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Italian Political Gridlock; Southern Europe Struggles; Lackluster Session for European Markets; Weaker European Currencies; Central Bank Solutions; Italian Economic Angst; Bowie's Big Comeback; Album Cover Design Also Getting Attention; Bowie Retrospective; High-Profile Hacking; Cybersecurity Scares

Aired March 11, 2013 - 15:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Tonight, no pope, no PM, a leadership vacuum in Italy.

The Next Day dawns. David Bowie's first album in a decade is already a hit.

And all bets are off. Intrade cuts off customers following a US crackdown.

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

Hello to you. A shrinking economy, a struggling stock market, and a paralyzed political system. Italy is feeling the effects, now, of a prolonged power vacuum.

As the Catholic Church prepares to elect a new pope at the Vatican, over at the Senate, Italians are still waiting for a new government to lead the country there. No single party has a majority here more than two weeks after Italy went to the polls. It's been 80 days, now, since Mario Monti resigned as prime minister.

Now, today's economic figures, show the Italian economy has floundered since then. GDP shrank by almost 1 percent in the last three months of 2012. It was down almost 3 percent compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Meanwhile, the stock market rally taking place elsewhere simply is passing Italy by. Of all the major markets in Europe, the FTSE MIB is the only one to have lost value so far in 2013, it's down more than 1 percent on the year so far, and it fell again today. Part of that drop was due to Italy's downgrade by Fitch on Friday, a direct result of the political gridlock.

Becky Anderson joins us from Rome tonight. Becky, where are we in the political process? When are you going to have a leader there?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, isn't it? I was standing here -- exactly here -- two weeks ago reporting on the story as the election closed down and we were looking to what was a likelihood of political paralysis here.

We got -- we were getting the early indications this week -- this -- today, two weeks ago, and that's exactly what we got, political paralysis. And that is the reason that Fitch has downgraded its assessment of Italy's credit worthiness.

The deal is this: you've got center-left, who have got a majority in the lower house but not enough in the Senate to run a government. You need both in Italy in order to do so. And you've got the center-right, who did better in the election, but not well enough under Silvio Berlusconi to actually run the country.

So, you've got a kingmaker, effectively. We know now him to be the clown prince of Italian politics, and his party, Beppe Grillo and the Five Star Movement, who are absolutely determined, with 25 percent of the vote, their mandate was no cronyism, no old-style politics, no corruption.

They say they will not do a deal with either of the two main parties. And without the Five Star Movement getting involved in politics at this stage, you have got political paralysis and a hung government.

Do remember that the president will eventually have to hold -- or call for another election, and his term, Max, of course, comes to the end in April, so you've got a real situation here, where the status quo continues as, to a certain extent, it has over the last 60 years with 60-odd governments.

This is -- and dare I say it myself? -- a dysfunctional political system, here, and it's been shown to be so in this year of 2013.

FOSTER: It is dysfunctional, as you say, and there's been political problems in the past, but have -- we've been through this period where there's been no leadership at all, and what sort of damage is that going to do to investor confidence over a long period of time?

ANDERSON: Well, it's -- that's a really interesting question, because at the moment, despite the fact that the market, as you rightly suggest, hasn't made any ground this year against those who have in Europe. There's been a fairly good period for these European markets, given what they've been through over the last couple of years.

Investors aren't losing complete faith in Italy. They talk here about "los spread," which is the difference in interest rates, of course, between Italian bonds and German bunds. And that at around 4.5 to 4.7 percent. It gets critical when you look at servicing Italy's -- above something like 6 percent or verging towards 7 percent.

So, investors in Italian assets aren't giving up at the moment, but certainly other European Leaders are looking to Italy and saying, quite frankly, sort this mess out. Because eventually, it will spread and infect Italian assets, and which that, of course, this is what's really important. It's the third biggest economy in the eurozone, the 8th biggest in the world.

But specifically in the eurozone, with any sort of infection from Italy, you see problems once again with confidence in that eurozone pace. It's only now that we're begging to see a little bit of confidence there across the zone.

FOSTER: Becky, thank you very much, indeed. Becky there covering the political situation, but also, of course, the process to getting a new pope. Becky is live in Rome for as long as the conclave takes. And tonight on "Connect the World," we'll have a global view of what the world wants from the next pope, 9:00 in London, 10:00 PM in Berlin here on CNN.

Now, economies are shrinking all across Europe's southern periphery. In the case of the bailout countries, it was a miserable end to 2012. Greece, Portugal, and Cypress all released GDP numbers today.

All of these countries measure growth by comparing things to the previous year. That means Greece recorded a 5.7 percent in the last quarter compared to 2012. The Portuguese economy shrank by almost 4 percent and Cypress saw a drop of almost 3.5 percent.

European markets had a lackluster session, two up, two down. As we mentioned earlier, the Italian downgrade pushed banking stocks lower. Investors also factored in higher Chinese inflation coupled with slower industrial growth.

