- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

Frequently frisked

Peter Greenberg, considered the nation’s pre-eminent expert on travel-related issues as chief correspondent for the Travel Channel and travel editor for NBC’s “Today,” was dining in Washington the other night when Christopher Hinn, the Transportation Security Administration’s deputy assistant administrator, approached the table to reintroduce himself.

“Why is it that whenever I see you I have the urge to remove my jacket and shoes?” Mr. Greenberg, a frequent flyer if there ever was one, asked the TSA official.

What Mr. Greenberg avoided telling Mr. Hinn is that one of the updated chapters of “The Travel Detective” — his recent best seller being re-released with a special section on security, safety and terrorism — is tentatively titled “Morons in Uniform.”

From all sides

Expressing optimism over dinner in Washington about a peaceful future for the Middle East was Akel Biltaji, adviser to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

After all, the Egyptian-born Mr. Biltaji, a longtime proponent of spreading peace in the region through tourism, explained to this columnist that his family roots are Christian, Muslim and Jewish.

“I am a little bit of everything,” he said, “so I understand it all.”

Can’t party

The local-based Marriott found itself in the middle of an international incident after Iranian government officials posted in Washington booked a Bethesda Marriott conference center to celebrate yesterday’s “Twenty Sixth anniversary of the glorious victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.”

“While you may not be aware of the political and economic ramifications of this event, it is certainly in the best interest of Marriott International Inc. and in the interest of the United States of America to deny [the Iranian government] the opportunity to hold this celebration at your conference center or at any other Marriott property,” Iman Foroutan, executive director of the Iran of Tomorrow Movement, wrote to the company.

“For your information, February 6th has been formally declared as ‘Death to America Day’ in the Islamic Republic calendar,” he said. “The date chosen to hold this celebration, February 6th, is closely associated with the Iran Hostage Crisis, in which Islamic fundamentalists, acting under the orders of the Iranian government, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 American diplomats hostage, holding them for 444 days.”

Roger W. Conner, Marriott International’s vice president of communications, tells Inside the Beltway that Marriott could not honor the reservation regardless because of former President Clinton’s order declaring Iran “an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the U.S,” making any trade with Iranian interests within U.S. borders illegal under U.S. law.

Tie your bibs

Fran Drescher, TV’s “The Nanny” with the thick Queens accent, is coming to town Wednesday, but not to watch your children.

The comedic actress will be joining Joey “Pants” Pantoliano of “The Sopranos,” former “Melrose Place” star Daphne Zuniga, Tony Award winner Cady Huffman of “Frasier,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Mad About You,” for the Congressional Quarterly/Creative Coalition “Pure Party” after the Washington Press Club Foundation’s Congressional Dinner.

If this week’s annual dinner is anything like the previous 60 affairs, lawmakers and members of the Fourth Estate will be adequately roasted and toasted “in a convivial atmosphere, while supporting a good cause.” Proceeds from the dinner help fund the foundation’s contributions to journalism education.

We won’t forget Gwen Ifill‘sremark last year that when she was first asked to host the dinner “Joe Lieberman was still plausible [as a presidential candidate] … and Howard Dean‘sbandwagon still had all its wheels.”

Considering Mr. Lieberman recently was considered for secretary of something in the Bush administration, and Mr. Dean’s bandwagon may roll in next week as head of the Democratic National Committee, finishing second ain’t so bad.

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

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