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"We are not talking about little green men. There is no evidence or suggestion any higher life form ever existed on Mars." --NASA chief Daniel Goldin on traces of microscopic life more than 4 billion years old on a meteorite from MarsEDITED BY LISA SANDERSReturn to top

WHO KILLED LOBBY REFORM?

A BID TO SLOW DOWN THE revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street was quietly killed as Congress adjourned for August. The reform effort, which was led by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), tried to prevent former lawmakers and their senior staff members from quickly cashing in on their expertise by becoming lobbyists.

Currently, congressmen and their aides can't lobby for a year after they leave the Hill. McCain and Feingold would have extended that to two years for former members and five for former aides. The Senate unanimously adopted the measure July 28.

But the provision was axed in a closed-door session between House and Senate negotiators. Nobody claims responsibility, but GOP House leadership sources say they didn't want to attach it to a routine spending bill. That's exactly what the House tried to do last year to weaken environmental-protection enforcement. Senate conferees stripped that provision from an appropriations bill.

Feingold accuses lobbyists of orchestrating a "classic insiders' job" that killed meaningful reform. He says he hopes to try again by pinning the restrictions to other legislation.EDITED BY LISA SANDERS By Richard S. DunhamReturn to top

POLES SHOP TILL PRICES DROP

THE NOVELTY OF WESTERN consumer goods may be wearing off in Eastern Europe. In Poland, shoppers are getting shrewder than any big Western companies imagined. After the heady days of 1990-91, when locals bought every bottle of Palmolive or box of Pampers available, they're returning to cheaper, and often homegrown, items. More expensive merchandise is reserved for holidays and birthdays.

To reignite sales, Western companies are developing low-cost alternatives. Germany's Benckiser, for example, compensated for its expensive laundry detergent, Lanza, by creating Dosia. A 450-gram box costs 70 cents, vs. $1.30 for Lanza.

The catalyst behind the Westerners' strategy is Poles' still-small $300 a month salaries. In addition, the multinationals must stay competitive with their Polish counterparts' improved marketing and packaging. But Marek Janicki, manager of the Warsaw office of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, sounds a cautionary note. It's not easy, he says, to erase habits adopted during state socialism. Even when Poles have the money to buy the better products, they may be reluctant.EDITED BY LISA SANDERS By Peggy SimpsonReturn to top

OLIVETTI HEEDS ECHOES OF THE PAST

TRY, TRY AGAIN. THAT'S THE advice Olivetti is taking to heart as it takes another pass at the U.S. computer market. Since 1983, the Italian computer and communications giant has twice jumped in, only to stumble and withdraw. Lured now by the hot portables market, it will take one more shot next week with a shipment of Echos, a line of four Pentium-based notebooks.

Nassir Ahmed, who moved Texas Instruments into the world's top 10 laptop suppliers in five years as its director of worldwide notebook marketing, leads the charge. Now CEO of Austin (Tex.)-based Olivetti Personal Computers USA, Ahmed aims to use relationships with Taiwanese notebook makers and U.S. distributors made at TI to put Olivetti among the top 10 U.S. laptop suppliers by mid-1998. His strategy: To couple aggressive pricing with a focus on small and midsize business customers largely ignored by IBM, Compaq, and Toshiba.

Ambitious? Surely. Aggressive newcomers, such as Hitachi, already have lopped 25% off the price of similar machines. That will force Olivetti to lower the prices on Echos, the cheapest of which has a 100-Mhz chip and was to sell for $2,499. Analysts Dataquest Europe says similar strategies have helped Olivetti double its Western Europe notebook market share to 4.9% in 1996's first six months.EDITED BY LISA SANDERSM By Gary WilliamsReturn to top


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