June 24, 2010

Apple responds over iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way

I think this is hilarious. 

Apple responds over iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way


So, we just spoke with Apple and got the straight dirt on the reception issues that have been plaguing users today... and it's a little surprising. In essence, Apple cops to the fact there are reception issues with the new iPhone -- namely, that if you cover the bottom-left corner of the phone and bridge the gap between the notch there with your naked flesh, you could see some signal degradation. Yes, you read that right: it's not a software or production issue, simply a matter of the physical location of your hand in regards to the phone's antenna. The company's suggested fix? Move your hand position, or get a case which covers that part of the phone, thus breaking contact. As you can see in the email above which just arrived in our tip box, this is a sentiment which runs pretty high at the company.



We know what you're thinking, and we're thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit, or buy one of their cases. Admittedly, this isn't a problem that exists only for the iPhone 4 -- we've seen reports of the same behavior on previous generations (the 3G and 3GS), and there is a running thread about this problem with the Nexus One. While it is definitely true that interference is an unavoidable problem, we can't help feeling like this is really a bit of bad design. If the only answer is to move your hand, why didn't Apple just move the antenna position? What we can say without question is that in our testing of the phone, we had improved reception and fewer dropped calls than we experienced with the last generation, and we never noticed this issue. Additionally, when using a bumper we can't recreate the signal loss. So, now we have an answer... all we're wondering is whether or not the company will start handing out bumpers pro-bono to those who are experiencing problems. It certainly seems like the right thing to do.

Apple responds over iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 24 Jun 2010 20:07:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


June 21, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For - John Mauldin's Weekly E-Letter




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Thoughts from the Frontline Weekly Newsletter
Be Careful What You Wish For
by John Mauldin
June 18, 2010
Visit John's Home Page

In this issue:
Be Careful for What You Wish
GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)
The View From Europe
Under the Tuscan Sun

"Everyone" is upset with the level of fiscal deficits being run by nearly every developed country. And with much justification. The levels of fiscal deficits are unsustainable and threaten to bring many countries to the desperate situation that Greece now finds itself in. We must balance the budget is the cry of fiscal conservatives. But there are unseen consequences in moving both too fast or too slow in the effort to get the deficits under control. Today we look at them as we explore what a fine mess we have gotten ourselves into. (I am working without internet today so the letter will be shorter with fewer references than normal.)

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)

We have discussed the above equation before, but let's look at it again from a different angle. Basically, the equation is another accounting identity. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for a given country is the total of Consumption (personal and business) plus Investments plus Government spending plus exports minus imports.

The Keynesians argue that when there is a drop in C due to a recession that the G must rise to offset the drop. That was at the heart of the argument for stimulus packages in so many countries. And there is no doubt that stimulus did help keep a very deep recession from turning into an even deeper depression. One can legitimately argue about the size of the stimulus, or about the nature of the spending, but it is difficult to argue that it did not have an effect.

Now, of course, the hope is that a recovery will allow C to begin to rise so that there is no more need for government deficits. Keynes argued that governments should run surpluses in good times, which is conveniently forgotten by most government spending types. The problem is that we are still running massive deficits. Tax receipts are way down (10% unemployment will do that to you!) and show no sign of turning back up soon all over the developed world.

If you reduce government spending, that also has a negative effect on GDP in the short run. But in past recoveries the growth of the private sector has overcome that negative effect. Normally at this time in a recovery growth is in the 7% range. This is a very tepid recovery in the US and the developed world.

There are loud calls in the US and elsewhere for more fiscal constraints. I am part of that call. Fiscal deficits of 10% of GDP is a prescription for disaster. As we have discussed in previous letters, the book by Rogoff and Reinhart (This Time is Different) clearly shows that at some point, bond investors start to ask for higher rates and then the interest rate becomes a spiral. Think of Greece. So, not dealing with the deficit is simply creating a future crisis even worse than the one we just had.

But cutting the deficit too fast could also throw the country back in a recession. There has to be a balance.

Greece has promised to cut its deficit by around 4% a year for 3 years. Spain is also making deep cuts. But the danger is that you could create a nasty spiral.

