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  • 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...
  • How I Became A Big Wheel

    It was supposed to be a hobby--just a part-time thing to generate a little extra money. We didn't think we could make a living at it. I thought I would work at IBM for 30 years and retire, just as my father had. At that point I had only seven to go. The dot-com bust began in early 1999, about the same time we launched Unicycle.com. The odds seemed stacked against us. Online companies were folding. We had no experience running a company. Amy was an at-home mom to our three boys. I had just earned a degree in journalism by attending college at night. We were deeply in debt.Without telling Amy, I scraped together $700 to buy a business license and six unicycles. I'd been riding a unicycle since the age of 12, but quit four years later when I started driving. At 41, having gained a pound per year since high school, I was anxious to get trim. Diets didn't work for me. I tried running but my hips protested. Swimming only increased my appetite. I took my old unicycle out of storage and...
  • Concierge Impostors

    He's downstairs at the desk, and he looks and sounds like the hotel concierge. He even made your dinner reservations and got your clothes cleaned. But he, or she, may not be a concierge, but a ringer: a ticket broker whose company pays the hotel to let him pretend to be.Outsourcing concierges is becoming popular, especially at midtier hotels. Workers from outside companies like Expedia wear hotel uniforms and do all that traditional concierges do. Those in the industry differ on whether that's a good thing. Howard Lefkowitz, president of Vegas.com, which staffs the desks at Las Vegas hotels like Excalibur and Bally's, says outsourcing gives guests better service. But contract concierges aren't allowed to join les Clés D'or, the professional association of concierges. A spokesman says ringers have a conflict if they get a cut of the tickets and services they recommend.Of course, many old-line concierges take free meals, too. How else would they know where to send you?
  • Time To Bust Up The Club

    On the face of it, he's a most unlikely free-marketeer. A card-carrying socialist, Thilo Sarrazin is Finance minister for the city of Berlin, whose government includes the successor party of the former East German communists. But bankrupt Berlin needs cash, and Sarrazin is determined to get it. So determined, in fact, that he's preparing to break one of Germany's longest-standing political and economic taboos--by selling off Landesbank Berlin, the city's public-owned bank, for some €8 billion.Ho-hum? Not in Germany. The move has sent a tremor through one of the coziest clubs in the land--the state-owned banks that control almost half the country's banking assets. Germany may be Europe's largest economy, home to some of the world's most successful companies, yet the basic structure of its banking system is unchanged since the 1800s--fragmented, inefficient, cosseted from competition. In Berlin's Landesbank sale, some see the coming of a whole new era, freeing up hidden wealth and...
  • 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,"...
  • 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...
  • Global Investor: Why Worry, Wall Street?

    For several months, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and a number of top guns on Wall Street have been screaming that U.S. capital markets are losing their competitiveness to London and Hong Kong. Two months ago their claims received support from a study by some of America's most highly respected financiers and academics. In mid-January, McKinsey & Co., focusing on New York City in particular, delivered a report to Mayor Michael Bloomberg also bolstering Wall Street's fears. Now the U.S. Treasury plans to host a conference on the subject this spring. You have to give credit to the American financial community for orchestrating this crusade with such persistence. But the fact is, the bankers have a very flimsy case. They are too smart not to know that, so you have to wonder what's really going on.Their central argument rests on the decline in the number of initial public offerings in the United States and the simultaneous growth of such listings abroad. This is undeniable,...
  • Steven Levy: Microsoft’S Slick New Vista

    Last night the giant billboards of Times Square lit up with the long-overdue news: Vista, Microsoft's endlessly awaited new version of the Windows operating system, is finally on sale to consumers. CEO Steve Ballmer and chairman Bill Gates both contend that it's the best operating system that Microsoft has ever produced. That's not necessarily so impressive: after five years and billions of dollars of development (including five million beta testers pounding on prototypes of the system) it would be pretty shameful if Microsoft turned in something worse than one of its Windows predecessors. But Gates and Ballmer can rest easy on that count. While the operating system is not the "wow" generator that its marketing campaign promises, it is definitely an improvement over the Windows of yore.If you are a Windows user, the question is not whether you will use Vista, but when: a solid majority of people will not upgrade their machines to run Vista but will get the system when they buy a new...
  • The Internet Trembles