We've also seen some downward pressure on European currencies. The pound fell to a two and a half year low against the dollar before coming back to around $1.49. Investors continue to bet against it, whilst the outlook for Britain's economy looks pretty weak. Meanwhile, the euro has come back above the $1.30 level, although only just.

Now, Nouriel Roubini says the euro is still too strong to help countries like Italy and Portugal. He was in Italy for the Ambrosetti Economic Forum at Lake Como. Nina Dos Santos asked him if the ECB's policies were keeping pace with the rest of the world.


NOURIEL ROUBINI, CHAIRMAN, ROUBINI GLOBAL ECONOMICS: All other central banks, from the Fed doing these QE3 with guidance on unemployment rate to now the Bank of Japan and under the new governor Kuroda, they're doing another round of easing.

The Bank of England has moved from quantitative easing to credit easing, under Carney is going to do more quantitative easing. Even the Swiss are printing money by defending their currency.

The only central bank of a major region that's on hold is the European Central Bank. It has not done, really, additional quantitative easing. And while everywhere else, policy rates are close to zero, the policy rates in the eurozone is still 0.75.

No wonder that until the Italian election, the euro debt bottomed out at $1.22 last summer, went as high as $1.37. Now, it's weaker, because now the tension coming from the results of the Italian election, it will somehow weaken the euro. But the euro, the $1.30, is not something that restores the competitiveness of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDET: So, why are the markets still reaching new highs? Highs that we haven't seen since before 2007 just when the credit crunch hit.

ROUBINI: Well, I think there are three sets of reasons. One is that the tail risk of a year ago for the global economy are lower. The eurozone is not blowing up. We avoided the fiscal cliff in the US. There's no Chinese hard landing. There is still no war between Iran and Israel. Those were risks significant in the first half of last year.

Secondly, there's a hope that while economic growth has been really anemic, some of the indicators coming from the US, even Japan or China, suggesting a little bit better growth. Not in the eurozone, not in the UK, but in other parts of the world.

And three, the effects of all these new rounds of unconventional monetary easing. As I said, the Fed is doing it, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, and eventually, too little too late, even the European Central Bank will do it.


FOSTER: Well, as peaceful as the shores of Lake Como appear, there was a tense atmosphere amongst Italian economists and politicians at the forum. I asked Nina to explain what the mood was like.


DOS SANTOS: Twice a year, there's a major meeting of Italian economists, industrialists, and also politicians, and of course, what really heightens concern here was Fitch ratings decided to downgrade Italy's credit rating just before this meeting got going.

We saw a lot of squabbling among the politicians -- those very same politicians who are unable to form a government in Rome at the moment -- at that meeting, but what we do know is that Italy will be going back to the bond markets this week and speaking to the forum there and the people there at Cernobbio.

The outgoing economy minister, Vittorio Grilli, said that he was very confident that Italy would manage to raise the money that it needed to raise in the two auctions that will take place this week. We'll of course have to see, Max, how the yield reflects the concern out there that Fitch ratings has voiced.

FOSTER: How important is it that the economy has leadership at this point?

DOS SANTOS: Yes. Italy is the eurozone's third-largest economy, obviously. It's shrinking. It's shrinking, we found out today, at a pace of 2.8 percent based on the fourth quarter GDP figures. And as I said, obviously, that will be in the back of investors' minds if, indeed, they do decide to buy those Italian bonds in the two auctions that they're going to be holding this week.

Obviously, Italy is a problem for the eurozone and the rest of the European Union as a whole, and that was again at the forefront of the minds of many of these industrials. A lot of them, actually, Max, are looking to export outside of the eurozone these days to try and decouple themselves from the ills that they have in their country.

But of course it will take an awful lot of time to set up a government and see clarity for Italy, politically speaking, and we certainly don't have the clarity economically speaking at the moment.

FOSTER: And lots of commentary at the moment about the value of the euro. How does that play into this?

DOS SANTOS: So, you just heard my conversation there with the noted economist Nouriel Roubini, he is one of a number of people who've been putting their voices to trying to get the ECB to devalue the euro.

So a concerted action to try and print money, quantitative easing, like all the other central banks around the world are doing to try and bring down the value of the single currency, which is stifling competition, particularly in places like the peripheral European countries like Italy.

There's a reason why we see many Mercedes and BMWs on the streets elsewhere around the world. It's also because they're comparatively cheaper than they would be if Germany still had the Deutsche mark.

The only problem is is that if the euro is too strong for countries like Italy, Spain, and Portugal, it makes their goods less competitive, and obviously, it creates huge unemployment problems as well.


FOSTER: Next, something different. The triumphant return of the Thin White Duke. His latest album is storming the charts, and a show about his life looks set to be the cultural phenomenon of the year. We look at at David Bowie's incredible comeback next.


FOSTER: Hailed as the greatest comeback in rock and roll history, David Bowie's new album is topping the charts across the globe. "The Next Day" went on sale here in the UK today and will be available in the US and Japan later this week.

Bowie's 25th studio album has released in some of the regions last week, and it has had a major impact. It's been a major hit, effectively. From Austria to Australia, Luxembourg to Lebanon, it stormed to the top of the iTunes album charts in 21 different countries so far.

