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Monday, March 24, 2008
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Google unveils "white space" airwaves plans
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 6:53PM UTC
By Peter Kaplan and Eric Auchard
WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc on Monday unveiled plans for a new generation of wireless devices to operate on soon-to-be-vacant television airwaves, and sought to alleviate fears that this might interfere with TV broadcasts or wireless microphones.
In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the Internet leader outlined plans for low-power devices that use local wireless airwaves to access the "white space" between television channels. A Google executive called the plan "Wi-Fi 2.0 or Wi-Fi on steroids."
"The airwaves can provide huge economic and social gains if used more efficiently ...," Google said in the comments.
Rick Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, said this class of Wi-Fi devices could eventually offer data transmission speeds of billions of bits per second -- far faster than the millions of bits per second available on most current broadband networks. Consumers could watch movies on wireless devices and do other things that are currently difficult on slower networks.
The white-space airwaves could become available in February 2009, when TV broadcasters switch from analog to digital signals. Whitt said he expects devices using white-space spectrum could be available by the end of 2009.
Shares of Google surged $27.36, or 6.3 percent, to $460.91 amid a sharp rise in U.S. stock markets. The Nasdaq composite index was up 3.3 percent.
Google sees the white-space spectrum as a natural place to operate a new class of phones and wireless devices based on Android, Google's software that a variety of major equipment makers plan to use to build Internet-ready phones.
The Silicon Valley company also said that, in general, it stands to benefit whenever consumers have easier access to the Internet. Google's primary business is selling online ads as people perform Web searches.
The FCC filing comes less than two weeks after Bill Gates, co-founder of Google rival Microsoft Corp, urged the agency to free up the white-space spectrum so it could be used to expand access of wireless broadband.
Google and Microsoft are part of a coalition of technology companies that has been lobbying the FCC to allow unlicensed use of white-space spectrum.
The group also includes Dell Inc, Intel Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and the north American unit of Philips Electronics.
The idea is opposed by U.S. broadcasters and makers of wireless microphones, who fear the devices would cause interference.
The FCC currently is testing equipment to see if the white-space spectrum can be used without interfering with television broadcasts.
In a compromise designed to mollify some interest groups opposed to expanding use of white-space spectrum, Google proposed a "safe harbor" on channels 36-38 of the freed-up analog TV spectrum for exclusive use by wireless microphones, along with medical telemetry and radio astronomy devices. In effect, no white-space devices could use these channels.
Google said "spectrum-sensing technologies" could be used that would automatically check to see whether a channel was open before using it, thereby avoiding interference with other devices. It said such technology is already being used by the U.S. military.
Google said the enhancements "will eliminate any remaining legitimate concerns about the merits of using the white space for unlicensed personal/portable devices."
Google also said it would provide free technical assistance to other companies seeking to take advantage of white-space airwaves. This would include having Google help to maintain "open geo databases" of local channels for use by any device certified to use the spectrum.
A proposal being studied by the FCC would create two categories of users for the airwaves: one for low-power, personal, portable devices, and a second group for fixed commercial operations.
(Editing by Tim Dobbyn and John Wallace)
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Cuba blocks access to top Cuban blog
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 6:37PM UTC
HAVANA (Reuters) - The Cuban authorities have blocked access from Cuba to the country's most-read blogger, Yoani Sanchez, she said on Monday.
Sanchez, whose critical "Generacion Y" blog received 1.2 million hits in February, said Cubans can no longer visit her Web page (http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/) and two other home-grown bloggers on the Web site on a server in Germany.
All they can see is a "error downloading" message.
"So the anonymous censors of our famished cyberspace have tried to shut me in a room, turn off the light and not let my friends in," she wrote in her blog on Monday.
Sanchez said she cannot directly access her Web site from Cuba to update postings anymore, but has found a way to beat her Communist censors through an indirect route.
The 32-year-old philology graduate has attracted a considerable readership by writing about her daily life in Cuba and describing economic hardships and political constraints.
She has criticized Cuba's new leader, Raul Castro, who formally took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro last month, for his vague promises of change and minimal steps to improve the standard of living of Cubans.
"Who is the last in line for a toaster?" was the title of a recent blog that satirized the lifting of a ban on sales of computers, DVD players and other appliances Cubans long for, though toasters will not be freely sold until 2010.
In a country where the press is controlled by the state and there is no independent media, Sanchez and other bloggers based in Cuba have found in the Internet an unregulated vehicle of expression.
