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FTC suit accuses Talbots of
illegal telemarketing

The Federal Trade Commission Monday accused the Hingham clothing retailer of making at least 3.4 million telemarketing calls in 2009 for its Talbots and J. Jill brands that violated federal law intended to protect consumers against intrusive telemarketing.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court, the commission alleged that the prerecorded sales pitches, made between February and July, violated federal telemarketing rules that make it easy for recipients to stop receiving such marketing calls. Specifically, the FTC said Talbots failed to let customers know right away that they could press a button or call a toll-free number to be added to the company’s Do Not Call list.

For example, in one prerecorded call, the federal agency said, the retailer forced customers to listen to an ad for 30 to 40 seconds before telling them: “to make sure you’ll receive prerecorded exclusive J. Jill savings and event messages - like this one, please press 1 now,’’ or call a provided toll-free number.

Talbots declined to comment on the lawsuit; the FTC did not return calls for comment.

Wal-Mart sex discrimination lawsuit cleared for trial

In a closely watched case, a sharply divided federal appeals court on Monday ruled 6-5 that a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart can proceed as a class action for more than 1 million women. The lawsuit is the biggest employment discrimination case in the nation’s history. After a decade of pretrial maneuvering, the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paves the way for a trial to begin for the plaintiffs, who are seeking billions of dollars from Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

“Wal-Mart tries to project an improved image as a good corporate citizen,” said Brad Seligman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “No amount of PR is going to work until it addresses the claims of its female employees.”

The lawsuit, brought in 2001, accuses the retailer of systematically paying women less than men, giving them smaller raises and offering women fewer opportunities for promotion. The plaintiffs stressed that while 65 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly employees were women, only 33 percent of company’s managers were.

In wake of immigration law, calls for a boycott of Arizona

A spreading call for an economic boycott of Arizona after its adoption of a tough immigration law that opponents consider racially discriminatory worried business leaders Monday and angered the governor.

Several immigrant advocates and civil rights groups, joined by members of the San Francisco government, said the state should pay economic consequences for the new law, which gives the police broad power to detain people they reasonably suspect are illegal immigrants and arrest them on state charges if they do not have legal status.

Critics say the law will lead to widespread ethnic and racial profiling and will be used to harass legal residents and Latino citizens.

La Opinion, the nation’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, urged a boycott in an editorial Monday, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton, and calls for such action spread to social media sites. The San Francisco city attorney and members of the Board of Supervisors said they would propose that the city not do business with the state.

Roethlisberger apologizes and accepts his suspension

In his first public comments since he was suspended for up to six games by the NFL last week, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger emphasized Monday that he committed no crime during an incident with a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia bar, but added that he was sorry he let his teammates and Steelers fans down. Roethlisberger said he would not appeal the suspension, which could be reduced to four games – or lengthened beyond six games – depending on Roethlisberger’s compliance with a behavioral evaluation ordered by the league.

The college student accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault after they encountered each other during a night of drinking at several Milledgeville, Ga., bars. The details of the police investigation, which included a statement by the woman that she repeatedly said no to Roethlisberger when he approached her with his genitals exposed, cast Roethlisberger in such an unflattering light that Steelers fans have largely turned on him.

Hugh Hefner helps save
well-known Hollywood sign

LOS ANGELES – The landmark Hollywood sign will stand, unobscured, on scrub-covered slopes overlooking production studios and palm trees here, thanks to a $900,000 donation by Hugh Hefner in the ninth inning of a yearlong effort by conservationists to protect the hilltop around the sign from developers.

The gift from Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, closed the gap in donations to meet the $12.5 million price that the Trust for Public Land had agreed to pay for the 138-acre parcel on the hilltop, called Cahuenga Peak. Million-dollar donations came from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Aileen Getty, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised online and at bake sales and lemonade stands. The deadline was the end of this month.

“The sign is Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower,” Hefner said on Monday, adding, “This sign represents the dreams and aspirations of people around the world.”