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A national briefing of people, issues and events around the country

Sunday, May 1, 2005; Page A02

Duck-and-Cover Drills Get An Update for New Risks

People of a certain age may remember the drill -- crouching awkwardly under school desks in preparation for a nuclear war.

Today's students don't go through that Cold War ritual, but some schools are enacting a modern-day version because of highly publicized school shootings in recent years. In some high schools and elementary schools in Iowa, including five school districts in the Des Moines area, students go through "lockdown" drills, rehearsing what to do if a dangerous intruder is in the building. School officials say the drills could cover situations such as a would-be shooter or an angry dog.


Ernest Hemingway rarely fired up a stogie.

In a fourth-grade class at Horizon Elementary School in Johnston, a recent drill consisted of students huddling in rows in a corner of the room, while the teacher took roll call, locked the door and turned off the lights. In other schools, the staff goes through preparedness drills but doesn't involve students, for fear of alarming them and giving away security plans.

"It's just like a fire drill or tornado drill," Horizon principal Terry Jacob told the Des Moines Register. "We participate in case we need it."

-- Kari Lydersen

Hemingway's Legacy: Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em?

It's a shame Papa is gone. The world could use Ernest Hemingway's wisdom, his wit and his words to sort out the latest conundrum playing off his legacy.

His old haunt in Key West, a boozing joint called Sloppy Joe's, has been living off its Hemingway connection for decades. Now the place's owners are hoping to parlay their association with Hemingway into special consideration from the Florida Legislature. State Sen. Steve Geller (D), who has compared Sloppy Joe's to Rick's Cafe in the movie "Casablanca," is trying to rewrite Florida's indoor smoking ban to allow patrons of Hemingway's favorite Key West hangout to light up. What's been lost in all this is the big question: What would Hemingway have wanted? Many historians have said Hemingway, though he was photographed with a cigarette, wasn't a regular smoker. No less interested party than Cigar Aficionado magazine has conceded that Hemingway was essentially a smoke-free guy.

Sloppy Joe's president, Chris Mullins, thinks the writer and the bar's original owner, Joe Russell, would embrace the Key West mind-set and certainly be on his side. "It's not really a place to tell people what to do and when and how to do it," Mullins said. On the other hand, Mullins isn't exactly a Hemingway expert. He's read only "The Old Man and the Sea," and that was in high school.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

The Rockies May Crumble, But the Capitol Is Here to Stay

Salt Lake City isn't well known for its earthquakes. Big ones hit about every 1,300 years or so, geologists say, and the last one occurred -- well, when was that again? Let's see here . . . about 1,300 years ago.

Uh-oh.

So engineers are now racing to prepare one of the region's most prized and most fragile buildings: the Utah Capitol.

Although the 1914 structure -- a scaled-down replica of the U.S. Capitol in Washington -- appears solid, it was built on a bed of sand and silt without reinforcing steel. A magnitude-7 quake almost anywhere in the fault-line-ridden region could snap its marble columns and collapse its majestic dome.

The solution? Shock absorbers. As part of a three-year, $212 million renovation, engineers are beginning the laborious process of jacking up parts of the building by a small fraction of an inch and slipping rubber-and-steel pads under its footings. If all goes well, when the next big one hits, the Capitol will simply sway with the vibrations rather than crack.

"This building will rock and roll a little bit," David Hart, executive director for the Capitol Preservation Board, told the Associated Press. ". . . The plaster might get cracked, glass might break -- but everybody will get out of it, and then we can come back in and take whatever time we need to rebuild it."

-- Amy Argetsinger

A Bit Less Festival Confusion In Their Neck of the Woods

The Baytown Long Neck Festival was created to celebrate local geese, egrets and herons, and the Texas city's nature and wildlife centers.

But residents of this oil refinery town east of Houston thought the name conjured up a beerfest.

"When the general public sees the title 'Long Neck,' the first image that comes to mind is not birds or nature," wrote resident Larry Tidwell in a letter to the local paper, the Baytown Sun. "For a city desperately trying to shake the image of being a blue collar, refinery-only region, this name choice won't do anything to change that image."

After an outpouring of opposition from the city's residents, festival promoters decided to change the name of the event to the Baytown Long Neck Wildlife Festival.

"We wanted to clarify the name so that if someone just heard it, they didn't think it was a Budweiser festival," said Tracey Roberts, spokeswoman for the festival organizer, Baytown Outdoor Inc.

Roberts insists that the festival's logo, with pictures of long-neck birds, clarifies any confusion.

The Baytown Long Neck Wildlife Festival will be May 13 to 15. As for the other long-necks, they will be for sale.

-- Caroline Keating


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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