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  • Tub With A View

    Add amazing baths to the list of amenities now available at top hotels. At the Hilton Sydney, bath masters will fill your tub with Energy Sensation, a lime, mint and rosemary essential oil ($100; hiltonsydney.com.au). Or at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, try a soak with olive-oil-extract shower cream, which bathers enjoy while sipping freshly squeezed OJ ($157; hotelartsbarcelona.com).In a couple's bath at Aspen's Hotel Jerome, you and your mate can be served Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and strawberries as you luxuriate in an oversize sunken garden tub fragrant with temple-tree oil ($150; hoteljerome.com). Couples visiting the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, can soak in the romantic Second Honeymoon bath of essential oils derived from rose petals, flowers and fruit ($130; ritz-carlton.com/hotels/singapore).There's also the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong's Ultimate Champagne Bath. Surrounded by 99 roses and candlelight, guests relax in a seven-foot tub filled with Billecarte...
  • Samuelson: 'Boomsday' Is Approaching

    Cassandra Devine knows how to solve the coming "entitlements" crisis, preordained when the 77 million baby boomers begin hitting 65 in 2011: pay retirees to commit suicide, a program she calls "transitioning." Volunteers could receive a lavish vacation beforehand ("a farewell honeymoon"), courtesy of the government, and their heirs would be spared the estate tax. If only 20 percent of boomers select suicide before the age of 70, she says, "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid will be solvent. End of crisis."OK, Devine is a 29-year-old fictional blogger in Christopher Buckley's new satirical novel, "Boomsday." Infuriated at the injustices awaiting her generation, she becomes an instant media celebrity with a gift for incendiary rhetoric. "Someone my age will have to spend their [sic] entire life paying unfair taxes, just so the Boomers can hit the golf course at sixty-two and drink gin and tonics until they're ninety," she tells one TV reporter.Her plan, once in cyberspace, incites...
  • Student-Loan Secrets

    As millions of high-school seniors ripped open college-acceptance letters last week, a brewing student-loan scandal was dragging in a growing number of schools, for-profit loan companies and government officials.In recent years, while college tuitions have soared and federal funding of student grants and loans have languished, the nation's for-profit student-loan industry has exploded into an $85 billion enterprise. Competition for students' business has become so frenzied that "it's become like the Wild West," says Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.Now a growing number of complaints has prompted investigations by Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and, most aggressively, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has sent letters to 400 schools and is probing 100 institutions.Last month Cuomo announced plans to sue Education Finance Partners, a California firm, which he alleges has made illegal kickbacks to...
  • How To Market a 'Green' Business

    Though green is hot, marketing can still be a challenge for eco-friendly companies. In the third installment of our small-business series, we find out how a San Diego dry cleaner sells green on its own merits.
  • Starr: Don Imus Is Us

    There is no excuse for what Don Imus said about the Rutgers women's basketball team. There is, however, an explanation. And you probably won't like it.
  • When Tax Avoidance Crosses a Line

    Good accountants know how to save their clients money on April 15. But the demise of a respected Dallas law firm shows that some of the nation's leading tax specialists went too far.
  • Starr: Don Imus Is Us

    The fallout from Don Imus’s racist and misogynistic remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team has led to one of those periodic and quintessentially American paroxysms of disapproval, contrition and repentance. But the response of the mainstream media—and CBS radio and MSNBC, in particular—is as hypocritical as it is revealing.  [Late Wednesday, MSNBC announced that it will no longer broadcast the Imus radio show].Using stereotypes—about blacks, Jews, women, and gays and lesbians—has been a part of Imus’s act for decades. I first listened to his show when I moved to New York in 1989 as a 22-year-old writer for NEWSWEEK. His comedy skits were often the subject of water-cooler discussion, so I felt Imus was must-hear radio. But I soon discovered his blatantly racist skits made my skin crawl. His “jokes” in the 1980s and ‘90s included skits in which the radio host and his sidekicks mimicked African-American public figures with deeply offensive stereotyped voices or called them...
  • The Uranium Market Heats Up

