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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London riots police 'prepare to use plastic bullets' if violence continues

Plastic bullets have been considered by police chiefs as a tactic to bring the unprecedented rioting in London under control.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said Scotland Yard was "not going to throw 180 years of policing with the community away" as the prospect of using the ammunition for the first time at a British disturbance was raised.

"The use of any tactics will be considered carefully," he said. "That does not mean we are scared of using any tactic."

Meanwhile, CCTV images capturing people police want to speak to in connection with the riots have been released by Scotland Yard.

Detectives leading the operation against the wave of disorder across London vowed to bring those caught on camera who were proven guilty of crimes to justice.

Images showed some young men and women did not even bother to hide their identities as they allegedly looted areas of Croydon and Lambeth.

Asked about other tactics, such as plastic bullets or baton rounds, Mr Kavanagh said: "Through the night the Commissioner did absolutely consider that as one of the tactics available to use, a tactic used if deemed necessary.
"These are very fast-moving mobs - by the time we get baton guns there, they will have moved on.

London riots: Mark Duggan 'died of gunshot wound

Shops such as Tesco and some banks in the Jewellery Quarter decided to close from mid-afternoon.

The decision follows a night of violence in the city with a police station set on fire and stores looted.

About 130 people were arrested, some of whom West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims described as "astonishingly young".

Retail Birmingham, a group which looks after shopkeepers' interests, said it was down to the individual retailers about whether or not they closed.

A spokesperson said they had held a meeting with police earlier on Tuesday.

"Following meetings with West Midlands Police today, Retail Birmingham has been advised to inform you that there is no direct request for shops to close early today, however many may choose to," the spokesman said.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

It was really scary to be honest and I just left straight away”

Store owner Lucian Antoin
"We have been advised that it is 'business as usual' in the city centre and there will be a significantly increased police presence within the city centre until further notice, to reassure the public and businesses."

Some staff at Birmingham City Council were allowed to leave for their homes early.

Business owners along Colmore Row in Birmingham were cleaning up with some, such as Sainsbury's and Tesco closing early on Tuesday.

Newsagents Mills City Express, which was attacked on Monday night, closed early.

Mr Duggan was killed by armed officers in Ferry Lane, Tottenham, after a minicab he was travelling in was stopped as part of a pre-planned operation.

Colin Sparrow, deputy senior investigator for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), told the hearing that the 'complex investigation' could go on for six months.
Coroner for the Northern District of Greater London Andrew Walker adjourned the hearing to December 12th and offered his sympathies to the family of Mr Duggan and his fiancee Semone Wilson.
'I would like to reassure members of the family that we will be working closely with Mr Duggan's family and the IPCC throughout the process,' he added.
It has recently been revealed that a 26-year-old man shot in a car during riots in Croydon has died in hospital.

Glasgow Teen Held Over 'Riot' Facebook Message

16-year-old was held during an operation in the city's south side at 12:40 on Monday.

It comes after rioting and looting in London at the weekend spread to other English cities.

Police said they were monitoring social networking sites closely and would take "decisive action" to prevent violence.

The Strathclyde force said there was no intelligence "at this time" to suggest that there was any trouble planned.

'Disgraceful scenes'
Assistant Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: "This detention shows that we are monitoring the situation closely and we will take decisive action to prevent anyone inciting violence of any kind in Glasgow or anywhere else in the force area.

Continue reading the main story
Start Quote

The action we took today should act as a strong warning to anyone who is thinking of causing trouble here”

Ass Ch Constable Fiona Taylor
Strathclyde Police
"Communities in London and other cities in England have been outraged at the disgraceful scenes of destruction and looting that they have witnessed and we are sure that communities here would be just as horrified to think that anyone was trying to incite similar acts of mindless criminality.

"Let there be no mistake, we are ready for any eventuality and will take any action necessary to prevent this kind of abhorrent behaviour.

"The action we took today should act as a strong warning to anyone who is thinking of causing trouble here."

Earlier, Assistant Chief Constable Fiona Taylor, of Strathclyde Police operational support, said: "This detention shows that we are monitoring the situation closely and we will take decisive action to prevent anyone inciting violence of any kind in Glasgow or anywhere else in the force area.

