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Friday, March 1, 2013

Daily Report: Groupon Dismisses Chief After a Dismal Quarter

Andrew Mason, the irreverent programmer and musician who turned a failed social-action site into the daily deals phenomenon Groupon, was dismissed late Thursday as chief executive, David Streitfeld reports on Friday in The New York Times. The ouster came a day after Groupon reported weak fourth-quarter earnings, which caused investors to shave off a quarter of the company’s value.

With Rodman Stunt, American Reality TV and North Korean Propaganda Fuse

Elements of American show business and North Korean propaganda briefly fused of Friday, when the former basketball star Dennis Rodman told reporters in Pyongyang that North Koreans “love” their new leader, Kim Jong-un. “And guess what” the athlete turned reality TV star added, “I love him â€" the guy’s awesome.”

An Associated Press video report on the end of Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea.

Speaking with the regional knowledge of a man who seemed to believe less than 48 hours ago that the upscale Seoul neighborhood featured in the global pop hit “Gangnam Style” was not in South Korea but somewhere in the impoverished North, Mr. Rodman parted with these words of praise or the heir to the Kim dynasty: “Guess what His grandfather and his father were great leaders.”

Unsurprisingly, the former Chicago Bull’s visit, along with three current Harlem Globetrotters and a crew from “Vice,” the HBO “news magazine series” that arranged the trip, was extensively covered on North Korean state television, which is no more adverse to reporting on staged events as news than the producers of the American reality television shows Mr. Rodman now gets paid to spice up.

North Korean state television footage of Dennis Rodman and his traveling! companions arriving in Pyongyang this week.

Footage of the party’s arrival in Pyongyang was broadcast on Wednesday, and Mr. Kim and Mr. Rodman watching an exhibition game together, before adjourning to the leader’s palace for sushi, was a featured news item on Thursday.

A news report from North Korean state television on Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman watching a basketball game together.

In newsrooms not owned and run by the North Korean government though, there has been some debate about whether any of these stage-managed events could fairly be described as news.

According to the producers of “Vice,” their new television program â€" inspired by the “thinking man’s lad magazine” of the same name â€" promises to be “an honest approach to documentary journalism.” But you don’t have to be Werner Heisenberg to wonder if the fact that they orchestrated this “basketball diplomacy mission” so that they could film it raises questions about whether they were observing and documenting life in North Korea as it is, or bringing a new form of reality television to the isolated nation.

As readers who watched the observational documentary “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times,” might recall that the founder of Vice magazine who led its expansion into filmmaking, Shane Smith â€" who is featured in a promotion for the new series â€" explained to my colleague David Carr in 2010 that his approach was perhaps more like a form of extreme tourism than journalism. “I’m not a journalist,” he said during a particularly salty exchange, “I’m not there to repor! t.”


Judge Slashes Jury Award in Apple-Samsung Case

A federal judge on Friday weakened the blow from Apple’s legal victory in a patent case against Samsung, lopping more than 40 percent off the damages a jury awarded last year.

But the judge’s decision left open the possibility that some of the damages could be restored through a new trial, in a sign that one of the most closely watched legal cases in the technology industry will continue to drag on. She also indicated that Apple is entitled to additional damages for sales of Samsung products that have occurred since the jury’s decision last summer.

In her review of the jury’s decisions, which originally awarded Apple more than $1 billion for patent violations by Samsung in its mobile products, Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court in San Jose, Calif., knocked those damages down by 450 million, to $599 million.

None of Judge Koh’s opinion changed the jury’s finding that Samsung violated a series of Apple patents in its smartphone and tablet products. But the judge took issue with the way the jury calculated the damages from the Samsung devices named in the case, more than two dozen in all. In her 27-page opinion, Judge Koh said the jury failed to follow her instructions in calculating damages for a certain class of patents, known as utility patents.

She also decided in Samsung’s favor in a dispute between the two parties over when Apple notified Samsung that it was infringing Apple’s intellectual property. Evidence of such notice dates are important because they help determine how hefty the damages are in a court case, once the party being notified is found guilty of infringement. Judge Koh chided Apple for using an expert in the case who used an “aggressive notice date” â€" meaning, an early one â€" to calculate damages.

“The need for a new tri! al could have been avoided had Apple chosen a more circumspect strategy or provided more evidence to allow the jury or the court to determine the appropriate award for a shorter notice period,” she said in her ruling.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment. Representatives of Samsung didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mark A. Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School, called the judge’s decision “an extremely careful and thorough opinion on a very difficult and interrelated set of issues.”

Mr. Lemley predicted that Samsung would wind up with some reduction in the original $1 billion award, but “almost certainly” less than the $450 million that Judge Koh reduced it by on Friday.

“We’ll need a new trial to figure that out,” he said. “Judge Koh has encouraged both sides to appeal first. That may clarify some questions, but it is unlikely to prevent a new trial, just delay it some.”

A Costly Desalination Plant in California Might Become a Bargain

A $1 billion seawater desalination plant that is being built in California's San Diego County is a long-term gamble that the price for water will keep going up.