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"I said, `Here, I'll throw in five bucks, why not?"'

--Frank Capaci, winner of the $195 million Powerball lotteryEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

IT WAS JUST A JOKE, MS. RENO, A JOKE

THE JUSTICE DEPT. HAS UNEARTHED what it considers potentially damning evidence in its antitrust case against software giant Microsoft. A document, so far sealed by the court, features Jeffrey Raikes, Microsoft's group vice-president for sales and marketing, declaring the company's "Windows Paradise" under siege and adding that "Netscape pollution must be eradicated."

The folks at Microsoft say all it proves is that Justice lawyers are terminally unhip. Raikes claims it's a script for a video he made two years ago that parodies hip-hop star Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, the rap made popular in the movie Dangerous Minds. Turns out Raikes makes a gag video just about every year, and this was only one among many. "Pumping up the sales force isn't only essential to competing," says Raikes, "it's fun."

Well, an ultraserious Justice official examined the document for BUSINESS WEEK and did not once mention the word "fun." Said he: "It does not appear on its face to be a joke." So there.

The antitrust trial is scheduled to start in September, at which point a federal judge may decide whether Raikes is a rapacious competitor or merely a lousy rapper.Steve HammReturn to top

AT&T LOSES A FEW GOOD MEN

ADD ANOTHER NAME TO THE LIST of AT&T executives leaving the long-distance giant. In a move not yet announced, John Legere, the No.2 at AT&T Solutions, is moving to Dell Computer to head its Asian operations. AT&T Solutions helps customers manage computer and telecom systems. Legere is the fourth AT&T exec to leave in May.

So are AT&T managers losing faith in CEO C. Michael Armstrong's efforts to rejuvenate the company? Although he has helped AT&T's stock price, he still has to cut costs, protect its long-distance business, or enter local phone markets, say insiders.

But behind the flight of top brass is another factor: Experienced telecom managers are extremely hot commodities. With capital pouring into the industry, telecom companies are fighting for talent, says a headhunter who has raided AT&T.

Says Rolla Huff, who just left AT&T to become chief financial officer of telecom operator Frontier: "AT&T is a terrific company. I just think there's tremendous opportunity here." AT&T acknowledges that losing promising executives hurts--but the company also says that it plans to cut 25% of its top 130 officers over the next two years.Peter ElstromReturn to top

HAS BUFFETT LOST HIS SILVER TOUCH?

THERE WERE A LOT OF THINGS SPOOKING the silver market in late May as it plunged about 40% from recent highs to just over $5 an ounce. But traders and analysts don't believe Warren Buffett has decided to unload his 130 million-ounce stash. In fact, given prices when he began buying the metal last July, the betting is that the Oracle of Omaha is about even despite the price plunge.

When Buffett disclosed his holdings in February, the market pushed up the price to more than $7 per ounce. Buffett said he was taking the long view: Over the past nine years, worldwide demand for silver has exceeded supply, and he expects that situation to continue for several more years.

Short-term, however, the picture is grimmer. On top of the ongoing slide of Asian currencies, the markets have been shaken by the threat of sanctions against India--the world's second-largest consumer of silver--after its nuclear tests.

Prices could dip below $5 an ounce, say some analysts. Already, says Ted Kempf, a senior research analyst with CPM Group, traders intent on locking in profits are selling as the price drops. So this is a downswing that could be nerve-wracking--except for investors taking the long view.Andrew OsterlandReturn to top


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