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"Alan gave the coat-check attendant a dollar and then commented that it only cost 75 cents last year." -- Bill Clinton, at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, joking about inflation-wary Fed Chairman Alan GreenspanEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


ECONOMIC GROWTH IS healthy, job creation is respectable, and downsizing companies are on the defensive. So layoffs should be on the wane, right? Not quite. They soared by 76% in 1996's first four months, to 199,000, says Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm. In fact, job cuts began to jump last October, after falling steadily since their 1993 peak.

The new layoff numbers may be just an aberration, since Challenger's method isn't scientific. It simply collects job-cut announcements and does no survey of the economy. Yet it's also possible the official government numbers overstate the job-growth news, so the boost in pink slips could make sense, says Nomura Securities economist David Resler. The official numbers are suspect because employment growth has been erratic lately, swinging from 600,000 one month to nearly nothing the next. John Challenger, the outplacement firm's exec veep, still expects job cuts to slow, due mostly to political pressure on employers. But, he says, companies also receive "pressure to get their stock prices up, which often means big layoffs."EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Aaron BernsteinReturn to top


A CURE FOR DEADBEAT DOCS? California may have one. The Golden State, which leads in defaults on federally guaranteed health-education loans, is threatening to yank nonpaying doctors' medical licenses. Result: no income, because they can't practice.

Since the federal Health Education Assistance Loan program began in 1979, 20% of graduates earning medical degrees have borrowed through it. Of HEAL's $3.7 billion in outstanding loans, $400 million is unpaid nationwide, with $70 million outstanding in California. Half of the $400 million represents borrowers who are stiff-arming collectors. (The rest are attempting to cough up.) Deadbeat doctors, who owe $23,809 on average, can be very cagey. One tactic, says a HEAL administrator, is to switch assets to a spouse's name. California, at the Fed's behest, has had some success after three months' effort. Officials say one doctor paid his debt--under $20,000--in full shortly after hearing that his license was endangered.

The American Medical Assn. argues that licensure should be based on competence only. But six more states recently enacted legislation that allows similar action. The problem, though, won't worsen. Congress axed HEAL last fall, calling it too costly.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Nanette ByrnesReturn to top


TRUST AMERICA'S LAWYERS TO see dollar signs in unlikely places. Three of them at New York patent firm Pennie & Edmonds think that athletes should copyright their special moves. In the May 20 National Law Journal, they say moves such as Michael Jordan's gravity-defying artistry or Dick Fosbery's Fosbery flop (where a high-jumper goes over back-down) might be copyrighted.

There's legal precedent. George Balanchine's choreography for The Nutcracker was copyrighted. Basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has two trademark applications for his Sky Hook shot. But that's only for the name, says Jabbar's lawyer, Frank Decolvenaere. Last year, the lawyer says, he persuaded Wilson Sporting Goods to stop making Sky Hook basketballs. If an actor in an ad impersonated Jabbar shooting a Sky Hook, Decolvenaere says he could also stop it.

However, stopping other athletes from using a move? It would be tough to do with, say, skaters trying Dorothy Hamill's Hamill camel spin, sports agents admit. And proving such a violation? Says Morgan Wooten, basketball coach for perennial round ball power DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md.: "Guys were dunking the ball before Michael Jordan was alive."By Ronald Grover EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

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