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"Many say they never met a real live Communist before. Some don't believe me, but nobody seems angry." -- 1987 quote by Gus Hall, longtime head of the Communist Party USA, who recently died at age 90Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Wall Street Irks the Watchdog

Securities & Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. is irate that Wall Street has gotten in the way of raises for agency employees, according to sources close to the SEC.

The SEC badly wants Congress to increase pay for its professionals, which can lag behind other agencies by up to 40% and behind private- sector pay by much more. Separately, the securities industry wants Congress to reduce the 1/300 of 1% trading fee charged on stock sales. The fee, which helps support the SEC, yields $2 billion annually. Congress was considering action--including both higher SEC pay and lower trading fees--until some exchanges and securities firms sent a letter explicitly urging Congress not to hike salaries unless it cuts the trading fee.

That letter has given Congress the jitters by suggesting that pay parity didn't have industry support, and helped stall action on both fronts. It has also irked the SEC, which sees the letter as undermining its legislative efforts. Wall Streeters say they support the pay raise; they just want the fee cut, too. Says one Nasdaq exec: "Introducing controversy, inadvertently or not, may get you nothing." Except, maybe, flak from your regulator.By Christopher H. Schmitt; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A Gizmo Called Audrey

How about a bit of Hollywood glamour in Silicon Valley? Tech companies are desperate to find original monikers for their products. Some have resorted to vaguely Italian-sounding names such as Aptiva or Presario, while others fall back on numbers, like Nokia's 5190. But in unveiling its new Internet gizmo, 3Com has chosen a distinctly untechy, unmacho name: Audrey.

What gives? The creators of the $500 Internet appliance, which cruises the Web, sends e-mail, and acts as a date and address book, wanted to appeal to a distinct market: people, especially women, who are turned off by the complexity of a standard PC. So for a name, they eliminated Albert and Edgar and dozens of others, to come up with a tag that tested well among women and also had the right blend of elegance, sophistication, and simplicity. 3Com swears the Audrey Hepburn connection only came to mind later. "It's not a gobbledygook techie name, but something that evokes nice thoughts," says Alan Brew, a partner with branding consultant Addison, which was uninvolved with the project.

3Com isn't the first to market a Net appliance. But it may be the only company to have one with a movie star's name.By Andy Reinhardt; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

For Whom the Nobels Toll

In an election-year tradition, armies of economists have once again alighted from their ivory towers to battle for the nation's economic soul.

About 500 economists--including six Nobel laureates--signed a statement supporting George W. Bush's economic plans, which appeared in USA Today in September. The letter was financed by the Bush campaign. John Taylor, a Bush adviser from the conservative Hoover Institution, says W's economic program "fits into the budgets quite well, improves America's prosperity, and makes that prosperity more widely available."

Only 400 economists have signed a letter favoring Gore's economics, which was paid for by the AFL-CIO and published Oct. 10 in 11 papers, including The New York Times. But that letter was signed by 10 Nobel laureates, including Daniel McFadden, one of this year's winners. One late signer was America's first economics Nobelist, Paul Samuelson, 85: "I got to thinking that people would ask why all the usual suspects inclined toward the Democrats signed except me, so I sent in my signature." He adds that not signing sooner does not mean "I've gone into my dotage or over to the other side."By Charles J. Whalen; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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