STAYING AFLOAT

Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy McVeigh's so-far successful legal battle to save his career—after the Navy found an online document suggesting he was gay—has boosted a national movement for stronger cyber-privacy protections. But his victory has been bittersweet. Booted from his post on a nuclear sub, McVeigh, 36, has been confined to onshore duties. He may retire, but hopes to stay in the Navy. "If I leave the bias of this squadron," he says, "I'll be okay."

How did the much-decorated 17-year sailor (no relation to the Oklahoma City bomber) wind up in hot water? The trouble started when he sent a Navy-related e-mail to Helen Hajny a shipmate's wife. Hajny was alarmed by the return address, boysrch@aol.com, shorthand, she guessed, for "boy search." Hajny looked up the sender's user profile, a personal fact sheet posted by some America Online subscribers. There, he described himself as "Tim" from "Honolulu." Under marital status, it read "gay." A Navy investigator called AOL anonymously and confirmed that "Tim" was, in fact, McVeigh—a disclosure that, without a court order, breached AOL's confidentiality policy.

When the Navy began discharge proceedings, "I had to stand up for myself," says McVeigh. On Jan. 29 a Washington judge ordered him back on duty pending appeal by the Navy, accusing the Navy of a "search and destroy" mission violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality. McVeigh, who reached a settlement with AOL and chooses not to disclose his sexual orientation, says he intends to keep fighting—"for the Navy to follow the rules."

INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMEN

Sisters Amy Buchanan, 37, and Jennifer Honeycutt, 29, had tried creative dieting before. "We dared each other one time that whoever lost the least amount had to walk around the mall in a leotard," says Honeycutt. But neither managed to shed any weight—until their other sister, Suzanne Barnett, 36, came up with what she terms "something a little more dramatic."

As 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet! (pages.prodigy.com/FatChick/index.htm), the East Tennessee trio are fighting their battle of the bulge in view of the whole Web. Each woman writes a journal, reports on twice-monthly weigh-ins and shares recipes on the seven-month-old site. Buchanan, a full-time mom, has gone from 245 pounds to 195. Barnett, who works for an Internet service provider, has dropped from 236 to 215, and Honeycutt, manager of a blood bank, from 238 to 211. "Most people think that being on a diet is miserable," Honeycutt says. "We're trying to make it fun."

>CHERCHEZ LA FEMME

THE BILL CLINTON-MONICA LEWINSKY mess has Web users scurrying for news, trading tacky sex jokes and mobbing the site run by Net gossip-monger Matt Drudge, who leaked Newsweek's exclusive story about the alleged tawdry tryst. The top scandal-related requests on the Web-search site Lycos:

1 Monica Lewinsky 2 Bill Clinton 3 Drudge Report 4 "Clinton jokes" 5 Newsweek 6 Gennifer Flowers 7 Paula Jones 8 The New York Times 9 The Washington Post 10 White House

JAN. 19 FEB. 1 LYCOS: WWW.LYCOS.COM

  • Contributors:
  • Vicki Sheff-cahan,
  • Maggie Hall,
  • Kate Klise.