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NEW ORLEANS Two new studies could change care for hundreds of thousands of heart patients each year. One finds that bypass surgery has been overrated for many people with very weak hearts from clogged arteries and previous heart attacks. The other challenges the way artery-opening procedures have been done for decades.


It was the first big test of doing balloon angioplasty to clear heart arteries through an arm instead of a leg. Complications were fewer with the arm method and at hospitals that did this more often, deaths, heart attacks and other big problems were lower, too.


The arm method is common in India, Israel, Europe and Canada, but less than 5 percent of U.S. cases are done this way.


"This is the way we should be heading," and more doctors should be trained to do it, said Dr. Edward McNulty of the University of California, San Francisco.


He is a leader of the American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans where the studies were presented on Monday.


The bypass study's surprising result is "a blockbuster," McNulty said. The operation did not improve survival for heart failure patients who already were taking medicines to control risks like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


Clogged arteries cause about two-thirds of the 6 million cases of heart failure in the United States. The heart isn't getting enough blood and enlarges as it grows weaker from working too hard. Doctors often advise bypass to improve blood flow, but the new study calls that into question.


"Even if surgery is better, it's not better by much," said Dr. Byron Lee, a heart specialist at UCSF.


The study involved 1,200 heart failure patients in 22 countries, mostly men around 60 years old. Most had suffered a heart attack in the past. All were taking medicines they should for heart risks, and half were assigned to also get bypass surgery.


Doctors assumed bypass would cut deaths by 25 percent. But after nearly five years, about the same number in each group had died, said study leader Dr. Eric Velazquez of Duke University Medical Center.


One hundred people in the drug-alone group wound up having a bypass; 55 who were supposed to get the operation never did. Results on only those who had the treatment they were initially assigned suggested that bypass surgery did improve survival.


But its risks were evident, too. For the first two years, there were more deaths among those given surgery versus the others.


"If you don't have an expectation to outlive that two-year window," surgery is not a good idea, Velazquez said.


The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute paid for the study, and Abbott Laboratories provided some medicines. Results were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.


The other study involved more than 7,000 people in 32 countries getting an angiogram a diagnostic test to look for blockages followed by angioplasty to open any clogs found.


It usually involves poking a tube through a leg artery near the groin up to the heart, inflating a tiny balloon to flatten a blockage in a heart artery and placing a mesh tube called a stent to prop the artery open. But patients can suffer major bleeding requiring transfusions or surgery, so doctors are trying this through an artery in the wrist instead.


It's harder on doctors to do but easier on patients, who spend just a couple hours wearing a wrist band to control bleeding afterward instead of a day or more off their feet in a hospital.


The study assigned patients to get one method or the other. Survival and success rates were similar about 4 percent of each group died or had a heart attack, stroke or major bleeding in the following month.


But significantly fewer of these problems occurred in people treated with the arm method after major heart attacks, and in hospitals that did the arm method more often.


"The more you do the better you get," and the better patients fare, said the study's leader, Dr. Sanjit Jolly of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.


The study was funded by the Canadian government, a Canadian nonprofit, and Sanofi-Aventis SA and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (It was part of a larger study testing different doses of an anti-clotting drug used after angioplasty.) Results were published online by the journal Lancet.


The cardiology college's president, Dr. Ralph Brindis, said the study should be "a tipping point" to boost the arm method in the U.S.


"Every study that's ever been done shows it's safer," said Duke University's Dr. Sunil Rao, who led one of them.


Dr. Gary Idelchik is the only one of the 30 or so cardiologists at Trinity Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler, Texas, who does the arm method regularly.


"People have said 'I don't want it any other way'" after having it, he said.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Surrounded by troops backing Ivory Coast's democratically elected leader, strongman Laurent Gbagbo huddled in a bunker at his home with his family Tuesday and tried to negotiate terms of surrender, officials said.


Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara have seized the presidential residence where Gbagbo tried to wrest last-ditch concessions, said a senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He also said Gbagbo's closest adviser and longtime friend had abandoned him, leaving the bunker for the French ambassador's home.


Ouattara, who Ivory Coast's electoral commission and the United Nations said won the November elections, has urged forces loyal to him to take Gbagbo alive.


United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters on Gbagbo's arms stockpiles and bases on Monday after four months of political deadlock in the former French colony in West Africa. Columns of foot soldiers allied with Ouattara also finally pierced the city limits of Abidjan.


