The final hours of George W. Bush's search for a running mate produced high drama, bruised egos and an unprecedented situation: the man in charge of veep vetting--former Defense secretary Dick Cheney--had himself become a lead contender for the job.

Last Thursday Cheney's staff called the finalists to brief them on what they needed to do: stay close to a land line--not a mobile phone--on Sunday night to await a call from Bush, and be available to travel all day Monday. Meanwhile, Cheney was dealing with voter-registration technicalities necessary to being on the ticket. Plagued by heart problems a decade ago, he also reportedly underwent a thorough physical in Washington.

On Saturday, Bush flew to Atlanta for the funeral of Sen. Paul Coverdell, where he planned to see his father. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, served in the elder Bush's administration. Dubya was planning to make what one aide called the "go/no-go decision" on Sunday (and the resulting phone calls) at his ranch near Waco.

Another finalist in the veepstakes, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said that last week's mini-frenzy for Sen. John McCain had left both the Bush and the McCain camps upset. "It's too bad because it wasn't either side's fault, really," he said, but more a result of the media. As for Hagel, he had momentarily left the pressure behind last Saturday to baby-sit in Washington for his two young children. "No better way to take your mind off politics," he said with a laugh.

LOS ALAMOS Closing In The FBI may be close to filing criminal charges against the culprits responsible for the disappearance--and sudden reappearance--earlier this summer of two classified computer hard drives at the Los Alamos nuclear-weapons lab. Charges could also be brought against one or more lab officials for participating in a cover-up, government sources say. Defense lawyers for a few members of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) have been cleared to handle classified material pertinent to the investigation. Lab sources say those NESTers are away on indefinite "vacations."

INVESTIGATIONS A Curious Coelho Coincidence As complaints about his management style and questions about his business dealings intensified, Tony Coelho resigned as Al Gore's presidential campaign chairman last month. The stated reason: poor health. Coelho was hospitalized for an inflamed colon; he was later diagnosed with a brain cyst. But coincidentally, just two days before he quit, the Securities and Exchange Commission notified AutoLend, a company of which he had been a director, that the agency's enforcement staff intended to sue the company and its CEO, Nunzio DeSantis, for alleged violations of federal securities laws. Another company in which Coelho and DeSantis were involved faces a separate SEC investigation. A Democratic official hinted that the Gore campaign knew of the SEC problem before Coelho stepped down. Coelho's lawyer said the SEC's most recent move vindicates Coelho, because he is not a target, indicating that he did nothing wrong. AutoLend officials were not available for comment.

THE BUZZ I Wanna See Some Dead People The summer is only half over, but it may be finished when it comes to movies worth getting excited about. Bow down before your VCR! Here's what people are saying over the airwaves, on the Web, in the papers and around the water cooler:

Witch Hunt 'Category by category ... it's a very weak summer.' (N.Y. Times) No blockbuster ('Phantom'), no romantic comedy ('Notting Hill'), no surprise ('Blair Witch').

Comic Genius 'X-Men' saved humanity, rescued the box office. 'With quality "Batman" and "Star Trek" films absent ... the large comic book/sci-fi crowd finally had an event film to rally around.' (

Says Who? That's white Hollywood talking. It's been a fantastic summer for black audiences: 'Scary Movie' will be Miramax's most successful film ever, 'The Klumps' is opening--and 'Big Momma's House' outsold 'Irene.'

The Party's Over, Don't expect a repeat of last August when moviegoers went to see 'Blair Witch'and 'Sixth Sense' in scary numbers

Last Week's Live Vote

What should be done to curb unruly parents at their kids' games? (1,089 responses)

24% Require parents to sign a code of ethics, attend sportsmanship training and pledge civility.
4% Institute "Silent Saturdays," where no talking is allowed.
72% If problems persist, ban them from attending.

FASHION Glam Bands Part fashion accessory, part conversation piece, Wordstretch rubber bands define office-supply chic. Bracelets, rings and "big bands" that enclose gifts with messages like it's not a fruitcake have famous fans. Giorgio Armani loves cutie pie and Kevin Garnett sports don't harsh my mellow. "They're a conduit for connection," says creator Ave Green. Who knew?

