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  • Survey: Companies Face the Future

    MORE:Issue Ranker | What strategies will help your company pull through the current economic slump?Join the Online Forum Now | Submit your questions and comments below.// ////// ////// if (window.Mailbag) {Mailbag(oMailbag); } ////
  • Death Is Inevitable. Taxes? Maybe Not.

    It's hard to turn on a TV this time of year without seeing an ad showing smiling people who've supposedly just learned they'll be getting income-tax refunds thanks to a tax service or software program. Of course, your refund is Uncle Sam returning an interest-free loan you graciously made him by overpaying during the year—but it sure feels better to get a check than to write one. So imagine the joy at Great-West Lifeco, which has figured out how to get cash today for tax savings that it won't see for up to 15 years. It will do this by getting $550 million by selling securities backed by tax savings that it expects to get as the result of its $3.9 billion cash purchase of the Putnam Investments mutual-fund business.Getting tax-savings money upfront? You gotta love it. Here's the deal: Great-West, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is buying Putnam from Marsh & McLennan of New York. Normally, this would be a plain-vanilla deal, with Great-West's buying the stock of the M&M subsidiary that...
  • Capital Ideas

    You've probably read that investors usually don't do as well as the mutual funds they buy. The reason is simple. You buy, or add to, successful funds after they've started zooming in value, not before. You sell during mediocre years, before the fund picks up again. On a buy-and-hold basis, the fund's past performance could be fine. But because of the way you timed your investments, you might show a loss.—How badly do investors fall behind? You can find out at Morningstar.com, which recently started keeping track of average investor returns. Go to Morningstar's home page and enter the name of a fund in the "Quotes" box. When the fund page comes up, click on "Total Returns" to get its performance record. You'll then see a tab for "Investor Returns." Click there to find out how well (or poorly) typical investors did. They're more successful in some funds than others.—Where do investors fare the worst? In volatile funds where prices zoom and dip. One example would be the technology...
  • Could You Live Without China?

    Author Sara Bongiorni and her family spent a year avoiding anything with a 'Made In China' label. The experience was more difficult—and expensive—than you might imagine.
  • Samuelson: Greenhouse Simplicities

    We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. Last week's NEWSWEEK cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It's an object lesson of how viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys" can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story. Global warming has clearly occurred; the hard question is what to do about it.If you missed NEWSWEEK's story, here's the gist. A "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." This "denial machine" has obstructed action against global warming and is still "running at full throttle." The story's thrust: discredit the "denial machine," and the country can start the serious business of fighting global warming. The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.The global...
  • Gross: When Fools Rush In, The Joke's on Them

    An idea for a morality play: capture the madness of an era when investors, entranced by new technology, a novel set of economic assumptions and an all-powerful Federal Reserve, lost their heads, blew an exuberant bubble and suffered a painful bust.Sure, it may be late for a chronicle of the zany dotcom 1990s. But this template can easily be adapted to the financial trend that has defined this decade—and that may have come to a close this week. It is, in a way, the Henny Youngman Economy. Lenders pleaded: "Take my money ... please!"In recent months, harbingers of the end of the credit bubble have been popping up like shoots of yellow forsythia. The spring brought rising subprime delinquency rates and the ensuing failures of subprime lenders. In July, leveraged hedge funds tanked, and several massive corporate-debt offerings were shelved. This month, mortgage rates for borrowers with good credit have spiked, and credit-card giant Capital One Financial jacked up interest rates, citing ...
  • Gross: The Best of Flights, The Worst of Flights

    Flying today is a Dickensian affair. Flight diaries read like production notes for "Oliver": endless lines, screaming children, basic necessities confiscated, uncomfortable physical inspections, cramped conditions and food of dubious quality.For frequent fliers, it is clearly the worst of times. In the first quarter of 2007, only 71.4 percent of flights arrived on time, and 19,260 passengers were involuntarily bumped—up 13 percent from the year before. In July, 16,988 flights were canceled, up 54 percent from July 2006, according to FlightStats.com.And yet for airline companies, these are the best of times. The industry was laid low by 9/11 and the 2001 recession, as giants like United, US Airways and Delta filed for Chapter 11. But the airlines' winter of despair has given way to a spring of hope. In a recent conference call, American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey crowed about "the largest quarterly profit [$317 million] since we launched the turnaround plan more than four years ago."...
  • Is Economy Facing Widening Credit Squeeze?

