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Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 12 News List

World business quick take

SARS closures

Ricoh closes factory

Ricoh Co, Japan's second-biggest office-equipment maker, said it shut a factory in Beijing for six days earlier this month after a worker was diagnosed with SARS. Ricoh closed the plant, which produces thermal transfer ribbons, from May 6 to 11, said spokesman Takanobu Matsunami. The company, which said SARS hasn't affected its production or earnings, asked 50 of the plant's 60 employees to stay home during the period. SARS has killed 662 people worldwide, with more than 80 percent of deaths in China and Hong Kong, according to the World Health Organization's Web site.

Technology

Temporary DVD unveiled

The Walt Disney Co is to test a rental DVD that self destructs in a bid to increase home viewing of its movies. The DVD's will go on sale in August for slightly more than it costs to rent a movie. Buyers can view the enclosed movie as many times as they want for 48 hours after opening the package, after which a chemical will be released that will render the movie unwatchable. Disney also plans to launch a trial version of a pay-per-view movie receiver box, which will plug into televisions like other devices such as video recorders. The box will come pre-loaded with 100 films, and Disney will upload about 10 more per month via broadcast in the pilot markets. Scheduled to launch in Salt Lake City and two other cities, Disney will make the set-top receivers available for rent at elec-tronics stores. Movie prices will be similar to those of rentals, and viewers will be able to watch a rented film as many times as they wish within a 24-hour period. Disney hopes that cus-tomers will use its new technology from home rather than drive to video rental stores.

Taxes

Expats keep tax break

The US Congress appears likely to retain tax-free status for 6 million Americans living overseas that make less than US$80,000 per year, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. A repeal of the Section 911 income-tax exclusion would make employing US workers more expensive and would send many expats home. Senate and House members have been taken aback by an aggressive campaign against the change from US businesses abroad, the report said. The repeal has modest support in the Senate and is expected to be retained by a majority in the House of Representatives, it said. Senate and House negotiators could finalize a decision no earlier than next Monday.

Monetary policy

Bank chief becomes cabbie

Brazil's respected former Central Bank chief Arminio Fraga is soon to be seen dispensing financial wisdom from behind the wheel of a taxi. Fraga is set to appear as a taxi-driver in one of Brazil's most popular satirical television shows, Casseta&Planeta, a local network said on Tuesday. In the skit a businessman is shocked to find his cab driver confidently expound-ing views on the wild swings of Brazil's exchange rate. Fraga's cover is eventually blown and he explains why he has chosen his new profession. "After I left the Central Bank I started thinking, where can a guy with my curriculum and knowledge be used to his full potential? In a taxi! Because the people who really run the economy and everything else are taxi drivers," Fraga is scripted to say, according to a Globo Television spokesman.

Agencies

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