Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Massive Outlay of Ads No Longer in Vogue


Last year, the all-important September issues of fashion and beauty magazines such as Condé Nast's Vogue and Hearst's Cosmopolitan were thick enough to throw out the backs of mail carriers across the country. The champ, Vogue, weighed in at a hefty 4.9 pounds, thanks to 725 pages of glossy ads.

It is a different story this year. As September issues begin hitting the newsstands, two-thirds of the 16 top fashion and beauty magazines by number of ad pages are smaller than a year ago. W magazine, also published by Condé Nast Publications, a unit of Advance Publications, has 18% fewer advertising pages. Vogue has 674 pages of ads this year, down 7%, while Hearst's Cosmopolitan is six pages, or 3.2%, lighter.

Getty Images
Magazine executives aren't optimistic about a turnaround in the number of advertising pages.

Until recently, fashion and beauty magazines had been something of an oasis amid the steady stream of red ink being reported by print-media properties. Last year was a record year for many titles in the category, and a number of publications were still selling ad pages at that pace into the first quarter of 2008.

The magazines' core marketers in luxury goods, clothing, jewelry and beauty products have been slower than advertisers in other categories to shift spending to the Internet. At the same time, the magazines have a rich history of readers who flip pages as much to see ads for the latest fall fashions as to read the stories, a factor that help keeps advertisers loyal.

But now things are starting to get ugly for the beauty magazines. Ad pages for the top fashion and beauty titles were down about 8% in the second quarter, and publishers acknowledge the downturn largely has held or grown steeper since then.

While luxury advertisers mostly are hanging in, many middle-market clothing and cosmetics firms are paring back ad pages or pulling out completely as a cooling economy quiets their cash registers. Other categories that traditionally advertise in these publications, such as autos and liquor, are also bumpy. At prices that can climb to $120,000 for one full-page ad, every missing page hits the magazines hard.

Of course, the appeal of fashion and beauty magazines' September issues hasn't suddenly vanished. Those pages are still considered a must-buy for many advertisers wanting to pitch new car models, back-to-school shopping and fall fashions. And a number of tony brands are still ubiquitous.

"We have definitely the biggest fall budget we've ever had for advertising," says Alex Bolen, chief executive of Oscar de la Renta. Mr. Bolen says the designer increased its U.S. print media budget by 15% this year, including lavish spreads in the September issues of Hearst's Town & Country; Elle, which is part of Lagardère's Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.; W; and Vogue. The ads featured items such as a $4,750 Goya handbag.

But in most cases, increased spending by advertisers such as Oscar de la Renta isn't covering the cuts by midtier marketers. Apparel retailer bebe stores took out four pages with In Style -- a magazine published by Time Warner's Time Inc. -- last September and none this September. Nordstrom's had a six-page spread in Elle last year to promote its "via C" clothing line but has nothing this year.

As with other segments of the magazine industry, advertisers are increasingly willing to yank ad spending at the last minute and are less inclined to make commitments far in advance. Most magazine executives aren't optimistic about a turnaround. "Everyone is facing 2009 cautiously," says Valerie Salembier, publisher of Hearst's Harper's Bazaar, which increased its September advertising take by 3%. "I'm nervous, and I think all magazine publishers in our field feel the same way, whether they admit it or not."


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The End of Credit Card Consumerism

By Kimberly Palmer

When it comes to longevity, few royals can top America's King Consumer. For more than four decades, our shopaholic nation has shown an insatiable desire to spend until our credit cards melt. And throughout this era, consumer spending has, well, consumed a greater and greater share of our total economy. Only twice since 1965, despite half a dozen recessions, have Americans spent less in a year than the previous one. Indeed, it often seems that we have defined ourselves by our ability to buy supersized everything, from McMansions to tricked-out SUVs to 60-inch flat-screen televisions—all enabled by decades of cheap credit.

