The View from the Top


The View from the Top - The Intro

Posts are below the double line


Usually folks at the "top" tend to be too busy for blah, blah, blah. They want to make the most money with an acceptable risk in the appropriate time frame. Just like everyday people. The difference is that the folks at the top live in activity spaces different from you and me. But at the end of the day, it's the same game. 


My favorite way to keep track of the conversations at the top is the Financial Times of London. The magazine articles in the Economist are just a little too long for my lifestyle. If I'm going to spend that much time with an article, I will tend to read a book. Most of the US business press is too parochial. And, alas, I am only fluent in English.

Posts follow

Migrants breathe life into old country

By Richard Lapper

Published: August 30 2007 19:33 | Last updated: August 30 2007 19:33

Venice Beach in southern California is known to outsiders largely for its sunshine, its boardwalk, its surfers and its bikini-clad inline skaters.

To an increasing number of Mexicans from the poor southern state of Oaxaca, however, it is also a home. Venice happens to have one of the largest concentrations of migrants from Oaxaca anywhere outside of Mexico. Zapotec-speaking indigenous groups from the market town of Tlacolula and nearby villages work in stalls along the boardwalk or as cooks, waiters and maids in the chic restaurants and hotels of Santa Monica.

The Oaxacan presence in the residential blocks that separate the ocean from Lincoln Boulevard is so dense, in fact, that Zapotec is the mother tongue for 30 per cent of public school students, according to researchers at the University of Los Angeles.

The link between Tlacolula and Venice is one of thousands of “micro-geographies” – as such trans-national communities are known to specialists – that have grown up as a result of rising international migration and deepening economic integration. “Migration is a network-intensive process. People don’t move without knowing someone,” says Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, research director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California. “And those networks are becoming more important.” more




So far the debate on biofuels has focused almost exclusively on substituting for fossil oil in transport. But at present biofuels for transport account for less than 1 per cent of global energy production. A far greater part of the world’s energy, 10 per cent, is supplied by “traditional bioenergy” – firewood, charcoal, manure and crop residues – which warms homes and fuels cooking fires in much of the developing world.

To focus debate exclusively on bio­fuels for transport is therefore to miss much of the point about bioenergy’s potential for poverty reduction. This lies more in helping 2bn people to produce their own electricity and other energy needs than in keeping 800m cars and trucks on the road.

Electricity is what powers development: you cannot run computer networks on dried cow dung. But with modern technology you can process the dung into bio-gas. Helping 2bn people living on less than two dollars a day switch to affordable, homegrown, environmentally sustainable bio-power would represent a quantum leap in their development. read more





China affirms dollar's reserve status

By Richard McGregorin Beijing

Published: August 13 2007 03:00 | Last updated: August 13 2007 03:00

Beijing sought to repair on Sunday fallout from reports it could use its $1,330bn foreign exchange holdings to put pressure on Washington and the dollar with a statement affirming the importance of the US dollar as a global reserve currency.

The official Xinhua news service quoted an anonymous official at the People's Bank of China, the central bank, as saying that China was "a responsible investor in the international capital markets".  Read more



World Bank struggles to meet $39bn aid target

By David Pilling in Tokyo and Richard McGregorin Beijing

Published: August 10 2007 03:00 | Last updated: August 10 2007 03:00

One positive, if largely symbolic, development was that China for the first time had indicated it might be willing to pledge funds, Mr Zoellick said. Jin Renqing, China's finance minister, had said he wanted to attend an IDA donors' meeting in November in Dublin. read more


The Ministry of Finance in Beijing declined to comment yesterday, but an official familiar with the issue said the State Council had not yet approved participation in the IDA round.

China received $1.67bn of aid in 2004, according to the OECD, making it the seventh largest recipient, although that will decline as aid from Tokyo ends. As it has become richer and its global interests more important, China has begun using aid as a diplomacy tool, especially in resource-rich Africa but also in Asia.

China has given direct grant aid, provided infrastructure, and also offered large concessionary loans to many countries, sometimes directly tied to resource projects.

The total amount of Chinese aid has not been quantified, but an official familiar with its policies said yesterday "there's more going out than coming in".


Credit insurance costs soar to record

By Stacy-Marie Ishmael and Gillian Tett in London, and Saskia,Scholtes in New York

Published: July 31 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 31 2007 03:00

The cost of insurance against credit defaults hit record levels on both sides of the Atlantic yesterday amid concerns that some investors were being forced to sell assets to cover losses onsubprime mortgages.

Investors rushed to buy contracts that would protect them against corporate credit defaults after it emerged that more European institutions had suffered losses following the crisis in the US subprime mortgage market. read more


Moscow expels top UK trade official

By Neil Buckley in Moscow

Published: July 27 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 27 2007 03:00

Britain's top trade official in Moscow is one of the four diplomats being expelled by Russia, raising concerns that the dispute over the extradition of a murder suspect could start to damage commercial links between the two countries.

