Daniel McGinn

Stories by Daniel McGinn

  • 'Mr. Welch Is In A Meeting'

    For more than a decade, General Electric chairman Jack Welch has reigned as a management god. And at his right hand, in a cubicle a few steps away, sits Rosanne Badowski, his executive assistant. Badowski doesn't look imposing. But she's the master of Welch's domain, standing guard over his schedule, keeping him focused and on-task. It's an especially difficult job right now. Next April, at 65, Welch retires, and during these final months there's a constant stream of well-wishers. His calendar for the entire year has been booked since last fall, so it's up to Badowski to cull the crucial from the distractions --even if it involves politely telling callers that "Mr. Welch is in a meeting," when he's really playing golf. If white lies were illegal, Badowski says, "I'd be in jail by now."After 12 years alongside America's uber-boss, Badowski stands at the head of an elite group: assistants to powerful CEOs. They're a unique subset of the nation's 3.2 million secretaries, who continue...
  • Dot-Coms Invade The Dormitory

    Ohann Schleier-Smith and Greg Tseng, both juniors at Harvard College, don't look like outlaws. But when they had to buy a $112 textbook called "The Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics" from Harvard's bookstore for a course last year, a rebellion was born. They did an extensive Web search and found the book online for just $60. Furious at the bookstore's price, they decided to create a Web site to make it easier to find bargain textbooks. Last August, after months of work, they launched FlyingChickens.com, so named because it helps students fly from the Coop, Harvard's cooperative bookstore. In January their site merged with Limespot.com, a similar company, now serving more than 80 colleges. An economics major would say there's nothing illegal about competing with a college bookstore's monopoly. But this crime was different. Until the merger, FlyingChickens.com was headquartered in its founders' Harvard dorm rooms.The rules are clear, right on page 314 of Harvard's...
  • College Online

    Nicholas Jimenez leads a complicated life. As an executive with Computer Associates, he's lived in three countries in five years. Right now he's in So Paulo, Brazil, but "I don't know how much longer I'll be here," he says. "One year? One month?" That uncertainty--plus his hectic work schedule--makes it difficult for him to take classes to gain the skills he needs for a promotion. So when NYUonline, an offshoot of New York University, began offering Web-based courses in February, Jimenez, 27, signed up. He logs on to read tutorials on Management and Organization Principles and chat with his professor. Says Jimenez: "I can take classes wherever I am, whenever I want."College will always convey a certain image: Gothic buildings filled with postadolescents listening to tweed-clad professors. But the Internet is blurring that picture, and State U is quietly morphing into College.com. To be sure, a virtual university is no place for Felicity or her just-out-of-high-school friends; they...
  • 'It's All About Acceleration'

    A few weeks ago Antoine Sorice and six other would-be entrepreneurs had nothing but a top-secret draft of a business plan. The 32-year-old Frankfurt consultant is a cofounder of Snacker.de, a still hush-hush Internet portal and e-commerce platform soon to roll out in Germany. But with no programmers, no office and no financing, Sorice and his team were afraid they wouldn't be ready quickly enough. In February Sorice signed on with VentureLab, a new Frankfurt-based "business incubator" that gets Internet start-ups running fast. Instantly, Snacker had an office with PCs, servers and broadband Net access. Through VentureLab's contacts, Sorice was able to hook up with software teams in Germany and Romania to launch their Web site quickly. And because of a guarantee issued by VentureLab, he won't have to pay them until he secures financing from venture capitalists. "Without VentureLab's resources, we'd be months behind," Sorice says. "This way we can concentrate on getting our idea to...
  • Waiting For The Gavel To Fall

    They are the business world's greatest rivalries. Coke and Pepsi. McDonald's and Burger King. And at the high end of the food chain, Sotheby's and Christie's. The dueling auction houses began adorning the walls of stately homes nearly a century before Manet picked up a paintbrush. They compete fiercely for business--but, authorities now suspect, have had a cozier relationship when setting commissions. In January Christie's disclosed it was cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into alleged price fixing. Last week, in a move that stunned the art world, Sotheby's chief executive Diana Brooks, who's gained fame presiding over the house's most famous auctions, and chairman Alfred Taubman abruptly resigned. To most observers the shakeup seemed a sign of guilt--and perhaps a move by Sotheby's to strike a better deal with the Feds. Galleries buzzed with news of the scandal. Says Irving Blum, a retired dealer: "The government's going to do to the auction houses what it's doing...
  • Poison Ivy: Campaigns On Campus

