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Friday, March 22, 2013

Pope Cancels Newspaper Delivery Back Home in Argentina

Pope Francis, apparently working down his to-do list since taking his new position, made a call to his local newspaper kiosk in Buenos Aires this week to cancel his daily delivery and send his greetings, according to a report from the Catholic News Agency.

Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner’s son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.” He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.

“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome,” the pope insisted.

“I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say,” Del Regno told the Argentinean daily La Nacion. “He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.”

The original report from La Nacion was accompanied by a video report on the shock at the kiosk.

Interview With Cuban Blogger Yoani Sánchez

NEW YORK â€" Yoani Sánchez stepped out of a coffee shop in Chelsea and quickly pulled a winter hat over her head, covering about three inches of her waist-length brown hair. “This is my disguise,” she said, “It’s not working.”

Ms. Sánchez, a dissident blogger a colleague recently called “the most famous living Cuban not named Castro,” spent the last week in New York and Washington as a part of an 80-day international tour. This is the first time the Cuban government has allowed her to leave the country in a decade, but she says she doesn’t feel very far from home.

“The official who stamped my passport was Cuban,” she said, “I said, ‘Wow, I am surrounded by Cubans, it’s beautiful.’”

For Ms. Sánchez, who has dedicated her career to publicly criticizing the Castro government, this trip is a vindication of her activism. Last month, Cuba dropped rules requiring an exit visa in order to travel abroad, though citizens still have to apply for a passport before they’re allowed to leave the country.

Ms. Sánchez says she formally requested a passport 20 times over five years before finally receiving one last month. She posted pictures of each rejection letter on her popular blog and on her Twitter feed, which currently boasts 455,000 followers.

“The pressure around my trip mounted, and perhaps they said, ‘The cost of making her stay here is too high. Let’s try letting her leave,’” Ms. Sánchez said.

Political calculations aside, experts say that the decision to let Ms. Sánchez and other critics travel is a sign of opening on the part of the regime. Ms. Sánchez’s trip “is the biggest sign of the change in Cuban policy so far,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute in Virginia. “She’s the person with the most notoriety who has benefited” from the relaxed rules, he added.

The domestic implications of allowing Ms. Sánchez are unclear, considering that many Cubans may not even know who she is. Her critics contend that her work is funded by the U.S. government, and appeals only to Cubans in exile. Ms. Sánchez said she had no way of knowing how many of her readers were Cubans living on the island.

“I live in a country that has a monopoly on information, so when a Cuban is saying critical things about the government,” from outside the country, Ms. Sánchez said, “the biggest challenge is how to get that information out to your compatriots on the island.”

Most Cubans don’t have access to a computer, let alone Internet at home, and an hour of wireless connection can cost $10 - half of the average monthly salary. A fiber-optic cable has been providing higher speed Internet access to the island since mid-January, according to the Renesys Corporation, an Internet monitoring company.

The result is that news from Cuba often travels in mysterious ways: sent out with the click of a button, a particularly controversial tidbit will only make its way back to the island via a call weeks later from an opposition activist’s family member abroad.

Blog posts are saved and passed around on thumb drives. Tweets are broadcast through text messages. “We find out about something that happened a few meters away after the news has left the country and come back like a boomerang,” Ms. Sánchez explained.

Ms. Sánchez has spent part of her trip nudging policymakers to fundamentally rethink U.S. policy toward Cuba. This is one place where the activist diverges from the Cuban-American community, which has supported Ms. Sánchez since her earliest days as a blogger and continues to regard her as something of a cause célèbre.

“I am really critical of the embargo, for example, because I think that it hasn’t worked,” Ms. Sánchez said, explaining that the embargo is a crutch for the Cuban regime during tough times. “If there aren’t potatoes, its because of the embargo. If there aren’t tomatoes, it’s the embargo. If there aren’t freedoms, it’s the embargo’s fault.”

During Ms. Sánchez’s brief stop in Washington, she met with two Florida Republicans who are among the staunchest supporters of the embargo in Congress, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart. Ms. Sánchez apparently didn’t change their minds. Reuters quoted Representative Ros-Lehtinen as saying: “There has not been a change in attitude or position about dissidents who advocate for freedom and democracy in Cuba,” following the meeting.

The Cuban-American community argues that easing the embargo is tantamount to propping up the Castro regime, by supplying a much-needed cash flow to the state. “It’s true that a part of those resources will end up in the hands of the government,” Ms. Sánchez said, “But in these times, I think that assistance like that would be much more beneficial to the Cuban people.”

The Cuban government has found other sources of income, from China and Venezuela in particular, Ms. Sánchez said, and has managed to survive for a half a century without the help of the U.S.

Ms. Sánchez ended her trip to New York on uncertain terms Thursday afternoon, when her press conference was abruptly moved her from the the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium to a cramped hallway in the United Nations Correspondents Association (U.N.C.A.) offices, at the request of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations.

In a letter to Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Cuba’s U.N. ambassador, called the meeting an “anti-Cuba event,” that was “a premeditated and blatant political media aggression against a member state.”

Mr. Rodríguez also claimed that Ms. Sánchez, “receives instructions from U.S. authorities, as well as material, technological and financial support out of U.S. federal funds,” and contended that U.N. sponsorship of her visit would violate the organization’s charter.

At a briefing three hours before the event, Mr. Ban’s spokesman tried to create some distance between the U.N. and the U.N.C.A., which he called an “an independent entity.”

