Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Balancing the Budget One Passport Photo at a Time

CNN has a great story about a couple who were scuba diving off Ko Phi Phi Island in Thailand just as the tsunami hit. Amazingly they made it to shore unscathed. They had lost all their possessions including their passports. US consulate officials demanded payment to take their passport photos:

The couple had managed to hold on to their ATM card, so they paid for the photos and helped other Americans who did not have any money get their pictures taken and buy food, Helen Wachs said.
"She was really very surprised" that the government did so little to ease their ordeal, she said.
In an e-mailed response from the State Department, the chief of American Citizen Services said the embassy usually meets and greets every flight personally, but acknowledged there had been confusion the first night in setting up the operation.
Still, "anyone needing assistance is guided to our office in the VIP hall, which is the space allocated to us by the airport authority," the e-mail said.
Typically, anyone needing a passport is directed to go to the embassy, it added.
"If people have no funds to get to the embassy, they are offered a $100 emergency loan on the spot," the e-mail said.
Because of the emergency, the embassy has been issuing no-fee emergency passports since the tsunami hit, it said.
But the photo printer was working only sporadically on the day in question, so its use was reserved for those truly in need; others were asked to walk a building away to get their pictures taken, it said.
"Basically, if you had a decent supply of cash, you were asked to go get photos made so we could try to save the camera for desperate cases."

It's funny that I just mentioned this story last night to Mr. Parker when we discussed the day's news. Seems you beat to posting it. --DP
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