• U.S.

Notebook, Feb. 12, 1996

8 minute read
Kathleen Adams, Charlotte Faltermayer, Janice M. Horowitz, Lina Lofaro, Belinda Luscombe, Lawrence Mondi, Alain L. Sanders and Lisa H. Towle

HOLY SMOKES!

With billion-dollar class actions and tales of perjury by top execs, cigarette makers are feeling the heat. Their nightmare scenario is that smoking will be outlawed. Even if it were banned, which is unlikely, the tobacco industry wouldn’t have to go up in smoke. The much maligned plant need not be rolled and lighted. Here are other forms it can take:

Fraction-1, a tasteless, odorless protein found in all green vegetables but in especially high concentrations in tobacco. It has a greater nutritional value than the milk protein casein and can be used to fortify cosmetics, food and soft drinks

An enzyme that manages Gaucher’s disease, a rare genetic disorder that affects the spleen, liver and bones. Currently, the illness is treated with one of the world’s most expensive drugs, derived from the human placenta

Antifungals and antiseptics for cuts and bruises, as well as a new class of antibiotics

Biodegradable plastic to replace the petroleum-based polyethylene now used in food containers and disposable diapers

An inexpensive and environmentally harmless rust inhibitor (under patent by chemist J. Anthony von Fraunhofer)

WHEN THE NEWT FALLS…

The scent of blood is in the air. Newt Gingrich’s ethical woes and flip-flopping on the budget may not yet be mortal wounds, but predatory scrambling is already evident. Supporters of Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the third-ranking Republican in the House, have been saying aloud that if “Gingrich goes down” to defeat at the polls or as a victim of ethics charges, DeLay will be there to “pick up the pieces.” Presumably they mean he will be there too if Newt loses the support of the conservative true believers who have thus far fueled his so-called revolution. DeLay’s office was more circumspect. Says John Freehery, a spokesman for DeLay: “Speaker Newt Gingrich is not going to go down, and we’re not gearing up for anything.” Congressional insiders, however, see House majority leader Dick Armey, also of Texas, as the more likely replacement for Gingrich as Speaker, should he fall. So savvy observers see a stratagem within a stratagem: the DeLay gambit is an opening shot in what could be a battle for Armey’s office in a post-Gingrich world–a contest that will probably pit DeLay against the hardworking John Boehner of Ohio, the fourth-ranking Republican.

AMERICA’S PRIVATE ARMY IN BOSNIA

Pentagon efforts to keep the number of U.S. troops in Bosnia below 20,000 are raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are discovering that an army of civilians, contracted privately, has been deployed to augment the G.I.s. Brown & Root Inc., a Houston engineering firm, will supervise Balkan workers on projects like building pipelines and sewerage systems and is prepared to undertake the solemn task of readying the bodies of U.S. fatalities for shipment home. The Army’s increasing dependence on civilian help is leading penny pinchers to wonder whether it is still necessary to budget $7 billion annually for the 300,000 reservists already trained and paid to do those jobs. It’s all good for Brown & Root, which has pocketed around $250 million from the Pentagon for work in places like Somalia and Haiti. The firm is owned by the Dallas-based Halliburton Co. The man who runs Halliburton: Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense when Brown & Root won the support-staff contract.

AMERICA’S MOST ELIGIBLE (DOES THIS MAKE O.J. A GOOD GUY?)

Call it the Sleepless in Seattle phenomenon. When screenwriters want to create a really sympathetic man, an unequivocal good guy or just the ultimate romantic lead, they make him a widower, as Tom Hanks was in that 1994 film: no complicated sexual history, no fear of commitment, no ugly divorce to sully viewers’ affection for him. (Widows, on the other hand, tend to be women who have suspiciously outlived their husbands, like Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne.) Below, the types of widowers in recent movies.

