Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Posted by gjblass at 4:21 PM
Posted by gjblass at 3:26 PM
#2 'Beijing National Aquatics Center' Also known as the "Water Cube," the Aquatics Center will accommodate 17,000 fans for the swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming competitions. The outer structure is a steel frame filled with more than 100,000 square meters of ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene)...
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Posted by gjblass at 2:23 PM
An American Pastime: Smoking Pot
The Netherlands, with its permissive marijuana laws, may be known as the cannabis capital of the world. But a survey published this month in PLoS Medicine, a journal of the Public Library of Science, suggests that the Dutch don't actually experiment with pot as much as one would expect. Despite tougher drug policies in this country, Americans were twice as likely to have tried marijuana than the Dutch, according to the survey. In fact, Americans were more likely to have tried marijuana or cocaine than people in any of the 16 other countries, including France, Spain, South Africa, Mexico and Colombia, that the survey covered.
Researchers found that 42% of people surveyed in the United States had tried marijuana at least once, and 16% had tried cocaine. About 20% of residents surveyed in the Netherlands, by contrast, reported having tried pot; in Asian countries, such as Japan and China, marijuana use was virtually "non-existent," the study found. New Zealand was the only other country to claim roughly the same percentage of pot smokers as the U.S., but no other nation came close to the proportion of Americans who reported trying cocaine.
Why the high numbers? Jim Anthony, the chair of the department of epidemiology at Michigan State University and an author of the study, says U.S. drug habits have to do, in part, with the country's affluence — many Americans can afford to spend income on recreational drugs. Another factor may be an increasing awareness that marijuana may be less toxic than other drugs, such as tobacco or alcohol. (However, the study also found that the United States is among the leading countries in the percentage of respondents who tried tobacco and alcohol). As for the popularity of cocaine, the reason may simply be the close proximity of South America, the world's only coca plant producer. And, finally, Anthony notes, it's a matter of culture: the U.S. is home to a huge baby boomer population that came of age when experimenting with drugs was a part of the social fabric. "It became a more mass population phenomenon during a period when there were a large number of young people who were in the process of creating a culture of their own," Anthony says.
The survey also found that more Americans not only experimented with drugs, but also tended to try pot and cocaine for the first time at a younger age compared with people in other countries. Just over 20% of Americans reported trying pot by age 15 and nearly 3% had tried cocaine by the same age. Those percentages jumped to 54% and 16%, respectively, by age 21. That finding isn't surprising, says Dr. Richard Schottenfeld, a professor of psychiatry and a drug expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, since peer influence has a significant impact on the prevalence of drug use. In the Netherlands, for example, there is a large, vocal and homogeneous conservative population that is staunchly opposed to marijuana, says Schottenfeld. And anti-drug activists have made recent attempts to tighten the country's cannabis policies.
Yet experts say the findings of the new survey don't fairly reflect the success or failure of any particular drug policy. The survey asked only whether people had ever tried drugs in their lifetime — it did not ask about habitual use. "For drug policy, what you look at is regular use," says Tom Riley, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Somebody having tried pot in 1968 in college doesn't really have much to do with what the current drug use picture in the United States is."
Though current findings may not provide enough context to judge existing drug policy, Anthony says they do highlight some valid issues, especially since stringent laws don't appear to impact whether kids experiment with drugs. "One of the questions raised by research of this type is whether Americans will want to continue supporting the incarceration of young people who use small amounts of marijuana," Anthony says.
The ongoing study, which surveyed more than 85,000 people in 17 countries, is part of a larger project through the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. Anthony says further research about the frequency of worldwide drug use, and new data from additional countries will be released in the future.
Posted by gjblass at 12:28 PM
Contrary to popular belief, not all car scribes had dads that raced Porsches. A good many of us waited much longer than we care to admit to be exposed to the cool cars of the world. We’ve done more time than we care to admit behind the wheels of beat-up New Yorkers and hand-me-down family-haulers.
So we know how it feels when you’re choking on your own fumes at a stoplight and along comes something rowdy: maybe a Mustang or a WRX, paint gleaming, motor rumbling, driver grinning. The light turns green, and you know the rest.
But wouldn’t it be funny if you could actually keep up? Imagine the surprise on that sports car driver’s face when what seemed like an ordinary vehicle produced an extraordinary run. Oh, savory indeed is that brand of automotive irony.
And this sort of irony is the thrust behind this article, in which we have paired one traditionally hot car with one whose driver has a little secret—the kind that’ll have the other driver shaking his head (and maybe his middle finger) in disbelief when they meet again at the next light. All performance statistics quoted in the following pages were recorded by Car and Driver test gear.
There are many reasons we love Subarus, and the WRX is one of them. An unassuming Impreza on the outside, but a turbocharged, 224-hp rocket on the inside, it is more than a little bit ironic all by itself. Indeed, with a 0-to-60 time of just 5.8 seconds, it has that sneaky sort of quickness that catches muscle car drivers unaware in impromptu stoplight wars.
But it’s going to be the WRX driver that’ll be surprised when the driver of an even less assuming, nearly full-sized Toyota Camry V-6 runs nose-to-nose with the much smaller WRX through 60 mph and all the way to the quarter-mile mark.
Add in the fact that the Camry V-6 is available with many top-dollar features not available on the WRX, has far more upscale size and interior design, and has a base price that’s nearly $1000 less, and the Camry is a whopper of a stealth-speed bargain.
Toyota Camry V-6 --- Subaru Impreza WRX
0–60: 5.8 seconds --- 0–60: 5.8 seconds
1/4: 14.3 @ 93 mph --- 1/4: 14.4 @ 95 mph
Infiniti claims that the idea behind the original Infiniti FX was the concept of a “bionic cheetah.” The result was a seriously muscular SUV that, if you squinted, looked vaguely cheetah-like but was undeniably bionic in terms of its ability to go fast.
The brand-new second-generation FX is even more muscular, particularly in FX50 form, and now it can keep pace with the one of the most iconic versions of the most iconic pony car around, the 315-hp Ford Mustang Bullitt. Yep, even though the FX50 is a 4600-pound five-seater that can haul a small family to a ballet recital, its 5.0-liter V-8 pumps out 390 horsepower and 369 lb-ft, thus bestowing it with acceleration that’s truly cheetah-like.
The FX50 can match the Stang’s five-flat 0-to-60 hustle and 13.6-second quarter mile. Furthermore, it can also track true and flat in corners, so don’t think McQueen’s Mustang will lose it when the road gets twisty. In fact, add water and watch the family trickster pull far and fast away from the Ford. Sorry, Steve—you’ve been served.
Infiniti FX50 --- Ford Mustang Bullitt
0–60: 5.0 seconds --- 0–60: 5.0 seconds
1/4: 13.6 @ 104 mph --- 1/4: 13.6 @ 104 mph
We’ve constantly celebrated the spastic Mini Cooper S for offering big performance surprises in a small, efficient package. But an even bigger surprise comes in one of the biggest packages around: the behemoth Cadillac Escalade.
Yep, as speedy as the 2700-pound Cooper S is, the 5700-pound Escalade is just as quick, trailing Mini’s diminutive demon by only 0.1 second to 60 mph but beating the Cooper S by 0.2 seconds to the quarter-mile mark. Indeed, for a big gal, this Caddy can boogie.
Of course, both get their grunt from powerplants that are as antithetical as the wrappers they arrive in. The Cooper S’s high-tech 1.6-liter engine uses a turbocharger to put a “bang” in “four-banger,” whereas the Escalade employs a brutal, old-school, 403-hp 6.2-liter V-8 that sucks down more than twice the fuel. Furthermore, if anything remotely resembling a curve turns up in the middle of that quarter-mile run, David will eat Goliath for lunch.
Still, we think that even the concept of drag-racing a Cooper S in an Escalade is downright cartoonish fun. Disagree? Just check out the video.
Cadillac Escalade --- Mini Cooper S
0–60: 6.3 seconds --- 0–60: 6.2 seconds
1/4: 14.8 @ 95 mph --- 1/4: 15.0 @ 95 mph
Talk about two vehicles on opposite ends of the spectrum: the sporty, sassy, prudently packaged and perennial 10Best-winning BMW 328i, and the oversized, overwrought, utilitarian, ladder-framed workhorse Toyota Tundra. You know which you’d want to be in during a drag race, right?
