- - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TOBACCO

Judge bars graphic images on cigarette packages

RICHMOND | A judge has blocked a federal requirement that would have begun forcing U.S. tobacco companies to put large graphic images on their cigarette packages later this year to show the dangers of smoking.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington ruled Wednesday that the images violate the free speech amendment to the Constitution. He had temporarily blocked the requirement in November, saying it is likely cigarette makers will succeed in a lawsuit.

The Food and Drug Administration planned to require that images such as a cloud of cigarette smoke within inches of a baby’s face and a pair of healthy lungs next to the diseased lungs of a smoker appear on packs of cigarettes.

PUBLISHING

Murdoch son steps down from British newspapers

LONDON | James Murdoch, the executive at the epicenter of the phone-hacking scandal at his father’s British newspapers, is stepping down as executive chairman of News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper arm.

News Corp. said in a statement Wednesday that James Murdoch, the youngest son of 80-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has relinquished his position at News International to concentrate on expanding the company’s television business.

James Murdoch, 39, will remain deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., but the move plucks the onetime heir apparent to his father’s global empire away from a firestorm about his credibility and his role in Britain’s expanding phone-hacking scandal.

News Corp. shares set a 52-week high in New York after the news broke, rising 1.6 percent to $20.11 a share.

EUROPE

Central bank hands out $712 billion in loans

FRANKFURT, Germany | The European Central Bank’s second offering of unlimited low-interest loans was gobbled up Wednesday by 800 banks, which borrowed $712.4 billion at 1 percent interest for three years.

Nearly $1.4 trillion has been pumped into Europe’s financial system in this way in an attempt to stabilize banks, governments and businesses.

The first offering Dec. 21 attracted 523 banks to borrow $657.9 billion and helped ease the eurozone debt crisis because banks used some of the money to buy government bonds. That helped lower the borrowing costs of heavily indebted countries such as Italy and Spain. How the banks deploy this money is an open question, although the European Central Bank enticed smaller banks to participate in the hope that they would lend to smaller businesses and boost the eurozone economy.

TECHNOLOGY

Microsoft releases test version of Windows 8

BARCELONA | Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday let consumers start trying out its upcoming touch-based Windows 8 operating system, which aims to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional PCs designed to counter Apple Inc.’s big gains in the market through its Macs and iPads.

The test “beta” version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s largest cellphone trade show, and borrows some of the look of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software for Windows 8.

Windows 8 doesn’t have the traditional “Start” menu, and applications are spread across a mosaic of tiles in a design Microsoft calls “Metro.” Executives said it powers up on PCs in eight seconds, much faster than the previous version. The tiles, which resemble road signs, can be navigated with a finger swipe on the screen or with a keyboard and mouse.

But those testing out the new operating system won’t be able to try out the finger swiping unless they already have systems enabled for touch use, and the system isn’t expected to make its official debut until September or October.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports.