Also today: EMI sacks boss as it tries to sing in key over debt pile; Greek crisis business as usual for “Gall Street” ; Mexicans hold on to IMF lifeline, in case they flounder or sink; American cities vie for Google’s favour.
Internet nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pretty soon it’ll be the Nobel Peace Prize – Not! Last year the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the global peace award to the man who heads a nation at war on many fronts. Now they want to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the Internet, despite al-Qaeda using it to show live beheadings. Next it’ll go to a vegetable or mineral (the Internet has silicon, so that’s okay). This kooky idea is championed by Wired magazine in Italy, but it didn’t take long for it to be backed by the founder of the One Laptop Per Child programme, Nicholas Negroponte. Wired says the Internet should get the prize because it’s advancing “dialogue, debate and consensus”. Some dismiss the nomination as a publicity stunt, and with Negroponte being a long-time Wired columnist and investor, it’s hardly surprising he’s in on it. The prize is given to the person (or organisation) who has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. US President Barack Obama made it clear he was pretty confused about that, too. The creators of the World Wide Web — Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Roberts and Vint Cerf — have also been nominated.
Photo: U.S.’s Vinton Cerfy (L), Lawrence Roberts (2nd L), Robert Kahn (2nd R) and British Tim Berners-Lee (R) pose for photographers after their joint news conference in Oviedo, northern Spain on October 24, 2002. The four researchers won the 2002 Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technological Research for their groundbreaking contribution to the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web, unquestionably one of the major technological breakthroughs of our time. REUTERS/Alonso Gonzalez
EMI sacks boss as it tries to sing in key over debt pile
Beleaguered British music company EMI – which famously turned out The Beatle’s “Abbey Road” album – has dumped head honcho, Elio Leoni-Sceti, after less than two years on the job. He’ll be leaving in March, but the company gave no reason for his departure, naming Charles Allen as new executive chairman. Allen’s been putting much of the ailing company’s new leadership in place, and will now add day-to-day operations to his job portfolio. He was formerly boss of British television company, ITV, and has been an advisor to Goldman Sachs. But it’s a difficult thing to run a music company. Musicians are useless at it, and the suits at private equity firm Terra Firma, which brought Leoni-Sceti on board a year after they purchased EMI, are reeling from the company’s debt load and declining music sales. EMI needs someone who can sing in key and do the books.
Greek crisis business as usual for “Gall Street”
Washington Post business columnist Allan Sloan can’t see why everybody’s making such a fuss over Wall Street’s role in the Greek debt crisis. He says the fact the Street helped Greece hide some of its debt and then made bets that the debt wouldn’t be paid, is finance 101 these days. He’s quite right, because it’s not much different to what Goldman Sachs and others did when it came to subprime mortgages, those devilish little financial packages that brought the whole house down. As it happens Goldman was one of the firms that came out on top in the Great Recession, precisely because it sold rotten lemons for a profit, while betting that nobody would buy the lemonade. Seeing as millions of American kids had lemonade stands when growing up to earn pocket money, that kind of speculation and the ensuing collateral damage leaves a sour taste in the mouth. So Sloan reckons that unless such companies suffer embarrassment, punishment and regulation, they’ll continue to inflict damage on people, companies and entire countries without a second thought. But it’s a shame the Greeks were so gullible and greedy in the first place.
Mexicans hold on to IMF lifeline, in case they flounder or sink
Mexico will maintain a $48 billion “cheap” credit line with the International Monetary Fund for another year, as the economy exits its deepest slump in seven decades. The gnawing recession didn’t seem to bother local telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim, who just came top on Forbes latest billionaire list. But the IMF backing did help boost market confidence in Mexico’s economic fundamentals and the government wants things to stay that way as the world emerges shakily from its catastrophic decline. The country’s monetary authorities want a soft landing for when stimulus programmes are withdrawn from industrialised countries because this could lead to a correction in various asset prices. Nobody knows what kind of correction this would be, or even what asset prices would be affected. But they do know it could be somewhat dramatic, so Mexico’s holding on to its IMF lifeline for as long as it can. The Mexican peso plummeted 27% at the height of the global financial crisis, so the credit line gives the currency some insurance against a further weakening if foreign investors pull out.
American cities vie for Google’s favour
Google’s plan to bring 100-times faster Internet connections to between 50,000 and 500,000 people across cities in the US so excited people in Topeka, the capital of Kansas, they unofficially renamed the city Google, Kansas, for a month. The currying of favour didn’t stop there though, as Duluth in Minnesota upped the stakes by wryly pledging to name all the town’s first-born children after Google. Other cities did similarly bizarre things, but this may not mean their municipalities will win super-fast Internet speeds in advance of Google’s 26 March deadline for one or more cities to be included in the “competitively-priced” pilot project. Sarasota in Florida now calls itself “Google Island”, and has an Internet site that includes YouTube videos, a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account and even a “Declaration of Independence from Narrowband Networks.” It’s fun and highly creative, but a lot of people are going to end up disappointed.
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine