In State's Lebanon Lingo, No 'Evacuees'

By Al Kamen
Monday, July 24, 2006

"Evacuation" apparently is a dirty word at the State Department. We're told that during deliberations at Foggy Bottom about getting Americans out of Lebanon, it was decided that "evacuation" was too negative -- and of course it erroneously implied the notion of ferrying people in a dangerous place to safety.

So it was decided that the language issued by the State Department should not use this word. "Departure assistance" and "safe passage" are preferred. There are also those "people assisted out of Lebanon" or "departees." People are "transported out," and the total number of "assisted departures" is rising.

This echoes that problem last year when some people called displaced Katrina victims "refugees," or people seeking refuge, which they clearly were not. "Displaced people" or even "evacuees" seemed preferable then.

But State's linguistic gymnastics seem a bit forced. After all, they're leaving on cruise ships, aren't they? So they're tourists, right? Or maybe cruisees?

A Calculated Accident at G-8?

Was the old KGB master at it again? A British television station says it has identified the person responsible for that open microphone catching a little unvarnished President Bush at the closing G-8 summit lunch in St. Petersburg. The culprit? Shockingly enough, they finger Russian President Vladimir Putin .

This was the luncheon where Bush, chomping on a piece of bread, issued an expletive, babbled about long flights, bashed U.N. chief Kofi Annan and repeatedly interrupted his little buddy, British prime minister Tony Blair .

The footage on Britain's Channel 4 shows Blair finally spotting and turning off the "telltale red light," and then the film cuts to Putin, grinning about something. A British reporter asked a Putin spokesman about this, but the spokesman insisted the broadcast was "an accident."

Accidental tapings of private conversations happen a lot in some countries.

Caught by Surprise

Speaking of tapings, for those who missed the video of President Bush's surprise massage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at that same G-8 gathering, it's available at . The video is in German -- we got it courtesy of ZDF German public television -- and Bush enters from the left after 11 seconds. Unclear what Merkel is saying. Maybe "Security!"

Truman's Take on Current Affairs

Enviros last week were pulling out all the stops to try to stop expansion of oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Legislation to open up additional drilling includes a provision that would bring billions of dollars to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The enviros, worried that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Dems might support the bill, have even trotted out a speech by President Harry S. Truman from back in 1952 opposing a somewhat related proposal.

"The minerals that lie under the sea off the coasts of this country belong to the federal government -- that is, to all the people of this country," Truman said at a convention of the Americans for Democratic Action.

"If we back down on our determination to hold these rights for all the people, we will act to rob them of this great national asset," Truman said. "That is just what the oil lobby wants. They want us to turn the vast treasure over to a handful of states, where the powerful private oil interests hope to exploit it to suit themselves.

"Talk about corruption," he continued. "Talk about stealing from the people. That would be robbery in broad daylight -- on a colossal scale. It would make Teapot Dome look like small change."

Phew. Good thing Democrats don't talk like that anymore. Truman vetoed the bill, but it was later passed and then signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower . Bush is not expected to veto this one.

Hot -- and Steamy

Reporters asked the press folks at the Department of Homeland Security why their offices were so hot. Turns out they have been sweltering without fully operational air conditioning for the last two weeks. After a staff mini-revolt, they got some big industrial fans, the kind deployed after there has been smoke or a fire somewhere. This appears to have helped some, we're told, but it's still a moist 80-plus degrees in one of the DHS administration buildings in the Nebraska Avenue Complex.

So the "threat level" is code red?

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