"Communities in London and other cities in England have been outraged at the disgraceful scenes of destruction and looting that they have witnessed and we are sure that communities here would be just as horrified to think that anyone was trying to incite similar acts of mindless criminality.

"Let there be no mistake, we are ready for any eventuality and will take any action necessary to prevent this kind of abhorrent behaviour.

"The action we took today should act as a strong warning to anyone who is thinking of causing trouble here."

London Riots 16,000 officers to police on streets

Government's emergency committee, Cobra, met in the wake of Monday's violence, which spread across London and prompted unrest in other cities.

PM David Cameron pledged to restore order, recalling Parliament on Thursday in response to the "sickening scenes".

The Met Police, which is drafting in support from 30 other forces, says it will consider using plastic bullets.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said use of the ammunition - never before fired to deal with riots in England - would be "considered carefully".

But he added: "That does not mean we are scared of using any tactic."

Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin had earlier ruled out calling in the Army.

However, the force has cancelled all leave and called in Special constables and community support officers to ensure five times the usual number of officers for a Tuesday will be on duty.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard said a 26-year-old man found shot in a car in Croydon, amid rioting in the south London town, had died in hospital.

This is a mindless minority of thugs who think it is acceptable to cause damage, to steal goods and property just because they want to.

"What we have seen on an unprecedented and unparalled level is looting and arson of those buildings, some of which have been burnt to the ground.

"What we should remember is that this was not just shops but people were living above them.

"These people have no regard at all for human life or the danger that they were putting those families in."

A large uniformed police presence was seen in Croydon to reassure the public and CCTV images were being sifted to identify culprits.

Mr Fisher said he hoped the courts would punish them by "locking them up and throwing away the key".

He added that the Metropolitan Police were "horribly stretched" but said they were "absolutely brilliant" in their response to the disorder.

Reinforcements from police were asked for and received but arrived too late to save some properties from being attacked.

Mr Fisher denied suggestions that there was a policy to sacrifice one part of Croydon to protect other more affluent areas.

He said: "There is no doubt that this has damaged the image of Croydon but we have bounced back from the Second World War.

"I'm confident Croydon will be rebuilt and that the community will work very well together."

It took years to build Croydon's businesses but only hours to destroy some of them, Mr Fisher said.

Council chief executive Jon Rouse warned against anyone thinking of joining any further riots.

He said: "You are attacking your community and, secondly, you are likely to get caught because we have got so many CCTV images that will be followed up that will result in you having a criminal record."

Commander Simon Foy said the man was found inside the car last night and taken to a south London hospital, where he died this morning.

Two others in their late 20s have been arrested for handling stolen goods and taken to a south London police station, he added.

Officers from the force's Trident unit are investigating.

Sony warehouse in London Large blaze engulfs

Sony has warned deliveries of CDs and DVDs will be affected after rioters set fire to a key warehouse in Enfield, north London.
The three-storey, 20,000 square metre site is Sony's only such depot for CDs and DVDs in Britain.
"There will likely be some impact on deliveries," said a Sony spokeswoman.
She added that the extent of the fire could not be assessed because it was still burning and it was not possible to enter the building.
:: Intercontinental Hotels Group says its profits have risen by 23% on the back of strong bookings in the US and China,
The chain also said revenue per available room (RevPAR - a key industry measure) grew 6.7% over the first half of the year.
"Whilst we continue to monitor the uncertain economic outlook, we look forward with confidence in the currently favourable hotel trading environment," said new Chief Executive Richard Solomons.
:: Bakery chain Greggs has admitted recent trading conditions have been "more challenging than expected".
Its pretax profit for the first half of the year fell to £17.3m from £18.6m in the same period a year ago.

Eyewitnesses described how they saw a gang of about 20 looters leaving the warehouse with electrical goods before the fire took hold.
A LFB spokesman said: "We were called just before midnight to a warehouse in Solar Way, Enfield.
"Eight fire engines are in attendance and around 40 firefighters have been fighting the fire.
"They are making steady progress and will remain on the scene into the morning.
"There was quite a lot of black smoke and the building has partially collapsed into itself."
Around 200 people staying at a hotel next door to the distribution centre were evacuated as the blaze took hold.
Paul Lewis, a journalist for the Guardian, told the BBC that large plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the 70-metre building which had partially collapsed.
"This is further evidence of the riot spreading in all directions really," he said.
A eyewitness, named as "Tommy", also told the BBC how he saw a number of looters leaving the warehouse with electrical goods before the blaze took hold.
He said he was punched by the culprits as the fled the scene.
Scotland Yard confirmed officers were working with colleagues from LFB at the scene of the fire.

