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State Dept. in a Snit Over Schmidt’s North Korea Trip

The U.S. State Department gave a measured but clear rebuke of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s upcoming trip to North Korea.

News broke this week that Schmidt will join former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson on a humanitarian mission to the impoverished nation. The itinerary and exact purpose of the trip has not been revealed, but enough is known for the State Department to give a verbal roll of the eyes.

“We don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, according to the BBC. She went on to say that both Schmidt and Richardson were “well aware” of the government’s stance on their trip.

As could be expected in a country staunchly opposed to free speech, Internet use in North Korea is stifled. The nation has an Intranet, but it doesn’t allow citizens to access the World Wide Web at large — and certainly doesn’t allow for unencumbered Google searches.

Richardson has been involved in ad-hoc negotiations with North Korea for two decades, according to the BBC. He has helped with the release of Americans detained by North Korea, although it’s not clear whether or not that’s the impetus for the upcoming trip.

North Korea last month arrested a U.S. citizen on unspecified charges.

A member of the South Korea-based Asia Foundation told Reuters that the trip could be part of a “broader vision to bring the Internet to the world.” Google, though, has not commented.

Megaupload: US Lied to Get Warrants

File-sharing site Megaupload, which was shut down by U.S. authorities a year ago, claims that the U.S. government lied to obtain search warrants for computer servers in Virginia that belonged to the site, according to Bloomberg.

Megaupload was reportedly approached by U.S. officials who were seeking cooperation in its investigation. However, in a filing in a Virginia court, the company claims it was unaware that it was the target of the investigation. The filing also says that the government “deliberately misled” the court which granted the search warrants.

Around the same time Megaupload was seized last January, the site’s founder, German-born Kim Dotcom, was arrested in New Zealand, where he had obtained citizenship. He is currently holed up there awaiting a hearing on his requested extradition to the U.S.

Last June, a New Zealand judge ruled that the warrants used on the raid of Dotcom’s home were invalid. Then, in September, a different judge issued an apology to Dotcom because an enforcement agency that spied on him was only authorized to investigate foreigners and Dotcom, indeed, is a New Zealand citizen.

U.S. authorities claim Megaupload generated some US$175 million. Charges against the site, which facilitated piracy of movies, music and television shows, include racketeering, money laundering, copyright infringement and wire fraud.

Dotcom has announced plans to launch a successor to Megaupload.

China Fines LCD Makers for Price-Fixing

China has levied $57 million worth of fines against six Taiwanese and South Korean companies for fixing the price of LCD panels, according to Forbes .

China’s National Development and Reform Commission said that the fines stem from the companies’ attempt to overcharge flat-screen TV manufacturers in China.

Among the accused is Taiwan’s AU Optronics. In September, a U.S. court fined the company $500 million, also for fixing prices of LCD panels. The European Union, too, has fined LCD panel manufacturers, having handed down an $860 million ruling in late 2010. In that case, AU Optronics was hit with a roughly $150 million tab.

China claims that the six accused manufacturers garnered $34 million in “illegitimate profit” from components used in more than 5 million LCD screens.

In addition to AU Optronics, the Chinese case mentions both Samsung and LG.

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