Opening Bell: 8.21.08

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Temasek May Lift Stake in Merrill, Betting on Rebound (Bloomberg)
Temasek, the big Singapore fund, may lift its stake in Merrill Lynch. It's already the firm's biggest shareholder, but chairman S. Dhanabalan said that if there's an opportunity, the firm would like to take a look at it. Temasek might just be looking to average down. As the article notes, Merrill has fallen some 55 percent since it took its stake last December. Of course, the group wouldn't say anything like that. Instead it's all about betting on the upswing and further internationalizing its holdings.
Microsoft Enlists Jerry Seinfeld In Its Ad Battle Against Apple (WSJ)
Jerry Seinfeld will be the main pitchman in a new ad campaign for Microsoft, according to a report. We guess he was sort of okay in those American Express ads -- we 7 years after those came out, we're now the proud carriers of a jetBue American Express card -- so that's something. But you know what would be really cool: If Microsoft poached John Hodgman from Apple. He already plays The PC in the ads, and he totally outclasses the doofusy looking hipster. That would be a coup. More perspective from SAI.
Report Rejects Medicare Boast of Paring Fraud (NYT)
Which is worse? The fact that Medicare can't reduce Medicare fraud or the fact that Medicare can't even identify a reduction in Medicare fraud? Kinda thinking the latter, you too? No, but really... a national, single-payer healthcare system is going to do wonders for efficiency (sorry for that very un-Opening Bell like moment in un-clever sarcasm).
IAC completing split into 5 publicly traded parts (AP)
Today's the day that IAC officially splits into five completely unrelated companies that for awhile were thought to have logical synergies. Besides IAC itself, the remaining four companies are LendingTree, TicketMaster, Interval (timeshare business) and HSN. Although the market initially cheered the split plan, when it was announced last year, it's been a rough year for the company, as its shares are trading well off its highs. For 2007, its executives received no bonuses.


EXPOSED: TERRORISTS NOT BEHIND OIL PRICE HIKE (FT Alphaville)
Yep. Contrary to popular expectations, it's not terrorists engaging in economic destruction that have been behind the long-term rise in oil prices. While most people thought for sure it was terrorists, the Congressman knew the culprit all along was speculators. Evidently some groups really do "(try) to make money from price moves, rather than simply managing energy supplies." Gotcha.
2+2: Random Cameos and Sticky Posts (Tao of Poker)
Interesting little brouhaha involving a popular online poker forum, where people gather to trade ideas, talk strategy and discuss hands. The 2+2 Forums is a site sponsored by 2+2 Publishing, a big publisher of poker and other gambling books. Anyway, it seems the company's co-owner is getting freaked out by the quality of the discussion on the site (which most regard to be very useful), fearing that it will hurt books. Interesting theoretical question and debate.
Electricity consumption and autonomous control: technology and prices to devices for decentralized coordination (Knowledge Problem)
We've really been enjoying Lynne Kiesling's discussion of smart electricity grids, and their potential to save energy/money. A key point she's made before: It's not necessarily about building intelligence into the grid, so much as it is making the end user more intelligent via sophisticated signals about price and consumption. Anyway, she can make a post about a refrigerator sound interesting to us -- so check out this discussion of refrigerators and ordering water filters online.

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