Monday, November 28, 2011

Obama trying to kill coal

Throwing away half a billion dollars on alternative energy projects such as the failed Solyndra solar power company in California doesn't seem to faze President Barack Obama's administration. But providing a like amount to conduct research on coal and other fossil fuels? Not acceptable to the White House.

Obama seems determined to squeeze the life out of the coal industry in a sort of Catch-22: Enforce draconian new air pollution rules, then cut funding for research to find ways to burn coal more cleanly.

During the 2011 fiscal year, Congress provided $586 million for fossil energy projects. Obama wants to slash that to $452.9 million - a 25 percent reduction. Meanwhile, the president wants billions of dollars for unrealistic solar, wind power and other alternatives that are not really options.

Americans still rely on coal for nearly half the electricity we consume. Even with vast new resources of natural gas becoming available, coal will have to remain a mainstay for many years to come.

Yet Obama and liberals in Congress, who want to reduce fossil fuel research even more than the White House plan, seem determined to make that impossible. Virtually every American would pay dearly and some state economies would collapse if they are successful.

If anything, more federal funds should be devoted to fossil fuel research. Congress should reject Obama's attempt to strangle the industry.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Muscular Aussie dollar puts squeeze on NT tourism

Tourism Top End chief Sylvia Wolf says an Australian dollar kept strong by the minerals boom will continue to put a strain on the tourism industry.

Ms Wolf says even with a good wet season and near-perfect wry season weather the tourism market has suffered from the muscular dollar.

She says the industry is worried about the impact of the carbon tax next year but the dollar has hurt regional tourism the hardest.

"Darwin doesn't suffer that much," she said.

"We have other business, big corporate markets, we have the cruise ships, we've got the conventions.

"The ones that really hurt are the ones down the track.

"The Katherines, the Tennant Creeks and Alice, of course, have not done well this year.

"It has been a tough year."

Meanwhile, Darwin tourism operators say visitors attending the 70th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin in February should help boost the sector which has faced a slight downturn.

World War II Tours guide Gary Gallagher says he hopes the commemorations on February 19 will draw survivors of the bombing, history buffs, and American tourists because of the US military presence in the Top End in the 1940s.

He says it could be a huge help for operators in what is typically an extremely quiet time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Obama Open to Debt-Cap Deal

The White House encouraged congressional leaders to reach a major deficit-reduction deal by offering them a little more time, as they scrambled to find a way to prevent a government default in less than two weeks.

President Barack Obama would accept a short-term increase in the federal government's $14.29 trillion borrowing limit if congressional leaders reach agreement on a "significant" deficit-reduction plan before Aug. 2 but need more time to pass legislation, a White House spokesman said Wednesday.

The move reflects Mr. Obama's desire to keep alive hopes that Democrats and Republicans can achieve a far-reaching agreement. Mr. Obama has made clear his desire for the largest deal possible, perhaps along the lines of a new proposal to shrink the deficit by $3.7 trillion over 10 years that was unveiled this week by a bipartisan group of senators known as the "Gang of Six."

Mr. Obama's willingness to entertain a short-term extension also suggests rising doubt in the White House that Democrats and Republicans can agree on and pass such a sweeping deficit-reduction plan by the Aug. 2 deadline.

"If both sides agree to something concretely significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize the details," White House press secretary Jay Carney said, later clarifying that he meant a "very" short-term extension, such as a few days.

"We believe a short-term extension, absent an agreement to a larger deal, is unacceptable," Mr. Carney said.

Mr. Carney's comments come as numerous budget proposals are being debated in Washington, all of which have critics. Treasury Department officials say that Congress must boost the $14.29 trillion debt ceiling before Aug. 2, or the government will run out of cash to pay its bills. Many lawmakers say they will not vote to increase the debt cap without a significant deficit-reduction plan.

It was unclear Wednesday exactly what type of agreement would be needed to get Mr. Obama's blessing on a temporary extension. If lawmakers can't reach a deal in the range of $4 trillion, Mr. Obama has said he prefers one closer to $2.5 trillion. He summoned Democratic congressional leaders and the top two House Republicans to the White House Wednesday for separate meetings, but they broke up without any signs of major progress. The White House and leaders declined to discuss the sessions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) have both said there may not be enough time for lawmakers to agree on and pass a major deal by Aug. 2. At the same time, the president has said he and congressional leaders must prepare a backup plan to ensure the government does not default on its obligations.

One measure being pursued by Mr. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion in three installments, unless two-thirds of Congress votes to block it. House Republicans came out strongly against the McConnell-Reid idea, saying it gives too much power to the president and does too little to cut spending. Some senators have also said they won't support it.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), who is joined by other conservative senators, made it clear he would try to block or delay consideration of Plan B in the Senate. "What Republicans need to acknowledge is that as long as we talk about these alternative plans, we are playing into the president's hands," said Mr. DeMint. "My job with the Republican conference is to get them to stop talking about distractions."

Still, Senate leaders of both parties view the McConnell-Reid approach as the only plan, for now at least, that has a chance of passing Congress in some form and raising the debt limit. The plan could include $1 trillion or more in spending cuts and could become the vehicle for a broader plan. Mr. Obama has described the McConnell-Reid plan as a last resort.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D.N.D.), a member of the Gang of Six, said he had discussed with Mr. Reid options for advancing the group's proposal through Plan B, which calls for setting up a special committee to recommend a deficit-reduction plan. Mr. Conrad suggested Plan B could include a provision guaranteeing a vote on the Gang of Six proposal if the special committee deadlocks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama Hints Boeing, Union Should Settle Their Differences

After weeks of silence on the NLRB-Boeing fight, President Barack Obama strongly hinted that Boeing Co. and its union in Washington state should settle their differences for the sake of jobs and corporate investment.

Boeing plans to build the 787 Dreamliner, shown above in Washington state in March, at a non-union plant.