The critical reception has been as impressive as the sales. UK "Telegraph" calls the record "an absolute wonder." "The Independent" says it may be the greatest comeback album ever, no less.

Now, the music on "The Next Day" may be new, but the album cover certainly isn't, not entirely, anyway. It's basically the artwork from Bowie's classic "Heroes" album, with a square stuck over the middle of it. Jonathan Barnbrook is the man who designed it. He told me the cover is getting almost as much publicity as the album itself.


JONATHAN BARNBROOK, DESIGNER: There are many reasons for that. One is that the songs partly reflective. He's at a certain age where he's looking back on his past. But also, there's this interruption of the expectation of an album cover. Usually it's -- well, a nice picture of the artist.

FOSTER: You get to see him.

BARNBROOK: Yes, you can. But here we want to interrupt that.


BARNBROOK: What has happened is people don't normally even think about the album cover, but here, it's become a place for discussion about what people's expectations are of David Bowie, whether he's looking at the past, he's looking towards the future. The relationship of the album "Heroes," there is a song that particularly references that.

FOSTER: Is it a reference back to that Berlin era, then?

BARNBROOK: It does. It does. The song "Where Are We Now," which is the first single, is very much about that time.

FOSTER: So, a big white square --


FOSTER: There's lots of technology around, and you've just gone for a white square.


BARNBROOK: Well, there's lots of technology and there are thousands of messages --


BARNBROOK: And here it was really the thing trying to do something as simple as possible, which had some clarity. I think by the way it's been taken on as a mean by people on Twitter and that kind of thing, you see that it's actually had an effect. I didn't quite know how much it was going to take off, and I'm pleasantly surprised.

FOSTER: Obviously, you've done other album covers with him, so he obviously trusts you. You've got a relationship going.


FOSTER: But I imagine it'd be a nightmare working with a creative genius on his front covers. What's he like to work with? How involved is he?

BARNBROOK: Well, he's a surprisingly generous person. I don't know why I'd say "surprisingly." I think he gets good results because he knows, hopefully, the right people to work with and he trusts them.

Of course, it's his album in the end, so he has the final say. But he picks his -- the right creative people.

FOSTER: You're in London, he's in New York.


FOSTER: So, how's it -- how do you communicate with each other?

BARNBROOK: By very brief e-mails or Skype conversations. Or -- and I tend to work wherever I'm in the world, really, on somebody famous.

FOSTER: He's a private person, isn't he?

BARNBROOK: Yes, very private.

FOSTER: So, how would you describe him? What's he like to work with?

BARNBROOK: I think "generous" is the word. And also very honest. If he doesn't like something, he'll say, but if he loves something, you'll know about it as well.

FOSTER: What do you think is the secret to his longevity? His relevance even today?

BARNBROOK: Well, firstly, you've seen the reaction to the press and many people in that they're very, very happy to have someone who's authentic back. And it's just that he says something when he's got something to say. He's not dying for publicity or anything like that. He's been quiet for ten years. So, he's the genuine character, the genuine article.


FOSTER: Well, Bowie's iconic style features, of course, in his latest music video.




FOSTER: "The Stars Are Out Tonight" shows Bowie singing with a striking 70s-style doppelganger, accurate even down to his matched -- mismatched, rather -- eyes.

A retrospective of his iconic style, life, and career has smashed presale records at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The show will open later this month. One of its co-creators, Victoria Broackes, told me why it's creating such a buzz.


VICTORIA BORACKES, CO-CURATOR, DAVID BOWIE IS: I think Bowie's a pioneer, not just in music, but also in video, in digital download, in rock theater. He's -- he takes his influences from a hugely wide range of sources, and he's continuously cited as an influence by artists and musicians and all kinds of creative people. So, I think that makes him a fairly great subject for us to do an exhibition about.

FOSTER: Are you able to give us a specific example of how he's had a lasting impact on culture?

BROACKES: Well, I think if you look at the fashion collections today, that's one way you can see -- you can literally see things like the early pieces by Kansai Yamamoto and Freddie Burretti or the "Ziggy Stardust" era are being reprised now.

But it's not just this year. You can see that over many years, the last few years, last year it was more "Diamond Dogs." So, certainly in fashion there's an influence. But of course, it goes much further than just in fashion. I think also in music there are no end of musicians who cite him as an influence, and that goes from Lady Gaga to Philip Glass.

And I think more generally in the culture, you look at he Olympics ceremony last year, Bowie was referenced so many times. He didn't actually appear, but it kept coming back to Bowie, and somehow he was the sort of person who wasn't at the feast, but we kept thinking about him.

FOSTER: We've talked about his influence, but how do you manage to work out how he was influenced or who influenced him?

BROACKES: A very central section of the exhibition is on his influences, and they do range from German expressionism through cinema, Kabuki, other Japanese theater. And of course literature, philosophy, artists, and a really extraordinarily broad range of things.

But it's not just where he gets them from, which is a big part of the exhibition, but of course it's what he then does with them.

