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Cages of live cats destined for consumption were seized by authorities while being transported by truck in Hanoi. The photo was taken on Jan. 27, 2015.
Seized: Cats smuggled from China for consumption
Feb. 1 2015 - International Business Times
Vietnamese authorities confiscate thousands of felines destined for restaurant tables
Police in Hanoi saved thousands of cats from potentially becoming barbecue after seizing a truck in Northern Vietnam carrying more than 3 tons of live cats smuggled in from China. While the cats will have to be culled in accordance with local laws, officers on Thursday indicated reservations about saving the cats bound for restaurants, only to have to kill them anyway.
"After receiving a tip, we searched the truck and discovered the cats inside," Cao Van Loc, deputy chief of police in Hanoi's Dong Da district, told German press agency dpa on Wednesday. "The owner, also the driver, said he bought the cats at the border area of Quang Ninh province," Loc said, adding that all of the cats were from China.
Photos and videos from the local An Ninh Thu Do newspaper showed the cats crammed into wooden crates with their limbs and tails sticking out. Loc told dpa that local laws dictate smuggled goods – that includes the cats – have to be destroyed. But the next day he told Agence France-Presse that they were undecided on killing the cats because there were so many. Loc said the driver will be fined around $350 for transporting goods without the correct documents.
The smuggling of cats from China into Vietnam is on the rise, according to local media reports, as cat meat has grown in popularity in recent years. Known locally as “little tiger,” cat meat is usually fried or barbecued, and served with rice wine at festive occasions or eaten as a snack in Northern Vietnam. Cat meat is seen as a delicacy and is typically eaten at the start of each lunar month, unlike dog meat, which is eaten at the end, according to AFP.
Vietnam has long banned the consumption of cat meat in efforts to encourage cat ownership to keep the rat population under control. Even in the capital city Hanoi, cat meat is still a pervasive industry. "A lot of people eat cat meat,” To Van Dung, a restaurant manager at an establishment serving cat meat in Hanoi, told AFP. “It’s a novelty. They want to try it." Besides China, cats also are being smuggled in from Thailand and Laos.
Vietnamese officials have warned of the risks of rabies, fungal skin diseases and typhoid fever for people involved in smuggling, slaughtering and eating cats. Animal rights groups have condemned cat consumption in Vietnam. Pet owners also are fed up with the risks of letting their cats go outside. Phuong Thanh Thuy, who owns a Hanoi restaurant, has cats to keep rats in check, but she told AFP that she has to replace them regularly. "My family is sad because we spend a lot of time and energy raising our cats," she said. "When we lose a cat we feel pain."
The State of the Economy
Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn't anyone hiring?
Actually, many American companies are - just maybe not in your town. They're hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.
More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.
The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.
But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute's senior international economist.
"There's a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy," says Scott.
American jobs have been moving overseas for more than two decades. In recent years, though, those jobs have become more sophisticated - think semiconductors and software, not toys and clothes.
And now many of the products being made overseas aren't coming back to the United States. Demand has grown dramatically this year in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil.
Meanwhile, consumer demand in the U.S. has been subdued. Despite a strong holiday shopping season, Americans are still spending 3 percent less than before the recession on essential items like clothing and more than 10 percent less on jewelry, furniture, electronics, and big appliances, according to MasterCard's SpendingPulse.
"Companies will go where there are fast-growing markets and big profits," says Jeffrey Sachs, globalization expert and economist at Columbia University. "What's changed is that companies today are getting top talent in emerging economies, and the U.S. has to really watch out."
With the future looking brighter overseas, companies are building there, too. Caterpillar, maker of the signature yellow bulldozers and tractors, has invested in three new plants in China in just the last two months to design and manufacture equipment. The decision is based on demand: Asia-Pacific sales soared 38 percent in the first nine months of the year, compared with 16 percent in the U.S. Caterpillar stock is up 65 percent this year.
"There is a shift in economic power that's going on and will continue. China just became the world's second-largest economy," says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's, who notes that half of the revenue for companies in the S&P 500 in the last couple of years has come from outside the U.S.
Take the example of DuPont, which wowed the world in 1938 with nylon stockings. Known as one of the most innovative American companies of the 20th century, DuPont now sells less than a third of its products in the U.S. In the first nine months of this year, sales to the Asia-Pacific region grew 50 percent, triple the U.S. rate. Its stock is up 47 percent this year.
DuPont's work force reflects the shift in its growth: In a presentation on emerging markets, the company said its number of employees in the U.S. shrank by 9 percent between January 2005 and October 2009. In the same period, its work force grew 54 percent in the Asia-Pacific countries.
"We are a global player out to succeed in any geography where we participate in," says Thomas M. Connelly, chief innovation officer at DuPont. "We want our resources close to where our customers are, to tailor products to their needs."
While most of DuPont's research labs are still stateside, Connelly says he's impressed with the company's overseas talent. The company opened a large research facility in Hyderabad, India, in 2008.
A key factor behind this runaway international growth is the rise of the middle class in these emerging countries. By 2015, for the first time, the number of consumers in Asia's middle class will equal those in Europe and North America combined.
"All of the growth over the next 10 years is happening in Asia," says Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and formerly the World Bank's chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.
Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent often points out that a billion consumers will enter the middle class during the coming decade, mostly in Africa, China and India. He is aggressively targeting those markets. Of Coke's 93,000 global employees, less than 13 percent were in the U.S. in 2009, down from 19 percent five years ago.
