Robots to replace workers at Apple manufacturer Foxconn plant

Foxconn: Recruitment suspended due to installation of robots
Summary: Key manufacturer for Apple has halted hiring at its Chinese plants because it wants to further automate its processes with robots and replace employees.
By Cyrus Lee for View from China | February 22, 2013 — 03:45 GMT (19:45 PST

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn has halted recruitment in China, which it claims is due to plans to further automate processes, amid speculation of a reduction in production demand by its key client Apple. In fact, the recruitment freezes among Foxconn this time is due to its long pronounced plans to install million robots to replace human, Chinese newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified employees. Foxconn chairman Terry Gou had ordered all factories in China earlier this year to beef up automated manufacturing processes by using more robots. According to the report, if any factories plan to conduct large-scale recruitment, it will need his personal approval.Foxconn has plans to roll out one million robots to further automate manufacturing by 2014.The manufacturer makes various kinds of Apple products including iPhone and iPad, had denied earlier its hiring freeze in its largest Chinese base in Shenzhen was linked to lackluster iPhone 5 sales worldwide.However, Foxconn in an official statement contributed the slowdown in recruitment process to “an unprecedented rate of return of employees following the Chinese New Year holiday” as compared to past years.In the Beijing News report, the unidentified source, however, admitted the recruitment freeze in Foxconn was “somehow related to the reduction in iPhone 5 production”.In January, Apple has cut its component orders for the iPhone 5 due to the weaker-than-expected demand, The Wall Street Journal reported,citing people familiar with the situation.

Foxconn’s determination to replace human labors with robots are not groundless. In June 2011, Gou announced the company would deploy one million robots across factory assembly lines within three years.

The move will improve production efficiency and combat rising labor costs, and is also believed to be in response to a spate of suicides and criticism over working conditions at the company.

Corporate Welfare !

Many only think of welfare as money going to the needy. A lot of money goes to the rich….

Tom Eblen: Economic development incentives are welfare for big business
Published: December 8, 2012 By Tom Eblen — Herald-Leader columnist

When a poor person gets a government handout, it’s called welfare. When a rich corporation gets one, it’s called an economic development incentive.With local, state and federal government budgets tighter than ever, social programs are getting a hard look. But what about corporate welfare?The New York Times started a good conversation last week with a three-part investigative series called the United States of Subsidies. Reporter Louise Story spent 10 months analyzing corporate tax breaks, gifts and other incentives in all 50 states, which she figured add up to at least $80 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to business.Business subsidies have mushroomed since the 1980s, when automakers started pitting states against one another to host new assembly plants. The strategy worked so well that other industries demanded freebies, too.A big reason corporate welfare has flourished is that politicians love being able to announce lots of new jobs coming to their area. (They often are out of office when those jobs never materialize or leave for another state offering better incentives.)From a national perspective, it is a zero-sum game. State and local incentives do little or nothing to grow the national economy; they just determine where in the nation the growth will occur.But it’s more insidious than that. Incentives redirect billions of tax dollars to corporate bottom lines instead of to improving education, health, safety, infrastructure and making other public investments that will create genuine, long-term economic development.The Times website (Nytimes.com) has state-by-state breakdowns of incentives and a searchable database of recipients. It shows that the nation’s biggest business incentive Santa is high-growth, low-wage, high-poverty Texas, at $19 billion a year.West Virginia and Oklahoma give up incentives equal to one-third of their budgets.The Times calculates Kentucky’s annual incentives at $1.41 billion — about 15 percent of the state budget, or $324 per Kentuckian. Those include $264 million in personal income tax credits; $108 million in sales tax refunds, exemptions and discounts; and $69.2 million in corporate income tax reductions, credits or rebates.The Times reports that most Kentucky incentives, $569 million worth, go to mining, oil and gas industries — no surprise there, given their political clout. That is followed by $341 million for agriculture and $180 million to manufacturers.As is true nationally, some of the biggest Kentucky incentive recipients in recent years were automakers: $307 million for Ford; $83.8 million for Toyota and $10 million for General Motors. Given their high wages and large supplier networks, those might be good investments.But the big head-scratcher in the Times’ database was $94.1 million in incentives to Tyson Foods from 1995-2009 for a low-wage chicken-processing plant in Henderson County. Is that the kind of economic development Kentucky taxpayers should be subsidizing?While the Times’ report is impressive in its national scope, there has long been debate about the value of incentives. The Herald-Leader published an investigative series in 2005 that questioned the value of many Kentucky tax breaks and other giveaways. The report resulted in some improved accountability, but did little to stem the flow of tax money into corporate pockets.A state-commissioned study issued this summer came up with incentive figures smaller than the Times reported, but still pretty staggering: $1.29 billion between 2001 and 2010. The report said 577 companies took incentives to locate 55,173 jobs in Kentucky at a cost to taxpayers of $23,385 per job.The incentive system favors large corporations over small businesses — often the employers who are already in a community and aren’t looking to leave. Officials have responded by coming up with some incentives for them, too, which just further drains government coffers.How do we stop this racket, where cities and states compete to steal jobs from one another? It would be great if Congress could pass a law, but it probably can’t. Still, with about 20 percent of state and local government budgets coming from federal dollars, somebody needs to be looking out for the national interest.Taxpayers should demand reform of these corporate welfare systems, just as they did social welfare systems in the 1990s. But it won’t be easy. Corporations employ more lobbyists and make more campaign donations than poor people do.

