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CNN Grill Accused of Stiffing Waiters

CNN Grill Accused of Stiffing Waiters


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At both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this year, CNN sponsored a popup restaurant called CNN Grill, where the guests were famous, the TVs were enormous, and all the food and booze was free. But now, nearly two months after the RNC in Tampa, Fla., servers at the CNN Grill there say the network has stiffed them on promised tips.

The restaurant, which Gawker described as “basically an upscale TGI Friday's with tons of huge televisions and Wolf Blitzer, in person, in the back of the room,” was part restaurant and part TV studio. The food was free, but only invited guests could get in.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, waitress Samantha Fenwick and other staffers were recruited by New York-based Amerivents, which told them in an email that they would be tipped at the end of the event. After weeks of trying to track down the elusive tips, Fenwick finally heard that she should expect $329 for the 60 hours she worked. She and her coworkers were not pleased by the numbers.

"That's just insulting," she told Gawker. "I worked back-to-back 16 hour shifts for three days at a packed event. Even if you assume I was getting 15% tips from customers, I would have made way more than $329 in tips that time."

The post-event tips were in addition to a $10 hourly wage, overtime, and on-site tips that were pooled and redistributed at the event. But those tips were small, according to Gawker, because the food and drinks were free. Fenwick said servers were told to discourage tips and tell customers, “CNN will take care of us.”

CNN told the Tampa Bay Times that Civic Entertainment Group, the company that ran the events, said everything was fine.

"CEG has assured us they honored every financial commitment made and that there was always a plan for an additional bonus, which has already been sent and should be received by the Grill staff shortly," CNN said in a statement. "We appreciated their hard work."


CNN Grill Accused of Stiffing Waiters - Recipes

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CNN Grill Accused of Stiffing Waiters - Recipes

Deficit Cutting Panel Deadlocked Gadhafi Son Captured Reno Fire Contained Herbs, Spices Can Boost Health Deficit Cutting Panel Deadlocked Republican Presidential Debates on Tuesday in Iowa Isaiah Washington Unravels the Reason of Leaving Greys' Anatomy

Aired November 19, 2011 - 16:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators in Los Angeles are taking another look at the death of actress Natalie Wood. She reportedly fell off a yacht back in 1981. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning. But new allegations from the captain of that yacht are raising the questions. Wood's sister is waiting for answers.

LANA WOOD, NATALIE WOOD'S SISTER: It's confusing. It's upsetting. Last night when I heard the breaking news, I said "You know, I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm scared, I'm nervous, I'm elated, I'm feeling very ambivalent." And it's just - it's very, very difficult for me. This is a pain that I've lived with for the past 30 years. And now I'm going to have to look at it more closely again as it unfolds, as I will.

WHITFIELD: According to the Hollywood reporter actor Christopher Walken has hired a lawyer. He was on the yacht when Wood went overboard. However, Walken is not considered a suspect. His lawyer says Walken plans to cooperate fully with the investigation.

And a wildfire near Reno, Nevada, is now 65 percent contained. Officials say they're going to let evacuated residents back into the neighborhoods today. Fifteen homes were destroyed. At least 40 damaged. Investigators say they believe the fire was caused by electrical sparks.

And 1,000 Detroit City workers faced layoffs this holiday season. Mayor David Bing says they are necessary to make up the city's $45 million budget shortfall. The layoffs could save the city about $14 million. But the mayor says he'll try to protect core services like police and fire.

On Capitol Hill, the deficit cutting super committee has just four days to come up with a plan to trim more than $1 trillion from the deficit. If there is no deal, there could be cuts in defense spending and other federal programs. But they would not kick in until 2013.

Oklahoma State University football players held a moment of silence last night for two women's basketball coaches. Head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Surna were killed when their plane crashed on the way to a recruiting trip in Arkansas Thursday. A memorial service will be held on Monday.

There was a tragic accident today before the annual Harvard-Yale football game. Police in New Haven, Connecticut, say a driver pulling into the parking lot lost control of his van. One woman was killed. A second woman seriously injured and a third woman was treated for minor injuries.

The Penn State community reacts to the news that Joe Paterno is battling lung cancer. They're dropping by the legendary coach's home leaving gifts and food. Yesterday his son spoke out on ESPN on how the family is dealing with being under the microscope.

JAY PATERNO, PENN STATE ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH: Pretty surreal. It's almost like living the book of Job. I mean I'm not a (INAUDIBLE) imagination. Job went from having everything to having nothing. It's not quite like that. But I think to keep things in perspective, one thing Joe said to me throughout all this is we have to make sure that we keep focus on the victims of this whole tragedy.

WHITFIELD: As for the scandal that put Paterno and Penn State in the media glare, the NCAA is pushing Penn State to take a closer look at its policies in light of the child abuse allegations against former coach Jerry Sandusky.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in state college, Pennsylvania. So what more do you know about this NCAA inquiry?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, of course we all found out about it on Friday, yesterday. And what we do know is that the NCAA has ordered Penn State to answer a series of very involved questions. And they must respond by the middle of December. And then they'll see what happens next. But many of these questions involve Penn State explaining to the NCAA various aspects of their policies and oversight.

Did they know exactly how their football program was being run? Were the right people answering the right questions? Did the - was the board of trustees as involved as they could have been? Were the students aware of what was going on when there were allegations of sexual abuse? Was the campus kept informed about all of this?

And, again, once they answer those very involved questions to the satisfaction of the NCAA, there could be even more questions to answer. And as you know, Fred, That's just one of many investigations going on here. You also have the ongoing grand jury investigation into those sex abuse charges involving Jerry Sandusky and what other people here at the campus did or didn't know.

As you know, people have lost their jobs over this. You also have the U.S. Department of Education taking a look at Penn State and their federal financial aid may be at stake. The FBI has even said that it is standing by to assist federal prosecutors and state prosecutors, rather, in their investigation, if they're asked to do so.

WHITFIELD: And then there's the future of the Second Mile, the charity group that Jerry Sandusky was working with. What is its future?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that's the question. We found out on Friday night from Second Mile, which helped so many underprivileged children - and of course, as we also know Second Mile is where the grand jury stated that Jerry Sandusky allegedly found many of his alleged victims. We know that that program is now in trouble obviously because of this horrific scandal. And donors are falling off left and right.

And so the charity is trying to decide what to do next. They're looking at the books. They're looking to see whether they have enough supporters to keep them in business. And if not, they have to find, perhaps, other programs to take on their work and help all the needy children that it has had access to and assisted over many years.

WHITFIELD: Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.

On to Libya now, the question is, who will put Moammar Gadhafi's son on trial? Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the second son of the late Libyan leader was tracked down and arrested today in southern Libya. The international criminal court wants to try him for murder for crimes against humanity. But Libya's new leaders have their own plans. More now from CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well the capture of Saif Gadhafi is obviously a huge success for the Libyan authorities. He's indicted at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity, centering on his unflinching support for his father's brutal crackdown on Libyan rebels and the uprising that began in Libya in February. He's accused of complicity in murder, for instance, and other crimes.

Saif Gadhafi who is Colonel Gadhafi's second oldest son is also seen as a key figure who may be able to direct investigators to the billions of dollars estimated to have been stashed around the world by the Gadhafi regime. Obviously officials of the new Libya would very much like to get their hands on that cash.

The big question, though, is where will he be put on trial? There is that indictment at the Hague that we discussed. But Libyan officials are making it clear that they want to try him in their country where he will potentially face the death penalty. The international concern is that Saif al-Islam does not meet the same grisly fate as his father whose arrest and killing last month was widely criticized. He seems to have avoided that at the moment. But prosecutors from the Hague are now set to travel to Libya urgently to help decide Saif Gadhafi's future.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Still looking overseas where it is election weekend in Spain. Not hard to guess what voters are thinking about in a country suffering through more than 21 percent unemployment. Details next.

But first, it's been more than four years since actor Isaiah Washington was fired from "Grey's Anatomy" for making an offensive remark. You may be surprised to hear what he has to say about the controversy now. My face-to-face interview with him coming up.

WHITFIELD: The number of dead and wounded in Syria rose again today.

Human rights officials say 24 people were killed in the government's continuing crackdown on protesters. Today is also the deadline set by the Arab league for Syria to end its crackdown on demonstrators.

Police in Egypt today forcefully cleared Cairo's Tahrir square one day after a massive demonstration there. When darkness fell, witnesses say police fired tear gas and warning shots. More than 160 people were hurt and a police van burned.

This is election weekend in Spain. Voters are picking a prime minister and there are only three real issues driving the candidates - jobs, jobs and jobs. CNN's Al Goodman reports from the country with the highest unemployment rate in the entire euro zone.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Juan Jose Carasa has lots of time to take care of his chickens. He's been unemployed for two years. One of nearly five million jobless in Spain. Three fresh eggs help stretch a tight budget for his family. And he says there's another problem - his heart condition, which cost him his last job as a waiter.

JUAN JOSE CARASA, UNEMPLOYED WAITER (through translator): Even if you look for a job, it is very hard to find one because so many people are out of work. The truth is you don't know where to turn.

GOODMAN: He's had to move back to his childhood home. But his wife is also unemployed. In nearly 1.5 million Spanish households, all working age adults are jobless.

(on camera): In Spain's deep economic crisis, keeping a roof over your head is a huge challenge for the jobless. Carasa's family has already fallen behind on the mortgage payments for this home.

(voice-over): It's near the medieval city of Toledo, an hour south of Madrid, where the line forms every weekday morning at the unemployment office. These are the early risers. Carasa comes later to request jobless benefits on top of $570 in monthly disability for his heart condition. Outside, we met Nerea Romero just 18. She's been looking for work as a nail manicurist for two years. Forty five of Spanish youth are jobless. The economic crisis has pushed the opposition conservative party far ahead of the incumbent socialist in the polls leading up to Sunday's election for prime minister. Nerea says she'll vote conservative.

NEREA ROMERO, UNEMPLOYED MANICURIST (through translator): This crisis will take years to fix. But I think the conservatives can solve some of it. That's what will help.

GOODMAN: Across town, this union leader says Spain needs a new economic model. Not so reliant on construction, which during the boom years, enticed young people to drop out of school for good jobs before going bust when credit got expensive.

PEDRO DE LA CRUZ, UGT UNION (Through translator): Young people who worked in construction without finishing school, are now unemployed without an education, making it more difficult to get back in.

GOODMAN: Carasa finally comes out with bad news. He's told he won't get jobless benefits because he's collecting disability.

CARASA (through translator): They tell me no. It's too much. I didn't expect this.

GOODMAN: He says he can't give up. He's got three kids to support and he's just 23 years old.

Al Goodman, CNN, Toledo, Spain.

WHITFIELD: You know the phrase, the spice of life. Well, find out which herbs and spices do the body good, next.

But first, tomorrow Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a new show on CNN. On "The Next List," Dr. Gupta profiles exceptional individuals. This week, he talks to a cab driver turned award-winning entrepreneur and founder of C.B. I Hate Perfume.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can remember scent very, very accurately. Which I'm told from even like really excellent researchers at the Monel (ph) Center in Philadelphia that people can't do this. I can't imagine how they can't. But I'm told they can't. I catalog smells in my head. I remember them. I can pull them and start arranging them in my head without even doing anything physically.

WHITFIELD: Tune in Sundays to watch "The Next List" or set your DVR for 2:00 Eastern time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Isaiah Washington, the actor, was fired for making an offensive remark on the set of "Grey's Anatomy," that hit television show. It hasn't been easy for him to move on.

WHITFIELD: Do you ever watch the show?

ISAIAH WASHINGTON, ACTOR: I peek in. I'm not going to lie to you because I love Sandra Oh.

WHITFIELD: What happens when you -

WASHINGTON: I love Sandra. I see her with that Owen guy and I'm like, oh, man.

WHITFIELD: That was your counterpart, your love interest on the show.

WASHINGTON: But I'll be lying to you - I just adore, missing Sandra Oh.

WHITFIELD: Do you ever tune in and say, "I wish I was still there?"

WHITFIELD: My face-to-face interview with actor Isaiah Washington straight ahead.

First, a pinch or two of herbs and spices not only boosts the flavor in your food, it can actually boost your overall health. That's the subject of our weekly look at how to get and stay healthy. Dr. Bill Lloyd, our healthy living expert joining us right now from New York.

All right. Dr. Bill, we're talking about three spices, oregano, cinnamon and ginger. In what ways can these things help not just our taste buds but our overall health?

DR. BILL LLOYD, HEALTHY LIVING EXPERT: Well, this time of year, Fredricka, with the holidays, we're going to be doing lots of cooking around the house. That includes lots of spices. So this is a great time to refresh your stock of spices. And like you said, let's talk about these three important ones. A favorite of everyone is oregano. You can add it to your soup every day. It takes less than a teaspoon. Three fourths of a teaspoon. We know that oregano is very good as a powerful antioxidant and it also has anti-microbial activity.

You hear about the (INAUDIBLE) called Helicobacter that causes reflux or GERD and stomach ulcers. We know the oregano can eradicate that. Next comes cinnamon, another holiday favorite. This takes only about a quarter of a teaspoon. We know that it's very powerful in helping diabetics control their blood sugar levels. We also know it's a powerful antioxidant and it works to stop blood clots from forming. So there's a lot of power behind cinnamon.

And our last one is ginger, another great holiday spice, you can get it fresh or get it dried. And we know it's anti-inflammatory. That's great for people with arthritis. And it's also good as an anti- nausea remedy. It's great for people who get car sick or air sick over the holidays when they're traveling. It works four times better, four times stronger than the most popular over-the-counter remedy for car sickness.

WHITFIELD: So you gave us the quantities there but how about in the case of ginger, like you can get supplements. Would you have the same kind of potency in a supplement or some kind of substitute form of any one of these herbs or spices?

LLOYD: Well, it's funny you mentioned ginger because that does come in, if you will, pharmacy grade. You can go to the health food store or the nutritional supplement counter and get 500 milligrams of ginger in capsule form. It's the dried form of the original ginger root. Now if you have the first ginger (INAUDIBLE) it takes about 1/4 of a root. You get the same power. You can add it to a smoothie with some carrots if you like or you can grind it up and put it in your favorite cupcake recipe. 500 milligrams will keep you from getting air sick.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So next thing you know a lot of people are going to be carrying around little portions of any on of these spices not just to flavor your food but to make sure you get some nutrients or some real health benefits here.

LLOYD: Always make sure they're fresh, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Love that. Dr. Bill Lloyd, thanks so much. Appreciate that. And happy thanksgiving.

WHITFIELD: We'll get a lot of cinnamon and ginger in our Thanksgiving foods. Now we just have to add a little bit more oregano, too. Thanks so much.

And of course, you can get plenty of food information especially for Thanksgiving by going to eatocracy.CNN.com. Also up next, break dancing like you have never seen before. Stay with us.

WHITFIELD: Time for some wacky video, or at least video that just might - you know, it's gone viral. Something that might make you move a little differently these days, right, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I wish you guys could see Fred over the break because every time before a viral video, she's the one that's dancing. But I digress.

WHITFIELD: That's right. Let's talk about this person who really is dancing. I mean he's taking it to a whole another level.

JERAS: This is B. Boy Steph.

WHITFIELD: Gosh. JERAS: Amazing.

WHITFIELD: You know, this has been on YouTube before.

WHITFIELD: But the slo-mo makes this so unique.

JERAS: It's like gymnastics.

You know what it's funny you say that I was a gymnast.

WHITFIELD: Yes, yes, so you know.

JERAS: It goes through my head. OK.

WHITFIELD: I won't be spinning on my head like that though.

WHITFIELD: In the air, sure.

JERAS: It's the same thing, right? Look at the way his body moves and how strong they have to be in order to do this.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that was like being on the horse earlier. You know, some moves. How many? 60,000 hits?

JERAS: 60,000 views on YouTube.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. You have to slow it down. That's when you really can appreciate it.

JERAS: You really got to respect what they can do.

WHITFIELD: Wow I do love that. Well, you know, Jacqui, when you're on the road, I'm on the road, you have favorite places maybe -

WHITFIELD: When you visit a certain city, favorite places, restaurants, hotels, favorite, et cetera, you go to.

WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) a lot of our CNN anchors and reporters have and so we got a really interesting way to kind of allow you to appreciate some of the world's best restaurants, hotels, getaways. Take a look.

NESTA DISTIN, CNN ASSOCIATE PRODUCER (on camera): I'm Nesta Distin. I'm in Duluth, Georgia, at one of my favorite places to relax. (voice-over): The Jeju Sauna is modeled after traditional Korean spots that are popular in Korea. They are affordable and a common getaway for families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very relaxing here.

DISTIN: A family on tour from Philadelphia decided to come here and take a break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My favorite part? Swimming in the pool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pool feels like silk when you're swimming in it.

DISTIN: The swimming pool and floors are made of jade tiles. In Korean culture, jade is used to bring calm and balance to the body. Like spas in Korea, Jeju has multiple hot and cold saunas. There are seven. Each has walls lined with natural elements like gold, charcoal and salt with temperatures ranging from 120 to 140 degrees. The ice room is much cooler. Owners say it's the largest of its kind in Georgia.

The Jeju Spa, just outside of Atlanta, I love coming here to relax.

WHITFIELD: All right. I'm feeling relaxed already. But they shouldn't be relaxing on Capitol Hill because they got a lot of work to do. Congress is still trying to decide on that deficit cutting strategy. But could they use some clever tricks to get the job done without making real cuts? Details on that straight ahead.

WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now.

Libyans are cheering the arrest and capture of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. He's the son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, tracked down and taken into custody today in the desert. Libya's new leaders say they will try him there.

Back in the U.S., a wildfire near Reno, Nevada, is near 65 percent contained. Officials say they're going to let evacuated residents back into their neighborhoods today. Fifteen homes were destroyed and at least 40 damaged. Investigators say they believe the fire was caused by electrical sparks.

And Florida police arrested this self-proclaimed doctor. A man who dresses as a woman. He is accused of injecting a woman's buttocks with a dangerous mixture that included cement, mineral oil and super glue. The woman thought she was getting a plastic surgery-type of enhancement. She nearly died.

The clock is ticking as a congressional super committee faces a looming deadline. They have until Wednesday to trim more than $1 trillion from the federal deficit. But could they use gimmicks to reach those goals without making cuts? Listen to what our Joe Johns discovered.

JOHNS (voice-over): Just days from a joint committee deadline to get a deal on large-scale deficit reduction, you might think the capitol is full of hope they're actually going to do something.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): I remain hopeful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remain hopeful that we can meet our goal. And I urge my democratic colleagues to join us in this effort.

JOHNS: Hope may spring eternal but as it stands now, a lot of people don't expect the super committee to get too far on reducing the deficit $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years like they're supposed to. One of the questions now is whether instead of real savings, they're going to come up with some gimmick, that, well - listen to Steve Ellis, of a nonpartisan watchdog group.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: It's totally outrageous. It's fictitious and actually it's damaging. I mean the scariest thing is that we could actually come out of the super committee in a - if they don't do this right, we could come out of this super committee in a worst deficit situation than we were that got us into the super committee in the first place.

