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Briefs (right)

Myspace Tests Pages
In France and Germany

By Robert Levine

A couple of months ago, Robert Basic, a 40-year-old technology consultant in Frankfurt, Germany, signed up for MySpace, the online social networking site, mostly out of curiosity.

In September, MySpace opened public test pages for Germany and France, the company’s first versions in languages other than English. That month, the site had 2.5 million unique users in Germany and about half that in France, respectable numbers for a new venture.

But Basic was only briefly among them. “I’m not a typical user,” he said. He became frustrated by unwanted messages and he did not care for the flashy pages.

“People here think the design is bad,” he said, “and that is important for Germans.”

MySpace, which was purchased by News Corp. in July, is aggressively trying to move into overseas markets, and is expected to announce Tuesday that it is expanding into Japan in a possible joint venture.

With a presence already in Britain, Australia, Ireland, Germany and France, the company plans to add 11 other countries in the coming year, said Chris DeWolfe, the chief executive.

South African Appeals
Court Deals Blow to Zuma

By Michael Wines

South Africa’s highest appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction of a Durban businessman on charges of bribing the former deputy president Jacob Zuma, casting a deep new shadow over Zuma’s unannounced candidacy to become the nation’s next president.

The five-judge Supreme Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling that the businessman, Schabir Shaik, had illegally given Zuma more than 1.2 million rand to secure help in winning government contracts. The payments total about $165,000 at current exchange rates, though it was more then.

The court also affirmed the 15-year prison term given Shaik, stating that proof of corruption at the highest level of the government justified the sentence.

In the most important contract, worth 6 billion rand, or $820 million at current rates, a venture between Zuma and the French weapons maker Thomson-CSF sold four small warships to the South African Navy in 2001. The lower court ruled, and the appeals court agreed Monday, that Thomson-CSF sought to impede an inquiry into that deal by agreeing to pay Zuma 500,000 rand more annually.

“In return, Mr. Zuma would shield Thomson from investigation into their role in the much discussed arms procurement dealings, and also support its future projects in South Africa,” the appeals court stated.