King of Pop Michael Jackson is dead

Michael Jackson, the child star turned King of Pop who set the world dancing but whose musical genius was overshadowed by a bizarre lifestyle and sex scandals, died on Thursday. He was 50.

Jackson was pronounced dead at about 2:26 p.m. PDT (2126 GMT) after arriving at a Los Angeles hospital in full cardiac arrest, said Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. The cause of death was not known and an autopsy would likely take place on Friday, he said.

Jackson’s sudden death had been reported earlier by U.S. media, which said he was taken ill at his home and rushed to the hospital by paramedics who found him not breathing when they arrived.

Known as the “King of Pop,” for hits that included “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” Jackson’s dramatic, one-gloved stage presence and innovative dance moves were imitated by legions of fans around the world.

He transformed music videos and his lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he received, made him one of the most successful entertainers of all time.

But Jackson’s belief that “I am Peter Pan in my heart”, his preference for the company of children, his friendship with a chimp, his high-pitched voice and numerous plastic surgeries also earned him critics and the nickname “Wacko Jacko.”

Jackson, who had lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation, had been scheduled to launch a comeback tour from London next month.

Quincy Jones, who helped arrange the music on the album “Thriller” and produced the “Off the Wall” album, told MSNBC: “I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news.”

“For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

SOLD-OUT SHOWS

Jackson had been due to start a series of concerts in London on July 13 running until March 2010. The singer had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the past two months. The shows for the 50 London concerts sold out within minutes of going on sale in March.

“Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent, and vision as Michael Jackson,” said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy in a statement.

“He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility, and sheer star power carried him from childhood to worldwide acclaim.”

There were concerns about Jackson’s health in recent years but the promoters of the London shows, AEG Live, said in March that Jackson had passed a 4-1/2 hour physical examination with independent doctors.

Outside the hospital in Los Angeles about 200 fans and reporters gathered on Thursday, waiting for confirmation of Jackson’s death or condition.

Some fans were crying and hugging each other, and others were climbing atop fences to get a better look at a microphone stand where a news conference was supposed to take place.

“I hope he’s gone to God, and I hope that he’s free of all the troubles he’s been plagued with,” Tonya Blazer, 50, who said she had been a fan going back more than four decades to his days as a child star.

“I just feel like I’m paying tribute to him,” said Dawn Burgess, 42, a fan who said she had posters of Michael pinned to her bedroom wall when she was a child.

CHILD STAR TO MEGASTAR

Jackson was born on Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children. Five Jackson boys — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael — first performed together at a talent show when Michael was 6. They walked off with first prize and went on to become a best-selling band, The Jackson Five, and then The Jackson 5.

Jackson made his first solo album in 1972, and released “Thriller” in 1982, which became a smash hit that yielded seven top-10 singles. The album sold 21 million copies in the United States and at least 27 million worldwide.

The next year, he unveiled his signature “moonwalk” dance move while performing “Billie Jean” during an NBC special.

In 1994, Jackson married Elvis Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1996. Jackson married Debbie Rowe the same year and had two children, before splitting in 1999. The couple never lived together.

Jackson has three children named Prince Michael I, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II, known for his brief public appearance when his father held him over the railing of a hotel balcony, causing widespread criticism.

New Yorkers and tourists in the city’s Times Square were shocked at the news of Jackson’s death.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s sad, it’s really, really sad,” said Nicole Smith, an 18-year-old student from Brooklyn, New York, in Times Square. “My mother was a fan. I listened to his music.”

“I’m shocked. I thought someone was lying to me when I first heard it. I was a fan from when he was a little boy and then he got weird,” said Sue Sheider, 51, a teacher from Long Island.