JOHNS: Guys who know all the budget tricks say gimmick number one would be for the committee to claim it's cutting spending that never really was going to be spent anyway.

STAN COLLENDER, FEDERAL BUDGET ANALYST: The best example of that is, we know activities in Afghanistan are already winding down and that the government's not likely to spend as much over the next ten years as they have over the previous ten years.

JOHNS: Stan Collender has worked for both, the house and senate budget committees.

COLLENDER: So, if they just say, all right, we're going to cut all the spending for Afghanistan over the next decade then according to the congressional budget office that would make it look like we're cutting almost a trillion dollar when actually we are cutting nothing.

JOHNS: Another gimmick the watchdogs are looking for is kicking the can down the road, telling other congressional committees to work out the details later.

ELLIS: So, you committees go out there, come back with x amount of savings, a couple of hundred billion dollars worth of savings on the tax code or 400 billion or whatever it is, and we're going to require that be voted on, on a date certain.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, HOLT: Our Joe Johns is keeping tabs on the committee's progress or lack thereof from Capitol Hill. What's happening? Anything new, Joe?

JOHNS: Heard from Senator John Kyle just a little while, he is one of the senators on the super committee. He says, yes, there was some conversation among members of the committee. We know the Republicans actually had a telephone conference, if you will. But nobody's saying there's any more progress.

And he also pointed out that while they're willing to work until the last possible moment, there's also a provision in effect whereby if they don't get a deal, there will be some budget cut that is kick in anyway, about $1.2 trillion. Of course, Fred, as you know, that would happen in 2013, which would give the Congress plenty of time to go back, change its mind and do something else. So, double-edged sword there.

WHITFIELD: Alright, Joe Johns. Thanks so much on Capitol Hill.

And Wolf Blitzer will be joining me straight ahead for a preview of Tuesday night's Republican debate right here on CNN.

WHITFIELD: Sir GOP contenders are courting social conservatives in Iowa at a dinner forum tonight. It's one of the last chances for Republican hopefuls to make a lasting impression ahead of Iowa's caucus January 3rd. Two notable absences, former Massachusetts governor mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Contenders at the forum are expected to discuss the role of faith in public office and hot button issues like marriage and abortion.

And then, Tuesday night, Republican candidates for president will debate national security and the economy. Our Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview joining us from Washington for the big debate scheduled for Tuesday.

So, Wolf, all candidates have they all given a green light that they're going to be there?

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: There will be eight candidates. All the major eight candidates will be up on the stage and it will be, as you well know, Fred, a historic setting, constitution hall here in Washington. There will be at least 2,000, maybe 3,000 people in the audience. So, it's going to be a huge event.

We're going to start at 8:00. National security, foreign policy. But as everyone knows and as Admiral Mullen has said, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said, the economy is a national security issue right now as well because if there's an economic collapse, that obviously impacts our national security and our foreign policy if the Europeans -- if their economic situation deteriorates, the euro zone collapses or anything along those lines. That has major international, global ramifications, national security ramifications. So, we'll be getting into that. And it's Tuesday night, the day before the November 23rd deadline for that so-called super committee to work out their differences on how to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts in the deficit. So there will be a lot to discuss, I have no doubt about that. And we're co-sponsoring this debate with the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington, the Heritage Foundation and some of the experts from both of those organizations will be participating in the questioning.

WHITFIELD: And, Wolf, all of these candidates need to do well because we're all learning and they are as well that their debate performance is what's helping them in the polls or hurting them in the polls. But is there a particular candidate that really needs to nail this debate, otherwise, their demise just might be short-lived?

BLITZER: Well, I think there's no doubt in making a good point that Newt Gingrich has really been helped in all of these debates because he's come across sort of as the elder statesman, if you will. And if his numbers on the polls, the national polls and the state polls, are moving up, I think one of the reasons is because of the job that he's done in the debates.

Another reason, of course, is because of the flubs, the mistakes some of the other candidates have made, whether in debates or elsewhere, we're talking about Rick Perry and Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, if you will. I think those three really have to do well in this debate.

Michele Bachmann has to do well. Rick Perry had to do well. Herman Cain, no obvious blunders, no long pauses, no will lapses, no mind freeze, brain freezes or anything along those lines. They have to show they're competent.

If you want to be president of the United States, you're going to be the commander in chief. You have to know these national security issues. It's not a learning experience. You can't just say, well, I'll learn the first few months or the first few years in the White House. There could be a crisis on day one after you're sworn in as president of the United States. The American people want to make sure that you're up to speed and you know what you're doing. So it's going to test all of these eight candidates and they're going to be grilled not just by me but some of these experts from the Heritage Foundation as well.

WHITFIELD: Now, Constitution hall, the place in which this debate will be taking place, much more of a traditional theater type of setting. We've seen it in previous debates, including one of CNN's previous debates in Florida that there might be audience participation or even participation from listeners, viewers by way of social media. Will that be welcomed here in this format?

BLITZER: Yes, it will be. We'll take questions from the audience. We'll also take questions on social media. In fact I just, a couple of hours ago, I sent out a tweet, @WolfblitzerCNN and invited my followers and others. If you have a suggested question, if you want to participate in the CNN debate, you can do so. It's not too late. Right after we're done Fred, I'm going back to the conference room here at CNN in Washington where we have a whole committee. We're going through questions, going through various options, looking at the various issues out there. I'm getting smarter and smarter by the minute on where these candidates stand on the issues.

But send me a tweet, @WolfblitzerCNN, with the suggested question. And maybe we'll get it into this debate. We really want our viewers out there and followers on twitter and facebook and everywhere else to get involved and to participate. This is going to be your chance.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely, that will happen. That's Tuesday, debate night, 8:00 eastern time.

Meantime, the tweet universe really did kind a blow up this past week. Blow up in large part because of your participation at the soul train music awards. We know you're getting down to business all the time. But then, Wolf Blitzer, every now and then, you know, you give a go and try to have a good time. Thanks for allowing me to be one of your three escorts along with Brooke Baldwin and Suzanne Malveaux. And then we met a lot of interesting people that night. Didn't we?

BLITZER: All three of you, you looked fabulous. We had a great time. The music was earth, wind and fire. I mean it doesn't go any better than the soul train awards, you know. It's going to air that Sunday after thanksgiving. And I think all of our viewers are going to watch it.

We all grew up at least I did, watching "soul train." So, it was a fun, fun night. We had a great time with you fellows. That was a Malcolm Jamaal Warner in that picture with us.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's right.

BLITZER: Who - let me ask you, Fred, who were you most excited seeing during those three or four hours we were at the FOX theater in Atlanta?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Let's see. You know, I really was glad to see Natalie Cole and Gladys Knight there. And I love, particularly loved during the tribute to Gladys Knight, I loved seeing the video of her, you know, singing when she was in her 20s and just growing up with the sounds of Gladys Knight during that tribute. That was great. And I'm telling you, a great special moment was seeing that Bootsy Collins. I mean everybody loves a low punkydellic (ph). So, that was fun a little bit today.

BLITZER: And we're not going to tell our viewers about Doug E. Fresh and me. But we had a good time up on the stage.

WHITFIELD: That's right. We just see you a picture there but I don't think it tells the whole story. But you are there again with Doug E. Fresh. And so, people are going to have to watch on Sunday, the day after thanksgiving to see what unravel there on the stage. And who participates in that scramble wall.

Wolf Blitzer. So fun and thanks for having me along you. Appreciated it last night.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming along.

WHITFIELD: And of course, we will be watching Tuesday night, big debate night, right here on CNN hosted by our very own Wolf Blitzer.

Alright, an offensive comment gets actor Isaiah Washington kicked off the popular television show "Grey's Anatomy." remember that? Does he have any regrets? His answer when he sits down with me face to face next.

WHITFIELD: Four years after actor Isaiah Washington departed from the hit show "Grey's Anatomy," he has been far from sedentary. He says he's produced two movies, a documentary and he's written a book. And in that book, titled "a man from another land," Washington talks about that offensive remark back in 2007 that got him fired from "Grey's." He opens up face to face with me about regret and renewal.

ISAIAH WASHINGTON, ACTOR: I'm very good at what I do.

WHITFIELD: Do you mind kind of taking me back to that moment of when things started to unravel between you and "Grey's Anatomy"?

WASHINGTON: I talk about it in the book. It's really -- it's difficult for me to continue to comment on it. I spoke candidly about it with Larry king on CNN.

WASHINGTON: I don't think what Patrick's doing. Get him here, let's shoot the scene. So, he finally comes in ready to go which is always Patrick. He is always a ready to go enough. And I said, it was odd because everyone's been waiting, you're late. And I mentioned it to him. And I said, well, if you were here 20 minutes ago, you would have been able to shoot the scene and been on your way by now. And he says, I'm not late, I'm never late. And I was like, wait a minute, we've been standing here waiting on you for 20 minutes. So, he's slow or whatever. He blows me off.

WHITFIELD: You used the "f" word. But instead of using the "f" word --

WASHINGTON: I used a lot of words.

WHITFIELD: Right. Instead of using the "f" word in particular about someone's sexual orientation, in your way, it was being used as a sign of weakness --

WHITFIELD: Is how you interpreted the use of that word?

WASHINGTON: For me, the other guy who got on the show and I'll say it again and then qualified him -- he wasn't even on the set, wasn't even around.

WHITFIELD: So, it was never about you calling T.R. Knight, the "f" word.

WHITFIELD: In reference to his sexual orientation.

WASHINGTON: No. It's about the people who had agendas. It's about the people who are insecure. It's about people listening with filtered ears. It's about people who wanted to hear what they wanted to hear.

WHITFIELD: So, a lot of words that took place here. And you said you and Patrick Dempsey, you know you, shook hands, so to speak, over it later.

WASHINGTON: It's been documented. "People" magazine, heavily documented.

WHITFIELD: But then ultimately this would be the demise of you and "Grey's Anatomy." you contemplated --

WASHINGTON: Ten years after I played the character, I get on the bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A gay black Republican. Now I know I've seen everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't seen much.

WASHINGTON: A lot of people got hurt. A lot of innocent fans got hurt. A lot of people still pining, for Dr. Burke to go back.

WHITFIELD: Whose fault is that?

WASHINGTON: I don't know. You have to look into that. Everyone has to look into that. I've been invited back. I was invited back. Chands Wilson called me. I've been invited back.

WHITFIELD: And you didn't take them up on the offer?

WASHINGTON: Of course. Business fairs never called.

WHITFIELD: You're not on the show. And in large part, you're not able to get the kind of work that you feel at this point of your career you should be getting.

WASHINGTON: I couldn't get that kind of work before "Grey's Anatomy" and with the recession and the strike. That's a good one, Fredricka. That's not it. No one's working. What's the last movie you've seen Will Smith In, Cuba Gooding? It's just not there.

WHITFIELD: You think that's mostly because of the economy and less because of what happened to you --

WASHINGTON: Absolutely. Yes, I work all the time.

WHITFIELD: And, you're parting with "grey's anatomy"?

WASHINGTON: No, I work all the time. I just finished a "law & order." producing two movies myself. Dick Wolf pretty much wanted me to be minute show.

WHITFIELD: Do you feel like you've recovered, you're back to that point in your career where you were?

WASHINGTON: I don't think about it. You have to remember, I became an actor to change the world, to change the perception of what I thought was a negative for an African-American man.

WHITFIELD: You don't write of regret, of any regrets as it pertains to the episode that helped end your relationship with "Grey's Anatomy." But I would love you to read what you were feeling and experiencing around that time.

WASHINGTON: What do you have here?

WHITFIELD: You write about what you were feeling.

WASHINGTON: I was sleeping less than four hours a night, filled with an indescribable level of anxiety all I could do was operate as a human being. One minute at a time. I prayed constantly. In between G.L.A.D. meetings, writing and re-writing letters of apology, filming PSAs and dealing with what had become media insanity. I was forced to pay thousands of dollars for, quote, "crisis management", end of quote. I was in big trouble. I was now considered a monster. You have this towering black man monster attacking this little -- cowering little human being because of his sexual orientation. And that just is not true.

WHITFIELD: Do you ever watch the show?

WASHINGTON: I peek in. I'm not going to lie to you because I love Sandra.

WASHINGTON: I see her with that Owen guy and I'm like, oh, man.

WHITFIELD: That was your counterpart, your love interest in the show.

WASHINGTON: I would be lying to you if I said I didn't peek in. I adore me some Sandra.

WASHINGTON: My P.R. is going to kill me.

WHITFIELD: Do you ever tune in and say, I wish I was still there?

WASHINGTON: Oh, yes, four years.

WHITFIELD: This weekend, Isaiah Washington is in Ft. Lauderdale discussing his new book "a man from another land." And in that memoir he talks about more about life after "grey's anatomy." and tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, more face to face with Isaiah Washington. And he talks about his reawakening and new passion that takes him all the way to West Africa.

We'll have much more of the NEWSROOM straight ahead with my colleague Don Lemon. Hi.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fascinating interview.

WHITFIELD: He is a fascinating individual.

WHITFIELD: Very talented. No one argues against that at all.

But yes, I think it's, you know, some people have a different view of history and that whole situation than he does, about exactly what happened. I think people just are offended by that word and it's time that we stopped using that word like we use the "n" word in that vein.

So, I mean that was really the moral of that. Being in the middle of it, I'm sure it was very tough for him, but we shouldn't be using that word.

I remember meeting him at the, the Huffington Post ball for the Inauguration. So, sitting there, talking to him and Deo Hugely (ph) walks up behind him and soon un-bumps me and chip my (inaudible), they chipped a tooth talking to Isaiah Washington at the Huffington Post ball at President's Obama's inauguration.

WHITFIELD: What was like, you got it fix?

LEMON: Well, I got if fix. But I want to warn you, Fred, and I want to warn our viewers, alright? Because what I'm going to show you is very shocking. It's going to shock you and it's going to make many of you mad. It's undercover video of animal cruelty at some chicken plants. Look at this.

So this video was shot by an animal rights group. It prompted the McDonald's restaurant chain to drop the egg supplier. The company is called Sparbo Farms, says it's already fired some workers and there's an investigation under way right now.

Also coming up a little bit later on tonight, I'm going to be talking with cycling superstar Greg Lemond. He has own personally story, Fred, of sexual abuse as a child. You'll be interested to hear how it came about because it had something to do with Floyd Landis (ph) and the whole doping thing. That's how it came out.

He is a three time tour to bronze winner. He is a three-time tour de France winner. He is going to talk to me about his deepest darkest secret. He is urgent victim of sexual abuse in contacting organization called one and sex. And I'm going to be talking to him later on tonight on CNN.

WHITFIELD: We look forward to that. Lots, straight ahead.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you, Don. Thanks so much.

LEMON: You look great, by the way, hang out with Wolf. Wolf's angels, freeze.

WHITFIELD: I know. Wolf's angels. Thanks so much.

Alright, just in time for the thanksgiving travel holidays, part of the U.S. getting ready to be hit by a wintry blast. Jacqui Jeras will be along with more details on that.

WHITFIELD: Now it's definitely feeling like winter out there in many places. Jacqui Jeras, with us now.

We're still in fall but it's been (inaudible).

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. And a lot of place to see here. And look at the snow coming down in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Beautiful picture of the Mississippi River there and a snow-dusted Twin Cities, 28 degrees is the temperature right now. One to 3 inches generally across the Twin Cities, most of the heavy stuff has been up into the northwestern suburbs.

You're getting about 1.5 inches in Bloomington. And there you can see it's going to be pulling out of here probably in the next couple of hours. But some of this snow was record-breaking as it went across parts of the Dakotas and into Wyoming. Look at that, a foot of snow in Newcastle, Rapid City, South Dakota, nearly a foot. And Mount Rushmore, yes, you'll know that one, nine and a half inches of snowfall. So, this is a potent system. It's going to take us through the weekend. Our area of low pressure is tracking up towards the great lakes.

Rain for you in Milwaukee, as well as Chicago and also rain for you as we head into tomorrow across parts of Michigan and that cold air really going to filter in on the back side as well. So really feeling like winter. That's going to spread southward. Ahead of it, we have warm air. Those two things are going to clash together. We'll be watching for the threat of severe weather across the plains tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: Alright, we will look forward on that. Thanks so much, Jacqui. (Inaudible). Have a good evening too.

Alright, you all have a good evening at home. Much more of the NEWSROOM straight ahead, with Don Lemon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you later.


CNN Grill Accused of Stiffing Waiters - Recipes

Obama Tries To Reassure On Snooping New Film: TWA 800 Report Is Wrong FBI Still Unresponsive To Grassley On Drones Paula Deen Faces Lawsuit, Accused Of Sexual And Racial Discrimination Genetically Modified Burritos? Inside Medical Marijuana New Mission for Space Shuttles

Aired June 19, 2013 - 17:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jake. Happening now, President Obama makes history in what used to be communist East Berlin. Can he ease growing concerns there about American surveillance?

A new film charges that the midair explosion that sent TWA flight 800 punching into the Atlantic was no accident. That small aircraft buzzing overhead just may be an FBI drones. Stunning revelations today on Capitol Hill.

And would you like some genetically modified ingredients with that burrito? We look inside what's happening at a major fast food chain that is coming clean.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

ACOSTA: Today, President Obama stood where the Berlin Wall once divided east and west where 50 years ago John F. Kennedy once brought hope to isolated Berliners, and Ronald Reagan later spurred the end of the cold war. But on this visit, it's not just what's in the president's speech that is making headlines across Europe, it's his administration's policy on surveillance.

CNN chief white house correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is live from Berlin. Jessica, this does make for some tricky diplomacy -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does, Jim. And no doubt, President Obama would have preferred delivering a speech entirely about big ideas and his vision for the future, but instead, he found himself explaining his own surveillance programs to the Germans, a people who are especially sensitive to state surveillance. And he did it all off the hard copy of his speech, his teleprompter went down.

YELLIN (voice-over): In the heart of Berlin, President Obama sought his place in history.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's so warm. And I feel so good that I'm actually going to take off my jacket.

YELLIN: Speaking on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate where Germany was once divided.

OBAMA: We can be a little more informal among friends.

YELLIN: Kennedy famously spoke at this gate.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ich bein ein Berlinder.

YELLIN: And President Reagan.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

YELLIN: But the comparison President Obama can't escape is to his own speech five years ago.

OBAMA: We will not leave our children to a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.

YELLIN: At a site just blocks away, then candidate Obama drew a cheering crowd of 200,000. So massive it inspired this attack ad called celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he ready to lead?

YELLIN: The estimated size of today's crowd much smaller. Close to 4,500 invited guests.

