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Chin Up

America is Not the Next Greece

Jin Lee/AP

The deficit shrunk dramatically in September—and that’s a piece of good news in otherwise bleak times.

It’s still the Golden Age of Deficit Reduction. Thanks to the government shutdown, the final tally for the government’s operations in September—the last month of the 2013 fiscal year—was delayed for three weeks. But on Wednesday, the Treasury Department finally its Monthly Statement for September (PDF). It confirmed the continuation of a trend. The national debt — the obligations we’ve accumulated over the past 200 years—is continuing to rise, and stands at about $17 trillion.

EGO BOOST

The World’s Most Powerful People

Ramin Talaie/Getty

Forbes releases 2013 list.

Ouch. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been named the world’s most powerful person, knocking President Obama down to number two on the annual list. Forbes cited Putin’s expanding control over Russia as well as his significant influence over international relations. Also of note, Pope Francis continues to make waves, as his widespread popularity lands him at the number four spot. Three other Americans landed in the top ten, including Bill Gates (No. 6), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (No. 7), and Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke (No. 10).

Read it at Forbes

We Still Got It

America’s Start-Up Silver Lining

Shutterstock

People talk about the decline of U.S. influence. But go to Europe, and you’ll notice something quick: No other country has the chutzpah we do when it comes to starting new companies.

Vienna, the seat of the once-mighty Habsburg Empire, is a good place to contemplate the rise and fall of global powers. And just now, the talk of American decline is growing louder—Washington is dysfunctional, the wealth divide grows every day, our infrastructure is falling apart, and we can’t manage to provide basic health insurance to all our citizens. But, as was pounded home to me as I spent a day this week in the sprawling Hofburg Palace in the heart of Vienna, the U.

Fused

Obama’s Favorite New Channel

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Fusion, a new cable network aimed at multicultural millennials, launched Monday night with passable news coverage, lame satire—and a softball treatment of Democrats.

Given that the millennial generation will soon enough be toiling away to pay for my Medicare and Social Security benefits, the least I could do is spend four hours watching a newly launched cable network created especially for them.Fusion, a joint venture of Univision and ABC News that is also aimed at the young and growing population of Latinos and multiculturals who don’t conform to Pat Buchanan’s American ideal, debuted on Monday night with a mix of what its repetitive promos called “News,” “Pop Culture” and “Satire” in between commercials for ProActiv acne cream starring rocker Adam Levine.

Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s Ditches Heinz

Scott Olson/Getty

McDonald’s announced it will no longer serve Heinz ketchup after the condiment company hired Burger King’s former CEO. Daniel Gross on the Brazilian business boom that’s behind all of the burger joint drama.

This may be the most high-profile corporate divorce case since Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng broke up. McDonald’s announced on Sunday it is ditching Heinz ketchup.There’s less—and more—than meets the eye. The less part? McDonald’s says it only uses Heinz ketchup in the Pittsburgh and Minneapolis markets. So this isn’t a major business disruption for either party. The more part? The relationship between American business icons is being torn asunder by a strange and interesting wrinkle in globalization: the advent of Brazilian investors as major forces in the U.

What Gives?

Amazon Makes No Money

Paul Sakuma/AP

That glowing new bestseller, that Friday stock bump, that rosy Christmas outlook—they can’t hide that after 20 years, the company still hasn’t managed to turn a profit. Daniel Gross on whether it ever will.

Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos, its founder and chief executive officer, are having a moment. They are the subject of a new, admiring bestselling book, The Everything Store, by Brad Stone. Bezos just plunked down $250 million to buy The Washington Post. The buoyant stock, up 64 percent in the past year, got a nice jolt on Friday as investors were enthused about its third-quarter results: revenues were up 24 percent from a year ago, and Amazon issued a positive forecast for the Christmas season.

Finally

Healthcare.gov’s New Hero

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Jeffrey Zients was just appointed to fix Healthcare.gov. Daniel Gross on why the hire is an uncharacteristically brilliant move by Obama.

By any stretch of the imagination, the rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal health insurance exchange, is going poorly. Three weeks into its existence, it doesn’t seem to work. Slow to anger and cast blame, the Obama administration is now taking action. It is bringing in a SWAT team, staging a technology surge, calling on “the best and the brightest,” as the Department of Health and Human Services noted in a blog post.Health Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lacks the technology and management chops to bring this project home.

MARGIN CALL

Apple Fights to Stay on Top

Justin Sullivan/Getty

With the launch of its new line of tablets, Apple is fighting to reverse its declining market share in a booming market. But lower-priced competitors are closing in.

It’s hard being the envy of nearly every brand.Yet, as today’s rollout of a new set of iPads demonstrates, that may just be Apple’s core problem. It’s the HBO of tech companies. It’s a highly profitable, premium brand that got started in the 1970s, and that industry peers envy and love. But while highly profitable, it always has to cope with cheaper, aggressive competitors. (Netflix announced Monday that it had surpassed the premium cable network in subscribers).

HIGH TIMES

Majority Support Pot Legalization

Uriel Sinai

For first time ever.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Over the past year, support for legalizing marijuana has jumped 10 percentage points, and now a clear majority, 58 percent, of Americans say yes to making pot legal for recreational use. When the question was first asked in 1969, only 12 percent favored such a change. Also significant – 38 percent of Americans now say they have tried the drug at least once, which may have affected the change in approval. 

Read it at Gallup

Hire Me

The Bright Side on Jobs

Rick Wilking/Reuters

Today’s delayed employment report wasn’t very good, but it had some glimmers of hope. Daniel Gross on the signs that the forces holding down job growth are beginning to lift.

In the old days, the personal was the political. These days, the personal finance is the political as government policies, Washington dysfunction, and brinkmanship wreak havoc on the markets and the economy.The government’s heavy hand has been visible in the monthly jobs report for the last several years. On the left, analysts have generally pointed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics release and noted that austerity—reduced government spending at the state, federal, and local level—is tamping down employment.

Business

Daniel Gross

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