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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Video of Deadly Clashes in Cairo

As my colleague Kareem Fahim reports from Egypt, at least nine people were killed over the last 24 hours during clashes between supporters and opponents of the deposed Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in central Cairo, around Cairo University in Giza and north of the city in the Nile Delta.

The violence began in downtown Cairo, near Tahrir Square, on Monday and soon erupted in other parts of the capital. Video posted online by the independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm showed fighting between Morsi supporters and residents of the island neighborhood of Manial, where there has been a pro-Morsi sit-in by the Muslim Brotherhood since shortly before the military deposed him three weeks ago.

Video from Al-Masry Al-Youm of clashes between supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and residents of the island neighborhood of Manial in Cairo.

The fiercest fighting on Monday appeared to have been centered in the area of Giza near Cairo University, on the west bank of the Nile, across the river from downtown and Tahrir Square. An activist blogger named Tarek Nasr, who said he was on the ninth floor of a building near Cairo University, described what he saw and heard overnight in a series of Twitter updates.

Mr. Nasr also shared a brief audio clip of gunfire recorded from his apartment.

Cliff Cheney, an American photojournalist based in Cairo, wrote on Twitter that he saw at least 15 burned-out cars near the pro-Morsi sit-in on Monday night. He said that parts of the neighborhood around the university were a tense “no man’s land.”

Video posted on YouTube by the newspaper El Watan appeared to show some of what Mr. Nasr and Mr. Cheney had reported near Cairo University.

Video posted to YouTube by El Watan, an independent Egyptian newspaper, showed scenes from the violence near Cairo University overnight on Monday.

El Watan’s report, headlined “Gunfire Exchanged Between the Brotherhood and Security Forces at Cairo University,” showed civilians shooting off fireworks, a form of improvised weapon popular in street battles, and police officers firing tear gas from armored vehicles. Shirtless young men involved in the street battle appeared to be cooperating with the security forces, and at one point an unidentified civilian bleeding from his lower back said that the Islamists had “opened fire on us.”

In a second El Watan video report uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, a group of more than half a dozen men identified as “eyewitnesses” to the violence in Giza said that members of the Brotherhood had opened fire with pellets and live ammunition. Several of the men accused supporters of Mr. Morsi of shooting from a high floor of a nearby mosque.

Video posted to YouTube by El Watan, an independent Egyptian newspaper, showed a group of men identified as eyewitnesses to the violence in Giza overnight on Monday.

In Arms of His Beaming Parents, Royal Baby Appears

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge appeared with their baby boy outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London on Tuesday.Leon Neal/Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge appeared with their baby boy outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London on Tuesday.

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge emerged from the hospital late on Tuesday and presented their infant to the crowds who had gathered outside the building for days.

As Kate clutched the baby boy, who was swaddled in a white blanket, she patted him gently as the two new parents beamed and faced the cheering onlookers. Dressed in a blue dress with white polka dots, she then handed him to Prince William, who walked closer to the crowds and spoke, describing the birth as very emotional.

It’s a “special time, any parent knows what this feeling feels like,” she said.

Prince William, acknowledging the fact that journalists and crowds had waited for days to see the infant, said: “I will remind him of his tardiness when he is a bit older.”

He then joked about the baby’s appearance, saying the baby resembled his wife.

And then, apparently speaking about the baby’s hair, the Prince said: “He’s got way more than me.”

They did not announce a name.

The couple later re-emerged with the infant belted into a car seat, and the new family left the hospital by car.

Mainframe Computers That Change With the Times

Even in computer hardware, everything old is new again.

I.B.M. on Tuesday formally launched its latest mainframe computer, a type of machine that has been around for 49 years, and has endured through minicomputers, microcomputers, personal computers, computer servers, and lots else.

While the mainframe may be an enduring stalwart, the changes that come in this machine show how much the world has changed too, and probably not in a way that I.B.M. likes.

Most notably, the new machine, with the attractive name zEnterprise BC12, costs $75,000. That is a price cut of about 25 percent from the last model in this series of mainframes. To add more perspective, 10 years ago, before the zEnterprise series was around, Big Blue proudly launched a model called the Z990, or T-Rex, that started at $1 million. Prices went way up from there.

One could argue that this is a classic case of Moore’s Law making computing inexorably cheaper, but that isn’t how this market worked before. Mainframes got bigger and more powerful for decades, using the advances in semiconductors to make even more powerful and more expensive models. The past decade’s onslaught of cheap computer servers lashed together with virtualization and cloud software, however, made them formidable competitors for the work of mainframes. I.B.M. has had to respond by making the machines significantly cheaper.

This can be a strength for the product, or at least it can be made to look like one. I.B.M. says this low-priced machine still gives that mainframe security and reliability, and could eventually challenge the kind of server-based cloud computing models that have changed I.B.M.’s world.

