Saturday, June 30, 2007

Americans worry about outsourcing of jobs

Top United States Democratic Presidential contenders, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have acknowledged that outsourcing was an issue for Americans and favoured measures to retain jobs, including ending tax breaks for outsourcing.

They took questions from anxious voters who faced the party contenders for the Presidential ticket in 2008 at a debate at Howard University in Washington.

Even if this is considered as political protectionist rhetoric, it also underlines growing unease of the middle class workers who are losing their jobs to more cheaper destinations.

This is the reality of the globalised economy of free trade where nations and corporations trade without barriers and tariffs. This is a fundamental shift in thinking from the old concept of providing jobs to communities on the basis of locations.

Voters are angry today that in the past decades US manufacturing jobs left America for cheaper shores.

Blue-collar workers, long wary of outsourcing, have now been joined by programmers, engineers and office workers — a group with much greater political clout. And the media is covering the story more than ever before. The media also has begun campaigning against companies that it accuses of ‘exporting America’ by ‘either sending American jobs overseas, or choosing to employ cheap overseas labour, instead of American workers.’

During the campaign season the voices of the dissatisfied workers who lost their jobs to destinations with cheaper cost advantages are growing louder.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The quiet changing of power in Britain

Former Treasury chief Gordon Brown became British prime minister Wednesday, promising "a new government with new priorities," after Tony Blair left office with a legacy of economic prosperity overshadowed by the deeply divisive Iraq war.

Yesterday was a historical day when power changed hands traditionally and quietly behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace. The constitutional monarch discharged one the most important responsibility of the traditions of the parliamentary form of government.

First Tony Blair first called on Queen Elizabeth II to submit his resignation to end a decade in power, and Gordon Brown arrived soon after to be invited to form the next government as the new prime minister.

Tony Blair's last day as the prime minister of the United Kingdom was an emotional one. In his last sitting in the revered chamber as prime minister, Tony Blair was cheered out of the Commons with a standing ovation that broke all the rules.

Earlier, his double bed, running machine and exercise bike were removed from the front door of No 10 in the full glare of the television cameras.

When Gordon Brown returned to Downing Street confirmed as prime minister, his greeting was a low-key affair, a deliberate contrast with the flag-waving crowds of "ordinary people" who lined Downing Street when Mr Blair took office 10 years ago. (It turned out that most were hand-picked Labour Party members - a metaphor for the PR of the Blair era.)

Brown set to work immediately, addressing the troops. "I don't want to be called anything other than Gordon," Britain's new Prime Minister said, going further than his predecessor's "call me Tony" edict to his Cabinet in 1997, which did not apply to staff.

Blair and Brown are friends-turned-rivals and on this day their paths took a diversion when Blair carried his own overnight bag at King's Cross as he boarded a train for Darlington.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Malaysia rebukes EU envoy comments

Europe's top diplomat in Malaysia, Mr.Thierry Rommel has been summoned by the Malaysian foreign ministry to discuss criticisms he made about policies favouring ethnic Malays.

Malaysia has accused the European Union envoy of meddling in its affairs after he said on Thursday Malaysia should roll back its 37-year-old New Economic Policy (NEP), which gives privileges in businesses, jobs and education to Malays.

Rommel said it was discriminatory and amounted to protectionism. Malays form just over half of Malaysia's 26 million people, with ethnic Chinese and Indians forming sizeable minorities.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak hit back at Rommel, saying he had overstepped diplomatic boundaries.

A veteran leader of Malaysia's parliamentary opposition, Lim Kit Siang, said that the government should justify giving state aid according to race, rather than accusing Mr Rommel of not having the facts right.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Innovate in order to compete

The Singapore government is now focused into high-tech research in areas like the biomedical sciences. It has also ensured that intellectual property is protected while managing political and economic risks as well as maintaining top quality living standards.

Speaking to about 300 delegates from 26 countries at the World Economic Forum(WEF) meeting held in Singapore, Mr. Lim Siong Guanin, Chairman of the Economic Development Board said competition was a "reality of life, so we have to watch out as to what things are happening and what advantage to take".

With the cost of labour and land more expensive compared with its neighbours, the natural resources-starved nation had to think of ways to be competitive in attracting foreign investment, he told the forum.

Mr. Lim urged the Asian countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia, to focus on collaborating in areas where they are weak and to remain competitive in innovation.

