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FCC Proposes $780,000 Fine for AT&T


The Federal Communications Commission accused AT&T on Monday of making telemarketing pitches to consumers who had asked the telephone giant not to call them and proposed fining the company $780,000.

AT&T has 30 days to respond to the charges before the FCC issues a final order. In a statement issued Monday, AT&T said it is confident it can persuade the agency it is not in violation of federal telemarketing rules.

The proposed fine comes a month after a national do-not-call registry, designed to protect consumers from unwanted phone solicitations, took effect. However, the FCC action announced Monday does not involve a violation of the new registry rules, but rather a decade-old regulation that allows consumers to ask that individual companies be prohibited from calling them.

The action is the first time the agency has levied a fine against a telemarketer under the company-specific regulations, according to David Solomon, head of the agency’s enforcement bureau. But Solomon said the enforcement effort was an indication of the agency’s new emphasis on preventing unwanted telemarketing.

“We have made enforcement of the do-not-call lists our No. 1 priority,” he said. “This demonstrates we’re serious.”

But to some telemarketing industry officials the proposed fine also raises some troubling questions. Tim Searcy, the president of the American Teleservices Association, a telemarketing industry trade group, said that if the agency had enforced the company-specific registry for the last decade, there might not have been a need for the broader do-not-call registry.

Market Place: Does Anyone Want The American Stock Exchange?


Unable to sell the American Stock Exchange, NASD is giving the exchange back to its members. The transaction comes with a dowry, indicating that no one was willing to pay for the exchange.

But that may not be the final deal for the Amex. It is looking for a merger partner, according to one person briefed on the deal, and an official of one competing exchange said Monday night he thought the Amex would likely seek a deal with the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

Meyer S. Frucher, the chairman and chief executive of the Philadelphia exchange, has in the past spoken of possible synergies between the two exchanges. But on Monday night he declined to comment on the possibility of a deal, noting that the members of the Philadelphia exchange would vote Nov. 25 on a plan to demutualize the exchange, changing it from a member-owned exchange to one owned by shareholders. “Demutualization would precede any strategic alliances we might seek,” he said.

A deal between the Philadelphia and American exchanges would unify two of the four floor-based options exchanges, the others being the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Pacific Stock Exchange. The largest options market now is the International Securities Exchange, an electronic exchange that has no trading floor.

Therapy in Rats Shows Fresh Promise


When Sidney Guimont’s learning disabilities were diagnosed as fetal alcohol syndrome 14 years ago, no therapy was available to help her or others similarly damaged by alcohol.

There still is none.

Guimont, now 28, remembers how hard it was to keep up with her classmates.

“I always felt like I was on the outside looking in,” she said.

“Everyone was going at one pace. I was going at another. They were all going faster than I was.”

Although no one knows to what extent damage to the brain and nervous system can be reversed, recent animal research has suggested that improvements can be made if therapy is started early in life.

A study published last year found that with the right training, rats could overcome some of the deficits caused by alcohol exposure.

Initially, the alcohol exposed rats had problems with coordination, particularly in synchronizing the movements of front and rear paws, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Anna Klintsova, an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

But, after 20 days of training on an obstacle course, the rats learned how to maneuver better.

For the Needle-Shy: Spray Flu Vaccine


As the season of scratchy throats, stuffy noses and achy muscles arrives, those seeking to protect themselves against flu’s miseries have a new option. Instead of an injection, they can receive a painless spritz in each nostril to ward off influenza.

The new nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June for healthy people ages 5 to 49. It was originally developed by Aviron, a California biotechnology company, which MedImmune Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., bought two years ago.

MedImmune plans to sell 4 million to 5 million doses in FluMist’s first sales season as an alternative for those who avoid vaccinations because they fear needles. Its research shows that needle aversion keeps about 30 percent of the population from being inoculated.

FluMist’s introduction has been bumpy despite MedImmune’s $25 million advertising campaign. The nasal spray had a major setback when its arrangement with Wal-Mart’s pharmacies to administer it fell through.