— Domani Spero
These ambassador introduction videos are the product of State/IIP, under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. From best we could tell, these videos started slowly in 2010 but has now become standard fare for almost all chiefs of mission before the ambassadors get to post. They more or less come from one script — a thank you to President O, a greeting in the foreign language, include spouse, kids (or other relevant relatives) and/or pets, a mention of any prior visit to host country in college or any connection to the host country, a visit to some Washington,D.C. memorials, and say you look forward to meeting everyone in your host country.
If you feel bad about these videos, you’re not alone. One ambassador has choice words to say about these videos: “The Youtube videos newly minted ambassadors make are downright embarrassing. They give an impression of proconsular self-regard which is in bad taste. Diplomacy is premised on a world of sovereign states. The State Department’s fascination with social media suggests that it no longer thinks that is the world we live in, a strange notion for a foreign ministry.”
And the band marches on. These videos we must say are looking better than the previous ones but they still come across as somewhat artificial and forced at times. And that holding hands and picnic scene in the bottom clip below cracked us up. The best ones are those where the COM delivers the entire intro in the language of his/her host country, and appears naturally before the camera. Take a look and see!
Michael Hoza, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon.
Ted Osius III, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.
Kevin Whitaker, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia.
* * *
John Bass, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Scott Rauland, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Belarus
Douglas Silliman, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait
Tom Kelly, U S Ambassador to Djibouti.
Subtitled in French.
Alice Wells, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan.
Subtitled in Arabic.
Andrew Schapiro, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic
Jane Hartley, U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco
Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada
Kevin O’Malley, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland
Suzi Levine, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland & Liechtenstein
Robert Sherman, U.S. Ambassador to Portugal
One ambassador is not in this video series. Ambassador John Tefft, our current ambassador to Moscow, who was previously ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania (was also chargé d’affaires in Moscow from 1996-1997) did not jump into the bandwagon. Newsweek notes that he has been “handed diplomacy’s version of “cleanup on aisle 6!” Ambassador Tefft’s operating style as a “traditional” diplomat with old-school, low-key professionalism,” is considered “a huge asset in Moscow, and perhaps the only style that can work” in the current situation, according to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. The embassy confirmed that Ambassador Tefft did not cut an intro video, but with four ambassadorships under his belt, he’s not a stranger.
* * *
- State Dept Introduces More New Ambassadors: Gaspard, Hackett, Ayalde, Costos, Yun, Berry
- State/IIP Introduces New American Ambassadors on YouTube – Pick Your Favorite Now!
- US Mission Germany: Philip Murphy Exits, John Emerson Enters
- FSTube Trends: Ambassador Video Cards from Washington, D.C.
— Domani Spero
Updated 12/16/14 at 9:45 pm: We understand from the “R” shop that 3 FAM 4170 is in clearance now and something about “third time’s a charm!” What’s that about?
* * *
The December issue of the Foreign Service Journal includes a Speaking Out piece by FSO Wren Elhai, Twitter Is a Cocktail Party, Not a Press Conference (or, Social Media for Reporting Officers). The author is currently serving in the political-economic section of Consulate General Karachi. Prior to joining the State Department, he worked at the Center for Global Development, a D.C.-based think-tank, as a policy analyst where he also ran the Center’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Excerpt below:
Current Foreign Affairs Manual regulations require any State Department employee posting anything to a social media site that relates to a matter “of official concern” to go through the same clearance process that would govern a media appearance or a published op-ed.
This is a shockingly vague rule, one that I have been told in training covers even posting quotes from official State Department statements or links to articles that support U.S. policy. It is a rule so vague that any diplomat with a Facebook account will confirm that nearly every one of us violates it on a daily basis.
If you think of Twitter as the digital equivalent of a newspaper, then it makes sense to try to maintain control over what diplomats say there. However, if Twitter is a digital cocktail party, that’s an untenable position. No one would even consider asking diplomats to pre-clear everything they say to people they meet at public events—let alone to seek press office clearance before starting a conversation with a potential contact.
