Sunday, September 23, 2007

It is time for luxury-cell phone: Samsung + Armani

Italian designer Giorgio Armani's announcement that he is teaming up with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. to develop a line of high-end electronics underscores how top fashion houses are stretching the boundaries of the luxury-goods industry as they search out new products they can brand with their own imprint.
Under the new alliance, Mr. Armani will design electronics ranging from handsets to liquid crystal display televisions, manufactured by Samsung, and distribute them through his world-wide network of boutiques. Mr. Armani will unveil the alliance's first product -- a credit card-sized cell phone -- at his fashion show in Milan on Monday, the companies said in a joint-statement Sunday.
Mr. Armani, 73 years old, is the latest Italian designer to plunge into the cutthroat electronic goods industry. Fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has launched a gold-colored RAZR made by Motorola Inc., and Prada has designed a touch-screen cell phone for South Korea's LG Electronics, Inc.
However, Mr. Armani has been among the most aggressive of the fashion pack to extend his brand across new segments. In addition to fashion, the Armani empire now includes lines of chocolates, homewares, flowers, as well as an soon-to-be-opened hotel. Phones, Mr. Armani noted, are a logical next step for designers like himself.
"We make as much of a personal statement with the mobile phones that we carry or the televisions we have in our living rooms as we do with the shoes and bags we wear or the furnishings we chose to place in our homes," Mr. Armani said in the statement.
For Samsung, which lags behind rival cell-phone makers Motorola and Nokia Corp in sales, partnering with a fashion designer is seen as a means to distinguish its wares in an increasingly crowded cellphone market.
The companies did not say how much the phones would cost or which carrier would provide service for the phones. Giorgio Armani boutiques will begin carrying the cell phone in "major European markets" in November, the fashion house said in the statement, adding that it planned to distribute the phone outside of Europe next year.
Mr. Armani will also unveil a Samsung-produced LCD television as part of his home interiors line, Armani/Casa, in January

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Estimate for Deporting Illegal Immigrants: $94 Billion

Stop the madness! DEPORT,” one of many like-minded comments in a previous post on illegal immigration, is an opinion that has always lacked a price tag. Another figure — the estimated 12 million foreigners in the United States right now without permission — hinted that it would not be cheap. And others doubted whether it was even possible.
So it fell to Senator Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine, to try popping the question on Thursday.
During a hearing with Julie L. Myers, chief of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, she asked, “Could you give us some idea of what the cost of trying to locate, detain and deport all of the 12 million people who are here illegally would be?”
Lo and behold, an answer shot back with ease: “Our agency has estimated that it would cost at least $94 billion.”
She emphasized that it was a “very rough” estimate, not taking into account the likely deterrent effects of a nationwide hunt for evey illegal immigrant. Many may choose to return home on their own and avoid the average month-long stay in a holding cell.
In fact, detaining the illegal immigrants would be one of the most significant costs of the round-up, according to a spokesman for the agency who did the math for CNN:
He said the amount was calculated by multiplying the estimated 12 million people by the average cost of detaining people for a day: $97. That was multiplied by the average length of detention: 32 days.
ICE officials also considered transportation costs, which average $1,000 per person.
But that amount can vary widely, the spokesman said. Some deportees are simply driven by bus across the border, while others must take charter planes to distant countries, he said.
Finally, the department looked at personnel costs, bringing the total to roughly $94 billion.
With the budget deficit standing at $205 billion for the fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the $94 billion would require Congress to go deeper into the red or deeply cut the budgets of other programs.
In any event, pack this factoid away in the immigration debate folder of your brain. You’ll probably be hearing it again in the future

