Despite terrorist attacks in Israel, the Philippines, and Indonesia, a looming war with Iraq, nukes in North Korea, and a sniper still on the loose in our nation's capital, little changes in the lawsuit-happy, stupid-human-trick-loving U. S. of A.

CNN reports a woman has filed suit against MTV's Jackass, claiming she suffered a herniated disc, post traumatic stress syndrome, and nerve damage in her knees after cast member David England ran across a stage and, "using his body as a missile," crashed into a lectern, knocking her to the floor. The woman acknowledges she was recruited to be part of the stunt. Perhaps the show's title threw her off?

In today's Motley Fool Take:

3M Mines Solid Quarter

3M's (NYSE: MMM) earnings are a microcosm of the market as a whole. Yes, profits may be finally drifting higher, but that has more to do with cost-cutting measures and changes in goodwill accounting than any significant pickup in business.

The company that made Post-it notes and Scotch tape famous earned $1.38 per share in the third quarter, a 25% increase from a year ago. The goodwill change accounted for $0.03 of that total. Revenue rose only 4.6%, however, to $4.1 billion -- and all of that increase came from overseas, as U.S. sales were flat.

While still expecting to earn $5.22 to $5.27 per share for the full year, CEO James McNerney, Jr. doesn't exactly see blue skies ahead. "There are no clear signs," he says, "of improving global economic conditions."

Still, there's something to be said for improving efficiency and tightening up operations. The company's 4.6% sales increase was accompanied by a 9% and 13% decrease in accounts receivable and inventory, respectively -- a sign that it's managing its working capital smartly.

On top of that, Standard & Poor's today said 3M has generated more than $1 billion so far this year in "discretionary cash flow," which excludes capital expenditures and dividends. The total for all of 2001 was $1.1 billion, meaning that despite the tough times, the company is improving where it really counts: free cash flow.

Quote of Note

"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." -- William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), American political and religious leader

Clear Clutter, Create Cash

Warning: There are only nine weeks left of the Christmas shopping season. That's not a lot of time to raise the funds, make the purchases, and find the room for all the new knick-knacks that will be under your tree. Why wait until the pumpkins on your porch have turned to puree? Start preparing for the holidays now!

If you're like most Americans (and if you're not, watch out -- John Ashcroft is watching!), your house is full of hundreds of handy-dandy, practical, and hassle-free items that you never use. Why let those toe-hair curlers, vegetable slashers, and teenagers sit around collecting dust when you can sell them for warm, soft cash?

Plus, there's the added bonus of less clutter... and more room for the new wave of neck-hair rollers, fruit evisceraters, and teenagers you'll receive this Christmas.

Here's what you can do:

  • Have a yard sale: Go through every nook and cranny to find treasures that have lost their luster -- in your eyes, at least. Rule: If you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it. (Adjust for item: If you bought a coffin during a going-out-of-business sale, and you haven't used it, don't worry -- you will.) If you're not sure you want to get rid of something, put a price on it that'll make the parting worthwhile. Otherwise, price everything to sell. Those of you in the colder climes better do this soon -- yard-sale season is almost over.

  • Use the Internet: Check out sites such as eBay,, marketplace, and Yahoo! Auctions for places to sell your books, music, or general stuff. Consider more specialized sites for big-ticket and rare items. Review the Internet Auction List for a directory of sites.

  • Set up shop at the flea market: If you have a lot of stuff -- items that are better sold in person than over the Internet -- rent a booth at a flea market. It'll cost you a couple hundred bucks, but think of the all-day access to corn dogs!

  • Donate the stuff: Perhaps you're more interested in helping others than helping yourself. But there's another benefit besides good karma: If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct the value of charitable contributions. Just make sure to keep receipts.

  • Re-gift: We know it's tacky, but someone on your Christmas list might appreciate a gift you received but don't use. Note: If you re-gift, make sure to remove the card with your name on it, as my sister forgot to do -- though I appreciate the waffle iron nonetheless.

CSFB May Face Fraud Charges

Credit Suisse First Boston (NYSE: CSR) will likely face civil fraud charges and a possible $100 million fine today from Massachusetts' securities regulators. Headed by Secretary of State William Galvin, regulators have been digging through some 250,000 emails and internal documents, searching for evidence that the investment-banking branch of the company unduly influenced CSFB's analysts and their public ratings on stocks.

About a month ago, regulators sent evidence of wrongdoing to New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, urging his office to file criminal charges in the matter. Spitzer's been wielding New York's powerful Martin Act like a weapon, and Galvin would like to see him use it against CSFB. New York investigators have yet to file any criminal charges but are looking into it.

Galvin, who wants a complete divorce between investment banking and research, isn't waiting to see what New York might do. His distaste for CSFB and its practices have been obvious, and he'll take any action he can get.

