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Tech firms resist India on software code secrets

NEW DELHI — In the last year, the Indian government surprised foreign telecommunications equipment suppliers like Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco Systems by temporarily blocking the import of new network gear.

The government said it needed to set up a procedure to detect any software embedded in the machines that could be used by foreign governments to spy on or otherwise harm India. Many orders for equipment were stalled for several months and gear from Chinese vendors has been held up for much of the year.

India has loosened restrictions on equipment imports. The country is no longer blocking the imports altogether, but is now requiring equipment makers to obtain government clearance on a case-by-case basis. Or vendors can agree instead to several conditions including depositing source code — the underlying software instructions for the equipment — with the government, as well as having the equipment tested by independent consultants.

“This code is the secret sauce,” said an executive with a Western telecom vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his firm does not publicly discuss negotiations with governments. “That’s why companies are hesitant to do it. Companies invest billions of dollars in research to come up with innovative ways to develop infrastructure, and they’re just asking to have it.”

Handing over that vast amount of data, that executive and others in the industry said, may also violate American technology transfer laws for software developed in the United States, as well as software licensing agreements the equipment makers have made with other companies.

On basic religion test, many Americans doth not pass

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

Socialists’ economic policy in Portugal wins support

Portugal must stick to plans to cut public spending and possibly raise taxes further, according to a report released Monday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development amid a political standoff over the country’s budget plans.

The report by the organization, a group of more than two dozen industrialized countries, broadly endorsed the fiscal policy adopted by the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates. That policy pledges to lower the country’s budget deficit to 7.3 percent of gross domestic product this year, down from 9.3 percent last year, and to 4.6 percent in 2011.

The Socialist government has recently been locked in a dispute over the 2011 budget with the opposition Social Democrats, who are refusing to endorse any additional tax increases.

Southwest, determined to expand, buys Airtran

Southwest Airlines, the nation’s biggest low-cost carrier, said in a surprise announcement Monday that it had agreed to buy its smaller rival AirTran Airways for $1.4 billion. The planned merger would be the third in the last two years in the battered airline industry, after Delta Air Lines bought Northwest in 2008, and the tie-up between United Airlines and Continental, due to be completed Friday.

The Southwest deal comes as the demand for air travel remains sluggish. Even with the airlines holding down capacity, industry executives say, there are still too many planes chasing too few passengers. Airline analysts and some executives said the market would eventually center on just three or four major airlines.

Maker of Blackberry introduces a new tablet

OTTAWA — Research In Motion, the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry smart phone, introduced its first tablet computer Monday at a developers conference in San Francisco. But in a return to its roots, the company said that the new device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, would be aimed mainly at business users.

After popularizing wireless e-mail, RIM has ceded much of its leadership in the smart-phone market to Apple and phones based on Google’s Android operating system.

The introduction of a tablet computer will not end criticism from some analysts that RIM is now playing catch-up with Apple. But in a bid to distinguish the PlayBook from Apple’s iPad, Michael Lazaridis, RIM’s co-chief executive, said that the new tablet contained several features requested by corporate information technology departments.