Think again, city slicker. If ‘dem country boys were smart enough to order ‘emselves a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 turnin’ their Tundra’s rear wheels, that big-ass Tonka-yota will keep pace with the Bimmer all the way through the quarter-mile, which it hits in less than 15 seconds and at which point the 328i is finally starting to pull away. And while aerodynamics ensure that the Bimmer driver will ultimately win this race, it won’t have been by enough of a margin for him to outrun the humbling reality that a Texas-sized truck stayed with him for a shockingly long time.
Maybe he should step up to the 300-hp 335i before he starts pickin’ on pickups again.
Toyota Tundra --- BMW 328i
0–60: 6.1 seconds --- 0–60: 6.1 seconds
1/4: 14.9 @ 94 mph --- 1/4: 14.8 @ 95 mph
Few sports cars at any price have garnered as much attention and accolade as the sexy, saucy, and very fast Audi R8. So imagine one being outgunned by a housewife in, of all things, a station wagon. That’s exactly what could happen with this über-fast and über-rare über-wagen, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon.
Picture it: you’re at the wheel of your brand-new R8. A black Benz E-class pulls up, and the driver puts down her phone long enough to toss you a sideways glance over her latte followed by a nod to the horizon. Surely she jests. An E-class against an R8? This should be easy, you think. As the light turns green, you notice the “6.3” badge on the fender and hear wheelspin. Uh oh.
You get on it with all four wheels gripping. Your ears are pinned back as you blast to 60 in four seconds flat, neck and neck with the Benz. 100 mph and what’s this? She’s pulling away! Then you start to get a view of the sheetmetal aft of the B-pillar: she’s in a station wagon! A quarter-mile later, she’s still pulling away. At 130 mph, are those her kids laughing in the rear-facing jump seats? Within 23.5 seconds, she’s at 150, 1.2 seconds before you. Mercedes’s seven-passenger station wagon will outaccelerate the R8 all the way to its 155-mph governor. And now the driver is probably back on her pink Razr to tell her BFFs all about it.
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon --- Audi R8
0–60: 4.0 seconds --- 0–60: 4.0 seconds
1/4: 12.5 @ 115 mph --- 1/4: 12.6 @ 113 mph
Posted by Chismillionaire at 12:20 PM
I’ve said it before, and ’ll say it again - You haven’t seen The Dark Knight, unless you’ve seen it in IMAX. OVer 20 minutes of the film was shot with 70mm IMAX cameras, and the result is a cinematic experience like you’ve never seen before. But how did this all come together?
“It was always Chris [Nolan]’s idea, he’s wanted to shoot on IMAX for years,” producer Emma Thomas told us at The Dark Knight junket. “I mean a long long time, has been talking about doing this and then this, when we were talking about where to go with the sequel to Batman Begins and he really wanted to expand the world and make the film feel really huge and it just seemed like the right, finally we had the right project.”
Part of the preparation included a couple test shots on The Prestige, explained Emma Thomas: “We actually, on The Prestige shot, did a couple of shots with the IMAX camera just so that we could get a sense of what the issues were going to be
Nolan originally planned to shoot five of the scenes in IMAX but he kept increasing the use of the cameras through out the production.
“He liked what he was seeing,” says producer Charles Rovan. Thomas adding: “As we went along there was just some shots that just he felt like would be great in IMAX and so we just sort of peppered those, so we definitely an added some, because it just turned out to be much much easier than we thought it would be.
Not that filming using IMAX cameras is necessarily easy. They are big and clunky, and a short load time of two and a half minutes.
“Yes, two and a half minutes. Well, they actually have two cameras, one is even shorter like, one is 30 seconds. And there’s one that’s two and a half minutes,” said Rovan. “We had to modify the arms that we put on the equipment that we attached those IMAX cameras to in order to carry the weight.”
