New York (CNN) - The floor of the New York Stock Exchange is one of the most recognizable places in the world. It has appeared in countless movies. A host of international networks broadcast live from the exchange every day.
If you watch our air at all you know that well.The thing you don’t see – there isn’t anyone there anymore. Well hardly anyone. The busy bustling floor that I used to go to back in 2001 with papers flying everywhere and traders shouting orders has morphed into a ghostly, tidy scene with only a scattering of traders, eyes glued to their computer screens.
What happened? Technology.
I hope Rupert Murdoch is not a superstitious man. The Daily, already beset by delays, launched as a winter ice storm slammed New York. The show went on, though Murdoch cancelled our scheduled interview due to the conditions (at least that is what his press people told us!)
The fact that Murdoch felt it necessary to personally kick things off is a testament to how important the shift online has become to the media industry. Newspapers and magazines are in decline and titans like Murdoch are trying to figure out how to claw back readers.
A legendary newspaper man, Murdoch seemed slightly out of place at the launch. He read from a prompter and lacked the zeal that Steve Jobs would have brought had he been well enough to attend. (He was originally rumored to unveil The Daily with Murdoch at a San Francisco launch when news of his health broke and that event was postponed).
At the press event Murdoch deflected most questions about content and function to his executives in attendance. The only time he sprang to life is when reporters asked about advertising and I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. He is, after all, a savvy businessman and he knows where the money is migrating.
Out of work? Looking to find a new job? If you worked in construction, manufacturing or administrative services you may not want to even bother updating your resume. There is a good chance the job you lost during this last recession is never coming back. At least that is what some economists say.
Huge structural forces like globalization and technology mean companies can function without you. Sure, manufacturers still need to get products to market, but they are increasingly choosing to build and assemble them in Asia or India where people work for a fraction of the cost of an American.
Big blue-chip companies still need to do payroll and taxes, but they can now have a computer program do it … rather than a human being.
It is a brave new world out there where companies can be more profitable with less workers and employees need to retrain or get left behind …
Or is it?
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.
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.
When I arrived at the offices of start-up Jumo I was surprised by just how young Chris Hughes looks in person. Though he is now 27 years old, he looks like he could still be in college. As we set up for the interview I tried to reconcile this mild mannered fellow with the person some credit with getting Barack Obama elected (he spear-headed Barack Obama’s online fundraising and social networking efforts).
And then Hughes started talking. He is sharp, focused and confident beyond his years. I guess I would be too if I had helped launch Facebook – that is a pretty big resume booster. Still, Hughes has set himself a formidable task. Getting people, especially young people, to engage in charitable giving at a time when jobs are scarce and the future looks bleak. Crazy?
“I never underestimate the generosity of the American people,” says Hughes. “Obviously people are suffering at home and are having trouble making ends meet, but especially around the holidays they are thinking about their communities.”
It is that community part that Hughes thinks is missing from the charity equation. When disasters like the tsunami in Indonesia or earthquake in Haiti strike and news images flood our lives we connect in a personal way with those in need. Donations surge. But when the story moves on so does the help. Hughes thinks the social network framework of blogs, news feeds and video can establish more lasting relationships. People can also tap into special interests more easily and find a niche they want to get involved with and support.
There is huge potential. The New York Times points out that only 6% of the $300 billion donated in 2009 was done online.
It is a leap of faith, but Hughes is an optimist. “What is at our core is our sense of solidarity, our feeling that we are all in this together…….that American resiliency is at the core of what has gotten us through hard economic times before, it will get us through this time and probably the ones to come.”
At a time when many dismiss the competitive ability of the U.S. and are so gloomy about the future of the global economy, it is a breath of fresh air to talk to Hughes. While some industries and jobs may be gone for good, Hughes and his peers are focused on new frontiers. He calls the rate of invention on the web, awe-inducing. Applications exist now that didn’t exist five years ago. Hughes sees endless possibility in that and for the short time I am with him…so do I.
New York City (CNN) – Twenty-three years ago Oliver Stone introduced us to the notion that greed is good. Or at least that is what his villainous character Gordon Gekko famously told a group of shareholders in “Wall Street.” For the sequel it is “banksters” that Stone shines a bright light on.
“What Gekko was doing in the 1980s became legitimate in the 2000s,” he explains. “The banks became Gekko. The Securities and Exchange Commission did nothing, these buccaneers, these pirates – 'banksters' you could call them - were running rampant, selling junk securities to the world. There is a lack of trust between us and the banking class, we’ll never trust them again.”
Known for his thorough research, Stone and his stars once again immersed themselves in the subject. They spent months talking to Wall Street insiders who explained the complex world of derivatives and credit default swaps. Shia LaBeouf, who stars as the young hero of the movie Jake Moore, even passed his Series 7 exam and is a licensed dealer broker.
Though critical of the actions of banks during the crisis, Stone is not completely anti-Wall Street.
“My father was a stock broker for 50 years,” he says. “ think there is a reason for free markets. Markets do define things, they distribute well. At the end of the day we need some version of Wall Street to work… The system has to be reformed.”
I talked to Stone just hours before the film’s New York premiere and it was clear that two decades after the success of the first Wall Street, he is still passionate about finance. “The 2008 crash was like a triple by-pass to capitalism and everything is in question.”
In our interview he talks about the lust for money, the damage this episode has done, leadership in Washington. But the most interesting part for me was our discussion about Shia LaBeouf’s character Jake Moore and whether it is possible to be truly ethical and rise to the top in business.