When asked about it at his Wednesday press conference, Mr. Obama first repeated much of what his aides have been saying for weeks. “Essentially, the NLRB made a — a finding that Boeing had not followed the law” when deciding where to locate its second 787 Dreamliner production line, Mr. Obama said. “It’s an independent agency. It’s going before a judge. So I don’t want to get into the details of the case. I don’t know all the facts,” he added.

But he didn’t stop there.

Offering an insight into his view on corporate relocations and the related management-labor disputes, he said: “As a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate – they have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system. And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing. What I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement.”

And he wrapped up his answer with a pitch for keeping jobs in the U.S. “My hope is that even as this thing is working its way through, everybody steps back for a second and says: Look, if jobs are being created here in the United States, let’s make sure that we’re encouraging that. And we can’t afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we’re competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world. And obviously, the air — airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage. I want to make sure that we keep it.”

Regarding Mr. Obama’s hint that he’d prefer to see a settlement between Boeing and the union, a White House official said, “Just as the White House had no role in the NLRB’s independent enforcement action, the president was not weighing in on this specific case.”

Quick recap: The NLRB filed a complaint in April alleging Boeing illegally shifted unionized aircraft production work from Washington state to a new, nonunion plant in South Carolina, siding with union members who said Boeing was punishing them for past strikes. NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon wants Boeing to move the work back to Washington state. Boeing says the charges are groundless. And an NLRB administrative law judge began hearing the case June 14.

In his remarks Wednesday, Mr. Obama avoided picking sides, irritating some who think he should denounce the NLRB.

A spokesman for the conservative Workforce Fairness Institute said Mr. Obama “pled ignorance about the job-killing policies being pursued by his regulatory agencies, while claiming to be concerned with turning the economy around and creating jobs.”

Glenn Spencer, an executive director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “The president couldn’t be more right that creating jobs ought to be the focus. Unfortunately, it is his nominee [Lafe Solomon] that has created the distraction by filing the unwarranted complaint against Boeing.’’

Spokesmen at Boeing and the International Association of Machinists said they are open to settling the case, but each blamed the other for offering settlement proposals that weren’t serious.

A Boeing spokesman said the company had nothing to add to its previous comments. The union’s settlement proposal to the company in May “went well beyond what we would consider reasonable as it sought various production guarantees, including a commitment by the company to place our next new program and its related supply chain work in Puget Sound” area of Washington, the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists union said, “The Machinists have been open and have encouraged that [a settlement] all along as well, but Boeing broke the law and needs to be bringing forth settlements. To date, they have been unwilling to bring any serious proposals forward or willing to enter into serious dialogue on it.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CBC prepares to defend its finances

When Jim Flaherty's ministry released the federal budget in Ottawa last week, the Finance Minister was resolute in his belief that about $4-billion in savings from program spending should be easily found.

It was, Mr. Flaherty told reporters packed into a steamy room in Centre Block, kind of odd that something as massive as the federal government -"the largest enterprise in Canada," he called it -had not undergone a thorough spending review in several years. Private-sector companies have all done it, he said. Now Ottawa will do its part. The savings "shall be found," he said, in a tone that sounded a lot like a decree.

No one from the CBC gulped or gasped audibly. But they might have. If Reaper Jim is sharpening his scythe, could the public broadcaster possibly avoid a swipe?

It is in this environment that the CBC on Wednesday released a study on the economic impacts of the CBC (and its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada). In what will not come as a shock to anyone, the study the CBC commissioned found that the CBC has a significant positive impact on the Canadian economy.

Deloitte & Touche, the study's authors, estimate that the CBC contributed $3.7-billion in "gross value added" to the Canadian economy in 2010, based on expenses of $1.7-billion, of which $1.1-billion was direct government funding. The good news goes even further: the study estimates that the CBC contributes an additional "net value added" of $1.3-billion, a figure at which it arrives by estimating the economic benefits of spending the CBC's $1.1-billion on alternative government measures. Ten per cent on health, 30% on social services, 0.2% on gazebos in Muskoka, that kind of thing.

The general conclusions are fairly obvious -not only does every dollar invested in the CBC generate significant positive dollars worth of economic activity, but spending it elsewhere would have less of an impact.

As Hubert T. Lacroix, the president and CEO of the CBC, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday, he's often asked about that $1.1-billion figure wherever he goes.

These takeaways, though, come with a couple of boulders of salt. First is the very nature of a study like this. The economic impacts are essentially an elaborate piece of guesswork that measures both the direct impact of investment and the indirect impact "across CBC's supply chain and more widely as money continues to flow through the economy." So, the authors take a dollar spent in one area, add something called a Type II output multiplier, and end up with a larger number. A dollar spent on television programming in British Columbia, for example, has a multiplier of 2.3. (The authors use Statistics Canada multipliers; they aren't plucked from the air.)

The projected impacts are just that, in other words: projections. It's not unexpected that they would be rather rosy, especially when it is the CBC that paid for the study. (Mr. Lacroix said the cost of the study is confidential.) When Quebec City commissioned a study last year into the economic impact of a government-funded arena, the report (also from Deloitte) found that such a stadium would be profitable even in the absence of an NHL franchise. It also assumed, rather optimistically, that the "surrounding region" of Quebec City, from which it would draw attendees to Disney on Ice and the like, includes Charlottetown and Moncton.

The rather large assumption in the CBC study is the two scenarios it assesses: one with the current funding model, and one in which the CBC is solely financed by commerical revenues. This anti-CBC, the study suggests, "makes commercially motivated decisions regarding its content, target audience, regional presence," and other factors. In that world, it would abandon businesses that are not commericially viable, and it would compete with private broadcasters in areas where it does not currently do so. If it, say, dumped the CBC-produced Republic of Doyle, filmed in St. John's, and replaced it with NCIS: Los Angeles, it's easy to see how the latter scenario wouldn't be as good for the Canadian economy.