YELLIN: He's lost some of his luster here in part by continuing some of President Bush's counterterror policies.

OBAMA: It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones.

YELLIN: Drones, Guantanamo Bay, now NSA surveillance. In Germany where memories of the secret east German police are still fresh, fears of NSA snooping are especially intense. So, the president offered reassurances.

OBAMA: This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary e-mails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else.

YELLIN: Then in sweeping terms, he insisted this debate is what Democracy is all about.

OBAMA: And that's what makes us different from those on the other side of a wall.

YELLIN: His big announcement, an effort to cut the world supply of nuclear arms by one-third.

OBAMA: So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.

YELLIN: And the big message --

OBAMA: The wall belongs to history. But we have history to make as well. And the heroes that came before us now call to us to live up to those highest ideals.

YELLIN (on-camera): As you may have noticed in the video, the president spoke from behind high bullet proof glass. There was intense security presence and it seemed visibly higher than when he was in Berlin as a candidate, also more intense than when President Clinton spoke here. Visibly put the president at a distance from the audience interestingly, Jim, even as he delivered a message that we are all part of one global community -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Some challenging stage crafting there. Hope you get a chance to enjoy some of Berlin. Jessica Yellin, thanks very much.

While President Obama crossed over into the former East Berlin, the first lady and their daughters honored those who died trying to cross from east to west, placing flowers in a Berlin Wall memorial today. And they paid respects at Berlin's holocaust memorial honoring the millions of Jews who perished at the hands of Nazis before and during World War II.

Now, joining me now on this very important trip, a lot of news in this trip, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, anchor of CNN "State of the Union."

And Gloria, I mean, this was a speech about presidential legacy. You heard the president touch on winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He talked about a lot of subject -- aids. This was obviously about his legacy, but this whole issue of surveillance did get in the way.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It did get in the way, but he mentioned it artfully in this speech as part of things that need to be discussed in the future about the balance between security and liberty. I think what's kind of ironic to me is that presidents now have to go abroad to give these huge speeches about their vision for the world.

BORGER: At home, the president gave a speech on drone, the president has to defend himself on surveillance, and he may end up doing a speech on that, who knows. But, at this setting, at this historic setting where the J.F.K. spoke as just appointed (ph) out and Ronald Reagan and all the rest, this was a moment for the president to say -- if this were a perfect world, as he did five years ago, I might add, if this were a perfect world, well, we'd take care of climate change. We would eradicate nuclear weapons. We would deal with human rights. We would --

BORGER: We would find the balance between security and liberty. But he has to say it in Germany and then we report on it and tell it to the American public.

ACOSTA: And Candy, I mean, one moment that jumped out at me during the speech was when he was talking about -- he seemed to be talking about Syria when he said I'm not a president who's going around, trying to start a war in the Middle East. I'm trying to end one.

And I know we want to talk about 2008 and the comparisons, but I do think that that was an interesting moment. And if there is something that is going to be remembered about this president internationally, it is going to be about winding down these wars.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it is still does wind into his speech five years ago in Berlin, because remember, he came and part of what it was is I'm not going to be the guy that's in there now.

CROWLEY: I'm going to be the new person. I'm going to -- he took -- he didn't campaign while he was over there. It was a very sort of broad memories, most famous line in that speech was I come as a citizen of the world. And it was more like, you know, this sort of all encompassing, we're not going to go it on our own sort of thing.

And part of that, you know, insinuated in that is I'm not going to start wars on behalf of the U.S. So, I thought it was interesting that he felt the need to kind of be defensive about this.

BORGER: You know, he's been demoted, though. He's not a rock star anymore in Germany.

ACOSTA: He's not the biggest star in the world as John McCain said in that ad in 2008.

BORGER: That's right. He's been demoted from rock star to just very popular, over 80 percent approval rating, I might add.

CROWLEY: The fact is, he had 250,000 people in Grant Park when he won his first election and then several thousand in a convention hall in Chicago when he won the second election. It just happens when you go from the promise to the -- ACOSTA: And Candy, you were there in 2008. I mean, you've heard these comparisons being made -- is it fair to make that comparison in 2008, do you think?

CROWLEY: Sure. But, you know, I also think it is as predictable as can be. There is a candidate that's full of promises, and then there's the president who brings a record. And those are different things. They still like him. They still -- you know, I mean, a lot of stuff comes with having to not fulfill some of the promises that made him quite popular overseas. Gitmo is one of them. I mean, he mentioned --

ACOSTA: That was a big applause line.

BORGER: But part of the speech was saying, you know, I'm still the same person you loved and adored when I was here before as a candidate.

ACOSTA: Is he trying too hard?

BORGER: I've been tampered -- well, the president never seems to try too hard, right? I mean, this is sort of part of his cool demeanor.

BORGER: But I do think that what he was saying was, I still have that vision. I am president of the United States. I do meet reality upon occasion and things intervene such as the surveillance issue, such as Guantanamo.

ACOSTA: Talk about taking out Osama Bin Laden.

BORGER: Talk about taking out Osama Bin Laden, but, you know, his overall rubric was, look, we have to find a way to get to peace with justice. And they kept coming back to a theme that I think he wants to be remembered by.

CROWLEY: The way to look at the president's speeches from here on out, frankly, is through the prism of goodbye.

CROWLEY: And that's what this is.

ACOSTA: Wow. And that's awfully early in the administration --

CROWLEY: He's not going to get back probably to berlin. There's lots of other places to go. But I mean, this is the prism of goodbye. You will hear this a lot.

BORGER: And this is a bookend, the 2008 speech being the beginning. This is his bookend to that speech as far as Germany is concerned and Europe.

ACOSTA: But to get to this tricky diplomacy, I mean, the fact that Angela Merkel, Angela Merkel, talked about surveillance with President Obama. I mean, he's had this happen to him a couple of times now in the world stage. Vladimir Putin just recently said, hey, we disagree on Syria. When he was meeting with the Chinese leader a couple of weeks ago, it was, hey, you're hacking, too. What do you make of that?

BORGER: Well, I think his relationships with some of these leaders are not as close as he might have expected them to be. Don't forget. He's taking Angela Merkel to task on her austerity budget as well. I mean, he wishes it weren't so austere. So, this isn't the first disagreement that they have had. She's running for re-election.

She has to let her public know that she's taking on the president on this surveillance issue because people in their country were listened in on. And it's not popular there.

BORGER: So, I think she had to do it for -- as much for her own political --

ACOSTA: All politics are local --

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. And I mean, you also have to, I think understand, as I talked to someone who was in the intelligence community understands pretty much how this program has worked who said, you don't think Europe is happy with the information they're getting from us? It's one thing what they say in public.

It's been helpful. It has saved -- they would admit or seem to -- was Angela Merkel did that it has saved some lives. So, what you hear in public is not necessarily what they think in private. And the fact of the matter is that, you know, presidents get dense. They're not campaigners, you know? And they take some hits. What's been said in public, I think, also has to be looked at through the prism of re- election.

ACOSTA: All right. All politics are local, as we know, even in Berlin. Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, thank you.

Coming up next, 17 years after TWA flight 800 blew up and plunged into the Atlantic, a new film says the official government report on the crash is wrong.

And what's in your burrito? It's actually a good question. Chipotle says many of its ingredients are the products of gene tweaking. We will look inside that.

ACOSTA: It was a crowded airliner on a New York to Paris flight barely under way when the plane exploded in midair. It took years for the government to determine what happened to TWA flight 800. Now, 17 years after that crash, some later original investigators are raising fresh doubts in a new film.

CNN's Rene Marsh joins us now. She's walking into the SITUATION ROOM, and she has more on this very interesting story. If true, these would be some pretty big revelations, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim. You know, TWA flight 800 was some 13,000 feet in the sky when it burst into flames and fell out of the sky. And now, a new documentary suggests that when the government called it an accident, it was a cover-up. But when we pressed the filmmakers and former accident investigators, they couldn't spell out what was being covered up or why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It blew up in the air. We saw it go into the water.

MARSH: It was 1996. TWA flight 800 exploded mid-air off the coast of Long Island, New York. All 230 people on board the 747 died. After a four-year investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board Ruled a short circuit near the fuel tank caused the explosion. Now, a twist in the case.

Out of scores of accident investigators involved, six now say in a new documentary the agency's findings were wrong.

HANK HUGHES, FORMER NTSB ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: The primary conclusion was the explosive forces came from outside the airplane, not the center fuel tank.

ROBERT YOUNG, TWA AIRLINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REP.: The agenda was that this is an accident, make it so.

MARSH: The now retired investigators say they have new evidence proving a missile caused one of the country's most deadly plane crashes. That evidence includes FAA radar data, explosive residue in multiple locations of the plane and witness accounts of a rising streak of light through the sky. The documentary's producers and the former investigators suggest a CIA, FBI, and NTSB cover-up.

TOM STALCUP, PRODUCER, "TWA FLIGHT 800": They had some political agenda to show that this was an accident regardless of what the evidence showed.

MARSH: John Goglia was one of the five NTSB board members assigned to the case.

JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NTSB BOARD MEMBER: I would never be part of a cover-up. You have to take all the pieces and look at them as a whole. The sequencing report that told how the airplane came apart, none of it supports that the array (ph) of a missile attack.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: NTSB conducted a very a thorough investigation. We collected over 17,000 pages of documents. All of those are items are available to the public.

MARSH: At the time, NTSB investigators considered and rejected a missile brought the plane down. They insist the streak witnesses saw was burning fuel from the plane. Wednesday morning, former investigators filed a petition with the NTSB to re-open the case.

MARSH (on-camera): Well, this isn't the first time they petitioned the NTSB to open the case, re-open the case. They tried once ten years ago, and they were denied. The NTSB acknowledged that they received the request and they are in the process of reviewing it. Jim, we got our hands on a copy of it.

They will be looking through this. It could take a few days. It is pretty lengthy request here. So, we'll see how this goes.

ACOSTA: A lot of people are going to be looking at the claims being made in this documentary to determine whether or not they are true and whether they add up. Rene Marsh, thank you for that very much.

The allegations in this new documentary are drawing an angry reaction from a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. Peter Goelz worked closely on the TWA 800 investigation.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: There is no solid proof. There's no evidence whatsoever that supports his theory. He's been chasing a variety of theories for 15 years. This is just the latest. He's wrong.

ACOSTA: And you will hear more from Goelz as he speaks in our next hour in the SITUATION ROOM for an interview.

Coming up, celebrity cook, Paula Deen, under oath of misusing words and telling jokes you would not say to anyone.

And later, the FBI chief's startling admission. I will speak with the U.S. senator who asked the question that made all the news. That's coming up.

ACOSTA: A militant group linked to al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for a deadly attack. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the attack targeted the United Nations headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia. The fighting left cars and buses mangled, windows of nearby apartments shattered, and the ground littered with blood and body parts. By the time African union troops beat back the attackers, four U.N. employees, three civilian women, and seven militants were dead. Fifteen others are wounded.

Here in the U.S., the FBI is coming up empty-handed again in its latest search for the body of one-time teamsters union president, Jimmy Hoffa. Crews spent the last few days digging in a field near Detroit because of a tip from a former mobster. Investigators even used probes to determine what's in the soil but didn't find any samples requiring lab analysis. Hoffa's 1975 disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.

Well, you can add Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, to the list of lawmakers publically supporting same-sex marriage. A statement from her office says Murkowski recently met two women who adopted four children. And in Murkowski's words, this first class Alaskan family still lives a second class existence.

And despite a sentence handed down today, fashion designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, are unlikely to spend any time in prison. They were convicted of hiding hundreds of millions of euros from tax authorities. Prosecutors asked for a two and a half-year sentence. The court decided on a year and eight months suspended sentence plus a fine. Neither designer showed up for today's court session -- Jim.

Coming up next, could the small aircraft buzzing overhead be an FBI drone? Stunning revelations today on Capitol Hill. Senator Charles Grassley is standing by.

And ahead, Paula Deen under oath. The TV chef admits using racial slurs and jokes.

ACOSTA: That small aircraft buzzing overhead just may be an FBI drone. Director Robert Mueller made some stunning revelations today on Capitol Hill today under close questioning from Iowa Republican senator, Charles Grassley. Take a listen.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Does the FBI own or currently use drones and, if so, for what purpose?

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, and for surveillance.

GRASSLEY: So, instead of asking a question, I think I can assume since you do use drones that the FBI has developed a set of policies, procedures, and operational limits on the use of drones and whether or not any privacy impact on American citizens.

MUELLER: We are in the initial stages of doing that. I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few and of limited use. We are exploring not only the use, but also the necessary guidelines for that use. GRASSLEY: Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on U.S. soil?

GRASSLEY: I want to go on to a question.

MUELLER: Let me just put it in context.

MUELLER: In a very, very minimal way. Very seldom.

ACOSTA: And Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee joins me now. Sen. Grassley, thank you for your time. Let me ask you, sir, was this known before you asked this question at this hearing today? And why did you ask the question?

GRASSLEY: Absolutely not. And the reason I asked the question was because we asked a question maybe a year ago at a previous hearing that we had with Mueller about -- and it was with the Department of Justice generally because these are all in the Department of Justice. We asked about DEA, FBI, and ATF if they used drones.

We got word then that DEA and ATF did use drones. But we never got any answer on the FBI. Well, that's -- we still want to know about the FBI. So, that's why I asked a question today. And it was very enlightening.

ACOSTA: So Senator, was the FBI stone walling you there by not giving you the information?

GRASSLEY: You know, I suppose since bureaucracies generally stonewall, but I won't accuse them of that because I don't know for sure. And so, we followed up today with a question. We got the answer. And I'm sending a letter now to get more detail on the amount of use, detail on what he meant when they seldom or rarely them surveying American soil and under what conditions. So, just get this information out because I think the right of privacy is at stake. If there is a legitimate law enforcement reason for using them they ought to say what it is.

ACOSTA: And Senator Grassley, the FBI did release a statement to CNN saying that they do use drones in a limited basis. But, they did point to one case where a drone was used, they say, in the Alabama standoff that happened earlier this year that Jimmy Lee Dikes hostage situation. You might remember that, Senator. There was a 5-year-old who is being held captive by Mr. Dikes. And apparently the FBI is saying they used a drone in that circumstance.

Do you believe that type of law enforcement situation, a standoff essentially might be appropriate for drones?

GRASSLEY: Well, I'm surely not going to find fault with use where it saves the life of a young boy. That's very legitimate. But, what we are up against here on this whole thing and maybe not just involving the FBI, but there is a lot of distrust for government because the AP thing, what goes on in Benghazi and we weren't getting answers on this and that with the IRS. And because of that mistrust, we have to nail these things down. The people have a right to know. And it is just getting information out there.

ACOSTA: And you raise a good point there, Senator. Because, you know, we are not finding out about these things until they sometimes come out in committee hearings. The head of DNI, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was asked in the recent hearing about the use of data collection of phone calls and during that hearing he denied that was going on. It later turned out to be true.

Are you concerned that the government, the federal government, the Obama administration isn't being up front enough with you and other senators about what they are doing on a range of issues?

GRASSLEY: Yes, but I don't know whether -- obviously, what happens during this administration is under the president's fault. And, you know, it ends with him. But the point is that this is a general distrust of government. And this use of drones is so new and privacy is a big concern now as evidenced by the intelligence stuff that's just now come out.

ACOSTA: Director Muller said there aren't any rules of the road essentially for drones to be used. I mean, is that a problem?

GRASSLEY: Well, you know, I asked the question backwards in a sense. I was assuming since they have them that there is some policy there. And maybe he was saying to me that the policy isn't there. And that's another reason for writing the letter so we can get this nailed down. You know, it isn't so much what government does. It's a mystery behind what the government does that leads breeds mistrust. So, whatever we can get out there without hurting our national security, we ought to get out. The use of drones is one of them. It is such a new thing. People knew about it just in the military. It's a new thing for law enforcement or the commercial use of drones. We don't even know how to deal with this, ourselves, in the Judiciary Committee. We are just scratching the surface at this point. But we have to get to the bottom of it. My letter to the FBI is just one part of that.

ACOSTA: All right, Senator Grassley, thank you for your time in bringing the question up at the hearing. We appreciate t. Thank you, sir.

ACOSTA: Just ahead a startling admission from celebrity chef Paula Deen and people at a popular Mexican restaurant say their recipes include genetically modified ingredients.

Morgan Spurlock, the newest member of the CNN, you might remember, he had something to say about a different fast food chain. He weighs in next.

But first, superstar Enrique Iglesias is asking fans to help impact your world.

ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, SINGER: Hi. I'm Enrique Iglesias and we can make an impact on people in need. Love hope strength is a rock & roll cancer organization.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the eligibility.

IGLESIAS: They are getting people to register for a bone marrow transplant. It is extremely easy. All right, it takes is one of these and one person. And you just got a swab and that's it. So, that's how simple it is and that's how you can save someone's life.

I think part of the mission on the tour was we get different ages in our shows and different ethnic backgrounds. I thought a lot of people would sign up. It comes a point where you reach a certain age where you feel responsible.

Are you ready to get crazy?

There is a certain level of power. And by power, I mean, you can communicate to your fans, especially nowadays with twitter, with facebook. I feel I can do something that is positive. It's a good thing.

ACOSTA: Celebrity chef Paula Deen is back in the headlines and not because of her cooking. It is because of something she had been saying. It is in a question and answer session for a lawsuit filed by a former manager of Dean-Savanna Georgia restaurant alleging a pattern of sexual and racial discrimination.

CNN's Alina Machado joins us with the details of what Dean's status.

This is some shocking stuff, Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim.

This story has exploded online. And it all has to do with a transcript of a videotaped deposition of southern celebrity chef Paula Deen. Now, the deposition was taken in May and is part of an ongoing civil lawsuit filed against Deen and her brother by a former employee who as you mentioned alleges sexual and racial harassment.

Now, according to the deposition Deen was asked, have you ever used the n-word yourself to which she replies yes, of course. When asked for context e she said it was in conversation with her husband after a black man burst into a bank where she was working at and put a gun to her head.

She later said she may have also used the word when repeating something that was said to her adding, quote, "but that's just not a word that we as time has gone -- we use as time as gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the south. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior."

Now, later on in the transcript, Deen talks about a restaurant she and her husband visited where she said the waiters were middle-aged black men wearing white jackets and black bow ties. She was asked if there was any possibility that she slipped and used the n-word when discussing her experienced at the restaurant to which she replied, and I want to show that graphic.

She said no because that's not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.

Now, based on that experience she said she would love for her brother to experience a very southern-style plantation wedding. Deen went on to say what she wanted was -- what she saw was reminiscent of a certain era in America around the civil war.

She was asked, and before the civil bar those black men and women who were waiting on white people were slaves, right? To which she answered, yes, I would say they were slaves, but I didn't mean anything derogatory by saying I loved their look and professionalism.

Now, Deen's attorney released a statement in saying his client doesn't condone or use or find the use of racial epithets acceptable and that she's looking forward to her day in court.