"This breath of fresh air has disheveled the hair of bureaucrats and censors," she said in a telephone interview, vowing to continue her blog. "Anyone with a bit of computer skills knows how to get around them," she said.
The aim of government censors is to block readership in Cuba, where people have limited access to Internet, she said.
"They are admitting that no alternative way of thinking can exist in Cuba, but people will continue reading us somehow," she said. "There is no censorship that can stop people who are determined to access the Internet," she said.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)
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NetSuite adds analytical, accounting programs
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 8:14PM UTC
By Jim Finkle
BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. software maker NetSuite Inc <N.N> is adding new accounting, business analysis and sales force automation programs to its product line, the company said in an e-mail sent to Reuters on Monday afternoon.
The business software maker, which is majority owned by billionaire and Oracle Corp <ORCL.O> Chief Executive Larry Ellison, disclosed its plan in an invitation to an April 16 gathering to promote the products.
NetSuite shares rose $3.12, or 15 percent, to close at $24.12, in New York Stock Exchange trading.
The company sells a suite of software programs that small and mid-sized companies can access over the Web. They cover tasks from accounting to sales and marketing and Web commerce.
Mark Schappel, a financial analyst with Benchmark Co, said he saw a demonstration of the product last week.
He said one significant addition to the suite is software that allows companies to "slice and dice" data on business transactions, providing valuable information on how the business is going throughout the course of each reporting period.
"It's a great product. But it's an incremental addition from what they already had," he added.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle, editing by Leslie Gevirtz; Editing by Andre Grenon)
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Sirius plan to buy XM gets antitrust approval
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 9:0PM UTC
By Peter Kaplan and Randall Mikkelsen)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sirius Satellite Radio's $4.59 billion purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio was given antitrust clearance on Monday as the Justice Department concluded consumers have many alternatives, including mobile phones and personal audio players.
The deal, announced in February 2007, would combine the only two providers of satellite radio in the United States and is still being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission.
"Competition in the marketplace generally protects consumers and I have no reason to believe that this won't happen here," Justice Department antitrust chief, Thomas Barnett, told a conference call with reporters.
The traditional radio industry, consumer groups and some U.S. lawmakers had criticized the deal as anticompetitive.
The FCC must determine whether the XM-Sirius is in the public interest, and whether to enforce its 1997 order barring either satellite radio company from acquiring the other.
A source at the FCC said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has yet to make a proposal either approving or opposing the XM-Sirius combination, but has asked the agency's staff to draft documents for different possible outcomes.
This source said the FCC could be strongly influenced by the Justice Department accepting the satellite radio companies argument that they face stiff competition from traditional AM/FM radio, high-definition radio, MP3 players and audio delivered by mobile phones.
"I think it would be hard to go in the complete opposite direction (from the Justice Department)," said the source.
The companies have disputed the idea that the FCC's 1997 order would prohibit their merger.
Analysts expressed optimism of FCC approval, although some said the agency might impose conditions on the deal.
"We all along thought the probability was better than 50 percent that the deal would get through. Now it's past DOJ, and we feel pretty optimistic it will get through the FCC," said David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.
The long-awaited decision sent shares of XM and Sirius sharply higher.
XM stock ended up 15.5 percent to $13.79, while Sirius closed up 8.6 percent to $3.15, both on Nasdaq. At that price for Sirius' stock, the deal, in which 4.6 shares of Sirius are to be exchanged for each XM share outstanding, is worth $4.59 billion.
Sirius and XM, which are losing money, currently charge subscribers about $13 a month for more than 100 channels of news, music, talk and sports.
The Justice Department's decision provoked immediate criticism from a key lawmaker in Congress, Senate antitrust subcommittee chairman Sen. Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Kohl took the department to task for "failing to oppose numerous mergers which reduced competition in key industries, resulting in the Justice Department not bringing a single contested merger case in nearly four years."
"We urge that the FCC find the merger contrary to the public interest and exercise its authority to block it," Kohl said in a statement.
Sirius and XM said in a brief statement that they had received antitrust clearance and that their deal was still subject to FCC approval.
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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FBI: Bodies of kidnapped U.S. contractors found
The remains of two U.S. contractors who were kidnapped in Iraq have been found, FBI officials said Monday.
The bureau identified the two as Ronald Withrow of Roaring Springs, Texas, abducted on January 5, 2007, and John Roy Young of Kansas City, Missouri, who was captured on November 16, 2006.
