December 30th, 2010
03:25 PM GMT
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BEIJING, China - If you have been to Beijing recently, chances are you have had to sit in frustrating, mind-numbing traffic. The Chinese capital's traffic stats, based on official figures and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, say it all:

* Record traffic jams in one day: 143

* Average commuting time: 52 minutes

* Number of cars on the road in 2010: 4.7 million

The number of automobiles has doubled since 2005 and, as Beijingers become wealthier, so more people in the Chinese capital want their own set of wheels. The city's roads haven't been able to cope, so the government has decided to crack down hard on the congestion.

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December 30th, 2010
11:44 AM GMT
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December 30th, 2010
11:43 AM GMT
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December 30th, 2010
11:42 AM GMT
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December 28th, 2010
02:07 AM GMT
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Beijing, China (CNN) – I am enjoying my new assignment in China but, boy, are things surprisingly expensive. Housing prices in the nation's capital seem to be almost as high as those in my last posting - Hong Kong. Food is costlier - especially vegetables, because of bad weather. Even clothing in the "world's factory" isn't cheap.

Fighting inflation: Prices here are expected to continue to rise in 2011. Chinese policymakers have made fighting inflation a top priority.  Economists expect a cocktail of tightening measures, including interest rate hikes, stricter lending practices, and price controls to keep inflation in at bay.

Decent growth: The moves will likely impact growth, too, but many analysts believe a slowdown could be mild. China is still healthy compared to many other economies and is expected to continue to drive the global recovery.

Rebalancing: One way is for China to continue to encourage consumer spending. That should be another theme in 2011. Expect to see higher wages and even a stronger Chinese currency. A more robust yuan should increase local purchasing power and address some of the concerns over inflation.

What themes do you see for China in 2011?

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December 27th, 2010
03:25 PM GMT
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The somewhat arbitrary dividing up of Africa between the European powers during the "Scramble for Africa" in the early part of the 20th century is still a sensitive issue for many on the continent. The sensitivities around the colonial divisions that created modern Africa are still manipulated for political gain in many African countries.

The issue of "land" and who is the "rightful owner" of African land has been a politically expedient tool in Zimbabwe in the past decade. Here in South Africa, the debate about the "redistribution" of land to black South Africans is a hot potato that is likely to become hotter in the years to come.

So then, why are the Tanzanians leasing tracts of arable farmland to the South Koreans?

I recently interviewed Aloyce Masanja, the head of the Rufiji River Basin Authority a public enterprise, in Tanzania which has recently signed an agreement with the South Korean government to "jointly develop" some of the land to the west of the Dar es Salaam.

This is not the first time foreign nations, lacking in wide-open spaces, have essentially farmed food in Africa and then exported it home. But I was keen to get an understanding of what was driving this relationship.

Mr Masanja is a dapper, enthusiastic advocate of "development" in the rural areas of Tanzania. He feels strongly that if peasant farmers are not producing enough on their farmlands then that land should not be left idle or underdeveloped.

That said, he was reluctant to admit that the South Koreans would be sending the rice from the Tanzanian rice paddies back home, but eventually he did concede that when there was an "excess" of food that the South Koreans would be allowed to export the food back to Asia.

Masanja was, though, at pains to stress that the South Koreans had been contracted to uplift and educate local farmers in the process of planting their own rice paddies in Africa.

So my question this week: What’s in it for the Koreans? What is in it for the Tanzanians? Is this new form of land development another form of colonial exploitation? Or are the Africans wiser this time around?



December 23rd, 2010
03:10 PM GMT
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New York (CNN) – What does it take to get a conservative politician, liberal economist and billionaire businessman to agree? A crisis - and that is exactly what David Stockman, Jeffrey Sachs and Mort Zuckerman worry the U.S. will face as a result of the $858 billion tax package just passed by Congress.

"It is a racket what is going on in Washington. Here we had a deficit commission, we discussed these issues for months and all of the sudden the President and the Republicans get together and there’s another trillion dollars given away over 2 years. It’s really shocking stuff actually," says Sachs, a Columbia professor and special adviser to the United Nations.

"These debts essentially are a dagger pointed at the heart of the economy and sooner or later that dagger is going to strike so we now sort of justify this (tax package) in the short run because nobody thinks in the long run," adds real estate magnate Zuckerman.

We invited these three men to Time Warner Center to participate in a year-end discussion on the challenges facing the U.S. economy and, perhaps more importantly, the remedies that should be put in place.

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December 23rd, 2010
03:18 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – There is something plainly fascinating about Paul Butler's map of the world. The Facebook intern used data from the social networking site to create a map of people's friendships across the globe and to see how they related to geographical and political boundaries. After experimenting with different techniques, he ended up using arced, weighted lines to connect cities based on the volume of the Facebook friendships between them.

In Butler's words, the result is "a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships."

The lines also map out, to a large extent, Facebook's global penetration. One is struck by the fluorescent clusters in the United States and Europe, where Facebook is widely used; the clear contours of Indonesia, home of the most Facebook users in Asia; and the giant hole where China should be.

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December 22nd, 2010
05:24 PM GMT
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2010 was a whirlwind year for the world’s markets and economies.

Greece and Ireland suffered economic bailouts to avoid taking down the rest of Europe.

While Europe stumbled and the U.S. sputtered on the road to recovery, oil, gold and other commodities are back at record highs, fueled by growth in places like China, Brazil and India.

America’s banks were forced to halt or delay home foreclosures over shoddy paper work, prolonging the U.S. housing malaise, but mortgage rates hit record lows.

Globally, unemployment continues to fester, as workers everywhere wake up to changing labor needs in an increasingly inter-connected and automated global market place.

With stocks in the U.S. rallying to two-year highs and housing prices there perhaps stabilizing, could 2011 be the year it all starts to turn around?

Watch Quest and Ali duke it out over THEIR predictions for your money in 2011

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December 22nd, 2010
04:33 PM GMT
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New York – Guess what? You probably have too many friends. That is one of the many things I learned from my recent chat with Caterina Fake. As one of the co-founders of Flickr and head of the technology development group at Yahoo!, Fake was at the center of the surge in social networking. Now that we all made the jump and are living our lives online via Facebook and Twitter and the like, Fake predicts we will want to fine tune the experience.

“In this era we have promiscuously friended everybody and we have made connections and we have friended people who aren't truly our friends,” explains Fake. “One of the things that is important after we have gone through that phase is that there will be a contraction. You'll start to realize that ‘I can only pay attention to this number of people’.”

This number happens to be around 150, according to Fake. Give or take. That is not to say that Fake is suggesting people start de-friending en masse. Instead she thinks the need to cut down the noise on the web will lead to a boom in personalization. Her new company, Hunch, aims to capitalize on that. The site allows users to create a taste profile and then uses that to help make recommendations for products or services you are searching for.

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