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We had a heck of a time with the show today. TalkShoe burped on us, and we lost the first iteration of the show. The second attempt was much better.

It was a day of light technical stories today, but some very important political stories. In our ongoing coverage of the ‘Vonage Crap’ saga, a unique little fold emerges:

Court Says Vonage Needs To Throw Away Money Into Wasteful USF Program
The Universal Service Fund (USF) is a well-known joke. It’s a hugely wasteful program with almost no oversight. Yet, last year, the FCC decided that VoIP companies needed to pay a huge chunk of their revenue to the USF, despite the fact that doing so would actually slow progress on getting universal service. That’s because the money would go from these new, cheaper services into the bank accounts of the big incumbents who would then promise to provide universal service… without much actually happening. Vonage stood up to this decision and sued, claiming the FCC had no say in the matter, but a court has ruled against Vonage, saying that the FCC didn’t overstep its bounds. With Verizon breathing down Vonage’s neck over patents, the real irony may be that Vonage will now have to hand over money into the USF, that will go right over to Verizon and not into extending service to underserved areas.

And in news that everyone else but me thinks is important:

The Algorithm Is A Disappointment
There’s a lot of discussion today about the newly revamped Ask.com, which remains in the unenviable #4 spot in terms of search market share. Basically, the site seems to have sharpened up its interface a little bit, while incorporating things like news and images into its results page. Additionally, the site offers suggested refinement searches, so if you search for “Sopranos”, it’ll show you a link where you can get results for “Sopranos Merchandise”. All of this is fairly inoffensive, but it’s really hard to see how this is going to move the dial at all. Despite the company’s insistence that it has developed “A Truly New Way to Search”, the whole thing looks like a spin on Google’s recently announced universal search strategy, which involves incorporating more types of media into its results. The look and feel is a tad different, but so what? Even if the new Ask.com returns “better” results than Google in some instances, there’s nothing here that will actually get people to switch. Right now, the company is making a big effort to explain why the new changes are cool, but most people giving the site a try won’t have the benefit of someone explaining to them why the site is now so great. As such, they probably won’t see it themselves.

Turning to political news, power balances out and changes hands:

Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas Dies at 74
WASHINGTON (AP) – Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas, a three-term conservative Republican who stayed clear of the Washington limelight and political catfights, died Monday. He was 74.

The senator’s family issued a statement saying he died Monday evening at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had been receiving chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

Just before the 2006 election, Thomas was hospitalized with pneumonia and had to cancel his last campaign stops. He nonetheless won with 70 percent of the vote, monitoring the election from his hospital bed.

Two days after the election, Thomas announced that he had just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican party.

In big big news, the corruption charges finally come down on Jefferson:

U.S. congressman indicted
in bribery case

Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, was indicted Monday on federal charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering in a long-running bribery investigation into business deals he tried to broker in Africa.

The indictment handed up in federal court in Alexandria., Virginia, Monday is 94 pages long and lists 16 alleged violations of federal law that could keep Jefferson in prison for up to 235 years, according to a Justice Department official who has seen the document.

Among the charges listed in the indictment, said the official, are racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.(Read the indictment [PDF])

Jefferson is accused of soliciting bribes for himself and his family, and also for bribing a Nigerian official.

Almost two years ago, in August 2005, investigators raided Jefferson’s home in Louisiana and found $90,000 in cash stuffed into a box in his freezer

And another Republican throws his hat into the ring:

Gingrich Rips ‘Dysfunctional’ Administration
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said Sunday that President George W. Bush is leading an administration that “is not functioning.

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