BBC to Launch Al-Jazeera Competitor

BBC to Launch Al-Jazeera Competitor: “The British Broadcasting Corp. said Thursday it will launch a 24-hour Arabic-language TV news channel to compete with the Qatar-based satellite station Al-Jazeera.”

Interesting. It seems like a smart move. The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not it becomes simply a propaganda vehicle for the British government in the Middle East. It should operate with complete autonomy and independence, otherwise it risks being harshly criticized by prominent Muslim religious clerics like the U.S. government-funded Al-Hurra TV station.


Pat O’Brien to Leave ‘Access Hollywood’

Pat O’Brien to Leave ‘Access Hollywood’: “It’s a wrap for “Access Hollywood” co-host Pat O’Brien. O’Brien is leaving the syndicated entertainment TV show after seven years and will be replaced by Billy Bush, who now serves as the show’s East Coast correspondent.”

Interesting. Perhaps “Access Hollywood” will finally become a syndicated entertainment newsmagazine worth watching, since Pat O’Brien is arguably the most annoying on-air personality on television. The new co-hosts, according to The Associated Press, are Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush. O’Dell has co-hosted the program since its premiere in 1996. Billy Bush is the first cousin of current U.S. President Bush. His father, Jonathan, is the brother of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

‘International Attack’ Hits Big Web Sites

‘International Attack’ Hits Big Web Sites: “Several major Web sites – including Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google – were inaccessible at times early Tuesday due to what the company that distributes them online called an attack.”

The second outage to hit the domain name servers of Akamai Technologies in less than two months. The one in the middle of May was apparently software related and Akamai isn’t saying if this one is a technical error or a distributed denial-of-service attack.

Interestingly, the outage also coincided with the relaunch of Yahoo! Mail, which boasts expanded storage from 4 MB to 100 MB; increased size of individual messages from 3 MB to 10 MB; and a redesigned Web mail interface.

Petro-Canada buys Prima Energy, while Ask Jeeves acquires Tukaroo

Petro-Canada captures U.S. Rockies gas with $719M Prima Energy takeover: “Petro-Canada, continuing its expansion beyond petroleum and outside Canada, has announced a $719-million ($534-million US) takeover of Prima Energy Corp., a Rocky Mountain natural gas company based in Denver.”

The company also said that the deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. As well, in the event the acquisition failed in favour of a rival bid, Prima Energy has agreed to pay a break-up fee of $18 million to Petro-Canada. Denver, Colorado-based Prima is in the business of finding, extracting, and refining unconventional gas — which is coalbed methane, or gas contained through coal seams, and low permeability reservoirs.

Ron Brenneman, CEO of Petro-Canada, says unconventional gas offers “all kinds of future potential.” He went on to say that with conventional reserves declining, unconventional gas “still in its infancy” is expected to fill 40 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply by 2025.

The deal seems to make sense, though the oil and gas industry isn’t exactly one I have a lot of knowledge about. So, having said that, I would encourage readers to peruse the article from The Canadian Press.

Meanwhile, Emeryville, Calf.-based Ask Jeeves said it bought “substantially all of the assets of [San Jose, Calif-.-based] Tukaroo, Inc.” for an undisclosed amount of money. Tukaroo produces and distributes desktop search software. Desktop search is new field that search companies are starting to explore. The idea is to tie your profitable Web search business to the consumer so they don’t want to use any other service, before Microsoft gets to market with its own algorithmic search technology and paid listings business. Google is reportedly developing its own software for searching files on a computer user’s hard drive, code-named Puffin, and would presumably tie-in with the Google Deskbar.

Google dominates Web search, but faces challenges: report

Google dominates Web search, but faces challenges: report: “As it readies its share offering, Google dominates the Internet search market but faces challenges as it tries to broaden its services, research firm Standard and Poor’s said.”

On the not surprising side of things, the study by S&P Equity Research Services, and conducted by online market research firm InsightExpress, found 48 percent of search engine users use Google most overall, compared to 20 percent for Yahoo!, 14 percent for Microsoft’s MSN business unit, and a mere 7 percent for Time Warner’s America Online subsidiary. (AOL has a multi-year agreement licensing the Google algorithmic Web search index on its own AOL Search property, as well as a revenue sharing deal for distribution of Google AdWords.) As well, 83 percent of Web users were extremely pleased with the search engines they use and cited Google for its relevance and accuracy of its results.

The story continues.

But S and P analysts said Google could face challenges as it expands beyond search into offerings such as shopping, social networking, and e-mail services.

