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Category “Trade & Commerce”

Manitowoc Co. to Move Manufacturing of Ice Machines to Mexico

Bad news, very lit­tle doubt about that. 

The worst part, no mat­ter how Man­i­towoc Co. spins this, all the city and sur­round­ing area will think is one word: Mirro.

Man­i­towoc Food­ser­vice, an oper­at­ing group of Man­i­towoc Co., plans to cut 150 jobs in Man­i­towoc and move assem­bly of its Indigo ice machines to a plant in Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico, accord­ing to a press release.

Job cuts will occur dur­ing the next two years. Affected employ­ees are rep­re­sented by the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Machin­ists union.

Man­i­towoc Co. said by mov­ing pro­duc­tion to Mex­ico, it will be able to “more effec­tively serve” cus­tomers in Latin Amer­ica and the U.S.

The intended trans­fer of assem­bly for Indigo sup­ports the Food­ser­vice man­u­fac­tur­ing strat­egy that includes cap­i­tal­iz­ing on emerg­ing mar­ket growth and will allow us to bet­ter com­pete in the increas­ingly com­pet­i­tive global mar­ket,” the release states.

The Food­ser­vice facil­ity in Man­i­towoc will con­tinue to pro­duce ice machine evap­o­ra­tors and a num­ber of other prod­ucts, tak­ing advan­tage of a recent $3.2 mil­lion invest­ment in the 26th Street plant, the com­pany said.

Prod­uct devel­op­ment, engi­neer­ing, mar­ket­ing, finance and ser­vice func­tions for Man­i­towoc Ice prod­ucts also will remain at the Man­i­towoc facility.

Dur­ing the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mirro, which made alu­minum cook­ing ware in the city, was gob­bled up by Newell-Rubbermaid and then moved south of the bor­der piece by piece until the com­pany folded around 2003.  Just this month, the process of demo­li­tion in one of the old­est of the Mirro build­ings began.  It’s expected to take a year as they slowly try to recy­cle as much of the maple hard­wood, mar­ble tiling and other fix­tures as they can.

It was sold to its cur­rent owner for a mere $200.

Nat­u­rally, it still remains a sore spot for many in the area.

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H-1B Visa Reform Would Have At Least Made Sense

Let me pref­ace this post by say­ing: “I’m not for amnesty, just san­ity.”

While largely dead for the rest of the 2013–14 con­gres­sional cal­en­dar, there were some things I per­son­ally would have liked to have seen touched in an immi­gra­tion pack­age or sep­a­rate bill.  (You know, that piece­meal approach talked about, but appar­ently not going to be tried.)

At the top of that list is “H-1B Visa Reform.”

H-1B” is, like most visas issued by the State Depart­ment, one of a vari­ety of work visas granted to immi­grants who are tem­po­rary work­ers inside the United States.  H-1B’s are a spe­cialty type of visa which only are avail­able to the fol­low­ing qualifications:

  1. You must be a for­eign national.
  2. You must have already earned a col­lege degree.
  3. Said degree must be in a career related to what are called “STEM” (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing & Math) fields.

The visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three for a total of six years; and with their employ­ers spon­sor­ship, they can gain cit­ize That stay can be up to ten years, only if you are work­ing for a defense con­trac­tor.  They are highly-coveted by tech­nol­ogy firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley such as Google, IBM, Face­book and Oracle.

Annu­ally, 65,000 new H-1Bs are issued, with an addi­tional 20,000 to eli­gi­ble immi­grants already in the coun­try who get­ting their col­lege degrees. Esti­ma­tions are that since the pro­gram began around 2,000, over 850,000 H-1Bs have been issued.

So why reform them and what to do?  The com­mon answer — accepted on both sides — has been to lift the annual quota.  Why? Because the world is a com­pet­i­tive work­place, and despite con­stant inter­est in com­puter sci­ences and IT, Amer­ica isn’t gen­er­at­ing enough of them fast enough.  Also, other nations also have sub­stan­tial tech­nol­ogy sec­tors them­selves and will grab up these wouldbe employees.

In the most recent pod­cast episode for the center-right web­site Ric­o­chet, renowned polit­i­cal ana­lyst Michael Barone told a story of how a Cana­dian diplo­mat prayed that Amer­ica didn’t change its immi­gra­tion pol­icy towards high-skilled work­ers (the ones sought through the H-1B pro­gram) because then all these folks could come to Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary and Toronto.  British Colum­bia is well-known to be the high-tech hub match­ing its neigh­bors south of the bor­der in Wash­ing­ton State and Sil­i­con Valley.