“We found ways and we planned ways of getting around for example, the short load-times which is you know, we would just swap one camera for another when it ran out of film and that kind of thing,” explained director Christopher Nolan. “Generally with action sequences which is mostly what we were shooting you really rarely roll for more than ten seconds for example so it tends not to really be a factor. Shooting a dialog scene with an IMAX camera would be a bigger challenge because of the noise of the camera and the short length of the loads and so forth but we got better and better at it, we had a terrific crew, a lot of our camera mounts and things were 35 millimeter they were ones they’re built to withstand enormous abuse, so they can take the weight of a much larger camera.”
However they did break one steadicam rig with the enormous camera. Chris explains that it “literally sheered off, dropped the thing on the ground.”
“The camera department had a great system in place where they would have instead of reloading they would have another camera body loaded ready to go and it worked out well,” said Thomas. “It actually ended up costing us a lot less time that we thought it might.”
And the result is just amazing.
“You’re completely immersed in a way that you’re not with a smaller frame, and that’s huge, obviously but then also the clarity of the image just I think you feel like you’re there, you know,” says Thomas.
“And also we would down-rez the IMAX to 35mm and knew that that experience even in 35mm would be great for people to see. It’s so much more vibrant. You don’t even realize it, you just go wow! This is like so much more in your face.”
You can check out the full listing of IMAX Theatres playing The Dark Knight on Film School Rejects.
Posted by gjblass at 10:52 AM
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The housing finance crisis and spiraling energy costs will remain a drag on the U.S. economy for the rest of the year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers on Tuesday.
"Many financial markets and institutions remain under considerable stress, " according to Bernanke's prepared testimony.
The Senate Banking Committee was meeting to hear from Bernanke about the economy and to consider the crisis at mortgage finance giants Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well growing fears about bank failures.
Bernanke said the financial sector's problems are not the only problems facing the economy and warned "the financial headwinds on spending and economic activity have been compounded by rapid increases in the prices of energy and other commodities."
He said the combination of rising commodity prices and tighter credit "has sapped household purchasing power even as they have boosted inflation."
As he prepared to give the testimony, shares of Fannie and Freddie continued their recent slide that has prompted the Treasury Department and the Fed to step in and offer support in recent days.
Shares of Fannie (FNM, Fortune 500) plunged 22% in early trading. That came on top of the 48% decline it has seen in the last six trading days. Freddie (FRE, Fortune 500) shares tumbled 27% on top of its 51% slide in the last six days.
Bernanke prepared remarks come as part of his regularly-scheduled semi-annual testimony on the state of the economy. At 11:30 a.m. he is due to be joined by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Mortgage finance giants Fannie and Freddie are a key source of funding for banks and other home lenders. Their ability to provide that funding is seen as a key to any recovery in housing and the economy as a whole.
The companies were set-up by Congress, but they are owned by shareholders, who have fled the firms' stock recently on fears that continued problems in housing and rising mortgage defaults will force them to seek significantly more capital, a move that would dilute the value of existing shares.
Problems in the banking and home lending sectors were further highlighted by the failure of IndyMac, a California bank that was taken over by the federal government Friday evening in what could end up being the most costly bank failure in U.S. history. Stocks of many major regional banks plunged Monday on concerns over further failures and several were down again in pre-market trading Tuesday.
IndyMac had been a major provider of mortgage loans that did not demand lenders to provide full or any documentation of their income. There are likely to be questions about the state of banking and the risk of more failures at Tuesday's hearings.
Sunday evening Paulson announced a proposal by Treasury to have Congress raise the $2.25 billion it is allowed to loan the two firms, and even open the door for the federal government to buy shares in the two companies if needed. The Fed announced it stood ready to loan money to the firms if they needed access to funds ahead of congressional actions.Just three weeks ago the Fed left interest rates unchanged for the first time in nine months as it said the risks of an economic slowdown appear to have diminished. But it warned at that time that tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and the rise in energy prices are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters
Posted by Chismillionaire at 10:36 AM
Learn about how the video was made and the 3D plotting technologies behind it.
Explore data visualization and get a hands-on experience with the data.
Download an iGoogle gadget to view the video right on your homepage.
