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Sony Ericsson Yearns to Get More of the Android Market

Sony Ericsson revealed its two new smartphone models with the Android operating system on Wednesday, a sign that the mobile phone manufacturer yearns to get more of the growing Android market.

Steve Stalker, chief marketing officer of the company, announced in Singapore that it plans to launch the Xperia active and Xperia Ray models on the third quarter of the year. He said those models should help the company increase its 11% share of market in the Android sector.

The company, which is a joint venture between Sony Corporations and telecommunications L.M Ericsson, saw a drop of 23 percent in its phone unit sales in the first quarter from last year. However, they are now drifting away from cheaper mobile models and are aiming to take over Apple, RIM, and Nokia Corp. in the costly smartphone market.

In April, the London-based company said 60% of its sales in the first quarter were those of smartphones. Walker said Xperia ray and active, the latest models of Sony Ericsson that run on Google’s Android platform, will probably be priced lesser than the high-end Xperia Arc.

Xperia active features a water resistant and dust-proof design. It works even if the fingers are sweaty or wet. Meanwhile, Xperia ray is a little more high-class with advanced camera. It aims to combine a stylish design with a device about one-third inch thick.

However, Walker said that Sony Ericsson plans to release a less costly model that features texting service. This mobile phone is intended for teenagers.

Posted in Business

Skype Faces Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Skype Inc. was sued by a Luxembourg company for infringing its patents in a federal court in the United States on Thursday. Via Vadis filed similar lawsuits against the internet video phone company in Europe.

Via Vadis alleged in the lawsuit that Skype used two of its patented data access, as well as management technologies to offer peer-to-peer communication systems, services, products and methods.

It appears that the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware just a month after the Microsoft Corp. announced its plans to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion. In the lawsuit, the Luxembourg-based company is seeking damages and asks the court to order the company to discontinue infringing its technology.

Via Vadis has already filed a lawsuit against Skype in Germany and Luxembourg. It has decided to bring its case to the United States now that Skype has been acquired by Microsoft Corp. The court in Luxembourg issued a search order to inspect the offices of Skype in Luxembourg and gather evidences. Skype has appealed and declined to present its source code.

Skype said that it cannot comment on the litigation. Skype offers an application that allows Internet users to make online video and voice calls, as well as chats. It is also popular for its other features such as video conferencing and file transfer. As of 2010, it has 663 million registered users.

Skype is a peer-to-peer system instead of client-server system. It uses background processing on computers with Skype software. On May 10, 2011, Microsoft Corp. has agreed to buy Skype Communications.

Posted in Business

Citibank Card Data Breached by Hackers

Citigroup Inc. said hackers who penetrated the bank’s online account site had stolen data from about 2,000 credit card customers located in North America. These include names, account numbers, as well email addresses of the customers.

The hackers have seen the account data for about 1 percent of the bank’s credit card customers, the financial institution said. In North America, Citibank has further than 21 million credit card customers based on its annual report in 2010.

According to the New York-based bank, the problem was discovered during routine monitoring. It did not know the exact number of breached accounts, but, it is currently contacting its customers.

However, the bank said important information such as birth dates, card security codes or card expiration dates and social security numbers were not included in the breached data. If that data were stolen, it could be used by cyber criminals to apply for several credit cards and withdraw money from customer’s bank accounts.

Citibank’s credit card customers could still be exposed to other problems. Bank account details, as well as financial information linked to the customers may be obtained through the account numbers and email information that the hackers had stolen.

Recently, several firms have been infiltrated with high-profile security attacks by cyber hackers. However, the Citibank credit card data breach was the latest in those series of attacks. Spokesman Sean Kevelighan said through an email that the bank is already enhancing procedures to avoid a similar data breach from taking place again.

Posted in Business

Minor Sells Kidney for iPad2

We have all heard crazy stories about how people would push, strike, and kill to get the latest Apple gadget and Apple lovers are well-known for that. That kind of devotion to Apple products what makes the company what it is now. However, selling a body part to afford and iPad 2 is definitely something I have never heard of before.