It is this exact thing which makes the immi­gra­tion debate as a whole so frus­trat­ing.  While we’re fight­ing over what is clearly a hor­rific Sen­ate bill, both sides need to take a moment, fig­ure out where there is actual con­sen­sus on immi­gra­tion — like visa reform, which has noth­ing to do with amnesty much if at all — and craft a bill.

Any­one who still demands a full, “com­pre­hen­sive approach” (Chuck Schumer, I’m look­ing at you.) should be barred from the room.  Ham­mer out some­thing that works, not just for those get­ting the H-1Bs’, but for the U.S. econ­omy as well.

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JFK Presidential Library Appear at Auction">Comic Book Pages Originally Meant for JFK Presidential Library Appear at Auction

(This might be a first, where the best writ­ten ver­sion of events comes from “The National Enquirer.”)

After the assas­si­na­tion of Pres. John F. Kennedy, a num­ber of trib­utes were made.  In 1964, due the lead-time needed to cre­ate com­mem­o­ra­tive issues, DC Comics had two “Super­man Meets JFK” issues put to print.  The first was “Action Comics #390,” in which the plot had the late Pres­i­dent help Super­man by cov­er­ing for “Clark Kent” so Lois Lane wouldn’t dis­cover Superman’s alter ego.

The other was “Super­man #170,” in which the Man of Steel is given per­sonal orders by Kennedy to Super­man to help pro­mote the Pres­i­den­tial fit­ness pro­gram. (The story goes that the plot for this issue came from Pres. Lyn­don John­son himself.)

As a result of the direct request of the White House, the story goes that the orig­i­nal pages of art were to be donated to Kennedy’s widow Jacque­line.  She then in kind, donated the pages to the Kennedy Pres­i­den­tial Library, which is on the cam­pus of Har­vard University.

But appar­ently the pages never got there; in fact, they were sold unknow­ingly at auc­tion at Sotheby’s in 1993, and where about to be sold at auc­tion again next month.  Start­ing ask­ing price, $20,000 a page.

Per­haps even more cryp­tic, the auc­tion is set for Novem­ber 22 in Dal­las; the very date and loca­tion of the Kennedy assassination.

Fast for­ward to last month’s New York City Comic-Con and the story of 91 year-old Al Plas­tino.  Plas­tino was the artist and inker on “Super­man #170,” and believed like every­one else, that his pages were on file in Boston…until they were shown to him by an employee of the auc­tion house.

As many of you already know, all of us in the comics dept., in addi­tion to just work­ing there, are huge comic fans. One of our employ­ees was chat­ting with Al as a fan at New York Comic Con, and Al expressed inter­est in see­ing the art, so we brought it for him to look at. That’s when some­one from the Hero Ini­tia­tive snapped a few pictures.

We’re all very sorry to hear that Al Plas­tino never got the art back from DC, but we all know the sad real­i­ties of the comic pub­lish­ing busi­ness back in those days. Heck, it’s one of the rea­sons I am on the board of the Hero Ini­tia­tive and the rea­son Her­itage helps sup­port them.

Plas­tino then wrote out this plea on his per­sonal Face­book page:

Please help if you can. The art I donated and thought for all these years was being housed at the Kennedy library at Har­vard is now being auc­tioned off on the anniver­sary of Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. And now I am find­ing out that the art may have never made it to the library. The archivists tell me there are no records of it ever being received. I asked for the art back and they will not give it to me. I asked for the consigner’s name and they will not tell me that either. They tell me I have no rights to my work and that it is too late to get it back.

Since then, the auc­tion house has sus­pended the list­ing of the art while it inves­ti­gates.  Sadly, Plas­tino is fac­ing an uphill fight when it comes to get­ting the art back.  Back in those days of comic book pub­lish­ing, artists rarely if ever got their art back.  In fact, it was com­mon prac­tice back then for both Mar­vel and DC to ware­house orig­i­nal art and do with it as they pleased.  It wasn’t until the late 1970s to mid-1980s that it became com­mon prac­tice for a comic book com­pany to return orig­i­nal artwork.

Before then, only a few big names like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had enough clout to get their art­work back.  In the case of Kirby, it took law­suits to get some of his orig­i­nal art from the 40s and 50s back.  Today, many artists hang on to their art for sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons, some do sell pages, but often as a last resort.

For artists like Plas­tino, who had no pen­sion plans and lived month to month on their art­work, sell­ing pages meant build­ing a nest egg.  Add in how he believed it was going to be given to a Pres­i­den­tial Library to be part of his­tory, and the dis­cov­ery of them being at auc­tion is an incred­i­ble betrayal.

