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"Resist America Beginning With Cola, Attack McDonald's, Storm K.F.C." -- poster at Beijing UniversityEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

B&N: No Amazon Killer Yet

Barnesandnoble.com, the book e-tailer, is slated to go public sometime after May 24. The prospectus offers the first real chance to compare it with you-know-who: Amazon.com. The comparison hurts.

In the first quarter, Amazon.com enjoyed $294 million in net sales compared to barnesandnoble.com's meager $32 million. Then consider the booksellers' first-quarter losses as a percent of net sales: 21% for Amazon, 63% for barnesandnoble.com.

But those numbers can be misleading. "The comparison is unfair to both companies at this point," says Lauren Cooks Levitan of BancBoston Robertson Stephens. "Amazon has set its sights on being much more than a book E-tailer. Their goal is really to be the dominant online shopping destination." As such, Amazon's evolving infrastructure will make it more akin to a portal site like Yahoo!'s than barnes andnoble.com. Still, barnes andnoble.com will fight for more of the online book market (now 15%, to Amazon's 75%). And the site, fifth-most visited on the Web, has to figure out how to profitably coexist with Barnes & Noble stores. Come May 24, you can put your own money on either player.By Joan OleckReturn to top

Silicon Valley Days for a Texan

Al Gore boasted that he invented the internet. But George W. Bush hopes to build Silicon Valley's allegiance in 2000 by promising a hands-off policy toward the high-tech industry. The Texas governor, front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, will lay out his tech-friendly views at a series of big fund-raisers on the West Coast on June 30 and July 1. "It's his coming-out party with this crowd," says an adviser. "They'll like what he has to say."

Bush scheduled a May 13 briefing in Austin, by a group of experts including many with a strong libertarian bent: Reason magazine editor Virginia Postrel; Jeffrey Eisenach, president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation; global-trends economist Todd Buchholz; and author Peter Huber, who wants to abolish the Federal Communications Commission. Also included are info-tech guru Esther Dyson, ex-Netscape Communications CEO James Barksdale, and Legg Mason Managing Director Scott Cleland, a telecommunications policy expert.

Bush is now trying to cobble together a kitchen cabinet of Silicon Valley biggies such as Barksdale, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, and John Chambers of Cisco Systems.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

A Break--54 Years after the Death Camps

The case of the overtaxed baseball taught outgoing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin a lesson: Don't let the tax laws trap you in a public-relations disaster. As a result, Holocaust survivors are likely to get a break.

Last summer, the IRS pointed out that catching a baseball could be a taxable event. The fan who gloved Mark McGwire's record-setting-home-run ball could face stiff taxes. After several days of scornful press, Rubin prodded the IRS to reverse itself.

Now, some 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the U.S. may soon start to collect on bank accounts and other assets seized by the Nazis. A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to make those payments tax-exempt. Reparations paid by governments for violating Americans' civil or personal rights are not now taxable. But taxes are due on payments from private parties violating property rights. The Holocaust payments may fit that category.

So the IRS kicked the issue up to Rubin's staff, which responded real fast: Treasury "would welcome the opportunity to work with Congress" to exempt Holocaust payments from taxes. Case closed, and with no damning headlines.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


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