Category Archives: Business

A Toxic Shroud: "China is choking on its own success” and endangering neighbors and American cities

 

Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley of the New York Times, on August 26th, produced an excellent story on China’s industrial success/toxic pollution nexus. The situation is dire, and China’s difficulties overcoming the Victorian England-like pollution troubles in order to host an Olympics palpable to the rest of the world are well known, and have been covered recently in similar excellent coverage in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a brief section of the NYT report:

…it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

China is choking on its own success

And this is not merely a problem for the Chinese. Acid rain containing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from Chinese coal-fired power plants falls on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo. The Journal of Geophysical Research reports that much of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China.

The World Health Organization and World Bank independently found that total deaths in China due to pollution have reached 750,000 a year. Chinese experts interviewed claimed that the Western estimates “probably understate the problems.” The World Bank told the NYT that China’s environmental agency asked them to remove this number from the Spring 2007 final report, claiming the numbers could detrimentally impact “social stability.”

The question, of course, is who has the credibility and sway to either guide China toward responsible environmental policies, or model a path forward by example.

Lime

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The HD Molehill/Spitwad battle; and, Paramount and DreamWorks choose HD-DVD

HD DVD Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG–including, inter alia, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies, and MTV Films–announced today (Monday Aug 20th 07) that they will release their next-gen DVD titles exclusively on HD-DVD, dropping the Blu-Ray format. Want to watch Transformers, Shrek the Third, and Blades of Glory? Gotta do it in HD-DVD, if you’re looking for that 1080p picture on your flatscreen. (And as we all know, the new Battlestar Galactica is HD-DVD only.)

Paramount described HD-DVD as superior due to “market-ready technology” and the “affordable high quality choice for consumers.” Paramount found that HD-DVD offered better quality, lower-priced players, and lower manufacturing Continue reading

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Confirmed: Xbox 360 Price Drop / Rumor: HDMI to all SKUs?

Xbox’s Major Nelson confirmed Monday that there will be price drops come August 8th–the 360 “Premium,” as we’ve known it (20 gig) will drop $50 to $349. The Core (without hard drive) will drop $20 to $279, and the Elite will drop $30 to $449.

Official MS Press Release HERE.

Also, ArsTechnica reports that a “source” at E3 told their reporter that, across the SKUs, “HDMI will probably be the standard moving forward.” Microsoft officially states that HDMI will appear only on the Halo 3 special edition ($399), and the Elite “for now.” However, the same Microsoft official also declined to comment on what new electronics would appear in any of the consoles coming this fall, leading one to speculate…

Lime out

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UPDATE: $50 Xbox 360 price cut details emerging

Yesterday (the 24th of July), AO updated the 1 August $100 price cut rumor with news from XboxScene, which vaguely commented that the 360 would see a price cut of $50. No further details had emerged from that original rumor about a 1 August price drop, and the news from XboxScene seemed not worthy of more than a quick update.

Close on the heels of the XboxScene report, however, The Hollywood Reporter comes with more details that mirror the XboxScene report. With the corroborating reporting, it now seems the appropriate time to revisit the rumor mill.

David Ward over at Hollywood Reporter reports that “sources” have said that 8 August 07 is indeed the date of a 360 price drop, and that the price cut will be $50. Microsoft would respond only indirectly, saying: “”We have no announcements to make on pricing at this time. While price matters, content is king. And no other system is offering all the games people want to play this holiday at a better price than Xbox 360.”

The reporting doesn’t specify whether the $50 cut will be across the board, only apply to a few SKUs, or if, in fact, some SKUs will see a larger price drop.

As you know, the report we had on 13 July, which I discussed HERE, predicted an across-the-board price cut of $100 across the board.

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Exactly who is buying the Wii???

2 stories were released today that seem to be a contradiction in terms. Both stories involve NPD – a market research firm. Taken together, they could indicate that Nintendo’s recent dominance will eventually evaporate.

The first is from TG Daily. They are reporting that NPD’s latest data indicates that Nintendo’s Wii outsold both Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3 combined. If your too lazy to jump, all you need to know is according to NPD’s latest data, the Wii was the top selling next-gen home console system for the month of June, with 380,000 units sold last month. The Xbox 360 took its usual #2 spot with 198,000 units and the PS3 lagged behind once again with only 98,000. (AO would report this ourselves, but we seem to be a little short on research capital. Or even a coffee machine.)

In contrast – NPD itself is reporting that “heavy gamers” have eight times the purchasing power of “average gamers.” According to their report, of the 191 million gamers who personally play games Continue reading

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An open letter to Bethesda Softworks

From: Aidyn

To: Bethesda Softworks

Re: Fallout 3 – please don’t fuck this up.

fallout 3 pic

First of all, I do want to thank you for all the work that you did in the first place in keeping my love alive.