Social Media Leaders Facebook and Twitter are?

The answer is more nuanced than that question makes it sound. It’s hard to say anything for sure about events in another country an ocean away, but it looks like what’s happening in England right now is a combination of sincere frustration and out-and-out hooliganism.

To start with, the tension has been building in North London, where police and the black community have been at odds for decades. The police have been trying to crack down on gun crime, but the trouble goes back as far as the ‘80s, when the Broadwater Farm riots broke out in response to a death in the black community stemming from a police incident.

Three days of rioting is astonishing, especially when the chaos has roots in a peaceful protest. But not all the rioters are expressing indignation. With the widespread looting of businesses a considerable distance from the epicenter of the initial uprising, you know there are opportunists at work. These are people with no connection to or concern about what happened when police shot and killed Mark Duggan; they’re simply hoods looking to cause trouble for fun and maybe steal some shoes while they’re at it.

The latest reports also say that the rioters have been organizing via Twitter and by using their Blackberry devices. These social technologies seem to be the latest way to help stir up trouble, and unfortunately, the kids using this tech seem to have a better grasp of how it works than the adults that are supposed to be policing them. However, social media has also proven to be an effective way to track down rioters and bring them to justice, as seen following this year's hockey riots in Vancouver.

As for the riots themselves, there may be a point to be made about the actions of the police, but when violence like this erupts, the dialogue gets strained. The best-case scenario is that the government puts time and energy into fixing the situation and the relationship between police and the black community in Tottenham and around London, but you can’t help wishing there was a more positive process to that goal.

As for the shooting of Mark Duggan, there’s still a lot of information left to surface. For now, it seems as if the man was carrying an illegal firearm, but didn’t discharge it. In other words, the police were probably wrong to use lethal force, even though they had targeted a dangerous person.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media have inspired protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan and even faraway China.
Social media is unleashing movements for peace, democracy and freedom in a region of the world that essentially seemed like it was content to live without them.
Social media is changing the Middle East – perhaps it will have a similar positive effect on politics in the West – promoting a more vibrant democracy that includes participation of a younger generation – one that does not currently vote enough to sustain a true democracy.

In the end, violence and death are regrettable; we all hope for peace and justice. Whatever the final outcome of the 2011 riots in London, moments like these leave everyone frustrated and saddened. Here’s to a swift restoration of peace on the streets of London.

London riots: breakdown of Monday night's violence

Rioting and looting spread across and beyond London overnight as hooded youths set fire to cars and buildings, smashed shop windows and hurled bottles and stones at police in a third night of violence in Britain's worst unrest in decades.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday to fly home to tackle the violence, which appeared to be led by mobs of young people who coordinated their attacks through mobile phones, and spread to the cities of Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol late last night.

Many of the looters came from areas of high unemployment that are also suffering from cuts in social services and said they felt alienated from society. Police and politicians said they were simply criminals.

"It's been building up for years. All it needed was a spark," said on young man in a baseball cap surrounded by other youths in Hackney in east London. "We ain't got no jobs, no money. . . . We heard that other people were getting things for free, so why not us?"

The violence erupted late on Saturday in London's northern Tottenham district when a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days earlier was followed by outbreaks of looting and arson.

