November 17th, 2010
04:52 PM GMT
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Britain's Prince William asked his girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him
Britain's Prince William asked his girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him

The role of royalty in a democratic age. Unelected, some believe unnecessary. But still loved, and revered by so many others.

The role of royalty in an austere age. Outdated and expensive, some critics might say. But for many the source of a welcome good news story. This week’s events in the UK are testament to that.

Royalty divides opinion. A select few born into a life of privilege. A life steeped in tradition, tangled up with history, national pride, rarely affording the chance of a “normal life”.

There’s no doubt the world’s monarchies are never out of the spotlight, and we lap it up. And it’s always been that way. Think of the age-old legends, the royals with blue blood, the princess so delicate she can feel a pea through 20 mattresses, the bleak Russian rumors of the missing Romanov sisters. Our fascination with the royals is as old as the sprawling dynasties themselves.

This week’s Q+A will be delving into this global obsession. Tune in Thursday to watch and leave us ideas for next week’s Q & A in the comments section (right underneath here).

Filed under: Q&AQuest Means Business

November 17th, 2010
03:19 AM GMT
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(CNN) – The engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton lit the Internet on fire Wednesday, a good news story for a UK demoralized by debt and spending cuts.

The royal family hasn't announced a date for the wedding yet. But Ireland’s biggest bookmaker is naming the second Saturday in August  in 2011 as the favorite possible date. Paddy Power is offering 3-to-1 odds on that being the big day.

Less likely - at 10-to-1  - is Saturday, July the 30th. That's because it falls just one day after the 30th anniversary of Prince William's parents' wedding - when Charles and Diana tied the knot in 1981.

Other bets being placed:

Where will the wedding take place? (Westminster Abbey is the 6-to-5 favorite).

What title will William assume? (Duke of Cambridge, 5-to-4).

UK viewers of wedding broadcast? (More than 36 million, 3-to-1)

Who will design the wedding dress? (Amanda Wakeley, 4-to-1)

Length of Kate’s train? (Less than two meters, 6-to-4)

Color of the Queen’s hat? (Pink, 9-to-2 favorite)

Meanwhile, the UK Kenya Tourist Board is hoping that the royal proposal – which was made when the pair were visiting  the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy near Mount Kenya – will provide a boost in tourism to the nation.

“For a country such as Kenya which relies heavily on tourism, this will created worldwide publicity and significantly enhance the profile as a romantic holiday destination,” director Angie Sloan said in a news release.

Ah, love is in the air. And financial opportunism.

November 16th, 2010
05:36 PM GMT
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CNN's Maggie Lake reports on the release of a new seven inch tablet and its prospects against the Ipad.

Filed under: Business

November 16th, 2010
05:26 PM GMT
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Anticipation is high as the Chevy Volt hits showrooms. CNN's Maggie Lake finds out how it drives.

Filed under: Business

November 16th, 2010
09:55 AM GMT
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(CNN) – As Eurozone ministers meet to discuss the debt problems of Ireland and Portugal and whether those nations need will need a bailout to shore up their finances.

If they do, they will be following in the footsteps of Greece, which was thrown a $146 billion (110 billion euro) lifeline earlier this year. But that came with conditions.

Greece is expected to bring its budget deficit down to the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP by 2014. But Greece is far from the only euro country with big deficits and high debt. Far from it.

A new report by the European Commission’s statistical bureau, Eurostat, showed Greece had the largest government deficit as a percent of GDP: 15.4 percent of GDP.

Where do the rest stack up? Here’s the rest of the top 10 European nations with the worst deficits in 2009:

* Ireland –14.4 percent

* UK – 11.4 percent

* Spain – 11.1 percent

* Latvia – 10.2 percent

* Portugal – 9.3 percent

* Lithuania – 9.2 percent

* Romania – 8.6 percent

* Slovakia – 7.9 percent

* France – 7.5 percent

November 15th, 2010
08:37 PM GMT
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As CNN's Felicia Taylor finds out, high-end goods are now making a comeback.

Filed under: Business

November 15th, 2010
08:04 PM GMT
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CNN's Felicia Taylor takes a closer look at the looming currency battle and how some economists want to fix it.

Filed under: Business

November 15th, 2010
04:59 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – For the past decade, a small company in Estonia  has struggled to carve out a slice of the rare earth industry dominated by China. Now Silmet Rare Metals suddenly finds itself on the map as a result of recent trade disputes between China, the U.S. and Japan over rare earth minerals.

"We've been trying to get in the door for the past ten years, Suddenly, we're the prettiest girl at the dance," says CEO David O'Brock.

