Sunday, August 16, 2009

NASA Looks to Fly Commercial

NASA Looks to Fly Commercial
Irene Klotz, Discovery News

Aug. 14, 2009 -- NASA will spend $50 million of federal economic stimulus funds to seed development of commercial passenger spaceships; however, a presidential panel reviewing the U.S. space program says that may be just the beginning.
According to the recommendations of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans committee, which delivered its preliminary findings to the White House on Friday, NASA should set aside $2.4 billion between 2011 and 2014 for rides to the International Space Station on commercial U.S. carriers.
"There are companies that would love to move forward with orbital launch service on their own, using only private funds, but it just wouldn't happen for many, many years," John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group, told Discovery News. "What the government funding would do is basically allow these companies to accelerate these efforts."
With the government as a base customer, commercial firms would be able to develop an array of new markets for orbital launch services, including tourism and scientific research, Gedmark added.
"When you have multiple companies doing this as part of their core business, you open the doors for all sorts of things that you can do in space," he said.
The agency has $50 million available for firms to flesh out plans to provide astronauts rides to and from space station, which orbits about 225 miles above Earth. Proposals are due by Sept. 22.

NASA is retiring the shuttle fleet after seven more missions to complete construction of the orbital outpost. The current plan is to buy rides from the Russian government until a new U.S. spaceship, called Orion, debuts in 2016, or so.
The panel reviewing the space program, however, sees another path.
"We'd like to get NASA out of the business of flying people to low-Earth orbit," said panel member and former astronaut Sally Ride.
Fifty firms told NASA they were interested in the work, including United Space Alliance, which operates the space shuttles for NASA, and Lockheed Martin, which is designing the shuttle replacement spaceship. Among the dozens of smaller firms that contacted NASA were Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corp., both of which are developing cargo ships to fly to the station under NASA contracts worth $500 million, and the secretive Amazon-backed firm Blue Origin.
Absent from the list was Virgin Galactic, which plans to offer suborbital passenger space flights out of Mojave, Calif., beginning in 2010 or 2011.
"There are a lot of companies interested in what could become a new commercial spaceflight industry," Gedmark said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hav-A-Tampa cigar closing

"TAMPA - The Tampa area will lose part of its cigar heritage in August when Hav-A-Tampa shuts its factory near Seffner and lays off about 495 employees, closing a factory that has been operating since 1902.
Company officials announced the closing Tuesday.

Many employees there make Hav-A-Tampa's iconic Jewels, inexpensive machine-made cigars known for their birchwood tips. Some workers have labored there for two decades or longer, including one who's been there for 50 years, said Richard McKenzie, a senior vice president of human resources for Altadis USA, which owns Hav-A-Tampa.

Altadis tried to keep the plant open by closing it for a week or two at a time and furloughing workers. Eventually, though, the company couldn't cope with a steep drop in consumer demand brought on by the recession and a large new tax on tobacco products, McKenzie said.

Work that had been done in Seffner will now be performed in an Altadis plant in Puerto Rico, where it has extra manufacturing capacity, McKenzie said.

The company is not closing its nearby distribution center off U.S. 301, where it employs about 150 people.

Employees on Tuesday were digesting how they would find work in an economy where more than one in 10 people in the area are unemployed.
"I've been here 12 years. I know someone who's been there 20 years, 22 years," said Denise Harrison, an office manager at Hav-A-Tampa. "I'm sure we'll all land on our feet, but it will be harder for some people other than me who may have done nothing else."

Altadis USA plans to begin laying off workers immediately and will continue until closing the plant in late August. Workers will receive their pay through August, even if they are let go before that, McKenzie said. Employees also are receiving severance packages and job placement assistance.

Several things conspired to hurt Altadis' sales, McKenzie said, including the recession and the growth of indoor smoking bans. The bans have especially hurt sales in cold-weather states, where it's impractical to smoke a cigar outdoors in the winter, he said.

However, the company attributed much of its trouble to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, a federal program that provides health insurance to low-income children. It is funded in part by a new federal tax on cigars and cigarettes. McKenzie couldn't say how much sales of Hav-A-Tampa cigars had fallen off, but the numbers have dropped significantly, he said.

Previously, federal excise taxes on cigars were limited to no more than a nickel, said Norman Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America trade group. The tax increase, which took effect April 1, raises the maximum tax on cigars to about 40 cents, Sharp said.

Before the increase was passed, the cigar industry warned that consumption of cigars could fall as much as 30 percent in the year after its passage. It's not clear yet how big of an impact the law is having on sales, Sharp said.

