12/19/2007

Weeding out toxic toys

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

2007 has been the year of toy insecurity. Few parents of young kids escaped the unpleasant task of removing a favorite toy–from Aqua Dots to Thomas the Tank Engine–that had been recalled.

And all parents were left with a feeling of unease, that globalization and lax US consumer standards have left us vulnerable to toxic chemicals being routinely used to make our toys (and cosmetics, food, electronics…but that’s a larger topic for another day).

I predict that the big story next year will be the growing realization that European and Japanese standards for chemicals used in plastic toys are much more stringent than those in the USA, and that as a result, toys that are banned elsewhere are getting dumped into the US market.

But right now, Christmas is rapidly approaching, and families are busily shopping for gifts, and will unwrap gifts given by others over the next week. What’s a parent to do? The website HealthyToys.org gives parents way to weed out toxic toys, by searching the HealthyToys database that provides a detailed breakdown of the substances found in over 1,200 toys they tested for lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and PVC plastic. The results are alarming: of the 10 toys with the most lead, two of them are tea sets, with cups and teapots that are inevitably going to be filled with water that little kids will drink. Some plastic bath toys test high for lead and Chlorine/PVC, and these toys tend to go into toddlers’ mouths as well.

Yahoo Maps gets drag-and-drop rerouting

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Yahoo’s mapping service has been tweaked today to include a rerouting feature similar to the one Google’s had since June. The new addition lets you pick up and drag your directions at any point to get the service to reroute according to the guidelines you give it. Once you’ve made changes, the service will pop up with a small comparison to show you how many miles have been added (or taken away) and how the change affects the time on your original commute recommendation.

Rerouting is a handy feature, and if you’ve given Google’s implementation a try, you’ll know how nice it can be to not have to create two or more separate sets of directions to help get you from point A to point B when including shortcuts or side trips. I have to give a slight nod to Google’s version, however, as it shows you street name, mileage, and time estimates while you’re in the middle of dragging the marker around.

In addition to directions, Yahoo has also made some slight improvements to the business listings that show up on the map, which now include photos and user ratings that have been pulled in via Yahoo Local.

$8,000-per-gallon printer ink leads to antitrust lawsuit

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A Boston man has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing hardware maker HP and office supply retailer Staples of colluding to inflate the price of printer ink cartridges in violation of federal antitrust law. According to the suit, HP allegedly paid Staples $100 million to refrain from selling inexpensive third-party ink cartridges, although the suit doesn’t make it clear how plaintiff Ranjit Bedi arrived at that figure.

For most printer companies, ink is the bread and butter of their business. The price of ink for HP ink-jet printers can be as much as $8,000 per gallon, a figure that makes gas-pump price gouging look tame. HP is currently the dominant company in the printing market, and a considerable portion of the company’s profits come from ink.

MPAA wins copyright case against TorrentSpy

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has won a lawsuit against the operators of TorrentSpy.com, with the judge ruling in favor of the MPAA because the Web site operators tampered with evidence.

In a ruling that could have implications for the privacy of Web site users, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, ruled that TorrentSpy has infringed MPAA copyrights in a default judgment against the operators of the site.

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