Monthly Archives: October 2013

O2 launches convoluted 4G PAYG option, data-only plans due next month

Pay as you go used to be a simple concept. Top up cash, spend cash, top up again; maybe you’d get a free text or two if you plumped for a voucher beyond the bare minimum. 4G is relatively new to the UK, and as such, we’re seeing carriers experiment with different tariffs that are supposed to be …

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Facebook smashes analyst targets but executive comments spook Street

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc posted strong growth in its mobile advertising business on Wednesday but rattled investors after saying that it did not plan to boost the frequency of ads shown to users.

Shares of the world’s No. 1 online social network soared as much as 15 percent in extended trading before suddenly falling to $47.40, down 3 percent from its $49.10 closing price.

In previous quarters Facebook has shown one ad per 20 “stories” in the newsfeed, but Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman told analysts Wednesday that the current ratio, although slightly higher than 5 percent, would not increase much more going forward.

Ebersman’s comments, combined with remarks suggesting that young teenage users were beginning to use Facebook less frequently, soured the mood abruptly on an afternoon when the company topped Wall Street’s targets with a whopping 60 percent increase in revenue, driven by its accelerating mobile business.

“There seems to be concern about the ad load not going up,” said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.

But Greenfield said he believed investors were over-reacting, noting that the real impetus behind Facebook’s rapidly growing top line has been an increase in its advertising prices, rather than the volume of ads.

As a public company, Facebook has had to balance showing more ads with the fear that too many of them would irritate fickle users and drive them elsewhere.

But Facebook’s core advertising units appeared to be performing better than ever in the third quarter.

Revenue from mobile ads, which appear on smartphones, represented 49 percent of Facebook’s total advertising revenue in the third quarter, or roughly $880 million. Mobile ads generated roughly $150 million in the year-ago period, when Facebook was just beginning to develop its mobile ad business.

“It looks like they’re firing on all cylinders,” said JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey.

He said that Facebook’s strong mobile advertising revenue in particular has put to rest the worries that many investors had at the time of the company’s 2012 IPO.

“They clearly have the product, they have the traffic and now they have the advertising solution,” said Josey.

Facebook said the number of its monthly active users increased to 1.19 billion as of the end of September, up from 1.15 billion at the end of June. Facebook said it counts roughly 507 million daily active mobile users.

Shares of Facebook has doubled in the past three months, as Wall Street has warmed to the Internet company’s ability to thrive as consumers increasingly access the Web on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Facebook’s total revenue in the third quarter was $2.016 billion, ahead of the average analyst expectation of $1.911 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Facebook said it earned net income of $425 million, or 17 cents a share, in the three months ended September 30, compared with a net loss of $59 million, or 2 cents a share in the year-ago period. (

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Gerry Shih; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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‘We’re Really Screwed Now,’ Says NSA Official After Surveillance Hawks Switch Sides

The National Security Agency is having a very bad day: two of the most ardent surveillance hawks have officially turned against the spying agency. California Senator Dianne Feinstein broke ranks and came out against the NSA spying on foreign leaders. Even worse, the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, dropped a co-authored bill to end bulk collection of Internet and telephone data.

“We’re really screwed now,” one NSA official told Foreign Policy’s The Cable. “You know things are bad when the few friends you’ve got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.”

Feinstein had been the most public defender of the NSA’s massive surveillance practices, until German Chancellor Angela Merkel freaked out over the fact that the U.S. had maintained a secret spy hub in the embassy.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” she declared. President Obama, who was reportedly unaware of the practice, is considering a ban on surveillance of allies, according to The New York Times.

This comes on the heels of a House of Representatives version of a Senate reform package to stop bulk collection of records and provide more transparency to members of Congress. Most notably, the co-author also wrote the Patriot Act, the legal foundation for most of the NSA controversial spy practices. It dropped with strong support — 70 members in the House.

Combined, these are very good signs that some sort of reform is coming.

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Penn State: 26 people get $59.7M over Sandusky

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Penn State said Monday it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a man once revered as a university icon who is now serving what is effectively a life prison sentence.

Nearly two years after the retired coach was first charged with child molestation, the school said 23 deals were fully signed and three were agreements in principle. It did not disclose the names of the recipients.

