- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

Letter to America

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to all our American friends and members who have been affected by the tragic events wrought by Hurricane Katrina,” writes Benny Peiser, professor of science at Liverpool John Moores University in Britain.

“Notwithstanding continuing rescue and support efforts, the calamity has triggered a rather opportunistic and cynical reaction by opponents of the current U.S. administration. In an eerie development … environmental campaigners, ‘green’ journalists and European officials are blaming (once again) the U.S. and its people for the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

“Instead of supporting the rescue efforts, demagogues are using the human tragedy in a futile attempt to score points [on the impact of so-called global warming]. …

“Europeans in particular, who have been rescued and liberated from themselves by the U.S. no less than three times in the course of the 20th century, should feel ashamed for kicking a friend and ally when he is down.

“Let me [reassure] our American friends and colleagues that this pitiless mind-set of environmental activists is not representative for the vast majority of Europeans who are following the heartbreaking events with great concern and empathy. …”

(Editor’s note: Inside the Beltway reached Mr. Peiser in Britain yesterday and obtained his permission to reprint this letter from CCNet, a scholarly e-mail network of about 2,000-plus subscribers where he serves as an editor.)

Marred wedding

An unusual lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington by a prominent Jewish political figure, Mark Siegel, and his family against Ridgewell’s, a leading local caterer.

The lawsuit pertains to a wedding Mr. Siegel threw for his daughter on April 2 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The lawsuit charges that in willful disregard of the agreed-to contract, Ridgewell’s served shrimp, octopus and eel — “all of which are well-known to be non-kosher forbidden foods.”

“As you can imagine, Ridgewell’s action basically ruined the wedding for Siegel, his family, the groom’s family and anyone else who was kosher and saw the food served,” says one associate of Mr. Siegel, who notes that the wedding was officiated by Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of Adas Israel of Washington.

Among those attending the wedding, we’re told, were Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Sheldon Cohen and well-known Washington journalists Al Hunt, Judy Woodruff, Morton Kondracke and Eleanor Clift.

Mr. Siegel, who is credited with helping create the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, served in the Carter White House as liaison to the Jewish community.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, battery and infliction of severe emotional distress. At the reception that evening, the lawsuit states Mr. Siegel’s daughter, Rebecca, told Ridgewell’s that it “had marred her wedding.”

Ridgewell’s president, Tom Keon, offered to deduct the charge for the sushi from the total catering cost, “but would make no other financial accommodation or apology,” the papers state.

Mr. Keon, on the other hand, charged that Mr. Siegel was “vulgar” to his staff when he discovered that non-kosher food was being served.

In bad taste

Several weeks ago, Simone Rathle, who handles publicity for DC Coast, TenPenh and Ceiba restaurants in Washington, argued against calling a drink “the Hurricane” at the soon-to-open Acadiana restaurant at 901 New York Ave. NW.

Having grown up in New Orleans, she knew better.

“This gives me chills,” she told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

Nevertheless, Ms. Rathle and renowned chef Jeff Tunks went ahead with yesterday’s sneak preview of the coastal Louisiana-style seafood house, serving members of the Washington press corps authentic Louisiana oyster po’boys, complete with New Orleans-baked Leidenheimer bread.

“These will be the last of the Louisiana oysters for a while,” Mr. Tunks said, as he wrapped the steaming po’boys in pages of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (which has suspended publication owing to Hurricane Katrina). “Fortunately, we have a two- to three-month supply of the bread, which is essential for a genuine po’boy. You can’t reproduce it.”

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

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