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-Business Highlights,

Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- Still battling a federal judge's order to break up the company over antitrust violations, Microsoft Corp. is now under investigation for possible anticompetitive behavior stemming from its stake in a rival software manufacturer.

Federal antitrust investigators are looking into whether Microsoft's investment in Corel Corp. reduces competition in the market for word processing and spreadsheet applications.

While sales of Corel's office software are minuscule compared to Microsoft's 90 percent market share, the Ottawa-based company is viewed as a critical counterbalance to the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth. Corel makes WordPerfect and other software for the competing Linux operating system, an open-source platform that competes with Microsoft Windows.

The investigation of the two companies' relationship, which began three weeks ago, was confirmed Wednesday both by the Justice Department and by Microsoft.

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Dutch police on Wednesday arrested the hacker known as ''OnTheFly,'' a 20-year-old man who claims he wrote a computer virus that backed up e-mail systems worldwide by purporting to offer a photograph of tennis star Anna Kournikova.

Authorities charged him with damaging private property and computer programs, and sent the man home with his parents, saying the offense didn't warrant holding him. A prosecutor will decide later whether to seek a jail sentence or a fine.

The man's name was withheld under Dutch privacy regulations, but he was identified as a resident of the small town of Sneek, 60 miles northeast of Amsterdam.

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., hurt by higher oil costs and lower tire demand by U.S. automakers, said Wednesday it will eliminate 7,200 jobs worldwide this year to try to stem losses.

The cuts are in addition to last year's elimination of 3,500 jobs. The latest round of cutbacks by the Akron-based tire maker will trim nearly 7 percent of its work force of 105,000.

The latest cuts, most expected by midyear, were announced as Goodyear reported a $102 million loss for the fourth quarter and an 83 percent decline in profits for 2000.

Goodyear expects savings this year of $150 million from the cuts, and annual savings of about $250 million a year beginning in 2002, said Samir G. Gibara, chairman and chief executive officer.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Businesses, coping with dampened demand, worked off some of their excess inventories in December, a government report indicated Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said inventories of goods on shelves and backlots rose by a tiny 0.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted $1.22 trillion. That matched the increase in sales, which rose to $896.8 billion.

The 0.1 percent rise in inventories was the smallest since the same-sized increase registered in January 1999.

To bring inventories more in line with demand, companies are laying off workers, reducing shifts to curb production and deeply discounting merchandise.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler Corp. filed competing federal lawsuits 11 minutes apart this week over a grille design intended for a new GM Hummer.

The Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle is scheduled to be launched next year. DaimlerChrysler contends the grille is too similar to Jeep's grille and will confuse consumers.

GM, which acquired the brand name Hummer from AM General two years ago, contends that no one will confuse the H2 with a Jeep.

The Jeep grille looks as though the seven slots have been punched through a sheet of metal. DaimlerChrysler says the look is recognized by the public because of tens of millions of Jeeps that have been sold and billions of dollars in advertising spent over the past 50 years.

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STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- The European Parliament approved rules on the marketing and production of genetically modified food that may end the EU's 3-year-old moratorium on the licensing of new biotech products as early as next year.

The assembly voted 338-to-52, with 85 abstentions, on Wednesday to endorse what the bill's author, British socialist David Bowe, called ''the toughest GMO legislation in the world.'' GMO stands for genetically modified organism.

The new rules -- which still require the endorsement of the 15 EU governments -- include stricter labeling and monitoring of genetically altered foods, feeds, seeds and pharmaceutical products.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of former President Clinton's own party openly criticized his pardon of financier Marc Rich amid new testimony Wednesday that the White House initially failed to tell the Justice Department pardon attorney that Rich was a fugitive.

''The pardoning of fugitives stands our criminal justice system on its head,'' Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said the Rich pardon ''certainly raises the appearance of impropriety.''

The Democrats' criticism came as Justice Department pardon attorney Roger Adams testified that in a midnight phone call on Clinton's last day in office, White House lawyers didn't bother to mention that Rich was a fugitive from justice.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scientists who studied the world's farmland with satellite maps found widespread damage to soil quality and said irrigation is draining underground water supplies faster than they can be replenished.

Either farmers switch to farming methods that improve soil conditions and use less water or they won't be able to feed the world's growing population, according to the report released Wednesday by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

About 16 percent of the world's farmland is free of fertility problems, or ''constraints,'' such as chemical contamination, acidity, salinity or poor drainage, the report found.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cable TV companies raised their monthly rates for programming and equipment by 5.8 percent last year, an increase they attributed largely to increasing costs they pay to offer popular channels, the government reported Wednesday.

The increase, which covers the 12-month period ending July 1, 2000, was the same both for cable companies that face competition in their markets as well as those that don't, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

That means consumer bills for basic programming, expanded basic and equipment -- typically a remote control and converter -- rose faster than inflation. The Consumer Price Index measured general price increases of 3.7 percent during the same period.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- W.J. Sanders III, co-founder and longtime executive of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., will step down as chief executive in April 2002 but remain as board chairman through 2003, the company said Wednesday.

Hector de J. Ruiz, president and chief operating officer, will succeed Sanders as CEO of the Sunnyvale-based chipmaker.

The transition had been planned for a while.

Ruiz, who left Motorola Inc. to join AMD in January 2000, was brought on board to be the heir apparent, said company spokesman Drew Prairie. Sanders, 64, had originally expected to resign as CEO at the end of 2001 but extended his term for a few months for a ''more seamless transition,'' Prairie said.

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By The Associated Press

Investors regaining some of their confidence in high-tech stocks bid the sector higher Wednesday while lessening their reliance on safer blue chips. The result was a mixed session on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 107.91 at 10,795.41, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 63.68 to 2,491.40.

Crude oil and products futures fell Wednesday for a fourth straight session at the New York Mercantile Exchange, after fresh inventory data showed supplies are continuing to build.

In other markets, strong speculative buying and talk of new export prospects helped lift wheat futures in Chicago out of the doldrums on Wednesday.

Hogs futures gained on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, driven by heavy buying from speculative funds in response to technical signals. The April contract leapt 1.20 cents to 58.60 cents a pound.



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