QuickNews, Tues., Nov. 3.
ANOTHER FRUGAL CHRISTMAS | U.S. holiday sales expected to slip further 1% this season. Christmas season begins this week, and retailers can expect no improvement from last year's worst showing in nearly four decades. Online sales, registering double-digit increases most of this decade, will be up 8% this year, from just 5% last year. But online accounts for only $1 of every $10 spent in holiday season.
COMEBACK I | Ford Motor surprises Street with near-$1-billion (U.S.) 3Q profit. Turns first profit in key N.A. market since 2005. Helped by "cash for clunkers" much more than GM and Chrysler, hobbled by their bankruptcy stigma. But Ford has used cost-cutting and new models, not discounting, to gain market share on Detroit rivals. Full recovery still awaits end to N.A. economic slump, but Ford is in best shape to emerge as U.S.'s best all-around automaker - tops in profitability, volume, fuel-efficiency standards.
KEEP THE BUBBLY CORKED | Obama and Page warn of only gradual return to economic buoyancy. U.S. president and Parliamentary budget officer forecast stubbornly slow pickup in job creation. Obama exhorts exporters to keep up the pace, one of few bright lights amid lifting gloom. Also a likely topic for G20 finance ministers meeting in St. Andrews, Scotland this Friday. Big obstacle in global trade is, of course, currency exchange rates. Stakes for N.A. in getting China to stop artificially depressing its yuan are described here.
MAKING THE BEST OF IT | Harper and Obama call Karzai with congratulatory messages. The corrupt Mr. K. hit the jackpot, acceeding late in the day to a do-over of the stolen election, only days later to have his rival quit the race because Karzai failed to provide assurances it would be any less dishonest than the first one - and ends up winning a second term by acclamation. Obama sternly instructs Karzai - as sternly as one can down a long-distance phone line - to rid his government of corruption. In that spirit, I'll be bathing my leopard until the spots to come off.
RIMMED | Negative Citigroup analyst report sends RIM shares down. Analyst rightly notes RIM, currently trying to expand into consumer market, facing new competition in its core enterprise business, where margins are fatter. Big problem is that key BlackBerry carrier Verizon has adopted Motorola's new Droid as its "hero" phone - the one on which the #2 U.S. telecom will lavish most ad spending.
THE CITI NEVER SLEEPS | Old ad slogan apt for bank that also never sheds its foolhardy ways. After fourth U.S. government rescue of Citi in past 80 years, doubts continue about Citi's risk exposure - this time to credit-card users. Fed and Treasury kept sleepless over ability of the crippled bank to right itself one more time. Common sense dictates euthanasia. But Citi still deemed "too big to fail."
WORKSHOP MERGER | Venerable U.S. toolmakers Stanley and Black & Decker finally tie the knot. The $3.5-billion merger follows 28-year courtship between household names. Looks like a good deal: all stock, no debt; surprisingly little product overlap; more heft with retailers; and estimated $350 million savings in eliminating cost-duplication.
ETHNIC CRACKDOWN | Beijing unveils plan to suppress nationalist violence in Xinjiang district. Far-west, resource-rich region has long been claimed as native homeland of Turkic ethnic group. Tibet gets most of the Western attention, but China is coping with nationalist unrest in many regions.
ENDANGERED LIST GROWS | More than one-third of species in annual global study face extinction. Authoritative Red List of Threatened Species finds that 17,291 of 47,677 species studied are at risk due to loss of habitat, global heating and other factors. (See photo below.)
At what point will society truly respond to this growing crisis?
Professor Jonathan Baillie,
Zoological Society of London
MONEY 101 | Ontario schools to teach financial literacy. Beginning in 2011 school year, students grades four to 12 will have personal money management integrated into overall curriculum. Hope it includes how money disagreements loom large in marital breakdown. Also that Rule #1 is preserve capital. Rule #2 is to remember Rule #1.
TEXTING CRACKDOWN | British court sentences texter in auto accident to prison term. Never mind that errant driver wasn't texting at the time. The many messages she sent over previous hour show she was in a distracted state of mind, and thus as dangerous as an inebriated driver. That's how the get-tough British law is written. Meanwhile, poll shows growing number of Americans want texting crackdown.
YOUTH OBESITY TREND CRESTING? | Britain latest to report plateau in childhood obesity. But docs warn rate is still growing and is way too high. Recession has hurt, driving families to processed food from more costly fresh produce and other nutritious food. Turning corner on childhood obesity - if latest reports aren't just a blip - results from greater public awareness, and steps like removing soft-drink vending machines from schools.
MOST SECRETIVE FINANCIAL CENTRE | Switzerland? Caymans? Try Delaware. Tiny U.S. state, legal domicile of the Fortune 500 (and Conrad Black, in better days), took in $2.6 trillion (U.S.) in funds from non-resident firms and individuals in 2007, says watchdog group Tax Justice Network.
NOW THEY TELL US | Take aspirin only as "secondary prevention," not to ward off initial heart and stroke risk. Research has long shown aspirin helps prevent a second heart attack. But it not does not prevent cardiac problems from developing in the first place, and poses an internal-bleeding risk.
HUMANS' BEST FRIEND | If you don't like dogs, you will after reading how ably they save lives. Trained service dogs becoming ever more sophisticated, now widely in use as psychiatric service dogs increasingly assigned by U.S. military to veterans suffering PTSD. By monitoring body language and noting slight change in smell, dogs can detect oncoming panic attack, will collapse in front of patient to cushion blow from a blackout-induced fall, intervene in suicide attempts, drop a toy in your lap to remind you to take medication. Border collies rank highest in intelligence.
BATHE TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER | Malaysian state has solution for spicing up marriages.
COUNTRY SINGING THE BLUES | George Jones bemoans new lack of C&W authenticity. Crossover tunes and artists have made country more popular than ever - and it already was the biggest U.S. music genre - but the downside is dilution of genuine "hurtin' music" by R&B, rock, pop and other influences.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "If you want to keep the beer real cold, put it next to my ex-girlfriend's heart." -Anon., country lyric.
The Giant Jewel, one of 17,291 endangered species identified yesterday in the annual Red Line report, can be found in southeast Nigeria and southwest Cameroon. It is believed to be threatened by loss of habitat from logging and agricultural expansion. Photo by Kai Schuette.
Courtesy The New Yorker, Nov. 2 edition.