Plastino’s case is now being han­dled by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Hero Alliance, both non-profits which deal with ensur­ing comic book creator’s rights are honored.

But advo­cates for comic book artists say that since the art was never given to the museum, Plas­tino remains the right­ful owner. Comic book pub­lish­ers, they claim, only buy the pub­lish­ing rights to an artist’s work, not the work itself. Pub­lish­ers gen­er­ally dis­pute this, and it’s an issue that’s been debated for decades.

He never gave up own­er­ship of the art because DC never pur­chased it from him or paid sales tax,” asserted Kris Adams Stone, daugh­ter of comic book leg­end Neal Adams. She added that legal papers are being pre­pared to halt the auc­tion for good.

As the cur­rent owner, there’s noth­ing to say they did any­thing legally wrong.  The real ques­tion going for­ward is how they never made it to the Kennedy Library in the first place.

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How to Deal with “Striking” Fast Food Employees in One-Simple Step…

Replace them with touch-screen cashiers.

(Actu­ally, there are a num­ber of McDonald’s which are prac­ti­cally there already…)

Wel­come to McDonald’s. My name is HAL 9000. May I take your order?”

McDon­alds recently went on a hir­ing binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employ­ees to its ros­ter. The hir­ing pic­ture doesn’t look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is draft­ing 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to han­dle cashier­ing duties.

The move is designed to boost effi­ciency and make order­ing more con­ve­nient for cus­tomers. In an inter­view with the Finan­cial Times, McDonald’s Europe Pres­i­dent Steve East­er­brook notes that the new sys­tem will also open up a gold­mine of data. McDonald’s could poten­tially track every Big Mac, McNugget, and large shake you order. A calo­rie account tally at the end of the year could be a real shocker.

The touch screens will only accept debit or credit cards, adding to the slow death knell of cash and coins. This all goes along with an over­all revamp of McDonald’s restau­rants world­wide aimed at pro­ject­ing a mod­ern image as opposed to the old-fashioned golden arches with a slightly creepy (to my taste any­way) clown guy hang­ing around the french fries.

This puts McDonald’s one step closer to open­ing up its first Alphav­ille loca­tion. At least our new com­puter over­lords will be nice enough to serve us a Filet-o-Fish. Maybe they’ll even throw in an iPad with the Happy Meal one of these days.

Another thing this solves, a cashier mis­hear­ing your order.  Oh, they might still screw it up in the “Putting the food on your tray” phase, but most of the times you don’t have to hear “What was that again sir?” when you’re stand­ing in line get­ting your order taken.

No com­ment from SEIU, or whether they will go full Lud­dite in Europe and destroy the machines by force with ham­mers and other means.

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Quote of the Day

Great point made in tomorrow’s lead edi­to­r­ial in the Wall Street Jour­nal about Pres. Barack Obama seem­ing to “sneer” at a report — grossly under­es­ti­mated I might add — that the Key­stone Pipeline will only cre­ate 2,000 jobs.

(The project may actu­ally cre­ate upwards of 25,000 by some estimates.)

But even if Tran­sCanada were lying, think about a Pres­i­dent sneer­ing at 2,000 jobs for “a year or two” when the U.S. job­less rate is 7.6%. This is the same Pres­i­dent who jus­ti­fied his $830 bil­lion stim­u­lus, and even now wants more gov­ern­ment spend­ing on pub­lic works, in the name of cre­at­ing jobs, some of which are also for only “a year or two.” The jobs Mr. Obama seems to despise are those cre­ated by some­one other than government.

Well said.

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DNI Chief, “Hey, Let’s Tax Exports!”">Former DNI Chief, “Hey, Let’s Tax Exports!”

Wow, what an amaz­ing idea!

Too bad it’s unconstitutional.

For­mer Direc­tor of National Intel­li­gence Den­nis Blair has a plan to enable expanded U.S. nat­ural gas exports and curb envi­ron­men­tal risks: Taxes.

Blair, in a U.S. News and World Report op-ed on energy pol­icy, argues for tax­ing exports to help improve over­sight of boom­ing U.S. nat­ural gas production.

A tax on exported nat­ural gas can be used to fund both com­pe­tent reg­u­la­tory agen­cies and research on safer and cleaner tech­nolo­gies for nat­ural gas,” writes Blair, who was the nation’s top intel­li­gence offi­cial from Jan­u­ary 2009 until mid-2010.

