Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "BMOC: Big mandate on campus," Sept. 14, 2002

Think tanks

Ever heard of the Ford Motor Company's electric car called Think? Few people have and even fewer bought it. All of which has prompted Ford to rethink the concept and concentrate on other technologies. The battery-operated vehicles, which Ford rolled out in Europe in 1999 (the "Think City") and in the United States this year (the "Think Neighbor"), proved hard to sell. A cutesy name like "Think" probably didn't help. Environmentalists, though, accuse the industry of not trying hard enough to market alternative vehicles. But critics of the cars say that drivers find alternative cars too exotic, and experimental vehicles may be hard for Ford to justify right now. The company lost $5.5 billion last year. Still, Ford plans to introduce a hybrid-electric version of the Escape SUV. "We've got to create this market acceptance first," said Ford's Francine Romine. "Alternate cars haven't caught on. Our commitment is to give the customer what they want, but doing it in a way that's responsible. Hybrid Escape will give us an opportunity to see." Toyota and Nissan announced plans early this month for their own hybrid gas-electric cars. Toyota will supply components for Nissan models sold in the United States starting in 2006.

Defending Martha

Martha Stewart's controversial stock sale doesn't deserve to be called a scandal. So argues Cato Institute senior fellow Alan Reynolds in The Washington Times. Ms. Stewart dumped her ImClone stock after the FDA rejected the company's proposed cancer treatment. She had contacted the company's CEO the day before the announcement about the FDA ruling, rumors of which had already made Bloomberg News and CNBC. "By the close of business Dec. 27, ImClone was down 8.4 percent-far too huge a drop to blame on a few family insiders, much less on Martha's puny stake," Mr. Reynolds reports. "Martha appears no guiltier than thousands of other investors, including mutual fund managers, who obviously participated in the big sell-off that day." So far, Ms. Stewart is keeping her audience despite the suspension of her weekly segment on CBS's The Early Show: "The ratings needle for Martha Stewart Living hasn't budged at all since the scandal broke," notes Associated Press TV writer David Bauder.

Say "4D"

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Ultrasound is one of the pro-life movement's best friends, giving a human face to the unseen baby often left out of the abortion debate. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports, advances in ultrasound technology are building a new market for fetal photography. Journal reporter Amy Dockser Marcus reports that Fetal Fotos, which opened its first store in 1994 in Salt Lake City, operates five stores in other cities and plans to open five more within a few months. Fetal Fotos is not alone: "Before the Stork, in Bloomington, Ind., offers a trimester package (three visits for $170) and a $325 'watch my development' package (six portrait sessions, plus a stuffed animal and a picture frame)," she reports. General Electric touts its new "4D" ultrasound as technology that produces "live action images of your unborn child." The company's website lists the "GE 4D Ultrasound Nearest You" in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico. One such site in Boston, Diagnostic Ultrasound Associates, asked to be removed from the list because it had received "25 calls a day asking to book portrait sessions and we were starting to feel like Sears, Roebuck," Diagnostic's Beryl Benacerraf told the Journal. 4D is not just about baby pictures, the Journal reports. A British study showed positive effects on mothers who bonded with their babies through the technology.

Unsustainable

Heavy government involvement in the economy hasn't worked out well in Europe, where unemployment averaged almost 10 percent during the 1990s. But French president Jacques Chirac still thinks the whole world should try it. At last week's "Earth Summit" in Johannesburg, Mr. Chirac called for a global tax to finance "sustainable development" in poor countries. His goal: to have his "solidarity levy" take 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product from developed countries within 10 years. In France, Mr. Chirac is considered a conservative.

A rainbow coalition

Homeschooling is booming among African-Americans, reports Ylonda Gault Caviness in Essence. She notes that many minority parents are fed up with failing public schools and dangerous conditions. Ms. Caviness cites numbers from the National Home Education Research Institute, which reported that African-Americans may constitute 150,000 of America's 2 million homeschooled children. "Five years ago Blacks were thought to make up only about 1 percent of the total," she points out. She explains that "Many Black parents who go this route contend that it may be the only way for us to control the value messages our children receive in school."

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