The attorney representing the woman who filed the lawsuit would not comment on this deposition -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Alina, thank you.

Coming up, another recipe for controversy, genetically modified ingredients at a popular Mexican restaurant. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock joins us to talk it over.

And in our next hour a former transportation safety official response to a new documentary's controversial plane about the deadly air disaster.

ACOSTA: Would you like some genetically modified ingredients in that burrito? You might not have a choice. Chipotle, which may be among the more health conscious chains, admits some of its ingredients are products of gene tweaking.

CNN's Brian Todd has details.

Brian, I hate to admit, you know, I wish I didn't hear about this. But here it is.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. A lot of us wish that, too.

ACOSTA: Yes. TODD: Because we love the food there. A lot of us do, Jim. But, you know, one of the reasons Chipotle brought in $2.73 billion in revenue last year is because it has marketed itself as a healthier alternative to just about every other fast food chain. Well, Chipotle's recent effort to be more transparent may also put a dent in that reputation.

TODD (voice-over): From its menu to its Web site to a short film it commissioned featuring Willie Nelson covering "Coldplay." Chipotle Mexican Grille constantly promotes its commitment to healthy ingredients like naturally raised grilled chicken but Chipotle has recently come clean, becoming one of the first fast food chains to admit it's got genetically modified organisms, GMOs, in many of its top selling dishes -- in chicken and steak, tortillas.

(On camera): Genetically modified organisms. In English, what are they and why should we be concerned?

KATHERINE TALLMADGE, NUTRITIONIST: When foods are genetically modified, their genetic material has been unnaturally changed.

TODD (voice-over): That's because it's been processed, grown on factory-like farms. Nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge says she contends the soybean oil that Chipotle says it marinates chicken in can, in high quantities lead to higher risk of heart disease or arthritis. Soybean oil is also used in some other Chipotle dishes.

(On camera): If you want a Chipotle dish without genetically modified ingredients don't go with the instinct that so many people have, with the standard burrito, chicken steak and rice. You'll have to order a dish with some pork, lettuce, beans, maybe some salsa.

(Voice-over): Chipotle didn't provide someone to speak on camera but a company spokesman told us they're moving away from soybean oil in most dishes. Recently they switched to sunflower oil to make taco shells and chips.

TALLMADGE: Great. That's great news for people who love chips. Because if they're made with whole corn and a health oil like sun flower oil they're actually good for you.

TODD (voice-over): Chipotle says the food industry in America is dominated by artificially processed ingredients that it's hard to get away from them. How hard? On its Web site Chipotle still places a G for genetically modified next to its ingredients list for chicken, steak, tortillas, for half its foods.

Chipotle says it's constantly seeking ways to move away from all of it to healthier mixtures and that unlike so many other fast food chains at least it's telling customers about its artificial ingredients. We asked people coming out of Chipotle if this would steer them away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. TODD (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I care about what I put in my body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It wouldn't because the vast majority of U.S. produce is injected with chemicals.

TODD: On the comments from Tallmadge, that soybean oil in some Chipotle foods raises your risk for heart disease and arthritis, the Soy Foods Association pointed us to an expert who flat-out disputed that, saying the key Omega acids in soybean oil actually reduce those risks -- Jim.

ACOSTA: And at least this chain is fessing up to it. Brian Todd, thank you.

And joining me now is the host and producer of "INSIDE MAN" right here on CNN, Morgan Spurlock.

Morgan, it's a -- it's a great pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

MORGAN SPURLOCK, CNN'S INSIDE MAN: Thank you. My pleasure.

ACOSTA: You know, Morgan, your breakthrough hit is "Super Size Me." Everybody knows you for that movie.

ACOSTA: Obviously your show is going to go into so many other areas and we're going to be talking about that. But we just had this piece about Chipotle, the fast food chain which is very popular, which is now going to be very open about what goes into their products, specifically genetically modified foods.

ACOSTA: You took a hard look at the fast food industry, specifically McDonald's. What do you think people should make of this disclosure from a chain like Chipotle? I mean, this is fairly big news.

SPURLOCK: I mean, it's big news. And you can only hope it's the first of many. You know, we as citizens do have the right to know what's in our food. Where it comes from, what it's going to do to our bodies when we eat it. And I think that to have a company like Chipotle, to step forward and say we are finally going to start to disclose that information is a -- is a great turn of events.

ACOSTA: And now I know your documentary series is debuting on CNN soon. And as a matter of fact, this weekend.

ACOSTA: And that you look at another popular product out there, although it's not sold at fast food chains. It's the product of marijuana.

ACOSTA: Tell us about that. Tell us about some of -- some of these topics you'll be looking at on the show.

SPURLOCK: Yes, you know, each week we're going to be looking at a different kind of hot-button hot topic issue in the United States from medical marijuana, to guns in America, to education to immigration, you know. In one episode I move in with my grandmother who is 91 years old to look at kind of elder care and end-of-life issues. So I think along the way people are going to kind of have their perspectives shift a little bit and hopefully be turned on to some new ideas.

ACOSTA: Well, this issue of marijuana legalization is a huge topic right now. Let's take a look at a clip from the show.

ACOSTA: And I want to talk a little bit more about this on the other side.

SPURLOCK: So I'm locked in the back of a blacked-out van somewhere in northern California, being driven to an undisclosed location where they grow vast amounts of marijuana. There's been some other stipulations that we have to follow now. We can't show any of the people who work there. We can't show any of the people who work there, their faces, we can't show any hands or body parts. This isn't sketchy at all.

ACOSTA: Wow, that is dramatic stuff, Morgan.

ACOSTA: Now we know that these marijuana dispensaries have become very popular in states where this is now, I guess legal, you might call it.

ACOSTA: Some say it's, you know, they're sort of pushing the envelope.

ACOSTA: What did you find investigating this industry? It's really an industry now.

SPURLOCK: Well, I mean, it's a huge industry, and where we were in California, I was working at the largest dispensary in the United States. One that's called Harborside in Oakland, California, and it is a big, big business. They make $25 million a year. It's a nonprofit, so all that money they're putting right back into the company.

But the most interesting thing is they pay all their taxes, both federal and state. They are the second largest retail taxpayer in the city of Oakland.

SPURLOCK: And they just -- they generate a tremendous amount of revenue, not only for the state, but for the city. So it's one of those things where you start to realize that if you do open this up to other states and let states make the decision, there could be a huge revenue stream and during an economic downturn like right now it's -- could be a very viable solution.

ACOSTA: And, Morgan, I'm just looking at some of the video from your special, I mean, that looks like a bank. That dispensary is so polished and professional looking, it looks --

ACOSTA: I mean, this is incredible. I mean --

SPURLOCK: It's like a whole another world, like you think you're going to walk in and see like a bunch of, like, you know, dirty stoners in there, you know --

Some really dodgy characters.

SPURLOCK: And -- but no, it's a really different kind of thing. They've tried to make it. And what they want, they want their place to kind of be the model of what dispensaries will be so they actually look and feel and become like health clinics. You know, they offer -- they offer yoga, they offer meditation, they offer psychological counseling for the patients that go there. All free of charge.

So, you know, when you see a place like this, you're like wow, if every place did it like this, then, you know, what kind of a difference could that make.

ACOSTA: And very quickly, I don't suppose you sampled any of the products? If you don't mind me asking.

SPURLOCK: You know what, I was -- I was on the up-and-up. No, I was -- I was walking the line while I was there.

ACOSTA: So not quite that inside.

SPURLOCK: Not quite that inside -- (CROSSTALK)

SPURLOCK: I was maybe a little on the fringe, but not quite, you know, as far on the inside as I could have been.

ACOSTA: Well, Morgan Spurlock, I tell you, you know, Anthony Bourdain's show that just started on CNN is a big hit and is a lot of fun to watch, and this looks like a lot of fun to watch as well.

ACOSTA: We are looking forward to this.

ACOSTA: Morgan Spurlock, the host, star and producer of this CNN Original Series, "INSIDE MAN." Coming this weekend to CNN. Stay tuned for that. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Morgan, thanks for your time.

SPURLOCK: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. When we come back, a controversial documentary raises questions about one of the country's worst disasters in recent memory.

And tennis star Serena Williams' mouth gets her into trouble, now she's trying to clarify her comments.

ACOSTA: The space shuttle Atlantis has seen its final days in orbit, but it's about to start a new mission. For today's "American Solutions" segment, CNN's John Zarrella and a real-life astronaut got a sneak peek at the shuttle's new home.

John joins us live in Florida right now, and John, I am officially jealous. I took my kids down there earlier this year. What a place.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is absolutely spectacular. You know, the last time I was in here, Jim, it was a hard hat area. But now with less than two weeks to go before the Atlantis exhibit opens, this is what visitors are going to see. Atlantis is a showcase to the past. But it also highlights a problem. America at this point does not have its own way to get astronauts into space.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Up close, nearly close enough to touch it, but still, it begs the question -- is it real?

TOM JONES, ASTRONAUT: You don't realize the size when you're living in the cabin up front.

ZARRELLA: Tom Jones flew four shuttle missions, one on Atlantis. But one of the last times he saw it, it was wrapped in shrink wrap as the museum was being built around it. Now even he, an astronaut, is in awe of it.

JONES: But to really see the spaceship up close was a rare event. It was always cloaked in scaffolding and the hangar. You saw little bits and pieces like seeing the elephant as a blind man. But you never got this close to the vehicle fully revealed until it was right after landing and even that it was just for a glimpse.

ZARRELLA: When the $100 million Atlantis exhibit opens, this is how everyone will see it, a flying machine like none ever built.

ALVIN DREW, SHUTTLE ASTRONAUT: Were we ever that audacious to go built a spacecraft to do things like that? And I think we're going to look back and it's going to be as if it was something out of a science fiction movie.

ZARRELLA: Atlantis and the other orbiters, now retired, are reminders of both the past and the present. For two years since Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center, the U.S. has been without its own means to put astronauts in space.

CHRISTOPHER FERGUSON, SHUTTLE COMMANDER: We've called it a gap. Not sure how long it's going to last, that's dependent upon these future commercial providers.

ZARRELLA: Commercial companies have taken over ferrying cargo to the International Space Station, but not people. That was supposed to happen by 2015. Now the gap has widened, it's a very iffy 2017. Target dates are etched in sand, not stone. Not enough money from Congress, NASA says, so astronauts fly on Russian rockets. Jones believes a new generation of space explorers will find their inspiration right here.

JONES: A young person can come in here and say I want to fly something like this. I want to help design something like this. And it can be a part of their future and that's a very bright future for America in the 21st century if we capitalize on the experience we have here.

ZARRELLA: NASA is also working on a rocket for deep space missions. That, too, is years away. So for now, the inspiration gap is being filled by vehicles, not on the launch pad, but in museums.

ZARRELLA: One of the most common questions, Jim, that people have come through here already are asking is, is it real? They can't believe that really is Atlantis. And, you know, it's not just the space shuttle that's in the museum. Take a look at this. This is a full-scale mock-up of the Hubble Space telescope. That's right here in the same room. All kinds of other things here. And important to note that the -- this entire $100 million facility, not a single taxpayer dollar, all turnstile and a capital campaign that built this incredible facility to house the shuttle Atlantis as it flew in space, and this is the only way it flew, 43-degree angle -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Two words, John, very cool. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

It's time for me to blast off, but "THE SITUATION ROOM" continues right now with my colleague Jake Tapper.


Trump has given dozens of depositions in lawsuit-laden business career, but he could face tougher grilling in Russia inquiry

If President Trump is interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a step that appears increasingly inevitable in the Russia investigation, he’ll square off with prosecutors who have spent decades firing questions at corrupt politicians, crooked businessmen and organized crime leaders.

But the prosecutors wouldn’t be the only seasoned veterans in the room. By his own account, Trump has sat for dozens of depositions in his career as a bellicose business mogul in New York, one who routinely drew legal challenges from aggrieved competitors, contractors, customers and state attorneys general.

He would hardly be the first president questioned in a criminal case. In 1876, Ulysses S. Grant gave a deposition in defense of his private secretary during a trial over whiskey distillers evading taxes. Grant’s probity was so unquestioned that he effectively ended the prosecution’s case.

Trump may have a more difficult time. Lawyers who have grilled him in the past describe him as charming and focused, but also arrogant, glib and dishonest, characteristics that could prove troublesome if Mueller’s team finds he has a clear conflict with the truth.

The president has given mixed signals over whether he would agree to meet prosecutors investigating whether his campaign assisted Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, allegations Trump has repeatedly denounced as a hoax.

In June, Trump said he would be “100%” willing to testify under oath. He appeared to waffle on Jan. 10, however, saying “we’ll see.”

“When they have no collusion, and nobody has found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump told reporters.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb sent a different message this week. He told CBS that Trump is “very eager” to meet with Mueller and answer his questions.

Legal experts say Trump almost certainly will have to submit to some form of questioning before Mueller wraps up the probe. The president is likely to give as good as he gets.

“He’s going to have his A game on,” said Jay Itkowitz, a lawyer who represented ALM Unlimited, a licensing company that accused Trump of stiffing it on revenue from his clothing line in 2008.

Trump behaved like “a gentleman” when Itkowitz deposed him in a Trump Tower conference room in 2011, the lawyer said. But he felt Trump provided false information.

“He’s obviously capable of being very charming and have an outward demeanor of respectfulness even while he’s totally lying,” Itkowitz said. A judge later ruled in Trump’s favor by dismissing ALM’s lawsuit.

A Miami lawyer, Elizabeth Beck, said she got less respect when she deposed Trump in a separate lawsuit in 2011 involving a failed real estate deal in Florida.

Trump called her questions “very stupid,” according to a transcript. In an interview, Beck said he “got red in the face” and “ran out of the room screaming” when she needed to take a break to pump breast milk for her newborn.

He was more polite when they resumed the deposition three months later. He was “a completely different person,” Beck said.

He also turned on the charm when the case went to trial in Broward County, Fla., in 2014. While reading a document on the witness stand, Trump asked the judge to borrow his glasses.

“Can I use your glasses again, your honor? Is that possible? I hate to do this to you,” Trump said.

When he finished testifying, the judge dismissed Trump by saying, “You’re fired,” the trademark line from Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.” The jury ruled in Trump’s favor.

“People underestimate him,” Beck said. “I saw grown men, attorneys, become gelatinous in front of him.”

It’s unlikely that Mueller, a former Marine Corps officer who fought in Vietnam, will turn weak in the knees. In 2004, Mueller famously threatened to resign as FBI director if President George W. Bush reauthorized a warrantless wiretap program without making changes. Bush backed down.

Mueller is also far more powerful than lawyers in civil cases.

In addition to collecting a vast number of documents, the special counsel’s office has secured cooperation from George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor. Both pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians or suspected Russian intermediaries during the campaign or the presidential transition.

“Mueller holds the cards here,” said Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional and criminal law scholar who is an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School.

Trump is famously loose with the facts, sometimes shading the truth or fabricating his own. Doing that in an interview with federal investigators is a potential felony, even if the president is not under oath.

“The main risk is that he will admit to certain facts that will fill gaps for the prosecution, or he’ll say things that are contradicted by other witnesses or other evidence,” Dershowitz said. He has previously suggested that Trump’s legal position, particularly over whether he obstructed justice, may not be as dire as the president’s critics suggest.

It’s unclear how much Trump would prepare for an interview to get his story straight.

Brigida Benitez, who represented celebrity chef Jose Andres in a dispute with Trump’s hotel in Washington, said he displayed “confidence” and “probably some measure of arrogance” when she deposed him at Trump Tower during the presidential transition. But she didn’t sense he had prepared for the encounter.

“My impression is that he walks into those situations with little preparation, feeling like he can just wing it,” Benitez said. Both sides ultimately settled the lawsuit without disclosing the terms.

Trump’s lawyers have said they are cooperating with Mueller, but wouldn’t comment on reports about a potential Trump interview. If the president refuses to talk, Mueller could subpoena him to appear before a federal grand jury that is hearing evidence in the probe.

Trump’s lawyers “could go to court and say you can’t subpoena a sitting president,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches white collar criminal law at George Washington University. “Most people would say that wouldn’t prevail. But they could make an argument and tie it up for months.”

Moreover, if Trump refuses to honor a grand jury subpoena, it could spark a political and legal firestorm that would consume the White House and Congress, creating chaos for the administration.

“You’re going to send U.S. Marshals to bring the president in?” Eliason asked. “There’s a potential for a constitutional crisis right around the corner in all of these things.”

Trump’s lawyers could try to arrange for the president to answer written questions from the prosecutors — a process that lets the president’s team vet the answers — but legal experts suggest it’s improbable Mueller would agree to that.

In any case, granting an interview may be the only way for Trump to resolve an investigation that he considers a stain on his administration.

“He should be pursuing closure,” Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, said on CNN. “And he doesn’t get closure until he talks to Bob Mueller.”

Mueller probably has the same goal, according to Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the author of books about presidential investigations.

“It is inevitable that Robert Mueller and his team will want to talk to the president in order to reach some closure,” he said.

Other presidents have spoken with investigators in various settings for various scandals.

In 1987, President Reagan spoke with an independent commission, and answered written questions from special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh, about the Iran-Contra scandal. The scheme involved illegal funding of anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan rebels with profits from the covert sale of missiles to Iran, which was under an arms embargo.

Walsh ultimately brought charges against employees of the CIA, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department, as well as several private individuals. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush preemptively pardoned Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and pardoned five other figures in the case.

In 2004, George W. Bush met for more than an hour in the Oval Office with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. He was trying to identify who had leaked the identify of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative, to discredit her husband’s claims about faulty intelligence before the invasion of Iraq.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators. Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence in 2007, but he did not pardon him.

Bill Clinton was the first sitting president to testify to a grand jury investigating his own conduct.

In August 1998, independent counsel Ken Starr sent his deputy, former federal prosecutor Solomon Wisenberg, and two other lawyers to interview Clinton at the White House for the grand jury. They questioned the president about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

“You obviously try to show as much respect for the office as possible and get the information you’re trying to get,” said Wisenberg.

Starr had agreed to limit the testimony to four hours, something Clinton tried to use to his advantage.

“President Clinton is one of the great speechifiers of all time,” Wisenberg said. “He knew he could give lengthy answers to questions.”

One month later, the House Judiciary Committee released a videotape of Clinton’s testimony and thousands of pages of supporting evidence, including sexually explicit material.


The Epicurious Blog

This past weekend I was in a barbecue joint with my kids and as we left, I put a good-sized tip on the table. My kids asked how one calculates a tip, and I explained that generally I figure out what 10% of the bill is and then double it UNLESS the service has been terrible, in which case I will double the tax and leave that amount. Even if I am unhappy with the service, I realize that these waiters are often making minimum wage and aren&apost always at fault the kitchen can play a large role in messing things up.

