Magazine

Talk Show


"The fact is that the improper shredding of documents took place on my watch--and I believe it is now in the best interests of the firm for me to step down." -- Joseph Berardino, resigning from his post as Andersen CEO For years, The Republican Right has accused Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan of stunting economic growth because of his fear of inflation. Now, a group of GOP centrists is unloading on the Fed boss, too. The Republican Leadership Coalition, in a $25,000 radio campaign launched on Mar. 27, is chiding Greenspan for cutting back on the money supply in an attempt to--you guessed it--prevent inflation.

RLC Chairman Scott W. Reed, who was campaign manager for Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential run, wants the Fed to pump more money into the economy to spur growth and strengthen the nascent recovery. He hopes the radio ads will convince GOP congressional leaders to join the coalition trying to influence Greenspan. Reed fears GOP control of the House could be at risk if the Fed tightens the money supply and raises rates. "Forget the President's poll numbers," says Reed. "If Greenspan slows down [the money supply], it could harm Republicans in the fall."

The RLC believes that a similar tightening of the money supply in 1992 hurt the economy--and cost another President Bush his job that same year. They don't want congressional Republicans to suffer the same fate in midterm elections this November. "Now is a terrible time to restrict the money supply," Reed says. As another President liked to remind himself, "It's the economy, stupid." There's a strange sort of role reversal going on in Mexico. Steel-products maker Grupo IMSA, with help from the North American Free Trade Agreement, has become a big export-oriented conglomerate, with $2.2 billion in sales. One of its many U.S.-bound products used to be insulated metal panels used in refrigerated storage rooms. Nowadays, however, instead of making all the panels in Mexico and shipping them north, IMSA is increasingly importing them into Mexico from its plant in Lewisville, Tex.

The reason: the amazing strength of the Mexican peso. The "superpeso" gained nearly 6% against the U.S. dollar last year, making it one of the world's best-performing currencies. Now, Mexican wages and prices are rising so fast that some operations are less expensive in the U.S., even with higher U.S. labor costs. "Many of our inputs are cheaper there: electricity, natural gas, and petrochemical products," says IMSA CEO Eugenio Clariond.

Why such a strong peso? Mexico has become a safe harbor for investors dodging turmoil in the rest of Latin America. Sound economic fundamentals recently earned Mexico an investment-grade rating, attracting more portfolio investment and bolstering the currency. Now, foreign makers of low-margin goods, such as clothing and cell phones, are decamping to cheaper China and Honduras. If the ultrahot peso doesn't cool off, others may follow. Labor activists can claim another victory in their campaign to prevent U.S. retailers from buying goods from overseas sweatshops. The latest convert: Uncle Sam.

A General Accounting Office report says the Pentagon does little to ensure that private-label goods sold at military-base exchanges aren't made by foreign child labor, forced labor, or union-busters. But the Defense Dept. has promised to adopt new rules by July 1, including a code of conduct for suppliers, a workers'-rights education program, and procedures for monitoring compliance. With PXs posting $9.6 billion in 2000 sales, the guidelines will send a bold signal to other retailers and manufacturers.

In 2000, PXs bought $57 million in house brands from 70 plants in 18 countries, including some with notorious antiworker records: Burma, China, Saipan, and Pakistan. They even increased their purchases from Burma as President Clinton was imposing sanctions, according to Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee for Human Rights. Now, he says, "the groundwork has been laid for real progress." The exchanges, which have been at ease for years, are snapping to attention. Baseball's detractors have long groused that the national pastime is nothing more than 15 minutes of action surrounded by two hours of players standing around scratching and spitting. Even diehards concede that they have trouble finding time to sit through eeeternaaal games.

Now, starting on Opening Day, Apr. 1, those with short attention spans can sign up to see the games in 20-minute versions--just the hits, outs, walks, and errors. Streaming-video maker RealNetworks (RNWK) is teaming up with Major League Baseball to offer the service for $4.95 a month on MLB.com. The condensed digital videos will be posted online 90 minutes after each game. "It's tough to watch more than 20 minutes on the Internet, and that's the right amount of time to get everything in," says Robert Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, the league's interactive media company.

With a target audience of time-pressed or geographically displaced fans--a Milwaukeean living in New York who can't get Brewers games on TV, for example--MLB is betting it will find enough fans to keep the new venture from being a swing and a miss. But without broadband, fuggedaboudit. This is strictly for those with high-speed Net connections. Spiders. Heights. Flying. Hardly scary at all, compared with speaking in public--especially if you're a woman. A new study finds 96% of execs say they experience some anxiety about public speaking. But among women, 35% report a "high level" of anxiety when giving a speech, compared with 11% of men. "It may be that women are socialized not to think of themselves as assertive, as public speakers need to be," says Sims Wyeth, the Montclair (N.J.) consultant who did the study.

And fear of public speaking can interfere with advancement. "The higher up you get, the more you have to talk and project your personality and shape other people's opinions," says Wyeth. "When women do it, they may be tentative--and less likely to do well."

The biggest anxiety gap is found in those who say they make only occasional speeches: 42% of women report a "high" level of anxiety, compared with only 15% of men.

Still, says Alfred Herzing, president of the speech-coaching group Toastmasters International, most people have at least some anxiety about speaking in public, adding: "I just wonder if the guys are less willing to admit it." The pentagon has released its annual wish list for fighting terrorism, and it contains an intriguing item: a lie-detecting dog.

Sure, it sounds farfetched. But a Pentagon spokesman insists that "dogs do sense stress in human beings"--the exact function of a traditional polygraph test. Another reason the Pentagon just might get its dog: Since September 11, the technology industry has been hugely responsive to Pentagon needs. An interim request right after the terrorist attacks yielded 12,500 suggestions and proposals on everything from bomb disposal to computer facial recognition (BW--Mar. 4).

Even if dogs can be trained to detect lies, they might not be able to work well in settings such as airport check-ins. "Dogs are used to searching and moving around," says Paul Waggoner, who heads a canine research program at Auburn University. "They're not as good if you sit them in one fixed position." One bemused U.S. scientist suggests that the Pentagon just "needs to go get those dogs that performed on Lassie years ago. You know: `What is it, girl? Timmy's fallen into the well? And this guy's passport is fraudulent?' `Woof!"'


Tim Cook's Reboot
LIMITED-TIME OFFER SUBSCRIBE NOW
 
blog comments powered by Disqus