FOSTER: More than 300 objects brought together from the various archives. Was there one specific object that was a real revelation to you and perhaps would be a revelation to people visiting?

BROACKES: I would say -- I mean, there are a quite a lot of objects that I think people will be surprised to see, pleased to see, that they won't have seen before.

But for me, I think the one that kind of sums up what we were just talking about in terms of influence is there is a set of storyboards in the exhibition that he did after the "Diamond Dogs" tour when he was interested in making a film.

And again, you see Bowie, he doesn't sort of -- he doesn't stop. He doesn't settle on what he's given. He's always looking for more. So he, having done the album and the tour, he wanted to do a film, and he actually storyboarded that film himself, and he even made a little sort of demo tape of that. We're able to show that in the exhibition, which I think few people knew existed, but nobody had seen before.

But we're also animating it in the exhibition, so you get a little bit of a sense of what the film might have been had it been made.


FOSTER: We've got more on David Bowie later on, including a chat with one of his famous former schoolmates later in the show for you.

In the meantime, we've got a Bowie-themed Currency Conundrum for you. As well as being the only living non-royal whose face has been featured on UK stamps, David Bowie has also appeared on a regional UK currency. Our question to you is which one is it? A, the Bristol pound? B, the Brixton pound? Or C, the Lewes pound? We'll have the answer for you later in the show.

The US dollar is falling against the euro. Right now, a euro will buy you just over $1.30. The dollar is falling by a smaller amount against sterling and it's gaining slightly against the yen.


FOSTER: Cybersecurity risks are straining the economic ties between the United States and China. That's according to US President Obama's national security advisor, at least. Tom Donilon says American business are reporting cyber attacks of an unprecedented scale from China.

"The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" claim to have been attacked by Chinese hackers back in January. The "Times" said passwords of several high-profile reporters were stolen.

The Federal Reserve was hacked in early February. E-mail addresses, phone numbers, and other contact details were stolen. Responsibility for that attack was claimed by the hacker group Anonymous.

Today, the Reserve Bank of Australia admitted it had been hacked. Several members of staff were sent an apparently innocent-looking e-mail which actually contained a virus. The bank said it managed to isolate the attacks and no data was taken. It didn't specify where the attacks came from.

Amnon Bar-Lev is the president of Check Point, which claims to have the world's most advanced security technology. He told me there's a very simple principle at the heart of even the most sophisticated attack.


AMNON BAR-LEV, PRESIDENT, CHECK POINT: Small piece of software downloaded into their computer that now somebody else operates. And by that, they can start now stealing information or attack some other computer and start going inside the network to look for more and more information. So, we see this kind of pattern of penetrating into a weak -- part of the chain into the organization and now start moving around the organization.

FOSTER: But what was particularly clever about this one was that it didn't have an attachment, apparently, the e-mail. It looked like it was from a senior member of staff to a named member of staff. And the link they clicked on didn't look suspicious because they were familiar with the context.

BAR-LEV: So, I think that's the smart thing about cyber now. It looks very trivial for you. You're getting an e-mail from somebody, "I've been to this hotel," clearly it's OK that I got this e-mail that actually somebody else stole the database form the hotel, and now you get something that really looks into this part for you.

It's called social engineering, and today part of hacking is the social engineering to make you trust on something that you get, and then you click on it because it really makes sense to you. And then the next step is actually technology one --


BAR-LEV: -- take something from your computers.

FOSTER: The anti-virus software, we're always told to keep that updated and that will protect you, but actually, they had it here, it was a bank, after all, and it was bypassed.

BAR-LEV: Because the only way to really protect against those solutions is something we call multilayer protection. You -- it's like -- let me give you an example. You're going to a hotel, right? There will be a guard at the door, there will be a key for your rooms and there will be a safe inside the room.

It's the same idea over here. You need to put multiple layers of protection. So, you have to have an anti-virus and an intrusion prevention system, and then something called anti-bot. The idea is to look between the bots and the operator and to know how to look for this communication and stop it.

And there's something called threat immolation, where you can actually when you get a file or a link you can look at it and decide if it's malicious or not before it gets inside the organization.

FOSTER: The bank's saying that it couldn't confirm that Chinese developed malicious software had been used in this attack. We keep hearing that the Chinese or these attacks are coming from China, but there isn't actually any evidence, is there?

BAR-LEV: Not that I'm familiar with. And you have to understand, the way things are happening is this -- whatever data that's been stolen or any information will go somewhere on the internet called a drop zone, it's like an area that another hacker kind of places it. So we don't know where the traces will lead.

FOSTER: So, why this suspicion of China all the time?

BAR-LEV: Well, there was the recent occasions where people succeeded to trace something going to China, but I believe there's two kind of motivation, and the motivation has changed dramatically.

There's the financial people who want to steal money. And there's more and more political motivation where you see countries involved in that as well. So from Anonymous to different countries.

So, we see everybody now acting in this game. I don't know if it's only specifically China. I really don't know. But I think it's really all over the place.


FOSTER: Amnon Bar-Lev speaking to me earlier. We'll be back after a very quick break.


