CAMPAIGN 2000 A Mole Hunt on the Trail Was it a harmless political caper--or a mole? In mid-September, when an adviser to Al Gore received an anonymous package containing what appeared to be George W. Bush's confidential debate-prep materials, the Gore camp thought it might be a prank. Now both sides are crying dirty tricks.

Gore aides dutifully turned over the package to the FBI. The Feds have confirmed the authenticity of a Bush videotape and briefing books, and agents have interviewed top aides in both campaigns. Last week investigators were dispatched to Austin to figure out who had custody of the videotape before it was mailed. Among the potential crimes: interstate trafficking of stolen property and mail fraud. But the entire matter could become even more serious, sources said, if any campaign staffers are caught lying to the FBI.

The sparring escalated when Bush supporters began complaining about another case of possible campaign skulduggery. It seems that a low-level Gore staffer bragged to at least one pal about messages received from a "mole" somewhere within the Bush ranks. Top Gore aides say the young assistant, Michael Doyne, made up the mole tale to impress a former college frat brother. But the campaign has found an e-mail from Doyne to his friend warning: "hush hush on the mole." Doyne told NEWSWEEK, "I don't know that any of that is going on."

The Gore campaign insists it's all just a case of youthful bragging. Doyne is on paid leave. Bush supporters are urging a reluctant FBI to investigate further.

AUCTIONS Sellers' Market It's probably too late to grab Grandma's valuable highboy and hustle it over to the early October furniture auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's in New York. But if you come up with a nice impressionist painting by November, you might catch a seller's break at the fall fine-art sales. The two auction houses are under the gun of last week's whopping $512 million civil settlement of their commission-fixing case. To ease the firms' pain just a bit, the court is permitting $50 million to be paid in the form of transferable certificates, to be used in reducing the commissions that sellers pay--down to what they probably should have been all along.

TIRES Keeping Settlement Papers Secret The Ford explorer tire-safety hearings may be over for now, but behind-the-scenes congressional investigators are tussling with Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone over internal reports prepared by the companies' experts for product-liability lawsuits dating back to the early 1990s. Subcommittee staffers say execs from both companies agreed to turn over documents related to tire-accident settlements: 17 involving Ford and 14 for Bridgestone/Firestone. Now, committee staffers complain, the companies are balking, arguing the material is protected by attorney-client privilege. A Ford spokesman says the company will hand over the documents after portions that might compromise privacy or trade secrets have been blacked out. Firestone, too, says it "will comply."

The Buzz See Suzy Run. See Suzy's Ad Pulled Off NBC. Olympic runner Suzy Hamilton outpaces a chain-saw-wielding madman in the woods. "Why sport?" Nike's ad asks. "You'll live longer." Clever, eh? No, said viewers, who slashed it. What people are saying in the papers, over the airwaves and on the Web:

Bad Taste It makes a macabre joke out of a woman's nightmare. 'The Bud Light ad in which a man is shot from a cannon into an elephant's anus seems a model of tasteful cleverness by comparison.' (Tom Shales, Wash. Post)

Bad Timing 'If this commercial runs during Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show, it's not a problem. But what kind of idiot doesn't know that countless young kids will be in front of TVs for the Olympics?' (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Just Get With It Nike ads aren't meant for the masses. They're intended to reinforce the company's base of hard-core athletes. If you were offended, you didn't get it.

Just Get Over It C'mon! It's a hilarious parody of B-grade flicks such as 'Friday the 13th'--with a twist. This time the girl 'is the victor, not the victim.' (Nike spokesman Scott Reames)




Did alcohol play a large role in your college experience? (1,310 responses)
20% Yes, but c'mon, that's what college is about.
27% Yes, in retrospect, I probably drank too much.
26% No, I drank, but not often.
17% No, I never took a sip.

Dot-can So many stock options, so little employment. A record 5,000 dot-commies lost their jobs this month, making it 17,000 cubicles emptied this year, according to a study being released this week by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Dot-com Job Cuts:
July 2,194
August 4,196
September 4,805

FAST CHAT Chewed Out Jim Bouton is infamous for the first tell-all, "Ball Four," but he's less known for his other invention: Big League Chew, which is 20 years old. PERI caught up with the legendary hurler:

NEWSWEEK: Gum that looks like tobacco shreds?
Summer '77 I was playing for the Mavericks, a Class-A team. I got it in my head to make a comeback. The guys were playing Drown the Bug in Tobacco Juice. [Teammate] Rob [Nelson] said, "There oughta be something that looks like tobacco but tastes like gum." Rob thought "Maverick Chew." I said, "Nah, Big League Chew." I went to Amurol, a $9 million subsidiary of Wrigley. In 12 months they sold $18 million worth.
The gum's good.
It gives you a nice feeling.
Any feelings on the series?
I'd like to see the Red Sox do it. Sentimental favorite.

TRANSITION Barrier Breaker Born dirtpoor in Tennessee, Carl Rowan, 75, covered desegregation in the South during the 1950s and went on to serve in high-level positions under Kennedy and Johnson. Later a columnist, he was a sympathetic realist and good-humored moralist. After reading that students in Washington were embarrassed to have their names called at an honor-roll ceremony, he started Project Excellence, which gave millions in scholarships.

Evan Thomas

ENVIRONMENT The Road to the Green House On "Oprah," George W. Bush said his Texas ranch was his most-prized possession. That may be, even if he's hoping to live somewhere else for the next four years. PERI eyes W's ecofriendly confines, now under construction:

SPAIN Dog Patchers Ambulance drivers are used to hairy situations, but not like this. Madrid has unveiled a trio of vet-staffed animal ambulances. The service offers everything a hound-about-town needs to get back on its paws--stretchers, oxygen tanks and medicine. Now, that's universal health care.

HOW-TO In Seattle, Tasters' Choices For seven years, Mary Williams has tasted up to 300 cups of coffee a day for Starbucks. With a surprisingly calm manner, the senior taster instructed us on the process of finding the best beans. 1. To extract maximum flavor, grind 10 grams of coffee. It should look like coarse beach sand. Add 8 oz. of water, just off the boil. 2. Let it steep. Some grinds will settle on the top. 3. Use a soup spoon to "break the crust" that has formed on top. 4. Whiff steam to check aroma. 5. Skim off any residue on top and let coffee cool (a burned tongue hampers the taste buds for three days). 6. Slurp it like hot soup and let it flow throughout the mouth. Different buds discern different flavors. 7. Spit into spittoon. 8. Use words like "winey," "nutty," "dirty," "heavy," "has a blueberry character."

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM We'll Always Have Little Rock Let's take a moment to bathe in nostalgia on what once shook the nation: the McDougals, Rose Law Firm records, Vince Foster's autopsy. We could go on, but we're getting misty-eyed.


Gore = Bad sign for front runner: When he sees oil pandering op, he's there. Slow learner? Bush + First decent week since Philly: Survives Oprah and Susan Hawk. Repeatablable? Clinton = Good news: Whitewater is over. Bad: Its ripples still got him impeached. Hillary = Stalling on soft money, hurt by W.H. sleepovers, but Little Ricky fading with women. Wing Nuts - Six years, $50 mil, forests worth of WSJ editorials and W'water's just a dumb land deal. Olympics The CW has already reached its conclusion, but we're holding it until next week.