“You can put the equivalent of 520 servers” into the BC12, said Patrick Toole, general manager of the product. “Mainframes are enduring because they enable clients to consolidate computing into single machines.”

“We’re more tidy” didn’t used to be a sales point. But then, we didn’t used to have data centers with 100,000 servers in them, either.

Mr. Toole said the machines were particularly targeted at banking and telecommunications companies for functions like Big Data analytics and modeling retail sales programs. The hope is to install the products in emerging markets, where there aren’t as many server-based clouds. Since the zEnterprise line was introduced in 2010, he said, about 40 percent of the computers have gone to countries like China, South Africa, and nations of the Middle East.

There are fewer secure, wired local networks and more wireless transactions in these places, Mr. Toole said. “The workloads in emerging economies fits our computer architecture,” he said. “There are people on mobile phones creating a million transactions a day.”

I.B.M. may be retooling the mainframe for a new world of expanding clouds and emerging markets, but some things may not be changing. Once I.B.M. gets a mainframe customer, it can lock in a lot more software and services that can still mean profitability.

“Mainframes are still a rich revenue stream, and a potentially captive market,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, an analyst at Gartner. “There is maintenance, software, consulting. Mainframe applications aren’t portable to other kinds of machines. Information technology people are basically risk-averse, and if you can sell them something that works, they’ll wonder why they should ever get rid of it.”

All you have to do is get that first $75,000 machine through the door.

Big Data Analysis Adds to Guest Worker Debate

SAN FRANCISCO â€" Although certain kinds of engineers are in short supply in the United States, plenty of potential candidates exist for thousands of positions for which companies want to import guest workers, according to an analysis of three million résumés of job seekers in the United States.

The numbers, prepared by a company called Bright, which collects résumés and uses big data tools to connect job seekers with openings, enter a contentious debate over whether tech companies should be allowed to expand their rolls of guest workers. In lobbying Congress for more of these temporary visas, called H-1B visas, the technology industry argues there are not enough qualified Americans. Its critics, including labor groups, say bringing in guest workers is a way to depress wages in the industry.

Many economists take issue with the industry’s argument, too. One side points out that wages have not gone up across the board for engineers, suggesting that there is no stark labor shortage. Another counters that unemployment rates in the sector are minuscule and that in any event, H-1B workers represent a tiny fraction of the American work force.

“I didn’t expect this result,” said Steve Goodman, Bright’s chief executive.

Bright is based in San Francisco, and it makes money in part by placing qualified candidates with recruiters and, according to Mr. Goodman, employs workers using H-1B visas. “We’re Silicon Valley people, we just assumed the shortage was true,” Mr. Goodman said. “It turns out there is a little Silicon Valley groupthink going on about this, though it’s not comfortable to say that.”

For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few “good fits” among American applicants, Bright found. Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found.

Bright’s study is unlikely to end the debate, partly because it rests on the company’s proprietary algorithm to determine who is a “good fit” for a particular job opening. Its algorithm uses a range of criteria, including work experience and education, but also work descriptions that indicated a high likelihood of other skills. Its analysis also doesn’t specify how many job openings there are at a particular point in time, or whether they are sufficient to accommodate both American engineers and foreign guest workers.

Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard, said that while the tech industry’s claims of a labor shortage may be overblown, the argument over expanding temporary work visas should not be made on the basis of whether there are shortages at one point in time. He said the data from Bright were useful in showing that there was most likely not “a huge mismatch” in the demand and supply of computer professionals, except perhaps in certain job categories like computer systems analysts.

“But they don’t help us determine whether the U.S. economy would benefit from an expansion of the H1-B visa program or what the impact would be on U.S. workers in these occupations,” he said. “The case for and against expanding the H1-B visa program should be done on an overall assessment of the impact on the U.S. economy (workers, consumers, investors, students/future workers) and not only on whether there are short-run ‘shortages’ in any specific occupation.”

For the study, Bright looked at the job categories for which firms applied for H-1B visas, and then, looked at résumés of job seekers in the United States whose résumés matched those same categories.

Giovanni Peri, an economist at University of California, Davis, said that the Bright study was insufficient to determine whether there was a need for foreign engineers. “It is the difference between job vacancies (demand) and unemployed with right qualifications (supply) that provides a measure of the excess (or not) of demand,” he said. “Knowing only the number of unemployed with right qualifications does not do it.”

“There are many more job openings” where companies do not file for H-1Bs, but search for candidates on the domestic job market, he added.

The Senate immigration bill, passed last month, nearly doubles the number of H-1B visas that companies can seek every year. Industry lobbied heavily for it, bulldozing efforts to add language that would force companies to try to hire an equally qualified American first. The House is mired in arguments over what kind of immigration legislation it can pass. Technology industry groups are lobbying members of the House for a substantial increase in H-1Bs, among other things.

Outsourcing companies, mostly from India, have lately sought the largest chunks of H-1B visas. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro bring thousands of temporary workers, mostly from India, and place them for short-term projects in a variety of American industries, from banks to technology firms like Microsoft and Oracle. H-1B visas are also used by graduates of American universities who are hired by companies in the United States.

Bright’s analysis suggests a hierarchy in the industry that mirrors what has long been said about jobs like low-skilled agricultural or restaurant work: Americans could do these jobs, but are unlikely to accept the pay or conditions. As a result, the jobs are taken by immigrants.

The age of workers, which the study did not look at, may also play a role. Experienced American workers tend to be older in an industry that prizes youth. A study conducted by a Seattle-based company called Payscale found that among 32 technology companies surveyed, only six had a work force with a median age over 35. At Monster, the job search portal, the median age was 30; at Google, 29; and at Facebook, 28. The median age of American workers over all is 42.3 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As if to underline the study’s findings, Mr. Goodman spoke from a conference room that looked out on decorated ping-pong tables, a liquor bar and tiki-themed snacks. Later that day, Bright was having a party, partly to attract new talent, he said, including foreign programmers here on H-1B visas.

Daily Report: STMicro in Public-Private Venture to Develop Chips in France

STMicroelectronics, the largest chip maker in Europe, said Monday that it planned to invest almost 2 billion euros in conjunction with the French government to develop a new line of microprocessors for smartphones, TV set-top boxes and home routers, Kevin J. O’Brien reports.

The market for such chips is expected to grow to 67 billion euros this year, according to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics, an industry research organization in San Jose, Calif. The investment would allow STMicro to double its production capacity of such chips at its factory in Crolles, France, potentially making it a stiffer rival to Broadcom, Texas Instruments, Infineon Technologies and Sony.

STMicro, which is based in Geneva, said it planned to spend 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) through 2017 on new research and development and to expand chip production at Crolles, a town near Grenoble in the French Alps.

France, along with regional and municipal governments in and around Crolles, would contribute 600 million euros to the project, which is part of an industry the government is eager to promote.

France and Italy hold a combined 27.5 percent stake in STMicro, making them the biggest shareholders in the chip maker.

A spokesman for the company, Alexis Breton, said that most of the investment would be used to develop faster and more efficient chips for TV set-top boxes, smartphones and routers to control home security, heating, air and entertainment systems wirelessly.

A Social Network Dedicated to Happy Moments

Facebook and Twitter are all-purpose social networks. People can post anything on them, from saccharine sweet nothings to snarky one-liners.

But what if you wanted a place to just celebrate and share the small moments of happiness in life? Happier, a Boston start-up, has created a niche social network aimed at exactly that.

Think of it like one of those radio stations that feature “love songs, nothing but love songs.” Happier is meant to be a place for photos and status updates about things that make its users happy â€" pulling off a headstand in yoga class, say, or seeing a butterfly.

No happy moment is too small, and no negativity is allowed.

It’s less wacky than it sounds.

Nataly Kogan, the co-founder and chief executive of the company, said that Happier was trying to build a social network with a single trigger that would get people to post to it: a positive life experience that they wanted to share.

While you can do that on Facebook or Twitter or on photo-sharing sites like Instagram, she argues that those sites are so broad that users feel like they have to make an impression with each item. The small moments of joy can seem too trivial to post.

“On Facebook, God forbid I post a comment that I took five minutes to have a cup of coffee,” Ms. Kogan said in an interview. “You post the best latte in your life on Facebook.”

Happier has been operating in earnest since only February, when its iPhone app came out. It is also available through the Web, but no Android version is planned anytime soon.

Ms. Kogan â€" an experienced tech and finance executive who presented her elevator pitch about the company to a panel of judges Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. â€" said that so far, a million happy moments have been posted to the site by more than 100,000 people.

Her target audience, she said, isn’t West and East Coast trendsetters, but women in Middle America age 18 to 35. “Regular people,” she said, comparing her audience to avid fans of Pinterest and Martha Stewart.

Initially, Happier was set up for users to share posts with only friends, but Ms. Kogan said that when the company allowed people to share their posts with everyone, use shot up. “Seeing what makes other people happier is as valuable, or maybe more valuable” than sharing your own happiness, she said.

So a new version of the iPhone app due Aug. 1 will make all posts public by default, although users can still choose to restrict access.

Ultimately, Happier hopes to make money by selling products that celebrate happiness, much like the Life is Good founders created an apparel empire centered around that simple sentiment.

Happier has attracted $2.4 million in seed funding from Resolute.VC and Venrock.

The company didn’t end up winning the contest on Monday.

One of the judges, Casey Wasserman of the Wasserman Media Group, said he was skeptical that there was much money to be made from Happier’s business model. But “you can always be a gathering place for therapists,” he quipped.

But another judge, Jeff Richards, a partner at GGV Capital, was a bit kinder. “We all want to invest with people like you,” he said. And Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo, said the idea sounded promising.

That’s enough to make any C.E.O. at least a little bit happier.