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Ford Pushing Hard to Convince Workers to Take Buyouts

Ford Motor Co. is applying the hard sell these days — piling on incentives, doling out marketing DVDs and brochures, and making offers it hopes are too good to pass up.

But Ford’s big new push is not to sell cars. Instead, it is trying to sign up thousands of workers to take buyouts, partly by convincing them that their brightest future lies outside the company that long offered middle-class wages for blue-collar jobs.

So Ford is pitching a buffet of buyout packages that are easily among the richest ever offered to factory workers, including one-time cash payments of $140,000 or college tuition plans for an entire family.

The automaker is also putting on job fairs in its plants and mailing each of its 54,000 hourly workers a feature-length DVD, titled “Connecting with Your Future,” that extols the promise of new careers beyond the assembly line.

Last Friday, inside a huge sheet-metal stamping plant in this industrial center south of Detroit, Ford workers spent their lunch hour perusing opportunities to go back to school, hire on at growing companies and open fast-food franchises.

“I am taking it seriously, but it’s really hard to think about leaving,” said Jerry Thomas, a 37-year-old millwright with 12 years at Ford. “The only thing that would make me do it is the uncertainty. We just don’t know what’s going to happen with Ford.”

The unprecedented push to move workers out reflects the tough times in Detroit. Ford has lost $15 billion in the past two years, and General Motors and Chrysler are also restructuring after heavy losses.

While Detroit’s Big Three have already slashed about 80,000 jobs through buyouts and early retirements since 2006, a new blitz is under way to shrink employment even further to make way for lower paid workers in the future.

FCC Weighing Limits On Slowing Web Traffic

The head of the Federal Communications Commission and other senior officials said on Monday that they were considering taking steps to discourage cable and telephone companies from delaying the downloads and uploads of heavy Internet users.

The agency is considering rules and enforcement decisions to force the cable and telephone companies to disclose their policies more clearly for delaying traffic that they say is clogging their systems.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has been the subject of a complaint after it acknowledged that it slowed down some Internet traffic of BitTorrent, a file-sharing service, because of heavy use of video-sharing applications.

Consumer groups have said that such discrimination against some content providers has been aimed at Comcast’s rivals and is both unnecessary and threatens to undermine the freewheeling nature of the Internet. In his comments, Kevin J. Martin, the agency’s chairman, tended to agree.

“They must be conducted in an open and transparent way,” Martin said at a hearing Monday on network neutrality and network management. “While networks may have reasonable practices, they obviously cannot operate without taking some reasonable steps, but that does not mean they can arbitrarily block access to certain services.”

Bush Cool to States’ Call For Public Works Projects

President Bush rebuffed appeals from the nation’s governors on Monday to increase spending on roads, bridges and other public works as a way to revive the economy.

Governors said Bush had told them at a White House meeting that he wanted to see the effects of his economic stimulus package before supporting new measures.

A bipartisan group of governors is pushing for major road and bridge projects as a way to create jobs and foster economic development. But the White House says the money could not be spent fast enough to be of much immediate help.

“There’s no short-term stimulus to the economy for some of these projects,” Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said.

Moreover, Perino said, the president will not accept any bill that raises taxes to finance such projects. Governors would have more money available, she said, if Congress ended the wasteful earmarking of billions of dollars for specific projects.

In a report on Monday, the National Association for Business Economics, a professional group, said, “Economic growth is expected to slow to a crawl in the first half of 2008.”

Annan Says Kenya Negotiations Stall Over Cabinet Positions

Kofi Annan has had just about enough — or so it seems.

Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general who is trying to broker a political peace treaty in Kenya, expressed rare public frustration on Monday, blasting Kenya’s leaders for failing to compromise.

Annan has been locked in a hotel conference room in Nairobi, the capital, for much of the past month, trying to coax Kenya’s government and opposition leaders into sharing power after a disputed election in late December plunged the country into turmoil. And Annan said as recently as late last week that the two sides were close to a deal.

But his tone has changed.

“After four hours of intense negotiations this morning, the negotiating team made almost no progress toward reaching an agreement on governance, despite the fact that they were given the entire weekend to consult on their positions,” Annan said in a stiffly worded statement issued Monday night.