    Kristin Schantz, a 26-year-old manager for a human-resources company in Kenosha, Wis., got some unpleasant news in the mail last week. In a form letter, Capital One told her the interest rate on her credit card was about to almost double—she’d been bumped up from a fixed 8.9 percent rate to a "variable rate that equals the prime rate plus 6.9 percent"—or about 15.8 percent. Schantz, who says she’s “never late with payments,” is irate. The letter blamed rising interest rates across the economy for the decision.Schantz isn’t the only American who has lately received Capital One’s letter. Blogs are teeming with postings from people complaining about sudden rate increases by the company. In a statement to NEWSWEEK, the McLean, Va.-based Capital One acknowledged that it had raised rates for “some” customers, citing “business and economic factors (a core one being rising interest rates)” and changes in the lending market.For now, consumers can dump Capital One and move their balances to...
  • Gross: The GOP's Flawed Health-Care Reform

    For some reason, Rudy Giuliani thinks you and I can do a better job negotiating for health insurance than big corporations with deep pockets. Time for a reality check on health-care reform.
  • Washington Listens to Angry Cell-Phone Users

    Hate your cell-phone company? If you answered yes (and chances are you did), just be thankful you're not one of the 175,000 customers of bankrupt Amp'd Mobile who were informed last week, by text message, "Your svc may be disconnected" in 48 hours. Or one of the Verizon users recently dropped for going over the 5 gigabyte limit on the company's "unlimited" data plan. Or one of the 1,000 Sprint Nextel subscribers let go last month for calling customer service too frequently. (A Sprint spokesperson says the company felt that since the customers still weren't satisfied after repeated calls, that "indicated they'd likely be happier using another service.") No wonder the cell-phone industry ranks among the bottom five businesses in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.But customers may be getting some satisfaction out of Washington. The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held hearings this month to discuss whether wireless companies should be regulated at the...
  • Everyone Wants It, But Not Everyone Wants to Be First

    Know how to spot an optimist? You might look for someone carrying an iPhone. Only a month has passed since Apple's launch of its first cell phone. But since then, the gadget—which costs $499 to $599 and includes a digital music player and a Wi-Fi Internet terminal—has been nitpicked by Monday-morning quarterbacks, cracked open by hackers and fallen short of some investors' expectations. First were complaints about the phone's shorter-than-expected battery life and problems activating service with AT&T, the exclusive carrier. (AT&T said only a small percentage of customers encountered problems.) Then hackers revealed security vulnerabilities in the iPhone's e-mail function and figured out how to get around paying AT&T for the use of certain features.All of which has given pause to potential buyers like Sebastian Ischer, a 30-year-old film editor in New York who now plans to wait to buy an iPhone. "I don't want to be that guy with the $600 phone that doesn't even work well...
  • Samuelson: Paying for Aging Baby Boomers

    If you haven't noticed, the major presidential candidates—Republican and Democratic—are dodging one of the thorniest problems they'd face if elected: the huge budget costs of aging baby boomers. In last week's CNN/YouTube debate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson cleverly deflected the issue. "The best solution," he said, "is a bipartisan effort to fix it." Brilliant. There's already a bipartisan consensus: do nothing. No one plugs cutting retirement benefits or raising taxes, the obvious choices.End of story? Not exactly. There's also a less-noticed cause for the neglect. Washington's vaunted think tanks—citadels for public intellectuals both liberal and conservative—have tiptoed around the problem. Ideally, think tanks expand the public conversation by saying things too controversial for politicians to say on their own. Here, they've abdicated that role.The aging of America is not just a population change or, as a budget problem, an accounting exercise. It involves a profound...
  • The Redstones: A Family Feud for the Ages

