In the past, when Washington pushed China to revalue the yuan, Beijing pointed to its trade deficits with other countries to show that it was not keeping the value of the yuan artificially depressed to aid its exports. Now, as China's growing surplus shows, those deficits have shrunk or even disappeared, partly because of the country's tightened economy and slowed imports. Thus the U.S. can argue its case with "a stronger voice," says China expert Albert Keidel at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The June number, up from a previous record of $13 billion in May and nearly 50% above the surplus recorded a year ago, may also prompt other world leaders to step up pressure on China. Exchange rates are expected to be on the agenda of the G-8 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to be a guest. Its wacky ads have rocked Mad Ave. Now Burger King (BKC
) is taking meetings in Hollywood. Execs at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the fast-food giant's irreverent ad shop, have written a rough script for a Burger King-themed movie and are shopping it to such studios as Twentieth-Century Fox (NWS
) and Universal Pictures (GE
), according to AdAge.com. The script, which takes its cues from off-beat indie hits like Napoleon Dynamite, features characters who share an apartment above a Burger King outlet. "It is a very clever way to create buzz around the brand," says Alan Vituli, CEO of Carrols Corp., one of the largest Burger King franchisees, with 330 restaurants. If produced, the film is expected to cost less than $10 million, AdAge.com reports.
It's not the first time Miami-based Crispin has steered Burger King's marketing into a galaxy far, far away. In 2004 it launched the now-famous SubservientChicken.com (400 million hits and counting) to showcase the chain's Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich. (The chicken obeys orders typed in by visitors to the site.) And last year, the agency created a Web site for a fake heavy metal group it dubbed Coq Roq. Burger King, which reports its first quarterly earnings as a public company on Aug. 1, declined to comment on the film script. Recruiters using the Web to learn more about potential candidates may soon find it harder to turn up photos of Dionysian behavior or tell-all blog posts. This fall, software company Six Apart -- a supplier of blog-building applications for Yahoo!'s (YHOO
) business Web-hosting clients -- plans to launch Vox, a blogging and social networking site with highly customized privacy settings.
For each item a user posts -- a photo, video, or chunk of text -- the site, now in beta, will ask: "Who can comment on this?" or "Who can view this?" Users can say "the world" or restrict access to invited "friends" or "family."
The system is more tailored than the all-or-nothing privacy options offered by many social networking sites. "It's mix-and-match," says Six Apart co-founder Mena Trott. Indeed, users can cultivate several online personas, even within a single blog, each aimed at different viewers.
Vox's focus on privacy settings, though ultraprecise, mirrors a trend among popular networking sites like MySpace.com and Xanga. Such sites are highlighting their privacy options in light of media reports about dangers that arise when sexual predators trawl the Web -- alongside less menacing types, like employers. The long history of corporate fraud is now preserved in its own museum. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners on July 9 unveiled a collection of business memorabilia it's heralding as a "fraud museum." The project is the brainstorm of ACFE founder and Chairman Joseph Wells, and the collection of about 90 pieces so far includes stock certificates for Enron, WorldCom, and Adelphia Communications; a check signed by Ivan Boesky, who served time for insider trading; and a copy of the short-lived 1950s magazine Frauds and Rackets. "Public education about fraud is part of our mandate," says Wells. After a month on view at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, the museum will be housed in ACFE headquarters in Austin, Tex. bobsutton.typepad.comWHY READ ITFor practical insights about innovation and organizational life from Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford's Engineering School. Sutton is a co-founder of Stanford's multidisciplinary "d.school," its design program, and co-director of its Center for Work, Technology & Organization. His blog reflects all these interests without being overly academic. And his opinions -- about, say, the efficiency of holding meetings where everyone stands or the value of brainstorming -- reflect his commitment to a "no jerk" work culture. The bus ride home after a loss could seem a lot longer for some college football players this fall. CBS-owned College Sports TV is preparing to release a tool that allows players and coaches to watch games on video iPods right after the final whistle.
The Edge system is the first to catalog game footage into searchable files for immediate viewing on multiple iPods. "It's a step ahead of where a lot of people are at this point," says Eric Ruden, senior associate athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy, who saw a demonstration at a meeting of collegiate athletic directors.
CSTV plans to market the system to Division I college teams before targeting pro football or other college and pro sports. The company won't discuss the price tag, but judging by the hardware (two MacBooks, a video converter, and at least 10 iPods), it will probably come in around $25,000 -- a modest sum for schools with big-money football programs. The House passed a bill against online gambling this week. But Congress isn't alone in lashing out against Web wagers. Sites like betonsports.com and bodog.com are coming under fire for offering bets on whether a major hurricane will slam into U.S. coastal areas. At bodog.com, for example, a $100 bet that a Category 5 storm will hit the U.S. by yearend currently will pay $350 to winners.
The betting sites' critics, including the meteorologists whose forecasts are used to lay odds, contend that such gambling is insensitive and morbid, given the loss of life and property that most major hurricanes cause. "Forecasts are there for people to help protect themselves, their lives, and their property," says National Weather Service spokesman Dennis Feltgen, who calls betting on hurricanes "sad."
The operators of the sites argue that they're providing a service their customers have requested. (They decline to divulge the number of bettors wagering on the storms.) And they add that much of the betting comes from residents of Hurricane Alley in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. "People bet on what they're familiar with," says Kevin Smith, a spokesman for betonsports.com.
One site, Wagerweb.com, is going a step further to defuse criticism. It takes bets only on how many hurricanes will develop into major storms (Category 3 or higher), not how many will make landfall. CEO Dave Johnson even offered to donate hurricane-bet proceeds to the American Red Cross. Since the agency declined (its charter forbids involvement in gambling), he says the money will go to the Humane Society. How do cheaters justify their actions? An article in an upcoming issue of Business and Professional Ethics Journal offers some insights. Based on responses from university students, the authors identify four ways that people rationalize their unethical behavior: They distance themselves from the act, blame someone else for it, redefine it as a good thing, or conclude that the outcome (even a negative one) made cheating worthwhile.
Co-authored by three business professors at Iowa State University and their former colleague Tim West (now at the University of Arkansas), the article stems from a cheating incident experienced by West a few years ago, when he was a visiting B-school professor at a university he declines to name. After assigning a take-home test to the 64 students in his managerial accounting class, and unaware that another professor had posted an answer key on the Web, he found that at least two-thirds of his students had looked up the answers online. (Visitors' Internet addresses could be tracked from the site.)
West scrapped the test results, then surveyed the cheaters about why they had lifted their answers from the site. In their anonymous responses, some of those students said they didn't usually cheat and were "unsure" if what they did was dishonest. Others blamed West for giving a test whose answers were available. Still others focused on the valuable "lesson" they learned. Then there were those who cited the "fact" that "everyone cheats" and that "this is how business operates."