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Protect Your Credit Score

Forget winning Mom and Dad's approval -- winning a bank's good opinion is becoming a twentysomething's true challenge.
The same credit woes that are contributing to stock-market volatility and problems in the housing market are making it tougher for borrowers of all kinds to get credit -- from credit cards to auto loans.
USAA Federal Savings Bank, for example, recently raised credit-score cutoffs slightly for auto loans, credit cards and personal loans. A Citigroup unit started charging higher auto-loan rates for borrowers with flawed credit. And banks are lowering credit limits for a small but growing number of cardholders with lots of debt or with big balances relative to their credit lines, says Curtis Arnold, founder of
Twentysomethings with relatively short credit histories need to be especially vigilant about making the most of the limited information on their credit reports -- so they don't inadvertently limit their access to credit or raise the cost.
Timeliness is Tops
The first step to good credit, of course, is paying all your bills on time. Payment history accounts for 35% of a credit score, according to Fair Isaac, the company behind the FICO score commonly used by lenders.
Next up: Check your credit report. You can get a free report every 12 months at (It won't come with a FICO score unless you pay extra.)
The report can be a sobering document if you have a woeful payment history or carry a heavy debt load. Suzanne Hildebrand, a 25-year-old administrator at a nonprofit in Fresno, Calif., was "not so happily surprised" when she pulled her husband's credit report three months after the wedding. He had a history of late payments and some accounts that were sent to collections.
"My gut instinct was to close as many accounts as possible," Ms. Hildebrand says. But a little research taught her a valuable lesson: When it comes to bolstering a credit score, acting on instinct can create big problems.
Tips on Credit Triage
One thing you should know: The credit bureaus don't wipe old accounts off your record when they're closed or paid off, so any late payments or collections associated with an account will still be used to calculate a credit score.
Plus, you lose the benefit of a closed account's longevity. Length of credit history accounts for 15% of a score, according to Fair Isaac. Older accounts are generally better, so you want to be judicious about closing old accounts and opening new ones, two actions that lower the average age of your accounts.
Consolidating debt to one card can backfire, because it often ups your "utilization rate," a gauge of how much of your available credit you're using. That rate contributes 30% of the FICO score.
Two cards, each with a $10,000 limit and a $5,000 balance, are generally better than one card with a $10,000 limit and a $10,000 balance, says money coach and author Lynette Khalfani Cox. The utilization rate is only 50% in the first example, but it's a whopping 100% in the second, even though the amount owed is the same.
Some twentysomethings try to lower utilization rates by opening new accounts and spreading their debt across several cards. But try to apply for credit only when you need it.
One reason: New credit counts for 10% of a FICO score. People hungry to borrow tend to be bad risks, so Fair Isaac is watching for how many new accounts you have and how many recent requests for credit you've made. A request for credit stays on the report for two years, and counts as part of the FICO score for 12 months.
Fair Isaac offers a free booklet called "Understanding Your FICO Score" at Another helpful guide is "What You Should Know About Credit History," available on HSBC North America Holdings' site.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Illegal Immigration: How About Walk n a Tightrope?

If there were people who still believed in American dream, now would be the time to think again. The U.S government starts to chase illegal immigrants and people who hire them. Federal immigration officials carrying out raids in 17 states, including at locations in Southern California, have arrested almost 200 illegal immigrants working for a janitorial company and filed criminal charges against the firm's top three officials. It means more than crime charged for firm’s top three executives and 200 illegal immigrants arrested. There are about 10 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. 10 million people willingly submit to high risk, high expenses and even their lives in order to come to America only because they believe that they would have better chances and better life in America. However, America started to kill even the little hopes they have.

Simply America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. For most illegal immigrants, the U.S has higher living condition and higher minimum wage compared to the countries that they come from. Even though they are all aware that it is illegal, many people are willing to take that risk because they are more valuable in the U.S, which means that more profit are guaranteed when they do the same job here. Therefore, most of 10 million people are willing to do the hardest work at minimum wage or less than minimum wage in America. Americans don’t have to do hard work at minimum wage.

The reason that America is able to have stable minimum wage for long time is due to the contribution of illegal immigrants. Economical contribution that illegal immigrants make to America is essential. What if these 10 million people stopped working, the moment they stopped, minimum wage would go up because unskilled workers are needed, but Americans would avoid hard and dirty work at minimum wage, and it would affect all the price of products and services produced in the U.S. Higher wage, which is higher cost for companies, would damage a lot of businesses. Many companies would have to exit the market (closed). Demand for education would decrease because high wage is guaranteed for the uneducated (unskilled), so it would affect schools, tuition and even educated people, and it would decrease the productivity of whole country. Internationally, the U.S would lose price competitiveness, and it would affect domestic economy as well.