Singapore wants to be at the top end of the market, but the costs of doing business are going up. Businesses will want to be in markets where they can innovate and make money, Lim said.

"We take that as a reality of life. Some of the biggest projects we've lost are to developed countries such as Germany and the United States. So we try to link up with (countries such as) Vietnam and Indonesia so investors can do their high-end work in Singapore and low-end work in Vietnam or Indonesia," he said.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Private equity is spreading wings

Private equity companies are causing quite a stir in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Big money shares are hitting the stock markets.

Shares of Blackstone Group, private equity that is the second-largest buyout fund in the United States, soared Friday in its trading debut in the biggest U.S. initial public offering in five years.

The stock jumped 16 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange to $35.91 (U.S.), after being priced yesterday at $31 a share. More than 97 million shares changed hands, with the stock rising as high as 45 per cent earlier in the day.

New York-based Blackstone is making the $4.13-billion initial public offering amid unexpectedly heavy demand from overseas investors. Demand for the 133 million shares ran at seven times the number available, analysts said yesterday.

"We like it short term, certainly," Peter Hodson, senior portfolio manager at Sprott Asset Management told Business News Network Friday. "They've got the direct access to privatizations in China ... and the connections are everything in that country."

Trade unions protecting labour rights have been at odds with the private equity companies who have been criticised for running in, axing jobs, creaming off the profit and then leaving.

The private equity companies get the very best tax breaks that they can and are always seen to put profit before people. This is what happens in the real world of private equity.

Private equity is in the business not to make products or service people, but they are out there only to make money.

Regulators are taking notice of deep public disquiet about the impact they have on the stock market.

Success and greater media attention are generating a rising tide of criticism, skepticism, and plain old sour grapes. These include both overpaying (and underpaying) in taking companies private, over-leveraging target companies, pulling out capital from investments too early, and doing nothing more than what can be replicated by public company managers.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pop-culture woos voters

It's the campaign season for the next presidential election of the United States of America. Candidates vying for the top post from both the Republican and Democratic party are getting in to the swing of establishing their positions to connect with the voters.

Increasingly, both parties are infusing pop-culture into politics to attract the voters especially the younger generation.

In the past, a galaxy of celebrities — from Bruce Springsteen to P. Diddy, Leonardo diCaprio to Ashton Kutcher, Whoopi Goldberg to Martin Sheen, Jon Bon Jovi to Michael Moore — tried to communicate the idea that it was ultracool for young Americans to be politically engaged.

In the current campaign Hilary Clinton is using Celine Dion's song 'You and I', to drum up her audience.

There are other candidates who have appeared on YouTube.

What is emerging is a trend that glorifies style over substance of the issues. The messenger is seen more important than the message.

One of the contentious debates that divides the nation is on how to deal with illegal aliens in America; by some estimates 12 million, a staggering figure that has continued to grow over the years.

These are serious issues, requires tough choices to be made; perhaps with far reaching consequences than the pop-cultre that is dominating the campaign trail.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

France's first Socialist couple breakup

The French tolerate presidential infidelity more than Americans probably because of the trickle-down effect of centuries of adulterous monarchs and most of their past presidents.

When the French do cheat, they handle it differently from Americans. The French are apt to think of infidelity as one of the predictable pitfalls of marriage. The French are far less troubled by a few discreet lies to protect a spouse from unpleasant information.

American public life can be dominated by tales of soiled dresses or leaked text messages (eg. the impeachment of President Clinton over a sex scandal) for weeks on end, while the French seem to be pretty casual about the sexual adventures of their elected leaders.

Defeated French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal said on Sunday she has split from her partner, party leader Francois Hollande, after having denied of such rumours during her campaign. She has now accused him infidelity.

"I have asked Francois Hollande to leave our home, to pursue his love interest which is now laid out in books and newspapers and I wish him happiness," Royal said in an interview for the book to be published on Wednesday.

Ms Royal, 53, and Mr Hollande, 52, had been together (but not married) for more than 25 years and have four children: Thomas, Clemence, Julien and Flora, aged 14 to 22.

Royal has set her eyes to challenge for the party top-seat, and the two are likely to clash then, or even earlier if the Socialists decide to call an early congress.

This breakup it may be evidence of a bigger trend of openness in the internet age.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ian Botham, the charity walker knighted

England's legendary cricket all rounder has been knighted by the Queen in her Birthday Honours.

