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"I'm a person touched by God." -- Home-run slugger Sammy Sosa to thousands of fans assembled for his homecoming to the Dominican RepublicEDITED BY JOAN OLECKReturn to top

NOTHING SWEET ABOUT THESE REITs

THE MARKET FOR COMMERCIAL real estate investment trusts has already taken its lumps. Now, it looks like things will get worse before they get better for the riskiest funds. As investors have backed off from REITs, the hardest hit have been funds investing in securities backed by mortgages that don't carry government guarantees.

The most severely punished so far has been Criimi Mae, a nongovernment-affiliated REIT that held some of the riskiest mortgage-backed securities and filed for Chapter 11 on Oct. 5. "We haven't seen a situation this unsettled in 20 years," says Hugh Frater, CEO of another mortgage REIT, Anthracite Capital. Anthracite, Chastain Capital, and Clarion Commercial are among major REITs whose stocks have dropped 50% or so in price since early August. Frater has been trying to persuade lenders to be patient. Criimi Mae went into Chapter 11 after its lenders cracked down.

But lenders' patience may be waning, especially with $30 billion of new issues of commercial mortgage-backed securities waiting to come to market. "People are reluctant to buy bonds when they know they'll be cheaper next week," says Greg White, vice-president of asset-management firm Conning & Co. Only a sharp turn in market sentiment can head off this collision.EDITED BY JOAN OLECKReturn to top

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BED AND BLAST-OFF

JOHN GLENN BLASTS back to space on Oct. 29. And the 77-year-old's heroic mission will surely contribute to what we know about aeronautics, medicine, and gerontology. It also will contribute to the pockets of residents near the Kennedy Space Center. The reason: lodging--or the lack of it.

The Space Coast Office of Tourism expects 250,000 visitors and reports that few vacancies remain among the area's 8,500 hotel rooms and 4,000 campsites. Says assistant director Bonnie King: "We're looking at 100% occupancy throughout the county. We're smiling. We're having a good time."

Private homes are renting spare bedrooms. Joan Grimes has three bidders for a room in her Cape Canaveral townhouse. Price: $150 a night, but Grimes says she's mostly interested in finding the right visitors to share the launch with. Still, not everyone is cashing in: Albert Cleveland, a retired NASA manager with a four-bedroom Cocoa Beach home, will welcome out-of-towners who find themselves stranded. "I believe in the space program," he explains. "John Glenn is a great hero." Apparently, First Tourist Bill Clinton agrees: He's scheduled to view the launch--but not to stay the night.EDITED BY JOAN OLECKReturn to top

CALLING ALL RACONTEURS

ONCE UPON A TIME, TWO communications consultants decided CEOs could take a cue from kids and storytime: A good yarn packs more punch than a pie chart. Peter Giuliano and Frank Carillo of Executive Communications Group in Englewood, N.J., are testing their theory with daylong executive storytelling seminars at $395 a pop. The first, in New York, attracted 25 representatives from the Federal Reserve Board, Deloitte & Touche, and Revlon, among others.

At the New York seminar, participants first examined the basics of Aristotelian rhetoric (ethos, pathos, and logos), then honed their own narratives into pithy business tools. The point? "Stories are the best way to make someone feel and remember what you're talking about," says Giuliano in his deep bass voice.

One participant humorously recounted lessons he learned as a high school rabble-rouser. Another spoke of her frustration tackling the Y2K problem. These fledgling storytellers illustrated Giuliano's belief that emotion is the best way to grab your audience. Reason enough to ditch those overhead transparencies and start your next meeting with a good fable.EDITED BY JOAN OLECKReturn to top


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