By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press - Monday, April 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – The arms race to build the world’s most powerful and cool smartphone wages on, but from the consumer perspective, it’s beginning to look like a stalemate.
After years of breathtaking innovation from Apple and its rivals, the recent incremental advances in mobile technology are starting to make even the most tech-obsessed observers a little blasé about the latest and greatest devices.
Samsung’s new Galaxy S4, which is available now for pre-order and is expected to hit stores on May 3, probably won’t inspire much excitement from jaded tech enthusiasts.
This device does have more processing power than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, its screen has been stretched out by a couple tenths of an inch and it packs a lot more pixels for a sharper display.
By The Associated Press - Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 10:46 PM - 0 Comments
BARCELONA, Spain – Samsung Electronics is beefing up its tablet range with a competitor…
BARCELONA, Spain – Samsung Electronics is beefing up its tablet range with a competitor to Apple’s iPad Mini that sports a pen for writing on the screen.
The Korean company announced on Sunday in Barcelona that the Galaxy Note 8.0 will have an 8-inch screen, putting it very close in size to the Apple’s tablet, which launched in November with a 7.9-inch screen. It’s not the first time Samsung has made a tablet that’s in the Mini’s size range: it’s very first iPad competitor had a 7-inch screen, and it still makes a tablet of that size, but without a pen.
Samsung will start selling the new tablet in the April to June period, at an as yet undetermined price. It made the announcement ahead of Mobile World Congress, the wireless industry’s annual trade show, which starts Monday in Barcelona, Spain.
The Note 8.0 fills a gap in Samsung’s line-up of pen-equipped devices between the Galaxy Note II smartphone, with its 5.5-inch screen, and the Galaxy Note 10.1, a full-size tablet. Samsung has made the pen, or more properly the stylus, one of the tools it uses to chip away at Apple’s dominance in both tablets and high-end smartphones. Apple doesn’t make any devices that work with styluses, preferring to optimize its interfaces for fingers, mice and touchpads.
On Samsung’s Note line, the pens can be used to write, highlight and draw. The screens also sense when the mouse hovers over the screen, providing an equivalent to the hovering mouse cursor on the PC. However, few third-party applications have been modified to take full advantage of the pens.
By James Cowan, Canadian Business - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
Once seamless devices now frustrating
Yesterday Apple posted the largest quarterly profit in the company’s history, and still somehow managed to disappoint investors. The stock was down nearly 11% this morning, with analysts citing myriad reasons for disappointment: slowing growth, lower-than-expected iPhone sales and the launch of the iPad Mini, which offers slimmer profit margins than its full-size compatriot.
Now, let’s be clear: Apple is not a company in crisis. It sold 47.8 million iPhones in the last quarter, a 78% improvement over the previous year, and sold 7.5 million more iPads over this Christmas season than it did the previous one. But any expectation the company could maintain this kind of skyrocketing growth indefinitely is—and always was—unrealistic. If Apple’s growth for the next five years matched what it’s done in the past five, the company’s revenue would hit $1.2 trillion, according to a recent report by A.M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein Research—roughly equal to the GDP of Australia. Unless investors expect Apple to start printing its own currency and opening embassies, they need to accept an inevitable slowdown in growth.
Apple cannot afford to simply stare at its balance sheet and assume everything is fine. Research in Motion made a similar mistake, assuming their customers would stay loyal and their profits would stay healthy, even as warning signs mounted around them. Indeed, Apple is banking on the same consumer devotion to its products as RIM once did. “At Apple, it’s important to us that we make products that customers not just like, but love,” CEO Tim Cook told analysts yesterday.
That love for Apple is increasingly fickle. Consumers once enraptured with the iPhone can now cast their eyes to Samsung, or a fleet of other phones running the Android operating system. Apple hasn’t done much to maintain consumer loyalty with a widely derided revamp of iTunes and the complete failure of its in-house map application. As people live with Apple products, they develop grievances and gripes about their idiosyncrasies. “For glassy-eyed fanboys like me, the seamlessly magical Apple experience has frayed a little at the edges lately,” Canadian Business columnist Bruce Philp recently wrote.