    Deep in the snow-dusted hills along the Colorado-Utah border, George Glasier arrives to inspect the refurbishing of his Whirlwind Mine, a 3,500-foot sloping hole that is as unremarkable as it is remote. Inside, past the mine's rusted gates, Glasier's small crew has been working to shore up critical support beams left to decay after Union Carbide Corp. abandoned the operation more than 20 years ago. The work, he notes, is slow going. "Uranium has been down so low, for so long," Glasier says with a cowboy's patience, as he points to rotting wood. "Well, you just can't bring it back very fast."Refurbishing the Whirlwind Mine may take time, but the commodity Glasier is aiming to bring to the surface is blistering hot. Uranium--the natural ingredient of nuclear reactors and bombs--is back, and bigger than ever. From Namibia to New Mexico, thousands of abandoned uranium mines are being reopened as billions of dollars pour into a decrepit industry that just a few years ago was left for...
  • Embarrassing Moment for Katie Couric

    An entry from the CBS's anchor's video 'Notebook' shares some uncomfortable similarities with a Wall Street Journal column. How musings about a library led to some embarrassing moments—and the firing of a network producer.
  • Geico's Cavemen: Ready for Prime Time?

    Comedian John Lehr is a famous man, though you probably wouldn't recognize him on the street. But trick him out with a sloping latex forehead, decaying brown teeth and nearly as much chest hair as Alec Baldwin, and he's unmistakable. Yes, Lehr is the Geico caveman. Actually, he's one of three post-, post-ironic Neanderthals who sigh and snipe their way through the insurance company's hilarious and unavoidable television ads—a campaign that has helped make Geico, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the fastest-growing major car-insurance company in the nation. Since 1998, sales have jumped to $11 billion from $2.8 billion. (Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett sits on the board of The Washington Post Company, which owns NEWSWEEK.)Geico is known as much for its offbeat ads as it is for its discount auto insurance. It targets older customers with campy spots featuring aging stars—Little Richard, Charo—who knowingly play off their washed-up status. Geico's other mascot, that maddeningly...
  • Quinn: The Nasty World of Subprime Credit Cards

    In recent weeks, you've heard plenty about the sleazy side of the subprime mortgage business. Rising numbers of borrowers are losing their homes after being lured into high-cost mortgages they couldn't afford. But there's another piece of the painful subprime story that hasn't hit the headlines yet: costly—sometimes abusive—subprime credit cards. They're bleeding millions of borrowers who didn't know what they were getting into.Subprime borrowers tend to have credit scores under 660. They've missed or defaulted on payments in the past and already carry a lot of debt. But even prime borrowers, with credit scores solidly in the 700s, can slide into subprime status if they're late on a couple of payments.Subprimes come in two types: Cards that are crazily costly to begin with and cards that look good but hide big traps. You know about traps if you've paid some bills late and are now being charged with interest at 30 percent. In general, here's how the business works:The bottom-feeding...
  • Naughton: Can Detroit Go Green?

    Inside New York’s massive Javits Center this week, the world’s automakers took the wraps off shiny new cars for hundreds of automotive reporters gathered from around the globe. But outside, in a cold downpour, a pair of environmentalists in mountain-climbing gear scaled the front of the steel and glass building and hung a banner criticizing a major automaker for its gas-guzzling ways. The 15-by-20-foot banner hung on the building for 35 minutes before police arrested the protesters and pulled it down. Who was the target of these “eco-warriors?” Toyota. That’s right, the makers of Prius, who have had such a good ride lately as the top seller of gas-electric hybrids. That’s all changed, though, now that Toyota is selling a big new Tundra pickup that gulps a gallon of gas every 17 miles. The banner from the Freedom From Oil activist group showed the Tundra slicing through the planet and made a sly play on its ad slogan, “The truck that’s changing everything.” The enviros edited the...
  • Naughton: Who Will Buy Chrysler?

    Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian raised the stakes this week in the race to acquire Chrysler. His surprise $4.5 billion offer now puts pressure on the other bidders to top him. But even if the other deep-pocketed suitors offer more money, the nearly-90-year-old wheeler-dealer just might have an ace in the hole: Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan's rock-star CEO. Last year, Ghosn and Kerkorian teamed up in an unsuccessful effort to get General Motors to become the American partner in Ghosn's Franco-Japanese auto alliance. Now, Chrysler could complete the global alliance that Ghosn continues to covet, analysts say. "I would not bet against the idea," says veteran analyst David Cole of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. ...
  • One Woman's Rage Against Injustice

