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"We have heard from so many college professors that I think I'm going to ask if we can get college credit" -- Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde on the House impeachment hearings EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


THE YEAR 2000 BUG is making for weird contradictions at one big Midwestern utility. Alliant Energy, owner of Wisconsin Power & Light, is advising some customers to buy their own power generators if they want to be sure the lights stay on in 2000. Yet Alliant is also asking regulators for a $16.1 million rate hike to help inoculate it against the dreaded Y2K bug.

Alliant isn't trying to get something for nothing. To its credit, it is diligently preparing for 2000 by doing widespread debugging of its system. But it admits there may still be some power outages because thousands of embedded computer chips in power-regulating devices--its own and others'--cannot recognize year 2000. With 176,000 pieces of equipment and 6,000 vendors and suppliers, the utility won't be able to fix every one before Dec. 31, 1999.

So Alliant is telling many rural and corporate clients to make their own power. "For some people, an outage for a half-hour in the dead of winter could be very serious," says spokesman David Giroux, "so buying a generator might be a good idea." That may not be what consumers want to hear. But at least they'll be prepared.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


AMERICANS HAVE LET THEIR FINGERS DO THE WALKING for more than three decades. But those dancing digits are headed out the door. On New Year's Day, the Yellow Pages Publishers Assn. (YPPA) will launch a $25 million print and TV advertising campaign that will introduce a new motto, "Get an idea," and a new icon, a lightbulb. The YPPA says it wants folks to think of the Yellow Pages as a "tool for new ideas." Says Marketing Vice-President Clint Pollard: "It's not just a place to look stuff up; it's a place to think stuff up."

But skeptics are saying that in the age of the Internet, the YPPA needs more than just a new logo to keep up. Although most Yellow Pages are now online, just putting them there in the same A-to-Z format isn't enough, says Lisa Allen, an analyst at Forrester Research. She forecasts that by 2003, niche directories, which list, for example, lawyers by specialty instead of all grouped together, will have 80% of the $1.1 billion online market. The YPPA, she says, would do well to follow suit. As for the lightbulb campaign? Says Allen: "Instead of saying, `Get an Idea,' it might be better for the Yellow Pages to `Get a Clue."'EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


IN NOVEMBER, DREAMWORKS SKG, the entertainment company, penned a deal to build a $200 million movie studio in Los Angeles to anchor the massive Playa Vista real

estate project, planned to include 13,000 homes. But the deal's most improbable player is a union-owned insurer, ULLICO--parent of Union Labor Life Insurance--which is showing how labor can achieve its goals by flexing its financial muscle.

After much wheeling and dealing, ULLICO ended up as a Playa Vista co-owner with L.A. dealmaker Gary Winnick, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. ULLICO obtained pledges for 125,000 new union construction jobs over 15 years.

ULLICO is clearly ready to play with Wall Street biggies. Vice-President Mike Steed has invested in 55 deals since 1992, reaping average annual returns of 33%. And he obtained agreements that ULLICO's partners will remain neutral in any union-recruitment drives affecting them.

"Private capital investing," says Steed, "creates opportunities for unions to get high rates of return and organize new workers."EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

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