave the club.

That is because new signing Philipp Degen is expected to need surgery on a groin injury that will rule him out of the start of the season.

There is also the likelihood that Spain international Alvaro Arbeloa could return to his home country for £6m in the coming weeks, having expressed such a desire for personal reasons.

All such problems will be put aside by Benitez when he is able to unveil Keane – who married Irish model Claudine Palmer in June – as the new strike partner for Fernando Torres.

Torres cost Liverpool £20.2m when they bought him 12 months ago, and their current second biggest signing is Javier Mascherano, who cost £17m when the deal finally went through in February this year.

The arrival of Keane will take Liverpool’s spending to about £32m since the end of last season. They have already drafted in Degen, fellow full-back Andrea Dossena, goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri and teenagers David Ngog and Emmanuel Mendy.

About £20m has been raised by selling Crouch, John Arne Riise, Scott Carson and Danny Guthrie.

Kevin Keegan may do some shopping in Milan

Newcastle United are in the market for defenders and Kevin Keegan may turn to Italy to strengthen his squad.

At this stage nothing has been finalised but it is common knowledge that The Geordies have targeted Anton Ferdinand (West Ham United), Richard Dunne (Richard Dunne ) and Fabricio Coloccini (Deportivo La Coruña).

At this stage nothing has been finalised.

However Kevin Keegan could soon be making an offer of as little as ₤4 million for Argentinean international Nicolas Burdisso.

The twenty seven year old defender is currently ay Inter Milan but is reportedly unsettled and could be looking for new pastures.

It may not be as easy as that though as Burdisso may be lured to his native Argentina where Boca Juniors are also keen on the player and he has publicly stated that he would like to finish his career in Argentina.

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