    It was the evening of May 23, 1992. I picked up the phone and heard that the Italian judge Giovanni Falcone was dead. A mafia bomb had destroyed Falcone's car, killing him, his wife and three of their bodyguards. The message was clear: mess with the mafia, and this is what happens. I was stunned, terrified. I thought of quitting prosecutorial work and going back to handling divorce and commercial cases. Then I began to burn with rage—against the mafia, impunity, injustice.Falcone was a fascinating and courageous man, an examining magistrate from Sicily who had waged war against organized crime and the culture of impunity that was sapping the vitality of his country. In the early 1980s, shortly after I was appointed examining magistrate in Lugano, Switzerland, I was asked to deal with one of Falcone's requests for assistance. This brought me into contact with arguably the most influential individual in my life. Over the years, I was to work with him on some of the most significant...
  • Thanks so Much for the Generous Donation. Now, if You Could Just Sign Here. And Here. And Here

    Let the bragging begin. Candidates for the White House didn't have to tell reporters how much campaign cash they'd raised until the April 15th filing deadline at Federal Election Commission. But many of the presidential hopefuls just couldn't wait. Within hours of the March 31 cutoff for first-quarter fund-raising, Hillary Clinton announced that she had raised $26 million during the first three months of the year. Add that to the $10 million Hillary already had in the bank, and she reports $36 million in receipts. Her announcement prompted just about everybody else to spill the beans, except for her top competition: Sen. Barack Obama, who is expected to release his numbers later in the week. How did everybody do? In spite of sagging poll numbers, Mitt Romney topped his GOP opponents, raising $23 million--including a $2.35 million personal loan that his aides say Romney used as seed money to kick off his campaign. Rudy Giuliani, who tops most GOP polls, raised $17 mi...
  • Trekking Not Required

    Nepal—home to eight of the world's 14 tallest mountains—may be a favorite destination for climbers and extreme adventurers. But it is also becoming increasingly popular among those who prefer Egyptian cotton sheets and caviar to sleeping bags and protein bars, and whose idea of roughing it means giving up heated towel racks. Backpackers are now being joined by "luxury trekkers," who like to put in a full day on the Himalayan trails—but want every creature comfort the moment they walk off.The Mountain Company runs trekking tours that utilize luxury lodges in Nepal's scenic Everest and Annapurna regions. Managing director Roland Hunter says luxury packages—which promise Western and local cuisine, down blankets and central heating—account for 15 percent of his business, and are growing (from $2,000 for 12 days; themountaincompany.co.uk).Ker & Downey Nepal operates its own exclusive lodges and runs tours that minimize the amount of time travelers spend on the trail so they can fully...
  • Robots: Climbing a Wall

    Even the bravest of firefighters can't relish the prospect of walking through a burning building. Robots, though, have no qualms—and now engineers are building a new generation of "Spider-Man" robots that can climb walls and walk on ceilings, acting as eyes and ears in search-and-rescue operations. Jizhong Xiao, an electrical-engineering professor at the City College of New York, has developed a one-kilogram robot that can traverse the right angle between wall and ceiling. The squat robot has a vacuum rotor in its belly that creates suction to hug the wall and wheels that drive it forward and back. The suction device works even on rough surfaces, says Xiao. "The market value for automated building inspections is huge," he says. The robot is intended to do the work of technicians who often work from suspended scaffolding, a dangerous occupation. With its high-resolution camera, it might also be used for surveillance.
  • Levy: Death to DRM?

    A new deal between Apple and EMI drops restrictive software from their songs, paving the way for better portability of digital music and improved sound quality. So why does it have to cost more?
  • Four Hours In ... Seville

    This sparkling city in the south of Spain, with its white bullring and orange trees, has rich traditions and a cosmopolitan buzz. Find the best of both:The immense Gothic cathedral, where Christopher Columbus's tomb is held aloft by four giant statues. Climb the 12th-century Moorish tower for a view of the city.Through the Real Alcázar, the royal residence of palaces and gardens built in 1364; don't miss the Ambassadors' Hall dome of gilded wood (off the Plaza del Triunfo).The new Flamenco Dance Museum in the heart of the old quarter, offering high-tech exhibits as well as exhilarating lessons (Calle Manuel Rojas Marcos, 3).Superb Andalusian food with a modern twist at ... ay, Maricrú!, an upscale bar in the Santa Cruz neighborhood. Try the toasts with brie and sweetened onions, and chocolate fondue (Pasaje de Vila, 6-Bajo)
  • Mr. Lam Rio de Janeiro

    When Brazilian mogul Eike Batista set out to staff his new Chinese eatery, he wanted the country's top cooks. But his partner, renowned chef Sik Chung Lam, persuaded him to call in ringers from Asia. Now they're running Brazil's finest—and most authentic—Chinese restaurant. ...
  • Where Would I Send My Friends?