Harrison said she understands the company's predicament and that Altadis has tried to treat its employees fairly, including guaranteeing employees two months of pay. Like her employer, she put part of the blame on the SCHIP tax hike.
"We can't afford to make these cigars in the U.S. anymore," she said.
Unlike its more upscale rivals, which favored hand-rolling and unionized labor, Hav-A-Tampa turned to machines and nonunionized labor to mass produce cigars, said Gary Mormino, a history professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. Company founder Eli Witt also was a pioneer in the use of wood tips and wrapping cigars in cellophane - practices that are now standard in the machine-made cigar industry, Mormino said.
"Hav-a-Tampa has to be one of the greatest commercial names," he said. "It just seems right."

With the company now set to stop producing in Seffner, the last major cigar maker left in the Bay area will be J.C. Newman, which owns premium brands including Cuesta-Rey, Diamond Crown and La Unica. While those premium brands are made outside the United States, Newman still makes as many as 40,000 cigars a day in Tampa under its less-expensive brands, Rigoletto Black Jack, Factory No. 59 and Mexican Segundos, said company co-owner Bobby Newman.

When J.C. Newman moved from Cleveland in 1954, there were 10 large cigar factories here.
"It's a sad day," Newman said. "We are the last ones left out of those."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Campaign to save NASA shuttle

Space shuttle era may end in 2010. It is a disappointing reality the USA is placing science and the potential profits of space exploration on the back burner. In my humble opinion the shuttle should be ran right up to the point that a new shuttle is put into operation. Let me re state a new and improved shuttle is the practical next step for NASA but the powers to be have opted to back slide by developing the Orion, a smaller spacecraft that would launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center and parachute landings in the western United States. The Orion is not a shuttle but a crew space exploration capsule.

We must launch our own mission, to contine the space shuttle program so the United States never looses the capacity to send astronauts into space until the Orion's first lift off.


Iraqis gather to watch televised coverage of the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama at a cafe in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.

43rd and 44th

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle stand with former US president George W. Bush and Laura Bush on the steps of the US Capitol following the inaugural ceremony for Obama as 44th US president in Washington on January 20, 2009.

Guantanamo Bay chain of command

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta replaces an official picture of outgoing President George W. Bush with that of newly-sworn-in U.S. President Barack Obama, in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. Naval Base January 20, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley-Pool/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama and his family

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle stand with former US president George W. Bush and Laura Bush on the steps of the US Capitol following the inaugural ceremony for Obama as 44th US president in Washington on January 20, 2009.

Obama talks with McCain

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with U.S. Sen. John McCain after arriving at the luncheon at Statuary Hall the luncheon at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama retakes oath

"WASHINGTON – After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House — a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too.

Don't worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day.

Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."
This time, the scene was the White House Map Room"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Economic Stimulus Package

It’s good to be back to work after a long sabbatical following the victory of President Barrack Obama relieving the stress of the Bush error. Let me go on record in voicing opposition to any economic stimulus. What America needs is stricter regulation upon all financial institutions, ceilings on home prices which will jump start the economic and infuse wealth. Continued readjustments within the housing market on a downward trend is actually good for America. I can remember a conversation with a colleague a couple years ago in regards to buying a home, then a dream unattainable at our salaries. Those in the business of selling homes hope the decrease in home values in some markets is temproary, the fact of the matter is housing has faced a readjustment, prices have reached their peak. Current prices as of January 2009 may be the ceiling for some time in my observation. We as leaders of this new economic and political error must direct our collective competitive drive towards success in a direction void of corruption, always seeking to implement business practices that generate profit, are pleasing to the common worker, and beneficial to the common good of the nation (A.T. Brooks).

"As state legislators worked through a special session to address the budget deficit, Governor Crist announced a new economic stimulus plan for Florida's small businesses.

The two-pronged plan requires an initial $10 million investment from the state. $8.5 million will be used for a pilot loan program to provide up to $250,000 in loans to companies with 10 to 99 employees. The loans can be used to purchase capital, train employees, or provide salaries for new positions. The remaining $1.5 million will be used for additional economic stimulus initiatives.
The Governor's Office noted that this type of stimulus plan is particularly useful given that between 1997 and 2007, 17 percent of the new jobs created in Florida came from small businesses that expanded, exceeding the new jobs created by newly opened businesses or companies that relocated to Florida.

The Governor's Economic Stimulus approach is based on research showing that a small group of high-growth, high-potential businesses can generate a large number of new sustainable jobs. Littleton, Colorado successfully implemented this economic strategy starting in 1987, and between 1990 and 2005 saw an employment growth rate of 135 percent - compared to 47.2 percent for the state as a whole, and 21.4 percent nationwide " (The LeMieux Report ).