Return to Transcripts main page

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Nokia's Next Step; SmartPhone Wars; Leaked Report on Draghi Announcement Sends European Markets Up, Borrowing Costs Down; Troika in Greece; Greece's Future; Global Competitiveness; Dollar Falling; South African Miners' Protest Continues

Aired September 5, 2012 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Nokia's new phone disappoints the market, and the CEO tells me they need time to get the word out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN ELOP, CEO, NOKIA: The most important thing that we can do every day is to share with people how much better these devices are, what new experiences they can have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Stop the talk of a third bailout. Greece's environment -- minister says speculation is damaging.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE PAPACONSTANTINOU, GREEK ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: It's completely counterproductive at a time when what is absolutely necessary for this country is for confidence to return.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: And an appraisal for the Internet. The inventor of the world wide web and why it's time to take stock.

I'm Max Foster, this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Nokia has lifted the lid on what could be its last-chance product. CEO Stephen Elop announced the new Lumia Range in New York earlier. He says it is the next step in Nokia's journey with Microsoft.

Investors weren't impressed, though. Nokia's share price fell steadily as the announcement went on. By the end of the session, they'd lost nearly 13 percent, would you believe? A huge amount just today.

This is their company's new flagship phone. It is the Lumia 920. It's got several features that make it stand out from the competition, there's no doubt about that. It has wireless charging and a touchscreen that works even if you're wearing gloves. Nokia says it's the camera that is the real stand-out feature, though, letting you take great photos even I the dark.

Now, the Lumia 820 is a slightly lower spec handset, also unveiled today. It's a bit smaller than 920 and doesn't have wireless charging built in, but both Lumias run Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 software.

It's similar to the new Windows 8 that runs on PCs and tablets, and Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, says because coding for both systems is the same, it will be a major draw for app developers, which would be a big boost for Nokia.

Now, Nokia says the new Lumia phones are a distinct experience. Earlier, CEO Stephen Elop explained some of the technology that's packed into them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELOP: We're very pleased today here in New York to introduce the Lumia 920, which we believe is the world's most innovative SmartPhone, and you correctly characterized it. The camera capabilities of this device are one of the leading reasons for that statement.

In particular, we have a camera capability that we call floating lens. So, as you take a picture, and your hand might be shaking a little bit, the lens actually floats to offset that motion so that the image is nicely stabilized.

What that means is you can take pictures in very low light conditions, practically in darkness, and still get a sharp and crisp image, or you can be holding your hand up, taking a video while you're riding a bike or walking down the street and get very stable video. So, it dramatically enhances the quality of the videos and photos that you take.

FOSTER: And another thing that will be very attractive to a lot of people is this wireless charging. That sort of technology has been around in the past, but what makes it different with this phone? Why is it easier with this phone?

ELOP: What we've done is introduce wireless charging with the Lumia 920, where it's actually built nicely into the device. So, for example, in the UK, as one of the first steps, you'll see in the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at Heathrow, you'll be able to walk in, sit at a table, just set your device down on the table, it will light up and be charging right while you're there.

And we think this is something that just from a convenience perspective for consumers, whether it's in an airplane lounge, at your desk at the office, in your home, walk in, set your device down, continue the charging process.

Even although we're putting a very large battery in this device and many of our other devices, people are so much more engaging with these devices that we thought it would be helpful to improve the way that charging gets done.

FOSTER: So very -- interesting new features of this phone, but the first generation of these Windows phones wasn't deemed a success, didn't have the market reaction that you had hoped for. What do you think makes this one different, and is it a last-ditch attempt by you?

ELOP: So, from our perspective, what we have been able to do with the Lumia 920 and 820 that we showed for the first time today is to begin to demonstrate some of the unique differentiating capabilities that Nokia is so well-known for.

So, whether it's the camera and optics, the best way to navigate through your world using our Nokia City Lens technology, whether it's the strength of the Windows Phone 8 platform, now with this release of devices, we've been able to bring to bear the full power and might of Nokia onto that.

Now, that being said, we're on a journey. We took a first step when we announced our strategy with Microsoft in early 2011, a second step when we introduced the first generation of Lumia devices.

This is the next step, and I can already tell you, with the work going on in our research and development labs, there's many more steps still ahead. So, we're looking forward to making step-wise improvements and moving through this period of transition at Nokia.

FOSTER: It must be horribly nerve-wracking for you, though, because even if it is a great phone and people take to it, you're not going to know that for a while, are you?

And the market reaction was -- was fierce today. Those share prices - - Nokia share price plunged. So, investors aren't convinced on what you told them today. How are you going to convince people to move from the iPhone to your new phone?

ELOP: The most important thing that we can do every day is to share with people how much better these devices are, what new experiences they can have, the fact that they can go to the football game, hold up their device, and take a picture of their child playing on the pitch.

