Talk of the day

By Times Staff Writer
Published December 27, 2007

GM strengthens core of kids' crash testing

Ford Motor Co. is developing a high-tech insert for crash test dummies that is similar in size and shape to a 6-year-old's abdomen, aiming to improve tests for children's vehicle safety. The prototype is part of an effort to make pediatric crash dummies and tests more realistic. The hope is they'll lead to better vehicle restraints for children, the automaker said. Crash tests mainly focus on head and chest injuries, according to Steve Rouhana, a technical leader in Ford's crash dummy testing. "We really didn't have the technology before to accurately measure abdominal response," he said. The silicone prototype features sensors that measure the severity of injuries sustained by the dummies during crash tests.

Farmers get forum to go hog-wild

Just as the crush of Christmas cards and holiday packages in the mail dwindles, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is gearing up to send census forms to millions of farmers and ranchers nationwide. The forms will be mailed Friday and should hit mailboxes next week. Federal officials are imploring farmers and ranchers to fill out the forms so they can check "the heartbeat of agriculture," said Jim Brueggen, head of the New Mexico field office of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. "Bottom line is, if they want to have a voice in their future, hereit is. It is that report," he said. The agriculture census is taken every five years, and the data collected plays a key role in the development of the farm bill and other federal policy. It also can lead to changes in the marketplace and affect the business decisions of farmers and ranchers. The census looks at everything from production numbers for 2007 and the age of a farmer's equipment to whether farmers and ranchers have to hold down second jobs.

Amazon's online holiday: amazin'

Amazon.com Inc., the world's largest Internet retailer, said 2007 was its "best ever" for holiday sales as Web purchases outpaced overall U.S. spending. This year topped 2006's record revenue for November and December, Amazon.com spokesman Craig Berman said Wednesday, without providing specific financial results. Internet purchases from Nov. 1 through Dec. 21 increased 19 percent from a year earlier to $26.3-billion, ComScore Inc. said Sunday. That's greater than the 4 percent total retail sales gain forecast by the National Retail Federation. "Online spending is the bright spot of the holiday season, even with the slowdown," said Larry Freed, chief executive officer of online research firm ForeSee Results Inc.

Apple eclipses $200 on Nasdaq

Apple Inc. rose to a record in Nasdaq Stock Market trading after more than doubling this year on sales of Macintosh personal computers and demand for the iPhone. Apple climbed for the fifth straight day, closing at $198.95 after reaching $200.96. The Cupertino, Calif., company, which also makes the iPod media player, topped $100 for the first time in May and is the fifth-best performer on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index this year. "There's so much growth to look forward to for the iPhone," said Stephen Coleman, chief investment officer at St. Louis-based Daedalus Capital LLC. He projects the stock will hit $600 in 18 months.