Asked about the debacle, Ms. Sánchez responded “I’m used to speaking in smaller places in Cuba,” adding, “if this meeting had been held in an elevator, it would have been freer,” than any setting in Cuba.

Yoko Ono Details Why She Posted Lennon’s Bloodied Glasses on Twitter

On what would have been her 44th wedding anniversary Wednesday, Yoko Ono said, she walked through a park, remembering how much she and her husband, John Lennon, had laughed and smiled on their wedding day. “Then I felt the emptiness more acutely because of the beautiful memory,” she said.

That evening, Ms. Ono, 80, posted on her Twitter account four antigun messages with an image of the blood-splattered glasses that Lennon was wearing when he was gunned down outside their Manhattan apartment building on Dec. 8, 1980.

With the photo, once used on a 1981 album cover and in a 2000 antigun billboard campaign, she wrote: “The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience. After 33 years our son Sean and I still miss him. Yoko Ono Lennon

She posted three other messages to her 3.7 million followers:

From Wednesday night through Friday afternoon, the four posts on Twitter were shared at least 43,000 times around the world, according to a data analysis by Gilad Lotan, vice president of research and development at Social Flow.

President Obama’s @barackobama Twitter account, managed by his former campaign team, retweeted it Thursday night to his 28 million followers.

Mr. Lotan, who created a data visualization of how the post was shared on Twitter, pointed out the tweets were shared by people from places like Ecuador and Australia, with about 11.6 percent of the posts shared in the United Kingdom alone. There was also, he said, a large number of responses from Mexico, plagued by years of gun violence and drug cartel wars.

Gilad Lotan, Social Flow. A data visualization of how Yoko Ono’s posts about gun violence were shared around the world on Twitter.

In addition to Twitter, Ms. Ono also posted her message on her Facebook page, where thousands of people shared it. Hundreds of people left comments, with many thanking her for supporting new restrictions on guns and gun owners while others expressed annoyance that she was weighing in on the gun control debate.

In an interview Friday, Ms. Ono said she remained haunted by the shooting of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. “It was an incredible tragedy, and both my son and I are still suffering,” she said. “It is an emotion that I think I share with other widows and families who have lost their loved ones. ”

With the gun debate taking place around the country and in Washington, she said she thought it was time to speak up. “Many children were shot,” she said. “This is what I can do and I did it. It was painful for me but I did it.”

Ms. Ono also said that she thought it was important for people to understand what happened to her husband, who was shot four times in the back. “Instead of just enjoying John’s beautiful songs, I wanted everyone to understand the reality of what happened to him,” she said.

Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman, an obsessed fan, with a concealed .38-caliber handgun that had been purchased for $169 in Hawaii. Lawyers for Mr. Chapman presented an insanity defense, but he instructed them to enter a guilty plea. He is now serving a life sentence.

After Lennon died, Ms. Ono said she wanted to speak out against gun violence. “But I was so devastated,” she said. “It was not a time that I could do it. But maybe I should have,” she said, adding that she was also advised against making statements about guns because it could put her and her family in danger.

In 1981, she took the photograph of the bloodied spectacles resting on a window overlooking Central Park. The image was used for the cover of her 1981 album “Season of Glass.”

Later, Ms. Ono did become a strong advocate for gun control as part of her overall peace advocacy work, which began when her husband was alive. In 2000, on the anniversary of Lennon’s death, she called for the world to reflect on the horrors of gun violence, comparing living in the United States to living in a war zone.

She also used the image of the bloodied glasses on billboards that she paid for to help carry her message in New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland. She used language similar to what she posted on Twitter this week on some of the billboards: “Over 676,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.A. since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980.”

The glasses themselves were also part of various museum exhibits over the years. At one time, she also put on display his belongings, which had been returned to her by the coroner’s office in a plain brown paper bag.

For now, Ms. Ono said she was hoping that social media could help spread the message.

On Friday, she posted a link to the organization that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg helped start with mayors from around the country working to reduce gun violence.

“We have to all voice together that we need a peaceful world for our children, for our grandchildren,” she said. “This planet could be a beautiful, beautiful plant, and it can be done.”

Arab Student Explains Why He Heckled Obama in Jerusalem

Rabbea Eid, an Arab-Israeli student, was removed by security after interrupting President Barack Obama's speech in Jerusalem on Thursday.Doug Mills/The New York Times Rabbea Eid, an Arab-Israeli student, was removed by security after interrupting President Barack Obama’s speech in Jerusalem on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Arab-Israeli student who interrupted President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem on Thursday explained what he said and why in an interview with The Lede on Friday.

The student, Rabbea Eid, said by telephone that he did not plan the outburst but was offended by Mr. Obama’s remarks, which seemed to rule out the solution the political-science student favors: a single, binational state to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians:

I was listening to the speech of Obama and he said a lot of things that made me upset so I just stood up and shouted. He was talking about democracy and justice and at the same time he said he supports Israel as a Jewish country. So, from my perspective and that of a lot of people, Arab people, Palestinians who were in the building listening to the speech… the Arabs, the minority in Israel are also against a Jewish country because it’s not democratic country. It’s against us, so how can Mr. Obama be democratic and in the same time support an ethnic country

So I stood up and I told him, ‘President Obama, did you come to make peace or to support Israel and the Israeli occupation’ Then I asked him about this thing, ‘How can you be democratic and support a Jewish country’ And I asked him also, ‘Who killed Rachel Corrie’ The last question was, ‘Did you see the apartheid wall when you came from Ramallah’

And then the security guys came and took me out, the Israeli security guys, and they told me that I’m arrested and they threatened me and they used, at first, a little bit of violence with me. But after that there was a journalist â€" from Fox News, I think â€" came out and followed me…. She started taking my details and pictures, while I was stopped by the Israeli security guys…. One of the security guys, I think the boss of them, told his team, ‘Deal with him easy. I don’t want to make a big story now. There is media so just let him go. Then they walked me outside.

