Google’s DoubleClick buy scrutinized

Google faced off against Microsoft and other critics of its proposed $3.1 billion purchase of ad broker DoubleClick at a Senate antitrust hearing yesterday. Critics say the deal could threaten consumer privacy by consolidating huge amounts of Web-surfing data on individuals in one dominant company. (The Washington Post) The Senate can’t block the deal, but it could influence the Federal Trade Commission or pass new Internet privacy laws. Sen. Herb Kohl (D, Wisc.) said the Senate would continue looking at whether the deal gives “Google a stranglehold over Internet advertising,” but he called the hearing a draw. (MarketWatch)

Bush takes on flight delays

The Bush administration took steps to deal with record airport congestion and flight delays, including hiking compensation for bumped passengers to $624, from $200. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters also threatened to implement a congestion-pricing premium for takeoff slots during peak hours in the three airports that serve New York City. (New York Daily News) One-third of U.S. air traffic passes through the New York area. (MarketWatch) “There’s a lot of anger amongst our citizens about the fact that, you know, they’re just not being treated right,” Bush said. (The New York Times, free registration required)

The grain crunch

The surging price of wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops that provide half of the world’s calories is having a huge, global and growing economic impact. Economists say that unlike previous boom-and-bust commodity cycles, this rally is being fed by new sources of demand—U.S. fuel subsidies, and increased buying from Asia and Latin America. “The days of cheap grain are gone,” says Dan Basse of commodity forecaster AgResource. (The Wall Street Journal) The resulting windfall for Midwestern farmers, coupled with ethanol subsides, is leading to increasing criticism of U.S. crop subsidies. (The Washington Post)

Hammered on cocktails

Some homeowners, hit by the housing slump and inspired by home-improvement TV shows, are looking to save money by having their friends over for cocktails and renovation. But having amateurs use power tools while drinking isn’t always the best way to save money. Professional contractors often have to come in to clean up botched home-improvement parties, and one Tennessee contractor now offers to supervise the parties for $40 an hour. At one party in Toronto, guest demolitionist Roland Dandy knocked down the wrong wall. “I just thought, ‘This is the cost of free labor,’” he says. (The Wall Street Journal)