In the Loop: Uighurs Freed From Guantanamo Find Work at Bermuda Golf Course

By Al Kamen
Friday, August 7, 2009

Some former Guantanamo detainees are said to have returned to their allegedly terrorist ways. Others, such as four Uighurs released from the Guantanamo Bay prison in June, have landed jobs tending the fairways and greens at Bermuda's Port Royal Golf Course, site of October's PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The island-hopping former detainees began working there last week, after a group of Philippine workers apparently failed to show up for work. (Hmmm . . . )

The switch raised eyebrows locally, according to a Reuters report from Bermuda, because foreigners can be given work permits only if no qualified locals want the job. But the Uighurs, who were imprisoned for about seven years as terrorism suspects -- they were determined not to pose any threat to the United States but couldn't be sent back to their native China because they faced the risk of persecution there -- were said by a Bermuda golf official to be doing well in their new jobs.

That will come as no surprise to anyone who has golfed on western China's legendary golf courses, where we hear the greens and fairways are always exquisitely maintained. The Uighurs might even be able to get autographs from the four golfers eligible -- each having won a major championship this year -- to participate in the Grand Slam: Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink. Tiger, if he wins the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis a week from Sunday, would round out the foursome.

No wonder these guys are smiling.

Wise Latina, Unwise GOP?

Democrats and Latino activists have predicted dire electoral consequences for the 31 Republican senators who voted against Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court. Republicans led by Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), citing ideological differences with her on issues such as affirmative action and guns, dismiss the backlash notion as "Democratic cheerleading."

The Republicans may be right. Then again, they may not be fully appreciating the visceral impact on the Latino electorate of Sotomayor's ascension to the high court.

For example, a notice posted last week at elevator banks in the State Department featured an image of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo's self-portrait alongside a photo of Sotomayor under a banner that said "Viva Las Wise Latinas." The notice was for anyone "interested in forming a 'Wise Latina Club' " and invited the department's "wise Latinas" to join an "informal group to network, mentor, discuss issues of mutual concern, engage in advocacy, etc." "Wise Latina" T-shirts are popping up, and supporters even had a "watch the vote party" at the Washington Court Hotel yesterday.

"People are underestimating how Hispanic women are going to respond" to a Justice Sotomayor, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía told us, "because of all that she represents. We see ourselves in her. Her journey is our journey, her story is ours." Although it's unclear how much of an election factor Thursday's vote will be, Murguía said it "will resonate for some time, and over the long term people are going to use this as a yardstick."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), who voted no, may be the first test case of this theory -- if she survives the GOP primary next spring for Texas's governorship.

Justices on the Move

Speaking of Sotomayor, while she is said to be house-hunting in earnest in this area, her predecessor, Justice David Souter, has begun moving into a 3,500-square-foot house he bought last week in Hopkinton, N.H., not far from his family's farmhouse in Weare.

The brown paint on the old house was peeling away when our colleague Philip Rucker visited there in May. The windows sagged with age, and the porch wood was bare. "The creaking, unkempt house looks so haunted," he wrote, "that some people who passed by said they assumed it had been abandoned. The only sign of cultivation is five daffodils blooming alongside the weeds."

Still, it was home.

One reason Souter moved, a neighbor said, was because the house wasn't structurally sound enough to hold the thousands of books in his library. "He said there was just so much weight from the books," the neighbor told the Concord Monitor, "it would be too much for the house to support."

Meanwhile, one of Sotomayor's new colleagues, Justice Clarence Thomas, was cruising the country this week in his 40-foot RV. He and his wife, Ginni, were in Upstate New York on Wednesday, on their way into the Adirondacks. They've driven through 27 states in the last decade, often camping overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots.

"We have been in dozens of Wal-Mart parking lots throughout the country," Ginni Thomas said in a call-in radio interview with Amy Holmes and John Hockenberry on Public Radio International's "The Takeaway." "It's one of our favorite things to do. You can get a little shopping in, see part of real America. It's fun!"

So if Sotomayor needs a temporary place to bunk and shop after the Thomases return . . .

Tapped to Be Diplomats

As long, long expected, the White House said yesterday that President Obama, completing his picks for the major embassies in Europe, has tapped Boston financier, $500,000-plus bundler and mega-contributor Alan D. Solomont to be ambassador to Spain. And, almost as long expected, former Federal Communications Commission chairman William E. Kennard was announced as the choice to be ambassador to the European Union, based in Brussels.

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