Andrew Levi, counsellor for economic, commercial and scientific affairs - one of the most senior diplomats after the ambassador and deputy head of mission - must leave Moscow by Sunday, the Moscow Times reported, quoting sources close to Mr Levi.



Bandwidth wars

By Thomas Hazlett  Published: July 23 2007 19:29 | Last updated: July 23 2007 19:29

The vaunted digital television transition is under way. It offers to upgrade broadcast tele­vision picture quality. But high definition is mostly window-dressing. Indeed, television advertisers will not pay broadcasters much more for HD audiences, either because viewers watch on sets too small to notice it or because big-screen users subscribe to cable or satellite services for their HD fix.

The real pay-off? Spectrum efficiency. What an analogue television transmitter can do using a standard television channel (6-8 MHz, depending on country) a digital station can do four, five or six times. Viewer choice increases ­multi-fold by flipping a technology switch. Digital’s cleaner use of airwaves also accommodates new voice and data applications. Given that vast frequency space was long ago set aside for analogue television, digitisation frees up abundant bandwidth for pretty amazing new stuff. read more


The rise of the listening guru

By Stefan Stern Published: July 19 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 19 2007 03:00

The fluff that has long swirled around coaching is being swept away. A new professionalism and seriousness are at hand. Kay Cannon, president of the ICF, says good coaches have to understand the context for the work they are doing and understand the business their client is working in. "Coaching needs to be based on the client, not the coach," she says. "It should be driven by the client. Fire the coach who tells you what to do." read more


Americans will eventually learn that deficits do matter

By Kenneth Rogoff Published: July 18 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 18 2007 03:00

If there is a shorter-term Achilles heel to US government deficit policies, it is dependence on foreign financing. The US is borrowing at the rate of $800bn a year, more than 6 per cent of GDP. Incredibly, US borrowing accounts for roughly two-thirds of total net saving of all the world's surplus countries. Although rebalancing of the world economy is likely to help bring down the US current account somewhat this year, the global and US economies remain quite vulnerable to a scenario that forces faster rebalancing. A geopolitical shock that forces the US to cut its trade and current account deficits by, say, half, would be quite jarring, driving the trade-weighted dollar down by 20-25 per cent.

Here's betting that the next US president, Democrat or Republican, is not going to end up going too far towards restoring fiscal prudence. Unfortunately, continuing this approach will eventually bring a shipwreck, particularly if global real interest rates rise significantly further. The US government's big shift into the red may have been fortuitously timed, but eventually, the deficits will matter. read more


Part mafia, part militia, entirely murderous

By Barney Jopson Published: June 25 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 25 2007 03:00


Gesturing toward a patch of mud-encrusted pavement in front of a sweetcorn stall, the old man says: "They brought the head here. They went to his home and got him. It was a warning to the others."

Dominic Njinu's mutilated torso was found by children in bushes 500 metres from his home last month. His head was left at Kiambu bus station, a short drive north of Nairobi, where he had worked as a minibus tout.

Njinu, 20, was a victim of Mungiki, a gang sending currents of fear through central Kenya. In the past two months its members are suspected of killing more than 30 people, including 12 last Thursday, in grisly executions, shootings and a grenade attack sparked ostensibly by a tussle over the minibus, or matatu, trade.

From its roots as a rural movement inspired by the Mau Mau anti-colonial rebellion, Mungiki has turned into an urban force that is part cult, part mafia and part political.


It is equally possible that Mungiki are not politically aligned but are advertising themselves as thugs available to the highest bidder. Mr Kamenju says: "Mungikiis now quite self-sufficient. It's become a monster that is starting to control itscreators."


Others say that the Kibaki government bears some blame for its failure to tackle widespread destitution. Mohamed Ali, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, says: "Yes, the economy is growing but employment opportunities are not rising at a commensurate rate. Poverty can be usedto subvert peace-lovingpeople."


Outside Kiambu bus station, another man kicking his heels in the rich orange soil says: "There are so many young people without jobs, Mungiki invented a way of living. They are our brothers and sisters." more


CMT Roman legions? Merceneries in Iraq? Al-Queda?


Iran is America’s best hope for stability in the Gulf

By Selig Harrison Published: June 19 2007 18:44 | Last updated: June 19 2007 18:44


Iran is ready to help the US stabilise both Iraq and Afghanistan, but only for a price: a gradual accommodation between Washington and Tehran, starting with the complete cessation of CIA and Pentagon covert operations designed to promote “regime change”. “The United States is like a fox caught in a trap” in Iraq, said Amir Mahebian, editor of the conservative daily Reselat, in a recent Tehran conversation. “Why should we free the fox so he can make a dinner out of us?”


