Dogging of bin Laden finds cops barking up wrong tree

This Just In...

February 20, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

I DIDN'T READ this one in Police Blotter or see it on Animal Planet, but it's a good story anyway. Peggy Coffman, an Ohio handler of hounds, was in New York recently for the 126th Westminster Kennel Club Show. While there, she told the Associated Press of an experience with Baltimore police in October. Coffman said officers summoned her from a restaurant here to ask about the license plates on her van: "AFGHAN1." Cops had the van surrounded and the officers, Coffman told the AP, "wanted to know what that was all about."

"Then," Coffman said, "a higher-ranking lieutenant told the younger patrolmen, `It's dogs.' "

We couldn't reach Coffman to learn exactly when and where this happened, or if it happened at all. But apparently people who breed and own Afghans have become self-conscious of their bumper stickers - "I love Afghans" - and other public expressions since the hunt for Osama began, and that was the context of the AP story. "It's gotten so bad," the Seattle Times added last week, "that the Afghan Hound Club of America briefly considered a name change for the breed."

Good thing they didn't. That would have been a victory for the terrorists. That would have been a case of the Taliban wagging the dog.

An olive branch?

I see where the mayor of Baltimore finally selected veteran firefighter Bill Goodwin as the fire chief to replace Herman Williams. Goodie. And it only took a year and "two nationwide searches" to pick a local guy. Was that Martin O'Malley taking his merry old time, or was he lining up duckies of support for Goodwin?

I go with the latter theory. The Vulcan Blazers' leader, Sheri Frank, pretty much said her association of black firefighters was on board with Goodwin, who has made promises to promote minorities. And looks like the mayor finally won over Steve Fugate, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association Local 964 who backed the wrong guy, Lawrence Bell, in the 1999 mayoral primary - "I think Martin is history. He is simply not going to win" - then spent the last couple of years at odds, verbally and in print, with the mayor. (Fugate said recently that O'Mayor was "trying to destroy the department.")

The mayor, meanwhile, hasn't exactly proved to be a friend to the unionized firefighters, either. (Remember the "parity" battle with Local 734?) So the Goodwin appointment looks like an olive branch from the mayor to a couple of strong labor organizations that might come in handy should O'Malley run for governor. More later.

Don't look now, but ...

Before I pass this along, you've got to promise not to engage in bird-watching while driving on the Beltway. OK? Everybody down with that?

Here goes: Bald eagles are buzzing the Beltway near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. We have two reports - one from our old friend Bush Hog James, the other from TJI reader Elizabeth Appel, both passionate bird-spotters.

"On Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 3:10 p.m., I spotted two mature bald eagles circling over 295 just west of the Baltimore Beltway [near Nursery Road]," Appel reported. "I called the Cape May Bird Observatory and two Wild Bird Center locations (Timonium and Columbia) to report the sightings. It seems that eagles have been spotted in this area before - the wetlands along the Patapsco River."

"We have seen that pair," said Bush Hog, speaking for himself and Mrs. Bush Hog. "They apparently nest at the north end of the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. By the way, the last time we took a pass through the Blackwater NWR (January) we saw 14 eagles and have seen a dozen in a single view on the rocks below Conowingo Dam. The big fellas are back, and Maryland seems to be a primary beneficiary."

No surprise to high-end birdwatcher Barnett A. Rattner, of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. "This is the time of year that eagles are returning to their nest sites and building nests," he says. "New pairs are even setting up territories."

Exciting stuff out there, but please, keep your eyes on the road.

Musicians get the boot

Officials at United Airlines kicked about 100 members of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic off a California-bound flight Monday night at Dulles International Airport after the crew claimed the Russian musicians had been drunk and rowdy on the first leg of the flight from Amsterdam. The orchestra's director, Yuri Temirkanov, is also music director of our beloved Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He wasn't on the flight, according to BSO spokesman Greg Tucker, and good thing. Sounds like Yuri missed a trans-Atlantic nightmare. Try to imagine this:

According to an account in the Washington Post, some of the Russians became drunk, refused to sit down when told to, talked loudly, opened their own bottles of alcoholic beverages (shall we assume Stoli?) and tossed objects around the cabin during the eight-hour trip aboard United Airlines flight 947. At Dulles, the plane sat at its gate for about 90 minutes, and at some point the pilot was heard to say: "The Russians have to be removed."

Baggage and bassoons came off, and the Russians had to find overnight accommodations near Dulles. They apparently got on a flight yesterday, and were scheduled to perform tonight at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, with Temirkanov at the helm - after, we bet, he gives them hell.

The Russians are due at the Meyerhoff next month. I have a feeling Yuri will have them on their best behavior.

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