Murder And Mystery At Yosemite

For four weeks police, family and volunteers have combed the rugged terrain in and near California's Yosemite National Park looking for three missing women: Carole Sund, a 42-year-old mother of four from Eureka, California, her cheerleader daughter Julie, 15, and a 16-year-old Argentine exchange student named Silvina Pelossa. Last week a passerby found their red car, a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix, charred an ugly yellow-brown from a fire. Inside the trunk were two bodies burned beyond recognition. (The FBI is searching for the third.) Sund's mother and father had offered $250,000 for information leading to the women's safe return.

The FBI is shifting its manhunt to gold country west of Yosemite where the car was found, a three-hour drive from the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, where authorities had believed the women disappeared. The FBI now thinks that the killer knows that area well enough to hide the car off a spur road where locals dump old refrigerators, cars and washing machines.

Several locals say they saw the trio the day after they were last seen at the Cedar Lodge. Louise Guthmiller, who owns a gas station a mile from where the car was found, remembers pumping gas into the trio's Pontiac: "It was a bright, sunny day. They had a shiny red car. They looked so happy." By all accounts they were, until their trip to one of the most beautiful spots in the world went horribly awry.

MEXICOAnyone for a Quickie?

Starting next week, 400,000 federal bureaucrats will no longer be able to lounge over three-hour lunches--a tradition that often extended the workday until past 11 p.m. New rules, which are aimed at increasing efficiency, promoting family life and saving taxpayers millions of dollars in late-night electric bills, will limit the lunch breaks to one humble hour. The old schedule allowed some employees to work two jobs, usually 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3:30 to 10 p.m. Like it or not, they will receive lump-sum severance packages to quit one job. The new regulations also threaten another tradition: the lunch-time tryst. At Mexico City's Gransol Hotel, where the Jacuzzi suites go for $40 and the parking lot is underground, about 40 percent of the customers don't spend the night. But now, with their evenings free, maybe some of them will.


Bill Clinton may have jilted Monica, but another prominent politician is ready to take her in: Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Last week he responded enthusiastically to the news that she may come to Moscow to promote the Russian translation of her new book. "[Zhirinovsky] will make her a member of the party and give her an apartment," said Liberal Democratic Party spokesman Vladimir Bozhbin. "He likes women, especially the unhappy, abandoned ones." Russian publisher Vagrius is planning a first printing of 50,000 copies. "She is practically our national heroine," said Tatyana Makarova, Vagrius's spokeswoman. "Russian people treat her with understanding." Moscow's Meeting Place club has already begun advertising for a Monica look-alike contest.

GERMANYThe Name Game

What's in a name? Quite a lot, say the authors of a new book, "Germans and Their First Names." Michael Wolffsohn and Thomas Brechenmacher argue that nomenclature provides revealing insights into German attitudes toward authority. Some examples:

Adolf never gained wide usage as a name, not even in the 1930s. Shows that Germans were not as enthusiastic about their new leader as many thought.

Edward and other Anglo-American names were twice as popular with the East Germans as with the West Germans. Demonstrates the East's longing for Western culture.

Sarah and other Jewish names, prohibited during the Nazi era, became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Holocaust atonement?

Uta and other hard-core Germanic names have fallen from a peak of 52 percent of all names in 1942 to just 5 percent in 1990; shows "a trend toward individuality and plurality."

TRAVELDesert Mirage

Acclaimed French film director Claude Lelouch is building a luxury hotel straight out of an Arabian Nights film epic. Located in the Negev desert in southern Israel and scheduled to open in 2001, the resort will include an observatory, a Turkish bath, water canals, herb gardens and a library containing 16th-century travel books. Those hooked on 20th-century transport beware: the site will be accessible only by camel.

BASEBALLA Sorry Spring

Joltin' Joe's gone away. Yankee skipper Joe Torre has cancer. After 1998's comeback, this baseball season is slumping before it's even begun. Last week's beanballs:


With Houston star Moises Alou out for the season, Cubs wunderkind Kerry Wood learns his overworked arm won't heal until next century; later pleads guilty to urinating on a wall.


After he admitted he fabricated experience in 'Nam and sought counseling, Toronto fires manager Tim Johnson anyway.


Et tu, Sammy Sosa? Caught up in the exhibition home-run race, the Cubs' sweetie riles pitcher by taking a post-dinger bow--twice. Says opponent: "He looked like a [expletive] bullfighter out there."

MUSICMaximum Performance

Last weekend New York City witnessed a dual debut: that of Tokyo-born violinist Reiko Watanabe and her violin,a rare Stradivarius. The great instrument-maker's 600 violins have been played across the world, but Watanabe's "Engleman" Strad had never been heard in the Big Apple. Made in 1709, it has seldom changed hands; each time, its value has skyrocketed. A brief history:

1800: $30
1/10 avg. annual U.S. wages
1951: $18,000
5 times avg. annual U.S. wages
1987: $526,000
25 times avg. annual U.S. wages
1996: $3.5 million
120 times avg. annual U.S. wages
1999: $4 million
130 times avg. annual U.S. wages

The Sammy & Mark Show

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