"Stop talking...I'm the director here." -- New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman, asking filmmaker Woody Allen to shorten his answers during testimony in his lawsuit against a former producer Does the President's choice of a vacation spot influence the tourism decisions of Americans? It appears so, according to a May 20-22 Gallup Poll. When asked which state they would like to visit this summer, three times as many people picked Texas as in 1999, during the Clinton era. Texas is now the eighth-favorite state for vacationers, up from near the bottom pre-Bush, Gallup found.
Lone Star officials confirm the state is hot. So far this year, 1.5 million people have requested Texas tourism info, nearly reaching last year's record 1.7 million. Of particular interest, in addition to the President's ranch in Crawford, is Waco, home of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum. Jeff Moseley, executive director of the Tex-as Economic Development Dept., reports a surge in international visitors, particularly Germans fascinated by the cowboy image of Bush in European media.
The big loser, according to Gallup: Maine. In 1991, when the first President Bush frequented his Kennebunkport compound, 6% of Americans said they would like to visit. Now it's just 2%. Bill Clinton's native Arkansas consistently polls less than one-half of 1%. Then again, the Clintons don't vacation there, either. The Belmont stakes on June 8 could be the most lucrative mile and a half in horse-racing history. That's if War Emblem, with victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, becomes the first Triple Crown winner in 24 years--and, with the death of Seattle Slew in May, the only one living.
War Emblem, who in 2000 went unsold for $20,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale, could be worth $20 million, calculates racing publication The Blood-Horse. His current owner, Saudi Prince Ahmed Salman, who paid $900,000 in April for a 90% stake, would likely syndicate him, selling 40 shares of $500,000 apiece. Share owners get part of the stud fees, at $100,000 a session, horse experts say. War Emblem could earn $6 million a year.
War Emblem's emergence as a superhorse has already raised the value of his sire, Our Emblem, an 11 year old whose stud fees had declined from $10,000 in 1997 to $4,000 before his three-year-old son won the Derby. Since then, Our Emblem has sold for $10 million. Many factors go into the value of a horse, including whether the blood lines produce champions. Even if War Emblem does not win the Belmont, his stud fees could go higher if, down the road, his progeny turn out to be winners, too. Will it be purple? M&M/Mars has been polling the public to determine the newest color in the M&M lineup. With a big announcement scheduled for June 19, M&M is mum on how the vote is going, but Nielsen/NetRatings tracked traffic on the M&M Web site for one week and found the following:
Drivers in 10 cities were asked to confess how many times in a month they committed aggressive acts (tailgating, speeding, last-minute merging) while on the road. Here, ranked from most aggressive to most polite:
Worst and rudest; 25% admit making obscene gestures
Speed demons; 70% say they drive 10 mph over the limit
Rudeness abounds: 57% tailgate, honk, flash brights
Wireless at the wheel; 11% use a laptop or PDA while driving
Hotheads; 26% admit arguing with car mates, vs. 19% nationally
6. LOS ANGELES
Looking pretty; 15% apply makeup or shave while driving
Distracted; 46% use cell phone while driving, the most of any city surveyed
Newshounds; 15% read while driving, the highest nationwide
Thirsty; 73% drink while driving (not necessarily alcohol)
Safest--and polite, too; only 5% double-park, vs. 47% in Boston
Data: Global Strategy Group The definition of "retire," according to the dictionary, is to withdraw from action or danger. Looks like we'll have to find a new word to describe what people do when they leave a longtime employer or start drawing a pension.
According to a new poll from Harris Interactive, 95% of people age 55 to 64 plan to do at least some work after they, er, retire. That's up from 75% who said the same thing in a BusinessWeek/Harris Poll just four years ago.
The latest poll, which was done for AIG SunAmerica, didn't ask people whether they'll be working because they need the money. But they don't expect what they do to be a grind: 81% want to continue to learn, 70% want to try new things, and 63% want a new hobby or interest.
To characterize the new lifestyles, Harris has created four categories of retirees:
-- The Ageless Explorers (27%) are relatively wealthy and well-educated and plan active, independent lives.
-- The Comfortably Contents (19%) indulge in a traditional retiree's lifestyle of travel, recreational activities, and relaxation.
-- The Live for Todays (22%) share the same goals as the Explorers but are less well off and thus more dependent on a paycheck, perhaps from a part-time job.
-- The Sick & Tireds (32%) are the least well-prepared financially or medically and are more likely to view retirement as life coming to a close.
Even so, only 22% of all people see retirement as a time to wind down. In Tokyo's Ginza, at the New Tokyo bar and grill, the U.S. Meat Export Federation has a reassuring message for consumers. "America is a BSE-free nation," says a Japanese-language flyer--that is, free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. Seems the outbreak of cases in Japan last year, which sent meat consumption reeling, has hurt U.S. producers, too.
Japan, home of famously expensive Kobe beef, is the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef exports. Sales fell 11% last year, to $1.6 billion, due to a strong dollar and the mad cows. So in March, the Denver-based trade group, with backing from the U.S. Agriculture Dept., launched an $8 million marketing blitz to win back lost business. The message gets to the point: "Beef you can trust for your loving family."
Rival exporters Australia and New Zealand have taken a more low-key approach, distributing health information and holding seminars. Even so, Japanese meat consumption is still only 85% of pre-scare levels, according to the Meat New Zealand promotion group. Full recovery may take years. The economy may be picking up, but the outlook is still rather bleak when it comes to layoffs.
Witness the plight of the typical manager, who now gets just eight weeks of severance pay upon being downsized, down from almost 22 weeks at the height of the tech boom in 1999. To make matters worse, it usually takes almost 15 weeks for that same manager to find another job (up from nearly 12 weeks last year). That makes for a long gap--seven weeks, on average--with no pay and no new job.