Croydon, south London
A string of cars and buildings were set alight by gangs of youths. A 26-year-old man was injured in a shooting, while Reeves, a family furniture business that has stood in the area for more than 100 years, was gutted following a massive blaze. A woman was filmed jumping from a building which had been set on fire by rioters
Ealing, west London
Locals reported similar scenes of violence with groups of youths congregating in Haven Green park opposite Ealing Broadway Tube, throwing bricks at local shops, starting fires in the street and torching cars.
Fulham, west London
Youngsters threw a bicycle under a bus to block a road while they looted Curry’s, the electrical store. Helicopters circled the area throughout the night.
Hammersmith, west London
Further reports of looting. Shopkeepers in Shepherd’s Bush barricaded their businesses to try to keep out troublemakers.
Clapham, south London
Up to 1000 looters preyed on shops causing widespread disruption. Youths raided a Debenhams store and a number shops in Lavender Hill, while some broke into a fancy dress store near Clapham Junction stealing masks to conceal their identities. Looters were heard shouting “I’ve got jewellery, what have you got?” Scotland Yard said armoured police vehicles were used in Lavender Hill to push back more than 150 people in the area.
Bethnal Green, east London
More than 100 people looted a Tesco premises and two officers were injured. Police said there had also been looting in Stratford High Street, Newham.
Lewisham, south London
The Metropolitan Police said roaming groups of youths were also involved in disorder in a number of locations in the area.
Woolwich, south London
A large gang gathered outside the Stone Lane Retail Park branch of PC World last night, trying to force open the doors. Within minutes of gaining entry, large flat screen TVs and other electronic goods were being carted out.
Camden and Chalk Farm, north London
A number of officers were also called to Camden in north London to deal with troublemakers. Rioters smashed windows of a bicycle shop.
Enfield, north London
Around 40 firefighters tackled a large blaze, reported to have been started by looters, at a Sony warehouse in Solar Way.
Violence flared in Liverpool overnight for up to five hours as hundreds of rioters marauded through the streets to the south of the city centre. Cars and wheelie bins were set alight on a trail of destruction which stretched from the city centre to Toxteth, Dingle and Wavertree. The first reports of disorder came in at 10pm and calm was not restored until about 3am.
West Midlands Police said around 100 arrests were made after rioters rampaged across Birmingham city centre and some surrounding areas. Hundreds of youths gathered in the city's main retail area close to the Bullring shopping mall, which closed its doors early in anticipation of violence, while there were reports that a police station in Handsworth was set on fire.
More than 150 young rioters also caused disruption in the areas of St Paul's and Stokes Croft in Bristol, with police urging members of the public to stay away from the city centre.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hundreds arrested as London riots spread

The violence and arson attacks that have rattled north London since the weekend have now moved across all parts of the capital and are spreading on a smaller scale to other British cities, the first time the recent unrest has flared outside the U.K.'s capital.

The wave of rioting now entering its third day was sparked by the shooting death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in the Tottenham section of North London on Thursday. Angry protesters demonstrated against the fatal shooting in the multi-ethnic neighborhood on Saturday, and the march soon degenerated into chaos.

After spreading across London Monday, violence soon ignited in the British cities of Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.

As buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps are being set ablaze, many sections of London have descended into chaos -- an unsettling sight less than a year before the 2012 Olympics take over the capital.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has cut his summer vacation in Italy short in order to chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee early Tuesday.

London's Ambulance Service said it had treated 16 patients, of whom 15 were hospitalized. Police said 334 people had been arrested and 69 people charged with offenses, and a 26-year-old man is in a serious condition in the hospital after being shot in Croydon Monday.

The violence started on Saturday night in Tottenham in north London following protests over the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old black man, Mark Duggan, by police.

Tottenham is an impoverished area with an ethnically diverse population, a large black community and a history of unrest. Some residents resent police behaviour, including the use of stop and search powers, which they say are primarily targeted at black youths.

In Peckham, flames leapt into the air from a torched building, while rubble was strewn across the street. People walked in and out of shops looting.

Dozens of riot police were deployed on the streets of Hackney after police cars were damaged, buses attacked and shops looted.

In Enfield, firefighters were tackling a blaze at a Sony warehouse on Tuesday.

In Notting Hill in west London, rampagers forced their way into an exclusive restaurant, The Ledbury, before stealing diners' phones, plates off the tables and attempting to take the till.

But in a sign that the unrest had spread beyond the capital, attackers smashed shops and looted property in the central England city of Birmingham.

West Midlands Police confirmed they had made 87 arrests as youths ran amok in Birmingham centre overnight, smashing shop windows and looting merchandise. The force also said that a police station was on fire.

