- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Grab a hammer

Will the fascination surrounding Bill Clinton’s personal affairs ever end?

Even the nation’s 42nd president probably wishes, at times, that his retirement was more along the ho-hum lines of Gerald Ford’s and Jimmy Carter’s.

As it is, while attention focuses on whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, will enter the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, her globe-trotting husband is now being romantically linked to Canadian politician Belinda Stronach, to whom some refer as “Bubba’s Blonde.”

It’s gotten to the point that BetUS.com is posting odds on the rumored — we repeat, rumored — affair, with wagers “flooding the Web site to put their money down,” the site insists.

Godspeed, listeners

That would be former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, host of “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America” radio show, delivering this morning what is thought to be the first “radio commencement address” to high school and college graduates who may be tuning in across the country.

“Bill Bennett is offering this commencement address as a gift to graduates as well as those who may never have benefited from an actual commencement ceremony,” explains Tom Tradup, vice president of Salem Radio Network, which syndicates the Washington-based show.

As for Mr. Bennett’s theme?

“Bill will focus on what matters most in life, the real purpose of education, a distillation on optimism versus pessimism, and the merits of hard work,” Mr. Tradup says.

Rat patrol

When Ray Wannall retired from the FBI after a distinguished 34-year career beginning with J. Edgar Hoover in 1942, he was chief of worldwide counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

When there was infiltration in Washington, especially during the Cold War, Mr. Wannall was on top of it.

Today is no different, albeit these infiltrators have protruding eyes, pointed snouts, long whiskers and a naked tail.

For years, Mr. Wannall has read about Washington’s persistent rat population. Indeed, the city has held a rat-control summit and even opened a Rodent Control Academy, training various city personnel in rat response and eradication.

Reporter Gary Emerling, who has tracked “squealing and squeaking vermin” for this newspaper, revealed one month ago that the rats that plague the District “are primarily Norway rats, whose trail of tails stretches back to the Russia-Iran border. They … average about 16 inches in length and can carry potentially deadly diseases.”

Chances are if you live near a restaurant or produce market, the rat population is at its highest. Which is where Mr. Wannall comes in to the story.

“A few years ago, I decided to record for my family my recollections of Washington in the 1920s,” he tells this column. “One chapter of my tome was about the old Center Market, where my family shopped on Saturdays … that served as midwife to the city rat population, which has taken over so many areas of Washington today.”

Center Market, which was sacrificed to make way for today’s Federal Triangle, ran beside the old City Canal and Wholesale Row, a short street running from Seventh to Ninth streets in Northwest. As Mr. Wannall recalls, City Canal coursed its way along the edge of Georgetown, zigzagged through the city in eight or so sharp turns, then emptied into the Eastern Branch.

Center Market was built to replace City Market, or “Marsh Market” as it was popularly called, where game was often shot on the spot and sold in the stands next to farm produce, much of it grown in the District.

But it was Center Market that Mr. Wannall visited as a child, recalling that “when at Saturday night closing time merchants were left with produce that would spoil before opening time on Monday, it was often disposed of in the canal, which had not been used for some time by the 1920s.

“Eventually, the canal became nothing more than an open garbage dump and bred numerous generations of rats that for years infested the later developed Federal Triangle and have spread out into other areas of the city.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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