FOSTER: Welcome back. I'm Max Foster. This is CNN. These are the latest news headlines for you.


FOSTER (voice-over): Cardinals gathered in Vatican City have wrapped up their final meetings before the papal conclave, which starts on Tuesday. It'll begin with a morning mass at St. Peter's Basilica, which is open to the public.

From there, the cardinals will head to the Sistine Chapel and they won't come out until a new pope is chosen.

A gunman wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a group of NATO and Afghan soldiers on Monday, killing two U.S. and two Afghan service members. At least 10 U.S. troops were wounded in the attack, which took place in Wardak province near Kabul.

The International Criminal Court is dropping charges against one of four prominent Kenyans accused of stoking the deadly post-election violence of five years ago. The announcement regarding Francis Muthaura comes just a day after Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Kenya's presidential election. He, too, is accused of fueling the violence.

Hungary's parliament has defied a E.U. -- defied E.U. pressure and passed a series of constitutional amendments that critics say, if undermine the country's democracy, the changes include scrapping all constitutional court decisions made before 2012. Hungary's currency, the foret (ph), fell to its lowest level since June on concerns about the vote.

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on North Korea's foreign trade bank. U.S. officials believe it's being used to support the North's nuclear program. This comes as the U.S. begins joint military drills with South Korea. That's prompted North Korea to abandon the truce that ended the Korean War.



FOSTER: Well, anyone who wanted to place a wage on the popular betting website Intrade would have been disappointed today. Maggie Lake joins me live from New York.

Just describe the sort of bets that used to be placed on that service, Maggie.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, this week is a perfect example; the news dominating our headlines, who will be the next pope, is exactly the kind of issue they used to have investors going to a site, a prediction market like Intrade, and placing a bet.

In fact, if you were there over the weekend, you would have seen wagers on the next pope. Only about 18 percent say, giving the next -- the chance of the next pope being from Africa.

But then instead, by Sunday night, this is the message that was popping up with a quote, "We regret that we must inform you, due to circumstances recently discovered, we must immediately cease trading activity.

"These issues," they went on to say, "may include financial irregularities." Now Intrade said that they would settle open positions. But interestingly, they're not going to be making any payments to customers until the investigation is concluded. We don't have many more details until that. The company not commenting any further.

But it is worth noting, this comes after about three months after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission here, the regulators who oversee futures and options, sued the company; they were forced to ban U.S. customers. Those U.S. customers made up a lot of their business, Max. At the peak last year, they would have had about a million users.

Once that ban went into effect, they had about 56,000. So this perhaps not coming as a surprise, although that sudden switch had a lot of people asking questions, not clear if they're going to reopen or not, Max. They say they're going to try to, but they're not saying much else.

FOSTER: And they had quite a mixed record, as I remember.

LAKE: Yes. It's interesting; they had some very big hits, some very big things that were correct, which really is what garnered a lot of attention in the first place, notably predicting that Obama would win that 2008 election when he was a long shot. They got so many states, right, people really started paying attention.

Also Saddam Hussein's capture, among other things, but they also had some big misses, it's worth pointing out, that that -- the predictions showed that Obama's health care would be overturned by the Supreme Court; it was not. They also got some of the Michael Jackson trial which was so closely watched.

But interestingly, Max, even in terms of what people had to say about it, there are people who -- really loud critics out there, outside the regulators, who say, listen, this allowed people to game the system. People were insider trading on it, in essence. There wasn't this sort of appropriate levels (inaudible). It wasn't regulated.

But other people were fans. They said, listen, this is a valuable research tool. It's sort of a gut check. People say things in opinion polls. And when it comes to wagering real money, it's more accurate. It definitely gives you a different picture.

And I especially like this one user said, "Politico's pundits and business people are often incentivized to twist the truth. But on Intrade, only accuracy is rewarded."

So some investors really bemoaning the fact that this site has shut down --


FOSTER: Maggie, I just want to --

LAKE: It certainly cuts down on the (inaudible).

FOSTER: (Inaudible). I just want to bring you a story, since you've been talking, I know you know about this story. But we've just had confirmed that New York isn't going to go ahead with this ban on sugary drinks. A judge has overturned the ruling. He just described the background to that.

LAKE: Yes. And so Michael -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been at the forefront of many of these types of rules, some people call it a nanny state, but they have been quite precedent setting, especially if you think about the smoking ban.

His latest effort on healthy living was to cut down these big giant drinks. Any of you who visit New York or the U.S. probably know, you see these gigantic soft drinks or beverages that you can get to go.

He was trying to basically ban their sale, saying they couldn't be over a certain size; if they were sugary drinks. It got very complicated and a lot of people pushing back hard on that, especially from the food and drink industry, as well as others who felt it was just an overreach of government.

So some of them took him to court. Interesting that there's a ban -- as you know, in the legal system, Max, it's probably not over and Mayor Bloomberg likely to fight hard on this. So what you might see is a -- is maybe a little bit more of a narrow definition. I wouldn't expect it to go away altogether. But this certainly is going to be a big talking point this week here in New York.

