Category Archives: Celebrity

Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry Swears In Caroline Kennedy as Ambassador to Japan

– Domani Spero

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 12, 2013. Ambassador Kennedy is accompanied by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and son, John "Jack" Schlossberg. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 12, 2013. Ambassador Kennedy is accompanied by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and son, John “Jack” Schlossberg. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

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Photo of the Day: US Embassy Manila Hosts First “Eco-Fashion” Show

Via US Embassy Manila

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

“U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. hosted “Forward Fashion,” U.S. Embassy’s first eco-fashion show on September 17, 2013 at his residence. The event was a celebration of U.S.-Filipino collaboration in eco-fashion and design, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable development under the creative direction of Aristeo Tengco and showcasing eco-fashion designs of Dita Sandico-Ong and Paul Cabral. Some of the celebrities who donned the designs for the runway were Anne Curtis, Dennis Trillo, Matteo Guidicelli and Venus Raj.”

(O_O)

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Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

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Gangnam Style Intern Flash “Mob” Invades US Embassy Seoul, Then Psy Shows Up

The Gangnam Style video by South Korean rapper Psy has been viewed over 480,000,000 million times on YouTube as of October 17, 2012.  So sorry did not get to see Ambassador Kim as the first Gangnam Style Ambassador but at least he got a “mob” of interns willing to do the dance. Check below at the 00:20 – 1:00 mark, where I would have chopped this video off:

And then what do you know?  Psy stopped by at the US Embassy in Seoul “on a visa matter.”  Well, not on the same day.  Ambassador Kim blogs that “Psy keeps getting asked to perform in the U.S.  The wonderful side effect is that we occasionally get to see him at the U.S. Embassy.”

 

US Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim with Psy
(Photo via US Embassy/FB)


That’s Psy without his blue jacket and eyeglasses and no crazy horse riding dance this time.  Psy reportedly got an “O” visa for “aliens of extraordinary ability.”  And like all visa applicants, he was interviewed, fingerprinted and had a chit-chat with the ambassador.  :smile:

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Photo of the Day: US Embassy Paris Hosts Agent J of Men in Black

Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones return as Agents J and K in the third installment of the sci-fi action comedy Men in Black 3.  The movie which also stars Josh Brolin will hit theaters on May 25.  One of the MiB, Agent J wearing white stopped by the at US Embassy in Paris and had the following pic with Ambassador and Mrs. Rivkin and the marines.

Via US Embassy Paris/FB

Will Smith, star de Men in Black, sa femme Jada Pinkett Smith, l’ambassadeur Charles Rivkin et sa femme Susan Tolson, ainsi que l’unité de sécurité des Marines de l’ambassade des Etats-Unis d’Amérique à Paris, à la résidence de l’ambassadeur vendredi 11 mai 2012. Photo Ambassade des Etats-Unis
https://www.facebook.com/usdos.france

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US Embassy London Hosts Sundance Film Festival UK Reception

Via US Embassy London/Flickr

Ambassador and Mrs Susman hosted a reception at Winfield House to celebrate those involved in the first Sundance Film Festival in the UK. Guest of honor was Sundance founder Robert Redford.  Ambassador Susman’s remarks is here.

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Photo of the Day: Ambassador “Volunteers” as Orange Member of The Wiggles

Below is Jeffrey L. Bleich, our Ambassador to Australia on his recent encounter at the Canberra Theater (via US Mission Australia/FB). If you got kids of a certain age, you will remember The Wiggles, and Dorothy, the purple dinosaur:

Ambassador Bleich with The Wiggles
(Photo from US Embassy Canberra/FB)

Ambassador Bleich: Today i got a brilliant opportunity to meet the Wiggles before their concert in Canberra. They are an amazing group and wonderful ambassadors both here and around the world. I noticed they didn’t have an orange member so i volunteered myself for that role! Fingers crossed.

Richard Hoskins Did you sing or dance?     April 4 at 11:25pm

Stephen Devine Dont give up the day job in the hope they call……     April 5 at 12:08am

Ambassador Bleich The Wiggles are brave, but they aren’t crazy. No parent wants to subject their child to my dancing.     April 10 at 5:08pm

Looks like they’re all having fun!

