Category Archives: Social Media

Halloween Around the Foreign Service, and OMG! Folks Dress Up as State Dept Spoxes!

– Domani Spero

 

Below is a round-up of Halloween events around the Foreign Service.  The Embassy Canberra tweet is of Ambassador Berry dressed up as a dinosaur and his spouse, Curtis Yee dressed up as a skeleton. They’re rather cute, aren’t they?  Also, something new and disconcerting this year, at least we don’t recall this in previous years, but potential arrest exists in Jordan for wearing Halloween costumes in public.  According to Embassy Amman, the Government of Jordan recently announced that public celebrations of Halloween and public appearances in Halloween costume are prohibited.  “U.S. citizens should expect police reaction, including arrests, at any public Halloween-themed event.”  Embassy Amman advises that U.S. citizens traveling from their home to a Halloween party, or vice versa, cover up their costumes while in public or in a car. Whoa!

Also, for the first time in memory, there, apparently, are folks in Foggy Bottom who are dressing up as the State Department spokespersons this Halloween. We don’t mind adults wearing dinosaur costumes, but we draw the line on going anywhere this Halloween on ISIS/ebola get-up, and Anything reminding us that the world is falling apart.

 

U.S. Embassy Cairo, Egypt

U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados

U.S. Embassy Valletta, Malta

U.S. Embassy Singapore

U.S Embassy Paris, France

 

U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia

U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan

 

The State Department, people!

You very special, naughty snowflakes, real life is not disquieting enough in Foggy Bottom you had to add a gingered @statedeptspox with a mustache?  And there are now four spoxes? Four?  Waaaaaa! What the heck are we going to do with them?

Predictably, the tweeples threw spitballs on Twitter and no one added any more Happy to Halloween.

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US Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place

– Domani Spero

 

The US Embassy in Burkina Faso has made several security messages this past week, warning U.S. citizens of a planned day of protest that started out as a “civil disobedience campaign” on Tuesday, October 28 and followed by a demonstration and an  expected sit-down strike the last two days:

On Wednesday, October 29 it is expected that a demonstration (which was originally planned before the referendum announcement) organized by the Coalition Contre la Vie Chère(Coalition Against a High Cost of Living) will be used by the political opposition as an opportunity to hold a march and gathering in downtown Ouagadougou.

On Thursday, October 30 the National Assembly will reportedly vote on the proposed constitutional change.  The opposition has called for a sit-down strike surrounding the National Assembly building to block voting members from casting their vote.

Earlier today, Embassy Ouagadougou sent out an emergency message that at 9:30 am the U.S. Embassy received reports of demonstrators breaking through police barricades at the National Assembly and that warning shots and teargas have been fired.  Embassy staff was instructed to shelter in place until further notice.

via Google

via Google

Later on October 30, the embassy released the following statement on the enactment of martial law in Burkina Faso:

On Thursday, October 30, President Compaore declared that he is dissolving the government, declaring a state of emergency and enacting martial law.  Embassy staff has been instructed to continue to shelter in place until further notice.  We urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to do the same.

There have been widespread reports of looting throughout Ouagadougou and other parts of the country.

The Ouagadougou International Airport is closed and all flights in and out have been canceled until further notice.

U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment.  Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings.  Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in 1960, following its independence from France.  Blaise Compaoré has been President of Burkina Faso since 1987. CBS describes President Compaoré as a graduate of Muammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center (a.k.a. Harvard for tyrants).  His country has an unemployment rate of 77 percent (ranked 197th in the world.) See Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

According to the State Department’s Fact Sheet, U.S. interests in the country are as follows:

U.S. interests in Burkina Faso are to promote continued democratization and greater respect for human rights and to encourage sustainable economic development. Countering terrorism and strengthening border security are of growing importance in Burkina Faso. The United States and Burkina Faso engage in a number of military training and exchange programs, including in counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance. The country is contributing to the support of U.S. efforts in the Sahel. Burkina Faso is a partner in the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program for peacekeeping and is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

This is a fast moving event that the Consular Bureau’s Travel Alert or Travel Warning is possibly running wildly down the corridors to get cleared so it can get posted online.  We’ll try to keep tabs on that.  The airport is also closed so any evacuation will have that to tackle.   The U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso is Tulinabo Mushingi, a career diplomat with extensive Africa experience.