"One might think that we are getting to the end of the crisis," Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. mission to Ivory Coast said by phone. "We spoke to his close aides, some had already defected, some are ready to stop fighting. He is alone now, he is in his bunker with a handful of supporters and family members. So is he going to last or not? I don't know."


Toure said that the U.N. had received phone calls Tuesday from the three main Gbagbo-allied generals, saying they were planning to order their troops to stop fighting.


"They asked us to accept arms and ammunition from the troops and to provide them protection," he said.


French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told a Paris news conference Tuesday that he hoped the situation would be resolved within hours.


The offensive that began Monday included air attacks on the presidential residence and three strategic military garrisons, marking an unprecedented escalation in the international community's efforts to oust Gbagbo, as pro-0uattara fighters pushed their way to the heart of the city to reach Gbagbo's home.


Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara even as the world's largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war as the political crisis drew out, with both men claiming the presidency. Ouattara has tried to rule from a lagoonside hotel.


"Gbagbo is exploring different options for turning himself in," Ouattara spokesman Patrick Achi said Tuesday. "He has been in touch with different leaders involved in this crisis."


A Paris-based lawyer who has represented Gbagbo's government denied that Gbagbo's foreign minister , Alcide Djedje,had abandoned his close friend but said he had gone to the French Embassy to protest Monday's attacks by French and U.N. forces.


"He has absolutely not resigned and is currently being scandalously held against his will," attorney Lucie Bourthoumieux said in a statement.


Even before the offensive, postelection violence had left hundreds dead most of them Ouattara supporters and forced up to 1 million people to flee their homes.


Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, and some 20,000 French citizens still lived there when a brief civil war broke out in 2002. French troops were then tasked by the U.N. with monitoring a cease-fire and protecting foreign nationals in Ivory Coast, which was once an economic star and is still one of the only countries in the region with four-lane highways, skyscrapers, escalators and wine bars.


Following four months of attempts to negotiate Gbagbo's departure, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed an especially strong resolution giving the 12,000-strong peacekeeping operation the right "to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence ... including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population."


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Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Accra, Ghana; and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.


NEW YORK Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. on Tuesday announced a rebalancing of the Nasdaq-100 Index next month that will significantly reduce Apple Inc.'s weighting in the index.


The Nasdaq-100 Index is made up of the 100 largest non-financial stocks listed on the Nasdaq stock market. It is one of the most widely watched market indexes, used as a barometer for the growth of large-cap U.S. stocks.


The index is tracked by mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. The rebalancing, which takes effect May 2, will likely mean that fund managers will have to shift their holdings to reflect the new weighting.


That will have a dramatic impact on Apple. The Cupertino, Calif., company currently accounts for 20 percent of the index, and the rebalancing will bring that share down to 12 percent. In pre-market trading, Apple shares are down $5.14, or 1.5 percent, at $336.05.


Apple's shares have rocketed over the past few years, boosting its market capitalization. The company was worth only $7 a share 10 years ago. It closed Monday at $341.19.


Nasdaq OMX, the operator of the Nasdaq stock market, said the rebalancing was necessary because "weights of Index Securities were no longer closely aligned to the actual market capitalization weights and continued to diverge." It said the rebalance will bring the weights of the companies in the index closer in line with their actual market capitalizations.


Nasdaq said the move won't change the methodology used to calculate the index or the index securities. Sector weights will stay in the same relative order and magnitude, Nasdaq said.


Microsoft Corp., whose current weight on the index is about 3 percent, will see the rebalancing bring its share up to 8 percent. Its stock gained 44 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $25.99 in pre-market trading.


Other tech companies that will see their weightings in the index more than double include Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Dell Inc.


Apart from Apple, companies that will lose much of their weighting include Starbucks Corp. and Intuit Inc.


"The special rebalance reflects our commitment to ensure the Nasdaq-100 Index remains a relevant benchmark for investors around the world who track the performance of the U.S. equity market," John Jacobs, executive vice president, Nasdaq OMX Global Index Group, said in a statement.


The special rebalance will be enacted based on index securities and shares outstanding as of March 31.



WASHINGTON On April 5, 2009, America's new president stood at the gates of Prague castle in front of 20,000 Czechs waving flags and offered what would be a defining moment of his presidency: a pledge to seek a world without nuclear weapons. He outlined specific steps to reach that goal.


