Category Archives: Military

Introducing The Sichuan Tengzhong Hummer H1

This week’s bankruptcy filing by General Motors, and indeed the current critical condition of the entire U.S. economy can be traced directly to the wholesale loss of decent paying American manufacturing jobs, primarily to China.  Retailers like Walmart, whose stores are stocked predominantly with cheap Chinese-made goods are thriving, because financially desperate American families can’t afford to shop anywhere else (Walmart employs almost 1.5 million workers in the United States, and will be adding 22,000 more U.S. workers to its payroll in 2009; while this may sound like good news, it is anything but.)  It is a vicious cycle of cheap imports, resulting in job losses and low wages for those still lucky enough to find work, that creates an even greater demand for cheap imports that are destroying the American economy even more.  Probably the only thing that is limiting imports from China right now is the lack of available space on cargo ships.  The U.S. government does not seem to be the least bit inclined to limit imports, despite the damage they are doing to our country.

Now, it appears that General Motor’s Hummer division is being sold to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company.  We feel that dismantling what was one of the largest and oldest American corporations, and selling a portion of it to China is nothing short of treason.  It’s also ludicrous.  Friends, what you are witnessing is an acceleration of the destruction of the U.S. economy.

On a purely practical level, it won’t work.  The type of American buyers who are attracted to a vehicle like a Hummer won’t want a Chinese vehicle.  And as the U.S. economy continues to disintegrate because of exactly this sort of exportation of American brands and jobs, few if any Americans will be able to afford to buy a Hummer, or any vehicle, for that matter.

From a national security standpoint, selling yet another major American manufacturing company to China places America in grave danger. And remember… Hummer is basically a military vehicle, even if it has morphed into a family vehicle for soccer moms on American highways. We’ve said it before on this blog, and we’ll say it again…  Anytime it desires, China will be able to bring America to its knees without firing a single shot.  If China cuts off the supply lines that America has become dependent on, the United States will starve to death.   And we won’t be able to defend ourselves either, because unlike during World War II, America’s manufacturing capacity has all but disappeared.  If you think that melamine-laced pet food, lead-tainted toys, or toxic sheetrock from China are a problem, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

How bad are things getting for U.S. manufacturers?  We went to the Home Depot recently to buy a few sheets of sandpaper, and everything they had was made in China.  It appears that America can’t even manufacture sandpaper any more.

So stop worrying about North Korea or Iran or al-Qaeda or the Taliban.  What you should really be worrying about are those shiny new Sichuan Tengzhong Hummers that will soon be rolling down America’s highways.

We wonder if they sell portraits of Chairman Mao at Walmart.  There’s a bare wall in our living room where we could hang it.

– Routing By Rumor

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Walking On Water

//www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/01/15/us/20090115-PLANECRASH_3.html#

Photo is part of a slideshow at http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/01/15/us/20090115-PLANECRASH_3.html# (click photo to view)

When we started this blog just over a year ago, we decided to place a photo we took of the New York City skyline several years ago at the top of our page. The photo was taken from the deck of a New York Waterway ferry, traveling from their West 38th Street terminal in Manhattan, to their Port Imperial terminal in Weehawken, New Jersey. Little did we know at that time, that New York Waterway ferries, quite possibly the very boat we took our photo from, quite possibly piloted by the same captain, would be involved in this story.

That stretch of the Hudson River is the exact spot where Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger (see his page at linkedin.com) landed US Airways Flight 1549 yesterday afternoon. It landed in the middle of the river, near, or just slightly South of where the USS Intrepid (pictured in our banner photo), and now a sea, air & space museum, is permanently moored on the Hudson. That would put it right around the center of the frame in our photo. Then, because the lower Hudson River is a tidal river, subject to very strong currents, it quickly floated South, towards lower Manhattan. It was eventually manuvered to the shoreline off Battery Park, where it was tied up, awaiting a barge and crane which will lift it from the River.

