Put 400 politicians in a building called the House of Representatives, hand them a few issues to disagree about, and stand well back. Put the same men and women in a resort hotel in the town that gave us Hershey's chocolate and it is amazing just how sweet they can really be. Or so we are told. The 200 or so Congress members who returned from a bipartisan retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, last week, have vowed to carry forward the good vibes created from talking to their enemies over a poolside beer rather than in the soundbites of partisan bickering. The weekend get-together, where the politicians took their spouses for a let's-be-friends session of self-discovery, was organised by the Aspen Institute, at a cost of US$700,000 (HK$5.41 million), because of concerns that the bad vibes between the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill had gone beyond the pale. A recent report by University of Pennsylvania academics judged 1995 one of the worst on record for the number of times members got involved in verbal fisticuffs and had to be called to order. Abusive language and untoward behaviour - such as accusing the other side of lying - are on the up and up, it seems. The study noted how things have not been as bad since 1947 - not coincidentally, the previous time control of the House changed from one party to the other. It has to be noted the shenanigans on Capitol Hill are mild compared to the hecklers' corner that passes for the British House of Commons - a fact noted with amazement by most Americans who watch recordings of the London chamber here. Nor can they compare with political life in 19th century Washington, which made Taiwan's Yuan look like a Buckingham Palace garden party. Congressmen commonly fought with canes in the chamber, and even challenged each other to duels. The 1990s version of the duel is, of course, the call for investigations into a rival's ethical standards. Which is why it was amazing to see House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and his greatest foe, Democratic Whip David Bonior, drop their almost daily exchange of ethical fire and be among those who turned up at Hershey. Since the media were barred from the event, it is not clear whether the likes of Mr Gingrich and Mr Bonior clinked glasses by the fire or avoided each other all weekend. But many participants said the ambience was good. Debbie Dingell, wife of an old partisan fighter, Congressman John Dingell, said her husband had been dreading the event but came out of it full of praise. And co-organiser, Representative David Skaggs, said: 'We go back to Washington with real, real respect and, in most cases, affection for each other and our families.' Yeah, really. No male likes to have his credentials as a stud called into question. Especially if it is a horse which is, er, supposed to be a stud. America's top racehorse, Cigar - winner of 16 straight races and earner of a record US$10 million in prize money - may have what it takes on the turf. But in the bedroom, Cigar just is not smoking. He is thought to be sterile after failing to get all 20 mares he has mated with pregnant. This is bad news for the Kentucky stud farm that paid his owner US$25 million for his services. Cigar was expected to sire 125 future champions at US$75,000 a shot, and even though the farm has infertility insurance, the stallion's lack of firepower is hurting badly. So now Cigar's owner, Allen Paulson, has offered the horse's services for cloning. After the scientific breakthrough of the Scottish sheep Dolly, Mr Paulson believes a cloned Cigar will be as valuable as his natural offspring. Current racing rules prohibit stud farms using artificial insemination, but they are behind the times on cloning and have no regulations banning it. That, however, is likely to change. Whether or not Cigar Mark II will be as fast as his identical twin is open to question. 'You can get a look-alike Cigar, but can you get a race-alike Cigar?' an official asked. Not content with having plundered and stolen their land over the past three centuries, the nation's ruling elite now wants the Indians' political donations. Perhaps the seediest episode so far in the unfolding saga of Democratic fund-raising is the news that last year a fund-raiser close to Vice-President Al Gore shook down two poverty-stricken tribes for over US$100,000. The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma handed over the cash from their welfare funds in the belief it would prompt the White House to give back land taken from them in 1869 to build a military fort. Although there is no sign of any movement from the administration, Democrats keep calling back for more money - as recently as last month, when tribal leaders were asked for another US$25,000 towards the cost of the inauguration. The two tribes, with unemployment of 80 per cent, can hardly be expected to feel sorry for a party which spent millions on extravagant inauguration balls. But they do hope President Bill Clinton will be true to his word and give them back their land.