Talks between CSFB and Galvin's office allegedly broke down last week, after the company balked at settling for $100 million and refused to make Galvin's proposed changes to the way it structures its business. Galvin was hoping for a settlement similar to Merrill Lynch's with Spitzer.

With that off the table, Galvin decided to take what legal action he could, filing an administrative action against the company, which could come as soon as today. CSFB's top lawyer sent a letter yesterday to Galvin's office, decrying the move as too hasty and in conflict with the current "global settlement" being drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and multiple state regulatory agencies.

CSFB agreed to pay $100 million in January to settle unrelated claims brought against it by the SEC and the National Association of Securities Dealers. Another $100 million charge so soon would be a big blow to the company, which has said it wants to be a "model" for the rest of the industry. On top of all that, CSFB could still face criminal charges from New York.

We're having a hard time feeling sorry for CSFB. We do feel sympathy, though, for the investors who were misled by the company's callous disregard for the truth. Suck it up, CSFB -- you played dirty, so don't cry about it when you're forced to pay for it.

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Big Gains on the Big Screen?

You may not know it from watching the stocks of Hollywood's largest moviemakers, but it's been a record year for celluloid at the box office.

This morning, theater chain Regal Entertainment(NYSE: RGC) posted better-than-expected September quarter results. Thanks to a summer season that started early and strong with Spider-Man and the latest Star Wars, Men in Black, and Austin Powers installments and carried through to Signs and the romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the company earned $0.29 a share on $571.5 million in revenue.

Regal went public in May, contrasting debt-laden movie houses, such as AMC Entertainment(NYSE: AEN) and other regional chains, that came and went in the days of leveraged ignorance. Under its United Artists, Edward, and namesake AMC marquees, the company projects on 5,711 screens in 350 different locations. It's about more than just selling overpriced tubs of soda and popcorn. As a matter of fact, Paramount parent Viacom(NYSE: VIA) started out as a theater operator before CEO Sumner Redstone went on an asset-buying spree.

But media companies are in the dumps, for the most part. Check out the stocks of entertainment conglomerates with significant movie studio interests, such as Disney(NYSE: DIS), AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL), and Vivendi(NYSE: V), and you'll see more carnage than causes for celebration. But things would've been worse if it weren't for the movie business. With audiences packing in theaters and titles selling briskly in the home-video market, these giants have been tripped up elsewhere in their portfolio. From a soft ad market to weak tourism tallies, their reliance on debt hasn't helped, either.

Regal has managed to avoid these setbacks, however. It's rocking and rolling and reeling along, as the audience continues to crave filmed entertainment, even through -- especially through -- these uncertain times. The company also launched a $0.15-a-share quarterly dividend today. Pocket change, sure, but it'll cover those Jujy Fruits and nachos at the concession stand.

Discussion Board of the Day: Great Movies

Seen any good flicks this year? Have any good rental tips to share? Was The Ring really that creepy this weekend? All this and more -- in the Great Movies discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

UAL Corp. (NYSE: UAL) , parent of United Airlines, the country's second-largest airline, faces bankruptcy if it can't come up with mucho moolah. It has secured agreements with labor unions to cut $5.8 billion over the next five years, but that's not enough. The company owes about $1 billion in debt payments in the next few months, and recently reported third-quarter revenue down 9% to $3.7 billion over year-ago levels. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, free trial available to Fools) reports that UAL plans to reapply for $1.8 billion in federal loans.

The world's second-largest toy maker, Rhode Island-based Hasbro(NYSE: HAS), reported quarterly profits up 10% to $56 million today, and revenues down 8% to $821 million. How does a company boost its bottom line in the face of a shrinking top line? Aggressive cost-cutting.

Lexmark (NYSE: LXK) , the world's No. 2 printer maker, reported third-quarter profits up 28%, on revenues up 5%. Sales of laser and inkjet printer supplies advanced 19%, representing 55% of revenues. The company expects a strong fourth quarter, but noted that the market remains weak and uncertain.

Those federal tariffs on steel imports are working, boosting domestic steel companies. U.S. Steel(NYSE: X)reported third-quarter earnings of $106 million, compared with a loss of $23 million a year ago. Revenues advanced 16%, fueled in part by the auto industry, which is selling lots of cars with its financing incentives.

HCA (NYSE: HCA) , the nation's largest hospital chain, reported third-quarter operating income up 40% at its 181 hospitals and 78 outpatient surgery centers. But the company's bottom line was hit hard by a $107 million charge, as the company wrote down the value of many of its insurance investments. Excluding the charge and other extraordinary items, net income was up about 41%.

And Finally...

Today on We're honored to have been named the top investor education site on the Web by Barron's. Thanks!... Rick Munarriz explains why buying bigger doesn't mean buying better.... She admits it: Dayana Yochim is a shopaholic. Consider these rules before you make a purchase.... In Fool's School, save your grieving heirs from the legal headaches of probate court.... The Fool Community discusses what to do when stocks sink.... And the Post of the Day: one type of REIT.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim