Archive for February, 2012

The Facebook phenomenon

THE GROWTH and success of Facebook is truly phenomenal. From a project concocted by a student hacker in his Harvard dormroom in 2004 it has become the giant of the web with 483 million people using the social network every day, one million of them coming from Ireland.

Despite its unarguable success the question remains; Is Facebook really worth $100 billion?

That’s likely to be the valuation put on the website when it makes its stock market debut in the US later this year, probably in May.

The hacker who had the vision for Facebook, 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, still controls the company and is potentially worth $25 billion after the flotation. Despite his youth Zuckerberg has shrewdly managed to keep control of his creation; he will have 56.9 per cent of the voting power despite owning only 28.4 per cent of the stock.

But with vast riches will come responsibility. Mr Zuckerberg has always kept information about his company as closely guarded as possible. Starting with this week’s filing of a prospectus Facebook will have to share key information about its financial performance with the public at large.

To date Mr Zuckerberg’s control has enabled him to block any moves to extract commercial value from the network which he felt would not be of benefit to the users. In a letter to potential investors he states that he did not originally want Facebook to be a company because “it was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected”.

But as a public company the young engineer is going to face considerable pressure to justify its massive valuation. That will involve growing revenues significantly from the $3.7 billion achieved last year.

International expansion is one way Facebook could generate more revenues without compromising its founder’s principles. That would also be a positive development for its Dublin operation which is Facebook’s international headquarters and now employs more than 200 staff.

Facebook is not currently available in the largest internet market in the world – China. The company admits there is no guarantee that it will find a way of operating in China that is acceptable to both it and the local authorities. Whether it is willing to compromise on its principles of openness and engage in censorship at the behest of the Chinese government will be a huge test of the public Facebook.

Financial analysts have questioned whether the company is really worth such a massive multiple of its net earnings (profits), which were $1 billion last year. Facebook will be valued at 75 to 100 times its earnings while on average the US stock market trades at 12 times earnings. There are clear echoes of the original dotcom boom. Mr Zuckerberg has successfully negotiated the challenges of managing the fastest growing website in history. He will now have to do so in public. That presents a very different set of challenges.

February 4, 2012 Posted Under: Google News   Read More

CDL tests also find Isotab adulterated

KARACHI: The Central Drugs Laboratory verified here on Thursday the presence of a material used in certain combinations to treat malaria in a sample of the Isotab tablet (20mg) reportedly given to a good number of patients registered with the Punjab Institute of Cardiology.

Functioning under the cabinet division since the devolution of the health sector, the laboratory also found the tablets which a team from the Drug Control Administration had collected on Wednesday from the factory manufacturing the medicine in Karachi, diluted, adulterated and substandard, containing the anti-malarial agent, Pyrimethamine.

Analyst Obaid Ali told Dawn that an unknown peak had been found with isosorbide-5 mononitrate manufactured by Efroze Chemical Industries, during high performance liquid chromatography analysis under conditions of the USP on Wednesday night.

For reliable, selective and specific determinations, support from experts outside the laboratory was sought on Thursday.

“Now I am in a position to say that the samples of solution and tablet of one particular batch tested by the national laboratory has been found with Pyrimethamine,” he said, adding that the concentration of the anti-malaria active was about 56mg in one tablet.

Three samples of the tablet were delivered to the CDL on Jan 30 by an additional secretary of the Punjab health department and the laboratory issued details of its latest findings on a priority basis.

According to sources, a letter from the Punjab government authorising the federal government’s analyst to carry out the tests is awaited by the laboratory to fulfil the requirements of the Drugs Act of 1976.

Earlier, the laboratory tested one sample of medicines from a factory in Lahore that was reportedly associated with about 130 deaths among cardiac patients receiving treatment from the PIC.

“It declared a batch of Alfagril as substandard,” an official said.

According to experts, prolonged use of the anti-malaria substance may cause a decrease in red blood cells. The problem can be addressed by using folinic acid.

After sealing the active sections of the Efroze factory in Korangi on Wednesday on suspicion that it had produced and supplied tainted medicines to the PIC, a team of the federal government’s drug and investigation officers told the firm to suspend manufacturing drugs for two weeks and not to dispose of any relevant material outside the premises.

The Drug Control Administration’s Deputy Director General Dr Shahid H. Pechuho said that since the government laboratory had confirmed that the sample was substandard as defined in the Drugs Act, the factory deserved legal action under its Sections 23 (import, manufacture and sale of drugs) and 27 (offence, penalties and procedure). “We are seeking guidance from the cabinet division.”

Replying to a question, he said the Central Licensing Board did not exist currently and he had proposed to seek special permission from the prime minister for lodging an FIR and initiating prosecution under the act.

“Another option is that under Section 19 (procedure for inspectors of drugs), a federal inspector shall report the matter and hand over the stock to the provincial drug inspector for further action,” he added.

On Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif had told the media that a British laboratory had found 50mg of an anti-malarial agent in Isotab produced by Efroze Chemicals.

February 4, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Sanctions, Threats Add Weight on Iran

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei weighed in on a rising sense of crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, as threats of a possible Israeli attack and a new push to cut Iran off from the international banking system put greater pressure on the regime in Tehran.

On Friday, Belgium’s Society for Worldwide International Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, said it has entered discussions with the U.S. and European governments to address concerns that its financial services are being used by Iran to avoid international sanctions and conduct illicit businesses.

The Senate Banking Committee passed a bill on Thursday that could lead to sanctions against Swift’s board of directors and owners if the organization doesn’t end dealings with Iran’s central bank and other Iranian firms that have been sanctioned by the U.S. and European Union.