Based on a featured story in Global Times, a teenager in China’s Anhui province desperately wanted to get the latest iPad2 tablet and sold his one of his kidneys to afford it. Zheng, a 17-year old high school student, said that he really wanted to buy an iPad2 but did not have the monetary resources to afford it. A broker got hold of him via the internet and said he can help Zhen.

The broker was very true to his word and helped Zheng get 20,000 yuan (about $3,000) in exchange of one of his kidneys. The operation was done and completed on 28th of April.

Zheng’s mother had no idea what her son is up to so she was shocked to see his son with a brand new and expensive Apple iPad2. After she found out how her son got the money, she immediately reported the incident to the authorities. Apparently, they have been trying to track down the broker for a very long time.

How the operation was completed without parental consent, Zhang being a minor is still a puzzle. The authorities, however, are doing every possible thing to put an end to this.

Posted in Health

Equipment Store for Medical Marijuana Cultivation Opens in Arizona

A professional equipment company opened a large garden center in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday. The superstore, which is the first outlet of weGrow outside California, caters those who want to cultivate their own medical marijuana.

The opening of weGrow outlet in Arizona was made possible when medical marijuana law was approved by resident voters last fall. The company, which is based in California, has outlets in Oakland and Sacramento. The outlet is billed “Home Depot” or “Wal-Mart of Weed.”

Dhar Mann, the person who established weGrow, said their company offers products, including various services that will assist people to carefully and responsibly grow their medicine. However, he said the company does not sell the plant itself.

Mann said the 21,000 sq. foot store sells around 2,000 products and equipment that are particularly designed to effectively grow cannabis. This includes soil, irrigation trays, grow lights and many others.

Also, the garden center has existing medical practitioner on site. The doctor will provide initial medical approval required in the state health department so that qualifying patients can obtain the cards that will allow them to legally cultivate and use cannabis for several eligible ailments like chronic pain.

State officials have been receiving applications from caregivers and patients since April. It shows that around 4,000 people have already obtained their cards Figures show that males make up 75 percent of those authorized individuals.

However, U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, warned last month that the sale, distribution and cultivation of marijuana remain a federal crime. Marijuana is categorized by the government of the United States as an illegal narcotic.

Posted in Business

Chinese Hackers Attacked Gmail

Chinese computer hackers broke into a lot of Gmail accounts, including US government officials and military personnel, said Google Incorporated on Wednesday.

The hacker attacks are not believed to be linked to a similar, yet more sophisticated, assault from China in 2009. The latest attack appeared to have relied heavily on “phishing” scams that many hackers use to get passwords from unsuspecting people.

Google took pride in their security measures for detecting the intrusion in a timely manner. Their system was able to disrupt the hacker attack and all the victims have been notified. In addition, their Gmail accounts have been secured.

Google refused to confirm if any top secret information were tampered during the breach or which specific department of the United States Government was attacked. The company only said that among the hundreds of user accounts that have been hacked are Chinese political activists, journalists, military personnel and officials in several other countries but mainly South Korea.

Google said that they have traced the origin of the hacker attacks and confirmed that it is from Jinan, China. Jinan is the location of a vocational school whose computers were allegedly used to hack Google computer systems over a year ago. More than 20 US companies were also included in the said attack.

Posted in Business

$82.6 Million Awarded in Medicare Fraud Case

A federal judge on Thursday awarded the U.S. government nearly $83 million from three companies involved in a Medicare fraud case prompted by whistleblowers.

U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. in Tennessee ruled that Renal Care Group, Fresenius Medical Care Holdings Inc. and Renal Care Group Supply Co. showed reckless disregard of the federal law when billing the Medicare program for supplies used in home dialysis from 1999 until 2005.

According to federal prosecutors, several employees from Renal Care Group complained about the institution’s Medicare billings.

The government claimed that Renal Care Group forwarded false claims for supplies provided to home dialysis patients and created a fake billing company that meddled with the patient’s supply options and urged them to transfer to Renal Care Group from January 1999 until December 2005.

The company alleged that it did not go against the Medicare rules and further said that payment of claims from Medicare showed acceptance of the compliance.

Judge Haynes wrote that the fraud case involved payment claims for supplies to at nearly 4,000 patients. Most of these patients have life-threatening condition, the prosecutors said. Management officials did not listen to the advice of company lawyers, Haynes added. The million-dollar award included civil penalties worth $43.7 million.