Some clips via Twitter:

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Dear White House, About That John Kerry as Sandra Bullock in Space — Just. Stop. It.

– Domani Spero

 

Following the “chickenshit”flap, Mark Lander’s WH piece on October 29 via the NYT also includes the following:

Mr. Kerry is vocal and forceful in internal debates, officials said, but he frequently gets out of sync with the White House in his public statements. White House officials joke that he is like the astronaut played by Sandra Bullock in the movie “Gravity,” somersaulting through space, untethered to the White House.

Aides to Mr. Kerry reject that portrait, saying he dials into White House meetings from the road and is heavily involved in the policy process.

So then the Business Insider made this:

 

We can’t help but wonder what’s going on over at the White House.

 

Yup, you’re careening wildly all over the place, and undermining very publicly this administration’s Secretary of State, and you think there will be no consequences because it’s just a joke?  Didn’t you stop to consider that foreign ministries around the world may start questioning just how “untethered” the Secretary  is to the White House and that it could impact how they deal with him or his agency?

For Baracksakes, adult supervisors need to please step on the brakes here!

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Oops, what did the WH say?

 

Right.

 

Today, Secreatry Kerry was at the Sixth Annual Washington Ideas Forum.

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Amb to Canada Bruce Heyman Retweets Embassy on Locked Down Tweet, Confusion Follows

– Domani Spero

 

On October 22, 2014, a gunman now identified by police as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (32) fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on guard duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada. Following the shootings, downtown Ottawa was placed on lockdown while police searched for any potential additional shooters. According to media reports, the lockdown lasted into the evening and ended at 8:25 p.m. ET, when the safety perimeter in downtown Ottawa was lifted.

Earlier that day, we saw this news clip from ABC7 I-Team Investigation. The US Mission Canada has about a thousand employees, but okay, Ambassador Heyman is the best known Chicago man at the mission:

Screen Shot 2014-10-25

Ambassador Heyman retweeted  Embassy Ottawa’s tweet that post is in lockdown. Apparently, 421 tweeple, (including this blog) also retweeted that embassy tweet.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 4.35.51 PM

On October 23, ABC7 made a follow-up report:

As it turns out, Ambassador Heyman, a former Chicago investment banker, was not locked down in the Embassy or even in Ottawa, the I-Team has learned. It is unclear where he was.
[snip]
We were told by Embassy press assistant Jennifer Young that “the Ambassador is not available for interviews at this time. As far as the situation here in Ottawa, what I can tell you about this evolving situation is that the embassy is currently locked down.”

We were not informed by Ms. Young that the ambassador was actually not present and his retweet that “we are currently on lockdown” suggested he was indeed hunkered down with his staff. A woman who answered Ambassador Heyman’s cell phone did not say that he was out of the office and took a message which was not returned. Heyman did not respond to emails or social media messages.
[snip]
On Thursday, after we reported that the ambassador was locked down with the rest of his staff, his public affairs chief Diane Sovereign contacted the I-Team, stating that “the Ambassador was not in the Embassy yesterday and has not returned to Ottawa.” Ms. Soveriegn said that they “don’t post the Ambassador’s location on the Embassy website.”
[snip]
We repeatedly asked Embassy officials for the whereabouts of the ambassador during the incident and whether he was in Chicago. The spokesperson would not say where he was, nor why he wasn’t in the Embassy at the time of the attack that occurred about a quarter-mile away. His staff members at the Embassy were on security lockdown for more than eight hours on Wednesday.

 

Typically, our ambassadors are engage in external relations while his/her deputy chief of mission manages the internal business of the embassy. So it would not at all be surprising if the ambassador was not inside the embassy that day.

On October 21, @BruceAHeyman tweeted this:

We understand that #TechDayontheHill was held in Ottawa, so we know that the day before the incident, he was in Ottawa.

On October 22, he retweeted several official USG messages from the White House, the National Security Council, and the State Department related to the Ottawa attack.  According to Ottawa Citizen, upwards of 50 ambassadors were in Regina on Wednesday, (the day of the attack) for an economic forum, organized for the diplomatic corps by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the government of Saskatchewan. So maybe he was in Saskatchewan that day?

Then, it looks like he was in Ontario on October 23:

 

So if Ambassador Heyman “has not returned to Ottawa,”when the lockdown occurred, he  could have been in Saskatchewan or traveling to  Ontario for that speech?