But the "counterfactual" CBC that the study presents is simply a straw man. The CBC may not be beloved within the Harper government, and a chunk of the Conservative base will rail against it at the first opportunity, but only those few Canadians who believe the "state broadcaster" is run by Maoists truly want to see its subsidy eliminated. What the CBC might have to confront is not a world without public funding, but with less of it. Is it possible that a Tory spending review will determine an easy way to trim $100-million is to drop the CBC's direct funding to $1-billion? Does Don Cherry look like he's wearing drapes?

The public broadcaster conducts a perpetually tricky dance. When it announces a new show aimed at a broad audience and commercial advertisers, critics sniff that it's drifting from its public-service mandate. Give us interpretive dance, not hockey players! But if it directs too much programming into the nether regions of public interest, it will make less money and require more from Ottawa.

But $1.1-billion is a lot of money to protect. The CBC will have to erect some battlements. This study reads like a first shovel in the ground.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tortoises can win the race as often as the hares

TIGER WOODS had been a professional golfer for just 10 months when he reached the top of the world rankings in June 1997.

It took Luke Donald 10 years to complete the same journey. And people still ask why his fellow players call him ‘Plod’.

Woods cut a swathe through golf with his stratospheric ascent, and had already won twice by the time he announced himself to the wider sporting world with his astonishing victory at the 1997 Masters by a record margin of 12 strokes.

Donald rose without trace, securing his first PGA Tour win, against a journeyman field, at the low-key and rain-shortened Southern Farm Bureau Classic in November 2002.

Yet while comparisons with the phenomenon that was the young Woods seem to do Donald few favours, there are few doubts in the minds of his fellow professionals that the 33-year-old Englishman is worthy of being regarded as the best player on earth right now.

Part of the fascination of golf is that there are so many different ways to win, so many routes to the top. The tortoises can win the race just as often as the hares.

It was ever thus with Donald. The world of golf sat up and took note when he won the NCAA Individual championship, the highest accolade in US college golf, in 1999, beating Woods’ scoring record in the process, but in almost every other regard his career has been a slow-burning fuse.

Peter McEvoy, Donald’s captain in two Walker Cups, once recalled that he had to battle to persuade officials in charge of selecting the England amateur team that the player was worthy of a cap, so little impact had he made until then.

“There were a lot of votes against him and I had to push for his inclusion,” said McEvoy. “After two years he proved to be the best of his generation. The same thing happened when he went to college in America; after two years, he was again the best.”

In a world of brash wannabes, Donald has always been distinguished by his calm, a sense of serene self-containment. Many top players lurch between anguish and exultation as they make their way round a course, but Donald has an imperturbability that is almost other-worldly. He is no automaton, but neither is he the victim of his emotions.

We will never know whether the pressure of the occasion led to Lee Westwood dumping his ball in the water by the 18th green in his play-off against Donald on Sunday evening. But we can say with some confidence that Donald’s cool-headedness in the most ferociously demanding circumstances helped him place his ball five feet from the flag from an almost identical position.

It was a shot deserving of all the bounty that came his way. It won him a cheque for just over £650,000 and it leap-frogged him ahead of Westwood in the world rankings. It also confirmed beyond all doubt that the axis of world golf has tilted towards England.

When Donald turned professional in August 2001, there was just one English player – Westwood – in the world’s top 100; this morning, there are four in the top 12.

As Martin Laird, ranked 25th, is the highest-placed Scot, it is tempting to make much of the fact that Donald once claimed to be “half-Scottish” on the basis that his father was born in Stranraer.

Tempting, too, to forget the fact he has played down the connection on other occasions. In truth, he now occupies a realm where nationality becomes almost meaningless, save for its glorious expression at the Ryder Cup every two years.

With a stack of long-term sponsors’ contracts – it has been said that his Mizuno visor alone nets him £1m per year – the amiable Donald is almost a caricature of the golfer as the perfect commercial vehicle. In other regards, however, he is very different to his peers.

On the US Tour, the vast majority of players base themselves in the sunbelt states of the south, his main home is in Chicago, a city that suits his cosmopolitan tastes. He studied fine art at Chicago’s Northwestern University, is a gifted painter and avid collector of art.

Yet until now, he has been a less than avid collector of tournament wins. His stealthy rise to the top of the global game has been based on consistency, and his last strokeplay victory prior to Sunday’s win at Wentworth had been almost a year ago. Nor has he set the heather alight at major championships, finishing better than 10th just four times in 31 events.

But if self-doubt has played a part in that then it should have been obliterated by what happened at Wentworth. If taking the slow road to the top has been one consistent feature of Donald’s career, being the dominant figure once he got there has been another. On Sunday evening, he was asked whether he had set any goals for the year. “Yeah,” he said quickly, “to contend in all four majors.

“I have a lot more to accomplish,” he continued. “And hopefully many more victories in me. Hopefully, I can be a worthy No.1 for a few weeks.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Westwood Wins Again

Lee Westwood came through Sunday with a final-round, 5-under 67 to win the Ballantine's Championship. The 38-year-old Brit ended up at 12-under 276. The event, co-sponsored by the Asian and European tours, was held at Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul, South Korea.

The win was the second straight for the No. 1-ranked player in the world following his victory in the Indonesia Masters last week. Westwood needed to finish in the top-five in Korea to prevent Martin Kaymer from overtaking him in the World Golf Rankings.

"It feels great," Westwood told Sky Sports. "I must admit it was fairly nerve-wracking sitting in there watching people play. I know how my parents, wife and family feel now at home when I'm playing.

"Obviously you never wish ill on anyone but I'm delighted to have won the tournament because it was [a] good, solid round this afternoon and put pressure on everyone else," he added.

"The world rankings are a reflection of how you play. I've been playing well this year but not producing the results until the last two weeks. The last two weeks I've started making some putts and stayed calm under pressure, doing the things I needed to do at the right time.

"I've won two in a row before but it's still very special," he added. "It is tough to come down from a win and get yourself refocused. But the more experienced you get and the more you put yourself in those positions, the easier it is to do."