Add the Radiohead iGoogle theme and customize your page with their unique visual style.
The Making-of "House of Cards"
Radiohead just released a new video for its song "House of Cards" from the album "In Rainbows".
No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.
Watch the making-of video to learn about how the video was made and the various technologies that were used to capture and render 3D data.
Explore data visualization through a 3D viewer and use your mouse to further manipulate the data and create your own visualizations.
Download the data and instructions on how to create your own visualizations.
If you manage to create a data visualization that you'd wish to share, the band would love to see it. You can share your videos on the House of Cards YouTube group.
And damn, http://code.google.com/creative/radiohead/viewer.h ... this is f**king awesome, you can manipulate every frame of the video!
Posted by gjblass at 10:14 AM
These 10 social trainwrecks ensure your night out is anything but dull. The 10 people you don't want to meet at the bar make you feel that much better about yourself. Maybe you're being paid $11 an hour and wrote a bad check to the liquor store so that you have enough Popov for the weekend, but hey, at least you aren't one of these douchetastic...
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Posted by gjblass at 10:05 AM
Cheating girlfriend hid dead newborn baby in car boot to keep pregnancy secret from partner
Claire Jones, 32, hid her stillborn baby's body in a car boot
A woman hid her dead newborn baby in the boot of her car to keep an affair and resulting pregnancy secret from her partner.
Marketing executive Claire Jones, 32, found she was expecting after a fling with a man she met through work.
To explain her expanding stomach, she told her family, friends and partner of five years David Stoneman that a wheat allergy was making her put on weight.
After giving birth alone in her mother's bathroom on December 27 last year, she wrapped the stillborn baby in a carrier bag and binbags.
She then drove to the semidetached house she shared with Mr Stoneman, 33.
Jones then acted as if nothing had happened with her partner and colleagues.
But South Wales Police were tipped off by a health worker who noticed that her pregnancy had been registered but there was no record of a birth.
Officers called at her home in St Mellons, Cardiff, ten days later.
She told officers the baby had been stillborn and she had flushed the body down the toilet.
Forensic experts searched her £125,000 home and were planning to dig up the garden and search the drains when the baby's body was found in the boot of Jones's car.
She admitted she had been leading a double life with Mr Stoneman in Cardiff and an unnamed colleague in Swansea who was the father of the baby.
The scene at Claire Jones' home in Cardiff when police discovered the body of a newborn baby in January this year
Mr Stoneman, who was questioned and released without charge, left the couple's home soon after he discovered what had happened. He refused to comment yesterday.
Two inconclusive post-mortem examinations of the infant's body were carried out, including one by a Home Office pathologist.
Jones was charged with endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child.
Appearing at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday, she spoke only to confirm her name and admit the charge.
Prosecutor Dan Williams told Judge John Curran: 'The prosecution is satisfied the single count now before the court is the appropriate one.'
Peter Heyward, defending, asked for social inquiry reports before Jones is sentenced.
He added: 'Clearly, this is a serious and a distressing case.
'She is now living with her mother and there have been no difficulties.'
Jones will be sentenced next month and was remanded on bail to her mother's home.
The judge said: ' Nothing should be read into the fact bail has been granted today.'
Mr Stoneman and Jones are no longer together. A former neighbour said: 'It's all very sad. They were a nice couple and Claire had a good job.
'When she put on weight last year she told everyone she had been diagnosed with an intolerance to wheat.
'No one questioned it and she said she was getting treatment which would sort it out.'
Another added: 'It must have been a double shock for him - first that she had had a baby but also that she had been seeing someone behind his back.'
It is understood Jones saw a doctor when she suspected she was pregnant in May of last year.
Her fears were confirmed but she failed to attend antenatal clinics or appointments for scans.
A police source said: 'We were called in because there was a record of a woman being pregnant but no record of her baby being born.
' It is a very sad set of circumstances.'
Posted by gjblass at 10:02 AM
The first iPhone 3G battery test results are in, and it seems it beats the competition and Apple's own benchmarks with an average of 5 hours and 38 minutes talking non-stop on AT&T's 3G network. The closest competitor—only five minutes short—was the Samsung Instinct.
