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NATIONNew Ford model to roll out

A vicious hailstorm last month pounded thousands of Ford's popular new Escape SUVs as they awaited shipment to U.S. car dealerships. But the damage won't slow the rollout of the new, highly anticipated model, the company said. The storm struck Louisville, Ky., April 28 and damaged about 3,500 Escapes, according to local news reports. The cars are assembled at a nearby plant. Todd Nissen, a Ford spokesman, would not confirm the number of cars that were damaged because the process of inspecting each vehicle is "a fairly time-consuming process." Sales of the Ford Explorer SUV hit a four-year high after a redesign and the company hopes to reproduce that success with a makeover of the Ford Escape. Damaged units won't be sold to the public as new cars, Nissen said. -- AP

WORLDMicrosoft to partner with Iraq

Microsoft Corp. said Monday it has appointed a local company to distribute its products in Iraq, calling the move a sign of progress for the country. Microsoft's manager of business development for emerging markets, Rajai S. El-Khadem, said the software giant had chosen the Baghdad-based Legend Lands Co. as its Iraqi partner. El-Khadem called the Iraqi market a "promising and aggressive" one that "needs to be served at the same level as all the other countries." But he also called on the Iraqi government to approve laws that protect intellectual property rights and usage of software. -- AP

Pressure on China service sector

China should further open its fledgling services sector to foreign investment to help sustain its economic rise, World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy said Monday. "The WTO needs China to take the lead in pursuing greater services opening," Lamy said at a services trade fair in Beijing. China's services sector is underdeveloped despite its breakneck economic growth, making up just 43 percent of gross domestic product, compared with more than 70 percent in Western economies. China wants to increase the share to 47 percent of GDP by 2015, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. Opening up the services industry could unlock new sources of growth at a time when the world's second-largest economy is slowing. -- Reuters

DuPont gets majority stake OK

DuPont Co. agricultural subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred received regulatory clearance to purchase a majority stake in the South African seed company Pannar Seed Ltd., the companies said Monday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. DuPont, a Wilmington, Del.-based chemical maker, said the South African Competition Appeal Court approved the deal, overturning a decision by the South African Competition Tribunal. In addition to buying a stake in Pannar, Pioneer said it will spend $7.3 million by 2017 to establish a regional research center in South Africa that brings advanced research and development breeding technologies to Africa. Des Moines, Iowa-based Pioneer develops advanced plant genetics and provides seeds to farmers in more than 90 countries. -- AP

AOL squatter gets own home

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur who secretly lived at the office of AOL Inc. to save money now has his own place. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Eric Simons, 20, recently received $50,000 in new funding and is renting a house in Palo Alto, Calif. Simons ended up at AOL with a $20,000 grant from a business incubator that used AOL's Palo Alto office. When he was no longer able to pay rent, he made the office his home. He kept clothes at the AOL gym, slept on couches and grabbed snacks that were set out for everyone in the morning. He was caught after about two months by a manager in the building. His story, first reported by technology website CNET last week, has generated a buzz that has attracted other investors. -- AP

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