On the surface, it may seem that there's nothing wrong with all that conspicuous consumption, especially for the biggest, most productive economy on the planet. After all, our undying love of stuff has helped fuel a global economic boom. Yet today, America finds itself at a once-or-twice-a-century economic tipping point. A sharp slowdown, record-high gas prices, high consumer debt levels, a plunging real estate market, and the growing green movement all seem to be conspiring to dethrone King Consumer and transform the economy and the American way of life for years to come. "The process of bringing our wants and our needs into realignment," says Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg, "is going to involve years of savings and frugality." Or, to put more it more simply, "there is an anti-bling thing going on," says Marian Salzman, chief marketing officer of Porter Novelli.

Party's over. Many consumers, of course, don't have much choice but to scale back. Total credit card debt has increased by over 50 percent since 2000. The average American with a credit file is responsible for $16,635 in debt, excluding mortgages, according to Experian, and the personal savings rate has hovered close to zero for the past several years. High gas and food prices are causing real incomes to fall. Even worse, rising inflation will probably cause the Federal Reserve to start jacking up interest rates once the credit crisis on Wall Street has passed, tightening credit even further. "We're shedding jobs, it's much harder to borrow, and what used to be capital gains are now capital losses," says Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody's Economy.com. "There's no source of funding for spending." Because many of us won't be able to as easily use our homes as ATMs, Hoyt expects to see an upward trend in saving and slower growth in consumer spending, compared with the binge of the past decade.

It was our appetite for housing, after all, that served as the catalyst for the multidecade consumer boom. Consider this: Consumer spending has risen to just over 70 percent of the U.S. economy from a bit more than 60 percent in 1965. The pace really picked up in the 1970s, when the first baby boomers started buying and furnishing their own homes. But now, Rosenberg says, the median boomer is in his early 50s and looking to unload his fleet of leased SUVs.

To some degree, then, demographics are destiny. Longer term, an aging population will need to spend less and save more for retirement. As that process plays out, consumer spending may become less important in the big economic picture. Moody's Economy.com forecasts that the combination of demographic and financial factors will cause just such a seismic economic shift. Reversing a four-decade ascent, consumer spending could actually start falling as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, slipping to 68 percent over the next seven years.

Shopped out. And this new frugality might actually be OK with many of us. Consumers were "so glutted on everything that they had acquired and all the time that was robbed from them...that they almost saw this [downturn] as a great opportunity to stop," says Faith Popcorn, chief executive of her eponymous consultancy. In a recent survey, she found that 90 percent of respondents said they were considering options for "the simpler life," and 84 percent said they were inclined to buy "less stuff."

Another survey found that people rank being in control of their finances and living a green lifestyle higher as signs of success than having money or a luxury car, and view having a paid-off mortgage as more of a status symbol than having a beautiful home. "We have to convince ourselves that the lifestyle we can afford right now is a desirable one," says Holly Heline Jarrell, a global director at the communications firm Manning Selvage & Lee, which sponsored the survey.

Examples of the mind-set shift abound. Large-vehicle sales declined 5.5 percent during the first six months of 2008, while compact-car sales rose 33 percent, according to J. D. Power & Associates. Piaggio, the company that makes Vespas, reports that scooter sales in June were up 146 percent over a year earlier. Even daily lattes have been cut; in July, Starbucks announced that it was closing 600 stores in response to reduced consumer traffic. The NPD Group has found that the number of meals made at home has been steadily rising since 2001. "We're coming back to the home," says Harry Balzer, vice president of the firm.

For some people, the downscaling has more to do with a changing definition of cool than with budgeting. The summer blockbuster WALL-E depicts a future world where spending and waste have spiraled so out of control that the Earth becomes a giant landfill. Magazines play up how celebrity moms like Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, and Heidi Klum shop at Target for their kids. A simplification industry has spawned an annual Buy Nothing Day, books and blogs about not purchasing anything for a year, and Real Simple magazine. One recent post on the Consumerist, an irreverent website dedicated to standing up to corporations, contemplated the Geo Metro's transformation from "weak to chic." Consumerist's senior editor, Meg Marco, who used to drive the unstylish but fuel-efficient vehicle herself, says, "When gas is over $4 per gallon, I don't think anyone is any less 'cool' simply because they're seen driving a compact car."

