No quick fix

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Iraqi journalists attending a workshop in Jordan last week faulted fellow journalists, including Arab reporters, for concentrating too heavily on negative stories in their country.

Meanwhile, a senior Jordanian official told The Beltway Beat in an interview in Amman that peace and stability will not arrive overnight in Iraq, despite pressure on the Bush administration by some in the United States to make it happen.

"Yes, there is destruction, but it is not all," Haider Zubeidi, director of Basra-based Shat Al Arab Radio, told the assembled journalists.

As quoted in the Jordan Times, he cited Iraq's "media boom" as one of many positive results of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"For decades, Iraq has seen only one-party, one-color media," said Zubeidi, noting there are now "more than 120 radio stations in Iraq, including 15 in the south, and about 70 newspapers."

Akel Biltaji, adviser to King Abdullah II of Jordan, sat down with this columnist in the outskirts of Amman this past weekend and stressed that the reconstruction of Iraq - both physical and political - won't happen as fast as some in the West propose.

"We feel Iraq needs another 10 to 15 years," said Biltaji, whose country is bordered by the conflicts in Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon-Syria and Saudi Arabia.

"Jordan always warned our allies in the United States that it would take some time," Biltaji continued. "Look, it took the United States some 200 years to realize full democracy - do you remember the 1960s and civil rights? And yet we are expected to do it overnight? You can't.

"It's a process," he stressed. "Give (the Arab world) time to educate ourselves."

In a separate interview near Amman, Princess Basma Bint Talal, the only sister of the late King Hussein, who has worked on human development issues globally for more than three decades, told this column that she remains cautiously optimistic about Iraq's future but pleads for patience.

"It's fashionable to talk about 'sudden change.' But it is premature to say sudden. It is an evolving process," the princess says.

"The one positive thing we do have now which we did not before is a global consciousness of the Middle East," she says. "I do hope and pray that things settle down in Iraq, but it is going to take time."

HISTORIC EITHER WAY

Republican sources in Washington tell The Beltway Beat that Michael Steele - the first black ever to be elected to statewide office in Maryland and, since 2003, the first-ever Republican lieutenant governor of the state - will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Maryland's longest serving senator.

The White House is also said to be aware of Steele's decision and stands ready to assist in his 2006 campaign.

The race is shaping up to be historic in that former five-term Maryland congressman and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume announced last month that he will run for the seat. If either is elected, they would become the first black U.S. senator in Maryland history.

NO DUCK SOUP

A soon-to-be mother duck has picked the best place in Washington that a duck could make her nest: the hotel planter of the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown.

"She's sitting on five eggs; our security team has been guarding her - velvet rope and stanchions around her and the nest - bottled Ritz water to drink and cracked corn to eat, each served in a silver Ritz bowl," hotel spokeswoman Colleen Evans tells The Beltway Beat.

"Our Degrees bartender, Matthew, even created a special cocktail in her honor: The Duck Duck Goose" (Grey Goose L'orange, pineapple juice, splash of Grenadine, splash of Sprite).

The Ritz also is having a "name the duck" contest for second-graders at Our Lady of Victory school, handing out prizes for the best names for the mom and ducklings once they hatch.

CLEAN BUT COSTLY

A new MTV series features Hollywood celebrities praising the Third World's primitive lifestyles as earth-friendly - despite high infant mortality rates and short life expectancies.

The ecotourism show, called "Trippin" (the MTV crew flocked to Honduras for Monday night's show), premiered March 28 and was heavily promoted in the run-up to Earth Day, says Marc Morano, senior staff writer of CNSNews.com who spoke to The Beltway Beat on Monday.

Pushing for cleaner living, the show "lauds traditional tribal lifestyles, which lack running water, electricity and other basic infrastructure," Morano notes.

The MTV series features actress Cameron Diaz and a rotating crew of "her close, personal friends (who) think globally and act globally." They tour developing nations, including Nepal, Bhutan, Tanzania and remote villages in Chile.

The 32-year-old Diaz, who earns a reported $20 million a movie, boasted that the cow-dung slathered walls of a Nepalese village hut were "beautiful" and "inspiring," Morano writes.

He also points out that actress Drew Barrymore, said to earn upwards of $15 million per film, told MTV viewers in another episode that after spending time in a primitive, electricity-free Chilean village, "I aspire to be like them more."

Barrymore, apparently enthralled by the lack of a modern sanitary facilities, gleefully bragged that she went to the bathroom in the woods. "It was awesome."