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European officials round on Lagarde

Posted by arnon_k On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

(FT) — European officials rounded on Christine Lagarde on Sunday, accusing the managing director of the International Monetary Fund of making a “confused” and “misguided” attack on the health of Europe’s banks.

Ms Lagarde, the former French finance minister who replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF in July, used her address at an annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to call for an “urgent” recapitalisation of Europe’s weakest lenders, saying that shoring up the banking system was key to cutting “chains of contagion” across the region.

But officials said Ms Lagarde’s comments missed the point of banks’ current difficulties. “The key issue is funding,” said one experienced central banker. “Banks in some countries have had trouble securing liquidity in recent weeks and that pressure is going to mount. To talk about capital is a confused message. Everybody — politicians, regulators, other officials — is quite concerned.”

Officials, nervous that Ms Lagarde’s statement would further spook bank investors, said they planned to urge the former French finance minister to clarify her statement.

European politicians and regulators are still struggling to come up with a mechanism that will calm investors’ skittishness about banks’ exposure to sovereign debt across the southern eurozone. A high-profile pan-European “stress test” of bank balance sheets has failed to allay investors’ concerns about their ability to withstand a default by a European government, or a severe deterioration in their credit portfolios across the region.

“We have to break the link between the sovereigns and the banks, particularly in Spain and Italy,” said one regulator.

Ms Lagarde’s allusion this weekend to the potential use of the European Financial Stability Fund, a €440bn bail-out fund, as a means to recapitalise banks by force, would be far better directed towards a liquidity solution, some officials said. No headway has been made towards the idea of EFSF-guaranteed bank bond issuance, they admitted, though that would be the “most sensible solution”, according to one.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, separately dismissed any idea that Europe could face a liquidity shortage in his own Jackson Hole address, saying efforts to combat the financial crisis would prevent such an outcome.

“The idea that we could have a liquidity problem in Europe” is “plain wrong,” Mr Trichet said.

The results of last month’s stress tests revealed that nine of the 91 banks tested “failed”, with a core tier one capital ratio — a key measure of financial strength — of less than 5 per cent. National regulators are due to report back in October on headway made in forcing through recapitalisations at banks that failed, or came close to failing, the tests.

Peaches Geldof: I’m too tatty

Posted by arnon_k On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

PEACHES Geldof says she HATES her tattoos — and blames dad Sir Bob for letting her have the first one aged 14.

The Live Aid legend’s wild daughter, 22, has at least 20 inkings, including names of ex-lovers and various animals.

She said: “Fourteen-year-old girls should not be allowed to have tattoos.

“The ones I have from that age are like prison tattoos. I recently came to the conclusion I regret every one I’ve had.

“I have so many bad tattoos. Some I find horrendous. If I could graft myself a new skin, I would.”

In 2008, TV presenter Peaches said of tattoos: “They are my new addiction.”

Boob op fans’ star sign link

Posted by arnon_k On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

PEOPLE born under the star signs Libra and Taurus have the most cosmetic surgery, new figures suggest.

And Cancerian women undergo the most boob jobs. Those with birthdays in April, May, September and October — covering Taurus and Libra — account for almost half the treatments at a leading chain of clinics.

Riccardo Frati, of The Harley Medical Group, said: “In the last three months 43 per cent of bookings were from people born in those months.”

Astrologers say Libra and Taurus are both ruled by Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, making people conscious of their looks.

The Cancer star sign governs the breasts — explaining Cancerian Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson’s famous boob job.

Google tries to reassure TV industry it’s no ogre

Posted by arnon_k On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Edinburgh, Scotland (CNN) — Google has moved to reassure a global television industry quaking at the prospect that the Internet search giant is about to move onto TV sets and into living rooms around the globe.

In a keynote speech to Europe’s leading broadcasting industry conference, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt acknowledged the company’s immense scale built on search advertising — a scale which almost everyone in the media industry fears as a threat to their existing businesses — but said the nature of technology and the internet also made Google vulnerable.

“Online, competition is only ever a click away … it’s common for once-leading services to become out-innovated and overtaken,” Schmidt said in the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Many of the broadcasting executives, producers and advertising industry leaders in the audience fear Google’s entry into their territory with its Google TV internet-connected device, threatening the kind of dislocation it has triggered in online and print media with search advertising and the mobile phone business with its now leading Android operating system.

Schmidt, whose company has been seen as arrogant and no respecter of copyright, struck a conciliatory tone, saying Google had moved to be more speedy in taking down content which breached copyright and would be more active in supporting the business models of content owners that wanted to charge for their content online.

It had no intention to move into content creation, believing its core skills remained in technology and in focusing on three trends: Mobile, local and social.

Google TV would be launched in Europe early in 2012, he said.

CNN’s Talk Asia show interviews Eric Schmidt

“We provide platforms for people to engage with content and, through automated software we show ads next to content that owners have chosen to put up. But we have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale,” he said.

Google’s success in search, he said, had allowed it to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure which benefited broadcasters and the media industry, while its advertising platform “shared” more than $6 billion with broadcasters, publishers and newspapers.

Schmidt departed from his prepared speech to note Steve Jobs’ retirement as chief executive of Apple. Jobs, he said, was the only business leader he had seen move easily between media and engineering.

Schmidt said Jobs had “an artist’s eye as well as a definition of what great engineering is.”

In delivering the Edinburgh lecture, Schmidt followed two memorable speakers in the annual address, named after Scottish-born television pioneer James MacTaggart.

Two years ago James Murdoch, then chairman and chief executive of News Corporation in Europe, and speaking before the company was plunged into scandals over telephone hacking and illegal payments to police, used the same speech to condemn the publicly funded BBC as a “chilling” influence on media competition.

A year later BBC Director General Mark Thompson used the same platform to defend an institution he portrayed as more trusted by the British public than either politicians or the empire of Rupert Murdoch.

Schmidt portrayed Google as more vulnerable and bashful than critics recognize.

“I didn’t get social networking as fast as I should have done,” he said, referring to what many see as the belated launch of the company’s Google+ social network, still in prototype, having been caught napping by the explosive growth of Facebook. at the same time, Schmidt claimed some personal success in changing Google’s course on mobile.

Did Google just turn Motorola into the new super-Tivo?

He didn’t dwell on the issue of privacy; he has been criticized in the past for glib comments about consumers worrying less about privacy than questioning what they wanted to keep private.

Personalization required personal data which drove the accuracy of online services like search. But he added: “It will be vital to strike the right balance, so people feel comfortable and in control, not disconcerted by the eerie accuracy of suggestions.”

Mobile, local and social were the key three trends to watch and all would transform television. He predicted a golden age of internet-connected television creating new forms of entertainment, advertising and connections between audiences and content.

“The internet is fundamental to the future of television for one simple reason: Because it’s what people want,” he said. “It makes TV more personal, more participative, more pertinent. People are clamoring for it.”

Why Google TV isn’t dead yet

In comments directed at a British audience where the BBC has led the way in many areas of TV content and technology, and in Scotland where television was invented, Schmidt said Britain needed to do more to promote careers in technology or squander its intellectual potential.

He also made a plea for low regulation, suggesting politicians not interfere in an internet era where “innovation and speed” are paramount.