Twitter cuts off UberMedia apps for tweets

SAN FRANCISCO, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Twitter on Friday suspended UberTwitter, and twidroyd applications in a clash with a startup that controls a fifth of the "tweets" at the hot microblogging service.

UberMedia applications cut off from Twitter handled messages "tweeted" from Android, BlackBerry, or iPhone smartphones. Other software is available to "tweet" from those kinds of smartphones.

"We have suspended UberTwitter and twidroyd for violating our policies," Twitter said in a post at the San Francisco firm's online help center.

"Every day, we suspend hundreds of applications that are in violation of our policies."
Twitter added that it was taking the unusual step of sharing the news because "today's suspension may affect a larger number of users."

California-based UberMedia is an Idealab company that has been gobbling up applications people use to synch Twitter messages to various devices.

UberMedia early this month added popular Twitter "client" TweetDeck to Echofon, twidroyd, and UberTwitter in a stable of applications said to control 20 percent of "tweets" fired off on any given day.

UberMedia chief executive Bill Gross described his operation as the leading independent provider of applications for reading and posting to Twitter and other social Internet platforms.

An Accel Ventures led round of funding last week pumped $17.5 million into UberMedia in a move that some thought would spark concern at Twitter that the company might be growing into a competitor.

"Our goal is to enhance the Twitter experience with functionality in our clients and to be the best partner with Twitter in growing and enhancing their ecosystem," Gross said while announcing the Accel investment.

The funding came with the addition of Accel's Jim Breyer to the UberMedia board. Breyer also sits on the board of social networking titan Facebook.

The investment made it clear that UberMedia's plan is to make money from Twitter traffic as Twitter itself grapples with how to cash in on its popularity.

UberMedia told AFP on Friday that it was preparing a response to Twitter suspending some of its applications.

Nokia head swaps Microsoft shares for own firm: report

HELSINKI, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Nokia chief executive and former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop, who has sealed a tie up deal with the US giant, this week swapped all of his Microsoft shares for Nokia stock, reports said Friday.

"On Thursday, Elop bought 150,000 Nokia shares for one million euros ($1.35 million)," financial daily Kauppalehti reported, adding that this was the first time Elop had bought Nokia stock.

Elop's dearth of Nokia shares has raised some eyebrows, but he told reporters ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week that insider trading rules had long prohibited him from selling Microsoft or buying Nokia stock earlier, as negotiations were underway with Microsoft on a strategic partnership.

"As soon as I'm clear of the legal restrictions, of course I'll get rid of the rest of my Microsoft shares," he told reporters on Sunday.

Elop, a Canadian, left Microsoft for Nokia last September, becoming the first non-Finn to captain the world's largest mobile phone maker.

"He might want to send a clear message that he's now part of another company," Pohjola Bank analyst Hannu Rauhala told AFP Friday, adding that owning so many shares ties Nokia's leadership to the company's overall performance.

"If it goes well, they win, and if it goes poorly then they lose," Rauhala pointed out.

Last Friday, Elop said that Nokia, which has been hard-hit by harsh competition from Apple and Google, would dramatically shift its strategy and abandon its own smartphone platforms to adopt Microsoft Phone.

The strategic shift was prefaced by an internal memo that leaked to media, in which Elop said Nokia was "standing on a burning platform" surrounded by a "blazing fire" of competition.

Nokia's share price plummeted more than 20 percent after the announcement, falling earlier this week to its lowest level since 1998, allowing Elop to buy his shares at a deep discount.

"I was legally prohibited from buying in Nokia until all of this news was out," he insisted on February 13.

The move to ditch Symbian for Microsoft is seen as immensely unpopular in Finland, amid fears of massive layoffs and a brain-drain of developer talent from Helsinki to Silicon Valley as a result.

Finnish media lambasted the move, with some reports accusing Elop of masterminding a Microsoft takeover of Nokia - speculation that was fuelled by the fact that Elop until Thursday had significant holdings in Microsoft and few-to-none in Nokia.

News agency STT called it a "total surrender" while financial paper Kauppalehti quoted a Finnish analyst predicting Microsoft would buy Nokia outright, with Elop acting as a Trojan horse.

The purchase makes Elop the third largest shareholder among Nokia's leadership, behind board chairman Jorma Ollila and executive vice president Mary McDowell.

Egypt protest hero Wael Ghonim barred from stage

CAIRO, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt's uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said.

Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.

Ghonim, who was angered by the episode, then left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.

Qaradawi gave a Friday sermon in the square, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered a week after Mubarak's fall, in which he called for Arab leaders to listen to their people.

Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, administered a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising that toppled Mubarak's regime.

The 30-year-old also appeared in an emotional television interview shortly after he was released from police custody after 12 days in custody which is credited with re-energising the movement just as it seemed to be losing steam.

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, Ghonim said the protests which led to Mubarak's ouster would not have happened without online social networks.

"If there was no social networks it would have never been sparked," he said.

"Because the whole thing before the revolution was the most critical thing. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without YouTube, this would have never happened."

Decade to shift Chinese economy away from exports: bank

PARIS, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - China's central banker Xiaochuan Zhou said Friday it would take at least a decade to shift the country's economy away from its export-based model, and that Chinese exporters would hold tenaciously onto foreign markets.

Xiaochuan acknowledged the debate raging between countries about the global imbalances caused by some countries running large export surpluses, and said there was already a shift underway in China from manufacturing to services.

"I think it is possible but it will take a long time," he told the Eurofi G20 seminar on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meetings finance ministers and central bankers.

He said it involved not only retooling factories, but changing whole supply chains and retraining workers.

"This kind of cycle is over a period of 10 years," said the Chinese central banker.

He said during this period Chinese manufacturers would likely continue to export and improve their productivity.

Xiaochuan said appreciation to date of the yuan has shown that Chinese manufacturers have been able too adjust and make productivity gains.

"I think that means they have room to improve and survive," he said.

He said Chinese exporters have told the central bank that even with a rising yuan they would only shift around up to 20 percent output.

"They say exports are still more profitable than the domestic market," said.

On Monday China announced that its politically sensitive trade surplus shrank in January, but analysts warned the data may have been skewed by a surge in imports leading up to the Lunar New Year holiday.

The trade surplus fell 53.5 percent to $6.45 billion in January as both exports and imports grew strongly ahead of the holiday, the General Administration of Customs in Beijing said.

That data came hours after Tokyo confirmed China had surpassed Japan as the world's second biggest economy and as economists look to the release on Tuesday of January inflation figures at a time when Beijing is trying to rein in prices.

Singapore raises 2011 defence budget

SINGAPORE, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Singapore, which has one of Asia's best-equipped militaries, has raised its national defence budget by 5.4 percent this year, government data showed Friday.

The government plans to spend Sg$12.08 billion ($9.5 billion) on defence in the 2011 fiscal year, up from Sg$11.46 billion the year before.

Singapore's navy, army and air force will get Sg$11.53 billion to buy and maintain military equipment, for the upkeep of camps and for payment of salaries.

The city-state currently has a population of more than five million, a quarter of whom are foreigners.

Singapore's economy grew 14.5 percent in 2010, the fastest in Asia. The defence budget is about five percent of gross domestic product.


Singapore budget unveils cash grants, tax cuts

SINGAPORE, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Singapore on Friday unveiled more than a billion dollars in grants and will increase the tax firms must pay for hiring foreign staff amid expectations a general election will be called soon.

Lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to Sg$800 ($627) by May 1 as their share of the city-state's record 14.5 percent economic growth in 2010, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told parliament.

"To share the fruits of last year's exceptional economic growth, I will give growth dividends to all adult Singaporeans," he said.

"The majority of Singaporeans -- 80 percent -- will get Sg$600 to Sg$800 each... The growth dividends will benefit about 2.5 million Singaporeans and cost the government Sg$1.5 billion ($1.18 billion) this year."

Shanmugaratnam also rolled out income tax reductions and rebates aimed at the middle class.

Rising inflation and a massive influx of foreign workers in recent years are expected to be hot issues in elections that must be held within a year.

