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"There are some things worth defending....Your country is one of them" -- First ever national help-wanted ad for the U. S. Secret ServiceEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Coffee, Tea--Maybe Even a Meal

First it was average food. Then it was food in a basket. Then, too often, it was no food at all. But meal service on airlines is improving. Airline prospects have generally risen a bit recently, but so too have competitive pressures. So three big U.S. carriers are upping the quota of vittles per flyer starting this month, finally heeding passenger complaints. As one airline exec belatedly discovered: "People expect to be fed."

Northwest has added $20 million to its $350 million food budget, putting meals on 200 more flights. On the Detroit-to-Boston run, for example, passengers are served a cold lunch instead of just beverage service. Continental has increased its food budget by 8%, to $300 million. On flights of 500 or fewer miles, first-class customers might now get a cold snack plate with chicken breast and Brie. And at Delta, the breakfast "window" has been expanded by two hours. United and American are increasing their food budgets, but mainly for fancier food, not for more meals.

The message? "Nobody flies for the meal," said Gary Franson, director of food service for Northwest Airlines. "However, if you are disappointed, you may not come back."By Dennis Blank; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Another Day, Another Dollar

Still smarting from the hostile public reception of the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar, introduced two decades ago, U.S. Mint Director Philip Diehl is hustling to ensure that the soon-to-be-released golden $1 coin doesn't also join the Edsel/New Coke marketing hall of shame.

The government has joined forces with a handful of large corporations for promotional tie-ins for the new coin, which features Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark expedition. Wal-Mart Stores, for example, has signed an agreement that lets it circulate the coin at its 2,600 outlets a few days before the dollar's Feb. 1 general release. General Mills, meanwhile, is inserting the golden dollar in one of every 2,000 boxes of Cheerios.

Such corporate partnerships are a novel concept at the mint, which launched the vilified "Susie B." in 1979. That silver coin was easily confused with a quarter, and the public hated it. "The Treasury Dept. was frankly naive 20 years ago," says Diehl. "What we're doing is preparing the market for a product launch--the same way a national soft-drink manufacturer or auto maker would." Diehl is hoping that the new coin's prospects are as golden as its color.By Richard S. Dunham; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A Fund Even Your Pet Could Love

Here's an investment that won't send anyone's fur flying. Salomon Brothers Asset Management is set to roll out a mutual fund, The Humane Equity Fund, that won't invest in companies not deemed animal-friendly by the Humane Society of the U.S.

The society, which claims 7 million supporters, approached Salomon Brothers a year ago about establishing the fund. Says Humane Society CFO Tom Waite: "We felt a need for an investment vehicle underwritten by a major company with an animal-friendly bent." The group made its case. The society will kick in $8 million to start up the fund. Investors can buy in for $1,000.

Some investors believe that funds with both social and investment agendas underperform other funds. But manager Chad Graves says that a model looking at the three- and five-year performance of portfolios screened for animal friendliness did better than more broadly based funds. Graves isn't necessarily interested in companies that make pet products. He's looking for any good investment, but not in such animal-unfriendly sectors as pharmaceuticals, consumer products, and, naturally, hunting gear.By Roy Furchgott; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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