Friday, March 31, 2006

Only in America: Big Burden on U.S. Hospitals

Not sure what to think of this one. Looks like hospitals are going XXXL with their equipment as patients grow bigger. You've got to be proud to be an American. One question comes to mind: Are larger people more prone to get sick or is this a general trend of fat-assness everywhere?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Buy Our Shoes, Just Not This One

Quick and silly entry. I received an email from advertising a sale on athletic shoes. The email included a picture of a nice sneaker which awakened my consumer instinct (the one that my wonderful mother keeps yelling at me about). So, I searched all over the site for this particular shoe, with no success. Finally, for the heck of it, I wrote the customer support people over there, asking for the name of the shoe in the picture. The friendly folks wrote back saying they couldn't find it....

So here's quite a novel marking idea. Advertise a sale using a shoe that you don't even offer. That will whet their appetites!

To be fair, I had bought several pairs of shoes at and have been very happy with the service. They even suggested a couple shoes that were "quite similar" (not really) to the one in the photo. But this is a little weird...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mad About Scientology

Check out this video of the founder of Scientology. It's heavily edited, but it still gives a quite an unsettling picture of a man worshipped by Tom Cruise and other nutty celebrities. I remember seeing his bust at one of the Scientology "churches" I had the misfortune to visit many years ago. This is the guy who created the Super Adventure Club?

While we're at it, take a look at this long article on the "church" (aka the cult) in the Rolling Stone. One encouraging statistic: A recent survey found only 55,000 people in the entire United States who claimed to be Scientologists. That's including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley (where was Scientology when she gobbled all those burgers?) and all those other celebrities snatched by the nutties.

French National Champions a Headache for Europe

The Friday edition of WSJ Europe has an interesting coupling of stories on its front page today. First, a great article on the French drive to create national champions, which may not be so good for all of Europe. The article says France has more top-tier companies in key industries than any other country in Europe. But, paraphrasing former EU competition czar Mario Monti, who does that really help? The French citizens? The French economy? Or does it just fill the pockets of the French elite? It certainly doesn't do much for the European project France has been promoting for decades, at least on the surface. Not too long ago President Jacques Chirac told the East Europeans should know when to shut up, underlying the point that the French see the EU as theirs to run. So, I guess, what's good for the French elite, is good for the EU. Or something like that.

And, on the same page, we see that U.S. telecoms equipment company Lucent is in merger talks with French rival Alcatel. Looks like Lucent would get the upper hand. Wonder how well this would fit into the French economic model. I get a feeling this could get quite messy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

PiS'ed Off at Kwasniewski

Now Poland's ruling Law and Order Party (PiS) is going after former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, promising to look into alleged financial irregularities while he was the Minister of Youth more two decades ago under the communist regime. I'm no fan of Kwasniewski, but this is bordering on the absurd. Come on boys and girls, how about doing some governing instead of looking for people to go after. One of my fav Polish bloggers, beatroot, has a nice list of PiS's enemies.

Let's be frank here. Pretty much everybody associated with the old regime in Poland was dirty, opportunistic, or, even more likely, both. Despite this, Poles have voted for Kwasniewski twice in the last 10 years. Let it go, PiS, and investigate more recent corruption. There's plenty of it out there.

So, will Kwasniewski make U.S. his home now, with a base in DC? Whatever happened to his aspirations to become the next head of the U.N. Despite the frivolous nature of these charges, I'm sure they won't help Kwas at the U.N.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tom Bans South Park: Part II

Tom Cruise again flexes his muscle in his galactic battle with South Park. The media is unsurprisingly playing up this one, but there's little mention of the fact that Cruise has already scored one by blocking the broadcast of the infinitely funny "Trapped in the Closet" episode outside the U.S. (as mentioned on this blog). Scary, but the cult wins again on this one. But even though Isaac Hayes is leaving the cast, the Chef shall return, at least in the new episode this week...

And for all you budding lawyers out there, here's an interesting column on whether Tom could win a lawsuit against South Park creators. The nuts at the Scientology church have often used lawsuits as intimation tools in the past, so I'm a little surprised Tom has not decided to sue here.

PS. Sorry, little late with this post, but I was out in sunny Costa Rica for a while. ;)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kwasniewski to Teach at Georgetown

Interesting news at my Alma Mater. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski will start teaching classes at Georgetown University this Spring. Georgetown has attracted some of the biggest names in Polish politics in the recent past, including current head of the central bank Leszek Balcerowicz when I was still a student there. The university was also a home to Polish WWII hero Jan Karski.