Tharman said levies on companies hiring foreigners will be raised next year in order to slow down the flow of guest workers mostly coming from China, India and Southeast Asia.

"If we do not take further steps now to raise the foreign worker levy, it will be difficult for us to prevent the proportion of foreign workers from rising over time, and exceeding our long-term target of one-third of the workforce," he said.

With falling birth rates threatening its long-term economic prospects, Singapore rolled out the welcome mat for foreign workers during the 2004-2007 global economic boom.

But after the 2008 financial crisis, the government took a fresh look following complaints from citizens that foreigners were increasingly competing for jobs, housing, medical care and even space on metro trains.

Eugene Tan, an assistant law professor at the Singapore Management University, said the government would likely call elections before June.

"I think probably within the next... two to three months. The budget certainly puts it (government) in the good books of Singaporeans," he told AFP.

"I think certainly the entire package sweetens the ground... This certainly is a very good position to go to the voters and seek their mandate... It's as good as it can be."

Up to 10 percent of US homes lack basic broadband

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - Up to 10 percent of US households lack access to broadband Internet at speeds that allow for the downloading of Web pages, photos and video, according to a report released on Thursday.

The finding was included in a National Broadband Map from the Commerce Department showing broadband availability in the United States.

"The National Broadband Map shows there are still too many people and community institutions lacking the level of broadband service needed to fully participate in the Internet economy," said Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Five percent to 10 percent of Americans, mostly in rural areas, lack access to basic broadband.

At the same time, high-speed broadband Internet adoption has increased to 68 percent of US households, up from 63.5 percent in 2009.

"We are pleased to see the increase in broadband adoption last year, particularly in light of the difficult economic environment, but a digital divide remains," Strickling said.

Seventy percent of urban households and 60 percent of rural households accessed broadband Internet service last year.

"Overall, the two most commonly cited main reasons for not having broadband Internet access at home are that it is perceived as not needed (46 percent) or too expensive (25 percent)," the NTIA said in a statement.

"In rural America, however, lack of broadband availability is a larger reason for non-adoption than in urban areas (9.4 percent vs. one percent)," it said.

The National Broadband Map, located at broadbandmap.gov, offers information on where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used, maximum advertised speeds and the names of service providers.

US President Barack Obama has pledged to offer high-speed wireless Internet coverage to 98 percent of Americans.

US regulators examine Apple media platform: WSJ

WASHINGTON, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - US antitrust regulators have begun to examine Apple's online platform for subscriptions for newspapers and other content through its App Store, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal said the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission were taking a preliminary look at Apple and that a formal investigation might not occur, but that Apple has attracted growing antitrust scrutiny in the United States and Europe.

The report said regulators are interested in examining whether Apple is running afoul of US antitrust laws by funneling media companies' customers into the payment system for its iTunes store and taking a 30 percent cut.

Google separately launched an online payment platform for digital newspapers and magazines on Wednesday, taking just 10 percent of revenue.

Apple's iPad currently dominates the tablet computer market but several companies are developing tablets running Google's Android software and the technology giants are also fierce rivals on the smartphone platform front.

The dueling online subscription services are aimed at attracting content producers to their respective mobile devices and come as struggling newspapers and magazines seek to boost revenue from the Web.

Apple's subscription service was first offered with The Daily, a digital newspaper for the iPad tablet computer launched earlier this month by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

With print advertising revenue and circulation declining, Murdoch and other newspaper and magazine publishers have been looking to the iPad and the Web to boost revenue.

Most major US newspapers and magazines have already created paid or free versions of their publications for the iPad and The New York Times plans to begin charging readers soon for full access to NYTimes.com.

Malaysia, India sign free trade pact

KUALA LUMPUR, February 18, 2011 (AFP) - Malaysia and India signed a long-delayed free trade pact on Friday that they say will double two-way trade to $15 billion by 2015 and help strengthen economic ties.

"The signing of today's agreement shows our commitment to much deeper economic integration between our two countries," premier Najib Razak said following the signing by the countries' trade ministers.

The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement covers trade in goods and services, investment and economic cooperation and will come into effect on July 1 this year, according to a joint statement.

"The agreement that we have is an ambitious one... and this will help us in achieving the modest total trade target of $15 billion by 2015," Malaysian trade minister Mustapa Mohamed said.

"I feel it is doable and it may happen sooner than that."

Negotiations on the pact began in February 2008 but were put on hold after two rounds of talks, before resuming at the start of 2010.

"This is a major step both countries have taken which will have a defining influence in this region and help towards the larger economic integration of Asia, which is essential given the global realities," Indian commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said.

Officials said that two-way trade for 2010 had reached $9.0 billion and that total trade for 2011 was expected to hit $10.0 billion.

India was Malaysia's 13th largest trading partner last year. Two-way trade peaked in 2008 at $10.52 billion but fell to $7.06 billion in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

India has invested in 95 projects in Malaysia's manufacturing sector worth $1.1 billion, creating 13,032 jobs.

Google makes Web search more social

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - Google is making Web search more social, weaving posts from the Twitter, Flickr, Blogger and other accounts of a user's friends into search results.

The move is an expansion of "Google Social Search," which the Internet giant introduced in 2009.

Instead of featuring at the bottom of a page of search results, relevant posts from the social media accounts of a user's friends are now integrated into the list of results themselves.

A Google search for camping, for example, may bring up a Twitter post by a friend about hiking trails or a link to campsite pictures uploaded by a friend to Flickr.

"Relevance isn't just about pages -- it's also about relationships," Google product management director Mike Cassidy and product manager Matthew Kulick said in a blog post.

"Today we're taking another step forward -- enabling you to get even more information from the people that matter to you, whether they're publishing on YouTube, Flickr or their own blog or website," they said.

"This means you'll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they've shared or created," they added.

Social search will only be available to users who have a Google account.

Google account holders will also have the option of linking their social media accounts to their Google profiles.

Mindful of potential privacy concerns, Cassidy and Kulick said: "The new setting enables you to choose whether or not to show your connected accounts publicly on your Google profile."

Google said the new social search feature is only available in English for the moment.

It will also not display any input from the largest social network of them all -- Facebook -- which has previously declined to share data with Google.

Smartphone top US electronics buy in 2011: survey

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - US consumers are more likely to buy a smartphone than any other electronic gadget this year, according to a new survey.

Technology research company Gartner said consumers in the United States are more likely to buy a smartphone in 2011 than a personal computer, a basic mobile phone, an electronic book reader, a tablet computer or gaming products.

Gartner said the next most popular electronics items for US consumers after smartphones were laptop computers, desktop computers, basic mobile phones,  e-book readers and tablet computers.

"Continued low retail pricing and widespread adoption of applications like Web browsing, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, GPS and games will continue to stimulate consumer demand" for smartphones, Gartner principal research analyst Hugues de la Vergne said in a statement.

"As more consumers adopt smartphones, the market will shift from the more technically astute tech savants toward less tech-savvy comfortable conformists," de la Vergne said.

Gartner said US smartphone sales are expected to grow from 67 million units in 2010 to 95 million units in 2011.

Mobile PC shipments are forecast to rise to 50.9 million in 2011 from 45.6 million last year.
Gartner said it surveyed 1,557 mobile phone users in December 2010 in Britain, China, India, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Post's interview with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday pressed his case for continued American weapons sales to the island, including advanced U.S.-made fighter jets, saying Taiwan needs to negotiate with China from a position of strength. Ma, in an interview, said Taiwan needed both new F-16C/D fighter jets to modernize its fleet, and also upgrades to its existing F-16A/B class fighters, which are aging and in need of replacement parts. The Pentagon is still studying the request. What follows is a transcript of Ma's interview with The Washington Post. The transcript was compiled by the Taiwanese government.

Q1. Washington Post: So the first question I wanted to ask you is simply to assess how relations are across the Strait. I mean, since you've been President in 2008, there have been so many huge changes. And I was able to fly here direct from Beijing, for example. And you've got the new economic cooperation agreement, but at the same time, there are still questions about buying new weapon systems from the United States; you're developing your own missile system here. So just how would you assess overall the relationship with China?