The company would not say how many new U.S. hires it has made in 2010. But its latest new investments are overseas, including $240 million for three bottling plants in Inner Mongolia as part of a three-year, $2 billion investment in China. The three plants will create 2,000 new jobs in the area. In September, Coca-Cola pledged $1 billion to the Philippines over five years.
The strategy isn't restricted to just the largest American companies. Entrepreneurs, whether in technology, retail or in manufacturing, today hire globally from the start.
Consider Vast.com, which powers the search engines of sites like Yahoo Travel and AOL Autos. The company was founded in 2005 with employees based in San Francisco and Serbia.
Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria worries that the trend could be dangerous. In an article in the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, he says that if U.S. businesses keep prospering while Americans are struggling, business leaders will lose legitimacy in society. He exhorted business leaders to find a way to link growth with job creation at home.
Other economists, like Columbia University's Sachs, say multinational corporations have no choice, especially now that the quality of the global work force has improved. Sachs points out that the U.S. is falling in most global rankings for higher education while others are rising.
"We are not fulfilling the educational needs of our young people," says Sachs. "In a globalized world, there are serious consequences to that."
China has now ended America's 110 year run as the leading manufacturer of the world, the number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped last week after three straight declines, another sign that hiring remains weak.
WASHINGTON -- New jobless claims in the U.S. jumped last week by the most since February, reversing a sharp fall two weeks ago. The rise is partly a result of seasonal factors but also reflects the job market's weakness.
The Labor Department says new claims for unemployment insurance jumped by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 464,000. Analysts expected a smaller rise, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.
First-time claims have hovered near 450,000 since the beginning of the year after falling steadily in the second half of 2009. That has raised concerns that hiring is lackluster and could slow the recovery.
The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 88,000 to 4.57 million
One Light Bulb at a Time
A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while
one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn't
slow a train very much, a billion of them would. With that thought
in mind, read the following, obviously written by a good American ..
Good idea .. . . one light bulb at a time .. . . .
Check this out .. I can verify this because I was in Lowes the other day
for some reason and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose
attachments . They were all made in China . The next day I was in Ace
Hardware and just for the heck of it I checked the hose attachments there.
They were made in USA . Start looking ..
In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects
someone else - even their job . So, after reading this email, I think this
lady is on the right track . Let's get behind her!
My grandson likes Hershey's candy . I noticed, though, that it is marked
made in Mexico now. I do not buy it any more.
My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico ... now
I have switched to Crest. You have to read the labels on everything ..
This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60 W light bulbs and Bounce
I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE
brand I normally buy was an off-brand labeled, "Everyday Value".
I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats -
they were the same except for the price ..
The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the
thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO
and the Everyday Value brand was made in - get ready for this - the USA
in a company in Cleveland , Ohio .
So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day
that are made right here ..
So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets . .. . yep, you guessed it,
Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada . The Everyday Value
brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA ! I did laundry yesterday
and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been
using for years and at almost half the price!
My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for
everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the
USA - the
job you save may be your own or your neighbors!
If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book
so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying
from overseas companies!
We should have awakened a decade ago .. . .. . . . )
Let's get with the program........ help our fellow Americans keep their
jobs and create more jobs here in the USA.
Satanic Temple brings 'After School Satan Club' to Portland school
Published September 27, 2016
The Portland chapter of the Satanic Temple has reportedly succeeded in bringing its "After School Satan Club" to an elementary school within city limits.
Finn Rezz, one of two heads of the chapter, told the Oregonian that the organization has been approved to begin its program, which focuses on "on science and rational thinking," on Oct. 19 at Sacramento Elementary School.
Rezz previously told the paper that most members of the Satanic Temple are atheists who see Satan as an allegory for free thought, and that the program is intended to promote "benevolence and empathy for everybody."
The purpose, Rezz told the paper, is meant to counter "the Good News Club," an after-school club put on by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, "a Bible-centered organization.
"Across the nation, parents are concerned about encroachments by proselytizing evangelicals in their public schools, and are eager to establish the presence of a contrasting voice that helps children to understand that one doesn’t need to submit to superstition in order to be a good person," the After School Satan Clubs (ASSC) says on its website
"Our goal, ultimately, is to place an ASSC in every school where the Good News Clubs, or other proselytizing religious groups, have established a presence," it said.
In August, the Satanic Temple of Seattle asked the Mount Vernon School District for permission to start an after-school program in direct response to the Good News Bible Club run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship at Centennial Elementary School.
Satanic Temple of Seattle spokesman Tarkus Claypool said a parent brought the Bible club to their attention because the parent was concerned the club was teaching children to evangelize to other children, according to the Associated Press.
Claypool said their curriculum teaches children logic, self-empowerment and reasoning, and they don't worship a deity.
School District Superintendent Carl Bruner said a 1991 Supreme Court ruling stated that if schools allow any organization to use school property, they must allow access to all organizations, religious and secular. He said the district will explore how to respond to the application.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.
Thurs. Dec 6, 2014
By Brett Arends
Hang on to your hats, America.
And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.
It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.
The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.
As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.
To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.
This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.
I reported on this looming development over two years ago, but the moment came sooner than I or anyone else had predicted. China’s recent decision to bring gross domestic product calculations in line with international standards has revealed activity that had previously gone uncounted.