Two years later, President Barack Obama has delivered on some of his promises, while other goals appear stalled. Here's a look at the progress:


The promise: "To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year."


The follow through: The administration delivered on the treaty, but it took longer than planned. The New START treaty was signed a year after the speech. After a rough road in the Senate, it was ratified by the U.S. in December and then by the Russian Duma in January. The treaty lowers the cap on deployed warheads to 1,550, down from a ceiling of 2,200. The two sides were already well below the earlier caps so actual reductions in warheads will be modest.


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The promise: New START "will set the stage for further cuts, and we will seek to include all nuclear weapons states in this endeavor."


The follow through: Obama is seeking another treaty with Russia that would make further reductions in deployed warheads as well as in shorter range and non-deployed weapons not covered by New START. But discord on U.S. missile defense plans in Europe stands in the way. Obama also faces growing Republican resistance to further cuts and has his own re-election to cope with next year. So any new treaty is probably years off.


The administration has called for multilateral talks on nuclear arsenals that could include European and Asian countries, but there is little evidence that China, the key country, is willing to talk about limits to its secretive nuclear policies.


Meantime, the administration is looking for other ways to cut its arsenal. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed that the U.S. is considering these cuts independent of negotiations with Russia.


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The promise: "To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."


The follow through: The administration's efforts have hardly been immediate or aggressive. There appears to be little hope of winning approval for the treaty anytime soon. Approval of the test ban treaty, rejected by the Senate in 1999, would be a harder sell than New START, which was ratified only after a bruising fight and with a larger Democratic majority. The administration continues to say it is committed to the treaty.


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The promise: "To cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons."


The follow through: The administration has pushed in a United Nations forum for a ban on production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. But negotiations have by stalled by Pakistan and other countries. The administration has threatened to negotiate a deal without the countries currently standing in the way.


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The promise: "Today I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years."


The follow through: Last year, Obama hosted 47 countries at a nuclear security summit that sought to win commitments to secure nuclear material. A soon-to-be published report by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security concludes that the countries are generally on track to meet their commitments. Among the achievements already locked down:

  • Kazakhstan secured 13 tons of nuclear material, enough to make 775 nuclear weapons.

  • Russia has ended its plutonium production.

  • Ukraine and Belarus have also pledged to remove all highly enriched uranium from their territory by 2012, with Kiev already making good on over half.


But the commitments made at the summit do not add up to eliminating the threat that nuclear materials could fall into the wrong hands. Obama is unlikely, for instance, to secure North Korea's nuclear material any time soon.


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The promise: "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same."


The follow through: A Defense Department review completed a year after the speech set clear limits on the circumstances under which the U.S. would launch a nuclear strike. The previous policy was intentionally ambiguous. The review said that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons was deterrence. The U.S. pledged not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that comply with a U.N. treaty on nonproliferation.


WASHINGTON Baby boomers are starting to retire, but many are agonizing about their finances and believe they'll need to work longer than they had planned, a new poll finds.


The 77 million-strong generation born between 1946 and 1964 has clung tenaciously to its youth. Now, boomers are getting nervous about retirement. Only 11 percent say they are strongly convinced they will be able to live in comfort.


A total of 55 percent said they were either somewhat or very certain they could retire with financial security. But another 44 percent express little or no faith they'll have enough money when their careers end.


Further underscoring the financial squeeze, 1 in 4 boomers still working say they'll never retire. That's about the same number as those who say they have no retirement savings.


The Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll comes as politicians face growing pressure to curb record federal deficits, and budget hawks of both parties have expressed a willingness to scale back Social Security, the government's biggest program.


The survey suggests how politically risky that would be: 64 percent of boomers see Social Security as the keystone of their retirement earnings, far outpacing pensions, investments and other income.


The survey also highlights the particular retirement challenge facing boomers, who are contemplating exiting the work force just as the worst economy in seven decades left them coping with high jobless rates, tattered home values and painfully low interest rates that stunt the growth of savings.


"I have six kids," said Gary Marshalek, 62, of South Abington Township, Pa., who services drilling equipment and says he has repeatedly refinanced his home and dipped into his pension to pay for his children's college. His inability to afford retirement "sounds like America at the moment," Marshalek said. "Sounds like the normal instead of the abnormal."


Marshalek was among the 25 percent in the poll who say they plan to never retire. People who are unmarried, earn under $50,000 a year, or say they did a poor job of financial planning are disproportionately represented among that group.


Overall, nearly 6 in 10 baby boomers say their workplace retirement plans, personal investments or real estate lost value during the economic crisis of the past three years. Of this group, 42 percent say they'll have to delay retirement because their nest eggs shrank.


Though the first boomers are turning 65 this year, the poll finds that 28 percent already consider themselves retired. Of those still working, nearly half want to retire by age 65 and about another quarter envision retiring between 66 and 70.


Two-thirds of those still on the job say they will keep working after they retire, a plan shared about evenly across sex, marital status and education lines, the survey finds. That contrasts with the latest Social Security Administration data on what older people are actually doing: Among those age 65-74, less than half earned income from a job in 2008.


"I'm going to keep working after I retire, if nothing else for the health care," said Nadine Krieger, 58, a food plant worker from East Berlin, Pa. Citing $50,000 in retirement savings that she says won't go far, she added, "We probably could have saved more, but you can't when you have a couple of kids in the house."


About 6 in 10 married boomers expect a comfortable retirement, compared with just under half of the unmarried. Midwesterners are most likely to express confidence in their finances.


"I'm a good planner," said Robert Rivers, 63, a retired New York State employee in Ravena, N.Y. He still works seasonally for the federal government and collects a modest military pension. A recreational pilot, he says he has scaled back his lifestyle by flying and driving less.


"I'm spending money I have, not spending it and trying to repay it," he said.


Among boomers like Rivers who plan to continue working in retirement, 35 percent say they'll do so to make ends meet. Slightly fewer cite a desire to earn money for extras or to simply stay busy.


Excluding their homes, 24 percent of boomers say they have no retirement savings. Those with nothing include about 4 in 10 who are non-white, are unmarried or didn't finish college.


At the other end, about 1 in 10 say they have banked at least $500,000. Those who have saved at least something typically have squirreled away $100,000, with about half putting away more than that and half less.


Despite the worries and dearth of savings cited by many, only about a third of boomers say it's likely that they'll have to make do with a more modest lifestyle once they retire. Only about 1 in 4 expect to struggle just to pay their expenses.


Financial experts say such expectations are often not realistic.


"Most families have to make a significant adjustment from their working lives to their retirement years," said financial planner Sheryl Garrett, who runs the Garrett Planning Network. Ads that show silver-haired couples strolling off into the sunset do not represent the typical retirement, she added.


The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted from March 4-13 by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif., and involved online interviews with 1,160 baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Surrounded by troops backing Ivory Coast's democratically elected leader, strongman Laurent Gbagbo huddled in a bunker at his home with his family Tuesday and tried to negotiate terms of surrender, officials said.


Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara have seized the presidential residence where Gbagbo tried to wrest last-ditch concessions, said a senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He also said Gbagbo's closest adviser and longtime friend had abandoned him, leaving the bunker for the French ambassador's home.


Ouattara, who Ivory Coast's electoral commission and the United Nations said won the November elections, has urged forces loyal to him to take Gbagbo alive.


United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters on Gbagbo's arms stockpiles and bases on Monday after four months of political deadlock in the former French colony in West Africa. Columns of foot soldiers allied with Ouattara also finally pierced the city limits of Abidjan.


"One might think that we are getting to the end of the crisis," Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. mission to Ivory Coast said by phone. "We spoke to his close aides, some had already defected, some are ready to stop fighting. He is alone now, he is in his bunker with a handful of supporters and family members. So is he going to last or not? I don't know."


Toure said that the U.N. had received phone calls Tuesday from the three main Gbagbo-allied generals, saying they were planning to order their troops to stop fighting.


"They asked us to accept arms and ammunition from the troops and to provide them protection," he said.


French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told a Paris news conference Tuesday that he hoped the situation would be resolved within hours.


The offensive that began Monday included air attacks on the presidential residence and three strategic military garrisons, marking an unprecedented escalation in the international community's efforts to oust Gbagbo, as pro-0uattara fighters pushed their way to the heart of the city to reach Gbagbo's home.


Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara even as the world's largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war as the political crisis drew out, with both men claiming the presidency. Ouattara has tried to rule from a lagoonside hotel.


"Gbagbo is exploring different options for turning himself in," Ouattara spokesman Patrick Achi said Tuesday. "He has been in touch with different leaders involved in this crisis."


