The Rubber Manufacturers Association's newsletter reported that, for the second consecutive year, the costs of the U.S. tort system grew at a double-digit rate.
That's according to a study by Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, an actuarial firm. In 2002, U.S. tort system costs soared to $233 billion, it said-an increase of $28 billion from 2001.
RMA President and CEO Donald B. Shea noted the study ``shows quite clearly the soaring costs of litigation in our nation and demonstrates the need for common-sense reform to reduce the drag our legal system inflicts on our economy.''
We're going to say right here, right now that we're all for tort reform. Seems like some makers have been getting kind of chintzy on the nuts lately. What's that? Oh...those are tortes? Never mind. But since we're on the subject, we'd also like to go on record in support of tortellini reform, as well.
Where cars are stars
In some Hollywood flicks, the cars have ended up almost being bigger stars than the actors. Just cue up ``The Fast and the Furious'' or the Nic Cage car heist extravaganza ``Gone in 60 Seconds.''
Ford Motor Co. has made a product placement splash in H-wood, of late, but car enthusiasts have always had a soft spot for some classic iron in movies and TV shows over the years. Hagerty Insurance, a Michigan firm that insures collectible cars, has compiled a Top-10 list of vehicles fans point to for silver- and small-screen legendary status. In order they are:
The General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger from ``The Dukes of Hazzard'' TV show; the 1968 Mustang sullen Steve McQueen piloted in ``Bullitt''; the 1967 Shelby GT500 from ``Gone in 60 Seconds''; the 1983 DeLorean from ``Back to the Future''; the...crash-pow-zowie...Batmobile from ``Batman''; James Bond's oil slick-spewing, shaken but not stirred Aston Martin DB5 from ``Goldfinger''; the 1977 Pontiac Firebird from ``Smokey & The Bandit''; the 1963 Volkswagen Beetle from ``Herbie the Love Bug''; the red-and-white 1974 Ford Torino from ``Starsky & Hutch,'' which, by the way, has been resurrected in the new movie based on that TV series; and the Black Beauty show car from ``Green Hornet.''
What about the gold-colored Pontiac Firebird overhead cam six-banger Private Eye James Rockford (alias Jim Garner) raced around in for the ``Rockford Files?''
Maybe just leave 'em home
If you're going to be driving with children and pets, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) pointed out they ``can be a major distraction while driving.'' Really? Kind of like moving violations.
SEMA noted that, ``for starters, messy passengers of all shapes and sizes can take a driver's mind off the road.'' (Like a ringing cell phone?) ``So can pets that are walking around inside a vehicle-not to mention children who are bored and cranky.'' Kind of like the driver tends to get while putting up with it, we're guessing.
SEMA offered these tips:
* Make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle (we suppose that means no rolling starts with Fido or little Butchie chasing the family van down the driveway);
* Protect your vehicle's interior (from sticky candy, pet or kid slobber and the occasional accident caused by a cat with motion sickness?);
* Keep Fido contained (heck...why not just tranquilize him and be done with it?);
* Keep kids entertained (heck...why not just tranquilize them and be done with it?);
* Make sure seat belts fit the kids properly (and while you're at it, bring a muzzle for Fido and plenty of duct tape when Junior decides to go on a screaming jag); and
* Steer clear of children and pets. (Ah...perhaps the best advice of all).
To paraphrase W.C. Fields: Simply don't work-or travel-with kids or pets.
Well, you've got to hand it to them...some true visionaries gave it the old college try out in California's vast, unforgiving Mojave desert.
Thirteen robot vehicles set out a couple weekends ago on a 140-mile race across the hot sands with the futuristic goal of one day being able to run missions in war zones by remote control-without risking the lives of U.S. soldiers. The race, sponsored by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), offered a prize of $1 million for any vehicle that could complete the course.
The robotic group included modified Humvees, pickup trucks and dune buggies-and at least one two-wheeler.
Glorious as their challenge was, most of the vehicles broke down within sight of the starting line near Barstow, Calif., and none traveled more than seven miles, according to Reuters. Originally, the race was set to end in Primm, Nev., described as roughly the distance from Iraq's Baghdad capital to Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.
Though 15 vehicles qualified, two-including a bizarre riderless motorcycle-withdrew before the start and nine of the remaining 13 traveled less than two miles. The modified Humvee dubbed ``Sandstorm'' by its team from Carnegie Mellon University was widely regarded as the most likely to succeed. But Reuters reported that, after just seven miles, it got caught on an obstacle and rubber on its front wheels caught fire.
BFGoodrich tires from Michelin North America Inc. equipped several of the vehicles-including Sandstorm-that were competing in the DARPA Grand Challenge.
We can hardly wait for the TV show based on the event. How about calling it ``DARPA and Greg''?
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk