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"That which tends to bring the government into hatred or contempt, or which excites disaffection against the government." ---Singapore's definition of material it won't allow Internet providers there to generateEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

THE TOMATOES OF WRATH

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO Mexico James Jones has gotten involved in a trade dispute over Florida growers' complaints about cheap imported Mexican tomatoes. But it raises questions about whether he's too close to Mexican interests.

In June, during a federal probe of surges in tomato imports, Jones met with a group of Mexican tomato producers on the issue. An embassy aide's handwritten memo says Jones "expressed support" and asked that the growers' Washington law firm "contact him directly with ideas they have for him so that he could help."

Jones confirms he then met with the growers' lawyer, Robert Herzstein of Shearman & Sterling, in Washington. But he insists it was only about getting U.S. and Mexican growers to negotiate. Herzstein says the two were "just comparing notes." On July 2, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Mexican tomatoes weren't seriously harming U.S. suppliers.

While not illegal, Jones's meeting with the lawyer about a case before the ITC has provoked concern in Washington trade circles. "It doesn't help the image of an independent, quasi-judicial" ITC, says former ITC Chair Paula Stern. Jones, noting that he never approached the ITC on this, says he has kept the Administration and Congress informed of his actions.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Amy BorrusReturn to top

ATLANTA: INVASION OF THE TCHOTCHKE SELLERS

ATLANTA IS OVERRUN WITH street vendors hawking games goodies, gripes the International Olympic Committee. The IOC says this makes the Olympics look too much like a flea market. Plus, it says, the T-shirts and knicknacks these 4,500 merchants are selling could eat into the gift biz at pavilions of corporate sponsors (who paid up to $40 million to be there).

The IOC, which has complained to the city about licensing too many people, vows to require future Olympic sites to keep local vendors to a minimum. At the '84 Olympics in L.A., there were very few, says the IOC. But Atlanta, which stands to collect some $3 million from licensees, says the vendors (80% of them minorities) should be able to benefit from the games, too.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Nicole HarrisReturn to top

WHO PROFITS FROM TOYOTA'S SETTLEMENT?

IS THIS A GOOD deal? Toyota, accused of overcharging some 3 million customers by $20 to $400 per car, wants to make amends by offering each of them a coupon worth $150. They can use it toward a purchase or lease of a new Toyota (average price: $18,600) or for repairs on their old one. That's the settlement the auto maker has reached with attorneys in a class action, pending a judge's O.K.

Dismayed by a rash of similar settlements (airlines, General Mills, General Motors), critics label coupon payoffs a ripoff. Columbia University law professor John Coffee says few customers take advantage of a coupon because it's usually just a fraction of an item's price. Court-appointed experts figure purchase redemptions for Toyota will range from 13% to 36%.

Another knock on coupons is that they're a boost for the wrongdoers since they force people to buy something. Recipients would be allowed to sell the coupons to others.

The Toyota suit charges that from 1990 to 1994, some dealers wrongly added ad dollars to dealers' costs, but the money was never spent. Toyota says it did nothing wrong and is settling to avoid court expenses. Certainly, one group will benefit: Plaintiffs' lawyers will get $4.2 million in fees.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Lisa SandersReturn to top


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