We don’t think anyone expects the embassy to post on its website the ambassador’s location but his whereabouts during the Ottawa attack is certainly of public interest. He is President Obama’s personal representative in Canada. We expect that as chief of mission, he would have been in constant contact with the embassy.  If he was not in lockdown with his staff, where was he?

We know that some sections at some posts have instructions not to talk to this blog. We don’t know how widespread is that instruction so we wrote to Embassy Ottawa’s public affairs folks anyway and see if we can get some clarification on the ambassador’s whereabouts.

On October 27, we heard back from Diane Sovereign, Embassy Ottawa’s Cultural Attaché who told us that on October 22, Ambassador Heyman was on “a pre-scheduled trip for meetings in the Toronto area and was not in the Embassy at all on that day.” The ABC affiliate reporting about the embassy’s Chicago connection incorrectly assume that Ambassador Heyman was inside the embassy during the lockdown. Ms. Sovereign said that “At no point on October 22 did any media outlet ask us about the Ambassador’s location or ask us to confirm that he was inside the Embassy.” Following the original report talking about Ambassador Heyman “caught in the mayhem” and locked down inside the Embassy, Embassy Ottawa reportedly reached out to the ABC affiliate asking that the inaccuracies be corrected.

The response we received from Embassy Ottawa did point out that the embassy, for understandable reasons, does not make public the ambassador’s schedule or location but — there actually was a second part to that response — if asked:

“For security reasons, we normally do not make public the Ambassador’s travel schedule or specific location.  However, if asked, we have no issue confirming whether the Ambassador is or is not inside the Embassy,” Ms. Sovereign said.

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Tweet of the Day: Ambassador John Bass Now in Turkey

– Domani Spero

 

Ambassador John Bass arrived in Ankara over the weekend. Here is his intro video.  Today, he presented his credentials to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey.

 

U.S. Embassy Ankara also got a new deputy chief of mission, Lawrence (Larry) Mandel who was previously Director of the Office of Performance Evaluation, from October 2011 to September 2013.  He also he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan.

İyi şanslar!

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Here’s What You’ve Been Waiting For — a Rap Video Featuring the Embassy Drexel Furniture!

– Domani Spero

 

One of our readers sent us a YouTube link below to a rap video reportedly filmed entirely in one of our Embassy houses. “The proof is in the background – the Drexel Heritage furniture!” We are not big on rap music but who can ignore the Drexel furniture?

It looks like the clip was made in early October in Abidjan, Ivory Coast  and currently has 800+ views. Dear heavens, that avocado green couch is a nightmare!

 

According to http://www.marvinjperry.com/contracts/:

Drexel Heritage Furnishings Inc., based in Drexel North Carolina, ranks among the top furniture manufacturers in the world in terms of size and volume. Drexel Heritage has been a major supplier to the Federal government since four thousaand bedroom suites were made for government housing at Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII.

Drexel Heritage has teamed with Thomasville Furniture and MJP to provided the packaged room program for State Department, USAID Missions, and agencies at US Embassies. Includes complete furniture sets for: dining area, living area, bedrooms, etc.

A lot of online ink has been spilled over the Drexel furniture in the Foreign Service, here, here, here, and here to mention a few. This is the real State Department cover-up!

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Tweet of the Day: Amb @KristieKenney Announces Departure

– Domani Spero

 

 

Ambassador Kenney was nominated on July 19, 2010 by President Barack Obama to be the US Ambassador to the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 29, 2010.  She assumed charge of the US Embassy in Bangkok in January 2011. When she depart post next month, she’ll be a couple months short of a four year tour.

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US Ambassador Gets on Reddit, Not/Not Nearly as Funny as Anonymous FSO

– Domani Spero

 

In February this year, we had an anonymous Foreign Service Officer who did an AMA on Reddit (see IamA United States Diplomat: Anonymous FSO Gets on Reddit and He’s a Riot!).  Last June, USCG Toronto also did an AMA on consular issues (see U.S. Consulate General Toronto Joins ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit). Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine joined Reddit for what we think is the first “Ask Me Anything” session conducted by a chief of mission.  Unlike the anonymous FSO’s AMA, this one is official and done on your dime; no need to report her to the FBI or Diplomatic Security.