The story of Silmet Rare Metals is an interesting one. Its factory in the port town of Sillamäe, Estonia was originally a uranium enrichment plant for the Soviets during World War II. In the 1970's, the factory buildings were transformed into a rare earth metals and minerals production facility. Today, Silmet purchases raw materials from a Russian mine and then processes out rare earth elements that can be used in the auto, glass and electronics industries.

O'Brock is an American who has lived in Estonia for 12 years and runs the 500-employee company. He says Silmet produces 3,000 tons per year – just a fraction compared to China's 130-140,000 tons per year.

The recent political disputes and China's chokehold on the industry have made many international manufacturers very nervous about their future supplies of rare earth minerals. The situation has put Silmet in the enviable position of being the hottest ticket in town.

Unfortunately, says O'Brock, he can't take full advantage of the demand and has to turn away potential new customers. "We're a very small producer on a world scale. Our bottleneck has always been raw material. Because we don't source from China, we don't have enough capacity for what the world needs," he says.

Silmet is sticking with its longtime, if small, customer base of about 15 companies from the U.S., the EU and Japan. While Silmet cannot take on new accounts, it is taking advantage of surging market prices. O'Brock gives an example of the cheapest raw earth metal: Cerium which is used in the glass industry.

Last year, cerium sold for $3.50 per kilogram. Today Silmet sells it to his customers for $40 a kilogram – a 1000% price increase! Do his customers complain?

"They understand the political situation and the market forces," O'Brock says. In other words, they have no choice.  Silmet is a private company and will not release financial figures. After pressed for some perspective, the CEO acknowledged that Silmet has never made a profit until this year.

Sometimes, a little controversy can be good for business.

November 15th, 2010
03:44 AM GMT
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(CNN) - Economics, in a broad sense, is the study of how the financial decisions of billions of individuals coalesce into large trends that shape the way money is created, destroyed or transferred around the globe.

In that vein, physicists in Germany and the U.S. have released a study that shows how individual searches on Google correspond to large movements on the stock market.

The joint study by researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany and the Center for Polymer Studies at Boston University looked at the stock moves of S&P 500 companies and compared them with searches of the company names on Google Trends from 2004 to 2010.

“Search engine query data offer insights into our economic life on the smallest possible scale of individual actions,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published Monday in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in the UK.

The researchers found the search activity on a particular company name increased in tandem with increased trading activity of the company stock as a whole - whether the stock price went up or went down. “Increasing transaction volumes of stocks coincide with an increasing search volume and vice versa,” the study authors wrote.

“Thus, one can conclude that search volume reflects the present attractiveness of trading a stock. But it seems that neither buying transactions nor selling transactions are preferred when one detects an increased volume,” the study said.

So, it appears to confirm both that news moves markets and that stock movements follow the herd. Only now the herd eats at the trough of constant information that’s a Google search away.

November 12th, 2010
02:30 PM GMT
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It didn't look much like sleeping rough. But it certainly felt like it.

More than 400 people slept out in a covered market in the heart of London's financial district to raise money for one of the city's main homeless charities, Centrepoint. There was food, drink, live music, even the odd famous face. There were cardboard boxes, and sacks to sleep on, and everyone brought a sleeping bag. But it's November, Britain is in the grip of some quite violent winds. And the one thing there wasn't was heating.

At around 2 a.m. I encountered a dilemma. My nose was in danger of going numb, but I couldn't find a way of covering it without cutting off my oxygen supply. I pulled my highly inadequate, fluorescent pink sleeping bag over my head, and hoped for the best.

A little while later, the dilemma spread to my feet. I had smuggled in a hot water bottle (hoping to avoid the ritual cries of "cheat" from the other participants) but it was now stone cold. Adding more socks would involve several moments of facing the elements minus sleeping bag. Again I found myself unprepared to make this decision, and opted for doing nothing.

The night ended, much as it had started. With a decision. To go to work, or not to go to work. I knew the whole point was to go. To see what it was like to live on little or no sleep and to take on the same challenges – just with a lot less strength. This was the one decision I made, and made right.

Sub-zero temperatures aside, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this experience. It was highly organized, safe, and luckily it was a novelty. I'd also be lying if I said I experienced an epiphany about the life of a homeless person. I still wouldn't presume to understand what it's really like. But when I next see someone sleeping rough I might stop and wonder how many night-time dilemmas they encountered, and if they found a way out.

The Centrepoint Sleepout 2010 raised over $200,000 dollars to help young homeless people.

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