News In Brief

THAT PLAN WENT UP IN SMOKE

The scene: The Capitol in Jackson, Miss., last Wednesday. In the rotunda - 20 feet high and still handsomely trimmed - stood the legislature's official Christmas tree. And going around it, cleaning up smoke damage, was a workman as evacuated lawmakers, their staffs, and visitors waited outside. Yes, there had been a fire. The cloth skirt and some of the ornaments burned from contact with faulty wiring, which was more than a little ironic because the tree was artificial. Its choice, already unpopular in some quarters, came after years of putting up real trees without lights due to - right - the danger of fire.

WE'LL HAVE A BANG-UP TIME

Journalists still looking for something to do New Year's Eve have an invitation from Vladimir Yakovlev. The commander of Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal says he'll entertain news hounds in his command center just to prove that no Y2K computer glitches will trigger any ready-to-launch missiles and start World War III.

Babe Ruth is chosen top athlete of the 20th century

Babe Ruth, the baseball great of the 1920s and '30s, was named top athlete of the century in voting by a panel of 16 experts assembled by the Associated Press and announced over the weekend. Basketball's Michael Jordan came in second. Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the only woman in the top 10. Zaharias was a pioneering professional athlete who excelled in many sports about the time Ruth was dominating baseball. The list of top athletes of the century (with first-place votes, in parenthesis, and total points, based on 100 for a first-place vote, one for a 100th-place vote):

1. Babe Ruth (5) 1,551

2. Michael Jordan (4) 1,524

3. Jim Thorpe (3) 1,471

4. Muhammad Ali (2) 1,462

5. Wayne Gretzky 1,368

6. Jim Brown 1,333

7. Joe Louis (1) 1,327

8. Jesse Owens 1,307

9. Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1) 1,254

10. Wilt Chamberlain 1,235

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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