Liverpool police said a small number of vehicles were set on fire and reported some criminal damage. They said officers were responding to a number of isolated outbreaks of disorder," including vehicles set ablaze and buildings attacked in the city's southern neighbourhoods.

Police reported "copy-cat violence" in Bristol in the southwest and urged people to avoid the city centre after 150 rioters went on the rampage in "volatile scenes''.

Al Jazeera correspondent Barnaby Philips, reporting from Tottenham, said there was anguish and dismay about what had happened over the weekend.

People realise that jobs, property and investments have been damaged for years to come, and they are very distraught about it. Thankfully Tottenham is calm as of now."

Crisis meeting

Meanwhile, the prime minister's office said Cameron, who has faced media criticism for being away on holiday during the riots, would cut short his trip and return to London to chair a crisis meeting on the unrest.

"The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen, this is sheer criminality ... these people will be brought to justice, they will be made to face the consequences of their actions," said Theresa May, the interior minister, who also cut short her holiday because of the riots.

"It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence, nothing more, nothing less. It is completely unacceptable," said Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister, during a visit to Tottenham.

Scotland Yard commander Christine Jones said Monday night's events were "simply inexcusable". At least 35 police officers were injured in the unrest at the weekend. An 11-year-old boy was among those arrested.

Tim Godwin, the acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner, earlier urged parents to "start contacting their children" to find out where they were before slamming "spectators getting in the way of the police operations."

Violent skirmishes have taken place between police and rioters. Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela reports from Hackney.

As police struggled to contain the spiralling disorder, they ordered London football clubs to call off matches.

The London police force has been criticised for its handling of recent large protests against the austerity measures, and its chief and the top counter-terrorism officer recently quit over revelations in the News Corp phone-hacking scandal.

While Britain's politicians were quick to blame petty criminals for the violence, neighbourhood residents said anger at high unemployment and cuts in public services, coupled with resentment of the police, had played a significant role.

"Tottenham is a deprived area. Unemployment is very, very high ... they are frustrated," Uzodinma Wigwe, 49, who was made redundant from his job as a cleaner recently, said.

The riots come at a time of deepening gloom in Britain as the pain from economic stagnation is exacerbated by deep public spending cuts and tax rises aimed at eliminating a budget deficit that peaked at more than 10 per cent of GDP.

Very few details of Duggan's death on Thursday have been released. Police said initially an officer was briefly hospitalised after the shooting and media reports said a bullet had been found lodged in the officer's radio.

Although a gun was recovered from the scene, The Guardian newspaper reported that the bullet in the radio was police-issue, throwing doubt on speculation that Duggan had fired at an officer.

Britain's police watchdog is investigating the incident and has not commented on the report.

Tiger Woods lose $10m sponsor Tag Heuer gives him the elbow

Luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer has ended its sponsorship deal with Tiger Woods after the golfer’s contract ran out last month.

“Golf World” executive editor Ron Sirak tweeted the confirmation Friday evening- “Tiger’s agent confirms Woods’ Tag Heuer relationship has expired.”

Tag Heuer, the Swiss company owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Loius Vuitton SA (MC) signed Woods in 2002. The watch-making house began limiting their use of Woods’ image in advertisements after the November 2009 car accident which resulted in the golfer's admission of marital infidelity.

The 16-time World Golf Championship winner has not won a tournament since the Australian Masters in 2009, one week before the accident. Woods has lost corporate sponsorship agreements with Gillette, Gatorade, Accenture, AT&T, and Golf Digest within the past 19 months.

Forbes magazine recently speculated that Woods’ fortune could be running out, but commercial contracts remain between the golfer and Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), Nike Inc. (NKE), Upper Deck, Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets Inc., and TLC Vision Corp.

Woods announced July 20 that he was firing his caddy of 12 years, Steve Williams. A week later via Twitter, Woods stated that long-time friend Bryon Bell would caddy for him during the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods was listed 28th in the Official World Golf Ranking upon entering the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. During the invitational, he finished 37th, 18 shots behind the winner Adam Scott, who now uses Woods’ former caddy Williams.

