Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire






>> Honolulu Open Medical Imaging has hired Greg Yamanaka as director and chief MRI technologist, Denise Paclib as office administrator and Arthur Hannemann as director of patient-physician services. Yamanaka has more than 15 years of MRIexperience and previously served as Kaiser's chief MRI tech. Paclib has more than 15 years MRI experience and Hannemann has worked in management and marketing for the past 20 years.

>> Island Insurance Cos. has appointed John F. Schapperle as executive vice president. He will be responsible for developing long-range strategic plans and evaluating new opportunities for the company. He previously served as vice president for specialty insurance company RLI.

>> St. Andrew's Priory School has appointed Sarah Vaughn communications director. She will be responsible for developing marketing and advertising collateral and directing the school's public relations programs. She has previously served as the Limtiaco Co.'s editorial director.


Talk to the machine

American Savings Bank is introducing speech-enabled banking by phone, a service that will be available 24 hours a day.

Customers began using a rollout of the voice-activated system inMay, and the system has since been adjusted to match local voice tonalities and inflections. The system will still offer touch-tone banking.

Castle Medical outsources 4 jobs

Four jobs at Castle Medical Center in Kailua will be affected by the outsourcing of pathology work, according to a filing with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Three of the affected jobs are call-in positions. The fourth position, a medical director, will remain on site under a contracted service. Castle has 1,000 employees on Oahu.


Drug companies face the music

WASHINGTON >> Drug manufacturers acknowledged yesterday that they face a crisis of credibility they hope to remedy by releasing information about their clinical trials.

At a contentious congressional hearing, company representatives also said they are concerned the information will be so unwieldy that it will confuse doctors and patients.

Dr. John R. Hayes, product team leader at Eli Lilly and Co., said a single report about a drug can run more than 400,000 pages.

Overwhelming a Web site with 120,000 clinical trials may dilute the usefulness of the information, said Dr. David Wheadon, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for Philadelphia-based GlaxoSmithKline. "We always want to make sure we're serving the good, the right purpose," he said.

The hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee was intended to give seven drug companies a chance to explain how they did -- or did not -- disclose studies that suggested links between antidepressant use and suicidal tendencies in children.

Unpublished studies disclosed last summer made that link.

DuPont to pay $343M settlement

CHARLESTON, W.Va. >> The DuPont Co. agreed to pay as much as $343 million yesterday to settle allegations the chemical giant contaminated drinking water in West Virginia and Ohio with a key ingredient used in its Teflon products.

As many as 60,000 residents around DuPont's Washington Works plant on the Ohio River near Parkersburg, W.Va., sued over exposure to the chemical C8, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate or PFOA.

If the settlement is approved by a West Virginia judge, DuPont will fund a $5 million study of whether C8 causes disease in humans. If an independent, scientific panel finds such a link, DuPont will pay up to $235 million for medical tests on residents.

Alaska Airlines slices 900 jobs, closes facility

SEATTLE >> Alaska Airlines is cutting nearly 900 jobs and will close its Oakland, Calif., maintenance facility as part of efforts to become more competitive against low-cost carriers and save up to $35 million annually.

The nation's ninth-largest carrier, which employs more than 11,000 employees, said last month that it was cutting up to 150 management positions. Yesterday, it announced plans to shed another 750 jobs.

The cuts mark the airline's first major layoffs since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Bill Ayer said the moves were prompted by several factors in addition to increasing competitive threats from low-cost airlines, including high fuel prices and customer demand for cheap tickets.

"The environment itself is very, very harsh," he said.

Seattle-based Alaska has the fourth-highest costs of any U.S. airline, and Ayer said those costs must come down if the company is to survive in the long term.

The cuts include 340 jobs at the Oakland maintenance base that closed yesterday. From now on, the company said all heavy maintenance work on aircraft will be done by Goodrich Aviation Technical Services in Everett, Wash., and AAR Aircraft Services in Oklahoma City.


Less growth expected in Japan

Japan unexpectedly cut its estimate for second-quarter economic growth to a 1.3 percent annual pace, the slowest in more than a year, as manufacturers slashed inventories. Stocks and the yen fell.

The pace of growth announced by the Cabinet Office in Tokyo was lower than the initial estimate of 1.7 percent and less than half the median 3.4 percent rate forecast for the revised figure by 21 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Growth slowed from a revised 6.4 percent annual expansion in the first quarter.

Exporters including Sony Corp., which drove a rebound in the world's second-largest economy, say demand is falling short of forecasts in the U.S. and other overseas markets. Manufacturers started to reduce stockpiles accumulated in the first quarter on concern orders may slump.

China may raise rates

China may increase the official lending rate by the end of September to help cool the domestic economy, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a report.

China has been trying to slow the world's fastest-growing major economy by restricting loans to industries the government deems overheated. China's Vice Finance Minister Li Yong last week said economic growth may slow to between 7 percent and 8 percent this year as the government limits investment in industries including steel and cement. The economy grew 9.1 percent in 2003, a seven-year high.

China's one-year lending rate has been at 5.31 percent since February 2002, when the central bank cut it from 5.85 percent.

Japan looks to nuclear

Nuclear energy will play a major role in helping Japan's power industry meet its target for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, the country's biggest electricity industry group said.

Nuclear energy, more efficient turbines and an improved power grid are needed to achieve the emissions target set by Japan's Federation of Electric Power Companies, Teruaki Masumoto, the group's vice chairman, said at the World Energy Congress in Sydney.

India cell use rises

Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd., India's No. 2 mobile-phone company, and other cellphone operators that use the global system for mobile communications, or GSM, standard added 1.41 million users in August.

Mobile phone subscribers using the GSM standard rose to 32 million in August from 30.6 million in the previous month, the Cellular Operators Association of India, which represents GSM phone companies, said in New Delhi.



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