- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bush defends economic record

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush, defending his record and his rhetoric, said yesterday that his administration has been “clear and candid” about the nation’s economy.

“We saw the economic slowdown coming, we were upfront about these concerns with the American people, and we’ve been taking decisive action,” Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address, in comments that seemed at least partly to respond to a drumbeat of criticism from Democratic leaders, who say his view of the economy is rosy and unrealistic.

Mr. Bush sounded an upbeat tone following a modest uptick of economic news this week. The economy grew in the first quarter of the year, but only by a meager 0.6 percent. Yet it was not the contraction that some analysts feared. The unemployment rate in April also fell slightly.

“No temporary setbacks can hold back the most powerful force in our economy — the ingenuity of the American people,” Mr. Bush said.

The president is counting on a short-term economic boost to help. In a deal he reached with Congress back in February, tax-rebate checks of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples are on their way to more than 130 million households.

But Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, called the rebates “a significant first step,” but added that “we know we must do more to help workers who have lost their jobs and families who are at risk of losing their homes.”

“Democrats are also fighting for a second economic-stimulus package and are working hard to enact comprehensive housing legislation that will help more Americans avoid foreclosure,” he said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address.

Microsoft drops bid for Yahoo

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft Corp. has withdrawn its $42.3 billion bid to buy Yahoo Inc., scrapping an attempt to snap up the tarnished Internet icon in hopes of toppling online search and advertising leader Google Inc.

The decision to walk away from the deal came yesterday after last-ditch efforts to negotiate a mutually acceptable sale price proved unsuccessful.

The talks reached a breaking point after Jerry Yang and David Filo, the co-founders of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo, flew to Seattle in the morning to meet personally with Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and Kevin Johnson, who runs the software maker’s unprofitable online-services division, according to someone familiar with the talks. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified.

“Clearly, a deal is not to be,” Mr. Ballmer wrote to Mr. Yang in a letter sent late yesterday.

Microsoft was willing to pay $47.5 billion, or $33 per share, up from the bid’s current value of $29.40 per share, according to Mr. Ballmer’s letter.

But Yahoo’s board demanded at least $53 billion, or $37 per share, according to Mr. Ballmer. That would have been nearly double Yahoo’s stock price of $19.18 at the time Microsoft first made its bid a little over three months ago.

Hospital records left up online

SAN FRANCISCO — A security breach may have exposed patients at a California university hospital to medical-identity theft, a specialist on privacy issues says.

Personal information on more than 6,000 patients at the University of California at San Francisco was accessible online for three months last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. The information included names, addresses, medical departments and some patient medical-record numbers, the newspaper said. The problem was discovered in October but patients were not notified until early last month.

“This is a large and very significant data breach,” Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told the newspaper.

The medical center had given patient information to Target America, which searches electronic databases for information about a nonprofit group’s potential or existing donors. The university said Social Security numbers were not exposed and that there had been no reports of identity theft.

Smoking banned at pipe convention

ST. CHARLES, Ill. — There will be no indoor smoking at a large convention for pipe smokers in Illinois.

A new Illinois law bans smoking in public places. That’s taken some of the steam out of this weekend’s Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show in St. Charles.

The event draws 4,000 pipe collectors from more than 60 countries. Organizers tried to get around the new law by arguing their gathering was a private club meeting. Police and health officials said no. Instead, a large smoking tent has been set up 15 feet away from the Pheasant Run convention center.

From wire dispatches and staff reports