    In 1866, the British ship Great Eastern lowered a grappling hook by rope down to the frigid Atlantic Ocean floor far below. Its quarry: a line that had snapped the previous year during one of the first attempts to lay a transatlantic cable connecting the United States with Europe. One hundred and forty years later, repair ships are performing the same task, using essentially the same methods, in the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines. They're trying to snag at least six cables that were damaged in a massive Dec. 26 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan. The mangled cables are out of reach of remotely controlled submersibles often used in such work. By the latest estimates, the task won't be finished until at least mid-February.While the earliest transatlantic lines bore messages in Morse code, the cables near Taiwan carried 90 percent of East Asia's voice and Internet traffic. A month after the earthquake, services in the region were still not back to their full capacity....
  • Low Cost, Long Hop

    Tony Fernandes comes across as slightly cocky. But then the 42-year-old has earned the right to be. In five short years he's transformed air travel in South East Asia, and if his latest gamble pays off he'll soon be shaking up the aviation scene worldwide. This month, he announced the launch of Air Asia X--sister carrier to his Malaysia-based Air Asia--which aims to apply the budget airline's short-haul business model to transcontinental flights. "There's a real yearning to go further both from Europe and China down to Malaysia and vice versa," Fernandes says. "So over the last year and a half we've been exploring to see whether there's a product that will [apply] the principles of low-cost carriers to this new airline."Come July, Air Asia X plans to launch its inaugural service between Kuala Lumpur and the United Kingdom with roundtrip fares starting at around $80 for early bookings. The plan is a network of budget routes linking Asia to Europe and eventually North America. Nor is...
  • Escape From The Money Pit

    This could be your magic moment to save some serious money. The mortgage you chose during the heady housing boom may soon cost you more per month than you really need to pay. On home-equity loans, rates are up by 4 or 5 percentage points--far from the supercheap money you expected when you first signed up.The tooth fairy probably made your problem worse. Buyers thought they could tuck their home values under their pillow at night to double while they slept. In that kind of dream, there's no such thing as a risky loan. But the tooth fairy has been missing in action for more than a year. If you made a bad mortgage choice, you'll have to unwind it yourself.Two types of mortgages need special attention. First, the "interest only" loan, where you're paying the interest but not reducing the debt itself. And second, the "option ARM" that allows you to pay even less than the interest due (any unpaid amounts are added to your loan, so your debt rises over time). You usually have to start...
  • The Insurance Climate Change

    During the nine years she's lived in her historic sea captain's house on Cape Cod, Mass., Paula Aschettino never filed a claim against her homeowner's insurance policy. But last year she received a letter from her insurer, Hingham Mutual Group, canceling coverage on her nine-room, $600,000 oceanfront home, which has withstood its share of hurricanes since 1840. She and her husband, Michael, scrambled to find other insurance but were repeatedly denied. "They just said we are in a high-risk area," she says. A spokesman for Hingham, which canceled 9,000 Cape Cod policies, says that the company's own coverage--known as "reinsurance"--had doubled in the past year, making it necessary to withdraw from the coastal market.The Aschettinos finally found other insurance, but only for nearly double their old premium of $1,800, and with a sky-high deductible of $12,000 against wind damage. Incensed, Aschettino circulated a petition among her neighbors demanding price reform from industry...
  • Software Savior?

    When you think of technology visionaries, Hasso Plattner's name probably doesn't spring to mind. But it should. As the founder of the German company SAP, the world's third largest software maker after Microsoft and Oracle, Plattner has been every bit as influential as better-known peers like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Back in the 1980s and '90s, he and a few other former IBM engineers started doing for companies what Microsoft did for consumers--providing easy-to-use software that was accessible on desktop computers. It was a paradigm shift that changed the way corporations worked. Today, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of the world's business transactions--inventory, accounting, human resources and the like--runs on SAP software, depending on whose estimates you believe. SAP was also important as a symbol: It proved that "slow Europe" could actually be an innovator in the digital age.Now Europe's software giant is at the heart of another shift, as the rise of the Internet turns the...
  • Q&A: Corning's Comeback Ceo