The contract is believed to be worth more than $10m and the Swiss firm are the sixth major sponsors to drop Woods following revelations about his personal life two years ago.
The Swiss watchmaker suspended use of Woods’ image in the US after details of his extramarital affairs came to light following a 2009 crash outside his Orlando, Florida home.
Woods was accused of cheating on his wife Elin Nordegren with as many as 14 women, including high class escorts and Las Vegas cocktail servers.
He was also linked to several porn stars who claimed they had affairs lasting several years with the golfer who has always prided himself on his clean cut, family image.

Slippery slope: Woods, pictured today, has already lost Gillette, Gatorade, Accenture, AT&T and Golf
After seeing help at a rehabilitation centre following a public apology to his family and friends sponsors, including Gillette, Gatorade, Accenture, AT&T and Golf Digest deserted the world's most famous sportsman.
The series of allegations was reported to have cost Woods more than $25m in sponsorship deals.
Other major sponsors, including Nike and EA Sports, stood by the sportsman who ended up paying his wife almost $100m in a divorce settlement.

Golf websites also reported that Woods has had his sponsorship pay cut by Nike for failing to win any major tournament in the last two years.
Woods is still estimated to be worth about $500 million but since his private life was laid bare he has not won a single tournament and has struggled to find his best form.
He made his comeback this week from a three-month injury lay-off due to knee and Achilles knocks at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
But it did not go well, with Woods finishing way off the pace in tied 37th.

Jay-Z & Kanye West, The iTunes 'tax' on 'Watch the Throne'

When two of the biggest names in hip-hop – Jay-Z and Kanye West -- collaborate on an album, is there any way it can live up to the hype? Likely not, and that’s the burden “Watch the Throne” (Roc-A-Fella Records/Roc Nation/Def Jam Recordings) faces.

The two have done great work in the past. As a fledgling producer, West delivered soul-fired beats that underscored Jay-Z’s 2001 release, “The Blueprint,” a hip-hop classic. Now the two operate more or less as equals, with West having a hand in most of the production and Jay-Z taking a slightly larger share of the vocals on “Watch the Throne.” In many ways it’s an album about mutual admiration.

Both artists have developed distinct, not necessarily complementary personas. Jay-Z is about imperious flow, bridging his gritty past life on the streets with his current status as a cultural tastemaker and business mogul. He operates at arm’s length from the listener, a self-styled godfather who never seems to break a sweat as he rhymes rings around his inferior would-be competition. He no longer needs to surprise us, he simply needs to file annual updates reminding us that, after all, he’s Jay-Z and you’re not.

West is more desperate, transparent, awkward, vulnerable; he’s not nearly the MC that Jay-Z is, but still he aims for the stars, often shooting well beyond traditional hip-hop subject matter and production in his desire to make an impression. He is the one more likely to surprise and enrage these days, which makes him one of the most compelling figures in contemporary pop.

But on “Watch the Throne,” West must also defer, and this makes for a sometimes difficult partnership. The production is often stellar, favoring West’s soul-dusties sensibility, with snippets of James Brown, Otis Redding and Nina Simone. But it rarely takes the kind of chances West routinely takes on his solo albums. Instead, the idea is to create an album that lives up to its royal billing, a gilded collection of potential hits with lots of hooks and plenty of branding opportunities.

Come Friday, however, the standard edition of the album will be available to all retailers -- physical and digital -- but the deluxe CD edition will be given solely to Best Buy for an additional 10 days. Fans who can sit tight for a few days will have cheaper options, as Best Buy is currently listing the standard CD for $9.99 and the expanded edition, which has the same extra tracks as the iTunes version, at $12.99.

Album review: Jay-Z and Kanye West's 'Watch the Throne'

The iTunes home page immediately directs potential buyers to the expanded $14.99 configuration of the album without making it clear that a slightly cheaper version exists. Retail exclusives have long been a source of contention in the music business, and the arguments against remain the same -- they limit consumer choice by playing favorites and drive prices higher.

Back in 2008, when Best Buy exclusively sold Gun N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy," Michael Kurtz, the driving force behind the indie-retail marketing celebration that is Record Store Day, warned that exclusives would be bad for the consumer. "By eliminating competition, the prices of the CDs are going up," Kurtz said. "The biggest United States retailers are partnering with the biggest labels, driving the price up by not allowing competition."

