Smoking may be good

STOCKHOLM: Tobacco may have at least one virtue — that of providing some protection against the onset of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new Swedish study. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden’s leading medical research centre, looked at the medical and death records of sets of Swedish twins, in which one smoked and the other did not. They found no association between Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition, and alcohol, coffee or place of residence. But smokers appeared to be less affected, which the researchers said, confirmed ‘the protective effect of smoking on Parkinson’s disease’ and established that the association ‘is only partially explained by genetic and familial environmental factors.’ — AFP

Business confidence up

BRUSSELS: Eurozone economic indicators to be released in the coming week will show business and consumer confidence edging higher, helped by a moderation in the euro’s exchange rate and in oil prices. In Britain fourth quarter data would show that the economy grew less than its long-term trend of 0.6 per cent quarterly expansion. — AFP

Hungary eyes more FDIs

BUDAPEST: Newly joined EU member Hungary aims to be the ‘Ireland of eastern Europe’ by becoming a magnet of foreign direct investment in the region. Hungary received $3 billion in such investment in the first three quarters of 2004. — AFP

$79m Russian back tax bill

Moscow: Japan Tobacco International (JTI) — the Number 4 cigarette maker in Russia — is fighting a $79 million back tax bill, reportedly the largest to be received by a cigarette-maker in Russia. —AP

General Electric profit up

NEW YORK: The world’s largest company, General Electric, showed it has room to grow by posting an 18 per cent increase in fourth-quarter earnings and projecting more double-digit growth ahead. — AFP

Machinists approve pay

VIRGINIA: Machinists at bankrupt US Airways’ last holdout union voted to approve pay and benefit cuts that will save the airline almost $270 million - but cost thousands of union members their jobs. — AP

Mitsubishi plans revamp

TOKYO: Troubled Mitsubishi Motors was devising new revival plans such as enhancing its capital while denying a report top executives would resign for failing to turn the company around. Chairman Yoichiro Okazaki, vice-chairman Koji Furukawa and president Hideyasu Tagaya were likely to resign to take responsibility for the failure. — AFP

Spanish workers on strike

MADRID: Spanish breakdown service workers began an open-ended strike on Friday to demand that insurance companies award them a bigger slice of the costs involved in towing a vehicle away. Around 80 per cent of the sector is backing the stoppage. — AFP

Tanzi quizzed again

ROME: Parmalat founder and former chairman Calisto Tanzi was questioned for the second time in a week on Saturday by investigators probing the 14 billion-euro collapse of the Italian food giant. He was accompanied by three lawyers for the interview . — AFP