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"`Intern' is French for `slave."' -- Bill Cosby, in a commencement address at New York City's Fashion Institute of TechnologyEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A Green Thumb in NAFTA's Eye?

Carol Browner, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, may find herself caught in the middle of a nasty fight when EPA officials meet with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Dallas on June 11-12. The issue: proposed changes to the environmental side-accord of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The meeting is expected to draw protests from environmental groups. They are opposed to proposals by Canada and Mexico that would weaken the side accord, which allows ordinary citizens to accuse Mexico, Canada, or the U.S. of failing to enforce their own environmental laws. A trinational Commission for Environmental Cooperation then investigates the complaint and may issue a public report. That process is slow, but the embarrassment factor has proved surprisingly high. Mexico has already been publicly cited for environmental malfeasance, and Canada has several potentially embarrassing cases on the docket.

EPA officials say they want to leave the accord alone and don't agree with changes that would make it harder to bring charges before the commission. But they're outnumbered. The Dallas protesters hope the publicity from their actions will head off any private deals.By Elisabeth Malkin; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Cuba Cashes in on Cachet

Is it the beaches, the baseball, or the chance to smoke one of those hard-to-score Cohibas that's drawing record numbers of Americans to Cuba? All of the above, say the experts. A vacation in Cuba, it seems, is the travel version of tasting the forbidden fruit.

Last year, about 150,000 Americans went to Cuba, the most since the good old pre-Castro days that ended in 1959, says the U.S.-Cuba Trade & Economic Council. Of those, 27,000 are estimated to have visited without legal authorization. In fact, illegal travel has grown about 20% annually since 1994--twice the growth rate of authorized visitors--categories of which include journalists, academics, some businesspeople, and those with close relatives there. Actually, says John Kavulich, the council's president, "the odds are there'll be a category under which you can travel with authorization." And for those who can't find one, he adds that U.S. enforcement of the travel ban is lax and prosecution rare.

Cuba is such a hot destination now that in May, Fodor's Travel Publications launched its own Cuban guide. A higher travel accolade Fidel Castro couldn't wish for.By Aixa M. Pascual; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Finally, High Speed for the Boonies

Thanks to a nifty technological breakthrough, Advanced Fibre Communications, a tech firm in Petaluma, Calif., has developed a new way to extend high-speed Net service to millions of rural customers.

Net-heads hungry for high- speed connections now can choose cable modem services, delivered over cable-TV lines, or a digital subscriber line (DSL), which operates over regular phone lines. Problem is, only about half of Americans have that choice. Rural families are often far from cable lines. And anyone living more than three miles from a telephone switching station office is unable to get a DSL.

On June 6, however, AFC unveils an inexpensive technical fix for the 50% of Americans geographically unable to get DSL. How? Existing AFC devices called digital loop controllers that already bring high-quality phone service to rural areas can now be adapted to handle DSL as well. AFC pegs the upgrade's cost at $250 to $350 per line. That could eventually boost AFC revenues by $1 billion or more.

So by narrowing the Internet access gap between folks in skyscrapers and in the sticks, the company may do quite well--and do some good, too.By Andy Reinhardt; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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