In the most widely reported covert operations under way in Iran, the US is smuggling weapons and money to disaffected non-Persian ethnic minority factions. But at the recent Iran-US talks in Baghdad, Iranian delegates focused on less publicised sabotage and espionage missions in the Persian heartland of Iran by a US-backed militia of Persian exiles known as the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). The MEK backed Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and its 3,600 fighters stayed on in Iraq afterwards. Since the invasion of Iraq, US intelligence agencies have disarmed the fighters but have kept the base camps intact and have used MEK operatives for missions in Iran, even though the State Department lists it as a terrorist more





Unfettered finance is fast reshaping the global economy

By Martin Wolf Published: June 18 2007 19:01 | Last updated: June 18 2007 19:01

“In Rome everything is for sale.” – Prince Jugurtha in Sallust’s ­Bellum Jugurthinum

“Yes to market economy, no to market society.” – Lionel Jospin, French Socialist ex-prime minister


It is capitalism, not communism, that generates what the communist Leon Trotsky once called “permanent revolution”. It is the only economic system of which that is true. Joseph Schumpeter called it “creative destruction”. Now, after the fall of its adversary, has come another revolutionary period. Capitalism is mutating once again.


Much of the institutional scenery of two decades ago – distinct national business elites, stable managerial control over companies and long-term relationships with financial institutions – is disappearing into economic history. We have, instead the triumph of the global over the local, of the speculator over the manager and of the financier over the producer. We are witnessing the transformation of mid-20th century managerial capitalism into global financial more



Look who's talking to your colleagues

By Rhymer Rigby Published: June 18 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 18 2007 03:00

Josh Mendelsohn is a programme manager in online sales at Google. But in his spare time he, along with a team of dozens of volunteers, helps bring in speakers to talk to his fellow Googlers. So far, the roll call of people who have addressed the company is a pretty stellar one: it includes Senator Hillary Clinton, Martin Amis, the novelist, and Joseph Stiglitz, the economist.

One might reasonably wonder what the likes of Mr Amis have to do with Google, and the answer is not much at all. Rather, they are bought in to tell staff about their latest books. Such was the success of the Authors@Google programme that it has now been renamed @Google and broadened out to include other categories of people such as filmmakers, political candidates and high-achieving women. read more


UK investors say Blair's stance with Putin could harm business

By Catherine Belton andNeil Buckley in Moscow

Published: June 12 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 12 2007 03:00

Business leaders with investments in Russia have hit back at the government's mounting criticism of the Putin regime, warning that the attacks could damage British interests there.

Peter Hambro, executive chairman of Peter Hambro Mining, an Aim-listed company that is one of Russia's biggest gold miners, said the claim from Tony Blair that western companies could shun Russia unless it shared democratic values "ran the risk of being damaging" for British businesses in Russia. read more



Putin calls for new world order in trade and finance institutions

By Neil Buckley and Catherine Belton in St Petersburg

Published: June 11 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 11 2007 03:00


Russian president Vladimir Putin called yesterday for a radical overhaul of the world's financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries - including Russia.

Mr Putin said the world needed to create a new international financial architecture to replace an existing model that had become "archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy".

His apparent challenge to western dominance of the world economic order came at a forum in St Petersburg designed to showcase the country's economic recovery. Among 6,000 delegates at the biggest business forum ever held in post-Soviet Russia were scores of international chief executives including heads of Deutsche Bank, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Nestlé, Chevron, Siemens and Coca-Cola.} Read more


Obama can remedy ailing healthcare system

By Brad DeLong Published: June 3 2007 18:44 | Last updated: June 3 2007 18:44


It is an iron law of American politics that Democratic party politicians who propose relatively detailed healthcare reform plans – as Barack Obama did last Tuesday – get trashed. If they propose a plan that might actually pass, securing the 60 needed votes to close off debate and proceed to a final vote in the Senate, they will be trashed for having abandoned their base and their own principles. If they propose a plan that corresponds to the world that they wish they could attain, they will be trashed as having no practical sense. In either case, they lose. It is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: a pointless and painful exercise.


This is too bad, as the US needs to have a debate on its healthcare system. It spends twice as much as western Europe for little clear benefit: Americans are no more healthy or long-lived than western Europeans. If the US could get the same value for its healthcare dollars as western Europe, it would have an extra $800bn a year to spend: enough to pay room, board and private college tuition for every American 18-21 year old, and still have enough left over for Marshall Plan-scale economic development programmes for Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt and the Maghreb.

Read more






Beijing could reap $40bn share tax bonanza

By Geoff Dyer in Shanghai and Jamil Anderlini in Hong Kong

Published: June 4 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 4 2007 03:00

China will gain an annual windfall of as much as $40bn from the tax increase on share trading announced last week - almost equal to the official defence budget - if turnover on mainland markets stays at current levels.

The huge potential bonanza of revenue from the tax increase is equivalent to about 7 per cent of the total central government annual budget and could help accelerate Beijing's plans to expand social spending in rural areas.

The boost to revenues is the result of an increase in the stamp duty on share-trading that the government announced on Wednesday in a bid to take some of the steam out of the stock market, which many analysts believe is overvalued.

read more





The lessons Asians learnt from their financial crisis

By Martin Wolf Published: May 23 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 23 2007 03:00


The Asian financial crisis of 10 years ago taught two contrasting lessons: the one the majority of western economists thought the Asians should learn; and the one Asians did learn.