Footage of Mr. Eid after he was removed from the hall by security was broadcast by Israel’s Channel 2.

Mr. Eid, an activist with the Balad Party, which represents Arab citizens of Israel, also said, “I don’t think Obama can solve the problem, because he’s as I see it, he’s part of the problem because he supports Israel and gives Israel weapons and money without saying they shouldn’t be killing the Palestinian people.”

He added:

I believe if he’s from a real democratic party, he should support a country for all its citizens and end the occupation, not to support a Jewish country and to support the Israeli army. He didn’t talk that much about the settlements. He talked about the violence from settlers but he didn’t say very clearly that something against settlements is that they are built on occupied land. He didn’t talk about the apartheid wall. And many things.

Most of his speech was to me, and to a lot of others, a Zionist speech. He talked about the historical Zionist story about the Jewish people, starting from 2,000 years ago till today and the right of the Jewish people to have their own country, but he didn’t say that there are millions of refugees, Palestinian refugees that were expelled in 1948, just before 65 years ago.

To me, I believe in one state for two people â€" one democratic state. There could be a special national thing for the Jewish or the Arab people, you know, but it could be one country. We need justice, you know. I actually don’t care what the name of this state is, but what I care is for there to be justice for two peoples in the state and to end this conflict.

Before hanging up, Mr. Eid said, “it is important for us that the American people know what is happening here, and to know that the money from their taxes is going for the weapons for Israel and different places.”

BlackBerry Z10 Goes on Sale in U.S.

An after-midnight sale at a 24-hour Best Buy store in New York’s Union Square was the site of the American debut of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone on Friday.

More important for the future of BlackBerry, however, will be how many more American shoppers buy any of the collection of new touch-screen phones based on the company’s new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The beginning of American sales â€" only for AT&T’s network at the moment â€" came weeks after the new phone went on sale in Britain. But the United States remains the world’s largest and most influential market for high-end smartphones, a fact underscored by BlackBerry’s decision to unveil the new line of phones in New York in late January, which included the Z10 and the Q10.

The United States is also the place where BlackBerry, formerly called Research in Motion, has most profoundly fallen out of favor. Once the dominant smartphone vendor in the United States, BlackBerry held just 2 percent of the market last year, according to IDC.

No data about early sales through AT&T and retailers like Best Buy was available on Friday afternoon. Nor were there any reports of extensive lines to buy the phones in the United States. Before Friday’s unveiling, analysts offered conflicting estimates about the number of Z10s purchasers had ordered online in advance.

“Based on early reports, there has been a good level of interest in the Z10 at our stores, and we’re excited to see how the launch plays out over the next couple of weeks,” Shandra Tollefson, a spokeswoman for Best Buy, said.

BlackBerry had no comment on first-day sales beyond a news release announcing the availability of the phones in the United States.

In a bid to bolster interest, BlackBerry held parties this week in Los Angeles and New York last Monday. It also financed special training for Best Buy employees that will allow each of the company’s  1,400 stores to have a resident BlackBerry 10 expert.

Jeff Haydock, another Best Buy spokesman, said that the retailer expanded its American sales plans for the new BlackBerry after learning that sales at its Canadian subsidiary, where the phone has been available since early February, “had exceeded their expectations.”

AT&T is charging $200 for the Z10 to customers who agree to a two-year contract. Verizon Wireless will start selling the phone, on the same terms, on March 28. T-Mobile USA has said only that it will start selling the phone by the end of the month.

Sprint is waiting for the BlackBerry Q10, which has both a touch screen and a traditional BlackBerry keyboard, but still does not have a release date.

The first statistics about BlackBerry Z10 sales in markets where the phone has been available for several weeks are expected to emerge on Thursday when BlackBerry reports its quarterly financial results. Thorsten Heins, the company’s president and chief executive, has been positive about the new phone’s reception in those countries. But he has generally compared its sales to previous BlackBerry unveilings without offering any numbers.

While all analysts agree that the BlackBerry 10 operating system and its phones are vital to BlackBerry’s return to profitability, their assessments about the likelihood of that happening diverge greatly. A Thomson Reuters survey of 42 securities analysts found that the consensus rating on the company was hold, with only eight analysts giving BlackBerry’s stock a buy or outperform rating.

Earlier this week, Ehud Gelblum of Morgan Stanley upgraded BlackBerry to overweight from underweight. But his investment note was far from an unqualified endorsement of BlackBerry 10’s long-term future. The upgrade, he said, was based on expectations of future sales of older BlackBerry 7 devices and the company’s other legacy businesses. He does, however, believe that BlackBerry 10 sales could be “relatively strong” for the next few months as some of BlackBerry’s 79 million users around the world change phones.

