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THE WHOLE TRUTH - SORTA: Funny how those who bemoaned former President Bill Clinton's lack of "core values" don't seem particularly perturbed about the malleable convictions of Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Norton, who once said a federal law to protect endangered species is unconstitutional and has a history of supporting property rights over conservation, came across as an environmental moderate during her confirmation hearings. She says she has changed her mind about the Endangered Species Act. As for Ashcroft, the man who tried to kill an ambassadorial appointment because the nominee was gay says he won't discriminate in hiring if he runs the Justice Department.

Sure is funny how your opinions moderate when you want a job.

SECRETARY OF STRANGE: So, Gordon Liddy says the Watergate break-in was all about proving that John Dean's girlfriend was a call girl. Sounds a bit whacky to us. But seeing how Liddy is the source, that's probably redundant.

WARM WEATHER WATCH: Anybody noticed the evening light? Isn't it great? Yes, we know, it's a mark of desperation when you are reduced to taking cheer by noting that it now gets dark at quarter to six instead of 5:15, but it's early February and we'll take our cheer where we can find it.

Not that we don't love winter here. We're hardy souls here in Buffalo, right? We like piles of filthy snow, slush puddles so deep you can lose pickup trucks in them and a biting, lake-fed wind that periodically threatens to turn us into a community of Mary Poppinses.

Still, we can't help but observe that Groundhog Day is one of the great underappreciated dates on the calendar. It's a milepost that points the way back to the gloriously long days of May and June. We're on the downside of winter, now, and ready to raise a glass to the promise of spring.

WE'RE TAKING ODDS: What are the chances that former Bills head coach Marv Levy starts his Hall of Fame induction speech with, "Where would you rather be than right here, right now?" Opening numbers are 2-1. No matter how he begins, we're glad he'll end up enshrined in the hall.

We can't put it better than Jerry Magee of the San Diego Union, who seconded Levy's nomination: "He ennobled the game of football," Magee said. He's right. Congratulations, Marv.

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