PEOPLE : The eagle landed by smashing on the floor

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The Independent Online
The eagle has landed - and smashed into hundreds of pieces. Perched on a stand in the chic Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York's Central Park was a delicate Waterford crystal sculpture in the shape of an American eagle. It was to have been presented to Jean Kennedy Smith, the US ambassador to Ireland, who was honoured by Irish America magazine as the ``Irish American of the Year''.

But the Pope's doctor had a second opinion. Dr Kevin Cahill collided with the stand, sending the sculpture crashing to the floor, glass feathers flying.

The embarrassed physician, who also was being honoured by the magazine as one of the top 100 Irish Americans, left the stage on Wednesday with the words: "Having destroyed the main trophy for the evening, my speech will be very short."

Ambassador Smith will still get her award. As Don Keough, a business executive, told her: "You're going to receive more pieces of Irish history than anybody in the world. We're getting a velvet sack to put the pieces in and it'll be brought over to you."

Want to chat with Oliver North? The former US Marines officer, national- security official and Senate candidate now has his own "common sense" radio chat show.

"Live from our nation's capital, it's the Oliver North Show," he boomed from suburban Silver Spring, Maryland. "Something you can finally use from Washington - the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Kicking off with a discussion of what's wrong with America, Mr North called his inaugural show on Monday a "live animal act right on the air" with a "pack of jackals" - the reporters who turned up at station WWRC- AM to watch the action.

While most callers supported Mr North's conservative Republican views, ``Jean, from New York'' (who presumably was not speaking in a Boston accent from the Tavern on the Green) called him a liar over the Iran-Contra arms- for-hostages affair. She was cut off. "Going on personal vendettas against the talk show host doesn't solve anything," Mr North said.

Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor, also plans to become a radio chat show host. Mr Cuomo, who recently starred with Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, in a television commercial for a popular brand of corn chips, says he wants his programme to be "a thought talk radio instead of just a talk, talk radio".

He expects to sign a deal for a weekly show that would "give the news of the week some perspective", but won't be a Democratic Party forum. "I'm not going to be shouting at people and hanging up after 30 seconds because I don't like their answers," he pledged.

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This business of instant communication with opinion-makers is all very well, but do world leaders ever see their e-mail? Only a few West European leaders have electronic-mail addresses and some, like Felipe Gonzalez in Spain and Helmut Kohl in Germany, don't even have personal computers.

A spokesman for the Dutch prime minister, Wim Kok, recently said his boss did not have an Internet address and had no plans to get one. But users of World Wide Web can find Mr Kok and leave him a message in the Amsterdam Electronic City, where his picture greets you.

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I don't know what my visit to Europe did for Cuba,'' a bubbly Fidel Castro announced upon his emergence yesterday from a wine cellar in Chablis, ``but it did a lot for me.''

Wearing his latest decoration on his fatigues, a colourful sash and a winetasters' silver cup proclaiming him a member of the Brotherhood of the Pillars of Chablis, the Cuban leader said the strongest impression was of Chablis wine.

Mr Castro asked his hosts plenty of questions about planting, techniques and yield, observing sad that ``Cuba is too hot for grapes''. Where next, then, for the bearded tourist? The United States? "It is so close to us, why not?" he laughed. "Maybe I'll go on a raft.''