Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Enron Saga is brought to a close

The Enron Task Force's mission is almost complete with the conviction of
Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling for his high profile economic crime.

He was among the corporate executives who were found guilty for the corporate
crimes that they were accused of. Ebbers of WorldCom was sentenced 25 years in
prison and John Rigas of Adephia Communications, 15 years with appeal.

The excerpt fo the news below.

HOUSTON, Oct. 24 -- The sentencing Monday of former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling ended the saga of the scandal-ridden Houston energy company and effectively closed the book on an era of high-profile corporate malfeasance.

Skilling's sentence capped a string of lengthy prison terms handed down to top executives for economic crimes, including WorldCom Inc. founder Bernard J. Ebbers, now serving 25 years, and Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John J. Rigas, facing 15 years pending appeal.

But Enron remains that period's signature scandal. The company's December 2001 breakdown ushered in a wave of corporate collapses that roiled investor confidence and prompted the government to enlist a special band of prosecutors and FBI agents to mount the most complex business fraud investigation in history. Their pursuit of top Enron officials helped change the way corporate wrongdoing is prosecuted and spurred companies to more aggressively police themselves.

Hours after a judge sentenced Skilling to more than 24 years in prison, the leaders of the Enron Task Force announced that they would close up shop, saying their mission was mostly complete. But even as officials packed their files and prepared for other jobs in government and the private sector, there were fresh signals about the direction post-Enron corporate crime enforcement would take.

A new wave of investigations is targeting executive greed, insider trading and investment pools known as hedge funds. On Tuesday, the former finance chief of Comverse Technology Inc. pleaded guilty to covering up a scheme to trigger big paydays for employees by changing the grant dates on stock options. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged the former finance chief of Refco Inc. for his role in a $1 billion accounting scandal that hurled the commodities brokerage into bankruptcy proceedings.

Read the entire news here.



Monday, October 23, 2006

Skilling got 24 year sentence

Enron is now synonymous to corporate fraud. Lay died of heart attack before he was convicted but Skilling, another executive who was found guilt was sentenced to 24 years.

Here is the news from BBC:

Former Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling has been sentenced to 24 years for his role in the giant fraud that led to the energy firm's 2001 collapse.

In May he had been found guilty on 19 counts including fraud, conspiracy and insider trading, and was told he could expect 20 to 30 years in prison.

The former chief executive of the US energy giant was convicted together with Enron's ex-chairman Kenneth Lay.

Mr Lay has since died and his convictions have been quashed.

This is because Mr Lay, who died of a heart attack in July, passed away before he was able to appeal against the verdict.

The scandal at the one-time energy giant left 21,000 people out of work, and shook corporate America, when the firm went bankrupt in 2001 with debts of $31.8bn (£18bn).

Skilling was found to have orchestrated a series of loss-making deals and financial schemes to try to hide debts from investors.

"Crimes of this magnitude deserve severe punishment," US District Court Judge Sim Lake told Skilling before sentencing him to 24 years and four months in jail.

"In terms of remorse your honour, I can't imagine more remorse," Skilling told the court before he was sentenced.

"That being said your honour, I am innocent of these charges."

Before sentencing Skilling was made to listen to testimony from a number of victims of the Enron fraud.

"You should be ashamed," said Ann Beliveaux, an employee who lost her entire retirement savings.

"When things got bad, you jumped ship."

Skilling has said he will appeal against his conviction.

The judge confined him to his home where he is to wear an ankle monitor until he reports to prison.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Building a 'Googley' Workforce

This is one news article that I really want to archive.

Building a 'Googley' Workforce
Corporate Culture Breeds Innovation

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 21, 2006; D01

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- To understand the corporate culture at Google Inc., take a look at the toilets.

Every bathroom stall on the company campus holds a Japanese high-tech commode with a heated seat. If a flush is not enough, a wireless button on the door activates a bidet and drying.

Yet even while they are being pampered with high-tech toiletry, Google employees are encouraged to make good use of their downtime: A flier tacked inside each stall bears the title, "Testing on the Toilet, Testing code that uses databases." It features a geek quiz that changes every few weeks and asks technical questions about testing programming code for bugs.

The toilets reflect Google's general philosophy of work: Generous, quirky perks keep employees happy and thinking in unconventional ways, helping Google innovate as it rapidly expands into new lines of business.