Blair, a retired Navy admi­ral, is an adviser to this week’s Pacific Energy Sum­mit in Van­cou­ver and will also speak at the event.

While the con­cept of “export taxes” aren’t uncom­mon, or against WTO rules, they tend to be the monop­oly prop­erty of devel­op­ing nations with economies so weak, their gov­ern­ments are tax­ing every­thing that moves — both in and out of the country.

As for it ever hap­pen­ing in the United States, don’t bet on it bar­ring a con­sti­tu­tional amendment. 

Con­gress only has the power to tax imports; stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dure for any national econ­omy.  The Found­ing Fathers specif­i­cally out­lawed tax­ing exports — par­tic­u­larly exports between the states — in an effort to “form a more per­fect union” as well as avoid mas­sive con­fu­sion among traders who were pay­ing a “Vir­ginia Export Tax” or a “New York Export Tax” and so on.  In the effort to clean it up, they barred the prac­tice outright.

Today, only eco­nomic idiots and the con­sti­tu­tion­ally naive con­sider the idea.  Den­nis Blair fits in both categories.

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“Protecting the Shield”">Protecting the Shield”

(H/T Over-Lawyered)

This was a web ad from Sam­sung that didn’t make the game broad­cast — and you’ll under­stand once you see it — in it Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd get lec­tured by Bob Odenkirk on what you can and can­not say in an ad for the Super Bowl.

Such as “Super Bowl…”

Or the names of the teams play­ing in it…

 The NFL is very overzeal­ous on pro­tect­ing its brand, some­times to ridicu­lous lev­els — some­times not.  Just ask Russ Feingold.


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US Accounts">Intrade to Shutdown US Accounts

Frankly, I’m shocked the site was run­ning for as long as it was.  While a respectable “pre­dic­tion” mar­ket (and by that, I mean wager book), the web­site was really noth­ing more than a place to put bets on elec­tions and mea­sure the ebb and flow of where the money was going.

While a com­mon prac­tice in the U.K — where Intrade is based and bet­ting on elec­tion out­comes is the norm — it is also highly ille­gal in the U.S.  This is only a nat­ural reac­tion to the even­tual crack­down.  It just took a while for the author­i­ties to catch up.

Online pre­dic­tion mar­ket Intrade, hugely pop­u­lar among polit­i­cal blog­gers and pun­dits, will no longer allow U.S. res­i­dents to par­tic­i­pate after run­ning into reg­u­la­tory and legal trou­ble Monday.

The com­pany alerted Amer­i­can cus­tomers on its web­site that they must close their accounts by Dec. 23, or else the com­pany will do so itself, after deter­min­ing a fair mar­ket value. Funds must be with­drawn by Dec. 31.

Intrade, which is oper­ated by the Irish firm Trade Exchange Net­work Ltd. was a favorite ref­er­ence point for polit­i­cal prog­nos­ti­ca­tors, who pointed to futures being traded on the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as a reflec­tion of the odds fac­ing each campaign.

The Com­modi­ties Futures Trad­ing Com­mis­sion sued Intrade and TEN on Mon­day for offer­ing com­mod­ity options con­tracts between Sep­tem­ber 2007 and June 2012 in vio­la­tion of the agency’s ban on off-exchange trading.

Accord­ing to the suit, the CFTC claimed the firm filed false cer­ti­fi­ca­tion forms stat­ing that Intrade lim­ited its offer­ings to eli­gi­ble mar­ket par­tic­i­pants. The agency also claimed that TEN vio­lated a cease-and-desist order, signed in 2005, cov­er­ing sim­i­lar conduct.

It is against the law to solicit U.S. per­sons to buy and sell com­mod­ity options, even if they are called ‘pre­dic­tion’ con­tracts, unless they are listed for trad­ing and traded on a CFTC-registered exchange or unless legally exempt,” said David Meis­ter, direc­tor of the CFTC’s Divi­sion of Enforcement.

Intrade said on its web­site that it would not charge its usual $4.99 monthly fee for Decem­ber and will waive its $20 fee levied for pro­cess­ing bank wire withdraws.

I’m work­ing under the assump­tion that one can still go to the web­site in the years to come, after all, this isn’t the Red Chinese’s “Great Fire­wall” we’re talk­ing about here. The only ques­tion now is will they even bother to oper­ate the mar­kets as they’ve done in the past, with only those out­side the U.S. allowed to par­tic­i­pate, or just shut­ting them down completely?

