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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Protesters attempt to disrupt Exxon Mobil IRVING, Texas — Environmental activists blocked the entrance to Exxon Mobil's headquarters Tuesday and climbed onto the roof to protest what they said was the oil company's inaction against global warming.

The environmental group Greenpeace said 32 protesters were arrested. Police did not immediately confirm how many were taken into custody.

The protesters used an extension ladder to reach the roof. More protesters dressed in tiger costumes — Exxon has long used a tiger as its advertising symbol — were caught at the bottom of the ladder.

The protest was timed to coincide with preparation for the oil company's shareholder meeting in Dallas on Wednesday.

Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, had lobbied to block the Kyoto treaty and other efforts to impose limits on greenhouse emissions that many scientists link to global warming, Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart said.

Company spokesman Tom Cirigliano said Greenpeace was unfairly targeting Exxon Mobil.

Qwest union seeks shorter-term contract DENVER — Qwest's largest union will seek a short-term contract and forgo raises through 2005 because of the telecommunications company's financial problems.

The Communications Workers of America District 7, which represents 28,000 employees, will seek a two-year contract instead of the standard three-year contract.

"They're going to be profitable by then, and it will be time for them to pay for what we may not be able to get at this point," said John Thompson, union vice president.

The union began bargaining talks with Qwest representatives this month. The current contract, a two-year extension from 2001, expires in August. Thompson said pay raises would be discussed in 2005.

The Denver-based company is the dominant local-phone provider in 14 states including Montana. It is struggling with $20 billion in debt and stagnant revenue.

Justice Department won't file on Microsoft WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has decided not to participate in the continuing legal fight involving two states that refused to settle antitrust claims against Microsoft Corp., possibly strengthening the appeals case by the holdout states.

The Justice Department notified the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on May 21 that it will not file a brief in the case. The government earlier had indicated it might actively defend the landmark settlement it reached with Microsoft and 17 other states.

The decision means Massachusetts and West Virginia, which are seeking tougher sanctions against Microsoft, won't have to directly fight the U.S. government while they're battling the software giant in the courtroom.

New-home sales highest this year WASHINGTON — Low mortgage rates beckoned buyers in April and pushed up new-home sales to the highest level this year.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that sales of new single-family homes rose by 1.7 percent from March to April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million. That marked the best showing since December and provided fresh evidence that the housing market continues to be one of the economy's few bright spots.

April's performance surprised economists who were predicting new-home sales to go down.

The increase in April followed a sizable 8.2 percent rise in March, which had lifted sales to a rate of 1.01 million. At that time, it marked the best sales level this year. However, April's sales rate of 1.03 million new-homes sold surpassed that.

Northwest slipping as aluminum producer SPOKANE, Wash. — The Pacific Northwest's time as a major source of the world's aluminum is likely past, an economist said Friday at a regional conference.

The high cost of electricity needed to produce aluminum and the low prices that aluminum brings make it too expensive to operate the region's smelters, Terry H. Morlan said in a presentation at the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference.

"It looks to us that the Pacific Northwest's era as an aluminum production center for the U.S. and the world is most likely over," said Morlan, a Northwest Power Planning Council economist.

Of the 10 aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest, only two are operating, and at reduced levels. Of the eight others, two have permanently closed and two companies have filed for bankruptcy protection.

"If those plants are going to operate in the future, they are going to have to find a way to fit in and provide value to the region's power system," he said.

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