When the movie "Thirteen Days," about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, was screened in Moscow last month for a group of senior Soviet participants in the chilling cold-war standoff, the Americans in attendance learned the crisis was even more dangerous than they knew. In a question-and-answer session, retired Soviet admiral Vitaly Agafonov, commander of a brigade of Soviet submarines sent toward Cuba, shocked former Defense secretary Robert McNamara and other former U.S. officials by revealing: "We had 22 torpedoes on each submarine, and we had one nuclear torpedo per submarine." Although documents first published in 1998 by scholars Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali suggested that Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev planned for a projection of sea-based nuclear weapons during the crisis, this independent confirmation chilled the room. "You remember the movie scene where the Soviet ships turn back when faced with our naval blockade?" McNamara says. "Well, it turns out they had torpedoes with nuclear warheads aimed at our ships--including the USS Joseph P. Kennedy." WRITERS' STRIKERoll Credits It was a cliffhanger better than Hollywood's 11,000 screenwriters could have penned. Near declaring a crippling strike, the Writers Guild finally struck a deal with TV and film producers last Friday. But the real drama came earlier in the week: producers offered what they implied was a final deal; writers stood firm. In the end it was a draw. Writers caved on higher fees for cable reruns and greater residuals for videos and DVDs. Producers lost the right to steep network rerun discounts, one of the last wishes pulled off the table. The dealmaker? Screenplays will now be on DVDs, a $5K bonus. NOMINEESTaking the War To People's Court Just as Bush promised, bipartisanship is back in D.C. Both sides completely agree that it's time to start bickering. The Bush administration is preparing for a battle to the death over controversial federal-judgeship appointments. Dems have threatened to filibuster the president's initial round of nominees--due this week--and reps on the Senate Judiciary Committee even walked out to avoid confirming two top Justice nominees. (Fearing a backlash, White House aides remained torn on including Rep. Chris Cox in their first round of picks for the federal appellate court. Fellow Golden Stater Barbara Boxer vows to lead the charge against Cox, whom liberals give a zero on abortion issues.) But reps say Bush will fight for his list: "He is going to expend political capital over this," painting the Dems as unreasonable obstructionists in the process. "All the name-calling in the world won't change that the Senate is 50-50," fumes New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. "Enough is enough." ((((((THE BUZZ))))))Frankly, My Dear, We Still Give a Damn An Atlanta judge has blocked publication of Alice Randall's "the wind done Gone," a take on Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind," told from a slave's point of view. Should her voice be heard? Here's what people are saying in print, on air and online:

Life Support 'Done' parodies not just a book, but a way of life. To its supporters, the 'nostalgic, romantic view of the Old South' must live on. (Wash. Post)

Safety Dance Since when did copyright protection trump the 1st Amendment? Publication should be halted only if there's a threat to national security, which seems unlikely. Any other reason's 'an unacceptable exercise in prior restraint.' (S.F. Chronicle)

Hot Air If anyone's got a gripe, it's Homer. Who hasn't taken from 'Odyssey' or 'Iliad'? But his estate's not whining; neither should Mitchell's. 'At some point, every story--and certainly one like this--should be free for others to use and criticize.' (N.Y. Times)

World War 'The fact that two works may present polar viewpoints of the same fictional world fails to mitigate the fact that it is the same fictional world.' (Atlanta judge) That's piracy--not parody. OCEANSWhale of a Tale As Kermit might say, it's not easy being baleen--and not just because orcas like Willy and Shamu hog the spotlight. The Navy has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service for permission to skirt whale-protection laws when it globally deploys a low-frequency active sonar system that will harass the mammals. Environmentalists claim LFA, which uses loud signals to detect submarines, may damage the animals' brains. With the NMFS decision expected this summer, opponents have the organization's fax machine "running nonstop," says one staff biologist. FAST CHATWho Wants to See the Sights, Anyway? After reading "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel," a highly sedentary lifestyle seems just fine. PERI talked to co-author David Borgenicht:

We're not particularly paranoid. We do leave the house.

We started thinking about ideas for the second book--we didn't want to do "Worst Case II: Electric Boogaloo"--and travel seemed to be a natural. That's when people put themselves in the riskiest, most unfamiliar situations. Makes people neurotic.

Got a delightful bout of salmonella traveling in Pakistan.

We've never been able to find out if you cut the red wire or the green wire or the yellow wire in the bomb. That's the holy grail of scenarios.

We test what we can. We don't decide to get in an elevator and make it plummet.

It's about how to tell if your suitor is a serial killer, how to escape from a bad date.