Withrow worked for Las Vegas, Nevada-based JPI Worldwide Inc., and Young worked for Crescent Security Group.
The FBI said it had notified the families of the contractors.
Meanwhile, four U.S. soldiers died Sunday night in a roadside bombing in Iraq, military officials reported, bringing the American toll in the 5-year-old war to 4,000 deaths.
The four were killed when a homemade bomb hit their vehicle as they patrolled in a southern Baghdad neighborhood, the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq said. A fifth soldier was wounded.
The grim milestone comes less than a week after the fifth anniversary of the start of the war.
"No casualty is more or less significant than another; each soldier, Marine, airman and sailor is equally precious and their loss equally tragic," said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the U.S. military's chief spokesman in Iraq.
"Every single loss of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is keenly felt by military commanders, families and friends both in theater and at home."
Of the 4,000 U.S. military personnel killed in the war, 3,263 have died in attacks and fighting and 737 in nonhostile incidents, such as traffic accidents and suicides. Eight of those killed were civilians working for the Pentagon. The numbers are based on Pentagon data counted by CNN. Check out a company that makes headstones for fallen U.S. troops
Also Sunday, at least 35 Iraqis died as the result of suicide bombings, mortar fire and the work of gunmen in cars who opened fire on a crowded outdoor market. Nearly 100 were wounded in the violence.
Estimates of the Iraqi death toll since the war began range from about 80,000 to the hundreds of thousands. Watch an Iraqi family talk about faith in a war zone
Another 2 million Iraqis have been forced to leave the country, and 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes within Iraq, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Many of the Iraqis and U.S. troops killed over the years, like the four soldiers slain Sunday in Baghdad, have been targeted by improvised explosive devices -- the roadside bombs that have come to symbolize Iraq's tenacious insurgency. Watch how the bombs have become a deadly staple
The Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has been developed to counter the threat of IEDs in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. The group calls IEDs the "weapon of choice for adaptive and resilient networks of insurgents and terrorists."
Nearly 160,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers about $600 billion, according to the House Budget Committee.
Senior U.S. military officials are preparing to recommend to President Bush a four- to six-week pause in additional troop withdrawals from Iraq after the last of the so-called surge brigades leaves in July, CNN learned last week from U.S. military officials familiar with the recommendations but not authorized to speak.
The return of all five brigades added to the Iraq contingent last year could reduce troop levels by up to 30,000 but still leave about 130,000 or more troops in Iraq.
Also Monday, the U.S. military said six people killed in a weekend attack were "terrorists" and not members of an American-backed militia, as initially reported.
Those first reports suggested the area of Saturday's helicopter strike may have been a Sons of Iraq checkpoint. Such groups are generically referred to as Awakening Councils -- largely Sunni security forces that the U.S. military have recruited.
A police official in the north-central city of Samarra said the helicopter mistakenly hit a Sons of Iraq checkpoint, killing the six. But the U.S. military said that it believes those killed were not part of the Sons of Iraq.
"I can tell you that two of these individuals were fiddling with something on the side of the road and trying to hide themselves under a blanket when they heard the helicopter," said Maj. Bradford Leighton. "The location of the checkpoint was not at or near any known Sons of Iraq checkpoint."
A joint Iraqi-U.S.-led coalition force is investigating the deaths.
Two U.S. government employees -- an American and a Jordanian -- were seriously wounded Sunday when projectiles were fired into Baghdad's International Zone, according to a U.S. government official. He said Monday that the two are in stable condition. Mortars and possibly rockets were fired early Sunday in the area, also known as the Green Zone, site of Iraqi government offices and the U.S. and British embassies. Watch the Green Zone under fire
Three insurgents were killed and eight were detained during Sunday and Monday raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said. Troops on Monday killed an "armed terrorist" in Tikrit and another in western Baghdad, the military said. Two people were detained in Tikrit and six in Baghdad. An armed man was killed in a raid Sunday in the Hamrin Mountains.
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STMicro launches chip to detect bird flu
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 12:30PM UTC
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Europe's top semiconductor maker, STMicroelectronics, said it has developed a portable chip to detect influenza viruses including bird flu in humans.
The device, which functions as a mini laboratory on a chip, can screen and identify multiple classes of pathogens and genes in a single diagnostic test within two hours, unlike other tests available on the market that can detect only one strain at a time and require days or weeks to obtain results.
