Detroit auto show: Ford to muscle up with remodeled pickup

Jan 11, 2008 17:00 UTC

Tough times in the rear-view mirror for the U.S. auto sector as high gas prices, a weak housing market and talk of the dreaded R word (read: recession) cloud the outlook just in time for the Detroit Auto Show.

Ford Motor Co officials will unveil the latest iteration of its F-150 full-size pickup truck, the country’s top-selling vehicle, at a time when talk of small cars around the globe is all the rage. India’s Tata Motors has set tongues wagging with plans to build a $2,500 car this year for developing markets called the Nano (pictured below).

nano.jpgThe show comes at a time when some officials in the industry believe the U.S. auto sector is heading for its worst year in 15 years, resulting in pressure on automakers to consolidate. Japan’s Nissan just announced it will supply newly independent Chrysler LLC with a small car for sale in South America.

You can find a media schedule of events for the show here. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler spent last year slashing jobs and production, and signing new contracts with their unionized hourly work force in a bid to address their problems. Amid the recession talk, consumers will be looking for discounts and other deals, only tightening the screws on the U.S. automakers.

Ford is counting on its new F-150 to help it rebound. While the market has pulled back slightly over the past few years, Ford sales analyst George Pipas pointed out a full-size pickup has been the top-selling U.S. vehicle the last 26 consecutive years.

Bill Murray explains that golf cart incident

Sep 3, 2007 19:40 UTC

rtr1m8qf.jpgActor Bill Murray gave us a long explanation for his bizarre antics in Stockholm last month, when he was picked up by police and tested for drunk driving after being found at the wheel of a golf cart en route to his downtown hotel.

In Venice to promote “The Darjeeling Limited”, Wes Anderson’s latest comedy in which Murray plays a nameless businessman who appears in short scenes at the beginning and end of the film, a deadpan Murray was asked: “What the heck were you doing in that golf car in Stockholm?”

It was an unusually direct question from a group of journalists who tend to presage their questions with long and rambling praise for whichever film they are talking about.

Hacked off over usage…

Jul 22, 2007 02:57 UTC

Hackers steal US govt, corporate data from PCs  
BOSTON, July 17 (Reuters) – Hackers stole information from the U.S. Department of Transportation and several U.S. companies by seducing employees with fake job-listings on advertisements and e-mail, a computer security firm said.

This article is great. It’s thorough, and complete, but you incorrectly lable the perpetrators as ‘hackers’ instead of ‘crackers’.

Bill E.

We heard from a number of readers on this one, and we are aware that this is a sore subject among insiders who distinguish between hacking  and cracking. 

“Nice biceps, hunk! Want some sex?”

Jul 10, 2007 14:00 UTC

Readers, who do you think get more sex?  Chiseled, muscular guys, or wimps? Go ahead, take your time and think about it carefully. Wow, you got it right on the first guess?  Me, too. 

Researchers at UCLA actually did a study on this, and came to the mind-boggling conclusion that women are “predisposed to prefer muscularity in men. I hope they didn’t spend more than $10 on the study, because that would have bought them a seat at Oceans Thirteen and answered all their questions.

But what I found most fascinating is that a noticeable number of stories about the study used the same phrase, which probably means it was in the press release. They referred to the muscular men’s “less-chiseled peers,” which has to be the euphemism of the month. As a spokesman for LCPs, thank you, UCLA! Here’s the story:

Diana and the paparazzi

Jun 29, 2007 11:14 UTC

diana.jpgA Channel 4 documentary screened earlier this year on Princess Diana’s last moments in a Paris tunnel 10 years ago caused controversy because photographs taken by the chasing paparazzi were aired.

The princess’ sons William and Harry unsuccessfully appealed to the channel not to show them.

Channel 4 defended its programme, saying the photos shown were an important and accurate eyewitness record of how events unfolded after the crash, and that the identities of those in the car had been blacked out.