Maintaining Google's culture of innovation is a hot internal topic as the Internet search king turns eight this fall and marches around the world, opening new offices in such cities as Beijing, Zurich and Bangalore. In the past three years, Google's workforce has more than tripled in size, to 9,000 employees, and the company has launched a new product nearly every week, including some widely regarded as flops. When its own offerings don't catch on, Google isn't shy about snapping up the competition, as it did this month when it agreed to acquire online video-sharing site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock.

While Google places a premium on success, it appears to shrug off failure. The resulting culture of fearlessness permeates the 24-hour Googleplex, a collection of interconnected low-rise buildings that look more like some new-age college campus than a corporate office complex. The colorful, glass-encased offices feature upscale trappings -- free meals three times a day; free use of an outdoor wave pool, indoor gym and large child care facility; private shuttle bus service to and from San Francisco and other residential areas -- that are the envy of workers all over Silicon Valley.

Google employees are encouraged to propose wild, ambitious ideas often. Supervisors assign small teams to see if the ideas work. Nearly everyone at Google carries a generic job title, such as "product manager." All engineers are allotted 20 percent of their time to work on their own ideas. Many of the personal projects yield public offerings, such as the social networking Web site Orkut and Google News, a collection of headlines and news links.

The corporate counterculture explains a lot about why the search company rolls out such a wide range of products in its self-proclaimed mission to organize the world's information. Despite objections by publishers and authors, Google is attempting to copy every book ever published and make snippets available online. It plans to launch a free wireless Internet service in San Francisco. It also hopes to shake up the advertising world by using the Internet to sell ads in magazines, newspapers and on radio.

Philip Remek, an analyst who follows Google for Guzman and Co., sees the many initiatives as a series of lottery cards.

"A lot of them aren't going to work," Remek said. "Maybe there will be a few that take off spectacularly. And maybe they're smart enough to realize no one is smart enough to tell which lottery card is the winner five years out."

While Google often launches products before they are ready for prime time, even the premature ones instill fear in competitors, who know that the search leader has the patience and money -- a market value of about $140 billion and $2.69 billion in quarterly revenue -- to keep trying.

That's also a message Google sends employees.

"If you're not failing enough, you're not trying hard enough," said Richard Holden, product management director for Google's AdWords service, in which advertisers bid to place text ads next to search results. "The stigma [for failure] is less because we staff projects leanly and encourage them to just move, move, move. If it doesn't work, move on."

Holden said Google tried three different ways to make use of the radio advertising company it bought for $102 million this year, dMarc Broadcasting, with little success. The goal was to sell radio ads through an online auction system similar to AdWords. But, Holden said, "I would not describe what we've done as a failure," because Google finally came up with a model that he expects to work.

Google's innovative streak is apparent throughout its campus, where buildings have been reconfigured to be environmentally friendly and let light stream into interiors through glass-walled workrooms shared by three or four employees. In addition to glass cubicles, some staffers share white fabric "yurts," tentlike spaces that resemble igloos. This week Google announced that it would install 9,000 solar panels on its buildings to generate electricity for its campus.

Along interior hallways, employees scribble random thoughts on large whiteboards strung together. Outside, they whiz by on company-provided motorized scooters or mingle on grassy areas and chairs under brightly colored umbrellas.

Innovation reaches one corner of Google that most companies neglect: food. Each of its 11 campus cafes is run by an executive chef with a theme catering to the culture of people working in that particular building. This year Google opened Cafe180, a cafeteria that supports local organic farming by serving only products from within 180 miles of the campus.

Google's anything-goes culture begins and is maintained with a rigorous hiring procedure similar to those used for admission to elite universities. Underachievers need not apply, unless they stand out in some way. Experience and grade-point averages for recent college graduates matter, but also factored in is "whether someone is Googley," said chief culture officer Stacy Sullivan.

"It's an ill-defined term -- we intentionally don't define that term, but it's . . . not someone too traditional or stuck in ways done traditionally by other companies," Sullivan said.

Each prospective hire is interviewed by at least five staff members, who ask a series of questions intended to make them understand how the candidate thinks about solving a problem. Getting the right answer is not necessary.

Abraham Egnor, a 25-year-old hired three months ago, fits the Google look. At work, Egnor wears his black hair long down his back, colored with a tint of green, a black T-shirt, backpack, cargo pants and sandals.

He said the interview process was tough. "I got a sense one of the persons who interviewed me was being somewhat antagonistic to see how I would respond," he said. "He said that I don't have a college degree, so how would I know certain things. My response was there may have been things I didn't learn -- I don't know. But I think I pick up on things very quickly."

