Business Digest


October 22, 2004

In The Region

Md. tech program tied to Navy site wins $1.26 million

A state program that helps businesses commercialize technology developed at a Navy installation in Southern Maryland has been given $1.26 million in new funds by the federal government, the state said yesterday.

The NAVAIR Technology Commercialization Initiative can award up to $75,000 to businesses working with technology from the Naval Air Warfare Center's aircraft division in Lexington Park. Businesses developing commercial technology for Navy use also are eligible. The program began in 2001.

Applications for funds are reviewed by the aircraft division, the Maryland Technology Development Corp. and the Patuxent Partnership.

Spherix wins contracts to run state call centers

Spherix Inc. of Beltsville said yesterday that it has been awarded $3.2 million a year in contracts to run call centers for state agencies, including the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Natural Resources.

The three-year contracts, which involve processing reservations for state parks and handling customer service projects for other state agencies, can be extended for two years. Spherix will carry out the work at its headquarters and its Cumberland operations center.

Fiber-based broadband set for 5 states, parts of Md.

Verizon Communications Inc. said yesterday that it would roll out its fiber-based broadband technology in six new states, including portions of Maryland, as the company increases competition with cable companies.

The project promises the "highest-speed computer connections available" to homes and businesses with download speeds up to 15 times faster than cable. But it also will be able to deliver digital video, positioning Verizon to enter the television provider market.

The company has already begun laying the fiber cable - which replaces the old copper wires - to homes and businesses in California, Florida and Texas. Over the next year, cable will be laid in Montgomery County and in portions of Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. By 2006, Verizon expects to have enough cable ready to serve 2 million dwellings.

The company said it would hire 3,000 to 5,000 new employees by the end of 2005 to help build the network.


Martha Stewart seeks new trial, calls first unfair

Martha Stewart, who is serving five months in prison for obstructing justice, demanded a new trial yesterday, arguing that jurors who convicted her were unfairly swayed by evidence suggesting she engaged in insider trading.

Stewart was charged only with deceiving investigators, not with insider trading. But the appeals court brief argues that prosecutors and the trial judge kept the jury from understanding the difference.

Prosecutors told jurors that Stewart had received a "secret tip" about her ImClone Systems Inc. shares just before she sold them in December 2001, and said the case was about "cheating investors in the stock market."

The brief says prosecutors unfairly linked Stewart and ImClone founder Samuel D. Waksal. Waksal pleaded guilty to insider trading, admitting he sold ImClone because he knew about a forthcoming negative report about the company. Stewart, 63, and her former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker Peter E. Bacanovic, 42, were convicted in March of lying to authorities probing her December 2001 sale of the ImClone shares.

Flu shot shortage expected to cost billions in lost time

This year's flu vaccine shortage could cost the nation up to $20 billion in lost productivity -almost twice as much as in a typical year - depending on the severity of the outbreak, according to one estimate.

The average worker missesabout 1 to 1.5 days a year because of the flu, said David Cutler,Cutler, a health economist at Harvard University. That absenteeism rate could double because of scant flu vaccine supplies this year.

One vaccine expert says earlyindications - and milder flu outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand - suggest this flu seasonin America could be mild.The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate low flu activity in seven states.

Employers typically purchase 10 million to 20 million flu shots to sponsor flu clinics at work. Sixty percent of companies responding to a Society for Human Resource Management survey in June said they wouldhold flu clinics this year. Many of those workplace flu clinics were shelved to funnel vaccine to high-risk individuals, including the very young, the very old and those with chronic medical conditions.

2 agencies spend millions fighting greater oversight

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest providers of U.S. mortgage financing, spent $11.7 million in the first half of 2004 lobbying against increased oversight, including a Senate plan for a tougher regulator.

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