Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ukraine keeps up anti-rebel offensive with nervous eye on Russia

(Reuters) - Ukrainian government forces, backed by warplanes, kept up a military offensive to claw back lost territory from pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday while casting a nervous eye at Russian military exercises over the border.
Kiev's military said government forces had clashed 26 times with separatists in the Russian-speaking east in the 24 hours up to Tuesday morning, while fighter jets had struck at rebel positions and concentrations of military equipment.
Tension rose further with Ukraine denouncing Russian war games near the joint border as a "provocation" and alleging violations of Ukrainian air space by Russian warplanes and drones, as well as cross-border shelling from Russia.
Defense officials said separatists had also opened fire on unarmed Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday as they crossed back into Ukraine from Russia where they had taken shelter from fighting.
Ukraine acknowledged on Monday that 311 soldiers and border guards had been forced by fighting with separatists to cross into Russia. It said they had destroyed their weapons before crossing the border, but the rebels said they had left them behind, enabling separatists to seize them. A military spokesman said there had been no casualties from the attack, though he said three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 46 wounded in action against the separatists in the past 24 hours.
Government troops have been battling the rebels since April in a war in the Russian-speaking east in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says more than 1,100 people including government forces, rebels and civilians have died.
About 730,000 Ukrainians have left the country for Russia this year due to the fighting, the European head of the United Nations agency for refugees said, a far bigger exodus than previously thought. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of orchestrating the revolt and arming the rebels - something denied by Moscow. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia. Fighting has intensified since the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner last month, killing all 298 people on board - an act the West laid at the door of the rebels. Russia and the rebels blame the disaster on Kiev's military offensive. Ukrainian forces say they have been making steady gains and have virtually encircled the separatists' second-largest stronghold of Luhansk, while rebels have declared a "state of siege" in Donetsk, the largest city they hold.
RISING ALARM
Defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Ukrainian forces, apart from engaging separatists, had come under mortar and artillery attack from Russia and there had been violations of Ukrainian airspace by Russian planes.
He expressed alarm at Russian military exercises this week near their long joint border, including deployment of 100 fighter aircraft.
"Ukraine regards the carrying out of such unprecedented military exercises on the border with Ukraine as a provocation," he said, while a foreign ministry statement called for Russia to pull its forces back.
Ukrainian security officials said separatist fighters were launching counter-attacks to break a tightening noose around the rebels who seek to set up pro-Russian 'people's republics' in the east of Ukraine.
Kiev's military information center said rebels holding the town of Horlivka, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Russian border, were massing men and equipment to try to break through government lines that threaten to cut their main supply route from the east.
Lysenko told reporters that Ukraine had moved up its main troops near Donetsk and Luhansk, but he would not be drawn on when they would launch an operation to storm the towns.
"We'll not talk about starting an offensive. We will speak only about liberating these towns," he said.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Will Waterman)

