Consul General, Pig, Monkey Creative Writing Contest

Liam of Consular Corner is running a Creative Writing Contest over at his page in Facebook. The contest was inspired by this extraordinary photo (“Consul General, Pig, and Monkey”) out of US Embassy Beijing:
“Consul General Linda Donahue shows Monkey and Pig
how easy it is to use the new DS-160 online visa application form.” 
Entries can take any form of written expression (short story, Haiku, limerick, etc.) but must include the words “Consul General” “Pig” and “Monkey.” The winning entries (there may need to be more than one!) will be published in the monthly edition of Consular Corner. Please submit your entry by EOB next Thursday, March 11 to
More photos here from US Embassy Beijing. H/T to Consular Corner.

I’ll have a scoop of dust to go, please …

There is an article kicking around the blogosphere about hardship posts in third world countries and the corresponding allowances that Foreign Service employees get. I’m not going to go up in arms; most people  see the % and have no real context except that this is an extra bump up in pay.  I’d like to use this as an opportunity to explain what this means in real terms.  I’m going to give you and example, then you can go ahead and make up your mind whether this is really an unreasonable expense on the part of the government. 
This is not a big secret. Really. You can click here and see allowances by type. You can click here and see the allowances by location.  Go ahead, I’ll wait. 
Done?  I’d like to point out that that 25% hardship differential for Khartoum is partly for willingly ingesting fine dust particles (between 0.5 and 10 micrometres) in the Sudan (please see photo below). I mean, really – where can you hide from that kind of dust that gets into everything? Everything. Short of shrink-wrapping  yourself, there is no escape.  They are yellowish brown with a dash of nastiness. Did I say they are really fine?  
Sudan Haboob over the Nile
Photo from US Embassy Sudan
According to this, in Mali, the harmattan also triggers an annual meningitis epidemic. Apparently the wind encourages the disease by damaging membranes in the throat and lungs. Joy! Why do these people take their families to these third world countries and subject them to the illnesses and political instability that is a way of life in a large swath of the globe?  
I supposed any well-intentioned taxpayer can go to Sudan for a year, during harmattan and personally investigate if this health hazard is really worth that 25% bump in government employees’ pay. And if it’s not clear the first trip, one should do a second trip and stay a year to see if the lungs like it better; perhaps even spend a third year, just to be sure.

Don’t like to go to Sudan?  There are other posts available that are not in the war zones.  You might try any of the posts in China. The great historical city of Beijing is on the list. The last time I look, the USG was able to bump it down to 15% differential because the air is now better for your lungs.    

As to danger pay, that’s an allowance for being a moving target overseas. But it would look bad if we start calling it the “moving target” allowance, right?  You may or may not know this but more ambassadors have died in the service of this country in the last 30 years than generals. You can look it up in the AFSA memorial plaque.  As unarmed representatives of the United States, our diplomats and their families put themselves in harm’s way overseas simply because of who they are and where they work.  
It’s all right, go ahead and make up your mind ….    



A Boss on a Stretch Assignment Needs a Poem

Going Places

There was once an FSO on a stretch assignment in Burkina Faso
A real “Theory Y” type, a nurturing pencil thin mustache kind 
It worked exceptionally well so, he now is going places, O―
Corridor reputation and all that excepted,
I must say I’d follow this one with no qualms,
All the way ― even to Tobago, Sam.
There was once an FSO on a stretch assignment in Timbuktu
A real “Theory X” McCoy, a “throw you in the ocean” ahoy!
It was a bad, grainy, B movie horror show. Oh boo!
She, too, is now going places, O ―
I’m sorry I must say ― “no, thank you” I’d rather go
To Ouga than spend three years in Paris with vous.

Diplomatic Hot Potato Continues to Unravel

Chip Cummins of the Wall Street Journal Online writes about Dubai police suspects who travelled to the US on “fraudulently issued passports.” (See   Two Dubai Suspects Traveled to U.S. | March 1, 2010):

DUBAI—At least two of the 26 suspects sought by Dubai police for the alleged killing of a top Hamas leader appear to have entered the U.S. shortly after his death, according to people familiar with the situation.
Records shared between international investigators show that one of the suspects entered the U.S. on Feb. 14, carrying a British passport, according to a person familiar with the situation. The other suspect, carrying an Irish passport, entered the U.S. on Jan. 21, according to this person. Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s body was found in a Dubai hotel room on Jan. 20.
There aren’t records of either man leaving the U.S., though investigators can’t be sure the two are still in the country, according to this person. Since the two were traveling with what investigators believe to be fraudulently issued passports, they may have traveled back out of the U.S. with different, bogus travel documents.
The suspected U.S. travel broadens to American shores the international manhunt triggered by Dubai’s investigation into the death of Mr. Mabhouh. Dubai police have already identified two U.S. financial companies they believe issued and distributed several credit cards used by 14 of the suspects in the alleged killing.
A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment.
Read the whole thing here.
Although the State Department declined to comment The Cable’s Josh Rogin reported yesterday that  according to a US official “the U.S. government does not believe that two of the 26 alleged Mossad assassins responsible for the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai came to the United States following the murder, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday.”   Excerpt from the report:

Rand Beers, the under secretary of homeland security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, told a roundtable at the Heritage Foundation Wednesday that Monday’s Wall Street Journal report, which claimed that “at least two” of the Dubai assassination suspects had entered the U.S., was flatly inaccurate.

“We have no indication and they would have had to have shown that passport and that travel documentation with it to enter this country,” Beers said, addressing the Journal story directly. “So we would know if they had entered with that passport and that name and that picture.”

Beers acknowledged that the official U.S. government position was not to comment on the Journalreport, but confirmed twice he believed the report to be inaccurate.
Asked if the U.S. was vulnerable to infiltration using such forged passports, which appeared to be issued by visa waiver countries Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany, Beers said he just didn’t know.

O. Read the whole thing here.