PC World says that the result is remarkable knowing that AT&T's HSDPA/UMTS network is very power-hungry because voice calls use the more battery-demanding 3G band. Apple's own tests give the new iPhone a 5 hour talk time over 3G, so that's 38 minutes more. By contrast, the Samsung Instinct—which runs on EVDO—switches to CDMA for voice, which they say it uses less power. In theory—as the results show.They also claim that the iPhone 3G's battery performance is lower than the iPhone over 2G, which is true. But that's like comparing apples to oranges (no pun intended). They didn't test the latest iPhone's battery life over 2G networks, which Apple rates at 10 hours (the same as the iPhone classic). Also, these tests don't compare the iPhone to some options available elsewhere in the world—like Nokia's—but it gives a good idea of where the iPhone 3G stands against the competition.
Posted by gjblass at 9:59 AM
CENTER LINE, Michigan — Mopar and Chrysler officially unveiled the soon-to-be-legendary and extensively covered Dodge Challenger package car over the weekend. The drag-racing package met the public at the 29th Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver, Colorado. Racers "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Judy "Miss Mighty Mopar" Lilly drove the Challengers on their inaugural track run.
The car starts as a Challenger SRT8 with a special body-in-white chassis from Chrysler's Canadian assembly plant. Modifications are more intense than predicted, with Mopar even repositioning the engine to improve driveline angle and weight distribution.
Mopar shortened the Challenger's 116-inch wheelbase half an inch and cut weight by eliminating the windshield wiper assembly, complete HVAC system, all airbag components, the rear seats, the power steering system, exhaust system and underbody heat shields, cross-car and side impact door beams, rear bumper beam and rear deck lid spoiler. Mopar even removed the body sealer, sound deadener and undercoat from the factory, and achieved a final weight that's 1,000 pounds lighter than the standard SRT8, which weighs 4,152 pounds.
The drag package will have three engine options — 5.7- and 6.1-liter Hemi engines and a 5.9-liter Magnum Wedge — as well as a choice of manual or automatic transmission. The package-car program also includes a composite lift-off hood with functional scoop, Viper-style front seats, polycarbonate door windows, manual rack-and-pinion steering, a lightweight front brake assembly and special cable-operated throttle linkage and pedal assembly.
This groundbreaking vehicle will have potential to race in 40 classes and is currently eligible to run in three Eliminator categories: Comp, Super Stock and Stock. Mopar plans to build at least 100 of these bad boys, and the MSRP for the Challenger Drag Race Package Car program should be in the low- to mid-$30,000 range.
What this means to you: The day has finally come where the official details on the Challenger drag package car have been released, and we couldn't be more impressed
Posted by Chismillionaire at 9:23 AM
ALL CAPS, Passive-Aggressive Copying Top Etiquette Experts' Electronic Don'ts List.Office e-mail offenders. Everyone has them, from people who excessively "reply all" (annoying) to colleagues who copy your boss when criticizing you (rude). Experts identified the most offensive e-mail moves and how to avoid making them yourself.
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Posted by gjblass at 9:22 AM
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- In what seems to be a perverse reaction to high gas prices, some cities are cutting back on public transit - at a time when their citizens need it most.
Due to skyrocketing fuel costs local governments are being forced to trim all sorts of services - not only busses - but police departments and road repair crews too.
The Montana Highway Patrol, after failing to find enough police recruits, is using $300,000 that had been set aside for more officers to pay the gas bill instead.
Sheriff's departments in Maryland and Florida have also reportedly cut patrol routes or officers.
"They're not going to fill positions because they don't have the dough," said Ronald Reucker, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "It'll mean more speeding, more drunk drivers, and more fatal crashes."
In a recent gas price survey by the National Association of Counties, 81% of counties responding said public safety was the area most impacted by high gas prices. Nearly half said reducing the number of vehicles in the county fleet are among steps being considered.
In the public safety area, Reucker said police departments with lots of miles to cover - like highway patrols or sheriff departments - would most likely feel the pinch.
Since voters are highly protective of public safety, he's only heard of a handful of departments that have actually reduced services, he said.