Finishing a shot behind was Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (71), who had a chance to force a sudden-death playoff but missed his 15-foot birdie try. Another stroke back was Korean Sang-Hyun Park. American Dustin Johnson (69) ended up in solo fourth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Golf World: Avoiding three-putts

With yet another Masters now history, it again becomes apparent how important putting is to become a prolific scorer. The greens at Augusta were very fast and very undulating.

Most of us average 32 to 36 putts a round. If you averaged 28 putts a round like the PGA Tour players do, you would immediately cut six strokes from your score. The amateur's problem is those pesky three-putt greens. So, the question is, how do you become a better long putter?

First of all, becoming a good long putter is a combination of good feel and good mechanics. To be a good long putter, you must have good pace and rhythm to your stroke. There should be no "hit" in your stroke. The backswing and the follow-through should be the same distance.

For example, if you go back 20 inches, then you should come through 20 inches. This ensures a pendulum stroke. Equal distance back and through gives you a very symmetrical stoke. In addition to this, the pace of the stroke should be the same speed in both directions.

Count to yourself when practicing long putts. Say "One and two" for good tempo. Some of the things I see in poor long putters is off-center hits. For example, if you hit the ball toward the toe of the putter, you will lose compression of the face to the ball, and you will most likely come up short of the hole.

Most long putts come up short. I think a good rule of thumb is to try to keep the ball on the high side of the hole, and try to hit the putt a foot past the hole. Most three-putt greens take place because you come up short of the hole and the ball finishes on the low side of the hole.

Another problem when we come up short of the hole is an "open" clubface at impact. This problem will cause a left-to-right spin on the ball, plus additional loft at impact. Try getting more weight on your front leg at address to offset this problem.

Most amateurs move their head and body too much on the long putts. Keep your head and body as still as you can on these long ones, and you are more likely to hit the ball in the center of the face with good speed. After all, speed is the most important element in becoming a good long putter.

To be a good long putter, light grip pressure is a must along with keeping that pressure constant throughout the stroke. Poor putters are always tightening their hands on the club as they go through the stroking process. Of course, this causes the dreaded "yips.''

Two drills that would be beneficial:

-- The right hand and arm only drill. To do this drill, just putt several balls with your right hand and arm only. This will give you the feel of the distance.

-- Putting at different distances with clubs on the ground. Do these drills and then practice trying to put that 40-footer inside an imaginary, two-foot circle.

Work on the pace and tempo of your putting stroke, and you will soon start becoming a good "lag" putter. You wouldn't mind taking six strokes off your next round? Just ask Charl Schwartzel, the new Masters champion.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Europe poised for another run at green jacket

A green jacket defined the golden era of European golf.

For the better part of two decades, Europeans seemed to have part-ownership of Augusta National by winning the Masters six times in a seven-year stretch, and 11 times in the 1980s and 1990s. Seve Ballesteros was the first European in a green jacket. Nick Faldo won three times. Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Olazabal each won twice.

Perhaps it was only fitting that when the world ranking made its debut in 1986 at the Masters, the top three were Europeans.

"It would be nice to recreate some of that magic," Justin Rose said Monday under the large oak tree next to the Augusta National clubhouse. "And I think this is as good a time as any."

On paper, European golf has never been stronger.

They have won two of the last three majors — Martin Kaymer in a playoff at the PGA Championship, Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open. Padraig Harrington was the last player to win successive majors, at the end of 2008.

And then there's the world ranking.

Europe would have had the top five spots except for Phil Mickelson winning the Houston Open to go to No. 3. As it is, Kaymer and Westwood are Nos. 1 and 2, with Luke Donald, McDowell and Paul Casey at Nos. 4-5-6. Tiger Woods is at No. 7.

About the only thing missing from this new era of European dominance is a green jacket.

"It's been too long," said Ian Poulter, among those determined to change this trend. "There's more guys with more chances."

Olazabal was the last European to win the Masters, holding off Greg Norman in the final round in 1999. A year later, no Europeans were among the top 10 at the Masters, and none came particularly close to winning except for Westwood last year when he was runner-up by three shots to Mickelson.

Europe now seems more poised than ever.

In the middle of that great European run from two decades ago, they had four of the top 10 in the world. Now there are six Europeans in the top 10, and nine of the top 20.

"If you look at the guys who compete week in and week out, we've got more now than what we had 15 years ago," Poulter said. "There's definitely more of a chance now. But you've got a lot of good players to go up again. Tiger and Phil have won quite a few of these jackets over the last few years."

Woods and Mickelson have combined to win six of the last 10 times at the Masters, although it's Mickelson who comes into the first major as the biggest favorite. Not only is he the defining champion, Mickelson made 18 birdies on the weekend to win in Houston.

For a tournament that had lacked a clear favorite, it has one now.

"It seems that everyone has pretty much got Mickelson in the green jacket Sunday evening and there's not much use in turning up at this point," McDowell said with a grin. "He's a great player around Augusta, and if you finish ahead of him, you've got a decent chance."

All McDowell wants is a shot on the back nine Sunday.

That would be a good starting point for Europe to win the only major that has eluded him over the last 12 years.

Westwood was just starting to get good as a junior when Faldo won the Masters in back-to-back years. Then came Woosnam in 1991, winning with a par on the 18th hole in a year in which Olazabal and Tom Watson were tied for the lead going to the last hole.

Francesco Molinari remembers Olazabal coming back from a career-threatening injury to win in 1999.

"For every European, it was inspiring," Molinari said. "It's been awhile, but I think we're ready for another run."

Poulter was folding shirts and selling candy bars in a golf shop in England toward the end of the European run. He remembers Woosnam winning, and Langer and Olazabal in back-to-back years. And no one could forget Faldo winning his last green jacket in 1996 when he rallied from a six-shot deficit against Greg Norman.

"They were just so strong," Poulter said. "They were on the board every year. They were the best in the game around that era. I guess it's been a while since you've had those guys back in that position. But if you look at Europe in the world ranking now, we've filled that back with guys who are definitely going to have a chance."

