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Big Brother for digital age? U.S. wants Internet wiretaps

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U.S. seeks easier digital wiretaps U.S. authorities are seeking an expanded reach that some fear would bring the idea of Big Brother into the digital age. The New York Times reports today that federal officials want the ability to effectively wiretap encrypted e-mail transmitters such as the BlackBerry, social websites such as Facebook and things like Skype. According to the report, officials would be able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages under the proposal that such services be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap. They warn that suspects are communicating more online than by phone.

The administration plans to submit the plan next year, the newspaper said, quoting the FBI's general counsel as pointing out that it's not talking about expanding its authority but "about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."

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Others see it differently: "They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet," James Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Times. "They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function."

Roubini warns of crises Nouriel Roubini, known as Dr. Doom and renowned for forecasting the meltdown, warned today of further crises, asset bubbles and anemic growth that will feel like a recession. At the World Capital Markets Symposium in Kuala Lumpur, the New York University professor told CNBC that the world will see a "couple of financial crises" over the next 10 years because regulatory reform was too little, too late. Mr. Roubini also said that he sees the recovery as anemic but doesn't rule out a double-dip recession, according to other reports.

"We are already in a situation which is going to feel like a recession (even) if we are not in one," he told CNBC. "And if the economic data surprise on the down side, we are going to have a correction of the stock markets, widening of credit spreads, increased volatility, increased risk aversion, then it leads to a shock for the real economy."

Big hair, big deal Unilever PLC is buying Alberto Culver Co. for $3.7-billion (U.S.), adding products such as Alberto V05, Nexxus, TRESemme and Noxzema to its lineup. Unilever is bulking up - almost a year it acquired the personal care unit of Sara Lee Corp. for more than $1.7-billion. Uniliver says it's now ranks number 1 in hair conditioning, number two in shampoo and number three in styling.

Southwest strikes deal for AirTran The airline industry continues to consolidate with a deal today by Southwest Airlines to acquire AirTran Holdings in a cash-and-stock deal worth $1.4-billion (U.S.). The proposed merger, The Wall Street Journal notes, is the first big marriage among healthy U.S. discount airlines. Southwest, the biggest discount carrier in the United States, gets access to Atlanta under the proposed deal for $3.75 in cash and 0.321 of a Southwest share.

Wal-Mart eyes South Africa Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to jump into South Africa, bidding $4.6-billion (U.S.) deal for a wholesaler in the fast-growing economy. Massmart Holdings Ltd. is based in Johannesburg but operates stores in 13 countries across the continent. Wal-Mart has made a non-binding offer, and the two companies said today they are in exclusive talks aimed at a deal.

The main event Economists expect Statistics Canada to report Thursday that the economy shrank in July, meaning a lame start to the third quarter as the recovery ebbs. They believe gross domestic product contracted by about 0.1 per cent in the month, hit by the slowdown in the United States.

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"Canada seems to have started the third quarter on the wrong foot," said CIBC World Markets economist Krishen Rangasamy. "The slowdown in global trade resulted in a ramp down in factory activity, as suggested by the decrease in manufacturing shipments in July. Construction was likely restrained by the recent weakening trend in housing starts although there may be some offset from stimulus-related infrastructure projects.

"Looking at the services sector, the picture isn't any rosier. The all-important retail industry struggled in July, with volumes falling for the first time in three months."

Royal Host to convert Royal Host Real Estate Investment Trust has changed its mind and now plans to convert to a corporation on Jan. 1. "While Royal Host had previously indicated that it would not pursue a conversion in the near term, the trustees have determined that a conversion at this time is appropriate to allow for a restructuring that will better achieve the objectives of the business and to take advantage of growth opportunities that exist," said the REIT, which invests in hotels.

Segway owner dies in crash A British businessman who bought Segway Inc. this year has died in an accident on one of his two-wheeled vehicles. James Heselden, 62, drove his Segway off a cliff and plunged into a river, police said.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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