Prosecutors mentioned one whistleblower, citing he did not want to go to jail.

The lawsuit was filed in 2005 at St. Louis, but was eventually moved to Nashville. It was under the investigation of the FBI, a well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Posted in Business

Whistleblowers Get Cash Incentives thru US SEC’s New Rules

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday adopted final rules that will govern a whistleblower program to offer incentives or cash rewards to those who will provide high-quality tips to the agency for effective enforcement actions.

The new rules, which were voted 3-2 by the SEC on Wednesday, could compel whistleblowers, including other industry insiders, to come more often and warn the agency about various securities violations.

Two Republican commissioners voted against the adoption of the new program that was authorized by a financial revamp law ratified last year. It was also opposed by large U.S. companies, saying whistleblowers should first tell their companies of any misconduct and offer them a chance to fix the errors before heading immediately to the SEC.

However, the new rules discourage employees to avoid the compliance programs posted by their companies. Employees who reported any potential misconduct to their company would be officially considered by the SEC as whistleblowers, and would be potentially entitled of rewards.

According to the SEC, the goal of the whistleblower program, which was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is to reward individuals who expose violations and provide remarkable evidence to help the regulator achieve successful cases.

The new program awards individuals based on the timeliness and quality of the information provided. It must lead to successful actions with at least $1 million sanction.

The new SEC rules will take effect in 60 days. Also, whistleblowers that have provided tips to the agency since July 2010, when the financial overhaul law was ratified, would also be entitled to receive incentives.

Posted in Business

Mobile Phones Can Now Be Used as a Debit Card

On Thursday, Google has unveiled a free smartphone application that converts your mobile phone to an electronic debit card.

The leading name in the Internet industry announced that the “Google Wallet” is currently tested and will be available to the market summer of this year. Google announced their latest innovation in a press conference held in its headquarters in New York with MasterCard, Citibank, First Data and Sprint.

The company said that the Google Wallet will be available only with the Nexus S 4G during the first few months of its release but will eventually cover more phones that have NFC technology. Google is partnering with the third largest wireless provider in the US – Sprint – in this project.

An NFC chip that has been initially embedded in a smart phone will allow a user to “tap-and-pay” at checkout registers that has a PayPass system from CitiMasterCard. The user must first enter his or her credit or debit card details in the software.

The vice president of Google for commerce and payments, Stephanie Tilenius, said that Google Wallet paves the way for a new generation of mobile commerce. The Google Wallet technology will be available in at least 124,000 merchants within the Unites States and more than 300,000 worldwide during its launch.

Mobile payments have already been tested in several countries like Japan and France. However, Google Wallet will be the first of its kind to be used in US shops. T-mobile, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T have already announced late last year that they are teaming up to build a network called “lsis”. The network is said to make mobile phones payment possible for their users.

Posted in Business, Featured News

Yahoo May Finally Upgrade Its Email Services

Yahoo Incorporated is finally pushing through with the long-promised and highly anticipated revamping of its email services. This is a part of Yahoo’s attempt to reach out and look more appealing to users who are shifting to Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook to communicate.

The changes that were announced on Tuesday include a new design of the email format which Yahoo has begun testing in the last seven months. The millions of Yahoo mail users will automatically be switched to its new version over the next couple weeks.

The system “facelift” will allow users to update their Facebook and Twitter accounts from within Yahoo. Their new system is expected to be faster and will be capable of up to 100 megabytes of email attachments. Also, Yahoo also added a tool that will allow Yahoo users to chat with Facebook friends who are online.

Yahoo is relying on the new changes to attract email users now that more and more people are going after their rival Gmail. Gmail also offers free email service and is ran by Google Incorporated.

Gaining loyal email users is very important for both Yahoo and Gmail because these are the ones who frequently visit their email accounts. The logged-in activities create a vast opportunity for the email providers to show ads, the major way that these companies generate their income.

Yahoo has not been enticing as many advertisers as Google for the past couple years; an issue that has already affected Yahoo’s stock. The email upgrade will hopefully help the company make a quick turnaround said Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

Posted in Business