- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Any allies left?

A White House pool report described yesterday’s arrival of Vice PresidentDick Cheney in Tokyo, where he was “greeted by some extremely loud sound trucks” and “one unmistakable chant blaring from one of the trucks in a Japanese-accented male voice, chanting in English: ‘Yankee go home, Yankee go home.’ ”

Stretched thin

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III’s recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that FBI referrals for counterterrorism cases increased a whopping 671 percent between 2001 and 2003 — and to this day require “difficult choices in determining how to most effectively use the available agents” — did not go unheeded.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware has introduced legislation to add 1,000 FBI agents to the bureau’s roster, all to focus exclusively on traditional criminal cases. Estimated cost: $160 million per year.

Gone private

Ambassador Cofer Black, the former ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, and Rob Richer, who was the CIA’s No. 2 for counterintelligence, will create a new “CIA-type” organization to address intelligence needs in the private sector.

“Terror attacks,” “political instability,” “avian-flu outbreaks,” and even severe weather events will be on the radar of the company, which the pair names Total Intelligence Solutions.

Don’t slurp

One-hundred guests at Teatro Goldoni’s “Carnevale” last night were certainly watching their manners.

Judith Martin, aka “Miss Manners,”was honorary queen at the lavish Save Venice Benefit, seated alongside honorary king Eric Denker, curator and senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art.

The popular etiquette columnist and author of 12 books, who spent part of her youth in Europe, has a new release due out next month, “No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire And Pursuit of Venice.” Considered the definitive manual for the hopeless Venetophile, she emphasizes:

“Love of Venice can strike anyone, not just romantic [weaklings]. Among the toughies with serious cases were Lord Byron, Richard Wagner, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway. There is no cure for this affliction.”

After an evening of Venetian cuisine and wine presented by Teatro’s chef-owner Fabrizio Aielli and Marco Bolla, owner of Ristorante Lineadombra in Venice, guests were indeed “stricken” with Venetian charm.

Stone by stone

It’s some two years behind schedule and about double the anticipated cost, but the much-anticipated underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center just about has its final stone in place.

At nearly 580,000 square feet, or three-quarters the size of the U.S. Capitol itself, this $600 million polished cellar features a Great Hall, Exhibition Hall, congressional auditorium and Senate and House theaters, accented with marble, granite, solid wood, bronze and glass — both floor panels and skylights.

Stone masons have placed the Tennessee Valley marble in basket-weave patterns, while on the Rotunda level the last stones are now being set at a pace of 70 per day.

Major construction should wrap up in the next few weeks, with a likely grand opening in early 2008.

Beats checkers

Jim Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association, the nonpartisan seniors advocacy group in Washington, is sitting at home convalescing from neck surgery 10 days ago.

“Who says basketball is not a contact sport?” Mr. Martin said when reached yesterday. “I’m wearing a neck brace for four more weeks, but this is the price I pay to be able to play in the Senior Olympics in mid-June in Louisville, Kentucky.”

Mr. Martin’s squad of seniors are the Virginia state basketball champions, and play three-on-three.

Professor Norton

That was Delegate EleanorHolmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, bragging about the 100th anniversary of Hoyas basketball at Georgetown University, which is in the midst of another exciting season under head coach John Thompson III.

Mrs. Norton, many don’t know, is a tenured faculty member of Georgetown University Law Center.

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

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