All Those in Favor Of the Hula Bill...
The following laws that have taken effect within the past month prove real work is getting done in state capitols.
SOUTH CAROLINA banned the sale of urine
IDAHO rescinded a $1,000 cap on prize money for charity rubber-duck races
MARYLAND declared students who plant bombs may lose their driver's license
HAWAII named the hula, once banned as a heathen practice, the official state dance
NEW MEXICO declared "Red or Green?" (as in chili sauce) the official state question
KANSAS repealed the ban on the consumption of alcohol in the state capitol from Dec. 28, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2000
Ebert's New Comrades Sit on Their Thumbs
Since film critic GENE SISKEL died in February, questions have swirled about the future of the popular TV show he hosted with fellow Chicago scribe ROGER EBERT. In September, the Disney-syndicated series will change its name from Siskel & Ebert to Roger Ebert & the Movies, with new theme music and rotating guest critics. Yet to be determined: whether Ebert will let colleagues give the digital seal of approval. "In respect to Gene, we're not allowing other people to use the thumbs right now," says MARY KELLOGG, the Disney exec overseeing the show. "Things may change this fall, but for the time being those sitting across the aisle should not have access to the thumbs." Meanwhile, competing programmers smell an opportunity. Fox cable outlet FX, Paramount Television and the fledgling Oxygen channel are all said to be developing their own movie-critic shows.
Republicans Give Clinton Some Cover on Cuba
The Clinton Administration formally approved a potentially controversial trip to Cuba this week by TOM DONOHUE, president of the powerful, Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Donohue's party will include CRAIG FULLER, George Bush's vice-presidential chief of staff, and it also has the blessing of staunchly conservative Republican SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL of Nebraska. These big G.O.P. names should provide political cover for the White House and particularly AL GORE. The Administration is currently expanding unofficial links to Havana, but is worried about opposition from many anti-Castro Cuban-American voters.
As for Donohue, he has pointedly not requested a meeting with Castro, although such a session is under discussion. As head of the Chamber, he has strongly opposed unilateral American trade sanctions against any country, including Cuba. The tough-talking lobbyist is pushing hard to meet with Cuban entrepreneurs and lay the basis for an independent Chamber of Commerce in Havana. Should he fail, Donohue could still fly home with a consolation prize: regulations allow him to re-enter the U.S. with a box of Cuban cigars as long as they cost no more than $100. Alas, he doesn't smoke.
N.A.A.C.P. to Take Up Arms Against Gun Industry
For years, the N.A.A.C.P. has lamented the flood of handguns into African-American communities. Yet the nation's oldest civil rights organization has had little impact on curbing the proliferation. But the shooting tragedies in Littleton, Colo., and Conyers, Ga., plus the recent court victory against gun manufacturers in New York, may give the organization the political firepower it needs to advance its public-safety agenda.
This week, at its annual convention in New York City, the N.A.A.C.P. plans to announce that it will file a class-action lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors and importers of handguns. The lawsuit will come on the heels of several suits filed against the industry by cities, including Chicago, that charge a glut of guns supplied to the suburbs has fueled an illegal market in cities, and New Orleans, which claims safety devices on guns are inadequate. N.A.A.C.P. president KWEISI MFUME told TIME that the organization will seek not financial damages but injunctions ordering the industry to make several changes in its distribution and marketing practices. Among them: improved monitoring of distributors and retailers to better ensure handguns don't wind up in criminals' hands, and firmer restrictions against selling more than one gun to an individual. "The proliferation has been an ongoing, evil threat to innocent men, women and children in our communities," Mfume said. "We've got to step up our advocacy."
PUTTING THE FUN IN FUNERAL Mummification and burial at sea are old. Here's what the innovative are doing with their remains:
--The ashes of former New Mexico Governor Tom Bolack were launched skyward with his family's Fourth of July fireworks.
--A 52-year-old Harley-Davidson enthusiast proposed bequeathing his right arm, which bears tattoos of the Harley logo and Willy G. Davidson's signature, to the company archives. (The company declined the offer.)
--The skull of the late actor-comedian Del Close was given to Chicago's Goodman Theatre for use in roles like Hamlet's Yorick that call for such deadpan talent.