That deficit reduction will also reduce GDP. That means you collect less taxes which makes the deficits worse which means you have to make more cuts than planned which means lower tax receipts which means etc. Ireland is working hard to reduce its deficits but their GDP has dropped by almost 20%! Latvia and Estonia have seen their nominal GDP drop by almost 30%! That can only be characterized as a depression for them.

If you are in a country which cannot print its own currency as Greece or Ireland, the only way you can get back to competitiveness is to increase your competitiveness by decreasing your costs of production. And that is not just goods. It is a lot of labor cost. But if you reduce labor costs, you get less tax receipts. It is a very painful path, but once you get to the end game, the only choices you have are painful.

Britain is now running about 5% inflation. Let's say real (after inflation) growth could be 3% for a total of nominal growth of 8%. If Britain can get their deficit to GDP down to 6%, then they would actually be seeing the relative size of their debt being reduced. Debt is not adjusted for inflation (what that does to bond investors is another story) and so a country can run a deficit that is less than nominal GDP essentially forever. That may not be wise, but it is not a course for disaster.

But countries like Greece which cannot print their own currency don't have the inflation option. They are stuck with the low inflation of Europe. So if their economy is shrinking by 3% that means their debt to GDP level is rising even if they were not borrowing any more money. And trying to reduce "G" by large amounts insures that their GDP will shrink even more. Essentially they have to deflate their economy to make themselves more competitive. It is not going to be easy.

Those calling for countries to quickly cut their deficits are essentially telling them they must enter into a serious recession for some time in order to get the ECB to buy their bonds. And what choice do they have? If they do not make the cuts, the bond market will simply dry up and their interest rates will sky-rocket, which will force more cuts that will be deeper and sooner. There are not good options, only painful ones.

By the way, as countries go into recession, they will buy fewer goods. That cannot be good for exporting countries like Germany and China.

Be Careful for What You Wish

In the US, we must start to get our fiscal house in order. But if we cut the deficit by 2% of GDP a year, that is going to be a drag on growth in what I think is going to be a slow growth environment to begin with. If you raise taxes by 1% combined with 1% cuts (of GDP) that will have a minimum effect of reducing GDP by around 2% initially. And when you combine those cuts at the national level with tax increases and spending cuts of more than 1% of GDP at state and local levels you have even further drags on growth.

We need to cut our fiscal deficits. We need to reduce the size of governments. But let's make no mistake that it will be painless. It is necessary that we begin as soon as possible so that we can do it at a reasonable pace before the bond markets force us to move at a pace which will be even more painful. Be careful what you wish for.

I still maintain that we have better than a 50% chance of a recession in 2011. I wish it were otherwise.

The View From Europe

A few observations from my European trip (I am now in Paris). There seems to be a sense that Europe will fall into a recession later this year from those I talk with and read. That will be a drag on growth everywhere, and only make their situation worse.

No one seems too worried about the recent fall in the euro. Calls for the euro to go to parity with the dollar are everywhere. That echoes Martin Wolf's call a few weeks ago that Britain should allow the pound to fall further.

One of our guides in Italy, a very educated and sophisticated young lady of 40, said she plans to work and save for another ten years then move to Brazil or Chile and open a gelateria. "The government will never be able to pay my pension or health care. I must take care of myself."

Everyone wants to run a trade surplus, but everyone can't. Someone has to buy.

The feeling seems to be that the euro will survive. As one bond trader told me, the euro is not an economic currency. It is a political currency, and there is political will for it to survive.

When the euro was created, the Germans got a Mediterranean currency and the Mediterranean countries got German interest rates.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Last week I wrote that life could be better, but I am not certain how, as Venice was so wonderful. I now know how it can get better. You can go to Tuscany. While all things are subjective, the view from our mountain top villa in the little village of Trequanda is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen anywhere. The wines are very good and inexpensive (the local chardonnays are superb!). The tomatoes and mozzarella are so fresh.

The kids (except for Tiffani and Ryan) went back yesterday and I am going back to Tuscany for a few days before I go on to Milan for a speech on Tuesday and then home the next day.

