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WINNERS & LOSERS

THE WINDY CITY

[WINNERS]

ALBERT BELLE Baseball bad boy gets $10 million a year to play for White Sox. Move over, Dennis Rodman

CHICAGO, THE MUSICAL Decades-old musical opens big on Broadway; finds that the '90s are its kind of time

DAN ROSTENKOWSKI The Cook County machine is back: Dems recapture seat he lost following scandal

[& LOSERS]

MEL REYNOLDS While former Congressman is in jail, he and broke wife Marisol are arraigned for fraud

TONY SILVA Renowned parrot advocate gets almost seven years and $100,000 fine for bird smuggling

JENNY JONES Facing an ugly future with civil trial and lost reputation after Schmitz murder conviction

PINEAPPLES, LAKES...AND SNOW

Are we in for another nasty winter? It's still autumn, but last week a "pineapple express" of soggy Pacific air dumped 2 ft. of snow and drenching rainfall over large portions of the Northwest. The previous week, unseasonably cold air barreling across the Great Lakes picked up moisture and buried shoreside communities in "lake effect" snow. What will happen when winter actually gets here? "More cold. More snow" is the sure-bet prediction of WJW-TV weatherman Dick Goddard in Cleveland, Ohio. Other prognostications:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE Forecast: Indicators tilt slightly toward a milder-than-normal winter in most of the southern half of the country, a dryer-than-normal winter in the northern Rockies and the Florida Peninsula and a wetter-than-normal winter in much of the south central portions of the country. Methodology: Computer analysis of global atmospheric and oceanic data.

THE OLD FARMER'S ALMANAC Forecast: "Snowfall is expected to be above normal in much of the eastern and central parts of the country...Snowfall in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest will generally be below normal..." Methodology: Solar activity and other variables.

FARMERS' ALMANAC Forecast: The slightly younger rival publication says that "virtually the entire country will be subjected to stormy and unseasonably cold conditions for the upcoming winter, even in the so-called 'Sun-Belt' areas..." Methodology: Solar activity and other variables.

HELEN LANE, amateur predictor Forecast: One of the "worst" winters in years for Tennessee. Perhaps 10 heavy snows. Methodology: Cumberland Plateau fogs. Following a family tradition that goes back generations, the septuagenarian counts the number of heavy, early-morning fogs in August.

HAGERS-TOWN TOWN AND COUNTRY ALMANACK Forecast: The local Maryland annual foresees a season "shorter, colder, but less snowy than last winter" but still calls for a higher-than-average 61 in. of snow. Methodology: Solar activity and other variables.

DAVE MONDOCK, borough manager Forecast: "Look out. We're in for a bad winter." Methodology: A red-tailed hawk. In 1992 Mondock first spotted the migrating bird and noticed that its early arrival in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, correlates with a rough season.

WILLIS ("GOOD NEWS") GEBHARDT, folklore forecaster Forecast: "Colder than a well-digger's wallet...Snow will be frequently heavy, and winter will come on quicker than a duck on a June bug." Methodology: Woolly bear caterpillars. Analyzing the thickness of the coat and the size of the critter's dark-colored ends, the centenarian made his forecast at the 24th annual Woollybear Festival in Vermilion, Ohio, in October.

CALLING CHICKEN LITTLE

The Russian Mars probe is falling! The Russian Mars probe is falling! The prospect of the stricken plutonium-powered spacecraft's raining down on Down Under brought back memories of the U.S. Skylab's shower of pieces over the area in 1979 and threatened to overshadow President Clinton's visit to Australia last week. Fortunately, the probe crashed harmlessly in the South Pacific. But don't stop looking up yet: the earth's skies remain heavily laden with space junk. In the next 60 days, the U.S. Space Command estimates, four orbiting objects possibly large enough to survive re-entry will come tumbling down--two rocket bodies (one U.S., one Russian), a Russian payload platform and a Chinese satellite. Don't worry. So far, 16,000 human-made objects have re-entered the atmosphere in the nearly 40 years the agency has tracked them. "Almost all have burned up during re-entry," says Colonel Marc Dinerstein. As for the rest? Since the earth's surface is more than 70% water, the odds are that space trash will hit water and not plunk Australia again.

