Monday, May 24, 2010

Dizzee Rascal to replace U2 at Glastonbury?

Dizzee Rascal is being lined up to replace U2 at this year's Glastonbury festival.

The 'Bonkers' rapper has been asked by the British music event's organiser Michael Eavis to fill in for the Irish band after frontman Bono had emergency back surgery last week.

The 'Beautiful Day' hitmakers are set to headline the Pyramid Stage on Friday June 25 but if Bono has not recovered in time, they will have to pull out.

Dizzee is currently set to play the set before U2 but may be promoted to close the evening.

However, Eavis has also phoned Coldplay - who are currently in the studio working on their fifth album - to see if they are available, according to The Sun newspaper.

Bono suffered his injury while preparing for his group's world tour, and attended a specialist neurosurgery clinic in Munich, Germany, for immediate work on his spine.

He is expected to stay in Germany for a few days before returning to his home in Ireland.

A planned tour date in Salt Lake City on June 2 has been postponed.

A statement on the band's website reads: "Once his condition has been assessed further, a statement will be made regarding the impact on forthcoming tour dates."

Industry insiders expect the band will announce later this week that they will not be able to play Glastonbury.

New death hits iPhones factory

A worker at a huge Chinese factory which makes iPhones and iPads has fallen to his death - the eighth fatality this year at the world's largest contract maker of electronics. Skip related content

The previous deaths at the Foxconn Technology Group plant in the southern boom town of Shenzhen were deemed suicides, but it was not immediately clear what caused the most recent one.

The worker was identified as Nan Gang, 21, according to reports.

The death will raise more questions about working conditions at Foxconn's massive complex, which labour activists allege has a long history of mistreatment of workers.

They claim the 300,000 employees are pushed hard, toil under tremendous pressure and face harsh discipline for making mistakes.

There was no immediate comment about the death from Foxconn, owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry group. The corporate behemoth has also produced computers for Hewlett-Packard, PlayStation consoles for Sony and mobile phones for Nokia.

After a suicide earlier this month, Foxconn said its workers enjoyed world-class treatment, including social responsibility programmes to ensure their welfare.

Recent suicides include a 24-year-old factory worker who jumped from a building inside the factory complex earlier this month.

The highest-profile death happened last July when Sun Danyong, 25, jumped to his death after being interrogated over a missing iPhone prototype. Mr Sun was responsible for sending the device to US-based Apple.

Brits' honest feelings while online

Britons may be renowned for being emotionally shy and reserved face to face but one in five admit to opening up about their feelings while online, a new survey has found. Skip related content

About 20% revealed they were more likely to be honest about their wellbeing when asked "How are you?" while using a social networking site or email.

The study for healthcare company Bupa polled 2,224 adults via YouGov in March as part of its "How are you Britain?" report.

According to the findings, more than three quarters (78%) of Brits thought they were more open about their health than 20 years ago, with the figure rising to 83% among females.

One in 10 (10%) of Brits currently signed up to a social networking site said they posted an online comment about how they were feeling at least once a day, with 32% admitting they do so at least once a week.

However, the study also suggested Brits reverted to type when responding in person to a query about how they were feeling. On average, people were asked the question "How are you?" four times a day, with more than half (53%) stating they gave a similar response each time without properly considering their feelings.

Close to a third (31%) said they opted to give a vague answer because they thought people were only asking to be polite.

Bupa Health and Wellbeing medical director Dr Katrina Herren said: "We believe 'How are you?' should not be a rhetorical question.

"It's an important conversation starter and people needn't be afraid of responding with how they really feel.

"Sharing an emotion with people who listen and don't judge it to be good or bad can not only make you feel better but improve communication between you and others and maintain your mental wellbeing."

Google plans to merge web and TV

Google believes it has come up with the technology to unite web surfing with channel surfing on televisions. Skip related content

To reach the long-elusive goal of turning TV sets into internet gateways, Google has partnered with Sony, Intel and Logitech International. They unveiled their much-anticipated plan for a "smart" TV, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini predicted the effort will be "the biggest improvement to television since colour".