Part of that fraying is the fault of the company, no doubt. But it also has to do with a general shift in the digital world. Apple has always made beautiful objects, but consumers now expect their gadgets to play well together. The new expectation is that we can, say, download a song on your phone, and then stream it to your stereo. Or store our photos in the cloud and view them on our tablets or TVs. This is a great idea, in theory, and one that Apple is clearly chasing. The company’s iCloud service, which now has 250 million users, is intended to provide this seamless experience. Anyone who’s used it, however, knows that the reality is far from it, requiring plenty of fiddling with menus and network settings. For the company that built its reputation on “It just works,” this is a serious problem.
Apple garnered love by selling fuss-free products. That’s a considerable challenge even when you’re building a single device. The challenge becomes exponentially greater with each phone, tablet and laptop added to the equation. And further, Apple has long relied on a “Halo effect,” where consumers enamoured with their iPhone decide they might love an iMac as well. But if those two devices don’t communicate, it creates a temptation to look elsewhere instead.
Apple’s short-term health seems assured. But unless it can make cloud computing and networking as elegant as it once made the iPhone, it won’t be feeling the love forever.
By Tamsin McMahon - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 5:31 PM - 0 Comments
Stock market analysts have been buzzing lately about “Gangnam Style” internet sensation Psy’s ability to send the share prices of some Korean companies soaring.
DI Corp., which makes equipment for the semi-conductor industry and is chaired by Psy’s father, Park Won Ho, has seen its stock price soar 500 per cent since the video featuring the 34-year-old singer’s bizarrely popular horse-riding dance became a huge hit on Youtube in July. (The video now stands at more than 600 million views.) The stock of YG Entertainment, Psy’s manager, nearly doubled between July and October.
But the real financial genius may be Psy’s marketing prowess. The singer is the spokesmodel for at least a dozen different Korean companies, from hawking Internet TVs for a subsidiary of LG, to dancing in front of refrigerators for Samsung. A year contract to have the singer promote a company’s brand reportedly tops $600,000.
Psy landed a contract with Nongshim, one of Korea’s largest ramen noodle companies, after uploading a video of himself to Youtube eating the company’s Shin Ramyun noodles and begging to be their spokesperson.
Sales of Hite-Jinro, one of Korea’s biggest beverage companies, spiked after Psy downed a bottle of the company’s soju, a popular Korean drink, during a concert in Seoul that was broadcast internationally. The singer is now reportedly in talks to become a spokesperson for them. It was conspicuous timing. Psy was previously a spokesperson for Oriental Brewery, Hite-Jinro’s chief competitor, until the company dropped his contract last November.
But there are signs the Gangnam Style financial bubble might be coming to an end. Shares in DI Corp have plunged nearly 40 per cent in the past two weeks. According to the Korea Times this month, investors who poured their money into DI Corp. shares since the summer have now started posting on Psy’s personal blog, demanding he do something to reverse the company’s falling stock price. “My father put all of his retirement grant into DI and now he is drinking soju in the living room, crying,” one wrote. “Psy, please help. One word from you will do.”
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
As numerous analysts have pointed out, this week could make or break Nokia as it shows off its new Windows Phone 8 devices at a press event in New York. “Make” is actually a strong word – “stave off death” is probably more appropriate.
The storied Finnish cellphone maker, in partnership with Microsoft, is benefiting from some good timing in light of the big setback handed to Samsung by a court two weeks ago. With the court siding with Apple in that epic patent dispute, Samsung and other phone manufacturers using Google’s Android operating system are likely to be slowed down in the near term, at least in the all-important U.S. market.
That gives Nokia, which essentially put all of its eggs into Microsoft’s basket last year, a window of opportunity. Wireless carriers are now especially inclined to push Windows phones, to prevent Apple and perhaps even Android from gaining too much power over them.
So far though, Nokia and Microsoft have failed to spark the imaginations of the buying public. Windows phones, despite promising a very different experience from iPhone and Android devices, have captured less than 4 per cent of the global market, according to Strategy Analytics. That’s compared to 17 and 68 per cent respectively for Apple and Google. (BlackBerry, by the way, has plummeted to just 6 per cent, according to IDC.)
