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How to apply for converter coupons

TV-watching households on Jan. 1 may start applying for as much as $80 in federal coupons good toward converter boxes that many will need to view over-the-air broadcasts in 2009.

A host of retailers, including Best Buy Co. Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., will carry the boxes, which translate digital TV signals for older sets. An estimated 13 million to 21 million households that rely on an antenna to watch TV will need converters, newer sets with built-in digital tuners or satellite or cable service after the switch.

The $1.5 billion program, enough to fund 33.5 million coupons, ends March 31, 2009.

Companies including LG Electronics Inc. and Royal Philips Electronics NV’s Magnavox and Philco operations have manufactured boxes approved by the government, and more are expected.

The devices, expected to cost $60 to $70, should be available at about 14,000 stores nationwide through more than 100 retailers, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Consumers may request two $40 certificates per household. Full-power stations will switch to digital on Feb. 17, 2009.

People may call a 24-hour hotline, (888) DTV-2009, or visit, which goes online Jan. 1.

For more information, visit


House approves do-not-call bills

The House voted to make permanent the program protecting people from telemarketer calls, relieving consumers from having to renew their participation in the do-not-call registry.

After Congress in 2003 created the do-not-call registry shielding millions of people from those dinnertime interruptions from telemarketers, the Federal Trade Commission wrote rules requiring consumers to re-register their phone numbers every five years.

The new legislation makes the list permanent.

A second bill passed by the House makes permanent a funding system under which the FTC collects fees from telemarketers to operate the registry. Consumers participate in the registry free of charge.

Some 146 million people have signed up for the do-not-call list.

Both bills passed on voice votes. They still need Senate approval.


Buffett: Tax system benefits super-rich

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday warned of the dangers of a growing gap between rich and poor and a tax system that disproportionately helps people he calls “these super-rich” – and he’s one of them.

“A firehose has been showered on me, and nothing has trickled beneath,” Buffett said in a joint appearance with the Democratic presidential contender.

At a campaign fundraiser that raised $1 million, Clinton played moderator and asked the man known as the Oracle of Omaha a series of questions about the economy. Some of the inquiries were drawn from the audience of 1,500.

Buffett indirectly blamed the Bush administration for a tax code he said is out of whack.

“In the last seven-eight years what has happened is that the super-rich have gotten a huge break,” said Buffett, one of the world’s richest men with a net worth of $52 billion, according to Forbes magazine.