BOURGES, FRANCE – Cecile Feit holds her Sundays dear. It's the day

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for romps in the park and family lunches, not for running her children's toy boutique. When Ms. Feit learned of a proposal to allow shopping centers to stay open Sundays, she protested. The plan, she says, would kill family-run businesses like hers that cannot afford the extra staff. "It's slavery," she says. "There is no respect for people anymore." Two years ago, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was elected on a platform of adopting free-market economics. Allowing Sunday shopping would let people "work more and earn more," he said. Indeed, until recently, the American model of 24/7 retail was becoming more popular across Europe. But the downturn has prompted a backlash against unregulated capitalism – from freewheeling banks to liberal hours. Business is hardly booming, but now more than ever Europeans are clinging to their day of rest. "A society that has no time framework risks falling apart," Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, said recently, as the financial crisis hit Europe. "Has making money become the cornerstone of everyone's existence?" Massive opposition from an unlikely front of leftist trade unions, members of Sarkozy's own conservative party, and Catholic bishops prompted the government to back down from the plan. From the family lunch tradition in France to the afternoon walk in the forest in Germany, the Sunday tradition of rest remains entrenched in the culture of the continent. In Germany, one of the most regulated markets – along with those in Switzerland and Austria – the highest court in 2004 upheld Sunday sales restrictions by declaring Sunday "sacrosanct," which means frozen pizzas remain largely off-limits on Sundays, not to mention late at nights on weekdays. Capitalism's shine tarnished But over the past few years, Europe has faced a push from politicians to abandon the tradition to follow the American retail model. "Sunday is an extra day of growth," Mr. Sarkozy explained, when he announced his plan to overturn a 102-year-old law legally sanctioning Sunday rest. "It is extra purchasing power and other countries are doing it." England took the lead in embracing the Sunday shopping culture in 1994, and was soon followed by Sweden and Spain. Once freed from communist dictatorships, countries like Hungary and Croatia joined the trend. In Roman Catholic Poland, Sunday shopping has become a national pastime. Now, with the issue dividing much of the Continent, the tide is shifting. "American capitalism used to look great – you have lower corporate taxes, more freedom, it's easier to create your own business – but the recession has put a damper on it, and people are asking 'What is the point?' Has it made people richer?" asks Stephen Miller, author of "The Peculiar Life of Sundays." "Now, Europeans want to distinguish their capitalism from an American version they see as too frantic, too excessive. They want to protect their day off, they want to keep their social model." Croatia had overturned bans on Sunday trading in 1994, but then slammed the door shut to Sunday shopping last month, when a new ban took effect. The change is seen as a concession to the Catholic Church. Major retailers have appealed, saying the change could lead to 7,000 jobs lost and score of store closures at a time when the Croatia can ill afford the blow. Until recently, Sunday shopping also split Slovenia, which, unlike neighboring Poland and Hungary, didn't adopt a "classical capitalistic approach" after communism, says Stefan Skledar of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development in Ljubljana. When the Slovenian parliament allowed Sunday shopping in the early 2000s, a war exploded between employers and trade unions that resulted in a compromise: Sunday trading is allowed, but its high labor cost restrains it. "Unions succeeded in preventing the overexploitation of workers," Mr. Skledar says. Conscience over convenience? Rising unemployment and economic instability have further dampened governments' ability to liberalize store hours, Skledar says. "In times of crisis, when people are suffering, solidarity is more important than in times of affluence....People need more protection, not less." Earlier this month, church leaders called on the European Union Parliament to declare a work-free Sunday an "essential pillar" of Europe. The parliament is slated to vote on the issue in May. "The current economic and financial crisis has made it even more evident that not every aspect of human life can be subject to the laws of the market," stated a declaration from representatives of the Protestant church in Germany, European Catholic bishops, and the Church of England. "In fact, consumerism is not a model either for a sustainable economy or for healthy human development." Recent surveys have shown that most of the French support Sunday trading, but backers of the idea say Sundays will probably stay quiet for now, even if many stores openly flout the ban. "Six months ago, it would have passed without the slightest problem," says Jean Michel Silberstein, of the National Council on Shopping Centers, which represents 700 shopping centers and 34,000 retailers throughout France and supports Sarkozy's liberalization plan. "But the financial crisis struck." With the crisis comes social discontent and fear "born out of the perception that the government is doing everything it can to help businesses and banks, but nothing to help the people who suffer," Mr. Silberstein says, adding that the Sarkozy government is right to focus on appeasing unions rather than pushing through potentially explosive reform. "When they feel they're being unfairly treated, the French take to the streets," he says, "And we know how social movements can degenerate. We have seen them degenerate in other countries." In Greece, after the riots in Athens this past winter, shopkeepers asked that exceptions could be made to allow stores to stay open on Sundays to recoup the heavy losses incurred during demonstrations. But trade unionists effectively vetoed the measure by physically preventing shoppers from entering stores, forcing large department stores to close temporarily.

1 Kommentar 25.2.09 23:17, kommentieren

Mossberg pans MobileMe amid service outages

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As if Apple wasn't having enough problems with its launch of MobileMe, its usually reliable friend Walt Mossberg has recommended that people stay far away from the service.

Mossberg's review on All Things Digital doesn't even take into account the service outages that have many former .Mac users up in arms over their inability to access e-mail. In his view, "it's a great idea, but, as of now, MobileMe has too many flaws to keep its promises."

MobileMe does more than just give you e-mail: it's designed to let you access your contacts, calendars, and bookmarks from any computer connected to the Internet. One flaw that bothered Mossberg was the fact that while changes made to one of those applications on an iPhone sync instantly, changes made on the Dell PCs and Macs he used in his testing synced in 15-minute intervals. Apple has acknowledged that issue and says it's working on a fix.

But the main issue seems to be that MobileMe is sluggish and buggy, according to Mossberg. Web pages load very slowly, synchronization with Microsoft's Outlook e-mail software seems problematic, and manual refreshes were required to make changes appear inside calendar appointment.

The MobileMe mail problems don't seem to have been fixed, although Apple is still claiming that only 1 percent of all MobileMe users are affected. While that's indeed a pressing problem, Mossberg's experience is enough to make you wonder if Apple's a bit over its head trying to run a cloud computing service.

As an aside, an informal poll of the CNET staff could not turn up the last Apple product that Mossberg flat-out panned. The closest we came was the original Motorola Rokr phone , which to be fair, nobody liked .

1 Kommentar 24.2.09 09:42, kommentieren

Psst! Barack Obama will text you his veep details

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In one of his recent-- and subsequently parodied --attack ads on U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, Republican John McCain accused his rival of being too much of a celebrity and not enough of a political leader.

That was what I first thought of upon learning that the Obama campaign has instituted text-message alerts to inform supporters of the candidate's choice for vice presidential running mate.

So this way, if you're OMG OMG TOTALLY DESPERATE to learn whom Obama has chosen for his veep, you can sign up and learn the moment it's announced--even before anybody Twitters it . The timing seems a little bit awkward, considering the whole Paris Hilton ad debacle. Text-message alerts for Obama's vice president assumes the sort of eager anticipation generally reserved for the second or two of Best Picture envelope-opening at the Oscars, or the naming of the Brangelina brood's latest member. You know, celebrity .

On the other hand, this could net the Obama campaign quite a few more e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers for its Rolodex of supporters. And text message initiative like this is an appeal to the Britney generation, the hordes of young supporters who have grown up drinking a highly caffeinated blend of AIM and the E! network, and who don't see the slightest problem with applying the rhetoric and strategy of celebrity infatuation to national politics. That's the crowd who made Obama into a "celebrity."

And, come to think about it, if TMZ-inspired campaigning has reinvigorated public interest in the nation's future, I don't see anything wrong with that. But I'll pass on the text message, Barack. I can wait until it shows up on Google News.

1 Kommentar 24.2.09 02:02, kommentieren

SAP's business user organization to move to Business Objects

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SAP on Tuesday sent out a notice to employees that the deck chairs will be realigned following its megamerger with Business Objects, according to sources close to the company.

SAP's business user organization, which is responsible for information worker and organizational performance applications, will be moved over to Business Objects, the sources said.

In some ways, that should come as no surprise.

SAP, as part of its $6.8 billion Business Objects merger announcement in October , said Doug Merritt, the head of its Business User Development and a corporate officer, would join the Business Objects group and report to Business Objects Chief Executive John Schwarz, rather than Henning Kagermann, SAP's chief executive.

Post-merger, Business Objects will continue to operate as a standalone business under the SAP Group.

SAP's business user organization, according to its presentation to financial analysts in Vienna last year, includes Duet, enterprise search, mobile, Adobe Systems forms, and analytics dashboard, as well as governance, risk, and compliance software and corporate performance management software.

Kagermann and Business Objects executives plan to chew the fat with the press on this topic in greater detail Wednesday.

UPDATE: January 16, 2008, 1:30 pm

And chew they did . Kagermann, along with Leo Apotheker, SAP deputy CEO, and Business Object's Schwarz, offered up their vision and road map of the combined company. SAP on Tuesday closed its merger with Business Objects.

SAP and Business Objects plan to jointly introduce nine products by the end of this month, of which two will specifically be targeted at mid-size to small companies. Those two products include its SAP Business All-in-One with BusinessObjects Edge Standard package, which focuses on delivering a business process platform with comprehensive business intelligence, and also the Crystal Reports Server Package, which is a type of reporting technology.

The other seven products include: a financial performance management package geared toward chief financial officers, a.k.a. head bean counters; a governance, risk and compliance package for tackling regulatory issues; a visualization and reporting package; enterprise query, reporting and analysis package; data integration and data quality management package; and, finally, a master data services package.

With Business Objects, a pioneer in the business intelligence arena, SAP is looking to build its fourth pillar in its four-pillar growth strategy, said Kagermann. SAP has viewed business intelligence as key to their strategy of maintaining a high growth rate, given the recent rapid acceleration SAP has seen in that market.

Dawn Kawamoto covers enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News. E-mail Dawn .

1 Kommentar 22.2.09 20:42, kommentieren