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Martha Stewart living dangerously

Another example: those who can mend a white picket fence and cook up a perfect soufflé aux champignons while spaying the cat but can't manage to pay their bills on time.

Fortunately for my colleagues in the news business, something about this weird wired world of ours inspires substandard behavior on the part of people who in the real world seem like perfectly good, upstanding citizens. A perfect example: the many readers of this column trying to play Deep Throat for the '90s by sending me the most unbelievable tales sordidly associating the prez, his interns, and the heads of major software firms. These are stories you wouldn't be caught dead repeating even at a Comdex cocktail party, and you all should be ashamed. Go wash out your keyboards with soap, people.

Another example: those who can mend a white picket fence and cook up a perfect soufflé aux champignons while spaying the cat but can't manage to pay their bills on time. This is the substance of a lawsuit served against the hostess of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The litigants, US Interactive, are accusing the baker of cakes that never fall and the keeper of dogs that clean up after themselves with breach of contract, to the tune of $100,000. Seems that US Interactive helped Martha build her tasteful online home, but the domestic taskmistress made so many changes and revisions that costs went through the Spanish-tiled roof.

More bad behavior at America Online, but as usual, it's hard to tell if the company or the rumormongers are at fault. AOL flat-out denies that it's abandoning flat-rate pricing, but that has done nothing to stem the deluge of rumor, intrigue, petitions, and conspiracy theories suggesting that the service is planning to charge per minute, double its rates, and no doubt encourage Hillary Clinton to lie on Good Morning America. Back off, folks, there's nothing to worry about for now--as long as you're not gay military personnel...

Nor should you worry if you're a Logitech senior executive, most of whom were nailed with hepatitis A after a pre-Comdex gathering for the mousemaker's international bigwigs. The gestation period for the virus, according to a company spokeswoman, has passed, and the recovery that saw many employees driving the porcelain sleigh over Christmas should be over.

Seeing how Oprah is still on trial for disparaging hamburger, I'll cast not the first aspersion on the Logitech cafeteria food. But the virus is indeed transmitted via comestibles, which casts the company's slogan for its gaming joystick in a rather, ahem, jaundiced light: "Giving you the edge to wreak havoc and turn would-be foes into yesterday's breakfast."

Earlier in the week, I mused that Excite might have spent some holiday QT with the alleged White House floozy--so prescient did its latest ad campaign seem with its reminders to the president to pick up some lingerie for "that special someone." Excite may have hoped the campaign would have legs, but the White House would prefer to cut it off at the knees, according to our learned colleague uptown. The search firm found out that Bill's staff is perfectly capable of writing a cease-and-desist letter, however deficient they have proved to be in warding off bimbo eruptions.

Speaking of breaking out, I was sad to hear that dear publisher CNET: The Computer Network is not--I repeat, pas du tout--shipping its

C'NET
C'NET Paris: Dishing it clean and confidential
operations overseas to gai Paris. Nor is our always crisply starched and folded CEO, Halsey Minor, thinking about buying "laundry.com" from Tide, despite what the accompanying picture might suggest. For those of you unfamiliar with my whimsical and flexible mother tongue, "C'NET," when spoken aloud, translates to "it's clean," which is more than we can say of the news coming out of Washington these days, or the cafeteria food over at Logitech, for that matter. Got a good rumor? Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and send it my way.