    Sumner Redstone is cranky. He's having a huge falling-out with his daughter, Shari—once considered the 84-year-old mogul's heir apparent—and it looks as if she may leave the family media empire, which controls Viacom and CBS. And the split with Shari, 53, is hardly the only conflict Sumner has had lately. His son, Brent, wiped his hands of the family business this spring after suing his dad and sister for allegedly freezing him out—settling for as much as $250 million, people familiar with the matter say. Sumner's battling a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by his nephew, who accuses him of "self-dealing" that deprived the nephew and his late sister of their stake in the Redstone enterprise. Sumner sent Tom Cruise packing from Paramount Studios, and then did the same to Viacom honcho Tom Freston. He's bickering with CBS chief Leslie Moonves over the size of the executive's compensation. And at Herbert Allen's annual mogul fest in bucolic Sun Valley this month, Redstone got into a war of...
  • Quinn: We Can Afford Universal Health Care

    Prepare to be terrorized, shocked, scared out of your wits. No, not by jihadists or dementors (you do read "Harry Potter," right?), but by the evil threat of ... universal health insurance! The more the presidential candidates talk it up, the wilder the warnings against it. Cover everyone? Wreck America? Do you know what care would cost?But the public knows the American health-care system is breaking up, no matter how much its backers cheer. For starters, there's the 46 million uninsured (projected to rise to 56 million in five years). There's the shock of the underinsured when they learn that their policies exclude a costly procedure they need—forcing them to run up an unpayable bill, beg for charity care or go without. And think of the millions who plan their lives around health insurance—where to work, whether to start a business, when to retire, even whom to marry (there are "benefits" marriages, just as there are "green card" marriages). It shocks the conscience that those who...
  • Gross: The Sinking Dollar Also Has an Upside

    Imagine waking up and finding the value of your assets has been halved. No, you're not an investor in one of those Bear Stearns hedge funds that went belly up. Welcome to London! In Britain, when Big Ben chimes 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the locals take tea—and American tourists head for the ATMs. With the dollar slumping to a 26-year low against the pound, already-expensive London has become jolly unaffordable. A macchiato at Starbucks, just as unavoidable in England as it is in the United States, runs about $8.The once almighty dollar isn't doing a Titanic against just the pound sterling. Currency analyst Ashraf Laidi of CMC Markets in New York notes that the greenback is sitting at a record low against the euro and at a 30-year low against the Canadian dollar. Even the Brazilian real and Argentine peso, the Los Angeles Clippers of currencies, are thriving against the buck. When I asked Laidi where a resident of the world's most powerful nation might find the dollar retaining some...
  • The National Capital of Real Estate Folly

    Until recently, Orange County was the New Jersey to Los Angeles' New York City. Upscale, but generally ignored, and nowhere near as chic or happening as its urbane neighbor. Television helped change the image, with glitzy offerings like The O.C., Laguna Beach, and The Real Housewives of Orange County.These shows portray the beachside O.C. as the capital of plastic surgery and extreme consumption. But inland, just over the hills, the massive planned community of Irvine has become the nation's capital of real estate folly. And that's surprising, given that Irvine is itself a result of one of the great real estate investment plays of all time.The transformation of the Irvine Ranch from a sparsely populated agricultural tract into a densely populated upscale edge city is astonishing. The Irvine Ranch's owners have amassed huge fortunes through their financial acumen. (Donald Bren is No. 27 on the Forbes 400.) Incorporated in 1971, Irvine boasts a diversified economy and superb...
  • Samuelson: The Comma's Fate

    I have always liked commas, but I seem to be in a shrinking minority. The comma is in retreat, though it is not yet extinct. In text messages and e-mails, commas appear infrequently, and then often by accident (someone hits the wrong key). Even on the printed page, commas are dwindling. Many standard uses from my childhood (after, for example, an introductory prepositional phrase) have become optional or, worse, have been ditched.If all this involved only grammar, I might let it lie. But the comma's sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can't-wait-a-minute nature of modern life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don't have time for that. No pauses allowed. In this sense, the comma's fading popularity is also social commentary.It is true that Americans have always been in a hurry. In "Democracy in America" (1840), Alexis de Tocqueville has a...
  • Gross: Foreign Companies Muscle in on U.S. Turf

