U.S.

As of January 1, California retailers are prohibited from selling showerheads, toilets, faucets and appliances that do not pass new efficiency standards for reducing water use.

PANAMA

An eight-year-long expansion project of the Panama Canal is scheduled for completion early this year. The added width will allow larger ships to pass through and accommodate twice the volume of traffic.

SWITZERLAND

Roboticists in Zurich debuted an autonomous robot that lays bricks in preprogrammed structures. Its inventors suggest the bot could become a fixture at construction sites.

U.K.

The world's largest clinical trial is now under way. It will monitor 11,000 patients for as long as 12 years to investigate whether taking aspirin daily stops the recurrence of some cancers, including stomach and breast cancer.

GERMANY

This month Volkswagen will begin to recall at least 11 million diesel cars that emit more pollutants than regulations permit. The company is offering cash to owners in the U.S. market.

AUSTRALIA

On an island off the state of Victoria, government-approved sheepdogs now protect wild penguins from preying foxes. A new trial will see if the canines can do the same for dwindling numbers of bandicoots.