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Anticipated Amazon tablet to take aim at Apple iPad

SAN FRANCISCO — One after another, like moths to a flame, technology companies have been seduced into entering the market for tablets. Apple made it look so irresistible, with 29 million eager and sometimes fanatical consumers snapping up an iPad in the device’s first 15 months.

None, however, could beg or borrow any of Apple’s magic. Now comes what might be the best-placed challenger of all: Amazon.com. The retailer is on the verge of introducing its own tablet, analysts predict, a souped-up color version of its Kindle e-reader that will undercut the iPad in price and aim to steal away a couple of million in unit sales by Christmas.

The Amazon tablet, analysts believe, will most likely sell for about $250, half the price of the basic iPad. Its screen will be 7 inches as opposed to the iPad’s 10 inches. Unlike the current Kindle, it will operate by touch. A second tablet, with a bigger screen, is expected next year.

—David Streitfeld, The New York Times

Facebook enters politics with PAC

Facebook wants more friends. And it is willing to pay for them. The Silicon Valley social media company has for the first time formed an old-fashioned political action committee and will use it to distribute cash to candidates in the coming elections. It is just one indication of how social media companies are integrating with the political landscape in a season in which these businesses are growing presences in the campaign conversation.

“FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” a company spokesman said.

The move comes as technology companies like Facebook are moving quickly to increase their influence in Washington amid increasingly complex legislative debates about patents, monopoly status and concerns about the privacy of users.

—Michael D. Shear & Jennifer Preston, The New York Times

Graduation rates stagnant even as enrollment rises

A report to be released Tuesday by a group seeking to raise college graduation rates shows that despite decades of steadily climbing enrollment rates, the percentage of students making it to the finish line is barely budging.

The group, Complete College America, is a nonprofit founded two years ago with financing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and others. Its report, which had the cooperation of 33 governors, showed how many of the students in states completed their degrees, broken down into categories, including whether enrollment is full or part time, or at a two- or four-year institution.

The numbers are stark: in Texas, for example, of every 100 students who enrolled in a public college, 79 started at a community college, and only two of them earned a two-year degree on time; even after four years, only seven graduated. Of the 21 of those 100 who enrolled at a four-year college, five graduate on time; after eight years, only 13 had earned a degree. Similarly, in Utah, for 100 students who enrolled in a public college, 71 chose a community college, 45 enrolling full time and 26 part time; after four years, only 14 of the full-time students and one of the part-time students graduated. Of the 29 who started at a four-year college, only 13 got their degree within eight years.

Currently, federal education statistics generally focus on first-time full-time students. But according to the report, about 4 of every 10 public college students attend part time — and no more than a quarter of part-time students ever graduate.

—Tamar Lewin, The New York Times