How strong can the currents on the Hudson get? I don’t know what the typical ferry boat’s top speed is, but when the tide is going out, and the river is flowing South in the area of Manhattan, ferries we’ve been on can barely make any headway when heading North, against the current !

Just after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in Queens, New York, and heading to Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, North Carolina, it is believed that the Airbus A320-214 with 155 passengers and crew aboard struck a flock of Canada Geese, and injested birds into both of its CFM56 engines, disabling them.

Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger

Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III

Flight 1549 pilot, Captain, Chesley Sullenberger, age 57, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, has flown for US Airways for almost 30 years. He is also the owner of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., and you can view his profile at their website. A point we found most interesting about Captain Sullenberger, is that in addition to a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado, he holds a Master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Human Factors, from Purdue University. Prior to that, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Basic Sciences from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. “Human factors” certainly played a role in averting disaster yesterday.

With the aircraft traveling West as it struck the birds over The Bronx, Captain Sullenberger reportedly considered attempting to reach Teterboro Airport, which was approximately eight miles away in Northern New Jersey, but he opted to turn South, and make an emergency water landing on the Hudson River instead. With the loss of both engines, he was at the controls of what was now a very heavy glider, and apparently felt he might not make the airport. He was also undoubtedly concerned about overflying heavily populated Northern New Jersey in his crippled aircraft. It turned out to be an excellent call. That’s the value of having someone like Chesley Sullenberger, with almost 40 years of flying experience, in the Captain’s seat.

The decision to make what turned out to be a textbook water landing undoubtedly saved 155 lives on the plane, and countless lives on the ground. It even seems that once the intact plane is pulled from the river, the passengers will eventually get their checked baggage returned to them, even if it doesn’t smell quite as fresh as it did when they checked it. We’re really hoping that there weren’t any live animals in the cargo hold, since they would have certainly drowned.

The fact that Captain Sullenberger happened to ditch the plane on that particular section of the Hudson River also played a big role in saving lives (Sullenberger indicated to accident investigators that he deliberately landed his plane close to river traffic, to “improve chances of recovery”).

It is heavily traveled by various watercraft, including ferries and tour boats. With the plane filling with water, and it’s passengers standing on the submerging wings and sitting on the deployed escape chutes, as many as 14 New York Waterway ferries, and at least one Circle Line tour boat converged on the aircraft, some reportedly within a minute or two of it’s hitting the water (read this NY Times story about some of the rescuers). Every passenger on the plane was rescued, with some suffering hypothermia and non life-threatening injuries. With an air temperature around 20 degrees Farenheit, and a water temperature in the 30’s, the plane’s passengers would not have survived very long in the near-freezing water of the Hudson River.

Only in New York !

Interestingly, there has been next to nothing in the news about the other four crew members, who should also be recognized. We found the identities of the other crew members in this Wall Street Journal article, which we excerpt here…

According to an internal US Airways flight roster, the first officer on the flight was Jeffrey Skiles, and the three flight attendants were Donna Dent, Doreen Welsh and Sheila Dail. One of the three attendants was injured and taken to a Manhattan hospital.

This Chicago Tribune article says that First Officer Skiles, age 49, lives in the town of Oregon, Wisconsin. He is a former flight instructor, who began flying at age 15.

New York Waterway, whose ferry Captains and crew members were instrumental in the rescue, is an interesting company. Started in 1986 by Arthur E. Imperatore, who previously operated a major East Coast trucking company, APA Transport, along with four of his brothers (see his bother George E. Imperatore’s obituary in the NY Times). New York Waterway service expanded after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center shut down the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) subway line between New Jersey and the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. When the PATH service eventually resumed, ridership on the ferries dropped off precipitously, nearly bankrupting New York Waterway. New York Waterway is now run by Imperatore’s son, Arthur Imperatore, Jr. Here’s an article about Arthur Jr.

The New York Waterway ferry ride between Weekawken, New Jersey and midtown Manhattan(they also operate other routes) is a pleasant five-minute voyage, albeit fairly expensive when you add up the fare and the parking fee. They offer free shuttle buses on the New York side, which will take ferry passengers to and from many parts of Manhattan.