FOSTER: OK. Good stuff, Maggie. Thank you very much indeed.

She was talking about Intrade earlier. Intrade was predicting a 73 percent chance of the Dow Jones closing on or above the 14,000 mark on the last day of March. The industrial average is well placed to meet that prediction as well.

At the moment, the Dow is edging higher, coming back slightly after hitting a new intraday high. So that's the other big talking point as well in New York.

Shares of (inaudible) telecommunications companies, America Movil are trading sharply lower today. That's because of Mexican lawmakers want to shake up the country's telecoms market which is dominated by his company. Nick Parker has more on the story and joins me now from Mexico City.

And just describe the scale of the business we're talking about, because it's enormous, isn't it?

NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's an absolutely huge industry that we're looking at here. The communications industry here is estimated to be about $30 billion a year. So what this report -- and which is really a landmark reform, a historic reform here in Mexico, is aiming to do is to inject greater competition into this $30 billion a year industry.

One of the key targets of this, as you just said, is American Movil, which is the main holding company of Carlos Slim (ph), the world's richest man, who at the moment here in Mexico, enjoys a market share of something like 80 percent of the phone lines here in Mexico are owned by him.

Many critics of him say that this has resulted in higher costs, higher tariffs for many customers, as well as underinvestment in infrastructure. So this bill is basically taking aim fairly squarely at his empire.

Enrico Pena Nieto, the president, has just finished speaking. And we're getting more details of exactly what the bill is that's going to be proposed in Congress. But two key things that I think are involved in this is, number one, they are now allowing the increased level of ownership by foreign companies in Mexican telecoms firms.

So for instance, you could have a company like Telefonica in Spain, who could come and invest in a struggling telecoms firm here in Mexico, which would create a more of a stronger competitor basically to American Movil.

And the second thing is they're creating an independent commission that would oversee a lot of these monopolies. It would have the power to impose fines on Carlos Slim, Carlos Slim's empire, and in some cases, he could -- they could actually move to break up some of these monopolies and lower these companies' market shares.

So it's an extremely sweeping, sweeping reform. We'll have to see how it fares in Congress over the coming months. It was a bilateral bill that is going to be presented. But at the same time, the devil is certainly in the details. So we'll be watching this closely, Max.

FOSTER: Good stuff, Nick. Thank you very much indeed.

Now straight ahead on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, she is the chief operating officer of Facebook. But it's her own book that's causing a buzz online. The controversy surrounding Sheryl Sandberg, next.



FOSTER: A new book by the chief operating officer of Facebook is sparking a debate about women's career choices.


FOSTER (voice-over): Sheryl Sandberg says women are holding themselves back. Her book, "Lean In," challenges women not to choose family life over ambition. The mother of two spoke to CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, saying attitudes need to change.


SHERYL SANDBERG, COO, FACEBOOK: I want every little girl who someone says they're bossy to be told instead, "You have leadership skills."

NORAH O'DONNELL, ABC HOST: Because you were told you were bossy?

SANDBERG: Because I was told that.


FOSTER: Sandberg says women are partly to blame for their lack of progress because of -- because instead of chasing promotions, many find reasons to hold themselves back. Family is usually a big one.


SANDBERG: They start leaning back. They say, "Oh, I'm busy. I want to have a child one day. I couldn't possibly, you know, take on any more." Or, "I'm still learning on my current job." I've never had a man say that stuff to me.

And I want to say it unequivocally and unapologetically, that the data is clear that when it comes to ambition to lead, to be the leader of whatever you're doing, men, boys, outnumber girls and women.


FOSTER: Well, the chief executive of one technology company in the U.S. is rising to the top of her field. Leah Busque used her knowledge as a software engineer to launch her own fast-growing startup.


LEAH BUSQUE, CEO, TASKRABBIT: So I'm thinking if we can have trust plus efficiency as like an equation or something --

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's been compared to Mark Zuckerberg: smart, entrepreneurial and driven. At 32 years old, Leah Busque is the founder and CEO of what is likely one of the biggest up-and- comers in America, TaskRabbit.

BUSQUE: So over the past 12 months, you know, we've (inaudible) our revenue. We've quadrupled the number of active users as part of our user base. And we've launched 10 major cities across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three chocolate chip cookies and three peanut butter.

SIMON (voice-over): TaskRabbit is a service that allows you to hire people to do small jobs. Joyce Apfel is a TaskRabbit hired to deliver sweets to a party.

JOYCE APFEL, TASKRABBIT: I am my own boss, per se, being a TaskRabbit. So it helps me to manage my time and I'm meeting really fun, very fun people.

SIMON (voice-over): But back to Leah.

BUSQUE: I love this animation.

SIMON (voice-over): Even more unique that her fast-growing company is the fact that she's a female software engineer. This picture says it all. Surrounded by men at her previous job as a computer programmer at IBM.

SIMON: The culture of an IBM must be very dramatically different from a San Francisco startup.

BUSQUE: Completely different. Yes, I went from a company of being one of 400,000 to one of one.