You might also remember her as the first U.S. ambassador to be sworn-in on a Kindle this past June. Below is her intro on Reddit:

Hi Reddit! I’m Suzi LeVine, the American Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. I am also a former technology exec and a mom to two amazing kids. It’s an honor to serve the American people as an Ambassador and I can personally attest to the critical role Ambassadors play in U.S. foreign policy making. Right now there are 60 Ambassadorial nominees who are still awaiting confirmation by Congress – that’s 60 countries where the U.S. isn’t representing its foreign policy interests as well as it could. Fun fact: My first trip to Switzerland was when I kicked off a solo 6 week backpacking trip from Zurich. I was 18 and, after buying my first Swiss Army knife, promptly learned how sharp they are when I cut straight through an apple into my hand. Let’s just say that I learned how excellent the Swiss healthcare system is. Verification: https://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/15302277727/

UPDATE: Merci viel mal. What terrific questions! Let’s do this again sometime! And, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @AmbSuzi.

photo via state.gov

photo via state.gov

 

Here are some of the questions Ambassador LeVine answered:

Reddit user: Do you think your background which lacks diplomatic experience prior to your appointment as ambassador is a handicap or do you see it as a positive thing to bring another perspective? Or something totally different?  Where do you see issues in the relations between the USA and Switzerland? Where do the countries work well together?
AmbSuzi:  Diplomatic experience does not just derive from work in the Foreign Service. Let me tell you about team oasys from Jordan or team onebuzz from New Zealand. These were two teams and two groups of students with whom I had the honor of working in my capacity at Microsoft to shine a spotlight on innovators using technology to change the world. That’s diplomacy.

Reddit user: It’s always been a dream of mine to work for an embassy–or in the foreign service. I’m fluent in French, 24 years old, and I love America. How do I go about making this dream a reality? EDIT: I forgot to say I am an American…and of course I love it.
AmbSuzi: First off, go for it! http://careers.state.gov (In fact, I think the deadline for summer internships is next week, and that’s a great way to get a taste of this career. Stop wasting time on Reddit and go apply. :-)

Reddit user: Do you have to deal with a lot of people revoking their US citizenship nowadays? Because it isn’t exactly easy being a dual citizen these days ever since FATCA came around.
AmbSuzi:  I have deep empathy for those who are wrestling with this decision and situation right now. My team and I are actively working to alleviate some of the concerns.

Reddit user: What do you think of the common criticism that too many ambassadors are appointed because they were fundraisers for the President & the Democratic/Republican party? You can look up individual donations here and it appears that you’ve donated quite a bit to the President & the Democratic Party? Do you think that more ambassadors should be career diplomats or is there value in having individuals close to the President serve as ambassadors?
AmbSuzi:  Fair question. I believe that there is tremendous value in a blend. The answer is not “or.” It is “and.” Different skill sets are appropriate in different situations and places around the globe. For example, my professional and volunteer experience as someone who has created partnerships, organized communities, led teams, initiated start-ups, etc., is a terrific match for Switzerland where I work with the likes of Nestle, Novartis, and ABB. Alternatively, someone like my friend, Michael Hoza, the new U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, brings decades of foreign service experience and is equipped to take on the likes of Boko Haram.

Reddit user: What is the most challenging moment of your Career thus far, and how did you overcome it
AmbSuzi:  I tend to approach challenges as opportunities. What can I learn? How can I grow? With whom can I learn from their mistakes? The hardest element of this ambassadorial job so far was frankly, waiting to get confirmed. In my overall very nonlinear career, the hardest moment was going back to work in 2009 after four and a half years home with my kids and hearing people say that I was no longer qualified.

Reddit user: Ambassador, you were the first in such a position to be sworn in with your hand on an e-reader instead of a book. That made the news on some tech sites, but the news reports lacked some kind of background. Whose idea was it, and what was the thought behind it?
AmbSuzi:  Great question! (By the way, what is the plural of octopus?) As for the e-reader, I wrote about this in my blog post here: http://go.usa.gov/wnBz. After reading, let me know if you have any additional questions.

Reddit user:  How regularly do you speak with State Department officials back in Washington DC? Who is your immediate superior? Wendy Sherman? How much of the day to day operations of an embassy come from officials in DC?
AmbSuzi:  We have regular communications, and it’s important to share what’s happening in Switzerland with D.C. My technical, immediate superior is the President. That said, we do a lot of coordination within the European and Eurasian Bureau, which is run by the awesome Toria Nuland.

