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In Washington? On Home Leave? A Passport Office Needs You.

Consular officers, they're awaiting your assistance.
Consular officers, they're awaiting your assistance. (By Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- Associated Press)

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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

M aura Harty, the State Department's designated flak-catcher for the public furor over three-month-plus passport issuance delays -- which are ruining many, many thousands of family vacations and educational and business trips -- is working overtime to reduce the backlog.

Seems the department, where Harty is assistant secretary for consular affairs, grossly underestimated the effect of a new rule requiring passports for people coming back by air from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Harty, grilled yesterday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is working to move money around to hire hundreds of workers to handle the avalanche of applications. But that won't be enough, she said in a recent cable to consular officers around the world.

"Our domestic passport agencies are all working flat out," she wrote. "We need your help."

So if you might be passing through Washington this summer while going to a new assignment, she wrote, or maybe going through "another city where we have a domestic passport agency, please consider spending a few days helping out."

There's a task force here "specifically for [Foreign Service] consular volunteers and we would welcome your participation."

"If you are taking home leave near" a passport office "and would be interested in adding a few days of passport work there to your summer . . . plans, we would be happy to arrange that as well." They'll even pay you a per diem -- but not travel costs.

So sign up "if you are interested in helping your colleagues," Harty said, "and in gaining new insight into the important world of domestic passport processing." Nothing like insight. And you can watch as some of the hundreds of thousands of rabid passport seekers try to jump the counter to rip your lungs out.

After that, you can work for the D.C. DMV.

Button-Down FDIC?

People who work at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- the folks who oversee the nation's financial institutions -- are often, and apparently most unfairly, stereotyped as boring pencil pushers.

They are, it turns out, a fun-loving crowd. And there's an internal investigation now into whether someone was having a bit too much fun at the division of information technology's annual golf outing May 22 at Penderbrook Golf Club in Fairfax County.

The FDIC is looking into reports that a senior official in the 274-employee division asked or offered to pay two women at the outing -- one of whom didn't work in that division -- to take off their blouses, which they did. The incident allegedly was seen by many of the people who attended, though it was unclear whether it occurred in the clubhouse or on one of the greens.


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