    At many companies, Wendell Weeks might've been fired. In2001, Weeks was running Corning's fiber-optics business when the telecom market went bust. But instead of becoming the fall guy, Weeks managed through the sales drop--and in 2005, Corning's board promoted him to CEO. In the latest installment of a series of leadership interviews conducted for the Kaplan University-NEWSWEEK M.B.A. program, NEWSWEEK Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Richard M. Smith spoke with Weeks about Corning's turnaround: ...
  • My Turn: Why Different Is Better

    The incoming CEO of a global mining company says being an extroverted outsider has helped her advance. Being a woman who loved the sciences didn't hurt, either.
  • Wii Plays Hard To Get

    If a man is known by the company he keeps, Tom Lee must be one heckuva guy. At the height of last year's shopping season, friends from California to England were diligently checking store after store to find the 26-year-old Washington, D.C., software developer the one thing he truly wanted for Christmas: a Nintendo Wii. And since Lee refused to pay the eBay markup (typically double the $250 list price), the global hunt stretched into December with no hope in sight. Then his friend and fellow D.C. resident Sommer Mathis, a 26-year-old documentary filmmaker, scored one of a handful of units remaining from a resupply at the Nintendo World store in New York City. "He was thrilled," says Mathis, "and he promised to shower me with favors over the coming year."Yet while Lee and his friends revel in the console's simple pleasures, many Wii seekers have been left in the cold. Sony's cutting-edge Playstation 3 was widely expected to be last year's Christmas craze. But when the Wii--as white...
  • Global Investor: Off The Radar: The No. 1 Risk

    Earlier this month I spent several days in Singapore meeting with government and business executives for a Yale project to identify key trends in Asia. It was fascinating for what I heard, and what I did not hear.With most of the emerging markets in the region entering their fifth year of an economic boom, it is no surprise that sentiment is bullish. There is an acknowledgment of possible risks, such as pandemics or North Korean nukes. The rise of China and India fall somewhere in between. Reactions range from enthusiasm about taking advantage of the new dynamism these giants are bringing to Asia to some apprehension that Beijing and New Delhi could over time monopolize capital, trade and technology. What surprised me most, however, was how little was said about the United States--about the opportunities that it will bring in the future or the risks its policies pose.I have a theory: The biggest risk in the world economy today, for Asia especially but for everyone else too, is the...
  • Taming To-Dos

    It's true-confession time: how many messages are in your in box? How often do you check your e-mail? And just how many items did you check off your to-do list today? For many of us, the answers are "too many," "too often" and "not enough." There has to be a better way--and productivity blogger Gina Trapani is here to help. For the past two years Trapani has edited Lifehacker.com, a Web site owned by Gawker Media that offers advice designed to help people work smarter. This month she joined the blogger-turned-author brigade by publishing "Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tips to Turbocharge Your Day" ( Wiley, $24.99 ). The book includes tricks to automatically back up hard drives, optimize to-do lists, construct and remember passwords, filter e-mail and make better use of search engines--just a few of the methods Trapani believes can help desk jockeys cram more into the average workday. "My focus is ... to automate tasks to make things easier, to free up your head to think about important things,...
  • The Big Power Shift

    The official theme for last year's World Economic Forum in Davos was "The Creative Imperative." But chitchat in the hallways and hotel suites of the glittery Swiss resort centered on the rise of China and India as the century's new superpowers. As the world's top bankers, CEOs, think tankers and statesmen gather once again for Davos 2007, it raises the question: what will the assembled movers and shakers actually be talking about?Don't anticipate a rehashing of the already tired idea that power is geographically shifting from West to East. (If it is.) Instead, expect talk to focus on the way power is slipping its traditional institutional bonds--from the domain of nation-states and megacorporations, say--and into the hands of the masses. From the few to the many, in other words, thanks to the accelerating digital revolution. "When we say 'the shifting power equation'," says Jonathan Schmidt, director of the World Economic Forum, "what we mean is that power has dispersed." Think...
  • Balmy Biking

    Now you can stay warm and manage to still look hot riding your Vespa this winter. Tucano Urbano, the leader in moped and motor-cycle accessories, has just added a line of fur- and cashmere-lined faux-zebra or -leopard leg aprons that recycle air from the radiator in order to keep you warm ($200 to $800; tucanourbano.it ). Dainese has introduced a black waterproof overcoat for women that actually makes reflective striping look glamorous (from $400; dainese.it ). And Italian headwear manufacturer Borsalino is offering a fur-lined helmet, the Lapin, complete with silk-covered neck strap (from $450; borsalino.com ). Not to be outdone, Prada is coming out with a gazelle-fur-covered helmet. It's available only by special order (about $3,000; prada.com ). Now keep your eyes on the road. -Barbie Nadeau
  • Edible Cotton

