Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cadillac resurrects the big luxury barge in Ciel concept -

Cadillac resurrects the big luxury barge in Ciel concept - 

Once in a while, but not often enough, a new concept from an automaker sort of blows you away. That happened last night with the new Ciel introduction from Cadillac, and we suspect we were not the only ones, given the gasp that went up from the scores who attended the reveal here on a foggy country club lawn in Pebble Beach, Calif.

What amazed us was at how General Motor's luxury brand wasn't afraid to bring back the politically incorrect car for which it is best known: the luxury barge. The Ciel is l-o-n-g and beautiful, as sleek as a design as you'll find. After years of being forced to try to downsize luxury in smaller packages, GM finally gave its designers the freedom to convey the brand in the fashion in which it was meant to be expressed, the long form.

It's significant. GM officials say they want to unabashedly take Cadillac back to what it is known for -- big, beautiful cars -- not just the smaller yet savvy CTS's and SRX's of today. The brand needs to stand out.

"We believe it's a responsible size size that is consistent with what Cadillac is known for," says designer Clay Dean.

Or as GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick put it, "We don't want to be like any other luxury brand" and that Ciel is wonderful in that it's "derivative of nothing." In other words, in stands alone in a field of luxury cars that are being forced to be too much alike.

It may be big, but that doesn't mean it's wasteful: As a concept, the California-designed Ciel is powered by a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 engine, paired with a hybrid system using lithium-ion battery technology.

The dashboard is remarkably uncluttered and the rear passengers in the four-door droptop have a unique seatbelts that can double as blankets if top-down driving turns chilly.

Read more -

USDA's 'Humanitarian' Bailout: U.S. places $40 million chicken order -

USDA's 'Humanitarian' Bailout: U.S. places $40 million chicken order - 

The United States is stepping in to help bail out another American industry -- chicken farmers and meat processors.

The nation's chicken industry is having a difficult year. Chicken producers are struggling with higher costs of running their business at the same time that consumers are buying less meat.

This has created a glut of chicken products in the market.

Total chicken production in the first half of 2011 rose 4% compared to the same period a year ago, while demand for chicken has cooled, according to the National Chicken Council.

Consequently, retail prices for chicken product have dipped.

The Department of Agriculture, keenly aware of these issues, announced Monday that it will make a special purchase of up to $40 million of chicken products, which the government will then donate to federal food assistance programs such as soup kitchens and its national Feeding America programs.

The USDA steps in occasionally to buy up food products that are in surplus supply in the market. By doing this, it helps shrink the glut of product, raise retail prices and support producers that are struggling to cover their cost of production.

With Monday's chicken order, the USDA said it hoped the move would also provide support to the broiler industry and many small poultry [producers]. Broilers are chickens grown for meat as opposed to egg laying.

"Broiler producers have already cut production substantially and this purchase will help them bring supply in line with demand," the agency said.

The government made a similar move with a $30 million purchases of chicken products last year and a $42 million purchase of chicken products on 2008 with the intention of stabilizing retail prices.

The USDA said funding for the special purchases comes from customs receipts.

For its part, the National Chicken Council welcomed the bail out.

"At a time when the industry is under great stress due to the high cost of feed ingredients and the general economic slowdown, we appreciate USDA's willingness to step forward," the group said in a statement.

Bill Roenigk, economist with the National Chicken Council, said chicken producers have been hit with a double whammy.

First, high grain prices have significantly raised production costs for producers. Second, a difficult economy has changed how people shop for food and also what groceries they buy.

Many budget-conscious household aren't buying chicken even though an excess supply of chicken products is keeping retail prices for chicken below last year's levels, he said.

0:00 / 3:14 Turning an American classic on its head
In June, the average store price for a pound of boneless chicken legs was $1.45, down 2.6% from last year, and $3.12 for a pound of boneless chicken breast, also down 5.9% from a year ago, according to government data.

"Many of our producers are selling whole chickens at wholesale prices that don't even cover their cost of production," Roenigk said. "We've lost three or four companies already this year because of it."

Every year, the industry sells about $45 billion worth of poultry meat. "We're expecting that total to be down 5% to 6% this year," he said.

The USDA's July report on poultry outlook seems to support Roenigk's assessment.

The agency, blaming higher grain prices and a difficult economy, expects broiler meat production in the second-half of 2011 to fall below last year's level and also anticipates broiler meat production to slow down in 2012.

Roenigk hopes the latest government assistance quickly stabilizes prices for poultry producers.

While that would be a good thing for producers, it could happen at the expense of consumers since reducing supply tends to raise retail prices for the product.

Retailers typically shy away from raising product prices. So Roenigk suspects stores will try to couch any prices increases. "You could see retailers offering discounts and specials on chicken less often than they have been," he said.
Read more -

Taxpayers Foot Bill For an App To Tell Workers It's Hot Outside -

Taxpayers Foot Bill For an App To Tell Workers It's Hot Outside - 

If you're a government worker working outdoors and you need to know the heat index, there's an app for that. That's right, with a simple click, an application will tell a worker at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration it's hot outside.

