Public Web access planned
Verizon Communications Inc, the largest US local-telephone services provider, plans to equip some of its more than 300,000 public telephones with wireless Web access, to boost its position as an Internet provider, the Washington Post reported. The move is the latest in a series of steps that Verizon is taking to compete with high-speed Internet services offered by cable-television providers, the Post said. The company recently announced it will cut monthly rates for high-speed Internet access by as much as 40 percent and expand the reach of its digital subscriber-line, or DSL, service. Verizon has about 1.3 million DSL customers, trailing cable companies including Comcast Corp, with about 4 million broadband subscribers, and AOL Time Warner Inc's Time Warner Cable with about 2.7 million.
Gates calls for AIDS action
Microsoft Corp chairman Bill Gates said in a televised interview that capitalism is failing to curb diseases such as AIDS that kill millions around the world. "You know capitalism is this wonderful thing that motivates people, it causes wonderful inventions to be done," Gates said in interview with PBS's Now With Bill Moyers. "But in this area of diseases of the world at large, it's really let us down." Gates, who has a net worth of US$40.7 billion, is the world's richest person, according to Forbes magazine. He pledged US$200 million in January to help accelerate research on AIDS, malaria and other diseases. "How we deal with the AIDS epidemic should be one of the greatest ways that the world gets measured, the report card for this era these next few decades," Gates said.
Japan, EU join efforts
Japan and the EU will work together to set the standard for next-generation auto technologies, including fuel cells and intelligent transportation systems (ITS), a report said yesterday. They will cooperate with Japanese and European auto makers to produce auto techno--logies up to standards set by the International Organ-ization for Standardization (ISO), the Yomiuri Shimbun said. ISO, a non-governmental organization, is the world's largest developer of standards with its principal activity of developing technical standards. With a tie-up with the EU, Japan hopes to better compete with the US in the field of next-generation auto tech-nologies, the daily said. By 2005, Japan and the EU hope to win an approval from ISO for their fuel-cell technologies, it said.
■ Fiscal policy
France to freeze spending
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has written to Cabinet members, confirming his decision to freeze state spending for next year at this year's levels. "The government mustn't spend a euro more in 2004," Raffarin wrote in a letter dated May 7 and quoted in Le Monde newspaper on Saturday. The European Commission has called for France to take urgent action to trim its ballooning public deficit or face multi-million euro fines. Raffarin earlier told members of parliament that any new spending should be financed by cuts elsewhere. "If we want to give society some breathing space, the state must have a somewhat rigorous budget discipline," Le Monde quoted him as saying.