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"Abuse of shareholders' money is relevant." -- Consuelo Fernandez, prosecutor, arguing that jurors should see Tyco ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski's Fifth Avenue apartment -- and its $6,000 shower curtain Skeptics have long predicted the French would reject the Americanized version of a European coffeehouse. But don't tell Starbucks (SBUX) co-founder Howard Schultz. Early next year, he plans to open Starbucks' first caf? in Paris.

The expansion is risky because rejection by the French could slow Starbucks' growth in Europe and make it wary about tackling another caffeinated market, Italy. Schultz says he's "confident that the Starbucks experience will fit well into the French caf? tradition."

But so far, Starbucks has yet to percolate overseas. With steady losses in crucial markets such as Britain and Japan, its 1,690 international stores have yet to turn a profit and aren't expected to until 2004. For the year ended Sept. 30, overseas sales hit $290 million, up from $209 million a year ago.

Since landing in continental Europe two years ago, Starbucks has had some success. It opened 28 stores in Germany and 17 in Spain. And it can take comfort in the knowledge that despite French critics' howling about the arrival of McDonald's (MCD) some years ago, it's now the most popular fast-food joint in France. Al Gore seems to be stuck in a holding pattern. The ex-Vice-President hopes to launch a career as a media mogul. Gore and an investor group want to buy cable news channel Newsworld International (NWI) to create a left-leaning network. But they need InterActiveCorp (IACI) Chairman Barry Diller's O.K.

Why Diller? NWI is part of the Universal entertainment assets that parent Vivendi plans to merge with General Electric (GE)'s NBC (GE) for $14 billion. Diller owns a 5.4% stake in Universal and wants to know how NBC will treat his $2.5 billion in preferred shares. Those shares pay $63 million in dividends annually and let him block some deals. Gore and NWI are close to a deal, and Gore has called Diller twice recently, say insiders. But Diller just got the merger documents, say sources close to the deal.

NWI could fetch up to $100 million, says Larry Gerbrandt, chief operating officer of consultancy Kagan World Media. It reaches 20 million U.S. homes and expects losses of $18 million on sales of $19 million this year, says Gerbrandt. "I think it might have been cheaper [for Gore] to run for President," he says. Gore, Diller, and NWI declined comment. Nice try dept.: On Nov. 19, Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) offered a compromise bill on expensing employee stock options. But his way of valuing options nearly negates their impact on the bottom line.

To curb option grants to fat cats, Enzi would have companies expense options granted only to the CEO and the four top-paid execs -- a fraction of the total. To value options, most companies use the Black-Scholes formula, which includes stock price fluctuations. Enzi's bill has companies assume that stock prices don't fluctuate -- an accounting fiction that sharply lowers options' value.

In '03, Cisco Systems (CSCO) gave out 199 million options. Six million went to the five top earners. If all options had been expensed, Black-Scholes would have valued them at $1.1 billion. Under Enzi's bill, they would be worth about a third of that amount. The six million would have been worth only $14.5 million.

Enzi, trained as an accountant, says Black-Scholes "does not reflect the true value of options" -- a view many experts share. He says his bill ensures options' real costs will be shown when used or forfeited. Until then, investors will see just the tip of the iceberg. Want to be on the cutting edge this Christmas? Promise your loved ones the first genetically modified pet. The GloFish, a bright-red fluorescent zebra fish, needs no special care. It got its color by adding a gene found in sea coral to zebra fish eggs in an attempt to create a fish that glows in the presence of toxins. Yorktown Technologies in Austin, Tex., will sell the fish through U.S. retailers for about $5 each starting Jan. 5. A portion of sales will fund efforts to develop a toxin-sensitive fish. Don't worry about escapees lighting up nearby waters: The GloFish can't survive the North American climate. Maybe it's those long winter nights. That might help explain the findings of a new U.N. study that ranks 178 nations on how plugged in they are to the Internet. As it turns out, 5 of the top 10 countries are in Scandinavia, where schools are good and digital communication is almost a national obsession.

The "digital access index" looks at factors ranging from the cost of Net access and the availability of broadband to literacy levels. The U.S. came in at an embarrassing No. 11 -- just behind Canada. Maybe what the U.S. needs is a long, dark winter. The Disneyland Resort near Paris is atwinkle with holiday lights, but Andr? Lacroix, CEO of Euro Disney, can offer only a lump of coal to share-holders this year. On Nov. 17, Euro Disney reported a fiscal 2003 loss of $66 million as attendance fell to 12.4 million, some 700,000 below 2002.

Lacroix, 43, calls 2003 an "atypical" year marred by war, an economic slump, and a summer heat wave. He says the park "remains the No. 1 tourist destination in Europe." Still, he plans to hike spending on TV ads and do more special events, including a Lion King celebration next spring. He's also trying to restructure $2.2 billion in debt the company can't repay. Recently, Euro Disney has been unable to make royalty payments to Walt Disney Co. (DIS), which owns a 39% stake.

Lacroix is no stranger to adversity. Before joining Euro Disney last spring, he ran Burger King International during the mad-cow-disease crisis. Euro Disney investors may not get a joyeux No?l, but they can still hope for a bonne ann?e in 2004. Imagine having your employer bid for your services. To ease a severe nursing shortage, a number of hospitals are taking a page from eBay (EBAY) and (PCLN).

At St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, N.Y., staff nurses looking for extra work can log onto the hospital's electronic marketplace, St. Peter's Jobs Online. Nurses scan the available shifts, then post the hourly wage they would be willing to work for. The hospital reviews the bids, taking into consideration each nurse's skills and the number of hours already worked that week. The nurses usually hear back from the hospital within 24 hours. Miami's Mercy Hospital and Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital both run similar programs based on the software developed by St. Peter's. The hospital is hoping to license the software nationwide.

For staff nurses, the system means more shifts at better pay. Martha Canizares, a part-time critical-care nurse at Miami's Mercy Hospital, gets $30 an hour for regularly scheduled shifts. But online, "I usually bid $40 to $45 an hour, and I usually get what I bid," she says.

Hospital administrators say online auctions allow them to avoid expensive temp agencies, whose nurses are often unfamiliar with a specific hospital's procedures. Last year, the auction system saved St. Peter's $980,000 by bringing the average nursing wage to $37 an hour. That's $7 above what it typically pays for a regularly scheduled shift, but $17 less than what an agency charges. That's nothing to sneeze at.

The President should be the best-paid member of a university staff, right? Not at some B-schools, where deans and professors outearn the top dogs, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education's annual survey of university compensation.

Strategy and management guru Toby Stuart of the the University of Chicago's business school is the highest-paid professor in the survey, earning $573,889 last year. University President Don Randel made a not-too-shabby $474,938. Despite his pay at Chicago, Stuart recently decamped to Columbia University's B-school.

Unlike administrators, star teachers can earn thousands extra for each day spent teaching executive education courses. That could be enough to make academia the next hot career choice.

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