These calculations are based on a well-established and widely used economic measure known as purchasing-power parity (or PPP), which measures the actual output as opposed to fluctuations in exchange rates. So a Starbucks venti Frappucino served in Beijing counts the same as a venti Frappucino served in Minneapolis, regardless of what happens to be going on among foreign-exchange traders.
Make no mistake. This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale.
PPP is the real way of comparing economies. It is one reported by the IMF and was, for example, the one used by McKinsey & Co. consultants back in the 1990s when they undertook a study of economic productivity on behalf of the British government.
Yes, when you look at mere international exchange rates, the U.S. economy remains bigger than that of China, allegedly by almost 70%. But such measures, although they are widely followed, are largely meaningless. Does the U.S. economy really shrink if the dollar falls 10% on international currency markets? Does the recent plunge in the yen mean the Japanese economy is vanishing before our eyes?
Back in 2012, when I first reported on these figures, the IMF tried to challenge the importance of PPP. I was not surprised. It is not in anyone’s interest at the IMF that people in the Western world start focusing too much on the sheer extent of China’s power. But the PPP data come from the IMF, not from me. And it is noteworthy that when the IMF’s official World Economic Outlook compares countries by their share of world output, it does so using PPP.
Yes, all statistics are open to various quibbles. It is perfectly possible China’s latest numbers overstate output — or understate them. That may also be true of U.S. GDP figures. But the IMF data are the best we have.
Make no mistake: This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale. Throughout history, political and military power have always depended on economic power. Britain was the workshop of the world before she ruled the waves. And it was Britain’s relative economic decline that preceded the collapse of her power. And it was a similar story with previous hegemonic powers such as France and Spain.
This will not change anything tomorrow or next week, but it will change almost everything in the longer term. We have lived in a world dominated by the U.S. since at least 1945 and, in many ways, since the late 19th century. And we have lived for 200 years — since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 — in a world dominated by two reasonably democratic, constitutional countries in Great Britain and the U.S.A. For all their flaws, the two countries have been in the vanguard worldwide in terms of civil liberties, democratic processes and constitutional rights.
GM's old Willow Run plant is a reminder of manufacturing past
The decline of US manufacturing jobs and living standards
BBC: August 8, 2012
For decades America's vibrant manufacturing sector provided poorly educated workers a bridge to the middle class. But today's plants need highly skilled workers who know their way around ultra-high tech machinery.
On the factory floor of AMI, a Michigan-based maker of fuel cells, one can hear the future of manufacturing.
It is very, very quiet.
The loudest noise in the brightly lit factory is the beeping of a hydraulic lift used to replace lightbulbs overhead.
The contrast with traditional manufacturing is sharp: Almost no noise, no dirt, little physical effort. And requirements for workers are very different.
"You've got to have the smart people that help build it from the bottom up," says AMI President Aaron Crum.
"We don't forge things anymore. We use lasers to cut metal, we extrude ceramics, we do things that are different. And so because of it, we need a different labour force to make it happen."
Decades of losses
Manufacturing in the US is undergoing the same technological revolution that sent workers from agriculture to industry at the end of the 19th Century, says Lou Glazer of consulting group Michigan Future Inc.
Aaron Crum says manufacturing today needs "smart people" In the '50s, he says, factory work was a third of the work in America; now it's below 10%.
Although manufacturing employment has ticked up in recent months, adding 30,000 jobs since March, the gains pale in comparison to the losses of the past decade.
Three and half million manufacturing jobs have vanished in 10 years, bringing the current total to just under 12 million.
As employment has plummeted, productivity has soared. Not for nothing does the US National Association of Manufacturers boast that American factory workers are "the most productive in the world".
About 30 minutes' drive from the AMI plant is the ghost of manufacturing past: Willow Run.
It is an almost unfeasibly large plant that once turned out Liberator bombers, then Kaiser cars, then transmissions and car bodies for General Motors.
Willow Run closed in 2010 when GM went bankrupt. Of the plant's five million square feet, one million has been cleared for sale.
The rest of the factory is an astonishing reminder of what manufacturing used to be like.
Hulking presses the size of three-storey houses gather dust, corridors stretch into the gloom seemingly without end, and the warm air is thick with the smell of machine oil.
'No diploma needed'
Gathered round a table at a nearby diner, former Willow Run workers remember their first days at the plant. Now in their 50s, they reminisce about what it took to get a job at the plant.
"You didn't need a high school diploma," says Sterling Mullins.
GM's old Willow Run plant is a reminder of manufacturing past "You just needed to be a hard worker," says Gerry Gardner, "and you needed to show up every day, because it wasn't easy work."
Tom White grew up on a farm, "so the skills I had weren't really applicable".
Those were the days when manufacturing lifted poorly educated men and put them into America's industrial middle class.
"You could put the kids through college, we had a couple of weeks vacation," Mr Gardner says.
"And you had enough money to go out and buy a new car. We weren't rich - I'm not driving no Rolls Royce or anything - but I bought me a GM car."
Manufacturing jobs still pay well - an average of $77,186 (ďż˝49,223) in pay and benefits in 2010. But there are far fewer of them and, says Mr Glazer the consultant, they are changing.
"That path to mass middle-class work is gone," he says.
"The only high-paid factory work left is going be people who both programme and maintain machines. That work is going to be high-paid but it requires much higher skills."
The US is still a big player in manufacturing. More than 18% of global manufacturing output comes from the US factories.
And even if American manufacturing has stumbled a little recently as eurozone orders dry up, many of Michigan's manufacturers are optimistic about the future.
But the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
Manufacturing in the US has already changed and will change further, pressed on one side by technology and on the other by globalisation.
It will be hugely difficult for less-skilled American workers to attain anything like the living standards of the generation before them
TECH MADE IN THE U.S
Wed, July 3, 2013
Amid rising labor costs in China and perhaps a rise in pure patriotism, some tech companies are choosing to come back to the United States. See which tech items are now proudly made in good ol U.S.A!
At the D11 Conference in May, CEO Dennis Woodside announced that the newest Motorola phone would be assembled in a Fort Worth, Texas factory that was once used to make Nokia phones. The company estimated that it will employ 2,000 people in the Fort Worth facility by August. The phone itself was said to be slated for late 2013 release.
Still no word on what the phone will look like, but their new advertisement released July 3 says it will be the "first smartphone you can design yourself."
Company: Corning, Inc.
Found in many electronic devices manufactured overseas including iPhones, Gorilla Glass is made in the United States. According to the biography by Walter Isaacson, former CEO Steve Jobs was said to have called Corning Glass CEO Wendell Weeks directly to request that the company begin making its Gorilla Glass product again, after production was halted when the company couldnâ€™t find a buyer.
Company: Google, Inc.
Although it has yet to be sold, Googles wearable augmented reality technology will be made in the United States. Working with the Taiwanese company Hon Hai Precision Industry, otherwise known as Foxconn, the search engine giant will build a manufacturing plant near the companys Silicon Valley headquarters.
Company: Intel, Inc.
The chip-making company is building the worldâ€™s most advanced, high volume chip fabrication plant in the Arizona desert. In 2012, FoxNews.com reported that it will be completed later this year and will be set up to produce chips with parts only 14 nanometers wide â€“ smaller than a strand of human hair, which is 100,000 nanometers.
Company: Google, Inc.
Googles spherical media player is designed and manufactured in the United States. However, that would be the only redeeming feature. Subject to mixed reviews due to the players lack of features, the console has yet to be sold to the public.
Company: Apple, Inc.
In 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple would begin to â€śdo one of our existing Mac lines in the United Statesâ€ť without revealing which product it would be. At the WWDC last month, Apples senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller revealed a newly redesigned Mac Pro, "unlike any we've ever made." Check out FoxNews.com for more information about the newly designed Mac Pro.
Company: Element Electronics
At the 2012 Consumers Electronic Show, the Detroit-based electronics manufacturer announced that it would begin to make its televisions in the United States. Its flat-screen facility in Detroit, Michigan makes it the only company currently assembling TVs in the country.
"The last major U.S. factory making ordinary incandescent light bulbs will soon be closing. When it does, the remaining 200 workers at the Winchester, Va., plant, about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C., will lose their jobs, marking a small, sad exit for a product that began with Thomas Alva Edison's innovations in the 1870s.
Light bulb factory closes; End of era for U.S. means more jobs overseas. American flag seller files for bankruptcy
The remaining 200 workers at the plant here will lose their jobs.
"Now what're we going to do?" said Toby Savolainen, 49, who like many others worked for decades at the factory, making bulbs now deemed wasteful.
During the recession, political and business leaders have held out the promise that American advances, particularly in green technology, might stem the decades-long decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. But as the lighting industry shows, even when the government pushes companies toward environmental innovations and Americans come up with them, the manufacture of the next generation technology can still end up overseas.
What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.
The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences.
Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
Consisting of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they require more hand labor, which is cheaper there. So though they were first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, none of the major brands make CFLs in the United States.
"Everybody's jumping on the green bandwagon," said Pat Doyle, 54, who has worked at the plant for 26 years. But "we've been sold out. First sold out by the government. Then sold out by GE. "
Doyle was speaking after a shift last month surrounded by several co-workers around a picnic table near the punch clock. Many of the workers have been at the plant for decades, and most appeared to be in their 40s and 50s. Several worried aloud about finding another job.
"When you're 50 years old, no one wants you," Savolainen said. It was meant half in jest, but some of the men nod grimly.
Under the pressures of globalization, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has been shrinking for decades, from 19.5 million in 1979 to 11.6 million this year, a decline of 40 percent.
At textile mills in North Carolina, at auto parts plants in Ohio, at other assorted manufacturing plants around the country, the closures have pushed workers out, often leaving them to face an onslaught of personal defeats: lower wages, community college retraining and unemployment checks.
In Obama's vision, the nation's mastery of new technology will create American manufacturing jobs.
"See, when folks lift up the hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines stamped "Made in America," Obama said in an Aug. 16 speech at a Wisconsin plant. "When new batteries to store solar power come off the line, I want to see printed on the side, "Made in America." When new technologies are developed and new industries are formed, I want them made right here in America. That's what we're fighting for."
But a closer look at the lighting industry reveals that isn't going to be easy.
At one time, the United States was ahead of the game in CFLs.
Following the 1973 energy crisis, a GE engineer named Ed Hammer and others at the company's famed Nela Park research laboratories were tinkering with different methods of saving electricity with fluorescent lights.
In a standard incandescent bulb, in which the filament is electrified until it glows, only about 10 percent of the electricity is transformed into light; the rest generates heat as a side effect. A typical fluorescent uses about 75 percent less electricity than an incandescent to produce the same amount of light.