Of course, the quintessential New York ferry ride is the city-operated Staten Island Ferry, which is actually free ! The 25-minute trips between St. George on Staten Island and lower Manhattan operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our guess is that President-elect Obama just might be inviting the heroic crew members of US Airways flight 1549 to the White House soon after his inauguration on January 20th. It was reported that President Bush phoned Captain Chesley Sullenberger. And we hope US Airways shows Captain Sullenberger (and the other crew members) their appreciation, despite the fact that he got one of their aircraft a bit damp.

Making Water Landings More Survivable

If this flight had made the same successful water landing in an area where immediate assistance from vessels in the area was not possible, the outcome would have been drastically different.

While we’re not aviation experts, we wonder if passenger aircraft might be designed to be boyant, whether or not the plane’s hull is breached. The Airbus A320 that was involved in this accident is equipped with what is called a “ditch switch” (see details and photo here). which the pilots can activate prior to a water landing. Assuming the hull remains intact, it is supposed to close the ports and other openings in the belly of the aircraft that would permit water to enter. In this incident, water quickly filled the airplane, so it seems like the hull was probably compromised in the landing. We suspect that this will be one of the things that investigators will be looking at. Perhaps airbags or other flotation devices that deploy when an aircraft hits the water are feasible.

The accounts we’ve read indicate that water in part of the cabin was chest-high before all the passengers could exit the plane. Passengers who were standing on the wings, awaiting rescue, found themselves sinking below the waterline as the fuselage took on water. Given the water and air temperature, it’s doubtful they would have survived, had rescuers not arrived almost immediately (see NY Times story).

It also seems to us that the U.S. Coast Guard, which licenses and regulates vessels such as the numerous ferries and tour boats that are found around New York City, might enact regulations that will help crews on those boats be more effective in rescues. For example, might some sort of platform that could be lowered to the water level be made required equipment ? Perhaps a motorized winch with a basket that can be lowered to the water would be valuable for water rescues. One of the ferries was using some sort of roll-up ladder which they unfurled over the bow of the ship, but injured, severly hypothermic victims or babies would not be able to climb a ladder. Would requiring vessels like ferries to have a few survival suits on-board for crew member use be feasible ?

If we’re not mistaken, the FAA only requires life rafts on aircraft that fly overwater routes. We doubt that a New York to Charlotte flight is categorized as such, but as flight 1549 demonstrated, being on a freezing river is probably not much different from being on the open ocean, in terms of the need for equipment such as life rafts. It appeared to us that some of the passengers on flight 1549 were sitting on inflated escape chutes (one chute at the forward door on each side of the plane), and not on life rafts. If there had been sufficient life rafts available on this flight, it seems that the crew would have had time to deploy them, and the crew would not have told passengers to jump into the water, as some have claimed !

Perhaps investigators should ask the passengers that survived this water landing what equipment they would want on future flights.

About This Airplane – N106US

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, US Airways flight 1549’s “tail number”, N106US, is registered to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest. The plane is 9 years old, having been delivered in 1999. There is already an extensive article about it at wikipedia.org !

Sunday, January 18 2009 Update…

US Airways flight 1549 being raised from the Hudson River late Saturday (photo and story at nytimes.com/2009/01/19/nyregion/19blackbox.html)

US Airways flight 1549 being raised from the Hudson River late Saturday (click on photo to see article and photo at nytimes.com/2009/01/19/nyregion/19blackbox.html)

Late yesterday, salvage crews raised flight 1549 from the Hudson River, and placed the plane onto a barge. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered and sent to Washington for analysis.

Crews continue to search the Hudson for the missing left engine from the Airbus A320.

In an interview on Saturday with National Transportation Safety Board investigators, Captain Chesley Sullenberger indicated that he made the decision to ditch the plane on the Hudson River to avoid “catastrophic consequences” if they would have attempted to return to LaGuardia or make it to Teterboro Airport in heavily populated Northern New Jersey.