We are paid to know U.S. foreign policy, to present and defend our positions, and to not embarrass ourselves when we open our mouths in public. We are trusted to speak tactfully and to know what topics are best discussed in other settings.
Our policy should treat our interactions online and in the real world on an even footing. Yes, there will be rare occasions when diplomats speak undiplomatically and, just as when this happens in the real world, those diplomats should face consequences.
But just as we don’t limit ourselves to talking about the weather at receptions, we should be able to present U.S. policy and engage with contacts online. To meet people, we need to show up for the party.
Read in full via FSJ here.
On the topic of consequences, Sir James Bevan KCMG, UK High Commissioner to India recently gave a speech to a group of journalists that’s related to this, particularly on how one might be a bit boring on Twitter, and for good reasons:
And we diplomats sometimes have to behave a bit differently from you journalists, or at least have to pretend that we do. There are things which you can do and say which we diplomats cannot, lest we provide you with copy that is good for you but bad for us.
Some of you have said that my Twitter account @HCJamesBevan is a little bit boring. There’s a reason for that: I like my job and I want to keep it. For a diplomat, being too interesting on Twitter is the quickest way to get sacked. I like India and I want to stay here.
Back to the article, the author of the FSJ piece has cited 5 FAM 790 Using Social Media (pdf) on his article, the guidance first issued in June 2010. You might, however, want to check out 3 FAM 4172.1-3 (pdf) Review of Materials Prepared in an Employee’s Private Capacity, which includes matters of “official concern.” It does look like 3 FAM 4170, the regs for Official Clearance of Speaking, Writing, and Teaching (pdf) has not been updated since 2009, but right now, that’s the official rules.
This past June, AFSA told its members that for more than a year it has been negotiating a revision to the current Foreign Affairs Manual regulations governing public speaking and writing (3 FAM 4170).
“As mentioned in our 2013 Annual Report, our focus has been to accommodate the rise of social media and protect the employee’s ability to publish. We have emphasized the importance of a State Department response to clearance requests within a defined period of time (30 days or less). For those items requiring interagency review, our goal is to increase transparency, communication and oversight. We look forward to finalizing the negotiations on the FAM chapter soon—stay tuned for its release.”
This long awaited update to 3 FAM 4170 has been in draft mode since 2012 (see State Dept to Rewrite Media Engagement Rules for Employees in Wake of Van Buren Affair. Also check out a related piece we did in February 2013 (see Social Media Schizophrenia Continues on Background, and Oh, Stuff That Loophole, Ey?).
* * *
- FSO-Author Writes About Publishing in the Foreign Service; Update to 3 FAM 4170 Coming Soon?
- Social Media Schizophrenia Continues on Background, and Oh, Stuff That Loophole, Ey?
- State Dept to Rewrite Media Engagement Rules for Employees in Wake of Van Buren Affair
— Domani Spero
Earworm ALERT! The US Embassy in Armenia funded this video produced in collaboration with the US Alumni Association of Armenia back in April. The video is directed by Artyom Abovyan and features US ambassador John A. Heffern as well as several Armenian celebrities who were alumni of U.S. programs in the country. The embassy is trying to get to 300K views and here is Ambassador Heffern trying to get Montel Williams‘ attention.
— John Heffern (@AmbHeffern) July 25, 2014
You may also watch it directly via YouTube below:
There are several ‘Happy Yerevan’ videos on YouTube and a whole series of Happy (fill in the blank) videos based on Pharrell Williams’ hit. Last March, the musician partnered with the United Nations Foundation to celebrate International Day of Happiness. There is Happy Astana, Happy Abu Dhabi, Happy Istanbul, Happy Egypt, Happy Beijing, Happy Singapore, Happy Dakar, and there’s even a Happy Star Wars Edition. The website http://wearehappyfrom.com keeps track of the Happy videos. To-date, there are 1,950 videos from 153 countries.
