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Strange napfellows share a good cause

Not many issues could create an alliance of Hillary Clinton, Rick Santorum, John Kerry, Colin Powell and Tom Coburn.

But a global health initiative to help children survive beyond their fifth birthday is a cause without a political party affiliation.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

To celebrate a marked decline in deaths among young children over the past two decades, a coalition called “5th Birthday and Beyond” is holding several events this week in Washington. Among them is a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion aimed at engaging millennials hosted by Global Citizen, a meeting with international health leaders at the Agency for International Development, and a reception honoring former and current leaders of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees who designated funds for children’s health and survival.

Despite the “cut, don’t spend” mantra that has ruled Capitol Hill for the past four years, funding for global health has remained intact, and even increased.

Former secretaries of state Clinton (D) and Powell (R), former senator Santorum (R-Pa.), Secretary of State Kerry (D) and Sen. Coburn (R-Okla.) are among the people who have sent the coalition pictures of themselves at 5 years old as part of a social-media campaign to raise awareness for the cause. The group is hoping that the politicians, and others, will change their social-media profile pictures to the images of themselves as youngsters.

Kerry changed his Twitter pic on Wednesday to one of him sledding as a 5-year-old, but the others, last we checked, had not followed suit.

The scenic route

Our colleague Anne Gearan, traveling with the secretary of state this week, sent us this bit of news:

PARIS — Because of an “air strike” at the Brussels airport on Wednesday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry hopped a train to Paris after a NATO meeting.

Yes, air strike is what they call it, and no, they don’t mean a cruise missile. Just a European labor dispute. (Apparently the air-traffic controllers were on strike.)

Kerry and a handful of top staffers dashed from NATO headquarters after a news conference to make the 6:13 p.m. train. The trip takes just over an hour.

He made it in time for dinner.

The rest of the staff and reporters took a later train. Kerry’s plane was coming later, after the airport reopened.

A senior State Department official who made the cut for the first train said Kerry “spent the time talking with staff about recent world events and the history of the countryside the train traveled through.”

The U.S. Embassy in Paris “can’t remember the last time a secretary of state has traveled into Paris on the train.”

Panned in Pyongyang

We knew the North Koreans weren’t happy about a new comedy movie about a plot to assassinate dictator Kim Jong Un.

But now they’re calling “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, an “act of war,” threatening that if the U.S. government doesn’t block the movie’s scheduled October release, we will face “stern” and “merciless” retaliation, a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Real-life buddies Rogen and Franco play a producer and talk-show host who land an interview with Kim and are asked by the the CIA to assassinate the dictator. Looks pretty funny, judging from the trailer. (See for yourself at

For the role, they consulted with reporters from Vice magazine who have traveled to North Korea.

This “reckless U.S. provocative insanity” is sparking a “gust of hatred and rage,” the spokesman said, and releasing it would be an “act of war that we will never tolerate.”

Unclear what form the retaliation might take. Perhaps the North Koreans will make their own movie? Call in Dennis Rodman?

Rogen seemed to take some pleasure infuriating one-third of the Axis of Evil. He tweeted Wednesday: “People don’t usually wanna kill me for one of my movies until after they’ve paid 12 bucks for it. Hiyooooo!!!”

Sino signage update

Loop fans may recall a bipartisan House initiative launched last month — just before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre — to rename part of a Northwest Washington street by the Chinese Embassy in honor of imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The lawmakers — including Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — sent a letter to D.C. officials asking them to rename part of International Place NW after Liu, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. City officials said they were mulling over the idea.

Turns out the street is federal property, so D.C. approval wasn’t necessary. Wolf moved Tuesday to insert an amendment to a State Department spending bill instructing Secretary of State John Kerry to change the street name to No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza. (The precedent for the move is the renaming of a street in front of the Soviet Embassy in Washington for anti-Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.)

The House Appropriations Committee — though some members reluctantly opposed the idea for fear of offending the Chinese — approved Wolf’s amendment on a voice vote.

The Chinese, of course, are already offended, viewing the effort as indicating blatant contempt for its laws.

On Wednesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman dismissed the committee’s vote as a “complete farce,” the New York Times reported from Beijing.

Would China rename the street in front of the U.S. Embassy? she was asked.

“Do you believe China should take the same action as the U.S.?” she responded, though she didn’t answer the question.

But Chinese comments online suggested some ideas, the Times said, including “Torture Prisoners Street,” “Snowden Street,” “Osama bin Laden Road” and “Lewinsky.”

The Chinese once did this same thing to the Russians back in the ’60s, when they were having those bitter feuds with the Soviets over ideological purity. By one account, the Chinese renamed a portion of Yangwei Road in front of the Russian Embassy to “Anti-Revisionism Road.”

Meanwhile, some 15 GOP senators have signaled their support for the renaming. Since the Senate has passed its appropriations measure, the measure, if approved by the House, will have to be worked out in conference.

We hear House supporters are hopeful, so State might want to get those new street signs ready.

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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