Qwest Communications International and members of its largest union went back to the bargaining table Sunday for further negotiations after...

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Qwest Communications International and members of its largest union went back to the bargaining table Sunday for further negotiations after a labor contract expired.

The talks come a little more than a week before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Qwest is providing phone and Internet services.

Qwest also is providing service to the Republican National Convention that begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.

Workers represented by the Communications Workers of America voted to authorize a strike if needed, but CWA organizing coordinator Al Kogler said no strike had been called when the contract expired after 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The union represents about 20,000 Qwest workers in 13 Western and Midwest states, including Washington.


GAO criticizes investment plan

The federal agency charged with backstopping pension benefits for 44 million Americans has understated the risks of its new investment policy, a congressional watchdog said today.

The Government Accountability Office said the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s new strategy could significantly boost investment returns but it “will likely also carry more risk than acknowledged by PBGC’s analysis.”

The PBGC said this year it would be more aggressive by investing more in stocks and adding new alternative investments, such as real estate and private equity funds.

The agency hopes the strategy will help it close a $14 billion gap between its $68 billion in assets and its liabilities. Otherwise, taxpayers could be called upon to pony up extra funding.

The PBGC has said its new approach will reduce risk because it will result in a more diversified portfolio of 45 percent stocks, 45 percent bonds, and 10 percent in alternative investments.

Its previous targets were 75 to 85 percent bonds and 15 to 25 percent in stocks, though the actual figure reached 28 percent last year.

The PBGC insures approximately 30,000 defined-benefit pension plans.

It now covers pensions for 1.3 million Americans who are either retired or soon will be. That’s up from 624,000 in 2001.

Consumer electronics

Toshiba to focus on DVD players

After losing out in the battle to define the high-definition successor of the DVD, Toshiba has turned its attention to the next best thing: the DVD.

Today the Japanese electronics company is releasing a new DVD player that it says does more than previous models to improve the look of DVDs on high-definition TVs.

The XD-E500 will sell for $150, twice as much as regular “upconverting” players, which also improve the look of a DVD, but it is less than half the price of a Blu-ray player.

The Blu-ray disc, championed by Sony, early this year beat out Toshiba’s HD DVD to become the dominant format for high-definition discs.

Blu-ray players have six times the image detail of a DVD, and upscaling players, even those using XDE technology, can’t overcome that. But they can sharpen edges to overcome the blurriness of a DVD on a large screen.


Economic news lags, study finds

Media coverage of the economic downturn in the U.S. has lagged behind both economic activity and public interest, according to a study being released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The Washington, D.C., research group analyzed more than 5,000 economic stories in 2007 and the first half of 2008.

The stories, by 48 different news outlets, were delivered by cable-news channels, network television, radio, newspapers and the Internet.

Compiled from The Associated Press, The New York Times and Bloomberg News