Another job candidate told Google interviewers that his worst qualities were that he was lazy and short-tempered, but was working on it. He wasn't hired.

"We skew toward people who like to solve problems -- the bigger the problem, the better, rather than those who settle in and say, 'okay, I'll do that for 30 years,' " said Laszlo Bock, Google's vice president of "people operations." Learning continues on the job across a wide range of subjects through Google's "tech talks" with well-known people invited to speak on campus much like guest lecturers in college.

On a recent visit, chief executive Eric Schmidt moderated a discussion about women and war with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda to a standing-room-only crowd. In the back, a Google employee with a long silver braid held his pet African Grey parrot on his finger.

Google executives know it will be hard to replicate such experiences as it opens offices in so many cities and countries.

Sullivan said she's thinking of ways to export the culture, such tapping longtime employees to serve as "Google ambassadors" and develop in-house videos about what it means to be Googley.

But Sullivan doesn't want it to be too formal. That would be un-Googley.

"We're not trying to solve a problem," she said. " But we want to ensure we're thinking about it and watching over it. Our culture is one of our most valuable assets.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Invisible Cloak

James Bond movie is famous for gadgets that people think are impossible to invent and it is just pure cinematic. One such gadget is the invisible car.
Soon, it will be a reality as scientists came up with the invisibility cloak.

Experts create invisibility cloak
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

A US-British team of scientists has successfully tested a cloak of invisibility in the laboratory.

The device mostly hid a small copper cylinder from microwaves in tests at Duke University, North Carolina.

It works by deflecting the microwaves around the object and restoring them on the other side, as if they had passed through empty space.

But making an object vanish before a person's eyes is still the stuff of science fiction - for now.

The cloak consists of 10 fibreglass rings covered with copper elements. This is classed as a "metamaterial" - an artificial composite that can be engineered to produce a desired change in the direction of electromagnetic waves.

The precise variations in the shape of copper elements patterned on to the ring surfaces determines their properties.

Like light waves, microwaves bounce off objects making them visible and creating a shadow, though at microwave frequencies the detection has to be made by instruments rather than the naked eye.

The metamaterial cloak channelled the microwaves around the object like water in a river flowing around a smooth rock.

Gone from view

When water flows around a rock, the water recombines on the opposite side. Someone looking at the water downstream would never guess it had passed by an obstacle.

In the experiment, the scientists first measured microwaves travelling across a plane of view with no obstacles. Then they placed a copper cylinder in the same plane and measured the disturbance, or scattering, in the microwaves.

Finally, the researchers placed the invisibility cloak over the copper cylinder. The cloak did not completely iron out the disturbance, but it greatly reduced the microwaves being blocked or deflected.

"This cloak guides electromagnetic waves around a central region so that any object at call can be placed in that region and will not disturb the electromagnetic fields," said co-author Dr David Schurig from Duke University.

In principle, the same theoretical blueprint could be used to cloak objects from visible light. But this would pose a challenge, as nano-scale engineering would be needed to make the cloak.

"As an application it's not clear that you're going to get the invisibility that everyone thinks about - as in Harry Potter's cloak, or the Star Trek cloaking device," said co-author David Smith of Duke.

"But it shows what can be done with artificial materials. It gives us some insight that we can design something that we wouldn't have been able to do with any existing material."

A key collaborator on the project was Professor John Pendry from Imperial College London.

The researchers say that if an object can be hidden from microwaves, it can be hidden from radar - a possibility that will fascinate the military.

Cloaking differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/10/19 15:30:00 GMT


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Human Species May become Dumb due to Technology

This is an evolutionary theory for humanity for 3,000.
I agree partly with the emergence of dim-witted underclass sub species.

Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other, said Dr Curry.

Read the entire story here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plane Crashed into a Manhattan Building

The news about the small plane crash in New York City was a shock for the residents
who had the 9-11 experience. It turned out that it was a plane piloted by a Yankee
pitcher, Cory Lidle who had just gotten a pilot license.

Excertp of the news from Washington Post.

A small plane carrying New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor spun out of control on a blustery Wednesday afternoon and slammed into the side of a 50-story condominium tower on the Upper East Side, killing both people on board.
The airplane exploded into a fireball as it hit the building around the 30th floor, sparks and pieces of the wing and the plane's door raining down on the sidewalk below. The fire that raged afterward incinerated two apartments, although, remarkably, city officials reported no fatalities inside the luxury Belaire Condos on East 72nd Street, where apartments feature views of the East River and command $2 million and up.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google is acquiring YouTube

YouTube is barely two year old and the early 20's owners/originators are receiving
1.65 billion of stock from Google Inc. for its acquisition.

Read the news in Washington Post.

Excerpt of the news:

Google Gambles on Web Video
Firm to Pay $1.65 Billion for Popular, Unprofitable YouTube
By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 10, 2006; A01
Google said yesterday that it will acquire Internet video phenomenon YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock, a deal that leaves the search giant betting on the future of online video as well as tackling some of the risks that come with managing a site built by a homegrown audience.
The deal, which Google called "the next step in the evolution of the Internet," is reminiscent of the late 1990s, when Web companies judged their success by the buzz they created more than by immediate profits. This time, YouTube, an as-yet-unprofitable Silicon Valley start-up with two founders in their twenties, grew a huge audience at a pace outdone only by
In less than a year, YouTube attracted more than 72 million unique monthly visitors by allowing users to share short homemade video clips. Through word of mouth, the site became an instant Internet phenomenon, providing a huge library of entertaining videos and giving a voice to budding Internet stars every week.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

A forensic tool to investigate website attacks

Many people who are pc and internet users will be interested to read this news about BBC's investigation looking into the scale of the dangers experienced by the said people.
The news said:

Using a computer acting as a so-called honeypot the BBC has been regularly logging how many potential net-borne attacks hit the average Windows PC every day.
Attack traffic
Honeypots are forensic tools that have become indispensable to computer security experts monitoring online crime. They are used to gather statistics about popular attacks, to grab copies of malicious programs that carry out the attacks and to get a detailed understanding of how these attacks work.
To the malicious programs scouring the web these honeypots look like any other PC. But in the background the machines use a variety of forensic tools to log what happens to them.

Reading the findings as to what danger the computer was subjected to in seven hours make us shiver how our own is exposed to the same elements.

Read the entire story here.

Survey shows that Geek terminologies baffle web users

The survey conducted in UK shows that 40 per cent of the respondents s are buying cutting edge technology without understanding the tech jargon.

They read news feeds but they do not know that RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is the official term for the service.

Other terms that they constantly encounter but do not understand are the following:

VOD - video-on-demand
Wikis - Collaborative technology for editing websites
IPTV - internet protocol television
RSS - Really Simple Syndication alias automated news feeds
PVR - personal video recorder
Web 2.0 - user-generated content phase of internet
Triple-play - internet, TV and phone in one subscription
VoIP - voice over internet protocol
IM - instant messaging
Blogging - frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts on the web
Podcasting - internet broadcasting for playback on MP3 players

The survey was conducted among British internet users and the researchers are positive that the statistics for the general population will be higher.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Google Opens NEW YORK office

Wow,and wow.

The Mountain View premier corporate giant has a new office in New York. Let it be remembered that it was opened on this day, October 3, 2006.

Google Opens block-long office

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 3, 2006; 8:54 AM
NEW YORK -- It's so big, you won't even need Google Maps to find it. Internet search engine Google Inc. has a new home in New York: a 300,000-square foot, three-floor office that covers a Manhattan city block.
The company welcomed its 500-plus local employees to the office Monday, its first official day of business. While Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has had employees in New York in advertising sales since 2000 and in engineering since 2003, it said the new office is a step up.
"We outgrew our old space," said Craig Nevill-Manning, the company's engineering director.
The company now has three floors in a building that stretches from Eighth Avenue to Ninth Avenue and from 15th Street to 16th Street, a few blocks west of Union Square. The workspace is light and airy and built around the concept of working in teams, with people sharing offices and cubicles connected in groups. Along with a cafeteria and a game room, there are snack stations throughout the office.
There also are a number of conference rooms named after New York landmarks including Alice Tully Hall, the Cloisters and the Apollo Theater.
The office space was built to Google's specifications and the company had a long-term lease, said Tim Armstrong, vice president of advertising sales. He declined to say how long that was or how much the project cost.
Nevill-Manning said there are about 100 projects being worked on in the office. The New York office was the origin point for the project that became Google Maps.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Censoring a Blogger

As a blogger myself, I am interested in the news because it confirmed my objective in this blog i.e. to archive news that I think would be use as my reference in the future.

From Washington Post.

Hard-Learned Lesson: Don't Try to Censor A Blogger

By Terence O'Hara
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 2006; D01

Memories fade, but the Internet is forever.