Israel withdraws troops, 72-hour Gaza truce begins


(Reuters) - Israel withdrew ground forces from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step towards negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.
Minutes before the truce began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel's "massacres". Israel's anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no casualties.
Israeli armour and infantry left Gaza ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels dug by Islamist militants had been completed. "Mission accomplished," the military tweeted.
Troops and tanks will be "redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions", spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting if attacked.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist Hamas faction that rules Gaza, said Israel's offensive in the densely populated, coastal enclave was a "100 percent failure".
Israel sent officials to join talks in Cairo to cement a longer-term deal during the course of the truce. Hamas and Islamic Jihad also dispatched representatives from Gaza.
In Gaza, where some half-million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left U.N. shelters to trek back to neighbourhoods where whole blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and the smell of decomposing bodies fills the air.
Sitting on a pile of debris on the edge of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Zuhair Hjaila, a 33-year-old father of four, said he had lost his house and his supermarket.
"This is complete destruction," he said. "I never thought I would come back to find an earthquake zone."
Visiting International Red Cross President Peter Maurer, responding to local criticism that his organisation was late in helping some of the victims, said "we were insufficiently able to bridge the gap between our willingness to protect them and our ability to do so".
TRUCE ATTEMPTS
Several previous truce attempts by Egypt and other regional powers, overseen by the United States and United Nations, failed to calm the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in two years.
An Israeli official said that in the hour before the ceasefire came into effect, the civilian airspace over Tel Aviv was closed as a precaution against Gaza rockets, and takeoffs and landings were delayed at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.
Hamas said it had informed Egypt "of its acceptance of a 72-hour period of calm", beginning on Tuesday.
The Palestinian cabinet issued a statement after its weekly meeting in Ramallah welcoming the ceasefire.
The U.S. State Department also welcomed the truce and urged the parties to "respect it completely". Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington would continue its efforts to help the sides achieve a "durable, sustainable solution for the long term".
Efforts to turn the ceasefire into a lasting truce could prove difficult, with the sides far apart on their central demands, and each rejecting the other's legitimacy. Hamas rejects Israel's existence, and vows to destroy it, while Israel denounces Hamas as a terrorist group and eschews any ties.
Besides the truce, Palestinians demand an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on impoverished Gaza and the release of prisoners including those Israel arrested in a June crackdown in the occupied West Bank after three Jewish seminary students were kidnapped and killed.
Israel has resisted those demands in the past.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was "clear evidence" of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors in The Hague on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
Both sides have traded allegations of war crimes during the Gaza assault, while defending their own actions as consistent with international law.
ISRAEL: DEMILITARISE GAZA
Lerner said the army overnight destroyed the last of 32 tunnels located inside Gaza and which had been dug by Hamas for cross-border ambushes at an estimated cost of $100 million.
Israeli officials say, however, that some tunnels may have gone undetected and that the armed forces are poised to strike at these in the future.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also wants to disarm Hamas and demilitarise Gaza, after guerrillas launched more than 3,300 rockets and mortar bombs at Israel this past month. Hamas has ruled that out.
"For Israel the most important issue is the issue of demilitarisation. We must prevent Hamas from rearming, we must demilitarise the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters television.
Since the fighting began, several previous truces barely held. Regev said Israel had accepted Egypt's terms weeks before Hamas, and expressed a wish that the truce would last: "I hope this time we see the ceasefire work that's good for everybody."
Egypt has positioned itself as a mediator in successive Gaza
conflicts but, like Israel, its current administration views Hamas as a security threat.
Besides the loss of life, the war has cost both sides economically. Gaza faces a massive $6-billion price tag to rebuild devastated infrastructure. Israel has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, other industry, and fears cuts in overall economic growth this year as well.
Palestinian officials said a donor conference to raise funds for Gaza's reconstruction would be held in Oslo next month.

In London, a British minister, Sayeeda Warsi, resigned on Tuesday, saying she could not support government policy on the war. While his government has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticised by the opposition for refusing to describe Israel's military actions in Gaza as disproportionate.

One dead, 14 Western troops wounded in shooting at Afghan academy


(Reuters) - One serviceman was killed and 14 wounded, including a German general, when a man in Afghan army uniform opened fire on international and Afghan forces at a military training academy in Kabul on Tuesday, the German military and Afghan officials said.
ISAF, the international force in Afghanistan, said the attack took place at a British military training academy in the capital.
Germany's Der Spiegal reported that a two star U.S. general was killed in the attack. ISAF declined to comment but said one of its service members had been killed in the attack that took place at around noon.
"The wounded German general, whose life is no longer in danger, is being given medical treatment," it said.
The Afghan president was quick to condemn the attack, saying the delegation had been visiting the facility to help build Afghanistan's security forces.
Afghanistan's Defense Ministry confirmed the gunman was wearing an Afghan army uniform.
"Today at 12pm, a terrorist in army uniform opened fire on international partners and other Afghan officers, wounding several," the statement said.
Such attacks have eroded trust between the allies and complicated efforts to train Afghanistan's 350,000-strong security force.
In a similar attack on Tuesday, several were wounded in eastern Paktia province when a policeman opened fire on international and Afghan forces, police chief Zalmay Oryakhil said.
The Taliban says insider attacks reflect their ability to infiltrate the enemy, while ISAF officials say the incidents often arise over misunderstandings or altercations between troops.
In 2012, dozens of incidents forced international troops to take measures to reduce interaction with their Afghan partners and since then, the number of insider attacks has fallen sharply.
Adding to the tension, a NATO airstrike hit a vehicle carrying civilians in western Herat province, local officials said, killing four members of one family including two children.
"We strongly condemn the killings by foreign troops and we have reported this to the presidential palace," deputy provincial governor, Aseeluddin Jameh, told Reuters.
"The family was coming back from a wedding in Shindand district when they were hit."

