BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: AUGUST 30, 1999 ISSUE

Readers Report

This CEO Put Business before Politics

In ''The saga of Lloyd Ward,'' (Cover Story, Aug. 9), you ran afoul of one misconception. The rise of Fannie Mae's own Franklin D. Raines to become the country's first African-American CEO took place largely in the world of business, not politics.

Frank Raines has spent 18 of the last 20 years in business at Lazard Freres & Co. and at Fannie Mae. His tenure at the Office of Management & Budget, while notable for his having balanced the federal budget, constituted only two years of the past two decades.

David Jeffers
Vice-President for corporate relations
Fannie Mae
Washington



And Now, the City of Brotherly Tax Relief

Brotherly Love continues to cost less and less (''The List: Brotherly love, but it will cost you,'' Up Front, July 19). Although the study cited rightly takes aim at Philadelphia's historic tax structure for business, it failed to note how that history is changing--Philadelphia's business taxes dropped more than those of any city in the survey from 1993 to 1998.

Since Jan. 1, 1996, Philadelphia's business privilege tax has been reduced by a total of 10%, and the city's wage tax by 7%. At the same time, we have eliminated the city's personal property tax, which was not included in the survey. All told, the first five years of our tax-reduction program will have yielded cumulative savings of nearly $315 million for our taxpaying businesses and citizens, and our new five-year plan includes further tax reductions each year.

While there is no question that Philadelphia can do more to reduce taxes for those who bring business to our community, we have made remarkable progress.

Edward G. Rendell
Mayor
Philadelphia



As Usual, Blame Falls on the Butler

I was sorry to read that your reporter recently had a less than enlightening experience with our butler Jeeves (''This butler didn't do it,'' Technology & You, Aug. 2). It was especially disappointing because Jeeves offers such great service to millions of Internet users every month.

At Ask Jeeves, our mission is to make the Internet a more usable and human-friendly place by letting people interact on the Web the same way they interact in the real world--through questions and answers. What's unique is that our question-answering service has been cleverly engineered to learn from experience. Jeeves gets smarter by the day with every new question asked, and with users asking Jeeves more than 1.2 million questions daily, Jeeves' I.Q. is getting higher by the minute. When information isn't available through our service, our editors are signaled to add the answer, allowing Jeeves to surface it when the question is asked again.

However, what runs most contrary to your reporter's viewpoint is that for the third quarter in a row, Ask Jeeves has been rated No.1 in user satisfaction when compared with other search and navigation sites, including Alta Vista, Excite, GoTo, HotBot, and Yahoo!. This is according to an independent survey conducted quarterly by the NPD Group among approximately 30,000 Internet users. And Ask Jeeves users have grown from several hundred thousand a month to over 3.1 million in June, according to Media Metrix.

Rob Wrubel
President & CEO
Ask Jeeves
Emeryville, Calif.



California Trial Lawyers Are on the Warpath

Regarding ''Suddenly, trial lawyers are on the defensive'' (Washington Outlook, July 19): In California, trial lawyers would be much better characterized as on the offensive. While the Association of Trial Lawyers of America contributed $2.4 million to federal races in the 1997-1998 election cycle, during the same period the California trial lawyers spent more than $10 million on statewide and legislative races-many of them successful.

It is no coincidence that the personal-injury lawyers are now pushing their most aggressive legislative agenda in California in 16 years-most of which is designed to increase self-serving fee-based lawsuits against large and small businesses in the state.

John H. Sullivan
President
Civil Justice Association of California
Sacramento



We Have Entrepreneurs to Thank for the New Economy

''The New Economy finally gets some respect'' (Editorials, July 26) gets it half right. BUSINESS WEEK falls into the trap of attributing the wonders of the New Economy solely to information technology and the Internet. While technology has certainly played a role, your editorial neglects the critical effect of the new wave of entrepreneurs who have transformed the way we work and live.

While most Americans consider Bill Gates to be the quintessential entrepreneur, the reality is just as much Main Street as Silicon Valley (or Redmond, Wash.). Industries as diverse as energy, clothing, and coffee shops have all been transformed by the emergence of new innovators--for example, Enron, Gap, and Starbucks. In fact, more than 16 million Americans--roughly 9% of the adult population--are now trying to start their own business.

The New Economy is actually the entrepreneurial economy. As the pace of change in global markets and technology has accelerated, entrepreneurs have seized the opportunities created by that change. Without them and the companies they have created, the great wealth potential of new opportunities would have been unrealized entirely, or seized by other nations.

Douglas Mellinger
Chairman
National Commission on Entrepreneurship
Washington



Why This Disabilities Law Should Not Be Repealed

''Are we hurting or helping the disabled?'' (Economic Viewpoint, Aug. 2) illustrates the widespread ignorance that surrounds the Americans with Disabilities Act. The best remedy for disability discrimination is not to repeal the ADA, but to provide accurate information.

Contrary to Gary S. Becker's implication, having a disability does not translate to a lack of productivity. Those of us with disabilities tend to be among America's most motivated and accomplished workers, so grateful are we for the opportunity to prove ourselves. As natural problem-solvers, we often approach routine tasks in creative ways. Job accommodations, when necessary, enable us to perform on a par with nondisabled co-workers.

Becker asserts that the ADA has ''widened the concept of disability to absurd extremes.'' In fact, the opposite may be true. The Supreme Court's recent rulings in a trio of employment cases narrowed the definition of disability, which now appears to exclude millions of individuals that Congress clearly intended to cover--myself included, as a person with epilepsy. Although I take daily medication to control seizures, the Court's analysis might permit employers to deny me--on a solely prejudicial basis--jobs for which I am fully qualified.

The vast majority of the frivolous lawsuits to which Becker erroneously refers as ''the principal disabilities litigated under the ADA'' are quickly dismissed by judges around the nation. Furthermore, the American Bar Assn. reports that employers prevail in about 94% of final court decisions.

Finally, Becker cites a 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that indicated a drop in the employment of people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilties Act was enacted. This study compared different Census survey questions from one year to the next, producing highly questionable results.

Tony Coelho
Chairman
President's Committee on Employment of
People with Disabilities
Washington



''Women shun the dismal science'' (Economic Trends, Aug. 2)

''Women shun the dismal science'' (Economic Trends, Aug. 2) incorrectly stated that the percentage of economics PhDs earned by women declined sharply from 1993 to 1997. In fact, what fell was the proportion of jobs in PhD-granting economics departments going to newly graduated female PhDs.



''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16)

''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary) erred in reporting theglobe.com's second quarter results. The reported loss was 27 cents, not 54 cents. The company actually beat First Call Corp.'s estimate of a 32 cents loss by 5 cents. The 54-cent loss figure included amortization charges. Also, theglobe.com released its results on Aug. 3, not Aug. 2.





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LETTERS:
This CEO Put Business before Politics

And Now, the City of Brotherly Tax Relief

As Usual, Blame Falls on the Butler

California Trial Lawyers Are on the Warpath

We Have Entrepreneurs to Thank for the New Economy

Why This Disabilities Law Should Not Be Repealed

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS:
''Women shun the dismal science'' (Economic Trends, Aug. 2)

''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16)

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