Asked about Google’s planned launch of its e-mail service known as Gmail, only eight percent of those surveyed said they were very likely and 15 percent said they were somewhat likely to use the service, which promises virtually unlimited storage and the capacity to search old e-mails, and would target advertising to users.

Moreover, more than six out of 10 Google users indicated they would switch search engines if a better service came along.

Google will definitely need to keep these items in mind, especially with its Orkut social networking service. Initially, Orkut received a much-hyped response but interest has waned and its monthly unique visitor totals have presumably declined — just has the numbers for rival Friendster have.

Post-IPO, when Google is flush with billions of dollars in cash, it might consider making a play for Monster Worldwide, Inc. — the parent company of the job search and recruiting Web site; social networking and online assessment network Tickle, Inc.; and Yellow Pages marketer TMP Worldwide, Inc. would give Google a very successful and profitable entrance into the job hunting market, where it could compete aggressively with Yahoo! subsidiary HotJobs. Tickle would give Google a much better (and bigger) social networking service, with technology that is much greater than Orkut and a much larger registered user base. And finally, TMP Worldwide would give Google another niche — Yellow Pages advertising services in numerous print telephone directories around the globe. So strategically and financially, that would be an excellent route for Google to go.

Its other non-search assets, namely Google Groups 2, Gmail, and Froogle, also need continued improvement in order to resonate with users. Google Groups 2 still lacks critical functionality, like the ability to delete a group or share files. Gmail has some problems still, such as a lackluster spam filtering system and plaguing privacy concerns. Froogle is probably Google’s best, non-search service. However, unlike rivals, NexTag, BizRate, or PriceGrabber, it lacks a financial model. Google needs to figure out how to keep users to its Froogle property and monetize those visits.

A Big Credit Counselor Files for Bankruptcy Protection

A Big Credit Counselor Files for Bankruptcy Protection: “AmeriDebt, a credit counseling service that has been accused of misleading hundreds of thousands of customers, filed for bankruptcy protection on Saturday in Maryland.”

Oh, the irony. Nonetheless, it serves them right. They don’t deserve their tax-exempt status — taking money from indebted consumers and raking in huge profits. It’s an awful racket that must be stopped, and thankfully, the U.S. Senate has acted. As the article says, “The credit counseling industry has been under investigation by a Senate subcommittee, which issued a report in March saying that some companies had abused their tax-exempt status to squeeze profits from indebted consumers. The report urged the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission to step up enforcement efforts.”

Paul Martin promises pot decriminalization when pressed on issue

Paul Martin promises pot decriminalization when pressed on issue: “Martin was responding to a question about whether a Liberal government would reintroduce a law to hand out fines – not criminal sentences – to people caught with 15 grams of pot or less. The legislation died last month when Parliament was dissolved for the federal election campaign.

‘I will bring back the legislation that died on the order paper,’ Martin replied during a news conference outside the day care where he spent part of the morning reading to toddlers.”

If the Liberals are re-elected to a fourth term, either in a majority government or minority situation, and Parliament is reconvened, it would mark the second time the legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession of up to 15 grams would be reintroduced. In November 2003, when former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien prorogued the fall session of Parliament because of the Liberal leadership convention that crowned Paul Martin the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (and eventually Prime Minister), any legislation left on the order paper died. When newly-minted Prime Minister Paul Martin opened a new session of Parliament in early February 2004, he reintroduced almost all of the Chrétien government bills that had died. Most of them passed by the time the 37th Parliament was dissolved upon the calling of a federal election campaign in late May, except for one on animal cruelty that would’ve seen animals declared as living, sentient beings instead of just property and the marijuana decriminalization bill.

Nonetheless, in my view, it’s excellent news that the Prime Minister has agreed to bring it back as it would surely be passed, even if the Liberals were forced to create a coalition government with the opposition New Democratic Party — namely because the NDP is a leftist, democratic socialist party that fully supports marijuana decrminalization. Heck, even the left-leaning, separatist Bloc Québecois supports it. The only party that doesn’t is the Conservative party.

And finally, on a more humourous note, I found this passage from the Canadian Press article particularly interesting:

Still standing in the playground, the prime minister replied with a joke when asked another inevitable campaign question about marijuana, and alluded to former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s claim that he never inhaled.

“Did I smoke it? No. Therefore I didn’t inhale. But there is a rumour going around that I’ve eaten brownies.”

The prime minister has previously told the story of how in the 1960s his wife, Sheila, once baked them both a batch of strange tasting brownies.