"Dad. I don't think Tiffani knows how to spell guide." Trey would love to find a mistake by Tiffani. It's a younger sibling thing. "Why do you say that Trey?" (My youngest son at 16.) "Well," he said, "she spells it guido everywhere in the papers she gave us."

"That's the name of the guide, son. He is called Guido." "Oh."

I am off to the hotel lobby where I can send this and then out to see some of Paris. Have a great week.

Your wishing he could speak French analyst,

John Mauldin
John@FrontLineThoughts.com

Copyright 2010 John Mauldin. All Rights Reserved

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June 03, 2010

Interesting take on Israel and flotilla crisis

Contact John Mauldin
Print Version

Volume 6 - Special Edition
June 3, 2010



Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion
By George Friedman


This week, we've seen a barrage of news and opinion pieces on Israel's attack on the Turkish aid flotilla headed for the Gaza strip. In the midst of myriad media discussions concerning the moral and strategic angles, my friend George Friedman from STRATFOR brings up an interesting point: "[The Israelis] seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard?"

George puts the entire situation into the perspective of a war of public perception, which gives us a much more accurate idea of what may come of all of this. Give his article a read, and then join STRATFOR's free email list to receive more intelligence of this sort--they will keep you in the know like no one else can.

John Mauldin
Editor, Outside the Box







Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion


May 31, 2010

By George Friedman

On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation's planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.

A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.

The 'Exodus' Scenario
In the 1950s, an author named Leon Uris published a book called "Exodus." Later made into a major motion picture, Exodus told the story of a Zionist provocation against the British. In the wake of World War II, the British - who controlled Palestine, as it was then known - maintained limits on Jewish immigration there. Would-be immigrants captured trying to run the blockade were detained in camps in Cyprus. In the book and movie, Zionists planned a propaganda exercise involving a breakout of Jews - mostly children - from the camp, who would then board a ship renamed the Exodus. When the Royal Navy intercepted the ship, the passengers would mount a hunger strike. The goal was to portray the British as brutes finishing the work of the Nazis. The image of children potentially dying of hunger would force the British to permit the ship to go to Palestine, to reconsider British policy on immigration, and ultimately to decide to abandon Palestine and turn the matter over to the United Nations.

There was in fact a ship called Exodus, but the affair did not play out precisely as portrayed by Uris, who used an amalgam of incidents to display the propaganda war waged by the Jews. Those carrying out this war had two goals. The first was to create sympathy in Britain and throughout the world for Jews who, just a couple of years after German concentration camps, were now being held in British camps. Second, they sought to portray their struggle as being against the British. The British were portrayed as continuing Nazi policies toward the Jews in order to maintain their empire. The Jews were portrayed as anti-imperialists, fighting the British much as the Americans had.

It was a brilliant strategy. By focusing on Jewish victimhood and on the British, the Zionists defined the battle as being against the British, with the Arabs playing the role of people trying to create the second phase of the Holocaust. The British were portrayed as pro-Arab for economic and imperial reasons, indifferent at best to the survivors of the Holocaust. Rather than restraining the Arabs, the British were arming them. The goal was not to vilify the Arabs but to villify the British, and to position the Jews with other nationalist groups whether in India or Egypt rising against the British.

The precise truth or falsehood of this portrayal didn't particularly matter. For most of the world, the Palestine issue was poorly understood and not a matter of immediate concern. The Zionists intended to shape the perceptions of a global public with limited interest in or understanding of the issues, filling in the blanks with their own narrative. And they succeeded.

The success was rooted in a political reality. Where knowledge is limited, and the desire to learn the complex reality doesn't exist, public opinion can be shaped by whoever generates the most powerful symbols. And on a matter of only tangential interest, governments tend to follow their publics' wishes, however they originate. There is little to be gained for governments in resisting public opinion and much to be gained by giving in. By shaping the battlefield of public perception, it is thus possible to get governments to change positions.

