Australia bans China beads
Australia announced a nationwide ban yesterday on a Chinese-made toy that investigations showed contained a chemical that metabolizes into a "date rape" style drug when swallowed. The ban across Australia's six states and two territories came after three children became severely ill after they swallowed the toy beads called "Bindeez." Toy importer Moose Enterprise issued a voluntary recall of "Bindeez," named Australia's 2007 Toy of the Year, saying some batches of the beads did not match the approved formula.
Norway pulls out of Vedanta
Norway said on Tuesday it had withdrawn its investments from UK mining giant Vedanta Resources as it had caused grave environmental and human-rights violations in India. "The ethical council [of the government] has concluded that Vedanta has caused serious damage to people and to the environment as a result of its economic activities," Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said in a statement. Norway's pension fund, into which the state pours nearly all of its oil revenues, "cannot be part of the capital of such a company," Halvorsen said. In September, India's top court ordered a study on the impact to people and the environment of Vedanta's plans to mine bauxite in the country's thickly forested region.
Google for help at the pump
Lost drivers in the US soon will be able to Google for help at the pump. As part of a partnership scheduled for announcement yesterday, the online search leader will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the country beginning early next month. The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, include an Internet connection and will display Google's mapping service in color on a small screen. Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station's owner. After the driver selects a destination, the pump will print out directions.
Sony may drop R&D plan
Sony Corp may withdraw from joint research and development (R&D) of next-generation computer chips after agreeing to sell its production operations for the brains inside the PlayStation 3, a spokesman said yesterday. Sony has been working with IBM Corp and Toshiba Corp to develop manufacturing technologies for next-generation semiconductors. But the group "is in talks with IBM and Toshiba to review the project," Sony spokesman Tomio Takizawa said. Instead, Sony's chip business would focus mainly on manufacturing sensors used in high-vision handycams and digital cameras, he said.
Shell forms Chinese JV
Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch Shell plans to operate 100 gas stations in north China in a joint venture with the nation's No. 4 oil producer, Beijing Times said yesterday. Royal Dutch Shell has signed a framework agreement with Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group for the 4 billion yuan (US$530 million) gasoline retail joint venture, the report said. It did not say when the agreement was inked. The gas stations operated by the joint venture will be located in Shaanxi Province, the paper said, citing Xue Junmin, director of planning and development at the Chinese firm.