On a recent bus trip through South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said privately that he was leaning toward voting against the GOP pet $800 billion tax-cut bill. "The thing is full of special-interest outrages," he said. "Junk." The worst provision, he said, was a tax credit for turning chicken manure into energy. "So we're paying for chickens--t and giving chickens--t to the working middle class... " But on the morning of the Senate vote, Majority Leader Trent Lott and Sen. Phil Gramm cornered McCain. The three went nose-to-nose, with Lott and Gramm arguing that if the deal collapsed, the GOP would lose what little leverage it had in bargaining with President Clinton, who opposes the size of the cuts. "The White House would say we can't get our act together, and declare victory forever," Lott reportedly told McCain.
With Lott and Gramm staring at him as he took the floor during debate, McCain called the bill "seriously skewed," but said he would vote for it. The measure passed 50-49. Slumped in a chair outside the Senate chamber afterward, McCain asked, "Why do we always face such Hobson's choices?"EBOLAHome Remedy
A plant long chewed, brewed for tea and applied as a balm by West Africans has proven lethal in laboratory trials to a regional menace: the Ebola virus. Twigs of the Garcinia kola tree "are commonly offered as chewing sticks to guests visiting Nigeria, especially by the Igbo tribes," says Dr. Maurice Iwu, who presented the findings last week to the International Botanical Congress in St. Louis.
Iwu's team, the Silver Spring, Md.-based Bioresources and Development Conservation Programme, has used Garcinia kola since 1989 in yellow fever and influenza trials. In the most recent tests, compounds distilled from the plant's seeds halted replication of the Ebola virus without killing host cells. If it works in primate trials, says Iwu, a Nigerian from a family of traditional healers, "it will be a very significant discovery, because these compounds are nontoxic." And as a cash crop, the plant could become an economic boon for African farmers as well. Now there's a side effect we could live with.MONEYTake a 'Titanic' or a Bailout
How would you spend $70 billion? Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami's "Bubble Fantasy: What Could That Money Have Bought," lists alternative uses for the money Japan has spent bailing out its overextended banks. The book, written for children, has become a best seller. A sampling:
Hokkaido Takushoku Bank $23.4 billion bailout buys an aircraft carrier, The New York Times and finances 25 remakes of "Titanic."
Sakura Bank $6.9 billion buys The Washington Post and the Chicago Bulls, with enough left to pay Nike off for Tiger Woods.
Tokai Bank $5.2 billion, enough for a nuclear reactor for North Korea, rights to all Beatles songs and Mark McGwire's yearly salary.THE FUTUREWe're History!
Scientists at the international Botanical Congress put a damper on millennial euphoria last week, announcing that fully two thirds of Earth's land species are likely to disappear by the end of the new century. Worse, the culprit is... us. The new estimate puts humanity into the lineup with the "big five" mass extinctions of the past, including the asteroid hit that toasted the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Sure, biology bounced back from that one, says biologist Peter Raven. It's just that it took 10 million years to do so. By that time, there won't be any future generations left for us to apologize to.POWERWhat I Did on My Vacation
As the Clintons prepare to combine politics with pleasure in New York state this month, Peri checked into how other leaders spend their summer vacation.
ZHU RONGJI: China bigs hit annual beach party in Beidaihe; top-level talks, roasted melon seeds
LEE TENG-HUI: One China, separate vacations. Taiwan's isolated boss sticks to the golf course.
TONY BLAIR: Tuscany cleaned up a polluted beach, newly renovated a villa for the Brit P.M.
GERHARD SCHRODER: German chancellor in Italy, too, but no beach cleaning. Snubbed?
NELSON MANDELA: No dirty beaches for S. African retiree: takes over Blair's come fall
LIONEL JOSPIN: French P.M. reading, not relaxed? In '97 had to rush back for Diana.
