Auto workers in the US, who are facing another depressing round of job cuts at General Motors and other struggling domestic manufacturers, are doing their best to stick together. But solidarity has its price, as members of the United Auto Workers union have found out this week.

The UAW, with headquarters in Detroit, is holding its convention in Las Vegas. The quickest way to fly between the two cities is on Northwest Airlines, which offers more than half-a-dozen non-stop flights a day.

But Northwest, which is under bankruptcy protection, has a history of unhappy relations with its workers. It replaced hundreds of mechanics who went on strike last August. Just last week, flight attendants rejected management’s proposals for pay cuts.

The UAW has shown its support for the workers by boycotting Northwest. That makes for a long flight to Las Vegas.

One UAW official flew America West with a stop in Phoenix, which is south of Las Vegas. Another took Delta, via Atlanta, more than doubling the normal journey time.

Too bad that, after all the extra effort, they were unlikely to enjoy a particularly festive convention.

Rough justice

With football fever high in spite of Iran’s opening 3-1 World Cup defeat by Mexico on Sunday, police in Fars province have adopted a rather unusual way to show their enthusiasm. They have decided to show red and yellow cards to women bending the rules on Islamic dress code (the hijab) – as well as anyone who drives aggressively or walks their dog in public.

Iranian women are required by law to hide their hair, arms, legs and curves in public. While many opt for the head-to-toe chador, some prefer scarves and short coats.

Ahmad-Alireza Beigi, Fars province police chief, said the cards would “admonish” those with hair showing or whose coats were hugging their bodies.

Yellow cards have already been shown, and red cards as of June 22, to be followed by July 6 with “counselling” for offenders and, if needed, “judicial action”.

Iran frequently argues over whether hijab rules should be tightened or relaxed. The liberal upper-classes were worried last year that newly elected fundamentalist Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad would favour a crackdown, but the president has instead called for allowing women to attend football matches.

So while most Iranian eyes are now on the World Cup, some will also be on the red cards of Fars province.

Not neutral?

Having engulfed Britain a couple of weeks ago, the battle over waving national flags during the World Cup has reached Germany, with a ruling by Berlin’s police chief that Germany’s flag should not be flown from police cars in the capital.

Clip-on flags mounted on car windows have been all the rage across Germany since the World Cup kicked off last week, but now police officers must take them off their vehicles, for fear of “not appearing neutral” especially in dealings with non-German fans in the city.

The ruling has already drawn protests, however, with some local politicians calling the police chief a “killjoy” by stopping officers from presenting themselves as a “lively and colourful part of German life”.

Indeed, given the dour – sometimes even brutal – image of the German police, a more relaxed image would be helpful. After all, the World Cup motto is “a time to make friends!”

Privately powered

In Vietnam, power shortages have become an increasingly frequent problem, particularly in summer when power demand surges. With an increasingly affluent population splurging on electrical appliances such as refrigerators, televisions and air conditioners, it is unlikely that the situation is going to improve any time soon.

But in this football-mad nation, authorities, ever preoccupied with stability and public order, are concerned about the potential for social disturbances and urban unrest if the power should suddenly fail during World Cup matches.

Rest assured, officials at the Hanoi Power Company are doing everything possible to prevent power cuts during matches, according to the state- controlled Vietnam News.

If the unthinkable happens, the power company will work to ensure that cuts, if unavoidable, are brief.

But sceptical Vietnamese do not appear to have been reassured by official promises.

The Vietnam News also reported that sales of small household power generators – which can be used to run televisions in case of power cuts – have suddenly surged ahead of the tournament.

Short spot

Vonage Holdings, a US internet telephony company whose stock tanked after its market debut a few weeks ago, is hoping a little advertising spin can lift the gloom surrounding its IPO.

The company’s “People Do Stupid Things” ad campaign has just won a Bronze Effie Award, the US advertising world’s Oscar.

The winning television slots featured home video footage showing children throwing bats through windows, photographers falling into fountains while snapping photos and the like. The point was these dumb actions made as much sense as paying for old-fashioned telephone services.

“Sometimes doing stupid things has its smarts,” says Mike Snyder, Vonage’s chief. The campaign “turned out to be a very intelligent brand direction for us”.

Unfortunately, buying Vonage stock at the offer price of $17 a share was not quite as smart – it has fallen by about 30 per cent since, amid accusations of widespread shorting by Wall Street banks.

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