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In the Loop

Skipping the After-Dinner Cordial

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 23, 2005; Page A17

So there was President Bush trying his best to be friendly and gracious to French President Jacques Chirac on Monday at the NATO summit in Brussels. It was all smiles and handshakes, best buddies and all that.

Monday night, Bush hosted a fine dinner for Chirac at the beautiful embassy/home of former Washington lobbyist, the "101st senator," Tom Korologos, now our man in Brussels. They dined on filet of beef, but there was a bordelaise sauce on top, this apparently to make Chirac feel comfortable with it.

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And the appetizer? A lobster risotto with truffle sauce. It's beyond imagination how good that dish must have been. The wine list included chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, but it was unclear whether it was French or the higher-quality American.

In any event, it was an exquisite meal, a fine, cordial repast. And how does Chirac repay this special hospitality? The next morning, yesterday, he endorsed German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's recent call for a panel to study "reforming" U.S.-dominated NATO, and apparently implying that the European Union should supplant it.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, we recall, had promptly rejected the needless panel of experts notion. But there was Chirac, hailing Schroeder's comments, saying Europe and the United States "are real partners. . . . We need to dialogue and listen to each other more."

Yeah, well, next time he gets Big Macs. At least Bush can take solace in the fact that he'll outlast both of them. Schroeder, unpopular in his own party, is likely going to be toast in the '06 elections, and Chirac, 72, is looking shaky politically even if he does run the following year.

Dogs and Cats Living Together? Chaos

One reason the Navy is so good at what it does is because it learns from its experiences, going over them from every angle and in meticulous detail to reduce future error.

The hurried evacuation in July of more than 1,000 military dependents and civilians from Bahrain -- after intelligence reports of terrorist threats -- to Norfolk produced the usual post-action assessments, including one report titled "Evacuation of Pets from Bahrain: Lessons Learned."

The lessons, outlined by the veterinary folks at Naval Station Norfolk at a recent conference on various evacuations, came from handling about 80 canine and feline evacuees, many of which apparently showed up before their owners, on a flight from the Persian Gulf area.

So here are some general tips for future situations: Try to get a letter of authorization from owners for veterinary care. Make sure vets are on the airfield and pet transportation is arranged beforehand.

Then: "Remember -- the owners are under a great deal of stress, there is no way to ensure owners will hear what they are told," the report says, "but repetition and a clear set of written instructions should be provided."

One key tip: "We established a policy from the beginning that no cat would be removed from the carrier unless two personnel were present to reduce the risk of escapes."

And, most important: "Segregation of cats and dogs reduces the stress for all involved."

No doubt.

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