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Google to apply its technology to health information

BY Drew Buono

SAN FRANCISCO Google is planning on applying its web search technology to a general set of health information problems, according to Reuters.

Noticing, by accident, the number of searches conducted by users in regards to hard-to-diagnose health problems, Google decided to start a service to categorize high quality healthcare and other information. Google will also look to see how they can transfer personal health records that give users “a lot of control” over who can see such sensitive documents, according to Marissa Mayer, vice president of Search Products & User Experience.

The company also is looking at creating a special layer of doctor and medical-related locations on its online Google Maps service. This could help people find local doctors, understand their specialties or related practitioners.

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Albertson’s to terminate discount card

BY Allison Cerra

DALLAS As a way to save money on both ends, Albertsons is discontinuing its Preferred card program, the Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, the supermarket chain will offer discounted items to all its shoppers as a way to mitigate the loss of the card program.

The decision “puts every customer on a level playing field every day,” said William Emmons, president of Albertsons’ 69-store D-FW division. “For years and years, consumers resisted these cards.”

Albertson’s wishes to distinguish itself from its standard supermarket competitors, Emmons said.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Albertsons was No. 1 in local market share before Wal-Mart Stores supplanted it in 2003. In 2001, Albertson’s was the last major chain in D-FW to introduce a loyalty card, and now it’s the first to take it away.

The report also said that local customers did not mind the termination of the program as long as lower prices remain part of the shopping experience.

Over the last year, Albertsons has closed several North Texas stores and left the Oklahoma market. It recently sold five stores in Austin to San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co.

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Wal-Mart goes eco-friendly with concentrated laundry detergent

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Wal-Mart Stores is taking the motto “waste-not, want-not” to the next level by selling only concentrated products in its liquid laundry detergent category, the company said Wednesday.

Wal-Mart expects to sell only concentrated detergent in all of its U.S. stores by early May 2008, which will be more than 800 million units over the next three years. The transition will occur in waves beginning in the Southern region in October, extending to the North and Midwest by February and finishing in East coast states in April 2008.

“People expect businesses to step up and work together to help solve the big challenges facing the world,” president and chief executive officer Lee Scott said at a conference on Wednesday. “What we have done is work with suppliers to take water—one of our most precious natural resources—out of the liquid laundry detergent on our shelves. We simply don’t want our customers to have to choose between a product they can afford and an environmentally friendly product.”

This new initiative is said to save more than 400 million gallons of water, more than 95 million pounds of plastic resin and more than 125 million pounds of cardboard. According to the company, approximately 25% of the liquid laundry detergent is sold through Wal-Mart stores in the United States. The company also hopes that the potential savings in natural resources through the entire retail industry will be four times as much.

In 2005, Wal-Mart initiated a partnership with Unilever to dramatically reduce the packaging of its “All” detergent. In February 2006, Unilever unveiled “All small-and-mighty,” which is three-times concentrated, and contains enough detergent to wash the same 32 loads as a 100-oz. bottle. Wal-Mart helped bring the product to market by promising equal or greater shelf space despite the smaller product size.

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