Readers Report

More on Mike Milken, Then and Now

I believe Mike's most damaging attribute is his naivete. He maintains an unshakable belief that someday, some business writer will treat him fairly (''The reincarnation of Mike Milken,'' Cover Story, May 10).

I have known Michael Milken since childhood. He was my first crush, and I was his first math tutee. And yes, he has always been quirky. But isn't it the iconoclasts and rebels who have changed science, art, business, literature, music, medicine, and mankind? Would any of us want to live in a world not touched by their brilliance?

Yes, he has huge energy for getting a job done. Wouldn't any of us, under the that life-curtailing gun? Like all those driven by a mission greater than themselves, he has no tolerance for time wasted. As we head into the 21st century, we are fortunate Michael is still alive to challenge the system and focus his vision on the future of cancer research and education.

Judith Sherman-Wolin
Brentwood, Calif.

I believe history will consider Milken's greatest contribution the creation of millions of jobs in the growth companies he financed, the savings of jobs in the companies he rescued, and the new industries he helped build.

Randolph C. Read
Chairman of the Board
International Capital Markets Group
Los Angeles

Your story erroneously assumes that because Mike is still doing good works today, he must be trying to ''restore'' himself. I've known him since the 1950s and have been struck by the remarkable consistency of what he has always said about the need to broaden access to health care and education. For the thousands of us who know the whole truth about Mike Milken, he's the same activist visionary who entered Berkeley 35 years ago.

Harry Horowitz
Los Angeles

Mike Milken misstated the reasons for Knowledge Universe's acquiring Children's Discovery Center. KU bought CDC because it's focused on providing high-quality, early-childhood education. Rather than overhaul the management, KU has augmented the existing team, infrastructure, and programs to enhance an already strong educational company and accelerate its growth.

Ron Packard
Executive Vice-President
Knowledge Universe
Los Angeles

The View from America Online

'''AOL has to do something quickly,''' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 17) notes and then dismisses that we have agreements with Bell Atlantic and SBC Communications to provide high-speed Internet access to members using digital subscriber-line technology (DSL). With these pacts, America Online will serve members across Bell Atlantic's and SBC's areas, and we expect to announce more such deals in the future.

We will offer the upgrade to faster access for approximately $20 extra per month. With AOL's unlimited pricing plan of $21.95 a month, AOL members would be able to receive faster service over DSL for approximately $40 a month, which is certainly competitive with any cable pricing in the market today.

While DSL deals are an important part of AOL's broadband strategy, we anticipate working with a range of technologies--cable, wireless, and satellite--for high-speed connectivity. This summer we will roll out DSL, and as new broadband solutions become ready, we will be providing members additional options across a range of technologies--aggregating broadband connectivity from multiple providers to create a national footprint. In turn, prices will come down, and consumer adoption of broadband will be accelerated.

Bob Pittman
President and COO
America Online Inc.
Dulles, Va.

The Net's First Real Pro Manager

''Jim Barksdale, Internet angel'' (Information Technology, May 10), calls him ''the first real professional manager brought into the Internet realm.'' This distinction actually belongs to John Sidgmore (now chief operating officer of MCI WorldCom), who was brought in to run UUNET Technologies while Barksdale was still at McCaw. Please give credit where credit is due.

Rick Adams
Founder, UUNET Technologies Inc.
Oakton, Va.

A Consultancy Tells Its Side of the Story

A.T. Kearney continues on a strong growth track, with revenues up 18.5% in 1998 on a constant-currency basis (''What's dragging down A.T. Kearney,'' Management, May 10). While that's slower than in recent years, it's a growth rate that many companies, including most of our large high-value-added competitors, would envy. Over time, our firm has enjoyed 15-year growth compounded at 25% per year, more than twice the industry average. We have doubled in size every three years for the past 15 years.

While we're proud of Kearney's heritage in operations consulting, our vision is to be the leading high-value-added management consultancy with a full spectrum of services, including strategy, operations, and information technology. We have expanded our global strategy practice rapidly, with gross revenues up 25% in 1998. Strategy consulting represents approximately one-third of our business.

Our current growth is driven by great work for our clients. A.T. Kearney has the highest client satisfaction level among 16 management-consulting firms, according to a 1998 Louis Harris & Associates worldwide survey of 500 executives. To sustain this growth, this year we've hired 210 new MBAs in the U.S. alone.