COINS Fight for the Wrights North Carolina and Ohio are giving no quarter in their battle over who owns the Wright brothers. Both states want the fliers representing them, now that the U.S. Mint is issuing commemorative quarters for every state. The idea for the world's first human flight was born in Dayton, Ohio, but it took off at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

North Carolina has finalized its design: the brothers' biplane above the words FIRST FLIGHT. But Ohio, whose quarter will come a year after North Carolina's, hasn't conceded defeat. "Giving North Carolina full credit for the Wright brothers is like giving the moon full credit for NASA," said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's office. The likely outcome to the good-natured snit will be an Ohio birthplace of aviation quarter with John Glenn and the Wrights.

PUBLIC TRANSIT Fry Performance Call them McBuses.In an effort to improve air quality, Cincinnati is fueling its buses with a blend of recycled cooking oil and methanol. There's no loss in power, but "it does smell like a fish fry," says the National Biodiesel Association. At least you don't have to worry about the cholesterol.

HEALTH Taking It One Step at a Time It's practically America's national anthem: why walk when something can do it for you. But not at the Centers for Disease Control, where researchers are concluding a two-year project designed to bolster their own use of those ascending platforms, a.k.a. "the stairs." It worked: traffic climbed 14 percent at the Rhodes Building in Atlanta. Here's how:

Painted Walls, New Carpet
First, scientists decreased the Dingy Factor by painting the stairwells (sea blue, green and purple) and installing carpet
Cost: $7,000 Traffic Increase: 1.2 percent

Art Work
Second, project manager Nicole Kerr framed prints from lesser-known modern artists.
Cost:$7,200 Traffic Increase: 6.7 percent

Inspirational Signage
Finally, Kerr added motivational posters that stressed the benefits of exercise. "It's kind of ironic," she says, "that we have a lot of overweight people that work here."
Cost: $700 Traffic Increase: 6.2 percent

Total Cost: $14,900
Total Traffic Increase: 14.1 percent

VITAL STATS Neat Freaks Who needs the Playboy Channel when there's Home & Garden Television? A survey sponsored by the cable channel found adults get more satisfaction from keeping their homes "neat and attractive" than they do from sex. Those must be some fine-looking houses.

HOW-TO It's Not Your Ma's Spin Cycle ESPN's Great Outdoor Games kick off Thursday. One of the highlights is sure to be the logrolling finals. PERI asked women's champion Tina Salzman, 26, of Lake Geneva, Wis., for a few tips on how to rock when you roll:

1) Get the right equipment. "We take soccer shoes and then we cut the bottoms off. You buy special loggers' cleats and make your own shoe. It's like a golf spike--but it's sharper and there are more of them."
2) Balance is key. "Keep your upper body really still." Picture "an imaginary line drawn from the top of your head, through your body, over the center of the log."
3) "Never look at your own feet." It's a surefire way to eat wood.
4) Be the log. "You have to focus... Before a match, I just don't want to talk to anyone. You can have the physical ability, but, if you don't have it together mentally, you're only a step away from water."

TRANSITION A Quiet Leader Sen. Paul Coverdell, the influential Republican from Georgia, died last week after a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 61. First elected to the Senate in 1992, Coverdell had a quiet demeanor that belied a staunch partisan drive. He eschewed sound bites, gaining a reputation instead as a hard worker who took on unglamorous but important tasks. A close ally of Majority Leader Trent Lott and friend of the Bush family, Coverdell served as President Bush's Peace Corps director and was the chief liaison in the Senate to George W. Bush's presidential campaign. The former president called Coverdell "one of the kindest and most decent men I met in my entire life."

CONVENTIONAL WISDOMSpecial 'Razor' Thin Edition

Clinton = Avoids Camp David meltdown (for now), but Jerusalem future is one thorny artichoke. Gore + Old: Stick a fork in him. New: Polls show this thing is tighter than a tick. Bush = Gets defensive over Al's foray into his Texas backyard. Get used to it. Cheney + It's him! (And if, after deadline, it's not, remember: Never trust the CW.) Lott - Off-cuff TV gibe implies Hillary is currently anti-Semitic. So apologize, Helmet-Head. Armstrong + Cancer survivor heads for Tour de France repeat. But could he do it on a Razor?