- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Get a life

Apparently some Americans get so wrapped up in soap operas that they become unable to distinguish fiction from reality.

The U.S. Census Bureau is happy now that America's No. 1-rated daytime soap opera "The Young & the Restless" has clarified that its portrayal of a census taker in a recent storyline was make-believe.

In other words, in the Jan. 28 and 31 episodes of the popular soap, the Census 2000 enumerator was actually an actor. And that actor shared the vital statistics of one character with another curious party.

In real life, that's a no-no.

So Kay Alden, the soap's head writer, has now issued a statement, given to Inside the Beltway by the Census Bureau, assuring all worried viewers young and restless alike that census takers showing up on their doorsteps are forbidden by law from sharing any information with anyone, including the FBI.

Ten most wanted

United Press International was honored during the FBI's recent 50th birthday celebrating for its participation and continued cooperation in publicizing the bureau's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, with veteran newswoman Helen Thomas accepting accolades.

Mrs. Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, was one of the first reporters to cover the fugitives list after Hearst's International News Service, which later merged with United Press to become United Press International, first asked the FBI in 1949 about the "toughest guys" being sought by agents.

The FBI gave INS a list of 10 names, and the story gained national attention. A year later, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, thought the listing could be used as a device to enlist the public's aid in finding the nation's most dangerous criminals. Since then, 429 wanted felons have been apprehended.

Mrs. Thomas covered the Justice Department at the time and has since moved to the White House. She was among the first 24 women admitted to the National Press Club in 1971, the first female member of the Gridiron Club (and later its president) and the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association. In 1998, she received a lifetime achievement award from the association.

Signed edition

Remember the "Go Home Hillary" banner we wrote about last week featured in Friday's New York St. Patrick's Day Parade?

The banner was supposed to be auctioned off with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross, except the Red Cross informed Hillary Rodham Clinton's opponents that it can't accept donations from political sources.

So the banner, we're told, is being stored in a "safe" house, until such time as a charity is found that can accept the proceeds. And if the banner might have fetched a fin or two before, it's no doubt worth even more now.

We've learned that Mrs. Clinton's opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, autographed the banner along the parade route.

Hunt no counselor

Speaking of political banners, we gave prominence yesterday to a well-placed source who says he overheard Wall Street Journal columnist and CNN "Capital Gang" pundit Al Hunt provide a heavy dose of political counseling to chief Clinton fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe.

According to our source, the two were huddled at a dinette table on a recent train to New York, discussing everything from Vice President Al Gore's strengths to George W. Bush's weaknesses.

"The conversation took place," Mr. Hunt told us yesterday, "and what was written was not factually different than what took place. But the context is wrong."

Rather, Mr. Hunt insists he and Mr. McAuliffe were merely discussing the results of the latest poll conducted by the Journal's polling partners Robert Teeter and Peter Hart.

"We were going through the poll what were the Democratic strengths, and what were the Republican strengths," Mr. Hunt says.

"I even gave [Mr. McAuliffe] a copy of the poll, and I gave it to a few Republicans, too."

Event planner

A well-placed source says President Clinton will wait and allow Vice President Al Gore the privilege when he assumes the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August of announcing the signing of a new White House executive order dealing with immigration, homosexuals and privileged asylum status.

Warming trend

Washington's treasured Cherry Blossom trees ringing the Tidal Basin have peaked so soon this year the second-earliest blossoms ever that tourists and residents alike are scrambling to catch the colorful show before wind and gravity take their toll.

We've stumbled upon a memo from Uncle Sam giving hundreds of his bureaucrats one hour's leave each compliments of American taxpayers to experience the flowering display while it lasts.

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