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
There was a ton of commentary over the weekend on what happens after Apple’s $1 billion win over Samsung, with the likeliest scenario being that the latter appeals. But should the verdict stand, the biggest effect will be on Android phones overall. Apple’s victory could send a temporary chill through the market, with all manufacturers – not just Samsung – giving second thoughts to their Android devices. After all, no one is going to risk releasing a device that has a good chance of getting them sued. Google may have to work some fundamental redesigns into its operating system to avoid this sort of thing happening again, while manufacturers themselves will have to make sure their actual designs are clearly distinct from Apple products.
The more likely scenario is that Android phone makers will have to pay Apple a license fee on the patents. Earlier this year, the company reportedly offered these manufacturers a deal that would have seen them paybetween $5 and $15 on each device. Given the big court win, such a fee could be expected to come in on the high end now. Some critics have said this is going to result in more expensive phones. While that’s true, adding $15 or so to the cost is not going to break anybody’s bank.
Of course, that’s assuming Apple is actually willing to license its technology. If Steve Jobs, who told his biographer in no uncertain terms that he wanted to destroy Android, were still alive, it would be a safe bet that no licensing deals would be offered. This is a company that has resisted licensing its Macintosh operating system for much of its existence, after all. If Jobs’ successors take the same approach, it could indeed be back to the drawing board for Google and its Android partners.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
It took jurors three days to decide what an eight year old could have told you in seconds: Samsung copied Apple. Look at an iPhone, then look at a Galaxy. It’s obvious. But so what?
Though Apple was quick to describe the decision as a victory for its core values of “originality” and “innovation,” let’s remember some of the real values Apple is built upon. Steve Jobs, who once quoted (stole?) Picasso’s line about great artists stealing, was himself a wonderfully original thief. All of Apple’s innovations are slick remixes of pre-existing ideas, from the graphic user interface Jobs lifted from Xerox (which Bill Gates later copied from him) to the iPod, which Apple has acknowledged was basically invented by this British guy in 1979. Technology, like all of human culture, progresses bit by bit as we build on each other’s work. Patents are a regulatory system imposed on technology, intended to make sure that inventors get paid for inventing. But they didn’t work out for the British dude who invented the digital audio player, and they aren’t working now.
By Chris Sorensen - Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 12:25 PM - 0 Comments
New iPhone will enter tougher market with more competitive rivals
Speculation about a fall release of the latest iPhone is already rampant, but there’s a new twist this year: questions about Apple’s ability to wow an increasingly competitive industry. The iPhone 4S, unveiled last October, offered only marginal improvements over the previous version, and the Siri voice assistant has yet to become a new mobile standard. And while the iPhone’s pixel-packed retina display remains the sharpest on the market, Asian rivals like Samsung are drawing on their flat-panel-TV knowledge to go brighter and more vivid. “The iPhone’s display is starting to look dull,” tech blog Boy Genius Report mused recently. Though the Apple juggernaut still looks unstoppable, its product cycle appears to have slowed. The late Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary co-founder, would no doubt have screamed at Apple’s engineers many months ago. We’ll soon find out whether his replacement did the same.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
A Syrian general defects, dogs are good for infants and cases of black lung are on the rise
A Syrian general and commander in the elite Republican Guard, Manaf Tlass, defected last week to France. Tlass is the son of a former Syrian defence minister and family friend of President Bashar al-Assad. His departure, which coincided with an international summit on Syria’s crisis (death toll: 14,000), should send a strong message to Assad’s remaining international backers standing in the way of reform—namely Russia and China. When such a high-ranking insider like Tlass thinks something is wrong with the regime, well, something is most definitely wrong.
Almost all the foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the world community isn’t totally abandoning the war-torn nation. At a 70-country gathering in Tokyo last week, more than $16 billion was pledged to help aid the government of Hamid Karzai forge a lasting peace and rebuild a shattered land. It won’t be enough to complete the monumental task, but it’s a generous start, especially given the fiscal troubles stalking Europe and the U.S.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 3, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Remember when the iPad first came out and Apple touted it as the device that would fill the void between smartphone and laptop? The jokes came along pretty quickly about how long it would be till someone tried to squeeze something more into the space between smartphones and tablets.
Well, laugh no more because Samsung is going there.
The South Korean electronics giant is spending a pile of money on a 90-second commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl to promote its new Galaxy Note, a weird device that launches in Canada on all three big wireless carriers on Feb. 14.