    It would take a private detective to find Paris bureau chief Christopher Dickey's truly favorite bistros, and you might not like them anyway. So we've asked him for his second favorite Parisian restaurants (which are still pretty darned good).
  • The Best Architecture

    It has been more than 20 years since the Prince of Wales blasted a proposed addition to the National Gallery in London as "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend." Charles won that battle—the design was scrapped—but he lost the war. While he was railing, the stainless-steel Lloyds Bank building by Richard Rogers began to go up, sleek as an alien spaceship, among the stuffy office buildings in the City of London. And though the prince's taste might have given a brief boost to the postmodern design of the Thatcher era, the counterinfluence of Rogers and his cutting-edge colleagues, both in Britain and across the Channel, has only continued to grow.Today that generation of designers has become one of Europe's most visible exports. Only Frank Gehry, alone among Americans, has had a bigger impact on contemporary architecture than the Europeans—though without the global reach of a Norman Foster, whose staff of 500, headquartered in London, oversees dozens of projects...
  • Quinn: How You Can Pay for Costly Old-Age Care

    What are the odds that you'd be able to pay for long-term nursing-home care? Say, $75,000 a year or more? Would enough be left over to support your spouse at home? For that matter, how are your parents fixed—or would you have to help them out?Hard questions, but easier to answer than you might think. The majority of Americans can get Medicaid—maybe even you. Don't confuse Medicaid with Medicare. The latter, and better-known, program covers doctor and hospital bills for people 65 and up, but it won't touch long-term nursing-home bills. That's where Medicaid comes in. It's a public-welfare program for those (mostly elderly) who need custodial care but can't afford it.You might think that you won't qualify because Medicaid is designed for the poor. But for now, the nursing-home coverage is unexpectedly inclusive. Not only are middle-class people accepted, some of the affluent have squeezed in, too, thanks to attorneys who use gifts, trusts, annuities and other strategies to disperse...
  • Latino TV Gets Serious

    For viewers of the two main Hispanic TV networks in America, the big decision each night comes down to this: do we watch a telenovela (soap opera), or do we watch a ... telenovela? Consider the 9 p.m., ET, Wednesday time slot. On Univision, you can catch "Mundo de Fieras" ("Love and Cruelty"), in which evil Demián plots to destroy his twin brother. On Telemundo, there's "Zorro: La Espada y La Rosa" ("Zorro: The Sword and the Rose"), an adaptation of the classic that combines horseback chases with lots of quivering, glistening flesh. If soaps aren't your thing, tough luck.Until now, that is. A new Spanish-language network called V-me (pronounced "veh-meh," a play on "see me" in Spanish) hit the airwaves last week, promising to offer "intelligent entertainment." It's show for Wednesday at 9? "Creencias," a repurposed version of PBS's "Religion and Ethics newsweekly" that featured pieces on home schooling and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan. The network—a partnership between...
  • Desert Luxe

    Deserts may be inhospitable, but that doesn't mean the ac-commodations have to be. There's abundant luxury to be found even in the world's most arid locales. Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai sits on 140 miles of pristine golden desert. Guests can rent one of the Bedouin tent suites with a private pool. For the more adventurous, there's falconry, camel treks and horseback riding, and sand skiing in the Hajar Mountains (rooms from $950 per night; al-maha.com).For more-ecofriendly five-star luxury, Australia's Longitude 131º wilderness camp sits on a dune near Uluru-Kata Tjuta Nation-al Park, offering views of the sunset over Ayers Rock. The white-domed roofs house only 30 guests, who get a taste of Aboriginal lore through tours of the isolated area (single, $1,100; longitude131.com.au).Bahrain's new Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort houses the biggest spa in the Middle East. Guests can watch gazelles at the nearby wildlife reserve, tour the gulf country's well-preserved forts or...
  • The Power of Paper