Leaving Kabul

Jun 17, 2007 09:53 UTC

 Forget the day off and the good news. We were back in Kabul and it may as well have been Baghdad.
 A suicide bomber had completely hollowed out a bus that was carrying police trainers into a compound. Officials said more than 35 people died.
 I was being jostled by a crowd in front of the Jamuriat hospital in the centre of the Afghan capital, pressed up against an iron fence. Eighteen bodies and ten wounded patients had arrived here. Doctors had run out of room inside and were handling the wounded and the dead at a makeshift triage station in the courtyard. Ambulances were pushing through the crowd.
 Through the bars, I saw a corpse under a sheet, next to a pair of bloody shoes. All I could see of the body was his feet, with cuffs of a police uniform. A male relative was wailing into a mobile phone, being restrained and consoled by friends.
 Sundays bomb was the deadliest such strike in the Afghan capital since the Taliban fell in 2001. The attack played out the greatest fear of Afghans, that the tactics that have caused such mayhem in Iraq would be imported here.
 The Taliban claimed responsibility for a very, very successful suicide attack and announced plans for more. In four smaller suicide attacks over the past two days, they killed at least 14 other people. At the scene of one of those strikes, American troops opened fire and shot one civilian dead.
 I had finished my embed and returned to Kabul on Saturday in a Hercules military cargo plane, a solemn flight accompanied by three coffins draped with Afghan flags containing the bodies of Afghan soldiers killed in the south.
 I had missed my flight back to London, but was initially secretly glad. It would mean two extra days in Kabul. Local resident Masood had offered to host me in the Panjsher valley for a barbecue, and I was looking forward to a relaxing day in that beautiful mountain valley, breathing fresh air and eating roast goat by the river.
 I also wanted to get there to write a “good news” story. Whatever else has happened over the past five years, the Panjsher and neighbouring Salang valleys are areas that have dramatically improved since the fall of the Taliban. The valleys had been cut-off from the capital by an impenetrable frontline during the civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and when I first visited them they were packed with desperately poor refugees, many hungry. Today, Masood explained to me, life in those valleys is much easier, with a newly paved road allowing people to bring goods to market in Kabul and move there for work. I hoped to write a simple, good story, while enjoying my own relaxing day out.
 Sunday morning I was drinking coffee in the Reuters office when I heard of the bombing. Instead of heading out into the countryside, I hit the streets of the capital to report.
 Speeding through the town, rushing to the hospital with our Kabul TV camera crew, I could see the contradictions of contemporary Kabul. We raced through a wealthy street where endless rows of enormous, brightly coloured marble-clad palaces are being built. At a nearby corner, a tiny beggar girl wiped our window with a dirty cloth.
 For now, much of Afghanistan is still at peace, or the closest thing to peace the country has seen since the 1970s. But the war in the south has escalated sharply over the past year. And the Taliban are now bringing the sort of carnage to the city streets that caused the meltdown of Iraq. At the end of our trip, I remain hopeful, just, that improvements will still come faster than the violence worsens. But Ill have to wait until my next trip for that chance to relax in Afghanistans quiet valleys.

“Turned out nice”

Jun 15, 2007 16:06 UTC

 The Englishman and the weather are intertwined. Wherever he goes, whatever he is doing, the weather is both all important and irrelevant. Task Force Helmand, NATOs fighting force in the southern Afghan province of the same name, sees many nationalities living in tents in the desert in the baking heat of the summer. But it is the Englishman who talks most about the weather.
 The British call their soldiers the salt of the earth, and one young Royal Engineers attitude to temperatures of nearly 50 degrees Celsius, seemed to deserve the title. His platoon had been called into action the night before to help mount a fighting patrol in Sangin, in the Helmand valley, looking for members of the Taliban responsible for planting an IED which had killed a fellow British soldier. Hours later in the midday sun after very little sleep our paths crossed. The sky was a brilliant blue and the heat oppressive but his greeting had me laughing for days.

 Turned out nice, he said of the broiling heat.



 Journalists embedded with the military are able to move around a war zone with surprising ease. You simply tell your minder, the Media Operations Officer tasked to looked after you, where you want to go next and then you are told if you can and if so how quickly. The move itself will normally be by helicopter — a very different experience from flying with a civilian airline. A Royal Air Force Hercules plane brought us from Kabul to Helmand Province but once here most movement was by Chinook, the RAFs workhorse helicopter. It is an impressive machine that can carry dozens of troops and heavy payloads at the same time. Over urban areas in a conflict zone pilots fly it low and fast, weaving from side to side to make it a harder target to hit. It is a fantastic feeling — with rear door lowered to allow cool air in and the desert sweeping below at 200 miles an hour. Today flying from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion it was standing room only. Buzzard Airways, as the RAF are sometimes known — or Maybe Airways by soldiers bumped off a flight by someone or something more important than them — run a simple check-in process that today saved our bacon. We forgot about the time and nearly missed the flight, only becoming aware of the roar of two jet engines driving two massive rotors once the chopper was already on the ground just a few hundred metres from our room. We sprang into action — grabbing suitcases and bumping into each other and the furniture — and ran to the helicopter landing site. We headed straight for the Chinook, leaving RAF ground staff looking aghast at the prospect of our heads being lopped off by the rotars. Some aggressive hand waving later and the three of us, looking like tourists with shopping bags, were running away from the helicopter looking for check-in. We found it — a clip board hanging on a wall where you jot down your name and blood group. It is called the perish list, so they know whos dead if the helicopter crashes. I think I prefer the term manifest.

