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  • Dream House or Nightmare?

    For years Americans custom-built homes with pricey extras expecting high returns on their investment. They're in for a letdown.
  • Women Leaders' Success Secrets

    These 11 women came from many different backgrounds, but they all had big dreams. The path to power meant facing obstacles and their biggest fears.
  • Feeling Pinch, Americans Trade Down

    Average Americans were living like the Riches, thanks to easy credit and the real-estate bubble. Now they're trading down instead of trading up.
  • Prick Up Your Rabbit Ears

    When cable TV arrived in the ' 70s, rabbit ears seemed destined to go the way of the polyester pantsuit. So, too, the clunky outdoor antenna, a rooftop fixture that once upon a time signaled the rise of television in American life. But a funny thing happened on the way to the analog dust heap: it turns out that a new generation of rabbit ears and antennas can receive high-definition television broadcasts. And it's free.The irony is marvelous. Pushed into obsolescence by the technological advances of cable and satellite, antennas are re-emerging thanks to one of the most promising high-tech services of the digital age. High-def channels can be plucked out of thin air by antennas just like regular broadcast signals--no cable, no satellite dish, no monthly bill, no waiting for the cable man. It's like the old days, except this time antennas (which cost between $18 and $150) may offer the clearest picture. "More than 90 percent of our customers say they want the antennas for high-def,"...
  • The D Word Is Back

    They call it the "D Word." For more than a decade--ever since the bubble burst in the early 1990s, sending prices for basic goods and services plummeting--Japanese prime ministers have been dreaming of a day when they could announce the end of deflation, a rare and crippling syndrome in which falling prices sap a nation's buying energy and investing confidence. Yet they also feared it. And so came the odd day in January when Japan's central bank retreated from declaring victory and decided not to raise interest rates, after members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet warned that it was too soon. Deflation still looms.New data suggest that the politicians were right to worry. At the heart of the bad news is the cost of consumer goods. For most of 2006, Japan's consumer price index (CPI) had hovered just above zero. But the figure for December, released just days after the central bank's decision, showed a slight dip. The immediate reason: a drop in oil prices, which now seem...
  • China Lets Loose

    China's stock markets are smoking, and smart money is flooding into the country; last year foreign direct investment reached nearly $70 billion. Add to that a 2006 trade surplus of $177.5 billion, up 74 percent from the year before, and a tidal wave of hot money (or short-term speculative investments). Together, this ocean of cash has produced enormous reserves of foreign exchange within China--more than $1 trillion, a fat target for critics who say China's voracious appetites threaten the world economy.Until recently, largely all that money was stuck in the Middle Kingdom. For decades, communist China didn't allow money to go abroad, because it had so little at home. Once it opened up in the early 1980s, China was afraid volatile capital flows would turn its accelerating economic growth into a wild roller-coaster ride. And when Beijing saw capital flight undermine neighboring economies during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, it came to believe even more strongly in controlling...
  • College Costs: Studying Abroad

    With the dollar falling, the cost of studying abroad is rising for everything from meals to museums. How some students are coping.
  • Don't Forget To Fix Social Security

    Sometimes what people don't say about a topic is more interesting than what they do say. Consider, if you will, President Bush's State of the Union message. Social Security--the focus of his speech two years ago--got only a few fleeting mentions in last week's address. But if you delve into the low-profile details of Bush's high-profile health-care proposals, you discover that embedded in them is a plan that would effectively trim future Social Security retirement benefits for some people, while reducing their current Social Security tax payments to help pay for health insurance.I'm not attacking this idea the way I went after Bush's Social Security "reforms" of a few years ago. It's just that I'm a Social Security junkie, and that aspect of Bush's health proposals interests me--if only because it points out how high Social Security taxes are for many families, relative to the income tax.Here's the deal. Bush wants to let taxpayers who have health insurance exclude $7,500 (for...
  • China Finally Pays Off

    Almost as if to make the point that the Chinese growth miracle won't be complete until every skeptic stands converted, policymakers are on a reform blitzkrieg that has the stock market rolling. For the first time, China in 2006 had both the fastest-growing economy in the world and (finally) the fastest-growing stock market, too, according to the Morgan Stanley Capital International database. The MSCI China Index was up 78 percent, compared with the 32 percent average return for emerging markets, and the Shanghai-based A Share Index was up 138 percent. The way Chinese are buying stocks, more strong years could follow.There's certainly much scope for catch-up. China's economy and stock market spent much of this decade running in different directions. While China has been emerging as a leading manufacturing power faster than anyone expected, the mainland market based in Shanghai has been stagnant, even as rivals from Moscow to Mumbai boomed. Today, while China constitutes 5 percent of...
  • Now This Is Woman’s Work

