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Showing posts from July, 2009

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Fat Tax

New studies on the effect of cigarette and alcohol sin taxes suggest heavy users are less influenced by price changes than others. An analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that American teenagers who smoke more than five cigarettes a day are only one-third as responsive to cigarette prices as lighter smokers. A complementary study of data from America’s Health and Retirement Survey shows that alcohol taxes are far less effective for the large minority of heavy drinkers. The biggest consumers of fattening food may prove similarly resilient to price increases, so a fat tax may do little to improve health, at least for today’s junk-food addicts. If these same consumers are poorer on average, it would also be regressive. One reason for this is that in some poorer neighbourhoods there may be little fresh food on sale. If junk is all there is, putting up its price will reduce real incomes and make little difference to eating habits and health. Like…

Recovery

The global recession may end toward the end of 2009--instead of sooner--but the global recovery in 2010 will be anemic and well below trend as households, firms and financial institutions are constrained in their ability to borrow, lend and spend.

Stress Causes Weight Gain

How Stress Causes Weight Gain
Both men and women put on the pounds in response to work-related stress and difficulty paying bills, according to a longitudinal study published this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Men also gained weight because they felt they lacked decision authority or skill discretion (the ability to learn new skills and to choose to do new or different tasks) at work. For women, weight gain was also likely to be associated with a feeling of constraint in their lives in general and having difficulty with family relationships. During the 9.2 years of the study, men added an average of 1.37 kg/m2 to their body mass indices, while women added an average of 1.57 kg/m2.

Gold

GOLD is prized because it is both beautiful and scarce. Just 161,000 tonnes of it has been mined in the history of the world: barely enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools. And because it is so scarce, it is worth digging out a lot of rock to get at it, and using poisonous chemicals to extract it from that rock. This often results in huge holes in the ground, noxious spoil-heaps and polluted watercourses.

Business Writing

The fast-moving flow of information is the lifeblood of business today, yet so many managers and employees convey information poorly in their writing. A survey of 120 blue-chip American companies found that a third of employees wrote poorly, a problem businesses are spending more than $3 billion a year to correct.

financial illiteracy

Cash-strapped families taking out large student loans to pay tuition. College students graduating with thousands of dollars in debts. Stressed-out seniors working double-shifts to pay off loans. These aren't new stories, but they're becoming increasingly common at universities as the financial crisis drags on. With experts blaming students' financial woes on risky loans and a lack of understanding of key money concepts, financial illiteracy in America is getting serious attention from universities around the country.

Mercedes Boomer Brand

Mercedes is the quintessential boomer brand. Drive down an American highway, and odds are good that the person piloting the Benz in the next lane was born between 1946 and 1962. And Mercedes-Benz (DAI) has prospered right along with America's huge postwar generation. Back in 1986, when the first baby boomers turned 40, Mercedes sold 99,000 cars in the U.S. In 2006, when those boomers hit 60, the automaker moved almost 250,000 vehicles, a fifth of its global total.
This year, Mercedes will sell a third fewer cars in America. In Montvale, N.J., Kristi Steinberg, who runs Benz's North American market research operation, has a nagging fear: that sales won't recover for a long time because boomers, history's wealthiest generation, are tapped out. "I don't know if anyone knows yet if this is a blip," she says, "or a defining moment like the Great Depression."

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Recession is over?

The recession is over, the Bank of Canada said in its quarterly Monetary Policy Report released Thursday. This is good, they didn't know we were in a recession, had all the solutions for it and now declared it over, yippee!

Data

The biggest bang for the buck is not sending human bodies, at vast cost, to distant places in our universe. We should instead send robots and probes that extend our senses and spirits to those faraway places — and work on our ability to make sense of the data they collect faster and better. The military already lives this idea with its growing use of the Predator aircraft, bomb-sniffing robots, and other autonomous intelligent vehicles linked to situation rooms where the best experts evaluate the battle in real time.

Employee Loyalty

There is a very simple secret to long-term employee loyalty and retention and it is not money, perks, or stock options. It's giving them meaningful roles.
This is not an idealistic motherhood-and-apple pie dream, but rather a basic condition of human behavior and psychology that many businesses and leaders often forget: people are driven as much or more by intrinsic meaning as they are by extrinsic rewards.

Swiss Banks

The latest financial stability report from Switzerland's central bank highlights the continued systemic risk posed by the disproportionate size, relative to the economy, of the two largest Swiss banks and warns of the ongoing risk of losses leading to capital depletion. In time, financial services regulation is set to see significant changes, including mooted powers to regulate banks' size and raise capital ratio requirements, but in the near term UBS will remain a concern for regulators, with attention focused on its balance sheet position and an impending US lawsuit.