    Filling up at a gas station in Pelham Manor, N.Y., the shocking thing isn't the $3.33-per-gallon price. No, it's the red LUKOIL sign atop the cinder-block building. The Russian energy behemoth, which bought Getty in 2000, has transformed hundreds of Northeast outlets into Lukoil stations (417 at current count).Americans generally display few qualms about buying foreign-made stuff. In May, imports outpaced exports by a whopping $60 billion. But we exercise more discretion with brand-name goods and services. Those that make it here tend to comport with American consumers' parochial sense of what countries are good at producing: electronics from Japan, Italian clothing, French wine. Indian luxury cars and Japanese wines are a much harder sell. Americans have also been slow to embrace imports in the immensely valuable realms of customer experiences, like retail concepts.But that's changing as globalization continues to produce ironies. Lukoil is one of several retail operations of...
  • Gross: Private Equity's Next Takeover Target?

    On the weekends, while private equity barons loll around their Hamptons estates, their lawyers, investment bankers, and junior partners hammer out deals. Every Monday brings the announcement of at least one transaction in which a private equity firm agrees to take a publicly held company off the market. This morning's example: Equipment rental company United Rentals agreed to be acquired by Cerberus for $4 billion.Traders and arbitrageurs speculate feverishly about which company will be the next target of a voracious private equity firm. (Last week, the buzz was all about Macy's, for example.) The speculation isn't random: Private equity buyers like Cerberus and the Blackstone Group seek companies with certain distinguishing characteristics. These include (but are by no means limited to) the following: a stock that has been beaten down recently, allowing the buyer to get the deal done on the cheap; an underlying business with healthy margins that generates lots of cash, which will...
  • Gross: Why There's an Ethanol Backlash

    Ethanol, the substitute for gasoline that in the United States is largely derived from corn, is hot. Statistics from the Renewable Fuels Association show that production doubled between 2002 and 2006, from 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion gallons, allowing the United States to surpass Brazil as the Saudi Arabia of ethanol. When the 86 plants under construction today are completed, American production capacity will top 13 billion gallons per year. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush called for the United States to produce 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2017.Any rapidly growing, paradigm-shifting industry is bound to engender both enthusiasm and resistance in roughly equal amounts. And the prospect of using grains, which have generally been cheap in this country, as a replacement for fossil fuels, was bound to excite hope and ruffle feathers. After all, while farmers and ethanol-plant investors will profit, companies and industries that rely on cheap...
  • Gross: When Charity Isn't So Charitable

    Sometimes it takes a brilliant, carefully crafted novel, such as Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now or Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, to capture a culture of money, ambition, and corporate avarice. And sometimes it takes just a few paragraphs, as with this 224-word article by Louise Kramer (fourth item down) in the Sunday New York Times business section, which describes a philanthropic trend at big New York law firms. Under the Chow for Charity program, now in its fifth year, summer associates at the giant law firm Simpson Thacher can elect not to enjoy a $60 per person lunch with a firm lawyer. Instead, if they choose to eat with the lawyer at a more down-scale joint and spend $15 or less each, the firm will donate the difference ($45 per person) to a nonprofit legal group like Legal Aid.How does this small piece neatly encapsulate several important trends?1. A Touch of Conscience. These days, any company that markets to or needs to hire well-educated proto-yuppies...
  • How Prison Made Steve Madden a Better Man

    Steve Madden is showing off his spring collection: gumball-colored sneakers with wedges that look like souvenirs from an acid trip. Fix, they're called, appropriately enough. "Fix?!" groans a Brooklyn shoe-store owner, whom Madden has invited to this New York trade show to critique his line. "Girls will look at them and say, 'What's wrong with me? What do I need fixed?' " Madden gives a quiet nod of his baseball-capped head. One of his employees fidgets nervously. But the store owner doesn't let up. "It's old. It's done. You need to define yourself in the marketplace."After a three-year hiatus, of sorts, Madden, 50, is doing just that—and he's not letting himself be rattled by critics. In the mid-'90s, Madden was a rock star to millions of young women who couldn't get enough of his affordable bejeweled platforms and big-toed clogs. The college dropout who'd gotten his start peddling shoes on Long Island was Manhattan royalty, holding court in his SoHo flagship and sitting courtside...
  • Barbarian No More