Once again, we see how Globalization destroys the American economy. Our leaders want us to be on par with the poorer countries...how sad this is for the average American worker...we must continue to bow down to globalization and lose our American identity and prosperity as well.
American flag seller files for bankruptcy
When selling the business of patriotism, put emphasis on the red.
A little over a week before America celebrates its 236th birthday, Wisconsin-based flag seller Liberty Flag & Specialty Co. filed for bankruptcy protection.
Running low on cash, the nine-employee shop located half a block south of Reedsburgďż˝s Main Street immediately asked its bankruptcy judge for permission to spend the pools of money that it had promised to set aside for its lender, Community First Bank. The cash will keep the lights on at its headquarters as executives figure out if the company can find a way to survive using Chapter 11 protection.
Liberty Flagďż˝s financial hardship, which is coming at the peak of the industryďż˝s flag-selling season, raises broader concern about Americansďż˝ sense of civic spirit.
Or is the bankruptcy another sign of the slow drip of manufacturing jobs to cheaper overseas markets? The U.S. Census Bureau noted Tuesday in their perennial round-up of Fourth of July-centric facts that the U.S. imported $3.6 million worth of American flags last year. China alone shipped more than $3.3 million worth of flags.
Liberty Flag executives didnďż˝t return a phone message, and the companyďż˝s bankruptcy attorney declined to explain why the company fell suddenly short on cash.
But the folks at Liberty Flag's biggest business partner, nearby Eder Flag Manufacturing outside of Milwaukee insisted that the financial hardship isnt evenly spread.
Eder Flags roughly 180 employees stitched together about 6.5 million U.S. flags during the last year to keep up with growing demand, said Jodi Goglio, Eder Flagďż˝s director of operations. Sales of flagpoles outpaced flag sales with a 10% growth rate, she said.
For us, that is a good indication that new construction is on the rise and people have increased their discretionary spending, she told Bankruptcy Beat, adding that she found the amount of foreign-made American flags brought into the country is appalling.
As for Liberty Flags $205,931.30 debt to Eder Flag, Goglio explained that Libertys bill was more than two years old. Liberty Flag, which bought Eder-made flags to sell them to customers and retailers, bought its first batch in 1984
November 24, 2014 Fortune - How Washington can renew U.S. manufacturing
The Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation Act has bi-partisan support and would boost a critical segment of the U.S. economy, says Karen Mills, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School
Congress is back in Washington with the intent to get some key things done between now and the end of the year. One of those things needs to be making an investment in our economy by passing the Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act, which would invest in a key segment of the U.S. economy: manufacturing. Here’s why.
Americans are tired of partisanships stymieing progress, and they are overdue for a sign from Washington that our leaders haven’t forgotten what agreement looks like.
More importantly, passing this bill would invest in the sector that has the greatest impact on our economy – every $1 spent in manufacturing generates another $1.35 in additional economic activity, which is more than is generated by any other sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. It also demonstrates an understanding of what it will take to continue to drive our nation’s competitiveness and create the kinds of good-paying jobs that offer a path to the American Dream.
Now, that’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a piece of legislation that most Americans haven’t heard of. But, it’s true and it’s achievable.
So what would RAMI do? It would establish up to 15 manufacturing institutes across the country – building on four that were already created by the Obama Administration. To do this, it would bring together government, colleges and universities, research institutions, business and industry in partnership to accelerate manufacturing innovation.
American workers would be the greatest beneficiaries of RAMI because, at its core, it invests in the U.S. labor force by building skills and capacity around the very good-paying jobs that will maintain our nation’s competitive edge in the 21st Century.
With Washington caught in a cycle of perpetual gridlock, agreement may not seem possible, but that’s not true. RAMI passed the House in September with bipartisan support, cosponsored by Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York and Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. The bill is awaiting action in the Senate, where it is backed by Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.
While much attention is focused on the prospects for agreement on higher profile issues, here’s an idea. Why not move on RAMI, where the differences have already been sorted out and bipartisan support already exists?
One thing we can take away from the midterm elections is that working Americans are tired of gridlock and they have lost confidence in Washington’s ability to actually address the root causes of the economic anxiety they are feeling. An August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 71% of respondents blamed Washington’s inaction for what they view as a lingering sluggish economy.
While large businesses have flourished and the stock market has reached new highs amid a falling unemployment rate, Americans are losing confidence that it’s possible to move up in the world. In fact, in a September survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 42% of respondents believe the American Dream – that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead – still holds true.
Americans are anxious about the economy. And, rather than more gridlock, Washington should take action where it can. Even if this means starting small, and passing a few things where there is already agreement.
I’m not saying we should step away from the big policy issues. But, real tax reform will take time, and closing loopholes will cause pain in many sectors. Immigration reform is critical, and may be something on which parties can agree in the year ahead.
RAMI is ready to move. It doesn’t cost much – in government terms – and if not passed in the next few weeks, its backers will have to start over again in the new Congress after the first of the year.
Americans need Congress to get back in the habit of agreeing on and actually passing bipartisan legislation. RAMI is one place to start.
By passing this bill, Congress can show working Americans that they do understand how to invest in building the kind of jobs that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness around the globe and restore the path to the American Dream.
About the author: Karen Mills is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School focused on competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation. She was a member of President Obama’s Cabinet, serving as Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013.
Illnesses with Recalled toys and lead paint has been an ongoing problem with Chinese products.
