John McCaslin

Nickel and dimed

Something is wrong with America when it costs the U.S. government one dime to make a nickel.

Fortunately, legislation has been introduced in Congress in recent days that would allow the Treasury Department to change the composition of U.S. coins to less expensive materials. Treasury estimates it can save more than $100 million annually by changing the ingredients of pennies and nickels, and another $400 million per year by tinkering with the dime, quarter and half dollar.

As Democratic Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois explains it, pennies are made mostly of zinc and have a copper-plated surface. Nickels are made up of an alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Since 2003, world demand for core metals has driven up the price of copper and nickel by 300 percent and of zinc by 450 percent.

"At the current specifications for these coins, it costs the government 1.7 cents to make a penny, and 10 cents to make a nickel," he notes.

Old as Hillary

NBC's "Meet the Press," the nation's longest-running television show, now moderated by Tim Russert, is gearing up for its big 60th anniversary gala, having made its television debut on Nov. 6, 1947 — 11 days after New York senator and 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was born.

The show over the years has been the highest rated of Sunday's news programs, and that continues to be the case. Nielsen Media Research reported last week that "Meet the Press" topped the ratings "in all categories" for the period ending Sunday, July 29. (Fun fact: "Meet the Press" was actually started on D.C. radio station WRC-AM in 1945.)

More than one

No, that's not the House of Representatives that Arizona Democratic Rep. Harry E. Mitchell is referring to when commemorating the anniversary of the House of Tricks. It's actually a landmark restaurant in the congressman's hometown of Tempe owned by Bob and Robin Trick.

Healthy debate

Democrats have apparently realized both the visibility and effect of the U.S. Senate's first-ever committee blog, started by the incoming Republican minority last December.

Created by the ranking staff of the Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW), the blog has made so many waves since its inception, particularly on the subject of "global warming," that it has become a basis for debate everywhere from CNN to the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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