– Routing By Rumor

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Hey Buddy, Can You Spare $85 Billion ?

1975 NY Daily News Headline

1975 NY Daily News Headline

Headlines, then and now…

1975: Gerald Ford To New York City: Drop Dead.

2008: George Bush To AIG: Are You Sure $85 Billion Is Enough?

Of course, headlines rarely tell the whole story. But my, my, how times have changed. As the above Daily News front page shows, a drop of 12 points in the Dow was big news in 1975. This past Monday, it took a one-day drop in the Dow of 500 points to make Wall Street nervous (which was followed by another drop today, only two days later, of another 450 points). Another day or two of this, and we should be South of 10,000 on the Dow. Throw in a couple more banks or financial giants going belly-up, and you’ll see them skydiving without parachutes on Wall Street.

Oh, and Washington didn’t let New York City drop dead back in 1975, after all. The Federal government agreed to a bailout in the form of $2.3 billion in short-term loans, thereby allowing the City to avoid bankruptcy (read about it at americanheritage.com). These days, $2.3 billion is chump change.

Just how much is $85 billion ? Well, if you were given that much money, in say, ten dollar bills, and were told to count it, how long might that take ? Let’s assume you spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with no breaks. Even if you could count 200 ten-dollar bills ($2,000) every minute, and started counting as soon as you were born, you’d probably never finish before you died. It would take more than 80 years. If it was in one-dollar bills, then it would take you more than 10 lifetimes, and your pile of cash would probably weigh in the neighborhood of 200 million pounds or 91 million kilograms (a rough estimate, since we’ve never actually weighed a stack of money).

$10 x 200 per minute x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days x 80 years = $84 billion ! (You’d still have a billion dollars left to count, and since you’re now 80 years old, there’s a good chance you’d forget how much money you counted, and you’d have to start all over again.) Sort of reminds us of Sisyphus.

We know what you’re probably thinking. You’re probably thinking that we have way too much time on our hands, if we’re calculating how much $85 billion would weigh. Well, it’s a good bet that you haven’t met this fellow yet. Not only did he do the math, he manufactured the bills, took pictures of everything, and created a website about it. Is there anything you CAN’T find on the Internet ? Probably not.

Put another way, $85 billion would easily pay for another fun-filled year of war in Iraq, with billions and billions of dollars left over to spend in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and anywhere else we wish to venture.

The $85 billion federal bailout announced yesterday of American International Group (AIG), the 18th largest company in the world, gives a whole new meaning to the term “economic stimulus“. Propping up AIG seems like a good idea. But then, so would distributing buckets to the passengers on the Titanic, and telling them to start bailing. Unfortunately, neither plan addresses the root of the problem.

Who insures the insurers? You do. The recent bail-outs of Fannie and Freddie, and now AIG, indicates that many people are getting very nervous about the economy. How nervous? Economic collapse nervous. Black Monday, 1929 nervous. Losing your home nervous. Civil unrest nervous.

Better start polishing those apples.

We love some of the nautical references you often see in annual reports and prospectuses, used as euphemisms for real bad financial news . Phrases like “staying the course”, “rough sailing”, “turbulent waters”, “sailing into a headwind”, etc. In our mind, the U.S. economy resembles a ship that is being tossed about by increasingly turbulent seas. As the waves get higher and higher, our ship runs the risk of encountering one that will push it past the tipping point. We think an $85 billion Federal bailout of AIG says that we’re not the only ones worried about the ship going down.

Hey, General Motors… Are you paying attention?

GM has gotten a lot more press than AIG, regarding their hemorrhaging of red ink. In our opinion, all they need to do is a bit more hand wringing, and then show up on Uncle Sam’s doorstep, hat in hand, and ask for a few bucks (see “Detroit wants its bailout too” on cnn.com). How much do you need, Rick ? $100 billion ? $200 billion ? more ? As we’ve written, the death of GM might not be a bad thing, but GM’s demise might scare too many people, so OK, Mr. Wagoner, here’s your money. Next in line ?