Judging from the 637 comments on Waiter Rant on the worst tippers, it seems my method is more generous than most. What about you? What is your general rule for tipping?

My husband and I always total the check to an even number, so we start with the change needed to make it so. Then we double the tax. If we liked the service, we basically round up, and if we didn&apost we round down. So if the tax was say, $2.10, and the bill was for $XX.30, we would tip $4.70 (we usually have no problems with our service). I&aposm sure it doesn&apost generally come out to a full 20%, but I&aposm not really a fan of tipping that high anyhow.

I worked as a waitress while in law school and I usually do exactly what you do. In some circumstances I leave a bigger tip. For waitpersons at a not busy hotel that got stuck with the breakfast shift, someone who seems to be having a bad day, shift looks very slow, etc. I&aposll leave more. I still remember how nice it was to get a larger than expected tip. :-)

In Chicago where I live, not only are most waitstaff generally paid nowhere near minimum wage - but they must also tip the bussers, bartenders, and sometimes the kitchen a percentage of the gratuities they receive. Most people assume all the money they leave on the table goes in the server&aposs pocket. This is untrue.

What figure do you calculate the tip from? The total bill? the total before tax? Do you take the cost of the wine into account or drinks at the bar that carry over to your bill?

AS Felix555 pointed out, federal minimum wage is lower for tipped employees.

From the bureau of labor statistics web site section on food service workers:
"The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages."

Waiters and waitresses have to pay federal tax, ss, medicare & whatever state tax on 8% of their SALES minimum (Plus whatever they claim as tips).
so if you run up a bill in the restaurant of $100 the federal government automatically assumes they made a minimum of $8 tip- whether they did or not. At 15% they would make $15 then a minimum of 10% of that tip goes to the hostess $1.50, 5% to the bussers, .75 10% or more to the cooks. $1.50
So at $15 the waitress clears about $12.25 before the gov gets any.
If you leave no tip- they still have to pay federal tax on the $8
I am a pretty generous tipper and I tip very well for good service. I don&apost want anyone drooling over me, but i appreciate them letting me know I am not forgotten -even if they are busy. (It happens). For poor service, I am down around 12-15% For rude, inappropriate or lack of concern service- 8 % have done this only a few times and they were exceptional circumstances.

There really is no excuse for poor tipping. Tip-pooling has become the industry norm, so you&aposre penalizing all the other staff who may have been hard-working and polite because you had the bad luck of being sat in the section of the resident nitwit (most restos have at least one, there&aposs a revolving door of them to fill the spot vacated by the last).

Also, poor tipping fails to send a message. It just gives the bad apples one more reason to whine, which I can assure you they do, most servers to think you&aposre just cheap, and for a few of us, utter confusion ("Huh? What did I do wrong?"). If you don&apost like the service, complain to a manager or write a letter, much more effective.

Having done my time as a &aposserve-person&apos- both food and as a cocktail server, I always tip generously. 15% on crummy service may be a little high, but it&aposs true that a bad tip won&apost teach anyone anything. At the precise moment of paying, I usually have some flash of how it was to be on the other side of the transaction, and the dollar bills fall out of my pocket. While, in some states servers make minimum wage along with their tips, that is not true in all areas- besides, noone has accused minimum wage of being enough to live on, anyway. I have successfully kept myself from prompting servers, but sometimes it&aposs a real temptation to do so. Only rarely do I have &aposfunny money&apos to spend, but if the service is right, and especially in a place where tips are pooled, I&aposll throw a twenty in for good measure. I remember only too well how important some of those twenties have been.

We&aposve always been big tippers, even when we weren&apost flush with cash ourselves in the earlier days of dating and our early years of marriage.

Twenty percent is pretty common, but we will tip an extra ten or twenty dollar bill for excellent service, which can pop that percentage up a good deal.

We&aposve even written follow-up letters to owners/management for excellent service.

When the situation is horrible, from wait staff to the kitchen, we still tip about 15%.. and follow-up with a written letter if it is bad enough.

We never complain at the table, as it creates a scene and we are not interested in that at all!

One of our worst situations was rather recent actually! The waitress at a very nice cafe chit chatted with us in a lively way. She was sort of dumb and young, but a sweet girl. We&aposd gone in for lunch and by around 1:30pm, the traffic had slowed down, so she came over and said, "I just loved talking to you guys! Mind if I sit down and talk some more?" AS SHE SAT DOWN! To escape, I finally said, "oh my gosh! We have to pay our check and get moving! We are supposed to meet our son in ten minutes!" My husband left her two bucks. I thought that was too much!

Tips are payment for services rendered, period. Wait staff DEPEND on tip money for their livelihood.

As a customer, tipping should not be considered one&aposs opportunity to express displeasure with the food or service. Treating it so is crass, rude, and ultimately dishonest.

If you get unprofessional service, stiffing the wait person will not improve anything. That&aposs simply negative reinforcement. A polite conversation (with the staff person, or if necessary, the manager) is much more likely to produce a constructive result.

I often find than dining with a new acquaintance can be a strong insight into their character. I don&apost have much respect for people who abuse service workers.

Yep, that&aposs exactly how I do it too. The exeptions are: there are a few local restaurants where my family and I are "regulars". We tend to tip around 25% because we know we&aposll be treated well, and they&aposll appreciate it. Also, in very nice restaurants where there&aposs a sommelier, one or more waiters/servers, and bussers, we&aposll tip more than 20% because we know that money will get divided up among the staff.

I&aposve never been a waiter, but my brother was before he became a chef. I know how little they&aposre paid, and how much they depend on tips to live. When I budget for dinner out, I always make sure I account for the tip in that budget. It&aposs part of the experience, and it&aposs the right thing to do.

What if you eat in an area where the tax is already at 10%? Doubling that would put you back to 20%.

I tip 20% generally. If I can afford to treat myself to eating out, I accept the tip as part of it.

That&aposs how I calculate the tip, too: Move the decimal over one, multiply by two. Partly because it&aposs easy math (if my belly is full, my head is too empty for complicated math). And partly because I think that tipping 20% is just the right thing to do. Good karma always comes back around to you. FWIW, the GQ Style Guy agrees with us, which always makes me feel better. http://ow.ly/Z3gr

I&aposm with you - 20% is the standard, dropping down to 15% for not great. Sometime I will go to 10% if I really want to make a point, but I also think it&aposs best in those cases to say something - if you&aposre really unhappy with some element of the service, you should make it very clear what that is, rather than just assuming your smaller tip will make the point. It&aposs also not fair to penalize wait staff for problems - in the kitchen or elsewhere - that are beyond their control.

PS: Good on you, Tanya, for breaking it down for the kids. That&aposs a good system.


Alison Cook looks back at 1997: The Year That Bit

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To bite or be bitten: The classic Darwinian drama raged throughout our fair city in 1997, a year in which strange eating behaviors -- just ask Evander Holyfield -- made for an entertaining (if slightly indigestible) feast. Even our beloved new boom underscored the point, as humongous malls threatened to eat Katy, Landry's King Tilman Fertitta gobbled up Kemah and Godzilla-sized multicinemas tried to swallow us all. The Rockets -- and their many, many co-dependents -- dined on humble pie. The Astros, having finally made the playoffs, just plain ate it. And the Incredible Shrinking Convention Center Hotel Deal (please, Lord, send us a 1998 in which we don't have to think about this anymore) came down with a bad case of anorexia.

We should have known to assume fight-or-flight posture way back in January, when a cosmic "heads up!" message in the form of countless tiny ice bomblets unleashed itself from every tree limb and overhang. A parade of nasty little twisters visited our suburban shores, and incessant rain turned the landscape into one immense, sodden sponge. Our floods would have taxed Noah. Our ozone counts made it dangerous to breathe. The entire city sprang leak after noxious leak: flammable petroleum gas here, a quarter-million gallons of smelly crude there, a geyser of gas and water over yonder. Toxic-chemical clouds swam through the air -- hydrofluoric acid, nickel carbonyl, Diketene, nitrous dioxide, chlorine. Pity our poor neighbors between Alvin and Santa Fe, whose very garden hoses spewed water you could light with a match -- and pray it's not a metaphor.

What wasn't leaking was exploding, from a vinegar-plant alcohol tank to a quartet of Liberty County oil tanks to Shell Chemical's Deer Park plant, which went boom with a window-shattering blast. Two tanker trucks burst like bombs on two different freeways. Indeed, the transportation gods had it in for us. Dump trucks and school buses and Metro buses ran amuck at every turn, trains insisted on derailing or colliding and (naturally) exploding, not to mention the 225-ton rolling construction crane that mysteriously chose to self-combust. Two different Continental crews managed to land at two wrong airports. Norwegian Cruise Lines' Thanksgiving-week voyage turned into the un-air-conditioned Cruise from Hell, as waiters sweated onto the entrees and passengers hauled mattresses out to sleep on deck. Travel by ambulance proved to be even less pleasant than we thought -- an occasion on which the unsuspecting Houstonian might be molested by a paramedic or have his or her confidential data sold to predatory law firms. Can we just stay home in '98?

Not that there weren't things to feel good about amid the mayhem. Taramania, Deep Gulf drilling fever, a shiny new consumer temple in the form of Saks -- even last year's dreaded Pierce Elevated rehab had a happy, on-target ending. The WNBA Comets and MVP Cynthia Cooper ruled. We had the best fall color ever. The heart swelled with pride at all the Houston connections to world-class events, from the Heaven's Gate apocalypse to the demise of Biggie Smalls to the attempted Republican coup against Gingrich in the U.S. House with our own Tom DeLay playing (choose one) Larry, Moe or Curly. For every stinky golf deal, there was a silver lining: another Charles Barkley outburst to paste into our memory books, another mesmerizing episode in the bizarre spectacle of Lloyd Kelley self-destructing, another weird facet of the Expect the Unexpected image campaign. Hovering over all of it is the lingering image burned onto our retinas by the Power of Houston extravaganza, one of those epic civic feel-good events we feel obliged to stage for ourselves now and again, can-do pep rallies writ very, very large. No surprise that the 1997 version culminated in a hyperbolic fireworks-and-laser battle that made it seem as though all of downtown Houston was -- what else? -- exploding. Just as our skies will this week, with the now-traditional barrage of New Year's gunfire. Put on your Kevlar vests, whip up a few Chupacabra cocktails and toast the year that was.

To be followed by a festive Jonestown Tea and Last Brunch at Waco
The Omni Houston Hotel's new chef, Denis Meurgue, re-created the "Last Dinner on the Titanic," following the first-class menu and music from the night the great ship went down.

Rob Johnson was busy that night
Channel 2 reporter Jeannie Ohm appeared on camera with one of those ravening Cabbage Patch Snack Time Kids attached to her tresses, whereupon colleague Susan Lennon produced scissors and cut the little monster off.

Thus making the Snack Time Kid look minor-league
Mike Tyson took two infamous bites out of Houstonian Evander Holyfield's ear during their heavyweight championship bout in Las Vegas -- the second a "wolflike" chomp that carved out a one-inch chunk of cartilage recovered by an MGM Grand employee, who said it looked like a piece of sausage.

It really ruined that ethereal wheatgrass flavor
Whole Foods Market settled a suit in which a Houston customer claimed a shift manager had spiked his wheatgrass smoothie with Visine as a practical joke.

Marvin Zindler chose not to attend
Alligators at the Houston Zoo broke their long wintertime fast with a public feast of raw chicken and dead rats.

Mike Tyson loves them
The Mr. Raspada Refresqueria offered the Chupacabra, a $3 fresh-fruit ice cone named after the legendary flying beast that sucks goats' blood.

It was his version of a "Two-for-One" special
Samir Hannoush, proprietor of Renata's Restaurant, was accused of giving his customers' credit-card account numbers to counterfeiters in exchange for wine, beer and food.

Why Houston trial lawyers make Tyson look like an amateur
The Chronicle's Maxine Mesinger reported that bigtime Houston trial lawyer Earle Lilly was "the first person I've ever watched devour a five-pound lobster all by himself. It was awesome. "

Earle Lilly ordered a dozen
Russian chef Boris Bugerenko turned out burger-shaped birthday cakes layered with fake tomato, cheese and lettuce in the downtown-tunnel Kolache Shoppe.

They tried Visine, but it didn't have that je ne sais quoi
The Houston-based Minute Maid Co. recalled 6,500 cases of its Berry Punch because there might have been a cleaning product in the drink.

Jeez, George Bush was right
Coupon ads in the Chronicle touted "Mann's Broccamole, a great-tasting, fat-free dip or spread."

And you should try her pumpernickel
Continental Airlines sued a pilot's ex-wife for spiking her homemade rye bread with marijuana, which caused the pilot to fail a random drug test.

Tony Vallone is taking a wait-and-see attitude
Brown & Root signed an exclusive agreement to engineer, manufacture, install, operate and maintain equipment designed to tenderize beef by blowing it up in a dynamite-like explosion.

But they were really, really big French fries
Two Aeros hockey players -- indicted for assaulting police in a drunken bar brawl in which food, food baskets and chairs were alleged to have sailed through the air -- griped that only a few French fries had been thrown.

It made pretty good Chupacabras, too
Four NASA volunteers in a Clear Lake City test chamber shared 30 gallons of water a day, recycling every drop -- including their own urine -- into showers, drinking water and clothes-washing water.

We were with you until the broccoli cole slaw
Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman ran the following recipe for "Aunt Joycie's Doggie Birthday Cake": Mix together 2 large cans of dog food, 2 cups of cooked rice and one-half cup of oatmeal. Place mixture in a springform pan placed directly on a serving tray. Chill in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours. To decorate the top of the cake: Place one fried egg in the center. Use one can of sardines and 4 ounces of cheese, cut into matchsticks, to form spokes radiating from the egg. Place 5 hot dogs, sliced into coins, to fill the spaces between the spokes. Finally, use one package of broccoli cole slaw to garnish around the platter. Keep chilled. Serves 8 to 10 dogs.

It's not nice to fool Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa's lawyer asked perennial candidate Sam "Texas" Fayad to stop implying that she endorsed him by running her photo in his campaign flier under the headline "Good People Think This Man Should Be Your City Councilman."

Sam "Texas" Fayad only wished he'd thought of it
City Council candidate Herschel Smith distributed 50,000 "prayer rocks" along with his campaign fliers.

Not to mention brutishly uncomprehending
At a Chinese New Year festival celebrating the Year of the Ox, Harris County Republicans distributed pamphlets asserting that "Republicans have a strong connection to the ox, which symbolizes perseverance and hard work in all endeavors in the field. Like an ox, Republicans have a great sense of responsibility, are likely to be thrifty and tend to be stubborn."

That's exactly what scares us, Jerry
Declaring himself a candidate for land commissioner, state Senator Jerry Patterson suggested his authorship of the state's concealed handgun law made him a front-runner, saying, "I suspect that of 145,000 concealed handgun licenses, most of them are voters in the Republican primary."

When faced with an ignorant Yankee, I rely on: A) my shotgun B) the closest jug of moonshine C) the self-esteem bestowed by claiming a proud ethnic heritage

After a Yankee Senate aide referred to backers of a Tom DeLay plan to overhaul federal highway funding as "hillbillies," the majority whip from Sugar Land proudly urged colleagues to take a "hillbilly test" to see if their states had reached "hillbilly-hood."

Hillbillies vs. Cheeseheads
During congressional debate over finance reform, Tom DeLay and Democratic Representative David Obey of Wisconsin cursed and shoved each other, appearing ready to trade blows until an aide stepped in to separate them.

Don't worry, we will
City Council candidate Dave Wilson's web site contained a link to the web page he had previously set up to fight affirmative action, because, he explained, "I want people to identify me as that same yahoo."

Et tu, Lupe?
In April, at Rob Mosbacher's mayoral kickoff, civic activist Lupe Fraga introduced him as "the next mayor . my friend and compadre" but several months later he switched his endorsement to Lee Brown, saying, "I really didn't know who was running."

It was Lupe Fraga's idea
Rob Mosbacher invited City Council members to his campaign kickoff in Sam Houston Park, just across the street from their City Hall offices, and offered them free transportation.

Memo to Joe: Think Hugh Grant
After state Senator Drew Nixon of Carthage was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop, Houston state Representative Joe Nixon worked the floor of the House telling folks it was that other guy, lamenting, "It would be terrible if people thought I did it."

Gee, she would have fit right in
City Council candidate Karen Kay Christopher, a nonlawyer who represented herself on charges of refusing to return a rental car, was repeatedly held in contempt of court for making improper statements before being convicted, ordered to jail for six months, slapped with another 380 days for contempt, fined $250 for filing frivolous lawsuits against prosecutors and police, then hit with another 30 days for contempt at a sanctions hearing.

There's a reason the story broke on April 1
Channel 13 TV news anchor Bob Boudreaux announced he is thinking about running against County Commissioner Steve Radack in 2000.

Well, at least he got his adjectives right
City Council members complained that John P. Trotter, creator of an Internet site opposing the city's new restrictions on sexually oriented businesses, had misrepresented their voting records while posting their home phone numbers and describing them variously as "silly Gracie Saenz," "wicked Martha Wong," "ridiculous Judson Robinson" and "catatonic John Kelley."

You can take the boy out of the Washburn Tunnel, but.
Robert Lee Nichols, the former small-town mayor who was nominated by Governor Bush to the Texas Transportation Commission, defended his knowledge of urban traffic issues by citing the first ten years of his life spent living near the Washburn Tunnel in Pasadena, plus the semesters he once spent in Texas City and South Houston for an engineering program.

Surprise, surprise
When bribery and conspiracy indictments in last year's City Hall sting finally came down, secret FBI tapes showed pivotal figure Ben Reyes, the former councilman and state representative, bragging to two cash-flashing undercover feds, "We're going to go and purchase us some leaders, 'cause that's what it takes, I mean, I never did it for nothing."

Is this what they mean by "the banality of evil"?
Those indictments asserted that Reyes passed $1,500 in sting cash to Councilman Michael Yarbrough in the men's room at Carrabba's, and $2,500 to former councilman John Peavy in the urinal of the restaurant at the Wyndham Warwick.

He was all out of toilet paper
After City Councilman Rob Todd sneaked into the Council chamber and wrapped Mayor Lanier's chair with yellow "Free Kingwood" banners left over from an anti-annexation rally, Lanier staffers canceled Todd's electronic access card to City Hall.

It takes a hot dog to know one
The ever-verbose and obstreperous Rob Todd, during one Council meeting, displayed on the rail in front of his seat a tiny replica of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.

Duh
City Council members, two of whom are under indictment and who, as a body, gave city workers a 3 percent pay raise this year, said they would accept an automatically calculated 8.4 percent pay raise for themselves.

Somewhere, Lurleen Wallace and Ma Ferguson are smiling
At the very last minute, Olympics-obsessed Councilman John Kelley withdrew as a candidate, leaving a clear field for his totally inexperienced wife, Jean, an art teacher, to run for his seat.

