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Flat Earth: Nickel and dime affair of state

THE SCENE is a bank in Georgetown, the part of Washington where politicians aspire to live, rather like Notting Hill across the water.

A young man comes in with a basket full of small coins, all neatly rolled up. According to the New Yorker, to which I am indebted for this account, he quietly inquires where a cash deposit can be made, but instead of going to the indicated counter, hurries outside.

Next, a grandmotherly woman, dressed all in black, comes in with the basket. You might not give her a second glance, except that she is escorted by two huge, earpiece-wearing men in suits who shepherd other customers out of the way. While the little old lady makes her deposit, a bystander asks one of the men: "Is that...?" "Not allowed to say," he grunts.

But it is indeed Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the most powerful nation on earth, who apparently has time to sort out her small change, amounting to $38, roll it up and toddle down to the bank to put it in her account.