SOLUTION!!!!!! I was reading somewhere about windows firewall being an issue. I thought I had disabled it, but in windows 7, it's a much more complex program than XP. So as a last resort and desperate act, I opened "Control Panel>System and Security>Windows Firewall".
Up in the left hand corner is a link "allow a program or feature....". Click on it. At the top of the new window is a link "Change Settings". Click it. At the bottom "Allow another program". Click on it. Select Firefox. Then click on "add". Viola!! The magic happens. Firefox has been set free.
For whatever, Firefox requires this, but other browsers don't seem affected. Phew.......
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