Somewhere, Machiavelli is smiling
After John Kelley's son Shaun failed a drug test while imprisoned on cocaine charges -- having violated his deferred adjudication by accumulating misdemeanor charges of failure to stop and render aid, marijuana possession and fleeing the scene of an accident -- the following occurred: His dad hired Racehorse Haynes as his attorney his dad had an aide fetch the campaign-finance report of the presiding judge the judge sent him to a lock-down drug treatment facility instead of prison his dad queried a Fort Bend County judge about the misdemeanor charges that judge spoke to the judge who was supposed to hear the case and -- that judge took himself off the case.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the thinnest-skinned of all?
When conservative activist Steve Hotze threatened to sue a Republican women's club if they mocked him in a musical skit, the women jettisoned the lyrics they had written to be sung to "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)," instead just humming along while a trio of dancers hid their faces behind signs bearing question marks.

Get along, little jurors
Justice of the Peace Mark Fury, short of jurors to try a minor speeding case one evening, sent constables to a nearby Kroger parking lot to rope 19 unsuspecting grocery shoppers into service.

He's a close friend of Wicked Martha Wong and Catatonic John Kelley
Judge Mark Davidson, ticked over an appellate court decision, fired off an e-mail to several fellow judges in which he referred to Appeals Judge Maurice Amidei as "Alzeimer's [sic] Amidei."

A little Darwin is a dangerous thing
Presiding over the lawsuit in which a group of black Kennedy Heights homeowners claim Chevron is responsible for pollution-related health problems, Judge Kenneth Hoyt, who is black, pooh-poohed a medical pamphlet "because white people wrote it," and opined thusly on race and ethnicity: "Why do you think Chinese people are short? Because there's so much damn wind over there, they need to be short. Why are they so tall in Africa? Because they need to be tall. It's environmental. I mean, you don't jump up and get a banana off the tree if you're only four feet. If you're seven foot tall and you're standing in China, then you're going to get blown away when that Siberian wind comes through."

What a friend we have in the Commission on Judicial Conduct
Judge William Bell resigned after he got in hot water over 45 charges of ethical misconduct, including telling an outside attorney that the defendant in a high-profile case of his "has a friend in me," and perjuring himself when he denied the comment -- which the lawyer had taped -- before the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

After which he dropped to the floor and did the alligator
Judge Jim Barr faced suspension for, among other things, engaging in a tug-of-war over a prisoner with a deputy and making crude remarks and gestures to the three female prosecutors he called his "all-babe" court, including curling his index finger to summon one, then joking, "I wanted to see if I could make you come with one finger."

Diamond cut diamond
Talking to a New Yorker writer about the "Jewels of the Romanovs" exhibit, Lynn Wyatt said, "Peter the Great would fit right in here in Texas. He's my kind of man. In fact, he's just like my husband [oilman Oscar Wyatt]: He could do anything."

Plus an itty-bitty piece of cakeJudith Leiber, designer of $5,000 jeweled evening bags much loved by Houston socialites, told a local audience that their itty-bitty size was sufficient for a lady's basic necessities -- a hankie, a compact, lipstick and a $100 bill.

There goes her shot at the Chronicle's Best-Dressed List
Socialite and major clotheshorse Margaret Williams, whose luggage was lost for four days on a jaunt to Russia, told columnist Maxine Mesinger, "Well, it wasn't too bad, because we were in St. Petersburg, and we didn't know anyone there. So it was okay to wear the same suit for four days."

So was Hernando Cortes
During the mayoral runoff, a Rob Mosbacher Spanish-language radio commercial concluded with the line, "Mosbacher is our friend -- and he's so handsome!"

And the Sigmund Freud Memorial Award goes to.
The Wall Street Journal's right-wing editorialists referred to Houston affirmative-action critic Elizabeth Spates, who is black, as "Elizabeth Spades."

He'd just been reading his Wall Street Journal
When a student locked her keys in her car, Dickinson High band director Greg Goodman turned to a Hispanic colleague and asked, "Can you break into her car and get her keys out? You know, with your heritage and all."

Yeah, and inane politicians, too
On the topic of a smoking ban in Houston restaurants, City Councilman Rob Todd huffed, "The task of going after every carcinogen and every bit of poison in the air -- what are we going to do, ban mold spores?"

And if that doesn't work, we're turning him over to Charles Barkley
After a jury hit Robert Coulson with $25.6 million in damages for killing his family for insurance money, estate attorney Larry Doherty said, "We are ecstatic. He's going to die broke and in the box. We're going to get his DNA out of the gene pool and have him thrown from the face of the Earth forever."

But telemarketing looked attractive, too
Houston-born movie star Randy Quaid told David Letterman that as a high schooler, hearing that John Wayne was in town shooting Hellfighters, "I called the hotel where he was staying. I said, 'This is John Wayne. Got any messages for me?' And they gave me his messages. That gave me a lot of confidence, and I started performing."

Judge Jim Barr sent a sympathy card
State Representative Al Edwards filed suit against a fired employee who had complained to the EEOC that he suggested she wear shorter skirts and called her "an ignorant heifer."

Al Edwards sent a sympathy card
Ardith Jackson charged that she was fired from a constable's office for calling a hearing-impaired colleague "a deaf bitch."

Richard Jewell has retained Joe Jamail and is suing for libel
Houston radio news anchor Chuck Shramek, linked by news wires to the Heaven's Gate cult suicides after he posted an Internet photo of a "Saturn-like thing" following the Hale-Bopp Comet, complained that "I can identify with how Richard Jewell felt."

Hook 'em, Ron
Urging Texas universities to set the same admission standards for athletes as for other students, state Representative Ron Wilson said, "I'm more concerned about educating students than I am about seeing folks with pompons and eating popcorn and throwing up all over themselves because they are drunk in a stadium."

To arms, Surfside!
Congressman Ron Paul told C-SPAN that he lived in fear of being "bombed by the federal government in another Waco."

Give me topless bars or give me death
During the battle over Houston's tightened ordinance for sexually oriented businesses, David Wasserman, a Florida lawyer for adult bookstores, opined that a "national cultural war is about to be fought in Houston, paid for by the citizens of Houston."

And as a prelude to any sexually oriented cultural wars, too
Due to a typo, January's referendum ballot said that City Council must hold "pubic hearings" before elections on certain tax matters.

And herself as "our resident bimbo"
During a bit of morning-news happy talk, Channel 2 anchor Dominique Sachse, who is white, referred to black weathercaster Orelon Sidney as "our resident monkey."

No, but it got some great shots of those little green men
On a subcommittee trip to California, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee asked a NASA scientist if the Pathfinder probe had managed to photograph the flag that astronaut Neil Armstrong had left behind.

He's planning to call Sheila Jackson Lee as a witness
Bill Kaysing, author of the 1976 book We Never Went to the Moon, sued astronaut James Lovell for calling his moon theory "wacky."

But first he has to brief Sheila Jackson Lee
Bruce Willis came to the Johnson Space Center to shoot the movie Armageddon, in which he plays a space pilot who must destroy an asteroid before it can hit Earth.

Lee Brown is thinking of offering him the convention center hotel contract
For a show at Rice University's art gallery, minimalist Sol LeWitt had masons mortar together an eight-foot-high, 4,400-pound tower of cinder blocks.

Billy Burge was just too damn hard
At a Rockets vs. Portland game in the (then) Summit, Rich Little sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the voices of George Bush, Ross Perot, Jack Nicholson and John Wayne.

Bring me the head of David Gockley
The Houston Grand Opera's multimedia production of Salome featured a "Dance of the Seven Veils" in which a screen of silk fabric split and fell apart, a scene in which Salome contemplated a severed head inside a large glass salad bowl, and an audience rush for the exits.

We're holding out for Anna Nicole Smith's breasts
For $1,750, interested parties could buy one of 75 signed and numbered bronze "life impressions" of heart surgeon Denton Cooley's hands, forceps and scalpel at-the-ready, made by Houston-based Bronze Memories Co.

Next show: the West Texas earthworks of Ted Kaczynski
The Hyde Park Gallery in Montrose mounted a one-man show of paintings by color-blind prisoner Elmer Wayne Henley, mass murderer Dean Corll's accomplice.

Thank god everyone was over at the Elmer Wayne Henley show
Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective failed to levitate an occupied lawn chair above a Montrose gallery using 30-plus helium balloons, thus ruining plans for a rooftop camera to beam images of the sitter's tennis shoes into the gallery, where Jimmy Buffett's "blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop top" looped endlessly.

She looks so cute when she's throwing up
Favorite son Kenny Rogers, the singer and naughty phone caller, proposed to his girlfriend with a poem that included the lines, "I wondered when I'd do this / I wondered what you'd say / I thought at first the perfect time / Might be on Christmas Day. / With lots of friends and family / to help us celebrate. / I slowly watched you catch the flu / then knew I'd have to wait."

He owes it all to the Kenny Rogers Poetry Workshop
Texas Democratic Chairman Bill White of Houston wrote an ode to Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, the gubernatorial candidate, that went in part: "Who's that young man walking toward us? / Along that beach with kids? / He gets closer and closer to our sight / Though he's always been in reach. / Closer still I see the man / Garry Mauro is his name. / He's served this state in ideals well. / Texas will never be the same."

She was inspired by this year's mayoral race
Choreographer Nia Love staged a Buffalo Bayou Park performance in which dancers rolled in the mud while others unrolled mannequins from plastic wrap and simulated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

After which Ben Stevenson had to be given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
The Fly Guys, a troupe of 60-foot-tall inflatable Gumby-like figures, "danced" to the Houston Symphony's performance at the much-hyped Power of Houston festival.

Plus The Collected Works of Bill White
At the sandcastle contest sponsored by the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects, entries included "The Bill Clinton Presidential Library" -- a large toilet bowl accessorized with a six-foot-long Playboy magazine and books titled Whitewater Rafting and Bedroom Flowers.

There's a reason for that, Doug
Channel 51 owner Doug Johnson announced that he'd dump his all-news format in favor of such old, off-network shows as Kojak, Quincy, Airwolf and Simon & Simon, saying, "It's stuff you can't get on cable."

Proving that pond water seeks its own level
Houston's D'Eva and Eric Redding, who got Anna Nicole Smith into Playboy and then wrote about it in Great Big Beautiful Doll, planned a book on topless clubs with Allen Starkie, the British genius behind Fergie: Her Secret Life.

Now George Strait is in therapy
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was reported to be talking to Jerry Seinfeld about performing there next year.

Our Distinguished Visitors

Sheila Jackson Lee is sorry, too
At the Juneteenth Blues Festival, R&B singer Bobby "Blue" Bland lamented the Rockets' failure to reach the Super Bowl this year.

Let's see, red for China, black for Bosnia.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright liked Stelzig's Stetson hats so much that she bought three -- in red, brown and black.

He had reservations at the Redwood Grill
Actor Woody Harrelson, in town to demonstrate against Maxxam's razing old-growth forests, spent two hours in the Houston jail "on principle" when he was nabbed for not wearing a seat belt, then ponied up his fine "so I could have a Friday night."

Having already cornered the market in bullshit
Former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith, whose opposition to black voting rights led to a decade-long civil war, complained during a Houston visit to purchase bull semen that he has been unfairly characterized as a racist.

That's what we mean by "zero tolerance," Yankee!
The Allen House apartment rented by New York actor Tim Williams during a stint at the Alley was raided by the HPD, who discovered a spirited game of musical chairs in progress.

But they were really disappointed when he sang "Horse with No Name"
Channel 13 staffers excitedly donned Hawaiian shirts to commemorate a visit by Don Ho, but were crestfallen when the balladeer showed up in a dark blue blazer and turtleneck.

At least they hadn't worn their Hawaiian shirts
Goldie Hawn, shooting a TV movie in League City, disappointed a houseful of invited guests at Solero, downtown's trendiest of the trendy, when she failed to show for her dinner reservation.

Where the flavor du jour was Frozen Nut Brittle
Over 1,200 nudists descended on the Live Oak Resort northwest of Houston for a convention that included an ice-skating party and a trip to the Blue Bell ice cream factory.

Sorta like Houston City Council
Mexico's former attorney general, Mario Ruiz Massieu, left town $7.9 million poorer after a Houston jury decided the U.S. government could confiscate most of the $9 million he kept in a Houston bank -- although Massieu claimed the money came from political payoffs, not drug payoffs, saying "Mexico has a very unique system."

Those Inventive Houstonians

He thinks he can he thinks he can't.
Woodlands-based Zonagen's shares leaped 40 percent in value after the biotech company released tests showing its Vasomax product was effective in treating male impotence -- then tumbled after a short-seller predicted it would never gain federal approval.

If Eckhard Pfeiffer answers, hang up
After Aerial Communications, a wireless phone company, bought naming rights to the new concert venue at Bayou Place, they planned to install mobile phones hanging from the ceiling in place of the usual pay phones.

Coming next year: a giant Aerial wireless phone
Houstonians Ginny Galtney and Diane Marks appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show modeling their respective coiffures from the Hair Ball -- a six-foot-wide replica of the Astrodome and a four-foot-high Prince's Hamburgers sign.

Just get me past Joe Jamail
An enterprising attorney and accountant launched a concierge service at the downtown court complex -- offering valet parking, office space and services, mediation, escorts for befuddled or intimidated clients and witnesses, plus catered meals and entertainment.

Fine, but can we use them along White Oak Bayou?
Two Rice University archaeologists placed giant, concrete-hard termite mounds built of saliva-soaked particles around a West African dig site threatened by torrential rains and flooding.

The Elmer Wayne Henley model is forthcoming
Houston fashion design student Vanessa Meades won a scholarship for her ecru shantung ball gown featuring zippered, roll-down panels of old master paintings reproduced on cotton Lycra stretch fabric.

And "Proud Mary" looping endlessly on the sound system
Houston artist Dean Ruck announced plans for a Sesquicentennial Park project that will regale visitors with steamboat whistles, thrashing paddle-wheel effects and a big bubble in the bayou that will release large volumes of compressed air, simulating riverboat turbulence.

Their Dean Ruck special effects were really convincing
During the Houston mayoral race, it was revealed that Rob Mosbacher's barge company, Hollywood Marine, once avoided city property taxes by claiming the landlocked west Texas town of Ozona as its home port.

But they nixed Aerial as the official state telephone
A Texas House committee named buckminsterfullerene, the so-called "buckyballs" discovered by Rice University's Nobel prizewinners, the official state molecule.

They left out a "chip-your-own Chupacabra party"
A Chronicle story on "101 Things to Do When It Hits 101 Degrees" suggested keeping your underwear in the freezer floating flowers frozen in ice cubes in your bath water wearing only diamonds or jewelry in white, pale blue and frosted tones and having a huge block of ice delivered to your home, then inviting neighbors in for a chip-your-own daiquiri party.

Out, damned spot
Metro came up with a flashy fare card covered in designer leopard spots -- which obscured two crucial white spaces, preventing the fare box from reading the magnetic code.

Who says the gods don't have a sense of humor?
Longtime morals activist Geneva Kirk Brooks proposed that the city create a red light district.

Begging the question, superior to what?
After mayoral chief of staff Jimmie Schindewolf had a brainstorm while at the supermarket, his Public Works Department floated a plan to bottle Houston city water and market it nationally under the name "Superior Water."

Along with a microcassette eulogy by Sheila Jackson Lee
The ashes of LSD guru Timothy Leary and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were shot into space aboard a Pegasus rocket on the "founder's flight" of a commercial funeral service offered by Houston-based Celestis Inc.

Well, possession is nine-tenths of the law
When a cop asked Kerri V. Goode, who had been stopped for speeding just after a holdup at Texas Commerce Gulfgate, what the big envelope stuffed with cash was doing on her front seat, she replied, "It's mine. I just robbed a bank."

Kerri V. Goode taught him everything he knew
A man who robbed Resource One Federal Credit Union walked across the street, in full view of a teller, and proceeded to have lunch at Ryan's Steak House, where he was arrested.

At Kerri V. Goode's suggestion
An unemployed carnival worker fleeing Maryland assault charges was nabbed in Brookshire after he went to a police station to borrow gas money.

They think Kerri V. Goode may have been involved
When two armed robbers jumped an armored car guard picking up money at the Atrium 10 Tower, officers from Harris County's Organized Crime Task Force poured from their same-floor classroom, exchanged shots with the pair and arrested one of them as the other fled.

When you've got to go, you've got to go
After a brief chase, police arrested a trio of teenagers who had been spotted along a freeway feeder as one boy relieved himself beside a stolen gray Ford Taurus.

But he nailed them for embezzling the take from the Christmas bake sale
Six years after discrepancies were discovered in the bingo books of VFW Post 2427, two elderly ladies finally were acquitted by a judge of stealing $10,000 from the Ladies' Auxiliary bingo proceeds.

Awwwww.
Four men who robbed a flower shop and shot the owner, wounding her, stopped on their way out to pick up four white Valentine's Day teddy bears.

Don't fire until you see the whites of their toenails
Wayne Bateman, 76, a retired Houston cop, told a jury that when he shot his 35-year-old girlfriend in the hip -- after ramming her with his motorized wheelchair -- he was only aiming for her big toe.

Gimme that hard-time religion
Rocky Bert Cozzens escaped from the Liberty County Jail by scaling a fence after hiding under a water tank used for prison-yard baptism services.

He had run out of his special homemade jerky
James Hand, a skilled outdoorsman who had been jailed for butchering a 1,500-pound buffalo and slaughtering a prize breeding bull, escaped from a Brazoria County prison and hid out in nearby woods for two days, blackening his face and clothes with shoe polish and subsisting on peanut-butter crackers.

Then he gave him an enema
A Houston pharmacist thwarted a would-be robber by sitting on him and wrapping him up with medical tape.

The law west of Dow Chemical
Lake Jackson bank president Buddy Baker -- who last year followed a bank robber to her mobile home, where she was arrested -- tackled this year's robber and wrestled him to the floor while the suspect's wife and three children waited in the getaway car.

That's exactly how we feel about our HMO
David Jefferson Jennings, disgruntled over Social Security benefits and bad teeth, was arrested in an alleged plot to take hostages from a dental office and plant bombs in daycare centers, after which eight homemade pipe bombs were recovered from his Baytown mobile home and his pickup.

Mr. Jennings just wanted to know his goddamn balance
Police called to an automatic teller machine in southwest Houston found it had been damaged by an explosive device.

And you thought junior high was bad
Port Lavaca resident Betty Louise Marek, 55, wired money from Houston to an undercover FBI agent she thought was a hit man, hoping he would off her 70-year-old ex-boyfriend and his new 66-year-old girlfriend.

Even Jenny Jones nixed him as a guest
A Tanglewood man sentenced to jail for indecency with children would persuade boys to wear diapers by taking them to a La Porte bay house and telling them a tall tale about a man decapitated during a boating accident, whose headless body swam in search of his son and would kill anyone who got in his way -- except for kids dressed as infants.