After the demise of Interplay due to bankruptcy, you bought the IP rights to make a single player game. And I am grateful. While I’m not going to recreate the entire history of the development process, lets just say that I’m grateful that you took on the reins. Continue reading

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Boba Fett May Find Work With the IRS: Bounties Double Under 26 U.S.C. § 7623

Lime, you had better make sure that you completed your W-2 correctly, or you could be on the receiving end of a qui tam action filed by yojoe.

Boba Fett Poster CardThe Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, (26 U.S.C. § 7623), provides additional incentives for those who come forward with information about individuals or other tax entities who have underpaid their taxes. The IRS has had an informant-reward program since 1954, but the provision was not used extensively by qui tam lawyers (a.k.a. bounty hunters) because the government was free to deny a reward, or bounty. Under the new law, a whistleblower can file an appeal with the U.S. Tax Court to enforce her right to a reward. This reward may be up to 30% of the amount recovered by the IRS.

It is unlikely, however, that H-Lime has much to fear as the jurisdictional minimum for the new law is $2 million, including taxes, interest, and penalties. Even with his lucrative second income as a professor, it is unlikely that the Lime makes that kind of money.

yojoe

P.S. As Mr. Lime is a very honest and trustworthy fellow, it is unthinkable that he would cheat on his taxes.

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Intemperate Punditry: why (some pundits can’t see that) the Xbox 360 can’t help but lead in next-gen gaming

Politics is rife with it: witness, on opposite sides of the spectrum, Glenn Greenwald and Rush Limbaugh–blind opinion-marshalls of opposite corners of the political ring. According to Rush, the better known of the polemicists, everything “Liberal” is ripe for scorn. Rush has been around long enough that most listeners know that he’s pure entertainment–it’s easy nowadays to laugh at him. According to Glenn the Arrogant, to cite an example from the left and from a lesser-known of the bombast-class, the practice of “extraordinary rendition” has been used in an “unprecedented way” by the Bush administration because, well, Greenwald simply hates the Bush administration and therefore, Greenwald is justified in making up (false) facts. (Set aside, suspend disbelief, if you well, regarding whether you personally like the Bush administration–Greenwald’s the issue here.) Greenwald, of course, is so relatively new that many take him seriously–give him time, that too will pass.

And now the segue: Gaming has it too, the punditry, the bombast, it’s the same “game” in gaming. Here, the story is the Xbox 360 and the convergence of “tales of woe” this past week. Xbox Division leader Peter Moore departed MS and headed over to be EA’s President. This Continue reading

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Nintendo is so crazy, it just might work (again)

I have to admit, I got this one wrong. Really wrong. I had no clue that Nintendo would even survive, much less thrive in the competitive market that is somewhat known as the “next-gen” console wars.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t care), Nintendo was considered a distant third to the Microsoft Xbox (2nd) and the Sony PlayStation 2. Admitedly, the top 2 were debatable. Xbox had the better technology as it entered the market much later, but the PS2′s library and possession of more exclusive titles (which continue to excel even today, a la God of War II) I think edged it out. While this makes for a good debate, it was clear that the Nintendo Gamecube was clearly third – despite the quality exclusive titles that it possessed. I seem to recall that the Gamecube was also priced lower than the other consoles as well.

So when Nintendo announced their “next-gen” console would be cheaper than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, I thought they were like done like disco. Instead, they are now the reigning champs – in market share. While both the 360 and PS3 are almost equal in current graphics output (the subject of a previous post), more people are buying Nintendo Wii’s.

Here’s my anecdotal proof. Go into any gaming store and ask for a 360, PS3, and a Wii. Odds are, the Wii is Continue reading

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In Memoriam: Hadley v. Baxendale

Lawyers of the world, rejoice! Cultural heritage is yours/ours too–and if we can contribute to the general good/commonweal, we’re not all bottom feeders. (Just most of us, eh?)

Time has come for commemoration of that seminal Contracts-law case. Gloucester (pronounced “gloss’-ter”) England authorities are going to place two plaques on the (below) City Flour Mills building at 6 p.m., Greenwich Mean Time, next Saturday, July 21st, 2007. The below view of Hadley’s Mills building is taken from the Docks, looking toward Gloucester Cathedral (visible behind the Mills).

So what’s this all about? For you non-lawyers (a sorry lot to be sure), Hadley v. Baxendale is a case about a broken mill shaft (yes, that’s the

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Xbox 360 Chatpad, Pink/Blue Controllers, Halo SKU Release Dates

Xbox 360 Messenger KitXbox 360™ Halo 3 Special Edition Console

The 360 Chatpad is due out in the U.S. Thursday, September 6th, at the announced $29.99 price. It clips onto the bottom of your 360 controller and allows you to IM and send e-mails without using the on-screen keyboard. I was aware that the package included a wired headset (the original 360 wired headset won’t work with the keyboard), but apparently the keys are also backlit–a nice touch.

