Staff at the United Nations made a point when Kofi Annan first took over as U.N. secretary-general in January 1997 of telling the press corps how to pronounce his name: "It's 'Kofi,' as in 'Sophie,' 'Annan' rhymes with 'cannon,'" they explained patiently.
Almost six years later, however, the lesson appears not to have taken. At this week's gala dinner honoring Annan at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., United Nations staffers winced as one speaker after another mispronounced the secretary-general's last name.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.N. benefactor and media-mogul Ted Turner, and other hosts of the dinner sponsored by the United Nations Association-USA all took turns heaping praise on the Ghanaian secretary-general. And all pronounced "Annan" to sound like the Jordanian capital "Amman" or "banana" without the final "a."
GOP WINS AGAIN
More bad news for Democrats spells more good news for Republicans.
"Democrat turnout declined. Republican turnout increased modestly," finds the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, which has just finished charting last week's midterm election.
New numbers analyzed by the committee reveal that voter turnout increased in 31 states, although it declined in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Not surprisingly, Florida had a "record high" turnout, which - to the angst of Democrats - awarded presidential brother Gov. Jeb Bush another four years in the mansion.
"The Republicans clearly outorganized the Democrats," says the committee, noting that Democratic turnout dropped almost 8 percent from 1998. Democrats drew fewer voters than four years ago in every region except the South.
Republicans, on the other hand, gained support in the South, New England and Mid-Atlantic states; held their own in the farm and industrial Midwest; and lost only in the West.
The only region where the committee found Democrats outpolling Republicans was in the far West and New England, both traditional liberal strongholds.
"This election marks the third straight midterm election, beginning in 1994, where the GOP has outpolled the Democrats in aggregate House of Representatives vote," the committee states. "Prior to 1994, the last time the GOP had done that was 1946."
Pending final results next month, an estimated 79 million Americans, about 40 percent of eligible voters, cast ballots last week - not bad numbers for a midterm election. The question now: Can Republicans, soon to be in control of both houses and the White House, bring the voters back in 2004?
Seventeen congressional candidates endorsed by the Club for Growth - campaigning vigorously on a platform of lower taxes, less government regulation and personal investment of Social Security - were swept to congressional victory last week.
"The message of lower taxes and fiscal responsibility clearly resonated with voters in these key races," says Club for Growth President Stephen Moore. "The Republican Party is learning (that) Republican candidates win elections when they adhere to core economic principles."
In addition, three Senate candidates supported by Club for Growth - Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado, and Sens.-elect John Sununu of New Hampshire and Jim Talent of Missouri - were victorious.
It's been announced that former President Bill Clinton is to be honored for his peace efforts in Northern Ireland, which we hope will not result in a statue being erected in Belfast.
Former Sen. George J. Mitchell, the Maine Democrat who brokered Northern Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement," will present an award to Clinton next St. Patrick's Day on behalf of the Irish-American Democrats lobby group.
In addition, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit the town of Enniskillen next year to mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement. According to the Belfast Telegraph, Sen. Clinton will also visit the Clinton Peace Center, built on the site of the infamous Enniskillen bombing.
The Clintons are no strangers to Enniskillen, the newspaper notes. Clinton, accompanied by daughter Chelsea, visited the peace center in May to unveil a new window. Sen. Clinton first toured the center last summer.
The Clintons are no strangers to Ireland, either. In fact, several of our favorite Clinton tales have sprung up from the old sod.
Like the time President Clinton's astute advance team uncovered more than one potential diplomatic embarrassment in the village of Ballybunion, where this columnist's ancestors (a dozen brothers in all) ran a beach-side bathhouse that's still in operation today.
Sharp-eyed presidential scouts, canvassing the historic village before Clinton's arrival to play a round at Ballybunion's world-famous golf course, spotted a suspicious sign nailed above a boarded-up hairdresser's shop: "Monica's."
Within minutes, village fathers (no doubt with wide grins on their faces) were scrambling up a ladder to take the sign down.
Then there was the yarn surrounding the Clinton statue built in the same village. It portrays the former president swinging a golf club, one of his favorite leisure-time activities. Except that from a certain angle, the club resembled a phallic symbol.
This unique interpretation of the presidential icon led to "ferocious negotiations" between the White House advance team and villagers, it was reported, before Clinton would be allowed to unveil his peculiar likeness.