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Seven New York City steakhouses and bistros, organized by Smith & Wollensky, are offering a Nasdaq special: If the market closes at 1,867 on Thursday, Friday's lunch costs $18.67. -- With April 18th's close at 2,079, better hurry. What's up with the new doohickeys in company logos? In recent months, a few icons of the finance world have added meaningless symbols to their new-and-improved brand logos. Andersen Consulting became Accenture, with a ">" over the "t." Morgan Stanley dropped the "Dean Witter" and added a triangle over the first "n." And there's a red arc spanning the two "i"s in Citi, the result of the Travelers Group merger with Citicorp.

The theory behind the squiggles is this: Companies want a logo that stands out and symbols that can take on whatever significance the companies say they have, reinforced by advertising. "Over time, it will come to have meaning," a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman says of the triangle. While waiting for that to happen, though, companies claim their new symbols have meanings that are nearly, well, mystical. According to Morgan Stanley: "The graphic element of the signature, appearing above the Morgan name, is a `directional triangle.' It points toward the Northeast, the general direction of financial success."

While the others' explanations are similarly airy, the idea may be sound, says Bob Perkins, a partner with marketing consultants Peppers & Rogers. "No one thought you'd see the swoosh and think `Nike,' but that's what a couple of hundred million in advertising can do." So will we someday see a blue triangle and think "Morgan"? Stay tuned. Even though the 24 crew members are home and China has accepted a U.S. apology, tensions still haven't eased between Washington and Beijing--and they're likely to escalate again. That has execs at Boeing fretting. The company is a clear target of Chinese retaliation in the event of sour relations. It has happened before: In 1996, Boeing lost a $1.8 billion order to rival Airbus when the two countries nearly came to blows in the Taiwan Strait.

Boeing is now close to finalizing orders for more than 70 new jets--deals that could be in jeopardy if tensions really heat up over Washington's decision to sell weapons to Taiwan. The orders total more than $3 billion--a potentially large portion of this year's sales. And Boeing is worried that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which approves purchases on behalf of the country's 33 carriers, could nix them. "We're very concerned and are watching the situation closely," says Boeing Deputy Vice-President Bruce Dennis. For now, though, a CAAC official in Beijing denies any such implications: "As our Trade Minister said, trade will not be hurt."

The booming China market is critical to Boeing's future. Boeing reckons China could purchase 280 jets in the next five years, a crucial counter to slowing sales elsewhere. Meantime, Boeing's success depends on delicate diplomacy. If you're a drinker of imports who thinks this Bud's not for you, well--care to try a Red Label from Budweiser instead?

The more robust, slightly more bitter version of America's No. 1 brew will appear this fall in New York and other markets where imports such as Heineken have seen double-digit growth, industry sources say. Red Label would be the first new brew to carry the Budweiser name since Bud Ice emerged in the mid-'90s. Bud's American Ale, born during the quick-to-fizzle microbrew craze, was shelved before it even launched.

Bud is clearly going after Heineken drinkers to stem a long decline. But Red Label may be a stretch for a beer positioned as a regular guy's brew. After all, this isn't scotch, where Johnnie Walker can trade consumers up from Red Label to Black. But even if only a few become fans, it could mean an image upgrade for ol' Bud. Radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs) allow automatic payment deductions on a consumer's credit card by radio signal. Mounted on dashboards or carried on key chains, this technology is increasingly being used for quick-pay applications.

E-ZPASS, FASTRAK, TOLLTAG

Highway, bridge, and tunnel authorities let motorists pay automatically by deducting from their credit cards when they drive through tollbooths.

FASTRAK, FREEDOM PLAY

McDonald's may allow drivers to pay at drive-thrus using their toll-paying tag. It's also testing two e-pay systems at counters and drive-thrus.

ZEBRAPASS

Fans of sports teams (New York Giants, Richmond Braves) can get discounts and win prizes at franchises such as Pizza Hut.

SPEEDPASS

Exxon Mobil's "wand" lets consumers pay with a wave at the gas pump.

Corrections and Clarifications

"Go Ahead: Read My Card" (The List, Up Front, Apr. 30), which described radio-frequency identification-technology applications, misidentified a company working with McDonald's Corp. on an e-pay system. Its correct name is FreedomPay.

If you were near a TV on Apr. 1, you probably saw a commercial in which a "tobacco industry chairman" pledged a recall of all cigarettes in America because "the tobacco industry cares about...your health and your trust." After a fade to black, a voice whispers "April Fools."

The ad appeared on every network except ABC and was paid for by a group named Truth, which gets all of its funding from the American Legacy Foundation, the antismoking organization created by the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Big Tobacco must pay ALF $250 million a year to fund efforts to curb smoking.

But the ad likely violated the settlement's "no vilification" clause, which prohibits attacks on tobacco companies or the industry as a whole. Last year, Philip Morris complained to the ALF's chairman about another ad, called Body Bag. (You get the idea.)

Yet this year, the industry hasn't said a word--nor does it plan to, for fear of igniting a public backlash. Still, it's none too happy. Says a Philip Morris spokesman: "Efforts to denigrate the industry are neither necessary nor appropriate." But the ALF says that when it comes to curbing smoking--especially by teens--such efforts work pretty well. Here's an example of what happens when you cross the inefficiencies of state government with those of the insurance industry: Florida lawmakers, looking to crack down on the 15% to 27% of the state's drivers who lack car insurance, had authorized repo men to confiscate the license plates of those who let their insurance lapse.

But a recent survey found that a third of the plates snatched by the repo men--who turned in nearly 7,000 plates over a recent 13-month period, earning a princely $25 each--were from fully insured motorists who had simply switched insurers.

Oops.

Florida officials blame insurance companies that drag their feet on filing mandatory lists of motorists without coverage. The state may drop the program next year when funding runs out. "It was a good concept whose implementation was lacking," admits state official Tom Roth.

Repo victims who are able to prove that they're insured can get new plates for free. Successful CEOs Often find themselves awash in contract offers for books. Think ex-Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca or General Electric's Jack Welch. Now, Nissan Motor turnaround artist Carlos Ghosn will tell his life story in an unusual form: the comics.

That's no joking matter in Japan, where comics are considered respectable reading material--and not just for pimply teenage boys. Ghosn's entry follows a hit series last year that depicted Masayoshi Son, chairman of Japan's Softbank, and was later published as a book. The creator, Big Comic Superior, targets young Japanese professionals and reaches about 300,000 readers per issue.

Although Ghosn also had helped revive France's Michelin and Renault, there's no French version planned. For Ghosn's American fans, a Nissan spokeswoman says that more than 10 publishers are asking Ghosn to pen his autobiography--in English. The average maximum severance-payment period for senior executives: in 1992, 104 weeks; in 2001, 37 weeks

Data: Manchester Inc.


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