The A.T. Kearney-EDS partnership continues to drive growth at both organizations. We collaborated on more than $7 billion in EDS business from 1996 through 1998, with Kearney fees of more than $375 million. We have about $14 billion in EDS contract value in the pipeline, with Kearney fees representing about $150 million. Hardly evidence of two firms struggling to connect.

Brian Harrison
A.T. Kearney Inc.

A Rising Tide Demands Rising Skills

Thanks for revealing a positive side-effect of the labor shortage: Employers are teaching once-marginal applicants the skills that make them employable (''The economy's rising tide,'' News: Analysis & Commentary, Apr. 26).

But the American workplace is becoming more demanding for everybody. The need to improve skills does not stop with entry-level hires. Employers we work with in testing and training find it helps the bottom line to give their existing workers better skills in problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. The results--lower turnover, increased productivity, and higher morale. American jobs at all levels require higher skill sets than in the past.

Michael McClenic
ACT Inc.
Iowa City, Iowa

Keeping an Eye on Sweatshops--Via Audits

Please note that the systems described in ''Sweatshop reform: How to solve the standoff'' (Social Issues, May 3) are not strictly alternatives, but can be complementary. Only one is up and running: The SA8000 system has been operational since January, 1998. Three international auditing organizations have been accredited to conduct audits, and numerous certification audits have been undertaken--in China, Italy, the U.S., Vietnam, and Brazil. Certified companies are listed at the Council of Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency's Web site.

Please also note that SA8000 is an international system: Our advisory board includes persons affiliated with European and U.S. retailers, trade unions, and representatives of human-rights organizations. Companies committed to the SA8000 system include France's Promodes, Italy's Coop Italia, the Dutch WE Europe, and Germany's Otto Versand. Together, their sales total over $75 billion.

Because these efforts, as well as several in Europe, look to standardized, impartial auditing, they can work in tandem. The SA8000 audits, modeled on ISO9000 protocols, more than satisfy the requirements of other codes as well as those proposed for Fair Labor Assn. monitoring. Those who have been implementing SA8000 are aware of the value of quality auditing and expect to see similar benefits from systematic workplace condition audits.

Alice Tepper Marlin
Council on Economic Priorities
Accreditation Agency
New York

Why We Move Where We Move

The conclusion that the volumes in net migration show ''which cities Americans consider most livable (''The List: Where Americans are moving,'' Up Front, May 10) assumes people's choice of a place to live is determined only by their perceptions of livability. But explosive job growth is more likely responsible for the rankings of the top five metro areas, since people tend to move to and stay in places where jobs are growing fast and leave places where they are not.

The factor most common to the bottom five would appear to be high costs of living and doing business rather than a lack of ''livability.'' Data on what we do is not always evidence of our preferences. Cancer and heart disease are hardly the ''most popular'' fatal diseases because more people die from them.

John L. Gann Jr.
Monroeville, Pa.

''Chipmakers: At last, an upturn'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 10)

''Chipmakers: At last, an upturn'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 10) misstated results from Samsung Electronics Co. The South Korean company earned profits of $260 million in 1998.

'The Reincarnation of Mike Milken'' (Cover Story, May 10)

In ''The Reincarnation of Mike Milken'' (Cover Story, May 10), the mathematical formula should have used the mathematical symbol designated by the Greek Sigma or the first letter of each tree=letter group in the equation.

''The good, the bad, and the terrible'' (Special Report, May 24, in some editions)

In ''The good, the bad, and the terrible'' (Special Report, May 24, in some editions), the names of the publishers of two online investing books were reversed. Electronic Day Traders' Secrets is published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, while The Day Trader: From the Pit to the PC is from John Wiley & Sons.

''America Online and on the air'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 24)

''America Online and on the air,'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 24) incorrectly attributed comments about a possible two-way satellite service to America Online Inc. Also, the price of the set-top box for the system announced is $300 to $400, plus a monthly service fee.

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More on Mike Milken, Then and Now

The View from America Online

The Net's First Real Pro Manager

A Consultancy Tells Its Side of the Story

A Rising Tide Demands Rising Skills

Keeping an Eye on Sweatshops--Via Audits

Why We Move Where We Move

''Chipmakers: At last, an upturn'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 10)

'The Reincarnation of Mike Milken'' (Cover Story, May 10)

''The good, the bad, and the terrible'' (Special Report, May 24, in some editions)

''America Online and on the air'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, May 24)

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