The western economists concluded that emerging economies should adopt flexible exchange rates and modern, well-regulated and competitive financial markets. The Asians decided to choose competitive exchange rates, export-led growth and huge accumulations of foreign currency reserves. The question is whether the Asians need to change their choice. The answer, I believe, is "yes".read more








Google's goal to organise your daily life

By Caroline Daniel and Maija Palmer Published: May 23 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 23 2007 03:00

Google's ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world's information.

Asked how Google might look in five years' time, Mr Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.

"The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?' "read more


It is important to understand the implications of this. It doesn't matter whether this is good or bad, since nothing has every stopped technology that meets market demand. But it does prefigure a different kind of world.


All you need to know about the perils of management fads. Period.

By Stefan Stern Published: May 22 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 22 2007 03:00

The lesson is this: small books about real, practical things can be useful. Small books about big, complicated things are unlikely to be much good - though they may sell. And small books about small, meaningless things are worthless. Still, the fad machine is unlikely to seize up any time soon, and eternal vigilance is required to monitor its output.

In the era of self-publishing and "the long tail" theory of business, gurudom is within almost everybody's reach.

To aid you in your own personal journey towards that goal, let me leave you with three more of James Dale's precious observations:

"Show up every day and who knows what you can accomplish."

"Most things aren't as serious as they seem (but some are)."

"Remember, the expression carpe diem means 'seize the day', not 'seize the day after'."





The right passion, the wrong priority By Philip Stephens

...This is the area in which Mr Brown cannot afford to fail. The signs are that social mobility in Britain has come to a standstill. Globalisation is widening inequalities. A first-rate education system is the only way for a government of the centre-left, or indeed of any political complexion, to meet the central challenge of globalisation: how to sustain an open economy in the face of ever sharper competition. We should be glad education is Mr Brown's passion. Better still if it were also his more

Blackstone to boost IPO after China move

By Francesco Guerrera and Ben White in New York and Sundeep,Tucker in Hong Kong

Published: May 22 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 22 2007 03:00

Blackstone's executives, led by founders Stephen Schwarzman and Pete Peterson, will receive up to $4.5bn (£2.28bn) from the buy-out group's listing after a $3bn investment by the Chinese government prompted them to nearly double the size of the offering to $7.8bn.

The move will turn Blackstone's initial public offering into the world's second largest this year and enable its partners to cash in part of their stakes during an unprecedented boom for the private equity industry.


Perhaps the way it's going to work out, is that China will move some of their wealth out of US treasuries, and buy into "private" capital as it goes more







The appliance of financial science

By Gillian Tett Published: May 21 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 21 2007 03:00

When Robert Merton invented the "Black-Scholes" formula back in the early 1970s, he never bothered to file a patent for the idea.

For though the formula - created by the Nobel-prize-winning economist and two other academics - enabled the highly profitable world of derivatives to explode, "it never occurred to us not to put the Black-Scholes formula into the public domain", recalls the professor of finance at Harvard University, with an impish grin that belies his 62 more


Is there financial science? or a continuing search for the philosopher's stone? or both?


Chrysler’s coy guardian

By Ben White Published: May 18 2007 18:52 | Last updated: May 18 2007 18:52


When Stephen Feinberg went hunting for elk in Colorado for the first time several years ago, he reportedly scaled an 11,000ft peak and killed his prey with the first shot. Mr Feinberg’s private equity and hedge fund firm, Cerberus Capital Management, takes its intimidating name from the mythological three-headed hound that guards the gates of hell. In its early days, Cerberus was best known as an aggressive “vulture” firm that scooped up distressed debt and lent money at high rates to troubled companies.


Yet despite all this, Mr Feinberg is described by friends and colleagues as anything but fearsome. Instead, the famously media-shy, moustachioed 47-year old is known for his earnest and sometimes awkward presentations in meetings and his decidedly low-key lifestyle.


“He’s not the run-of-the-mill private equity mogul,” says Buzz Hargrove, Canadian Auto Workers president, who met Mr Feinberg in Michigan this week to discuss Cerberus’ $7.4bn acquisition of Chrysler, the troubled US automaker. “I read this guy as a very sincere man of integrity who wants to do what’s right. There is always the possibility that you are wrong about someone. But I don’t think so here.”

read more




CSR Wire


CSRwire is the leading source of corporate social responsibility and sustainability news, reports and information. CSRwire members are companies and NGOs, agencies and organizations interested in communicating their corporate citizenship, sustainability, and socially responsible initiatives to a global audience through CSRwire's syndication network and weekly News Alerts. CSRwire content covers issues of Diversity, Philanthropy, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Environment, Human Rights, Workplace Issues, Business Ethics, Community Development and Corporate Governance.

CSR is defined as the integration of business operations and values, whereby the interests of all stakeholders including investors, customers, employees, the community and the environment are reflected in the company's policies and actions. Go there

The key test of accurate financial reporting is trust

By Henry Paulson Published: May 16 2007 20:58 | Last updated: May 16 2007 20:58

Accurate and transparent financial reporting is vital to the integrity of our capital markets and the strength of the US economy. In an address last November, I spoke about the importance of strong capital markets, pointing out that capital markets rely on trust. That trust is based on financial information presumed to be accurate and to reflect economic reality.