By Cigdem Iltan - Friday, August 5, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
A competitive smartphone market is resulting in a lot of lawsuits
Smartphone makers have been duking it out in the courts more than they have on store shelves in the past few weeks, and analysts say sales numbers may explain why. Devices that run Google’s Android platform now outshine Apple’s iPhone: first-quarter market-share estimates this year show Samsung has hurdled to 13 per cent from three per cent last year, while HTC jumped to 10 per cent from six. Some analysts believe the results have prompted Apple to lash out with a series of patent infringement lawsuits aimed at HTC, Samsung and Motorola, the world’s top three Android handset manufacturers.
Apple’s market share rose slightly too, but the tech giant’s third-quarter financial results show that nearly half of its revenue comes from the iPhone. Google chair Eric Schmidt last week came out swinging against Apple, accusing its execs of trying to tangle their competitors in a legal web. “They are not responding with innovation, they’re responding with lawsuits,” he said. “We have not done anything wrong.” But it is in Apple’s nature to be a tough litigator, technology analyst Carmi Levy says. “It would be naive of us to think Apple is running scared and is using courts to protect itself,” he says. During an earnings call last month, Apple COO Tim Cook said: “We have a very simple view here. And that view is that we love competition. But we want people to invent their own stuff. And we’re going to make sure that we defend our portfolio fervently.”
While companies that are assertive in the courts run the risk of diverting attention from the marketing of their wares, the manufacturers involved in the ongoing smartphone patent wars are sophisticated enough to focus on both areas, says Levy. Whether court battles impact innovation may be up for debate, but the power of litigation clearly isn’t: after a U.S. International Trade Commission judge recently ruled that Taiwan’s HTC had infringed on two Apple patents, China’s 21st Century Business Herald reported that two Chinese smartphone makers are considering jumping ship from Android to Microsoft’s Mango Windows Phone 7 operating system, raising the question of whether other companies may eventually follow suit.
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Samsung and Apple are trying to get each others’ products banned from the U.S.
Samsung upped the stakes in its patent dispute with Apple last week when it called on the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban imports of Apple’s iPhone and iPad from China, where they are made. Apple is expected to respond with a similar request, raising the possibility that the tech giants will be choked off from the American market. The two sides have traded accusations of copyright infringement since April, when Apple accused its South Korean rival of ripping off its smartphone and tablet designs. For its part, Samsung has filed similar lawsuits against Apple in Germany and Japan.
While Apple has dominated the tablet market, Samsung has emerged as a big player, too, and is expected to pass Nokia as the world’s top producer of smartphones this year. Ironically, the two companies have enjoyed a close business relationship. Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest buyers of computer chips and screens.
By Katie Engelhart - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 3:55 PM - 19 Comments
Dalton McGuinty’s deal with Samsung has Green Party fuming
Last week, when Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a new $7 billion investment in the province’s green energy sector—perhaps the largest such investment in the world—he earned himself an unlikely adversary: the Green Party of Ontario. “We’d like to see the provincial government scrap this deal,” said Mike Schreiner, the Green leader, in an interview with Maclean’s.
The province signed its deal with a South Korean consortium, which includes Samsung. And at first glance, it seems like an environmentalist’s dream come true. The consortium is committed to developing 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power across the province (about enough to light 580,000 Canadian homes). In the process, it will create an estimated 16,000 jobs, 4,000 of which will be permanent. The goal is to make Ontario “the place to be for green energy manufacturing in North America,” McGuinty explained.
That’s all well and good, says Schreiner, whose party celebrated the passing of the Green Energy Act last year. But “this deal essentially throws [Ontario companies] under the bus.” Ontario-based projects are shovel ready, he insists. “So why are we offering special deals to multinational corporations?” The Association of Power Producers of Ontario is equally upset. David Butters, the group’s president, says it’s not Samsung’s presence that bothers him so much as the preferential treatment that the South Korean behemouth is getting. Ontario has guaranteed Samsung a higher-than-market value for its energy and priority access to the power grid. “Now we have two kinds of developers in Ontario,” laments Butters. “Samsung and everybody else.”
Consumers, at least, can take solace in the fact that the power they’re getting will be clean and green. But at a cost, say various critics. The province will shell out $437 million to the consortium, who in turn are investing the $7 billion. At the household level, that amounts to $1.60 a year, for the next 20 years.