Those types of things, as we get that message out there more and more, as we have been doing, that is ultimately what will lead to better results, and that will translate into all of the returns that we're looking for for our investors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, Nokia isn't the only phone maker coming out with a new generation of products, of course. CNN's Maggie Lake joins us now from New York. More detail, Maggie?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, get your credit card out. The choices are getting a lot more varied, as you just heard from Nokia. But there's a long list.

Listen, we already had Samsung out with new ones. Today, right now, Motorola is unveiling their latest. We know Apple's going to be out next week, and HTC is going to follow that up.

A lot of these events are what I like to call about the cup holders, right? The bells and whistles that we as consumers are really interested in, not really the phone itself but, as you saw, the camera, the screen, all that type of stuff that we use the phone for all those other features. That's going to be really key to see who can grab consumers' attention as we head into that holiday season.

But there's another really serious war brewing that is as important, and that is the operating systems behind this, and that's why these Lumias are so important to Microsoft, as well as Nokia.

Take a look at these figures. This is the SmartPhone share for the operating system -- thanks. Thanks for putting it back up. And as you can see, look at Microsoft. Only 3.6 percent. They are far, far behind Google and Apple at the top, there.

If they want to be considered a viable operating system, a third-party system -- and they need to. Remember, everything's kind of moving toward mobility. They need to get that number up. So, they're very dependent on these phones.

But Steve Ballmer, as a sign of how important it is, was at the event today, and he said that that's about to change. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BALLMER, CEO, MICROSOFT: Make no mistake about it. This is the year for Windows. Windows phones, Windows tablets, Windows PCs, it is the year for Windows.

We've reimagined Windows from the ground up. You see that in all of the technologies that are shared across the devices, the user interface commonality, the embrace of touch and pen, mouse and keyboard.

All of the devices are designed to be beautiful and functional, to work for you in your personal life and in your professional life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE: And it's interesting, Max, the handset makers really touting those features appealing to consumers. But as you mentioned before, Microsoft really sort of addressing the app makers saying, hey, this is an operating system that works seamlessly across all of our products.

They need more apps developed if they're going to compete with the likes of Apple and Google. It's been holding them back so far, Max.

FOSTER: OK. And in terms of Apple, the big announcement everyone keeps talking about, it does dominate the headlines, doesn't it? But what do we know about next month and what might be unveiled? Next week.

LAKE: Well, yes. Here's the thing. So, the Motorola event is taking place right now. We're expecting them to come out with a sort of larger, edge-to-edge screen, maybe. That was what was on the rumor mill. We'll see if we get a confirmation of that in just a few minutes as we monitor it.

Apple is really going to have to come out of the box with some significant improvements. Remember, the last one was really -- considered an incremental upgrade. Even though it had Siri and everybody loved that, they really need to sort of match what these other companies are rolling out.

Yes, they have the biggest app store out there, that's been a huge advantage to them. Their ecosystem is their strength. But they need these bells and whistles I talked about, some of these cool features, to get consumers motivated to get off the couch, go out, buy the newest version or upgrade to the newest version, especially now that there is so much competition out there.

So, tough for the tech companies, there's a lot on the line, but it's great for us as consumers, Max.

FOSTER: Maggie, thank you very much, indeed. We'll be watching next week as we have been doing this week.

Now next, they cut Greek jobs, salaries and pensions. Now, the Troika says it may be time to cut the weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Mario Draghi may propose an unlimited, sterilized bond purchase program tomorrow, according to a leaked report obtained by Bloomberg. That news sent stocks up and borrowing costs down, both -- well, most European markets finished in the black, and in Zurich, the SMI closed nearly 1 percent higher. And we'll have more on that leaked report in just a moment for you.

Meanwhile, the troika is back in Greece. Auditors for the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF are assessing whether Athens has done enough to get its next chunk of bailout cash. There are already signs the troika is hardening its stance towards Greece.

Officials may tell lawmakers to introduce a six-day working week, according to a letter leaked to a British newspaper."The Guardian" says the troika is calling for a radical overhaul of the labor market, which would also include longer working days.

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, told radio audiences this morning a third aid package for Greece was not an option. He also ruled out a Greek exit from the eurozone.

The Dutch prime minister isn't so sure. He says a Greek exit may be inevitable. Mark Rutte promised voters the Netherlands won't be giving any more money to Greece while he's in power. Voters to the polls on September the 12th, that's the day they're going, the same day the German Constitutional Court rules on whether the fiscal pact conflicts with German law.