SIMON: She left her company job to enter the risky world of technology startups, a career that leaves little room for a personal life. Leah uses her own company to handle mundane tasks, such as laundry and grocery shopping. Perhaps not surprising, more women use TaskRabbit than men.

SIMON (voice-over): In 2011, "San Francisco" magazine compared her to Zuckerberg and placed her head on his body. In an essay for "Women's (sic) 2.0," she wrote she was honored, but at the same time it was disheartening to see my head placed on a male's body, as if masculine features are synonymous with ubersuccess.

BUSQUE: I've never been a male entrepreneur. So I'm not really sure what sort of challenges they may face versus my own. Being an entrepreneur is hard all around. It's not easy.

SIMON (voice-over): She repeatedly says she doesn't focus on gender. Still, the other top executives at TaskRabbit are also women. She says they were just the most qualified. Overall, she says the staff is about 50-50.

MARISSA MAYER, CEO, YAHOO!: And the baby's been easy. The baby's been way easier than everyone made it out to be.

SIMON (voice-over): As for fellow tech executives like Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer, and what seems like a constant focus on her being a woman CEO --

SIMON: When is she just going to become a CEO?

BUSQUE: When was Hillary Clinton going to be come just someone running for president?

I mean, I don't know. That's a good question. I think it's going to take some time.

SIMON (voice-over): Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


FOSTER: Well, we promised you earlier more Bowie and you'll have it next. We'll hear from the famous schoolmates who helped make the rock icon (inaudible).




FOSTER (voice-over): Time for the answer to today's "Currency Conundrum," earlier we asked you which regional (inaudible) currency featured David Bowie. The answer is B, appropriately, the Brixton pound. Brixton is the London district where Bowie was born 66 years ago. The note shows Bowie as he was pictured on his sixth album, "Aladdin Sane," from 1973.


FOSTER: Bowie's family later left Brixton and moved to Bromley in the English country of Kent. As Neil Curry reports, it was there that he made some influential new friends who would shape his career and inadvertently his striking appearance.



NEIL CURRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Peter Frampton is a Grammy-winning musician who played in several successful bands and had one of the best- selling live albums in the history of music.

George Underwood is a renowned artist whose work has been exhibited at London's prestigious Royal Academy.

Both George and Peter attended Bromley Technical High School in London along with a fellow pupil who'd become known to the world as David Bowie. But they knew him by a different name: David Jones.

PETER FRAMPTON, MUSICIAN: I asked my father, who was the head of the art department at the school who was into music, you know, and he said, "Well, there's this David Jones character. He seems to be -- I think he plays guitar and sax."

GEORGE UNDERWOOD, ARTIST: Outside the art department, there was a lovely sort of -- there was a really good acoustic area where the stairwell went 'round.

FRAMPTON: It was really nice like echoey, you know, like great sounding vocal, you know, echo. They were teaching me Buddy Holly numbers. And I was showing them what I knew on guitar.

UNDERWOOD: David and I, we used to do like Everly Brothers, harmonize. David was great harmonizing.

FRAMPTON: That's when our friendship started, was on those stone steps.

CURRY (voice-over): George and David became best friends. But even best friends can have their differences.

UNDERWOOD: We were both trying to date the same girl. And I managed to chat her up and arranged to meet her a couple of days later in this club. The next morning, I only overheard him talking about her in front of his schoolmates, saying that he was going out with this girl that George wanted to go out, complete fabrication.

I don't know whether what he said was, at the time. But I just saw red. I knew David wouldn't fight me. And I just was so annoyed. And I just went, like that, you know.

CURRY (voice-over): The incident left David with a frozen pupil in one eye, giving the impression that he has eyes of different colors, a look which would become a feature of his other-worldly image.

UNDERWOOD: I thought his eyes were different colors, for some reason. (Inaudible).


He did say to me many years later that I did him a favor. So I don't feel quite so bad about it, no.

CURRY (voice-over): George and David put their differences behind them and played together in bands, including the Kingbees. George scored a solo hit, recording under the name Calvin James, while Peter left school early to join hit making bands The Herd and then Humble Pie.

Soon it was David's turn to become a star.

FRAMPTON: When we went on the road together, David's first single, "Space Oddity," went to number one. And Humble Pie were number two.

CURRY (voice-over): Peter and David would perform together again in the '80s. But George quit music to focus on art. And David asked him to work on three of his iconic album covers.

UNDERWOOD: That was the year that I did this, which is a few years after the album sleeve.

CURRY (voice-over): The three school pals remain firm friends today, and both George and Peter say they're planning to download David's new album, a term they would never have dreamt of when they played together on those school stairs 50 years ago -- Neil Curry, CNN, London.



FOSTER: March snow hitting parts of the U.K. and France and quite a severe way. Tom Sater is at the Weather Center to tell us how long it's going to last.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A little bit longer, Max. Maybe we can get those three musicians together to write a song about winter blues. I mean, take a look at the temperatures and how they have tumbled in London. Average high is 11; 16 degrees last Tuesday, then 14, 9, 8, 3, 1. And now you toss a little bit of moisture into the situation.