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 8, 2010 at 9:01 AM - 6 Comments
Newsmakers of the week
Behind the mask, even more Iron
She’s known as the “Iron Lady,” but new revelations about former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher show the extent to which that was true. According to recently released secret files dating back to her time as PM, she told then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter she had personally “handled” the guns currently being used by the Northern Ireland police force, and decided the American-made Ruger pistol was a better shot. Maggie also liked whisky, preferred refugees from Poland or Hungary to ones from Asia, and didn’t like to be bored: in another file, she scolds staff for not organizing a “sufficiently interesting” itinerary for her first U.S. trip.
NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas has done the impossible: he’s trumped Tiger Woods in the athletes-behaving-badly department. A locker-room dispute with Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt apparently led Arenas to reach for a handgun. Crittenton grabbed a gun, too, the New York Post reported, and a Christmas Eve standoff ensued. (That the team name was changed from the Bullets over concerns about gun violence adds to the sad irony.) No guns were discharged, but Arenas has since laid down covering fire on Twitter. Among the tweets the self-described “goof ball” posted: “I hav 2 change subjects umM what about that TIGER WOODS I heard he dated 2 MIDGETS.”
Bet you think this song is about me
European media reported last week that in an effort to attract a million new members to his People of Freedom party, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi planned to launch a new political campaign, with posters featuring his bloodied and beaten face and the slogan “Love always wins over hate.” The 73-year-old, who spent four days in hospital after being attacked during a rally in Milan last month, received plenty of public sympathy after being struck in the face with a miniature Duomo statue; in one poll, his popularity rose from 45 to 48 per cent. His aides deny any plans to feature the infamous photo, but the party’s campaign song is changing. Roughly translated, the existing anthem includes the line “Thank God that Silvio exists.” It will be replaced by the slightly less megalomaniacal “Thank God we exist.”
Friend in high places
France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, has befriended a homeless man who lives on the street between her home in the 16th arrondissement and her son’s school. In addition to chatting with Denis, 53, about books and music and providing him with a “military-type duvet,” Bruni is said to have given him a signed copy of her latest CD. “My friends from the street told me that as [it] has got her signature, it’s worth a lot of money,” Denis told Closer magazine. “I couldn’t care less, I prefer to keep it; having said that, I lent it to someone two months ago who hasn’t given it back.” The police no longer bother him, Denis said. He isn’t the only beneficiary of Bruni’s do-gooding. Two French nationals, Céline Faye and Sarah Zaknoun, held in a Dominican Republic prison for 18 months on drug trafficking charges, were pardoned on Christmas Eve after Bruni took up their cause. “It’s thanks to her that we are here,” said Faye.
After some 25 years of competitive mushing, William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon, has sold off most of his sled dogs and announced his retirement. The German-born Kleedehn moved to Canada as a young man after reading a newspaper story in 1978 about the 1,850-km Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Kleedehn, 50, never won the Iditarod or the gruelling Yukon Quest, though he did win many mid-distance races. He is hanging on to eight puppies and two adult dogs for recreational mushing, but, he vows, “I won’t let it rule my life again.” At the top of his to-do list are travels to South America and Australia, by more conventional means.
Bubba’s other bombshell
While the focus on Ken Gormley’s soon-to-be-released book, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, has mostly been Monica Lewinsky’s claim that Bill Clinton lied under oath about their relationship, one of the book’s most shocking revelations is that the former president was nearly the victim of a 1996 bomb attack organized by Osama bin Laden. On a state visit to Manila, Clinton’s motorcade was diverted at the last minute after secret service officers received a “crackly message” that included the word “wedding,” commonly used by terrorists as code word for assassination. It was later found that a nearby bridge the president would have crossed was rigged with explosives.
Love and rockets
Israeli whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu is in trouble again. Not for spilling the beans on Israel’s nuclear program—he’s already had his knuckles rapped for that, twice—but for having a Norwegian girlfriend. Vanunu was first arrested in 1986, after disclosing information about Israel’s clandestine nuclear program to the Sunday Times. He spent 18 years in jail—then went back to the slammer for six months in 2007 after violating his parole by contacting media again. Now he’s been arrested a third time. The Israeli secret service is worried he’s telling secrets to his girlfriend. (Vanunu is banned from travelling abroad as well as speaking with foreigners.) According to his lawyer, though, the girlfriend “is not interested in nuclear business; she’s interested in Mordechai Vanunu.”
