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  • 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...
  • Global Investor: Why Bears Are Wrong

    It was a good year for world equity markets. most major indexes were up in the mid-double digits, and many emerging markets did even better. Some investors (including yours truly) expect this year to be more of the same. So, why are so many pros so cautious about 2007? Legendary investors such as George Soros, Julian Robertson and Jeremy Grantham are downright bearish. Wall Street strategists David Rosenberg of Merrill Lynch and Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley are all muttering impending gloom and doom. Hedge funds, supposedly the best and the brightest, have kept their net long positions at very moderate levels and have not chased the current rally.Many of the best economists are no cheerier. Jim Walker, the highly regarded "Austrian school" thinker for CLSA, the Asia-focused brokerage house, looks for growth to slow precipitately in China and America, while much of the rest of the world slips into recession, resulting in substantial earnings disappointments.Treasury bond yields...
  • Models: A Big Step to the Left

    It's hardly surprising that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet didn't take them seriously at first. They were just a bunch of chiquillos --kids--decked out in their black-and-white high-school uniforms complaining about the quality of education. But those "kids" are part of a new generation that has grown up free of the repressive 17-year dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.Coordinating protests through e-mail, blogs and cell phones, they turned out for three weeks last June--an estimated one million of them--to boycott classes, close schools and clash with police in the largest student movement in Chile's history. Their "Penguin revolution," as it came to be called, rocked a complacent establishment and focused a spotlight not only on education but on the 12th worst income gap between rich and poor among countries worldwide. By the end of the year, the protests had spread to strikes by workers at hospitals and schools, and Bachelet was aggressively pushing an agenda of...
  • Netting Friends Online

    Like millions of teenagers around the world, Sue Bloom spends several hours socializing online every day. She posts pictures, meets new friends, updates her blog and runs a popular online photography group with almost 500 members. The only thing is, Bloom isn't a teenager or a twentysomething college student--she's a 58-year-old art historian. And the brand-new site where she hangs out, Eons.com, is for baby boomers (and older) only: you have to be at least 50 to join. "Social-networking sites are wonderful for people of my generation," says Bloom, who lives in Maryland. "We've always been really social, and they're all about developing a community."Forget teen haunt Xanga and college-student staple Facebook. Online social networking isn't just for youngsters anymore. Of course, only 1 million of the more than 215 million social networkers regularly active today are older than 50. But by the end of the year that number could explode to 20 million, says a new study from global...
  • A Great ' 06. Now for ' 07.

    HOME VALUES SINKING. OIL PRICES SCARY. DEBT MOUNTAIN-HIGH. IRAQ AFIRE. Gotta sell stocks and crawl into a hole, right? Wrong, as it turned out. I just quoted some of the headlines of 2006, which, after a bumpy start, turned into a great year for almost every investor. The only way to lose money was flipping condos in Miami. Stocks scored big.What juiced returns? Sensational corporate profits and a global expansion that isn't over yet. Most economists expect slower growth in 2007, along with lower profit margins, but no recession. Historically, stocks have done just fine in years like that. Inflation eases, interest rates fall and stock-market valuations rise. Politics helps, too: stocks perform well in the third year of presidential-election cycles--in fact, they've never had a loss. Here's the '06 rundown, and some thoughts about '07: ...
  • Steven Levy: Apple Computer Is Dead; Long Live Apple

    Apple Computer Incorporated is no more. On Jan. 9, CEO Steve Jobs announced that the name he and Steve Wozniak gave to their new business 30 years has changed. It will now be called simply Apple Inc. Jobs had deleted the word “computer” with the same ruthlessness that he once used to deny cursor keys to the original Macintosh, and an on/off switch to the iPod.It was no coincidence that Jobs revealed this on the day that he unveiled the iPhone, Apple’s long-awaited entry into the mobile marketplace. The device further broadens the scope of the company once known primarily for making things with keyboards. It also enhances Apple’s legacy for swooping into a creatively moribund category and upending the established players with a level of style and innovation that has seemed beyond their grasp.During Jobs’s keynote address at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco on Tuesday—a seamless two-hour infomercial that mesmerized 4,000 people, some of whom had waited all night for a seat—he...
  • Driving Forces: Driving Through the Looking Glass