* * *
- Ambassador: US is Interested in Promoting Crowdfunding (crowdfundinsider.com)
- U.S. envoy hopes for new Sargsyan-Aliyev talks in near future (panarmenian.net)
- Armenia needs pension reforms – John Heffern (armeniannews1.wordpress.com)
- When ‘Happy’ has no home: Syrian refugees dance to Pharrell’s hit song (washingtonpost.com)
- Best job in the world, according to John Heffern (en.a1plus.am)
— Domani Spero
Oh, the stuff you can do these days with energy and imagination. The U.S.Consulate General in Toronto did a Reddit AMA last week, answering questions on visas and Amcit services. While the AMA response was modest, we believe this is the first time a consular post did an AMA on Reddit. USCG Toronto processes over 500 nonimmigrant visas a day. In 2008, Consulate General Toronto already had the largest NIV section in Canada. The inspection report at that time noted that about half of all new immigrants to Canada chose the greater Toronto area for their place of residence.
Below is an excerpt from the AMA conducted by FSOs, Nausher Ali, Visas Chief and Kathryn Porter,American Citizen Services Unit Chief at U.S. Consulate Toronto:
We are U.S. Foreign Service Officers from the Consular Section of U.S. Consulate Toronto, and we want to answer your questions about non-immigrant visas and U.S. citizen services! We’ll give as much information as we can in order to help you understand how we work. Hopefully, this conversation will help you be better prepared for a visa interview and/or allow us to help you more efficiently if you are a U.S. citizen living or traveling abroad.
Please note, we are UNABLE to talk in detail about specific cases or “pre-adjudicate” your specific case. We also cannot answer questions on immigrant visas for this particular thread. Any questions that deal more with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will either not be answered or we will link you to their relevant websites for more information. Finally, we cannot answer questions about life in the U.S. Foreign Service for this thread either. There are already a few other threads that do that quite well! That said, we’ll try to respond to as many of your questions as possible!
Our team that is answering your questions consists of the following people:
•Nausher Ali, Consul and Visas Chief at U.S. Consulate Toronto
•Kathryn Porter, American Citizen Services Unit Chief at U.S. Consulate Toronto
Victoria from reddit will be here with us today as well. Ask Us Anything!
Edit: Thank you everybody for your questions. We really enjoyed this today. Sadly, we have to take off. Happy travels!
Questions include topics such as H1Bs, asylum, discrimination, moving, immunity, moving to Canada, Spain vs Chile. Somebody wanted to know the officers’ favorite snacks! Answer:”Poutine! Mission Canada! How could you NOT like Poutine? I like sautéed mushrooms on mine” and “timbits.” No, timbits are not/not doughnut holes!
Here are some of the Qs asked and answered:
Q: What’s the actual intention for visa interview? I mean it hardly last for not even a minute.
Nausher: Visa interviews do usually last a few minutes because the consular officers are well-trained in quickly determining whether or not the applicant is eligible for a visa. Once they’ve determined that, there’s no reason to continue the interview. Here in Toronto we interview more than 500 people a day.
Q: Questions: How can a person aged 18-19 get an internship with an office like this? Sounds interesting for the experience and Can you explain what you guys/gals do there all day?
Nausher: we actually have an intern program for both American interns and Canadian residents. Most US Embassies and Consulates have a page that talks about their internship program, including ours. And here’s the link. The work depends on what section the internship is in. But typically a lot of interns will get to experience a lot of variety during their internship because a lot of what we do varies from day to day. For example, today we’re conducting an “Ask me Anything.”
Kathryn: And what we do all day depends. Every embassy has multiple sections, including political, economic, consular, public diplomacy, and management. Officers in each section do various activities to advance US interest and work together with the host country towards shared goals. And for our internships, it’s all over the place. We are more likely to get people from international relations, political science.