Poulter and Westwood shared the 36-hole lead a year ago. Westwood fought to the end, while Poulter faltered.

It would be surprising if Europe didn't show itself when the Masters begins on Thursday. Donald, Casey and Rose each have flirted with contention over the years, and Harrington appeared to take a step forward last week with his play in Houston.

The best proof is not the names, but the numbers.

Beyond the ranking, Europeans keep showing up at the top of World Golf Championships — Donald, Molinari and Poulter have won three of the last five. And then there was that little exhibition at Celtic Manor last October, with Europe winning the Ryder Cup again.

Now comes the first major of the year. What once were hopes for Europe now are expectations.

"There's no shortage of great players, especially in Britain and Ireland," said McDowell, who played a full practice round Monday with Poulter and Rose. This current crop of European players has been compared with Woosie, Ollie, Ballesteros, Lyle, Faldo and Langer. I think if you compared them with this crop, yeah, you've got to start suggesting that it's time to start winning the Masters.

"There's no doubt we've got the talent. We've got the players," he said. "But it's tough to win."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Click here to find out more! Obama administration calls on United Nations to support gay rights

The Obama administration Tuesday called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world.

"Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who they are or who they love," Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. ambassador to the council in Geneva, said in a statement. "The U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence."

The council has condemned human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including rape, torture and murder.

"It is a really pressing issue globally that there continue to be killings on the basis of sexual orientation and persecution on that basis," said Suzanne Nossel, deputy assistant secretary of State for international organization affairs. "I think this will stimulate dialogue and increase recognition of the importance of the issue among governments."

The Obama administration's expression of support for U.N. action on the issue marks a change from George W. Bush's presidency. His administration generally sidestepped the issue in the United Nations.

The statement was the most recent in a series of moves by the Obama administration to show support for gay rights, including holding that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional and moving to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military.

Last weekend, in a statement with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, President Obama announced the creation of a government position to monitor gay rights in the Western Hemisphere.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said the U.S. was finally stepping into the role it should have held all along as a worldwide leader in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"For those who have been denied their equality for decades, change will never come soon enough," Sainz said. "But there should also be no doubt that in the past two years more positive change for and on behalf of gay people has been made than ever before."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rising Calls to Replace Top Man at Medicare

Members of Congress, including Democrats, have urged the Obama administration to search for another Medicare chief after concluding that the Senate is unlikely to confirm President Obama’s temporary appointee, Dr. Donald M. Berwick.

Dr. Berwick’s principal deputy, Marilyn B. Tavenner, has emerged as a candidate to succeed him. Lawmakers of both parties said Monday that Ms. Tavenner, a former Virginia secretary of health and human resources with extensive management experience, could probably be confirmed.

In a letter to the White House last week, 42 Republican senators urged Mr. Obama to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs insurance programs for more than 100 million people. If those senators stick together, they could block confirmation.

Mr. Obama bypassed Congress and appointed Dr. Berwick while the Senate was in recess last July. The appointment allows him to serve to the end of this year.

The president has nominated Dr. Berwick three times, most recently in January. No confirmation hearings have been held, and none are scheduled.

Reid Cherlin, a White House spokesman, said the president would not withdraw the nomination. “The president nominated Don Berwick because he’s far and away the best person for the job, and he’s already doing stellar work at C.M.S.,” Mr. Cherlin said.

It is not clear whether the White House will fight for the nomination or press the Finance Committee to hold a confirmation hearing, which could provide Republicans another opportunity to criticize the new health law.

Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician and a health policy expert, was hired to run Medicare and Medicaid. In recent weeks, the White House has expanded his portfolio to include federal regulation of private insurance.

As a co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Berwick advised hospitals on how to save lives by upgrading care and reducing medical errors.

He became caught up in the partisan battle over the new health law. Republicans challenged him to explain comments in which he had discussed the rationing of health care, praised the British health care system and urged health care providers to reduce the use of ineffective procedures near the end of life.

At a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee last month, Dr. Berwick said, “I abhor rationing.” Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, told Dr. Berwick, “I love your testimony, not just like it but I loved it.”

Republicans were hostile.

“In your testimony, I see nothing but platitudes,” Representative Charles Boustany Jr., Republican of Louisiana, told Dr. Berwick.

Representative Geoff Davis, Republican of Kentucky, said Dr. Berwick’s answers bordered on equivocation. And Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, told him: “You missed your calling. I think you would make a great lawyer.”

Several people who work with Dr. Berwick at the Medicare agency said they were disappointed that the White House had not done more to promote him. “Everybody here admires Don and the work he’s done, but he is not going to be confirmed,” a supporter said. “That’s inevitable. The Republicans will block him. There’s not a lot of optimism that the White House can do anything about it.”

Ms. Tavenner, a nurse, worked for more than two decades at the Hospital Corporation of America, first as a nursing supervisor, then as a hospital executive and eventually as president of the company’s outpatient services group.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Obama Meets With Zuckerberg, Jobs

President Barack Obama recently convened with members of the U.S. tech elite to discuss how the industry can boost economic growth.

The President met with 12 of the most important tech company leaders, including Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Apple founder Steve Jobs, Google head Eric Schmidt, Twitter founder Dick Costolo and Netflix chief Reed Hastings. The group convened at the home of John Doerr, a partner at venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, just outside of San Francisco.

"The president specifically discussed his proposals to invest in research and development and expand incentives for companies to grow and hire," said Jay Carney, press secretary of the White House.

The dinner was part of a larger national discussion on how the tech and mobile industries can boost the economy with job growth and exports. The U.S. leader believes technology and innovation will help to develop economic competitiveness and create jobs. Earlier this week the White House released its budget, including billions of dollars for new R&D spending.

President Obama also revealed a measure that will allow companies to claim all business investing as an expense in 2011, which should encourage companies to innovate.

"I am convinced that if we out build, out innovate and out educate as well as out hustle the rest of the world the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the U.S.," said the President earlier this week. "Our people will prosper and our country succeed."