"Our goal is to make the same impact on television as the smart phone has had on the mobile phone market," said Rishi Chandra, the Google product manager who is overseeing the smart TV project.

The TVs are expected to go on sale this fall in US Best Buy stores, with prices to be announced later in the year. Sales will expand to other countries next year.

Other companies have tried to promote internet-connected TVs with little success during the past decade.

"I have seen this movie before," Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said of Google's ambitious plans. "They are going down a road littered with failed initiatives like this."

But Google and its partners believe they have developed a system that will make internet TV simpler and more appealing. They are also counting on various websites to build news applications tailored to run on the internet TV; they believe that would persuade more couch potatoes to begin interacting with their sets instead of just watching them.

Many households already have been connecting their TVs to the internet, mostly to watch video through set-top boxes, video game consoles and Blu-ray players. Web-connected TVs are expected to account for about 19% of the U.S sales of flat-panel models this year, with the share projected to rise to 46% in 2013, according to ABI Research.

Three of Google's biggest rivals - Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo. - also have been trying to bring more internet video and services to televisions.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs once described his company's device for tethering TVs to the internet as a "hobby". Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey expects Apple to become much more serious about its efforts now that Google is expanding into TV. "The whole game for Google is to become the (operating system) for the living room and make sure Apple doesn't," Mr McQuivey said.

Spain to block credit for local authorities

The latest effort to balance Spain's books came as the International Monetary Fund called for labour and banking sector reform and as press reports said the government would need 2.7 billion euros to save a local bank.

"The local authorities and those that depend on them ... cannot obtain long-term public or private credit, in any form, to fund their investments," a draft law said Monday,

The ban is valid until the end of 2011.

The measure is part of a two-year 15-billion-euro (19-billion-dollar) deficit-slashing plan announced earlier this month that includes a freeze on state pensions and an average five percent pay cut for civil servants.

The socialist government is under pressure to take action from both its EU partners and from the markets, which fear Spain could follow Greece -- Athens needed an unprecedented 110-billion-euro bailout by the EU and the IMF earlier this month to save it from bankruptcy.

The IMF on Monday said the "ambitious" fiscal consolidation in Spain needs to be "complemented with growth-enhancing structural reforms" in the labour market and banking sector.

As the eurozone crisis has unfolded, there have been concerns that local government debt could prove at least as big a problem as central government debt as governments try to put their public finances in order.

International ratings agency Standard and Poor's warned Spain last week that the nation's powerful regional governments face worsening deficits.

It predicted Spain's regional debt burden could surpass 110 percent of consolidated operating revenues in 2012, up from just 40 percent in 2007.

The debt of Spain's local authorities at end-2009 was 34.6 billion euros, equivalent to 3.3 percent of GDP, according to the finance ministry.

Overall, accumulated public debt was equivalent to 55 percent of GDP in 2009 and is expected to rise to 74 percent in 2012 as the public finances are further eroded.

The problem of local government debt has another side to it, raising issues of how appropriate such financing has been for them.

In Italy, for example, there have been worries that the country's economy faces huge risks from derivatives contracts taken out by local governments who did not fully understand what they were buying into.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the main points of the latest austerity plan on May 11. The government approved it on Thursday but it must still be passed by parliament.

The measures are on top of a 50-billion-euro package announced in January designed to slash the public deficit to the eurozone limit of three percent of gross domestic product by 2013 from 11.2 percent last year.

Public finances faced further pressures after Spain's central bank on Saturday took control of a troubled regional savings bank, CajaSur.

A business newspaper, Expansion, said as much as 2.7 billion euros (3.38 billion dollars) may be needed to clean up the bank's 1.5 billion euros in doubtful debt and cover another 364 million euros in bad loans and the depreciation of property assets.

News of the rescue unsettled investors already nervous over the European debt crisis and sent European and US stocks lower on Monday.

The austerity measures have sparked widespread public anger.

Unions representing public sector workers have called a strike for June 8 over the latest austerity plan, while Spain's largest trade union, the CCOO, said Friday it would "probably" also call a national general strike.