Nausher: but we are always looking for different backgrounds. Most of our interns are local kids – we have 4 Canadian interns across 3 separate units. We are just looking for enthusiasm and interest in working at a diplomatic mission.
Q: I heard law of land does not apply inside the embassy. Is that true?
Nausher: It’s very complicated and really a question for a lawyer, but we are still on Canadian territory, but consulates and embassies are guaranteed certain immunities and protections under the relevant Vienna Conventions.
Q: If you were a character in George R R Martin’s books, what house would you choose to belong to, and why?
Kathryn: I feel like in Canada, it has to be House Stark! Winter is always coming! This is specific to Mission Canada. Here in Mission Canada we would be House Stark.
Q: What’s your opinion on Mayor Ford?
Nausher: Mayor Ford has gotten a lot of attention here and internationally. But as foreign diplomats in Canada, it’s not our role to comment on domestic politicians.
* * *
- Eritrea consulate still extorting ‘diaspora tax’ in Canada, a year after top diplomat expelled over scheme (news.nationalpost.com)
- U.S. Embassies in Canada Processing Limited Visas for Third Country Nationals This Summer (uscanadaborderlawyer.com)
- USCG Toronto: Honest Ed and Tecumseh to the Inauguration Day (diplopundit.net)
— Domani Spero Follow @Diplopundit
Phillip Assis, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi performed with the other semifinalists during the Pakistan Idol semifinals last month. See U.S. Diplomat Becoming Something Of A Celebrity In Pakistan.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service, @PhillipAssis spent two years as a Rural Development Agent in Togo with the Peace Corps. Phillip has also worked at the US Energy Association and the World Bank. According to the SAIS Observer, he spent his first tour in the Foreign Service in Guyana, where he met his husband. From there, he was moved to Vatican City and is now the CAO at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan. His next tour will be back in Washington, DC.
He is trained in piano, sax, flute, and vocals, sung at Capitol Hill jazz clubs for years, and released his first album, “Since I Fell for You” on iTunes in 2006 (The album is under the name Phillip Nelson).
Assis just recorded two music videos with embassy support on property rights and peace. “Aman Ao Mina” (“Love and Peace”) is currently a popular song on the radio and music TV stations in Karachi.
In 2012, we featured FSO Shayna Cram in this blog singing ‘Girl’ in Pakistan (see Reaching Across the Airwaves, FSO Shayna Cram Sings in Pashto:
* * *
- Violence continues in Karachi as two more killed (thenewstribe.com)
- Polio virus found in Lahore, Karachi sewage samples (dawn.com)
- FBI agent ‘arrested in Pakistan for trying to bring bullets on plane’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Another polio case surfaces in Karachi (thenewstribe.com)
- MQM warns of Karachi lockdown if Altaf not issued NICOP, passport (dawn.com)
- FBI official did not have immunity: Pakistan (thehindu.com)
- US Consulate organizes workshop on women and sports (nation.com.pk)
- American Idol Semifinalists: Five Are Alive (thehollywoodgossip.com)
— Domani Spero
As can be expected, the Chicago Tribune report citing an army investigation into the death of FSO Anne Smedinghoff and four others in Zabul, Afghanistan in April 2013 made it to the Daily Press Briefing.
State Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki says that “No State Department officials, civilian personnel were interviewed for the military report.” Since State had concluded its “classified internal review,” how many military personnel did it interview for its report on that Zabul attack?
One, two, ten, the entire unit …how many?
We don’t know since the internal review is classified.
According to the Tribune, the army report says that the security platoon already had other missions planned for that day; that the soldiers did not know how many people they were going to escort, making their job harder; also that the civilians were not wearing the proper protective gear.
What does State’s internal review say about this? We don’t know since the review is classified.
The initial blast was cause by detonation from “a remote-controlled bomb hidden under a pallet that was leaned up against the base’s southern wall.” On PRT Zabul base’s wall. The report also slams the “failure of the State Department team to properly coordinate this trip with military leadership.”