    The afternoon of Tuesday, July 3, was dead calm on Wall Street. The markets had closed early at 1 p.m., and traders and brokers had long since hustled off to the Hamptons. But at 5:19 p.m., KKR & Co. quietly set off its own fireworks: in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, founding cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts signaled their intention to let public investors buy into one of the nation's most lucrative businesses: their $53.4 billion private-equity firm.The filing, made 11 days after Blackstone Group became the first private-equity firm to float an IPO, signals a low-key return to the public limelight for Kravis, the 63-year-old Oklahoma-born multibillionaire who cofounded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 1976. Kravis was the enfant terrible of Wall Street during the 1980s, and his so-called leveraged buyouts of companies like Safeway and Duracell presaged today's private-equity craze. Kravis and his second wife, fashion designer Carolyn Roehm, dominated financial...
  • BlogWatch: What's Hot and What's Not

    Sports obsessives can always count on deadspin.com posts for laughs. Like a bizarre, rambling TV interview where Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury accidentally refers to his wife as "his better ho."Both "spheres"—blog and media—remain obsessed with all things Libby; talkingpointsmemo.com calls out the hypocrites among the president's defenders; corner.nationalreview.com pushes for a pardon.As summer movie attendance plunges, moviegoers have plenty of time to ponder more-pressing questions like: will "Transformers"' lead Shia LeBoeuf become a movie star? hollywood-elsewhere.com says ... nah.
  • Quinn: Washington Rolls Back Investor Protections

    Remember the "ownership society" that the administration swore to promote and protect? Remember the admiration lavished on the so-called shareholding class? You probably thought that meant you, because you invest in the stock market and own mutual funds. You would be wrong.Even with the corporate frauds of the '90s barely out of the headlines and 21st-century frauds taking over (rampant insider trading; backdated stock options for executives), your government is rolling back some investor-protection rules. It's also urging the courts to side with corporate captains against their trusting shareholders. Key people in Congress, mindful of campaign contributions, stand on the captains' side.I have three cases in point. ...
  • The Last Word: Naresh Goyal

    India is rising. and as rising nations are wont to do, it is launching airlines on global routes in pursuit of money and international glamour. The Indian entrants in this brutal market are led by Jet Airways, which begins to fly from major North American cities to Europe, Africa, China, the Middle East and to its home bases in India on Aug. 5. Chairman Naresh Goyal, who started his career as a ticket agent, founded Jet in 1993, when India began opening up its air market. Jet was India's first private domestic carrier, and is now the country's largest private airline. Goyal, one of India's 10 richest people, spoke to NEWSWEEK's Vibhuti Patel in New York about Jet's $3.7 billion expansion and the global airline business. Excerpts: ...
  • How Prison Made Steve Madden a Better Man

    Steve Madden is showing off his spring collection: gumball-colored sneakers with wedges that look like souvenirs from an acid trip. Fix, they're called, appropriately enough. "Fix?!" groans a Brooklyn shoe-store owner, whom Madden has invited to this New York trade show to critique his line. "Girls will look at them and say, 'What's wrong with me? What do I need fixed?' " Madden gives a quiet nod of his baseball-capped head. One of his employees fidgets nervously. But the store owner doesn't let up. "It's old. It's done. You need to define yourself in the marketplace."After a three-year hiatus, of sorts, Madden, 50, is doing just that—and he's not letting himself be rattled by critics. In the mid-'90s, Madden was a rock star to millions of young women who couldn't get enough of his affordable bejeweled platforms and big-toed clogs. The college dropout who'd gotten his start peddling shoes on Long Island was Manhattan royalty, holding court in his SoHo flagship and sitting courtside...
  • Sears Stock Takes a Hit on Profit News

    Sears Holdings, whose 3,800 Sears and Kmart stores make it the nation's fourth-largest broad-line retailer, surprised investors with an earnings announcement yesterday. For the first nine weeks of the current quarter, same-store sales fell 3.9 percent from last year, and quarterly profits could fall by up to 45 percent. CEO Aylwin Lewis noted that the company had been hurt by declining appliance sales (that darned housing market) and needed "to become more relevant to consumers." (That's retail-ese for our merchandise bites.) The stock plummeted about 10 percent on the news.The declining same-store sales for Kmart and Sears were nothing new, but the negative market reaction was. For the last several years, Sears Holdings, a mini-conglomerate cobbled together by hedge-fund whiz Eddie Lampert, has been a stock market darling. (Here's the stunning five-year chart.) Lampert acquired Kmart, which went bankrupt in January 2002, brought it out of bankruptcy, and used it as a platform to...
  • Moneybox: The Barneys Mystery

