If you think the airport's a zoo now, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Waiting for laptops and strollers to clear security can be a hassle, but imagine being stuck in line behind a colony of penguins.

A partnership and promotional stunt from Southwest Airlines(NYSE: LUV) and SeaWorld may send the Antarctic waddlers airborne, despite their inability to fly. To generate interest in the adventure parks, the low-cost, "fun" carrier hopes to resume sending the animals on nonstop flights to SeaWorld destinations.

The promotion was shut down for security reasons after the 9/11 attacks, and some concerns remain. "One of the things that [the Transportation Security Administration] mentioned was, 'Would it be possible that we would be able to wand the animals?'" said Melanie Jones, Southwest creative manager.

SeaWorld said, sure, why not. "We feel like they really brighten people's days," said Fran Stephenson, a park spokeswoman. "Besides, they don't have any pockets to empty."

We assume they'll be drinking Coke(NYSE: KO), like their polar bear friends. On the rocks.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

AOL's Triple Whammy

AOL Time Warner's (NYSE: AOL) Internet service has always been a lightning rod for criticism. (Should we call it a criticism rod?) Citing higher prices and slower speeds, many predicted America Online's downfall at various points along the way. And yet, it kept raising prices, and new people kept signing up.

Until now, that is. The company reported a sequential decline in subscribers last week for the first time ever. Mind you, with over 35 million users, it's still far and away the world's No. 1 service. But many AOLers are waking up to the fact that $23.90 is a big chunk to pay for dialup every month, when reasonable alternatives are available for under $10.

United Online (Nasdaq: UNTD) , which operates the Juno and NetZero services, is a perfect example. Charging just $9.95 per month, United Online saw an 8% sequential increase in paying subscribers for its fiscal first quarter, and 48% year-over-year growth.

Throw in the fact that more and more people are moving to broadband, and you can see why AOL is getting hit coming and going.

But wait -- there's more. The number of Americans who surf the Web is no longer growing, one researcher told The Wall Street Journal. Jeff Cole of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy says about 71% of Americans used the Internet in 2002, the same as the year before.

So, AOL is losing subscribers to lower-priced services and to broadband, and there's not much growth on a macro basis. Its advertising revenue, buffeted from the industry meltdown by long-term contracts, is plummeting now that the contracts are coming due.

Not exactly a recipe for success, and a clear indicator of the challenges that lie ahead.

Quote of Note

"Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge." -- Winston S. Churchill

Lessons From a Debt Collector

Are you terminally underwater? Do you find that frequently there's more month left at the end of the paycheck? You may be able to adopt the same strategies used by debt collectors (or those in the "debt recovery" industry, as they more gingerly describe themselves) to cure your debt woes.

In a recent editorial for industry newsletter CollectionIndustry.com, a trainer conceded that "Debt Has a Human Face" (registration required) and that collectors need to recognize the feelings behind the facts. He identifies three main reactions by those carrying the burden of debt: panic, sadness, and resignation. They result in people avoiding the situation, denying the problem, then becoming angry or tackling the problem logically.

"The best collectors are firm, realistic, fair and tuned into both facts and feelings," says Barry Leckenby, Training and Quality Analyst with Australia's third-largest bank, the ANZ.

Firm, realistic, and fair are great starting points for a Fool-proof debt attack plan, in our opinion.

Be firm: Decide today to turn your financial wagon to the high road. Then resolve to make a difference with every resource that you have -- whether that's directing more dollars to pay down the debt, or taking one evening to negotiate a lower interest rate with your lender.

Be realistic: We know you're raring to begin your debt destruction plan. But don't get so aggressive that you end up in a worse spot than where you started. Make a realistic debt repayment plan, then review when necessary. The reality is that you will probably have to adjust your plan over time.

Be fair: There's a difference between "wants" and "needs." Be fair to your future self by learning the difference. Identify what got you into debt in the first place, and vow to avoid those potholes in the future.

And finally, don't ignore the feelings that debt brings on. Celebrate your successes and learn from any shortcomings. Need a support group of like-minded folks? Come on over to our Consumer Credit/Credit Cards discussion board for sound guidance and encouragement.

