From Gideon Rachman’s blog

On an earlier version of this article, posted late last night (see below), I expressed some scepticism about the Nobel Peace Prize, even suggesting that it might be pointless. Now that Barack Obama has been awarded the peace prize, I would like to withdraw this criticism.  The prize is clearly an award of huge significance, awarded after only the deepest reflection, and won only by demi-Gods.

By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

The free ride is coming to an end. Owners of media content, squeezed by a shrinking advertising market, piracy and aggregators building audiences from their stories, programmes and films, are looking for new ways to get paid for their efforts. In a week-long series starting today, the FT is looking a new at a sector many have left for dead. Amid the wreckage of an industry beset by a steep cyclical downturn and fundamental structural problems, answers are beginning to emerge about where media companies might find new opportunities for growth.
As publishers, broadcasters, games groups and social media upstarts alike redefine their businesses, common questions run through the sector: How can content re-establish its value? Will subscription, membership, e-commerce or micropayment models restore revenues or send consumers elsewhere? Should media owners charge for their content online, and how can they?

How can media companies best get paid for their content online? Leave your comments below and follow the series at www.ft.com/mediachallenge

By Vincent Bevins and agencies

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for a doubling of Afghan security forces to 400,000 to allow them to take over for Western troops, according to Reuters. “We should develop the capacity of the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police, so they can take care of their own security,” he said.

In Germany, as Reuters also reports, the government today has been attempting to avoid a debate about pulling troops out of Afghanistan that has intensified after the violence of the elections there.

By Vincent Bevins and agencies

Counting has begun in Afghanistan amid further evidence that turnout was uneven and claims of fraud may need to be investigated.

Election officials have confirmed earlier reports that turnout was low, especially in the south, where incumbent Hamid Karzai’s support is stronger. AP reported that voting in Kandahar, the south’s largest city and the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace, appeared to be 40% lower than in 2004. Abdullah Abdullah, who is more popular with the Tajik communities in the North, may benefit enough from this imbalance to force a run-off.

Scattered violence and clear threats of violence closed at least 800 poll stations (12% of total) and kept many voters from those that were open.

The Guardian reported that Ashraf Ghani, another presidential candidate, acknowledged widespread claims of fraud and hoped they could be resolved through official channels.

Barring hold-ups, some preliminary results may be released as early as Saturday and the final results should be announced 17 September.

The return of Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord, to Afghanistan only days ahead of the country’s presidential and provincial elections, was “appalling”, Richard Holbrooke, US President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Thursday.

Mr Holbrooke, who was visiting some of Kabul’s polling stations on election day, said he was “moved” by the sight of Afghans going to the polls to chose their leaders, defying threats of violence by Taliban militants.

“What we have seen is what you want to see,” Mr Holbrooke told the Financial Times. “Many predicted that these [elections] wouldn’t be held.”

Read the full story from James Lamont in Kabul here: US envoy hits out at Karzai deal

Follow the day’s events so far on the blog below.

By Vincent Bevins

The credible threat of violence from Afghan militants appears to have been effective in keeping many voters away from the polls. Various reports claim more than two-thirds of polling stations in Afghanistan appear empty when compared to the last presidential elections five years ago.

Correspondents and officials have indicated turnout is better in the more secure north of Afghanistan, where presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah has stronger support. A strong performance by Mr Abdullah would force a second round.

Violence has not been absent, however, with reports of suicide and mortar attacks in various locations throughout Afghanistan.

The supposedly indelible ink which has been used to mark the fingers of voters seems to be removable. Despite this, insurgents have made good on the promise to kill people marked with it in at least one case.

The opening of polling stations has been extended until 6pm local time.

Below are some of the day’s main updates so far.

The economic crisis has prompted governments across the world to re-evaluate their financial regulatory framework, to try to tackle the causes of, and fallout from, the global downturn. The next 12 months could bring the most dramatic change in financial services regulation in decades.

Our graphic explains the existing framework and proposed changes to financial regulation in the EU, US and UK. Will these changes prevent another financial crisis? Leave your comments below.

By Giulia Segreti in L’Aquila

After two days of peaceful and symbolic demonstrations by  its own citizen committees, the town of l’Aquila will become the focus of an anti-G8 Summit march on Friday, organized by independent trade unions.
Franco Gabrielli, prefect of the earthquake-hit town, says he is not too worried but does expect infiltration by violent “no-global” elements.

“There is no exacerbated fear nor a superficial underestimation of what will happen tomorrow. It will be, however, a demonstration against the G8 summit and there will be people who will come into l’Aquila with non-peaceful purposes,” says Mr Gabrielli.

The march is being organized by the Cub, Cobas and Sdl unions and starts from the quake-hit town of Paganica and intends to finish in L’Aquila’s central park.  Fifteen buses will bring marchers from Rome and more from Milan and the regions of Tuscany, Puglia and Campania. Cub expects about 2,000 to show up, while Cobas hopes for over  7,000 people, matched by similar numbers of local people.

Although the organisation committee had initially said that it would march up to the doors of the military barracks where the summit is being held, there is no intention of violating the “red zone”. “Violence is not part of our philosophy. We do not want to put on a clown show. our Prime Minister is already very active in this sector ,” says Alex Miozzi, spokesperson for Cub. “On our side, we guarantee 100 per cent no violence although in other countries red zones do not exist,”  says Vincenzo Miliucci for Cobas.

The demonstration has been authorized  but there are fears that the core group of participants will be joined by violent demonstrators. On Wednesday three Italian young men travelling towards l’Aquila were stopped by police for carrying metal bats and improvised weapons and rocks.

Since the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, the unions have held rallies against the G8 system and campaigned for alternatives.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, told a news conference more than once after lunch at the G8 summit, expressing his concerns that world leaders had to start thinking seriously about their “exit strategy” after massive fiscal stimulus packages.

Asked by the FT who had paid for his lunch, Mr Strauss-Kahn replied: “Probably you”.

But he defended these ever more frequent gatherings of world leaders – in April in London, this week in L’Aquila and then next to Pittsburgh in September.

“Globalisation is not just a topic for  FT editorial  pages,” he added.

But he also expressed the view that the days of the G8 were numbered as it evolved into something bigger and broader.

Silvio Berlusconi was beaming by the  end of the day, clearly relieved  that the summit was going well and that world leaders had greeted him as an old friend. Gordon Brown even gave him a hug.

“This day has been payback for all the bitterness I have been through,” the prime minister said, cited by Agi news agency, referring to the “absurd attacks” on him in the media over his controversial private life of parties attended by call girls. “These days encourage me to go on,” he added.

“I am proud to have accomplished almost a miracle,” he was quoted as saying by Apicom.

Rumours were rife among Italian reporters that Mr Berlusconi would not deliver the press conference he had committed to because he was afraid of more questioning about his private life from the foreign media contingent. Aides suggested he might be too busy.

But in the end he spoke to a packed audience, delivering a resounding  speech on the accomplishments of the day. Finishing with a flourish, he looked down and said “Questions?” and before anyone could even mutter the world “scandal”, he thanked everyone and walked off.

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Leyla Boulton is an editor on the FT's main newsdesk
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson is the FT's media editor
Robin Harding is an FT correspondent in Tokyo
George Parker is the FT's political editor
Sean Smith is an editor on the FT's international companies desk

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