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Polls show leads for Obama in Iowa and Wisconsin

President Barack Obama has significant leads over Mitt Romney in Iowa and Wisconsin, two critical battleground states that could serve as a firewall for the president against a late surge by his rival in other places, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released Thursday evening.

In Iowa, Obama leads by eight percentage points in a state he won four years ago by a slightly larger margin, according to the poll. In Wisconsin, the home of Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Romney’s running mate, the president has a six-point lead.

Both polls were taken Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, spanning the period just before and just after the second presidential debate, in which Obama turned in an aggressive performance.

In both polls, Obama leads Romney by 19 percentage points among women, a key constituency that both campaigns are courting with a renewed intensity in the last 19 days of the presidential campaign.

In Iowa, about a third of the state’s electorate has already voted, and the poll suggests that Obama has dominated that vote. In Wisconsin, about 15 percent of the voters have already cast their ballots.

The polls were conducted among 1,137 likely voters in Iowa and 1,013 likely voters in Wisconsin. Each poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

—Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

Google shares fall on disappointing earnings

SAN FRANCISCO — Google released a disappointing earnings report Thursday that sent its stock price plummeting and reflected the challenges the company faces as it tries to make money in a mobile world.

For Google, mobile has been a mixed blessing. Smartphones and tablets are bringing in new users — and the advertisers that follow them — but it makes less money on mobile ads than on desktop ads. The company reported that the price advertisers paid per click on an ad — referred to as cost per click — decreased 15 percent from the same period last year. This was the fourth consecutive quarter that number has declined, even as the number of paid clicks on ads climbed 33 percent, largely because people see Google ads on their phones on lunch break or in bed, not just when they are in front of a computer.

The challenges of making money in a mobile world were not the only reason that Google’s net revenue and earnings per share fell significantly below analysts’ expectations. Motorola Mobility, the ailing cellphone maker it recently acquired, is bleeding money.

Still, the report showed that Google was grappling with the mobile revenue riddle. And Google is not alone. The problem is also stumping technology companies like Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. Just as the Web upended traditional business models for print publications more than a decade ago, now mobile is disrupting Web businesses.

—Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times

Twitter blocks Germans’ access to neo-N

BERLIN — Twitter waded into potentially perilous territory Thursday when it blocked users in Germany from access to the account of a neo-Nazi group that is banned by the government here.

The move was the first time Twitter acted on a policy known as “country-withheld content,” announced in January, in which it will block an account at the request of a government. But the company cracked open the gates to a complex new era in which it will increasingly have to referee legal challenges to the deluge of posts that has made the site so popular.

The company said the goal was to balance freedom of expression with compliance with local laws. “Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently,” Alexander Macgillivray, the company’s chief lawyer, wrote on Twitter.

A German spokesman for the company confirmed in an email that it was the first time the policy had been used, although Twitter does not as a matter of policy announce government requests to block an account. In a “transparency report” issued this year, the company said it had received six such requests but had not, for reasons it did not specify, acted upon them.

—Nicholas Kulish, The New York Times

Iron-dumping experiment in Pacific alarms marine experts

A California businessman chartered a fishing boat in July, loaded it with iron dust and cruised through Pacific waters off western Canada, spewing 100 tons of his cargo into the sea in an ecological experiment that has outraged scientists and government officials.

The entrepreneur, whose foray only came to light this week, even duped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States, which lent him ocean-monitoring buoys for the project.

Canada’s environment ministry says it is investigating the experiment, which was carried out with no government or scientific oversight. A spokesman said the ministry had warned the venture in advance that its plan would violate international treaties.

Marine scientists and other experts have assailed the experiment as unscientific, irresponsible,

While the environmental impact of the foray could well prove minimal, scientists said, it raises the specter of what they have long feared: rogue field experiments that could eventually put the planet at risk.

—Henry Fountain, The New York Times