America Online rolled out the eight version of its software last week just as many analysts were saying its business model needs an upgrade. AOL 8.0 includes a smattering of new features, but closely resembles the look and feel of previous editions. The most prominent addition is Call Alert, which tells modem users when they are receiving incoming telephone calls. This is a critical time for AOL for two reasons. First, its corporate strength is insecure thanks to internal turmoil and a widespread belief that the merger with Time Warner was a bad idea. Ad revenues have declined and federal authorities are investigating accounting practices. Second, the service must work to retain increasingly sophisticated users who may no longer need the AOL software. AOL charges $23.90 for dial-up access and must justify the premium price to retain customers. Still, Chairman Steve Case touted the company's future at a Goldman Sachs conference recently. "I have tremendous confidence in AOL Time Warner and in our ability to be the leader," he said. "Unstoppable consumer trends are moving our way providing real opportunity for growth." Meanwhile, Microsoft is determined to grab market share for its MSN service. "We believe that this is going to be a very, very big business, a business the size of Windows or the size of Office in the future," said MSN marketing director Bob Visse. | Chris Stamper
Man knows not his time
Stephen E. Ambrose, the bard of the "greatest generation," struck gold writing about World War II veterans. He died last week at age 66 after a battle with lung cancer. Mr. Ambrose spent his last days hurrying to finish one last project, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian, which is due to hit bookstores next month. The historian became a celebrity with his 1994 book D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, which focused on the average soldier instead of the high command and attracted the attention of lay readers. He built a canon of more than 30 volumes, but charges of plagiarism over the past year tarnished the author's fame. Critics pointed to several passages from other authors' books that were footnoted but lacked quotation marks. Mr. Ambrose stood by his work. "It is entirely my own," he said, "not taken from someone else's work." His devotees kept up their admiration of him. "His great gift was that he refused to allow people to think history was boring," said Douglas Brinkley, a former student of Mr. Ambrose's. | Chris Stamper
Nevada defends marriage
Voters in a state long known for gambling, prostitution, and divorce may be on the verge of passing a pro-marriage referendum. Question 2 on Nevada's November ballot would add a sentence to the state's constitution: "Only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state?" Nevadans already passed the proposal-with 70 percent in favor-in 2000, but Nevada amendments must be approved twice to take effect. Proponents say the measure is necessary to keep changes in other states' laws-such as those in Vermont-from forcing Nevada to sanction gay unions. A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll in July found that 55 percent of Nevada voters supported the proposal, 38 percent opposed it, and 7 percent were undecided. | C.S.
The Ohio Board of Education last week passed a set of science standards that won praise from both sides of the state's intelligent design controversy. The guidelines emphasize evolution, but also stress critical analysis of the theory. Board members approved the science standards by unanimous vote after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations. Darwinists claimed victory because the plan contains no mention of intelligent design. The new standards explicitly refer to the theory of evolution. Previous guidelines had referred to "change through time," and some Darwinists claimed they were too vague. Intelligent design advocates say they never expected an alternative to be added to public-school curricula. Rather, they say they merely want teachers to teach Darwinism as a controversy-and the board to offer academic freedom to those who want to present alternatives. Jody Sjogren, co-founder of the Intelligent Design Network, told WORLD that the board recognized that scientific controversy exists over Darwinism. "In order to make good critical thinkers, you have to teach them both sides of the controversy," she said. | C.S.