    If it weren't poisonous, cotton would make a terrific food. Its seeds are rich in high-quality protein, and the plant is hardy. Nearly 80 countries produce 44 million metric tons a year. That's enough to feed 500 million people--if only it weren't for gossypol, a toxic chemical.Now, after trying to develop gossypol-free cotton for several years, Keerti Rathore, a biologist at Texas A&M University, has finally managed to produce a strain that he says could meet the World Health Organization's standards for food. "We have brought down the level of gossypol in the seed."The trick was to silence the gene that's responsible for producing gossypol in the seeds of the plant, but to allow the gene to produce the substance in the flowers and leaves. Scientists will have to study the new seeds extensively, so the plant won't be ready to be used as food for at least a decade. And remember: don't make a salad from the leaves.
  • A Single Piece Of Plastic...

    A single piece of plastic could revolutionize the delivery of vaccinations worldwide, according to U.K.-based Cambridge Consultants, who recently unveiled Conix One, a tiny inhaler that has no moving parts, costs only four cents to manufacture and is 40 percent more effective than traditional inhalers. It will be a while before the powder-form medications get government approval, but once they do, millions could be saved--in dollars and lives.
  • Mr. Clean

    A decade ago, when Gordon Shaw first considered making the switch from his successful chemical-based dry-cleaning operation to a more environmentally friendly, pressurized liquid carbon dioxide (C02) cleaning system, virtually everyone told him he was crazy. "I'm a businessman first, but I've always been an environmentalist at heart," he says. "I wanted to do something that would make me feel better about my work, I wanted to make a difference in my lifetime, for both people and the planet. But everyone told me it would never work."Shaw had used the chemical solvent perchloroethylene, better known as perc, since he started his San Diego dry-cleaning business in 1978. Perc has been the industry standard since the late 1930s, when Dow Chemical and other manufacturers introduced it as a replacement for the flammable hydrocarbon and smelly hydrocarbon solvents. But in the back of his mind he always wondered about the possible toxicity of perc, and at a dry-cleaning trade show in Orlando...
  • The King Of HDTV

    John Malone Built A Cable Empire That Changed Television Forever. Now He's Trying To Repeat The Feat With A High-Definition Satellite-Tv Dynasty.
  • The Politics Of Symbolism

    Fulfilling their promise, democrats in the House have voted to raise the minimum wagefrom its current $5.15 an hour to $7.25 by 2009. But before you count the big gains for low-income families, consider this fact: among the poorest fifth of U.S. households (their 2005 incomes: less than $19,178), only one in seven actually has a full-time, year-round worker. About 60 percent have no worker at all, says the Census Bureau. The rest have part-time or part-year workers. A higher minimum wage won't help most of these households, which consist heavily of single parents and the elderly.Among social scientists, it's no secret that the minimum wage is a weak weapon against poverty. Modest numbers of workers are affected; a lot are teenagers, often from middle-class homes; and many of the poor don't work. And a higher minimum may destroy some jobs. No matter. Democrats plunged ahead because raising the minimum wage is symbolically powerful. It says that you care about "economic justice."This...
  • Buddhist Economics

    Thailand's finance minister, Prodiyathorn Devakula, said the new rules were meant merely to "close loopholes." But that's not how foreign business leaders saw it last week, when he briefed them in Bangkok on plans to revise the country's investment restrictions. They viewed the move as starkly protectionist, according to one participant. In the tense discussion that followed, the visitors peppered the minister with pointed questions, warning that the measures could be challenged at the World Trade Organization. "There's a fundamental philosophical gap," said the source. "It became obvious we were getting nowhere."When Thai generals toppled the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra last Sept. 19, they did so in the name of halting the turmoil that had gripped the country for the last year. But though the daily street demonstrations may have ended, the euphoria that followed Thaksin's fall has now been replaced with a sense of profound confusion. The return to normalcy promised by...