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BUS BRIEFS Minnesota joins suit against Microsoft

A group of states suing Microsoft has told a federal court that the big software company has used the Bush administration's antitrust settlement as "a sword to extract valuable concessions" from personal computer makers.

The nine states, which filed their motion late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, said the government's planned settlement had already been used by the company "to provide a net benefit for Microsoft and a net harm to those -- Microsoft's customers, competitors and consumers -- whom a decree is intended to benefit."

The states -- California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and West Virginia -- oppose the Justice Department's settlement with Microsoft. Another nine of the 18 states that sued Microsoft, including New York, have joined the federal government in a settlement.

Land O'Lakes chairman cites market changes

MINNEAPOLIS -- Land O'Lakes must continue looking at acquisitions and joint ventures to remain competitive in the consolidating agriculture industry, Chairman Jim Fife said Wednesday.

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"Every time there is a consolidation, it affects us," Fife told delegates and visitors at the national cooperative's 81st annual meeting.

"When a large investor-owned firm acquires another agronomy company, it affects us. We must respond to this competitive environment, so that we can continue to serve our customers," he said.

Fife's comments came as the nation's 21st largest food company reported net earnings of $18.7 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, up from a loss of $12.7 million in the final quarter of 2000. Sales totaled $1.73 billion, up from $1.39 billion a year earlier.

Qwest given week to settle DSL grievances

ST. PAUL -- The state Public Utilities Commission has given Qwest Communications a week to negotiate a settlement with the Minnesota attorney general's office to resolve complaints of its high-speed DSL Internet customers.

In agreeing to the one-week reprieve on Tuesday, the PUC did not say what action it might take if a settlement isn't reached.

Qwest's DSL problems began last fall after the company announced that it was leaving the consumer DSL Internet access business and shifting its customers to MSN. Some customers said they were switched without their permission, were repeatedly double-billed, had service interruptions and were unable to get the service canceled.

About 26,000 Minnesota Qwest DSL customers were switched to Microsoft's MSN online service or another service provider, while another 14,000 Qwest customers are still deciding, said Tom Bailey, an assistant Minnesota attorney general.

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