REMEMBER those stories about how Japan was buying up...


May 07, 1994

REMEMBER those stories about how Japan was buying up America?

Columbia Pictures, the Seattle Marines baseball team, small companies by the bucketful, even concession rights in national parks. Well, that was just part of a very necessary flow of capital by which Japan effectively financed a good part of the U.S. national debt to offset its huge trade surpluses.

Paul Volcker, when he was chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, said his worst nightmare would be the day the Japanese stopped buying U.S. Treasury notes, precipitating a plunge in the value of the dollar.

Now, with the American economy recovering nicely and Japan in the doldrums, the Japanese rush to buy up America is slowing and may even go into reverse.

Note these numbers: In the final quarter of 1993, Japanese institutions bought $37.5 billion of U.S. shares and bonds.

This dwindled to only $3.5 billion in the first two months of the year, and the value of the dollar dropped. But not enough to cause a panic.

America for sale? Don't believe it.

* * *

SHAME ON THE Baltimore Courthouse and Harborplace, among others.

For some reason they chose to fly the Maryland and Baltimore flags at full staff before the period of mourning for former President Richard M. Nixon, while properly flying the U.S. flag at half staff.

Flag etiquette can be pretty esoteric at times. But on one point it is quite clear. Whenever the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff, as President Clinton decreed on Mr. Nixon's death, so should the state flag.

So said the Governor's Commission on Protocol for the Maryland State Flag, which published its instructions in 1990. Copies may not be available in your neighborhood bookstore, but there are a few left at the Maryland secretary of state's office in Annapolis. And perhaps your neighborhood library.

Or just take our word for it.

* * *

PHILIP MORRIS, one of the country's leading tobacco companies, took out a large ad in The Sun last month disputing statements made by some U.S. health officials about nicotine and other ingredients in cigarettes.

At the bottom of the ad, the company offered to send a copy of its rebuttal and a heretofore secret list of some 600 additives used in producing cigarettes.

Telephone callers to the toll-free phone number were promised the material within a week.

Then the lady taking the information said Philip Morris sometimes sends out samples of its products to people who would be interested in receiving them. Would the caller like some?

4 Never miss a marketing opportunity, those folks.

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