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T-Mobile may suffer if AT&T merger deal falls through

When AT&T agreed to buy T-Mobile USA in March, the deal looked like a happy fate for a company that had been losing customers and facing declining sales.

But should the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on Wednesday kill the proposed merger, some analysts say, it could leave T-Mobile in a much worse position than it was in before the deal was announced, its competitiveness sapped by months spent in limbo.

“This is a business that is treading water,” said Robin Bienenstock, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. who tracks T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom, its parent company. “They have to go back into the market in the meantime, and they are going to have to figure out a way to build momentum in their core business.”

T-Mobile has long staked its reputation on offering low-cost service plans. But in recent months, the company has lost ground to its larger rivals, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint, which have lured away subscribers with popular devices like the iPhone and the promise of faster networks and services.

—Jenna Wortham, The New York Times

Study suggests higher cancer 
risk for 9/11 firefighters

A new study says firefighters who toiled in the wreckage of the World Trade Center in 2001 were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who were not there, the strongest evidence to date of a possible link between work at ground zero and cancer.

The study, published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet, included almost 10,000 New York City firefighters, most of whom were exposed to the dust and smoke created by the twin towers’ fall. The findings indicate an “increased likelihood for the development of any type of cancer,” said Dr. David J. Prezant, the chief medical officer for the New York Fire Department, who led the study. But he said the results were far from conclusive. Cancer is not on the list of illnesses covered by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which has set aside $4.3 billion to treat, compensate and monitor those suffering from health problems associated with the attacks and their aftermath, like asthma and other respiratory ailments. But the law requires officials at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to conduct periodic reviews of studies to assess whether to add illnesses to the list.

The first review, released on July 26, said that available research had not yet confirmed a link between exposure to substances released after the attack and cancer. But the study published Thursday is the largest assessment of cancer to date in firefighters who worked at ground zero.

The report studied cancer occurrence in nearly 10,000 male fire department personnel in the seven years after Sept. 11, 2001. Of those in the study, 8,927 were classified as exposed, meaning they spent at least one day at the World Trade Center site in the 10 months after Sept. 11. Almost all of those were exposed in the first two weeks after the attack. There were 263 cancer cases in the exposed population, reflecting a cancer rate 19 percent higher than that of the group not exposed.

—Sydney Ember, The New York Times

Rebels vow to keep up fight for political change in Sudan

KAMPALA, Uganda — Rebels in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where armed conflict is inflaming tensions between the government and the newly independent Republic of South Sudan, are not only preparing for a protracted war in the region but also vowing to take the fight nationwide to pursue political change in Sudan.

Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, a rebel leader, said this week that his forces, which have been on the defensive against the Sudanese Army, were gaining recruits, preparing to go on the offensive and would “continue until we reach Khartoum,” the Sudanese capital.

“Everybody is a soldier,” Abdel Hilu said. “People have said enough is enough.”

He added, “We have no choice: We have to continue fighting, to defend our people and also for regime change in Khartoum.”

The rebel leader, a losing candidate last year in an election for governor that helped ignite tensions in the region, denied being supported by South Sudan. He said that his insurgents had captured dozens of armored vehicles, retrieved weapons and shot down Sudanese military aircraft.

—Josh Kron, The New York Times

Car buyers unfazed by storms, financial and tropical

DETROIT — Despite disruptions from Hurricane Irene and signs of a slowing economy, Americans bought more cars in August.

General Motors, the Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler all posted impressive gains from a year earlier in their August data released on Thursday. Industrywide, sales rose 7.5 percent from a year ago and 1.2 percent from July, according to the Autodata Corp., which tracks auto sales.

“Consumers are getting used to making these big-ticket item purchase decisions in an everlasting, chaotic, uncertain economic environment,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president for industry trends and insight at TrueCar.com, an automotive research firm.

Almost all of the 20 largest automakers have sales gains for the year to date. The only exceptions are Honda and Toyota, whose dealers have struggled to keep their lots stocked sufficiently since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan early this year. Honda’s sales in the U.S. fell 24.3 percent last month from August 2010, and Toyota’s sales declined 12.7 percent.

GM sales rose 18 percent, and Ford reported an 11.1 percent increase. But both companies are having trouble keeping up with demand for their respective compact cars, the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus, among other models. Chrysler said its August sales rose 30.6 percent, including a 58 percent increase for its Jeep brand of sport utility vehicles.

—Nick Bunkley, The New York Times