Michelle Cottle

Virtually Normal

What does it take to make Jerry Springer squirm? During his decade as the king of trash TV, Springer has endured assaults from religious leaders, politicians, community activists, and even members of his own industry. He has been charged with corrupting America's youth, dragging cultural standards to new lows, exploiting the poor and the stupid, promoting violence with on-air brawls, defrauding viewers by staging those brawls, and generally unraveling the moral fiber of this great nation.

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Black Power

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA It's 8:45 a.m., and the growing entourage in the lobby of the Hilton is drawing curious stares from passing guests. A half-dozen black men, dressed to the nines, have been hovering at the elevator bank for the past half an hour, laughing, chatting, and scanning the Sunday papers. Every so often a newcomer joins the huddle to be greeted with clasped hands and cries of welcome. Out in the parking lot, several dark luxury cars stand at the ready, clustered around a long, white Cadillac limousine.

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Comeback Kids

BOSTON The small, wooden table threatens to overflow with the reading materials my two lunch companions have brought along to edify me: books, magazine articles, political brochures, memos, resum? a grant proposal. The waitress stops by to inform us that beef lasagna is the special of the day, but it's clear food isn't of primary interest to our little trio, as the guys lean in to read me highlighted passages of text.

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Separate Ways

The once and future Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, we are told, is very, very sorry. Yes, he silenced the crowd at Strom Thurmond's one- hundredth birthday party by boasting, "I'll say this about my state, when Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it.

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New Money

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, redbaiting has pretty much fallen out of favor in American politics. Particularly these days, with wild- eyed Islamists holding the national imagination hostage, labeling someone a commie sympathizer just doesn't resonate like it used to.

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By late last summer Roy Olofson, then the vice president of finance for Global Crossing, was convinced something was rotten with the company's books. Hit hard by the deflating telecom bubble, Global Crossing, Olofson suspected, had begun using a range of accounting tricks to artificially inflate its revenue statements.

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Prayer Circle

Downtown Washington, D.C. For the past couple of years the nine a.m. Sung Eucharist has been the most popular of the three Sunday Masses at St. Paul's Episcopal on K Street, with around 130 of the church's 675 members in attendance on your average Sunday. The service has more candles, music, and ceremonial pomp--"smells and bells," as the Reverend Edwin Barnett calls it--than the 7:45 a.m. Low Mass. And for the many families with children, it is more convenient than the midday Mass.

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Down in the Valley

THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY The July sun is on its way down, but the Vista Room of the Sportsmen's Lodge hotel remains hot and stuffy. Though the Studio City Residents Association isn't scheduled to meet for another 20 minutes, the tight rows of folding chairs are already packed. And still the people come, sliding their sweaty bodies into the crowd, leaning against whatever small patch of wall they can capture. Hotel staff scramble to bring extra seats and to refill pitchers of ice water.

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FOR A YEAR AND A HALF now, my husband and I have lived in a tall, tomato-red house near the southern end of Washington's Embassy Row. Built in 1898, the house had the exact combination of personality and sturdiness we had been looking for. Just as important, it came with an array of age-related quirks that scared away all other potential buyers. This allowed us to avoid the bloody bidding wars so common in D.C.

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Heavy Duty

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND Kathy Cullinen, head of the Rhode Island Department of Health's Obesity Control Program, spends the first hour or so of our interview doing her best impression of a garden-variety bureaucrat. Soft-spokenand subdued, Cullinen speaks of her small-scale, mostly school-based fat-fighting efforts in a gray, tranquilizing blend of alphabet-soup acronyms (PI, RFP, BRFSS, ASTD) and mind-numbing terms like "needs-assessment" and "incentivize." But as she relaxes and starts talking more expansively about what government could do to get citizens in shape--if money and politics we

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