If BlackBerry 10 does turn around BlackBerry’s long-term financial fortunes, Mr. Gelblum said, that does not mean that the BlackBerry will rejoin Apple’s iOS-based iPhone and phones that use Google’s Android operating system as a major player in the United States.

“Note that our more bullish stance is NOT based on a resurgence in share in the U.S., where we believe users are already mostly sold on the Android/iOS duopoly,” Mr. Gelblum wrote.

The Best Thing I Learned At SXSW Was From the Unabomber

Now that I’m back and mostly recovered from South by Southwest, my friends, editors and fellow reporters keep asking me about the most interesting thing I saw in Austin.

Some things I have already written about.

Others, I haven’t been able to get out of my mind, like the chat I had with David Skrbina, a professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Mr. Skrbina, a polite, mild-mannered man, is not your typical SXSW attendee. He doesn’t use Facebook or know what it means to Snapchat someone. He checks his e-mail a few times a week because he has to for his job. For the most part, he manages to stay away from the devices and services that saturate many of our lives. For example, I was running a bit behind for our meeting so I texted him to let him know. Several minutes later, I received his terse, succinct reply: “Call.”

When we met, Mr. Skrbina showed me the battered flip phone I had sent the  text to, and admitted that he didn’t really know how to use it. In fact, it was his wife’s.

“She makes me bring it with me when I travel,” he said with an embarrassed shrug.

Mr. Skrbina was in Austin to debate the merits of technology, and you can guess which side he came down on. He thinks we would be better off without any of it, and has no interest in exploring reasons  we might need more of it. After he finished his talk, he planned to duck into a talk by a political cartoonist and then head out of town to catch his flight home to Michigan.

Mr. Skrbina was heavily influenced by the lengthy manifesto written in 1995 by Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, which cast doubt on the benefits of technology and raised questions about unforeseen consequences of technology in modern society. Mr. Skrbina, began corresponding with Mr. Kaczynski, and helped to publish a collection of essays a few years ago. But he is quick to say that he does not condone or endorse the violent actions of Mr. Kaczynski.

“But just because he is a criminal doesn’t mean he’s not a rational, intelligent, thinker,” Mr. Skrbina said. He is a firm believer in Mr. Kaczynski’s principles, and Mr. Skrbina’s two daughters grew up calling the Unabomber Uncle Ted.

Mr. Skrbina says that many modern ailments and conditions â€" attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and aggravated stress â€" are the direct result of cognitive difficulties exacerbated by the influence of technology. ”We aren’t evolved to live that highly interactive of a lifestyle,” he said. “We don’t adapt well to it.”

Mr. Skrbina understands that most people don’t agree with him. He just thinks they’re wrong. Technology “is taking time away from the more important things in life,” he said.

Talking to Mr. Skrbina while surrounded by people animatedly showing off their apps and Web sites to other people clutching smartphones or tablets was disconcertingly surreal. Our conversation started with me talking about my own love affair with my iPhone, jokingly calling it my boyfriend. Mr. Skrbina leaned forward to interrupt me. “You know that’s not good for you, right” he said.

At the time, I laughed it off. I was amused. How could I not be I love technology and it loves me. It was the beginning of the conference and I was giddy, ready to hit the streets with a fully charged phone and a Mophie juice pack.

But by Monday afternoon, I had had peaked. My eyes were glazed over, after hours of  looking at apps and hearing people talking about how their new social thing was going to be the Next Big Thing. It didn’t feel neutral and it didn’t feel optional. It felt inescapable. Admittedly I was worn out by then, and had eaten more free Doritos tacos than I’d like to admit publicly. My brain felt warped. Mr. Skrbina’s words bobbed to the surface of my mind and made a lot more sense than they did a few days earlier.

At SXSW, the culture of pervasive technology becomes so overwhelming you don’t even notice it. It seeps into everything. While watching a crew of rogue construction workers aimlessly beat a discarded length of pipe in my hotel’s parking lot, I joked that they were players frustrated by the snags in the new SimCity game. Later, when a weary exercise troupe started working out next to them on the hot asphalt, I wondered aloud if they had gotten a bad Groupon deal. It is an extreme place. The real world doesn’t have people giving demonstrations of a gesture-based controller next to a barbecue pit, or feature talks by Shaquille O’Neal raving about his new star-up company. But it points to a future that we are barreling toward, one where tech culture is pop culture, not a shadowy niche or the hobbyist obsession of a bunch of nerds.

But Mr. Skrbina’s and Mr. Kaczynski’s ideology is also extreme. It’s too late for reform, they say, so the only solution is to excise technology from our lives and society as a whole. For most of us that’s not an option; it’s not even an option for Mr. Skrbina if he hopes to keep his job. Still, he said, it was important to think more critically about the role of technology in our lives, and attempt to control it. In a few decades, will we look back at our freewheeling digital days as the digital equivalent of the era of smoking in movie theaters and airplanes Will it become clear that our current habits are harmful, and that they wreaked havoc before being reined in

I’m the first to argue that technology has improved my life. I cannot imagine my existence without it. It has formed the basis of my career, enriched my friendships and relationships. I’ve watched with pleasure as the distinction between the online and offline worlds has narrowed. If I could hitch a ride on the next SpaceX vessel leaving Earth, I would. I’ve had more fun Snapchatting with friends on a recent Friday night than I have at any bar. I will take it, flaws and all, because this new industrial revolution is the most exciting thing I know I’ll see in my lifetime.