Pricing for the iTunes exclusives is in the opposite direction of industry trends. Granted, iTunes has never engaged in the extreme discounting of its competitor Amazon, but the latter has been continually challenging the perception of what an album is worth, recently discounting Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" to 99 cents.

Complicating matters have been artists' views on the issue. When asked whether she thought her album was worth more than 99 cents, Lady Gaga told the Wall Street Journal that she had Amazon's back. "It’s invisible," she said. "It’s in space. If anything, I applaud a company like Amazon for equating the value of digital versus the physical copy, and giving the opportunity to everyone to buy music."

As of today, Amazon does not have "Watch the Throne" listed in its MP3 store, perhaps not wanting to tip its hand as to how it will price the album. Amazon, remember, will not have access to the expanded edition until Aug. 23. But it's likely safe to bet that the standard version of "Throne" will go for considerably less than the iTunes price of $11.99. For instance, when West released his "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" in late 2010, Amazon quickly made available a coupon that allowed fans to purchase the $4.99 album for 99 cents.

Despite the maze of configurations and retail exclusives -- imagine a world where the film industry released separate editions of major movies to multiple theater chains -- "Watch the Throne" is still expected to have a solid opening. According to figures released in industry trade Billboard, "Watch the Throne" is on track to sell somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 copies, which would give it the second largest opening of the year.

Stocks Suffer Sharpest Drop Since 2008

The stock market buckled Monday under the weight of a crisis in Europe and danger of recession at home. Reeling from a downgrade of American debt, the Dow Jones industrials plunged 634 points.

It was the worst day for the market since the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 and extended Wall Street's sudden, sharp decline. Stocks have lost 15 percent of their value in just two and a half weeks.

Monday was the first trading day since Standard and Poor's downgraded the United States' risk-free credit rating, and the selling started at the opening bell. The Dow dropped 250 points in minutes. For the rest of the day, investors looked for safer places for their money. With few buyers left for stocks, the market could only drift lower.

The Dow finished the day down 5.5 percent. The point decline was the worst since Dec. 1, 2008, and the sixth-steepest ever. The average ended at 10,809.85, its first close under 11,000 since November.

In a bit of irony following the S&P downgrade, investors decided U.S. debt was one of the safest places to be. They also sought refuge in gold, which set a record price.

"The S&P downgrade of U.S. government debt is the least of our problems," said economist Scott Brown at Raymond James & Associates. "The bigger worry is subpar economic growth and the threat of a new recession."

So anxious are many investors that they poured money into Treasury securities, the debt the government sells to finance its operations. Even though the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded United States debt a notch from the sterling AAA rating on Friday, judging them a slightly higher risk than before, many still deem Treasuries to be safer than just about any other investment.

Typically, a downgrade would cause investors to sell, but financial turmoil in Europe and policy gridlock in Washington overrode concerns about the downgrade. “This is investors running from risk wherever they see it,” said David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds. “The biggest risk we face here is recession.”

The stock sell-off picked up speed even though President Obama sought to calm markets, telling reporters that “our problems are eminently solvable and we know what we need to do to solve them.” However, there is sharp disagreement how to solve them, as demonstrated by the fiercely partisan battle over raising the federal government’s borrowing limit, which was resolved only through a last-minute compromise.

In the wake of the financial collapse more than two years ago, the government took various steps to invigorate the economy, pouring money into the financial system and adopting stimulus spending. Some economists say they think more stimulus spending is needed now to keep the economy from slowing further, but this seems unlikely given that many Republicans say the country can ill afford to add to the gaping budget deficit with more spending.

It was not just the stock market that was rattled. A few obscure but important parts of the credit market also showed signs of some stress. For example, the market for commercial paper, short-term loans that companies use to finance themselves, became less favorable. This was not nearly as bad as during the financial crisis but people will be keeping an eye on this to see if conditions deteriorate.

“The cause of all this was the marking down of growth expectations,” said Barry Knapp, strategist at Barclays Capital. “It has morphed into one giant global growth recession concern.”