You can see what Stone says in the video above - but I want know what you think?
Can good guys rise to the top in finance or do you have to be part shark to swim with them? Can the Gordon Gekko’s of the world truly reform?
What do you do when you already own or operate more than a dozen successful restaurants and have reached celebrity chef status? Up the ante, of course! At least that is what Mario Batalia has done.
Teaming up once again with Lidia and Joe Bastianich (both famous in their own right) Batali has opened Eataly, a massive 40,000 square foot food emporium dedicated to all things Italian.
At a time when a lot of Americans are buying food at discount stores like Walmart to try to conserve every penny – this is a big gamble. The food is gourmet and the inventory extensive. But Batali thinks that people will pay a bit more for quality and I have to say, walking around with him on opening day, I was slowly converted.
The food I shamelessly sampled (as you can see in my piece!) from the vegetables to the pizza to the pastries was exquisite. And the atmosphere was great. Batali and his partners have a clear passion for the food. They will be roaming around, giving impromptu lessons and there is an actual culinary school built in where you can sign up for classes. And let’s not forget the beer garden slated to open on the roof in November. SOMETIMES BIGGER IS BETTER!
It is definitely worth a stop if you are visiting New York. If the big apple is not in your travel plans, take heart. Batali hopes to open Eataly’s around globe, with a mix of local cuisine and Italian staples.
What do you foodies out there think? Could this model could work in your home country?
NEW YORK - If imitation is one of the most sincere forms of flattery, than Steve Jobs should feel pretty good right about now.
BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion is so concerned that Apple's iPhone is starting to chip away at its corporate stronghold that it launched a new touch-screen smartphone to compete. Not only that, they held a glitzy media event in the New York City to unveil it. The phone goes on sale Aug. 12 in the U.S.; release in international markets is expected to follow in the next few months.
Taking a page right from Apple the venue was trendy and the music hip, but that is pretty much where the similarities ended.
Apple has cool in its DNA and well, RIM are engineers at heart. Company president Mike Lazaridis wore a suit and tie during the presentation. The other executives, while clearly knowledgeable, nervously struggled with the teleprompter. It was a little painful to watch.
In the end though press events are fleeting. It is the phone that counts and it looks like BlackBerry did its homework.
The Torch has a touch screen and a pull out keyboard, which appeal to people who still like a keyboard for email.
They also put a lot of work into the operating system to beef up their apps and connections to social networking.
I sat down with Lazaridis directly afterwards and he was really excited about the universal search and display functions.
As we know, they face tough competition with Apple and Google. When I asked him why they were bothering to chase the consumer market he said: "We have learned that although every consumer is not a business person, every business person is a consumer."
Their core customer demands more than just security and he knows it.
It also seems that a tablet may be in their future. He said expect some more great mobile devices from RiM.
Speaking of security, he was much less forthcoming about the situation in the United Arab Emirates where officials are threatening a BlackBerry blackout if RIM doesn't provide government access to encrypted data for security investigations. BlackBerry messages are routinely encrypted.
When I asked him about the ban, Lazaridis adamantly defended their policy, saying "We will not give up the security of our product to our enterprise customers."
He would not say whether they were in discussions with the UAE or other governments in the region.
I'd love to know what you users out there think. Are you worried about BlackBerry blackout zones? Are you willing to give the Torch a try? Could this finally be an iPhone killer?
I am sitting here watching the much anticipated Goldman Sachs hearing and four of the executives who were in charge of running the mortgage unit during 2006-2008 have just given their opening statements.
They were smooth, confident and proved why Goldman employees are known as the best on Wall Street. They explained complex mortgage products, their role in them and said that any short positions taken at that time was at the request of the firm’s risk management team. It was all very impressive.
That is until the Q&A started. At that point the polished bankers quickly deteriorated into witnesses bumbling through the massive tome of evidence and emails.
As expected the U.S. senators asked pointed, aggressive questions about why Goldman peddled these crummy deals, if they disclosed information properly to clients, about the conflicts of interest.
The Goldman guys were vague, confused and kept asking, “What page was that?” “What email are you referring to?” At one point Senator Collins said she was beginning to suspect the confusion was a strategy the bankers were using to eat up time!
It is shocking to think these superstars of banking seemed so ambushed by what was clearly going to be a hostile audience. Maybe they did decide on a "Forrest Gump"-type strategy ahead of time. Or maybe they naively thought they were actually going to be talking about structured finance and their area of expertise and that the ethical questions about Goldman’s role in the crisis were going to be reserved for CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Not so.
Goldman executives seem to think that if they can just explain these markets well enough they will be vindicated. Everyone will understand that they did exactly what they were supposed to: recognized risk and acted on that when no one else did. Their job is to make money and they did that well.
What Goldman executives have failed to understand to date is the moral question that people want answered: Did Goldman Sachs sell matches to passengers getting on a wooden boat? Did the firm have a moral obligation to sound the alarm bell when they saw the housing fire eventually break out? Instead of rallying regulators or industry leaders they focused on self-preservation, found a life boat and then drifted along and watched as competitors, clients and eventually the economy sank. Not only did they watch, they may have even profited from it.
Lloyd Blankfein needs to deal with those larger issues of responsibility and ethics if he hopes to try and quell the anger and repair Goldman’s reputation.
Some in financial circles feel they are unfairly being made a scapegoat. Others insist they are a villain in this tale. What do you think?
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.