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"We are ready to defend our country to the very end" -- Yugoslav President Slobodan MilosevicEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

Hit Me Again, Mountain Mama

THE GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS, AND SOCIAL ELITE that frequent the fabled Greenbrier, a plush resort hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., may soon be keeping company with one-armed bandits. The 222-year-old resort, an idyllic mountain retreat once designated the hideout for Congress in case of nuclear attack, is now looking to add a casino, which it hopes will keep the A-list vacationers coming.

Governor Cecil Underwood is expected to sign a bill allowing casino gambling in early April. But the Greenbrier casino still needs the approval of Greenbrier County voters. The referendum date is yet to be set, and approval is far from sure. "I hate to look at the only five-star resort in the state of West Virginia and think that it becomes a draw for casino gambling," frets Charleston resident John Farmer, one of many around the state who are opposed to the casino initiative.

The hotel's president, Ted Kleisner, says that the Greenbrier must add the casino to stay competitive or risk ending up "just another grande dame." The gambling hall will be modeled after the Monte Carlo's lavish Hotel Hermitage, with the sort of luxurious furnishings that high rollers expect. No nickel slots, presumably, for the august old gal.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

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Virginia Is for Lovers--of PACs

GEORGE PATAKI, VIRGINIA GENTLEMAN? New York's Republican governor has raised eyebrows by registering his new political action committee, the 21st Century Freedom PAC, not in Albany but in Richmond.

The reason: Virginia's lenient campaign finance laws set no ceiling on business donations and require disclosure just twice this year, making it a magnet for pols with national ambitions. Among others who have taken advantage of the Old Dominion's rules are GOP Presidential wannabes Lamar Alexander, Steve Forbes, and Pat Buchanan.

New York Democrats are howling mad. State Chair Judith Hope labels Pataki "the poster boy for alleged campaign-finance abuse," charging he uses hidden corporate cash to travel and campaign for the GOP Vice-Presidential spot. Pataki spokeswoman Zenia Mucha dismisses that as Democratic "jealousy" of Pataki's fund-raising prowess. With his PAC in Virginia, Pataki has "greater flexibility to travel around the country and talk about what unites, instead of what divides, the Republican Party." She notes he has imposed a gift limit of $50,000. Even so, every $50,000 helps.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

Tora, Tora, Taurus

THE FORD TAURUS, ONCE VIEWED AS DETROIT'S BEST HOPE FOR AN ASIAN INVASION, is saying sayonara to Japan. Just as the carmaker is giving the 2000 Taurus a conservative face-lift that it hopes will rekindle U.S. sales, it is acknowledging that the Japanese version of the car is a bust.

Ford sold only 1,179 Tauruses in Japan last year, far from the 18,000 annual sales it projected in 1996 when, with great fanfare, it introduced the car there. The steering wheel was on the right. But otherwise, the car was ill-suited for Japan. At 16.5 feet long, it was too big for many Japanese parking spaces. Considered a gas guzzler, it got only 19 miles per gallon in the city--a problem when gas is $4 a gallon.

Ford, of course, would rather blame the Taurus' failure on Japan's economic meltdown. "Their economy is in rough shape," says Taurus Chief Engineer Dave Marinaro. Still, the company isn't giving up on Japan. It is now launching the European Ka there. Already, however, analysts are calling the Ka dead on arrival. The bug-eyed little car comes only with a stick shift, while some 90% of Japanese drive automatic transmissions. And then there's the problem of the Ka's name: In Japanese, Ka means mosquito. Selling a car named for a disease-carrying pest could be a problem.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

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