    As break-ins go, it wasn't exactly Watergate. One afternoon last December, in broad daylight, Harvard College junior John Burton entered the unlocked office of the college's gay-rights organization. Inside sat a box filled with lapel pins, which students wear to show support for the cause. "Free," read the side of the container. "Take." So Burton took--the whole box, containing 180 pins. Using adhesive felt, Burton transformed the pins into campaign buttons publicizing his run for vice president of Harvard's Undergraduate Council. The buttons, in their small way, helped Burton win a landslide victory. But in the venomous world of campus politics, they gave his opponents an opening. Rivals charged Burton with campaign violations. By last week's council meeting Harvard was embroiled in Buttongate. "Be it resolved that John Alexander Burton is impeached for misconduct," read the agenda. If two thirds of the council voted against him, Burton faced expulsion.Student government used to be...
  • The Boom Generation

    George Papson will never forget his "Black Friday." That was the day in March 1982 when the 49-year-old machinist was laid off, a casualty of the deepest recession America had experienced since the 1930s. Papson stood in Rockford, Ill., unemployment lines for 18 months. But he did find work and, by 1986, he was living in Florida, where he crafted parts for NASA space shuttles at the highest wages he'd ever earned. Today Papson, 66, can afford long trips to his native Greece every year. He works part time delivering golf supplies, but that's just to keep busy. Looking back, this onetime castoff is decidedly upbeat. "The good times," he says, "have overshadowed the bad."That's the understatement of the decade. As the U.S. economy enters its 107th month of expansion this week, unemployment is at a 30-year low; consumer confidence is at a 50-year high. Since this boom began, in March 1991, the economy has created 20 million new jobs and America's output of goods and services has grown...
  • A Vital New Role For An Old General

    Imagine a movie script featuring an aging CEO who runs a media giant. In the opening scene, his company is bought by a hot Internet company with a young chief of its own. This flick's closing scene is obvious: like an old general, the boss quietly fades away. But Gerald Levin, 60, could rewrite that finale. The cerebral, literate Time Warner CEO has overcome steep odds in the past. His climb began in the '70s, when Levin dreamed of a cable network that beamed movies via satellite, a notion that created HBO. By the late '80s he'd lost the race to become Time Inc.'s CEO to rival exec Nick Nicholas. But his fortunes changed when he helped engineer the merger that created Time Warner, and then Levin played shrewd office politics and ingratiated himself with directors, which helped lead to Nicholas's ouster. As CEO Levin has been a laid-back anti-mogul who stands in sharp contrast to most entertainment chieftains. That's been a mixed blessing: depending on who you ask, it's either...
  • Living The Self-Help Life

    Some people dabble in self-help. Kristen Kurowski is immersed in it. During afternoon breaks she stares silently at the lake outside her office, a relaxation trick she picked up at a recent seminar. Her bookshelves hold the work of Norman Vincent Peale and Stephen Covey. In her bedroom is the board she punched through at an Anthony Robbins seminar last summer. "They introduced this exercise--you're going to break boards--and my reaction was 'What, is he kidding?' " she says. "But I was so pumped up, I did it on the first try."Pummeling lumber is a strange hobby. So is sitting in a hotel ballroom, holding hands with strangers who chant, "Kristen, you're a special person," as Kurowski did at a seminar in September. But for self-improvers, those are small steps toward a larger goal: Building a Better Me. Their ranks include some New Age flakes and others whose devotion to the various 7 Laws, 8 Habits and 9 Secrets is a tad frightening. But mostly the gurus' customers are a lot like...
  • The Internet Brain Drain

    Few newspapers cover the high-tech world better than the San Jose Mercury News. Its Internet-savvy reporters regularly break stories and win awards. But lately their expertise has become a liability. In the past year, 11 of the paper's best writers have quit to join the dot-coms they once covered. "I've been here 10 years, and I've never seen an exodus like this," says environmental writer Paul Rogers. For the workers left behind, life has become a whirlwind of goodbye parties and a punishing workload until jobs get filled. "It's like World War I in the trenches," says one reporter. "You don't want to make friends because you might turn around and they'll be gone." The paper is hiring lots of fresh talent, but the newsroom still has some long faces. "It's demoralizing to see so many of your colleagues go," says another writer. "If all the best and brightest leave, who's left?"On the opposite coast, that same question echoes down Wall Street, where even Masters of the Universe are...
  • Barbarians At The Rx