Congratulations Sir Botham.

Botham has joined another cricketing great, Sir Viv Richards of West Indies; both close friends and they dominated the golden era of cricket.

After he retired from playing cricket, Botham has also been a prominent fundraiser for charity undertaking a total of 11 long-distance charity walks. His first, in 1985, was a 900-mile trek from John O'Groats to Land's End.

His efforts ere inspired after a visit to a Taunton hospital for treatment on a broken toe. He stumbled into a children's ward and was shocked to learn that some of the children had only weeks to live. He has since raised more than ten million pounds.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The perils of success

Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart hit the billion dollar mark behind bars but lost a fortune soon after when her shares plunged 40 per cent / Photo AFP

Martha Stewart born on August 3, 1941 is an American business icon, author, and rose to fame after she started a catering business. She is also a former stockbroker and fashion model.

Over the last two decades Stewart has held a prominent position in the American publishing industry; as the author of several books, hundreds of articles on the domestic arts, editor of a national homekeeping magazine, host for two popular daytime television programs, and commercial spokeswoman for K-Mart.

In 2001 she was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal.

In 2004, a panel of eight women and four men found Martha Stewart guilty on all four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a well-timed stock sale, and she was sentenced to jail. She was barred from serving on a public company Board of Directors and from serving in certain executive capacities for five years.

The damning verdict was reflected in the words of David Kelley, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who spoke outside the courthouse.

"The word is -- beware -- and don't engage in this type of conduct because it will not be tolerated."

One of the jurors said, "This is a victory for the little guys. No one is above the law."

Martha Stewart was already in prison when she became a billionaire. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia soared 90% during her five-month stint for obstruction of justice, and she hit the $US1 billion mark behind bars. Soon after she left, her shares dropped 40%. Today she is worth only about $US550 million.

Breaking the law doesn’t always leave you richer. Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay lost more than $US400 million in 2001 as Enron collapsed in one of the greatest corporate falls in history. But he wasn’t even the biggest loser in the Enron debacle.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The rising super-rich class---private equity kings

Blackstone Group is a prominent private equity and investment management firm founded in 1985 by Peter G. Peterson and Stephen A. Schwarzman.

Blackstone started with $400,000 and now manages funds of $88billion. These funds are used to buy companies, take them away from the glare of the stock market and restructure them. The firms are often returned to the public markets by being sold several years later

The company is based in New York City, in River House on Park Avenue at Fifty-first Street, with offices in Atlanta, Boston, London, Hamburg, Paris, Mumbai, and Hong Kong.

Under pressure to reveal the compensation of CEO, Blackstone has declared its chief executive, Stephen Schwarzman, enjoyed personal earnings of $398m last year. When Blackstone goes public, he will receive a windfall of at least $449m and he will retain a stake in the business worth $7.7bn.

Mr Peterson, Blackstone co-founder, took home $212m last year and will get $1.88bn by selling shares on Blackstone's flotation. A third senior executive, Hamilton James, enjoyed annual income of a $97m and stands to receive $147m.

The sheer scale of the wealth amassed by private equity has alarmed the trade unions in Britain. Britain's Trade Union Congress' general secretary, Brendan Barber, last month warned that the rise of a super-rich class in the industry threatened to "fundamentally change" the nature of British and European capitalism.

In the US, the Service Employees' International Union has hit out at the "extraordinary riches" for a handful of individuals at the top of the industry. It says the money should be shared with workers in businesses acquired by private equity who contribute to the industry's huge returns.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paris has found God in jail

In a celebrity obssessed world, we can't go too far without hitting this topic. But this time Paris Hilton is appearing in my post because she claims to have found God in jail.

The girl who was screaming and calling for her mum when a judge ordered her to serve jail term, has become a changed person almost overnight.

For atheists, Paris has shown a route to salvation.

In her own words, 'she is going to stop acting dumb.'

In a phone interview with the famed Barbara Walters, Paris said that God has given her a new chance and she wants to do charity work, maybe even open a Paris Hilton playhouse for sick children, when she gets out of jail.

"I know now that I can make a difference, that I have the power to do that. I have been thinking that I want to do different things when I am out of here. I have become much more spiritual. God has given me this new chance."

Paris Hilton made a very revealing confession which I thought is very interesting.