A Paris-based lawyer who has represented Gbagbo's government denied that Gbagbo's foreign minister , Alcide Djedje,had abandoned his close friend but said he had gone to the French Embassy to protest Monday's attacks by French and U.N. forces.


"He has absolutely not resigned and is currently being scandalously held against his will," attorney Lucie Bourthoumieux said in a statement.


Even before the offensive, postelection violence had left hundreds dead most of them Ouattara supporters and forced up to 1 million people to flee their homes.


Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, and some 20,000 French citizens still lived there when a brief civil war broke out in 2002. French troops were then tasked by the U.N. with monitoring a cease-fire and protecting foreign nationals in Ivory Coast, which was once an economic star and is still one of the only countries in the region with four-lane highways, skyscrapers, escalators and wine bars.


Following four months of attempts to negotiate Gbagbo's departure, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed an especially strong resolution giving the 12,000-strong peacekeeping operation the right "to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence ... including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population."


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Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Accra, Ghana; and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.


SAN FRANCISCO Think twice next time you get an email from Chase or Citi asking you to log in to your credit card account. The bank may not have sent it.


A security breach that exposed the email addresses of potentially millions of customers of major U.S. banks, hotels and stores is more likely than traditional scams to ultimately trick people into revealing personal information.


Security experts said Monday they were alarmed that the breach involved targeted information tying individuals to businesses they patronize and could make customers more likely to reveal passwords, Social Security numbers and other sensitive data.


The company that was in charge of the email addresses, a Dallas marketing firm called Epsilon, handles online marketing for some of the biggest names in business. Those companies have flooded customers in recent days with warnings to be on guard.


Epsilon said that while hackers had stolen customer email addresses, a rigorous assessment determined that no other personal information was compromised. By itself, without passwords and other sensitive data, email addresses are of little use to criminals. But they can be used to craft dangerous online attacks.


Citi credit card customers, for example, are more likely to respond to an email claiming to be from Citigroup than from a random bank. The email might direct the customer to a site that looks like the bank's site, capture login information and use it to access the real account.


David Jevans, chairman and founder of the nonprofit Anti-Phishing Working Group, said criminals have been moving away from indiscriminate email scams, known as "phishing," toward more intelligent attacks known as "spear phishing," which rely on more intimate knowledge of victims.


"This data breach is going to facilitate that in a big way," said Jevans, also CEO of security company IronKey Inc. "Now they know which institution people bank with, they know their name and they have their email address."


The information could also help criminals send highly personalized emails to victims. Doing so makes the email more likely to get past a spam filter.


Epsilon, a unit of Alliance Data Systems Corp., sends more than 40 billion emails a year and has more than 2,500 business clients. Stock in the parent company fell $1.73, or 2 percent, to close Monday at $84.20.


Meanwhile, more than a dozen companies contacted customers to instruct them never to reveal personal information in response to an email.


Financial institutions affected include Barclays Bank, Capital One Financial Corp., Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bancorp. The parent companies of Best Buy, Ethan Allen furniture stores, the Kroger grocery chain, the Home Shopping Network and Walgreens drugstores issued similar warnings, as did the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains. The College Board, the not-for-profit organization that runs the SATs, also warned that a hacker may have obtained student email addresses.


Many of the companies contacted by The Associated Press declined comment or referred reporters to statements acknowledging the breach. Epsilon also declined further comment. Some of the companies said Epsilon has referred the breach to unspecified authorities.


For victims of this type of security breach, there is little to do but be vigilant. Changing passwords doesn't help.


Jill Kocher of Crystal Lake, Ill., said she got at least five emailed warnings, including from U.S. Bank, Best Buy and clothier New York Co. Because she works for Groupon, an Internet coupon company, she said she feels savvy enough to avoid any phishing come-ons. But she's concerned for those who aren't.


"U.S. Bank sends you an email and it looks legit and you cough up the information, and now you're in big trouble. It sure does sound like a big increase in fraud just waiting to happen," Kocher said.


The attack offers a window into a business that serves a vital role in the Internet age for companies looking for effective ways to find customers, sell to them, and figure out what they might want to buy in the future.


Epsilon is a big moneymaker for Alliance Data Systems. Epsilon turned $65 million in operating profit last year, and its $613 million in revenue was 22 percent of Alliance Data Systems' total.


Companies like Epsilon send emails to customers on behalf of companies, using vast stores of data and millions of addresses. Companies are eager to give up information about their customers if the third parties such as Epsilon can do a better job at enticing them to spend.