    William C. Steere Jr. hardly looks like the kind of guy to spoil a wedding. But last week Steere, the dignified chairman of drug giant Pfizer, acted out one of comedy's oldest plot twists: breaking up a happy couple just as they reach the altar. The betrothed, in this case, are Warner-Lambert and American Home Products, which had just inked a $72 billion deal to form the world's largest pharmaceutical company, peddling everything from Advil to Zantac. But as execs celebrated, Pfizer busted in with an $80 billion bid for Warner-Lambert. Huge prices have become the norm in the merger business lately, as companies use their bloated stock to buy each other. But unlike the friendly mergers that have dominated late-'90s dealmaking, this one's a fight, making Pfizer's the biggest hostile bid in history.Why the urge to merge? On the surface, the pharmaceutical business has never been healthier. The $335 billion global industry is growing smartly at 8 percent a year, and aging baby boomers...
  • Yogurt Goes Tubular

    It's lunchtime at a parochial school in Brookline, Mass., and the third graders are chowing down. Amid the tuna sandwiches lies a new treat: tubes filled with squeezable, wildly flavored yogurt. All but one of the eight children at this table have tried Yoplait's new Go-Gurt snack, and in this world of trade-you-my-apple-for-your-granola-bar, Go-Gurt has catapulted to the top of the food chain. Its appeal is easy to understand, says 8-year-old Daphne Vessiropoulous: "We like to eat slurpy stuff."First came juice boxes, then fruit roll-ups. Now comes Go-Gurt, which is becoming the next kids' food fad. Introduced by General Mills in a few markets last fall, the product hit the East Coast in May and will be launched nationally next week, backed by a $10 million ad campaign. Go-Gurt rang up $37 million in sales in its first year despite limited distribution, and it's expected to become a huge seller in the $1.8 billion yogurt category. In the cutthroat food business, where 12,000 new...
  • The Big Score

    Inside Chicago's top-ranked Whitney Young High School, the posters started appearing last December. LET'S BE #1! GIVE IT 110%! Usually this sort of rah-rah propaganda supports the basketball team, but this campaign by the principal had a different aim: urging kids to score high on the Illinois Goal Assessment Program, a standardized test that students would take in February. Tests are nothing new to the kids at Whitney Young--they already take three other batteries of standardized exams each year. But for a group of high-achieving 11th graders, the pressure was just too much. These kids say real learning is being shoved aside as teachers focus on boosting test scores. Creative writing? Forget it. Instead, they say, teachers emphasize a boilerplate essay format that exam scorers prefer. So on Feb. 2, eight juniors purposely failed the social-studies portion of the test. The next day 10 failed the science test. Then they sent a letter to the principal: "We refuse to feed into this...
  • Hot Wheels!

    Liz Duarte has always lived sensibly. A divorced high-school English teacher from Cleveland, she's used to driving practical, reliable cars like her Honda Civic. But this month her younger child leaves for college, and in January she turns 50. Those milestones should be rewarded, she says. So by the new year, her Civic will be replaced by a sports car. "When I was younger I used to laugh at old people driving hot cars," she says. "I'd think, 'What are they doing? Who do they think they are?' Now I understand--they're me."Baby boomers, start your engines. Fueled by the spoils of a strong economy--and perhaps a midlife crisis or two--the generation that first embraced minivans and sport utilities is driving the next automotive fad: the return of the sports car. Sales of these speedy neck-snappers are still tiny compared with those of sedans or pickup trucks, but analysts expect them to break 100,000 this year for the first time in a decade. That comes as the world's carmakers are...
  • Through The Roof!

    When Matt Morgan toured the French Provincial home in Seattle's quaint Bryant neighborhood last March, he anxiously noted the pile of brokers' business cards on the dining-room table. In Seattle, where too much money is chasing too few for sale signs, homes are being auctioned off like Picassos, and lots of cards signal lots of potential rival bidders. So Morgan, a 37-year-old Web-page designer, offered to pay $315,000--a full $35,000 over the asking price. No dice: another buyer outbid him. He quickly moved on to a charming Cape Cod. It was priced at $269,000, but Morgan bid $307,000. Again, someone else topped him. Disappointed? Sure, but also undaunted. In these times, he who hesitates remains apartment-bound. "It's harsh," Morgan says. "You have to act fast, roll up your sleeves and fight."Let's have a moment of silence, please, for desperate buyers shopping amid the tightest housing market in years. OK, now you homeowners can let out a cheer. Home values are on an unprecedented...
  • Bonfire Of The Ad Agencies