Save yourselves; there’s no hope for me.

But talking to Mr. Skrbina underscored the importance of thinking about these things, because they aren’t going away any time soon. At the moment, that conversation “is a nonexistent discussion right now,” he said. This rang especially true in Austin. But after we spoke, I noticed an undercurrent at the conference of a few panels and hallway conversations that touched on Mr. Skrbina’s points. Nev Schulman, the man behind the Catfish movie and MTV show, shared some of his observations of watching children across America realize the person they had been communicating with was not who he seemed to be. Carl Sandler, one of creators of a dating application called Mister, sat down next to me after a panel and said he had been thinking more about how mobile dating apps can be reductive to the people who are hoping to find true connections wthin them. App developers, he said,  can make design choices that help people slow down their usage.

Critical introspection isn’t always a popular stance. After a Google Glass demonstration, I raised some skeptical points on Twitter about the social and ethical complexities surrounding the device â€" and was almost immediately called a technophobe by a well-known pundit.

Sure, I get it. No one wants to be left behind. But maybe it’s better to take that risk now than regret it later.

Serbs and Croats Renew Soccer Hostilities

As my colleague James Montague reports, Friday’s World Cup qualifying match between Croatia and Serbia in Zagreb will be played in a stadium packed with supporters of only the home team. The decision to ban Serb fans from traveling to the Croatian capital for the match was taken with an awareness of the central role nationalist soccer hooligans played in the wars that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

That means that the atmosphere in Zagreb’s Maksimir Stadium will be as one-sided as it was in 1999, when the Croatians first hosted Serbia’s best players â€" who then represented what remained of Yugoslavia at the time, just Serbia and Montenegro. (The Montenegrins later declared independence). Your Lede blogger attended that match in late 1999 and produced a video report on the match, which included footage of a legendary fight between Serbian and Croatian soccer hooligans in that stadium on the eve of the war.

A 1999 video report on the first postwar soccer match in Zagreb between Croatia’s national soccer team and rump Yugoslavia.

As the Croatian-born journalist Andrej Krickovic explained in 1999, in the tense final year before Yugoslavia dissolved into ethnic-nationalist warfare, “Traditional fights between rival football hooligans acquired a political meaning.” He added:

The climax occurred in Zagreb at the match at Maskmir stadium between Dinamo and Crvena Zvezda Belgrade on 13 May 1990, only days after the Croatian elections. Some 1,500 members of Crvena Zvezda’s fan club, Delije, attended the game. They were led by Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic, who later became commander of the most notorious paramilitary group, the Serbian Volunteer Guard. When Serbian fans began to tear apart the stands, the BBB stormed their end of the stadium. The fight then moved onto the field, with police trying to separate the two groups. A solid hour of battle followed. The mayhem was broadcast live on national television, and order was restored only when riot police were called in. The match was called off.

When the real war broke out, the BBB rushed to the front lines. “The Croatian National Guard didn’t even have its own insignia then, and we put our Dinamo badges on and went off to fight,” recalls a BBB member named Stipe. Behind the western stands of the Maksimir stadium is a monument to those who lost their lives in the war. The epitaph reads: “To all Dinamo fans for whom the war started at Maksimir stadium on 13 May 1990 and ended by them laying their lives on the altar of the Croatian homeland.”

Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian explained that when the two nations first met in 1999, Sinisa Mihajlovic, the current coach of the Serbian team who comes from the Croatian city of Vukovar, was on the pitch and at the center of attention.

Serbia, in its present form, has never played Croatia, although Yugoslavia - by then consisting of just Serbia and Montenegro - did play Croatia in qualifying for Euro 2000. The power failed at the first game in Belgrade, a 0-0 draw and when the lights came back on, it became clear that Yugoslav players had surrounded Croatia’s players in the centre circle to protect them. In Zagreb, where a 2-2 draw eliminated Croatia, a huge banner commemorated “Vukovar 91;” Mihajlovic knelt before it and crossed himself, a gesture that was understandable in that he wanted to commemorate the fallen on both sides but one that was also hugely provocative, drawing a torrent of abuse from home fans.

At a news conference ahead of Friday’s kick-off, the Croatian coach Igor Stimac, played down reports of nationalist tension.

Considering that both Croatian and Serbian extremists also visited great violence during those wars of the 1990s on Bosnia’s Muslim population â€" mainly descended from Slavic converts to Islam during the centuries of rule by the Ottoman Turks â€" an interesting wrinkle was added by the selection of a Turkish official, Cuneyt Cakir, to referee the match.

Reports from the stadium in Zagreb posted on Twitter just before the match suggested that nationalist feeling was high, at least in the stands.

Blackstone Studying Dell, but Said to Be Unlikely to Bid

The private equity giant Blackstone Group is weighing whether to make an offer for all or part of Dell as a Friday deadline looms, people briefed on the matter said Thursday.

But some people close to Blackstone are skeptical that any offer will materialize.

Rivals to the proposed $24 billion buyout of the computer maker by its founder, Michael S. Dell, and the private equity firm Silver Lake have until midnight Friday to submit their alternative bids, under a process being run by a special committee of the Dell board.

Among the companies that have taken a look at Dell’s books under that “go-shop process,” Blackstone is regarded as the likeliest to make an offer, the people briefed on the matter said.

The private equity firm, which has spent a surprising amount of time and effort examining Dell’s books, has the firepower to organize a rival bid.