Domani Spero

 

 

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USCG Karachi: Controversial Actor/Director Sean Penn Visits Pakistan’s Sindh Province

USCG Karachi’s Consul General William Martin and two-time Academy Award winning actor, screen writer and director Sean Penn visited Badin‘s flood affected areas in Pakistan’s Sindh province and distributed USAID provided assistance to people at two camps. Sean Penn won for his roles in Mystic River (2003) and Milk (2008).  But no controversy here, Sean Penn reportedly refused to talk to the media, saying that the purpose of his visit was solely to interact with the flood survivors.

Photo from USCG Karachi/FB

Below Hollywood Actor Sean Penn pays his respects at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi on March 24, 2012.

Photo from USCG Karachi/FB

Sean Penn receives ajrak at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine on March 24, 2012

Photo from USCG Karachi/FB

More photos from US ConGen Karachi here.

Blogger, Mahin Maher writes:

Those of us who are a little more familiar with Sean Penn’s work figured that he probably came to learn about the place. I was impressed by the fact that he declined to speak to the media, saying that he was there to speak to the people of Badin who were hit by rain-caused flooding in 2011. This was the second year of devastation for the province. Many people are still displaced.
[...]
Penn met the Kohli people of Badin. They are a tribe which has been mostly ignored in terms of development. There was only one literate man who could converse with Penn, I was told.
[...]
I am grateful to Penn for visiting at a time when most Americans don’t think of coming here. I blame our government and myself and other privileged people for not helping the Badin people or less privileged. It is not Sean Penn’s job to come and help us if we don’t help ourselves. I just hope that Mr Penn visits again.

The Tribune Express and a host of other local news covered the visit:

Martin and Penn visited Karim Bux Jamali and Dargah Shah Gurio villages in Badin and handed out blankets, quilts, kitchen items and other goods among the people. Later, they also distributed relief goods to a village near Peero Lashari at Talhar road.
[...]
Martin, while talking to the media, said that the US has provided goods worth more than $25 million for the flood victims. The USAID has distributed 60,000 emergency shelters in addition to health clinics, which provided medical treatment to over a million people. He added that in the immediate aftermath of the flood, 1.6 million people were supplied water while food was provided to 1.2 million people. An emergency nutrition programme for 16,000 families is still going on, he said. Talking about the relations between Pakistan and the US, Martin said that the relations are slowly being restored as the ‘confusion’ which stemmed from the Salala check post attack dispels.

Domani Spero

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US Embassy Iceland: Ambassador Visits Game of Thrones Film Shoot, and Lives to Blog About It

The second season of popular television series Game of Thrones started airing on HBO over the weekend.  The American medieval fantasy with mainly British and Irish cast  created for HBO by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss was filmed in Belfast, and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia and Iceland.  Reportedly, the scenes set north of the Wall, in the the Frostfangs and at the Fist of the First Men, were filmed in Iceland last year.

Wanna guess who showed up during the film shoot in Iceland? Our ambassador to Iceland, Luis E. Arreaga, that’s who.  Ambassador Arreaga who was appointed chief of mission to the US Embassy in Iceland in 2010, showed up for the shoot, had a pic taken, survived the cold and lived to blog about it:

Ambassador Arreaga at Game of Thrones Set
(Photo from Ambassador Arreaga's blog)

“We were very excited to learn that the producers of Games of Thrones intended to film part of the second season in Iceland. The visit gave us the opportunity to highlight how the American television industry partners with the Icelandic film industry in producing very popular and successful shows. We drove up to the Höfðabrekka glacier to meet with the producer, director, and some of the actors during filming. It was a lot of fun to watch some of the scenes being filmed against spectacular, but very cold, Icelandic scenery. I nearly froze during the visit and I can’t figure out how the crew managed to stay warm throughout the entire day. Can’t wait until the second season of the program starts.”

Fitte. Fini hazi? I hope he did not have to speak to the film crew in Dothraki.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

 

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US Embassy Afghanistan: Sesame Street Goes to Kabul, But Where’s Elmo?

Via US Embassy Kabul/FB | On November 30, 2011, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, joined by Deputy Minister of Education Patman and Dr. Charlotte Cole of Sesame Workshop, attended the launch of the Afghan version of Sesame Street, Baghch-e-SimSim, which was produced in cooperation with Tolo TV / Moby Group. The event was moderated by Tolo’s Masood Sanjer, and featured muppets Grover (Kajkoal) and Ernie (Hadi) at the French Cultural Center Kabul, Afghanistan.

But where’s Elmo?

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr
 
 
 

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