- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TALLYING THE THREAT

Oh, for the days of the shah of Iran, some say - for the cool suits, burgeoning economy and calm demeanor of an earlier era. “Shah nostalgia,” a perennial phenomenon, has resurfaced again as President Obama picks his way through a labyrinth of Middle East policy and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserts himself before the United Nations.

Nostalgia is not on the minds of many, though. Come Thursday, about 20 diverse faith groups will gather in the District’s Farragut Square in protest of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel and his Holocaust denial. Among them: the American Jewish Committee, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, Iranian Enterprise Institute, Korean Association of the State of Maryland, Republican Jewish Coalition, Council of Churches of Greater Washington and United Macedonian Diaspora.

“History has shown that when a madman offers threats to annihilate a people, we should take him at his word,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, tells Inside the Beltway.

“The main purpose of this rally is to unite people in calling for freedom from the threat of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, Iranian terrorism abroad and Iranian human rights abuses at home. The reason why there are so many groups coming to the rally is that we’re united in support of freedom from Iranian threats. We hope that sanctions and diplomacy will work against this regime, with a peaceful resolution,” he adds.

MEMO TO VLADIMIR

Heavens, is this “sippin’ vodka” from Russia or Poland? Nah. Try Freeport. Potato vodka from Maine is now a foodie must-have, distilled from frigid local river water and fabulous Maine potatoes. Who knew? Maines Cold River Classic Vodka is now available in 19 states, Canada and Britain. The family-owned company reports consistent double-digit percentage growth. Inquiring minds wonder what their version of a “dirty” martini might be. But wait. There could be an international incident distilling among the feisty Down Easters.

“The Russians are completely threatened by this potato vodka being made by a bunch of Mainers. They’re shaking in their boots,” Managing Partner Bob Harkins tells Beltway.

Mr. Harkins, who’s unofficial title is “Head Potato,” adds that he has not yet had a cocktail, but is quite poised for one at this juncture.

“They had it right when they were using potatoes, but they weren’t using Maine potatoes. Plus, today, the vast majority of Russian vodkas aren’t even made from potatoes anymore; they’re grain-based. Russians took the easy way, and I really wish they’d return to their roots, and come back to the potato.”

PRESS ON

President Obama did not utter the words “newspaper bailout” during a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, but he might as well have. In the shorthand of reaction that followed Mr. Obama’s noncommittal comments about journalism, it now appears that the White House pines to throw money at the industry.

Well, maybe. But no one is admitting such things at the moment. And that is just fine with higher-ups.

“No one in the newspaper industry is seeking anything resembling a newspaper bailout or special subsidies. We don’t think it’s appropriate for those who gather news to be seeking any special favors from a government that they cover on a regular basis,” John Sturm tells Beltway.

(Corrected paragraph:) The president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America will appear Thursday before the Joint Economics Committee to address such things.

“What we seek is legislation that backs all businesses trying to recover in this economy - tax- and pension-related provisions we can all benefit from,” continues Mr. Sturm, adding that a proposed Senate measure that would allow newspapers to restructure as nonprofits with tax breaks would only work in limited circumstances, and could strain community resources.

“It’s no panacea,” he notes.

BELTWAY PATROL

“Please Don’t Tell Obama What Comes After a Trillion.” - bumper sticker spotted by giddy reader on Tuesday, three blocks from the White House.

NOW THEY KNOW

Zounds. None other than PBS correspondent Gwen Ifill used the infamous T-word, offending some viewers who later took PBS ombudsman Michael Getler to task.

“Do you care to comment about Gwen Ifill’s use of the word ‘teabaggers’ to describe some of president Obama’s critics on a segment discussing racism charges on the Sept. 16 ‘NewsHour’ program. You are aware of what that means?” demanded Robert Holmgren of Menlo Park, Calif.

Oh, well. She does now.

Ms. Ifill responded: “Turns out I am the only person with access to e-mail who never knew this was a term with a sexual meaning. I used it in an offhand manner as a shorthand referring to the ‘tea party’ movement. It was a slip I was unaware of, and I regret it.”

Mr. Getler says: “I would add that I didn’t know that either.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 62 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Democrats say the U.S. is making progress training Afghan security forces.

• 55 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats say the U.S. is making progress defeating the Taliban.

• 71 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats say we should keep troops in Afghanistan.

• 25 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats say troops should be removed.

• 84 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats say Taliban control of Afghanistan is a “major threat” to the U.S.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,006 adults conducted Sept. 10-15.

• Potshots, noise, survey findings to jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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