"I used to act dumb, it was an act and that act is no longer cute. It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me."

For anyone who looked upto her as a role model, please take note of this point.

Paris Hilton attributed her transformation to a spiritual adviser who told her: "My spirit or soul did not like the way I was being seen and that is why I was sent to jail." But redemption was at hand. "God has released me. I feel that the purpose of my life is to be where I am."

Monday, June 11, 2007

What's the worry about 'private equity'

Private equity is a broad term that commonly refers to any type of equity investment in an asset in which the equity is not freely tradeable on a public stock market. More accurately, private equity refers to the manner in which the funds have been raised, namely on the private markets, as opposed to the public markets.

Private equity is medium to long-term finance provided in return for an equity stake in potentially high growth unquoted companies.

An article on paints a dark side to private equity.

"Aware that in Asia small, entrepreneurial companies often lack the access to debt and equity markets enjoyed by their Western counterparts, they resolved to play the part of matchmaker.

The result is a growing market in which hedge funds, buy-out groups and investment banks, club together to finance private deals for firms that are too small for initial public offerings, or are growing so fast that they would rather wait."

I get the feeling that if private equity firms are not required to comply with disclosure requirements in the public interest, then it is a case of Murphy's law waiting to happen.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

America's fascination of Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton, in photo made available by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, was sent home under house arrest Thursday by a sympathetic County Sheriff, a move that has sparked a furor. The judge ordered her back to the court and sent her back to jail on Friday to serve out her time.
(Photo :Los Angeles County Sheriff/Associated Press)

A tearful Paris Hilton sent back to jail is not a gleeful story. I do not enjoy the misfortune of Paris Hilton or anyone else but I'm curious to know why this story is headline news on the front page of all mainstream media in the United States as well the tabloids in the United Kingdom.

Paris Hilton, is sent to jail for violating her parole following a 2006 drunk driving incident. She claimed that she didn't know of her driving suspension. Now she has the opportunity to learn the hard way, that she should never be a danger to herself or anyone else by reckless drunk-driving.

She is an attractive woman. She is an heiress to a share of the Hilton Hotel fortune, as well as to the real estate fortune of her father Richard Hilton. At 26, she is the party girl who rose to fame when a home-made sex video of her surfaced onto the Internet in late 2003.

In a celebrity-driven culture, her court saga and jail term is a closely watched spectacle. To many people it is equal justice that she does her time in jail, without any preferential treatment on account of her wealth and fame. Her supporters feel that she been handed a disproportionate sentence to the crime she committed. They claim the court is sending a strong statement on her back to the public: Don't drink and drive, there will be no second chance as Paris Hilton has painfully learned in jail.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Brian Lara's greatness on display

Brian Lara who has retired from international cricket is not missed during the tour of his country to England this summer.

A fascinating new exhibition shows off the memorabilia that contributed to his unforgettable career. Click here to see more pictures showcased at a Museum at Lord's hosting a special exhibition celebrating the life and career of the great West Indies batsman Brian Lara.

Talking to a distinguished English cricketer Angus Fraser about his favourite collections, Lara said one of his prized possessions is a jacket signed by Nelson Mandela.

He said, " I was lucky enough to go and see him and I could not leave without getting something signed. I did not have anything so I took off the suit jacket I was wearing and asked him if he would sign it. I did not mind not being able to wear my Hugo Boss suit again."

Friday, June 08, 2007

A court ruling that sends a wrong signal

According to Associated Press, a United States federal appeals court said a new federal policy against accidentally aired profanities on TV and radio was invalid, noting that vulgar language had become so common that even President Bush has been heard using expletives.

The court tossed out an indecency ruling against Rupert Murdoch's Fox television network yesterday and broadly questioned whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the right to police the airwaves for offensive language.

The ruling is a rebuke to the FCC and a victory for television networks, which in recent years have pushed back against the FCC's crackdown on indecency.

The court agreed with the networks' defense, in part, that if George Bush and Dick Cheney can get away with saying no-no words, then why shouldn't Cher, Nicole Richie, and the rest of us?

Said the court: Similarly, as NBC illustrates in its brief, in recent times even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced "sexual or excretory organs or activities." . . . (citing President Bush's remark to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit" and Vice President Cheney's widely-reported "Fuck yourself" comment to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the U.S. Senate).