B. YELTSIN Heat wave, fires end country stay. Capital cool for Russian prez till Duma returns.
Leg warmers are back, but forget the '80s version. This up-from-the-street style looks more like decapitated pants, held in place below the knee and flaring out in cotton, leather, fleece, nylon or faux fur. Leg warmers are big in Japan, but they're just getting a leg up in the United States. Sample NYC, the designers who pioneered the look stateside, claims inspiration from Japanese cartoons. Laugh now, but you may be wearing them next year.BASEBALLThe Hall of Fame Numbers Game
With 3,000 hits apiece, Messrs. Gwynn and Boggs will stroll into the hall of Fame. But not all milestones mark the way to Cooperstown. The year's sweet stats, with Hall prospects by Dan Heisman, publisher of Baseball's Active Leaders newsletter:
The 400 Club
KEN GRIFFEY JR. With a baker's dozen to go, homer 400 will be a formality: with 400 at age 29, he's built a threat to Hank Aaron's record 755. Current Hall Probability: 81
CAL RIPKEN JR. The Streak and 20 years of acclaim make the grand old man's homer count (399) and hits (2,968) giddily irrelevant. Probability: 100
FRED MCGRIFF His 400th likely to be 35-year-old's last marker--and too little alone for the Hall. Best bid: hang around as DH long enough to become an esteemed vet. Probability: 125
MANNY RAMIREZ THREAT TO: Hack Wilson's 191 RBIs. Assaults on Wilson often die like bush-league hits, but the 69-year-old mark may award Manny a Hall pass. Probability: 10
RANDY JOHNSON THREAT TO: Nolan Ryan's 383 season strikeouts. Hall bound if he cracks it; if not, late bloomer with only 154 wins still has something to prove. Probability: 25
CRAIG BIGGIO THREAT TO: Season doubles mark has lasted since 1931, but too narrow a stat to vault underrated Astros 2dbaseman to Cooperstown Probability: 15
THE SAMMY AND MARK SHOW
Going, going, foregone conclusion! The Homer Hallsters are on pace to surpass Maris in consecutive years
HR's on Aug. 7 last year:
Sosa: 43, McGwire: 45
HR's as of Aug. 7/99:
Sosa: 42, McGwire, 44
Restaurants from Irvine, Calif., to St. Petersburg, Fla., are in hot water with animal-rights groups for harboring Lobster Zone, a game that challenges diners to pick a live crustacean out of a tank with a rubber claw. Prize: a lobster dinner. The game's manufacturer says activists confuse "food-chain issues" with animal welfare.HOW BIG IS IT?Building Up, Not Out, Reaches New Heights
Thomas Hayden and Dara Horn
He loved long nights and lyrical prose, strong drink and, for all its sins and shortcomings, his native South. Willie Morris, who died last week at 64, came to fame as the 32-year-old editor of Harper's magazine in the late 1960s, but his abiding subject was the old Confederacy. Raised in Yazoo City, on the edge of the Mississippi Delta, Morris spent much of his life pondering--and evoking--the twilight world many Southerners inhabit, where manners and morals coexist with the enduring legacy of Jim Crow. In 1971, Morris fell out with the magazine's owners, and ultimately returned to Mississippi to write. He was buried in the graveyard where as a youth he had played taps--home at last.
Conventional WisdomSPECIAL DUST BOWL EDITION
THOUGH SOME PARTS OF THE COUNTRY ARE UNDERWATER, MUCH OF THE U.S. IS SUFFERING THE WORST DROUGHT SINCE THE DEPRESSION. LUCKILY, AMERICANS ARE LESS CONCERNED WITH FOOD THAN DAY TRADING.
Hillary = Answers "how can she take it" question (Bill's inner child did it). Tacky, but polls go up.
Tax cut - People don't want it, Greenspan doesn't want it, but GOPs gotta have it. Typical.
Holbrooke + After 14 months of purgatory finally arrives at the... United Nations. Have fun, Dick.
Fliers = More legroom coming for road warriors. But same particleboard chicken?
McGwire + Gets 500th dinger faster than anyone, without andro. But playoffs not in the Cards.
Outdoors + East Coasters enjoying mosquito-free evenings--but on brown grass. Let it rain.