Weekly business rail, with items on the 10 worst cars of the year, how to get free Internet phone service and more. Plus, find out what disease Ken gave Barbie after a night of romance.


Forbes.com released its annual list of worst-performing vehicles, which is based on safety, depreciation, recalls and more. Here’s the top 10, with Forbes’ comments included with the top five:

1. Chrysler Sebring: The Chrysler Sebring sedan, newly redesigned for 2007, is more sophisticated, roomier and vastly improved. But it dashed out of the gate with its feathers a little ruffled; the '07 has already racked up six recalls for various issues ranging from a faulty hood latch to poor airbags and engine-cooling.

2. Dodge Nitro: The Nitro, a small SUV that's more towing-capable than similarly sized, car-like competitors, is closely related to the Jeep Liberty (No. 3.) The model was new to the Dodge lineup last year, yet Consumer Reports has already predicted "much worse than average" reliability and called it "unimpressive" overall. First-year buyers of the Nitro have already had to contend with up to four recalls.

3. Jeep Liberty: The '07 Liberty qualifies as a turkey on several counts, with below-average resale value, a total of three possible recalls and a "Marginal" result in the IIHS frontal offset crash test. In the EPA's revised fuel economy ratings, it's only rated at 15 mpg in city driving. For 2008, the Liberty has been redesigned inside and out, and its crash-test ratings are expected to improve.

4. Dodge Caliber R/T AWD: The $14,000 2007 Caliber comes with standard side-curtain airbags--a feature that is not widely standard even for 2008. But even with those, the Caliber only managed "Marginal" ratings in the IIHS side-crash test. The standard front-wheel-drive Caliber has proved quite reliable; but the sporty, all-weather capable R/T AWD that people will pay significantly more for has found Consumer Reports' "much lower than average" reliability ratings. For a small car, the Caliber may also unexpectedly gobble up your fuel budget; according to the new '08 EPA ratings, the little Caliber R/T AWD gets only 24 mpg on the highway.

5. Dodge Magnum: The Batmobile-like, long-and-low Magnum wagon, which heralded a recent product renaissance at Chrysler under German ownership, is going out like a turkey; the automaker's new private-equity ownership has made that tough decision to discontinue it after '08. The supposedly very desirable model has only managed a two-star depreciation rating from ALG, and it's sunk to the bottom rung in Consumer Reports' reliability ratings.

6. Ford Crown Victoria

7. Chevrolet Aveo

8. Nissan Quest

9. Hyundai Entourage

10. Pontiac Grand Prix

Ken Gives Barbie a New Kind of STD: Lead Poisoning

Barbie and Ken are campaigning to get U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairwoman Nancy Nord booted from her post. In a video recently posted on YouTube, Ken and Barbie spend a steamy night together and, a week later, Barbie tells Ken she’s “contracted something” from him: lead poisoning. Watch the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=cChD9K-5QKI.

Santa’s Workshop: This Year’s Hottest Toys
Zoobies: Each Zoobie is a 3-in-1 toy -- a plush toy, a soft pillow and a comfy blanket. Zoobies come in a dozen varieties, including alligators, giraffes, hippos and zebras. Price for each Zoobie is around $30. –- Giftbee.com

Number to Know: $1.46 billion

Amount of money German pharmaceutical and chemicals giant Bayer will invest over three years in environmental protection activities, according to AFP. The company admitted it has contributed to a pollution problem and pledged to develop more environmentally friendly practices.

Quote of Note

“We've been freezing almost the whole time. But it was worth it for the great deals we got. ... These will make for excellent presents."

Shopper Adam Wishne, 19, from Geneva, Ill., on being one of thousands of people across the nation who got in lines early on Black Friday to get a deal. Wishne stood in line at a Best Buy, which was offering a limited number of Sony laptops for $399 and Toshiba notebooks for $229, among other deals. –- Source: Reuters

Tech Tip: How to Get Free Phone Service

Online communications company Pudding Media has a proposal for you -- free phone calls over the Internet. But there’s a catch -- you have to give up your privacy. Once you make your call, voice-recognition software listens in and displays ads on your computer based on the words it hears in your conversation. -- www.techtips101.com

Tip of the Week: Shop Safe Online

Before you start your Internet Christmas shopping, make sure you ask these questions of the company from which you’re purchasing:

- How secure is the transaction?

- What do I know about the seller?

- What are the legal terms of the purchase?

- When can I expect delivery of the item?

- How should I keep records about the purchase?

- To whom can I complain if I’m not satisfied?

To find out more about these questions and other online shopping tips, visit BBB.org.

Dirty Jobs: Drilling Mud Maker

When drilling for oil, a special type of mud is needed to keep the drill shaft lubricated. All offshore and on-shore oil derricks requires tons of this super high-grade oil-based mud, making it a ridiculously dirty job. -– Forbes.com

GateHouse News Service