Clashes as Egypt marks Mubarak fall

Egyptian protesters clash with police outside the presidential palace in Cairo at a rally marking two years since Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

Report: Next Xbox to require Kinect connection, game installs

As Sony and Microsoft both start showing signs that their next generation of consoles will be revealed soon, we’re getting in to the heavy-duty rumor-mongering season. The latest credible rumor comes from a well-informed-sounding source going by the handle SuperDaE (by way of Kotaku). You may remember him as the one who tried to sell an apparently genuine, codenamed “Durango” development kit on eBay before being shut down by Microsoft. He has new information he claims is from white papers intended to prepare developers to work on the new system.

According to Kotaku’s report, the next Xbox will integrate a new version of the Kinect not as an optional motion-control accessory but as a required peripheral included with every system that “must be plugged in and calibrated for the console to even function.” That would seem to raise some obvious privacy concerns, and it strikes us as an unnecessary power and processing drain for games that don’t use the depth-sensing camera. On the other hand, packaging a new Kinect with every system would let designers create motion and voice controls for their games without worrying about fragmenting the market (though it still seems odd it would have to be plugged in at all times).

The new Kinect will reportedly improve its tech specs over the current model, as has been widely reported and assumed—just not as much as you might think. The 3D camera’s depth will only have a depth-sensing resolution of 512×424 according to the new report. That’s a rather modest improvement over the 320×240 resolution in the original Kinect and well below the “hundredths of a millimeter” tracking promised by devices like the Leap Motion. Still, SuperDaE claims the new Kinect will be able to detect thumbs and open/closed hands, and it will sport a wider viewing angle for easier calibration. The new Kinect will also have an improved 1920×1080 2D camera and the ability to track up to six players at once, according to the report, with slightly more points of skeletal articulation on each player.

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Obama expected to call for U.S.-EU trade talks in speech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is expected to call for comprehensive trade and investment talks with the 27 nations of the European Union in his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, following more than a year of exploratory discussions.

‘Harshest’ Unemployment Cuts In The Country

Later this week, North Carolina is expected to drastically reduce unemployment benefits for its residents, who face the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country. The state joins seven others that have trimmed back benefits for the jobless since the recession.

Beginning in July, North Carolina would slash the maximum number of weeks a jobless worker can collect unemployment insurance from 26 to as few as 12. The new law would also reduce the maximum weekly benefit from $530 to $350 per person.

North Carolina’s cuts are the deepest to unemployment benefits in the country and mean the state will also lose out on federal unemployment benefits, according to a new report on the proposal from the National Employment Law Project. Federal benefits are linked to the number of weeks and amount of money a person receives from his or her state. Approximately 80,000 North Carolina workers would be affected, the report found.

“It was bad enough when legislators in high-unemployment states like Michigan and Florida made drastic cuts to their unemployment insurance programs, while so many remained out of work,” Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, said in a statement released with the report. “But the situation in North Carolina — cutting state benefits and rejecting federal aid — is beyond the pale.”

The changes in North Carolina highlight one of the most painful consequences of the economic downturn: long-term unemployment. The average length of joblessness is 35 weeks, and even as the national unemployment rate hovers at nearly 8 percent, the safety net for out-of-work Americans continues to shrink.

Until the recession, all 50 states offered workers up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, the standard benefit period since the program was created in the 1950s. Florida and Georgia are among the seven states that have reduced the length of their unemployment programs to as few as 14 weeks. Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina have eliminated six full weeks of benefits. Arkansas and Illinois have cut one week of benefits.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory and GOP lawmakers pushed for the cuts in North Carolina, arguing that unemployment taxes have crippled the state’s finances. North Carolina businesses pay higher federal taxes because the state has been slow to repay $2.5 billion it borrowed from Washington to pay jobless benefits in recent years, The Huffington Post previously reported.