Children Being Poisoned by Chinese-Manufactured Products Containing Lead
Nobember 22, 2014
Lead is a malleable, highly available and naturally occurring heavy metal. Because of it’s ease of use and accessibility, lead has been used in manufacturing since 6400 BC. Historically, it has been a major ingredient in gasoline, paint, batteries, radiation shields, and bullets. Lead was found to be poisonous in the early 1900′s, especially to children, which led to strict regulations and oversight in American manufacturing, but other countries, such as China, have not yet taken steps to prevent it’s use. Lead is inexpensive which is major factor in keeping manufacturing costs and product prices down.
Lead poisoning is an accumulative process as the lead is stored in bones and soft tissue, much like mercury, another heavy metal. In children, the toxicity levels are higher than if an adult was exposed to the same amounts since gastrointestinal absorption of lead is enhanced in childhood. An adult would only absorb about 10% of ingested lead compared to 50% in a child. Since young children put more inedible items in their mouth than adults do, either out of curiosity or due to teething, children are at a higher risk for exposure if the items were decorated with lead paint.
Lead poisoning is toxic to all humans and animals, but is especially detrimental to the developing mind of a child. Minor toxicity levels will affect cognitive skills, weaken immune systems, disrupt reproductive organs, induce central nervous system disorders, and change behaviors and attitudes of the affected person. These effects are permanent and cannot be reversed through treatment or medicine. Acute poisoning leads to more severe consequences of brain damage, and can include coma, convulsions, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, and other behavioral disruptions, if not death.
Since the uptake levels are higher in children, and retention is permanent, if lead poisoning is widespread in a nation, the next generation of the population’s citizens will have a collective lower IQ as there will be a higher instance of diminished intelligence and mental retardation. This results in a society obsolete of citizens with superior intelligence, which reduces a nation’s science and technology progression, and causes a lack of future leaders. To prevent this from happening in America, lead paint was outlawed in 1962, and strict laws were put into place in regards to lead content in furniture, toys, and other products for children, updated again in 2009.
Even with laws governing the use of lead in manufacturing, lead poisoning in children is still a major problem in the America, with lead poisoning being 0.6% of all disease. As of 2010, approximately 43 billion dollars are spent annually dealing with this ongoing crisis in the US. Diminished intelligence in children due to lead poisoning results in the need for specialized and remedial education programs in American schools.
So, if there are strict regulations in American manufacturing, how are American children still being poisoned by lead? The answer is imported products whose countries of origin don’t have strict regulations, or don’t uphold their regulations. China has proven to the US that they continue to use lead in their manufacturing, even for American companies that outsourced production to China. In 2007, there was a major product recall of items that were produced in China due to safety measures not instituted. Among the list of toxic, defective, or dangerous products were toys, children’s jewelry, baby bibs, and toothpaste. (Along with recalls for tires, dog food, tools, and computer batteries.)
In August 2007, Fisher-Price recalled 83 types of Chinese-made toys because their paint contained excessive amounts of lead, much more than the national allowance of 0.06% (300 parts per million) of total lead content by weight in any part of the product. (Tighter regulations are adhered to for surface lead exposure, such as in paint.) These plastic toys recalled included the very popular characters of Diego and Dora the Explorer, and Elmo and Big Bird from Sesame Street. That recall consisted of 967,000 unsafe toys.
A few weeks later, Mattel recalled 436,000 toy cars of the character “Sarge” from the popular movie “Cars”. The die-cast metal cars were covered in lead paint and about half of the 436,000 recalled toys had already been distributed in the US.
In different findings, laboratory results showed a high level of lead in vinyl baby bibs that were produced in China and being sold at Toys’R’Us stores across the USA.
In a 2010 study of new Chinese paint samples, half of the 58 samples tested contained a high level of lead, equal to or more than 600 parts per million. In America, the new regulations put into effect in 2009 allow no more than 90 parts per million of lead by weight to be in surface paint (a maximum of 0.009%), so these Chinese paint samples are more than six times higher than what the American regulations will allow.
Lead poisoning is a major problem in China with at least 10% of their children’s population being affected. The children of China are not only poisoned by lead in paint, but also by lead in food, water, medicine, and the environment in areas of lead mining.
In 2013, Australian regulation agencies discovered high levels of lead in Chinese-canned peaches. The levels were twice the amount legally permissible under New Zealand and Australian food standard.
In September of 2014, a toddler in New York City was poisoned by high levels of lead in an imported Chinese herbal cold remedy.
With all the empirical evidence found about the effects of lead poisoning, especially detrimental in children, one would think that foreign manufacturers would move away from the use of lead. This is not happening in China, the second highest manufacturer in the world. They are still relying on this cheap material that produces vivid colors in paint and resists corrosion, and slowly kills and retards the world’s citizens. America, on the other hand, the top producer in the world of manufactured goods, does adhere to the strict standards set forth by regulation, and will continue to do so. The clear choice would be to go with American made products, avoiding the Chinese-produced products, even when they are distributed by an American company.
Making schmurah (meaning ‘guarded’) matzo in the 1940s. Photograph: Streit's family collection/Michael Levine
Inside Streit's: New York City's last matzo factory closing after 90 years
January 27, 2015
By Alex Traub - The Guardian
Earlier this month, Streit’s matzo factory announced it is selling its four converted tenement buildings and leaving New York City’s Lower East Side, 90 years after it opened in 1925. The neighborhood was once home to hundreds of thousands of Jews, not far from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and other large Manhattan manufacturers. Now, the area around Streit’s on Rivington Street is home to stores like Teany, the health food cafe owned by electronica DJ Moby.