Less lucky are city bus departments. That may seem like tough love in a time when high prices are causing more and more people to take public transit. But in Cleveland and other cities across the country, that's exactly what's happening.
"We're planning on laying off some staff and cutting some routes that are poor performers," said Jerry Masek, a spokesman for the Greater Cleveland Regions Transit Authority. "People will still have service, but not as much."
The cuts are necessary because Cleveland has seen its bus fuel bill go from $5 million a year in 2003 to a projected $21 million in 2008. Out of a total budget of $230 million, that's a lot of cash.
"You just can't absorb that without doing something," said Masek. He didn't know how many bus lines would be cut, and said a combination of fare hikes could spare some neighborhoods.
"[Riders] would rather pay more than lose service," he said. "No matter how much we raise fares, it's still cheaper than driving."
And undoubtedly easier on your car, especially if the road repair crew is in a situation like New Jersey's.
It's not the cost of driving those big dump trucks that's straining the budget at the New Jersey Department of Transportation. It's the price of paving.
What many people don't know is that asphalt is made largely from oil. It's the heavy oil at the bottom of a barrel that can't be refined into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel or other lighter products. And it's risen in price right along with gasoline.
The price for the main component in asphalt has jumped nearly 90 percent since last year, according to Erin Phalon, a spokeswoman for the transportation department.
"This puts us in a bind," she said. "It could mean future projects are scrapped or downsized."
Posted by Chismillionaire at 9:21 AM
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The dollar sank to a new all-time low against the euro Tuesday as concerns about the health of the U.S. banking sector and economy deepened.
The 15-nation euro rose as high as $1.6038 in European trading, breaking through its previous high of $1.6018 set April 22. It later pulled back to $1.5992, but remained stronger against the dollar.
The greenback also fell against the Japanese yen, dropping to ¥105.18.
Fears about the dangerously volatile mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500), along with government seizure of regional mortgage lender IndyMac (IMB) on Friday, have reignited credit worries, and investors have started to focus on the plight of smaller regional banks.
The government may have demonstrated that it would support struggling mortgage finance companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and large financial institutions, but "that doesn't really do much for regional banks that are seeing their capital eroded," said Steve Malyon, currency strategist with Scotia Capital in Toronto.
The weak U.S. currency has been one of the factors blamed for high prices of oil and other commodities. Crude futures held above $145 a barrel in Asian trading as investors bought oil as a hedge against inflation.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 9:21 AM
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will suspend its dividend, sell off $4 billion to $7 billion worth of assets, and cut 20% worth of salaried cash costs.
Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, in a broadcast to employees, said that these were "difficult decisions," but necessary for the company to prevail in the weak economy beset by high oil prices, which he called GM's "greatest concern."
"Our plan is not just a plan to survive; it's a plan to win," said Wagoner, noting that raised cash could aid the company in shifting from trucks and SUVs to more fuel efficient cars.
GM (GM, Fortune 500) has lost about one third of its 107,000 U.S. hourly workers since 2004. GM offered buyouts to its entire remaining U.S. hourly workforce of 74,000 in February, in a bid to unload its more experienced, higher-paid employees.
The Detroit-based automaker has been hard-hit by record-high gas prices, economic weakness, and a waning consumer interest in trucks and sport utility vehicles. The company has not made a profit since 2005.
Truck sales were down 21% in the first six months of 2008, while car sales were down 9% and Hummer sales plunged 40%. Overall, GM's vehicle sales were down 16%: worse than the industrywide vehicle sales decline of 10%.
In June, GM said it would shut four SUV and truck plants, would shift to more fuel efficient vehicles and discontinue its Hummer brand.
Despite the doom and gloom in America, GM's sales edged up in Europe by 3% in the first six months of 2008, including a 58% increase in Eastern Europe and a 60% surge in Russia. This includes a 21% increase in Russian Hummer sales.
"Frankly, we're very well positioned outside the U.S. now, and will be in [the U.S.] too, when this cycle concludes," said Wagoner.GM is the fourth-largest American company in terms of annual sales, competing with Toyota Motor (TM) and Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500
Posted by Chismillionaire at 9:20 AM