But worker advocates worry the deep cuts add to economic woes for those who remain without jobs. “Unemployed job-seekers are facing a one-two punch,” Owens said, “with state cuts triggering federal cuts too — a real double-whammy hitting families whose needs remain great.”

Gun Industry Likely Focused On Silver Lining In SOTU

President Barack Obama is expected to use Tuesday’s State of the Union address to make a big push for gun control legislation, but gun makers are far from worried, one prominent industry observer said on Monday.

If firearms manufacturers fear anything, it’s the possibility that demand for weapons will plummet “if and when” the proposed legislation dies in the spring, said Richard Feldman, head of the Independent Firearm Owners Association.

“I think the gun industry is so focused on producing product, they’re really not paying a tremendous amount of attention to what the president is going to say on this issue,” Feldman said. “They know perfectly well he has very little authority in this country. He’s the president, not the dictator. I don’t see very much legislation making it out of the U.S. Senate, let alone the House.”

Feldman was once the chief of the American Shooting Sports Council, a precursor to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an industry-wide trade group that happens to be based in Newtown, Conn. In 1994, as President Bill Clinton was preparing to sign a ban on assault weapons that would stand until 2004, Feldman encouraged manufacturers to ramp up production of certain gun parts likely to fall under the ban.

“What I said was that they ought to put their company on three shifts, work weekends and manufacture as many of the receivers as they could,” he recalled.

The threat of a ban was good for business then, and the same holds true today, said Feldman. “If the rest of the economy were doing a quarter as well as the firearms industry, we wouldn’t be worried about our debt,” he said.

In the weeks since the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting, gun retailers have reported booming sales and depleted shelves. Last month, record numbers of people showed up at an annual Las Vegas trade show sponsored by the NSSF.

Another former industry insider suggested that gun makers could be doing a better job of representing themselves to the public.

“What is the public hearing from gun companies? Is their perspective as employers, as contributors to the economy — are those voices being heard loud enough in the high volume of all of the issues?” said Bill Wohl, a communications executive who handled media relations at Remington Arms between 1992 and 1996.

In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting,” target=”_hplink”>the NSSF declined to comment to the media
. That has changed in recent weeks, but a spokesman did not return a request for comment on Monday.

Larry Keane, the senior vice president and general counsel of the NSSF, did offer some advice to Obama in a statement published on the group’s website. But it didn’t have anything to do with the State of the Union speech.

“We here at NSSF were somewhat bemused over the controversy that sprang from President Obama’s assertion that he shot skeet on a regular basis, and the second wave of commentary that attended the White House release of a photo to prove it,” Keane wrote.

“Mr. President, try leaning a little further forward into the shot to better manage recoil. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, and put more weight on your leading foot.”

Bank of Canada says debt levels moderating, but still big risk to financial system

OTTAWA — Canadians have taken on debt at a slower pace recently, but record-high personal debt remains a risk to the financial system and if the problem persists the central bank could hike interest rates, a senior Bank of Canada official said on Monday.

The central bank has described the heated housing market and indebted consumers as the biggest domestic threat to the Canadian economy, although there have been signs of cooling. Last month Moody’s Investors Services cut the ratings of six Canadian banks due to these concerns.

Financial system risks associated with household imbalances remain elevated

“The growth of household credit has shown signs of moderating in recent months,” Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Timothy Lane said in the prepared text of a speech he was delivering at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The momentum in house price growth, sales of existing homes, and new construction has also moderated. Nonetheless, financial system risks associated with household imbalances remain elevated.”

Lane warned household spending could still regain momentum or, conversely, there could be a sudden weakening.

The government has intervened four times in the mortgage market to discourage excessive borrowing and the banking regulator has also pressed banks to adopt stricter mortgage lending practices.

“If such targeted prudential measures turned out to be insufficient, monetary policy could also be used, within a flexible inflation-targeting framework, as a complementary instrument to address financial imbalances. So far, though, that has not been necessary in Canada,” Lane said.

