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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Et Cetera

Sincerely Yours

A love letter once written by a 22-year-old Oxford University student has fetched $9,900 at auction, the second-highest price ever paid for a letter by a living person.

The student in question was a young Bill Clinton, and the love-note was written in 1968 while he was matriculating in England. In the letter, he writes to a certain Kathy McClahan back home, thanking her for sending him a picture of herself. "It's beautiful and you know it, so there's no need for you to accuse me of throwing you a line," wrote the old smoothie, throwing her a line.

Auctioneers said the letter's sale price was eclipsed only by the $12,500 paid in 1981 for a missive penned by then-president Ronald Reagan -- which, officials sternly insisted, was not a love letter to Camilla Bowles.

Jack in the Box

Jaunty Jack Nicholson, screen icon and legendary lothario, has spent part of the long hot summer locked in a legal embrace with an ex-lover.

Nicholson has been sued for breach of promise by Susan Anspach, a former actress who starred with him -- on-screen and off -- in one of his early anti-Establishment hits, "Five Easy Pieces," but soon found herself booted from his A-list and trundling down the long road to camera obscurity.

Jack left Anspach two legacies of his love, however: a son, Caleb, now 25, and a house. Although Nicholson has never publicly acknowledged the son (although he has done so privately and has paid for his education), he does want the house, for which he gave Anspach a loan in 1979. She says he promised she could keep the place, but now he's asked for the money back and is trying to foreclose. As is the usual case with modern love, a judge will have the final say on untangling the Cupidian skeins.

Some observers say the case has more to do with psychodrama than money. Nicholson is worth a reported $250 million while Anspach is unemployed and the two maintained good relations until Nicholson, in a recent magazine interview, refused to acknowledge Caleb as his son. Anspach wrote in, making the paternal situation public, which angered the Oscar laureate and perhaps led to the foreclosure and the countersuit.

One final twist to the sordid plot: Nicholson was never acknowledged by his own mother, a young, unwed woman when he was born. He grew up believing she was his older sister and only learned the truth after her death.

Nation of Nuts

T.S. Eliot. McDonald's. Hootie and the Blowfish. Britons have long felt themselves besieged and inundated by American imports, but now John Major's tough-nut Tory government has decided to draw the line at last -- at squirrels.

The government's Joint Nature Conservation Committee will soon begin shooting and poisoning those big, hulking American gray squirrel beasts in order to make room for the smaller, more fey, little red ones who once ruled Britannia's woods and were immortalized by Beatrix Potter's "Squirrel Nutkin."

The larger, more aggressive grays were brought over from America 100 years ago by rich squires looking for a bit of variety on their estates. The grays gobbled the reds' favorite food, hazelnuts, drove them out of most of England, and now outnumber them 2 million to 160,000. To rectify this appalling imbalance, the state will be using sharpshooters and specially placed poison food trays to slaughter the fat Yank moochers.

"Your children and your children's children will be able to watch native British red squirrels in the woods," committee chairman Lord Selborne promised a grateful nation.

Reel Leadership

Movies. Bob Dole likes 'em. Eats popcorn. Blood O.K. if the right people get killed. Bring your kids. Family values. Bombs, yes. Breasts, no.

The Republican presidential candidate with the clipped syntax took his campaign to Hollywood this week, taking in the flick "Independence Day" before speaking to studio executives. In 1995, Dole lambasted the liberal media for creating "nightmares of depravity drenched in violence and sex," singling out "Natural Born Killers" and several other movies he later said he'd never seen. This time, however, strapped for campaign cash, he came to praise, not bury the celluloid Caesars.

Despite the fact that "Independence Day" depicts an attack by aliens which leaves millions dead, the world's major cities destroyed, the White House atomized and the first lady killed, the normally dour Dole gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up: "I like it. We won, the end. Leadership. America. Good over evil."

While also praising Mel Gibson's slaughterfest "Braveheart" and "Forrest Gump," Dole told executives that such popular movies prove that "respectability" can be boffo box office: "You can watch your ratings rise and your receipts go up and still look at yourself in the mirror." He pointed with glee to the financial collapse of Demi Moore's busty vehicle, "Striptease," as proof that Americans don't want smut.

Social Insecurity

In a display of he-man brio unseen in Washington since the days when George Bush oozed Oval Office man-musk, an employee of the Social Security Administration has been roused to a public snit -- over a joke told by his female boss.

John Boyer, longtime civil servant and leader of GMEN, or Government Men for Equality Now, believes that the testosteronic of the species are being systematically victimized by vicious bureaucratic females. In proof, he points to the joke told by senior Social Security official Ruth Pierce at a recent conference. Pierce told the old one about the fisherman who asks a magic mermaid to grant his wish to make him five times smarter -- so she turns him into a woman. Aghast, Boyer stalked out of the hall and launched a protest campaign that has resulted in rather cringing public apologies from the flabbergasted Pierce. But this is not enough; Boyer wants her demoted.

Boyer's claims of rampant sexism in his agency are somewhat undercut by the fact that although women make up 72 percent of Social Security's largely clerical, low-paid workforce, those silly-billy men account for fully 69 percent of all upper-echelon positions.

-- Compiled by