Obama’s tax proposals won’t stop outsourcing to India

Few would argue that in recent years, globalisation has increasingly come to be synonymous with the trend of outsourcing; a trend that has changed the global equation. The phenomena of outsourcing has allowed emerging markets in developing countries to reach into developed economies, offering a talented workforce at a fraction of the price. However, with the recent tax proposals of the US, multinational US Companies which make more than 50% of their revenue from markets outside the US and the Indian industry, which earns $60 billion from outsourcing, are panic-stricken. The new US tax proposals intend to (i) curb overseas tax advantages enjoyed by multinationals in the US; (ii) change the legal treatment of international subsidiaries that companies have used to shift earnings into low-tax offshore havens; (iii) reduce the role of small tax-haven countries that have eroded the tax bases of US; and (iv) eliminate an ambiguity that allows US multinationals to avoid paying taxes on profits earned overseas. Further, it is believed that with rise in the taxes paid on the profits earned overseas, the US companies will shift their location of business back to US. Existing US Tax Code The present US Deferral System allows US companies earning profits in a foreign country to deduct expenses for overseas operations and defer payment of US taxes until those profits are repatriated back to the US. While several developed countries have shifted to territorial tax system where only company profits generated within a country’s borders are subjected to tax, the US is the only country in which both a worldwide system and a corporate tax is applied. Hence, US tax regime provides for Deferral System to enable US multinational companies operating in foreign countries to be on a more equal footing with their competitors. However, this Deferral System is under attack from the US administration as US multinational companies are increasingly found to be evading taxes by shifting their earnings into low-tax offshore havens and enjoying overseas tax advantages. Hence, the US administration intends to reform the Deferral System by limiting the ability of US companies to defer tax on profits earned abroad. The new US administration proposes to curtail US multinationals from (i) receiving deductions for expenses supporting their overseas investments until they pay taxes on their offshore profits; (ii) inflating or accelerating the foreign tax paid to claim credit against the US taxes; and to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent for investment in the US. Implications of the New Tax Code Though the proposal of the new US Tax Code is still at an early stage, the immediate impact on the Indian outsourcing industry cannot be accurately assessed, as the transition of this proposal into legislation will involve extended debates, expert opinions and oppositions from US multinationals, republicans, and even democrats. Even assuming that the proposal of the new US Tax Code comes into force, it is an attempt by the US administration to reduce the role of small tax-haven countries that have eroded the tax bases of US rather than targeting the outsourcing industry of India in general. However, the proposed new US Tax Code may impact foreign operations of US companies operating abroad and makes it more difficult for them to compete with foreign companies. RandD Outsourcing RandD is considered as one of the important factors for economic growth of a country. Recently, RandD outsourcing industry of India has grown immensely and deals with all major sectors like IT, telecom, auto, research and pharmaceuticals. Presently, US tax code allows US multinationals to claim immediate deductions for expenses supporting their overseas investments and defer payment of US tax until those profits are repatriated to the US. In order to curb avoidance of tax, US proposes to provide deductions to US multinationals on overseas expenses only if they pay taxes on their offshore profits. However, in its new tax proposal, the US has exempted the overseas Research and Experimentation expenses enabling US multinationals to receive immediate deductions on their US tax returns. Hence, even if the new tax proposal transforms into legislation, it should not have a significant impact on the RandD outsourcing industry of India. Structuring the Outsourcing In a global economy where capital flows freely across borders, it will be difficult for the US administration to restrict multinationals from investing in India. Most US multinational companies do not invest in India only to take advantage of the deferral system existing in the US tax code. In case, the US administration legislates the proposed tax code, it may lead to US multinationals conducting a detailed analysis of economic benefits of outsourcing a particular service and outsourcing only those jobs to India which produces higher profits when outsourced to an Indian subsidiary in comparison to the taxes associated with outsourcing such jobs. In such a scenario independent BPO units will have to be more competitive and captive BPOs will have to look at maximising their profits by cutting costs. However, it is unlikely that outsourcing would yield less profit considering India’s potential to provide highly skilled manpower, cost-effectiveness, and proximity to fast-growing Asian markets. The Indian government may also have to consider revising and upgrading the existing sops to BPOs including tax incentives. BPOs may consider shifting operations to suburban and rural India to avail benefits of cheaper labour and the likely tax and infrastructural incentives provided by the government. Outsourcing is an economic reality and cannot be curtailed by changing the tax code applicable to the outsourcer and most economic and business experts would agree that India will remain a lucrative investment destination for the US as it continues to offer skilled manpower, large and inexpensive labour force and immense growth potential. Even in case the US administration succeeds in bringing the new tax code into force, decisions on outsourcing will still not rest in their hands. Businesses, large and small, will continue to be driven by and to do what they believe is best for survival and growth.