© Thomson Reuters 2012

Twitter Study Shows Its Mobile-First Users Are Younger, More Engaged And Easier To Market To

Mobile Blog Post #2

Twitter released the details of a new study about its “primary mobile users,” or those who engage with Twitter more on mobile devices and on the mobile web than on the desktop. The study, commissioned by Twitter from Kantar Media’s Compete, revealed that Twitter’s mobile-first users are more engaged than mobile users in more ways than one, skew younger, and tend to be more receptive to branded content than their desktop counterparts.

Primary mobile users are 57 percent less likely to log into Twitter on the desktop than the average Twitter user, but they check the service much more frequently than most; they’re around 86 percent more likely to be active on Twitter several times a day than the average user. They’re mostly coming in by way of smartphone apps, but a considerable 15 percent of those who are primarily mobile users access by tablet first and foremost.

Users who are mobile-first end up being younger than the average Twitter user, too, the study found. Users in the 18-34 range are 52 percent more likely to log in primarily via a mobile device than other age groups. They’re also more likely to check in with the service as a means of book-ending their day, being 157 percent more likely than average to open Twitter when waking up, and 129 percent more likely to do so when going to sleep for the night. They’re also 160 percent more likely to use Twitter at school or at work, 169 percent more likely to use the service while shopping, and three times as likely to use it when commuting or before or after seeing a movie.

Twitter members who do mobile more than other methods are also 57 percent more likely to create original tweets, 63 percent more likely to click links, 78 percent more likely to retweet and 85 percent more likely to favorite tweets. In general, they’re more willing to engage with the content of others and of brands, since users who are mostly mobile are 96 percent more likely to follow 11 or more brands, and 58 percent more likely ro recall seeing a Twitter ad, according to the data from Compete.

Here’s the uptake: Twitter is clearly looking at increasing its mobile advertising juice, and these numbers provide it with some great ammunition to help with that goal. They basically indicate that in sum, users who prefer to access Twitter mostly on mobile are the perfect demographic for targeted campaigns, since they’re more motivated than most to see and take note of content, to create their own content (user-generated content is a key component of Twitter’s value proposition for advertisers, after all), and just generally prone to having their eyes on tweets whenever they may be posted.

Sierra Club Pens Letter To President Obama

In anticipation of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the Sierra Club penned the following letter to President Obama, signed by 30 celebrity activists and environmental leaders:

Dear President Barack Obama,

Your legacy as 44th president of the United States rests firmly on your leadership on climate disruption. Only the president has the power to lead an effort on the scale and with the urgency we need to phase out fossil fuels and lead America, and the world, in a clean energy revolution.


The letter, signed by Edward Norton, Morgan Freeman, Yoko Ono and others, is one of many efforts to draw attention to climate change in the days leading up to the February 17 Forward on Climate Rally. The rally, which will take place in Washington, D.C. just days after Obama’s speech, is “expected to be the largest climate rally in U.S. history,” says Robert Redford.

According to Sierra Club Executive Director and HuffPost Blogger Michael Brune, the timing is not coincidental. “We’re also on the cusp of a clean energy revolution that will transform our nation, slash carbon pollution, and turn this climate disaster around,” Brune wrote. “We need President Obama to commit to that fight with all the ambition and determination he can bring.”

Yet addressing climate change may not be an easy task for Obama. In a New York Times op-ed, David Leonhardt discusses how the climate issue is reaching a pivotal moment, and the president needs to bring fresh policy to the table in order to satiate those on either end of the spectrum. Climate change has becoming a polarizing issue between environmentalists and economists, Leonhardt says. Yet he goes on to note that “the strongest economic argument for an aggressive response to climate change is not the much trumpeted windfall of green jobs. It’s the fact that the economy won’t function very well in a world full of droughts, hurricanes and heat waves.”

Watch the State of the Union speech tomorrow night at 9pm to see if the president addresses climate change policy, and click here to find out more about the Forward on Climate Rally.