Yeah, the well-known Dracula phase
When Stephen James, who slept in a coffin and posed as a vampire, was tried for having sex with an underage girlfriend, he bragged in a taped phone call about sucking women's blood and complained that paying for an abortion would deprive him of Christmas money. His mother testified that he had gone through a phase.

Works every time
Male teacher's aide Paulino Martinez got probation for tricking a 15-year-old boy into having sex with him dozens of times by persuading him to don a blindfold, then posing as a pregnant college cheerleader named Martha.

She claimed Martha did it
Teenager Joynetta Blaine was charged with trying to cut off her 34-year-old boyfriend's penis while they were having sex.

At least he didn't tell her his name was Martha
Faith healer Raul "Brujo" Castillo was arrested on charges of convincing a 16-year-old girl that she could escape a curse on her spirit by having sex with him.

All in the family
Rap musician Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys, whose girlfriend once shot him in the eye at his request, was indicted in Fort Bend County on charges he tried to shoot his brother.

He had always considered Bushwick Bill a role model
Houston rap artist Shawn Adams, known as "Black Capone," was sentenced to six life sentences for taking part in a Pearland home invasion in which a woman was shot in the face.

Now Clarence Brandley won't get to do that special guest spot
Ricardo Aldape Guerra, released from death row after his conviction for slaying a Houston cop was overturned, returned to his native Mexico and signed a contract to act in a soap opera -- then was killed in a car wreck.

But he's got a real future as a Houston City Councilman
Seventeen-year-old Brandon Sample, described by prosecutors as "a shopping fool," was charged with theft for opening four accounts at two banks, then writing checks from one account to another to bankroll a Corvette, a BMW and a three-month tour of Ireland.

Just call them information highwaymen
Gunmen in The Woodlands hijacked an 18-wheeler loaded with Compaq laptop computers.

What they didn't know: That was just her daytime stuff
When Elyse Lanier was robbed of her carry-on bag at the Newark Airport, the New York Times reported that it contained jewelry worth $590,000.

And the growers had planned such a nice harvest festival
In a year in which marijuana seizures tripled, authorities uprooted 2,400 pot plants growing in a wooded area adjacent to Bear Creek Park.

This cell's for you
After ramming his pickup head-on into an oncoming car and killing two people, Todd Arland Mitchell, whose blood alcohol tested more than three times the legal limit, walked over to a third car, got a can of beer and began drinking it.

He put the "urban" in "urban scouting"
Freddie Lee Oliver, the district executive for urban scouting for the Boy Scouts of America, was charged with pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend on Valentine's Day, then hitting him twice in the mouth, all in the parking lot of the daycare center where the erstwhile couple's child was tended.

Randy Quaid has set up a legal defense fund
David Wayne Fletcher, arrested for posing as a Houston cop to get free rent -- he actually had a friend pretend to be a burglar so he could handcuff him in front of apartment employees -- was stopped for speeding the very next week and claimed to be an officer again to avoid a citation. When a woman recognized him on TV, he was once more arrested (this time for aggravated robbery) as he attended law-enforcement classes.

Contrary to rumor, Ben Reyes was not among them
Houston police mounted a sting to nab more than 20 infant-formula thieves, who stole the pricey powder from local supermarkets for resale on the black market.

Timothy McVeigh sez: Just add 2,000 pounds of fertilizer and ignite
A bomb scare near the Israeli consulate at Greenway Plaza ended when police bomb experts used fiber optics to look inside a car's suspiciously sagging trunk, where they found bags of potting soil.

Buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jack
At the gala groundbreaking for the new ballpark, the Sports Authority gave out free peanuts and popcorn but charged a buck for soft drinks and hot dogs to discourage homeless people from crashing the party.

We don't care if we ever get back
County Commissioners Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack boycotted the ballpark party after Astros owner Drayton McLane threatened not to attend unless his lease deal was finalized in advance.

Plus ragged vagrants sleeping on strategically placed grates
The Thyroid Society gala, dubbed "A Saturday Night with Joe Piscopo," boasted Manhattan-style decor of "street people," in-line skaters, pretzel vendors and panhandlers.

Don't try substituting Astroturf!
The Chronicle's ever-entertaining "Entertaining" section featured a festive headband and muff fashioned of moss.

If only they had remembered their moss muffs
At a very chilly Hard Hat & Tails gala outside the under-construction Bayou Place, Lyn Robertson wore a bronzed and jeweled hardhat that matched her full-length gown and sable wrap, while her friend Grace Milligan wore a yellow hardhat studded with real turquoise and yellow feathers, along with a shawl trailing 50 black foxtails.

The bloodied field mice looked so colorful, littered on the lawn
The Nature Conservancy of Texas outdoor benefit, staged in a River Oaks garden, featured a special "birds of prey" cocktail-hour presentation in which live falcons, owls and an eagle were displayed and their hunting abilities demonstrated.

The world's first Jean-Paul Sartre twirling routine
At socialite Patsy Fourticq's birthday party, Maxine reported, "Myra Wil-son did her famous baton dance. The baton was in her car, so she faked the twirling part."

Honoring the late French existentialist
The Friends of Hermann Park held their annual Picnic in the Park luncheon benefit inside an air-conditioned tent.

Organizers cried fowl
At a birthday party, socialite Hershey Grace presented the honoree with a live Thanksgiving turkey, which proceeded to run amuck through the Colombe d'Or's French-paneled ballroom.

At the S&L Corner, guests could flip property and get an unsecured loan
At the grand opening of the new Saks Fifth Avenue, each floor of the store was designed to reflect a decade of Saks's history in Houston: disco '70s, go-go '80s and contemporary '90s.

Gidget was home with a headache
The annual "Kappa Weekend" beach party organized by alumni of a black fraternity plunged Galveston into gridlock and shocked townsfolk with drunken, lewd behavior -- including public urination and women stripping off their clothes.

Your next assignment, should you choose to accept it: Neutralize Drayton McLane

Heart surgeon Michael DeBakey interceded with the Kremlin to help liberate the Romanov jewels -- held hostage in a van hemmed in by Russian diplomatic vehicles -- in time for an MFA exhibit.

Dear Lee: Feeling a little homesick.
HPD alumnus Tom Koby did not exactly distinguish himself as Boulder police chief, thanks to the bungled investigation of Jon Benet Ramsey's murder, still unsolved after more than a year.

Tom Koby offered her a shoulder to cry on
Nude video artiste Farrah Fawcett posed for Playboy wearing bubble wrap turned 50 broke up with longtime housemate Ryan O'Neal, who had taken up with a 24-year-old was accused of destroying another actress's clothes in a squabble over a new man made a bizarrely addled appearance on David Letterman and was reported to have created a disturbance on a cross-country airplane flight.

The one on her butt read "Free Kingwood"
Jennifer Miriam of Kingwood made history by becoming the first Playboy centerfold to sport three tattoos.

Calling all unemployed special projects coordinators
Alex Kanakis resigned as special projects coordinator for the Harris County Attorney's office shortly after his nude photo was published in a Playgirl pictorial titled "Calling All Real Men."

Hey, good idea!
After a judge briefly granted a mistrial in the marathon New Orleans breast-implant case, citing a Houston attorney's courtroom eyeball-rolling and gestures of exasperation and disbelief, John O'Quinn defended his colleague by saying that to prevent such common conduct, "you'd have to practically put everybody in a straitjacket."

John O'Quinn on the line for Ms. Smith
Houston's favorite widow was the subject of tabloid headlines that screamed "Anna Nicole's Boobs Explode -- Again!"

Please do
Unemployed store clerk Roy Eugene Porter told the Sally Jessy Raphael show he'd use his $10 million Texas lottery jackpot to help a troubled Canadian boy he had seen on the show -- then, when his claim proved false, Porter said, "I found Sally Jessy Raphael to be a snob. I'm switching back to Oprah."

We're shocked, shocked!
Houston IRS agent Jennifer Long caused a national furor when she testified before a Senate committee that she knew of five cases in which people being investigated by the IRS had committed suicide that she had been directed to meet collections quotas even if it meant fabricating evidence and that low-income people -- some too poor to afford air conditioning -- were targeted for audits.

Drayton McLane & Bud Adams know the feeling
Rockets owner Les Alexander expressed puzzlement over the firestorm of hostility that erupted over his ill-fated plan to buy the Edmonton Oilers hockey team, saying, "I've never walked into a meeting where I felt people hated me who haven't even met me yet."

Our money is not on those poor elks
In a campaign to extend his cattle operation onto Utah state land where environmentalists would prefer elks to graze, oilman Oscar Wyatt accused the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management of "nefarious activity" and "conspiracy," and urged supporters to help "put a few in jail."

Chupacabras would have been better
Marshall Herff Applewhite, onetime University of St. Thomas music teacher, persuaded 39 followers of his Heaven's Gate cult to down a lethal cocktail of barbiturates and vodka in the belief that they would be whisked to a higher plane by a UFO arriving in the wake of the Hale-Bopp Comet.

He was angling for Rob Johnson's job
Channel 11 reporter Jeff McShan wound up in a body brace during a Lake Tahoe skiing trip -- when he broke his neck sliding down a hill on a garbage-can lid.

But can we slide down it on garbage-can lids?
A proposed landfill in Beach City would create a 15-story mountain of industrial waste, making it the highest point in Chambers County.

And if that doesn't work out, we'll consider a 15-story mountain of industrial waste

Noting that numerous pro basketballers already live in Fort Bend County, Missouri City offered the Houston Rockets a 300-acre site on which to build a new arena.

Maybe the kids could just leave town entirely
The Splendora City Council, which previously imposed a nighttime curfew on minors under 16, added a daytime curfew as well.

Penny wise, pow! foolish
Conroe convenience-store owner Attique "Ed" Ahmad got a year in federal prison for pumping 4,690 gallons of bad gasoline into the city's sewer system, thus saving $5,000 -- and creating the equivalent of an eight-mile pipe bomb.

And you can't even slide down it on garbage-can lids
Residents of the Brazoria County town of Guy had to give up barbecuing and other outdoor activities because of a stench from biosolid municipal waste -- otherwise known as sludge from human excrement -- that was spread on nearby fields by a Hockley company.

Instead she'll take over the Houston Image Campaign sweepstakes
A Cut and Shoot woman gave up her scheme to award her school-supply stores to the winner of an essay contest, because only 150 people paid the $100 entry fee.

Bob Lanier sez: Why the hell not?
Mayor Ollie Burdett of Patton Village said she quit her post, along with the court clerk, the deputy court clerk and the city secretary, because "We couldn't go on working with City Council members who'd tell you one minute they wanted one thing and then turn right around and say they'd wanted something different or they meant something different. You can't work like that."

It was either that or have Houston's Superior Water delivered door to door
Surfside Beach finally arranged to provide its residents with tap water that wasn't yellow, salty and grainy-textured from sand -- but to get it, they have to bring their water jugs to a faucet outside City Hall.

Oh, okay
Galveston port manager Ernest Connor admitted grabbing a female employee's leg in the Holiday Inn bar and a VFW club, and kissing her uninvited, but he said he was high on 12 vodka drinks and diet pills the night it happened.

World o' Lawsuits
Rob Todd served as celebrity judge
A woman sued Peter's Wildlife on the Richmond strip, claiming she almost choked to death during the club's hot-dog-eating contest.

"T" for two
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich sued Rudy Teichman of Galveston -- a former city councilman known to his friends as Rudy T -- to get him to take the "T" out of his new Rudy T. & Paco's restaurant.

Good thing Ann didn't mention Rudy T.
Houston's Bed-Wetting Revolution, a nonprofit that fights bed-wetting, was sued by Tulsa's American Enuresis Foundation -- which claimed it had rights to the Bed-Wetting Revolution name, and that it deserved a cut of fees from new clients generated when Ann Landers ran a letter from the Houston group's president.

She wanted Coke, not Pepsi
Ramesh L. Sheladia Patel sued Gujarati Samaj, the Hindu group of which he had been treasurer, claiming its leaders had slandered and libeled him and removed him from office after he got involved in a club picnic dispute between his wife and a volunteer dispensing soft drinks.

But they got the go-ahead to drill in the City Hall reflecting pool
An appeals court rejected a suit by Wilson Oil Co., which wanted to overturn a longtime ban on drilling in Lake Houston.

Shirley MacLaine complained it gave her bad vibes
Attorney John Tavormina, who now owns the River Oaks house featured in Terms of Endearment, sued the makers of the Evening Star sequel when instead of using his home for exterior shots, they constructed an exact replica in Houston.

The fur flew
Two former partners in a pet-grooming business spent a total of $25,000 suing each other for custody of the shop's mascot, a four-year-old Persian cat named Oscar.

Yeah, but the insulation was terrific
A group of 244 homeowners sued HL&P and Kimball Hill Homes, claiming their energy-efficient "Good Cents Homes," certified and inspected by the Light Company, were afflicted with chronic leaks, sagging roofs, bad foundations and faulty brick exteriors.

So where was she when Time ran that Expect the Unexpected sweepstakes?
A Houston woman sued the Texas lottery, among others, claiming that her life and banking career were ruined when she was accused of tampering with a scratch-off ticket to make herself appear to be a $10,000 winner.

Reading, Writing and Rain-forest Algebra

What's the matter, he never heard of chili pie are squared?
State Board of Education member David Bradley, from down the road in Beaumont, ripped the cover off a textbook when other members refused to reject the so-called "rain-forest algebra" text -- which mixed math with chili recipes, photos of Bill Clinton and Maya Angelou and discussions of the environment and the Vietnam War.

But in rain-forest algebra terms, that's a good response
The Houston Image Group's scheme to bring attention to Houston by running a sweepstakes ad in Time magazine, offering 33 prizes such as tea with Charles Barkley or a conducting class from Christoph Eschenbach, drew one lonely instant scratch-off winner from the mag's 4.8 million subscribers.

Picky, pickyMetro officials admitted that -- contrary to previous boasting -- their buses were not really punctual 96 percent of the time (try 80), nor did they average 9,000 miles between breakdowns (more like 6,700).

A tape measure is a driver's best friend
When Metro's new minibuses arrived, union drivers discovered they were seven and a half inches longer than the 30-foot length specified in their contracts. So to avoid paying the steeper wage that drivers of full-size buses earn, Metro (before a truce was called) removed the front and rear bumper guards to produce a 29-foot, 11 1/2 inch bus.

Le Chronk, c'est moi
Chronicle publisher Richard J.V. Johnson reportedly overruled his 13-member editorial board's vote to endorse George Greanias in the mayoral race (the pre-Dick tally was 5 Greanias, 4 Brown, 4 Mosbacher), throwing the paper's support to Mosbacher.

After which he wrestled his entire editorial board to the ground
At the Houston Chronicle's Book & Author Dinner, upon a challenge from literary personage "Body by Jake" Steinfeld, the paper's publisher, Richard J.V. Johnson, dropped to the floor and did five pushups.

First step: Purge all projects that allude to "world-class"
Rice University and the University of Houston announced they would mount a joint study to identify what Houston must do to be a world-class city in the 21st century.

Fast times at Cougar High
U of H grad students charged that the school routinely required them to pay for sham "dummy classes" -- a stratagem to secure more tax dollars -- in order to keep their jobs as teaching assistants.

Aw, it was just a "Tribes of the Amazon" social studies project
An eighth-grader in Cleveland was expelled for shooting a middle-school principal with a needle-sharp dart he had made.

Somewhere, Janis is smiling
Students at Port Arthur's Thomas Jefferson High School -- alma mater of Janis Joplin -- celebrated the next-to-last day of school with a cafeteria food fight in which they overturned tables and chairs, smashed windows, tore down ceiling tiles and sent buns and red-colored drinks whizzing through the air.

Sheila Jackson Lee went down in milliseconds
Deep Blue Junior, a smaller version of the famous IBM chess-playing computer that vanquished Garry Kasparov, defeated Rice University chess champ Nathan Doughty in less than an hour.

Deep Blue doesn't understand it, either
Mayor Bob "I love numbers" Lanier floated an argument purporting to demonstrate that a revised Fourth Ward housing plan by which Houston Renaissance would subsidize 150 affordable units, instead of the 350 originally promised, actually worked out to more units, since added to the 250 units planned separately by the city, the total would be 400, 50 more than the 350 figure, even though both projects together would have added 600 units, and . oh, forget it.

They've heard he's offered her that Princess Di part
The tabloids have offered a fat bounty to anyone who can produce a photograph of recently divorced movie star (and noted philanderer) Kevin Costner together with the recently divorced Laura Sakowitz, Bobby's glamorous blond ex.

So that's why she never dates Democrats!
Bob Mosbacher's about-to-be ex, Georgette, was spotted with disgraced Republican political consultant Ed Rollins out and about in New York City, although Rollins pleaded "just friends," saying, "Georgette likes billionaires, and I'm just a thousandaire."

But only after she outfitted all their phones with star 69 and caller ID
Singer Kenny Rogers, who was divorced by his last wife after three women accused him of having phone sex with them, took wife number five, the 29-years-younger Wanda Miller.

My Christmas present or your life
Vicky Renee Menard stalked Tim Chapman and shot him at a north Houston service station in an attempt to get back a coat he had given her for Christmas.

She was inspired by Marv Albert
Jacqueline Boykin was charged with attempted capital murder after she bit her husband, Charles, a Kountze alderman, and then claimed she had AIDS.

No, money walks and something else talks
Olympics-obsessed Councilman John Kelley kept right on feuding with Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale over who was best qualified to snag the games for Houston, a tussle in which Kelley called Mac "a furniture salesman" and Mac said of Kelley, "Money talks and something else walks."

Little Bo Peep has hired Rudy T's lawyer to sue for trademark infringement
In the wake of the Heaven's Gate cult suicides, reports showed that onetime Houstonian Marshall Herff Applewhite had taken his mystical turn after meeting astrology-obsessed Houston nurse Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles -- after which the couple, known to their followers as "The Two" or "Bo and Peep," spread the gospel that they were aliens in human bodies awaiting retrieval by a spaceship.

They're worried about the ozone levels
Experts reported that as killer bees make their way north in Texas, for some reason they turn left just shy of Houston.

Just a colder version of Channelview
A new species of pink, frilly-legged worms was discovered living in mounds of methane-rich ice on the Gulf of Mexico's floor -- a hostile environment with no light, little oxygen and a constant presence of sulfides, gas and concentrated brine.

No, he mistook his reflection for Lloyd Kelley
Police responding to a burglary call at a Stafford store found the front door smashed and a billy goat ramming the window. Said one cop: "He probably thought he was butting another male goat."

Does Ken Hoffman have an alibi?
After the first black bear in a generation was spotted in Montgomery County, local ranchers blamed it for devouring calves and leaving just the rib cages.

