Google is teaming up with the National Security Agency, reports the Washington Post. “Sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications.” The idea is to protect Google’s users from future attacks, by allowing the NSA to help Google figure out the root of the recent major attack on the firm’s systems in China. Matthew Aid, and NSA expert, expressed what is sure to be the first of many concerns on how working closely with the country’s leading intelligence gathering agency will affect Google’s reputation: “When you rise to the level of Google . . . you’re looking at a company that has taken great pride in its independence,” said Aid, author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the NSA. “I’m a little uncomfortable with Google cooperating this closely with the nation’s largest intelligence agency, even if it’s strictly for defensive purposes.”
Amazon has bought a small technology company in what is widely seen as a move to bolster Kindle to compete with Apple’s iPad, reports the New York Times. The retail giant bought Touchco, a startup that grew out of NYU’s media research lab. “Touchco uses a technology called interpolating force-sensitive resistance, which it puts into displays that can be completely transparent and could cost as little as $10 a square foot. The capacitive touch screens used in the iPad and iPhone are considerably more expensive. Unlike those screens, the Touchco screens can also detect an unlimited number of simultaneous touch points.” If you didn’t know anything about the company before Amazon’s purchase, you won’t learn it know. The company, the article notes, stripped all information about its technology from its website and YouTube pages several days ago.
Ben Bernanke was sworn in for his second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, and acknowledged critics of his leadership, reports the Washington Post, even while he defended the Fed and its institutional powers. The article kindly translated one of his quotes into a statement we can all understand: “Translation: I get that the economy is still in horrendous shape, and the Fed will keep doing everything it can to fix that, so long as we don’t think those steps will cause an inflation problem.”
Ken Feinberg has vowed to push AIG to lower its bonus payouts, the paper also reports, but has been hamstrung by its fat contracts and employees refusal to modify them out pressure, a sense of decency, or both. “Outrage surfaced again this week with news that the bailed-out insurance giant would pay $100 million to employees at Financial Products, a year after $168 million in similar payments to the same set of employees sparked a national uproar. The most recent bonuses are going to employees who agreed to accept less money than AIG had promised in return for early payment,” the paper said. Feinberg is even having trouble getting back the full $45 million promised to be returned from last year’s bonus recipients, so far coming up $6 million short.
Speaking of bonuses, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein is due to receive his soon, and as theTimes puts it, “guesses range from nothing to $100 million.” Speculation is rampant, and the figure, the paper says, will set a new benchmark for pay across the industry, whatever it may be. Blankfein, in Goldman tradition, apparently left a company wide voicemail explaining the bonus structure for 2009’s record breaking profits, and said that the firm’s performance would speak for itself. He neglected to speak for himself, and in the process helped start the rumor mill, making Goldman’s spokesperson, Lucas van Praag, a bit apopletic about the whole thing: “There is speculation, and then there is stupidity,” Mr. van Praag said. “This speculation transcends the simply stupid and takes it to an entirely new level.” Goldman’s compensation committee actually includes ten outsiders, including the president of Brown University, who will help decide Blankfein’s bonus.
The Wall Street Journal reports that homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages are watching their rates dip, rise and generally behave unpredictably, even in relation to similar loans, thanks to obscure indexes that are behaving unpredictably. A Senate subcommittee will look into lax standards by which American banks helped launder millions for “Politically Exposed Persons”—rich leaders from corrupt foreign countries, reports the Times. And finally, the paper reports about 210 community and nonprofit banks will be eligible for $1 billion in low cost capital from the TARP program, as part of the Obama Administration’s plan to help small businesses.