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Business in brief: Microsoft buys map company

Thu., Dec. 13, 2007, midnight

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it has acquired a United Kingdom online mapping company to enhance its existing Windows Live Web-based services.

The software maker did not say what it paid for Multimap, which provides street-level maps, travel directions and local information. Multimap also offers hotel- and restaurant-booking services and builds private-label mapping tools for companies, including Hilton Hotels and Ford Motor Co.

Microsoft said Multimap will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft as part of its Search and Virtual Earth teams.

Microsoft’s search engine gets fewer queries each month than No. 1 Google Inc. or No. 2 Yahoo Inc., but the company has said that improvements to its search engine this fall made its results just as good as Google’s. At that time, Microsoft also retooled the interface of its own map-based local search site.


Farm bill subsidies intact

Asparagus farmers held on to $15 million in farm bill subsidies Wednesday as conservatives targeted the money as an example of wasteful spending in the multibillion-dollar legislation.

The Senate rejected, 56-39, an amendment by Sen. Judd Gregg that would have taken the asparagus money out of the $286 billion legislation. Asparagus growers have not received direct subsidies in the past, and Gregg and other opponents of the wide-ranging farm legislation said the money is illustrative of the bloated bill that is nonetheless politically popular in farm country.

“The bill is replete with these types of programs,” said Gregg, R-N.H. “I think we ought to at least make a statement on one that we’re going to be fiscally responsible.”

Farm-state senators from both parties held together to save the asparagus language, authored by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat. Stabenow said producers have suffered because trade agreements have increased the amount of imported asparagus in recent years.

The Senate also defeated a Gregg amendment to strike a provision that calls for stress assistance programs for farmers.


Trolley service makes debut

Seattle’s south Lake Union trolley is now in service, making its maiden run Wednesday between the downtown retail core and the developing area where the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is located.

The 1.3 mile line has 11 stops where the streetcar passes every 15 minutes.

The line cost $52 million for the city to build and it will cost $1.7 million a year for Metro to operate.

Rides are free this month. Then the fare will be $1.50.

Among those at the noon-hour sendoff were people wearing T-shirts with the acronym for South Lake Union Trolley: SLUT.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said, “I don’t care what you call it as long as you ride it.”


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