What does State’s internal review say about this? We don’t know since the review is classified.
The report says that the State Department shared too much information with Afghan officials, and the group may have been targeted because specifics on the event’s exact time and who would attend “had leaked out.”
Um….we don’t know since the internal review is classified.
An embassy email referenced to in the report said that Qalat was picked because “we think the visuals would be nice” and it is a “the perfect place for a media tour.”
Months or years from now when the media and the public have forgotten about this — are we going to find out that the U.S. Army conducted its investigation without talking to State Department personnel, and that the State Department, as well, came up with an internal review without interviewing any of the military personnel in Zabul?
The spox brought up two items that made us — whisley-tango-foxtrot!
“Afghanistan is a war zone.”
Because we all need a reminder!
“[P]eople responsible for this tragedy were the extremists.”
Holy moly guacamole! Is that the best response we’ve got every time a sapling falls in a forest?
We have excerpted the exchange below.
QUESTION: So quickly on that Chicago paper report citing the army military unit investigation of the death of Anne Smedinghoff and other injuries there linked to State Department. The report makes a lot of accusations that point back to the State Department. “State says that there was coordination with DOD in advance of the mission.”
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Pentagon says Ambassador Addleton was a last-minute addition to the group, that this was a scramble, that while there had been planning in advance, there was a change to the established plan, a late add, and new requirements that required them to bring in additional military resources.
So when State says there was coordination in advance, was there additional coordination after the addition of this higher-level diplomat, Ambassador Addleton?
MS. PSAKI: Well, at every stage in the process, as you know, the decisions about whether movement takes place rests with the military commander at the base. I don’t have the level of detail about the specifics here, but we were closely coordinated at every point in the process. The State Department did our own review of the events that happened, and we have instituted since then a checklist in order to be as coordinated as possible at every step in the process. But from our own looking at the events and our team that was on the ground, we – every step taken, no rules or regulations were broken. Every step that was needed to be taken in that regard was taken.
And let me say first of all too, of course, that regardless of that piece, the attack on – that took the life of Anne Smedinghoff, an Afghan American translator, and three members of the U.S. military and severely injured several others was a terrible tragedy, and one that, as you all know, people across this building and across the world who work at the State Department remember every day. The only people responsible for this tragedy were the extremists opposed to the many brave Afghans and Americans who have sacrificed so much to help build a stronger, more stable Afghanistan. And what they were doing that day was participating in an outreach event that was part of a nationwide public diplomacy initiative highlighting cooperation between the United States and Afghans in a number of areas. And that’s a program that we’ve been proud of and was underway for weeks there.
QUESTION: The Pentagon says that the senior military commander – they agree with you that they were in charge, but say that they did call in additional resources. So when you’re saying that it’s really up to the military to make the call – go or don’t go – what you’re saying is while the commander was choosing to bring in more resources, he shouldn’t have chosen to go ahead with this at all? That’s where the fault lies?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Margaret, I think where we are – we’re not about placing fault here. We’re about looking at this, as we have, and determining, with any event that happens around the world, what we should do moving forward. We work closely with the Department of Defense, with military commanders on the ground, whether it’s ISAF or otherwise, to make sure we take every step to keep our people safe. That doesn’t mean that tragic events don’t happen. Afghanistan is a war zone and we, of course, can honor the memory of Anne and the others who died that day by not only learning from it and what we do moving forward, but by continuing to do many of the programs that they were undertaking that day.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, now that the military unit on the ground has finished its review, will the State Department reconsider its initial review? Because per the State Department, the investigation of the incident happened immediately afterwards, before the military unit submitted its review and its account of what they saw happen on the ground. So —
MS. PSAKI: Well, just to be clear, Margaret —
QUESTION: And that’s why it didn’t go to an ARB.
