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Cable, Quietly, Introduces an Anytime Elections Channel

The cable industry, aiming to prevent Internet companies like Yahoo and YouTube from snatching away its ad revenue, has introduced an experimental political channel that gives advertisers a uniform way to buy time and measure the number of people watching.

The channel, called Elections ‘08 On Demand, lets people watch videos whenever they want, much the way they can on YouTube or the Web sites of television networks. Depending on where they live, people can tune into the channel to see an infomercial for Barack Obama, coverage of the Democratic National Convention, or historical clips like Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Daisy” ad.

So far the nascent channel offers only about eight hours of programming. But the participating cable companies, many of which joined a consortium this year called Canoe Ventures, say this effort shows that they can work together well. Canoe Ventures is trying to make cable television a more attractive place for advertisers; Elections ‘08 is the first product it has worked on.

The channel is available in 32 million households, primarily the ones served by the six partners of Canoe Ventures: Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. Most subscribers probably have not noticed it, because it is not particularly easy to find: On Time Warner, for example, it is Channel 1279; on Cablevision, Channel 500.

Carmakers Deserve Loan Guarantees, GM Official Says

A top General Motors executive said Thursday that automakers were “deserving” of as much as $50 billion in government-backed loans so that they can build more fuel-efficient cars.

GM’s vice chairman, Robert A. Lutz, said the car companies need money to retool their plants but probably cannot raise enough capital on their own because of the tight credit markets. He said the automakers have already made considerable progress in transforming themselves and that the government should help them proceed faster.

“The American auto industry is deserving of government loan guarantees,” Lutz told reporters at an event near Chicago where GM showed off its 2009 lineup. “We have done a whole bunch of things that people said, ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ ”

The automakers, along with the United Automobile Workers union and Michigan lawmakers, are urging Congress to appropriate $3.75 billion to back the $25 billion in loans authorized last year.

They also want more money — up to double the original amount, given the sudden jump in consumer demand for fuel efficiency — and they are urging Congress to act by the end of September so that the money can be available next year.

Canadian Airline Shuts Down, Stranding Hundreds

Hundreds of travelers, including many in Europe, were stranded Thursday after Zoom Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Ottawa, abruptly stopped operations and sought protection from creditors.

Zoom, which specializes in flights to Europe, the United States and the Caribbean from Canada, closed without warning after one of its aircraft was seized under a court order in Calgary, Alberta.

In addition, baggage crews working for a contractor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, refused to unload a Zoom plane, saying they did so because of overdue invoices. A third plane was detained in Scotland as part of a payment dispute with the operator of Europe’s air traffic control system.

Zoom also shut most of its Web site. The site now consists of a statement in which the company blames increased fuel costs of 50 million Canadian dollars ($47.8 million) over the last year for its problems.

Hugh and John Boyle, two brothers from Scotland who braved a weak airline environment to found Zoom in early 2002, said in the statement that they had obtained a refinancing package on Wednesday, although they offered no details about that arrangement.

“We have done everything we can to support the airline and left no stone unturned to secure a refinancing package that would have kept our aircraft flying,” the brothers, who are travel industry veterans, said in their statement. “But the actions of creditors meant we could not continue flying.”

Faiths Clash, Displacing Thousands in East India

At least 3,000 people, most of them Christians, are living in government-run relief camps after days of Christian-versus-Hindu violence in eastern India, government officials said.

The government said many people were also living in the jungle without any shelter or security because of the tensions, which erupted in violence after a Hindu leader was killed Saturday. At least 10 people, most of them Christians, have been killed since.

Christian community leaders say at least 1,000 homes of Christians have been set on fire since Monday, rendering more than 5,000 people homeless.

Many of those living in the jungle were without food or water, said the Rev. Dibakar Parichha, a priest at the Roman Catholic church in Phulbani, a town in Orissa State. Parichha said about 90 places of worship, including small churches and prayer halls, had been burned down. Local officials said the figure was about 20.

The violence has occurred in Kandhamal, a district in Orissa State that has a history of communal and ethnic clashes. The latest conflict started Saturday night, when unidentified armed men stormed a Hindu school in Kandhamal and killed the Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his followers.