Our capital markets are the best in the world and so is our financial reporting system. We must work to keep them that way. On Thursday, the Treasury department is announcing several important steps to ensure we preserve an efficient financial reporting system that provides reliable information, is supported by a sustainable auditing industry, and has enhanced compatibility with foreign reporting more


So..if the value of a "brand" is that you trust them, it gives a lens on the value of a brand and therefore why business will make decisions based on protecting their brand. It's not becuase they are nice.




Failing grades?

By Richard Beales, Saskia Scholtes and Gillian Tett

Published: May 16 2007 19:44 | Last updated: May 16 2007 19:44

For decades, three large credit rating agencies have together sat in judgment over the financial soundness of governments, multilateral organisations and, crucially, companies that borrow in the international capital markets to fund their activities.

The pronouncements of these high priests of finance, along with a few smaller rivals, affect the cost of funds for issuers of debt, and are often enshrined in the regulations that govern what securities can be bought by insurance companies, pension plans and mutual funds. Ratings can single-handedly create or render obsolete particular kinds of securities. A downgrade can even tip countries towards recession or companies towards bankruptcy.

But are the big three – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings – up to the job, particularly in the huge, fast-growing and complex market for “structured finance”?

In this world, mortgages, car loans, corporate bonds and many other types of debt are packaged and repackaged by investment banks and sold on to all sorts of investors, from pension funds and insurance groups to hedge funds and bank trading desks. The key to a successful deal is securing the right credit rating.Read more


So what happens if people lose trust in the risk grading functionalities?



Tools to bridge the divide

By Paul Taylor Published: May 11 2007 03:00 Last updated: May 11 2007 03:00

Some software applications and services defy classification. Rak-etu, a free peer-to-peer service that packs more features and tools than a Swiss army knife, is one such application.

Launched last September, Raketu is a still-evolving bundle of communications, information and entertainment services.

Trying it out is easy. You point a web browser at Raketu's website (, download a small file and fire it up. The software, which for the moment runs only on Windows-based PCs (a Mac version is in the works), takes about 16Mb of space on a hard drive. While a broadband connection is best, Raketu works well over a dial-up connection.

Raketu's extensive features are accessed from its striking blackLaunchPad interface, which provides lots of visual prompts, including a calendar, weather details, stock price data and RSS automated news feeds. The interface also provides one-click access to podcasts and standard and specialist search tools such as Google and Ask(dot)com. read more

US stores report dismal April sales

By Jonathan Birchall in New York Published: May 10 2007 15:16 Last updated: May 10 2007 15:16

US retailers reported poor sales for April as cold weather in some parts of the country combined to depress sales with economic pressures and the impact of an early Easter that moved some seasonal buying into the previous month.

Wal-Mart, the largest US retailer, reported a sharper-than-expected 3.5 per cent fall in sales at stores open at least a year, with sales at its US discount stores and supercenters down 4.6 per cent, and Sam’s Club warehouse sales up 2.5 per cent. Target, its discount rival, said April stores fell 6.1 per cent, having warned last month that sales would be weaker than its original forecast of a decline of 2 to 4 per more


Retail sales are the most current indicators of what is going on. of course the analysis of what they indicate is usually blah, blah, blah. But some thing is changing. More stress for retailers. It doesn't really matter whether it's the weather, the international War on Terror or the phases of the moon. Less sales is less sales, and it's something that someone is going to have to figure out what to do about, eventually. With any luck for them, it will bounce back with next month's figures. But if it goes on for a couple of months. Watch for the avalanche of blah, blah, blah....





An ‘isolated’ Vatican seeks to stem a Latin exodus

By Richard Lapper Published: May 9 2007 19:04 | Last updated: May 9 2007 19:04

Agda Conceição Silva says that she needed all the help she could get when her newly born son started to have breathing difficulties. A recently arrived migrant from the poor north-eastern Brazilian state of Bahia, Ms Silva had few friends or relatives to turn to for help in Santo Amaro, a down-at-heel working class suburb on the southern edge of São Paulo, Latin America’s biggest city.

But a neighbour – a member of the rapidly growing Universal Church of the Reign of God – provided comfort and advice and within weeks Ms Silva had become the latest recruit of Brazil’s most rapidly growing Pentecostal churches. Twenty years on, Ms Silva, now 49, is one of the church’s most active members and donates 10 per cent of her $600 (£300, €440) salary to it each month. “They helped me sort myself out and now I feel the presence of God,” says Ms Silva, displaying all the fervency of a more recent convert.