So for example, an email that a retailer blasts to customers about an upcoming sale on big-screen TVs might not actually come from the company at all. A company such as Epsilon might be the one that analyzed the spending of that store's customers and decided which ones would be most likely to buy a big-screen TV.


Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester Research who studies Epsilon and other businesses that specialize in "customer intelligence," said large companies often outsource their email marketing to avoid being having their messages zapped by email service providers' spam filters. Companies such as Epsilon work with the email providers to ensure that their customers' messages aren't blocked as spam. He said that is a job that requires daily attention.


Frankland said the industry's reputation will take a hit because the breach exposed how much the relationships between companies such as Epsilon and their customers depend on trust.


"At first glance, I shrug my shoulders and go, `Oh my goodness a spammer knows my name,'" he said. "I get enough spam; that isn't new. But the bigger concern is when someone gets an email from one of these blue chip companies and it looks genuine. That's when I get very concerned."


But he added: "The industry should be looking at this as a let-off. This could have been a heck of a lot worse. It's not just Epsilon it's an industry issue, and this could have been any of them."


Breaches involving millions of customers have happened before. In one of the largest, more than 45 million credit and debit cards were exposed to possible fraud because of hackers broke into the computer system of TJX Cos., the parent company of retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshall's, starting in 2005.


And last month, RSA, the security division of data storage company EMC, acknowledged that its computer network was hacked. The implications are serious because RSA's technology underpins the security of some of the world's most closely guarded data. RSA makes small security devices that supply constantly changing numbers that are used as secondary passwords for accessing corporate networks and email.


If the attacker managed to steal the codes that determine which numbers appear on the tokens, that information could be used to perform mass infiltrations if the attacker already has other information about the targets. That information can be gleaned from the type of "spear phishing," or targeted phishing, emails that the Epsilon breach can enable.


"I'm a little concerned that there's a big pattern going on here of very major breaches, where if you combine that information together, you could launch some pretty major attacks that would be very successful," Jevans said.


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Svensson contributed from New York. AP Technology Writer Rachel Metz in San Francisco and AP Business Writers Michelle Chapman, Pallavi Gogoi, Eileen AJ Connelly and Christine Rexrode in New York contributed to this report.


GENEVA The depletion of the ozone layer shielding Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays has reached an unprecedented low over the Arctic this spring because of harmful chemicals and a cold winter, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday.


The Earth's fragile ozone layer in the Arctic region has suffered a loss of about 40 percent from the start of winter until late March, exceeding the previous seasonal loss of about 30 percent, the World Meteorological Organization said.


The Geneva-based agency blamed the loss on a buildup of ozone-eating chemicals once widely used as coolants and fire retardants in a variety of appliances and on very cold temperatures in the stratosphere, the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere.


Arctic ozone conditions vary more than the seasonal ozone "hole" that forms high in the stratosphere near the South Pole each winter and spring, and the temperatures are always warmer than over Antarctica.


Because of changing weather and temperatures some Arctic winters experience almost no ozone loss while others with exceptionally cold stratospheric conditions can occasionally lead to substantial ozone depletion, U.N. scientists say.


This year the Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, but colder in the stratosphere than normal Arctic winters. U.N. officials say the latest losses unprecedented, but not entirely unexpected were detected in observations from the ground and from balloons and satellites over the Arctic.


Atmospheric scientists who are concerned about global warming focus on the Arctic because that is a region where the effects are expected to be felt first.


Ozone scientists have said that significant Arctic ozone depletion is possible in the case of a cold and stable Arctic stratospheric winter. Ozone losses occur over the polar regions when temperatures drop below -78 degrees Celsius (-108 Fahrenheit), when clouds form in the stratosphere.


Average temperatures in January range from about -40 to 0 C (-40 to 32 F), while average temperatures in July range from about -10 to 10 C (14 to 50 F).


"The Arctic stratosphere continues to be vulnerable to ozone destruction caused by ozone-depleting substances linked to human activities," said WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud. "The degree of ozone loss experienced in any particular winter depends on the meteorological conditions."


The loss comes despite the U.N. ozone treaty, known as the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which has resulted in cutbacks in ozone-damaging chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons, halons and other, that were used in the making of refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and even hairspray.


The 196-nation ozone treaty encourages industries to use replacement chemicals less damaging to ozone, the atmospheric layer that helps protect against the sun's most harmful rays.


