The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, based inKaneohe Bay, Hawaii, was scheduled to be deployed overseas in late April. The Marines allow their troops to take pre-deployment vacation to see their families, and many of the 1,000 Marines and sailors did so, buying tickets well in advance of their vacation dates.

But earlier this month, headquarters ordered the battalion to deploy about a month early. The change, the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Sean M. Riordan, explained in a March 11 letter to various airlines, “interferes with the travel plans and finances of many” of the troops.

Riordan asked that “each airline take [that] information into consideration and allow our Marines, Sailors and their families the opportunity to change, cancel or refund their airline tickets without incurring additional costs or penalties.”

“Pre-deployment leave is extremely important for our Marines and Sailors,” Riordan said in the letter, “because some of them may never have another chance to spend time with their families again.”

The battalion is headed to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks or so. And we hear it may be going to Sangin District, the deadliest place for Americans in the past year.

We’ve been told that not all the airlines fully complied with the request. A source told us that US Airways waived the $150 change fee but some Marines still had to ante up the extra cost for a late-booked ticket, which amounted to several hundred dollars.

We don’t know how all the airlines handled the changes, but we contacted US Airways and another airline that regularly flies to Hawaii — Delta — about their policies in these circumstances.

“US Airways waives the change fee for new and/or revised military orders,” an airline spokesman said, “but the add/collect does apply,” meaning if you had an earlier, cheaper ticket and the new one costs more, you pay the difference. Nothing by deadline from Delta.

Did we mention that the battalion is headed to Afghanistan in a few weeks? Possibly to Sangin District, the deadliest place in Afghanistan for Americans in the past year?

Name that street

The State Department plans
to spend up to $250,000 for 21 12-foot light poles and cables to upgrade lighting in the 104-acre U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad along “Negroponte Way,” a pathway up to the embassy.

Negroponte Way? As in the former ambassador there,
John Negroponte? Indeed, the same. Negroponte, now an international business consultant here, says he didn’t know of the plan to name the walkway for him. He said he saw his name engraved in a stone when, as deputy secretary of state, he returned to Baghdad a couple of years ago for the new embassy’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It was done without prior consultation or approval on my part,” Negroponte said. “I objected at the time and, subsequently, in a message to the embassy, asked that my name be removed.”

An embassy spokesman said street names in the compound include Broadway, Main Street, Peachtree Street, Hollywood Boulevard and Madison Avenue.

There are also “paved walkways and other paths designed for pedestrian traffic and service vehicles,” he e-mailed our colleague in Baghdad, Stephanie McCrummen. Those don’t have “official names and are not marked with signs,” he wrote.

But, he added, “some employees informally refer to a paved walkway that most employees use to walk between their offices, residences and the embassy dining facility as Negroponte Way.”

But wait! It might not be a bad idea to name more things — buildings, streets and such — in the embassy compound or elsewhere in Iraq, after leading Americans. That means — okay, you saw this one coming — Loop Fans can help!

Yes, it’s the first Loop Iraq Naming Opportunities contest for 2011, to propose to embassy officials — and a grateful Iraqi nation — the streets and places that might be renamed for deserving American officials.

For example, the Kurds might want to name a mountain “Snowflake Peak,” in honor of former defense secretary
Donald Rumsfeld
’s famous Pentagon action memos. Or maybe there’s a tunnel, overpass, bridge, river, building, city or such that needs a new name, such as the L. Paul Bremer cul-de-sac?

Send your entries to The contest deadline is April 11. You must include a telephone number to be eligible. Winners, to be chosen by an independent panel of experts, will receive mention in the column and one of those coveted In the Loop
T-shirts. Ties broken by date of entry. Don’t delay!

Party on

Xinhua, the Chinese news service, recently published a review of a new book analyzing why that country’s commie cousins in Moscow fell apart — and providing a primer for how Beijing, by curtailing things like rampant cronyism and corruption, can try to avoid the same fate.

The book, “Preparing for Danger in Times of Safety, 20 Years After the Disintegration of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” was written by
Li Shengming
, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, according to Xinhua’s English-language service.

The party’s demise is not a mystery, writes Li, who summarized the five key reasons for the Soviet Union’s collapse: “1. Negating the Party’s leaders and the Party’s history; 2. Betraying Marxism and Leninism, and losing the correct theoretical guidance; 3. Corrupt personal conduct of the Party members and cutting themselves off from the masses; 4. Appointing Party cadres severely in violation of Marxism and Leninism; 5. Serious betrayal of the Marxist principle of Party development and changing the Party’s color.”

Li’s analysis is precisely on target, most especially the part about the color. When Mikhail Gorbachev switched from the party’s traditional red banner to mauve, that was the beginning of the end.

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