Readers Report

Thanks from the FBI

Gary Weiss has done our nation an invaluable service by reporting the manipulation of the stock market by elements of organized crime. By outlining specific stocks and stock brokerage firms that were controlled by organized crime, he opened the door for FBI investigations in Florida and in New York, and for that we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.

The excellent investigative reporting that was carried out by Mr. Weiss provided the impetus for an in-depth probe of the illegal activities of La Cosa Nostra Captain Philip Abramo and other organized-crime figures (Cover Story, Dec. 16, 1996 and Dec. 15, 1997). Our investigations led to the indictments and subsequent guilty pleas of Abramo and his associates on a variety of federal charges, from racketeering and mail fraud to money laundering. The role Mr. Weiss played in the success we achieved in these investigations is immeasurable, and I want you to know how much my colleagues and I appreciate his diligent efforts.

Please convey to Mr. Weiss our congratulations on a job well done.

Louis J. Freeh
Director, FBI
Justice Dept.

Campaign Ad Spending? It's Peanuts

''The candidate as a campaign spectator'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Dec. 4) laments the $3 billion spent on a lost campaign. You call it ''staggering,'' but is it? Politicos spend just over $10 per U.S. citizen for the privilege of the winners extracting $5,000 from each of us per year--or $20,000 in taxes over a four-year cycle.

Compare that with Procter & Gamble Co., say, which spends 8% of sales on advertising--or $400 for each $5,000 we spend on Pampers, Pert, and Pringles. It would seem we spend too little on political ads, and we are better informed on potato chips than on candidates.

Bernard Baltic
Lakewood, Ohio

Memo to Schwab: Don't Talk Down to Women

Charles Schwab Co. may aim to get its brokers and women in sync (''Brokers are from Mars, women are from Venus,'' Finance, Dec. 4), but in adopting the ''designed for women and taught by women'' marketing approach, Schwab handily infantilizes women. At the same time, Schwab's women-only approach is an insult to its own male brokers. It implies that they are unable to communicate effectively with women.

If Schwab truly intends ''to seize a major opportunity'' to garner new clients, the firm would be well-advised to train all brokers--men and women--to deal sensitively, relevantly, and without jargon with men and women alike as individuals, neither crippled nor enhanced by their gender. The concept of small groups with plenty of time for women ''to get to know each language that's appealing to them'' smacks of a kindergarten.

Barbara Witte
Berkeley, Calif.

Waiting for Broadband

Broadband has come down with trench foot, and DSL [digital subscriber line] has developed a very painful bunion (''Broadband's slow march can't drag on,'' Editorial, Dec 4). At least that's the case in my neighborhood. I bought my trendy, in-town residence two years ago. Since then, I've been threatened with these marvels of technology, but they haven't arrived.

I'm ready for something. My dial-up service never exceeds 26.4 kilobits per second. Honestly, I had to check my PC to make sure someone hadn't replaced my modem with an old can and piece of string. A large former Bell, whose skyscraper is visible from my drive, tells me this is not their problem. Maybe if I want to upgrade to DSL...?

Well, yes, I'd like to try that. But I want to keep my service with a certain other large Internet provider. Hmmm, they want to give me DSL, too, but the aforementioned phone company tells them it's not available at my address. Now another huge company that bought my local cable company is teasing me with cable modems. I'm gonna hold my breath, because all of these feet are starting to stink.

Kris Roth

No Apologies to Dr. Seuss Needed

''Weird names and ham'' (, Nov. 20) informed in a refreshing way. Having raised seven children on Dr. Seuss and Dr. Spock, I spent scores of hours reading the Seuss books and know how difficult and almost impossible it is to emulate his way with words. It may seem simple, but it is not. Joan O'C. Hamilton did a remarkable job transferring her research to a form fitting the absurd names taken by the dot-coms. Thanks for a delightful piece.

Beverly Webster
Bakersfield, Calif. Does a Little Crowing is on a fast track to offer a full-service electronic marketplace for agriculture (''Let's keep this exchange to ourselves,'' News: Analysis & Commentary, Dec. 4). Since our launch last May, has made tremendous strides to create a Web site for farmers to sell crops and buy supplies online.

There are clear differences between exchanges such as Orbitz and Most important, Orbitz is attempting to create industry standards for the exchange of products and information in the travel sector., by comparison, is building an exchange platform based on existing industry standards. had its news and information site operating within 30 days of announcing the company's formation. will have transactional capability in two months. Our mission is to be the premier Internet agricultural site; we're well on our way.

Bill Pool
Director of Brand Marketing
Bloomington, Minn.

Lines of Credit: The Gun at a Bank's Head

I have always felt it was crazy for banks to offer lines of credit. And ''Feeling a credit squeeze'' (Finance, Dec. 4) confirms this. As you show, a line of credit in effect means: ''We will give you this line. You won't need to borrow from us as long as everything is going well. But if you get into trouble and can't get money anywhere else, then we will give you credit.'' That is: ''You have the line and will only use it when you have no way to pay us back.''

It is quite an obligation for the small fee of 0.25% to 2% per year the bank earns for having this potential bullet at its head. No wonder so many bank borrowers declare bankruptcy.

Paul S. Nadler
Newark, N.J.

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Thanks from the FBI

Campaign Ad Spending? It's Peanuts

Memo to Schwab: Don't Talk Down to Women

Waiting for Broadband

No Apologies to Dr. Seuss Needed Does a Little Crowing

Lines of Credit: The Gun at a Bank's Head

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