Today, Streit’s is still owned and operated by the descendants of founder Aron Streit. The family expected to stay forever. For years, they resisted offers of tens of millions of dollars to sell the buildings. When the Jewish community left the Lower East Side and Streit’s stayed, the brand gained legitimacy from its continued association with the old neighborhood. With time, it became one of the most prominent matzo makers in the country.
Walking around the 80-year-old ovens, it seems miraculous the factory lasted so long. The smell of toast and smoke hangs in the factory air, where the same employees worked for many decades on increasingly ancient machines. “I thought we would be here a lifetime,” says Aron Yagoda, executive vice president of Streit’s, and Aron Streit’s great grandson.
It may be the city’s loss that the Streit’s factory is closing, but it is not necessarily the city’s fault. Streit’s seems to exemplify the lethal power of New York real estate developers and rising rents, which in the last year have claimed as casualties historic commercial landmarks such as Rizzoli Bookstore and Pearl Paint. In fact, this passing moment of urban history is much more the result of contemporary oven design, sales strategy at Kosher supermarkets, and Israeli labor market practices – in other words, the peculiar forces of the matzo industry that direct the workings of Streit’s itself.
Matzo is a central part of Passover, the annual Jewish holiday that commemorates the enslavement and subsequent escape of Jews in Egypt. In the Biblical narrative, the Jews fled in such haste that they could not wait for the bread they took with them to rise. During the weeklong celebration of Passover, Jews eat unleavened matzo bread as a symbolic reminder of the hardship of life in Egypt.
The production process at Streit’s begins with flour and water held in vats in the basement. Like everything that happens before baking, the flour and water must be handled by a mashgiach, or Jewish person schooled in kosher laws. Mayer Kirshner, the factory’s head supervising rabbi, monitors the basement. Only the Jews do baking, but the rest of the employees are from all over: Bangladesh, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Poland. “We’ve got the UN working here,” says Kirshner.
With Rabbi Kirshner’s approval, the flour and water are lifted two floors to the mixing room. There, mashgichim say prayers as they churn the flour and water into dough, keeping an eye on the clock: three or four batches must pass through in under 15 minutes, or else the baking process may exceed 18 minutes, at which point bread begins to rise.
The dough is then dropped through a chute back to the first floor, where it is flattened by rollers, perforated by a spiky stippler, and divided into rectangles by huge rotating knives. Streit’s has two of these cutting machines, one from 1939 and another from 1941.
Each feeds matzo dough into a nearly imperceptible two-inch slot of one of two massive 72-foot ovens heated at 700 to 900 degrees. The ovens, both from the 1930s, have been covered in cement insulation over the years. They evoke the bulky, handmade aspect of elementary school clay art projects.
Small levers manually control the heat of each section of the ovens. Yagoda remembers his grandfather Jack, Aron Streit’s son, routinely adjusting the levers in search of perfect matzo. “He did know how to bake,” says Yagoda, “but he loved playing with the oven.” Yagoda, who had been told by his sister Annie not to joke with reporters, is on the Streit’s management committee along with his cousin Alan Adler and Adler’s nephew, Aaron Gross.
Gross played wide receiver on the Georgetown football team and after college worked in horse racing stables. He likes a good rivalry. “We cross-laminate – overlap dough six times one way, six times the other,” he says. “Whereas the competition does only three; they pennystack it. Those layers create air pockets and when you cook [the matzo] there’s more of a snap to it. It’s less dense, less doughy.”
Gross spent a few years working in the factory, mainly the mixing room. He says the most difficult job is that of the pickers, who stand in front of the ovens collecting the sheets of matzo, breaking them into pieces, and placing them in cooling baskets. The baskets, attached to the ceiling by thick metal chains, revolve around three floors of the factory in a slow, circuitous loop. Visitors must duck around them to avoid being hit.
In recent years, the Streit’s machines have worn down. Both ovens used to produce 1,000 pounds of matzo every hour; now they don’t exceed 1,650 pounds combined. It’s been many decades since spare parts for either oven were readily available, and when something breaks the entire factory has to shut down while engineers remake an old piece by hand.
The ovens cannot be fixed; they also cannot be replaced. Even the smallest new industrial ovens are nearly quadruple the size of the machines at Streit’s, and wouldn’t fit in their buildings. “I don’t understand how everything in this life has gotten smaller – cell phones, cars – while matzo equipment has gotten a lot bigger,” says Yagoda. New machines are not designed for a place like Streit’s. “If a guy made an oven just for matzo makers, what, would he sell one once every hundred years?”
Gross, Yagoda, and Adler plan to retain as much of the old production process as possible when they move into a new factory after Passover this year . They want to keep using New York water and convection ovens. But no matter what, the current system resembles that of 1925 more than it ever could the process that will replace it.
There are still a few elderly Jews left who remember the old days. One, Eugene Weiser, a stooped old man who would not give his age, dropped by Streit’s for a kosher lollipop. Like his father before him, Weiser is president of the nearby Chasam Sopher synagogue, one of the oldest in the city. “I remember Aron,” says Weiser. “Since I was a little boy I would come by and get a piece of matzo.”