Now, George Papaconstantinou is the current Greek environment minister and the former finance minister in the government of George Papandreou. We asked him earlier what he made of "The Guardian's" leaked letter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAPACONSTANTINOU: Throughout these two years of relationships with the troika, we've had a lot of leaked letters and documents. I think it's important to focus on what comes on the negotiating table, the proposals that are there, and not spend too much time on possible ideas which are circulating.

FOSTER: In terms of lengthening the working week to six days and creating more flexibility in the restrictions on gaps between shifts, for example, do you think those are ideas that will fly in Greece?

PAPACONSTANTINOU: I think that one of the problems we have in this country is the difference between what's actually institutionally in place and what happens in reality. Because in reality, if you're working the tourism industry throughout the summer, throughout the season, you don't work five-day weeks, you work six and seven-day weeks, and you work 12 or 14 hours a day.

So, we could see whether there are particular institutional obstacles that hinder sectors' competitiveness, while at the same time protecting basic employee rights. But I don't think that the wholesale change in, for example, going from a five-day to a six-day week, is going to help the competitiveness of the Greek economy.

FOSTER: You don't think labor market reforms are necessarily important right now to improving the Greek economy?

PAPACONSTANTINOU: No, I think labor market reform is part of the answer to improving competitiveness, but so is product market reform.

Wages are falling in Greece, but prices are not, and there's an issue there, there's a problem with the globalistic practices, with the role of large internationals in Greece that are pricing the products in a different way than they are in other countries. And these are areas in which we should be looking as much as in labor market flexibility.

FOSTER: This is all debate, of course, about the second bailout for Greece, but already politicians, senior politicians in Europe, are talking about a third bailout and actually how that's not acceptable. Do you think that's just politics, or do you think we are now looking at a third bailout?

PAPACONSTANTINOU: That's a very counterproductive discussion. Nobody is seriously talking about a third bailout. What people are talking correctly is giving some more time within the second package for the economy to be able to recover.

In other words, more time for the fiscal consolidation without, necessarily, our European partners and the IMF putting up more money. But by lengthening, for example, the time for paying back some of the money or reducing the interest rates on the official loans.

These are the kinds of things that we should be looking at. Any discussion on a third bailout is bound, obviously, to raise fears of taxpayers and the more populist voices in the rest of Europe, and it's completely counterproductive at a time when what is absolutely necessary for this country is for confidence to return.

As long as you have hanging over Greece the fear of exit, you will not get confidence and foreign capital coming back into the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, Greece has slipped six places on the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness rankings. It is currently at number 96, 90 points below Germany. Europe's biggest exporter comes in at number 6, the same position it was last year, actually. Both Germany and the Netherlands leapfrogged over the United States this year, though.

The US slipped two places to number 7. That's the fourth straight year of decline for the US. Low levels of trust in the government and macro economic weakness were among the reasons cited, and the report says the US is still the world's innovation powerhouse.

China, the number 29, was the highest placed of the main emerging markets. Switzerland topped the table for the fourth year running.

Now, the report points to a widening gulf between countries in northern and southern Europe, and Jennifer Blanke is the chief economist with the World Economic Forum. She joins me now, live. Thank you so much for joining us.

JENNIFER BLANKE, CHIEF ECONOMIST, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: Thank you.

FOSTER: Are we seeing this division between north and south, then, becoming stronger each year?

BLANKE: Well, around the world, we're seeing that there's sort of a - - a gap that's not widening, but that's solidifying. However, in Europe, we are seeing a widening gap.

As you mentioned, many of the European Union countries and the eurozone countries are actually in the top ten, whereas Greece, indeed, and some of the southern European countries are falling farther and farther behind.

FOSTER: So, it's -- are they separate economies, so you can put those southern economies in a very similar bracket? They've got similar problems?

BLANKE: They do have similar problems. I'd say Greece is the most extreme. But they share some sort of issues in terms of labor markets that are very sticky, which means that unless we deal with these sorts of issues, a lot of the other monetary issues aren't really going to help.

FOSTER: We talk a lot about the problems, but you've actually offered some solutions, which is nice to hear.

BLANKE: Yes.

FOSTER: So, what have you suggested in terms of resolving the European crisis?

BLANKE: Well, I think that they need to take a longer-term view. Clearly, we're not going to say that the leaders don't need to think about what they need to do to shore up confidence in the financial markets, deal with the sovereign debt crisis.

But until they really address some of these issues, again, like loosening the labor markets, infusing some more innovation and entrepreneurship into these economies by making it easier to start businesses, by educating the workforces and really making innovation an interesting thing to do, until they do that, really, it's just going to be one band-aid after another.

FOSTER: A sterilized bond purchase program. We've already mentioned it on the program. Is it something we're going to hear a lot more of? What sense do you make of that?