But because these compounds have long atmospheric lifetimes, it takes decades for their concentrations to subside to pre-1980 levels as was agreed in the Montreal Protocol.


U.N. officials project the ozone layer outside the polar regions will recover to pre-1980 levels sometime between 2030 and 2040.



GUANGZHOU, China When millions of workers didn't return to their southern China factory jobs after Lunar New Year holidays, a turning point was reached for foreign manufacturers scraping by with slim profit margins.


Companies were already under pressure from rising raw material costs, restive workers and lower payments for exports because of a stronger Chinese currency. Despite hiking wages, labor shortages kept getting worse as workers increasingly spurned the often repetitive and unskilled jobs that helped earn China its reputation as the world's low-cost factory floor.


At one of those factories in an industrial suburb of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, a worker uses a sewing machine to stitch together black padding for an orthopedic foot brace. Across the aisle from her, others snip loose threads off disposable cushions for operating tables.


At the end of the shop floor, a young woman glues velcro squares to an elastic strip used to hold an ice bag over an injured leg, churning one out every few seconds using a large machine press.


Later this year, these jobs will be gone as Guangzhou Fortunique's American owner, Charles Hubbs, moves a large chunk of production to Southeast Asia.


"I don't know of any factory in China that can absorb both the raw material prices we have, the labor issues we've been looking at and the renminbi," China's strengthening currency, said Hubbs. The currency is also known as the yuan.


He's joining a wave of export manufacturers, big and small, that are moving from China's coastal manufacturing regions to cheaper inland provinces or out of the country altogether, in a clear sign that southern China's days as a low-cost manufacturing powerhouse are numbered.


Andy Lin, a sales export manager at a small Guangzhou clothing maker, said the owner has opened another factory in Jiangxi province to the north to cope with rising fabric costs and staff shortages. Workers spend grueling 14-hour shifts, with a 90-minute break, sewing casual shirts destined for Japan, Israel, South Korea and Mexico.


Foxconn Technology Group the world's biggest contract electronics manufacturer with customers including Apple Inc., Sony Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. is planning to gradually cut its workforce of 400,000 in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen by a quarter and move the bulk of manufacturing inland. Its activities in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, will increasingly turn to research and development with a plan to hire more engineers and designers.


China watchers at Credit Suisse, an investment bank, call the shift an "historical turning point" for China's economy and perhaps the world as the country's role in keeping global inflation low by supplying cheap goods is set to end.


The ripple effects of rising costs in China are already being felt around the globe. U.S. clothing retailers are raising prices for shirts and other garments by 10 percent on average after a decade of price falls, partly due to higher labor costs in China.


"It may take a decade for China to see its export competitiveness erode, but we have seen the beginning of this happening," the Credit Suisse report said, predicting that salaries for China's estimated 150 million migrant workers would rise 20 to 30 percent a year for the next three to five years.


That's partly because China's traditional advantage its vast, cheap pool of workers is drying up. Economists say it's the result of a rapidly aging population after 40 years of the one-child policy. Economic growth is "creating more jobs faster than the population is creating new workers," said Stephen Green, an economist at Standard Chartered, in a report titled "Wanted: 25 million workers."


China's blistering growth has also lifted incomes and created more opportunities in poorer inland provinces, which means fewer people leaving for jobs in the richer coastal cities.


Some 30 to 40 percent of migrant workers didn't return to their factory jobs in Guangdong province's Pearl River Delta manufacturing heartland after the annual Lunar New Year holiday in February, said Stanley Lau, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Industries. Typically the proportion is 10 to 15 percent.


That was despite Guangdong authorities raising minimum wages by up to 20 percent in March. They're trying to prevent the kind of high-profile labor problems that flared up last year, including a spate of suicides at Foxconn and a series of strikes that disrupted production at factories owned by Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.


Many factories already pay more to retain workers but are still having a hard time finding manpower.


Hubbs employs about 500 workers earning 1,800 to 2,000 yuan ($275 to $306) a month, a lot higher than Guangzhou's 1,300 yuan minimum wage, which came into effect March 1. But he's still short about 100 people, resulting in a 90-day turnaround time for orders, twice as long as he'd like. He wants to move 30 to 40 percent of production to a new factory in Cambodia, Laos or even Myanmar in six to eight months.


