- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Near-fatal journey

“Our conversation began with my saying that … it was a very long road to the Oval Office.”

— Newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who barely survived political enemy-induced dioxin poisoning, describing his opening words to President Bush upon arrival at the White House yesterday.

Comic relief

He’s well-known for handling high-profile national security and First Amendment legal cases against the U.S. government, but Washington lawyer Mark S. Zaid has been collecting comics since 1974. In fact, he briefly served as a comic book dealer in the 1980s.

“I am pleased to formally announce that my new business, EsquireComics.com, has rocketed into full operation,” says Mr. Zaid, whose site offers some valuable issues, including Green Lantern No. 1, Batman No. 2, and Mad No.1.

No. 2 guest

Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” will mark its one-year on-air anniversary this morning with a headline-grabbing guest: Vice President Dick Cheney.

The former secretary of education under President Reagan and drug czar under the first President Bush says that as host of the fastest-growing morning program in national syndication, he pitches it “a little higher than some talk shows, but the enthusiastic response … clearly shows we’ve struck a responsive chord with a broad, diverse, national audience.”

Mad about tigers

The Iraqi war hasn’t been any kinder to animals.

Since the war began in April 2003, hundreds of animals at the Baghdad Zoo have been injured, killed, stolen, eaten or let loose by looters. Many escaped after mortar blasts damaged their cages, including a bear that reportedly mauled and partially ate three persons, and four lions were fatally shot by U.S. soldiers.

Now, a Colorado veterinarian who was previously posted by the U.S. military at the zoo, wants a replacement tiger sent from the United States to Baghdad — an idea People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) labels “madness.”

“This tiger isn’t a volunteer, and sending him to a decrepit zoo in the middle of a war zone is thoughtless, cruel and dangerous,” says PETA captive exotic-animal specialist Lisa Wathne, who wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a permit to ship the tiger.

Should the tiger eventually get its orders, it would replace a rare Bengal tiger that was fatally shot by a U.S. soldier at the zoo in September 2003.

Zoo manager Adil Salman Mousa said the tiger had injured another soldier who was trying to feed it through an inner set of cage bars.

“The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger,” Mr. Mousa told Reuters, adding that the group of soldiers was having a beer party at the zoo after it had closed.

Once the largest zoo in the Middle East, it’s described today as a collection of dirty cages.

Only a test

A congressional debriefing will be held today on this week’s chemical attack in New London, Conn., and biological attack in Union and Middlesex counties in New Jersey.

Hopefully, we’ll never have to write the above lead, but the communities are the real-life backdrop for “Top Off,” the most comprehensive terrorism-response exercise ever conducted in the United States.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, and ranking Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, will lead the debriefing from their observation post in Iselin, N.J.

The congressionally mandated exercise, which began yesterday and concludes Friday, is intended to strengthen the nation’s capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from weapons of mass destruction.

More than 10,000 participants are involved, representing 200-plus federal, state, local, tribal, and private-sector agencies and volunteers. Canada and Britain this week are conducting simultaneous full-scale exercises — Triple Play and Atlantic Blue, respectively.

Viva il Papa

I remember the blear Berlin Wall

And the day that it started to fall,

And the part that was played

By a man unafraid —

The inspired and inspiring John Paul.

F.R. Duplantier

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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