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Golden Paychecks


"Airbus is in the worst shape it has ever been [in].... This is not a level playing field." --Louis Gallois, CEO of Airbus, pleading at the Paris Air Show for more government funding from Germany, France, Spain, and Britain, citing the U.S.'s $800 million in annual aid to rival Boeing (BA) for research, as reported in The Financial Times.

In an economy obsessed with new technology and youth, guess who's getting the biggest raises? Older folks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently began posting pay data by age on its Web site, and the numbers are surprising. Over the past five years, full-time workers 55 and older have seen healthy pay gains after adjustment for inflation, while those under 55 have suffered losses.

In particular, the pay increases for those 65 and older help explain why seniors' labor force participation is rising. In the past 12 months, more than 30% of people 65 to 69 were either working or actively looking for jobs, up from just over 25% five years earlier. In the world of labor force stats, that's a big change. Participation rates were roughly flat for 25-to-54-year-olds--and fell more than 3 percentage points for those 16 to 24.

Companies "are finding a way to use some of the elder statesmen who otherwise might retire to the golf course," says 65-year-old William Jackson, an executive coach at Pittsburgh-based recruiter Development Dimensions International. He should know. Ready to bail out of corporate life, Jackson instead accepted a deal from DDI that allows him to work out of the lakeside home he built in northern Minnesota. CEO William Byham says DDI didn't want to lose Jackson's wealth of customer contacts and experience.

Much of the hiring of older workers is coming from industries at risk for mass retirements--electric utilities, oil companies, and aerospace and defense contractors, for instance. Such sectors are the "canaries in the coal mine," says human capital researcher Eric Lesser, an associate partner at IBM's (IBM) Institute for Business Value, who predicts the demand for older workers is likely to spread across the economy. Thomas Darrow, a principal at Talent Connections, an Atlanta-based recruiting firm, echoes that thought. "It's evolving to be one of the biggest trends in recruiting," he says.

To be sure, not everybody is trying to hang on to their vintage employees. A 2006 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that while small and midsize companies are most concerned about retaining older workers, big companies worry most about keeping younger ones. Still, it seems that America's vacuum-tube veterans have a place in the YouTube (GOOG) economy after all.

Patent infringement disputes over everything from BlackBerrys to plasma display screens have become the tech world's favorite blood sport. Now a brawl between California chipmakers Qualcomm (QCOM) and Broadcom (BRCM) may end up being resolved by Referee-in-Chief George W. Bush. In a rarely tried--and even more rarely successful--tactic, Qualcomm is gearing up to lobby the President and the U.S. Trade Representative to overturn a June 7 decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission. That ruling bars imports of cell phones equipped with a Qualcomm chip the ITC says violates Broadcom's patent.

The President can veto an ITC decision on public policy grounds, says Charles Hosch, a partner with Dallas law firm Strasburger & Price. But it last happened in 1985, when President Ronald Reagan rejected the agency's ban on gray-market battery imports, citing lower consumer prices. Qualcomm, which denies it infringed Broadcom's patent, will argue that the barred imports have global positioning technology that first responders can use. Broadcom counters that the ITC lifted the ban for sales to responders. Meantime, the two companies are still slugging it out in courts in California over similar issues.

Vending machines dispense about 60% of all cigarettes sold in Japan, and there's little to stop underage smokers from using them. But starting in September, some machines will be carding teens. Vending machine maker Fujitaka plans to outfit its models with software that can assess whether a customer is at least 20 years old, Japan's legal minimum age for smoking. The move comes ahead of industry recommendations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which wants Japan to be able to identify minors by 2008.

The Fujitaka machines will scan a customer's face with a built-in camera, codifying and comparing facial features with data from a huge image bank. If the face is deemed too young, the buyer must insert a driver's license or answer questions over an intercom from the machine's owner (usually a nearby shopkeeper).

Omron (OMRNY), the Kyoto electronics company that developed the technology, says the device gauges age as accurately as a typical human. Other makers plan vending models that operate with a "tobacco passport," an ID card issued to those 20 or older. Some say both solutions are inadequate. "It's pathetic," says Bungaku Watanabe, head of the Tobacco Problems Information Center, an antismoking group. "Many teenagers look much older than their age or can borrow ID cards."

For years some patients have been saving money by splitting high-dose versions of prescription drugs in half: While 30 20-mg tablets of Lipitor, Pfizer's (PFE) best-selling cholesterol-lowering statin, might cost $116, 15 40-mg pills can cost just $58.

Not all pills can be safely split. But a new study from the University of Michigan finds that bisecting statin tablets has no adverse effect on patients' cholesterol levels. (Small fluctuations in levels aren't dangerous.)