The chip can differentiate human strains of the Influenza A and B viruses, drug-resistant strains and mutated variants, including the Avian Flu or H5N1 strain.
There have been 236 human deaths globally from the H5N1 strain, according to the World Health Organisation, though it remains mainly a bird virus.
"ST sees new high growth opportunities in the healthcare market, especially in areas like patient care," said Francois Guibert, STMicro's Asia Pacific chief executive, at a briefing in Singapore on Monday marking the commercial launch.
The VereFlu Chip was developed by the Franco-Italian chipmaker together with Singapore's privately held Veredus Laboratories after more than a year of research. The application underwent extensive evaluation trials at Singapore's National University Hospital last year.
It allows users to process and analyze patient samples -- comprising human blood, serum or respiratory swabs -- on a single disposable thumbnail-sized microchip.
Guibert said revenue contributions from its biomedical chip business would remain "negligible" for at least another three to five years.
Veredus Chief Executive Rosemary Tan said the company had obtained "very promising" sales orders from hospitals and non-hospital customers, but declined to provide details.
Another big potential market is the screening of travelers at airports and border checkpoints, Tan said.
Experts are monitoring the H5N1 virus for signs of mutation into a form easily transmitted from person to person, a development that could trigger a deadly pandemic. So far most human cases can be traced to contact with infected birds.
STMicro and Veredus have set up a joint laboratory in Singapore, where their experts will work on developing new biomedical applications using STMicro's chip platform for other infectious diseases, oncology and heart-disease markers.
(Reporting by Jennifer Tan; editing by Neil Chatterjee)
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InterDigital in settlement talks with Nokia
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 4:58PM UTC
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Technology company InterDigital Inc <IDCC.O> said on Monday that it was in settlement talks with leading cell-phone maker Nokia <NOK1V.HE> over their patent disputes and that they had made substantial progress toward resolving the issues.
News of the talks sent InterDigital shares up 14 percent in midday Nasdaq trading.
Nokia spokeswoman Laurie Armstrong confirmed that the company was in talks with InterDigital, but would not comment further.
InterDigital also said it was appealing a March 20 court decision that ordered it to take part in arbitration to resolve the license dispute over high-speed wireless technologies.
InterDigital complained about Nokia at the U.S. International Trade Commission last year.
On February 13, Nokia asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to stop InterDigital from going ahead with the ITC case, arguing it had a license related to the patents asserted in the case, according to InterDigital.
The court also ordered InterDigital in its March 20 ruling to "cease participation" in the ITC investigation by April 11 and asked Nokia to post a bond of $500,000 by March 28, according to InterDigital.
As a result, InterDigital said it had filed a notice of appeal and said it hoped to be able to continue to participate in the investigation against Nokia.
InterDigital said that the court order had no effect on a similar complaint it made against Samsung Electronics Co <005930.KS>, for which a hearing is scheduled to start on April 21.
InterDigital shares rose $2.73 to $22.19. Nokia's New York-listed <NOK.N> stock rose 4.8 percent to $30.73.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Lisa Von Ahn)
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Buyback programs turn electronic trash to cash
Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 12:51AM UTC
By Antony Bruno
DENVER (Billboard) - Leave it to the gadget industry to turn concern over electronic waste into a sales opportunity. Simply put, they're offering to buy back old devices to recycle or resell, in return for cash or in-store credit.
Coming to consumer electronic retailers nationwide this spring is the ecoNEW program from NEW Customer Service Cos., the company that provides extended warranty plans and protection programs for such retailers as Best Buy and Wal-Mart.
Under the program, consumers can return any electronics products they own to participating retailers (which have not yet been announced) -- even if they weren't purchased at the store. In return they'll receive an in-store credit gift card for a predetermined amount based on the type and condition of the device. EcoNEW handles all the collection and evaluation details and issues the gift cards directly.
Another company, TechForward, offers a guaranteed buyback program similar to the optional extended warranty services offered by many consumer electronic retail stores. But instead of buying extra coverage in case the product breaks, the consumer buys insurance of sorts against future upgrades.
TechForward vice president of operations Marc Lebovitz says the program enjoys a 12 percent conversion rate on the devices covered. Close to 70 percent of the devices covered under the plan are returned for the agreed-upon fee.
Both ecoNEW and TechForward then evaluate the condition of the devices returned, wipe clean the hard drives and either resell the refurbished devices online via used MP3 sites or eBay or harvest the components and sell them as salvage parts.