MS. PSAKI: — this was an army field after action report that happened on the ground. And typically, what happens with these is that these reports are done by an investigating officer in the field. We understand that under DOD procedures, this field report would be transmitted through the military chain-of-command to be ratified and modified and further distributed. I’m not aware of that happening at this point. No State Department officials, civilian personnel were interviewed for the military report. We have done – the Department as well, through Embassy Kabul – has done our own review to determine what occurred and whether security procedures required adjustment. That review is classified. But there have been multiple investigations in this case, and we undertook our own review here.
QUESTION: But given that the Army’s review now is done and that they have pointed to fault in this building —
MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, again, this is important —
QUESTION: — is it worth reconsidering?
MS. PSAKI: This is important because this is – again, this was a report done by an Army unit, an Army unit field report. It has to work its way through the chain of command. I’m not aware of that happening yet. I would, of course, point to the Department of Defense, and they can all take a look at that when that happens. But we’ve done our own review.
QUESTION: Yeah. They’ve said they’re not probing it further at this point, at the Pentagon level because (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: Well, but there’s still a process that it goes through regardless.
QUESTION: And – but at this point, is it fair to say the State Department is not moving ahead since, in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are exempted from going to the ARB level of investigation? And there was a decision not to go to that level because they didn’t have —
MS. PSAKI: Well, but we did our own review regardless —
QUESTION: — when they had the meeting, they decided not to there —
MS. PSAKI: Regardless of that, we did our own review. Yes, Afghanistan is a war zone, so it falls under different requirements, but we still did our own review regardless of that.
QUESTION: But at this point, it is a closed matter? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: It’s never a closed matter in the sense that you’re still remembering the memory of the people who lost their lives.
QUESTION: Of course.
MS. PSAKI: And you’re still learning from the experience, and I mentioned a checklist we’ve put in place. And we’ll continue to evaluate on that basis. But again, our efforts now are focused on continuing to coordinate with the military at the operational and tactical level in these situations, and if for some reason the military unit is unable to meet the provisions of our checklist, our personnel will not participate. So you do take what you’ve learned, you adapt it moving forward, and you do everything you can to honor the memory of the lives that have been lost.
But there’s more.
On April 10, 2013, McClatchy filed a lengthy report: Witness: Anne Smedinghoff, other Americans killed in Afghan bombing were on foot, lost. Five days later, then State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied that Smedinghoff’s party was lost:
“Media reports suggesting that the group was lost are simply incorrect. They were going to a compound across the street from the PRT,” he said in written responses to emailed questions.
Ventrell said the purpose of what he called the “mission” that led to Smedinghoff’s death was a news conference featuring the senior U.S. official in southern Afghanistan and the Zabul governor to promote a book donation project and the “growth of literacy.”
Ventrell called “highlighting Afghanistan’s ongoing progress for both national and international media” an “integral part of our work.”
“This is what we do, and we believe in it,” he said. “Our diplomats believe in getting out beyond the wire to reach people. In this case we were engaging with the people of Afghanistan AND the local government.”
According to the State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, reports suggesting that the group was lost are “simply incorrect.”
The Army report now confirmed that the party “had the wrong location for the school.”
That official word from the State Department was never retracted.
“It’s unclear whether there’s been much soul searching at the State Department. In the Tribune story, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki sounds unrepentant. “The only people responsible for this tragedy were the extremists opposed to the mission,” the Tribune quotes her as saying, then adds that “a classified internal review of the day was conducted, . . . and the department determined no State rules were broken.”
We have folks who complained to us — either that the State Department or Embassy Kabul was thrown under the bus in this army report. Well, we only have the army report to go on.
Army report excepted, we know three things from the State Department: 1) they named a courtyard after Ms. Smedinghoff at Embassy Kabul; 2) there is a new checklist in place; and 3) the internal review of the Zabul incident is still classified.
