Just in time for Valentine's Day, a new study finds the way people kiss develops in the womb and probably lasts a lifetime. (So, stop making fun of your bad dates -- they can't help it!)

Research by German scientists (and it doesn't get any hotter than German scientists) indicates turning our heads to the right or left before planting a big one is part of our "sidedness," much like being right- or left-handed. And most people turn their heads to the right when kissing.

This raises a more important question: How do we sign up for the study? Researchers secretly observed 124 couples smooching in U.S., German, and Turkish airports. Sorry, no free make-out sessions from this one, folks.

The FOOL 50, closing flat today, doesn't kiss and tell.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

McDoomed ?

You can't say we didn't warn you.

Over the past few months, we've taken a lot of shots at McDonald's(NYSE: MCD). Once. Twice. Thrice we warned against being lured by the scent of fried stock. Yet, as the stock broke into the teens -- and is now a bad trading day away from the pre-teens -- there's little pride in being right when an icon of Americana is getting eaten alive.

Last night, the world's largest restaurant operator -- by far -- posted a 2.4% decline in January comparable-unit sales. Even more troubling, the rest of the world's McDonald's eateries fared worse than the domestic ones. Only Latin America saw an uptick in comps.

This comes on the heels of the burger-flipping giant's first quarterly loss in its 37-year public history. The company clearly has a lot of work to do. Repositioning a fading brand is never easy, and it's even harder in the middle of a price war. Will McDonald's really go away?

As bad as last year was, the company still produced $2.9 billion in cash from operations against just $2 billion in capital expenditures. While McDonald's claims $10 billion in debt, it's still producing supersized greenery. With prime real estate to fall back on, is it really worth less than its stated book value?

The market thinks so, at least right now. So, as easy as it has been to take shots at Mickey D's in the past, maybe it's time for the value investor to ponder the Extra Value Meal. Sure, it will take more than a coat of fresh gold paint to restore the arches to their former glory, but consider the potential upside.

Discussion Board of the Day: McDonald's

Does McDonald's deserve a break today? Can it put a smile on for investors? Will the company survive its Dollar Menu? All this and more -- in the McDonald's discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Taxing Online Retail

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) burned lower on a story in The Wall Street Journal predicting that state taxes on Internet sales are inevitable.

Since inception, Amazon and other online retailers have shipped orders without charging customers sales tax, unless the customer lived in the company's home state.

That may soon change. State and local governments would have collected $19 billion in additional revenue last year had they insisted on Internet retailers charging state taxes. Now that governments are cash-strapped, local taxes on Internet sales are a tempting money-grab for states. And retailers know this.

Last week, more than half a dozen online retailers privately agreed to start charging state sales taxes on orders across the country. Lawmakers in 33 states simultaneously agreed on simplifying tax collection laws pertaining to sales across state lines.

Companies already charging a state sales tax on online purchases include Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT), Gap(NYSE: GPS), Toys "R" Us(NYSE: TOY), Best Buy(NYSE: BBY), and Sears(NYSE: S). Amazon, the largest online retailer, stands out with its "no state tax" policy, yet it claims no plans to change it.

Its stock presumably declined on fear that a state tax would lower Amazon's competitive strength, and the slightly higher cost (an additional 6% to 8% with local taxes) would send customers elsewhere. For the most part, though, this logic doesn't hold water.

If every online retailer were to charge state taxes, the issue would become a wash, as far as any competitive advantage is concerned. The tax becomes a nonissue. Customers would continue to choose online retailers based on convenience, selection, and product price.

Meanwhile, Amazon maintains it'll remain a deep discounter and continue free shipping on orders above $25. Free shipping at Amazon squelches the fear that state taxes, combined with shipping, would make online retail too expensive, sending people to the mall.

Finally, surveys say we don't pay much attention to tax charges, anyway. We're used to them by now.

Quote of Note

"No, I will not watch the finale [of Joe Millionaire].... Fox has lied to us, and I feel that they should be punished for that.... Bad move, guys. It will be a while before I put my trust back into Fox." -- former Joe Millionaire fan, on the Fox network's chat board.

Bush's Greenspan Blues

When an owner gives a manager a vote of confidence in the sports world, it can usually be translated thusly: "You're outta here as soon as the season is over."

And yet after the mini-rift yesterday between Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan and President Bush, the White House clarified today that, "The president has a great deal of confidence in Chairman Greenspan."

Perhaps someone mentioned to Greenspan that Bush was part owner and managing general partner of the Texas Rangers several years ago, because the Fed chief has now "muted his initially chilly reception" of the president's economic stimulus proposal, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The disagreement really isn't as bad as some have implied. Greenspan's main difference of opinion centers on two issues: whether there's actually a need for any stimulus at this time -- Republican- or Democratic-backed -- and the perceived dangers of sharply increasing the deficit. However, he fully supports Bush's plan to eliminate the double taxing of dividends.

Still, key Republicans are fretting over Greenspan's remarks. The president's proposal was already guaranteed a tough time in the Senate, and this hesitancy from the respected Fed chief could be a deathblow.

Shameless Plug: Love the Ones You're With

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Quick Takes

It's enough to make tears come to our Foolish eyes. Recent data indicates U.S. consumers are starting to curtail their credit card borrowing, pay down debts, and save more. The Federal Reserve reports individuals saved 4.3% of their income in Q4 2002, the highest since 1998 and up from under 1% in late 2001.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) announced the development of a new chip, code-named Manitoba, for wireless communications. The company plans to attack a market dominated by Texas Instruments(NYSE: TI) and Qualcomm(Nasdaq: QCOM) with the new product combining more functions. Investors hope the code name doesn't portend a Big Chill for Big Chip.

Medical device maker Medtronic(NYSE: MDR) reported EPS up 35% for its Q3 ending Jan. 24, versus the year-ago period. Its cardiac rhythm-management business showed the greatest growth, paced by implantable defibrillator sales. Say that 10 times quickly.

In the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, United Airlines says it will shift up to 30% of its U.S. capacity to a new, low-cost carrier to compete with the likes of Southwest Airlines(NYSE: LUV) and JetBlue Airways(Nasdaq: JBLU). Big airlines have tried low-cost divisions, but none has yet succeeded due to strife between workers in the separate operations. Perhaps United can take care of this in bankruptcy.

Congressional investigators reported Enron avoided paying taxes from 1996-1999 through what a spokesperson called "a pattern of behavior showing that Enron aggressively engaged in transactions that had little or no business purpose in order to obtain favorable tax and accounting treatment." Before you get enraged, this is not exactly a bright line in the tax world. To prove a transaction with no business purpose other than to evade taxes -- what tax people call a "sham transaction" -- is very difficult. Note that qualifier: "little or no business purpose."

Fool Around Town: McLean, Va.

Join Fool Senior Editor Bill Mann as a guest of The Baltimore Washington Venture Group and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship to discuss "Survival Tips and Trends 2003: Best Practices for Businesses Building to Last," Tuesday, Feb. 18, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Tysons Corner Hilton in McLean, Va. For more information and to make reservations, click here.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com:

  • For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
  • Most of us dread taxes, but not Jeff Fischer. He offers tips on how to enjoy filing this year.
  • Tom Jacobs says bargains bring buyouts. Plus, some biotech news.
  • Whole Foods' Healthy Q1: The all-natural grocer flexes its well-fed muscles.
  • Worried about ID theft? Take simple steps to keep your good name safe.
  • In Hot Topics, the Fool could change your life! Sounds too good to be true? It wasn't for one woman.
  • In Fool's School, we recommend some helpful business and investing books.

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