The school faces six other claims, and the university says it believes some of those do not have merit while others may produce settlements.

University president Rodney Erickson issued a statement calling the announcement a step forward for victims and the school.

“We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State,” said Erickson, who announced the day Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 that Penn State was determined to compensate his victims.

The settlements have been unfolding since mid-August, when attorneys for the accusers began to disclose them. Penn State has not been confirming them, waiting instead to announce deals at once.

Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who helped negotiate several of the settlements, said his clients were satisfied.

“They felt that the university treated them fairly with the economic and noneconomic terms of the settlement,” said Andreozzi, who also represents some others who have come forward recently. Those new claims have not been presented to the university, he said.

One client represented by St. Paul, Minn., attorney Jeff Anderson signed off on an agreement in the past week and the other is basically done, he said. Anderson counts his two clients as among the three that have been classified as agreements in principle, which Penn State said means final documentation is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

Anderson said his clients were focused on Penn State’s changes to prevent future abuse.

“I have to applaud them, because they said ‘not until we’re satisfied that no one else will get hurt,'” Anderson said. “The settlement of their cases in no way heals, in no way lessens the wound that remains open and the scars that are deep.”

Penn State has spent more than $50 million on other costs related to the Sandusky scandal, including lawyers’ fees, public relations expenses, and adoption of new policies and procedures related to children and sexual abuse complaints.

It said Monday that liability insurance is expected to cover the payments and legal defense, and expenses not covered should be paid from interest paid on loans by Penn State to its self-supporting units.

Clifford Rieders, a Williamsport attorney who negotiated one of the settlements, said the average payout matched other cases involving child abuse in educational or religious settings.

Rieders said the cases raised the specter of embarrassing revelations if they went to trial, and a university would have to consider the effect on the victims, its overall reputation, its ability to pay and its wider objectives.

“There are many considerations whenever you resolve a high-profile case involving serious misconduct, and I’m sure all of those and more came into play here,” Rieders said.

Sandusky, 69, has been pursuing appeals while he serves a 30- to 60-year sentence on 45 criminal counts.

He was convicted of abusing 10 boys, some of them at Penn State facilities. Eight young men testified against him, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

The 32 claimants involved in negotiations with Penn State include most of the victims from the criminal trial and some who say they were abused by Sandusky many years ago. Negotiations were conducted in secret, so the full range of the allegations wasn’t disclosed publicly.

Sandusky did not testify at his trial but has long asserted his innocence. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but insisted he never molested them.

The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down football coach Joe Paterno and leading college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, to levy unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program.

Three former Penn State administrators await trial in Harrisburg on charges they engaged in a criminal cover-up of the Sandusky scandal. Former president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley deny the allegations, and a trial date has not been scheduled.

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Last Vegas: Film Review

Star power counts for a helluva lot in Last Vegas, an amiable geezers comedy with an affecting emotional anchor. To call this the geriatric Hangover is both accurate and misleading, as the main fun here is not so much the broad humor as it is to watch five great old pros — Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and an entirely captivating Mary Steenburgen — imparting pleasure while obviously having it themselves. Although formulaic in design and programmed to meet its quota of laughs, the film makes a point of going beyond basic expectations into some legitimate aspects of mature friendships without getting soggy about it. CBS Films looks to make this visit to Vegas a profitable one.

All wearing their years quite well, thank you — Freeman is the oldest at 76, Kline the youngest at 66, while De Niro is 70 and Douglas 69 — the actors play friends who have known one another for nearly six decades, as glimpsed in a Brooklyn childhood prologue. Nowadays, Archie (Freeman) is a veteran of one stroke whose obsessively protective son holds him health hostage in his New Jersey home, Sam (Kline) is bored in early Florida retirement with his longtime spouse and Paddy (De Niro) no longer leaves his New York apartment after his beloved wife’s death.

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By extreme contrast, ladies’ man and successful Malibu attorney Billy (Douglas) willfully ignores the calendar but finally decides it’s time to settle down — with a bride about a third his age. Despite reluctance on the part of Paddy, who says he hates Billy, the guys agree to meet in Vegas for a bachelor party on the Saturday night before Billy’s Sunday wedding.

