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Live from Germany, It’s Monday Night!

This afternoon, I had the privilege of interviewing Volker Hoff, the minister of federal and European affairs for the German state of Hessen. We met in a deluxe, circular conference room adorned with a glittering chandelier and a balcony overlooking the grandeur of Hessen's capital, Wiesbaden. Hoff and I were joined by Bernd Kistner, head of foreign trade for the Hessian Ministry for Economic Affairs, as we ...

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Crimson tide swamps Birmingham

The fiscal tsunami triggered by the collapse of Wall Street's investment banking giants is poised to drown an entire county in Alabama. According to a report in Fortune magazine, Jefferson County, AL, which includes the city of Birmingham, is on the verge of filing for Chapter 9 protection in what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Fortune says that Jefferson County has fallen ''hope ...

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You’ve got a new partner, Bjorn

In the opening scene of one of our all-time favorite TV series, mob boss Tony Soprano is chasing a guy through a Jersey parking lot with a baseball bat. The guy owes Tony some vigorish.Vigorish is local vernacular for the weekly interest payments that loan sharks charge to their borrower community. These payments don't actually reduce the amount owed, they are kind of an ''insurance policy'' -- as in, you p ...

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Philadelphia success story

In June, we took note in this space of Sheriff John Green of Philadelphia's refusal to enforce court-ordered foreclosure auctions in the city. The soul-searching stance of Sheriff Green (we called him ''Not the Sheriff of Nottingham'') prompted city officials to set up a unique program to facilitate negotiations between financial institutions and homeowners in danger of losing their property to foreclosure. ...

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Save U.S.

Here's the understatement of the year for you: The United States is in some pretty deep trouble. As our presidential nominees debate whether or not to have a debate tomorrow, our current head honcho, George Bush, broadcast himself into our living rooms to tell us "our entire economy is in danger." Thanks, W, for that update from the Department of the Obvious. He must still be trying to determine how many ze ...

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Hydrogen-powered road test

When you turn the ignition key in your car and nothing happens, the first thing most of us do is get out and check the battery. Well, if you happen to be sitting behind the wheel of General Motors' hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinox, don't bother. Just wait for the red light on the dashboard to turn green -- that's the only way you are going to know that this car of the future is ready to roll. We were invited ...

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Bridge to nowhere

In one of our favorite Honeymooners episodes, Ralph Kramden's buddy Ed Norton is bragging about an investment he just made in a new firm called ''Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Ziggy.'' The guy who sold him the shares was Ziggy. Ziggy worked in the sewer with Norton. This week, the U. S. Treasury gave an $85 billion loan to the largest U.S. insurance giant, AIG, to keep it from collapsing. According to U.S ...

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Rebuilding of World Trade Center site is still years away

Within months of the hideous terrorist attack in 2001 that destroyed the World Trade Center, state and city officials in New York unveiled ambitious plans to build five new skyscrapers, a solemn memorial, and a gleaming new transit hub designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava at the 16-acre site that is known as Ground Zero. The plans called for two reflecting pools that would sit atop the Twin Towe ...

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Cali is Growing Smarter by the Mile

When I was an undergraduate student in Bethlehem, PA, I made a friend from California who told me something I still remember to this day: "You belong in Los Angeles." I didn't understand fully what she meant, and she didn't elaborate. I had always been an East Coast guy—raised at the Jersey shore, and spending a lot of my teenage years and early twenties in the glorious frenzy of Manhattan. But shortly afte ...

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Tapping out an S.O.S.

When we last left the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Depression-era aqency that backs up our bank accounts was trying to keep a lid on a ''secret'' list it had compiled of 90 U.S. banks teetering on the edge of failure. FDIC's big brothers over at the Securities and Exchange Commission warned everybody not to spread any unsubstantiated ''false'' rumors about this list, lest it spawn another wave of fi ...

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