    You've got a PC, a PDA and a cell phone. And the gadgets overwhelm you. What to do? Go retro. Buy a pen and a pad.
  • Reading Leaves

    Forget grandma's milky cuppa. Today's "infusiasts" take their tea loose-leaf, sun-dried and hand-processed. Teance, in northern California, is at the forefront of America's artisanal-tea renaissance. Choose from a menu of more than 60 white, green, black, oolong and herbal teas to sip at the heated stone bar. One favorite: the Formosa Baochong, a Taiwanese oolong tea with a lilac and gardenia fragrance ($17 for 1.5 ounces; teance.com).At TeaSmith in London, experts advise on the selection of exotic flavors from the floral to the bittersweet. Try the Phoenix Supreme oolong tea, made from the cuttings of a 500-year-old plant once reserved for Chairman Mao ($43 for 1.7 ounces; teasmith.co.uk). Le Palais des Thés, with shops throughout Paris, stocks rare blends from Asia, Africa and South America. Thé du Hammam, richly flavored in the traditional Turkish manner with rose petals and orange-flower water, comes in an Oriental silver tea caddy ($60 for 3.5 ounces; palaisdesthes.com). You...
  • Samuelson: The Enigma of Private Equity

    Pictured recently on the cover of Fortune, Steve Schwarzman is "the new king of Wall Street," says the magazine. Schwarzman heads the Blackstone Group, a big "private equity" firm. In capitalism's toolbox, private equity is the latest socket wrench. It's made many people rich. In 2006, Forbes put Schwarzman at 73 on its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, with a fortune of $3.5 billion. The question is whether private equity is good for the country.Modern capitalism is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, it's dominated by massive enterprises that tend to become high-cost bureaucracies. On the other hand, these giant firms are increasingly policed by activist shareholders—including private-equity firms—that focus single-mindedly on profits. To its champions, private equity forces companies to cut costs and improve efficiency; profits are deserved. To critics, profits flow mainly from loading companies up with debt; private equity is a sophisticated swindle that often cheats...
  • The Girl Scout Cookie Hustler

    You thought those Thin Mints you bought were just a snack? They're really a way to teach young girls about marketing (and doing good). A father explains.
  • An Investment You Can't Lick

    Ok. you're sitting around dealing with big Financial Questions. Where's the stock market going? Will your 401(k) be fat enough for you to retire on caviar rather than cat food? How are you going to pay your kids' college tuition? Forget all that small stuff. Your new Big Economic Challenge for 2007 comes down to this: should you speculate in U.S. postage stamps?Stamp speculation usually means buying collector-quality issues and seeing whether they rise in price. But starting this spring, the U.S. PostalService will offer you a new way to play the stamp market: the Forever Stamp. It's a stamp that will forever be good for mailing up to one ounce of first-class mail, no matter how high the cost of stamps rises. These new issues are scheduled for their initial public offering at about the same time the price of a first-class stamp is scheduled to rise to 41 or 42 cents—the price hasn't yet been determined—from the current 39 cents. "You just can't lick this stamp," quips Postal Service...
  • There's Still No Private Bath

    Office cubes may lack space and privacy, but put them in the air, and they're the latest in luxury. United is spiffing up its first-class seats on international flights with features that would make Dilbert look right at home.The new First Suites include on-demand digital video, movies, music and games; a 15-inch flat-screen TV; an iPod plug; a 110-universal plug for powering laptops, and a seat that folds down flat to a 78-inch bed. The suites follow similar moves by American Airlines to add "pods"—hard-shelled privacy screens—around its first- class and business-class seats, and to upgrade those spaces with many of the same features. American touts cotton duvets on its lie-flat beds.Bigger and better private seats in the front of the plane—along with long wine lists and noise-canceling headphones—are designed to appeal to business customers who travel often and pay top dollar. Funny thing is, they're the same folks who wouldn't be caught dead in an office cubicle.
  • Airbus: Headed for a Breakup

