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Covad and EarthLink are testing a new voice service using both fiber and copper in three cities, including Seattle starting in October, according to an announcement planned for today.

The new service is a variation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allows customers to sign up for local and long distance and high-speed Internet access using their existing phones, wiring and computer equipment.

But because the service, called line-powered voice access, uses some copper wiring, the phone will continue to work during a power outage and support 911 calling unlike with some VoIP services.

The trial also will be conducted in the San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., area and Dallas. Covad and EarthLink declined to specify the cost of the service.

Coca-Cola Enterprises

Teamsters ratify pact, end two-week strike

Teamster union members ended a two-week strike against Coca-Cola Enterprises and returned to work yesterday after some members changed their minds and accepted a deal worked out earlier by union negotiators.

About 1,650 striking drivers, packers and warehouse workers at the company’s seven Los Angeles plants sought better wages and health-care benefits under a proposed five-year contract. The workers are represented by four Teamster union locals, which bargain jointly.

Thursday, union negotiators urged their members to ratify a contract with improved health benefits. Three of the locals did, but the fourth rejected the deal, continuing the walkout.

Yesterday morning, members of the fourth local voted again and approved the pact.

FaCoca-Cola Enterprises distributes about 80 percent of the sodas produced in the United States by Coca-Cola Co.


Settlement reported in accounting probe

Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb is expected to settle a federal investigation of its past accounting practices for $300 million, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported last night.

As part of the so-called “deferred prosecution” agreement, the company would avoid criminal charges if it complies with certain terms of the settlement, the newspapers said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the settlement talks.

An announcement of the agreement could come this week.

Among the terms of the deal with the Justice Department are expected to be separation of the chairman and chief executive titles held by Peter Dolan, and other changes in the company’s corporate governance, according to The Journal.

No current Bristol-Myers Squibb executives are expected to be indicted, though it’s possible former executives may be, according to The Journal.

Last year, Bristol-Myers Squibb reached a $150 million accounting-fraud settlement with the SEC after it was accused of manipulating its inventory of drugs to inflate earnings and meet Wall Street targets.


Joint project to build model of brain circuit

A Swiss university and International Business Machines will build a three-dimensional computer model of a brain circuit to understand how the mind works and what causes disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne will use an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer to model the circuit, said Henry Markram, director of the university’s Brain and Mind Institute.

The neocortex, the largest part of the human brain, contains as many as 1 million tiny columns that act as circuits.

Supercomputers are used for tasks requiring trillions of calculations per second, such as weather forecasting. The Lausanne computer, with a top speed of 22.8 trillion calculations per second, will be used to simulate one column in the neocortex.

Scientists will work in the next two to three years to model the circuitry in the neocortex.

The neocortex accounts for about 85 percent of human gray matter and is the part of the brain that separates mammals from reptiles. It’s thought to account for cognitive functions including language, learning, memory and complex thought.

Scientists will model the neocortical column of a rat, which contains about 10,000 neurons, the basic cells in the brain that send and receive signals, Markram said.

Using this foundation, it will be easy to upgrade to a model of a column in the human neocortex, which contains about 50,000 neurons, he said.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News