And it has an important tie: Blackstone hired Dell’s chief in-house deal maker, David Johnson, who has previously worked at I.B.M., earlier this year. Mr. Johnson is seen as one of the primary advocates behind Blackstone’s interest, according to the people briefed on the process.

As of late Thursday, Blackstone was still considering its next move, these people said. A variety of options have been on the table, including making a bid for some or all of Dell.

The firm has talked to Southeastern Asset Management, a large shareholder in Dell, about the possibility of contributing its 8.4 percent stake toward a rival deal, the people briefed on the matter said. Southeastern has argued publicly and privately that it would favor a proposal that would allow all shareholders to continue being investors in Dell.

And Blackstone has sounded out potential leaders for Dell should the company’s founder decide to step down from an active managerial role.

The firm has asked Mark V. Hurd, Oracle’s president and the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, according to a person briefed on the matter, although he did not appear to be interested.

Hopes for a rival bid from Blackstone have buoyed Dell’s stock in recent weeks, with its price trading above the $13.65 a share that Mr. Dell and Silver Lake are offering.

Several shareholders, including some of Dell’s biggest outside investors, have proclaimed for more than a month that the current offer by Mr. Dell and Silver Lake is too low. Shareholders like Southeastern and the billionaire Carl C. Icahn have demanded that the Dell board consider alternatives, or risk having the bid defeated in a shareholder vote.

The emergence of an alternative, potentially higher bid could prod Mr. Dell and Silver Lake into sweetening their offer.

Yet there is also a good chance that no other suitor emerges. Others that have looked at Dell’s books, including Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, are not considered serious bidders, instead using the go-shop to examine the confidential financial information of a competitor.

If there is no rival bid, next week, Dell is expected to begin trying to persuade shareholders that the buyout offer on the table represents the highest price the company could fetch for its rapidly declining business.

Blackstone may also use other strategies. It spoke to General Electric’s giant finance arm, GE Capital, some time ago about potentially buying Dell’s financial services division, one of these people said. The division lends money to customers of the computer company. But it is unclear whether GE Capital, which has been selling assets as part of its recovery from the financial crisis, would be interested in pursuing a deal, this person said.

Blackstone has participated in big technology buyouts in the past, including the $17.5 billion deal for Freescale Semiconductor in 2006 and the $10.8 billion deal for SunGard Data Systems in 2005. Still, any move by Blackstone on Dell would be unusual. Private equity firms have rarely jumped another’s deals, a phenomenon that has drawn scrutiny recently in an antitrust lawsuit filed in Boston.

A version of this article appeared in print on 03/22/2013, on page B6 of the NewYork edition with the headline: A Bid by Blackstone for Dell Is Said to Be Uncertain.

Microsoft Releases Report on Law Enforcement Requests

Microsoft Releases Report on Law Enforcement Requests

Microsoft disclosed for the first time on Thursday the number of requests it had received from government law enforcement agencies for data on its hundreds of millions of customers around the world, joining the ranks of Google, Twitter and other Web businesses that publish so-called transparency reports.

The report, which Microsoft said it planned to update every six months, showed that law enforcement agencies in five countries â€" Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and the United States â€" accounted for 69 percent of the 70,665 requests the company received last year.

In 80 percent of requests, Microsoft provided elements of what is called noncontent data, like an account holder’s name, sex, e-mail address, I.P. address, country of residence, and dates and times of data traffic.

In 2.1 percent of requests, the company disclosed the actual content of a communication, like the subject heading of an e-mail, the contents of an e-mail or a picture stored on SkyDrive, its cloud computing service.

Microsoft said it disclosed the content of communications in 1,544 cases to law enforcement agencies in the United States, and in 14 cases to agents in Brazil, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.

“Government requests for online data are like the dark matter of the Internet,” said Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which has campaigned for greater disclosure.

Ms. Galperin said that even with Microsoft’s disclosures, fewer than 10 companies published the extent of their cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

“Only a few companies report this, but they are only a very small percent of the online universe,” she said. “So any one company that joins the disclosure effort is good news. The faster this becomes a standard for all Web businesses, the better.”

The law enforcement requests concerned users of Microsoft services including Hotmail, Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Skype and Xbox Live, where people are typically asked to enter their personal details to obtain service.

Google was the first major Web business, in 2010, to report the number of legal requests it had received for information. Since then, Twitter, LinkedIn and some smaller companies have also begun reporting, but big businesses like Apple and Yahoo have not.

Microsoft also resisted at first. In January, a group of more than 100 Internet activists and digital rights groups signed a petition asking the company to disclose its data-handling practices for Skype, the Internet voice and video service it bought in 2011.

But Microsoft did provide two types of detail in its transparency report that rivals have not addressed in similar fashion.

It described the reasons it had rejected some requests, and it listed separately by country how it had responded to requests for the content of communications and for noncontent data.

It also published separate information for Skype, which is based in Luxembourg and is subject to national and European Union laws.

In 4,713 cases last year, Microsoft disclosed administrative details of Skype accounts â€" like a user’s Skype ID, name, e-mail address and billing information, as well as call detail records if a person subscribed to a Skype service that connects to a telephone number.

But Microsoft said it had released no content from Skype transmissions last year. It has said that the peer-to-peer nature of Skype’s Internet conversations means the company does not store and has no access to past conversations.

The countries that made the most requests and received information from Microsoft for Skype noncontent information last year, in descending order, were Britain, the United States, Germany, France and Taiwan, which together accounted for about 80 percent of the requests.

Microsoft did not disclose the total number of requests it had received for Skype information, but said it aimed to do so in its next report later this year.

Brad Smith, an executive vice president at Microsoft and the company’s general counsel, said that the number of requests Microsoft received last year covered only a tiny fraction of its huge customer base, which the company estimates is in the hundreds of millions.

Mr. Smith said in a blog post that the requests in 2012 had affected less than 0.02 percent of Microsoft account holders. He wrote that Microsoft, like all global businesses, must comply with requests from law enforcement, but that the company had set high standards for doing so.

Law enforcement agencies must present a subpoena or its foreign equivalent to obtain noncontent data about Microsoft users, Mr. Smith wrote. To obtain the contents of e-mails and other communications, the company requires agencies to submit a warrant, which is issued in the United States by a court judge and in Britain by the home secretary.

Microsoft rejected requests for data in 18 percent of cases last year, mostly because it could not find any information on the individuals named or because law enforcement officials had not demonstrated the proper legal justification for the requests, the company said.

It also said it had received a minuscule number of requests for data on businesses.

In 2012, Microsoft said, it received only 11 requests for information on business clients and complied in four instances, either after it had obtained consent from the business or when it already had in effect a contract permitting it to disclose the information.

“Like every company, we are obligated to comply with legally binding requests from law enforcement, and we respect and appreciate the role that law enforcement personnel play in so many countries to protect the public’s safety,” Mr. Smith wrote in his blog post. “As we continue to move forward, Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights, free expression and individual privacy.”

Lockheed Martin Harnesses Quantum Technology

A Strange Computer Promises Great Speed

Kim Stallknecht for The New York Times

Lockheed Martin brought a version of D-Wave’s quantum computer and plans to upgrade it to commercial scale.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia â€" Our digital age is all about bits, those precise ones and zeros that are the stuff of modern computer code.

Geordie Rose, left, a founder and chief technical officer of D-Wave, and Vern Brownell, the company’s chief executive.

But a powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between â€" all at the same time.

It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers.

Now, Lockheed Martin â€" which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago â€" is confident enough in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale, becoming the first company to use quantum computing as part of its business.

Skeptics say that D-Wave has yet to prove to outside scientists that it has solved the myriad challenges involved in quantum computation.

But if it performs as Lockheed and D-Wave expect, the design could be used to supercharge even the most powerful systems, solving some science and business problems millions of times faster than can be done today.

Ray Johnson, Lockheed’s chief technical officer, said his company would use the quantum computer to create and test complex radar, space and aircraft systems. It could be possible, for example, to tell instantly how the millions of lines of software running a network of satellites would react to a solar burst or a pulse from a nuclear explosion â€" something that can now take weeks, if ever, to determine.

“This is a revolution not unlike the early days of computing,” he said. “It is a transformation in the way computers are thought about.” Many others could find applications for D-Wave’s computers. Cancer researchers see a potential to move rapidly through vast amounts of genetic data. The technology could also be used to determine the behavior of proteins in the human genome, a bigger and tougher problem than sequencing the genome. Researchers at Google have worked with D-Wave on using quantum computers to recognize cars and landmarks, a critical step in managing self-driving vehicles.

Quantum computing is so much faster than traditional computing because of the unusual properties of particles at the smallest level. Instead of the precision of ones and zeros that have been used to represent data since the earliest days of computers, quantum computing relies on the fact that subatomic particles inhabit a range of states. Different relationships among the particles may coexist, as well. Those probable states can be narrowed to determine an optimal outcome among a near-infinitude of possibilities, which allows certain types of problems to be solved rapidly.

D-Wave, a 12-year-old company based in Vancouver, has received investments from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, which operates one of the world’s largest computer systems, as well as from the investment bank Goldman Sachs and from In-Q-Tel, an investment firm with close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies.

“What we’re doing is a parallel development to the kind of computing we’ve had for the past 70 years,” said Vern Brownell, D-Wave’s chief executive.

Mr. Brownell, who joined D-Wave in 2009, was until 2000 the chief technical officer at Goldman Sachs. “In those days, we had 50,000 servers just doing simulations” to figure out trading strategies, he said. “I’m sure there is a lot more than that now, but we’ll be able to do that with one machine, for far less money.”

D-Wave, and the broader vision of quantum-supercharged computing, is not without its critics. Much of the criticism stems from D-Wave’s own claims in 2007, later withdrawn, that it would produce a commercial quantum computer within a year.

John Markoff contributed reporting from San Francisco.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 22, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Testing a New Class of Speedy Computer.

Executives Press European Antitrust Chief on Google

Executives Press European Antitrust Chief on Google

BERLIN â€" With the European antitrust inquiry into Google’s search engine practices entering a third year, a group of 11 Web companies sent a joint letter to the top antitrust official in Europe on Thursday, asking him to compel Google to change its business practices to ensure that smaller rivals are not unfairly harmed.

Joaquín Almunia, the competition commissioner.

The letter, organized by one of the original complainants in the case, a British online shopping service called Foundem, asked the E.U. competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, to take a hard line in ongoing negotiations with Google to produce concessions that would protect small European competitors.

Google, which is used for more than 80 percent of the searches conducted in Europe, could face fines of up to $5 billion or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue if a settlement is not reached.

The commission, which has expressed concerns about Google’s use of algorithmic standards to rank its own services ahead of those of some competitors, is studying Google’s own proposals to avoid litigation.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone,” said the letter signed by the group. “In addition to materially degrading the user experience and limiting consumer choice, Google’s search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them.”

Al Verney, a Google spokesman in Brussels, declined to comment specifically on the letter, saying “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Mr. Almunia, said by e-mail that competition officials were reviewing the proposals from Google. If a settlement were reached, Mr. Colombani said, there would be no legal finding that Google had infringed on E.U. law.

Mr. Almunia, a Spanish jurist, asked Google in December to submit its final proposals to settle the case, which began in February 2010 when complaints were filed in Brussels by Foundem; Ciao, a German price comparison site; and Ejustice.fr, a French legal advice site.

The letter was signed by senior executives at six European online businesses: Foundem, and Streetmap EU, both in Britain; Twenga, a French-based price comparison site; and Visual Meta, Hot Maps Medien, and Euro-Cities, three German online businesses.

Executives at two U.S. Web businesses, Expedia and TripAdvisor, also signed, as well as the directors of three German associations representing the publishers of newspapers, magazines and independent telephone books.

Mr. Almunia has favored negotiated settlements over protracted litigation in his three years as the top antitrust official in Europe. Google has argued that it is impossible to exert monopoly control over the huge online marketplace, and has criticized some of the complainants for belonging to professional groups set up by its archrival, Microsoft.

Microsoft had urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to bring a suit against Google over its search engine practices, but the U.S. agency closed its own two-year investigation in January after Google agreed to make voluntary changes to its practices.

Heiko Hanslik, the president of the German Association of Independent Directory Publishers, known by its German acronym VfT, said his members worried that European officials would not take a hard line in their negotiations with Google. The European inquiry focuses on complaints that Google favors its own competing services in the placement of search results.

Mr. Hanslik, whose association represents German publishers of online and print directories and telephone books, said a typically relevant Google search â€" for example, to find a painter in Saarbrücken â€" would not turn up a directory of one of his members until the fourth page in search results on Google. “Google is exploiting its market position here in Europe and many, many online retailers will not be able to survive if this isn’t fixed,” he said.

Mr. Almunia has been cautious about his negotiations with Google. In February 2011, he met with Eric Schmidt, then the chief executive of Google, who asked him to give the search engine a chance to propose its own solutions before Mr. Almunia issued a so-called statement of objections, a legal instrument used by the European Commission to lay out its antitrust case and set the clock running for a response from the company.

Last May, Mr. Almunia asked Google to present suggestions for resolving the conflict. In the autumn, he asked Google for more information and eventually gave the company until the end of January to propose solutions.

Google has provided those suggestions, according to one person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly. Mr. Almunia and his staff are examining them, but it is unclear whether the E.U. agency is close to reaching a decision on whether to accept the proposals and settle, or proceed with a prosecution.

In their letter, the complainants, including Foundem, made it clear that they would prefer Mr. Almunia to issue a statement of objections, and then, with greater leverage under the threat of fines and legal sanctions, enter negotiations with Google.

“We will respectfully withhold judgment on Google’s proposed commitments until we have seen them, but Google’s past behavior suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement,” the group wrote in its letter. “Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every delay to further entrench, extend, and escalate its anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the Statement of Objections.”

Mr. Almunia’s decision will have far-reaching consequences in Europe “because it will set standards for the digital world,” said Christoph Fiedler, the managing director for media policy at the German Federation of Magazine Publishers, known by its German acronym VDZ.

James Kanter in Brussels contributed reporting.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 22, 2013, on page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: In Europe, Antitrust Chief Is Pressed on Google.

Daily Report: Europe Weighs iPhone Sale Deals With Carriers for Antitrust Abuse

European Union regulators are examining the contracts Apple strikes with cellphone carriers that sell its iPhone for possible antitrust violations after several carriers complained that the deals throttled competition, Brian X. Chen, Nick Wingfield and Kevin J. O’Brien write on Friday in The New York Times.

Although they have not filed formal complaints, a group of European wireless carriers recently submitted information about their contracts with Apple to the European Commission, according to a person briefed on the communications with the carriers who asked not to be identified. This person said the accusations focused on Apple’s contracts with French carriers, though other countries may also be involved.

In a statement, the European Commission, the union’s administrative arm, which oversees antitrust enforcement in the 27-nation bloc, confirmed that it was examining Apple’s carrier deals. But it said it had not begun a formal antitrust investigation. The commission is not obligated to act until it receives a formal complaint of anticompetitive behavior. That it is already examining the contracts suggests that it is taking the carriers’ concerns seriously.

“We have been contacted by industry participants, and we are monitoring the situation, but no antitrust case has been opened,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Joaquín Almunia, competition commissioner of the European Union.

It was unclear how many carriers were in discussions with the European Union. Based on several interviews with people briefed on iPhone contracts, it appears that Apple’s contracts with some smaller European carriers were stricter than those with larger companies.

People briefed on the carriers’ relationships with Apple, who declined to be named because Apple did not permit them to speak publicly about the contracts, said the terms that some European carriers must accept to sell iPhones were unusually strict, making it difficult for other handset makers to compete.

Apple Strengthens iCloud Security With 2-Step Authentication

Apple on Thursday rolled out a tool that strengthens password security: two-step verification.