Though the Streit’s factory will close, Streit’s certainly will not. Nationally, it is responsible for 30-40% of all matzo sales. Its market position is protected by a unique set of barriers to entry. Matzo workers, for example, must be educated in kosher laws. Machines must be specially altered for matzo production.
Most importantly, Streit’s and its main competitor, Manischewitz, were both founded during the great wave of Jewish immigration to the US, around the turn of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly, commemoration of the enslavement of Jews in the pre-Biblical era fosters a market of consumers who prize so-called legacy businesses. Yagoda believes this attitude will not change so long as there are religious Jews. “Matzo is in the Bible. That’d be a big recall. GM has a big recall; wait till they recall the Bible. We don’t want to live through that.”
The market is growing. Passover sales used to account for 80% of the Streit’s matzo business; today it’s only 60%. The change is due largely to health food customers who appreciate the simplicity of matzo’s ingredients, and who perhaps view the kosher label as approximately organic. “It’s a healthy cracker,” says Gross. “It’s unbleached, unbromated flour, which everyone wants now.” Gross has also heard from distributors in the south that churches buy matzo as an ersatz communion wafer.
Changes to the market also bring challenges. Relatively cheap labor has enabled Israeli matzo companies to undercut Streit’s and Manischewitz. Even if many customers are loyal, they’re not always given a choice. According to Gross, during Passover, supermarkets frequently give away five-pound bundles of cheap Israeli matzo with purchases of $50 or more. They buy only a small amount of Streit’s for the few customers who will neglect their deal.
At the same time, the neighbors who used to flock to the Streit’s retail operation no longer exist. The store is often totally empty even when its door is open, an uncanny sight in Manhattan. Gross thought the solution would be a Streit’s cafe or bar. Russ & Daughters, the old Jewish gourmet store just a few blocks from Streit’s, opened Russ & Daughters Cafe last spring. Gross imagined they’d call their place The Factory Cafe, and that there would be tours of the production cycle.
It didn’t happen. A new retail location would entail rezoning, new tax designations, new insurance liabilities – great expense and risk. “We really have to worry about how we’re going to make matzo, more so than anything else,” says Yagoda. This was the feeling of the 11 family shareholders, and Aaron came to agree. “Once we lost the retail presence, to use this as our flagship factory makes really no sense. I don’t think we could choose a more expensive place to manufacture, or a more inefficient, more expensive means of doing it.”
The family won’t say what they received for their buildings, but they nearly agreed to sell for $25m in 2008, and Lower East Side real estate has only grown pricier since. Streit’s is not, however, merely cashing out. “I’d rather be the generation that moved Streit’s than the last generation of Streit’s,” says Yagoda.
The money from the sale will be spent largely on making Streit’s a stronger company. “Our goal is to go from the most inefficient, out-of-date facility to the most efficient, state-of-the-art facility in the world” says Gross. As Streit’s decides not to turn into a charming old museum, it will, at least, retain the vitality of a business that wants to survive.
Chinese-Made Drinking Glasses Contain 1000 Times Allowable Levels of Lead
Drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Tin Man from 'The Wizard of Oz' exceed federal limits for lead in children's products by up to 1,000 times, according to laboratory testing commissioned by The Associated Press.
"The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets - made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank - contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children's products is 0.03 percent."
Now, come on--hasn't China been caught enough times that it might have sunk in by now that slathering lead all over just about everything they send our way might not seem like such a great idea anymore?
The AP's testing, conducted by ToyTestingLab of Rhode Island, "found that the enamel used to color the Tin Man had the highest lead levels, at 1,006 times the federal limit for children's products. Every Oz and superhero glass tested exceeded the government limit: The Lion by 827 times and Dorothy by 770 times; Wonder Woman by 533 times, Superman by 617 times, Batman by 750 times and the Green Lantern by 677 times."
When the safest piece of glassware "only" exceeds federal standards by 6,770%, it may be time to a) stop importing painted glasses from China, or b) stop importing painted glasses from China.
Why do they keep doing it?
Price, of course.
A report by David Barboza in the New York Times explains:
"Paint with higher levels of lead often sells for a third of the cost of paint with low levels. So Chinese factory owners, trying to eke out profits in an intensely competitive and poorly regulated market, sometimes cut corners and use the cheaper leaded paint.
"On the books, Chinaďż˝s paint standards are stricter than those in the United States, requiring that paint intended for household or consumer-product use contain no more than 90 parts of lead per million. By comparison, American regulations allow up to 600 parts per million.
'The standard doesnďż˝t matter,' said Scott Clark, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati. 'Remember, in the Soviet Union during the cold war, they had very high standards on the books, but they never enforced them. It was just for show.'ďż˝
Hang on, didn't China swear to god, cross its heart, hope to die, stick a needle in its eye in 2007 that it was banning lead paint on toys exported to the US?
Chuanzhong Wei, vice minister of Chinaďż˝s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, seemed so serious about it, so dedicated to fixing the problem.
Well, about that...don't forget that he also said that, "We should not over-propagandize the problem."
Good point, my man. Why get all tangled up in "over-propagandizing" this whole lead thing? It's not like lead is a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggression. Or that a study by economist Rick Nevin shows a relationship between early childhood lead exposure and criminal behavior later in life.
It is stunning how strong the association is, Nevin told the Washington Post. 65 to 90% or more of the substantial variation in violent crime was explained by lead.