BOW FINGERS Is anti-Semitism the only thing World Church of the Creator supremacist Matt Hale and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan have in common? Nope. Both are serious violinists. As they're both from Illinois, maybe a duet is in the offing? A glimpse at their musical preferences:
FARRAKHAN HALE COMPOSER Felix Mendelssohn Peter Tchaikovsky
WORK Violin Concerto Romeo and Juliet's theme by Mendelssohn by Nino Rota
MUSICAL NOTE "Music will open a way Calls Romeo and Juliet to dialogue and erase film theme "a very the bitterness" emotional and moving piece"
4.3% National unemployment rate
73% Unemployment rate for South Dakota's Oglala Lakota Sioux, whom President Clinton visited last week
63 Years since a sitting President has visited an Indian reservation
800 million Estimated number of pages stored on the World Wide Web as of February, up from about 320 million 15 months earlier
16% Proportion of the Web reached by the most comprehensive search engine, down from 34% for the previous study's best engine
5,372 Number by which single men 45 and younger outnumber single women their age in Santa Clara County, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley
537,311 Number by which single women outnumber single men in New York City
2,950 Miles from Santa Clara County to New York City
1 The loneliest number
Sources: The White House, Nature, AP, Reuters
What Fur? Because
Bored with last Christmas' hot toy? Don't just toss him. After all, Furby has as much computing power as an Apple II. Some fun ideas from a growing group of Furby hackers:
A 2-WATT RADIO put next to Furby can change his personality, even his name.
ROTATE FACIAL GEARS to make Furby sleep with his eyes open.
A UNIVERSAL TV REMOTE makes him do weird stuff, like burp continuously.
A PALM PILOT can be configured to control his Furbish. Download the program at .
Step Aside, Pac-Man, There's a New Chompion
Forget hotdogs and burgers. Over the Fourth of July weekend, Billy Mitchell, 33, ate every dot, energizer and blue ghost on his way to scoring the world's first Pac-Man perfect game. The six-hour feat was witnessed by Twin Galaxies, which publishes a video-games record book. After completing all 256 levels, Mitchell, a Florida hot-sauce manufacturer who also holds the world's Donkey Kong record, promptly announced his retirement from Pac-Man competition. Junior Pac-Man, however, is another story.
UNITED THEY STAND Conjoined twins--formerly (and politically incorrectly) labeled "Siamese"--are undergoing a pop-cultural rebirth, judging from these upcoming works:
Twin Falls, Idaho, a romantic drama opening July 30, stars real-life twins Michael and Mark Polish as twins who share a torso and a hooker girlfriend
Stuck on You, a comedy co-starring Woody Allen as half of a conjoined-twin pair, is being developed by gross-out auteurs Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Chang and Eng: A Novel in Two Parts, based on the twins who emigrated in the 1840s from then Siam, is due out from Dutton next spring
Then & Now
SECONDS BETTER The time it takes the fastest humans to run a mile keeps dropping. Hicham el Guerrouj set a new record last week, 45 years after Roger Bannister broke the mystical four-minute barrier. How the two speedsters compare:
ROGER BANNISTER, 25, British, 154 lbs.
3 min., 59.4 sec. (1954)
Postwar British; ate roast pork and potatoes before the race
Coached himself, ran five half-hour sessions per week
Approx. 7 oz., with steel spikes
Chilly; strong 15-m.p.h. winds
Hard cinder track, rain-soaked
Bannister was taking exams in the weeks prior to the race
HICHAM EL GUERROUJ, 24, Moroccan, 128 lbs.
3 min., 43.13 sec.
Carefully monitored; high in carbohydrates, low in fat
Spends 10 months a year at Moroccan training camp, Ifrane
5.2 oz., with aluminum spikes
Warm and dry
Recent knee injury and an uncle's death
Time's Up, Nostradamus
Nostradamus is the subject of more than 40,000 Web pages and countless books, and his writings are studied throughout the world. But was he right? We'll soon see. In 1555 he made his most precise prediction, which can be translated as: "The year 1999, seven months, from the sky there will come the Great King of Terror to resuscitate the Great King of the Mongols." Nostrabuffs say this means that July will be full of earthquakes, tsunamis and satellites crashing into Earth. Then again, here are other things happening in July that he could have been talking about:
--On July 15, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the King of Terror to some, is scheduled to fly to Mongolia to renew trade talks with Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi.
--The recent missile attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by the King of Superpowers, the U.S., is threatening to bring back Mao-like communist hard-liners, who once dominated Mongolia.
--On July 9, Media Terror Rupert Murdoch's Star TV broadcast the 1990 Chinese drama Chin Wong (The King of Gamblers) in Mongolia.
--On July 1, the Sundance-winning Genghis Blues, by enfant terrible Roko Belic, had its theatrical debut. The documentary, which follows bluesman Paul Pena's pilgrimage to a Mongolian border town, resuscitated the career of King of Mongolian Throat Singers Kongar-ol Ondar.
--And scariest of all, recovering Master of Terror Stephen King could always bring back that nastiest King of Mongrels, Cujo.