The six-month study, reported in the June issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, followed 111 patients taking one of three statins: Lipitor, Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) Pravachol, or Merck's (MRK) Zocor, the world's biggest-selling drugs. Without knowing how common pill-splitting is now, analysts say they can't estimate the financial impact of its becoming the norm. U-Mich started a pill-splitting plan for 500 of its employees and retirees last year, saving $195,000 in prescription drug coverage so far. Enrollees have saved a total of $25,000.

Contenders in the 2008 Presidential race think they have what it takes to lead the nation. But some can't govern their own domains. According to domaintools.com, which tracks Web site ownership, GOP front-runner Rudolph Giuliani had RudyGiuliani.com bought out from under him in 1998 by a squatter--someone who buys a Web address cheaply with the idea of selling it at a fat profit. The site was then bought by Zev Adler of Monsey, N.Y., who runs a liquidation business. He plans to use it to promote his business if the former New York City mayor wins the White House.

RudolphGiuliani.com went to squatter Scott Ferguson of Minneapolis in 2004. The Giuliani campaign, which says it won't pay high prices for the names, uses JoinRudy2008.com.

Mikehuckabee.com, meanwhile, is used by its owner (whose identity is protected) to take jabs at the former Arkansas governor. The owner won't sell to any Huckabee supporter. "It's not a problem, but I do wish we had it," says campaign manager Chip Saltsman. The candidate's site: explorehuckabee.com.

Democrats have been a bit savvier. John Edwards got hold of johnedwards.com in 1998. Hillary Clinton registered domains for her name years ago. But New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson saw BillRichardson.com snatched up by domain parking company Sedo in 2004. His campaign works out of richardsonforpresident.com.

"The biggest worry about not controlling your own name domain is leaving it open to mudslingers," says Robert Sinclair, a digital marketing consultant. "And it looks bad to the digerati that you didn't have the foresight to snag your own domain."

This summer, Great Lakes shipping companies are paying for last winter's mild temperatures. Water levels on Lake Superior are down almost two feet from a year ago, an inch or two away from a record low. The cause: winter's thinner-than-usual ice coverage, resulting in more water evaporation (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/19/07, "Rx for Earth: Sooner Not Later").

For cargo operators, whose freighters must carry smaller loads to avoid scraping bottom in port or shallow waters, the result is evaporated earnings. Typically, the largest lakers, which run 1,000 feet stem to stern, can handle up to 68,000 tons of iron ore or coal, about what five one-mile-long trains can haul. Now the maximums have been reduced by 5% to 10%.

Big customers such as U.S. Steel (X) and coal-burning utility DTE Energy (DTE) of Detroit say they've averted shortfalls by eating into stockpiles or turning to railroads for supplies.

But shipping lines don't have a way around the problem. Already fully scheduled, they can't make more trips. Nor can they charge more per ton under contract. "It's dinging their profits," says Stuart Theis, executive director of the U.S. Great Lakes Shipping Assn. Spring weather hasn't helped. The basin has been in a drought since March, with only scattered storms in near-term forecasts.

thesportsbizblog.blogspot.com/

Billing itself as "sports illuminated," SportsBiz analyzes the business side of collegiate, pro, and international athletics. Recent posts delve into the disappointing television ratings for the NBA Finals on ABC (DIS) in mid-June and the upcoming inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League, started by Massachusetts businessman Larry Baras. The blog's publisher, Mark Ament, a Louisville lawyer who negotiates deals for investors, owners, and athletes, writes that he wants to keep the focus on financials, "with a bit about the law thrown in for good measure." Copyright law, for instance: Ament recently weighed in on Google's (GOOG) attempt to digitize libraries, writing about the cooperation of colleges in the Big Ten Conference as his point of entry.

Little girls aren't just playing princess these days. Increasingly, they're being royally pampered at spas aimed at the 5-to-12 set. Sweet & Sassy in Southlake, Tex., expects to add 16 shops to its current 15 by yearend, growing to 82 by 2010. Boise (Idaho)-based Monkey Dooz plans to go from 6 locations to 21 this year. And Saks-owned Club Libby Lu, with 90 outlets, expects to add up to 15 annually over the next five years. In 2006, Saks reported Libby Lu sales of $53 million, up 13% from 2005.

In pastel rooms lined with cartoon characters, Monkey Dooz offers a $35 Tutti Frutti Manicure and Chocolate Pedicure. At birthday parties--big in the tween spa business--guests at Sweet & Sassy can opt for a mini-facial or a "sassy up-do" hairstyle. In the age of Britney, Lindsay, and Paris, do the spas send girls the wrong signal? "A 9-year-old does not need makeup or a pedicure," says psychologist Irene Kassorla. "The message is, 'Lie back and do nothing, and we'll make you feel good.' It's just inappropriate." The spas say their services are harmless. "It's not about growing up too fast," says Sweet & Sassy CEO Dixie-Drake Davis. "We wouldn't do eyebrow waxing or highlights or anything that would keep a child from being a child."


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