    Wall Street is going back to the future. This morning, news broke that a bidding war has erupted between a Japanese retailer and Dubai's state investment fund, Istithmar, over posh retailer Barneys. Last week Citigroup's London headquarters, a tower in the mega-complex Canary Wharf, sold for $2 billion.Those of us of a certain age—i.e., if you can remember listening to REM cassette tapes on a Walkman—may recall that Barneys and Canary Wharf were high-flying businesses of the 1980s that turned into major fiascos of the 1990s. History's snap judgment was that the families behind Barneys and Canary Wharf (the Pressmans and Reichmanns, respectively) had destroyed major franchises with their hubris and reckless management. When the firms filed for bankruptcy, the ideas behind their businesses—a nationwide superhigh-end clothing store in the case of Barneys, a new high-rise office center in east London in the case of Canary Wharf—were likewise deemed bankrupt.But the line separating...
  • Moneybox: The Barneys Mystery

    Wall Street is going back to the future. This morning, news broke that a bidding war has erupted between a Japanese retailer and Dubai's state investment fund, Istithmar, over posh retailer Barneys. Last week Citigroup's London headquarters, a tower in the mega-complex Canary Wharf, sold for $2 billion.Those of us of a certain age—i.e., if you can remember listening to REM cassette tapes on a Walkman—may recall that Barneys and Canary Wharf were high-flying businesses of the 1980s that turned into major fiascos of the 1990s. History's snap judgment was that the families behind Barneys and Canary Wharf (the Pressmans and Reichmanns, respectively) had destroyed major franchises with their hubris and reckless management. When the firms filed for bankruptcy, the ideas behind their businesses—a nationwide superhigh-end clothing store in the case of Barneys, a new high-rise office center in east London in the case of Canary Wharf—were likewise deemed bankrupt.But the line separating...
  • Samuelson: Finance Reform Makes for Unfree Speech

    The Fourth of July holiday makes this an apt week to reflect on one of the great underreported stories of our time: the rise of speech regulation. Glance at the First Amendment, but do not think it still applies. Large bodies of political speech are now governed by laws, agency regulations, court decisions and lawyerly interpretations. Speech has become unfree.This does not mean that we don't have vigorous debate or that most points of view aren't represented. But in and around elections, what can be said, by whom and under what circumstances, is now a tangled web of legal qualifications—all justified as campaign-finance "reform."As proof, consider the Supreme Court's recent decision in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. Don't try to understand it; you won't. That's the point. What's permissible or impermissible speech is now murky. Plain political speech has mushroomed into many subcategories—"issue speech," "electioneering communications," "express...
  • Dan Gross on Bear Stearns's Hedge Fund Bailout

    Bear Stearns has always been the pesky, streetwise, kid brother in the Wall Street family—smaller, younger (it was founded in 1923), and less polished. Bear lacks Goldman Sachs' tradition of public-minded financiers, the brand name of Merrill Lynch, the proud WASP lineage of Morgan Stanley, or the overwhelming size of Citigroup and Chase. Bear Stearns' market capitalization is a measly $21 billion, less than one-tenth that of Citigroup. CEO Jimmy Cayne isn't a Harvard MBA; he's a former scrap-iron salesman who didn't complete his studies at Purdue. Bear Stearns confirmed its outsider status in 1998 by refusing to participate in the Wall Street-orchestrated bailout of faltering hedge fund Long Term Capital Management.But now Bear Stearns has finally joined the club. Last month, facing a crisis at two large hedge funds run by its asset management unit, Bear Stearns agreed to bail out one of the funds (and its many creditors) by providing a $1.6 billion line of credit. The move,...
  • Franken-tomato!