He says existing workers won't lose their jobs. Instead they will be moving up the so-called "value chain," transferred to production lines for the company's brand-name line of sterile covers for operating room devices. They require more skilled work but are also more profitable because the company sells them direct to customers instead of through middlemen.


Hubbs has looked at moving elsewhere in China but doesn't think the cost savings would last beyond two or three years as wages and prices even out across the country.


But others such as Dahon, the world's largest maker of folding bicycles, think moving inland will help regain the low cost advantage they once had in southern China.


"It makes sense," chief executive David Hon said. "It could be a year, it could be two, but it seems like we'll be probably moving the bulk of manufacturing elsewhere."


The company is studying sites in central China. It also has been testing out a facility in Tianjin, near Beijing, for two years.


Basic research and development work will remain in Shenzhen, where welders build frames for final assembly at factories in Taiwan, Macau and the Czech Republic.


Greater use of automation is also becoming more economic.


CBL Group, a contract manufacturer, has five welding robots used to assemble brackets for hospital beds and seat frames for new carriages on the New York subway. Chairman Gideon Milstein said he bought them in 2007 and 2008 for $600,000 because they could track welds by computer to ensure they were up to standard.


At the time, it was cheaper to weld by hand but that's changing because wages for skilled human welders are going up.


"It will soon be cheaper to weld by robot than it is by human in China," Milstein said.


LAUFEN, Germany When Regina Mayer's parents dashed her hopes of getting a horse, the resourceful 15-year-old didn't sit in her room and sulk. Instead, she turned to a cow called Luna to make her riding dreams come true.


Hours of training, and tons of treats, cajoling and caresses later, the results are impressive: not only do the two regularly go on long rides through the southern German countryside, they do jumps over a makeshift hurdle of beer crates and painted logs.


"She thinks she's a horse," the golden-haired Mayer joked on a recent sunny afternoon as she sat atop the impassive brown-and-white, grass-munching cow.


It all started about two years ago, shortly after Luna was born on the Mayers' sprawling farm in the hamlet of Laufen, just minutes from the Austrian border.


They started off with walks in the woods during which Luna wore a halter. Then Mayer slowly got her cow more accustomed to human contact and riding equipment.


About six months later, it was time to see how Luna would respond to a rider on her back. Mayer sat in the saddle, and all went as planned at least at first.


"She was really well behaved and walked normally," said Mayer, decked out in riding gear. "But after a couple of meters, she wanted me to get off! You could see that she got a bit peeved."


Luna and Mayer are now soul mates, spending most afternoons together once the teen who aspires to become a nurse one day comes home from school.


Their extensive routine involves grooming, petting, jumps and a roughly one-hour ride. That's also the case in winter, when Mayer lovingly drapes a blanket over Luna to keep her warm.


It's a lot of work "but I enjoy it," Mayer said.


Her efforts have paid off.


Now, Luna understands commands such as "go," `'stand" and "gallop." If she feels like it, that is.


"When she wants to do something she does it, when she doesn't, she doesn't," said Mayer, who proudly says Luna thinks of her as her mother. "And she's often very headstrong but can also be really adorable."


Luna's stubborn streak meant that teaching her pony tricks wasn't always easy, Mayer noted, saying she sought tips from a cow expert in Switzerland on how to deal with "steering" problems.


Anne Wiltafsky, who trains cows near the Swiss city of Zurich, said Luna's talents are not particularly surprising and that, historically, it was quite common to ride cows and use them as workhorses.


"Especially younger ones can jump really well," Wiltafsky said in a telephone interview, adding that cows are lovable companions because they're easygoing, have strong nerves and are "unbelievably devoted" to people they like.


Being and owning a cow-turned-pony isn't always easy.


Take the somewhat skeptical neighbors, such as Martin Putzhammer, who had to be won over.


"At first I thought it was kind of weird a kid on a cow?" the 17-year-old said during a break from repairing his moped. "Had to get used to it but once I did I thought it was pretty funny."


While Mayer's friends quickly warmed to her passion after laughing at her, Luna's fellow cows weren't so open-minded.


"Cows don't really like her ... they're jealous because she always gets goodies," Mayer said.


And horses? Many run away in fright, but others often join Luna on rides.


"She really enjoys that and gets totally into it," Mayer said.


Mayer hasn't given up her hopes of having a horse and may soon get one. But she says Luna will always have a special place in her heart.


"She'll stay my darling," she said.


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