"The ratcheting up of compensation has been obscene.There is a tendency to put cocker spaniels on compensation committees, not Doberman pinschers." -- Warren Buffett, on the release of the Conference Board's recommendations on executive compensation Seton Hall, a Catholic University, prides itself on such values as honesty, humility, and integrity. So it's rather unsettling that the school has unwittingly assembled its very own corridor of shame: three buildings on its South Orange (N.J.) campus named for alumni donors accused of corporate crimes or misdeeds.
There's Kozlowski Hall, named after Tyco's ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who's charged with running a "criminal enterprise" that looted more than $600 million from shareholders. Across the green is the library, named after Frank Walsh Jr., a former Tyco board member being sued by Tyco for breach of fiduciary responsibility for receiving $20 million from Kozlowski without the board's approval. Next to it is the recreation center named for Robert Brennan, founder of First Jersey Securities, who was convicted of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.
Some students are disheartened. "On a campus where many of the buildings are named after saints, is that the kind of image the university wants to cultivate?" asks Matt McCue, editor of the student newspaper, The Setonian. A Seton Hall spokeswoman says there are no plans to remove the names. With all eyes on corporate scandals over the past year, the anti-sweatshop movement has dropped off the radar screen. Now, a coalition of labor activists, religious groups, and academics hopes to revive the cause. On Sept. 24, it's launching the Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops & Child Labor, gathering more than a dozen groups targeting labor abuses abroad. "We need something new and stronger to get our message out. We did well for a while, when Kathy Lee [Gifford] cried on TV, but it hasn't been on a sustained basis," says the Rev. Peter Laarman of New York's Judson Memorial Church, who's on the steering committee.
The campaign kicks off in Washington, with testimony from Bangladeshi sweatshop workers, then moves to 10 cities in three weeks. The coalition also will focus on a previously unemphasized area--public policy--and seek to draft laws to crack down on sweatshop-made goods. Georgetown University law professor Robert Stumberg says measures being considered include bans on such imports, forced disclosure of factories where imported goods are made, and bans on government purchases of sweatshop goods. In last year's terrorist hijackings, seat-back phones played a big role: Todd Beamer's famous last words, "Let's roll," were overheard on one. Others used them to bid farewell. But on Sept. 1, AT&T Wireless' (AWE) aviation division halted service. At its peak, it had provided phones on hundreds of American (AMR), Alaska Air (ALK), Northwest (NWAC), and Southwest (LUV) planes, and a quarter of Delta's (DAL) fleet.
Turns out, the phones weren't being used much. People were using their cell phones instead (prior to takeoff and after landing, of course). Plus, costs were up, says AT&T Wireless spokesman Richard Blasi, who notes that the aviation division, Claircom, accounted for less than 0.05% of AT&T Wireless' revenues. American Airlines says it was averaging fewer than three calls per flight. No wonder: Calls cost $2.99, plus $7.60 per minute.
Now, some carriers can't ditch the phones fast enough. Alaska Air estimates it will save $200,000 a year in fuel costs by removing the 150 to 300 pounds of phone gear on each plane. American says it will save millions.
But Airfone, operated by Verizon Communications (VZ), is still found on American jets that used to be TWA planes, as well as on United, Continental, US Airways, most Delta planes, and eight international carriers. Airfone's digital technology makes it cheaper: $3.99 to connect, plus $3.99 a minute. United says its passengers are using them--to the tune of 4 to 15 calls per flight--and that frequent-flier surveys show customers want them. If the price is right, that is. Guess what the fastest-growing outdoor activity tracked by the U.S. Forest Service is? Not hiking or sightseeing. It's birding.
Baby boomers are the biggest group of bird enthusiasts, and they're fueling a trend. Typical birders are "52, affluent, well-educated, and have significant discretionary income," says Ted Eubanks, founder of Fermata, ecotourism consultants in Austin, Tex.
The Forest Service's latest survey, in 2000, found 71 million people who enjoyed bird-watching, up from 21 million in 1982. More serious enthusiasts, tracked by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, number 46 million, up nearly 10% in five years. "Hundreds of thousands" of people have started flocking each May to International Migratory Bird Day festivals across the country, says Jennifer Wheeler, a Fish & Wildlife biologist. Many of these are new to birding. Notes Eubanks: "The people that don't know a chicken from a duck--that's the group that's exploding."
So is spending. Bird lovers already spend $34 billion a year on their pastime, on bird feeders, birdseed, binoculars, field guides, travel, and specialty clothing. As boomers retire and have more time for leisure, retail sales are expected to soar higher. As the West Nile Virus spreads nationwide, some congressional leaders are asking whether the mosquito-borne illness could be linked to terrorism or to Iraq's bioweapons program. If so, a more troubling question may be whether Iraq's weapons efforts were unwittingly helped by U.S. scientists.
In a previously unreleased letter obtained by BusinessWeek, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention admitted that the CDC supplied Iraqi scientists with nearly two dozen viral and bacterial samples in the 1980s, including the plague, West Nile, and dengue fever. The letter, written in 1995 by then-CDC director David Satcher, was in response to a congressional inquiry (see below).
The CDC was abiding by World Health Organization guidelines that encouraged the free exchange of biological samples among medical researchers--before Congress imposed tighter controls on biological exports in 1995, says Thomas Monath, who headed the CDC lab where the viruses came from during the period in which they were handed over. "It was a very innocent request, which we were obligated to fulfill," recalls Monath. Plus, in the 1980s, Iraq and the U.S. were allies.
Scientists say the West Nile strain that so far has killed 46 people in the U.S. is not the same strain provided to Iraq, and they find it unlikely that it could have mutated. They also question whether terrorists would even try to develop West Nile as a weapon when more virulent viruses are available.
Still, some observers believe there should have been more prudence. "We were freely exchanging pathogenic materials with a country that we knew had an active biological warfare program," says James Tuite, a former Senate investigator who helped publicize Gulf War Syndrome. "The consequences should have been foreseen." In 1995, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention provided to then-Senator Donald Riegel (D-Mich.) a complete list of all biological materials--including viruses, retroviruses, bacteria, and fungi--that the CDC provided to Iraq from Oct. 1, 1984 through Oct. 13, 1993. Among the materials on the list are several types of dengue and sandfly fever virus, West Nile virus, and plague-infected mouse tissue smears. In his letter to Riegel, then-CDC Director David Satcher wrote: "Most of the materials were non-infectious diagnostic reagents for detecting evidence of infections to mosquito-borne viruses."
Here's the complete letter and list of biological materials: