Wednesday, June 29, 2011

7 Taliban, 11 others killed in attack on luxury hotel in Kabul

Seven Taliban attacked Kabul's Hotel Inter-Continental in a brazen, carefully orchestrated operation that began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday, ending with their deaths and those of 11 other people some six hours after it began, police said.

"We are still searching the hotel; the death number may increase," said Chief of Criminal Investigations Mohammad Zahir on Wednesday morning. Twelve people were wounded or injured, he added.

"The situation is secure," Interior Minister Bismullah Khan said. By then, the top floor of the hotel was ablaze, but within a couple of hours, the flames were gone, though smoke continued to rise from the wreckage.

Two security personnel were killed in the attack, he said.

The Taliban penetrated the hotel's typically heavy security in the attack, and one of them detonated an explosion on the second floor, said Erin Cunningham, a journalist for The Daily in Kabul. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in an e-mail that the suicide attackers entered the hotel after killing the security guards at the entrance.

The Inter-Continental is popular among international guests. A news conference had been scheduled to take place there Wednesday to discuss the planned transition of security from international to Afghan forces that U.S. President Barack Obama announced last week.

In some ways, this attack is not unexpected. General Petraeus predicted the Taliban would move to soft, civilian targets with suicide bombers, since the , military targets were not longer within their reach. When I was in Kabul two months ago a suicide bomber gained access to the Ministry of Defense, across the street from where I was staying, carrying a valid ID and wearing an Afghan army officer's uniform. No amount of brilliant soldiering on our part can prevent that sort of attack. Only the Afghanis can police themselves.

Washington is focussed this week on the Afghan War and whether to take American troops out, when to do it, and how many to withdraw. But this debate really misses the point. The Afghan war will not be won if we keep more troops there longer. But it will be lost unless if we find a political solution that unites the Afghan people behind their government, a diplomatic solution that shuts down the Taliban safe havens just across the border, and an international solution that guarantees them both.

We may win battles on the ground in Afghanistan, and the stronger and longer we stay the more battles we will win. But those victories will mean little if the Karzai government is not able to hold the country together once we leave, or if the Taliban keeps fighting by regrouping across the border in Pakistan. They will always be able to destroy in a few minutes what it has taken years to create.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tiger Woods says he won't return until he's fully healthy

Tiger Woods, the AT&T National tournament host, told members of the media Tuesday afternoon that he has no timetable for his return to golf following two leg injuries that have sidelined him most of this season.

"I’m using that 2008 experience this time around. Only difference is, there is no timetable. I always had a goal in mind once I had the operation back in ’08. This time, it’s openended. I'm using a different approach and learning my lesson this time," Woods said about his eventual return to the game.

When asked if he would put a timetable on his possible return to golf for the British Open, Tiger replied, "No, I don't know. I'm just playing it by ear right now. There is no timetable right now." He went on to state that this was obviously hard for him to not have an answer, however feels that he may have come back too early at The Players. This time will be different, according to Tiger, as he is "trying to be smarter" in terms of when he can return to competitive golf.

Woods also stressed that there has been no surgical intervention on his injuries this time around, instead focusing on intensive physical therapy and strengthening exercises to make his knee "more explosive".  When asked if his doctors made any mention of a possible knee replacement, Tiger dismissed the question by sternly stating "No surgery has been discussed whatsoever".

Perhaps even more interesting was how Woods fielded questions pertaining to the performance of Rory McIlroy at this year's US Open, which Tiger watched intently. Woods acknowledged that the performance "was impressive" and "seriously good playing".  The intensity and determination McIlroy showcased throughout the week while staying aggressive was also impressive to Woods, "especially during a US Open".

Woods did not say whether he would compete in the British Open, which starts July 14 at Royal St. George's. However, he did say he would be surprised if the year ended without him playing another tournament.

Google Health failed

Google's online personal health record (PHR) service failed because of its relative obscurity and lack of capabilities, according to health care industry experts.

Google said late last week it would shutter its Google Health PHR on Jan. 1, 2012 after the personal health record (PHR) service failed to gain widespread adoption.

While it offered consumers a way to store health information in a centralized online location, Google Health PHR was mainly an aggregation service with little to offer mainstream consumers other than an online scrapbook of medical information. Google itself admitted that adoption was mainly among tech-savvy patients and fitness enthusiasts.

"We haven't found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people," Google said in its blog posting about the service.

The service was started with high-expectations, as Google aimed to try and create a service to allow people to easily access their personal health records.

The idea appeared well-planned on paper, but failed to catch on in with the public.

Truth be told, very few people actually took advantage of Google Health once it went live.

The internet search giant has confirmed that Google Health is going to stay live until January 1, 2012.

On top of that, they will make the electronic medical records available for an extra year until 2013.

After that, Google Health will be no longer, and the hope for Microsoft is that they can now capitalize in making HealthVault appeal to the masses.

Electronic medical records have yet to really catch-on, but in the long-run, the hope is that will change.

two iPhones in September?

Apple might surprise consumers this year by releasing not one but two iPhones, an analyst for Deutsche Bank Equity Research says.

Chris Whitmore predicted that at the same time Apple releases a fifth-generation iPhone, probably in September, the company will also show off a speedier version of the existing iPhone 4 that consumers will be able to buy for $350 without a contract. The lower-cost phone, he said, would feature a prepaid calling plan in which consumers could pay monthly for a limited number of talk minutes.

Apple's iPhones are generally among the more expensive smartphones available. But a souped-up iPhone 4, Whitmore believes, could help Apple compete with less-expensive phones from other companies.

Whitmore said that sales of lower-cost, "mid-range" smartphones are expected to grow three times as fast as sales of premium models, such as the current iPhone. By 2014, shipments of mid-range smartphones could surpass those of premium ones, Whitmore said.

"We believe the time is right for Apple to focus on driving penetration into the mid-range smartphone market and drastically expand its addressable market," he said, noting that Nokia Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd., which sell lower-cost handsets, are both struggling.

n the U.S., most cellphones are subsidized by carriers with contracts that allow them to recoup the cost of the phone in monthly payments. But as the above chart shows, there are large swaths of the world -- especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where iPhone penetration is low -- where customers prefer to pay the full cost of the phone upfront.

Note that analysts for some time have been calling for Apple to release a lower cost, pre-paid iPhone, and that Whitmore does not cite any sources or claim any inside knowledge for his two-iPhone theory.

In a separate note issued Sunday, Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty, back from a week of meetings in Taiwan, reports that she expects iPhone and iPad production to "begin ramping up aggressively" from August through the end of the year.

If production for what Huberty sees as one new iPhone doesn't start until in mid to late August, the launch might not come until late September. In her unit sales spreadsheet, copied below, she's shifted 2 million iPhones from calendar Q3 to calendar Q4 (Apple's fiscal Q4 and Q1 2012). If the launch comes in early September, she says, she'll shift them back.

Mr. Popper's Penguins Trailer

The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and as he transforms his apartment into a winter wonderland, his professional side starts to unravel.