The money gained from this process pays for the rewards given to the customer. While TechForward hopes the difference will make a tidy profit, ecoNEW will be happy to just break even.
"It's not necessarily the revenue opportunity, because frankly it's not that great," NEW senior VP of strategy and corporate development Kevin Porter says. "If you look at the margins ... they're razor thin. Until we have more experience on the flow rate of product, we're not quite sure yet if this will be a positive moneymaker. We're hoping to at least make it neutral."
The benefit, ultimately, comes in encouraging more sales.
"It allows people to purchase now with more confidence," Lebovitz says. "Sometimes people will wait to make a purchase because they know a new device will come out in three or six months. This allows them to purchase now and know they can upgrade to the new one whenever they're ready."
But environmental responsibility is also a driving factor, and both companies are gambling that end-of-life programs like these will become more profitable in the years ahead as demand increases for safe disposal programs for consumer electronic products.
Following is a quick snapshot of companies providing buyback programs.
How it works: Customers buy the plan at point of purchase for a guaranteed rate, then return the item using the program's free packaging and shipping.
Supporting stores: Los Angeles-area independent electronics stores
Cost to consumer: About $9 for MP3 players, more for other devices
Reward rate for an MP3 player: The guaranteed buyback on an iPod Touch is $240 for a 3-month-old device, $190 for up to six months and $160 for up to a year. Prices may vary if the units are damaged or inoperable.
How it works: Customers fill out an online survey detailing what devices they want to get rid of and the condition of the product, and ecoNEW provides an estimate for the buyback, as well as free shipping.
Supporting stores: To be announced, but warranty clients include Best Buy and Wal-Mart
Cost to consumer: None
Reward rate for an MP3 player: $20-$60 range depending on model; in-store credit only
How it works: Customers can return iPods to any Apple store for a discount on a new iPod bought that day. Also offers a mail-in recycling program for iPods and mobile phones.
Supporting stores: All Apple retail locations
Cost to consumer: None
Reward rate for an MP3 player: 10 percent discount on new iPods when returning to the store. No reward if mailed in.
Bombed by The Black Rider at 11:32 AM
Wall Street up on higher price for Bear, home sales
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 2:33PM UTC
By Justin Grant
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose on Monday on a surge in financial shares following news that JPMorgan Chase & Co had boosted its offer to buy Bear Stearns Cos five-fold to $10 a share.
Investors warmed to the higher offer as it may avert a long shareholder battle and let JPMorgan close the deal sooner.
Sentiment received an added boost when the National Association of Realtors said the pace of existing home sales in the United States rose in February to a better-than-expected 5.03 million-unit annual rate.
The Standard & Poor's index of financial shares climbed 2.5 percent. Shares of JPMorgan rose more than 2 percent to $47.00, while Bear's shares more than doubled to $12.53, well above the new offer price.
JPMorgan's original agreement on March 16 to pay $2 per share was considered a fire-sale price for the 85-year-old Wall Street investment bank which collapsed in a liquidity crisis after suffering large losses on soured subprime mortgage debt.
"The financials have been knocked down so much, there is going to be some good fundamental buying out there for some of these companies," said Stephen Carl, principal head of U.S. equity trading at The Williams Capital Group LP in New York.
"We'll see some kind of a turnaround."
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 155.73 points, or 1.26 percent, to 12,517.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 18.75 points, or 1.41 percent, at 1,348.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 35.33 points, or 1.56 percent, at 2,293.44.
In another move aimed at easing the housing crisis, regional U.S. banks will be allowed to boost holdings of mortgage-backed securities by more than $100 billion, regulators said on Monday.
Financial weekly Barron's said financial shares are poised to rise between 10 and 20 percent in the next year as panic over the global credit crisis recedes and earnings improve, according to its March 24 edition.
Prices of U.S. Treasury debt extended Friday's losses as demand for safe-haven government paper fell.
In earnings news, shares of upscale jeweler Tiffany & Co surged 12.4 percent to $43.39 after it posted an unexpectedly high quarterly profit and forecast robust growth in markets outside the United States and Japan.
(Editing by James Dalgleish)
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Detroit's Democrat mayor indicted in sex scandal
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 3:53PM UTC
DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and official misconduct on Monday, stemming from a sex scandal and the prominent Democrat's handling of an $8.4 million settlement of a whistle-blower lawsuit against the city.