LTTE chief Prabhakaran reportedly shot dead

Liberation of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran has reportedly been shot dead along with his son Charles Antony and other Tiger commanders. Unofficial reports said Prabhakaran was ambushed and shot dead while trying to flee Special Forces who closed in on the last rebel fortification. A Sri Lankan military spokesman said that there has been no identification of Prabhakaran as yet. There were reports that only DNA verification would confirm Prabhakaran’s death, as he was known to move around with two doubles. Earlier in the day, the Sri Lankan Army had claimed that Prabhakaran was alive and surrounded by government troops. On Sunday, four senior rebel leaders were killed in fighting, the army said. They included the head of the Tigers” political wing, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of rebels” peace secretariat Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and a military leader known as Ramesh. The latest claims cannot be verified as reporters are barred from the war zone. If confirmed, Prabhakaran’s death could signal the end of the nearly three decade-long civil-ethnic war that cost the island nation the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Meanwhile, injured civilians continue to leave Sri Lanka”s war zone to get medical care. The movement of civilians out of the war zone comes as the LTTE conceded defeat after sending out suicide attackers as part of a last-ditch attempt to keep the military”s final assault at bay on the square kilometre they control. “This battle has reached its bitter end. We have decided to silence our guns,” the LTTE”s diplomatic chief, Selvarajah Pathmanathan, said in a statement posted on the pro-rebel web site http://www.TamilNet.com on Sunday A day before, Sri Lanka”s President Mahinda Rajapaksa had declared victory after troops seized the entire coast for the first time since the war erupted in 1983.

India’s IT professionals upset with Obama

Indian IT professionals on Tuesday slammed President Barack Obama’s move to end tax incentives for US companies that ship jobs to countries like India, saying it will neither benefit the US nor its corporate sector.

“Obama’s latest move was expected, but unwelcome at a time when Bangalore’s IT and BPO sectors are already reeling under the global economic meltdown,” said Padma Nair, 26, an IT-professional working for a Bangalore-based American company.

“Obama’s new policy is not going to benefit anyone, neither the outsourcing companies nor the country the job is outsourced to. The cost saved in outsourcing is higher than that saved by tax exemption,” Nair toldĀ IANS.

Expressing a similar view, Shankar Banerjee, 25, a quality analyst working for another American IT company, said if Obama’s proposal is pushed through, it will hit business coming India’s way and many Indians would lose their jobs.

“IT and BPO companies in India have already suffered due to the slowdown. A lot of people have lost jobs. Obama’s latest move will cause more problems,” added Banerjee.

The comments came after President Obama said on Monday that the current US tax system gave US-based multinationals that shipped jobs to places like India an unfair advantage over other domestic rivals and wanted corrective steps.

“It’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York,” Obama said, explaining why he intended to close tax loopholes and crackdown on overseas tax havens.

“I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens.”

According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), the US accounts for about 60 percent of India’s software services export revenue. Bangalore-based firms account for one-third of this.

A recent study by the association, conducted along with McKinsey, shows the Indian software and outsourcing industry employs some two million people, earning total revenues worth $52 billion, of which nearly $48 billion comes from exports.

American IT companies that have set up offices in Bangalore include Accenture, Microsoft, Amazon, AOL, Cisco, Dell, IBM and Intel.

An estimated 600,000 people are employed in Bangalore’s software and outsourcing sectors. And industry professionals say many could lose their jobs following Obama’s latest move.

UNITES-Professionals India, a trade union for IT enabled services sector, predicts 50,000 employees in India will be handed the pink slip over the next few months. Bangalore, hailed as India’s Silicon Valley, could be the worst affected.

Concurred Sumana Prasad, 32, an IT employee working for an Indian company: “The slowdown has already hit Bangalore’s IT and BPO companies. Obama’s latest step will affect more people.”

India World Cup Twenty20 squad

India named the following Twenty20 squad for next month’s World Cup in England on Monday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan.

What to expect in Windows 7 RC

The best thing to happen to Microsoft’s public relations in years, Windows 7 is more than just spin. The latest official update to what some are calling the largest shareware trial period ever introduces more than mere bug fixes as the operating system upgrades from beta to release candidate. The Windows 7 Release Candidate does contain several major and minor changes, but the overall experience remains largely unchanged.

What’s most important to you about the release candidate will depend on your perspective. Certainly, one of the biggest new features makes Windows Media Player useful again: you can now stream media files from one Windows 7 computer to another, across the Internet and out of network. Even better, the set up procedure is dead simple.

Windows Media Player now offers media streaming using your Windows Live ID.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

When you open Windows Media Player, there’s a new Stream option on the toolbar. Click it and you’re presented with two choices. Both require you to associate your computer with your Windows Live ID. When you’ve associated a second Windows 7’s WMP with that same ID, you can remotely access the media on the host computer.

A less glitzy but no less important change to how removable drives are handled also can impact your media. Unlike Windows XP and
Windows Vista, Windows 7 will no longer AutoRun external

hard drives and USB keys when they’re connected. This kills off a risky vector for malware infections that has been the bane of many security experts.

Experts and people or companies who hope to use Windows 7 for business situations will appreciate the new XP Mode. It doesn’t have much of a practical application for the home consumer, but if you need to access programs designed for Windows XP that have not been upgraded to Windows Vista or 7, XP Mode creates a virtual environment within Windows 7 that should assuage any fears of upgrading without backward compatibility.

It’s not easy to set up once you’ve downloaded the XP Mode installer. You’ll need to double-check that you have the right hardware and can get the right software. Hardware Virtualization Technology, also known as AMD-V, Vanderpool, or VT-d, must be supported for it to work. Motherboards older than two years probably won’t work, and even if you do have a newer one you might have to go into your BIOS and activate Hardware Virtualization. CPU-identification utilities are available from Microsoft that can tell you if you’re in the clear. However, if compatibility is the issue, this hassle will be worth it to you. Users will have full access to
peripherals connected to their Windows 7 hardware, including printers, and the clipboard can be used to cut and paste between the virtual operating system and the “real” one.

Windows 7’s native search feature has been improved. Files that I added to my hard drive were indexed so fast that they were searchable less than five seconds after saving them. Search result snippets now include a longer snippet, and highlight the snippet more clearly. This should appeal specifically to people who juggle large numbers of long documents, but I don’t know of anybody who wouldn’t appreciate finding the file they’re looking for faster.

Lacking a touchscreen laptop, I wasn’t able to personally try out the enhancements made to touchscreen support. However, it now supports multitouch zooming and taskbar previews when you drag your finger across the active programs pinned to the taskbar.

Search snippets make finding files easier in Windows 7.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Other changes stood out, too. Better Device Stage support for older devices makes one of Windows 7’s best features applicable to peripherals and externals that don’t need to be upgraded. Windows Media Player’s mini mode looks much slicker, emphasizing the album art–sometimes at the expense of clearly seeing the controls, but it’s a definite improvement. One annoying change is that Bluetooth support no longer comes baked into the operating system. If you need a Bluetooth driver, you’ll either need the installation disc on hand or you’ll have to download the driver.

Windows 7 continues to get better, but because this is the Release Candidate, unless Microsoft surprises us we’re pretty much looking at the final feature set. If you’re testing Windows 7 beta, you’ll have to back up your data before upgrading to the RC, but once you do you’ll be able to use it until June 1, 2010. The beta will start intentionally shutting down every two hours on July 1, 2009.

We’ve shot several videos at CNET TV about Windows 7. Among others, you can take a first look at the release candidate, a first look at the beta, which includes a lot of information about what you can do with Windows 7, and an explanation of how to dual-boot Windows 7 alongside your current Windows operating system.

Microsoft layoff plans

Microsoft has sent layoff notices to more than 3,000 workers, almost completing plans announced in January to fire some 5,000 workers, the company said Tuesday.

Microsoft had already cut 1,400 positions when it made the announcement of the first mass layoffs in its history. In an email to workers Tuesday, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer indicated that further job cuts could be needed.

‘As we move forward, we will continue to closely monitor the impact of the economic downturn on the company and if necessary, take further actions on our cost structure including additional job eliminations,’ Ballmer said in the memo.

While most of the original firings were in the US, the latest round was split evenly between the US and the company’s international branches. Microsoft said it plans to create between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs between now and the middle of next year, many of which could be filled by the laid off workers.