    Greetings from the Alice in Wonderland Auto Show in Detroit. On one end of this city’s aging conference center, General Motors, maker of the hulking Hummer, is generating buzz with its 150-miles per gallon hybrid electric concept car, the Chevy Volt . At the other end, Toyota, best known for its gas-sipping Prius, has rolled out an enormous pickup truck that will guzzle a gallon of gas every 17 miles or so. The car business, it seems, has driven through the looking glass.As strange as all this sounds, 2007 is the year of role reversals in the car business. After all, this is the year when most analysts figure Toyota will overtake GM to become the world’s largest automaker. But GM—emboldened by signs of a nascent comeback—isn’t conceding. “We’re not giving up just because somebody got a calculator for Christmas and worked some numbers,” says GM CEO Rick Wagoner. “This is going to be a dogfight.” Toyota, meanwhile, is so worried about a patriotic backlash from U.S. consumers that it...
  • Honda Primes the Pump

    Falling gas prices have taken some of the steam out of hybrid car sales lately. But you wouldn’t know that from all the buzz about hybrids at the opening day of the Detroit Auto Show. First, GM introduced its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid concept . And then Honda CEO Takeo Fukui revealed in an interview with NEWSWEEK that his company is developing an all-new small hybrid car that he described as a five-passenger version of its quirky two-seater, the Insight gas-electric car. But unlike the Insight, which sells in small numbers to die-hard greenies, Fukui says this new Honda hybrid will be aimed at mainstream car buyers when it hits the road in two or three years. “Hybrid technology is very strong and proven technology for improving fuel economy,” he says. “And we won’t relent in our efforts.”For Honda, this new hybrid could finally be the answer to the megawatt popularity of the Toyota Prius, which controls more than half the market for hybrids in the U.S. Even though the Honda Insight...
  • The New Generation

    India's rise as an economic power is known the world over, thanks largely to the global ambitions of its biggest corporations. But names like Infosys, Tata and Reliance aren't necessarily as important to India's future as modest firms like Acme Tele Power Ltd. It sounds a bit like a store you might find on Main Street in Peoria, but one look at the numbers belies this association. Acme has a profit margin of 33 percent on 2006 revenues of $300 million, which have risen more than 3,000 percent in four years. Acme makes energy-efficient sheds that protect cell-phone relay stations, but its 32-year-old founder Manoj Upadhyay is plowing most of that profit into R D, and files for a new patent about once a month. "He is poised to grow exponentially," says Sandeep Ghosh, director of commercial banking for Citigroup India. "If only one of Upadhyay's new ideas comes off, it's going to be fabulous."Acme is part of a new wave of small, entrepreneurial firms that are rising in the wake of the...
  • Running Out of Time

    When South Korea reopened its lucrative beef market to the United States in late October, ending a nearly three-year ban stemming from the outbreak of mad-cow disease, American beef exporters were upbeat. After all, beef sells for three times more in Korea than it does in the United States. Their joy was brief. Korean quarantine inspectors sent back the first three shipments on the grounds that they were in violation of an agreement restricting imports only to U.S. beef that is free of bones. After a painstaking search of the 22,000-kilogram shipment, the inspectors unearthed 11 pieces of bone, each smaller than a bean....
  • Let the Good Times Roll

    Ten years ago, when the "big bang" hit London, a burst of deregulation reversed years of stagnation in the markets and propelled the City to become one of the world's biggest and most vibrant financial centers. When we look back on 2007, there is a good chance that it will be remembered as the year of the global big bang, ushering in a new boom in financialdeals from mergers to buyouts to IPOs, in unprecedented numbers and scale, with a quantum expansion of deals across national borders. Whether this phenomenon lasts or whether it ends in a collapsing financial universe --well, that's another question.The first flares of the global big bang are already visible. The world's biggest IPOs are coming out of China, such as the recent $350 billion underwriting deal for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and more are on the way. David Vinar, Goldman Sachs's CFO, says that the firm's pipeline of deals is bigger than at any time since the height of the Internet boom. David...
  • The Economic Mega-Worry

    The start of a new year is a good time to take stock, and there are few better indicators of our long-term economic prospects--and also our prospects for political and social peace--than productivity. As anyone who's taken basic college economics should know, productivity is simply jargon for efficiency. It's also what most people think of as economic progress. The good news is that productivity has been growing strongly; the bad news is that it may slow down.To see why that matters, consult a fascinating government report, "100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending." A century ago, Americans spent 43 percent of their incomes on food and another 14 percent on clothing. By 2002, those shares were 13 percent and 4 percent. Meanwhile, family incomes (after inflation) had tripled. Filling the spending gap are all the things we take for granted--cars, TVs, travel, telephones, the Internet. Home ownership has zipped from about 20 percent to almost 70 percent of households.This triumph of mass...
  • Morality vs. Money

    When the French police arrested two Austrian on-line-gambling executives on September 15, they did it in the name of protecting France from "the explosion of money games in a heedless manner." Indeed every recent state move to crack down on online gambling, from the United States to Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, has followed the same moral argument: it's all about saving our people from the sins of gambling.The problem is that all of these countries allow licensed gambling at home, and in some cases are promoting its expansion very aggressively. So what's it really about? In recent months the EU has launched proceedings against all these nations (except of course the United States) for protecting national monopolies in violation of EU laws guaranteeing free movement for goods and services.Gambling may be the world's most tightly regulated industry. But the result in virtually all cases is a business that flowers in chosen places precisely...
  • Samuelson: Let's Not Hide Health Costs

    We are awash in health-care proposals. President Bush has one. So does California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has a plan, as does a coalition led by Families USA (a liberal advocacy group) and America's Health Insurance Plans (a trade group). To some extent, all these plans and others aim to provide insurance to the estimated 47 million Americans who lack it—a situation widely deplored as a national disgrace. But the real significance of all these proposals, I submit, lies elsewhere.For decades, Americans have treated health care as if it exists in a separate economic and political world: when people need care, they should get it; costs should remain out of sight. About 60 percent of Americans receive insurance through their employers; to most workers, the full costs are unknown. The 65-and-older population and many poor people receive government insurance. Except for modest Medicare premiums and payroll taxes, costs are largely buried in federal and state...
  • Why Gasoline Is Priced With Nine Tenths of a Cent?

    Why is gasoline always priced with nine tenths of a cent? No other products are sold that way. —Bob E. Peel, Stratford, Conn. A shirt that's $9.99 feels a lot cheaper than $10, doesn't it? Just like that, gas marked $1.36 9/10 strikes most drivers as a bargain compared with $1.37 per gallon—even though gas stations just round up. (Because you can buy fractions of a gallon of gas, they can charge you fractions of a cent.) Why do all stations do it? Because it works; most folks will never even notice they're paying more. And once one station goes with the cheaper-seeming prices, the others must follow suit to remain competitive.
  • Is It a Conflict of Interest to Be CEO and Chairman of the Board?

    Why don't we consider it a conflict of interest for one person to serve as a company's CEO and chairman of the board? —Carole Mcintyre, Waynesburg, PA. The CEO manages the company, while the board oversees the management. So, effectively, chair-CEOs must monitor themselves. But the benefits of a combined position outweigh the conflict, says Charles Elson, director of the Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. While controversial, the combined chair-CEO model—used by the vast majority of U.S. companies—helps avoid employee confusion about who's ultimately in charge.
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    Steve Jobs Comes Back

    At 33, the computer wunderkind has a slick new product and sales pitch to match. It may be the most exciting machine in years. But will it sell?
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    The New Girl in Town

    Like a magician readying his best trick, Steve Jobs waited for the houselights to dim and the crowd to quiet down. A spotlight focused on a table where a bulky shape lay hidden beneath a buff-colored cloth. "The personal computer was created by a hardware revolution of the 1970s," Jobs, the 27-year-old multimillionaire chairman and cofounder of Apple Computer, told 1,200 Apple stockholders gathered last week in Cupertino, Calif. "The next dramatic change will come from a software revolution . . . which Apple is introducing here today." On cue, the cloth was lifted -- revealing Lisa, a new $10,000 computer and a $50 million gamble for Apple.
  • For an 'America, Inc.'

    When the Japanese government decided in 1971 that having only 6 percent of the world’s computer business was inadequate and unsatisfactory, the Ministry of International Trade and Industries “urged” the six principal manufacturers to work out a system of cooperation on research and development for both hardware and software. This led to create three cartels and ultimately, in 1975, when a second consolidation occurred, they reduced the three to two.