And it appears that in the past few days, that line has gotten a lot longer. Another down-on-their-luck financial giant, Lehman Brothers, apparently didn’t get that whole hat-in-hand routine right. Merrill Lynch has sold it’s soul to Bank of America. Do you see a trend developing here ?

It’s a good thing Uncle Sam owns those Intaglio presses, over at The Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Who says the Treasury Department doesn’t have a sense of humor ? The BEP website is at “moneyfactory.gov”. But the people at AIG probably think they should call it rescueme.gov. To paraphrase Popeye’s J. Wellington Wimpy, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a bailout Today”.

With Walmart’s interest in expanding into banking and financial services, and given Walmart’s runaway profits, we’re kind of surprised there wasn’t a Walmart-AIG merger. It makes a lot of sense to us. They could sell AIG insurance policies at an AIG kiosk in every Walmart store, right next to the toilet paper and Pampers.

The AIG bailout sort of makes the economic stimulus checks the rest of us got from our rich Uncle seem stingy by comparison. It also begs the question… Who’s next ?

All this economic turmoil does have one benefit. Nobody even mentions Iraq anymore !

– Routing By Rumor

P.S. – We found this blogger, who is just as scared about all this as we are. She even chose almost the same title for her post.

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What Would Osama Do ?

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.

We are on final approach to election day, with just over three months before Americans step into the voting booth to elect the next President of the United States.

Both of the “presumptive” major party candidates, John McCain (R) and Barack Obama (D), have been focusing their rhetoric on Iraq and Afghanistan, and telling us that their opponent has it all wrong.

Without question, the course the United States takes not only in these two countries, but in the larger war on terrorism (which hasn’t been going all that swimmingly either), is the number one issue facing our country. We cannot afford to make the wrong decision on November 4th.

We wouldn’t think of telling you who to vote for.  Instead, we pose this question… What would Osama bin Laden do ?

Try to answer that question for yourself. If Osama bin Laden could vote for our next President, who would he vote for ? Once you have answered that question, regardless of your answer, we recommend you cast your vote for the OTHER candidate.

That is the best insurance policy against terrorism that we can think of.

Now, please fasten your seat belts.

– Routing By Rumor

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Need More Proof That The U.S. Economy Is In Trouble? How About Talk Of General Motors Seeking Bankruptcy Protection!

Things are tough in Detroit. For the first time since 1922, General Motors will not pay it’s shareholders a dividend. Even more omnious is speculation that GM may have to seek bankruptcy protection (see NY Times / Associated Press article). There are even calls for dropping GM from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

While much of what ails GM is related to the sad state of the U.S. economy, not all automobile manufacturers are suffering the way GM currently is. There are many reasons for this, including GM’s reliance on large, gas-guzzling vehicles which have become white elephants, thanks to fuel that is selling between $4 and $5 a gallon.

For us however, GM lost it’s appeal long ago. Not because of the quality of their products, which by and large we’ve been quite satisfied with, but rather because of what we believe is their total lack of respect for their customers. As we have written previously, we are a strong believer in buying products made in the USA, and indeed we’ve owned only US-assembled GM vehicles for the past thirty years.

We’ve never had a good experience with repairs covered under GM’s new vehicle warranties. We have always experienced dealer service that was inept, shoddy, defective, or incomplete, and which in many cases took days or weeks longer than it should have, while our vehicle languished in some dealer’s lot. Almost all warranty repairs we’ve ever taken our vehicles to GM dealerships for have required one or more return visits to the dealer, either because repairs were done incorrectly or not at all. We believe that GM dealerships prefer to not do warranty repairs, and will try to avoid doing them whenever possible. There never seemed to be any incentive to do things correctly. The experiences we’ve had over the years at GM dealerships convinced us to never ever allow them to do non-warranty repairs on our vehicles where we would be paying for the work out-of-pocket.