Tom Eblen: (859) 231-1415. Email: teblen@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @tomeblen. Blog: tomeblen.bloginky.com

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/12/08/2436858/tom-eblen-economic-development.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

Trust?

Remember when trust actually meant something?

Michael Wolff, USA TODAY6p.m. EST January 6, 2013

The company that I would like to start — or at least patronize — sells trust.

That’s its product. It gives you a good feeling. It reassures. It lets you rely on it. It overcompensates for your anxiety. It leaves little room for doubt.

Trust was, at a certain point in consumer history, what most successful brands were selling. Trust was the ultimate scalable asset — once you established it, you could keep producing it at no further cost. Some brands could even extend their own trust levels to other products. Famously, the Good Housekeeping  Seal of approval,  a marketing brainstorm if there ever was one, let you feel good about anything with its imprimatur.

Now, most major brands have implicit trust problems, to say the least. Most are on a terrible treadmill, having to grow ever faster to make up for their constant loss of public trust.

The other day, The New York Times ran a story about Amazon’s efforts to purge its user reviews of untrustworthy reviewers — members of an author’s family, for instance. This naturally gave way to a larger issue of trust: How does Amazon know who’s related to whom?

Would you trust Amazon? Do you trust any company whose main mission is to collect your data? You might acquiesce to  it, but do you trust it  — or anyone whose central activity is to keep tabs on you? Google, founded on a do-gooder credo, is now the leviathan of data collection and opacity.

And the entire financial industry? That trust, once the very essence of its business, is certainly gone.

Politicians? A reasonable definition of partisanship may be that for anything you do trust, there is an equal and countervailing force that you distrust more.

The very concept of a brand used to be something that grew up over many years on the basis of dependability, or at least habit, which is a form of trust. But then there evolved a branding industry, whose skill was to create fake trustworthiness — or anyway the illusion of it.

Possibly that indicates unrealized value in old brands. Oh, but the private-equity industry figured that out already, bought the brands, and fired the people who had previously created the trust (which, by the way, added to Mitt Romney’s personal trust deficit).

Twitter and other forms of social media have grown up in part as an antidote to the lack of trust — a constant populist monitoring of public life. But then social media itself became suspect, a feeder of rumor and inaccuracies, not least of all in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. And recently Instagram, part of the increasingly suspect Facebook leviathan, announced it was selling the pictures people had entrusted it with.

The only thing it seems that we do really trust are bubbles, which, naturally, explode, further reducing our trust and demonstrating that trust is, as often as not, a form of stupidity.

Now, this could suggest a bottomless existential hole, a profound crisis for capitalism and democracy. Or it could indicate an obvious moment for a cyclical turnaround. Since there is so little trust in the marketplace, its value grows ever greater. How can anyone miss the signs? Trust should be the next big thing.

I wonder if there is a grand old man play. A company formed of the eminent and reliable, assuming there are such people, who command a vast team of researchers monitoring the actions, values, methods, measures, principles and expectations of every public person and entity.

Possibly there is a 1-to-100 scale, wherein, like a health code rating, you can strive for improvement. The business model here is critical mass. Companies, politicians and media pay to be rated, because to be unrated is to be outside the circle of trust and because, as in therapy, paying indicates a willingness to help yourself.

And yet, I feel an inevitable heavy hand here, a new notion of conformity, a chill of sanctimony. Also, old men (old white men continue to overshadow the others) have among the lowest trust quotients these days.

So instead, make this a social platform. Everybody rates everything. Data itself is put in service to trust. There is a constant tabulation of everybody’s experience. Trust is expressed as concisely as the stock market expresses value. Trust is an algorithm. Of course, that begins to sound like polling and the overflow of data that leads to mistrust. Indeed, it may be information itself that leads to mistrust.

After so many millennia of not knowing anything, perhaps human beings can’t handle knowing so much. Alas, the more we know, the more we shudder.

This could be then an opening for traditional media. We don’t need more information — we need more context. This, to me, seems like it ought to be CNN’s comeback opportunity. CNN already has a brand that people want to trust. After all, when something bad happens in the world, people go to CNN.

But then that trust wilts. CNN is now lost in the slipstream of partisan cable television, insisting that because it does not identify itself as right or left it should be trusted more by everyone. Large corporate entities tend to equate trust with the wishy-washy, instead of with consistency and rectitude. But, come to think of it, audiences tend to equate consistency and rectitude with an off-putting remoteness.

Are there any true models of trust anywhere anymore? It may be that nobody quite knows what trust is anymore. Hence, even people who think they are selling trust are so often selling phoniness or duplicity.

On the other hand, people know it when they trust something.

Or do they?

Trust itself may have to be redefined and rebranded. And its business model would need to be refined: Who pays whom for trust?

Still, is there a bigger opportunity for brands, politicians and financial institutions? Is there  a bigger challenge for technology to help restore ease of mind?

Trust, that wasted and neglected asset, has got to be an incredible gold mine.

Michael Wolff can be reached at michael@burnrate.com, and on Twitter @MichaelWolffNYC.

How to own land with an Individual Retirement Account or 401k plan

This blog will be used to help those that want to own something real in their retirement account.  I have been acquiring land in my Individual Retirement Account for almost 20 years now.   I have timberland and cropland in my IRA.  I lease out the land for hunting, cut timber (select cut) and have land in CRP program.