    Never thought you'd envy a tow-truck driver? Neither did Bob Kerstetter or Steve Stone. But when two of the cofounders of Black Rocket, a two-year-old San Francisco ad agency, designed a campaign for Discover Brokerage, they created a working-class hero for the '90s. The idea arose when they looked at Discover's demographics: instead of fat cats, they found many downscale, low-stakes stock clickers. "What if you found out your plumber invests online?" Stone mused, sketching out an early idea in which "Gordon Gekko meets Roseanne's husband." When the spot hit the air last fall, the plumber had morphed into Travis the Tow-Truck Driver, who unloads a series of surprises on his passenger, a snobbish BMW owner. Yes, Travis invests online. That photo of an island swinging from the dashboard? Yep, Travis owns it. "Technically, it's a country," Travis deadpans. The passenger's eyes look aghast with envy.Our finest Zeitgeist chroniclers--Tom Wolfe, Oliver Stone--haven't yet tackled the late ...
  • Pour On The Pitch

    At most ad agencies, August is a month for long weekends. But for the folks at Leo Burnett Co., all thoughts of a social life evaporated last summer with a single phone call that plunged them into Pitch Mode. H.J. Heinz Co. was launching a new ad campaign, and had invited Burnett and four other agencies to audition for the $50 million account. They had just three weeks to prepare for the account review, a grueling process that turns sleep into a luxury. But as accounts change hands more frequently, Pitch Mode is fast becoming a way of life. "In this business," says Burnett executive VP Mary Bishop, "it's what you do."Lately agencies have been doing it all the time. Fueling the fickleness: cost pres- sures, a shortage of fresh ideas and job-hopping marketing execs who hire new agencies to get a fresh start. Companies may hire investment bankers based on their reputations, but before hiring an ad agency they want to compare roughed-out commercials from several contenders. "Agencies...
  • Battle Behind The Screen

    On Feb. 10, 8 million households tuned in to "Dateline NBC" and a parade of wrenching, now familiar images. A toddler killed at a church picnic, a comatose preacher--and a possible safety flaw in a car. Stone Phillips described how a series of glitches may make certain Ford vehicles accelerate out of control. The alleged defect is just a theory, Phillips said, unproved in the real world. But for Ford, which spends billions burnishing its image for safety-minded car buyers, the segment was a PR nightmare. In the broadcast, Ford's defense--a strongly worded letter--seemed mild. But behind the scenes, Ford was waging war.It's been six years since General Motors won an apology from NBC News after "Dateline" rigged an explosion of a GM pickup truck. After the "Dateline" scandal the TV news magazines steered clear of Detroit, but lately they've gone back into overdrive. In the last three years the news mags, ever proliferating and with ever-growing appetites, have aired more than 50...
  • Cramming For 'The Test', Would Your Kids Pass?

    The students at Peirce School in West Newton, Mass., are sharpening their pencils. They're practicing topic sentences and rememorizing the scientific method. It sounds like the cramming that goes on at the colleges that dot the surrounding Boston suburbs. The big difference: these kids are in fourth grade. But the test they're studying for, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, feels just as weighty as any college exam. When their scores are released next fall, they'll be published in the newspaper and become the key indicator of whether Newton's highly regarded schools are really up to snuff. By eighth grade, kids who fail the MCAS won't be promoted; by 10th grade, a failure can mean no diploma. Ask fourth grader Gabe Gladstone about the MCAS, and he assumes the glum look of a child awaiting an allergy shot. "I'm not especially looking forward to them," he says. Is he... scared? "Sort of," he says meekly. "Yeah."Standardized tests are a ritual of classroom life, but...
  • A Defeat For Dr. Death

    As victory parties go, it was pretty subdued. Jack Kevorkian sat down to a supper of veggie burgers and couscous in a friend's suburban Detroit home last Friday night, hours after receiving the verdict he said he welcomed: a second-degree murder conviction for euthanizing a terminally ill man named Thomas Youk. His mood, friends say, bounced between disappointment and euphoria as guests talked of unjust juries and appeal possibilities. Kevorkian took phone calls from supporters and ranted to those present (including his sister, a few longtime supporters and Youk's family) about living in a "corrupt, malevolent" society. The fear on everyone's mind: that no matter how short his sentence, the sickly 70-year-old may get to die for his cause while in prison. Kevorkian's sister, Flora Holzheimer, told NEWSWEEK: "If they put him in jail they will be illegally killing a hero."If prison doesn't kill him, it will certainly put a crimp in his practice. Since his first assisted suicide in an...
  • The Light Of His Life

    AFTER 20 YEARS AS queen of Jordan, she still cannot speak Arabic fluently. She is more widely admired in the jet-set realms of fashion and society than among the Palestinian exiles and Bedouin tribesmen who inhabit her husband's dusty kingdom. Born in America and converted to Islam only on the eve of her marriage, she is known to some of her disgruntled stepchildren as the king's ""CIA wife.'' At 47, Queen Noor al-Hussein--a.k.a. Lisa Halaby, Princeton class of 1975--still enjoys the support of the only person who really matters in Jordan. But whenever her husband dies, she will be left almost friendless in her adopted land. ...
  • Betting On Volvo

    JACQUES NASSER HAS A reputation for doing many things well, but vacationing isn't one of them. The hard-driving president of Ford Motor Co. is at his desk before 6 most mornings; rather than relax on American holidays like Thanksgiving, he often visits foreign operations where he can put in a full day at the office. But early last month, amid rumors of an imminent merger between Ford and Volvo, Nasser dismissed reports that he'd spent the holidays hammering out a deal. Not true, he said: he'd been relaxing on a beach with his family. Even if the smoke screen was legit--aides insist he really did take a rare break--it didn't convince veteran observers that Nasser wasn't wooing the Swedish carmaker. ""[Ford's] walking around with $23 billion in its pockets,'' says dealer Martin (Hoot) McInerny. ""In the auto industry, when they're walking around with that kind of money, they buy things.'' ...
  • Your Next Job

    GARY BARNETT LOOKS OUT FOR NO. 1--AND WE AREN'T talking national football championships. Late in 1997 the talented coach of the Northwestern Wildcats told the world, ""I'm here, and I will be here for the next 10 years of my contract . . . I stand by my promises.'' Never mind that his naked grab for the head-coaching job at the University of Texas had just flopped. This year, in a mid-January e-mail to his Northwestern players, Barnett pledged that ""I will be back to take us to Pasadena'' for another Rose Bowl--even as he was still under consideration for the top job at the University of Colorado. Sure enough, last week Barnett bolted out of Evanston, Ill., for Boulder, where he'd coached as a young assistant. So what if his national reputation took a hit, with one columnist writing that Barnett's restaurant in Evanston is running a special on snake. Barnett told NEWSWEEK he behaved ethically, and that ""everything I said I totally believed at the time.'' But on his way out the...
  • Workers Of The World, Get Online

    WHEN GEORGE YANO OPENED his garage in the Cleveland suburbs 47 years ago, the shelves were lined with Mitchell's manuals, the multivolume bible for mechanics. Back then, all Yano needed was the right book and a good ear to make any car run smoothly. Today the manuals are gone, replaced by a Pentium-based computer and $1,800 worth of CD-ROMs. The fix-it-by-sound method has disappeared, too; today's ears are controlled by noiseless computer chips. To keep up with the changes, Yano's son Andy, 45, spends two nights a week in continuing-education courses. It's a different world than when his father, now 74, looked under his first hood. "They used to call us grease monkeys," Andy says, pausing as he pulls a schematic drawing off the Internet as his father looks on. "If anybody told me I would have a computer in the garage, I would have told them they were crazy.Workers of the world, get out your crystal balls. Just as the last decades have brought immense changes to the workplace--the...
  • Divide And Conquer

    IMAGINE YOU'RE IN THE market for a family car. Stop by a Toyota dealership and watch the salesman steer you toward the Camry, the only midsize car Toyota sells. Over at Honda they'll show off the Accord, its one- size-fits-all family hauler. Then visit the folks at General Motors, and prepare for an automotive smorgasbord. Where Ford sells the Taurus and Sable, GM offers a veritable fleet of cars, from the Grand Prix to the Lumina, the Intrigue to the Century, and even more. GM hopes shoppers find the variety appealing, but most observers see only confusion. ""There are so many choices it's overwhelming,'' says Kevin Clancy, a marketing consultant to several German and Japanese carmakers. ""You need to have a lot of time on your hands to figure it out.'' ...
  • Their Royal Rebound