(Reporting by Jessica Donati, Hamid Shalizi and Krista Mahr in Kabul; Jalil Ahmad Rezaee in Herat; Ahmad Sultan in Gardez; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Are Affiliates in Demand?

Are Affiliates in Demand?

Is there a demand for affiliate marketers today? Yes, there is a huge demand. One of the challenges faced in the affiliate marketing industry is that it sometimes sounds too good to be true: advertising that's guaranteed to work or it's free! Newcomers wonder if it's possible, and skeptics claim that the cost effective prices of affiliate marketing lower the bar for online advertising. But there is a good reason that affiliate marketing has experienced steady growth throughout the ups and downs of online advertising—it works. And affiliate marketing has evolved to become a reliable source of sales for a wide range of marketers.

Affiliate marketing has evolved from the early years when some touted it as the future of online advertising, and others claimed it was the downfall of the medium. It's now a sophisticated channel that generates anywhere from five to 25% of online sales for many of the world's biggest brands.

Almost all major multi-channel marketers have an affiliate program of some kind. The important thing to remember is that affiliate programs now come in all shapes and sizes. The concept of a wide-open affiliate program with an unlimited and uncontrolled number of affiliates is a thing of the past. Nearly all marketers agree that affiliates add value to an online marketing effort, but the program must be tailored to meet the marketer's objectives.

Affiliate marketing did not bring an end to other, higher priced forms of online media advertising.  The success of the affiliate marketing in delivering sales cost effectively by way of a pay-for-performance model paved the way for other forms of performance-based advertising, such as CPA-based search and portal advertising, to create acceptance among direct marketers. Affiliate marketing has evolved, with affiliates and marketers becoming more sophisticated and programs more integrated with other forms of online marketing.

Pfizer walks away from $118 billion AstraZeneca takeover fight

(Reuters) - Pfizer abandoned its attempt to buy AstraZeneca for nearly 70 billion pounds ($118 billion) on Monday as a deadline approached without a last-minute change of heart by the British drugmaker.
The decision ends a month-long public fight between two of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies that sparked political concerns on both sides of Atlantic over jobs and corporate tax maneuvers.
British rules now require an enforced cooling-off period. AstraZeneca could reach out to Pfizer after three months and Pfizer could take another run at its smaller British rival in six months time, whether it is invited back or not.
Pfizer's move came two hours before a 5.00 pm (1200 ET) deadline to make a firm offer or walk away, under UK takeover rules. Its decision to quit the stage, at least for now, had been widely expected after AstraZeneca refused its final offer of 55 pounds a share.
"Following the AstraZeneca board's rejection of the proposal, Pfizer announces that it does not intend to make an offer for AstraZeneca," Pfizer said in a short news release.
The biggest U.S. drugmaker promised it would not go hostile by taking its offer directly to AstraZeneca shareholders, leaving the fate of what would have been the world's largest ever drugs merger in the hands of its target, whose board would have had to make a complete U-turn to get a deal done.
"We continue to believe that our final proposal was compelling and represented full value for AstraZeneca based on the information that was available to us," said Ian Read, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive.
Pfizer's final offer was at a price that many analysts and investors had previously suggested would bring AstraZeneca to the table for serious negotiations.
But in rejecting an earlier offer of 53.50 pounds as undervaluing the company, the British group indicated it needed a bid more than 10 percent higher, or at least 58.85 pounds per share, for its board to consider a recommendation.
Pfizer had urged AstraZeneca shareholders to agitate for engagement and several expressed disappointment at its intransigence, although others - encouraged by AstraZeneca's promising drug pipeline - backed the firm's standalone strategy.
AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson welcomed Pfizer's decision to back down, which he said would allow the British company to focus on its growth potential as an independent company.
What happens next will depend upon whether AstraZeneca's share price deteriorates in the coming weeks and how hard its shareholders push for it to revisit a deal with Pfizer.
BlackRock, AstraZeneca's biggest shareholder, backed the board's rejection of Pfizer's 55 pounds a share offer, but urged it to talk again in the future.
POLITICAL OPPOSITION
The proposed transaction ran into fierce opposition from politicians in Britain, Sweden - where AstraZeneca has half it roots - and the United States over the likelihood that the marriage would lead to thousands of job cuts.
Ultimately, it was price and the lack of room for eleventh-hour maneuvering by Pfizer that killed the deal.
Pfizer had several reasons for taking aim at AstraZeneca for what would have been its fourth mega-merger in 14 years.
Highest on the list appeared to be Pfizer's desire to take part in a recent trend of so-called tax inversions, under which it could reincorporate in Britain and pay significantly lower corporate tax. Pfizer would also be able to use tens of billions of dollars it has parked overseas, avoiding high U.S. taxes for repatriating the huge cash pile.
Pfizer also had its eye on a promising portfolio of drugs in AstraZeneca's developmental pipeline, especially several potentially lucrative cancer medicines.
It was this pipeline that AstraZeneca management used to make its case for Pfizer significantly undervaluing the company.
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot went as far as making a 10-year forecast for a 75 percent rise in sales by 2023.
"As we said from the start, the pursuit of this transaction was a potential enhancement to our existing strategy," Pfizer's Read said. "We will continue our focus on the execution of our plans, bringing forth new treatments to meet patients' needs and remaining responsible stewards of our shareholders' capital."