Young consumers in their 20s may be most affected by the shift to simplicity. In focus group research for her upcoming book on generation Y, consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow has found growing interest in secondhand stores. Young shoppers tell her that it's a "way to get new stuff without creating stuff," she says. And becauseconsumers often learn their lifetime shopping habits during their developmental years, Mandy Putnam, vice president at TNS RetailForward, says that members of generation Y may be permanently shaped by today's lessons in austerity, much as their great-grandparents were by the Great Depression.

There's also an environmental component, says personal finance guru David Bach. "I just sat at the kitchen table with my 5-year-old son talking about 'reduce, reuse, recycle'—I couldn't have told you that at 5," Bach says. He recently wrote Go Green, Live Rich, which focuses on how helping the Earth can coincide with smart financial choices, such as avoiding bottled water and starting a vegetable garden.

Russell Simon, a 26-year-old communications manager for Carbonfund.org, a non-profit, embodies that way of thinking. He furnished his Washington, D.C., apartment with used furniture found on Craigslist, uses a canvas bag to bring home groceries, and gave up his '99 Subaru Impreza Wagon. He fills his time with activities, like swing dance lessons, that don't involve buying things. While he's glad his anticonsumption ways have a positive effect on the environment, Simon's motivations are more self-serving. "It's about uncluttering my mind, uncluttering my space, and allowing me to focus on things that matter," he says.

Cindee Mazzanti, a self-employed 57-year-old living in upstate New York, started downsizing in 2001, when the end of the dot-com bubble made her realize the importance of living within one's means. She sold her home and used the equity to pay off her debts and purchase a smaller home without a mortgage. She also traded in her Ford Freestyle SUV for a more thrifty Ford Focus to lower her own fuel costs and help reduce America's demand for foreign oil. Her monthly living expenses shrank from $5,600 to $1,200. Without debt, she says, she feels free.

Refills. Retailers are doing what they can to woo these new, economy-minded consumers. In April, Starbucks began offering new rewards on its stored-value cards, including free refills on hot and iced brewed coffee and complimentary syrup and soy milk. "This was an opportunity...to show Starbucks can be a part of people's lives even when budgets are tight," Brad Stevens, vice president of Starbucks's customer relationship management, says.

But what happens when budgets aren't so tight? Plenty of hardheaded economists say we'll go right back to our prodigal ways. Alan Blinder, economics professor at Princeton University and former Federal Reserve vice chairman, thinks that optimism and the drive to spend are hard-wired parts of America's cultural DNA. Blinder expects that even baby boomers will continue the spending spree that has defined most of their lives, buying medical care and golf vacations instead of new cars and larger homes.

Economist David Malpass argues that Americans aren't nearly as bad off as the low personal savings rate suggests because that calculation ignores the buildup of net worth. (If you bought a share of XYZ Corp. in January at $100, for instance, and its value doubled by December, the savings rate measure would still value that investment at $100.) Malpass points out that the average household has $573,379 in assets, including the value of retirement plans and the cash value of life insurance, and only $117,951 in liabilities.

Even if Americans do curtail their spendthrift habits, the result would probably be a healthier and more balanced American economy. Next year, the federal budget deficit is projected to reach almost $500 billion for the first time. America couldn't afford such a fiscal shortfall if foreign investors, such as the Chinese, didn't buy our debt—U.S. treasury bonds. If as a nation we bought a bit less and saved a bit more, economists say, the result would be stronger long-term economic growth. And depending on the kindness of strangers to perpetually finance your lavish spending sure seems risky. If the foreign appetite for U.S. dollar assets abated, says T. Rowe Price chief economist Alan Levenson, the dollar would probably weaken further, reducing Americans' standard of living.

Besides, there is more to the economy than just the consumer. The economic boom of the 1990s was led by business investment, especially in technology, aiding a boost in productivity that continues today. While businesses are holding back on investment because of recession fears, they are likely to beef it up after that threat passes, says Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics.

And Uncle Sam may have a role to play as well by investing taxpayers' dollars to upgrade our national infrastructure and advance alternative energy technologies. "We're at a critical moment," says Benjamin Barber, author of Consumed. "In two or three years, we might say, 'We had a moment where the banks were broke, credit cards didn't have much credit left, when Americans were beginning to rethink consumerism, when we really could have turned the page,' " Barber says. "Or we might be saying, 'We talked ourselves back into the old fixes,'" such as rebate checks and even telling Americans directly to go out and spend, as President Bush did after 9/11.

