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"It was clearly the most effective and humane way of dispatching the bird." -- Buckingham Palace response to criticism of Queen Elizabeth II for wringing the neck of a live pheasant during a huntEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Sign of the Dot-Com Times?

The twinkling letters atop Baltimore's PSINet Stadium, which have become a fixture on the city skyline, could soon go out. Because of an underperforming acquisition, PSINet's share price has plummeted from about $61 in March to less than $2. PSINet may even be sold, now that it has retained Goldman Sachs as an adviser. So what happens to that big stadium sign then?

Nothing, says PSINet, which in 1999 agreed to pay $105.5 million over 20 years to put its name on the home of the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens. It has already paid about $17 million. Despite its ills, the Internet services company insists that the deal is still on; the publicity is just too good. Says spokesman Robert Leahy: "Three and a half million people see that stadium each month driving down the I-95 corridor."

The Ravens say they have not considered PSINet's problems. But the team might be better off if PSINet fumbles. Missing a payment would breach its contract. The team could then resell the stadium name. And naming deals have gotten very rich. Reliant Energy recently inked a 30-year, $300 million deal to name a stadium complex in Houston.

With money like that floating around, any sentimental attachment the Ravens may feel for that sign might fade as quickly as PSINet's fortunes.By Mark Hyman; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

The Aztec Fails to Conquer

Pontiac dealers say that shoppers who can get past the looks of the new Aztek sport-utility vehicle usually end up liking the way it drives. But the angular lines and garish styling must be stopping more people than General Motors anticipated. The Aztek has sold slowly since its introduction, forcing the company to scale back sales projections and offer rebates.

Introduced in August, the Aztek sold only 6,700 units through October. The company had first forecast sales of 60,000 to 70,000 units annually. So in late November, GM slapped a $500 rebate on the car. (Azteks cost from $22,000 to $27,000.) Pontiac-GMC Div. General Manager Lynn Myers says that GM has also scaled back the SUV's sales forecast by roughly 10,000 units. "Are we as far along the curve as we need to be?" asks Myers. "Probably not."

In fairness, many carmakers now offer rebates. GM offered new rebates on 16 other cars along with Aztek. But ominously, Aztek inventories are still piling up in dealer showrooms. That could put pressure on the forthcoming Buick Rendezvous SUV, which will be built alongside the Aztek early next year. GM hopes to sell between 40,000 and 50,000 of those vehicles each year.By David Welch; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Vote of Confidence

Even after one of the most fractious elections ever, America's under-30 crowd--often thought materialistic and apolitical--retains a surprising glimmer of faith in politics.

According to a BUSINESS WEEK/Harris Interactive poll of 1,683 adults taken Nov. 17-Nov. 20, young people, asked if the political process is a "true test of the public will," answered affirmatively more often than their elders. Some 34% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 30% of those 25 to 29 said they were extremely confident, very confident, or confident. The percentages fell in older groups. Of those over 65, 72% were somewhat or not confident of the process. "The surprise of this poll," says David Krane, Harris senior veep, "is that older people are bummed out."

Yes, only 54% of the 18- to 24-year-old respondents voted. But 46% of them said this wild election would make them more likely to vote in the future. Maybe the apolitical young need what their elders seemingly don't want. More close elections.Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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