The cold air has been coming in from the east and then the northeast. It continues its march westward. And then you toss a storm system in that's coming in right of the coast of Spain, hitting France hard, into the channel, that moisture is meeting this cold air.

This is the air temperature. Now let me tell you -- show you how it feels when you factor in the wind. It feels like -9 in London, the wind chill -4 in Paris, Warsaw -8, -16 in Moscow.

The numbers will stay unseasonably cool for a while. But when you have any moisture whatsoever, and this is a picture from earlier in London, the winds blowing, of course, the white stuff around. Right on the edge of picking up some more.

Here's the storm system and that cold air is coming in. The next bit of energy, however, rides south of that area of low pressure in France. And then we're going to watch this move in right into Vatican City, where, of course, thousands will be braving the weather elements as they wait, of course, the decision on the conclave.

Berlin's been picking up snowfall, Hamburg picked up 16 centimeters. It just continues to come down. Notice the surge across the north, now, take a look at that. Then you have our moisture spinning. This is where the concentration of the winds have been the strongest. We've had easily winds over 100 kph into the channel here.

You notice in Caen, France, we have 6 centimeters as well. So if we get closer, we'll even break it down a little bit. The moisture, this is pocketed cold air here, as it makes its way across London right on the verge of picking up a few centimeters.

But, again, you need the moisture content. France, Paris, most of your snowfall was overnight around 3:00 in the morning. Look at the bright colors. Most likely this is what we call bright banding on radar. This is the high reflectivity of what most likely is sleet. So, again, southern areas and suburbs of Paris could get a little sleet as well.

If you look at the possibility of additional accumulation, maybe Paris you could see around 7 centimeters, Brussels another 6. Again, you make your way into areas that we're still seeing and try to taper off in parts of Germany. Berlin has had their fair bout of a warm-up. In fact, just as the grass was starting to take on a green tint, a little hue, of course, you get a little blast of winter.

This is our next concern. This is that parcel of energy that'll develop south of that area of low pressure and almost transfer its energy. So the weather has been quite unsettled and will remain that way. We've had our bouts of rain. It's not going to rain the entire time.

But for everyone that's going to be a waiting word here from the conclave, the best chance of rain looks to be on Wednesday. Notice the winds, how they're starting to kick up. This is the other element to our story here.

And this is where we'll find the possibility of flight disruptions, even in Madrid. I mean, you're going to see the numbers, Barcelona is at 24. And so with that, the computer model speculated at what could be a delay.

And notice with the light amounts of snowfall, it's just mainly wind and visibility, of course, in London; Paris will see maybe possibly an hour and a half to two hours, Brussels, Max, as well. So another blast of winter, but it will not be much longer. Promise you.

FOSTER: OK. I'll hold you to that, Tom. Thank you very much indeed.

More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS after the break.



FOSTER: Well, stocks on Wall Street are rising this Monday, setting a new intraday high for the Dow Jones. Currently, the Dow up 45 points, 14,442 or 3 is the latest level. It set an all-time closing high last Friday. Investors are off (inaudible) lawmakers will pass a budget before March 27th, a deadline. That's what's helping things, really there.

It was a mixed finish for European markets. Investors got their first chance (inaudible) Italy's downgrade by Fitch, which happened after the end of trade on Friday. We also had GDP readings from several Southern European countries, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, all recorded negative growth in the last quarter of 2012.

Banking stocks came under some downward pressure as well. Investors also factored in higher Chinese inflation. (Inaudible) slower industrial growth. So mixed.

Let us know what you make of that, of Bowie's story. It's doing a lot online. Bowie's comeback, or indeed anything you've seen on the show, head over to our Facebook page or you can tweet us via @QuestCNN. You can also use our Quest hashtag, which is at the bottom of your screen.

That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Thank you so much for watching.

I'm Max Foster in London. We'll see you next time.



FOSTER (voice-over): The headlines this hour:

Cardinals gathered in Vatican City have wrapped up their final meetings before the papal conclave, which starts on Tuesday. It'll begin with a morning mass at St. Peter's Basilica, which is open to the public.

From there, the cardinals will head to the Sistine Chapel and they won't come out until a new pope is chosen.

A gunman wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a group of NATO and Afghan soldiers on Monday, killing two U.S. and two Afghan service members. At least 10 U.S. troops were wounded in the attack, which took place in Wardak province near Kabul.

The International Criminal Court is dropping charges against one of four prominent Kenyans accused of stoking the deadly post-election violence of five years ago. The announcement regarding Francis Muthaura comes just a day after Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Kenya's presidential election. He, too, is accused of fueling the violence.

A New York State Supreme Court judge has thrown out a proposed limit on sugary drinks, calling it, quote, "arbitrary and capricious." (Inaudible) all sugary beverages over 16 ounces was due to take effect on Tuesday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed the ban as part of an effort to tackle obesity (inaudible) moments ago as word came that his official -- his office will appeal the ruling actually. It's not over yet.


FOSTER: Well, that's a look at some of the stories we're watching for you here on CNN. "AMANPOUR" is next.