With baby boomers' habits well ingrained, it may instead be generation X and generation Y who decide to embrace a simpler, less wasteful lifestyle, rebelling against the conspicuous consumption that their parents helped make the American way of life.

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Vampire bats kill 38 Warao tribespeople in Venezuela

A vampire bat from Central and Southern America

Vampire bats hunt only when it is fully dark and can survive on a purely liquid diet

At least 38 tribespeople in Venezuela, including several children, are thought to have died after being attacked by vampire bats.

Although the precise cause of the deaths has not been confirmed, experts say that it was almost certainly rabies carried by the blood-sucking creatures. It is thought that the bats were probably disturbed by nearby mining, logging or damming projects, and were forced to find new prey — in this case, members of the Warao tribe.

Vampire bats hunt only when it is fully dark and can survive on a purely liquid diet. Their hearing is highly sensitive to the sound of animals sleeping and they typically approach on foot, biting their victim then lapping up the blood at the site of the haemorrhage. Their saliva contains a substance known as draculin, which prevents their prey's blood from clotting.

The experts who brought the highly unusual case to the world's attention include two researchers from the University of California at Berkeley — the husband-and-wife team of anthropologist Charles Briggs and public health specialist Clara Mantini-Briggs. They said that victims' symptoms included fever, body pains and tingling in the feet followed by progressive paralysis and an extreme fear of water. The victims also suffered convulsions and grew rigid before death.

Charles Rupprecht, the chief of the rabies programme at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, agrees with the preliminary diagnosis. “The history and clinical signs are compatible with rabies,” he said. “Prevention is straightforward: prevent bites and vaccinate those at risk.” Health officials in Venezuela have responded to the deaths with plans to send a medical boat to the remote villages in the Orinoco River delta. Outbreaks of rabies spread by vampire bats are rare but not unheard of in tropical areas of South America. “Vampire bats are very adaptable,” Dr Rupprecht said. “Homo sapiens are a pretty easy meal”.

The 38 deaths have occurred since June 2007, with 16 in the past two months. One village, Mukuboina, with a population of about eighty, lost eight inhabitants, all children.

During their study trip, Mr Briggs and Dr Mantini-Briggs travelled through 30 villages in the delta. The couple have worked among the Warao for years, and had been personally invited by indigenous leaders to investigate the outbreak.

Dr Mantini-Briggs said she was surprised to find that many Warao villages now had cats. “They told us it was because there were too many bats that were biting the children,” she said. The couple have been forced to take precautions themselves. Dr Mantini-Briggs said she woke up one morning in a Warao village to find blood on her sheets. She dismissed it as an insect bite but felt a pain in her finger and noticed two red dots. “I'm sure a bat bit me,” she said. “I said, 'I'm going to get vaccinated'.”

Tirso Gómez, a Warao traditional healer, said that his people, who number 35,000, had never experienced anything like it. “It's a monster illness,” he said.

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We helped in Iraq - now help us, beg Georgians

As Russia forces its neighbour to retreat from South Ossetia, the people of Gori tell our correspondent of betrayal by the West

A mother and child in the ravaged Georgian city of Gori

(David Mdzinarishvili/REUTERS)

A mother and child in the ravaged Georgian city of Gori, where at least 17 people were killed at the weekend when Russian jets bombed apartment blocks

As a Russian jet bombed fields around his village, Djimali Avago, a Georgian farmer, asked me: “Why won’t America and Nato help us? If they won’t help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?”

A similar sense of betrayal coursed through the conversations of many Georgians here yesterday as their troops retreated under shellfire and the Russian Army pressed forward to take full control of South Ossetia.

Smoke rose as Russian artillery fire exploded less than half a mile from the bridge marking South Ossetia’s border with Georgia. A group of Georgian soldiers hastily abandoned their lorry after its wheels were shot out and ran across the border.

Georgian troops looked disheartened as they regrouped around tank lines about 2km from the border. Many said that they had been fighting in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, until the early hours when they were suddenly ordered to withdraw from the breakaway region.

