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Microsoft

Microsoft will increase its work force in Europe by 2,000, or 13 percent, in the next year to promote new products, its international-business chief said.

“We are committed to Europe. We see growth in Europe,” Jean-Philippe Courtois said after speaking of the hiring plans at a business forum in Brussels yesterday. Microsoft now employs 16,000 in the region, he said.

Microsoft will add employees for the rollout of the Xbox 360 video-game system as well as new software to run mobile phones and connect telephone calls over the Internet.

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The company also is expanding its MSN Internet service, putting out new software for network servers and introducing a database product during the next two years, Courtois said.

Microsoft

Grants aimed at accessibility

To boost access to computing in developing countries, Microsoft’s advanced-research division announced yesterday it’s offering $1.2 million to fund academic research into making computing more affordable and accessible.

Microsoft Research also announced a companion program to promote interaction between academics in the developed world with counterparts in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Mideast.

Called the Inspire program, it will help arrange visiting-teacher programs, support summer workshops and provide awards to Ph.D. projects.

Proposals for a research grant are due by Jan. 13, and recipients will be informed Feb. 10. Additional details are posted at research.microsoft.com/ur/us/fundingopps.

Nation / World

United Auto Workers

Health plan’s details revealed

General Motors retirees represented by the United Auto Workers pay nothing now for health-care coverage, but most would pay up to $752 annually in deductibles, co-payments and monthly premiums under a tentative agreement reached this week between GM and the union, UAW officials said yesterday.

Under the agreement, GM hourly workers would contribute $1 per hour in future pay increases to a new fund to help pay for retirees’ health coverage. Single retirees would pay up to $370 in deductibles and fees for their coverage.

Most retirees and all active hourly workers would pay higher co-payments for their prescription drugs.

The agreement would exclude 74,000 low-income retirees whose GM pension is $8,000 a year. Most are elderly or are surviving spouses of retirees, the UAW said.

This was the first time the UAW has revealed details of the agreement, which was announced Monday.

UAW workers must ratify the agreement for it to take effect. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger declined to say when the vote would take place, saying the union and GM still need to work out some details.

Compiled from Bloomberg News, Seattle Times staff and

The Associated Press