Ms Silva’s abandonment of her traditional Catholicism in favour of evangelical protestantism is symptomatic of a much broader trend in the world’s most Catholic region, as Pope Benedict XVI begins his first visit to Latin America since his election in 2005. Protestantism is on the march, especially in Brazil and Central America. According to a recent study by the Fundacão Getúlio Vargas, a Brazilian university, nine out of 10 Brazilians were Catholics in 1970. Today the figure is nearer seven out of 10. Over the same 37-year period the number of evangelicals and pentecostalists has mushroomed, rising from only 4.8m to an estimated 43.6m today.

read more


So, I'm thinking that if the Roman Catholic Church is not delivering an experience that works for people at the bottom of the pyramid, that is going to give them a serious business problem. Business problems for formal organizations lead to stress.

Stress tends to lead to change. Should be interesting to watch.






A fairer pay scale for public sector workers

By Robin Harding

Published: May 8 2007 19:17 Last updated: May 8 2007 19:17

Here is a career choice. Job one is in an affluent suburb, based in fine modern facilities. You will be dealing with the public, but their problems are usually quite minor and we have a great team of staff. Job two is in an impoverished inner city. The building was condemned in the 1970s but we have not found the money to knock it down yet – and, oh yes, there have been quite a few assaults on employees. Both jobs pay the same. Which one do you want?

The answer Britain’s nurses, teachers and police officers give to this question is not surprising. Working conditions are tougher in some public sector jobs than others – nurses in deprived areas, for example, have to treat populations that suffer more chronic diseases – but they are paid no more than colleagues who work in market towns and leafy suburbs. read more

Referenced in the column is the Social Market Foundation

The SMF was established in 1989 to provide a source of innovative economic and social policy ideas. Steering an independent course between political parties and conflicting ideologies, the SMF has been an influential voice in recent health, education, welfare and pensions policy reform. Our current work reflects a commitment to understanding how individuals, society and the state can work together to achieve the common goal of creating a just and free more

America’s fast-track trade needs domestic safety net

By Jeffrey Garten Published: May 7 2007 19:04 Last updated: May 7 2007 19:04

President George W. Bush’s ability to negotiate trade agreements and present them to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments will either expire on June 30 or be formally extended by Congress. Washington is already debating what to do about this so-called fast-track authority. The outcome will shape US trade policy and global commerce for years to come. But so far the arguments have missed what should be the central point.

Here are some of the positions recently staked out by Congress: extend fast-track without strings, because all trade liberalisation is good. Extend it, but only if all new trade agreements contain commitments on the part of foreign partners to abide by international labour standards, such as freedom to bargain collectively. Extend it, but only for the purpose of voting Yes or No on the Doha round, provided it is successfully concluded. Another group, comprised mostly of Democrats, wants fast-track to wither. They say free trade is causing too much hardship for many workers and that countries such as China are not abiding by World Trade Organisation rules. They would also like to deal a political blow to the Bush administration.

No one seems to be asking the most important question: how can government and business cushion the blow to workers who are displaced, or whose wages have been reduced because of the impact of changing trade patterns and other powerful trends, including rapid technological change? How can the public and private sectors work together to reduce the growing anxiety about economic security in this age of increasing economic interdependence?read more


In my opinion, this is a good example of how blah, blah, blah created by a blah, blah, blah communication ecology, gets smart people to ask dumb questions. From where I sit, the questions asked by this columnist are real. I don't know enough if the answers are correct. But until politicians ask the right questions, the chances of figuring out the best responses are somewhere between nil and none.






The marketing of medicine to calm fears

By Andrew Jack Published: May 8 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 8 2007 03:00

Never in the field of human pharmaceuticals has so much been spent by so many on a disease that affects so few.

When Roche of Switzerland launched the antiviral drug Tamiflu to treat influenza in 1999, the science was ground-breaking but the product was almost killed at birth by low demand.

An unusually low incidence of influenza worldwide was matched by widespread health payers' reluctance to reimburse for a costly medicine with limited effect to treat an illness perceived as no great threat.

Tamiflu has since become a "blockbuster". The drug is now one of Roche's best-sellers, with fast-increasing sales that exceeded SFr2.6bn (£1.1bn) in 2006 and are likely to generate a further SFr2bn this year.

The story illustrates the secrets of drug industry marketing, taken to extremes by preparations for a potentially dangerous - but so far "virtual" - pandemic flu strain.

If 42m people have, to date, taken Tamiflu to treat flu, the big upsurge in demand has come from 80 governments stockpiling treatments for 215m people whom, they hope, will never need it.

"This is a very unique situation," concedes David Reddy, Roche's pandemic taskforce leader, who has been diverted to the project full-time from work on more mainstream medicines in the company's virology more

This doesn't need bad people to understand. Everyone tried to do their jobs. So far, it seems that the science has been turned into blah, blah, blah becuase people with "interests", access and power will do that. Good people, making what may turn out to be dumb decisions. At the end of the day, the governments pay the bill. Even if the flu doesn't appear, Roche comes out ok.



Growing influence of Pakistani leader without a party

By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad

Published: May 8 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 8 2007 03:00


In the two months of protests since Iftikhar Chaudhary stunned Pakistan's ruling generals by refusing to step down as head of the country's Supreme Court over still-murky charges of misconduct, the chief justice has often been labelled a symbol of defiance.

