- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

No sole mate
We're not sure who's pulling whose leg … er, shoe, but President Bush informs this column that he and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein do not sport the same Italian handmade shoes.
A wire dispatch we'd reprinted this week from Europe quoting the Sun, a London newspaper said Mr. Bush and Saddam recently ordered three pairs of identical black Artioli shoes. Plain leather, crocodile and brogue, or so the story went.
Italian shoemaker Vito Artioli is quoted in the news dispatch as saying that it came "as a bit of a surprise when I noticed the order forms from both Saddam and President Bush."
"We've been making shoes for important figures for years. But to have both Bush and Saddam in the present climate is a bit odd," he said.
And it gets even more odd. Mr. Bush, after our column hit the streets, must have looked down to see what brand of shoe he was wearing. It wasn't Artioli.
In due time, our telephone rang.
"President Bush does not own any Artioli shoes," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan, desiring in between White House alerts on terrorism and long-range missiles to set the record straight on the president's footwear.
Perhaps Vito, who's getting up there in years, is confusing George W. Bush with his dad, George H.W. Bush, who's been known to stride in some fancy footwear.
Meanwhile, we're awaiting any similar denial from Saddam. The question is: Do we believe him?

Carry a handkerchief
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is a medical doctor in real life, did his part to allay terrorism fears on Capitol Hill Wednesday night by passing out advice from his latest book.
Mr. Frist's communications director, Bob Stevenson, walked into the Senate press gallery toting photocopies of Chapter 2 of the senator's book, "When Every Moment Counts: What you need to know about bioterrorism from the Senate's only doctor."
No less an authority than former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has called the Tennessee Republican's tome "the best advice I have read."
The freely distributed chapter, titled "Safe at Home: A family survival guide," claims that the question of a biological or chemical attack is "no longer a question of if, but when and where and how."
Among the tips offered by Mr. Frist:
Be the "eyes and ears" of law enforcement in your community, and report any "suspicious activity or behavior" you observe.
If you suspect a chemical or biological attack has taken place while outdoors, "don't panic," but get upwind, cover all exposed skin surfaces, and use "a handkerchief to cover your mouth and nose."
Choose a person who lives out of state to be your family's contact in case of an emergency. Why? Because "in a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance than to make a local call."
Designate a "safe room" in your home, one with a telephone and a radio and preferably without windows. But don't pick the basement, because some heavy chemical gases might settle there. A roll of plastic tape would also come in handy, he said.
Swimmers goggles and $1 filtered fiber masks could protect the eyes and throat.
And if the stress of a terrorist attack starts getting to you, Mr. Frist suggests talking with others, returning to a daily routine, turning off cable-TV news and keeping the faith.
"As a medical doctor, I know the healing power of prayer," he writes. "In these difficult times, prayer can help ease anxiety and bring us together."

C'est la guerre
There's no better place, perchance,
For food or for romance;
But, if you need
A friend indeed,
Don't waste your time in France.
F.R. Duplantier

Fire breathers
On a lighter note on Capitol Hill this week, Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of California consumed 47 jalapeno peppers to win the title of "Zestiest Legislator" and bragging rights to take back to his home state.
The contest, in its second year, included congressional delegates from the pepper states of Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Utah. (This columnist grows some mean peppers in Virginia, which provides some of the finest soil in the nation).
Mr. Baca, 56, dethroned reigning champion and host Rep. Max Sandlin, 51, Texas Democrat, who finished a close second with 40 peppers under his belt.
Mr. Sandlin, along with a national chili pepper magazine, co-sponsored this year's competition in celebration of the swelling national interest in peppery products.

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