BLANKE: My sense is that probably this is something that is going to be heard a lot in the more advanced economies. The US is talking about it, as well, in terms of what they can do for stimulus. But I think --

FOSTER: What's different about it, though, from your understanding?

BLANKE: I think that, given that it's a preliminary announcement, we really don't know yet. But in general, it looks like probably interest rates are going to stay low for some time.

FOSTER: OK. Thank you very much. We'll see what comes of it.

BLANKE: Thanks.

FOSTER: Jennifer Blanke, thank you for joining us. Now, it's time for today's Currency Conundrum. Late on Tuesday, a major digital currency platform was the victim of a quarter of a million dollar e-heist. But which one? Was it A Ven, B Bitcoin, or C fairCASH? We'll have the answer for you and details of the heist later in the show. It's interesting.

The dollar is falling against most of the major currencies. Right now it's trading at around 1.26 against the euro, a fall of half of one percent. It's down by around a quarter of one percent against sterling and a tenth of one percent against the Japanese yen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: In South Africa, more than 3,000 striking miners have been protesting for more pay. Police kept a close watch on the march near Lonmin's Marikana mine. Charges against 270 miners accused of the deaths of their colleagues have been dropped, according to prosecutors. Still, as Nkepile Mabuse reports, the situation at the mine isn't getting any better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MEN SINGING)

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Labor unrest is spreading in South Africa as mining communities call for change. Winch driver Lawrence Mangwale brings to the surface one of the world's most precious minerals: gold.

The company he worked for, Gold One International just outside Johannesburg, doubled its production last year and is looking to nearly triple output in 2012. But workers like Mangwale who helped companies attain these targets complain that they're not fairly compensated for their hard work.

Hundreds share communal tacks in shantytowns like these and are subjected to the indignity of using street toilets. There's no electricity here, either. Mangwale is among thousands of mineworkers who took part in a wildcat strike to demand better pay.

According to his pay slip, he earned $6,500 US a year before he was fired in June for taking part in the illegal work stoppage.

"It seems as though the government has forgotten about us," he says, "and is siding with the mining companies. Black people in South Africa are being used like toilet paper, and then flushed."

Two non-striking workers have recently been killed here, and on Monday, four people were injured when mine security clashed with protesting former employees. This following the killing by police of 34 protesting Lonmin miners in a different province last month.

Gold One CEO says the unrest is making his investors nervous. He insists that his workers' pay packages are reasonable.

NEAL FRONEMAN, CEO, GOLD ONE: There's incentives on that. There's housing allowance, there's transport allowance.

MABUSE (on camera): The housing allowance is $48 US.

FRONEMAN: Yes, look -- I'm quoting --

(CROSSTALK)

MABUSE: What kind of room or accommodation can you get for $48 US a month?

FRONEMAN: Look. I've explained to you very carefully that there's a package, and how it is split is up to the unions.

MABUSE: Just out of interest, have you been -- do you know where they live?

FRONEMAN: I know exactly where they live, yes.

MABUSE: And how do you feel about it?

FRONEMAN: Listen, I don't feel good about it. I would love to see our employees live in better conditions. But it is not just my responsibility. I've provided jobs, I've provided 1500 jobs at this mine. Investors need a return, as well.

MABUSE (voice-over): "We've been left with no other option," Mangwale says, "but to stop others from going to work. Maybe if production stops altogether, our demands will be met."

As government reassures investors, the fire of discontent continues to burn.

Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Now, the Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to stalk BP. Scenes like this may be two years old, but prosecutors are just getting ready, and that could mean a great deal more damage to BP.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Welcome back. I'm Max Foster, and these are the headlines this hour.

A lot of shaking in Costa Rica, but no reports of major damage so far from a 7.6 magnitude earthquake. The quake was centered on Costa Rica's northwest coast. A tsunami warning for the Pacific side of much of Central and South America has now been canceled.

New violence is erupting in Aleppo, Syria. Video posted online appears to show piles of rubble, the aftermath of recent shelling, but CNN can't confirm the authenticity of these images. Activists say more than 80 of the 178 people killed today across the country died in Aleppo.

America's top diplomat has been holding talks on Syria with officials in Beijing. Hillary Clinton says the US is disappointed with Russia and China for preventing the UN Security Council from taking tougher action against the Syrian regime, but China's foreign minister stated that the solution must come from inside, not outside Syria.

Canadian police say they do not know for sure why a gunman opened fire on the premier-elect of Quebec on Tuesday night, but they are not ruling out the possibility of attempted assassination. A 62-year-old man is accused of targeting Pauline Marois. Marois was not hurt, but another person was killed in the incident.