Innovation and hustle has certainly helped the U.S. to gain the lead in mobile technology. Over the last year, Apple and Google seized the lead from European and Asian companies like Nokia and Sony Ericsson by pioneering smartphone ecosystems, which combine devices, online markets, apps, content and services as an integrated package.

The President also has focused recently on measures expanding broader aspects of technology in the U.S., including an initiative to expand wireless and broadband access to underserved rural areas in the country, as well as free up air spectrum by encouraging broadcasters to sell off their government-owned airwaves to wireless providers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Woods upbeat after Dubai golf flop

Another week without a win for Tiger Woods, but the fallen star of world golf insists he is still on the right track and will redouble his efforts ahead of The Masters.

The 35-year-old American failed to find the vital spark he has been looking for on the final day of the Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he won handsomely in 2006 and 2008.

Starting the day just one stroke off the lead and with realistic hopes of a first tournament win in 15 months, bogeys at two and three soon took the wind out of his sails.

Woods clawed his way back up the leaderboard with birdies at the sixth and the 11th, but with the gusting wind buffeting his remodelled swing, bogeys at the 12th and 14th effectively ended his challenge.

He came in with a three-over 75 and a tie for 20th place.

At least that was an improvement on his tie for 44th place at Torrey Pines, California two weeks ago when he opened up his season and Woods doggedly remained upbeat.

"There were quite a few positives this week. Also a couple of glaring examples of what I need to work on, which is good. I'll go to work next week," he said.

"It's just like anything, all of my old feels are out of the window when the wind blows, so that's the thing when you are making a change.

"I went through this with Butch (Harmon) and I went through this with Hank (Haney).

"It's fine when the wind is not blowing, but when I have to hit shots and the wind blows, the change of feels and the new swing patterns, they get exposed."

Woods undertook to drastically remodel his swing under the watchful eye of Canadian coach Sean Foley last year in the middle of the personal turmoil that beset his marriage and career.

It also followed the extensive knee surgery he underwent in 2008 following his dramatic US Open win at Torrey Pines which kept him sidelined for eight months.

Woods did briefly show glimpses of his old form in Dubai, notably with his eagle finish to the first round and his bogey-free 66 on Friday.

But when he needed to find another gear at the weekend to break free from a bunched leaderboard, the game just was not there.

Still, he said that things were improving.

"It was a step in the right direction, there's no doubt," he said.

"I improved a lot considering where I was at Torrey Pines a couple of weeks ago. That's a step in the right direction.

"It's progressing. It's progressing."

Woods heads back to the United States to continue his buildup to the Masters in early April and is expected to play next in the WCG Matchplay in Arizona at the end of this month.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tseng closing in on No. 1 in women's golf

Yani Tseng jumped three spots to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings with her victory Sunday at the Australian Women’s Open.

Tseng trails No. 1 Jiyai Shin, who was among the players Tseng beat in Australia. Shin tied for second.

Tseng, last year’s LPGA Rolex Player of the Year, is scheduled to tee it up again this week at the Ladies Masters in Australia, where she should have a chance to gain the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. The LPGA season begins next week in Thailand.

''It's always been my goal to be world No.1,'' Tseng told Australian media after her victory Sunday. ''I think I'm getting a little bit closer. I'll do my best and keep working hard. I just feel confident and relaxed. Before, I was thinking too much. I was trying to win. Now I know I have to stay focused on my swing, and play one shot at a time. I know I can win.''

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can North Carolina Deliver Again?

President Obama signaled Tuesday that he would try to follow the same path to re-election that he charted in his first campaign, selecting Charlotte, N.C., to host the 2012 Democratic convention in a decision that instantly confirmed the state as a new presidential battleground.

In choosing Charlotte, Mr. Obama rejected bids from Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis. The selection was the White House’s first major strategic decision of the presidential race, and displayed the desire of Democrats to retain some of the states they carried in 2008 for the first time in a generation.

“We’re looking at an expanding map rather than shrinking back to husband our resources and play defense,” said Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “We were very excited about winning North Carolina in 2008. Putting our convention there is a very serious sign that we intend to compete there again.”

St. Louis was widely seen as the next choice to Charlotte. Though St. Louis has been host to four Democratic national conventions, and was recommended by the leading hotel workers’ union for having the most unionized facilities, there were broader concerns raised about Missouri. The state has slipped out of the Democratic Party’s reach in recent presidential elections and it is not expected to be among the top tier of places where Mr. Obama will compete in 2012.

One of the country’s most competitive Senate races is also taking place in Missouri, with Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, singled out by Republicans as she seeks a second term.

Ms. McCaskill, one of the president’s closest friends in the Senate, publicly supported having St. Louis host the convention, but she raised several concerns to the White House, according to party officials familiar with the selection process. She questioned whether her re-election would be complicated if the convention were held in St. Louis.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ms. McCaskill said she was “bitterly disappointed” that St. Louis had been passed over. She added, “I’m incredibly proud of the bid put forth by St. Louis and how bipartisan the support was.”

The selection of North Carolina also underscored the hope of Mr. Obama and his advisers that they have a better chance of organizing supporters — and finding new voters — in a conservative-leaning but demographically evolving Southern state than in a traditional battleground like Missouri. The advisers believe the advantages of North Carolina include a population that is 22 percent black, an influx of new residents because of research and banking jobs, and laws that allow last-minute voter registration.

In 2008, Mr. Obama won the state’s Democratic primary over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter to carry North Carolina in the general election by building a diverse coalition of voters.

With the Republican convention to be held in Tampa, Fla., the political gatherings will unfold in two Southern states, both of which could play outsize roles in the campaign. In addition to North Carolina, Mr. Obama carried Florida in 2008, but a strong showing by Republicans in last year’s midterm elections showed the volatility of the electoral votes from both states.

A key selling point for North Carolina, officials said, was its proximity to Virginia, which Mr. Obama also carried. Democratic leaders said they intended to make Virginia an integral part of the convention by busing in activists and volunteers.

