The Marine Corps, which missed its recruiting goals for the first four months of this year, is reported to be back on track to meet its overall enlistment goals.

But it apparently hasn't been easy, requiring the ever-resourceful Marines to dig deep into their playbook to meet the numbers.

For example, a journalist got this letter the other day from Brig. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, telling him the U.S. military "is in need of your service."

Well, what can I do? the broken-down hack wondered. "Now is the time to put your unique language skills to the test as a member of the United States Marine Corps," Gaskin said. "Your command of the Arabic language will be invaluable among the elite few," the letter explained, "where you'll play a pivotal role in communicating with people from Arabic-speaking countries."

Arabic? Except for some words picked up during a few months in Cairo in 1978, covering the Egypt-Israel something, our source doesn't speak any Arabic.

In training, "we'll push your physical and mental limits beyond anything you've ever known," Gaskin promised. Shouldn't be too hard, since our colleague is a few years past 60.

What to make of this? Our fellow journalist's name is unusual. Conceivably, if badly mispronounced, it could be Arabic-sounding. But then the father of another colleague, our pal tells us, with a name like Johnson, got a similar letter.

Teddy, the Perfect Centerpiece

Enviros last week were upset, as usual, with a measure proposed by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) for drilling for oil in Alaska and selling off certain parklands there and in other places.

One National Park Service property to be sold is Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River, named for the Republican president and great environmentalist hero. The 91-acre parcel would fetch a fine price, and land from the George Washington Memorial Parkway would be added so a "vehicle bridge" could be built to the island.

Enviros were frantic about what would happen to the fine 17-foot bronze statue of Teddy in a memorial plaza, thinking perhaps it would be carted off or melted down.

This, of course, is preposterous. No luxury condo developer would move the statue. It's a great conversation piece, reminding residents of the former park. Plus, it would serve as a perfect centerpiece for a traffic circle.

Calling Bianca. Where's Bianca? Biancaaa!

Curious times at President Bush's news conference Thursday at the Pentagon. It appears he had been prepped to ask a certain reporter a question.

"Bianca," Bush said, apparently calling on radio reporter Bianca Davie of Bloomberg News. "Nobody named Bianca? Well, sorry Bianca's not here. I'll be glad to answer her question."

"I'll follow up," another reporter said.

"No, that's fine," Bush said to general laughter. "Thank you, though, appreciate it. Just trying to spread around the joy of asking a question."

"Mr. President," a female reporter asked, "could we talk more about . . . "

"Are you Bianca?" he asked.

"No, I'm not," she said. "Anita, Fox News."

"Okay," he said.

"Just a quick question," she said.

"Okay," Bush said. "I was looking for Bianca. I'm sorry."

Turns out, blogger Wonkette says, Bianca was there, in the back of the room with earphones on, and told folks she didn't have a question for Bush anyway.

Axis of Evil Minus Two

Most folks think the Axis of Evil, as proclaimed by President Bush, had only three countries: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Turns out, it really had a fourth, heretofore secret, member: Libya.

This even number is good, because it enables the administration to consider itself halfway through its goal of defusing nuclear weapons, as Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen G. Rademaker announced last week.

"The Iraq dimension has been addressed," Rademaker said at a panel discussion at Georgetown University, according to Global Security Newswire. Saddam Hussein's nukes won't threaten the United States any more, that's for sure. "The Libya dimension has been addressed. We are left with Iran and North Korea," Rademaker said.

In December 2003, Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi agreed to stop trying to have weapons of mass destruction and revealed his WMD programs, which Rademaker said was a result of the invasion of Iraq nine months earlier.

Two to go.

Lawyers' Musical Chairs

Lawyering up . . . White-collar criminal defense attorney Raul Yanes, most recently in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's front office and previously in the counsel's office and before that in private practice, has moved back to the White House to be general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget.

Meanwhile, D. Kyle Sampson, deputy chief of staff to Gonzales, moves up to be chief. Sampson had worked for former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and before that for Gonzales in the White House counsel's office.

Pentagon Bound

As expected, media guru Dorrance Smith, former top media adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has been nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, to succeed Lawrence Di Rita. Smith had been executive producer for ABC News' "This Week with David Brinkley" and, the White House announcement said, of "ABC News' Nighlight." Also known as "Nightline."