Money Matters - Simplified

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Japan

Takahashi takes lead at world championship

Turin -- Japan's Daisuke Takahashi owns the lead after Wednesday's short program in the men's competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Italy.

Takahashi, who won the bronze medal last month at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, totaled 89.30 points. Canadian skater Patrick Chan was in second with 87.80 points, just ahead of Frenchman Brian Joubert (87.70).

Both Takahashi and Chan scored 47.40 in technical elements but the Japanese skater was given a 41.90 -- the highest mark of the night -- for Program Component while Chan received 40.40 points. Joubert had the highest technical elements score (47.90) but lagged in the Program Component.

Manager: Prada Japan targeted ugly workers

Tokyo -- A senior retail manager for Prada Japan alleges in a lawsuit she was ordered to eliminate employees who didn't have the "Prada look."

Rina Bovrisse said Prada Japan Chief Executive Officer Davide Sesia informed her she had to eliminate 15 managerial staff workers he deemed "old, fat, ugly, disgusting or not having the Prada look," The Daily Telegraph (Britain) said Friday.

Bovrisse alleges in her discrimination and harassment suit against the Italian fashion label that Sesia also asked her to lose some weight and change her hairstyle.

Automakers consider brake override systems

Tokyo -- Seven Japanese automakers have said they are considering the addition of brake override systems for their vehicles to prevent sudden acceleration problems.

In the wake of massive recalls concerning speed control issues that have created months of negative publicity for Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Suzuki Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Daihatsu Motor Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd have said they are considering outfitting vehicles with system in which the brakes would work even if the gas pedal was depressed, Kyodo News reported Thursday.

Sony's new gadgets are multipurpose

Tokyo -- Japanese electronics giant Sony is developing a phone with game options and a multipurpose game and computing platform, sources close to the company said.

The smartphone with game capabilities is a step forward in Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer's plan to launch multimedia devices that perform a variety of tasks, electronics industry analyst Nobuo Kurahashi told The Wall Street Journal.

The second portable gadget in development combines netbook, e-reader and PlayStation functions, the Journal reported Thursday.

"It's still not quite clear what specific steps Sony will take to achieve (its goals), especially when iPad and other highly capable mobile devices are crowding the market," Kurahashi said.

Japanese prof invents painless needles

Kyoyo -- A Japanese professor has come up with a method of delivering vaccines and drugs that he says is completely painless.

Kanji Takada of Kyoto Pharmaceutical University says the device he developed uses micro needles that don't break the dermis or second layer of skin, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

The needles are made out of a water-soluble polymer that dissolves when pressed into the epidermis, the very outer layer of skin.

Other researchers tried to use sugar to make micro needles but their efforts failed because because sugar degrades at temperatures above 100 degrees centigrade, Takada says.

Japan's economy grew in the latest quarter

Tokyo -- Japan's economy, aided by rising exports and consumer spending, grew at an annual rate of 4.6 percent in the final quarter of 2009, the government said Monday.

The October-December quarterly growth was the third straight expansion. It was helped by a revival of corporate capital investment, the Cabinet office said in its preliminary report, crediting the improvements to various stimulus measures.

The government also issued a revised report indicating 0.01 percent gain in the previous quarter, Kyodo News reported. The latest numbers beat the market forecast of 3.5 annual growth rate.

The new results showed a lesser likelihood of the economy falling into a double-dip recession, the Cabinet Office's Keisuke Tsumura said.

Honda expands recall for air-bag issues

Tokyo -- Honda, Japan's No. 2 automaker, voluntarily added 437,763 vehicles to a recall to fix driver-side air bags in 2001 and 2002 models, the company said.

"The driver's air-bag inflators in these vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which can cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury or fatality," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The expanded recall includes 378,758 vehicles in the United States, bringing the total number of Honda vehicles recalled in the United States for air-bag issues to 826,424, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday. In addition, 41,685 vehicles in Canada, 4,042 Hondas in Japan and 13,278 vehicles in other countries are part of the recall.

Toyota recalls 430,000 hybrid models

Tokyo -- Japan's Toyota Motors, in another setback to its image, said Tuesday it will recall about 430,000 of its latest hybrid models to fix brake problems.

The recall of the 2010 models that includes the popular Prius was announced in Tokyo by Toyota President Akio Toyoda who also apologized "for the inconvenience and concerns we've given to the customers," CNN reported. The problems in these models relate to their anti-lock braking systems.

Other models in the recall are the luxury Lexus HS250h sedan, the hybrid-only Sai compact sedan, and the plug-in Prius hybrid, which uses a similar brake system as the Prius, Kyodo News reported.

The hybrid recall is the latest in a string of safety issues dogging the world's largest automaker.

Kirin calls off merger talks with Suntory

Tokyo, February 8 -- Japanese brewing and food group Kirin called off merger talks with Suntory Holdings as it was unable to agree with Suntory’s ways of ensuring management independence and transparency.

Toyota's safety responses seen as slow

Tokyo -- Japanese automaker Toyota has often reacted slowly to safety problems, sometimes changing its vehicles without notifying current owners, records indicate.

An examination the company's records by Sunday's New York Times shows that Toyota's slow response to acknowledging problems with gas pedals -- which has resulted in the recall of 2.3 million vehicles -- is part of a pattern in which the automaker has tried to handle problems discreetly and out of the public eye after receiving complaints, making design changes without issuing recalls.