Unfortunately I won't be heading to DC until Fall. And who knows where Kwasniewski will be then.

Google's Selective Disclosure?

Google has been accidentally releasing all kinds of market moving information lately, ranging from growth warnings by the CFO to plans for online backup space on a "GDrive". Now, among slides from an annual meeting with analysts the world's most benevolent company inadvertently posted a 2006 revenue forecast of $9.5 billion. Google followed up with a press release, saying the figures "were not created for financial planning purposes and should not be regarded as financial guidance."

That's interesting, because if this was any form of guidance, the Internet superstar could be guilty of selectively disclosing market-moving information to analysts. This from a company who has publicly refused to provide guidance since its flotation.

WSJ quotes UBS analyst Benjamin Schachter that the figure appears to line up with Wall Street average estimates. Well, no duh! If Google indeed shared this with them at a meeting in the early fourth quarter of last year, it's no surprise the numbers line up...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Streisand Can't Spell As She Rips "C Student" Bush

From the "You Can't Make It Up" Department. Barbra Streisand, that beacon of Hollywood wisdom, recently released a rant against George Bush, the "C student". Unfortunately the posting itself was riddled with spelling errors.... The note has been fixed by now, but here's a sample of the original.

Talking about shooting yourself in the foot...

Monday, March 06, 2006

WSJ: Hungry AT&T Could Help Vodafone

So WSJ's Heard on the Street dials in (sorry) with their take on Vodafone's hand after the announcement of the AT&T/BellSouth deal. The Journal thinks Vodafone will now be able to extract a bigger price for its stake in Verizon Wireless from Verizon. Clear enough, especially since Vodafone is also in talks to sell its loss-making Japanese unit. But despite the shareholder pressure I still have a tough time thinking that Vodafone (market cap $128 billion), the top cellphone company in the world by revenue, would back away from the world's largest market. Any private equity firms out there willing to partner up and grab Verizon (market cap $99 bln)? I know, quite a stretch, but still...

WSJ suggests Vodafone could instead buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom. But the Germans had recently said they're not big on selling anymore.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Long Live AT&T II

So the deal is official. AT&T will pay $67 billion for BellSouth to become the undisputed king of telecoms in the United States.

Here's an interesting tidbit. AT&T, former SBC, will now hold all of Cingular. In 2004, Cingular gobbled up AT&T Wireless and got rid of that brand. Now Cingular will disappear in favor of... AT&T. So we have two companies that bought AT&T brands and now will proudly carry the name of their acquisitions.

The combined company will bring together 4 of the 7 Baby Bells that were stripped from the original AT&T back in 1984. (See Timeline)

AT&T is Dead. Long Live AT&T

The Wall Street Journal is reporting in its online edition that SBC, which recently swallowed AT&T and renamed itself after the once mighty telecoms giant, is about to buy BellSouth. If it goes through, the deal would make the new AT&T an unquestioned leader in all kinds of telecoms services in the U.S. It will have full control over the top cellphone company Cingular and will dominate long distance and Internet services arenas. Oh, and by the way, it will have a market capitalization of $160 billion.

But don't expect a lot of anti-competion action, with the company being able to point to big wireless competitors -- Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile -- as well as cable TV providers and Internet phone companies that are taking chunks of the telecoms market. So AT&T, at least in name, will again be the telecoms giant.

Wonder if this will put further pressure on Verizon to squeeze out its partner Vodafone from their joint venture Verizon Wireless. There's already been plenty of talk about the British operator pulling out, so maybe this will be the final push. Or here's a crazy idea. Maybe Vodafone, hurting from disappointing growth, would be interested in buying Verizon? They can't abandon the world's largest market, can they?

Another possible deal: Verizon buying Qwest.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What did Bush Know?

Interesting clarification from AP on their widely picked up report on the discussions ahead of Katrina. AP concedes President Bush was not told before Hurricane Katrina hit land that the storm might cause a "breach" of New Orleans' levees. Instead there was talk of an "overrun."

Now in some ways this reminds me of law school, where every little word matters. And I think it does in this case, too. Merriam Webster defines breach as "a broken, ruptured, or torn condition or area... a gap". Their definition of overrun is "to flow over". The crucial distinction, I would imagine, would be the amount of water that would get through and the kind of disaster it would cause. AP: "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about flood waters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking."

Of course, I don't dispute the fact that both the governments at all levels displayed all kinds of incompetence that has exposed incredible vulnerabilities to disasters and other potential problems, including possible mass terrorism attacks. But we do have to be careful about not introducing inaccurate information to muddy the water even more.