Thailand drops cartel idea
Thailand’s foreign minister says the country is dropping plans to create a Southeast Asian rice cartel. The proposal was first floated last week by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to give rice producers greater control over rice prices, which have tripled since December. But the idea was heavily criticized by the Philippines, a major importer, as well as some Thai rice exporters. “We are not talking about setting up a rice cartel,” Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said yesterday after a meeting with ambassadors from rice exporting countries. “If Thailand sets up an rice cartel and fixes a price, that will make matters worse and worsen food security.”
Tokyo proposes iPod fee
The Japanese government will propose this week a plan to charge copyright royalties on sales of iPods and other portable digital music players, as well as on digital hard disk recorders, a major daily newspaper reported yesterday. The Agency of Cultural Affairs has not yet decided the amount of the fee, but it would likely be around ¥100 (US$0.95) per device for an annual total of about ¥1 billion, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The proceeds would go to recording companies, songwriters and artists. Older devices, such as minidisk and DVD recorders, are already subject to a copyright fee.
iPhone network expands
British mobile phone giant Vodafone announced yesterday that it will distribute Apple’s iPhone in 10 new countries including Australia, India and South Africa. Vodafone said in a statement that under its accord with Apple, it will also have the right to sell iPhones in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Turkey. The phones that it sells will be intended to work on the Vodafone network. Launched one year ago, officially the iPhone is only available in the US, UK, France, Germany, Ireland and Austria.
Hyundai forges deal
US software giant Microsoft and South Korea’s top automaker Hyundai Motor have forged a deal to develop a new in-vehicle music and entertainment system, officials said yesterday. “These new systems will redefine consumer experiences in the car,” Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft’s automotive business unit, said in a statement released by Hyundai. “We’re now aligned to develop the next generation of in-car infotainment systems,” he said. Hyundai said the system would be controlled by the driver’s voice and linked with other handheld digital devices such as mobile phones and MP3 music players.
Foreclosures on the rise
Some 1.5 million US homes entered into the foreclosure process last year, up 53 percent from 2006, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said. This rising tide of late mortgage payments and home foreclosures poses considerable dangers to the US economy, he said, urging Congress to take additional steps to alleviate the problems. “High rates of delinquency and foreclosure can have substantial spillover effects on the housing market, the financial markets and the broader economy,” Bernanke said in a dinner speech at the Columbia Business School in New York. “Therefore, doing what we can to avoid preventable foreclosures is not just in the interest of lenders and borrowers. It’s in everybody’s interest,” he said. The rate of new foreclosures looks likely to be even higher this year, he said.