President Ma: When I took office two years and nine months ago, our objective of improving cross-strait relations was to pursue peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait. From the experience of the past two years and nine months, now we have basically allowed both sides of the Strait to maintain the current state of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" while they pursue the goals of peace and prosperity. At the same time, we have been able to promote development of the cross-strait relationship based on the principles of parity and dignity. We feel that the current situation is the most stable of any time in 60 years.

Q2. Washington Post: Just to continue that, since the relations are good, and everybody on both sides agrees to that, why, for example, are you still developing your own missile system? And why are you still requesting the new F-16C/Ds from the United States? Shouldn't this be a time to be decreasing missile weapons?

President Ma: Our objective in improving cross-strait relations is to seek peace and prosperity. However, the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign state; we must have our national defense. While we negotiate with the mainland, we hope to carry out such talks with sufficient self-defense capabilities and not negotiate out of fear. This is an extremely important principle. Therefore, we must purchase the necessary defensive weapons from overseas that cannot be manufactured here in Taiwan to replace outdated ones. This is essential for our national survival and development.

As I just said, the current state of cross-strait relations is "no unification, no independence and no use of force." We oppose the use of military force to resolve cross-strait disputes. However, this is not to say that we cannot maintain a military capability necessary for Taiwan's security.

Q3. Washington Post: Can I ask you, just to continue about the military systems, I mean, you made a request for the F-16 C/Ds. As far as I know, there hasn't been a response yet. What do you know about that, and would you be willing to accept something else, like a modification of the F-16 A/Bs that you now have?

President Ma: In fact, we have sought to acquire F-16/C/D fighter jets from the United States for quite a few years. The Americans keep telling us that it is under assessment, but no decision has been forthcoming.

As for the other part, some of the equipment on the F-16A/B jet fighters owned by our Air Force is gradually aging and needs to be updated. Thus, we consider these two needs to be complementary and not mutually conflicting. We hope that, through these two strenuous efforts, Taiwan's Air Force can maintain a certain defensive and fighting capability.

Q4. Washington Post: As you know, President Hu Jintao was just in Washington, and the Chinese always make these weapons sales a huge issue. U.S.-China relations get going well, and then there's a weapons sale to Taiwan, and then they go back to being soured again. Are you worried that the Americans may be more interested now in keeping good relations with China as they start to consider this weapons package?

President Ma: In fact, ever since the United States established formal diplomatic ties with the mainland China, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have always been an issue between the U.S. and mainland in their relationship. Thus, there was the August 17 Communiqué in 1982 to deal with this issue. Over the nearly 30 years from 1982 to today, the United States has sold weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan based on the Taiwan Relations Act. These weapons sales are in fact helpful for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait; they enable Taiwan to improve relations with the mainland while maintaining a defensive capability. So, we have always received commitments from the Americans that these arms sales to Taiwan as well as other forms of military cooperation will continue.

Q5. Washington Post: Can I just ask one last question on the arms sales? This recent case about the Taiwanese general who was caught in an espionage trap selling secrets to China¿do you think that will have any impact on how the U.S. views selling sensitive equipment to Taiwan?

President Ma: Major General Lo Hsien-che's case of alleged leaking of military secrets to the mainland started in 2002, when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power. After we took office, we discovered this case last year and immediately launched an investigation. Military prosecutors detained General Lo this January. However, before that, we had already begun damage control regarding what information might have been leaked and the channels by which the leaks occurred. At the same time, we are continuing to investigate whether there were accomplices or other military secrets involved. We will take safeguards to prevent any further occurrences of this kind. This is a very serious case that we deeply regret and which has put us on alert. In the future, we will take stricter safeguards to prevent recurrences of this kind of case. However, our cooperation in the military sphere with the United States has not been affected in any way so far; and we will continue our cooperation.

Q6. Washington Post: Just to follow that up, do you know now, yet, if any sensitive information was given to the mainland Chinese?

President Ma: So far, we of course have discovered that Lo leaked some military intelligence. But as the investigation is still underway, we cannot disclose anything further. Having discovered that he has leaked information, we have undertaken damage control measures to minimize the harm.

Q7. Washington Post: Can I turn to the economic cooperation agreement? I know the benefits from reading some of the information on the website. Some of the critics say that the Taiwanese economy wasn't quite ready for this giant mainland economy across the strait, and that Taiwan could end up being swallowed by the mainland if you're not careful. How do you respond to that?

President Ma: When we started planning to negotiate a cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement, or ECFA, with mainland China a year or so ago, 58 FTAs or similar arrangements had already been signed in Asia between 2000 and 2009. Only two countries had not taken part in this regional economic integration: One was the Republic of China, the other, North Korea. The ROC's external trade last year amounted to US$526 billion. [Even in the depths of the global financial crisis,] it exceeded US$400 billion; while North Korea's external trade was only US$4.3 billion. We were a fairly large trading nation, yet were excluded from regional economic integration. This was a serious problem, especially in view of the fact that ASEAN was about to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement with mainland China, after which Taiwanese products competing in the mainland Chinese market with those from Southeast Asia would be immediately affected.

At that time we therefore felt that if we failed to take action, Taiwan would surely be marginalized in the process of economic integration, and if this happened it would be too late for us to save the situation. So beginning the year before last, we started talks with the mainland and finally decided to sign an agreement with them. Formal negotiations took about six months to complete.

Now that the ECFA has been signed, Taiwan can export 539 items to mainland China tariff-free [after a couple of years], while the mainland can export 267 items to Taiwan. Signing this sort of treaty has changed Taiwan's status in the East Asian economy. It provides us with greater opportunities not only in trade with mainland China but with other countries as well. It also enables us to negotiate similar agreements with other countries, which is very important for Taiwan.

Signing the ECFA has enabled economic relations between Taiwan and mainland China to become institutionalized while also enhancing Taiwan's level of internationalization. All in all, it has been highly beneficial to Taiwan. At first, perhaps, people didn't entirely understand this. But after a year and a half of explanation, most people now support our signing of the agreement, and some businesses have already begun to benefit from its implementation. I believe that if we continue developing in this direction, we will create an even higher degree of benefit for Taiwan.

Q8. Washington Post: Will there be some people who lose out because of this¿farmers for example?

President Ma: Actually, our farmers are the greatest beneficiaries of the ECFA because on the one hand, no new items of agricultural goods will be imported from mainland China, while the number of items we can export to the mainland has increased by 18. Adding the original 34 items, that comes to 52 items. And this is great news for farmers and fishermen who produce such goods¿such as grouper fish, orchids or other agricultural products. Because of their increased exports and expanding markets resulting from reduced tariffs, more and more of them understand that ECFA is good for them¿especially since we haven't opened Taiwan's market to any new types of agricultural imports.

As for traditional industries, especially relatively labor-intensive industries, we were originally concerned that importation of 17 categories of products would affect local producers' abilities to survive and develop. But these categories¿including garments, bedding and porcelain tiles¿likewise weren't opened to importation, so local producers are not affected by competition from mainland goods. On the contrary, some of Taiwan's agricultural products are quite competitive and can be exported to mainland China. Our garment and bedding industries, for example, make high-end products which they have confidence that they can win a share of the mainland market.

Of course these categories are just those included in the ECFA "early harvest list," and we will continue to negotiate on other items of trade in goods and services. At least at this stage, however, the agricultural sector and traditional industries for which there was concern of being impacted by the ECFA have not been affected. So we believe the agreement is a good one for Taiwan, and more and more people are realizing this.

Q9. Washington Post: Where do you see the negotiations leading? Do you see them going, for example, at some point into the political realm, or will it strictly stay in the economic sphere?

President Ma: As I just stated, as far as ECFA is concerned, we have only completed 20 percent of the list of dutiable products so we still have a long way to go. Currently, we are in negotiations with the mainland over an investment protection agreement and a dispute settlement agreement, both of which are vital to Taiwan. This is because we have at least 70,000 companies investing over US$100 billion in mainland China, according to estimates. For our investors, the kind of protection they will have on the mainland¿especially in regards to their personal safety¿is very important. On the other hand, Taiwan and the mainland have been engaging in trade and investment for over two decades but the two sides still lack a normally used dispute settlement mechanism. So we hope to take this opportunity to build these mechanisms. ECFA is only a beginning; it is not an end, and there is still much to negotiate following the ECFA.

In addition to what I just said, it will take quite some time to institutionalize trade relations between two economies as large as ours. Although we have already concluded 15 accords, I believe we will need to sign many more similar agreements in the future. For example, in terms of culture, many publishers from Taiwan would like to sell their books or audio-visual products on the mainland, but that market has yet to be opened to us. Similarly, Taiwan has also placed various restrictions on products imported from the mainland. 1So this is an area that we can discuss in the future.

As for whether our negotiations with the mainland will enter the political realm, this will have to take a lower priority because both sides have agreed to start from economics, and political issues are not the priority. Our approach is to "put economics before politics, pressing matters before less pressing ones, and easily resolved issues before difficult ones."

Q10. Washington Post: President Ma, you recently said that Taiwanese should not call China by any other name but "the mainland" or "the other side of the strait." What do you hope to accomplish by that name change?

President Ma: Actually, what I said originally differs from what you just described. What I said was that the government in its official documents should refer to mainland China as "mainland China," "the mainland" or "the mainland area" rather than as "China." Why? Because the ROC Constitution defines mainland China to be the "mainland area of the Republic of China." As public officials, therefore, we must draft our official documents in accordance with the law. We have not required that people outside the government follow this convention.

This distinction between the Taiwan area and the mainland area was already established in the Constitution 20 years ago when we amended it. For us, this is a very important distinction. As president, I must follow our Constitution and must also ask our public servants to do the same when conducting official matters. I believe some people in the private sector also use this kind of name differentiation, but I only request our public servants to follow this usage in the context of conducting public affairs.

In fact, this terminology was set 20 years ago; former President Lee Teng-hui and the subsequent Democratic Progressive Party administration during its eight years in office did not change it. On the other hand, in the private sector, the terms used are more diverse. Some use "the mainland," some prefer "mainland China" and others use "China." For example, the media often refer to mainland students studying in Taiwan as "mainland students" rather than "Chinese students." And for investment capital from mainland China, the government calls it "mainland capital" while some in the private sector use "Chinese capital." In this respect, the government has its own stance and its own requirements, but we do not require the private sector to follow suit.

Q11. Washington Post: Can I ask you about political reform in China? How do you see it?

President Ma: We have always been concerned about political reform in mainland China; this is not something that began just recently. We have noticed some elements of political reform over the past 30 years amid the economic reform taking place on the mainland, but it is quite obvious that political reform has lagged far behind economic reform there. Thus, we have most recently seen mainland leaders such as Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao mentioning promotion of political reforms. They have even on many occasions talked of democracy, saying that democracy is a very good system. We are naturally delighted to see this.

Q12. Washington Post: Do you think it's important for Taiwan to speak up on human rights issues in China?

President Ma: Safeguarding human rights has always been our core value, especially since Taiwan was under martial law for 38 of the past 60 years, when the people's rights and freedoms were considerably restricted. These restrictions were gradually removed after martial law was lifted in 1987; now Taiwan is a full-fledged democracy. Thus, we truly cherish our democratic system, our human rights safeguards and the rule of law.

Naturally, we hope that the mainland as it interacts with us can gradually become free and democratic. Of course, we know that this is not an easy task. However, the existence of Taiwan in fact serves this sort of mutual caring function with respect to the mainland. Therefore, we have always expressed our stance on related issues.

For example, throughout the many years of my political career, every year following the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Incident I have either attended an event or issued a statement expressing hopes that the mainland Chinese leadership would face the families of the victims. When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, I also issued a statement urging the mainland to release him and to govern with the benevolence and noble leadership consonant with Chinese culture. Thus, we express our stance regarding this kind of issue at the appropriate time.

That is because this is a core value for us in Taiwan and a very important indicator by which to observe how close cross-strait relations are. Our people also watch whether our president is asserting our core values. Therefore, we will continue to express our stance at appropriate times.

We also want to specially emphasize the reason we express our concern is because Taiwan has had similar experiences in the past. Our government has come forth to acknowledge the faults committed during the February 28 Incident and the period of White Terror, making apologies and providing compensation. This is the only way to heal the wounds in our society, achieve social harmony, and bring people together to move forward.

Here¿ I have prepared for your reference statements we have issued in the past regarding the June 4 incident in Tiananmen. This is our core value and we will not change.

Q. 13. Washington Post: There have been a lot of arrests and house arrests in China, including Liu Xiaobo's wife. Do you think things are actually going backwards in China?

President Ma: We are still watching the situation. However, we most certainly believe that social development on the mainland is now very different than before. When people become affluent, they have more opinions on public matters. In addition, over the past 30 years, more and more people on the mainland have acquired an education and the number of universities has increased many times over. These factors will lead to greater expectations on the mainland for democratic reforms, a phenomenon of which the mainland leadership is also aware. Thus, we have great expectations that the mainland China can continue moving in this direction. This will not only benefit people on the mainland, it will narrow the gap between Taiwan and the mainland. This will greatly aid improvement of relations between the two sides and the pursuit of cross-strait peace.

Another factor is that both Taiwan and the mainland have joined the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Taiwan has incorporated the two covenants into our domestic laws. Mainland China signed and approved the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, while the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was signed but not approved. We hope the mainland authorities can approve and adopt the latter, so that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait could compete in the area of human rights safeguards, which will be of great help to their peoples.

Q14. Washington Post: Just a final question on that. Do you expect any change in China with the new leadership coming in, led by Xi Jinping?

President Ma: We hope so. We would like to see gradually more progress on the mainland. On the one hand, from Taiwan's point of view, this would further improve cross-strait relations; while on the other hand, it would give the people of mainland China greater opportunity to voice their own opinions. The mainland now attaches great importance to Chinese culture, in utter contrast to 40 years ago when the Cultural Revolution was launched. We have emphasized that from the perspective of Chinese culture, it entails compassion for humankind and all beings, as well as benevolent governance. Under such circumstances, both sides of the Strait have a foundation for discussing human rights protection and the rule of law. In fact, these are implicitly Chinese cultural ideas, and constitute a very important direction [in which the two sides can proceed].

Q15. Washington Post: The mainland has also been exporting Chinese culture abroad through these Confucian centers. I just discovered yesterday that there is something in the works here called the Taiwan Academies? What's that about?

President Ma: The idea behind the Taiwan Academies is to showcase some of Taiwan's cultural achievements over the past 60 years. I have often said that Taiwan culture is a kind of Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics. Its roots may have come from mainland China, but it has merged with other cultures here in Taiwan and has developed new features. This is what we wish to convey in the Taiwan Academies.

Our academies do not necessarily operate in competition with mainland China's Confucius Institutes. We talk about Confucius too, but more than that, we talk about how we apply Confucian philosophy in Taiwan. Recently, a group of well-known mainland painters came to Taiwan and were very impressed by how Confucianism is practiced here¿much better than in mainland China. This is an area of Chinese culture that both sides can compete in and learn from; it's a very important channel.

Mainland China has already established more than 500 Confucius Institutes around the world while we have just begun setting up our academies. But we are not worried because in addition to teaching the Chinese language, we will also promote Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics, including our way of thinking, our philosophy and various forms of art.

An important point to note is that while we applaud the mainland's efforts to promote Chinese culture and advocate Confucianism, we also hope that they will move beyond simply promoting the formalities of Confucianism and truly practice that philosophy in their lives. This is also the direction in which Taiwan is moving.

Q16. Washington Post: Where will the first one be, the first Taiwan Academy?

President Ma: One in Houston and one in California.

Q17. Washington Post: I understand promoting Taiwanese culture separate of mainland China is important for you, Mr. President.