There are things that we hate, but we simply cannot live without like bad experiences and memories. We even try to develop a pill to forget what we remember. If we could only remember things that we wish to remember, it would not be our whole life because bad memories are a part of our life. Whether we want or not, illegal immigrants are already a part of our society that we cannot live without.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Congestion Pricing: Regulation Works for Us, What About Cost?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tightened the standards for certain toxic emissions from mobile sources. Basically, the EPA expects that gasoline in all areas of the country will have lower benzene levels than we do now, and this regulation will apply to all American states, even Alaska and the Northwest that have currently the highest benzene levels. The new regulation, EPA developed, promises better environment in the future. Expected cost, EPA estimated, is about $400 million annually by 2030 in order to prepare and run more strict emission tests in all states in the U.S, and America could save $6 billion in annual health care spending.
Even though we have great benefit in the future, we still have to face expense for ourselves today because there is also a hidden cost that we are responsible for. By 2010, all the automakers have to go through the regulation. More strict emission tests will press the all the automobile manufactures, and the pressure will turn into real cost to all automakers, so that the expected price of the automobile will go up. Increased price of the car will affect the other cost such as insurance and maintenance. Assumed future benefit, $6 billion, from the health care spending is not the actual money that we could have on our hands. The saved money will be spent by gorvernment for our own good, but the cost we are looking for is the cost that we actually have to pay directly or indirectly today.

Congestion pricing is the one type of fees for things heavily used. When we cross the Golden Gate Bridge, the money that we pay is this kind of fees. City of San Francisco uses the money for citizens, but the main reason that the city collects the money is not for raising the budget. The city believes that congestion pricing encourages people to car-pool, or use public transportation, so the gas spent and air pollution would be decreased in the city, and the city able to have better traffic condition. However, what we do is to spend another dollar for government.
We have huge financial benefit compared to expected cost that we have to spend, and we can expect better environment and healthcare. Therefore, the cost that we are facing is necessary and reasonable. This new regulation sounds great to all of us, but we cannot just be happy about it because there is price to pay that we don't see like congestion price.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Searching Cost: Is Starbucks Our Best Choice?

Starbucks, known as the finest coffee provider, became a global coffee retailer. Since the first store opened in 1971 in Seattle, it has grown worldwide to about 12,500 branches with $8 billion revenue, and Starbucks furthermore has plans to have 40,000 branches. The number that Starbucks plans is even greater than the number of branches that McDonalds, the biggest global company with 31,000 braches, has. The Starbucks is not only the finest coffee provider but also the largest coffee provider.

There is no doubt that Starbucks, best coffee retailer, is emerging as a culture guru. The most important reason behind is location of the store. Simply, Starbucks is everywhere, so most people see at least one Starbucks shop in daily routine. Low searching cost, which is the basic cost until purchasing is made including time taken, is huge comparative advantage for the stores that have low price items like coffee. The time that consumers spend (searching cost) is more valuable than the coffee price. Likewise, when comparing the coffee price of usual coffee provider such as Starbucks and minimum wage in America, the price of coffee would not really affect consumers' decision-making process. Therefore, it is reasonable for people to go to Starbuck unless McDonalds or Subway, the largest franchisees, has better or same quality coffee.

However, recent consumer reports compared coffee - black with no flavors, milk or sugar - from McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, say McDonald has better coffee than Starbucks, and even actual price of coffee and searching cost (number of branches) is less than Starbucks. Therefore, people actually might be able to spend less money and buy better products, but demand for Starbucks is still higher than any other competitors, and no one can easily expect that demand for Starbucks would decrease.

Basically, when it comes to purchasing decision, people only spend money if their benefit is greater than or equal to cost expected, and it can be applied everything, even item like coffee, which is everyday item and cheap. Since we realize that McDonald has less cost than Starbucks, the customers that go to Starbucks must have more benefit than choosing other coffee providers. According to the Wall Street Journal, average Starbucks coffee drink contains 320 milligrams of caffeine which is the highest level in the marketplace. Maybe, Starbucks is the best taste coffee, maybe people need more caffeine, or people are just rich enough to spend whatever makes them look better.