Do you have a question about the news? Then send a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Betty Parham and Gerrie Ferris, Q&A on the News, Box 4689, Atlanta, GA 30302. They will try to find the answer for publication in this weekly column.
Q: What was George Washington's salary?
A: George had more than one government job. As commander of the revolutionary troops, he said it would be "unpatriotic" to work for a salary. But the Father of Our Country became the Father of the Expense Account. In his eight years as a general, he ran up a tab of $500,000 for expenses, which included a bottle of Madeira wine daily and an entry that reads "Lunch, One Army. $1,500." As president, he again tried to decline a salary, but Congress granted him $25,000 a year.
Q: My daughter said she heard a bit of trivia that said George Washington wasn't the first president of the United States. Can you shed some light on this?
A: Washington was the first president to serve under the Constitution of the United States. But before that, the Continental Congress elected presiding officers who were called presidents. There were 14. The first was John Hansen, from Maryland.
Q: Schindler's List is placed in the fiction category of the best-seller list. What are the criteria used to distinguish fiction and non-fiction?
A: The criteria are whatever the publisher says they are. When Schindler's List was published in 1982, it was billed as non-fiction and didn't sell all that well. So this time around, the publishers, arguing that "some of the characters are composites," insisted that it be billed as a novel, apparently hoping for better sales.
Q: I love that little dog that won the Westminster Dog Show championship, although he looks like he was rescued from the humane society. What money or prizes does he get?
A: Willum the Conqueror, the Norwich terrier who won the coveted Best of Show at the 118th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, got a silver bowl. No money is paid for any prize or expense incurred for any of the dogs.
Q: Which came first, the Winter Olympics or the Summer Olympics?
A: In the modern era, the first Summer Games were in 1896, the first Winter Games in 1924. Incidentally, the only event in the first Olympiad, in Greece in 776 B.C., was a footrace.
Q: How do ice skaters who spin around so fast not get dizzy?
A: Skating instructor Don Law, who was Olympic medal winner Scott Hamilton's coach, explained that every skater who begins spinning is dizzy at first, and that it takes constant repetition to make the dizziness disappear. "There is really no trick to it," he said. "Through constant repetition, the liquid in the inner ear will just naturally adjust and the dizziness will disappear." NASA studied this adjustment phenomenon in ice skaters to apply it to astronauts.
Q: Who paid for Hillary Rodham Clinton to go to the Olympics? Who paid for Chelsea?
A: Every president and practically every country that participates in the Olympics sends an official representative of the government. President Clinton named the first lady and his daughter as our official reps. Yes, the taxpayers paid for it (no word yet on how much). They flew on government aircraft, and, yes, they were accompanied by Secret Service agents, thanks to your tax dollars. We also paid when President Bush sent his son Marvin and daughter-in-law to Barcelona. Bush also sent his daughter Dorothy, his sister Nancy Ellis and movie stars Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith to Albertville, France, for the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Q: How many hours of daylight are there in Lillehammer?
A: The sun rises about 8:30 a.m., and it is dark by 4:30 p.m. When it's 9 o'clock in the morning in the eastern U.S. time zone, it's 3 o'clock in the afternoon in Norway.
Q: Can you give an update on the man who opened fire in front of CIA headquarters last year?
A: An international manhunt is under way for Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani. Authorities believe he was the gunman in the attack that killed two people and wounded three on Jan. 25, 1993. Investigators base their belief on information received from a former roommate of Kansi's and an AK-47 rifle found in the apartment, which they think was the weapon used. Earlier this month, Reuters news service reported that authorities believe Kansi has had plastic surgery and may have slipped into Thailand and be hiding in a network of guerrilla and criminal gangs, some of whose members are suspects in the World Trade Center bombing. Rewards totaling more than $2-million are being offered for information leading to Kansi's arrest.
Q: They used to show on television the national debt increasing minute by minute. That doesn't appear anymore. Do you know why?
A: When Q&A was asked about those runaway readouts last year, we learned from the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt that the steady climb was not an accurate representation of how the national debt increases. The debt, tabulated daily, increases some days and decreases some days, depending on the amount of securities redeemed and issued. We noticed they stopped showing them on TV soon after we inquired.
Q: There was a segment on television about the northern lights that made them appear like a nightly grand fireworks display. Is that the way they really look?
A: That segment apparently was done with time-lapse photography. Although the northern lights do move, they don't move that fast.
_ Cox News Service