Periscope

EXCLUSIVE Now, Painter to the President Simmie Knox has painted athletes, entertainers and judges. Now the Washington, D.C. -area artist has been chosen for the top job: a presidential portrait.

Knox, 65, had been trying to interest Bill Clinton in his work for some time. But it wasn't until last fall, when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Hillary Clinton how much she liked her Knox portrait, that he was invited to the White House. Shortly before Christmas, Knox showed Clinton his portfolio, which includes such prominent African-Americans as Hank Aaron, Bill Cosby and Thurgood Marshall. "You've painted a lot of people here who are my friends," Clinton noted. As Knox snapped some photos, Clinton described the props he wanted in the portrait: a bust of Lincoln, an American flag and some military medallions.

On Jan. 4, after working through the holidays, Knox returned with a still-wet study in oil showing Clinton in five different poses. Clinton's choice: a three-quarter-length standing image. "He liked the tie, the way I captured the hands," says Knox. "It's a pleasant, confident look." Getting a presidential commission is "my personal Super Bowl," he says. Getting Clinton to sit for the portrait is another matter. "We're waiting until all this stuff dies down," says Knox. "This isn't something you rush through." GROUPSGun Control by Any Other Name The nation's best-known gun-control group is about to scrap its name. Board members of Jim and Sarah Brady's Handgun Control Inc. have privately voted to give the organization a new title and logo. The new name, likely to include some reference to the Bradys themselves, will be announced this spring. HCI president Michael Barnes says the change reflects the group's new, broader mission, including lawsuits against gunmakers. Insiders say some board members argued that the term "handgun control" was too far to the political left and sounded as if HCI wanted to take guns from law-abiding citizens, rather than restrict them. But pro-gun forces say a new name won't make HCI any more appealing to gun owners. "Until they change their positions, they'll continue to be out of the mainstream," says an NRA spokesman. JUSTICEStill No Takers? Since the bruising confirmation battle of Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Bush administration has moved swiftly to fill the lower Justice ranks with safe nominees, including former U.S. attorney Larry Thompson as deputy A.G. and appellate lawyer Theodore Olson as solicitor general. But word is that Bush is having a tough time filling the top civil-rights job. With Senate hearings likely to be contentious, administration sources say that several candidates have brushed aside the offer. Says one Bush official: "No one wants to go through the meat grinder." (((((THE BUZZ))))))Finally, TV That's Much Too Real Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to die on May 16 for killing 168 people in Oklahoma City. He proposed that his execution be on TV, prompting an emotional debate among the victims' families. What people are saying in print, on air and online:

Real World Public executions were abolished; the enormity of this crime is no reason to bring them back. 'This is reality TV to the max ... we have to draw the line somewhere.' (Fox News)

Veigheurism If the death penalty is an expression of public will, then make it public. Let potential killers see what happens when you murder. 'Lights! Camera! Injection!' (Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune)

Time Out McVeigh's the last person who deserves to dictate the terms of his death. He wants to die a martyr; if you broadcast his execution on television, 'it's like "Ha ha, look at me, I got what I want.' (USA Today)

Death Watch Seeing McVeigh die will bring closure to victims' families and survivors. Counterbuzz: It's ghoulish, and 'we'll end up with a staged political event.' ('Good Morning America') HISTORYDid George W Sleep Here? A proposed housing development in West Virginia has some historians up in arms. The battleground: Hunt Field, a parcel of land once owned, at least in part, by relatives of George Washington. A preliminary statement filed by the developer last spring insisted that structures on the land were "not architecturally significant." But John A. Washington, a descendant of the president's brother, told NEWSWEEK that "it's just plain dishonest to say there is no history on this land." The developer recently commissioned more experts to look into the site's historical value. MAKEUPGet an Eyeful It doesn't sound original: gee, a fashion show about beauty. But at Sephora's show last week in New York, it was the first time makeup was the star on the catwalk. Sixty faces done by the world's leading makeup artists showed off this fall's look: heavy mascara, eye shadow and color to highlight the eyes while the rest of the face is played down. Even Monica Lewinsky came to see the show. "I'm like most girls," she said. NEW PRODUCTSAre You Wearing Protection? Promising to take farmer tans to a whole new level, Rit Sun Guard washes into clothing to absorb harmful UV rays. Endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation, the product blocks 96 percent of UVA and UVB rays, as opposed to a typical cotton T shirt's 80 percent. Like an invisible dye, the powder, which is added to the wash cycle and lasts 20 laundry cycles, doesn't change the appearance of the clothes. The product should revive the 1917 clothing-dye brand, which hasn't seen a boom since the tie-dye days. TOYSWe'll Have Fun, Fun, Fun. Right? Seemed like a good plan: spend day playing with cool toys, come back to office more loved than Santa. Toy Fair Lesson No. 1: it isn't show-and-tell--it's serious biz.