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Quote of the Day

This is from a blog post by Daniel Iken­son, who runs the CATO Institute’s Cen­ter for Trade Pol­icy Stud­ies.  It high­lights once again why CATO is my favorite “Trade Shop” over Heritage’s “Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nom­ics (and I once worked at Her­itage and was told if they weren’t in a hir­ing freeze in 2009, I would have got­ten a job at CITE as an analyst).

First, they put out more stuff.  Sec­ondly, they aren’t afraid to say things like this.

The dif­fer­ence between the trade pol­icy we have today and the trade pol­icy we should have is like the dif­fer­ence between crony cap­i­tal­ism and free-market cap­i­tal­ism. The sausage grinder that is U.S. trade pol­icy serves politi­cians and rewards lob­by­ists and gate-keeper bureau­crats, who have the gall to pre­sume enti­tle­ment to lim­it­ing Amer­i­cans’ options and pick­ing win­ners and losers.

In a coun­try that exalts free­dom, the default trade pol­icy should be free trade. But it’s not. Why?

The pub­lic has been trained to accept that spe­cial interests—companies seek­ing exemp­tions from com­pe­ti­tion; unions demand­ing that cit­i­zens ”Buy Amer­i­can”; investors and intel­lec­tual prop­erty hold­ers demand­ing the U.S. pub­lic assume part of its busi­ness risks; envi­ros insist­ing on mea­sures that pun­ish devel­op­ing coun­tries for being poor—are rightly enti­tled to nego­ti­ate, abridge, impair, or sac­ri­fice those free­doms in the name of Team USA.

So how are we free if deci­sions about how, with whom, and how much we trans­act with for­eign­ers are decided by par­ties in Wash­ing­ton, who profit from deny­ing us that freedom?

Trade pol­icy should be about max­i­miz­ing the free­dom of Amer­i­cans to choose, and dis­tinctly not about bestow­ing cer­tain advan­tages on par­tic­u­lar com­pa­nies, indus­tries, or spe­cial inter­ests. Trade pol­icy should be about max­i­miz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­cans as con­sumers, work­ers, and investors, and not about imped­ing those opportunities.

In a glob­al­ized world where busi­nesses are mobile and, ulti­mately, unteth­ered to a home­land, what is the point of pol­i­cy­mak­ers going to bat for U.S. pro­duc­ers? Usu­ally, poli­cies adopted to assist par­tic­u­lar com­pa­nies or indus­tries hand­i­cap or sub­vert com­pa­nies and indus­tries upstream or down­stream in the sup­ply chain, or in other sec­tors. What even defines a U.S. pro­ducer any­more? GM builds more vehi­cles in China than it does in the United States. Should Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing both claim GM as national trea­sures and craft pol­icy to serve its needs?

To put it bluntly, we need a trade pol­icy that ben­e­fits the end con­sumer not the man­u­fac­tur­ers, not the politi­cians, not the unions, and not the cor­po­ra­tions.  It is about mak­ing sure the game is played evenly, fairly, and about “May the best prod­uct win.”

We seem to have for­got­ten that.

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Maersk to Stop Servicing Iranian Ports

Huge news in both the world of ship­ping and the world of Mid­dle East peace.  With­out the world’s largest ship­ping com­pany hav­ing boats stop­ping at Iran­ian ports, that means the sim­plest route for Iran (and Rus­sia and China) to get their ille­gal arms to ter­ror­ists against Israel is the roads going west.

The U.S. Army still check those — through check­points in Iraq.

Maersk Line, the world’s biggest con­tainer ship­ping com­pany, has stopped port calls to Iran as West­ern sanc­tions pres­sure on the Islamic Repub­lic mounts, a spokes­woman said on Tuesday.

Maersk Line has ceased to call in Iran,” a spokes­woman for the unit of Dan­ish group A.P. Moller-Maersk said.

This is a prag­matic deci­sion based on an assess­ment of bal­anc­ing the ben­e­fits of doing lim­ited busi­ness in Iran against the risk of dam­ag­ing busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties else­where par­tic­u­larly the U.S.”

In 2011 the United States black­listed major Iran­ian port oper­a­tor Tide­wa­ter Mid­dle East Co, which oper­ates seven ter­mi­nals in Iran includ­ing the biggest con­tainer port Ban­dar Abbas. That led Maersk Line to sus­pended oper­a­tions at sev­eral ports.

Maersk Line ceased its accep­tance to all other ports than Bushehr in 2011,” the spokes­woman said, refer­ring to Iran’s small north­ern con­tainer port. “The dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of ser­vices to and from Bushehr unfor­tu­nately reflects the dif­fi­cul­ties ser­vic­ing Iran as a whole.”

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