January 20, 2007

Consumer Reports’ Car Seat Crackup: This Isn’t the First Time

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:37 pm

The magazine just did the baby seat-testing equivalent of the rigged Dateline NBC hit piece on GM pickup trucks back in the 1980s:

Consumer Reports Takes Back Negative Report on Infant Car Seats
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Consumer Reports magazine backed off Thursday from its recent negative report on infant car seats, saying test crashes were conducted at speeds higher than it had claimed.

The magazine reported Jan. 4 that most of the seats it tested “failed disastrously” in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph. In one test, it said, a dummy child was hurled 30 feet.

Consumer Reports said Thursday it had received information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that the speeds at which its side-impact tests were conducted were higher than the 38.5 mph reported.

In fact, the NHTSA said the crash tests were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph — twice as fast as the magazine claimed, said NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason.

Folks, not much of anything will typically survive a 70 mph crash.

It’s probably not fair to call it a pattern, but Consumer Reports has been caught before passing on erroneous test results. Back in 1998, it definitely picked on the wrong company, whose response to bogus test results wasn’t, uh, tame:

(from CR’s original reporting)

“More than half the cat foods and more than one-fourth of the dog foods – including some “superpremium” types – fell significantly short in at least one of the nutrients in guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Among the concerns: low levels of potassium, required for certain metabolic processes and nerve transmission, and of calcium, necessary to build bones. “[From "Feeding Fido (and Fifi, Fluffy, Max...)", February 1998].

(following month correction resulting from strenuous objections by The Iams Company, then an independent company, now a part of Procter & Gamble)

“Our tests of pet food (February 1998) showed nutritional imbalances in 39 products… After the issue was released, The Iams Company, maker of both Iams and Eukanuba brands, showed us compelling data questioning our test findings of low levels of potassium in some of their products. We retested the products from The Iams Company. Those results demonstrate that each Iams product met the nutritional standards for potassium, and that our initial test results were incorrect.” [From "Correction: Pet food tests", March 1998].

(further correction resulting from objections by other pet food providers)

“Our February report on dog and cat foods focused in part on whether major brands deliver all the necessary nutrients for the health and well-being of a pet… However, our report and Ratings contained errors stemming from mistakes in the measurement of some minerals and a fatty acid. As we promised last month, we have retested all the products described in the February report as being nutritionally unbalanced.” [From "Correction: Pet food retest", April 1998].

Though this is of course not provable, I would not be surprised if, like corporations that attempt to please the advocates of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and then unsurprisingly lose their bearings (see UK oil giant BP and its soon-departing CEO John Browne), Consumer Reports is paying the price for not sticking to what it does best by engaging in policy-arena editorializing in favor of nationalized health care and ever-more-stringent government regulation.

From the ‘Baiting Your Own Trap’ Department

Filed under: Business Moves,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:11 pm

Memo to slackers (if you can tear yourself away from that game of solitaire long enough to read this) — Don’t keep a continuous record of your “efforts” at being one — especially on your employer’s computer:

Woman Denied Unemployment Benefits After Detailing Efforts to Avoid Work
Friday, January 19, 2007

Unemployment benefits are being denied to an Iowa hotel worker who was fired for using her employer’s computer to keep a journal of her efforts to avoid work.

A supervisor found the journal late last year and fired Emmalee Bauer for misuse of company time.

The journal was entered into evidence at a recent state hearing dealing with Bauer’s request for unemployment benefits.

….. The judge says the journal demonstrated Bauer’s refusal to work, as well as her “amusement at getting away with it.”

This Should Put an End to the ‘Flat Wage’ Myth — But It Won’t

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released what it calls its Usual Weekly Earnings Report for the Fourth Quarter of 2006 on Friday.

This is one of the more important reports the BLS releases because:

  • It looks at the earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, excluding part-timers, business owners, and the self-employed.
  • It looks at individuals, not households or families.
  • Unlike most reports, it tells us median earnings, the point at which half of workers are earning more and half earning less. Other reports covering “average” results may be distorted by the impact of high earners bringing up the reported average while a “typical” person at the median might not be making any progress.
  • It specifically compares nominal earnings increases at the median (i.e., before inflation) to inflation that occurred during the same time period. It therefore tells us whether the “typical” (as opposed to “average”) worker has gotten ahead or has fallen behind during the period covered.

So it was very heartening to read the first paragraph from Friday’s Usual Weekly Earnings report:

Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 106.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $682 in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. This was 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 1.9 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.

It is thus nice to report that the argument that the “typical worker is not getting ahead” was a complete myth in 2006. A net 1.6% increase at the median in one year is, in fact, pretty impressive.

It is not as pleasant to report that in a review of major business stories at AP, MSNBC, Fox, The New York Times, USA Today, and MarketWatch, I found no coverage of the most recent Usual Weekly Earnings report. You can confirm the story’s non-existence by starting at the My Way site for AP Business. After reviewing it, you can click on related My Way links near the top of the page for the other five business sources previously noted.

Because of this lack of coverage, you can expect people like Paul Krugman to continue to flog the “falling behind” meme, regardless of the fact that it simply isn’t so, and regardless of the number of times they are exposed as dissemblers by bloggers and media monitors.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: German makes amends for 1970 shoplifting

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:58 am

36 years of a guilty conscience set free (HT FYI News):

Fri Jan 12, 5:35 AM ETThirty-six years of suffering a guilty conscience finally has proven too much for a German who shoplifted from a small store while on vacation in Norway in 1970.

Seeking to make amends, he sent a check for $375 to the small mountain town of Lom, and asked them to find the shopkeeper, Mayor Simen Bjoergen said on the town’s Internet site on Thursday.

“For many years, my conscience has bothered me. With the enclosed check, I hope to free myself from that and request your help,” wrote the German, whose name was not released. “I would also like to ask for forgiveness for the wrong I did so long ago.”

In the letter, the man said he had been traveling in Scandinavia with his young brother and girlfriend, now his wife, when they stopped in Lom, a town of about 2,300 people 155 miles north of Oslo.

He said he shoplifted about $15 worth of items from a local store, which he recalled only as “a souvenir shop with a big parking lot.” He asked Bjoergen to find the shop owner and give him the check, and if that was not possible to use the money for a good cause.

Bjoergen finally found retired 78-year-old shop owner Gabriel Lund, who owned the Fjoset gift shop in 1970, and gave him the check.

In a letter to the German, the Mayor said Lund asked him to say “that he forgives you” and that he had given the money to the local retirement home to do something nice for its residents.