The Department of Labor has come up with a new app that allows OSHA workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite. And based on that heat index, the "Heat Safety Tool" app provides a color-coded "risk level" scale, ranging from yellow which indicates "lower" risk to red which indicates "very high to extreme" risk.

But the problem is the workers have to be in the area they're trying to measure, which means they're already outside -- and therefore already know it's hot.

Nathan Mehrens, General Counsel of Americans for Limited Government, has criticized the "safety" application as a waste of taxpayer money. "I think it's just silly," Mehrens said. "It provides a solution that is self evident. You don't need a smart phone to tell you it's hot."

But the DOL is touting the application as a safety measure saying it provides reminders of things workers should be doing protect themselves from heat-related illnesses like drinking enough fluids, taking breaks every once in awhile and knowing what to do in the event of a heat-related emergency.

Mehrens says these are all things you really don't need an app to tell you. "It's a matter of common sense."

It's unclear how much taxpayer money the DOL spent developing this app but Americans for Limited Government expects to submit a Freedom of Information Act request in the near future to find out.

Read more: http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/08/19/taxpayers-paying-app-tell-you-it-s-hot-outside/

Recession is ultimately the culprit in high U.S. deficit - Runaway government spending is the problem, not taxes -

Recession is ultimately the culprit in high U.S. deficit - Runaway government spending is the problem, not taxes - 

It's the loud and clear consensus of Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail: Runaway government spending is the problem, not taxes.
But the math isn't so simple.
The number at the heart of the battle cry of the Republicans and their Tea Party allies -- that federal spending has risen to an alarming 25 percent of the economy -- is skewed by recession dynamics.
In recessions, federal spending always goes up and tax revenues go down. And the economy contracts in recessions, shrinking the gross domestic product, which is the total output of goods and services and the broadest measure of the economy's health.
Republicans are calling for sweeping spending cuts and want to hold the line on taxes, even as the U.S. struggles through one of its slowest recoveries since the Great Depression. The jobless rate has been stuck for months at more than 9 percent. With the economy slowing again, the odds of a new recession seem to be increasing.
While spending's share of the GDP might be at a post-World War II high, tax revenues have fallen to 14.4 percent of the index, the lowest since 1950.
This disparity between what comes in and what goes out plays into the Republican argument about runaway spending.
But it also reflects the mathematical reality that during recessions, tax revenues go down sharply because people and companies make less money and so pay less in taxes. Federal spending goes up, even before stimulus programs, with an increasing demand for government help from food stamps and unemployment compensation and other safety-net programs.
At the same time, the negative economic growth associated with recessions lowers the GDP number on the bottom of the equation, further boosting the ratio of spending to GDP.
Since 1970, federal spending has averaged just over 21 percent of GDP while tax revenues have averaged over 19 percent.
The last time since World War II that federal spending exceeded 23 percent of GDP was in 1982 and 1983, when it rose to 23.1 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively, during what was then called the worst recession since the Great Depression. A Republican, Ronald Reagan, was president, and he was hardly anyone's idea of a tax-and-spend liberal.
Federal spending is even higher now as a percentage of GDP, but not by much -- just between 1 and 2 percentage points. That reflects the fact that the most recent recession was far deeper than the 1981-82 downturn, which lasted 16 months.
Much of the present large gap between tax revenues and federal spending comes not from political decisions but from what happens to a nation's finances during any deep recession, economists suggest.
But you wouldn't know it from some of the recent campaign rhetoric. The Republican candidates all want to shrink government's role by slashing spending and taxes, and repealing or suspending regulations.
• Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney asserted that, because of the rise of the ratio of government spending to GDP on President Barack Obama's watch, "We're inches away from no longer having a free economy."
• Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: "We're now at almost 25 percent [of GDP] ... the problem is spending, not taxes."
• Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota insisted they would never vote to raise the U.S. debt limit and they decried the rise in federal spending. The recent bipartisan debt deal, which includes a big spending-cut component, won the support of many Tea Party-aligned lawmakers, however.

Read more: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/national/article_a7730272-1f67-50ec-979c-6628fb7b1562.html#ixzz1VZeWG8Of

Facebook's "Like" button has been declared illegal under Germany's strict privacy laws by data protection officials -

Facebook's "Like" button has been declared illegal under Germany's strict privacy laws by data protection officials - 

Facebook's famous "Like" button has been declared illegal under Germany's strict privacy laws by data protection officials.
The north Germany state of Schleswig-Holstein demanded that dozens of websites that carry the button linking to the social networking site remove the offending item by the end of September or face a fine of up to €50,000 ($71,935), The Local reported Friday.
Thilo Weichert, of the state's data protection center, said the application allowed Facebook to illegally piece together a profile of web users' habits.
"Facebook can trace every click on a website, how long I'm on it, what I'm interested in," he said.
Palo Alto, Calif.,-based Facebook rejected Weichart's claim and said in a statement that the plug-ins were in full compliance with European laws.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/08/20/facebooks-like-button-declared-illegal-by-german-state/?test=latestnews