Considering Skype's rapid growth since the acquisition, it can't be an encouraging sign that its founders and early investors are cashing out well before the clock has run out on the original performance goals. When eBay bought Skype, it agreed to pay Skype shareholders as much as $1.7 billion extra if Skype met certain user growth and financial targets in 2008 and 2009. In accepting $530 million, those investors agreed to forgo any future payments, suggesting that none were likely. eBay plans to record that payment, plus $900 million more, as an impairment charge recorded in the third quarter.

Mobile phones are changing developing markets faster than anyone imagined. Today there are some 3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, and that will grow to 5 billion by 2015, when two-thirds of the people on earth will have phones, predicts Finnish handset maker Nokia Corp. Nowhere is the effect more dramatic than in Africa, where mobile technology often represents the first modern infrastructure of any kind. The 134 million citizens of Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, had just 500,000 telephone lines in 2001 when the government began encouraging competition in telecommunications. Now Nigeria has more than 30 million cellular subscribers. Muruguru, meanwhile, had just a single pay phone before people started getting handsets a few years ago. "Communications used to be a barrier," says Paul Ndiritu, the former village head man. Since the advent of mobile phones, he says, "the burden has eased."

Yesterday the International Trade Centre (ITC), an agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, emphasised its opposition to a ban as it published the initial findings of research into the potential financial impact on farmers and exporters in developing countries and importers in the European Union. Organic certification has been hugely successful in reducing poverty for thousands of African farming families. A ban on air-freighted products could be catastrophic for them, while making no contribution to mitigating climate change.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the continent's most developed nation, has called for the fast-tracking of biofuel research and production. South Africa began last July to construct Africa's first production plant for ethanol, which is made from the sugars found in grains. The first barrels of the biofuel should start flowing by the end of this year, and seven similar factories are expected to be up and running by 2010. Nigeria, Africa's oil producing giant, cannot afford to be left behind. It hopes to rake in 150 million dollars annually from biofuels once it reaches full production. Nigeria plans to build 15 ethanol plants with technical assistance from Brazil. It envisions ethanol powered cars in Africa's most populous country by 2010.

A vulture is a creature that lurks around waiting for another animal to be near death before it swoops in. The vulture is a cagey bird that hovers over the weak waiting for an opportunity to finish it off. Vulture funds are a group of financial institutions that buy African and Latin American debt from the lending country for a reduced amount and then press the struggling nations into courts as they demand payment of the full loan and interest several times the original value of the debt. This practice is crippling countries that welcomed international debt relief but are now facing the possibility of debt relief from the G-8 being meaningless. They will now have to pay the new owners of their loan.

The Wikipedia Scanner, which trawls the backwaters of the popular online encyclopaedia, has unearthed a catalogue of organisations massaging entries, including the CIA and the Labour party. Workers operating on CIA computers have been spotted editing entries including the biography of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, while unnamed individuals inside the Vatican have worked on entries about Catholic saints - and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

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