The selection process was overseen by the president’s top political advisers. The finalist cities lobbied aggressively to be awarded the convention — and the multimillion-dollar rush of business that accompanies a winning bid — even as some state political figures raised questions about how they would be affected by a convention in their state.

The announcement of Charlotte was made by Michelle Obama in an e-mail to members of Organizing for America, the network of supporters from the 2008 campaign.

“We want this to be a grass-roots convention for the people,” Mrs. Obama wrote, adding, “This will be a different convention, for a different time.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Volkswagen To Launch New Golf Hatchback By 2013

Volkswagen has announced that the next-generation Golf hatchback should be here in late 2012 or early 2013, according to a recent report. This will be the seventh-generation of the famous VW hatchback.

When one says small hatchback, it’s hard not to think of the Volkswagen Golf. After all, the Golf has been around since 1974 and has become the brands best selling vehicle. Every generation has been a runner-up in the European Car of the Year awards, with the Mk3 taking home the title in 1992. In 2007, more than 25 million units were produced since its inception, making it the world’s third best-selling model.

Needless to say, with all that history, Volkswagen’s future plans depend on the Golf. It has been stated numerous times that the VW Group plans to surpass Toyota and become the world’s largest automaker by 2018 and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Golf is vital part of these plans.

A VW spokesperson recently stated that the next Golf would be here by the end of 2012 or early 2013, according to Automotive News. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn previously stated the new Golf would be ready in November 2012 and while that timeframe fits the latest report, no month was given.

The new Golf will be the first to ride on the company’s new MQB architecture. The new modular transverse architecture should give the company massive savings in the financial department, thanks to its ability to be used across all brands.

Due to this cost saving measure, one has to assume that based on VW's current price slashing, the new Golf might be a bit cheaper. One can only hope that the Volkswagen's price hammer doesn't come down too hard, as it did on the Jetta. The current Golf features one of the best interiors on the market with the build quality of a brick building and it would be a shame to change that.

Given the fact that the Golf usually hits the European market first, one can assume a 2012 launch date for Europe and a 2013 date in the United States.

Audi will pave the way with their small hatchback in the middle of 2012. This vehicle will be the first to ride on the MQB.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Obama marks MLK Day

President Obama commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday by leading his administration in performing a day of service in honor of the assassinated civil-rights leader.

Obama, wife Michelle and their daughters visited Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, where the president and first lady helped paint fruit characters in the school cafeteria to encourage better eating habits. Nutrition and fighting childhood obesity are top causes for Michelle Obama, who celebrated her 47th birthday on Monday.

"This is part of what America is all about," Obama told pool reporters. "After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it's good for us to remind ourselves of what this country's all about. This kind of service project is what's best in us. We're thrilled with everybody who's participating."

Obama was referring to the Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson. Six were killed and 13 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has shown steady improvement after being wounded in the head. Her condition has been upgraded from critical to serious.

Administration officials including Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill, Cabinet secretaries and senior officials participated in memorial events and community-service projects from Washington to Atlanta and elsewhere, the White House announced.

When the Obama family entered the school lunchroom, they were greeted by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for he first lady. She hugged her daughter Sasha from behind.“All right let's get to work,” Michelle Obama said. "This is embarrassing.”

The first family then toured the room to observe mentors and their charges from different local programs. In addition to activities boosting the nutrition aspect, many participants were seated at small tables painting college logos “to get kids thinking and talking about higher education.” “Doing great work. Great work,” the president told a group at one table.

“This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King's birthday should be all about,” the president said. “ Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. That's what this program is all about and that's what these participants are all about."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

End of an era

Today, for the 42nd and probably last time, Gary Planos will stand below the Plantation Course clubhouse at the first tee and watch 32 of the best golfers in the world start their rounds.

It marks the end of an era on the Northwest tip of Maui.

For 27 years, the last 12 before this one as tournament chairman of the event now known as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Planos, this year a consultant and tournament host, has been Mr. Kapalua, an ambassador of the butterfly-with-the-pineapple-in-it logo.

Next year, he says, that won't be the case.

"It has been an emotional week," Planos said Saturday.

Downsizing - Kapalua has closed one golf course and sold its two others - has cost Planos his job as vice president in charge of marketing, since the resort is no longer in the golf business. With the end of that role comes the conclusion of his tournament chairmanship as well.

Planos started at Kapalua in 1975 as a bag boy who made $3 an hour. He left soon after to become an assistant professional at Kaanapali, where he served his three-year apprenticeship, then worked at the Wailea Blue Course as a teaching professional.

Mark Rolfing, now an analyst for The Golf Channel and NBC Sports, hired Planos back at Kapalua in 1984 as an assistant pro when Rolfing was Kapalua's director of marketing.

Planos has been there ever since.

"I'm finishing, this week, over 27 years at Kapalua," Planos said.

Planos became tournament director for the Kapalua International in 1991, basically the second in command behind Rolfing, the tournament chairman, and stayed in that capacity with that unofficial event until 1999, then became tournament chairman of the Mercedes Championships, the official opener on the PGA Tour that has a winners-only field.

Since August, he has been a consultant for the event - there is no tournament chairman this year.

"I have had many titles," Planos said. "I think I counted and I have had 10 titles here. My last one was senior vice president of resort operations since 2004."

Planos explained: "The things I was responsible for have gone in different directions. They have outsourced most of the resort operations, we have sold the golf courses and we have gotten kind of out of the tournament business. It has been a great run, a fabulous run here."

Rolfing said he would like to have Planos back next year.

"It is hard to imagine Kapalua without Gary Planos," said Rolfing, who calls himself the tournament organizer this year. "First of all, I hope it is not Gary's last year. I have told him that he obviously is welcome to come back any year and I hope he does. I would be really disappointed if he wasn't on this first tee next year, but who knows what is ahead for Gary? I'm sure it is something good. It is just, he has been an icon with this thing for so long that it doesn't seem possible to me that he wouldn't be here."

The Mark and Debi Rolfing Charitable Foundation is the charitable arm of this week's tournament.