The merger would have restored Pfizer as the world's largest drugmaker by sales, a position it relinquished to Swiss-based Novartis when billions of dollars in annual revenue evaporated after its top-selling cholesterol fighter Lipitor began facing generic competition in 2011.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Microsoft to buy a BlackBerry to Apple?

Speculation has been triggered by the presence of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's RIM BlackBerry world, an annual Conference for developers and customers, partners, and Florida this week.

Although the MEASURING RIM unveiled a new slimmer BlackBerry Bold smart phones 9900 and 9930, multi-platform BlackBerry Enterprise solution, the new BlackBerry operating system, and to update its aging handset configuration is the annual gathering Gloom has lifted from Canada informed the wireless giant.

RIM stock plunging, which began last week after the company slashed its quarterly Outlook below sales, is to find some takers, prompting analysts to say that the company that invented the telephone in the smart tag is almost in terminal decline and ripe for a takeover.

They cite the presence of Microsoft, Managing Director of the World Conference as the Tip of the BlackBerry in the following months, the obvious place.

These analysts say that if the RIM-about USD 24 billion-to-market value at the current pace, by sliding the BlackBerry Maker is reduced to only 15 billion USD soon.

"Microsoft (currently) to 48 billion dollars in cash. If the value of RIM may result in a loss of USD 15 billion, it will be an attractive target for Microsoft. Perhaps Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his Keynote appearance at world level ', ' Harry of Blackberry Wang, mobile research, Parks Associates, the Director told the premier "skor".

In addition, with its main competitor, Apple is now worth over US $ 320 billion, analysts say, will allow for economies of scale makes the BlackBerry Maker just distorted the world's largest technology company, against the r and d expenditure.

In addition, such as the processing of the data is transferred from the desktop to the laptop and now to the smart tag phones and tablets, Microsoft is understood, is to enter the mobile space, if it is to survive. This objective has launched Windows 7 phone and just become a strategic global handset market leader in the conversion of the Nokia, which accepts now Windows 7 phone Smartphone strategy with the key.

But if Microsoft never Apple and Google in the mobile space, the software giant have to apply to the hardware vendor for the giant such as RIM, which fits the Bill of materials (BOM), because the BlackBerry maker to display also the huge base of users to the Microsoft company.

Analysts, RIM has just informed its Bing Microsoft provides the default search engine blackberries is an obvious tip for the coming months, the future of the partnership say.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at: gurmukh.s@ians.in)


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