“They told us to come out – I don’t know why – but some of our guys are still out there in the fields,” one soldier told The Times. “I want to go back. If we lose South Ossetia now, it won’t be for ever because we will never surrender our land.”

President Saakashvili of Georgia has ordered a complete ceasefire and offered talks to the Russians. Despite this, the sound of gunfire and shelling could be clearly heard along the border zone last night.

Terrified civilians have fled in their thousands, convinced that Russia will not stop at the border but sweep into Georgia. Some fear that the Kremlin is intent on establishing a buffer zone to guard South Ossetia against future incursions.

Gori, normally a bustling city of 50,000 people, is largely deserted after Russian airstrikes at the weekend. Scores of people were abandoning their homes and loading possessions into vehicles or carrying what they could on foot. “There is a lot of panic. Many people have left and I am thinking of joining them. My bags are already packed,” Georgi, a 56-year-old resident of Tirdznisi, said. “We are afraid that the Russians will come here and kill us. People would not go if we had a strong army but they don’t believe in our army any more.”

Iago Jokhadze abandoned his village of Ergneti, close to Tskhinvali, after it was bombed by Russian jets yesterday. Fighting back tears, he said: “I have left everything, I don’t even have another shirt. If the Russians stay, then I can never return. We’re afraid of what the Russians can do.”

Miriyan Gogolashvili, of Tkviav, said: “The Russians will be here tomorrow. They want to show us and the world how powerful they are. Tomorrow it will be Ukraine and nobody in the West is doing anything to stop them. Why were our soldiers in Kosovo and Iraq if we don’t get any help from the West now?” he asked.

The Georgian Government is recalling its 2,000 troops serving in Iraq to confront the threat at home. Many Georgians will be reluctant to send them back after this war ends. Their despair was in sharp contrast to the confidence on the other side. At a base near the border, Russian peacekeepers appeared sure they would soon be joined by comrades from the regular army. “We are operating normally; nobody has disturbed us at all,” said one.

In Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, refugees from the fighting told how Russian helicopters bombed homes in Tshkinvali and neighbouring villages. Some spent days in basements before emerging to discover that their communities had been obliterated. Mzia Sabashvili, who hid for three days, said: “I know that lots of my neighbours are dead. I have no idea who is left.”

The Russians paid little heed to those in their way. A vehicle carrying observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was shot at by a sniper near Tskhinvali. The bullet cracked the toughened glass of the passenger window, where a British officer had been sitting.

In Gori, where a statue of Stalin, the city’s most famous son, still stands in the main square, relatives scoured lists of the wounded put up outside the main hospital. More than 120 people were admitted yesterday in addition to the 456 treated since fighting erupted on Friday. The chief surgeon said that three civilians, including a pregnant woman, had died of their injuries.

Scores of soldiers milled around on the road outside. One said that they had all been in Tskhinvali but were now preparing to pull out of Gori. “The situation was very bad there but we were ready to stay. Russia is the enemy of the world,” he said.

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Beijing Olympic 2008 opening ceremony giant firework footprints 'faked'

By Richard Spencer in Beijing

Beijing Olympic opening ceremony 'faked'
Organisers feared it would be too difficult to capture each footprint live so inserted computer graphics for viewers at home and in the Bird's Nest stadium Photo: KENT NEWS

As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird's Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.

What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.

The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.

As a result, only the last, visible from the camera stands inside the Bird's Nest was captured on film.

The trick was revealed in a local Chinese newspaper, the Beijing Times, at the weekend.

Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing's smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to simulate the idea that it was filmed from a helicopter.

"Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks," he said. "But most of the audience thought it was filmed live - so that was mission accomplished."

He said the main problem with trying to shoot the real thing was the difficulty of placing the television helicopter at the right angle to see all 28 footsteps in a row.

One advisor to the Beijing Olympic Committee (BOCOG) defended the decision to use make-believe to impress the viewer. "It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live," he said. "We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route."

A spokeswoman for BOCOG said the final decision had been made by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, the joint venture between the International Olympic Committee and local organisers that is responsible for providing the main "feeds" of all Olympic events to viewers around the world.