    Finally, a genetically-modified food for the rest of us....
  • Quinn: Death and Medical Choices

    There's more reason than ever to leave written instructions about the medical care you want if you're unable to speak for yourself. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, in which her husband and parents fought over whether to remove her feeding tubes, right-to-life activists have been working on state legislatures. Their objective: requiring doctors and families to keep life support going for patients in a permanently comatose state. If that's not what you want, you need to make it clear. ...
  • Samuelson: The Cashless Society Has Arrived

    It's one of those vast social upheavals that everyone understands but that hardly anyone notices, because it seems too ordinary: the long-predicted "cashless society" has quietly arrived, or nearly so; currency, coins and checks are receding as ways of doing everyday business; we've become Plastic Nation. In the tangled history of American money—from tobacco receipts to gold and silver coins to paper money and checks—this is a seismic shift. Time to pay attention.If you visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (one operation in Washington, the other in Ft. Worth, Texas), you can still see greenbacks being made. They come off the presses in sheets of 32. In fiscal 2007, the government will print about 9.1 billion individual bills. But 95 percent is to replace worn currency, not to expand the supply. THE BUCK STARTS HERE, say signs on some printing presses. In reality, today's buck usually begins (and ends) as a mere data entry.You can use a card almost anywhere. From 1999 to...
  • Read This Really, Really Fast

    It depends on whom you ask. Are high-tech digital billboards that can change their message every few seconds a lively, promising source of ad revenue? Or are they an ugly road distraction?That debate is raging in city halls across the country as the digital-billboard industry starts to take off. In recent months, such municipalities as Atlanta; Concord, N.H.; Eden Prairie, Minn., and Des Moines, Iowa, have banned or limited the use of the signs. The Federal Highway Administration is now studying whether they threaten driver safety on interstate highways.The industry has putup about 500 signs so far, at a cost of $250,000 to $500,000 apiece. By 2017, the number of signs could grow tenfold. The signs are not the interactive, moving pictures (called "spectaculars" in the biz) seen in places like Las Vegas or Times Square. Instead, federal rules require that only static, fixed pictures can be shown on major highways, though the pictures can change every six to eight seconds. The...
  • The Most Self-Indulgent Sailboat Ever Made

    The sultans would've loved Tom Perkins and he would've felt right at home with them, at least until he decided to kick some sand in their faces when they didn't appreciate his sense of humor. It was early last summer in Istanbul. On the left bank of the Bosphorus, before the marbled splendor of the Ciragan Imperial Palace, the government of Turkey was sponsoring a feast. Ciragan was the last palace built in Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire for royal family members. It was a historic location, with a commanding view of the strait that separates Europe from Asia, and the site drew awe from any vessel passing by. On this resplendent evening, all the trappings to sate a sultan's appetite were present, though it's a good bet that Suleiman the Magnificent never saw such an ornate fountain of molten chocolate. The lamb dolma, the grilled sea bass, the chicken galantine, the baklava—washed down with Doluca reds—were to honor an American and his spectacular new sailboat built entirely in...
  • Far, Far Away From Home

    Buying a villa in Tuscany is so cliché. These days, luxury consumers want their holiday refuges to be off the beaten path.
  • Secret Habits of the Super Rich

    There are bespoke suits. And then there are bespoke books. For the mogul who truly has everything, there's something new: a custom-made autobiography. For any where from a few grand to $100,000, Myspecialbook.com, a publishing company started a few years back by wealthy Argentines, will write, design and publish a book all about anyone who can afford it. The glossy pages will be filled with beautiful photos, personal letters and other mementos, artfully laid out to illustrate a life of wealth and privilege. The text will feature quotes and anecdotes from the subject's rich and powerful friends. Milton Pedraza, director of the New York-based research firm the Luxury Institute, recalls a well-known private-equity billionaire who was recently brought to tears after receiving such a birthday gift from his wife. "It's the story of your life, told by the people who love you," he says. "Can you imagine anything more personal? That's real luxury."The luxury industry sure isn't what it used...
  • Searching for the Perfect Cleaning Technology

    Toxic cleaning solvents are being phased out, but it's not clear what will replace them. In the last installment of our small-business series about a San Diego dry cleaner, we follow its proprietor as he searches for the perfect environmentally friendly technology.