President Ma: In fact, Chinese culture is consistent, including Confucianism as I have just mentioned, but actual practice is the important thing. Over the past decade or so, Confucianism has received great attention on the mainland. This is surprising, but also comforting for us to see. Many people, from students to entrepreneurs, are hiring private teachers to instruct them in Confucian philosophy. In Taiwan, however, Confucian philosophy has been taught in schools for the past six decades, and every student has studied it. If mainland China can move in this direction, I believe it will be the right direction and can promote closer cross-strait relations.

We want to emphasize that our friends on the mainland can learn much from the unique culture we have developed in Taiwan, including our pop culture, pop music, publications and religion. While these things also exist on the mainland, they have not developed as widely or quickly as in Taiwan. Take our religions, for example. Religion in Taiwan has become socially engaged and internationally connected. It has developed corporate management know-how and is driven by volunteerism. These trends have not been seen on the mainland but are of great importance to the development of religion. Faith can have a profound influence on people's lives and contribute significantly to the forming of a civil society. I believe this is an area in which the mainland can emulate Taiwan. Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics is an important aspect and marketing point for Taiwan and can serve as a frame of reference for the mainland.

Q18. Washington Post: I've just been told the time is almost up so I'll just end with one final question. Are you planning to run for re-election next year? Do you expect it to be a tough race?

President Ma: When I ran for president four years ago, my political plans were intended to be accomplished over eight years' time. Just like when I ran for mayor of Taipei City; my plans were for eight years. This is because we need a longer timeframe to realize our platform.


Media Monitors Acquires Majority Stake in Region's Leading Online and Social Media Intelligence Company

SINGAPORE, Feb. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- Asia-Pacific's leading media intelligence company, Media Monitors, today announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Brandtology, a global leader in online and social media intelligence. The acquisition further strengthens Media Monitors' ability to provide the highest quality and most comprehensive suite of media intelligence services across our region and beyond.

Media Monitors CEO John Croll said, "This is Media Monitors first acquisition since being acquired by Quadrant on 1 July 2010 and it reaffirms our growth strategy. This will create significant opportunities for cross-selling across all markets, and Brandtology's strong presence in China in particular supports our strategic growth story in that market. As a group we now have over 1,000 employees servicing 5,000 clients across 17 countries globally."

"Brandtology's business model reflects Media Monitors focus on accuracy, timeliness and deeper insight - all rare commodities in the current world of social media monitoring and analysis. We believe it's a great step forward for these two strong brands with a consistent focus on quality and client service to grow together as part of the Media Monitors Group."

Brandtology, launched in 2008 and headquartered in Singapore, has grown exponentially, with staff in 15 countries across Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America processing over 100 million online conversations per month, with more than 170 analysts spending over 20,000 hours a month analysing social media conversations for many of the world's leading brands across finance, technology, healthcare and FMCG.

Brandtology founder and CEO, Eddie Chau said, "This is the logical and exciting next step for Brandtology, allowing us to continue our rapid growth across existing and new markets and maintain our focus on research and development with the financial strength and broad APAC sales network of the region's leading media intelligence company behind us."

Using a highly effective combination of proprietary technology, processes and trained professionals Brandtology's world leading methodology involves extensive data mining, influence and sentiment defining technology overlaid by extensive quality control and deeper content analysis from expert social media analysts. As with Media Monitors, Brandtology provides a multilingual service, covering the 12 languages spoken by over 90% of the world's population, again ensuring that clients' specific requirements can be met at all times across all global markets.

Brandtology will remain as a distinct brand within the Media Monitors Group, the acquisition significantly expanding the brand's sales network in Australia and New Zealand, while providing a solid base allowing for continued rapid growth across the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Croll said "I look forward to working with Eddie Chau and his team at Brandtology to continue providing the best possible media intelligence across all forms of media, tailored to our clients' needs."

Google unveils payment platform for online content

WASHINGTON, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - Google launched an online payment platform for digital newspapers and magazines on Wednesday, as a subscription service unveiled by Apple a day earlier came under fire for the size of the bite it takes from publishers.

Google will take a 10-percent share of revenue from transactions handled by "Google One Pass," less than the 30 percent charged by Apple for subscriptions to applications sold through the App Store for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

The iPad currently dominates the tablet computer market but a number of companies are developing tablets running Google's Android software and the technology giants are also fierce rivals on the smartphone platform front.

The dueling online subscription services are aimed at attracting content producers to their respective mobile devices and come as struggling newspapers and magazines seek to boost revenue from the Web.

Google's new payment system for online content was announced by the Mountain View, California-based company's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, in a speech at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Google said Google One Pass "is currently intended for periodicals, such as news and magazines, but is a flexible payment system that can be used for many other types of content."

Lee Shirani, director of business product management for Google Commerce, said publishers who opt to use Google One Pass to charge readers for digital content can set their own prices and terms.

"Readers who purchase from a One Pass publisher can access their content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-on with an email and password," Shirani said in a blog post.

"Importantly, the service helps publishers authenticate existing subscribers so that readers don't have to re-subscribe in order to access their content on new devices," Shirani said.

Google said publishers can offer readers a variety of options including full subscriptions or even single articles for purchase.

"With Google One Pass, publishers can customize how and when they charge for content while experimenting with different models to see what works best for them," Google said.

"We've been working with publishers for some time now to help them find ways to engage their readers, attract traffic to their sites, and make money online," said Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, Google vice president for Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Google said its launch partners include German publishers Axel Springer AG, Focus Online and Stern.de, France's Le Nouvel Observateur and Spain's Prisa.

Google's US partners are Rust Communications, publisher of the Southeast Missourian newspaper, Media General, which operates 18 television stations and 21 daily newspapers, and Bonnier Corp., publisher of Popular Science.

The Internet search giant said Google One Pass is currently available from publishers in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States.

The announcement coincided with criticism of Apple's subscription service for newspapers, magazines, music and video.

While publishers mostly grumbled anonymously, digital music subscription service Rhapsody was one of the few companies to publicly hit out at Apple.

"An Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable," Rhapsody president Jon Irwin said in a statement.

"The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple's 30 percent monthly fee vs. a typical 2.5 percent credit card fee," Irwin said, adding that the company would be "determining an appropriate legal and business response."

Forrester research analyst James McQuivey said "taking a 30 percent toll amounts to a massive increase in the cost basis of a content business that will kill it.

"I staunchly defend Apple's right to price its products and services any way it wants," McQuivey said. "But it is shortsighted.

"Because now Apple has given every publisher, producer, and distributor in the business a reason to actively pursue alternatives to the elegant apps that Apple had hitherto taught us to depend on," he said.

Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor of journalism at Boston's Northeastern University, said Apple's terms "seem so onerous that I just don't think that there's going to be many publications adopting this.

"Or if they do, they're going to be looking for the first exit out when something better comes along," Kennedy said.

Video making second mobile revolution

BARCELONA, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - Smartphones and tablets are driving a mobile revolution, allowing video to take the lead in a business once dominated by voice calls, industry players and experts say.

Video already does or will soon account for the majority of mobile data traffic, according to companies that monitor traffic, and with the proliferation of tablet computers that is likely to increase.

"If you want to put 2011 into a nutshell you can say that for the mobile phone companies their business is changing from an ears business -- people speaking and hearing -- into an eyes business with people looking at little screens," said Stefan Zehle, CEO of Coleago Consulting.

Cisco chief John Chambers told the mobile industry's annual trade fair in Barcelona this week that the visual medium would soon become ubiquitous in mobile communication.

"It won't be fifty to sixty percent of traffic on networks in five years out that will be visual. It will be eighty to ninety percent. Everything you do will have visual capability."

Currently most of the visual traffic is video streaming, with video-sharing site YouTube the single top application accounting for 17 percent of total mobile data traffic, according to network firm Allot Communications.

However 2011 could be the year that video telephony finally takes off, nearly a half century after it was first invented.

Skype, which pioneered voice calls over the Internet, brought video calls to PCs in 2006 and says 42 percent of its calls are now video.

And now video calling is now moving to mobile handsets.

Skype launched last month video calling for the iPhone, and Apple has its own application, which is so far limited only to WiFi connections.

