SAFETY EVALUATIONS STARTING AT PORTS: Product safety inspectors will be deployed full-time at U.S. ports to screen toys and other imports for potential hazards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday. The new import surveillance division will test selected products for lead levels, loose parts that could pose a choking risk to children, faulty wiring on electrical components and other hazards. The unit will have the authority to hold shipments deemed hazardous. The initiative follows the recall during the fall of millions of toys because of lead or other risks. The unit will work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Previously, customs agents would conduct safety tests only at the request of the commission.
YAHOO PUSHES BACK BOARD DEADLINE: Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday postponed a key deadline in a looming battle with spurned suitor Microsoft Corp., hoping to gain more wiggle room as it tries to escape a takeover. Yahoo's maneuver means that March 14 no longer is the deadline for Microsoft to nominate a slate of candidates to replace Yahoo's current board -- the 10 directors who rejected the$44.6 billion deal. Microsoft already had signaled it was prepared to oust the board if Yahoo didn't come to the negotiating table before March 14. A new nominating deadline will be set once Yahoo announces the date of its annual shareholders meeting. Microsoft will have up to 10 days after the public notice to nominate directors and begin what's known as a proxy battle.
APPLE'S MOVIE LIST LACKING: Apple Inc. has fallen substantially short of its target of having 1,000 movies available for rent on its Apple TV set-top box by the end of February, and it is blaming studios for the discrepancy. A count of the number of movies available on the box Wednesday was elusive, but appeared to be 400 to 500. A menu option that showed all movies at once has been removed, and some movies can be found only by searching for words in the title. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told shareholders at the annual meeting Tuesday that he's "not happy" with the shortfall, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Jobs said it's taking movie studios more time than expected to get approval from rights holders, the paper reported. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr on Wednesday said the company hopes to have 1,000 movies available "soon."
ASK.COM SEARCHES FOR NEW IDENTITY: In a dramatic about-face, Ask.com is abandoning its effort to outshine Internet search leader Google Inc. and instead will focus on a narrower market consisting of married women looking for help managing their lives. As part of the new direction outlined Tuesday, Ask will lay off about 40 employees, or 8 percent of its work force. With the shift, the Oakland-based company will return to its roots by concentrating on finding answers to basic questions about recipes, hobbies, children's homework, entertainment and health. The decision to cater to married women primarily living in the South and Midwest comes after Ask spent years trying to build a better all-purpose search engine than Google. The quest intensified after Internet conglomerate InterActiveCorp bought Ask and its affiliated Web sites for $2.3 billion in 2005. But Ask.com remained an also-ran, despite spending tens of millions of dollars on an advertising blitz about dozens of new products that impressed many industry analysts. Through January, Ask ran the Internet's fifth largest U.S. search engine with a 4.5 percent market share, according to comScore Media Metrix. Google dominates the industry with a 58.5 percent share. "No matter what (Ask) did, it just wasn't enough to get people to leave Google," said Chris Winfield, who runs a search engine consulting firm. "This looks they are raising the white flag."
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