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Posted: Feb 21, 2003 12:00 AM
President Bush didn't flinch Tuesday when a reporter asked, "What do you make of the fact that millions of people across the globe have taken to the streets to protest your approach to Iraq? "And if you decide to go to war, how do you wage a campaign in the face of such stiff opposition?" "Two points," Bush answered. "One is that democracy is a beautiful thing and that people are allowed to express their opinion. I welcome people's right to say what they believe. "Secondly, evidently some of the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace. I respectfully disagree. Saddam Hussein has gassed his own people. Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nations. Saddam Hussein is providing links to terrorists. Saddam Hussein is a threat to America. And we will deal with him." "I owe it to the American people to secure this country. I will do so." HARDY LOT They are accustomed to snow, among other hardships, in Latvia, so the 3-foot-drifts that shut down the federal government Monday did little to stop the motorcade of Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who ventured out for dinner Monday with no fewer than 16 guests. Having huddled earlier in the day with President Bush at the White House, Vike-Freiberga found refuge at Brassiere Les Halles, which, unlike many restaurants in Washington, stayed open despite blizzard conditions. Unlike France and Germany, Latvia and fellow former Soviet bloc countries, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, strongly back Bush's tough stance on Iraq. "These countries, and especially the Baltic states, know what tyranny means and what the consequences of tolerating tyrants can be. We felt it, lived it, suffered it," Vike-Freiberga told Reuters before departing for the United States. SNOWBOUND FRENCH Someone with time on his hands Wednesday muddled through Kalorama, the fashionable diplomatic neighborhood in Northwest Washington, to see whose embassies had cleared the sidewalks and whose had not. The intelligence agencies can no doubt decipher something from the list. The Chinese had cleared the walks - most of them - at their embassy at the old Windsor Park Hotel on Connecticut Avenue. So had the Yugoslavs, just across the avenue. But the French hadn't disturbed so much as a flake on the walks running the expansive length of their ambassador's lawn fronting the avenue. The snow was still knee-deep along the entire property. On nearby Massachusetts Avenue, the walks were passable, if not always entirely clear, past the Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Romanian, Greek, Pakistani and Vietnamese establishments. No word on what frightened the French ambassador, but spring begins in four weeks. HOLD YOUR GROUND The Environmental Protection Agency, like all other federal agencies in Washington, is rushing to figure out how best to protect its work force in the event of a nearby terrorist attack. In a memo to her staff obtained by this column, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman says that instead of evacuating, the safest place for thousands of EPA employees could be at their desks, particularly if it is determined that: "(I)t is safer inside than outside," that releasing large numbers of employees into the streets "will only add to confusion and panic," and "there is a likely exposure to some hazard or harm, and releasing employees will spread the hazard or harm to others, including family members." That said, she points out that the EPA does not have the authority to require that its employees remain at their workplace, nor can she guarantee their "complete protection" should they stay put. "The large office buildings we work in each day cannot be sealed from outside air," she concedes. Rather, remaining in the office is "an option to attempt to reduce risk of harm to employees and, where applicable, their families." Whitman reveals in the memo that she has directed all EPA facilities in coming days to conduct so-called "Shelter-in-Place" simulations, during which staff will be asked to remain at their desks while air conditioning/heating and elevator systems are shut down. The simulations will give the EPA - and other agencies - a better idea in how best to protect tens of thousands of bureaucrats working in close proximity in this terrorist-targeted city. DONKEY AND PIDGEON Formerly called the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is keeping its eye on everything from banning man's best friend to kooky letters faxed to terrorist leaders. Take a bill introduced in the California Legislature to end the gentlemanly tradition of hunting with dogs. Bill 342, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz of Los Angeles (since when do they hunt - except for criminals - with dogs in Beverly Hills?), would make it illegal for any dog to pursue or capture a hunted beast, big or small. While the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Protection Institute back the legislation, the sportsmen, among myriad other concerns, fear it will contribute to the spread of rabies. However, what really gets the goat of alliance President Bud Pidgeon is perhaps the "most outrageous and callous act ever" by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which reportedly sent a letter this month to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat pleading that he spare the lives of animals during future terrorist attacks. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk was obviously outraged after a Jerusalem donkey was strapped with explosives on Jan. 26 and blown to bits near a bus carrying Israeli soldiers. "All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire," she wrote. "If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?" The Washington Post later asked the PETA head if she'd ever considered requesting that Arafat stop blowing up people as well. She reportedly replied that it was not her "business" to inject herself into human wars. "Since September of 2000, 729 Israelis have died as the result of terrorist attacks, yet PETA's concern is the death of a donkey," says Pidgeon. "This warped perspective again shows that PETA's claims of promoting compassionate behavior is a farce."