Striking South African miners are taking their anger back to the streets. Hundreds of platinum miners marched on Wednesday near the site where 34 miners were fatally shot three weeks ago. Some are accusing police of killing their colleagues in cold blood and they say they won't return to work without the hefty pay increase they went on strike for.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

FOSTER: American prosecutors are raising the heat on BP following the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago. Before papers (ph) accusing the oil giant of gross negligence and a culture of corporate recklessness. The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing for a trial in January and BP denies the charges.

Jim, who's been following the story, joins me now.

So is this a major development?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, because what we've been waiting for is the government to decide whether they were going to try say that BP was quote-unquote "gross negligence." What that means is that the fine that BP is likely to pay at the end of a long court trial would be somewhere close to $20 billion -- even more than $20 billion because of gross negligence that's in the U.S. Pollution Act.

And BP has said all along that it was not grossly negligent. But this court filing last week really tells us some of the wording that the U.S. government is using with BP, even though other payments have been going on.

But I want to read some of these. I think it's extraordinary you -- one of them said that the actions of executives at BP "would not be tolerated in a middling size company if it was manufacturing dry goods for sale in a suburban mall."

I mean, it's an extraordinary comment to be made there, that they're saying that some of the executives were so out of touch with what was going on and also saying that some of the tests performed just before the deadly explosion in April of 2010, the test was "so stunningly, blindingly botched in so many ways, by so many people" that that "demonstrates gross negligence."

So this court hearing starts -- it's a civil court -- the hearing starts in January of next year. So I think the DOJ has really set out of its stall (ph) here.

FOSTER: And what about BP? I mean, it's presumably going to fit for this (ph).

BOULDEN: Yes, I mean, BP has been saying all along not gross negligence; they did put out another report that says that it does not feel that it's grossly negligent and it looks forward to presenting evidence on this issue in trial in January of next year.

I should also point out Transocean, who owned the rig, is also in the firing line. No settlement's been made with the DOJ on that one as well. And so the DOJ's also saying that it was grossly negligent. So both these companies are facing a lot of pressure and we thought, of course, most of it might be over by now.

And one of the reasons the DOJ is doing this is because BP has been telling people it thinks the Gulf is being cleaned up very quickly and recovering very quickly. And the Department of Justice is saying, wait a minute, we're far, far too early to be able to say that. And they made some points in this filing of some of the problems that still face in the Gulf region.

So of course, many people have moved on from the spill, but they want to make it clear that BP may still find -- have a very hefty fine coming. That's why we're seeing BP shares down so much today.

FOSTER: So a final conclusion to the story is still years away.

BOULDEN: It is, yes. I mean, we're more than two years since the spill. BP has paid out billions of dollars for a lot of private settlements. It sold -- it's trying to sell up to $40 billion U.S. worth of assets to pay for a lot of this. It's stopped paying its dividend for a while. But the big thing that's been hanging over BP all along is this term, "grossly negligent."

FOSTER: OK, Jim, thank you very much indeed.

Now on the second day of the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama will officially accept the nomination to run for the -- to -- for a second term in office, with the focus on finding a way of a -- finding a way out of a $16 trillion worth of national debt. The Democrats see investments as the way out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Mitt Romney, in my view, has made a choice, and Paul Ryan.

I don't think -- and I will tell you this -- you can get there by slashing investments in education, slashing investments in research and development, slashing investments in health care and research (inaudible), slashing investments in infrastructure. The economy cannot grow at the pace it needs to grow. You cannot have a 21st century economy making those type of cuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Now the Republicans are ready to point the finger by comparing former President Clinton to Barack Obama. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WIS.: Bill Clinton was a different kind of Democrat than Barack Obama. Bill Clinton gave us welfare reform. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to cut spending. Bill Clinton did not play the kinds of political games that President Obama is playing. President Obama gave us more borrowing, more spending, much more regulating and it's putting a chilling effect on job creation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, politicians aren't the only ones now doing the talking at the DNC. One of America's top entrepreneurs will also make his case for another Obama term to dent Republican Mitt Romney's business credentials. Former CarMax cofounder, Austin Ligon, will speak as a moderate rather than a Democrat and he joins us now.

Thank you so much for joining us. I mean, Mitt Romney does have this -- these credentials, this brand about business, doesn't he. So is it about promoting Obama's credibility or is it about denting Romney's?

AUSTIN LIGON, CHAIRMAN, GAZELLE.COM: Well, look, my job is not to dent Romney's credibility, but I will remind you that he ran a private equity firm. He never started a business. I think the biggest company he ever ran had 400 people. So I would question that.

But my focus is not so much Mitt Romney and his inadequacies. It's really what Barack Obama has achieved. I think people want to forget how bad things were in January 2009, because they were really awful.

And we -- when Barack Obama took over, he had an enormous structural deficit, not just a deficit, but a structural deficit with tax revenues quite a bit less than spending, that exploded as the economy collapsed and it was an economy that was falling when he took over.

And most important for me personally was the fact that the auto industry was near a catastrophic state. And Obama, over the first six to nine months of his term managed to restructure and restart, if you will, two of the largest industrial companies in the world, General Motors and Chrysler, and they're booming today.

I mean, you being in London know that European auto industry is jealous of what we've accomplished in the U.S. Auto sales are up 60 percent from the bottom. The auto financing program called palf (ph) that got securitization rolling again was really important to get consumer loans going again.

All of those are things that we tend to forget. It's almost like what the president did happened too easily. But we were really in freefall when he took over, and he's made a big difference.

FOSTER: But Detroit has been an extraordinary story, and we are aware of it, of course. But we're also aware of the European story.

And there seem to be in the presidential debates, so much focus on both sides of local industries in the U.S., when really the biggest threat is the Eurozone and the global economy putting so much pressure on the American economy. And yet that's not part of the debate. So they're actually (inaudible) the debate, aren't they?

LIGON: I couldn't agree more. But look, the Republicans want to pretend everything is Barack Obama's fault. They want to forget -- they want to pretend George Bush never existed, that we entered with a surplus from Clinton; we exited with a huge deficit from George Bush. So they want to forget that.

And they also want to forget all the headwinds that we faced. I mean, I couldn't agree more that the Eurozone has created enormous problems for us, the tsunami in Japan, China slowing down. I mean, Barack Obama has faced enormous headwinds.

And I think a lot of why we haven't made the progress that we want to make are because of what the economists call those exogenous conditions.

But I would still say if you're a businessman right now, you'd rather be starting a business in the United States than any place else, because the prospects for our economy is better than any other developed economy. And I think most folks in Europe would agree. And that's certainly what the money flows tell you.

FOSTER: Well, President Obama is on his way to Charlotte; he's in Air Force One. We could bring you live pictures of that. So the climax of events is certainly coming your way. And in terms of Barack Obama, you know, it was, of course, Clinton that talked about the economy, stupid.

If the economy stays stable until the election, Obama's looking relatively strong. But actually, if it looks negative the economy going, it's going to affect him directly, isn't it, all these other debates go onto the wayside. He's got to really suffer, isn't he, if he's presiding over a bad economy.

LIGON: Look, I mean, the economy is -- the economy is not as good as we want. What's going to happen in the next 60 days, nobody knows.

But I think the reality is if people focus on the facts, what happens in the next 60 days is not really relevant because if you look at where we were in January 2009, and where the president has brought us, given the conditions that we faced, what you'd say is why in the world would I take somebody with no experience, who's never run a large organization, who clearly knows nothing about foreign policy, international economics et cetera and put them in the job rather than take a guy who's then President of the United States for four years and done a pretty good job under the conditions?

As you know, just about any other country in the world would love to have him as president, given what he's achieved.

FOSTER: OK, Austin, thank you very much indeed for joining us. And hope you enjoy the convention. Thank you very much for that.

U.S. stocks, meanwhile, flatlining; investors are waiting for Friday's unemployment figures. They're also braced for tomorrow's ECB announcement.

Now the Facebook stock also jumped by nearly 5 percent off the back of comments by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He said he's hanging on to his own 444 million shares for at least another year. And that really did help things in the market, is up but only slightly up, 0.16 percent.

Now next, running tracks on roofs and basketball courts in the lobby. We'll look at where the big sports teams stay and why on "Business Traveller."

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

FOSTER: Now, we are in the final week of the London Paralympics but many of the athletes won't stop traveling any time soon. Athletic teams are a small but significant part of Ritz-Carlton's U.S. business and high- profile names require certain kinds of special treatment.

Don Riddell explores the lucrative market of hosting sports stars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their workdays might have them sweating profusely, suffering bone-crunching hits or running hours of sprints. They are professional athletes and though they might not fit the mold of a common business traveler, they are certainly road warriors.

BILL ACREE, DIRECTOR OF TEAM TRAVEL, ATLANTA BRAVES: Well, basically our season is half at home, half on the road. So a player's going to be away from home, counting spring training, well over 115-120 days during the season.

So they need to be comfortable, obviously.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Hotels are already wise to the idea that some travelers might just stay fit on the road. Gyms that used to be an afterthought are now more state-of-the-art. But if you'll pardon the pun, athletes are a whole new ballgame. Customers with unique requirements.

I went to the top U.S. sport city of Boston with a championship winning team in every major sport to find out how two hotels cater to these high-profile guests.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

RIDDELL: So this is the reception at your hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is.

RIDDELL: Where a lot of people check in. Is this where the stars of the sports teams check in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no; the key is to get them up as quickly as possible so the big stars, as we say, aren't bothered by autograph seekers and that kind of thing.

RACHEL MONIZ, GENERAL MANAGER, LIBERTY HOTEL: Here we have a private bath entrance. And no other hotel guest knows about this entrance or comes in this way. And we always have two elevator attendants, so both elevators are used exclusively for the professional sport team coming in.

RIDDELL: How quickly do you think you can get a team off the bus and into their rooms?

MONIZ: It's about -- door to door, we timed it. We obviously do time trials, because I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. But we do four minutes, about four minutes.

RIDDELL: So what else do the teams ask you to do that perhaps you wouldn't be expected to do for your average business traveler?

MONIZ: Well, I would say that things can get a little bit more complicated when families start to arrive. You know, especially if somebody has, you know, multiple ex-wives, kids, things like that. You really start to understand a little bit better some of the family dynamic and how to handle that and where the connecting rooms should be.

RIDDELL: Traveling teams are actually a relatively small percentage of business for these hotels, anywhere from 3 percent to 7 percent. But it's their reliability that is key.

MIKE JORGENSEN, GENERAL MANAGER, WESTIN COPLEY PLACE: For instance, hockey teams and basketball teams, they're here in November, December, January, February, March. Those are the slowest times of the year in Boston, because it's cold, it's winter. They come when we need them.

RIDDELL: Do you get the sense that some of them are better travelers than others, like some of them, they know what they're doing; they've been on the road for a while?

MONIZ: Yes, you can --

(CROSSTALK)

RIDDELL: (Inaudible)?

MONIZ: Yes. You can definitely tell rookies. The rookies are the most polite. They're (inaudible) and sometimes --

RIDDELL: And you want it to stay that way forever?

MONIZ: Yes, you do. You want them to stay that way forever. It's like having a baby.

RIDDELL: Back at the Westin, even average business travelers like myself get to enjoy some of the benefits that the top athletes do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you go, Mr. Riddell.

RIDDELL: Hey, thanks very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

RIDDELL: Forgetting your running kit doesn't mean you miss your workout. Here they'll even loan you the clothes and the shoes so there really are no excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Let's take you Charlotte, North Carolina, because President Obama has arrived in Air Force One. This is one traveler who gets the special treatment. We can certainly say. Day before accepted his party's nomination for reelection, so a moment there in the political season. And if you're flying anytime soon, here are some important objects for you.

A German Lufthansa staff are planning to strike this Friday for 24 hours. The cabin crew walked out of airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin yesterday, forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights and they're calling for better pay and conditions. easyJet is to end the mad dash for seats. The airline will allocate seats on all flights from November.

Passengers will have to pay if they want to choose a specific spot. That'll make a lot of people happy, even if they have to pay. And they'll make sure you print your boarding pass at home if you're flying with Ryanair.

CEO Michael O'Leary won't have much sympathy for you if you don't. He's labeled one passenger stupid after she complained about having to pay around $370 to print out five boarding passes at the airport. Mr. O'Leary says those that don't want to follow his airline's rules should quite politely be off. You get the idea.

Let's cross to Jenny Harrison at the weather center after that -- those terrible words from me.

(LAUGHTER)

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hello, Max. I've got some nice weather in store for you as you head towards the weekend, some nice sunshine. Before then, we've still got that little pesky area of low pressure across the central Med. This is it. Now it is beginning to work its way slowly eastwards, away from Italy.

You'll notice as well that band of cloud has just been sweeping across northern Europe. That's been bringing a bit of one or two showers, even some thunderstorms further to the south. But generally it is a fairly quiet picture in Europe. As I say, that system beginning to weaken, pushing to the east. And then look at this, high pressure very much in control.

The warm air piling up from the southwest and it really is summer's last hurrah, as it says there. And as I say, the rain is easing across Italy. Look at that, 115 millimeters in Corsica. That since the beginning of the week.

But the rain should be (inaudible) across this particular area of Italy, certainly, because we've got severe to extreme drought conditions in place there. This was the scene a couple of days ago in Venice. Italy, it is the Venice film festival began on the 29th of August.

And it will continue until the 8th of September, which is good, because once this system pushes towards the southeast, it really does fizzle and certainly leaves sunny skies behind in Venice. But you'll notice to the north we've got rain, but also look at this, we've got some snow arriving into Norway as well, not the first day, but it's fairly early for this time of year.

As you can see that a little bit of accumulation of course it is mostly to those higher accumulations and talking of sunny skies, here we go, Max. President Obama walking down the steps there, Charlotte in North Carolina.

FOSTER: Yes, absolutely. There have been some weather problems there as well, which has affected logistics there a bit, but there he is, heading towards accepting his nomination. That will happen tomorrow. But certainly a big day, Bill Clinton or so expected to speak. So he's heading into his car and then he's heading off. Really is gearing up the presidential election feeling, isn't it?

November 6th is the election. But heading towards that, we'll -- we were discussing earlier on about President Obama's record on the economy and as the business leader on this issue.

So that's going to be a big debate going ahead and certainly as the economy strengthens or weakens going into the presidential election, it will very much affect the sentiment towards the man you see walking across the runway in Charlotte, because if he heading up a successful economy, it will certainly give a more buoyant mood to voters heading in his direction.

Now if you think the Web has changed your life, you're not alone. In a moment, we find out which nations have been affected the most by the `Net and we hear from the man who invented it.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER (voice-over): It is time for the answer to today's "Currency Conundrum." Earlier we asked you which digital currency has been involved in a quarter of a million-dollar e-heist on Tuesday. Well, the answer is B, it's BitCoin.

(Inaudible) an exchange which operates using the virtual currency has suspended operations after 24,000 units of it went missing. Founder Roman Shtylman says an attacker gained access to certain encryption keys which were then used to transfer virtual money out of the system. Seems like a new problem, but one that is working and is untraceable at the moment.

Now the effect of the World Wide Web has been mapped out, meanwhile, measuring its impact on people and nations. You can see the blue countries fared the best here and the red ones did the worst culminating around Africa, actually. It's based on various indicators, including Web access and affordability.

Sweden topped the table, followed by America and the U.K. The bottom of the index was dominated by countries like Yemen and Zimbabwe. Matthew Chance asked the inventor of the World Wide Web what he made of all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM BERNERS-LEE, INTERNET INVENTOR: It's always been a massive ongoing project. I really was -- and so I've never stepped back and thought, yes, you know, we're doing the right -- we're doing -- we're doing terribly. It's always a question what do we have to watch out for in terms of thefts (ph) and what are the (inaudible) opportunities.

So I thought the fact that we were bringing out this index, which is looking at how in the world the Web -- trying to ask that question, how we did it, is in a way partly (inaudible) question is (inaudible).

It shows instead of being just a something which a few geeks started (inaudible) or people just in English-speaking developed countries have been doing, it's something which is happening across enough of the world for us to think we know what is for those people who don't have it now, it's unfair in way.

So that's the big -- so the fact that we can now actually think about the 90 percent of the world should be using it instead of just (inaudible) percent, it's a sign of how it's come of age, really become a global thing.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you think is now the greatest barrier to greater usage of the World Wide Web (inaudible)?

BERNERS-LEE: It depends where you are. I mean, in some places, it's -- that was very much connected. I've seen some places that it is that. Other places in the developing world, the lack of a device -- there may be signal. There may be -- so the question is can you afford the connectivity, can you afford the device?

When you've got a device, can you afford (inaudible) web browser on it? Is there -- is (inaudible) information in your language and (inaudible) country to country. What we try to measure is really the impact so socially is the Web helping you get a job? Is it helping you with your health? Is it helping with education?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Now after the break, the (inaudible) failed to impress investors. We look at the instant reaction though online for you.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

FOSTER: We've been taking a look at the social media feedback on Nokia's new product launch that we led the program with. Joshua Topolsky is editor of the tech website theverge and he tweets about the Lumia 920. "I've played with it. It might be nicest phone hardware I've held."

So very positive reaction.

Software designer Mike Rundle writes, "No prices or dates on the new Lumia phones? Gee, I wonder reason they could have for hastily throwing together a press conference?"

Tim Hayden, senior vice president of Mobile Strategy at Edelman Digital writes, "Game on! Nokia debuts Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8, Wireless Charging." So generally positive reaction.

I'm Max Foster in London. Thank you for watching.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

FOSTER: New violence is erupting in Aleppo in Syria. Video posted online appears to show piles of rubble, the aftermath of recent shelling. But CNN can't confirm the authenticity of these images.

Activists say more than 80 of the 178 people killed today across the country died in Aleppo.

The Red Cross in Costa Rica says a major earthquake may have caused a woman's fatal heart attack. There have been no reports of major damage from the 7.6 quake. A tsunami warning for the Pacific side of much of Central and South America has been canceled.

Canadian police say they do not know for sure why gunmen opened fire on the premier-elect of Quebec on Tuesday night, but they are not ruling out the possibility of attempt assassination. A 62-year-old man is accused of targeting Pauline Marat. Marat was not hurt, but another person was killed in the incident.

Striking South African miners are taking their anger back to the streets. Hundreds of platinum miners marched on Wednesday near the site where 34 miners were fatally shot three weeks ago. Some are accusing police of killing their colleagues in cold blood and they say they won't return to work without the hefty pay increase they went on strike for.

That is a look at some of the stories we're watching for you on CNN. "AMANPOUR" is next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

END