In this way, the Zionists' ability to shape global public perceptions of what was happening in Palestine - to demonize the British and turn the question of Palestine into a Jewish-British issue - shaped the political decisions of a range of governments. It was not the truth or falsehood of the narrative that mattered. What mattered was the ability to identify the victim and victimizer such that global opinion caused both London and governments not directly involved in the issue to adopt political stances advantageous to the Zionists. It is in this context that we need to view the Turkish flotilla.

The Turkish Flotilla to Gaza
The Palestinians have long argued that they are the victims of Israel, an invention of British and American imperialism. Since 1967, they have focused not so much on the existence of the state of Israel (at least in messages geared toward the West) as on the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Since the split between Hamas and Fatah and the Gaza War, the focus has been on the plight of the citizens of Gaza, who have been portrayed as the dispossessed victims of Israeli violence.

The bid to shape global perceptions by portraying the Palestinians as victims of Israel was the first prong of a longtime two-part campaign. The second part of this campaign involved armed resistance against the Israelis. The way this resistance was carried out, from airplane hijackings to stone-throwing children to suicide bombers, interfered with the first part of the campaign, however. The Israelis could point to suicide bombings or the use of children against soldiers as symbols of Palestinian inhumanity. This in turn was used to justify conditions in Gaza. While the Palestinians had made significant inroads in placing Israel on the defensive in global public opinion, they thus consistently gave the Israelis the opportunity to turn the tables. And this is where the flotilla comes in.

The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project. As with the Zionist portrayal of the situation in 1947, the Gaza situation is far more complicated than as portrayed by the Palestinians. The moral question is also far more ambiguous. But as in 1947, when the Zionist portrayal was not intended to be a scholarly analysis of the situation but a political weapon designed to define perceptions, the Turkish flotilla was not designed to carry out a moral inquest.

Instead, the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel's increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous.

The Geopolitical Fallout for Israel
It is vital that the Israelis succeed in portraying the flotilla as an extremist plot. Whether extremist or not, the plot has generated an image of Israel quite damaging to Israeli political interests. Israel is increasingly isolated internationally, with heavy pressure on its relationship with Europe and the United States.

In all of these countries, politicians are extremely sensitive to public opinion. It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which public opinion will see Israel as the victim. The general response in the Western public is likely to be that the Israelis probably should have allowed the ships to go to Gaza and offload rather than to precipitate bloodshed. Israel's enemies will fan these flames by arguing that the Israelis prefer bloodshed to reasonable accommodation. And as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will track with this shift.

The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish government undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost necessary for Ankara.

With roughly the population of Houston, Texas, Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation, meaning this event has profound geopolitical implications.

Public opinion matters where issues are not of fundamental interest to a nation. Israel is not a fundamental interest to other nations. The ability to generate public antipathy to Israel can therefore reshape Israeli relations with countries critical to Israel. For example, a redefinition of U.S.-Israeli relations will have much less effect on the United States than on Israel. The Obama administration, already irritated by the Israelis, might now see a shift in U.S. public opinion that will open the way to a new U.S.-Israeli relationship disadvantageous to Israel.

The Israelis will argue that this is all unfair, as they were provoked. Like the British, they seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard? As with a tank battle or an airstrike, this sort of warfare has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with controlling public perception and using that public perception to shape foreign policy around the world. In this case, the issue will be whether the deaths were necessary. The Israeli argument of provocation will have limited traction.

Internationally, there is little doubt that the incident will generate a firestorm. Certainly, Turkey will break cooperation with Israel. Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States - by far the most important in the equation - might shift to a "plague-on-both-your-houses" position.

While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel's isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen.

The tougher Israel is, the more the flotilla's narrative takes hold. As the Zionists knew in 1947 and the Palestinians are learning, controlling public opinion requires subtlety, a selective narrative and cynicism. As they also knew, losing the battle can be catastrophic. It cost Britain the Mandate and allowed Israel to survive. Israel's enemies are now turning the tables. This maneuver was far more effective than suicide bombings or the Intifada in challenging Israel's public perception and therefore its geopolitical position (though if the Palestinians return to some of their more distasteful tactics like suicide bombing, the Turkish strategy of portraying Israel as the instigator of violence will be undermined).

Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.

And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it. In doing so, Israel ran into its own fist.

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