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September 20, 2009|Mark Sternberg; Shari Roan; Andrea Chang; Mike Hiserman

UP TO SPEED

G.M. brags on itself in TV ads

General Motors Co., desperate to reinvent itself after exiting bankruptcy two months ago, has taken on a new advertising strategy: bragging.

In recent weeks, GM has declared Buick "the new class of world class," and that when compared with the competition, GM wins "simple as that."

For GM, a major turnaround certainly won't happen overnight. Unlike Ford Motor Co., GM doesn't have a massive foreign market of fuel-efficient, interesting cars to reinvent itself with. And although the Chevy Volt and Spark will hit showrooms fairly soon, making new models takes time and U.S. taxpayers want to see fast results from their multibillion-dollar investment.

GM's new commercials follow the thinking that the Detroit automaker makes world-class cars that can hold their own against its foreign rivals, and that only the company's marketing has fallen short.

Don't think it's all empty talk, though. In one TV commercial, new GM Chairman (and admitted non-car guy) Ed Whitacre announces a plan for a 60-day money-back guarantee for all GM cars. "May the best car win," he proudly proclaims.

-- J. Mark Sternberg

From Up to Speed: The latest buzz in L.A.'s car culture

For more, go to latimes.com/uptospeed

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BOOSTER SHOTS

Snuggling a baby? Wash your hands

Remember the Baby on Board signs people used to put in their cars? The latest product designed to protect babies from other humans is a sign that admonishes: Wash Hands Before Touching Baby.

The signs, shaped like a stop sign, can be hung on cribs, strollers, car seats or wherever parents think wise. They are the creation of a Tampa couple, the parents of 1-year-old triplets, who were tired of people holding, patting or squeezing their babies without washing their hands first. Now, with swine flu cases on the upswing, the signs have taken on new meaning.

The company, Hands Off Baby, also makes T-shirts for parents and bibs and onesies for babies that carry the pink or blue stop-sign emblem. The stroller tags sell for $4.99 and are being sold at some hospital gift stores or can be ordered online.

I agree that people should wash their hands before touching someone else's baby -- especially newborns. Just don't ask me to wear a Hazmat suit.

-- Shari Roan

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the world of health

For more, go to latimes.com/boostershots

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CONSUMERS

Wal-Mart pushes family fun deals

Wal-Mart is making family fun a new priority.

This month, the world's largest retailer will launch in-store Family Night Centers, which are designed to give customers a one-stop shop for at-home activities including board games, movies and snacks.

The retailer said it hoped the Family Night Centers would help provide affordable entertainment for families as they spend more time at home during the recession.

"With busier schedules and kids heading back to school, now is a great time to provide a dedicated place in our stores to give Mom the savings and ideas to create fun and quality time for her family this fall," said Laura Phillips, chief toy officer and senior vice president of entertainment for Wal-Mart.

Family Night Centers include: Board games Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and Yahtzee for $8; Jenga and Monopoly for $10; Operation and Twister for $15; and movies including "Camp Rock," "Enchanted" and "High School Musical" for $10.

-- Andrea Chang

From California Consumer: To live and buy in L.A.

For more, go to latimes.com/californiaconsumer

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FABULOUS FORUM

LeBron James goes Hollywood

LeBron James, the NBA's reigning MVP, is headed to Hollywood next summer for showtime.

But don't get too excited, Lakers fans.

While James will be heading this way as a basketball free agent, he's not joining the Lakers.

He'll be working on his first feature film -- "Fantasy Basketball Camp" from Universal Pictures.

The movie is about five guys who come to Las Vegas to participate in James' basketball camp. James will not only appear in the film, but also is an executive producer for the project.

Producer Brian Grazer told Associated Press that he initially sought James for the part because he and his 8-year-old son, Thomas, "were just dying to meet him."

"But I felt that beyond being one of the world's great superstar athletes, here was someone so relaxed and comfortable with himself that he would have the capability to be that way on screen," the producer added.

"Later, when I watched him host 'Saturday Night Live,' and saw his advertising work, it was clear he can do this."

-- Mike Hiserman

From The Fabulous Forum: The who, what, where, when, why -- and why not -- of L.A. sports

For more, go to latimes.com/fabforum

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