    It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Airbus was cracking open the champagne to claim victory over U.S. rival Boeing. Talk about celebrating too soon. Over the past year, the company has run through three bosses and its shares have plummeted 30 percent. Following announcements of 10,000 job cuts and several possible factory sell-offs, European unionists responded last week with spectacular strikes. At Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, 15,000 protesters marched, waving banners that asked: is there a pilot on the plane?In fact, the company has been on autopilot for the past six years. Airbus's problems stem from three long-term issues: disastrous management, a politically motivated reluctance to downsize or outsource and a failing gamble on the biggest plane in history. The troubles came to the fore last summer, when the company was forced to admit that its new megajet, the A380, had technical problems and couldn't be delivered on time, costing the company billions.Since then...
  • Quinn: Try to Relax—Enjoy the Ride

    Omigosh, what does it mean? are we in for it? A recession? Just when investments finally looked good again? How can anyone trust the market? "Frank, I told you to sell those stocks!"Cool it, friends. I don't know whether prices will be up or down by the time you read this, but the long-term case for holding well-diversified stocks is always good. True, stocks have gone nowhere for seven long years, measured from the bubble peak. But even counting the bust, Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has averaged 7.5 percent a year over the past 10 years, with dividends reinvested. That's less than its long-term average of 11.5 percent but better than bonds, Morningstar reports, and better by far than bank accounts.A slide like the one last week—down 3.5 percent in a single day—draws the doomsters out of their caves. I agree that there's plenty to growl about. Construction and manufacturing are in recession. Orders for durable goods—cars, furniture, machinery, laptops, household appliances...
  • Marketing: Ads That Greet You by Name

    Ads just got personal. Thanks to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags—scannable devices like the ones in an E-ZPass—advertisers can tailor messages to individuals. Last month, Mini USA began erecting billboards in four U.S. cities for a volunteer pilot program. When a Mini Cooper passes, the RFID in the driver's key fob is picked up, and the board displays a personalized message like, "Motor On Jim!" The Texas-based company Media Cart Holdings is set to begin testing its shopping carts—which sense RFIDs on shelves—in a handful of supermarkets. Roll by the milk section, and you may see a silent ad on the cart's digital screen for cookies. The cart will also locate items on your shopping list. "We know basically—to the foot—where these carts are in the store," says Media Cart CEO Steve Carpenter.Any mention of RFIDs raises concerns among privacy advocates, especially proposals to include the devices in ID cards. Mini and Media Cart say prior consent is obtained from all users.
  • Inside Wall Street's Computer Meltdown

    Were the computer glitches that exacerbated the downward trajectory of the market Tuesday illustrative of the dark side—the Achilles heel—of the markets' move toward more electronic trading? Or were they bumps along the learning curve—"growing pains," as one trader described them—that will ultimately lead to smoother trading?"On Tuesday at around 2 p.m., the market's extraordinarily heavy trading volume caused a delay in our trading system," explains a spokesperson for Dow Jones & Co., the media company that manages the index of 30 blue-chip stocks. For 70 minutes, a slow data feed to the Dow Jones industrial average (DJIA) calculator meant that traders were working off a slightly outdated set of numbers. When the error was caught, the system was switched to a backup server that immediately readjusted the figures—sending numbers across the board into a free-fall plunge of 178 points in a single minute."When they put the backup system in, [the market] went kerplunk," Alfred E....
  • A Strike Too Many

    Cheonju, South Korea, is thousands of miles away from Detroit. But the two cities have something in common: powerful labor unions. For nearly a year, the Korean automotive giant Hyundai has pushed to add a night shift at its plant in Cheonju to meet growing demands. But the union has repeatedly rejected the proposal. Annoyed by a 10-month backlog in orders, Hyundai management recently sent out a letter to union members warning them that if they didn't compromise, their work might go overseas. The union refused to budge. "Union members decided night shifts are bad for health," says Kim Seok, a union leader. "And our working conditions are already bad enough."In fact, with an annual salary of $60,000, Hyundai employees are among the highest-paid blue-collar workers in Korea, and make just a bit less than the average salary of their compatriots in Detroit. Hyundai, the world's sixth-largest automaker, is also plagued with many of the same problems that have driven American auto giants...
  • Global Investor: Blue Chips Are A Bargain