Lights, cameras, order, order!
In her bid for “100 per cent physical custody” of her son, Tripp Johnston-Palin, Bristol Palin, the 19-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, had argued that keeping the custody battle private was in Tripp’s best interests. She also claimed Levi Johnston, the one-year-old’s father, only wanted to make the hearing public to promote himself. Johnston recently posed for Playgirl and has been on something of a media campaign since splitting with Bristol last spring. Nonetheless, the proceedings will play out in open court following a court decision last week. Johnston, who is seeking joint custody, must be pleased. He said he did “not feel protected against Sarah Palin in a closed proceeding.”
One for the little folk
The jury is still out on whether Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group, which closed in October, took part in insider trading (he pleaded not guilty), but apparently the Sri Lankan is guilty of pulling some rather peculiar stunts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rajaratnam once offered $5,000 to any employee who would agree to be tasered (a female trader actually obliged). On another occasion, Rajaratnam introduced a dwarf, whom he said he’d hired to cover small-cap stocks (get it?), to employees. That turned out to be an April Fool’s joke.
New blood on the ice
When Canada’s Olympic hockey roster was announced last week, perhaps the biggest surprise was the inclusion of 20-year-old Drew Doughty. Sports commentators across the country talked about a “changing of the guard”—more experienced defencemen, like Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf, were left off the team. It caught even the L.A. Kings defenceman off guard. Doughty slept through the call of a lifetime and only found out he’d been selected after checking his voice mail. Then he woke up his roomie, Kings captain Dustin Brown, who will also be in Vancouver—as leader of Team U.S.A. Brown is already dreading meeting Doughty on the ice. “I’m not too afraid of his bodychecks,” said Brown. “It’s his hip checks.”
Can a child have two mothers? Yes, and no. When Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, a lesbian couple living in Vermont, separated in 2003, a judge awarded custody of their child to Miller and visitation rights to Jenkins. That same year, Miller, the biological mother, moved to Virginia, renounced homosexuality, and adopted the evangelical Christian faith. She appealed to the supreme courts of Virginia and Vermont to revoke Jenkins’s right to see their daughter Isabella, born via artificial insemination in 2002, on the grounds that a relationship with Jenkins would hamper her new religion. The courts ruled against her, noting custody cases for same-sex couples worked like those for heterosexual couples. Miller still refused to let Jenkins see the child—so the court reversed custody to ensure Jenkins would have access to Isabella. Miller has since disappeared, along with the child.
Bailout, Korean style
In an attempt to bolster the country’s 2018 Winter Olympic bid, South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, pardoned Lee Kun-hee, former chairman of Samsung, who had been convicted of tax evasion and breach of trust. The move allows Lee to try to regain membership in the International Olympic Committee, and take the lead in Pyeongchang County’s bid. Critics say the pardon confirmed the common view that corporate heavyweights are above the law in Korea. “A criminal convict travelling around the world campaigning for South Korea’s Olympic bid,” says Kim Sang-jo, an economist at Hansung University, “will only hurt our national interest and image.”
Good man walking
After 23 years of togetherness—they were never married—Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have split up. The couple had long been considered tops among Hollywood’s socially conscious crew; they championed anti-globalization and Ralph Nader, while opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In 1999, Sarandon was made a UNICEF goodwill ambassador—whatever that means. Apparently the two actually split in the summer but didn’t notify the press until now—hmm, wonder if that has anything to do with Sarandon’s new movie, The Lovely Bones, out now and considered an Oscar contender.
Dog’s best friend
Here’s a heartwarming story: two Montreal women are taking a trip to Vancouver to retrieve a dog they’ve never met for a family they hardly know. After Fred the dog was found in a trailer with his owner, Cyril Roy, three days after Roy’s death, Frank Palumbo, a dog-lover and owner of a freight company, pledged to get the seven-year-old kugsha home. His wife, Mélanie Pellerin, and her friend Christianne Hendershott flew to Vancouver to pick up Fred, then boarded a train for the four-day ride. VIA Rail chipped in with free first-class tickets for them, plus an extra ticket for Fred, who will eventually settle down in Ontario with one of Cyril’s sisters, a dog breeder.