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"It's time to show his cards." ---Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Mar. 7, on Kenneth Starr's progress

"He can't complete the work as long as he is dealing with stonewalling." ---Lott, Mar. 9, after a Republican uproarEDITED BY ROBERT McNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

IT'S CUSTOMIZED INTELLIGENCE, NOT SPYING

WORRIED ABOUT BUSINESS prospects in Indonesia or Brazil? You're not alone. But three former Clinton Administration insiders will help you figure it out--for a fee.

The three ex-officials have formed Newmarket Co. It offers advisory and customized information services on 22 emerging markets. It also sells data on economic and political trends to institutional investors and big companies.

Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser, is chairman. Also on board: former CIA chief John Deutch as chairman of its advisory board. The third man on the team is President David Rothkopf. He promoted emerging markets while working at the Commerce Dept. and predicted last year that some were overheating. His prescience has attracted clients. And although ex-spymaster Deutch is aboard, Rothkopf says he doubts any former spooks will be on the payroll.

Newmarket already has boosters. Michael Conelius, manager of the T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond Fund, says the firm comes along at the right time because of the dearth of reliable data about these markets.Stan CrockReturn to top

INSURANCE: IF IT RAINS, ARE YOU COVERED?

RAIN INSURANCE MAY SEEM A quirky idea in most places. Not in California, where torrential rains have prompted a scramble for rain insurance. For insurers, if not for anyone else, there's a golden lining in El Nino's storm clouds.

For years, rain insurance (not for flooding, mind you) has covered washouts at movie shoots, outdoor concerts, and the like. Premiums were estimated at $15 million in 1997. Now, the El Nino storms have prompted big players like Cigna and AIG to introduce products that offer businesses weather and damage risk protection. Good Weather, a Salem (Mass.) agency, says it sold 1,000 storm policies for Reliance National and Lloyd's of London last year, 43% more than in '96. Rain damage totaled $81 million in California in January and February. But insurers are sanguine. "Historically it's been a profitable business," says Sal Nocifero, a Reliance exec. As more businesses sign up, claims-paying insurers may be even happier after the state dries out. Susan JacksonReturn to top

DEC TO HP: KEEP YOUR DIGITS OFF THAT AD!

IMITATION MAY BE HIGH flattery, but in the technology business it can also be worth a lawsuit. Digital Equipment took offense in February when archrival Hewlett-Packard mimicked the style of its print ads, which include lettering on a red-brick background. In the parody, it asked Digital customers a distinctly unflattering question: "Worried?"

Those HP ads came after Compaq's $9.6 billion bid to acquire Digital and fanned fears that Compaq would not provide adequate support for Digital's customers. Digital threatened to sue, claiming that the "bricks" are part of its logo--and HP pulled the ads.

Digital and Compaq retaliated with a co-branded ad--even though their merger isn't finalized--in several business publications. The ad doesn't use HP'S name, but features the word "Quash," and seeks to dismiss "rumors about the future of Digital technologies."

But like the Hatfields and the McCoys, the companies are still at it. HP now plans mid-March ads offering Digital customers up to 35% of the original purchase price if they trade in their computers for HP's. Techies may be cerebral, but when it comes to their ads, they can be nasty too. Paul JudgeReturn to top


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