U.S. citizens landing at our airports after trips abroad often are waved through by Customs and Border Protection officials. Some may think this shows a lack of vigilance. Not so. Officials are on hyper-alert, 24-7. Ask Alex Segura, an employee of the International Monetary Fund in Senegal and Gambia.
Segura, a Spanish citizen, was headed to Washington on Jan. 28 for an IMF executive board meeting at headquarters here the next day. But after a 10-hour flight, he was detained by immigration officials in Atlanta and held for seven hours, even though he had a valid Spanish passport and a highly coveted G-4 visa for employees of international agencies, according to an e-mail we received the other day from Takatoshi Kato, the IMF's deputy managing director.
We're told he even had his beautiful, sky-blue U.N. "laissez-passer" passport, which, while useful perhaps in other countries when the military is banging people around, is of absolutely no use here.
Then, instead of letting him go on to Washington, immigration officials put him on a plane back to Dakar, Senegal, Kato said, noting that this was a "distressing incident."
Turns out this was not the first time immigration officials have barred Segura from entering the country. In March 2004, he was held at Dulles Airport for several hours while his pregnant wife waited for him. He was eventually allowed in.
After that, IMF officials raised the issue with U.S. officials, Kato said, and had "measures" put in place to "prevent such an incident from recurring."
The IMF is trying to figure out once more what's going on. "However, we do know that it is not related to any general change in policy that would potentially affect other staff," Kato wrote.
So maybe it's that Osama T-shirt?
Visiting Kabul? Don't Forget Your Tourniquet Compared with Baghdad, Kabul is the picture of serenity, an oasis of calm. But that doesn't mean folks don't get jittery from time to time. Thursday, for example, there was heightened concern about a rally the next day calling for amnesty for war criminals. Some of the 25,000 people rallying at the Ghazi soccer stadium -- where the ever-charming Taliban used to torture and behead people -- were former fighters against the Soviets, top government officials and, of course, interested war criminals.
Security officials for one NGO alerted all employees to be careful. "International organizations in Kabul are locking down for tomorrow," an e-mail alert said. "We will do likewise and hence there will be no movement except for essential travel tomorrow." In addition, more guards would be posted and cars and drivers would be ready "in case evacuation is required."
Keep your cellphones charged and on, the e-mail advised, "though it is likely that the network will go down if there is serious trouble." And please have a bag packed with your passport, prescriptions, phone and phone charger along with some cash, a flashlight, a pocket knife, a jacket and a "scarf/cloth that can double as bandage/tourniquet."
"Tourniquet"? Well, turns out it was a peaceful demonstration, according to BBC News, with just some youths who later "marched through the streets" shouting the requisite "death to America."
In the end, no big deal. Something like College Park after a big Terrapins win.
'No Jokes,' but a Chuckle Is Allowed This e-mail came in Friday from Allyn Brooks-LaSure, press secretary for Sen. Robert Menendez(D-N.J.):
Our office is moving on Monday. We will be relocating to Hart 317 -- Senator Martinez's old office.
Please -- no jokes.
Bill Frist, Washington Outsider Extraordinaire Many Loop Fans have expressed a deep sense of loss over the absence of former senator Bill "Dr. Video" Frist(R-Tenn.) from Washington events. Well, we're happy to report you can stay in touch with the former majority leader, now blogger extraordinaire, at his PAC Web site, VOLPAC.org. In an e-mail Friday, he reports that he's back from his "Africa Medical Mission" in Darfur. "Karyn and I had an amazing trip," he writes. "I am pulling together notes from the trip and will email you with more detail soon. I hope you'll visit the site and keep up with our journey. I've posted new blogs from my trip as well as new photos." Excellent photos. They show the Frists touring refugee camps, various health facilities and some with Frist, M.D., talking to patients and even assisting in medical procedures.
Meanwhile, Frist has taken to blogging and does so regularly. In one entry last month, titled "Stand Firm," he says "it is time to rally around President Bushand unify behind his plan to curb the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province." Maybe it won't work completely, he acknowledges, but "that should not lessen our resolve."
So where is he going with all this? "I am working now to identify and encourage conservative, forward looking Republicans to run for office," he says. "I'm also carefully reviewing each of our 21 Republican Senate incumbent races and will soon identify those campaigns which most need our investment."
This is called not retiring from public life, staying visible for the future, gathering chits for, well, for when you might need them. So stop pining, it will be great to have him back.
Next to Face Sanctions: U.N. Humanitarian Office U.S. officials at the United Nations were steaming last week after they found a photo on the Web site of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The photo showed a billboard of an elephant with a U.N. logo on its side, hobbled by an American flag wrapped around its front legs.
The billboard aims to symbolize the deadly impact of sanctions on ordinary people, and the accompanying article is very critical of sanctions, saying there is "an increasingly difficult dilemma for the United Nations' dual mandate of preserving peace and protecting human needs."
Problem is, Washington is now pushing for new sanctions on Iran for its continued nuclear program.
Hey, beats all-out war.