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All Smiles for Colgate-Palmolive

Colgate-Palmolive's (NYSE: CL) sparkly earnings, announced this morning, lead to an interesting conclusion. We are obsessed with teeth. Seriously. Not just any old teeth, either, but stark white teeth. Try to buy toothpaste these days that doesn't have some "brightening" component. You'd be hard-pressed to find one.

All this attention to our pearly choppers is good news for Colgate-Palmolive. The company's toothpastes, whitening products, and electric toothbrushes are competing well against Procter & Gamble's(NYSE: PG) Crest line of similar items. They're also banking lots of cash for Colgate.

Sales for the fourth quarter, on a dollar basis, rose 4% to $2.4 billion. Stripping out currency effects (Colgate-Palmolive gets 74% of its business outside of North America), sales were up 6%, with worldwide unit volume improving 6%.

Quarterly earnings were also shinier. Colgate-Palmolive netted $341 million, 15% ahead of last year's $295 million. Excluding a charge in the year-ago period, that translates into $0.59 a share, versus $0.52.

The stalwart credited its many new products for its solid results. Chief among them is Colgate Simply White, a gel that users paint onto teeth for whitening effects. It sells for half of what rival Crest White Strips cost, and according to the company, Colgate grabbed over 40% of the American at-home whitening market in 2002.

Lest you think we're the only country obsessed with ivory teeth, Colgate reports that its whitening toothpastes and products sold extremely well in all markets. (Hold your "bad British teeth" jokes!) And Colgate promises many more new items are in the pipeline for 2003.

That seems hard to believe. At last count, the company offers 13 whitening toothpastes and two at-home whitening products. Sheesh, remember when tartar and plaque were the only enemies?

Discussion Board of the Day: Model Railroads

Everybody loves Thomas -- and by that, I mean our own Jerry Thomas, who hosts the irreverent yet always hip Cheeze-O-Rama discussion board. But how many of you can connect with Thomas the Tank Engine fans because you, too, are smitten by the rail? Collect model trains or always wanted to? Just how do they make those steam puffs as they go around the track? All this and more -- in the Model Railroads discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Quick Takes

Trucking along, Paccar(Nasdaq: PCAR) saw its profits more than double to $1.05 a share. That left analysts eating dust, as the projections were pegged at only $0.64 a stub for the Washington-based truck maker. While sales rose nicely -- from $1.5 billion to $1.9 billion -- margins revved higher, as tighter cost controls and the efficient use of new technology jacked up the bottom line.

How can a company announce quarterly earnings of $0.43 a share and still beat the Street when analysts are looking for $0.44 a share? Elementary, my dear Watson. Drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals(NYSE: WPI) had a two-cent charge unaccounted for by the forecasts, allowing it to earn a rather bogus $0.45 a share before the one-time expense.

It's hard to decide who's cheering the loudest -- Celgene(Nasdaq: CELG) shareholders or sufferers of relapsed multiple myeloma. The company's Revimid drug that targets to treat the malady received fast-track status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Shaving months, if not years, from the potential approval process, which is the equivalent of a shot of Drano down the pipeline, is good news to both interested parties.

Expanding drugstore chain CVS(NYSE: CVS) also saw profits more than double in the fourth quarter. Same-store sales grew by a healthy 6.7% during the period, and the current quarter is off to a good start. January saw a 5.8% spike in comps.

Avon (NYSE: AVP) is calling, and it's dolled up nicely, as the door-to-door cosmetics leader reported fourth-quarter earnings of $0.80 a share. That was well above last year's $0.46-a-share showing, and a penny ahead of Wall Street's expectations. While it might seem odd that vanity is holding up while the economy isn't looking as pretty, it's human nature to feel good about oneself when everything else is hanging in the balance.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com:

  • For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
  • 10 Things I Hate About Finance: The drudgery. The tedium. Well, the alternative is even worse. Dayana Yochim explains.
  • Jeff Fischer says online loan leader LendingTree looks unjustifiably cheap.
  • Grains, Trains, and Automobiles: Thomas the Tank Engine will answer to a new yardmaster, and this ain't just child's play.
  • Human resources stock Hewitt Associatestakes a tumble on cautious revenue guidance.
  • In Fool's School, how to dig out of debt? Let us count the ways.

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