"As far as we are concerned, we let off the fireworks - that's what's important to us," she said.

Mr Gao said he was worried that technologically literate viewers who spotted the join might be critical, but comments online suggested more admiration of the result.

Although the event as a whole received rapturous reviews abroad, that has not been entirely the case at home. Some internet comments were hostile, saying that while it looked stunning the contents were vacuous.

Others focused on the sheer numbers of people involved - more than 16,000 performers, mostly from People's Liberation Army song and dance troops.

"That certainly showed China's unique character," said one comment. "Namely, that we have 1.3 billion people."

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Cheney threatens Russia over Georgia

US Vice President Dick Cheney
US Vice President Dick Cheney has threatened Russia after the country was forced to reply Georgia's attack on South Ossetia's region.

In a phone conversation with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Sunday, Cheney said Russia's military actions in Georgia 'must not go unanswered'.

Continuation of Russian attack 'would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community,' Cheney's press secretary, Lee Ann McBride, quoted him as telling Saakashvili.

"The vice president expressed the United States' solidarity with the Georgian people and their democratically elected government in the face of this threat to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," McBride said.

Earlier, Chairman of Russia's State Duma Security Committee Vladimir Vasilyev announced that US helped Georgia start military operation in South Ossetia.

"The further the situation unfolds, the more the world will understand that Georgia would never be able to do all this without America," said Vasilyev.

Georgian military forces launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia on Thursday evening hours before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Russia, in response, moved its forces to the region.

The conflict has left at least 2000 people dead.

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U.S. flying Georgian troops home from Iraq.

The AP reports that a “senior U.S. military official says the Americans have begun flying Georgian troops home from Iraq after they requested help with transportation”:

Georgia has called its 2,000 troops home from Iraq to help in the fighting against Russia in the breakaway province of South Ossetia and asked the U.S. military to help transport them. The official says that the U.S. military has agreed to their request and “some flights have already begun.”

Last year, Georgia raised its level of troops in Iraq from 850 to 2,000 and makes up the third-largest foreign troop presence in Iraq, behind the United States and Britain.

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Spanish shopkeeper finds Homer Simpson euro

By Raquel Castillo

MADRID (Reuters) - A one euro coin has turned up in Spain bearing the face of cartoon couch potato Homer Simpson instead of that of the country's king, a sweetshop owner told Reuters on Friday.

Jose Martinez was counting the cash in his till in the city of Aviles, northern Spain, when he came across the coin where Homer's bald head, big eyes and big nose had replaced the serious features of King Juan Carlos.

"The coin must have been done by a professional, the work is impressive," he told Reuters.

The comical carver had not taken his tools to the other side of the coin displaying the map of Europe. So far, no other coins of the hapless, beer-swilling oaf have been found in circulation.

"I've been offered 20 euros for it," said Martinez.

(Writing by Sarah Morris, edited by Richard Meares))

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Fascist state censors Pirate Bay

We're quite used to fascist countries not allowing freedom of speech. A lot of smaller nations that have dictators decide to block our site since we can help spread information that could be harmful to the dictators.

This time it's Italy. They suffer from a really bad background as one of the IFPIs was formed in Italy during the fascist years and now they have a fascist leader in the country, Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi is also the most powerful person in Italian media owning a lot of companies that compete with The Pirate Bay and he would like to stay that way - so one of his lackeys, Giancarlo Mancusi, ordered a shutdown of our domain name and IP in Italy to make it hard to not support Berlusconis empire.

We have had fights previously in Italy, recently with our successful art installation where we had to storm Fortezza in order to get our art done. And as usual, we won. We will also win this time.

We have already changed IP for the website - that makes it work for half the ISPs again. And we want you all to inform your italian friends to switch their DNS to OpenDNS so they can bypass their ISPs filters. This will also let them bypass the other filters installed by the Italian government, as a bonus. And for the meanwhile - http://labaia.org works (La Baia means The Bay in Italian).

And please, everybody should also contact their ISP and tell them that this is not OK and that the ISPs should appeal. We don't want a censored internet! And the war starts here...

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