Another firm, ooVoo, now supports iPhones and smartphones running the Google-backed Android operating system for its free high-definition-capable video calling service.

ooVoo has gone from nine million users in January 2010 to 21 million last month.

"I really see 2010 as having been the tipping point for video calling," the company's chief executive, Philippe Schwartz, told AFP.

Stuck only to PCs, video calling would remain a niche service but "mobile is the enabler to make it mass market," he said.

US-based Syniverse Technologies announced this week at the Mobile World Congress a deal to provide a video calling service for Korea Telecom, the country's top fixed-line and second-largest mobile operator.

The service is highly interoperable as it does not require receiving handsets to have pre-installed software.

Another company, Aylus, announced a similar video calling service for operators which allows users to start conversations as audio calls and then freely switch over to video.

Both ooVoo and Aylus video calls can be made over existing 3G networks, and the video quality in demonstrations matched or exceeded PC video calls on fixed Internet conditions.
Not everyone is convinced video telephony will take off, however.

"I think the value for the end user to actually watch each other while talking is limited," said Magnus Rehle, managing director of Greenwich Consulting.

The consulting firm Deloitte said in a recent report it "believes that in 2011 video calling wil be cheaper, better and more widely available than ever; yet a boom in demand is unlikely."

It said for most calls audio is sufficient for users, and that many remain uncomfortable with video calling as it makes them self-conscious.

However a Skype representative said people don't want to be bound to their PCs and that mobile video calls "give users the opportunity to share personal moments wherever they are and whenever they want."

Smartphone handset makers, as well as tablet manufacturers, would not be equipping them all with front-facing cameras if they thought video calling would remain a niche service, he said.

Skype's success with PC-based video calling showed "that if there is an easy and intuitive application to use to see the other party then there is a big number of people" willing to use it, said Aylus chief executive Mark Edwards.

Syniverse's Tony Holcombe said consumers have been ready for mobile video calling for some time, "but the key to unlocking widespread uptake is full-scale interoperability" so all camera-equipped phones can be called.

With many smartphones now equipped with high definition cameras, they are likely to become increasingly used as camcorders.

A company called muvee expects to start shipping this year on Android phones the first application for users to edit their videos directly on their smartphones.

"Whenever you film you always get a bunch of rubbish that you want to trim and cut out," said muvee founder and chief Terence Swee. "You don't want to go through the hassle of transferring video to a computer to edit, you want to do it on your phone directly and with muvee you can."

Beijing police crack down in activist case: lawyers

BEIJING, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - Beijing police have interrogated, beaten and detained attorneys involved in the case of a blind human rights activist who has lashed out over his "illegal" house arrest, lawyers said Thursday.

The accusations followed incidents this week in which several foreign journalists were roughed up by plainclothes enforcers as they tried to visit activist Chen Guangcheng at his home in eastern China's Shandong province.

Police and state security agents broke up a lunch meeting of about a dozen lawyers in Beijing on Wednesday, taking them in for questioning, said attorney Teng Biao, who is known for his involvement in sensitive rights-related cases.

At least one lawyer remains in custody and another was beaten in a police station, he said.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who gained worldwide attention by exposing abuses in the "one-child" population control policy, has been under house arrest in the city of Linyi since completing a jail term of more than four years in September.

Chen re-emerged into the human rights spotlight last week with the release of a daring
 video smuggled from his home in which he railed against his "illegal" house arrest and the "hooligan methods" of local authorities.

The video and claims by activists that he and his wife Yuan Weijing were subsequently beaten -- allegedly by police -- have enraged China's beleaguered community of rights lawyers and activists.

"The police warned me not to get involved in the Chen Guangcheng matter. I think they are mainly worried about protest activities," Teng said of the police actions.

Teng, who is under house arrest with police posted outside his Beijing home, said Chinese authorities could be stepping up controls as they do every year ahead of China's annual parliament gathering, which opens on March 5.

He added official nervousness may be heightened by the Middle East unrest.

Chinese censors sanitised media reports and blocked online discussion of events in Egypt, apparently fearful it could spark democracy calls in China.

The Egypt unrest forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after three decades in power.

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong was beaten during interrogation by Beijing police Wednesday night, rights attorney Li Fangping told AFP.

Police also took lawyer Tang Jitian away from his home and he remains in custody, Li said.
"The police are becoming more and more violent. We are very worried about this," Li told AFP.

Malaysia drops coal power plant scheme: minister

KUALA LUMPUR, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - A plan to build a controversial coal-fired power plant in Malaysian Borneo has been scrapped over fears of its impact on the environment, a local minister was quoted as saying Thursday.

Musa Aman, Sabah chief minister, said coal would not be used as a source of energy in the state as it could hurt the environment and damage its key tourism industry.

"Sabah needs to increase its power supply but the state cannot put its natural environment at risk," he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.

"The environment is the biggest tourism draw," he said, adding the state would look at natural gas as an alternative.

Environmentalists and the government's Department of Environment had objected to the scheme, which would have seen the construction of a 300-megawatt plant in Lahad Datu, in Sabah state.

Sabah, along with Sarawak, makes up Malaysia's half of Borneo island, which borders the Coral Triangle, one of the world's most biodiverse marine environments.

The vast region, which spans the seas around East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands, is home to 75 percent of all known coral species.

Opposition to the power station was led by Green Surf, a coalition of groups including the Malaysian Nature Society, which said the plant would displace villagers and threaten endangered species, including orangutans and Bornean rhinos.

The shelving of the plant plan will be counted as a welcome victory for campaigners angered by similar energy projects in Boreno.

The vast Bakun dam in neighbouring Sarawak drew intense criticism after large swathes of rainforest were cleared and thousands of indigenous people displaced.

Chinese hackers tried to steal Canadian data: reports

MONTREAL, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - China-based hackers have launched an unprecedented cyberattack on the Canadian government, penetrating the computer systems of two key agencies and forcing them offline, CBC reported Wednesday.

Asked about the report, the Treasury Board issued a brief statement recognizing it had detected an "unauthorized attempt to access its networks," but did not elaborate.

"Employee access to the Internet has been limited for the time being," said Treasury Board spokesman Jay Denney.

CBC News cited "highly placed sources" in conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government as saying that the cyberattacks, first detected in January, were traced to computer servers in China.

The hackers managed to penetrate the computer systems at the Finance Department and the Treasury Board, according to CBC. They also successfully overpowered computers in the offices of senior government officials in a bid to steal passwords that hold the key to government data systems.

Although CBC said it could not determine whether the attackers were Chinese or simply other nationals who used China-based servers, CTV television said they were "Chinese government hackers."

It cited sources as saying the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has advised government officials not to name China as the origin of the attacks, or even discuss the matter.

Chinese espionage has become a "major problem" for Canada and other countries, a senior government official told CTV.

CBC said it remained unclear whether the attackers were able to access other computer networks, such as those containing Canadians' tax and health records along with other personal details.

Upon learning of the attack, Canadian cybersecurity officials shut down Internet access at the two departments as they scrambled to prevent hackers from stealing more information via the Internet, it added.

"There are no indications that any data relating to Canadians was compromised by this unauthorized attempt to access the TBS (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat) network," said Denney.

"The government of Canada has plans in place to prevent, minimize and address the impacts of cyber threats."

Several governments have pointed to the growing threat of Chinese espionage online.

Last week, US computer security firm McAfee said hackers from China had penetrated computer networks of global oil companies, stealing financial documents on bidding plans and other confidential information.

The United States has created its own Cyber Command, while NATO leaders agreed in November to enshrine cybersecurity as one of the 28-nation military alliance's priorities.

In January 2010, Google said it had fallen victim to attacks by China-based cyber spies apparently intent on hacking into the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. The attack touched off a huge battle with Beijing on censorship.

World's top chefs pay tribute to Spain's Santamaria

SINGAPORE, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - A gathering of the world's top chefs paid tribute to one of their own Thursday as they mourned Spain's Michelin-starred Santi Santamaria who died in Singapore.