    There are more female governors in office than ever before, and they are making their mark with a pragmatic, postpartisan approach to solving state problems.
  • Lessons From The 1987 Crash

    We used to think that financial panics were a thing of the past. Now we know that they are a clear and present economic danger.
  • What I Learned

    Whether they're running universities, political campaigns or major corporations, these 11 remarkable women have found their own ways of overcoming obstacles.
  • Women Leaders' Success Secrets

    These 11 women came from many different backgrounds, but they all had big dreams. The path to power meant facing obstacles and their biggest fears.
  • Out of Bounds

    Jimmy Dolan's sports empire is a humiliation. Does that make him unfit to run Daddy's cable company?
  • Capital Ideas

    The U.S. housing bubble may have burst, but many American investors are looking at real estate in Europe and Asia. It's been a smart play: foreign real estate doesn't move in tandem with the U.S. market, so it can be a good way to diversify. And the numbers are compelling: between 2001 and 2006, the value of a one-bedroom apartment in New York appreciated 33 percent. But the same money invested in London, Paris or Mumbai would have returned 92 percent, 129 percent and 149 percent, respectively.But before you book your round-the-world shopping trip, remember the currency factor: about half the gain of European properties comes from the dollar's decline against the euro, says Ward Naughton of HiFX Inc., a San Francisco company that arranges financing for international deals. "At some point, you know that will turn." When it does, Americans investing abroad could lose money. He recommends Asian properties, where economies are growing. Some tips:
  • Edison’s Dimming Bulbs

    Fluorescents still cost more upfront. But Wal-Mart's attention and the policies of many governments are pushing incandescents toward extinction.
  • It’s Time To Be The Biggest

    When it comes to timepieces, size matters. Tired of squinting at dainty wristwatches, women are embracing bigger models that make a bold fashion statement and are also easier to read.Corum's limited-edition Artisan Collection, which features hand-painted works of art on mother-of-pearl dials (from $29,000), introduces several new themes a year, such as brightly colored toucans. The 46mm Classical Billionaire Tourbillon comes in four varieties, including a diamond-and-sapphire bracelet model ($975,000; corum.ch).At Kriëger, one size fits all. Its unisex Gigantium family features at least four limited-edition collections with specs up to 51mm. The Fav Elite collection sets a vintage look with bright dial colors and alligator straps to match (from $2,000; kriegerwatch.com).Gerald Genta's most popular larger model for women is the Octo Biretro. The triple octagon case with red enamel dial has a mosaic of black and white diamonds, and comes with a matching zebra-print leather strap ($64...
  • Traveling On A Song

    The passing of Luciano Pavarotti has inspired much lamenting about the future of opera. Aficionados needn't worry: companies are offering special tours that combine spectacular singing with unforgettable dining and accommodations.Euridice Opera organizes personalized trips that can include meeting a singer or even a private performance at, say, England's Glyndebourne Festival. On Dec. 7, the company will arrange for couples to see Puccini's "Turandot" at the famed Teatro La Fenice in Venice, followed by a formal ball inside the hall (from $3,500; www.euridice-opera.com).JMB Travel specializes in holidays featuring 28 European and North American houses. Visit a theater in a different country each night, including Krakow's Slowacki Theater and Milan's La Scala; wine tastings are often included (from $700; www.jmbtravel.co.uk).The Hotel Imperial in Vienna offers a three-night stay and a performance at the State Opera across the street (from $1,500; luxury collection.com/imperial)....
  • Visitors Wanted Now

    Creating a brand identity for any country is hard. Being honest is the first step.
  • Spa Makeover

    Canyon Ranch is the ultimate in health resorts. Now it's expanding to condos, day retreats and a cruise ship.
  • Abbe Raven's Staying Power

    In the land of TV, the talent's always on the move. At A&E, the CEO began her career there 23 years ago.
  • Just Stay Out Of The Rain!

    Green is the new black, at least for clothing companies providing environmentally friendly textiles. Ingeo is a new fiber made of fermented corn sugars. Manufactured by NatureWorks, a subsidiary of agri-giant Cargill, Ingeo is now showing up in everything from socks and shirts (ecowearusa.com) to carpet tiles (interfaceflor.com). Because it's made from corn, it is both inexpensive and easy on the earth to produce. It's also hypoallergenic, wicks away moisture and can degrade in only a few months if composted professionally with high temperatures and liquids.In Britain, scientists have developed high-fashion dresses that can disappear even faster—dissolving in hot water. The material is the brainchild of University of Sheffield chemist Tony Ryan, aided by British designer Helen Storey and a team from the University of Ulster. They don't intend to market the dress, but see it as a "metaphor for wastefulness," says Ryan.He and Storey are experimenting with other forms and possible uses...
  • Bad Credit? 6 Cards for You

