The less powerful air bags that automakers began installing five years ago have reduced serious air-bag-related injuries and deaths without compromising safety, according to a study by automakers and safety experts. Robert Strassburger, vice president of the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said that preliminary data from the study validate automakers' decision to install less powerful air bags after a series of deaths and injuries were blamed on air-bag deployments. Strassburger said short women and children, who had been most at risk with the old air bags, were far less likely to suffer serious injury or death from head, neck or chest injuries if they had an air bag installed in 1998 or later.

McDonald's Scales Back Spending

The new chief executive of McDonald's disclosed plans to sharply reduce capital spending and open fewer restaurants this year because of an unprecedented slump. James R. Cantalupo told analysts in New York that the company now expects to spend $1.2 billion on capital expenditures this year, $700 million less than previously announced and $800 million below last year's total.

MORE NEWS

Coca-Cola, the world's largest maker of soft drinks, plans to invest $15 million and form a marketing partnership with College Sports Television, a cable TV network that began airing last night. Coca-Cola will pay $10 million for a stake in the channel and $5 million for advertising, promotions and sporting events. College Sports has agreements with 27 Division I athletic conferences to televise live men's and women's college athletics, including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse.

HealthSouth employees sued former chief executive Richard M. Scrushy and other managers of the company, charging that they were responsible for losses in HealthSouth's stock plan. The Securities and Exchange Commission on March 19 accused HealthSouth and Scrushy of inflating earnings by $1.4 billion since 1999. "When Scrushy and his cohorts misstated earnings, they had a duty to disclose to participants the risky nature" of the retirement plan, the group of employees said.

Rand McNally, the world's biggest commercial mapmaker, emerged from bankruptcy protection after cutting its debt to $100 million from about $350 million, according to chief executive Michael Hehir.

General Motors, the world's largest automaker, will let consumers take most of its cars and trucks home for overnight test drives in an effort to boost U.S. sales. The program runs from April 15 to July 22. In the first quarter, GM's market share fell 1.6 percentage points, to 26.9 percent, according to Autodata.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 1.135 percent, from 1.1 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 1.135 percent, from 1.09 percent. The actual return to investors is 1.158 percent on three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,971.30, and 1.161 percent on a six-month bill selling for $9,942.60. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield on one-year constant-maturity Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 1.19 percent last week, from 1.27 percent the previous week.

Chipmakers Intel and Via Technologies settled a series of patent disputes related to computer microprocessors and their supporting chip sets. In all, 11 cases in five countries involving 27 patents were settled, the companies said. Both parties agreed to pay their own legal fees, and the agreement will result in royalties for Intel.

FAO, the upscale toy retailer, will formally emerge from Chapter 11 this month, after it secured up to $77 million in financing and bankruptcy court approval of its reorganization plan.

H.J. Heinz Co., which has sold ketchup in red, green, purple, pink, orange and teal, is adding blue to its palette.

PanAmSat, the largest U.S. commercial satellite operator, and Level 3 Communications agreed to create a network that their customers can use to transmit data faster.

RECALLS

A Phoenix company is recalling a product called Vinarol that claims to be a sexually stimulating herbal mix but also contains the prescription ingredient found in Viagra -- posing a potentially life-threatening risk to heart-disease patients. Consumers should not take the recalled Vinarol tablets and should return them to the place of purchase for a refund, said manufacturer Ultra Health Products. Food and Drug Administration investigators discovered sildenafil, the active ingredient in impotence-treating Viagra, in Vinarol last week. It is illegal for prescription drugs to be sold in the guise of dietary supplements.

INTERNATIONAL

Mexico will borrow $2 billion from Barclays and J.P. Morgan Chase to help buy back all the government's remaining dollar-denominated "Brady bonds," part of a plan to retire debt from the country's 1990 financial restructuring. Brady bonds were named after former U.S. Treasury secretary Nicholas F. Brady, who helped design the Mexican restructuring.

Mediobanca's chief executive, Vincenzo Maranghi, was ousted after losing control of the company's most valuable asset, insurer Assicurazioni Generali. A group of shareholders in Mediobanca, Italy's biggest investment bank, picked Gabriele Galateri, former chief executive of Fiat, to be president and CEO, one of the investors said.

Nintendo lowered its earnings forecast for the recently ended fiscal year, citing slower-than-expected sales of its GameCube console. The Japanese maker of the Super Mario and Pokemon video games expects to report earnings of $547 million, compared with its earlier forecast of $663 million in profits.

LOCAL BUSINESS

MeadWestvaco said it will close its folding-carton plants in Richmond and in Cleveland, Tenn., by the end of June, resulting in the loss of about 455 jobs. The plants, which convert paperboard into printed packaging for consumer products, use a printing process that is no longer heavily used in the United States, the company said.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

Former Mobil executive J. Bryan Williams, center, leaves a federal court in New York after appearing on charges that he received a $2 million kickback for helping the company broker a $1 billion deal with Kazakhstan's government.