Opening Bell: 9.18.07

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New York Times site drops fees for access to columnists (AP)
"Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho/Joshua fit the battle of Jericho/and the walls came tumbling down." That should obviously be today's theme song, as the New York Times is finally giving up on its much-maligned TimesSelect program, which locked its star columnists (along with certain blogs and non-start columnists) behind a paywall. The announcement comes basically two years since the start of the program, which nobody liked and few people signd up for. People have been calling it stupid for a long time, but we may come to rue the change. Now we're going to hear a lot more from guys like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman again. Oh well, it was fun while it last. That being said, the pay wall isn't even the most outrageous thing about the Times' site. The real crime is the company's obnoxious click on a word feature, which pops up a definition in a new window. Wish they'd drop that too.
I.B.M. to Offer Office Software Free in Challenge to Microsoft’s Line (NYT)
Here's a true story: we spent all day yesterday at a tech business conference in Manhattan. It was a fairly tight-laced crowd, particularly for tech, probably because many of the attendees were bankers. Just to give you some idea, everyone was wearing suits, and there were only a few Mac to be found. Most we're on PCs. That being said, everyone was using Google Docs to take notes. Okay, there was one guy on Word, but he was definitely the only one. So Microsoft can insist up and down that people don't want free online apps, but they clearly do. Meanwhile, IBM has announced that its oft-forgotten Lotus suite (word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software), will now be completely available as a free download. Unfortunately, they won't be online, though there's Google for that. But if you want a high-powered office suite without paying for Office, this might be the way to go.
Effort to Get Companies to Disclose Climate Risk (NYT)
Does this make sense to anyone? An effort is afoot by environmental groups to get companies to disclose their "climate risk" in SEC filings. What the hell is 'climate risk'? They seem to want companies to disclose the effect that global warming might have on their business (okay), but then as an example, the article cites Andrew Cuomo's investigation into coal companies for not discussing the risks associated with their plants and global warming. So are companies supposed to discuss how their business contributes to global warming, or how their business would be affected as the earth starts to warm? Perhaps before these groups start demanding stuff, they should get their demands straight.
Discount Rate Is Also on the Fed's Table (WSJ)
Oh right, and there's some Fed meeting today, which has been anticipated for weeks. A great reminder that ultimately, we live under centralized planning. That may be an exaggeration. Just the most important sector of the economy -- finance -- is centrally planned.

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Got Crocs? Be Careful on the Escalator (Forbes)
Apparently Crocs and escalators don't mix. Something about the shoes make people prone to getting stuck, sometimes resulting in injury. Obviously, the world doesn't need yet another reason not to wear Crocs, or so you'd think. It'd be a fitting end to the trend if a big class-action lawsuit took the company down.
Facebook backers create $10 mln fund for start-ups (Reuters)
Facebook, along with its primary VC firm, Accel, will launch a new fund, investing in companies that build apps on Facebook. Obviously, Facebook's whole pitch is that it's a platform for developers -- not just a social networking site -- so seems like a good move to invest directly into that scene.
Global warming lawsuit dismissed (LA Times)
Common sense prevailed in California when a judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by state AG Bill Lockyer against the automakers, seeking billions in damages for global warming. Obviously, that's total rubbish, since a jury is in no position to make a decision on such a complex issue. We're not surprised that a California AG would bring the case however and only mildly surprised that a judge would see right through it.
Apple Chooses O2 as iPhone Carrier In UK (Reuters)
This has sort of been known for awhile, but Apple has officially chosen O2 to distribute iPhones in the UK.

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