 We were eventually assured another helicopter was on its way and caught our breath. Not the best example of the foreign correspondent at home in the war zone, but a very quick check-in process. I recommend it to Heathrow.

So, what makes you think you know about Afghanistan?

Jun 14, 2007 15:19 UTC

 We went out into town today to meet local Afghan journalists attending a training course run by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting a wonderful, serious organisation that supports and trains journalists in war zones around the world. I recommend the blog of its Afghanistan country director, Jean MacKenzie. The IWPR programme in Afghanistan is partly funded by Britain, and James, the spokesman for the British Foreign Office here, warned us with some pride: Ever since we set up these courses for journalists, its made our lives much harder, frankly. We used to just read out our press releases. Now they ask all kinds of difficult questions.
 When we arrived at the classroom, the local reporters were having a discussion about an American majors outburst at a council of elders that I happened to have written about last week in Sangin. As predicted, the journalists did indeed ask me all kinds of difficult questions.
 When I covered the elders council meeting why didnt I talk to more people in the town? Why did I think I knew enough to write about Afghanistan on a short trip with British troops? How do I know that the British arent hiding the truth? They kept at me for about an hour. I did my best. If this is the future of Afghanistans media, Im impressed.

Heat and Dust

Jun 14, 2007 10:23 UTC

  Operating in a desert poses some logistical challenges that a reporter must overcome on a daily basis. I am gathering material for Reuters TV, so I brought a mountain of TV and transmission equipment with me to Helmand province, most of which is not happy being engulfed in the clouds of dust that are created by the slightest breeze or movement by a vehicle or a helicopter. Im ever conscious of an embed with the U.S. Marines in Iraqs Anbar province in 2005 when my Iraqi cameraman was unable to protect his camera from the dust, and we ended up with no means of filming. Not fun. On this trip I am the cameraman and, with Anbar in mind, I spend a fair proportion of my day, uncovering, cleaning, recovering and checking the camera. So far, so good.

    Our first filming location in Helmand was the town of Sangin, where we stayed with members of the British Royal Anglian Regiment. They had just taken the town from the Taliban, and set up a district centre based around the home of a suspected former drug baron. He is now living nearby and trying to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for his trouble.

    Our billet was the concrete shell of a house with no electricity (camera and laptop battery management can take up quite a lot of your day) and no running water although, as Peter explained in his blog, we were right next to a fast-flowing irrigation canal. The Royal Engineers had rigged up a water purification plant that provided an endless supply of drinking water stored in black plastic 25-gallon jerry cans. The relentless heat in this part of the world means the water emerging from these cans is almost hot enough to throw a tea bag into but my U.S. Marine experience had taught me a clever trick: how to cook up a cool drink in the dessert. Ingredients: Drinking water, one wet sock and one plastic bottle. Fill the bottle with hot water, slip bottle into the sock and dip sock into the canal, repeating regularly to keep the sock wet. The sock immediately becomes a heat exchanger, evaporating the water immediately and cooling the contents of the bottle at the same time. Thirty minutes, later youre a sipping a cool, fruit flavoured drink, courtesy of the British Army ration pack. I prefer the blackcurrant it makes your urine change colour, but its worth the surprise.

Out of my comfort zone

Jun 12, 2007 13:57 UTC

After three days in the Spartan field conditions at the outpost in Sangin, we said goodbye to the soldiers of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Forester Regiment and were flown in a Chinook helicopter to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of
Helmand Province.

Suddenly we found ourselves inside the heavily fortified diplomatic and military compound in the centre of the city, in the luxury of an air-conditioned dormitory room. The
soldiers shop was having a 20-percent-off sale, so I found a bargain on a set of ipod speakers and switched on some jazz.

Decent showers and a cooked meal. Ah. This compound has come quite a long way in the year since I first visited, when it was still mainly tents. Theres a gym, a volleyball court and high-speed internet in the rooms. Many of the military and
civilian people who work here do get out into the field often, but I wonder if the comfortable compound will inexorably produce the sort of “Emerald City” isolation of the Green Zone in Baghdad.