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Technology Giants Draw a Foe: Dolly Parton

Tuesday marks the end of a battle that has lasted for more than two years, with each side predicting apocalyptic consequences should it lose.

Not the fight for the presidency — the one pitting Google against Dolly Parton.

The titan of Silicon Valley and the queen of country are two of the many combatants in a high-technology dispute over precious slices of the nation’s airwaves. The issue comes to a head on Election Day, when the Federal Communications Commission votes on a proposal to make a disputed chunk of radio spectrum available for public use.

Google, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and other technology companies say the spectrum could be used by a whole new array of Internet-connected wireless gadgets. They say freeing it up would encourage innovation and investment in much the same way that the spread of Wi-Fi technology has. (This would generate more business for technology companies.)

But a coalition of old-guard media — from television networks to Broadway producers — is objecting to the proposal, saying it needs a closer look. The opponents argue that signals sent over those frequencies could interfere with broadcasts and wireless microphones at live productions.

Jury Finds Venezuelan Guilty in South American Spy Case

The diplomatic tangle between Venezuela, Argentina and the United States reached a new pitch on Monday, when a jury in Miami convicted a wealthy Venezuelan businessman of acting as an “unregistered agent” of Venezuela on American soil.

The case, known in Latin America as “Suitecasegate,” started last year with the discovery of a mysterious suitcase filled with $800,000 in cash at an airport here. But it has erupted into a long-running scandal that has aggravated tensions between the United States and its neighbors to the south.

Franklin Duran, the businessman convicted Monday, went on trial in Miami for conspiring to cover up the origin and destination of the suitcase: It was a secret contribution, prosecutors said, sent by Venezuela’s government to bolster the campaign of Argentina’s president. Duran faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The case has become a symbol of the antagonism between the Bush administration and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has used his nation’s oil wealth to spread his influence throughout the region.

The scandal has also soured America’s relations with Argentina and its president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose legitimacy has been challenged by the revelations of secret campaign donations from outside her country.

Both Chavez and Kirchner accused the United States of political motivations in bringing the case last December, a charge officials in Washington and Miami have repeatedly denied.

A Feud at the Top Paralyzes Ukraine

Four years ago this month, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of this capital city to take back an election they saw as stolen. That outpouring, called the Orange Revolution, brought fresh hopes for freedoms and for a release from the country’s Soviet past that few other former republics had ever experienced.

The early promise of those days frayed in recent years, but economically times were good, and the country always seemed to manage.

But now, confronted by the global financial crisis, the new Ukraine is facing the single biggest test of its stability, and its leaders, by most accounts, seem to be at risk of failing.

Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko and President Viktor A. Yushchenko, former political allies, are now locked in a bitter power struggle that has paralyzed the state, leaving it without a leader at precisely the time it most needs one.

Even as the West bends to help it, with the International Monetary Fund pledging an emergency $16.5 billion loan last month, it barely pulled itself together to meet the conditions for the money. Yushchenko, intent on getting rid of Tymoshenko, is trying to force early elections for December. To make sure the elections come off, his party spent most of last week trying to slip a campaign finance clause into the legislation package that was required for the loan.

Coach Maradona? New Post Creates Stir in Argentina

“Soccer has a god. That god is Argentine, and his name is Diego Armando Maradona,” proclaims the Web site of the Church of Maradona, an online fan club of Argentina’s unrivaled athletic icon that claims some 20,000 members.

But this month, Diego Maradona, the country’s 48-year-old sporting titan, will try his hand at an all-too-earthly task: managing Argentina’s men’s national team, which has failed to reach the semifinals of the World Cup since “El Diego” himself starred for them in 1986 and 1990.

After retiring 11 years ago, Maradona has remained in the spotlight primarily as the country’s leading real-life soap opera star, waging a series of well-publicized battles with drugs, obesity, the media and past lovers. Now, the hopes and dreams of 40 million soccer-mad Argentines will rest on the shoulders — much-slimmed after a stomach-stapling operation in 2005 — of a man who, in the words of the local newspaper columnist Horacio Pagani, will be “the least prepared manager in the history of international soccer.”