Murry N. Gunty found that out the hard way this summer. Well known among Washington financiers, the head of Milestone Capital Management LLC ran afoul of bloggers for an attempt to censor a Web article about a 1992 incident in which he manipulated the election for officers of the Harvard Business School's Finance Club. The matter was widely reported at the time, including on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and Gunty atoned by resigning from the club and writing an ethics paper.

But when he tried to stifle a recent recitation of those facts on the Web, his personal history morphed into a morality play about the dangers of challenging the blogosphere. Instead of being described as a moderately successful and scrupulous private equity investor, he was offered as an example of greedy misbehavior and corporate censorship.

"Fifteen years ago when I was in school, I made an error in judgment, which was a meaningful life lesson," Gunty said in a written statement issued by a spokesman for Patton Boggs LLP, Milestone's law firm. "Unfortunately, what has been written about me on the Internet significantly distorts the facts. This is a cautionary tale that things live on in cyberspace regardless of their accuracy."

After graduate school, Gunty went on to a successful career at several Wall Street institutions, mostly in private equity, a wing of corporate finance that uses money from wealthy individuals or institutions to buy real estate, companies or other private assets.

Four years ago, he teamed up with veteran D.C. banker Robert P. Pincus to form Milestone Capital. The two raised $90 million, and invested it in such ventures as a Florida tile company, a maker of Christmas ornaments and dozens of Papa John's pizza franchises.

The Harvard flap seemed like ancient history until Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mark Pincus -- no relation to Gunty's business partner -- resurrected it. Pincus, who founded the social networking site, is a former Harvard classmate of Gunty's who frequently posts long essays about how the ethical lapses of U.S. business executives rarely result in substantial punishment. On Jan. 19, 2006, he posted an essay that used Gunty as a prominent example.

"I have nothing personal against the guy at all," said Pincus, whose original post included numerous disparaging personal remarks about Gunty. "I write about ethics all the time. It's something I'm passionate about. If Murry had responded on my blog, the whole thing would have just ended there."

In fact, it was just beginning.

Pincus's comments attracted dozens of posters eager to scold Gunty, and it quickly spread to several other bloggers who started their own discussion strings about the long-ago incident. "If Murry Gunty didn't exist, we'd have to invent him," one liberal blogger, Frank Paynter, wrote. Gunty's photo was posted on Pincus's blog and various aspects of his life and work were ridiculed.

By July, seven months after the original posting, Pincus's version of Gunty's story had climbed to the top ranking on a Google search for "Murry Gunty" -- above his official biography on Milestone Capital's web site. His Milestone bio is now back on top, however.

It got worse. According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, Gunty or someone representing him sent an e-mail to Six Apart Ltd., the company that hosted Pincus's blog, asking that the article be changed because it was a violation of privacy. The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were describing nonpublic communications at Six Apart.

When a Six Apart staffer asked Pincus to at least remove Gunty's last name from the posting, Pincus responded by posting the request on his blog -- escalating the issue beyond corporate ethics to a matter of free speech.

Six Apart quickly backed down, saying through a spokeswoman that the company does not censor its bloggers, and that the request to Pincus had come from a "young, eager person" who "totally misread the situation."

Within a matter of days Gunty had his own entry in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, detailing the controversy, and a new round of bloggers were criticizing his effort to tame the Internet.

"Free speech is one of those topics in the blogosphere that you just don't touch," wrote tech blogger Scott Johnson, explaining the hundreds of links to Pincus's site that began popping up on blogs and chat rooms after Six Apart sought to have it changed.

The Wikipedia entry has since been removed. An editor for the online encyclopedia did not respond to a request to explain why.

But the lesson stands.

Gunty declined to be interviewed for this story. A colleague, who spoke only on the condition he not be named, said Gunty "felt really burned by the whole thing."

Stan Collender, a public relations specialist at Qorvis Communications LLC in the District, said the potential for bloggers to damage the reputation of a business or person is a growing concern.

"It's like pamphleteering on the corner, only its cheaper, quicker and vastly more broad," Collender said. "But unlike the traditional media, it's completely unregulated in that there's no fact checking, no editing. It has all the potential for creating a lot of damage to someone's or something's reputation very quickly, and it's almost impossible to eliminate it. Any unsubstantiated rumor has a very good chance of getting out there."

However, Collender said it is usually a mistake to try to squelch it.

"If you respond to this sort of thing you give it credit it doesn't deserve," he said.
© 2006 The Washington Po