TYPE Widowed Father CHARACTERISTICS Tragic, decent, loves but is distant from child EXAMPLES A LITTLE PRINCESS: Liam Cunningham CASPER: Bill Pullman (1)

[TYPE] Moral Widower [CHARACTERISTICS] Tragic, decent, usually facing moral crisis [EXAMPLES] WAITING TO EXHALE: Gregory Hines (2) INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: Brad Pitt

[TYPE] Too-Good-to-Be-True Widower [CHARACTERISTICS] Tragic, decent, handsome, rich [EXAMPLES] THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT: Michael Douglas BED OF ROSES: Christian Slater (3)

[TYPE] Wronged Widower [CHARACTERISTICS] Tragic, decent, forced to dangerous acts by loss [EXAMPLES] BRAVEHEART: Mel Gibson (4) THE FUGITIVE: Harrison Ford

HEALTH REPORT

THE GOOD NEWS

Safe sex may be made safer with dairy. A by-product of whey, the tasteless liquid exuded in cheesemaking, appears to prevent the AIDS virus from infecting cells in the test tube. In the future it may be used with condoms in creams or foams.

Researchers have developed a blood test to measure leptin, a hormone that tells the brain to stop eating. Doctors hope to help people slim down by boosting their leptin levels; with the new test, they can pinpoint those who need a leptin lift.

Passing an electrical current through teeth may help dentists detect tiny pores that are the early sign of cavities. The tiny jolt, though it sounds shocking, could spare patients the drill. A special sealant may then halt the decay.

THE BAD NEWS

Chromium’s reputation for building muscle and shedding fat has been tarnished by a new study. Compared with those who received a placebo, young men who took 200 micrograms of the mineral daily and went on an exercise program showed no appreciable difference in their muscle strength or body fat.

Blood pressure that spikes in response to stress and then returns to normal may be as harmful as high cholesterol. The unstable levels may cause a buildup of plaque in arteries.

Many new retirees are turning to alcohol. While other problems that come with retirement, such as anxiety, lessen after a year, excessive drinking does not appear to let up.

LOCAL HEROES

BUDDY NIX, 53, ATLANTA: Gun Watcher Georgia’s brand-new Instant Gun Check is a success–with one loophole. If Georgia Bureau of Investigation phones are down for one business day, any applicant can get a gun–no questions asked. When a two-day blizzard shut down Atlanta last month, GBI director Nix arranged for stranded phone operators to be driven in by four-wheel drives. During that period, 24 would-be purchasers turned out to be convicted felons.

MARIA RAMIREZ, 39, COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO: Teacher This year’s Bilingual Teacher of the Year was born to migrant farm workers and grew up weeding crops throughout the Northwest. Ramirez went on to win a college scholarship, only to be stricken with a brain tumor in her junior year. After a long recovery she earned a master’s degree. She now teaches Spanish to the staff in her school district, which is 47% Hispanic, as well as English to immigrants. “If you have a dream,” she says, “work toward it.”

20 YEARS AGO IN TIME

PATTY’S PASTIMES

Jailed newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst found ways to fill the idle hours as defense attorney F. Lee Bailey prepared to argue that she had been brainwashed into participating in an armed bank robbery by the Symbionese Liberation Army: “Patty is popular among fellow prisoners, some of whom have returned to visit her after serving their time. She has been crocheting colorful shawls for her mother and some inmates, and [defense attorney Al] Johnson suggested that she crochet him a ski mask–forgetting for a moment that the Carmichael, Calif., bank robbery for which she may face charges was the work of ski-masked bandits. Replied Patty, suddenly morose: ‘I don’t think they would like that.'” –Feb. 16, 1976

PARDON MY DUST

According to Esquire magazine, Courtney Love has been crisscrossing the country seeking a resting place for husband Kurt Cobain’s ashes. This summer she left two handfuls at a Buddhist monastery in Ithaca, New York, where monks performed consecration rituals on them. However, she seems to have forgotten to pick them up. The monks have delivered them to an undisclosed location. Says a monastery official: “We’re not a cemetery. We’re no Graceland.” Well, actually, neither is Graceland. Here is where other famous rockers have permanent residence.

Jerry Garcia: Ashes reportedly scattered in the Pacific Ocean Jimi Hendrix: Greenwood Cemetery, Renton, Washington Janis Joplin: Ashes on coastline of Marin County, California Jim Morrison: Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, steps away from romantic composer and pianist Frederic Chopin Hank Williams: Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama Bobby Darin: Body donated to UCLA medical research Buddy Holly: Lubbock City Cemetery, Lubbock, Texas Elvis Presley: Forest Hill Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee, in a mausoleum, alongside his mother

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