First the mayor's race, now this
One of the worst infestations of forest tent caterpillars in years sent a thick rain of caterpillar excrement onto the decks, patios, sidewalks and lawns of Missouri City.

With some nice forest tent caterpillars for dessert
Rice University administrators, staff, maintenance workers and students lured a three-foot iguana down from a campus tree by laying out a vegetable buffet.

With practice, they hoped to become Houston voters
A flock of wayward Muscovy ducks kept loitering on the Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land, resisting attempts to relocate them to a safer home, even after a motorist mowed down ten of them.

Now the manager knows what "deep shit" means
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigated Rowdy's nightclub on I-45 near Spring after a customer reported that she had discovered a video camera -- which was connected to a monitor in the manager's office -- hidden behind an air-conditioning vent over the women's toilet.

The manager of Rowdy's wanted a copy
Former HISD teacher Michael Madison filed suit claiming he was fired after a videotape he made at Attucks Middle School -- which showed one student urinating on a row of lockers and others fighting and racing down hallways -- was shown on a local news broadcast and later on CNN.

The good news: Guatemala, China and Peru have ordered copies
After a training video shot during a disturbance at the Brazoria County Detention Center showed prostrate, unresisting inmates being kicked in the groin, prodded with stun guns and struck with batons by guards and sheriff's deputies -- not to mention bitten by German shepherds -- the state of Missouri withdrew the 415 prisoners it was paying to house there.

Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson made their nude video for similar reasons
Houston product Farrah Fawcett made a pay-per-view video in which she writhed nude across a screen, using her paint-splattered body as a brush, explaining, "I wanted to combine my art and stay true to my artistic conviction. This reminded me how much I love art."

Now Ben Reyes wants one, too
After Channel 13 aired video of Controller Lloyd Kelley cavorting at an amusement park and gardening at home during work hours, he tried unsuccessfully to get the station to sign what he called a "fair reporting agreement."

Disregarding Satan's advice to use a pitchfork
Retired Coast Guard lieutenant Joseph Sybille got a year's probation for beating his neighbor 11 times with a shovel -- an attack graphically recorded by a surveillance camera the victim had installed during the pair's long-simmering feud over a fence.

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  • A Quora user asked: 'What food is the most profitable at restaurants?'
  • Omelettes, pasta and breakfast dishes were among answers given by 'experts'
  • Soups often use up leftover ingredients from the previous day, it was claimed

Published: 12:09 BST, 15 February 2017 | Updated: 12:53 BST, 15 February 2017

If you're a vegetarian who likes to start with soup and always orders dessert, then you're a restaurant's dream customer.

That's according to users of the question-and-answer website Quora, who have been sharing the foods which have the most profitable mark-ups in restaurants.

From omelettes and veggie options to anything from the children's menu, these are the dishes you are paying over the odds for - despite the fact they cost restaurants next to nothing to make.

Industry insiders gave detailed responses to the question of which items on menus are the most profitable for restaurants

One user, who claims to be a chef, said vegetarian food is cheaper to make than meat-based dishes as restaurants don't have to pay for the costly protein.


The world’s greatest potato dishes

Author John Reader corrects this mistake by delving into the potato’s rich history, one that dates back to the pre-Inca people of the Andes who first domesticated the potato around 8,000 years ago. Reader tracks the potato’s migration to Europe at the end of the 16th century, its rise as the prized crop of Ireland and its eventual spread around the globe in new and delicious forms.

Fried, baked, mashed and beyond — whether the recipe calls for Russets or Yukon Gold, red-skinned or purple potatoes — these are some of the most popular ways to enjoy a potato around the world.

Mashed potato

Late Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon claimed that he owed everything to his take on mashed potatoes. (Or, in his native French, “pommes purée.”)

Comfort food par excellence and holiday spread staple, the mashed potato is said to have emerged in the UK in the mid-18th century. Mash methodology may vary but a plate of mash today looks very much like the original: boiled potatoes mashed with butter, milk or cream with a dash of salt.

Some mashed favorites beyond the original include:

Champ / Colcannon, Ireland

Almost as soon as mashed potato appeared, it was mixed with kale or cabbage by Irish households to create a filling dish that would prepare workers for a long day of labor. Colcannon is also a traditional Halloween dish, with, in times past, a coin, rag, stick or other trinket stirred inside. Whichever item showed up on your plate was said to predict your future.

Stoemp, Belgium

A hearty, wintry dish that mixes puréed potatoes with seasonal vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, leeks, kale and turnip greens. Stoemp is both pub fare and a useful way to repurpose leftovers at home.

Bangers and mash, UK

“Bangers” is a British slang term for sausages, dating back to World War II.

While the mash portion of this dish is fairly straightforward, it’s the combination that makes it an enduring comfort food go-to. The bangers (sausages) elevate the mash and the creamy potatoes take the bangers beyond the ordinary. Smother both in gravy for peak pub-grub, belly-filling heartiness.

Meat pie with mashed potatoes and mushy peas, Australia

Duchess potatoes, France

If Duchess Potatoes (or “Pommes Duchesse”) are a cousin of mashed potatoes, they are the posh, high-maintenance kind. To make this French favorite, mashed potato is puréed with egg yolk, butter and nutmeg and the mixture is piped into decorative swirls, which are then painted with more butter and browned in the oven until golden.

Duchess potatoes combined with choux pastry dough is the basis of another French potato dish, the churro-like pommes de terre Lorette.

Shepherd’s pie, UK

Shepherd’s Pie is a classic winter warmer.

Another dish that takes mashed potato and bakes it until crispy on top is this hearty dish with its roots in the UK. Ground meat is mixed with gravy, onions, carrots, herbs and other vegetables of choice, then topped with lashings of mash.

Traditionally, Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb while Cottage Pie is made of beef, but you’ll often find both varieties getting the Shepherd’s label.

Potato bread, Ireland

You may have sampled it on St. Patrick’s Day, but potato bread is a year-round treat in Ireland. Leftover mashed potato is turned into a dough to create triangles — known as farls — which are then cooked on a griddle or in a heavy frying pan. The resulting potato bread is often enjoyed with fried eggs on top for breakfast.

Irish chef Kevin Dundon recommends using mash that’s still warm (or reheated) when trying your hand at potato bread at home.

A Chilean version of potato bread is known as milcao.

Crocchè, Italy

Can’t decide between creamy mashed potato and a fried, crispy potato fritter? There’s a snack for that, and we have the Italians to thank. Crocchè come from Sicily, but are also easy to find in Naples and elsewhere in the country.

In Palermo, they are known as “cazzilli” and back in the day they were a way to use up the oldest potatoes.

Today, they’re a fun street-fair snack best enjoyed hot.

In India, a similar snack known as bonda also takes mashed potato (and spices), batters it and deep fries it until golden.

Chopped and fried

The french fry may be the world’s favorite way to eat a potato. The concept is simple: Cut potato into straws and deep fry. But getting creative with variations on the original is half the fun.

As for that name, it’s unclear that the fry originated in France. Some claim they began in Belgium, where the salty delight was first encountered by American soldiers during World War I.

How thick you cut your fries — or chips, as they’re known in the UK, Australia and other places — is a personal preference that affects the level of crunch and texture of the end result. Shoestring fries tend to be used for dishes like steak-frites, while chunkier chips, splashed with with malt vinegar or ketchup, are favored for fish and chips.

There’s no dish more British than fish and chips.

In Belgium, frites with mayo — or myriad other sauces — are a point of national pride, and in the UK and Ireland, curry or gravy chips make a useful late-night repast after several of your ales of choice. Aussies go mad for chicken salt on their hot chips, and in Texas, chili cheese fries give the dish the nachos treatment, loading up the fries with chili, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, jalapeño peppers and other accoutrements.

Poutine, Canada

Apparently, waiters at one of the first restaurants to serve Quebec’s now iconic dish grew tired of writing “fries, cheese curds and gravy,” giving birth to the moniker “poutine,” meaning pudding or a “mess.”

More than one establishment lays claim to creating it. But no man has eaten more of it in one sitting than competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who, in 2019, ate a record 28 pounds of the stuff in 10 minutes at the Smoke’s Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship in Toronto. In the Northeast United States, you’ll find a spin on poutine known as disco fries — topped with gravy and melted cheese — in classic American diners.

Potato wedges/Jojo, United States/Australia

A popular bar snack in Australia (and well beyond) — where they are often served with sweet chili sauce on the side — potato wedges are as advertised. A wedge of potato baked or, more commonly, fried, and usually seasoned with spices including paprika.

In the Northwestern United States, the Jojo is often mistaken for a potato wedge — but in fact, this local specialty is potato battered with a spiced breading similar to that on fried chicken.

Fried potato dishes

There’s more to the fried potato universe than fries alone. While these fried dishes might involve buckets of hot oil and calories, they make up for it in “just one more bite” addictive flavor.

Potato hash, United States

Often made with leftovers from holiday meals, potato hash is a breakfast dish that’s just as tempting any other time of day. Whether reheating potatoes or baking a fresh batch, they should be diced before throwing into a skillet with your chosen accompaniments. Ree Drummond, the food blogger behind “The Pioneer Woman,” favors bell peppers, squash, zucchini and onions. Once it’s all cooked through and the potatoes are golden, serve with a fried egg on top.

Bubble and squeak, UK

On the other side of the pond, the concept of repurposing last night’s dinner takes the form of bubble and squeak, which involves frying up leftover cabbage and other vegetables with the remaining mashed potatoes from a Sunday roast. The result resembles a quiche, which is often cut into wedges and served as a side dish. Or it can be the main attraction for a quick and easy lunch or dinner — and, like a hash, enjoyed with a fried egg on top.

Hash browns, United States

Hash browns nestle alongside an Egg McMuffin at a McDonald’s restaurant in Fairfield, California.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The dish — diced or shredded potatoes fried into potato cake — is now an integral part of the McDonald’s breakfast menu, even if it plays more of a supporting role to the Egg McMuffin.

Tater tots, United States

Patatas bravas, Spain

Potato scallops, Australia

Potato scallop, potato fritter or potato cake? Potato Potahto. Like their mates, the fish and chips, this fried delight actually originated in England. Doesn’t matter Aussies love them, often consuming scallops — a thin slice of potato dipped in batter and deep-fried — on hot summer days at the beach. In Sydney, the words “scallop” and “potato scallop” are interchangeable, and the kind you find in the ocean have been relegated to “sea scallops.”

Potatoes sarladaise, France

This dish comes to us from the town of Sarlat in Périgord, the home of duck (or goose) confit and it’s as simple as it is decadent. To make, slice potatoes and fry them in confit fat. Truffles, another local delicacy, are added for one more sucker punch of OTT flavor.

Kuku sibzamini, Iran

These Persian potato fritters are elevated by adding turmeric powder and saffron to the egg mixture that’s combined with rough-mashed potatoes to form the patties. They’re fried and served hot, with yogurt on the side.

Potato chips/crisps, UK/Ireland

Can’t you almost taste the salt on your tongue?

They’re the hero of parties and the playground, and are one of the world’s most beloved snack foods. But where did the potato chip come from? Apparently the origin story tracing it to New York’s Saratoga Springs in 1853 is a myth, while the earliest known recipe is traced to Englishman William Kitchiner’s 1817 book “The Cook’s Oracle.”

Potato chips remained unseasoned until the 1950s, when Joe “Spud” Murphy, owner of Ireland’s Tayto crisp company, developed a technology to add flavoring during manufacturing. The result was the still iconic Tayto cheese and onion, and companies around the world soon rushed to follow suit.

Potato pancake dishes

Latkes, Eastern Europe

This fried potato pancake, traditionally served with sour cream and applesauce, is best known for its starring role in the traditions of Hanukkah. As Bruce Weinstein explains in “The Ultimate Potato Book,” “folklore claims that the oil in the skillet reminds us of the oil lamps that miraculously burned for eight days.”

Rösti, Switzerland

It’s the unofficial dish of Switzerland — once eaten by farmers and now enjoyed by the masses. The word rösti means “crisp and golden,” just as the sauteed potato fritter is best savored. In “The Ultimate Potato Book,” Weinstein recommends using parboiled potatoes to ensure the perfect level of rösti crispiness.

Gamja jeon, Korea

A savory, highly customizable potato pancake traditionally eaten on rainy days in Korean homes. Gamja jeon pancakes are made with finely grated potato and onion and fried until golden.

Baked and roasted potato dishes

Whether you like ’em small or chunky, soft or crispy, roast potatoes are a beloved side dish — a holiday must-have. In Italian, they’re patate al forno Greeks roast their potatoes with lemon.

Loaded or dressed baked potatoes, on the other hand, can serve as a main meal, piled high with cheese, bacon and other calorific delights. Most recipes call for baking a potato in foil until soft, scooping out the flesh and mixing it with butter, sour cream, chives and your chosen ingredients before refilling the potatoes and popping them back in the oven for a quick finish.

Pommes Anna, France

It’s so famous that there’s a baking dish named after it, the la cocotte à pommes Anna. Before the potatoes go into the copper pan, they’re peeled and sliced thin, and then layered with plenty of clarified butter and baked in their namesake dish until they resemble a cake. The next step is to flip the cake over to cook the other side — a process the la cocotte à pommes Anna helps to simplify.

Potato gratin, France

Creamy and crispy: gratin Dauphinois potatoes.

Another popular way to eat potatoes in France is in the form of a gratin, a kind of fancy, creamy casserole finished with a browned crust. It’s made by layering sliced boiled potatoes with cream or béchamel sauce and a cheese like gruyère, and baking until hot and inviting.

Potato salad dishes

It’s a crucial part of a summer spread a true July 4 classic. Potato salad may be as American as apple pie, but it’s said to have arrived in the US by way of European immigrants. Who, in turn, were introduced to the dish by Spanish explorers.

While there are endless iterations, the American potato salad most closely resembles German potato salad. The switch from dressing the cooked potatoes in oil, vinegar and herbs (as was the German style) to dousing them in creamy mayo seems to have occurred around the time that commercial mayonnaise became popular in the US — in the 1920s and’ 30s. German potato salad was usually served warm the Americanized version is best eaten cold.

Japanese potato salad

Switch out the mayo for Japanese Kewpie mayo and opt for half-mashed potato rather than boiled and you’ll be halfway to making a delicious Japanese potato salad. This spin calls for rice wine vinegar and chopped cucumber and carrots for crunch.

Russian salad

The origins of Russian, or Olivier salad, can be traced back to the 19th century and Russia’s celebrated pre-Revolution restaurant The Hermitage. The modern version typically includes diced potatoes and other vegetables, creamy dressing and pickles.

Boiled potato dishes

The bane of many kids’ existence, boiled potatoes usually require oodles of butter, herbs or other dressings to become covetable (see loaded or dressed potatoes). The following dishes take the humbled boiled potato to tastier heights via strategic pairings.

Papas chorreadas, Colombia

Cheesy potatoes, Colombia-style.

Boiled potatoes, meet onions, tomatoes and queso blanco. This cheesy dish gets its name from the word “chorrear,” meaning “to pour,” which is what you do with that delicious sauce — enough to cover the potatoes and then some.

Salade niçoise, France

Boiled red-skinned potatoes (best when chilled overnight) add some heft to an otherwise light mixture of tomatoes, anchovies, olives, capers and green beans that can be traced back to, as the name suggests, Nice on the French Riviera.

Potato stew dishes

When tough cuts of meat are slow-cooked to bring out the flavor, it’s more than likely that chunks of potato are swimming around in that pot, too.

Stovies, Scotland

Like so many stews, stovies evolved as a good way to resurrect the previous night’s roast beef and lard. Sliced potatoes and onions were thrown in a pot to stew alongside the meat until tender and the resulting “stovies” were usually enjoyed with a cracker or oatcake and a glass of whisky.

Aloo gobi, India

A classic Indian stew, aloo gobi is made with potatoes, cauliflower and peas and served over rice or atop some naan bread. It can be customized, spice-wise and by adding a range of ingredients such as crab, mushroom or shrimp. Many other curry recipes also call for potatoes (“aloo”) including saag aloo (with spinach) and aloo gosht, popular in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Curried potatoes is also a common side dish in Uganda.

A few more delicious stews featuring potatoes include:

Caldo verde, a Portuguese broth made with grated potatoes, collard greens and chouriço sausage.

Irish stew, a hearty mix of lamb (or mutton), potatoes and other root vegetables.

Not just for St Patrick’s Day: Irish stew.

Maafe, a West African potato stew thickened with peanuts, with its roots in Mali.

Nikujaga, a Japanese one-pot dish that translates to “meat and potatoes.” Seasoning comes in the form of a sweet soy sauce stock, sesame oil, sake or rice wine.

Potato dumpling dishes

Knish, New York

Blintzes, another Jewish snack, are rolled, thin pancakes that can also contain potato filling, but more often feature cheese or fruit inside.

Potato pierogi, Poland

Pierogi have been made in Poland since the 13th century and they proliferated across Eastern Europe. Small dumplings that are boiled and then fried, pierogi can be stuffed with almost anything, including sauerkraut, ground meat and fruit. Cooked potatoes, along with cheese and fried onion, are the filling for what’s known as pierogi Ruskie.

Gnocchi, Italy

Kartoffelklösse, Germany

A German side dish to make Sundays better.

Boiled and riced potato is shaped into little balls, along with bread cubes, flour, egg and seasonings, to create these old-fashioned potato dumplings, traditionally served with a Sunday roast.

Even more potato dishes

Skordalia, Greece

Greeks love dips, whether served as a starter or as a sauce for protein, and skordalia brings the humble potato into the mix. The garlic-laced dip is thickened by blending mashed potatoes with olive oil and lemon juice. Crushed almonds or walnuts are sometimes sprinkled in as well.

Causa rellena, Peru

These little stacks of citrusy mashed potatoes are typically layered with chicken or seafood, avocado and limes to create a refreshing Peruvian appetizer. The dish is said to have originated in the 1879 War of the Pacific involving Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Blitva, Croatia

A rustic dish from the Croatian coast, blitva is now commonly served across the country, often as a side with meat or grilled seafood. It combines garlicky chunks of boiled potatoes with wilted Swiss chard and olive oil.

The Dutch enjoy a similar dish of potato mashed with endives, called andijviestamppot.

Potato stir fry, China

A traditional Sichuan dish that requires julienning potatoes very thinly to create shredded potatoes with a crunchy texture. Sichuan peppercorns, red chilies, ginger and garlic bring the heat.

Paprikás krumpli, Hungary

Sweet Hungarian paprika brings the magic to this hearty dish.

A hearty stew often found in rural areas that pairs peeled, cubed potatoes with sweet Hungarian paprika, simmered with garlic, tomatoes and peppers.

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, Portugal

Named after a 19th-century cod merchant, this salt cod, onion and potato casserole is said to have originated in Porto. It’s traditionally garnished with black olives, parsley and hard-boiled eggs and served with lemon wedges.


Watch the video: Pizza delivery guy gets insulted, Internet gets revenge (July 2022).


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