The controversy surrounding the black politician once seen as a rising star in his party has deadlocked city government and could spill over to presidential politics and the issue of how the Democratic Party handles Michigan delegates still being contested by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The eight-count criminal indictment, which was announced by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, included six alleged felonies and would carry a prison term of more than 15 years if Kilpatrick is convicted.
(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, Editing by Sandra Maler)
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This story has been sent from the mobile device of Bombastic4000@gmail.com. For real-time mobile news, go to m.usatoday.com.
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
Republican presidential candidate John McCain has condemned the influence of "special interest lobbyists," yet dozens of lobbyists have political and financial ties to his presidential campaign particularly from telecommunications companies, an industry he helps oversee in the Senate.
Of the 66 current or former lobbyists working for the Arizona senator or raising money for his presidential campaign, 23 have lobbied for telecommunications companies in the past decade, Senate lobbying disclosures show.
MORE: McCain pushed tax ban backed by telecoms
McCain has netted about $765,000 in political donations from those telecom lobbyists, their spouses, colleagues at their firms and their telecom clients during the past decade, a USA TODAY analysis of campaign-finance records shows.
It's unclear how much more money those lobbyists have raised for McCain. Eighteen of them are listed by the campaign as "bundlers," which are major fundraisers. McCain doesn't disclose how much each bundler has raised unlike Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who categorize their bundlers by the amount they raise. For example, Clinton's "Hillraisers" have brought in more than $100,000 each.
McCain is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the telecom industry and the Federal Communications Commission. He has repeatedly pushed industry-backed legislation since 2000, particularly during a second stint as committee chairman from 2003 through 2005. His efforts to eliminate taxes and regulations on telecommunications services won him praise from industry executives.
People who lobbied for telecom companies on those issues include McCain's campaign manager, his deputy manager, his finance chief, his top unpaid political adviser and his Senate chief of staff. Telecom companies have paid the lobbying firms that employed those top five McCain advisersmore than $4.4 million since 1999, lobbying records show.
McCain "does not do favors for special interests or lobbyists. Period," spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in an e-mail. McCain opposed Internet access taxes, she said, as part of his "consistent record of opposing new taxes."
SIDING WITH TELECOMS: McCain backed tax ban
McCain has repeatedly sought restrictions on lobbyists and campaign donations, saying they create the appearance of corruption. "It is no coincidence that the most influential lobbyists with the greatest access in the nation's Capitol are also the most prolific political fundraisers," McCain says on his campaign website.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera said McCain is taking a "'Do as I say, not as I do' approach to campaign finance, ethics and lobbying reform."
McCain's telecom ties
Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-03-23-mccainlobbyists_N.htm
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JPMorgan in talks to raise Bear Stearns bid
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 1:21PM UTC
NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co is in talks to raise its takeover offer for Bear Stearns Cos to about $10 a share in an effort to appease Bear shareholders angry with the cut-rate deal, a person briefed on the discussions said on Monday.
But the talks to increase the bid may still fall apart, and the timing of any announcement is uncertain, the source said.
JPMorgan's original agreement on March 16 to pay $2 per share in stock for Bear was widely considered a fire-sale price for the 85-year-old Wall Street investment bank. Bear collapsed as large subprime mortgage losses and falling confidence in the company prompted a run on the bank.
In pre-market electronic trading, Bear shares were up more than 50 percent at $9.15 with 50,500 shares changing hands. The stock closed Thursday at $5.96 in composite trading.
The original Bear takeover agreement was forged with the support of federal regulators, and the U.S. Federal Reserve is balking at the higher price, The New York Times said, citing people involved in the talks.
The newspaper said the Fed originally directed JPMorgan to pay no more than $2 per share to assure that it would not appear that Bear shareholders were being rescued.
Representatives of Bear and the Fed were not immediately available for comment. JPMorgan declined to comment.
An offer of $10 per share would value Bear at more than $1 billion. That price, however, is less than one-third of the stock's price on March 14, the last trading day before the original deal was announced. It is also less than 10 percent of the stock's price throughout much of 2007.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's chief executive, grew convinced the merger was in jeopardy after spending much of the last week taking calls from indignant Bear shareholders, The New York Times said, citing people involved in the talks.
Among these shareholders was the British entrepreneur Joseph Lewis, who spent well over $1 billion on some 12.1 million Bear shares, including some as recently as March 13.
