Around the World February 11, 2001

PHOTO/Rob Stapleton/AJOC

Bush delays logging

WASHINGTON -- A ban on road building and most logging in a third of the country’s national forests was delayed for two months on Feb. 5 by the Bush administration.

The forest plan, which President Clinton announced Jan. 4, has been attacked by Republican Western lawmakers, and by energy, timber and mining industries.

The delay is in line with an order President Bush made on taking office last month to halt or slow down a series of regulations and rules the Clinton administration issued in its final days.

The forest restrictions were published in the Federal Register before Bush took office, so he can’t block or alter them without going through a new rule-making process. The Forest Service held 600 hearings and received 1.7 million comments while developing the plan.

The Feb. 5 action changes the plan’s effective date from March 13 to May 12.

Blockbuster sued

LOS ANGELES -- A group of some 200 owners of private video stores has sued Blockbuster Inc., claiming the company is monopolizing the video rental market and trying to drive independent stores out of business.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 31 claims that because Blockbuster is owned by media giant Viacom Inc., the chain has "substantial market power and influence with the Hollywood studios.’’

Deals Blockbuster made with studios in 1997 and 1998 to share rental revenues increased Blockbuster’s market share and drove competitors out of the market, the suit alleges.

Blockbuster is the leading video rental chain, with some 7,500 stores worldwide.

About 2,500 U.S. video stores went out of business in 1998, according to the Video Software Dealers Association, 10 percent of rental stores.

The plaintiffs, seeking class-action status, include the owners of video stores nationwide.

Prunes now dried plums

WASHINGTON -- Prunes by any other name would taste the same, but they might sell better.

Plum growers have won permission from the government to call prunes "dried plums.’’

Industry research shows that women between the ages of 35 to 50 overwhelmingly preferred the term "dried plum.’’

By agreement with the Food and Drug Administration, the term "pitted prunes’’ will still appear on packages in small letters for the next two years.

"For many years prunes were advertised for a very specific nutritional message. ... It’s strong association with laxation,’’ said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Sunsweet Growers Inc.

Nager said the name change appears to have reversed a decline in prune sales. He said that monthly sales were now showing flat to single-digit growth.

Schwab orders vacations

SAN FRANCISCO -- Charles Schwab Corp. is ordering thousands of its employees to take off three Fridays during five weeks as part of the stock brokerage’s efforts to weather a downturn.

All employees that don’t interact with Schwab’s customers in the branches or telephone service centers were told not to report for work Feb. 2, Feb. 16 and March 2. To get paid, the employees will have to use their vacation time.

The Friday furloughs will help Schwab pad its profits during what analysts expect to be a poor quarter.

To combat the sluggish market conditions, Schwab has already slashed management salaries by up to 50 percent through March and reduced the company’s first-quarter bonus pool by 5 percent.

Power of symbols

Although Nike spent zilch on Super Bowl television commercials, the athletic shoe and apparel giant may have run away with nine digits worth of free advertising from the game.

Sponsors Report, a company that studies sponsor exposure during televised sports and special events, found that Nike’s "swoosh’’ logo appeared clearly on camera for 28 minutes. With 30-second commercials selling for $2.3 million, the company calculated Nike’s Super Bowl benefit at about $129 million.

Compiled from business wire services.

02/10/2001 - 8:00pm