9:45 A.M. Get media creds, bag of loot. Best freebie: Clifford's Valentines reader. Should have gone to Westminster.

9:55 I'm staying! Today's celeb appearances: Karen McDougal, 1998 Playboy Playmate--of the Year, Jane Seymour. (Tomorrow: Deborah Norville. Come back?)

10:00 Spin Master Toys. Beeline to Shrinky Dinks display. Dinks come with kid-safe, mini-oven thing. "It's not an oven," says very perky demonstrator. "It's a maker."

11:00 Sport-Fun. Sporty, yes. Fun...

11:40 Duncan. Meet Steve Brown, pro yo-yo demonstrator. Attempt to score one denied; decide best not to argue with man whose e-mail is @tattooedfreak.com.

11:50 Everyone buzzing about robots. Head to Hasbro. Press info notes "return of robots in disguise." Start humming "Transformers" theme song. Front desk tells me showroom not open. Decepticons--attack!

1:00 P.M. Lunch. Exhausted, toyless... confused. Everyone around me speaking Spanish. (Learn later Spanish government leases 20,000 square feet in toy building.)

1:30 Toy Biz. Tour Hobbit hole with "Lord of the Rings" action figures. Take notes for post on Ain't It Cool News?

2:00 Toymax. Wasn't I just here? Guided through robot maze. Cheese at end: Jane Seymour, flacking toddler toys based on her kids' book.

2:30 Reps seem to think talking to interactive product, in front of me, good marketing strategy. Toy Scare, not Toy Fair.

3:00 Destiny's Child on in half hour. No desire to go "Jumpin, Jumpin." Go back to office. ECONOMYDot-Comedy Modernhumorist.com's March book "My First Presidentiary," W's imagined class notebook, might be funny enough to keep at least this dot-com flush. We asked editor Michael Colton about Web-site economics:

Do you have any other revenue?
We've made a little bit of cash through our merchandising, and we'll have some regular advertising this spring. Also, does counterfeiting count?

Do all these other dot-coms' closing make you nervous?
We're an entertainment company with a prominent Web presence. Less than half our time is spent on our site. Forty-seven percent, to be precise.

How else will you make money?
We are negotiating with a TV network to develop an original series based on [the site]. And I've taken a part-time weekend job as a busboy at Pastis. ITALYPristine Chapel Italians are passionate people--very passionate, if you consider these recent court cases: a ruling faulted "Anna" for a divorce, saying she'd betrayed her husband with constant sexual thoughts (about a bus driver). "Enzo"--convicted of sexual harassment for patting a female employee's behind--was exonerated. His transgression was not "an act of libido." And "Maria" was held responsible in the breakup of her marriage for keeping an untidy house for "Vincenzo." Now, just un momentino, Vinny.

PARODY Taking the Costume Out of Drama "Quills" got an Oscar nod for best costume design, but Kate Winslet is nude in the film - as in most of her movies. (She says sex scenes are "exhausting.") Here's what PERI thinks her version of this standard Hollywood-contract "nudity clause" might say: CONVENTIONAL WISDOMHello Again Saddam Edition Once again it's Bombs Over Baghdad and deja vu all over again for Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. Question: When did national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice find out?

                           C.W.
Bush            +          Must be feeling comfortable. His first
                           airstrike! But F-6s can't help get tax cut.

Clinton         =          Bubba goes to Harlem is a classic comeback
                           move. But pardons could hurt speaking fees.

Navy            -          Using nuke subs as theme-park rides proves
                           deadly. And stonewalling doesn't help.

Rich Guys       +          Daddy Gates, Buffett, others, say killing
                           estate tax will hurt country. And they're right.

Napster         -          Music-sharing service loses again in court.
                           Better download Requiems today.

Miramax         +          Once again, Weinsteins get best-pic nod, this
                           time for sugary, mediocre film. "Chocolat" O.D.?