It's time to find out if your mom told the truth -- if you're really as good-looking as she told you. ABC's newest brainchild, Are You Hot?, strips regular pageants of their brains and talent [throat clearing] and judges contestants on beauty alone. Either you got it or you don't, hot stuff.

A panel of judges and home viewers will vote on the biggest babe (guys and gals), and the lucky looker will take home a cool six-figure cash prize along with the hot title: "Sexiest in America."

We nominated the FOOL 50, boosting its ego 1.5%.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Sky's the Limit for Delta

Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL) laid out its plans today to swoop in and grab market share from low-cost carriers such as JetBlue(Nasdaq: JBLU), AirTran(NYSE: AAI), and Southwest(NYSE: LUV). The lumbering giant plans to start running its own version of a discount airline next year.

The as-yet-unnamed airline will focus initially on the Northeast-to-Florida corridor, flying sun seekers from Boston and New York southward to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. This is where JetBlue has seen success, and Delta hopes to not only step on its toes, but to trample on it. The latter will roll out the service to other areas later in the year.

Delta -- which will mimic the discount airlines' prices, with most fares between $79 and $299 one way -- hopes to make up for it by keeping its costs low and its operations efficient. It's also banking on the high demand for cheap flights.

Using 36 reconfigured 757s, each plane will boast 199 all-coach seats. According to the airline, it will be 20% cheaper to run these jets than the normal cost for 757s. Also, there will be fewer flight attendants onboard to bring you minuscule bags of off-brand pretzels, so stock up beforehand.

Delta also hopes to save money by convincing customers to buy their tickets through a dedicated website. It aims eventually to have 70% of tickets for the airline-within-an-airline purchased online. Flyers will also be able to call a voice-activated reservation service to order tickets directly.

But, wait. Didn't Delta already sort of try this before? Well, yes, there's Delta Express, the "low-fare" carrier it launched in 1996. Say goodbye to it, as the new venture will replace the soon-to-be discontinued carrier.

The airline said it needs a "more powerful Delta response" for those rascally upstarts. Perhaps the new one could be named "Delta Really Really (We Mean It This Time) Express."

Will it work? Will Delta be able to beat JetBlue, AirTran, or Southwest at their own game? We'll all have to wait and see. But from where we sit, it looks like fourth and long, from mid-field, in the last quarter, with a second left on the clock.

Quote of Note

"The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage." -- Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company

Retirement Fact of the Day

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Pardon Vivendi's French

What would you do if federal agents stormed your garage sale, looking for answers and scaring away your potential customers? That's probably the way Vivendi Universal(NYSE: V) feels right now.

Earlier this month, the cash-strapped media giant was slapped with an informal inquiry into past accounting irregularities. Now it's facing an official Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

Being investigated both here and back home, the Parisian conglomerate is accused of fibbing its financials. The practice may seem laughable now (everybody knows the debt-heavy entertainment and environmental services specialist is in trouble), but between the ramifications of a class-action lawsuit and the investigation's implications, what else could go wrong for Vivendi?

The company was already running thin on willing participants in its $12 billion asset sale. Many of the logical suitors that would normally hold their bidding cards up high, such as AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL), News Corp.(NYSE: NWS), Disney(NYSE: DIS), and Viacom(NYSE: VIA), have enough going on internally to hold off on the media property shopping sprees that got them to their present plump states.

Cleaning up the mess that former chief Jean-Marie Messier left behind hasn't been easy. Trying to hold off creditors while deciding which assets are worth keeping has been even harder. The problem here is obvious: Potential buyers want the company's choice assets, while Vivendi would rather sell its duds. It knows what it wants, but if Vivendi's recent streak of bad luck holds up, it has to know that it's not going to get it.

Discussion Board of the Day: Vivendi

Between last month's corporate layoffs and last week's stateside staff reductions, how small will Vivendi get before it starts to grow again? Which assets would you sell if you were the company? All this and more -- in the Vivendi discussion board. Only on

Homeland Security Pork

Congress and most of America seem to be cheering the passage of the Homeland Security bill, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

The overall mission of the bill is one few could quibble with -- we all want a safer America. But as Congress so often does, almost always with the public never realizing it, various odds and ends were tacked onto the bill. If politicians took issue with any of them, their opponents could claim they're against national security -- therefore, the bill passed.

So what's to quibble about? Here are a few things:

  • Civil liability for companies that provide airport security, make vaccines, and develop counter-terrorism technologies is being limited. Why? It seems like that might permit these organizations take their work a little less seriously, if their accountability is decreased. Accountability is a good thing, in business and life.

  • Some details apparently inserted by Texas representative Tom DeLay laid out qualifications for a homeland security center located at a major university. The problem? The requirements were constructed in such a way as to all but assure that Texas A&M University would be the lucky school.

  • Perhaps most confounding: Whereas before there was a ban on giving homeland security business to American companies that have relocated offshore to avoid U.S. taxes, that ban has now been relaxed. Again -- why? Doesn't it seem ironically unpatriotic for firms that grew rich in the American business environment to now be blessed when they choose to avoid supporting the system they grew out of?

The good news is that a few politicians did have the backbone to think and act independently.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), for example, spoke out against the provisions tacked onto the bill to reward special interests. As a result, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has promised to have several of the provisions removed soon.

Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont also spoke his mind: "I fear we are sapping precious resources from our fight against terrorism to create a new bureaucracy that will lull the American public into a false sense of security."

Here's hoping that Washington and America will welcome thoughtful dissenters and will at least consider their views seriously. Here's hoping that more elected representatives will not just vote along party -- and power -- lines, but with their heads and hearts and consciences, serving their constituents and America as effectively as they can. As always, remember that you can let your representatives know what you think.

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Quick Takes

If you think "light" cigarettes are less hazardous to your health than regular smokes, think again. Philip Morris(NYSE: MO) says it will begin inserting warning leaflets into packs labeled "light," "mild," etc., to indicate they are no safer than regular brands.

Shares of Del Monte Foods(NYSE: DLM) shot up 13% today on news the company rejected an unsolicited offer of $11 a share from a third party in April. Meanwhile, H.J. Heinz(NYSE: HNZ) says things are still on track to merge with Del Monte after the former spins off certain parts of its businesses, including tuna and soup. (Sounds messy.)

Construction of new homes dropped 11.4% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.6 million units, the lowest level in six months. On the other hand, building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 1.7%.

Real estate developer Larry Silverstein unveiled plans today to build a 52-story skyscraper on the World Trade Center site. The new building would replace 7 World Trade Center, just north of where the twin towers once stood.

And Finally...

Today on Whitney Tilson says it's the ultimate dead cat bounce for tech stocks and the Nasdaq's soon to drop.... Guest Rule Maker Buck Hartzell takes a look at the underpriced stock of an economic powerhouse.... Jack Grubman's company donated $1 million to a private school to buy his kids' admission. Fool Al Silber has something to say about it.... Should you nail down shares of Home Depot? The Fool Community weighs in.... In Fool's School, learn the easiest way to compare credit cards.... And the Post of the Day: A Fool's struggle with his telescope.

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