    It's a very odd thing. The hundred biggest capitalization stocks on the New York Stock Exchange are doing great by any measure, yet they have never been so undervalued. These blue-chip multinationals are household names like Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson, and they are surely the most intensively covered group of stocks in the whole wide investment world.Yet, if you ask me, the supposedly hyperefficient capital markets have this asset class priced way too low. And that presents a big opportunity.Consider the performance of the S&P 100. These companies have had superior returns on equity of 19.9 percent, versus 14.7 percent for the next thousand largest companies. They have stronger balance sheets, higher profit margins and are creating massive amounts of free cash flow--more than they can fruitfully spend on research and investment. They are using this surplus to retire debt, raise their dividends and purchase their own shares. Their dividend yield is roughly 2 percent, and...
  • Global Investor: Too Wealthy For Worries

    Emotions ran high at last week's meeting of G-7 finance ministers in Essen, Germany. Euro-zone officials were annoyed with their Japanese counterparts because the yen had sunk to all-time lows against the euro, signaling trouble for the Continent's exporters. Tokyo sniped that the euro was buoyed mainly by European Central Bank interest rate rises. U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson pooh-poohed Europe's charges against Japan, attributing the weak yen to market forces. But Paulson then pointed a finger at Beijing for not revaluing fast enough. In other words, everyone was mad at everyone else.You would have thought that Wall Street, the City of London, and other financial centers would have paid more attention to the fireworks. After all, currency tensions can be an early warning of broader troubles. In the late 1980s, for example, squabbling among the United States, Japan and Germany over the relative values of the dollar, yen and D-mark was a precursor to the 1987 global stock...
  • The Stubborn Welfare State

    Spend a moment studying the small charts below. They illuminate why another of our annual budget battles--begun last week, when President Bush submitted his 2008 proposal--seems so fruitless and (yes) repetitious. Every year we hear complaints about accounting gimmicks and unrealistic assumptions. There's a ferocious cross-fire of charges and countercharges. Hardly anything ever gets resolved. Budgets almost always remain in deficit (41 out of 47 years since 1960).The charts show the rise of the American welfare state. In 1956, defense dominated the budget; the cold-war buildup was in full swing. The welfare state, which is what "payments to individuals" signifies, was modest. Now everything's reversed. Despite the war in Iraq, defense spending is only a fifth of the budget; so-called entitlement payments to individuals are 60 percent--and rising. In fiscal 2006, the federal government spent almost $2.7 trillion. Social Security ($544 billion), Medicare ($374 billion) and Medicaid (...
  • 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...
  • Winter High: Hotels On Top Of The World

    The best way to feel on top of the world is to stay there. Mountaintop resorts may be tough to reach, but the views alone make them worth the trek. In Morocco, the road less traveled to Kasbah du Toubkal--at the foot of North Africa's highest peak--begins with a donkey ride up a rocky, winding path in the snow. Your wake-up call consists of drumbeats from the Berber villages on neighboring mountains (from $545 for a suite; kasbahdutoubkal.com ).The only way to get to Canada's Sentry Mountain Lodge is by helicopter. There are just four rooms, so privacy is ensured. And a personal chef is on hand to cook all meals. Adventurers eagerly head out onto untouched powder, ski down partway and then climb back up--no helicopters or lifts. "If you can believe it, people clamor to walk up," says skier Tim Grey ($2,400 per person, per week; sentrymountainlodge.com ). Conceived as a base camp for mountain climbers, Chile's Explora Salto Chico (from $2,170 per person for four nights; explora.com )...
  • Corporate Confidant

    When Jack Welch ran General Electric, every so often he'd schedule an appointment with a man named Ram Charan. They'd sit in Welch's corner suite and spend a couple of agenda-less hours talking about business, people and the world. Charan is a management consultant, but these meetings--like Charan's chats with dozens of other CEOs--were unlike most interactions between consultants and executives. Charan presented no PowerPoint presentation and kept no team of M.B.A.s standing ready to implement his advice. Instead, he just offered informal wisdom about how to improve companies--and even bosses as overscheduled and impatient as Welch routinely have made time to listen. "I'm a huge admirer," Welch told NEWSWEEK, describing Charan as unusually adept at helping companies import "best practices" from other firms. "Ram is an incredibly effective sponge--he's always learning, and he keeps confidences ... People just like to listen to what he's saying."It's a unique way of earning a living,...
  • Leadership Q&A: Vernon Jordan

