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But Whose Name Is on the Check?

By Al Kamen
Friday, July 29, 2005

The State Department this week announced the winner of its annual Foreign Service National Employee of the Year award for 2005. And the winner is -- drum roll -- someone "from American Embassy Baghdad," the announcement said, "and for security reasons will remain anonymous."

The announcement explains why the "awardee," let's call him Mr. Anon , was selected from among the many thousands of non-American employees at embassies around the world. For example, "he helped to retain most of the [embassy] staff despite numerous death threats leveled against them." Anon's "life was at risk night and day," he had "many close calls personally and several friends were slain."

If that's not enough, "after a suicide bomber detonated [a] device within five yards of the dining table," the announcement says, Anon "limped in to the embassy and continued working despite suffering from shock and severe hearing loss. When a colleague was assassinated" and his U.S. supervisor sent home the following day, Anon "vowed to work 'even if no one was left.' "

And when the delegates to the Iraqi National Assembly met at a Baghdad hotel, he was "trapped in the elevator when a rocket slammed into the hotel," we're told. "Later that day, a Gurkha security guard standing a few feet away was struck in the head by shrapnel from an exploding mortar round," and Anon provided first aid.

But it's not just that he's extraordinarily courageous. He's unflappable.

On the last night of the assembly conference, the announcement says, "the ambassador's aide belatedly asked [him] to provide" 1,400 dinners "to the hungry delegates." Rather than deck the aide, Anon called 10 restaurants and got delivery.

All in a year's work in Baghdad. The award is a certificate signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and $10,000, to be presented at an awards ceremony on Nov. 9.

Bush Neighbor Tracked to Portugal

Also on the embassy front, another fine posting, Lisbon, has fallen to the Bush Rangers. This time Alfred Hoffman Jr. , a Bonita Springs, Fla., businessman, former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and mega-Bush fundraiser, is occupying the fine, newly renovated ambassador's residence.

Hoffman chairs one of the largest real estate development conglomerates in the country and is very tight with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush , having been his finance chairman in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

But for those cynics who think these plum jobs in lovely countries are simply for sale to the highest bidder, regardless of any other credentials, we note the following from a Florida Today profile a few years back. "He vacations with the [Bush] family," the article said. "He owns an island in Maine on Casco Bay near the Bush Kennebunkport estate."

See? Being a good neighbor is also

important.

I Won't Be Denied, Bolton Could Have Roared

Senate Democrats continued working yesterday to block the nomination of Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton to be U.N. ambassador, but it's unclear the effort will gain traction.

Increasing chatter of late has it that Bolton most likely will be ordering room service in his ambassadorial suite in the Waldorf by Monday as a recess appointee. The appointment's good till the end of next year. Bolton would have plenty of time to prepare for the annual United Nations General Assembly extravaganza in New York beginning Sept. 13.

ESA Critics -- Innest of the In

Traditionally, talk of the great "grass roots" conjured the image of a wonderful place somewhere outside the Beltway, where good Americans live and have lawns. But now, it seems, those roots can just as easily be in Washington, even in the Capitol.

For example, in Southern Forest Products Association's April newsletter, there's talk about proposed changes, pushed by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). There was to be a committee hearing in Mississippi where the Grassroots ESA Coalition would "present its views" on how the act, which the newsletter said hurts tree farmers and ranchers, could be changed.

"Contact Kristin Schrader of the Grassroots ESA Coalition at 202-225-2761 for more information," the newsletter advised. Schrader also works at that number for Pombo as the Resources Committee's director of external affairs.

Judge's Disclaimer Lifted

Great news for the Interior Department. A three-judge appeals court panel yesterday temporarily stayed U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth 's order that the department, on all its communications, newsletters, e-mails and such, alert people that it is incompetent.

The panel said it wanted time to look things over before ruling on the order. Maybe they could rule it void for obviousness?

Trading Places

Substantial personnel movement at the U.S. trade representative's office:

E. Richard Mills , head of public and media affairs, is moving to the State Department to be a senior adviser to Deputy Secretary Robert B. Zoellick ,the former trade rep; Christopher A. Padilla , who has been head of the public liaison operation, is going to become Zoellick's chief of staff. Catherine "Cathy " Novelli , who had the key job in charge of Europe and the Mediterranean, has moved on, being replaced by longtime State Department official Shaun Donnelly . William Clatanoff , who had run labor matters at the trade rep's office, is retiring. Lewis Karesh is moving from the Labor Department to replace him.

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