Last week, Lewis said he would take whatever action was needed to protect his investment, and might encourage Bear and third parties to pursue other transactions.
Bear shares closed on Thursday at $6.39, reflecting investor expectations that JPMorgan might raise its bid or that another suitor might offer a higher price. JPMorgan shares closed at $45.97.
According to The New York Times, Bear was seeking to authorize the sale of a 39.5 percent stake to JPMorgan on Sunday night, which under Delaware law it can do without shareholder approval. Both companies are incorporated in Delaware.
As part of the original agreement, the Fed extended a $30 billion credit line to JPMorgan to finance Bear's most illiquid assets.
JPMorgan was in talks with the Fed Sunday night to assume the first $1 billion of losses on Bear assets before the $30 billion cushion kicks in, the newspaper said.
The original agreement called for JPMorgan to swap 0.05473 of its shares for each Bear share.
(Reporting by Chris Reiter, Joe Giannone and Jonathan Stempel, additional reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Editing by Jean Yoon and John Wallace)
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U.S. toll in Iraq hits 4,000 as four soldiers killed
Monday, Mar 24, 2008 1:38PM UTC
By Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq reached 4,000 on Monday, days after the fifth anniversary of a war that President George W. Bush says the United States is on track to win.
The U.S. military said four soldiers were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb, the biggest killer of American soldiers in Iraq, exploded near their vehicle in southern Baghdad.
One soldier was wounded in the attack, which brought the number of U.S. military deaths to 4,000 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The deaths came on a day when the U.S.-protected "Green Zone", the government and diplomatic compound in central Baghdad, was hit by repeated rocket and mortar fire, part of an upsurge in violence in the capital and elsewhere.
Sunday's violence, in which dozens were killed, underscored the fragility of Iraq's security. There has been an increase in attacks since January, although U.S. military commanders say overall levels of violence are down 60 percent since last June.
What impact the 4,000 milestone will have on a war-weary American public and the U.S. presidential campaign will be hard to assess in the short term, but war critics are likely to seize on it to boost their case for U.S. troops to be withdrawn.
"You regret every casualty, every loss," U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said during a visit to Jerusalem. "It may have a psychological effect on the public, but it's a tragedy that we live in a kind of world where that happens."
The U.S. military dismisses such tolls as arbitrary markers.
"No casualty is more or less significant than another; each soldier, marine, airman and sailor is equally precious and their loss equally tragic," U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith said on Monday.
Anthony Cordesman, a respected Iraq analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the 4,000th death could trigger another wave of polarized debate.
"Those who oppose the war will see it as further reason to end it. Those who support it will point to military progress and say that future casualties will be much lower," he said.
Although Americans are more preoccupied with domestic economic troubles, the Iraq war is still an important issue in the presidential campaign, with Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama calling for a timetable for withdrawal.
Bush said in a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the war on March 19 that the United States was on track for victory and said withdrawing troops, who now number about 160,000, would embolden al Qaeda and neighboring Iran.
He said he had no regrets about the war, which has pushed his approval ratings near the lowest level of his presidency, but acknowledged the "high cost in lives and treasure".
Bush launched the war in March 2003 hoping for a quick victory with minimal casualties. The Iraqi army was quickly defeated, but within months insurgent attacks had bogged down U.S. forces who struggled to develop a strategy to defeat them.
The 1,000th U.S. soldier to die was in September 2004, 18 months after the invasion and in the midst of a presidential election that returned Bush to office for a second term.
The toll climbed to 2,000 in October 2005 as Sunni Arab insurgents battled to oust the Baghdad government, and 3,000 in December 2006, before Bush unveiled a plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq to quell violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions more.
"I doubt the 4,000 milestone will have the impact that the 3,000 did. The conventional wisdom then was that things were going badly," said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
"Today, by contrast, the public's general perception of Iraq is less negative, and coverage for the last six months has tended to focus on the reduction in violence and U.S. casualties. The war has also been much less visible," he said.
But the weekend barrages on the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy, and the continued attacks on U.S. troops may indicate that Iraqi militants are trying to change that.
"Al Qaeda and extreme elements of the (Mehdi Army) have every incentive to find ways to raise the U.S. casualties between now and November and will be seeking ways to use bombings to raise the rate and number," Cordesman said, speaking before the latest U.S. deaths were announced.
(Additional reporting by Randy Fabi; Editing by Michael Winfrey)
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