Since Congress has just passed a bill to include the "city" of Washington, D.C., in the Quarter Dollar Program commemorating the 50 "states," we asked readers to help Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill select an appropriate design for the tails side of the coin.
O'Neill has his work cut out for him. After all, the bill states that the secretary shall not select "any frivolous or inappropriate design" for the commemorative side of the quarter. So, here instead are a few appropriate suggestions from readers:
"Politician sticking up a taxpayer" - Brian Dallmann, St. Louis, Mo.
"A turkey (Ben Franklin thought it noble enough for our national symbol)" - Ray H. Jenkins, Knoxville, Tenn.
"Two laughing politicians shoveling piles of money off a cliff" - Bob Fink, Oklahoma City
"The U.S. Capitol, and in the foreground - clearly discernable - pigs lounging by a trough (these coins will go down in history and should be as accurate as possible)" - Joe Cox, Towson, Md.
"A giant vacuum sucking cash and coin across the land" - Eric J. Hansen, Illinois
"A jail cell" - Nanit, California
"The Washington Monument sinking into a pothole" - Roger Johnson of Kensington (and daily D.C. commuter, no doubt)
"A pig nursing its dependent young" - the Rev. Kenneth Studdard, pastor, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Summerville, Ga.
"A large hot-air balloon" - Phil of Reisterstown, Md.
"Donkey on the tail side, elephant on the head side (That way, Florida voters can flip a coin to vote accordingly.)" - L.D. Fore
"A traffic camera" - Patrick Stadter, Maryland
"Tow truck and Denver boot" - J.J. Dawson, Clinton, Md.
"A huge traffic jam" - Ken Navitsky, Allentown, Penn.
"A regular quarter cut in half and worth only 12 cents, to represent the government taking its self-determined share of our money" - Keith M. Sibick, Arlington, Va.
Adm. John F. Eisold, the attending physician to Congress, and his staff have been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, respectively, for their level-headed handling of the anthrax attacks on the U.S. Capitol one year ago.
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) stepped before microphones Wednesday to say was so impressed with Eisold's knowledge, leadership and critical management of the anthrax attacks, and the manner in which he led the medical efforts surrounding the incidents, that he had introduced the MEND (Medicare Expansion for Needed Drugs) Act for the 21st Century.
The legislation will educate health care professionals on the diagnosis and treatment of biological, chemical and radiological attacks.
'GODS AND GENERALS'
Hollywood movie director Ronald F. Maxwell gave us a sneak peek at the new 30-minute highlight reel of "Gods and Generals," a much-anticipated 3½-hour Civil War epic starring Robert Duvall as Gen. Robert E. Lee, opening in theaters in February.
On Thursday (Oct. 24), Maxwell showed the reel publicly for the first time at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, a most fitting background given the war's - and film's - historic setting.
"Half the film was shot in (Virginia's) Shenandoah Valley, half in Western Maryland, and a few scenes were shot in West Virginia," Maxwell said. "You will recognize the campus of Washington & Lee University (Lexington, Va.), you will recognize the campus of VMI (Virginia Military Institute, Lexington), you will recognize the streets of Winchester (Va.) and Harper's Ferry (W. Va.)."
And might that be Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) making a cameo appearance as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates?
The film is based on the novel "Gods and Generals," by Jeff Shaara, whose father, Michael Shaara, wrote "The Killer Angels," the Civil War classic and basis for the 1993 movie "Gettysburg."
PASS THE POPCORN
"So why haven't you written about the 'Beltway' sniper?" a reader from Raleigh, N.C., asks this column, though not the first to inquire.
Quite frankly, there are too many "reporters" covering this tragedy, with several - primarily from the "must-fill" 24-hour news channels - opening their mouths absent the facts.
There is an adequate number of journalists in Washington without requiring recruits from New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta. Yes, this city's suburbs are "under siege," but by the Nielsen ratings. Talk-radio commentator Laura Ingraham perhaps best characterized the sniper coverage as "saturation beyond saturation," while Washington Times media writer Jennifer Harper posed the question: "Theater or journalism?"