Business & Finance

Twenty international companies, among them such US giants as Citigroup, General Motors, Ford, ExxonMobil, and IBM, were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in behalf of more than 32,000 South Africans. The litigation, put before a federal court in New York under the US Alien Tort Claims Act, seeks unspecified financial damages for "state-sanctioned torture, murder, rape, arbitrary detention, and inhumane treatment" under the apartheid system that prevailed in South Africa from 1948 to 1993. It claims the defendants - all with long-term business interests in South Africa - were "united" in "propping up a crime against humanity." One of the plaintiffs, a church-supported pressure group known as Jubilee South Africa, said 100 other multinational companies also may be named. At least two previous suits by apartheid victims are pending in New York, one of them filed by an attorney who helped to win $6.25 billion in compensation from German companies and Swiss banks for Holocaust survivors and persons forced into slave labor by the World War II Nazi regime.

A $1.3 billion offer by the founder/chairman of Quintiles Transnational Corp. to buy control of the company and return it to private ownership was rejected by a special committee of board members. The bid was termed "inadequate," but the decision did not rule out a new and higher offer by former biostatistics Prof. Dennis Gillings or by another interested party. The Durham, N.C.-based company performs testing and marketing services for the biotechnology industry and for makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. It has a global workforce of more than 15,000 employees.

Microsoft announced a three-year, $400 million project to improve computer literacy in India. In a statement issued while chairman Bill Gates is touring the nation, the software giant said the money would go to train 80,000 teachers and 3.5 million students in government-run schools and to set up information technology academies in partnership with Indian states.

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