Catherine McLean Freelance Writer

Scrooge takes up residence in Greece

Published November 8, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

The Greeks may be balking at further spending cuts by their government, but they are voluntarily tightening their own belts in one area: Christmas presents.

According to Deloitte's annual Christmas Spending Survey, the Greeks will be among Europe's thriftiest citizens this holiday season. Each household plans to spend, on average, €319 ($446 Canadian) on Christmas gifts this year, a 22 per cent drop from the previous year. That puts them in second place behind the Dutch, who plan to spend just €260 on gifts.

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It’s true, bankers really do control the world: study

Published October 25, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

Here’s a gift to Occupy Wall Street protesters around the world: you now have scholarly proof that banks control the world.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, also known as ETH, have published a paper that argues just 147 companies account for a large chunk of the total economic value of all the transnational companies around the world. No exact dollar figures, but it’s obviously a vast sum.

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Is a housing bubble drifting toward Switzerland?

Published October 19, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

The charming semi-detached house is perfect for a family: spacious with a beautiful view of the city, lake and surrounding mountains.

The problem is that very few households can afford this 200 square-metre home in Zurich, which has a rather robust asking price of 5.6 million Swiss francs ($6.39-million Canadian).

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Chinese banks leave footprint in Europe

Published October 19, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

Several times a year, a group of Chinese banking managers fly to Frankfurt to study at Goethe University's business school.

The intensive training course is packed with lessons ranging from Europe's economic situation to its banking systems and regulations. The program at the university's China Executive Education Center even includes time with officials at Germany's central bank, the European Central Bank and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

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Swiss move heats up currency war

Published September 7, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

Switzerland is moving aggressively to weaken its franc and protect exports from watches to chocolates, sparking fears of an escalating currency war that would ripple through other economies.

For months, the Swiss National Bank tried to rein in its surging currency by lowering interest rates and injecting francs into the market, but that did little to dissuade investors who viewed the franc as one of the few safe places to keep their money in a world of economic turmoil.

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Bracing for hard times in the world's financial haven

Published August 14, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

Daniel Ackermann's family has run a hotel in the small Swiss ski town of Arosa for three generations, offering guests a chance to abandon their everyday worries as they wander in the fresh alpine air.

But escape from the world's financial woes is becoming more elusive even here in the Swiss Alps. The fallout from debt problems in the United States and Europe is threatening to travel all the way to the doorstep of Mr. Ackermann's Hotel Hohe Promenade.

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Europe's nuclear retreat good news for Canadian Solar

Published July 14, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

When Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident struck, European governments put their own energy programs under the microscope, taking a closer look at the safety of the nuclear plants that light up homes and businesses. Now two countries - Germany and Switzerland - aim to phase out their nuclear programs in coming decades.

That's welcome news for Canadian Solar Inc. The company, which makes solar modules that convert the sun's rays into a power source, generated three quarters of its US$1.5-billion in 2010 revenue within Europe.

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Look ma, no pedals!

Published May 22, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

A classic rite of parenthood - that heart-stopping moment after the training wheels come off - may soon be on the wane. A new model of child's bicycle that makes training wheels redundant and is reputed to get children riding big bikes at younger ages is making inroads in Canada.

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Sleuths on the hunt for knock-off Swiss

Published May 3, 2011 in The Globe and Mail

For years, inferior cheese masquerading as the finest from Switzerland has snuck onto the shelves of stores around the globe. You might think that slice of holey cheese is authentic - but it may be the food world equivalent of a Louis Vuitton knock-off.

Dairy counterfeiters, however, should watch their backs. Cheese detectives are on the case.

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