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) delivers the requisite amount of old-age shtick (Sam’s wife thoughtfully slips him an envelope containing a Viagra pill and a condom in the hope that some action will revitalize her husband) but quickly takes the story in a refreshingly unexpected direction with Diana (Steenburgen), a wise and sassy lounge singer who’s very frank about her availability as well as the hope that Vegas will provide her with a satisfying next act to her life. Her singing style is wonderful. She teases and engages with the guys and develops a quick rapport with both Paddy and Billy that inadvertently revives the secret grudge that drove a wedge between them.

For his part, Sam attracts the attention of a drag queen (Roger Bart), while Archie’s big winnings at blackjack occasion an upgrade into the hotel’s most lavish suite, available now that 50 Cent has canceled for the weekend. Events naturally conspire for the boys to use the enormous space to throw a wild party, in the course of which Archie shows off some smooth dance moves, Sam is forced to decide whether or not to use his wife’s presents, and 50 Cent, in a cameo, shows up after all to demand that the music be turned down.

Director Jon Turteltaub‘s signal accomplishment here is to have created a congenial environment in which the actors could bond and have fun within proper boundaries. The foursome’s approach to these uncomplicated characters is at once relaxed and alert, loose and quick on their toes; they’re just darn good company for a couple of hours, both when they’re rejecting the usual expectations to act their age but especially when they’re working through emotional issues for which even decades of experience provide inadequate preparation.

In every instance, the long-buried feelings that fire the dynamics of the men’s character arcs cut rewardingly across the ‘sitcommy’ ways the guys are initially presented. Cranky stay-at-home Paddy evolves into a man afflicted with profound romantic angst; Archie’s life-loving bonhomie asserts itself once he escapes his son’s overbearing surveillance; Sam reverses course from premature calcification to libidinous reawakening, while Billy risks renewed conflict with Paddy to at long last look beyond a woman’s surface charms and probe the potential of a mature romantic relationship. These may be obvious trajectories, but they serve to invest a farcical context with plausible facsimiles of real people.

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The actors are all great to watch. It may be that Freeman’s work stands out simply because, since he’s now most often cast in solemn, grave, not to say God-like roles, he hasn’t cut loose like this in a long time; like his character, he should do it more often. At first it seems that Douglas as an L.A. playboy is just too obvious, but the sensitivity and soul that Diana ushers to the surface as Billy spends more time with her elicits many grace notes from the actor. While Kline’s role could have benefited from more meat in the script, his impeccable timing makes you pine for more mature seriocomic roles for this acting wizard. De Niro morphs his stubborn Archie Bunker-like complainer into a hurt man with a couple of exceptional grievances.

And then there’s Steenburgen’s Diana. Her musical gifts draw you in first but her self-deprecating humor, wisdom of the ways of the world and fundamental optimism make her a keeper and deserving of heated competition among men. In her best film role in years, the actress delivers a fully realized character from the outset and deepens it into someone you really care about even in an essentially comic context.

Opens: Nov. 1 (CBS Films)
Production: Laurence Mark Productions
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman
Producers: Laurence Mark, Amy Baer
Executive producers: Nathan Kahane, Jeremiah Samuels, Lawrence Grey
Director of photography: David Hennings
Production designer: David J. Bomba
Costume designer: Dayna Pink
Editor: David Rennie
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
PG-13 rating, 104 minutes

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Death Becomes Whimsical On Dia De Los Muertos

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The Mexican Day of the Dead holiday is a time to remember the dead and prepare for their visit. It’s also a time for food and friends. With Dia de los Muertos just around the corner, learn how to make a pumpkin and ancho chile mole and the traditional dessert bread, pan de muerto.Source:
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Firefox plugin reveals how your internet browsing is being monitored

Firefox plugin reveals how your internet browsing is being monitored

If someone screams “they’re watching you!” into your face, then you’re either starring in a horror movie or living in these surveillance-conscious times. Still, if it’s the latter, at least now you can put a name to the faceless entities observing your every move. Mozilla has released Lightbeam, a Firefox plugin that visualizes which sites are tracking your browsing history and how those sites are connected. Based on the experimental Collusion add-on, the software will even show you which third-party tools and personalization trackers are watching you from afar. All you need to do to get learning is download the feature from the source — just remember to pull your best Enemy of the State face when you see the tangled web that just a few minutes of browsing will weave.

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