Rolfing said Kapalua might never have hosted a PGA Tour event if not for Planos.

"He had a lot to do with it, there is no doubt," Rolfing said. "He is the guy that everybody turns to, even now. People will ask me certain questions and to do certain things, but everybody universally, no matter what the question is or what they want or where they want to go, the first guy they are going to go to is Gary because he has always been that guy."

Nancy Cross, who has been at Kapalua since 1982, is the tournament director this year, a job she has also had in the past.

"We have worked very closely for many, many years," Cross said.

Cross was hired back for her current position by Rolfing after she and Planos were let go by Kapalua Land Company when its events department was eliminated in a cost-cutting move. Her contract runs through March.

"It is hard to imagine, it is hard to acknowledge all of the changes going on, but that is the way the world is today," Cross said with tears coming to her eyes. "Time goes on and things change, people adjust. On a personal note, Gary has been such an integral part of golf and tournaments, that, sure, it is difficult to imagine. He has been a great mentor to me. He has been a great role model in how to lead a team.

"He has shown us the importance in building relationships and I think you can see that in how well-respected he is. He has done a great job of branding Kapalua and golf. He always wanted to see people get greater responsibility and always shared the credit. Not a lot of people do that."

Cross added that Planos has a work ethic that doesn't stop.

"He has definitely been the ambassador of the brand and I think people definitely relate Gary and Kapalua in the same sentence," Cross said. "I think for a lot of people it is hard to think about Kapalua without Gary. I know whatever he does he will be very successful. In the world of golf, he knows everyone and is well-respected by everyone."

Planos is also the chairman of the Western Golf Association and host of the former Western Open that is now known as the BMW Championship.

Jon Brendle, a PGA Tour rules official, has worked with Planos for all 13 of the tour events on Maui, and through the Western Golf Association.

"We have had a continuous relationship and I think we talk two or three times a week," Brendle said. "It is pretty emotionally sad. ... It is sad to think where Kapalua has gone. I do this every week, I have been doing this for 22 years now. Nobody does it better. I know all the tournaments and nobody does it better as a tournament director than Gary Planos. His image, the prestige of the way he does it, the style that he does could not be more teachable to people to do it that way.

"I am from the South and we have a camaraderie, but you guys here have that aloha spirit. Nobody exemplifies that more than Gary and Nancy. For the tour, they do it to the highest level that could be reached. For me to believe that it is gone is hard to believe. You just will never believe that something like this has happened."

Brendle said he is always running into Planos' proteges throughout the tour and sees Planos' mark in another way as well.

"I go to tournaments every week and there are three logos you see every week - you'd see the U.S. Open logo of some year, you'd see The Masters logo, and you'd see the Kapalua butterfly," Brendle said. "You can guarantee that at every tournament. That is because of Gary. And you all aren't that big. You know everybody, you are all friends, so for it to be as worldwide as that butterfly is is a total tribute to how important Gary Planos has been to this resort. This is Gary."

Hale Irwin wore the Kapalua logo for more than 20 years as the resort's touring pro.

"I remember traveling to Medinah in 1990 and having dinner with Hale," Planos said. "Landing that Sunday at Kapalua airport the bag porter told me that Hale had finished in a tie and that there would be a playoff tomorrow. I walked into my office the next day, it was at the Bay Course, and when Hale won the playoff (over Mike Donald) the phone calls started coming in from all over the world congratulating us about Hale's third U.S. Open victory.

"I remember walking Greyhawk with Barry Lane when he was our European touring pro and having him win the million dollar Andersen World Championship and having dinner with him and him saying, 'I just won a million dollars.'

"And then a real fun moment was Morgan (Pressel) making the putt off the fringe at 18 (at the Bay Course in 2008) for birdie to win the only Kapalua LPGA Classic. To have a hand in Morgan being our (LPGA) touring pro and for her to win our event made me look smart for a day."

The lasting legacy for Planos will be the PGA Tour event at the Plantation, which he helped open in 1991. He said his most significant memory on the expansive 7,411-yard layout - the only par-73 course on tour - is the epic finish in 2000 when Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, playing together in the final group, finished birdie-eagle and then both birdied the 663-yard 18th on the first playoff hole before Woods sank a 40-footer on No. 1 to win.

"A lot of great memories here, but I remember sitting there with Brendle - that was the year we decided to drive the M Class cars up (to 18 for the playoff), great exposure for Mercedes, and I remember driving up there with Tiger and Ernie," Planos said. "Jon wanted me to hand out the numbers, 1 or 2, but there was confusion on the tee as to how they were marshaling and I was trying to work with the volunteers, so I never got to do that. While we watched the tee shots it was evident that Tiger striped it and Ernie looked like he popped it up. I thought there was no way Ernie could get home, but Ernie got up there and ripped a 3-wood from 300-plus yards and got it home. It was unbelievable. I couldn't believe how far he hit that 3-wood. Tiger made a 40-footer to win on 1, something you never make. That was what really put the Plantation Course on the map.

"The excitement. That was the highest-rated ESPN golf telecast at that time. Mercedes was just thrilled with that. That was very memorable."

Planos owns the only house on the Bay Course and said he will always be at Kapalua in some way. He also said he is not ready to give up holding a full-time job in golf.

"I need to for my mind," he said. "I want to find something that is as challenging as what I've had. I'm a type-A workaholic and I am looking forward to another challenge wherever it is. For the first time in my life, I am looking to move where that next challenge will be."

Planos said he has attended eight or nine tour events per year.

"I have a ton of (airline) miles," he said. "We definitely helped position the brand of Kapalua in the world of golf and we are very happy with where that brand has gone."

Planos grew up in Evanston, Ill., and moved to Maui after graduating from the University of Illinois. Kapalua, however, will always be home, and Planos said he will never forget all the time he has put in at the place.

"You do something seven days a week for 27 years, that is a lot of time," he said. "But it wasn't a job. It wasn't work - it was what I did and I enjoyed it."