- Army Report: Poor planning led to FSO Anne Smedinghoff and troops’ death in Afghanistan (diplopundit.net)
- Report: Poor planning led to diplomat’s death in Afghanistan (stripes.com)
- Army report on death of young State Department officer in Afghanistan confirms group was lost (miamiherald.com)
- On the Death of Anne Smedinghoff, Three U.S. Soldiers and an Interpreter (dissenter.firedoglake.com)
— Domani Spero
In the last 48 hours, we’ve been seeing a bunch of selfies from the State Department with the hashtag #UnitedForUkraine. The NYPost writes:
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was mocked Thursday after posting a photo of herself on Twitter holding a sign that read #UnitedForUkraine @StateDeptSpox.
Psaki defended her photo.
“The people of Ukraine are fighting to have their voices heard and the benefit of communicating over social media is it sends a direct message to the people that we are with them, we support their fight, their voice and their future,” she said.
Now stop picking on Ms. Psaki, she’s not alone on this and at least she’s no longer using the hashtag #RussiaIsolated. The UK is set to start buying gas directly from Russia this fall despite threats of further sanctions against Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
In any case, here is the Selfie Collection, a work in progress:
Selfie Missing: Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, Ms. Psaki’s boss.
Selfie Missing: Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Alberto Fernandez
Then our man in London, Ambassador Matthew Barzun ruined the fun and raised the bar with a Winfield House selfie via Vine:
Now we just need a selfie from the Russian bear.
Oops, wait … what’s this? The Russian bear, missing a hashtag…
* * *
— Domani Spero
“Este vídeo ha sido producido por la Oficina de Programas de Información Internacional del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos en marzo de 2014. En él se presenta el embajador de Estados Unidos en Chile, Mike Hammer.”
Ambassador Hammer is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service and entered the diplomatic corps in 1988. He has served abroad in Bolivia, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. In the Department he is known as “Mike” and has served in the Operations Center and as special assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He has received several awards in his career, including the Department’s Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy. He is fluent in Spanish and speaks French and Icelandic.
* * *
- Pulp Fiction’s Bad Boy Mike Hammer Returns In ‘Complex 90′ (npr.org)
- Magnitude 6.2 Quake Strikes Northern Chile (voanews.com)
- Strong quake strikes off Chile (channelnewsasia.com)
— Domani Spero
Updated on 3/24 at 11:24 pm PST: The YouTube description now indicates that this is “One of four videos celebrating international poetry during the visit to Iraq of poets from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.”
The video below was published by U.S. Embassy Baghdad on March 4, 2014 on YouTube. The video includes the English and Arabic text translation of a Russian poem. The speaker is the embassy’s Public Affairs Counselor in Baghdad reciting a poem by Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin in Baghdad. The embassy’s AIO also recited a poem last February; can’t say whose work he is reciting here, can you?
Oh, please don’t get us wrong, we love poetry. We love Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese“ and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Underwear“and Keats, and Yeats, and Billy Collins, too. But somebody from that building sent us an email asking if this is “really clever use of PD time and money?” So we went and look. The YouTube post is 1:40 min in length, has 256 views, and does not include any context as to why our U.S. diplomat in Baghdad is reciting a Russian poem. What’s the purpose why this video is up, anyways? Was this part of a larger event? Nothing on the embassy’s website indicate that it is. Was he just feeling it? We can’t say, no explainer with the vid. This could, of course, be part of celebrating poetry month, but the National Poetry Month in the U.S. has been celebrated in April since 1996.
In related news, according to iraqbodycount.org, the March civilian casualties in Iraq is currently at 749; the year-to-date count is 2,755 deaths.
Well, what do you think – is this “really clever use of PD time and money?” or is this Reality Detachment, a chapter in Peter Van Buren’s future novel?
* * *
- Baghdad Nights by Raymond Maxwell (diplopundit.net)
- Baghdad: The World’s Worst City? (medindia.net)
- Baghdad singled out as world’s worst city (gulfnews.com)
- Centuries of Baghdad poetry (koreaherald.com)
- The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announces ten U.S. companies investing in Iraq (oneiraqidinar.com)
- Presidential guard kills Iraqi journalist (sbs.com.au)