    Has your credit rating taken a few knocks lately? Here are six cards that can keep you charging and won't make you pay through the nose.
  • Payday Loans Can Be A Trap

    One employee got disgusted when he saw a customer had paid $8,000 in fees on a $375 loan. 'That made the picture clear.'
  • There’s No Inflation (If You Ignore Facts)

    Imagine that a cardiologist told you that aside from the irregular heartbeat, the stratospheric cholesterol count and a little blockage in your aorta, your core heart functions are just fine.That's precisely what the government's cardiologist—Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve—has just done. The central bank is supposed to make sure the economy grows fast enough to create jobs and make everybody richer, but not so fast that it produces inflation, which makes everybody poorer. "Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year," the Federal Open Market Committee said in justifying its 50-basis-point interest-rate cut last month, while conceding that "some inflation risks remain."Catch that bit about "core inflation"? That's Fedspeak for: inflation is under control, unless you look at the costs of things that are going up. The core rate excludes the prices of food and energy, which can be volatile from month to month. Factor them in, and inflation is about as...
  • The Bernanke Era Has Begun

    Last week the Fed shifted its emphasis from fighting inflation to preventing panic. Was that the right call? Certainly it was the popular call.
  • Personal Finance: It Pays to Hire Your Kids

    Maybe it's time your kids started pulling their weight. With tough new kiddie tax rules, it doesn't pay to feed their savings accounts: the interest they earn is taxed at your rate until they're 18, and next year that goes up to 23, as long as they're students. But it does pay to hire them and pay them a salary. That earned income can be effectively shielded from taxes and used to amass savings. Here's how to make the system work: ...
  • Travel: Zanzibar's Island of Spices

    Known as the spice island, Zanzibar is a beguiling mix of Arabic, African and Indian cultures. From Stone Town's tiny streets to isolated coral reefs, this paradise off the coast of Tanzania draws anyone looking to chill. Stone Town is the best place to start. Stay at the seafront Serena Inn, where rooms overlook the Indian Ocean and the interior celebrates the island's Persian and European influences (from $285 per person; serenahotels.com). Set aside an afternoon to get lost in the city's labyrinth of houses, bazaars and courtyards.Head out of town to enjoy the powdery white beaches. Each of the nine rooms at Matemwe Bungalows features a porch with huge hammocks and a sumptuous bath. Meals are served on the patio, and guests can relax at the two pools or sip a dawa (Swahili for medicine) cocktail of vodka, lime and sugar at the beach bar ($230 per person in low season; matemwe.com).Suites at the Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski offer grand views of the ocean. Guests can enjoy floral foot...
  • Jewelry: Savoring Sparkles

    The clear skies and glittering water of summertime are gone, but there's a way to remember them: the aquamarine, pink, turquoise and blue of sea-colored gems. The latest collection at Chanel Fine Jewelry centers on the geometrical perfection of art deco, drawing on the seaside that Coco Chanel loved. The earring, pendant and ring designs feature either aquamarine and turquoise or coral and tourmaline stones set in 18-karat white gold with cacholong—a variety of opal—and diamonds (from $8,600 to $27,000; chanel.com).British designer Stephen Webster (www.stephenwebster.com) uses the latest laser-cutting techniques to perfect his collection, including the Crystal Haze Classic white-gold bracelet with turquoise and diamonds ($17,000). Theo Fennell, the eccentric creator of silver Heinz ketchup and Smirnoff bottles (theofennell.com), shows he is about more than gimmickry with his delicate Cradle range of rings in 18-karat white gold. From the marquise aquamarine to the mint-green octagon...
  • Q&A: Controlling Bad News

    In the Internet era, bad news travels fast. A guru explains how companies should play smart defense.
  • Shutterfly's Photographic Vision

    Shutterfly was a survivor of the dotcom crash. Now it's a leader in online photographic services and a trusted brand. The CEO explains how he did it.
  • Travel: Rent a Chauffer With Your Car

    Here's a new accessory for rental cars: a driver. Avis Rent A Car is offering chauffeurs to its customers in 10 top business markets, including New York, L.A., Chicago, Washington, Detroit and the Bay Area.A driver costs about $35 an hour, with a minimum of three hours. WeDriveU, a San Mateo, Calif., firm, provides the drivers. Time-pressed business customers like the new service because drivers can pick up the car and collect renters at baggage claim, says WeDriveU CEO Dennis Carlson.And it's still cheaper than hiring a limo service. One customer, for example, recently rented a car and driver at New York's La Guardia Airport for a day of meetings. He spent $280 for the driver and $120 for the car, compared with $640 for a car-for-hire. At the end of the trip, the driver drove him back to the airport and returned the car. Booking the driver is done separately from the car rental, through an additional phone call. WeDriveU provides extra insurance to cover its drivers.Some customers...