Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Eric Holder’s world tour

Up to now, it looked like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was racing former SecState Condi Rice in a quest to rack up the most frequent-flier miles.

But it seems Clinton might have competition from an unlikely source: Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been quite the jet-setter of late. We hear he’s planning a trip next month to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. That intercontinental jaunt will cap off a summer that has included visits by the AG to Denmark, Germany, Guam, Malaysia and Singapore.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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Just after a House subcommittee approved an effort to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” controversy, the nation’s top lawyer boarded a plane bound for Copenhagen. The two-day trip also included a stop in Berlin.

Last month, he made a nine-day sweep that included Hono­lulu, Guam, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

During the trips, Holder met with an array of foreign dignitaries — including his counterparts in the countries he visited — participated in roundtables and gave a speech or two. Issues discussed included counterterrorism, data sharing, international crime, drug trafficking, immigration and the like. Hardly a second to catch one’s breath, much less take in the sights. Frankly, just looking at the itineraries left us exhausted.

So it’s not that the peripatetic Holder isn’t working hard — he’s just doing it on foreign soil.

“This isn’t news,” DoJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler insists.

Getting frugal at the GSA

The General Services Administration — home of the $823,000 Las Vegas conference — on Wednesday proudly announced some penny-pinching strategies.

The revolutionary cost-saving tactics, developed with the help of online employee surveys, included canceling print subscriptions to newspapers and magazines (not one of our favorite ideas, but they can still read the Loop online for free) and setting printers to print on both sides. What, no Heloise-style hints like recycling used egg cartons and kitchen sponges?

The total amount the agency will save (if, and only if, the strategies reach their maximum buck-saving potential) is . . . wait for it . . . a cool $5.5 million (the agency’s budget is more than $23 billion). A GSA spokeswoman says that the ideas are only the tip of the savings iceberg and that they’re planning to put more cost-cutting mechanisms in place.

Still, five mil is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s enough for six more conferences in Vegas — clowns and mind readers included!

From detainee to chef

It’s been awhile since we heard what was doing with those Uighur detainees released from Guantanamo Bay.

Some of them had found work at Bermuda’s Port Royal Golf Course (although David Arkley, the deputy governor of Bermuda, tells the Loop they’re still in the territory but no longer employed at the links).

And now, we learn that one has landed a gig making pizzas in Albania. As BBC News reports, Abu Bakker Qassim’s new job represents both a cross-cultural mashup and the end of a long, strange voyage: “A Uighur from north-western China, he was detained in Pakistan in 2001, imprisoned at Guantanamo, and is now cooking halal Italian food in Albania.”

After being offered a home in Albania and advised by his lawyer to master a trade at which he could work, Qassim decided to become a pizza chef. “I knew that Albanians love pizza and I love cooking, so it was very easy for me to learn,” he tells the BBC.

The Uighurs were held at Gitmo as terrorism suspects and were eventually deemed not to pose a threat to the United States. But they couldn’t be sent back to their native China because they faced the risk of persecution there.

Now, it seems, one of them has found a slice of a new life.

The edge of glory

The Loop’s quote of the day:

“Phew! We beat Lady Gaga:) Sec. Napolitano rises to 9 on #Forbesmost powerful women in world list.” — Pia Carusone, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, in a tweet Wednesday. For the record, Carusone’s boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, also beat Oprah in the Forbes rankings.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP

 
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