We’ve dealt with dealership personnel from salespeople to service managers to owners, who have been rude, indifferent and downright obnoxious. In our opinion, it’s not so much a lack of caring or pervasive incompetence (although there’s plenty of that), as it is a culture of contempt for the customer. We feel that GM and it’s dealerships view customers as little more than an annoyance. As if they were saying “we don’t value you as a customer, and we couldn’t care less about your future business”. GM’s “customer care” has proven to be a worthless farce every time we’ve ever turned to them in an attempt to resolve problems with our vehicles. We decided years ago that our current GM vehicle will be our last one. It’s a bit ironic then, that GM may not be around much longer to sell us, or anyone else, their next vehicle. We think that in large measure, they can blame their current plight on the way they’ve treated their customers. Forget about Harry Gordon Selfridge’s old adage “the customer is always right”. At GM, it has always seemed to us to be more like “the customer is never right”.

This fellow doesn’t think The General has much better regard for it’s current workers or retirees.

We won’t shed a single tear if GM goes belly up tomorrow.

Where was I ? …Oh yeah, the dismal state of the U.S. economy. See what happens when someone mentions GM to me ?

So, GM is hurting big time, banking institutions are in trouble, home foreclosures are at record levels, soup kitchens and food pantries are reporting big increases in families seeking assistance (while at the same time finding it harder to get food donations), and the cost of living is skyrocketing, despite what government inflation figures claim.

IndyMac Bank customers in Burbank, California

Associated Press photo / Kevork Djansezian

The FDIC has compiled a list of 90 banks it says are in danger of failing, victims of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

Consumers are seeing utility bills increase 20, 30, even 50 percent. In New York City, the local electric utility, Consolidated Edison, recently hiked electric rates between 22% and 25%. Because of steep increases in fuel prices, there’s sure to be more double-digit increases in store. In New Jersey, Verizon, a regional U.S. phone company, has gotten permission to raise basic telephone charges 50% over the next three years, and cut the number of free directory assistance calls a subscriber gets in half, while tripling the price. This will no doubt accelerate the trend of consumers dropping traditional phone lines and making their cellphone their only phone. This is not only because of the cost, but also because traditional phone companies like Verizon still don’t know how to be competitive in today’s telecom market where Cable TV, Internet and cellular telecom providers offer highly competitive or all-you-can-eat calling plans that include a smorgasbord of features at no extra charge, and companies like Google are providing FREE directory assistance services. Isn’t Verizon still charging extra every month if you have a Touch-Tone phone? They are clueless.

Healthcare costs are increasing so rapidly that many employers can’t afford to continue providing coverage for their employees, and an increasing number of individuals and families have no health insurance.

Trips to the supermarket induce shock, while a trip to the gas station produces gas pains.

We’re starting to see panicked Americans creating a run on the bank, such as these customers of IndyMac Bank this week.

And, of course, we are still at war.

America is the land of plenty, where we are enjoying a bumper crop of bad news on the economic, political and employment fronts. There seems to be very little good news these days.

– Routing By Rumor

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Newspapers Are Now Obsolete. Introducing News Headlines Mad Libs !

With apologies to Andy Rooney

Ya ever notice how the same news keeps showing up in your newspaper day after day ?

…and how it always seems to get worse ?

Well, the newshounds at RoutingByRumor have figured out how to save you some money, and save some trees at the same time. Instead of buying a newspaper every day, why not try this update of the word game “Mad Libs” to get your latest news.

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who have never heard of Mad Libs, read this before you continue. And yes, the Web does indeed have everything, including the kitchen sink. There is even an official Mad Libs website.

And remember… “no news is good news”.

THE “MAD LIBS” U.S. NEWS HEADLINES

CONSUMER NEWS

The __________________ Corporation (fill in the name of a food or consumer goods company that has shipped all of it’s manufacturing to China) has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in the name of a food product or child’s toy) due to possible __________________ contamination (fill in the name of a poison or carcinogen) or choking hazard. Consumers are advised to return the product to the store where they bought it.

ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS

Scientists monitoring the effects of global warming today observed the breakup of a ____________________ (fill in a really big number) square mile section of the Arctic ice pack. This is the largest loss of Arctic ice ever observed in a single day, and is further evidence of global warming.

