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"I just don't think it's inappropriate...to have me taxed at 28% if I sell my Berkshire shares when someone who's trying to find a cure for cancer is taxed at 39%"--Warren Buffet, on why the capital-gains tax shouldn't be lowered furtherEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

THE NAME GAME OVER HAVANAS

CUBA'S FAMOUS COHIBA cigar is especially prized during today's craze for premium leaf. But General Cigar, an American company, has held U.S. rights to the name since 1978. So the Cubans, foreseeing an end to Washington's embargo on their goods, have filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to cancel General Cigar's rights.

While Cuba has long been able to register trademarks in the U.S., it never did with Cohiba--made legendary as Fidel Castro's favorite brand. General Cigar, which sells just a small quantity of non-Cuban Cohibas, contends that its U.S. rights are solid because it registered first. General Cigar points out that the Cubans have said they did not market the Cohiba commercially until 1982, well after the American company got its trademark.

However, Pamela Falk, a law professor at the City University of New York, thinks that the Cubans may have an advantage, if they can show that they used the product first. "When you speak of Cohiba," says Adargelio Garrido, legal director of Habanos, the maker of the island's legendary smoke, "you speak of a cigar made in Cuba."

American and Cuban cigar makers are united on one point, though: opposing alleged counterfeit Cohibas from the Dominican Republic. Montecristi de Tobacos, which makes Cohiba Dominican, says its government has O.K.'d the name for domestic use--and it doesn't export. The Cubans are cracking down on their own illegal makers, who fob off bogus Cohibas on tourists.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Gail DeGeorge and Gail ReedReturn to top

WILL BLAIR CLONES OVERRUN EUROPE?

TONY BLAIR'S LANDSLIDE victory in Britain has pols all over continental Europe rushing for the center. With French elections slated for the end of May and German elections coming up in '98, there's a scramble to match the middle-ground formula of Blair's Labor Party.

Still, don't expect the Continent's leftist parties to soon make the radical reinvention that took Britain's Labor Party years to achieve. In Germany, the most prominent pro-business voice of the Social Democrats, rivals to Chancellor Helmut Kohl's center-right Christian Democrats, is Gerhard Schruder, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. But he stands little chance of gaining his party's nod to challenge Kohl. The favorite is SPD Chairman Oskar Lafontaine, an old-style socialist. Besides, Kohl has already styled himself as the candidate of change.

The picture is not unsimilar in France, where President Jacques Chirac has usurped the middle while Socialist Lionel Jospin stumps for a shorter workweek. But in Italy, Blair's approach is finding favor across the political spectrum. Deputy Prime Minister Walter Veltroni, a former Communist, has even appeared at London photo opportunities with Blair.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Julia FlynnReturn to top

TAKE THIS SONG AND SHOVE IT

THE EARS OF Texas are upon you, rappers. State lawmakers are poised to bar Texas pension funds from investing in producers of violent or vulgar music.

The state senate has unanimously passed the ban; the house likely will follow. Governor George W. Bush has taken no stand. If he signs the bill, the state would be the first to take on songs such as the late Tupac Shakur's Me and My Girlfriend. Maryland killed a similar bill earlier this spring.

The Recording Industry Assn. warns that the Texas bill could affect a vast number of titles--from Ray Charles' Let's Go Get Stoned to Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues--a claim proponents dismiss as alarmist. The bill applies to corporations owning at least 10% of a music company, plus those that directly promote music. Its author, GOP State Senator Bill Ratliff, targets Seagram, 50% owner of distibutor Interscope Records, whose artists include Shakur, fellow gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. The bill would, for instance, make the $55 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas sell $51 million in Seagram stock. Seagram declined comment.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Stephanie Anderson ForestReturn to top


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