H-1-N-What? We Can Do So Much Better, People.

By Al Kamen
Monday, May 4, 2009

The Obama administration's efforts to re-name the swine flu are faltering. H1N1 is just too cumbersome and wholly lacking in imagery. You can't get the public to focus on, and take measures to prevent, something they can't even remember, let alone visualize.

The letter-number thing won't stick. Even pork industry lobbyists slip sometimes and call it "swine flu." The World Health Organization started calling it influenza A (H1N1), which is hardly a step forward. And it's not nearly as catchy as, say, SARS. (An Israeli official wanted it called the Mexican flu, but the Mexican government got very upset.)

The media seem to be pretty much sticking with swine flu, and that's bad news for the country's 67,000 pork producers. Prices are down, farms could be in jeopardy. The outbreak is claiming lives. But just the name "swine flu" is needlessly threatening many Americans' livelihoods.

Loop Fans can help! It's time for the Loop Name the Flu contest. Yes, simply come up with a better name -- more accurate than swine flu, less wonky than H1N1 -- for the virus. Something that people can remember, that might help remind them to wash their hands regularly, stay home if they have symptoms and so on.

The 10 winners will receive one of those coveted, fine-quality, In the Loop T-shirts.

Send your entries via e-mail to: nametheflu@washpost.com or mail them to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

You must include a phone number -- home, work or cell -- to be eligible. Deadline for entries is midnight Wednesday, May 13. Good luck.

Emergency Managed

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has removed a children's coloring book from its Web site apparently after complaints about two drawings of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. The 25-page coloring book, downloadable from FEMA's Web site and titled "A Scary Thing Happened," looks to help kids deal with disasters, such as floods and tornadoes and hurricanes.

The Smoking Gun Web site reported that FEMA last week took down the book, which had one 9/11 drawing on the cover, and a similar one inside that the kids could color, after parents complained about their inclusion in the book.

FEMA press secretary Clark Stevens told us: "The coloring book, which was put online in 2003, was removed last week, and FEMA is currently reviewing all Web content designed and posted by the previous administration."

Better download the old stuff quickly.

Oh, He's Good

Former House member and now White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has not forgotten how to do personal constituency work. In this case his constituent was Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who was in the midst of intense negotiations last week on the administration's budget request.

Conrad and his wife recently adopted a bichon-mix pooch, now named Dakota, from a rescue shelter. So Emanuel, up on the Hill for the negotiations, met with Conrad, bringing along presents for the dog including a dog dish, rubber chewies, squeaky elephant toys and such.

It's the little things . . .


The Senate is grinding away slowly on confirmations for some of the more critical positions still unfilled in the administration. On the environmental side, Tom Strickland was confirmed last week to be assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks.

But Republicans' objections have led to holds on several other enviro nominees. Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), apparently most displeased with Interior's withdrawal of 77 oil and gas leases on federal lands out West, has placed holds on the nominations of David Hayes to be deputy secretary of Interior and Hilary Tompkins to be department solicitor. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), unhappy about Interior changing a rule on the Endangered Species Act, also has a hold on Hayes.

And Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), concerned about regulation of carbon dioxide by the Environmental Protection Agency, reportedly has a hold on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

Looks like action may come soonest on the Hayes nomination.

No Mood to Celebrate

The event of the week on the city's diplomatic circuit -- a reception Thursday night in honor of the "Official Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands" at the Dutch Embassy -- was canceled that afternoon in the wake of a tragic incident back in the home country.

A 38-year-old Dutch man killed six people and injured a dozen others when he rammed his car through barricades and into a crowd waiting to see the queen during a Queen's Day procession in a central Netherlands city. Footage showed the royal family, riding in an open-topped bus, covering their mouths in horror as the car careened through the crowd and crashed into a monument.

The badly injured driver, who later died, indicated to police that "his action was aimed against the royal family," a Dutch official told reporters.

The invitation, sent to our colleague Alec MacGillis, marked a day that was to be light-hearted, in which Dutch people dressed in orange wigs and funny hats and celebrated in several cities.

In Washington, a call came from the embassy that afternoon saying the reception was off. The crash "was in the vicinity of our royal family, who were not injured, but we felt it was unfitting to have a reception this evening," the caller said.

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