Motivation

Let’s face it, the thing that motivates most employees is cash, and plenty of it. Trinkets are unsatisfying, and no one needs another company-branded golf shirt. But salaries are stagnating (unless you’re a politician), and bonuses are drying up (unless you’re an exec running Nortel into the ground).

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Accounting Standards

REWRITING laws in a hurry is never a great idea, but that is exactly what the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which sets rules for beancounters outside America, has been forced to do. One of the casualties of the credit crisis has been the idea of fair-value accounting—the practice of valuing financial assets, mainly securities, at market prices or the closest thing there is to them. The idea that accounting caused the crisis is specious, but Europe’s politicians, egged on by banks that took huge write-downs when market prices swooned, have nonetheless lashed out. The message has been pretty clear: make banks’ balance-sheets look better, or else. America’s rulemaker, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), has been excoriated by Congress and is back at the drawing-board too.

Fire Yourself?

Many older workers can't afford to retire, and the recession is keeping them in their jobs. But others don't want to retire simply because they enjoy working and wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they didn't go to the office every day. Unfortunately, their reluctance to move on is having a devastating effect on younger workers who either can't break into the job market, or who, lacking seniority, end up on the "last in, first out" layoff list.

Cheapest Car

The world’s cheapest automobile is now one step closer to conquering Europe, North America and the rest of the world. This morning, British magazine Autocar is reporting that the Tata Nano meets the European New Car Assessment Program’s EuroNCAP) front and side crash tests standards.
Since its unveiling, the fascinating pint-sized machine has come under scrutiny for safety due to its low cost (US$2,500), general lack of safety equipment. There’s also the issue that it’s currently only sold in India, a country whose crash test standards are considerably more lax than those of North America.

Obesity levels in America

Obesity levels in America
IT MAY be time to hide the cookie jar. Over 26% of Americans are obese, with a weight to height ratio (or body mass index) of over 30, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a government body. Over the past ten years, waistlines have expanded in every state. In 1998 most states had a relatively trim population, with fewer than a fifth of adults obese. But since then the scales have tipped in the other direction. Now at least a quarter of adults in 32 states are obese. Mississippi is the fattest of all, with a third of its residents considered obese.

Hiring

The economic crisis has wreaked havoc on many companies and industries, yet results from a McKinsey survey taken in early June suggest that, for some at least, the changes have not been all bad. Compared with a survey taken six weeks earlier, significantly more respondents said their companies are hiring talent that would not otherwise be available.

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Impotent

Karlheinz Schreiber's latest attempt in a succession of ``repeated and groundless" bids to avoid extradition to Germany threatens to render Canada's international crime-fighting obligations "entirely impotent," the federal government says in court documents.

More Customers

Staffing is no longer a problem — what Campbell needs now is more customers. His sales are down about 10% from a year ago, while his costs, including the provincial minimum wage and alcohol taxes, have risen. He’s considered offering the special of the day as a three-course meal for $50, but wonders if he can turn a reasonable profit on fish and meat entrées. Ten bucks off a bottle of wine is also on the table. “I’ve never done those before, but I’m going in that direction,” he says from one of his restaurants, Normand’s. “I need to get some action in here.”

Service

HUMAN interaction: who needs it? Certainly not those hotel customers who would prefer to order room service, schedule a facial or have their car brought around without actually speaking to another person. That’s the pitch behind SmartTouch, a "guest empowerment technology" introduced this week by Incentient, a "transaction services company".

Renew America

GE's Jeff Immelt says something's fundamentally wrong in a country where mortgage brokers make fifty times more than PhD's.

Happy 4th of July

Have a great holiday weekend!

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Euro too late

The Baltic states, despite facing double-digit falls in GDP this year, are striving to limit their budget deficits with a view to adopting the euro as soon as possible. Rather than pursuing devaluation and counter-cyclical fiscal policies, they are cutting wages to restore competitiveness and hoping that the euro will repair investor confidence. None of them, however, looks likely to meet the conventional benchmarks for euro-zone entry soon. As a result, unilateral euro-adoption or devaluation are strong possibilities.

Boom years

IN THE boom years, migrants picked fruit in southern California's orange groves, worked on construction sites in Spain and Ireland, designed software in Silicon Valley and toiled in factories all over the rich world. Many will continue to do so, despite the economic downturn. But as unemployment rises in most rich countries, attitudes towards migrants are hardening.