John McCaslin

Landing a queen

We've learned that Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan will be the featured speaker at Virginia Rep. James P. Moran's 16th annual Women's Issues Conference on Sept. 15.

We often write about Mr. Moran's women's conferences, because they tend to generate newsworthy items. Like in the fall of 2004, when keynote speaker Helen Thomas, of White House press corps fame, turned the proceedings into a one-sided forum on the Iraq War. Miss Thomas blasted President Bush for marching on Baghdad in the first place, and received a standing ovation in the process. The ladies understood when Miss Thomas added: "George Bush doesn't send me flowers anymore."

As for Queen Noor, the widow of Jordan's King Hussein, she lived almost 30 years next door to Iraq. Four weeks after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, she went on national television to warn about its aftermath, fearing a "breakdown of law and order." She told CNN's Larry King that the military operation had to be "matched" by security resources, or a resulting "security vacuum" could lead to internal turmoil. Hmmm.

Unified links

Our friends at Mandarin Media alert us to the newly launched "Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail" in Vietnam, a network of world-class golf courses named in honor of the late North Vietnamese communist president who fought hard against the United States.

Which makes us wonder when and if peace ever returns to Iraq whether Americans will find themselves teeing off at something akin to the Saddam Hussein Golf and Country Club. Like "Uncle Ho," as the late North Vietnamese revolutionary is fondly remembered today in Vietnam, Saddam - who was hanged in late December - is similarly being embraced by many of his surviving Iraqi countrymen.

Decorated disaster

No more flowers, no more bike paths, no more highway-beautification projects will be paid for with federally earmarked transportation funds until those states with structurally deficient bridges make needed repairs. Such is the language of legislation Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, says he will introduce when Congress reconvenes in early September. He says "many" of the more than 6,000 recent transportation earmarks went to such beautification projects.

Attention grabber

As soon as he returns from the Middle East this week, Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis will shave his head, but not because of the heat. Rather, the Republican congressman promised to lose his hair if the American Cancer Society met a Florida fundraising goal.

"We are thrilled because when Gus shaves his head and goes to his office in D.C., he will ... bring more awareness [of cancer] to the U.S. Congress," says Mike Wick, chairman of the cancer society's Southeast Hillsborough unit.

Getting socked

Socks, which keep America on its feet, were the reason that Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez picked up the phone the other day and called a concerned Alabama Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, assuring the Republican lawmaker that the U.S. sock industry will be protected against foreign competition. "The numbers don't lie," Mr. Aderholt said after taking the call. U.S. census data finds American sock production dropped by 20 percent in 2006 and 14 percent in the first quarter of 2007. Commerce Department import data, meanwhile, shows the number of imported socks from Honduras increased almost 50 percent in the 12 months ending in April 2007.

Harry craze

An appreciative first lady Laura Bush, on hand this week in Austin, Texas, for the dedication of the Laura Bush Community Library, observed that the average book on the library's shelves is borrowed more than seven times per year - "and that average was actually calculated before Harry Potter was just released."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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