Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Morning Quick Hits

As shipping costs spiral, globalization feels the pinch
With cheap oil a thing of the past, the world isn't so flat an more. Shipping costs are causing manufacturers to rethink the way things have been done in the last couple of decades - buying components from all over the world for final assembly and global dissemination. Case in point: Tesla motors originally intended to buy battery packs for their new electric car model in Thailand and have them shipped to Britain for assembly of the final product, then the plan was to ship the cars to the U.S. for sale. Shipping costs negated that plan and now the batteries are being made and the cars assembled in California. “It was kind of a no-brain decision for us,” said Darryl Siry, the company’s senior vice president of global sales, marketing and service. “A major reason was to avoid the transportation costs, which are terrible.”

A no-brainer bill goes to bu$h.
The Hubbard Act cleared the Senate before the legislative branch adjourned last week. Named for a family from California, the bill guarantees benefits to veterans who are discharged from service under the "Sole Survivor" regulation which allows for early discharge from service when a service members siblings have perished. Jason Hubbard, a soldier from California's central valley left service early after both of his brothers were killed in the line of duty, only to be denied his GI Bill and health benefits, and was billed for repayment of a portion of his enlistment bonus. The Hubbard Act would ensure that Jason Hubbard and others in his position receive the same benefits as others who leave the military with an honorable discharge, including transitional health care, educational support and separation pay that compensates for inability to continue service.

Global Warming becomes local warming
You can see it in the dead rust-red pines west of Yosemite National Park, the fading easel of wildflowers near Carson Pass south of Lake Tahoe and the parched bare banks of lakes and reservoirs. You can smell it in the acrid ash-gray smoke from a siege of early-season wildfires that has choked much of the region for weeks on end...You can hear it in the quiet murmur of small streams that once rushed noisily downhill in July; in the whoosh of cars over Tioga Pass after Thanksgiving – a time when the white-knuckle road crossing, the highest in California, was always closed by snow prior to 1975; and in the voices and observations of scientists, resource managers and mountain residents.

Even as the American dream becomes a nightmare, the working class clings to hope
A nationwide poll of American workers between the ages of 18 and 64 who work at least 30 hours a week and earned no more than $27,000 last year conducted from June 18 to July 7 by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University found that they cling to the "American Dream" that things will get better for them, and definitely for their children. These people, the "working poor," comprise 1/4 of all US adults, and toil in thankless jobs that usually don't have benefits or protections like sick days, pensions or health insurance. "A lot of issues that have long confronted low-wage workers are now increasingly facing middle-income workers," who more than ever face the prospect of jarring income declines, and the lack of health care and pensions to support them, said Beth Shulman, a scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation's Future of Work Project. The challenge for Barack Obama is to tap into that wellspring of unease among the working poor and translate it into political action and demands to strengthen the social safety net that would disproportionately help low-wage workers. "I don't think we want to live in a country where people are working and doing what they are supposed to do but yet they can't get the basics," Shulman said.

There will be three debates
McVain's harebrained scheme for a series of rigged town halls was shot down, and Rahm Emanuel will be the point man for the Obama campaign as the details are worked out.

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