    During more than 40 years in public life, Vernon Jordan has headed the United Negro College Fund, led the Urban League, been a confidant to U.S. presidents, served on various corporate boards--and most recently, advised President George W. Bush as a member of the Iraq Study Group. In the latest in his series of interviews as part of the NEWSWEEK-Kaplan M.B.A. program, NEWSWEEK Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Richard M. Smith spoke with Jordan, who is senior managing director at the investment bank Lazard Freres. Excerpts: ...
  • Fashionably Connected

    Prada doesn't take cell phones lightly. Although the gadgets have long been considered fashion accessories, the Milan-based company, known for its clothes, handbags and shoes, has stayed out of the business because of all the ugly hardware--the buttons, knobs, switches and keypads--which screams "utilitarian," a quality no fashion house wants its brand associated with. But about a year ago, Prada found that LG's touch-screen technology has gotten good enough to replace the unsightly protuberances altogether.The result of that yearlong collaboration is the Prada Phone, a slim, smooth and sleek device due out in Europe later this month for a whopping $780. Prada executives don't want you to think for a minute that the Prada Phone is just another phone that looks good on the ear, like Samsung's E500 Versus, a Versace-branded clamshell, or the Dolce & Gabbana numbered limited edition Gold Phone V3i, or any of many fashion-branded cell phones introduced in the past year. "This is the...
  • Seeing Clearly

    Need a clear plastic bag to get through airport security? From Prada to Pucci, transparent totes are all the rage. Chanel's Naked bag--easily see-through with a silver strap--is "much more chic than a plastic Baggie," says Neiman Marcus's fashion director Ken Downing ($895; chanel.com ). Oscar de la Renta boasts a variety of styles, from patent-leather-trimmed to a mini makeup case ($350 to $895; oscardelarenta.com ). Fendi offers the stylishly mysterious B. Mix Hologram bag that uses an intricate hologram in its plastic that makes peeking hard $1,580; fendi.com ). Prada's Plexi-Tote, with vibrant reds and yellows, makes a perfect beach bag when summer arrives ($1,250; prada.com ). Just make sure that you don't have anything to hide.
  • Can A $100 Laptop Change The World?

    The green and white gizmo is not much bigger than a clutch purse, but when you extend its plastic bunny-ear antennas and flip it open, clamshell style, the screen is colorful and welcoming, ready to network or create. It's even got a video camera and social networking software? It's the $100 (or so) laptop and its proud parent, the founder of the nonprofit One Laptop per Child, Nicholas Negroponte, believes it is within his sights to equip millions of developing-world children with these gadgets, paid for by governments and grants. NEWSWEEK caught up with the former head of the MIT Media Lab and best-selling author in Germany last month. ...
  • Get Me Agent 99!

    Your shoes know where you've been, but they haven't been talking. That now may change, thanks to new athletic shoes from Miami-based designer Isaac Daniel. The Compass Sneaker comes with an embedded GPS tracking device, a satellite-service hookup and a panic button wearers can push if they're in trouble and need to be found. The sneakers go for $335 a pair, plus $20 a month for the GPS service. Daniel has sold 1,850 pairs off his Web site, isaacdaniel.com , in little more than a month, and is starting to take orders internationally. He's been focused on sales to the military and police, but is finding a market with relatives of autism and Alzheimer's sufferers.These shoes aren't made for casual tracking. To limit searches to serious cases, the firm won't allow spouses or parents to locate relatives unless local police OK the search. To find a person wearing the shoes, a family member has to call Daniel's monitoring firm, ID Connex, where an operator will notify the police and look...
  • Europe's Fallen Angels

    It's no secret that emerging markets have had an easy ride for the last few years, as the search for double-digit profit margins has pushed investors into riskier areas. Foreign direct investment in developing countries reached $542 billion in 2005, up 37 percent year-on-year. The numbers are stellar, so much so that many economists have begun taking bets on which country will be the first to falter. But instead of the usual suspects in Asia or Latin America, many experts are pointing to Eastern Europe. There, states like Poland and Hungary, long buffered by their EU membership, are in danger of losing their economic halos as a combination of populist governments, reform fatigue and chronic overspending threaten their prosperity. As Neil Shearing, an analyst at London-based Capital Economics, puts it, "All the dynamics are there for a complete meltdown."You wouldn't guess it at first glance. The four biggest economies to join the EU in 2004--the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and...