Seeing Glass Half Empty

In a rebuke to Chairman Michael Powell's deregulatory agenda, the Federal Communications Commission decided that the regional phone giants would have to continue to lease their old copper wire networks to upstart competitors at regulated rates -- but not any new optical fiber lines and fancy switches they might install to deliver high-speed Internet service. Unhappy with the split decision, the former Bells vowed another round of lawsuits and said they would hold back on major investments in next-generation networks.

Debt Limit Squeezes Again

The Treasury said it would temporarily dip into the federal employee retirement fund to avoid a cash crunch in the weeks before April 15 tax checks begin rolling in. The move is necessary because Congress has failed to act on the Bush administration's request to raise the government's $6.4 trillion debt. Republican leaders hope to get around the politically touchy subject of budget deficits by including language in the 2004 budget resolution effectively removing any ceiling on the national debt.

IPO Suit Gains Ground

Wall Street suffered a setback last week when a federal judge in New York refused to dismiss a class-action suit filed by investors claiming that securities firms manipulated the market for initial public offerings. The 238-page ruling paves the way for plaintiffs' lawyers to begin questioning industry executives under oath and reviewing files and e-mails. The discovery process will put pressure on firms such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs to settle rather than risk trial and adverse publicity from embarrassing disclosures.

Bleeding From Whiteout

The Presidents' Day snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast was the latest blow to an already shaky economic recovery. Car dealers, department stores and airlines, all of which had heavily promoted holiday discounts, had to write off what was supposed to have been their biggest weekend of the quarter. Economists predicted the retailers would recover some of the sales but not all: Some of the money was spent by homebound consumers at supermarkets and video rental stores, which enjoyed booming sales.

Partisan Persuasion

Republican Party leaders continued to press business groups to follow a "Republicans only" policy in hiring Washington lobbyists. The latest target: the mutual fund industry, which happens to be under investigation by the House Financial Services Committee. As a result of comments made by committee staffers, the Investment Company Institute, the industry's trade group, is now looking for a card-carrying Republican to work alongside veteran Democratic lobbyist Julie Domenick.