- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

Texas two-step

At New York's LaGuardia Airport this week, Vietnam Veterans Memorial founder Jan Scruggs was preparing to board a return Delta Shuttle flight to Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport.

He'd been in the Big Apple trying to persuade NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw to investigate Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's maneuvers over the past 18 months to prevent an education center from being built at the widely visited memorial, also known as "The Wall."

On three different occasions, Mr. Scruggs pointed out, the Republican senator stopped the center's needed legislation from reaching the Senate floor.

It so happens that when Mr. Scruggs reached the Delta boarding gate he and just one other fellow passenger were chosen by security officers to be searched. Wasn't Mr. Scruggs surprised to look next to him and see Mr. Gramm. Talk about a small world.

As with the recent body searches of former Vice President Al Gore, these two obviously suspicious-looking gentlemen were told to remove their shoes and open their bags for inspection. When no plastic explosives or knives were found, they were given permission to board the plane.

Walking down the jetway, Mr. Scruggs introduced himself.

"My name is Jan Scruggs," said the memorial founder. "We have had a long struggle against you over the Vietnam Veterans Education Center. Is it over or not, Senator? I need to know right now."

Mr. Gramm eyed Mr. Scruggs for a while and replied: "As far as I am concerned it never happened."

Mr. Scruggs tells us he'll now wait to see if the senator is a man of his word.

Worth the wait

Who's that lady meeting with President George W. Bush?

"Mrs. Esther Dyer of Goshen, Indiana," we're told, arriving in Washington for well, the trip of a lifetime.

Mrs. Dyer, it turns out, was the lucky winner of a National Republican Senatorial Committee raffle orchestrated by Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. Among the prizes was a "face-to-face" meeting with Mr. Bush and a ticket to last night's prestigious black-tie President's Dinner.

Mrs. Dyer said this is her first trip to Washington since her senior class trip in 1956.

Money tampering

In recent weeks this column revealed how much money Uncle Sam has wasted $62 million promoting 1.4 billion Sacajawea dollars, the much-hyped golden coins nobody wants to spend.

Now the U.S. Mint, having failed with Sacajawea, the American Indian girl who helped guide Lewis and Clark westward, is battling the Virginia congressional delegation over its plans to remove the image of Monticello from the reverse side of the U.S. nickel. The Mint wants to replace it with an image of an American Indian and an eagle looking to the West.

Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, tells this column that his state was dishonored by Mint officials' failure to seek input on the redesign plan, which the Mint originally said would be made final on June 17.

"My office was notified of this decision very late in the process, and I'm offended on behalf of the people of Virginia that we were not given any chance to have any input on this decision, nor were the American people," says Mr. Cantor, who recently introduced legislation to keep the home of Thomas Jefferson on the coin. "The images of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello represent to America so much of what this nation was founded upon the principles of liberty, freedom and limited government."

Hill search

Milk cartons aren't the only place to see the faces of missing children anymore. Beginning immediately, official congressional envelopes mailed from the office of Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican, will feature pictures of the nation's missing kids provided through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

No assurances

Forget the traditional thinking about solving the world's problems: An environmental conference to be held in Aspen, Colo., next month will focus "on whether a sustainable future is even possible."

The Sopris Foundation of Aspen and the Worldwatch Institute of Washington are hosts of a far-reaching panel at the Aspen Institute, convening environmental and social thinkers to dissect trends they say are putting the global economy on a collision course with the Earth's ecosystems.

"Unlike other feel-good environmental conferences where the audience is assured our problems can be solved and that everything will be all right, this conference will confront head-on the harsh realities and the dramatic steps that have to be taken," says Kate McBride Puckett, president of the Sopris Foundation and conference director.

In a letter to conference directors, former undersecretary of state and Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth phrased the problem this way: "The fact is that by every single measure, the state of our Earth's health is declining. A huge and radical turnaround is necessary."

Among the several speakers are former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and immigration specialist Jonette Christian.

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