HEALTH NEWS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in an agricultural product) which is suspected in a recent outbreak of ____________________ (fill in a food-borne illness). There have been ____________________ (fill in a number) suspected cases reported in ____________________ (fill in a number) states.

In an unrelated case, the ____________________ (fill in the name of a meat processor) corporation has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) pounds of ground beef, after tests have indicated possible contamination with e-coli bacteria.

ENERGY NEWS

Crude oil prices have hit another record high, closing yesterday at ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a barrel. Regular grade gasoline is now an average of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a gallon nationally, and diesel fuel is now averaging ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars, across the nation.

FOOD PRICES

Food prices have taken another steep jump in the past month, with a seasonally-adjusted increase of ____________________ (fill in a number) percent. Spurred by steep increases in energy and commodity prices, this is the ____________________th (fill in a number) straight monthly increase in food prices. Recent ____________________ (fill in a weather-related disaster, such as flooding, drought, forest fires, locusts, hail, etc.) in key ____________________ (fill in a food commodity) producing areas has increased the likelihood of further price increases and tight supplies of ____________________ (fill in a commodity) for the foreseeable future.
EMPLOYMENT NEWS

The ____________________ (fill in a major corporation’s name) company today announced plans to lay off another ____________________ (fill in a large number) thousand employees in coming months. Blaming the decision on the sluggish economy and increased foreign competition, they said further workforce reductions might be necessary.

Also, the ____________________ (fill in a major retailer) corporation today announced plans to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In the latest quarter, they posted losses totaling ____________________ (fill in a really big number) dollars. They also announced plans to close ____________________ (fill in a big number) of their least profitable stores, and lay off ____________________ (fill in a big number) thousand employees.
MILITARY NEWS

The Pentagon has announced that another ____________________ (fill in a number) servicemen have died in fighting in ____________________ (fill in either “Iraq” or “Afgahnistan”). This brings the total death count to ____________________ (fill in a very large number) since the war began. The Pentagon has also announced that the tours of duty for ____________________ (fill in a branch of service) in ______________________ (fill in “Iraq” or “Afghanistan”) will be extended by ____________________ (fill in a number) months.

In a related story, suicide bombers have killed another ____________________ (fill in a number) people in the Iraqi city of ____________________ (fill in the name of a city in Iraq), after detonating ______________________ (fill in “a car bomb” or “explosives strapped to their body”) in a crowd of people gathered for ____________________ (fill in any reason people might gather in a group), and another ____________________ (fill in number) U.S. servicemen have been ____________________ (fill in “killed” or “wounded”) by a roadside bomb in ____________________ (fill in the name of an Iraqi city).

9/11 ATTACKS

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office announced today, that another victim of the September 11th attacks has been positively identified thru the use of DNA testing. Bone fragments belonging to ____________________ (fill in yet another victim’s name), which were recovered from ground zero in the weeks after the attacks, were re-tested using new technologies which were unavailable until now. This brings the confirmed number of victims of the 9/11 attacks to ____________________ (fill in a very large number that should wake up every American to the evil we are up against), making 9/11 the single deadliest enemy attack on U.S. soil in the nation’s history.

In a related story, redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan has again suffered a setback, after ______________________ (fill in just about any reason imaginable ) has caused yet another delay in construction activity at the site. The reconstruction plans for ground zero have been mired in controversy, cost overruns, ____________________ (fill in another of the hundreds of reasons for the delays), and complaints from families of 9/11 victims, unhappy with plans for a memorial at the site.

NEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

____________________ (fill in the name of a U.S. presidential candidate) has declared his intention to ____________________ (fill in either “end the war” or “win the war” or “increase the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan”) within ____________________ (fill in a number) days of being sworn in as President. Speaking from the campaign trail, he spoke to reporters about the growing dissatisfaction among Americans about how the war is going, and promised quick and decisive action to change the course of the war.