Santamaria, who was 53, collapsed on Tuesday while serving guests gathered to inaugurate the opening of Singapore's Marina Bay Sands resort and died following a reported heart attack while being taken to hospital.

Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy and Wolfgang Puck -- along with acclaimed Asian chefs Justin Quek and Tetsuya Wakuda -- gathered on stage to pay their respects to Santamaria, who like those five had in the past year opened a restaurant at the US$5.7 billion resort.

"Santi was crazy about cooking, his cooking, and he was crazy about the one thing we all love -- great cuisine," said the Austrian-born Puck, famous for his two-Michelin-starred Spago Beverly Hills.

"I really think that Santi is looking down us and saying, you know, you guys should live your life the way I lived it -- with passion for food, with passion for friends, passion for family, and with passion to live life they way you see is fit for yourself.

"With Santi you felt like he was your brother and your best friend."

Santamaria was generally acknowledged as the man who took Catalan cooking to the world and his Can Fabes restaurant in the Spanish city of Sant Celoni has been rated with three Michelin stars since 1994.

The chef was given two further Michelin stars for his restaurant in Madrid, Sant Celoni, one more star for his Barcelona establishment Evo, and another for Tierra, in Valdepalacios, just outside of Madrid.

A visibly shaken Boulud -- who runs the three-Michelin-starred Daniel in New York -- said too that the world of cooking had lost a "great friend, an inspiration."

"He taught the world about the importance of Spanish cuisine, Calatan cuisine, and his passion and love for Spanish cuisine was quite unique," said the Frenchman.

"He will be greatly missed. But I don't think he'd want to be remembered for anything less than what he did for Spanish cuisine and his country as well.

"Santi has left a huge legacy and we are all proud to have known him."

Santamaria was a fierce advocate of using only the freshest produce in his cooking and had been a sometime vocal critic of the advent of "molecular gastronomy."

"Santi loved to eat," said France's Savoy, a pioneer of the "Nouvelle Cuisine" movement at his three-Michelin-starred Guy Savoy in Paris.

"He has left us way too early. In its way, for him to leave us in his kitchen was a beautiful way for him to leave us."

Obama to meet Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - President Barack Obama will meet ailing Apple chief Steve Jobs and other US high-tech gurus Thursday in California, US officials said here.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt will also participate in the closed doors meeting, part of an event with business leaders in Silicon Valley, an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

ABC News reported that Facebook's 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg would also participate in the talks, just days after Egyptian protesters toppled Hosni Mubarak's decades-old regime in a popular uprising facilitated by social networks.

On Tuesday, Schmidt said Google was "very, very proud" of cyberactivist Wael Ghonim, a young executive at the company who emerged as a leading voice of the Egyptian uprising.

Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, administered a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising.

The 30-year-old also appeared in an emotional television interview shortly after he was released from police custody after 12 days that is credited with re-energizing the movement just as it seemed to be losing steam.

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, Ghonim said the protests which led to Mubarak's ouster would not have happened without online social networks.

"If there was no social networks it would have never been sparked," he said.

"Because the whole thing before the revolution was the most critical thing. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without You Tube, this would have never happened."

Last month, Jobs announced he was stepping aside, but did not say how long he expected to be away or provide any details about his latest health issues.

Jobs underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and received a liver transplant in early 2009. He has appeared gaunt but relatively healthy at recent Apple public events.

On January 17 Jobs turned over the helm to chief operating officer Timothy Cook, but kept his chief executive title and said at the time he would still participate in "major strategic decisions" at Apple.

Schmidt is due to leave his post at the helm of Google in April, letting co-founder Larry Page step in as part of a major shakeup of the company's top management.

Singapore raises 2011 inflation rate forecast

SINGAPORE, February 17, 2011 (AFP) - Singapore on Thursday raised its inflation forecast for this year, a move analysts said could soon be followed by an interest rate hike by the central bank.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announcement came as it also said the city-state's economy grew at a slightly slower rate last year than originally thought.

The ministry said inflation would likely hit 3.0-4.0 percent in 2011, up from its previous prediction of 2.0-3.0 percent.

It forecast prices to rise 5.0-6.0 percent in the first few months of the year before moderating in the second half.

"Given the raised inflation outlook, be warned... that the central bank may tighten its monetary policy further in April," said CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun.

Several Asian economies have recently raised interest rates in response to escalating inflation, largely driven by higher food and energy prices.

The World Bank said Tuesday that rising food prices have pushed about 44 million people into poverty in developing countries since June.

China, which this month hike rates for the third time in four months, said Tuesday inflation hit 4.9 percent last month, running close to a two-year high and sparking renewed speculation of more monetary tightening from Beijing.

South Korea, Australia and Taiwan have also been forced to increase lending rates as central banks try to be vigilant in the face of strong economic growth following the global downturn.

MTI also Thursday that Singapore's economy grew 14.5 percent in 2010, a little slower than the the 14.7 percent figure given in January, which was based on preliminary estimates.
It retained its earlier projection of 4.0-6.0 percent growth this year.

The ministry also upgraded its total trade growth forecasts for 2011 to 8.0-10.0 percent from 6.0-8.0 percent.


Top Spanish chef Santamaria dies in Singapore

MADRID, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - Spain's Michelin-starred chef Santi Santamaria died Wednesday while on a visit to Singapore, one of his restaurants said. He was 53.

A manager at his Can Fabes bistro at Sant Celoni near Barcelona said Santamaria died suddenly while in his restaurant in Singapore.

He said he was not aware of the cause of death.

Santamaria was a self-taught chef who was proud of his use of locally-sourced produce.

He was also a severe critic of rival Spanish chef Ferran Adria, accusing him causing harmful health effects with his "molecular gastronomy."

"Can we be proud of a cuisine ... created by Ferran Adria and his chorus of fans, which fills plates with gelling agents and laboratory emulsifiers?," he once said.

But although he was "conceptually and ethically divorced" from Adria he  stressed he had "enormous respect" for his rival, whose restaurant elBulli is considered one of the world's best.

India admits 'serious concern' over Chinese military

NEW DELHI, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - India's defence minister on Wednesday expressed "serious concern" over China's growing military might and vowed that the government in New Delhi would further bolster its own forces.

China and India have long-standing border disputes in the Himalayas, but have publicly vowed to tackle their differences through peaceful negotiations rather than conflict.

"The modernisation of armed forces in China and its ever-increasing military spending is a matter of serious concern," A.K. Antony told reporters at a security conference in New Delhi.

"But we are not unduly worried because we also will have to modernise and strengthen our armed forces."

India has beefed up its military presence along the China border with thousands of extra combat troops, armour and expanded airbases.

India says China is illegally occupying 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 square miles) of its northwestern territory, while Beijing claims a 90,000-square-kilometre chunk of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

India and China have held several rounds of inconclusive talks to resolve the dispute, which led them to a brief but bitter war in 1962.

Son of N.Korean leader 'attends Clapton concert'

SEOUL, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - A son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il attended a concert in Singapore this week by British guitarist Eric Clapton, a South Korean intelligence official told AFP Wednesday.

The official, who declined to be identified, confirmed news reports in Seoul of the visit by Kim Jong-Chol, second son of the leader of the hardline communist state.

Jong-Chol, wearing black trousers and a T-shirt, was seen cheering and swaying among fans at Monday's performance in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.

TV footage showed a man resembling Jong-Chol entering the stadium with an entourage of some 20 people including bodyguards and women carrying bouquets. He took pictures in front of the stage and chatted with a female companion.

Jong-Chol arrived in Singapore early this month and checked into a smart hotel, Chosun said.

Sporting pierced ears, he toured a Universal Studios theme park and Underwater World and bought expensive jewellery, Chosun said, adding that he flew home via Beijing after attending the concert and buying T-shirts.

He bought gifts for Kim Jong-Il and left Singapore on Tuesday, a day before the birthday of his father, Yonhap news agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

Jong-Chol, 30, has been passed over as leader-in-waiting in favour of his younger brother Jong-Un. Their father considered Jong-Chol too effeminate, according to a report by a former sushi chef to the leader.

