Staffers get island retreat
British entrepreneur Richard Branson has bought an island off Australia's eastern coast for the worldwide staff of his Virgin companies. Branson told reporters in the western Australian city of Perth on Friday that Virgin would be forking out A$5 million (US$3.2 million) to buy "Makepeace" island off the plush Sunshine Coast resort of Noosa and turn it into an "ecotourism retreat." The 10.2 hectare island will have a main house, camping sites, a training center and tree-house accommodation. It will offer tennis courts, nature walks and water sports. Branson said he bought it to thank staff for making the Virgin group a success. Virgin Blue, Branson's discount Australian airline which posted a more than 200 percent jump in net profit this year, has around 2,500 staff. Worldwide, the Virgin companies employ around 50,000 people, a spokes-woman said.
EU wants intervention
The US and Europe, at odds over Iraq, have added another front to the trans-atlantic tussle: currencies. US Secretary of the Treasury John Snow says the dollar's slide against the euro in the past year helps American exports and that exchange rates are "best set" by the market. Francis Mer, his French counterpart and host of this weekend's meeting of G7 finance ministers, said a weaker dollar saps demand for European exports and called on the European Central Bank to act. Central bankers may judge that now is the right time "to respond to this quite rapid change in the currency" and cut interest rates, Mer said on Thursday. Snow has little incentive to make life easier for Europe as the US trade deficit swells to the second-highest on record, retail sales decline and industrial production slides.
Japanese electronics giant Hitachi said yesterday it had developed technology to make DVDs with storage capacity for 200 movies and aimed to commercialize the technology in 2007. The firm developed the cutting-edge technology with Hitachi Maxell Ltd, a subsidiary specializing in audio and video tapes. "We expect demand for a DVD with a bigger capacity and hope to market the product globally in the near future," said Hitachi Ltd spokesman Takeshi Kawakami. The latest technology involves stacking multiple data-storing layers to ensure accurate reading and writing of a vast amount of data that can run up to 400 hours. Expanding DVD storage capacity requires increasing the number of layers used in a DVD.