Indiana recently passed the toughest anti-telemarketing measures in the country, becoming the 23rd state to enact such laws after Florida pioneered them in 1998. And more states are jumping on the bandwagon. "Do Not Call" laws, in various forms, are now being considered in every other state legislature.
Florida had acted to protect senior citizens from fraud. But now the motivation is privacy. Indiana's strict law allows citizens to place themselves on a master "Do Not Call" list; companies that violate it face a $25,000 fine. "A local newspaper poll showed that telemarketing was the No. 2 annoyance to our citizens," says Dale Sturtz, the Indiana law's sponsor. "Taxes were No. 1."
The Direct Marketing Assn., which represents the country's 5,000 telemarketers, maintains its own nationwide "Do Not Call" list with more than 3.5 million names. It opposes strict state measures, citing federal laws. But those only partially restrict telemarketers. Even if you tell one company not to call you, thousands of others can. Says Sturtz: "Years ago, when we had door-to-door salesmen, you could...get a `Beware of Dog' sign." Call the new laws the modern-day equivalent. A new battle has opened in the California energy wars, this one over setting up a rating system to decide who's guaranteed power this summer and who must suffer through blackouts. The California Public Utilities Commission is currently reviewing more than 10,000 applications--from nursing homes, oil and gas companies, citrus and almond farms, even tattoo parlors---all demanding exemptions from power outages. The CPUC will decide the pecking order by Aug. 2.
All the companies claim that losing power would pose significant risks to their businesses. To sort out who's neediest--in terms of public health and safety, not bottom lines--the CPUC hired a private consultant, Exponent. "We are not going to look at economic impact," says senior managing engineer Subodh Medhekar. Power companies will then put the top-ranked companies--and their lucky neighbors--on blocks of the power grid where the lights never go out.
Currently, hospitals, fire and police stations, and telecom and air-traffic control centers are on exempted blocks. But nursing homes aren't. Says applicant Kay Thompson of Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido: "It's a serious thing. There are people on oxygen concentrators and feeding pumps here." Some Silicon Valley companies didn't bother applying. "We didn't feel we fell into the parameters," says a Sun Microsystems spokeswoman.
While most companies have been content to just apply and wait, oil companies have already fought for exemption--and will likely win. They threatened that gas prices would rise even more if refineries lose power. The result: the CPUC will consider exemptions just for them on June 28. CHEVRON
Pushed for special waiver for all oil refineries; likely to
be grantedSUN MICROSYSTEMS
Decided against applying for exemption; will rely on its own
No need to apply for exemption; power guaranteed by Santa
Clara local utilitySAN DIEGO COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY
Applying for exemption, saying pumping systems could fail Old Navy is certainly making some curious forays these days. This spring, instead of keeping up with fashions, it began selling dog supplies in an attempt to revive weak sales. Now, the teen-targeting chain owned by Gap is launching a maternity line featuring tops, pants, and even swimwear.
This latest move, however, is causing analysts and investors to wonder if Old Navy is losing focus when it should instead be concentrating on getting its core merchandise--low-priced jeans and T-shirts--in order. As recently as the late '90s, Old Navy fueled most of the growth at its parent company. But since last year, monthly sales have fallen steadily. In May, same-store sales dropped a worse-than-expected 14% to 16%, making Old Navy the weakest of Gap's chains. The company insists that it is righting the ship by boosting advertising and readying a slew of new back-to-school fashions. Says a spokeswoman: "We're not defocusing, just extending our brand."
Meantime, stores are busily marking down doggie goods, some by more than 50%. "We have so much," muses a sales clerk at one California outlet. Sounds like there'll soon be a sale on maternity clothes, too. Now that President Bush has conceded there's a global warming problem, perhaps he should consult with scientists in Australia. They've developed a vaccine that cuts the amount of methane gas produced by sheep and cattle--thus lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Farm animals produce so much of the stuff in normal digestion that it accounts for 14% of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions. In New Zealand the level is 50% because of the high proportion of livestock to people and industry, says Rob Kelly at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization. Methane is 21 times more potent, in greenhouse gas terms, than carbon dioxide.
The vaccine inhibits microorganisms in the animals' stomachs that produce methane when breaking down feed. The shots can curb gas production by one-fifth--equal to about 300,000 tons of CO2. Plus, vaccinated livestock can process nutrients that previously had wafted into the atmosphere. So, says Kelly, the animals get heavier and grow more wool--about 4% more. The vaccine is three years away from commercial use.
Cuts emissions and improves productivity? Pity it only works in the paddock. In the U.S. and Japan, Honda (HMC
) is hot. It makes four of the Top 10 sellers in Japan, and can barely keep up with American demand for its minivans and SUVs. But Europe is a different story. Honda has been hurt by a weak currency and its lack of diesel-powered and 1.0-liter cars with the styling flair Europeans like. It lost nearly half a billion dollars there for the year ended Mar. 31--nearly twice the losses at rivals Nissan and Toyota.
Honda now hopes to fix its Europe problem: by boosting capacity at British plants and exporting those cars to the U.S.; heeding European calls for diesel engines by adding them to Civics and Accords; and imposing tough cost-cutting on parts suppliers. And on June 21, Honda unveiled an all-new car for the crucial European subcompact market: the 1.3-liter, $13,000 Fit hatchback. (There are no plans to sell it in the U.S.) "We anticipate a very strong recovery," says Satoshi Aoki, Honda's senior managing director for finance.
The car's neatest feature? All seats flatten at the flick of a switch--a selling point for youths keen to load bikes or sleep in it on long road trips. Archaeologists have long argued that antiquities sold over the Internet encourage looting of ancient sites. Now they have a new ally in efforts to get eBay (EBAY
) and Amazon (AMZN
) to stop such sales: kids.
Thousands of schoolchildren across the U.S. wrote to those companies recently to ask them to stop listing Mayan artifacts. Internet education site Classroom Connect led the campaign after organizing a "virtual field trip" through Mayan ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. John Fox, a Mayan expert who is Classroom Connect's head of research, calls it "another step to rally public opinion."
Because Internet auction sites do not require sellers to list provenance, archaeologists say that makes it easy to sell illegally obtained items--and creates a market for which shady dealers race to meet demand. Laws are complex, but archaeologists argue it's unethical to buy or sell objects without clear ownership history. Amazon and eBay argue that it's the seller's responsibility to establish legality. "We have no way of being referees," says an eBay spokesman. "All anybody has to do is point to an item on eBay and show us that it's illegal, and we'll remove it." Still, Amazon and eBay can look forward to a new flood of letters in October when Classroom Connect does a trip to Peru. Americans who say they believe in psychic or spiritual healing: in 1990, 46%; in 2001, 54%
DATA: GALLUP ORGANIZATION