The trading day opened ominously in the United States, after sharp drops of stocks in Asia and in Europe. The European Central Bank sought to calm investors by intervening aggressively in bond markets with special measures to help support financially troubled Spain and Italy, to little avail.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Doreen Mogavero, a trader for Mogavero, Lee & Company, noted that other traders had canceled vacations in anticipation of a wild day. Extra staff was on duty to make sure the computer systems were working properly as volumes surged.

The exchange processed a record 390 million orders in the first hour of trading, eclipsing the last record in May 2010. All told, 18 billion shares trades on the nation’s stock market, the most active day in a year.

Many investors — burned by the relentless decline of stocks in the months after the 2008 financial collapse — seem inclined to sell rather than wait. “It is the psychological impact that I am concerned about in terms of confidence on the market,” said Ms. Mogavero.

The force of the stock market sell-off that has accelerated over the last two weeks — the broader S.& P. 500-stock index has lost 16.8 percent since July 22 — is creating the growing sense that the economy may be nearing a double-dip recession as everyone from consumers to businesses retrench.

The biggest declines were in bank stocks. Bank of America fell 20 percent. Citigroup fell 16 percent. Morgan Stanley dropped 14 percent. JPMorgan fell 9 percent. And Goldman Sachs fell 6 percent.

The French stock market as well as the German market are officially in bear market territory. The German index, the Dax, which dropped 5 percent Monday, has lost 21 percent of its value since the recent peak on May 2. That reflects investor fears that the European Central Bank’s extraordinary bond buying could entangle even Germany in the euro zone’s debt problems.

In the United States, the selling came from both panicked individuals and institutions.

Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Investments of Pennsylvania, which serves private and institutional investors, said he was fielding calls from clients who “are anxious about is this a replay of 2008-2009 and do I have to go through that again?” he said. “But we say the fundamentals are very different. Corporate America has fortresslike balance sheets.”

All 500 stocks in the S.& P. 500 index were lower by the end of the day. The index closed down 79.92 points, or 6.66 percent, at 1,119.46.

The Dow Jones closed below 11,000 for the first time this year, falling 634.76 points, or 5.55 percent, to 10,809.85.

As investors fled the stock market, and commodities like oil dropped on fears of a slowdown, they sought the safety of gold, which rose past $1,710 an ounce.

But perhaps the most surprising beneficiary was United States Treasuries, where, despite the downgrade of government debt, 10-year yields fell to 2.32 percent, from 2.56 percent, and the yield on the two-year Treasury note was at a record low.

President Obama said the markets continued to believe the United States credit rating was AAA.

Warren E. Buffett, perhaps the nation’s most famous private investor, also said he thought the downgrade was unwarranted.

“If there were a quadruple A, I would give it to the U.S.,” he said in an interview. “We will always pay the bonds — the only way we won’t pay is if the printing press strips a gear.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Former New York Gov. Carey dies at 92

Hugh L. Carey, former Governor of New York, is dead at 92.
Carey's family announced his passing through current Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Newsday reports.
He died Sunday at his summer home on Shelter Island, NY, according to the New York Times.
From the Times Union:
Today, New York State mourns the loss of one of our finest leaders, Governor Hugh L. Carey.
Governor Carey led our state during a time of great financial turmoil and pulled us back from the brink of bankruptcy and economic ruin.
Governor Carey was a true American success story. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. He served with valor in Germany during World War II and when he returned home to Brooklyn, he married and started a family. He became a civic and business leader and was elected to Congress, where no one fought harder for New York.

Carey won the first of his two terms in 1974, after serving seven terms in Congress. By the following spring, the largest U.S. city was facing default, and then-President Gerald Ford refused to intervene.

Carey and other state leaders, public and private, stepped in to set up a state financing company that kept the city afloat, a process that involved layoffs, tax increases and fee hikes.
"He was tough, he was smart, and he was the person our state needed to see us through crisis," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo also cited Carey's fight on behalf of the mentally ill and his ability to solve legislative fights through "charisma, wit, and intellect."
"His administration was one that will be remembered for its remarkable achievements and superlative competence in the operation of government, as well as the governor's energy, enthusiasm and love of New York and for all New Yorkers," Cuomo said.
The Brooklyn native is survived by his five daughters, six sons, 25 grandchildren and six great grand-children.