Also, in responding to reporter’s questions about ____________________ (fill in an embarrassing or troubling incident that has been dredged up from his past), he denied _____________________ (fill in “ever making the statement” or “ever meeting with the person” or “ever belonging to the group” or “ever voicing support for the group” or “ever practicing that religion” or “ever losing his temper”), blaming those rumors on ____________________ (fill in a political party) supporters trying to derail his campaign.
So there you have it… All the news that’s fit to print, and no need to buy a single newspaper.

– Routing By Rumor

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The $10 Gallon Of Gasoline Is Possible, But They Still Won’t Wash Your Windshield !

How high will the price of a gallon of gasoline go? Regular grade gasoline is at or above $4.00 a gallon across the United States now, and crude oil is hovering in the $135 a barrel range. In fact, gasoline is close to $5.00 a gallon in some areas, and diesel fuel is averaging just about $5.00 a gallon across the nation.

At these prices, you’d think a whole squadron of singing “Texaco men” would descend on your car when you pull into the service station, cleaning your windshield, checking your tire pressure and oil level and polishing your headlights. As the jingle promised, “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star… The big, red Texaco star” (or maybe it was “the big, bright Texaco star”). Today though, all you’re likely to find at your local gas station are self-service pumps. If you’re lucky enough to find an air hose to inflate your tires, you’ll probably have to pay for the air and do it yourself.

U.S. DOE EIA\'s Gasoline Price Graph

This gasoline price graph is linked from this U.S. Dept of Energy EIA page, and

should display their current data. For EIA’s Diesel Fuel price history, click here.

We have previously questioned what a flareup in Middle East tensions might do to the price of crude oil. In today’s news, there was speculation that an Israeli military exercise earlier this month may have been a not too subtle hint that they may be preparing to (or at least want to appear to be preparing to) attack nuclear facilities in Iran.

There has been speculation that if Iran reacted to an attack by blockading shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, the price of crude oil on the world market could quickly hit $300 a barrel. The Strait of Hormuz is a 21-mile-wide strategically important body of water between Iran on the North, and the United Arab Emirates and Oman on the South. It is the only shipping route for much of the oil exported from the Persian Gulf.

Just how serious is the threat of an attack on Iran? Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an Interview on Arab television on June 21st, that “any military strike on Iran could turn the Mideast to a ball of fire” (see CNN article). This raises the possibility that the United States, the United Nations, or an international coalition might take military action to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to shipping to keep oil flowing.

The brilliant mathematicians at RoutingByRumor (they stay in our ivory tower) figure that a $300 barrel of crude oil would equate to a gallon of gasoline in the $10 to $12 range. That is, if you are able to buy it at all. Could you imagine the prospect of a $200.00 fill-up at your local gas station? We think the oil companies might have to start using armored cars to deliver the gasoline to their stations. Carjackings might become commonplace, not for the vehicle, but for the contents of it’s gas tank. Imagine what these stratospheric fuel prices would do to the American economy, which is already hurting because of the price of oil.

What we think future gasoline deliveries might look like !

For many Americans, we think gasoline at $10.00 a gallon would quite literally make it too expensive to commute to work (unless they are lucky enough to be driving one of these vehicles). Many Americans without access to public transportation would simply be better off staying home. Imagine what $10.00 gasoline will do to food prices, already spiraling out of control because of the current price of crude oil. People unfortunate enough to have oil heat will be unable to heat their homes.

So there you have it… Record high gasoline prices, military posturing by Israel towards Iran, warnings of an apocalyptic conflagration in the Mideast, and the supply of crude oil from the region hanging in the balance. Things do not look good for oil or gasoline prices or an uninterrupted supply.

You know, that old pair of inline skates in the attic, and that rusty old Schwinn in the garage are looking better every day now. Or maybe we will get a Delorean like the one from Back To The Future, with a “Mr. Fusion” Home Energy Reactor that can run on banana peels and half-empty cans of beer.

Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) fuels up his Delorean’s fusion

reactor with banana peels and beer, in Back To The Future

(credit: wikia.com)

– Routing By Rumor

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