World and Nation

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Battle looms on low-ratestudent loans

President Barack Obama begins an all-out push Friday to get Congress to extend the low interest rate on federal student loans, White House officials said, an effort that is likely to become a heated battle along party lines. If Congress fails to act, the interest rate on the loans, which are taken out by nearly 8 million students each year, will double on July 1, to 6.8 percent.

White House officials said the president was planning a sustained effort through the spring: On Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will discuss the issue at a White House briefing, and on Saturday in his weekly address, the president will call on Congress to pass legislation preventing the rate hike.

Next week, Obama will again hammer the issue — during visits Tuesday to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Wednesday at the University of Iowa. The White House also has plans for a social media campaign through Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter.

At a time when Americans owe more on student loans than on credit cards — student debt is topping $1 trillion for the first time — and the Occupy movement has highlighted the rising furor over spiraling student debt, the issue has moved higher on the political agenda. But the question of what to do about the looming interest rate increase has landed deep in the chasm separating Democrats from Republicans, who accuse the president of using the issue in a fiscally irresponsible way in an attempt to buy the youth vote.

—Tamar Lewin, The New York Times

Human Genome Sciences rejects a bid from Glaxo

The biotechnology company Human Genome Sciences rejected an unsolicited $2.59 billion takeover bid Thursday from the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

Human Genome Sciences, based in Rockville, Md., said the offer did not reflect the value of the company, but added that it had started to explore its strategic options, including the potential sale of the business.

Glaxo has been asked to participate in this process, according to a statement from Human Genome Sciences. There are no assurances that a deal will eventually take place, the company added.

Under the terms of its deal, GlaxoSmithKline, based in London, offered $13 a share in cash to shareholders of Human Genome Sciences, an 81 percent premium on the company’s closing share price on Wednesday.

The proposed deal would be the fifth-largest foreign takeover of a U.S. biotech company, according to the data provider S&P Capital IQ.

“We are disappointed that Human Genome Sciences has rejected our offer without discussion,” Glaxo’s chief executive, Andrew Witty, said in a statement. “Having worked together with Human Genome Sciences for nearly 20 years, we believe there is clear strategic and financial logic to this combination for both companies and our respective shareholders.”

—Andrew Pollack and Mark Scott, The New York Times

Sudanese clashes raise fears of a new war

LAMU, Kenya — Less than a year South Sudan was born out of a delicate peace agreement with Sudan, the two countries have plunged into war, a Sudanese government spokesman said Thursday.

Recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has grown from a struggle over the contested, oil-rich region of Heglig to inflame a number of areas along the border and beyond.

Earlier this week, Sudanese planes struck “deep into South Sudan,” hitting an important town, according to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A U.N. compound inside South Sudan was also hit by bombs.

For its part, South Sudan has claimed to have shot down Sudanese jets and killed hundreds of Sudanese soldiers in battles over Heglig, which it said it captured from Sudan last week.

The African Union has condemned South Sudan’s seizure of Heglig as illegal, and the U.N. Security Council has demanded an immediate end to the fighting, a withdrawal of the South’s troops from Heglig, an end to Sudanese aerial bombardments and a halt to repeated cross-border violence.

—Josh Kron, The New York Times

Mobile data service fees help bolster profit at Verizon

Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest cellphone service, on Thursday reported that in the first three months of the year fewer customers joined its service compared with the same period last year.

Adding subscribers is essential to carriers, as they can rake in hefty amounts from charges to phone bills. But the predicament for carriers is that because most people who want a cellphone already have one, their subscriber growth has been anemic. That was the case for Verizon, which said it added 734,000 subscribers in the first quarter, 16 percent fewer than a year ago.

Verizon still managed to post a profit of $1.7 billion for the quarter, largely because of the fees that customers pay to watch videos, browse the Web or play music over Verizon’s network on their smartphones and tablets. Revenues generated from mobile data services were $6.6 billion, up 21.1 percent.

“We built momentum coming out of 2011, and our results show that we continue to execute in the key growth areas of our business,” Lowell McAdam, Verizon chief executive, said in a statement issued with its financial report.

Mobile data use is growing fast. Cisco, the networking company, recently published a study showing that mobile data more than doubled in 2011, and it predicts that by 2016 it will have grown by a factor of 18.

In light of the slowdown in subscription growth, Verizon will most likely be introducing new methods to continue to expand its revenue from mobile data, said Chetan Sharma, an independent telecom analyst.

—Brian X. Chen, The New York Times