The court ruling is a win for the American First Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibits any laws by the federal legislature from infringing on the freedom of speech and freedom of press. So this is a clear win for freedom.

It, however, sets a bad example to fringe groups within society who think that it is OK to use vulgar language. It also makes it more difficult for the FCC to impose fines for the use of indecent language.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A user interface that will change our computing

Several recent developments point to a coming revolution in computer interfaces, from performing simple operations to working with large amounts of information.

Jeff Han gives an intriguing demonstration below.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Silicon Valley and bubble spotting

The name Silicon Valley brings to memory afresh the dot-com bubble which started in the mid-1990s. That was the time when the entrepreneurial spirit of the Valley made instant young millionaires and many went broke went the bubble burst.

Silicon Valley is the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California in the United States.

The valley has transformed from silicon chip innovators and manufacturers to a geekdom that is gaining momentum like the old days again.

Once bitten, twice shy and now every entrepreneur is on the lookout for the bubble.

“There’s such a heightened sense of bubble awareness in Silicon Valley that people confuse any expression of enthusiasm for a bubble,” said Paul Kedrosky, the executive director of the William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the University of California, San Diego.

Silicon Valley's dynamism is generally attributed to entrepreneurial spinoffs due the use of innovation and new technologies. Companies that seize such opportunities reap handsome rewards while those that do not keep with a rapidly changing market pay a revenue penalty.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Apple launching revolutionary iphone

Apple has finally said that it will start selling its iPhone on June 29.

The Internet-ready iPhone will use the Apple OS X operating system and allow users to watch movies, download songs and store photos, as well as offering email, calendar and contacts software found in rival products such as the Blackberry.

The iPhone will cost $500 or $600, depending on the amount of memory included.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Outsourcing to work a 4-hour workweek

Here an interesting book by Join Tim Ferriss, popular guest lecturer in entrepreneurship at Princeton University.

Here is what his book promises to give. The book is available on Amazon.

1)How to outsource your life and do whatever you want for a year, only to return to a bank account 50% larger than before you left

2)How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs

3)How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of little-known European economists

4)How to train your boss to value performance over presence, or kill your job (or company) if it's beyond repair

5)How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”

6)What automated cash-flow "muses" are and how to create one in 2-4 weeks

7)How to cultivate selective ignorance—and create time—with a low-information diet

8)Management secrets of Remote Control CEOs

9)The crucial difference between absolute and relative income

10)How to get free housing worldwide and airfare at 50-80% off

11)How to fill the void and creating meaning after removing work and the office

Here's an interview with Timothy Ferriss.

Listen now (15 Meg MP3, 42:28 minutes)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The ethics of killing a monster pig

Jamison Stone, 11, (in the AP photo above) shot the huge hog during what he and his father described as a three-hour chase. They said it was more than 1,000 pounds and 9 feet long; if anything, it looked even bigger in a now-famous photo of the hunter and the hunted. See the photos on

Now it turns out the huge hog that became known as "Monster Pig" had another name: Fred. The not-so-wild pig had been raised on an Alabama farm and was sold to the Lost Creek Plantation just four days before it was shot there in a 150-acre fenced area, the animal's former owner said.

Phil Blissitt told The Anniston Star in a story Friday that he bought the 6-week-old pig in December 2004 as a Christmas gift for his wife, Rhonda, and that they sold it after deciding to get rid of all the pigs at their farm.

"I just wanted the truth to be told. That wasn't a wild pig," Rhonda Blissitt said.

Mike Stone, Jamison's father, says that he was unaware of the origin of the pig.

The American citizens have a right to bear arms and hunting is legal business. But what does a 11-year-old boy get out of chasing a giant hog for three hours, killing it and publishing the photos with immense pride; other than fame or a film in Hollywood?

Friday, June 01, 2007

US economy heading towards a recession?

The American economic growth skidded to a standstill in the first three months of the year as a healthy rise in consumer spending was wiped out by an unexpected cut in the amount of stocks held by business.

The U.S. economy grew at its weakest pace in more than four years during the first quarter, a 0.6 percent growth rate the government reported Thursday, as a cooling housing market, slower consumer spending and a gaping trade deficit eroded economic activity.

The final quarter of last year reported a 2.5 percent growth rate.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he doesn't believe the economy will slide into recession this year, nor do Bush administration officials and many economists. But ex-Fed chief Alan Greenspan has put the odds at one in three.