In America: Quiz contestant's 'cosmic' winning streak runs out

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The Independent Online

* Forget the Presidential campaign - Pandora will first consider the question that is really gripping America: is it true that Ken Jennings has lost his Jeopardy! crown?

* Forget the Presidential campaign - Pandora will first consider the question that is really gripping America: is it true that Ken Jennings has lost his Jeopardy! crown?

Jennings is a super-nerd computer programmer who wrapped up a record 43rd straight win last Friday on the popular US quiz show. The trouble is, each programme is pre-recorded, so what we saw on Friday actually happened in July, before Jeopardy!'s summer break.

Word from eyewitnesses, conveyed on a couple of websites at the weekend, is that in a show taped last Tuesday, the baby-faced Jennings was finally defeated, in what will air next month as his 76th consecutive game, having won a total of $2.5m (£1.3m).

If confirmed, his demise poses a dilemma for ABC, the network that runs the 21-year-old show - and whose ratings have soared 30 per cent thanks to Jennings. For the moment, ABC is mum: "We have no intention of changing our policy of not disclosing whether a contestant has won or lost."

Rest assured however, Jennings's run is not a fix. Apparently it reflects his sensational buzzer timing, "cosmically in sync" with the light telling contestants when they can press the buzzer to answer, in the words of one vanquished foe.

* IT HAD to happen. After Arnold Schwarzenegger called California's Democratic legislators "girlie men" during the recent battle over the state budget -

and repeated the jibe at last month's Republican convention - the Democratic lobbyist John Edgell now plans to turn the over-muscled "Governator" into a bobblehead doll, complete with hot pink dress and matching dancing shoes.

"If there's a perfect example of a girlie man, it's Arnold," the lobbyist insists, daring the Republican party darling to sue (as he did successfully against another Edgell-inspired doll, that depicted Schwarzenegger in a suit wielding a rifle).

"I'm making the point that it's the American public's right to poke fun at politicians. If his people have a problem with that, they can sue me."

* HERE IN the capital of the free world, we await with trepidation the outcome of the race for the Ward 8 seat on the DC council. The ante-post favourite for Tuesday's election is - you've guessed - none other than Washington's own comeback king, our two-time former mayor and convicted crack-cocaine felon Marion Barry (pictured).

As usual, Hizzoner showed up 40 minutes late for last week's candidates' forum, and seemed a bit jaded. But the old Barry braggadocio soon returned. "You bet against me?" a disbelieving Barry asked one reporter. "I got this, and I'm going to win by big numbers."

* STILL WORRIED about the sluggish US economy? Well listen to Dick Cheney. Things would be looking much better, argues the internet-savvy Veep, if the 400,000 people making money selling things on eBay were taken into account.

A decade ago, this means of raising income did not exist; now the Bush administration was being short-changed by official statistics which failed to mention it.

Pandora seems to remember another election and another top Republican - George HW Bush - getting in trouble on the high-tech front, expressing bewilderment at a supermarket scanner.

"How out of touch are these guys?" wondered Kerry's running mate John Edwards, scoffing at the eBay claim. "If we include cookie bake sales and the money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would be really cooking."

* Finally, the unchallenged winner of the September thoughtfulness and good taste award is the conservative talk-show host Michael Savage (most famous for losing a cable channel slot after telling a gay caller to "get Aids and die, you pig!"). Savage had this to say about former President Bill Clinton, currently recuperating from heart by-pass surgery: "He will be with us a

while longer because we understand hell was full - and he will be granted a full recovery," Savage opined. "We do know he is getting bypass surgery. But we cannot confirm it is of the heart. It may be of another organ." Ugh!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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