He reportedly last attended Clapton concerts in 2006 when he followed the British star's performances in four German cities, accompanied by his apparent girlfriend or wife and North Korean bodyguards.

The leader's eldest son Jong-Nam was born to a different mother.

He apparently dropped out of contention as future leader after he was caught sneaking into Japan with a bogus passport in 2001 with a woman and child believed to be his wife and son.

He reportedly said he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Jong-Nam's teenage son was seen in 2009 among cheering fans who packed a concert in Macau by top South Korean pop star Rain, Chosun Ilbo reported at the time.

Smartphones the new El Dorado for computer criminals

BARCELONA, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - Smartphones are the new El Dorado for computer criminals and many owners are unaware of the risk or what to do about it, security experts warn.

As sales of smartphones and tablets have started to outpace those of personal computers, criminals are increasingly targeting the devices, security companies say.

It is a menace for both consumers and businesses because many people use their smartphones or tablets to access corporate networks without authorisation.

"This is something which is self-evident in the world of PCs," Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini said at the mobile industry's annual congress in Barcelona.

"We all do something to protect our computers and personal information from hackers," he said. "In mobile computing we need this as well."

Mobile devices increasingly hold personal and financial information, he warned. "I believe, I contend that security is one of the most important features," the Intel boss said.

A study for major anti-virus software maker AVG found that six percent of US smartphone owners' devices had been infected with malware that was surreptitiously sending out their credit card details.

"The things that people need to be protected from on PCs they now need to be protected from when using their smartphones," said Stephen Simpson, consumer products chief at AVG.

"The threat is not perceived," Simpson said. "There is a perception that smartphones are more secure than they really are."

There are already some 1,000 different pieces of malware circulating that target smartphones, according to Kaspersky Lab, a leading computer security firm.

One of the most prevalent is malware which has the phone make surreptitious calls or send text messages to premium numbers, landing the criminals fat fees and phone owners with fat bills.

Smartphones are an attractive target for criminals as "there is a lot of money involved, it is an easy job and it is low risk," said the firm's founder, Eugene Kaspersky,
A study in four European countries conducted for Kaspersky Lab found that only 12 percent of smartphone owners had installed security software on their phones.

This is despite about one-third of people storing valuable data such as access codes and passwords on their phones and one-third using them for online banking.

When Kaspersky first attended the Mobile World Congress five years ago most companies could not understand why he came, although this has since started to change, he said.

Kaspersky said people needed to be educated: "Don't trust everyone, keep your brain on" while using smartphone applications.

Smartphone owners will begin using anti-virus software as they become victims or someone they know does, he said, and "in a few years 90 percent of people will have anti-malware or mobile security software installed," the same level as for PCs.

Kaspersky Lab announced at the Mobile World Congress a new version of its software that supports BlackBerry telephones and smartphones running on the Google-backed Android operating system.

AVG recently released an app to protect Android phones, which, like its flagship PC product, is free.

Both programmes have features that help users pinpoint lost phones and remotely lock and wipe their memory if necessary.

Another company, Open Kernel Labs, announced a security suite aimed at the business market.

"Mobile devices are the weak link in corporate networks," said the company's chief executive and founder, Steve Subar.

Employees have bought smartphones and tablets on their own and want to use them for work. These connections, if left unsecured, present risks to companies as infected phones could reveal network access codes as well as confidential documents.

Open Kernel's SecureIT Mobile Enterprise allows companies to secure employees' private smartphones -- which also saves the company the price of acquiring and issuing handsets.

Egypt state paper apologises for 'revolution' coverage

CAIRO, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - Reporters at Egypt's state-owned Al-Ahram daily, long considered the propaganda arm of the regime, apologised on Wednesday for its "unprofessional" coverage of protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Al-Ahram "would like to apologise to readers and to the great people of Egypt for its unprofessional and unethical editorial policy during the January 25 revolution, 2011," they said, in a statement signed by 300 journalists.

They said journalists at the paper had for decades been "hostage to senior managers, chosen unprofessionally, on the basis of loyalty to the leader, his family, the ruling party and the security services."

Nationwide protests erupted on January 25 and saw violent clashes between supporters and foes of the 82-year-old Mubarak and left at least 300 people dead and scores more injured or detained.

The statement comes as employees of several pro-regime newspapers protested in recent days to demand that the editors and managers, put in place under the old system, be replaced.

Egyptian rights group, the Arabic Newtwork for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), said national newspaper editors should be sacked and replaced with journalists "who respect the mission of the press."

It said editors at Al-Ahram, Rose al-Youssef, Al-Akhbar, Al-Gomhuriya, Al-Mussawar, and October should leave immediately and accused them of switching their devotion to Mubarak to the junta that replaced him.

"Editors of state-owned newspapers supported the dictator Mubarak and made a God out of him. Now they are practicing the same cheap hypocrisy with the military council," ANHRI director Gamal Eid said.

China rice laced with heavy metals: report

BEIJING, February 16, 2011 (AFP) - Up to 10 percent of rice grown in China is contaminated with harmful heavy metals stemming from pollution linked to the nation's rapid industrialisation, a report said.

This week's edition of the New Century magazine cited studies showing that large amounts of Chinese rice have been tainted with heavy metals like cadmium for years but that little has been done to highlight the dangers.

"During China's fast-paced industrialisation, activities such as mining have sprung up everywhere, releasing into the environment chemical elements like cadmium, arsenic, mercury and other harmful heavy metals," the report said.

"These harmful heavy metals have spread through the air and water, polluting a rather large area of China's land ... a complete chain of food contamination has existed for years."

The report cited academic studies since 2007 focussing on several rural villages in southern China near mines and industrial areas where health problems such as bone diseases have emerged, mostly among the elderly.

Of the major grains, rice has the strongest tendency to absorb cadmium, which often seeps into water used for irrigation near mines, especially lead, tin and copper mines, the report said.

"No matter if the tests were taken by agricultural ministry departments or by academics, research all shows that about 10 percent of Chinese rice has levels of cadmium that surpass standards," the report said.

It added that no major studies have been done on the toxicity and potential health hazards of eating the tainted rice.

Rice, which is largely grown in south China, is the nation's staple grain with about 200 million tonnes produced annually, the report said.

Food safety is a major problem in China, where quality scares regularly emerge.
Recent scandals have involved contaminated red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu and recycled cooking oil.

In 2008, at least six children died and around 300,000 fell sick after consuming powdered milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, which was added to make products appear higher in protein.

Rapid industrialisation over the past 30 years helped China become the world's second-largest economy last year.

But the focus on growth, combined with lax environmental protections, have saddled the country with some of the world's worst water and air pollution.

Fight computer viruses like epidemics: Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO, February 15, 2011 (AFP) - Microsoft on Tuesday advocated fighting pernicious computer viruses with public health tactics used to stop the spread of SARS, H1N1 and other dangerous real world bugs.

Computers could be granted health certificates to be used online to show they were checked for viruses, Microsoft vice president of Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney said at a RSA computer security gathering here.

"There are a lot of parallels to the health model," Charney said.

"In public health we give people advice like wash your hands to stay safe or get vaccinations," he continued. "We can do that in the Internet world as well, and if your computer is sick we give you treatment."

Computer versions of public health notices could include the importance of running updated anti-virus software or warnings about the latest malicious software spreading online.

Charney told of "proof of concept" online identification software that could play a pivotal role in an online public health model by verifying that people on the Internet are who they claim to be.

People wouldn't be compelled to use computer health certificates, but businesses could require them for certain services.

"Instead of just reacting to tainted machines, we can look out for machine health," Charney said.

"It's not about quarantining machines," he continued. "It's about remediation."

Charney caused a buzz last year at RSA with a suggestion that computers infected with malicious software be quarantined on the Internet.

"We could flip it around to use the identity model," Charney said. "Where consumers would be asked for health certificates (for computers) and not providing one might have some consequences."

People who didn't present health claims could encounter precautions such as caps on money accessed in online bank accounts or limited Internet data flow.