We consulted an ex-CIA agent who instructed us in the finer points of altering your appearance and slipping out unnoticed. There's little things you can do in the bathroom. ENGAGEMENTZap the Gifts, Honey, Not Me It's wedding season, and if your boyfriend's not taking the hint, entice him with a chance to play 007. Increasingly, stores are offering scanner guns to engaged couples to make bridal registry more convenient--and fun, especially for guys not eager to price linens. "I was dragging my feet," says a groom-to-be. "But the zapper sweetened the deal. I was like, 'All right! A gun!' " The scanners--they zip bar-code info to a computer--are a good aid, says a Bloomie's veep, but they haven't upped the number of items couples list. Some outlets, like The Home Depot, don't use them. But when you're buying wood, do you need more entertainment? APHRODISIACSYou've Lost That Lovin' Feeling Viagra's made men awfully frisky, but not all women have raved about their expanded conjugal duties. Doctors and herbalists have crafted a bevy of new bliss enhancers to make the act more enjoyable. Any worthy of a standing O? PERI puts them to the test:

Spritz on mouth's mucosal tissue. No results, unless a numb tongue counts as sexual arrousal these days.
On the Richter scale: 1/2 a Heart

Power's maker says the pills are a hit with the Amish. If this buggy's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'.
On the Richter scale: 1 Heart

An N.Y.C. original goes global! Apply the tingly topical and "repeat if desired."
On the Richter scale: 2 1/2 Hearts

Blue beverage promises to make you "warm and ready"-a useful trait in Sweden, where the elixir was born.
On the Richter scale: 3 1/2 Hearts

FASHION Times Change, Not Our Pants The '80s are back. the 1880s, that is. Now that vintage denim is all the rage, it's hard to tell hipsters from miners. This week the History Channel is auctioning off a 19th-century pair of Levi's discovered in a small Nevada mining town--and it expects the dusty dungarees to bring in some serious cash on eBay. The 30x32 jeans are stained, slashed and vaguely X-rated, "but I own jeans that look worse," says Butterfields Auctioneers' Catherine Williamson. She thinks this piece of "America's cultural heritage" will bring the History Channel $35,000. Looks as if the miner wasn't the only one hunting for gold. This Ain't the Bradys' Battle of the Bands Four bands battle for rock supremacy (and a record contract) in VH1's riveting reality show "Bands on the Run." Ranked by ticket and merchandise sales, the tour's weakest link is about to be cut. Here's what you've missed so far:

They've got the look, but do they have the beat? Josh Dodes Band
Running mates:
Randy Newman sound-alike leads chipper sextet
Running from: The law. Band's full of bad drivers and trash talkers.
Running time: Listen at your own risk, but JDB is one to watch

They've got the look, but do they have the beat? SoulCracker
Running mates:
Their hooks are as playful as the band panties they sell
Running from: Their ego. If only fans loved the band as much as they do.
Running time: Such talent! Such motivation! Such losers!

They've got the look, but do they have the beat? Flickerstick
Running mates:
Hard-drinking hard rockers with oddly sweet vocals
Running from: The tab. Will these guys remember any of this tour?
Running time: They emerge from the haze just long enough to win

They've got the look, but do they have the beat? Harlow
Running mates:
Former Fluffy frontwoman gives us predictable punk
Running from: The boys. Wicca chicks with guitars. Need we say more?
Running time: Gals' dreams may be deader than their vampire groupies VEGETABLESTotal Rampage Tell a friend you have ramps and he'll tell you to stay away. Tell New York's top chefs and they'll embrace you. The leek--it grows wild in Appalachia--is as popular as a veggie can be, popping up on menus at finer restaurants. "We buy as many as we can," says Gramercy Tavern's Tom Colicchio. Chefs enjoy its garlic and onion flavor--which may give your pal a legit gripe.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Special China U-Turn Edition If the pope and the Greek archbishop can meet after 1,200 years, why can't Bush and Jiang? What happened to the "adults" who are supposed to be running things?

C.W. Bush = Bold "new framework" for missile defense. But Dems, allies can shoot it down. Tito + Old: Crass millionaire buys space ride. New: Blissful Walter Mitty living our dream. Writers + Hollywood scribes settle, sparing us even weaker links of reality shows. Cell phones - Gabby driver almost kills supermodel. Mobiles and mobility don't mix. Rumsfeld - Sec. Def. cuts U.S.-China military ties. Reverses self, then blames aide. How classy. 'Survivor' = Finale pulls in viewers and puts them to sleep. Bring back meanies, wackos for "Survivor III."