But as protests grow, there are signs Mr Chaudhary may be becoming the leader of a movement rather than simply its inspiration. And he is becoming a unifying figure for those opposed to Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, the pro-US military ruler who seized power seven years ago in a bloodless coup and until earlier this year appeared to be in a politically unassailable more

Wolfowitz top aide in fresh controversy

By Krishna Guha and Eoin Callan in Washington

Published: May 8 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 8 2007 03:00

Paul Wolfowitz's closest aide was involved in crafting an apparently misleading public statement on the Shaha Riza secondment for dissemination by World Bank spokespeople on an anonymous basis, the Financial Times has found.

The disclosure regarding Robin Cleveland came as the panel investigating Mr Wolfowitz's role in awarding pay and promotion benefits to Ms Riza, his girlfriend, sent a copy of its findings to the bank president, and a second top aide, Kevin Kellems, resigned from the bank. The bank's board meets today to discuss the panel's report.

Mr Kellems told the FT: "In the current environment sur-rounding the leadership of the World Bank group, it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution." Mr Kellems paid tribute to bank staff in his resignation statement: "I have tremendous respect and admiration for the bank staff and management.

...he claim that the agreement was approved by the ethics committee after consultation with the general counsel was immediately disputed by Roberto Danino, then general counsel, and Ad Melkert, then chairing the ethics committee.



The interim report by the panel found no evidence that the terms and conditions "had been commented on, reviewed or approved by the ethics committee, its chairman or the board". "read more


It seems as if normal spin that worked in Washington, is less effective, when done in an activity space that includes people how have been trained to have to tell at least a modicum of the truth. Bankers and financial folks in Europe get fired and go to jail under different rules than in the US. This is not to say that the rules are better. Just being different means that acitivites that work in one context, are less effective in others.




Ups, downs and what my diary says about work

By Lucy Kellaway

Published: May 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 7 2007 03:00


For the first four days of last week I kept a diary of my private thoughts and feelings while at work.

The last time I did anything of this kind I was 13; the result then was banal and embarrassing and I hid it from everyone. The latest effort is also banal and embarrassing but this time I am reproducing it below.

My aim is to undermine the newly popular management theory that says happy workers are more creative and productive than miserable ones. This theory is supposedly proved by an article in the May edition of the Harvard Business Review in which 238 professionals were asked to keep daily diaries of their inner working lives. Two professors pored over 12,000 entries and compared them with the quality of the work that the people had done.

...There is only one incident in my diary that has any constructive message for managers. Look at what I did on Tuesday. Notice how the maths cheered me up. This strikes a chord with the HBR survey, which found that workers were happier when they knew precisely what they were supposed to be doing and were allowed to do it. Ambiguity is bad. Clarity is good. This explains why the equations were such bliss. I knew what I was meant to do. I had the tools to do it. And I got the answers entirely, objectively, indisputably right.

read more



Buffett speaks out on Dow Jones bid

By Francesco Guerrera in Omaha

Published: May 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 7 2007 03:00


Warren Buffett yesterday said the $5bn hostile bid for Dow Jones by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp was part of a trend that would see an increasing number of newspapers owned by tycoons motivated by more than financial returns.


Mr Buffett, who has a large stake in The Washington Post and owns the Buffalo News, said: "I think Rupert would acknowledge that part of his interest in the Wall Street Journal owned by Dow Jones goes beyond economics". Mr Murdoch's bid has been rejected by the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones, even though it is pitched at a premium of more than 60 per cent to Dow Jones's share more


Evolution of the internet opens doors for Microsoft

By Richard Waters

Published: May 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 7 2007 03:00


A coming shift in the dynamics of the internet advertising business, as the momentum starts to shift away from the keyword-based systems used by search engines, is one of the biggest factors behind Microsoft's takeover approach to Yahoo, according to industry executives and analysts.

Microsoft has shown few signs yet that it is even starting to win back any ground lost to Google in search, despite heavy investments over the past three years to build its own search engine and keyword advertising system.

Other changes in online advertising, however, could create new opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its biggest rival.

A purchase of Yahoo is only one idea among a broader range of options for co-operation between the two companies that have been discussed. If pursued, it could finally give Microsoft's famously impatient and hard-driving chief executive Steve Ballmer a way to jump back into contention at a time when the online ad world is in a state of more


Liberalism needs central power

By Adam Posen Published: July 3 2007 19:07 | Last updated: July 3 2007 19:07


Two hundred and thirty-one years ago on Wednesday, the Continental Congress declared American independence. While the US constitution was in place 13 years later, much of the subsequent two centuries have been spent fighting over the locus of economic policymaking. The initial battles between the states and the federal government were of course driven by slavery, but the economic aspects of the dispute over federalism went on independently and far outlasted the civil war. Having a constitution settled nothing in this area.


So Wednesday is a good opportunity to take a longer view on the implications of the recent European Union summit agreement for economic decision-making. Often, eurocrats use historical comparisons of European integration with the early years of the US as an excuse: “Look how far we have come in so few decades. What more could you expect?”



Cmts Maybe....

Investors line up to own transport facilities

By Robert Wright Published: July 4 2007 18:55 | Last updated: July 4 2007 18:55


Transport infrastructure has become the latest of a number of asset classes – everything from property to commodities to modern art – that have seen values soar to unprecedented levels on the back of record world liquidity. The boom in transport facilities has been fuelled by specialist investment funds, which value infrastructure’s stability and predictability – the very features that made it unattractive to previous generations of investors more focused on growth.

read more

American business needs an election cash code

By Bruce Freed and Bennett Freeman

Published: July 8 2007 17:55 | Last updated: July 8 2007 17:55

Last year, Robert Kelner, a leading Washington election lawyer, warned: “More than in the past, the Department of Justice seems to be trying very hard to tie campaign contributions to legislative acts by members of Congress and to draw the inference that there’s a criminal connection between the two.”


It was an alert that should have sent chills down the corporate spine. A year later, there is little sign that it registered. The Center for Political Accountability, a non-partisan group, recently surveyed the S&P 100 companies to see how they regulated their political activity. It found that none of them included comprehensive policies governing political involvement in their codes of conduct. Moreover, none ensured broad political transparency and accountability and ethical political more

Users are transforming innovation

Eric von Hippel and Michael Schrage Published: July 10 2007 17:38

Pincered between the US’s established technical prowess and Asia’s growing dynamism, the European Union has declared innovation a policy priority. Entrepreneurship is encouraged as never before. The roles of research and development and higher education are stressed.

Unfortunately, these important initiatives undervalue perhaps the most important transformation now redefining the world’s innovation economy. Ingenious leading-edge users – not everyday consumers or profit-focused producers – are becoming the economic engines that drive innovation. In sectors as diverse as software, biotechnology, medical instrumentation, telecommunications and sports equipment, users are spurring growth.

read more

Why businesses get stuck in their ways

By Stefan Stern

Published: July 12 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 12 2007 03:00

Considering so many of us are supposed to be working in something called the "knowledge economy", it is absurd how stupidly designed so many businesses and organisations actually are.

Matrix structures are piled on ad hoc reorganisations, divisions are divided, parcelled up and then redivided all over again. No wonder accountabilities get blurred, employees are confused and performance suffers.

A key problem in this digital age has been the failure to adapt the way businesses are organised. Few leaders see their company as a complete system. Instead, they try to carry out partial running repairs, leaving a fundamentally outdated structure in place.

This is the argument put forward by McKinsey's Lowell Bryan and Claudia Joyce in their ambitious new book. Read more



The iron currency

By Scheherazade Daneshkhu, Economics Correspondent

Published: July 12 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 12 2007 03:00

Sterling yesterday hit a new high against the dollar of $2.03, having managed for two weeks to stay above $2 - a level it had breached for the first time since 1981. The recent rise, though eye-catching, is small in the context of the pound's vigour over the past decade, an enduring strength that has had far-reaching consequences both for Britain's economy and for those of its tradingpartners.

The clearest manifestation, of course, is in the greater purchasing power of US-bound tourists and shoppers. Anyone able to stomach the security queues and immigration rigmarole can pick up an iPod in New York, holding 20,000 songs, for $349 (£171). The same model retails for £239 in the UK. A Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress selling for $325 in Bloomingdale's, the New York department store, costs almost £100 more in the UK.

Read more


A political awakening that recasts the global landscape

By Philip StephensPublished: July 13 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 13 2007 03:00


Among the shifts in global power we are now witnessing, some are consonant with historical experience. The re-emergence of China and India after their two lost centuries fits the old paradigm of a world described by the rise and fall of nations. So too do the transfers of relative economic power from north to south and from west to east. But it is the seepage of power from states, rather than changes in the balance between them, that defines the global disorder.


Here too, there is a mixture of the old and the new. International treaties and conventions began to erode the inviolability of national borders almost before the ink had dried on the UN charter. The globalisation of business and finance began with international moves to liberalise trade during the 1950s. What has changed has been the sheer speed of change.


...The point at which he became animated, though, was during a discussion of the threat from jihadi terrorists. For most of human history, he remarked, the power to control had been greater than the power to destroy. Now the power to destroy was greater than the power to control. That, Mr Miliband thought, was a "profound" point.

Read more


Do not devolve control of health

By Nicholas Timmins

Published: July 15 2007 19:45 | Last updated: July 15 2007 19:45

In the name of devolution or “the new localism”, a crime may be about to be committed. Despite promises from Alan Johnson, the new health secretary, of no new structural reform to the National Health Service “for the foreseeable future”, ministers appear to be considering giving local government a bigger say in, maybe even control over, the NHS.



...It also ignores the lessons of history – that representation over how services should be provided, without the ability to raise money to affect that, is a recipe for conflict. Back in the 1970s and 1980s councillors held between a third and a half of the seats on local health authorities. Without the ability to raise health service money locally – “representation without taxation” – the result was endless wars over whether central government was providing enough money, rather than a concentration on services. read more