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News Briefs

Annoyed By Coverage, Baghdad Expels Foreign Journalists


Apparently angered by recent U.S. news reports on dissent, Iraqi officials told many foreign journalists Thursday, including staff members for CNN, ABC and NBC, that they must leave the country within days, according to executives at the networks.

Officials in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, told reporters that non-Iraqi journalists for those networks must leave the country, although foreigners with other outlets would be allowed to stay until their visas expire.

NBC News’ Ned Colt and his colleagues, a producer and camera operator, were given until Saturday to leave Iraq. “There was no reason given to us why they had to leave,” said NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust.

The expulsions come against the backdrop of heightened tensions with the United States, which is threatening to depose Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Amazon Still in the Red Despite 33 Percent Jump in Sales


A 33 percent increase in third-quarter sales to $851 million was not enough for electronic commerce pioneer Inc. to report a profit.

The Seattle-based online retailer said Thursday that it lost $35 million, or 9 cents a share, in the three months that ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $170 million, or 46 cents a share, last year.

The improvement in sales was chiefly due to price reductions, said Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, but it came at a cost.

“We are committed to lower prices for customers even though it’s expensive for us,” Bezos said during a conference call. The company is making up for lower prices by boosting sales volume and by holding the line on costs, he said.

During the quarter, the company also lowered the threshold for free shipping from $49 per order to $25. As a result, the company spent $10 million on shipping in the third quarter compared with $2 million a year ago.

Ads Boost Viacom’s Quarterly Operating Income


Fueled by a continuing recovery in advertising revenue, CBS parent Viacom Inc. said Thursday its operating income rose 18 percent to $1.3 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30 after adjustments.

The company, which depends on ads for about half of its revenue, said the third-quarter advertising strength is continuing into the fourth quarter, led by its broadcast and cable networks and TV stations. But analysts said it is unclear how strong the second half of 2003 will turn out for ad sales.

“It’s a coin toss what the second half of 2003 will look like,” said Kaufman Bros. analyst Paul Kim.

“Despite the current strength in the advertising market,” Morgan Stanley analyst Richard Bilotti told investors, “we believe it will be difficult for Viacom to grow advertising revenue in excess of 6 to 7 percent in 2003.” Bilotti cut his rating to “underweight.” Viacom’s stock, whose price has held up much better than most other big media companies, fell 6 percent, or $2.88 per share, to close at $44.30.

CBS has jumped to the top of overall ratings and shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Survivor” have made Thursday nights for CBS the most profitable night for any network, Viacom said.