Swift is a central player in the international banking system by facilitating the flow of electronic financial transactions.

Amid the sanctions push Israel’s defense minister this week said it would better to strike Iran before it develops nuclear weapons.

Mr. Panetta on Friday appeared to indirectly caution Israel against taking any actions that could open rifts within the international community.

Mr. Panetta, meeting with U.S. troops in Germany, said nations were now unified behind tough sanctions and in telling Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.

“The whole international community has said: ‘Don’t do it,’ ” Mr. Panetta said at the Ramstein Air Base. But if Iran pushes ahead with production of a nuclear bomb, Mr. Panetta added, “we have all options on the table and we’ll be prepared to respond if we have to.”

Iran says it isn’t developing nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, have also stressed that it is necessary to give sanctions meant to squeeze the Iranian regime’s finances time to work.

The U.S. State Department weighed in Friday that sanctions could still have an effect.

“We believe there’s still time and space to pursue diplomacy and to allow the sanctions that are in place…to take hold,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “These are unprecedented sanctions that I think everyone agrees are having a chilling effect on the Iranian economy.”

Mr. Khamenei, in a sermon marking the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, said the sanctions were only helping Iran. “They will make us more self-reliant….We would not achieve military progress if sanctions were not imposed on Iran’s military sector.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week appeared to suggest that an Israeli attack may be imminent.

“Whoever says ‘later” might find that ‘later’ is too late,” he said. He added that “Iran must not become nuclear….We mean what we say.”

Some Israeli officials, however, privately advise against taking the heightened rhetoric very seriously. If Israel decided to target Iran’s nuclear facilities, they said, the government isn’t likely to let the world know ahead of time.

“People should be more on alert when we stop talking about it,” said an Israeli official. “The world will only learn about it after it’s happened.”

February 4, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More

EDITORIAL: ‘Contempt’ on the horizon

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has again been summoned to the Supreme Court (SC) to face contempt of court charges. The seven-member bench hearing the case said: “After the preliminary hearing, we are satisfied that prima facie there is enough case for further proceeding. The case is adjourned until February 13 for framing charges and the prime minister is required to be present on the next date.” When the premier’s counsel, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, tried to present his case, on the face of it the bench lost patience and did not even accord Mr Ahsan an opportunity to argue his point of view adequately. This goes against the spirit of justice and by the looks of it, the standoff between the executive and the judiciary is going to get even more serious. The prime minister earlier appeared before the court on January 19 and was even lauded by the superior judiciary for respecting the rule of law. Prime Minister Gilani said he is ready to appear before the apex court once again. While it is good to see Mr Gilani’s consistency in respecting the court’s wishes, summoning the prime minister has many implications, both judicial and political.

Legally, there are three options before the prime minister. One, he can offer an unconditional apology and then write a letter to the Swiss authorities against President Zardari as per the SC’s instructions. Two, he can contest the charges, as is being hinted, but the implications of such a course can be serious. The court has the power to sentence him right there and then. The sentence could be symbolic, in which case he will be under arrest within the court’s premises until the rising of the court, or real, in which case he could be jailed for upto six months. Three, there could be an intra-court appeal against the decision of the seven-member bench. The chief justice will have to constitute a new bench to hear the appeal. Even though the prime minister says he had no intention of committing contempt, writing a letter against his party’s co-chairman and the country’s president does not seem likely if the government’s statements can be relied upon. The implications of the prime minister being sentenced are grave. Some experts believe that the moment he is convicted for contempt, he stands disqualified to be a member of the National Assembly and therefore prime minister. The other view is that even if Mr Gilani is indeed convicted, the Speaker of the National Assembly has to write to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP will then decide whether to disqualify him or not. Even if he is disqualified, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) can nominate someone else as the new premier. Those wishing for a delay in the upcoming Senate elections will certainly be disappointed. It would also give the PPP a chance to play the victim card in the next general elections.

Right now what is needed is cool heads and not rising temperatures. If Prime Minister Gilani is convicted of contempt, it will not be a good precedent. The requirement of the time is political stability in the country to the extent humanly possible. Rather than destabilising the democratic system, it needs to be consolidated and strengthened. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Against the wind…

Let it be a day of celebration for the so-called ‘inferior sex’ for their success in parliament of a country where they have been denied and deprived of their rights, sometimes under the garb of misinterpreted religious obligations and at others by age-old traditions driven by a non-altruistic desire to maintain patriarchy in society at all costs. The Senate, comprising representatives both male and female from across the country, has unanimously passed the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2012 into law, a truly landmark achievement in our history. The autonomous commission with full financial and administrative powers will examine policies, programmes and other measures taken by the government for women’s welfare and gender parity, promoting social, economic, political and legal rights of women as enshrined in the constitution and in accordance with international declarations, conventions, treaties and agreements related to women, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

With the creation of this institutional forum, now some light can be expected at the end of the tunnel. This commission will monitor the implementation of laws present on the country’s statute books and ensure conformity with international conventions upholding women’s rights. Those who count Pakistan as the third most dangerous country for women after Afghanistan and Congo should hail the historic decision that has actually made Pakistan one of only four countries across the globe that have established such legal and constitutional bodies to look after women’s rights and act against anti-women activities.

There is a need that women be made aware of their equal status and encouraged to walk confidently keeping their heads high. This new Act is expected to empower women by providing them required legal assistance and protection and monitoring implementation of legislation for nourishing and upholding women’s rights in our society, discouraging the forces that will confront its mandate with their power and money at various stages. But it has to continue its struggle, deriving strength from its firm faith in women’s capabilities. *

February 4, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More