HEALTH REPORT

THE GOOD NEWS

--Score another point for healthy living. Half of all fatal CANCERS are linked to poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise--all factors that individuals can control. Environmental pollution, on the other hand, is responsible for a mere 2% of cancer deaths.

--The skies will soon be made friendlier for people at risk for HEART ATTACK. Next spring American Airlines will equip all its transoceanic jets with portable defibrillators.

--Women who've had a hysterectomy may be able to forgo annual PAP SMEARS. The test detects cervical cancer but is also used to identify cancerous vaginal cells in women who have had their uterus--and cervix--removed. Now research finds that vaginal cancer is too rare to warrant routine testing.

THE BAD NEWS

--Is geography destiny? A study of New York City's black population finds that blacks who migrated to New York from the South are twice as likely to die of a HEART ATTACK as blacks born in the city. Blacks who moved from the Caribbean, however, have just half the risk of a fatal heart attack.

--Filling the specimen cup at the doctor's office may not be worth the effort. A study finds that many common LAB TESTS performed during regular checkups--urinalysis, blood-count measures--result in a change of treatment only 1% to 3% of the time.

--The U.S. has the highest rate of curable SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES of any developed country. More than 12 million people--a quarter of them teens--become infected annually.

Sources--GOOD NEWS: Cancer Causes & Control; American Airlines; New England Journal of Medicine BAD NEWS: New England Journal of Medicine; American Journal of Medicine; Institute of MedicineLAST-MINUTE SANTAS

On the night before Christmas everyone rushes to the mall. Some even wait until after the holidays. So much for planning ahead. Share of holiday sales at malls across the country:

Thanksgiving weekend: 8% Nov. 27-Dec. 3 12% Dec. 4-10 16% Dec. 11-17 22% Dec. 18-24 32%

Source: International Council of Shopping CentersLOCAL HEROES

BETH SUFIAN, 31; HOUSTON; attorney, law professor

Sufian, who learned she had cystic fibrosis at age 9, gives countless hours of free legal advice, even from bed during her periodic hospitalizations. She answers questions from patients, doctors and parents of sick children on issues from insurance coverage to employment rights. She is also helping start a camp for children who have cystic fibrosis. Says she: "I hope my efforts shatter the stereotypes not only about lawyers but also about people with disabilities."

PAUL BEYER, 65; LEOLA, PENNSYLVANIA; trucker to the homeless

For 35 years Beyer has been delivering food to the Bowery Mission, located in one of Manhattan's grittier neighborhoods. Each week he makes the six-hour round trip to the Big Apple, delivering produce, canned meats and pastries donated by Mennonite farmers and businesses near his town. He calls what he does "the Lord's work" and says, "People trust me with the food I take up there. To see these happy faces means a good bit to me."

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

ABBOTT VAUGHN MEADER, 60; HALLOWELL, MAINE; Impersonator of President John F. Kennedy

A generation ago, Meader was so identified with his amiable parody of the President that comic Lenny Bruce cracked that two graves were dug in Arlington: one for Kennedy and one for Meader. Following J.F.K.'s assassination, Meader stopped calling himself Vaughn, his middle name, in favor of his first name, and went into what he calls "deep hibernation." Today he sings and plays honky-tonk piano in small clubs in Maine. "Lenny Bruce was right," he says. "I was stuck in something deeper than I thought." And still is. He recently recorded The Last Word, a biblical satire in which he plays 40 characters ranging from Adam to Jesus, all using the J.F.K. voice. (He is seeking a distributor for the album.) "In a way, the album exorcised the ghost," he says before slipping once again into J.F.K.'s Boston-Irish patois. "I'm older, so it's probably how Kennedy would sound if he were still alive and smoking as many cigars as he used to."

40 YEARS AGO IN TIME

Arms & the Man

The first U.N. peacekeepers are dispatched to the Suez Canal: "As Secretary-General of the United Nations, [Dag] Hammarskjold holds a job whose very title carries overtones of impotence. Today, however, what was originally conceived of as the world's top civil-service berth shows promise of developing into an executive post of potentially immense power. Partly, this is a matter of impersonal historic forces--among them the tendency of a frightened legislature to yearn for a strong executive; partly, it reflects a U.S. decision to put its weight behind (or to lean against) the U.N. But partly, the expansion of power reflects the personal confidence which Hammarskjold has inspired..." --Nov. 26, 1956