    IMAGINE YOU AND YOUR sweetheart lingering over a romantic meal for two. You've ordered the veal parmigiana; your date goes with the fried shrimp. The waiter delivers the entrees, and you raise your sodas in a toast. As you pick up the plastic forks you pause, ignore the cries of ""Fries with that?'' coming from the counter and stare deep into each other's eyes. Look hard, and maybe you'll see the reflection of the neon light out front: HOME OF THE WHOPPER.Huh? Shrimp, waiters and upscale dinners at Burger King? Ridiculous as it sounds, that was the vision of the folks leading the chain just a few years ago, a crew that helped the fast-food industry's perennial second griddle earn a whopping reputation for ineptness. They aired notoriously bad ads, featuring characters like Herb the Nerd. They tried wild menu expansions, serving up fare like pizza and steak sandwiches. Says Reno, Nev., franchisee Don White, ""We were selling everything but Whoppers.''No more. After years of troubles,...
  • What's That Black Box Doing Under My Hood?

    IN ANN ARBOR, MICH., THERE IS A family with a Ford F150 pickup truck. In the last two months they've taken it on 465 trips, for a total of 2,000 miles. They've moved the gearshift lever 1,200 times, sped down a highway at 87 miles per hour and let the truck idle each morning for approximately 15 seconds. How do we know? Because every few weeks during this wholly unremarkable stint of driving, engineers at Ford's research center dialed up a cellular modem in the truck's engine and downloaded the data, everything from engine temperature to how often its owner had hit the brakes. In the last year Ford has put these dial-up devices in 350 vehicles around the world. It's the first lap in a race that could change the way we drive.It's been 100 years since the first cars were mass-produced in America, yet scientists know more about the mating habits of obscure African insects than they do about the driving habits of Americans. About all today's researchers know is what we tell them, and...
  • How To Make The Airbag Decision

    IT'S THE MECHANICAL equivalent of yanking a loose tooth. Turn some screws, unhook some wires and voilA--your airbag is disconnected. ""It's fairly simple,'' says Warren Bartholomew, a Phoenix software salesman who recently bought instructions to disconnect the passenger airbag in his Pontiac Grand Prix. The reason: he was tired of his 8-month-old granddaughter's crying in the back seat. Bartholomew is not alone: although it can be dangerous to disconnect an airbag yourself, the company that sold him the $129 do-it-yourself kit, Air Bag Systems of Dallas, gets 20 inquiries a day. Says owner Chris McNutt: ""People are just scared to death of these things.''The flood of business could end soon. Any day now, the government will announce plans to make it easier for drivers to disconnect their airbags. The new rule will create a nation of airbag Hamlets, as folks weigh the devices' risks and rewards. The carmakers hope drivers keep their airbags on, but they're rushing to meet the...
  • Staying Safe With Airbags

    Adjust front seats to establish a distance of at least 10 inches between the chest and the airbag housing.Buckle everybody, in the front and back seats.Those riding in the front seats must stay out of the airbag deployment zone.All children under the age of 13 should ride properly restrained in the back seat.SOURCES: INSURANCE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY, NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL. KAY, ROHR--NEWSWEEK
  • Hey, Mac! No Smoking!

    WHEN PABLO OCAMPO, A VETERAN New York City cabdriver, traded in his old yellow taxi for a new one last year, he joined the ranks of the motor-vehicle vanguard. After reading an article extolling natural-gas power as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline, he had his new cab converted to run on the alternative fuel. A year later his fuel bill has dropped by $150 a month and his mechanic marvels at how clean his oil is. Says the happy cabby: "Natural gas keeps the car running very clean, very smooth."Grimy, smelly New York is no one's idea of an environmental paradise. But lately the city has become one giant test track for cleaner cars. The city's streets are already home to a fleet of 3,000 natural-gas vehicles owned by the city and local utilities. Now the environmentally correct car crowd has trained its sights on New York's 19,,053 yellow cabs, which are blamed for 40 percent of the city's air pollution. For car companies testing new technologies, taxis make ideal guinea pigs...
  • Quick-Change Artists

    WHEN WORKERS AT THE HONDA plant in Marysville, Ohio, punched the time clock last Tuesday morning, it seemed like the start of any other day on the assembly line. There were instrument panels to assemble, seats to install and bolts to tighten. ""Business as usual,'' said plant manager Ron Shriver. But while the workday seemed normal, the plant's 5,800 employees were quietly performing a manufacturing magic trick worthy of David Copperfield. When the assembly line started up at 6:30 a.m., the cars rolling off the end were the trusty, familiar '97 Accords. By the time the second shift had ended after midnight, some of the cars had bigger back seats, longer wheelbases and a different moniker: the all-new '98 Accord. ...