The wireless pink and light/dark blue 360 controllers will go on sale in October for $49.99.

And of coruse, the Halo 3 Special Edition SKU–olive green, HDMI, and a 20 gig–is due out in September.

If you aren’t aware, you already can bring-up the translucent mini-window for IM if you’ve got a USB keyboard by hitting Windows + M. This allows you to chat while watching movies, gaming, etc. More commands HERE.

Lime out

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$100 price cut on all Xbox 360 SKUs, 1 August? (RUMOR) [UPDATED 24 Jul 07]

I post this with a note of caution, I know nothing about the source. Nonetheless, Zero Iscariot over at Destructoid reports news today from

a very good source within a major Canadian retailer that guarantees that despite the lack of a cut at E3 this week, the Xbox 360 will drop $100 across all SKU’s. When? Sooner than you think. AUGUST 1ST.

Prices, the source says, will then be as follows:

-Xbox 360 core, $199 American (with pack-in memory unit!)

-Xbox 360 Premium, $299 American

-Xbox 360 Elite, $449 Canadian, possibly $399 American

This would be, as you’ll recall from my prediction, the “killer” move from Microsoft. Not only would the entry level Core undercut the $249 Wii price, but the Elite, if $399 or Continue reading

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MS/PS3 News Roundup PLUS a Prediction: a Xbox 360 Price Drop at Tuesday’s E3 (or soon, soon, soon!)

After the RROD/3 year warranty enhancement news, “other” news has just poured out of Redmond, or at least about the Redmond giant Microsoft.

First off, though, the PS3 news: for those of you in caves, be aware that on July 9th, Sony confirmed rumors of an upcoming new price structure for the glossy box. Effective immediately, Sony announced the PS3 60 gig model would be sold for $100 less than the current price, bringing to $499. Sony also announced an 80 gig version, to be released in August, that would be sold for $599. Apart from the hard drive size, the units apparently are otherwise indistinguishable.

Beautiful quote from an unnamed MS rep in response to the Sony price cut:

We’ll see if it makes a difference. It’s interesting to note that they’ve significantly dropped their price in the first eight months while Xbox 360 has continued to sell well at our launch price for more than a year and a half. We’re right where we want to be right now — it’s all about choice and bringing the best games and entertainment to homes around the world.

Second, Darren Huston, President of MS’ Japan unit, stated that despite the PS3′s recent Continue reading

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Microsoft’s Savvy or Setback? The $1 billion writeoff, 3-year “Red Ring of Death” Warranty Enhancement

[UPDATED 8 Jul 07: Transcript of MS' conference call on 5 Jul 06 with Robbie Bach is HERE.  "Open Letter" from MS' Peter Moore to the Xbox 360 community explaning the new warranty terms HERE.]

By now the news has coursed across the globe, Microsoft Corp. announced on Thursday, 5 July 07, that it would take a $1.05-$1,15 billion earnings charge, reported in fiscal year 2007, to repair and replace consumers’ consoles suffering “red ring of death” (“RROD”) problems with the Xbox 360 console, retroactive to the console’s release in December 2005. The console’s now one-year warranty, with respect to RROD problems, is now extended to three years from date of purchase (again, retroactive to Dec 05). MS games chief Peter Moore released a letter on Thursday to Microsoft employees, available HERE, explaining the move.

For those of you not “in the know,” the RROD is a defect affecting some Xbox 360 units that renders some systems non-functional, and requires return to Microsoft for repair or replacement. Microsoft has now announced it will reimburse customers who have already paid for repairs related to the RROD problem, as well. Microsoft cited “an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles” as impetus for the latest move.

There’s been much debate as to the meaning of this over at Dean Takahashi‘s and Mike Antonucci‘s blogs. Good question: just what does it mean?

As you know, I suspect the putative “30% failure rate” is overblown, though that same “anecdotal evidence” leads me to suspect also that the actual failure rate is still likely higher than the 5% Continue reading

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June 07 Comparison: XBox 360 Graphics vs. PS3 Graphics

Gamespot editors have just published a second iteration of their comparison of XBox 360 and PS3 graphics, wherein they post photos from identical games from each of the two systems. In December 2006, one year post-360 release and just after the November 06 PS3 release, Gamespot conducted a similar comparison. The December 06 comparison concluded:

  1. “The Xbox 360 had better graphics in almost all the games we examined.”
  2. “[T]he Xbox 360 games generally offered better framerates.”

The result of Gamespot’s June 07 comparison? While the PS3′s game graphics have improved, the 360 still offers the better graphics of the two systems. In detail, after the jump.

Continue reading

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