Here are the some other interesting questions from Reddit users that the ambassador did not respond to:

  • Do you think that presidents should continue to appoint plush state dept posts to their highest donors? I do realize this goes both ways, and both parties are involved in this practice.
  • Do you have a Swiss bank account, and are they all they’re cracked up to be?
  • Do you get paid double?
  • Among the other ambassadors in Switzerland, who are the best to party with?
  • Can I move in with you? I’m tired of this shit country!
  • How many push ups can you do?
  • Anyway to hook me up with a trip?
  • How did you get the gig? Did you have to go to a special college, was it more about who you knew than what you knew?
  • How much did you have to “donate” to get the Ambassador position????
  • What advice would you give somebody interested in becoming an Ambassador (or at least working abroad for the State Department)?
  • Does it get boring being the ambassador to a neutral country while we are on the brink of WW3?

We were sorely disappointed there were no questions about Jason Bourne, TP, prostitutes, crashed UFOs, Argo, or Benghazi.  Maybe next time?

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Sanaa Hit By Suicide Bombers, Houthis Accused US Embassy Yemen For Attacks

– Domani Spero

 

On October 9, 2014, suicide attacks in Sanaa, Yemen killed and wounded dozens of people including women children. Ansar al Sharia, the al Baladi faction has reportedly claimed responsibility for the lethal attack.

 

 

 

 

The Houthis who took over control of the capital city in September (see Yemen Rebels With “Death to Amreeka” Logo Take Over Sanaa) are now accusing the US Embassy in Sanaa for the attacks:

 

 

The US Embassy in Sanaa has released the following statement in English and Arabic:

Statement on October 9 Tahrir Bombing
October 09, 2014

Ambassador Tueller strongly condemns the bombing that occurred in Tahrir Square on October 9.  The Yemeni people have lived with senseless violence for far too long and the recent increase in hostilities against innocent civilians only undermines the progress Yemen has made since the 2011 revolution.  Yemen’s challenges are political and therefore must be resolved through political solutions. We call upon all parties to refrain from violence, to return to peaceful expression of dissent, and work through democratic means to make their voices heard.

Additionally, we urge all sides to fully and rapidly implement Yemen’s Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), which builds on the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism, the National Dialogue Conference Outcomes, and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.  Furthermore, we support President Hadi, as the legitimately elected leader of Yemen, in his efforts to lead the country during this fragile period. We call on all parties to support his efforts to implement all aspects of the agreement.

Ambassador Tueller strongly condemns the bombing that occurred in Tahrir Square on October 9.  The Yemeni people have lived with senseless violence for far too long and the recent increase in hostilities against innocent civilians only undermines the progress Yemen has made since the 2011 revolution. Yemen’s challenges are political and therefore must be resolved through political solutions. We call upon all parties to refrain from violence, to return to peaceful expression of dissent, and work through democratic means to make their voices heard.

Additionally, we urge all sides to fully and rapidly implement Yemen’s Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), which builds on the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism, the National Dialogue Conference Outcomes, and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.  Furthermore, we support President Hadi, as the legitimately elected leader of Yemen, in his efforts to lead the country during this fragile period. We call on all parties to support his efforts to implement all aspects of the agreement.

Over in Embassy Sanaa’s Facebook page, the anger is real, and  everyone there appears convinced that the embassy is behind this attack.  What is worrisome is not the call for Ambassador Tueller’s expulsion from the country but the graphic suggestion of death in a red-tinted photo posted on the social media site with a red X on his photograph. We’ve seen this in Cairo, but this is Yemen where the armed rebel group has control of the capital city. Who are we supposed to call if there is a mob attack?

Qasi Qasi pic Sanaa FB pic

While most of the comments are in Arabic, and we’re told by an Arabic speaker that some are inciting violence (death to USA), here is this one that accused the US not only of the bombings today but also of running those Al-Qaidah fellows:

Listen Mr Tueller, you and your fellow in the embassy and your followers in Yemen, you are charged, you are accused in this crime. Every one in Yemen accused you as you represent America in yemen and America is the most terorrist goverment in the world. So,you must stop your fellows of Al-Qaidah of commiting such crimes because the blood of Yemeni people is very expensive.You are the responsible of Al-tahreer massacre.”

If the State Department still has those rapid response teams tasked to correct the record ASAP, now is the time to deploy them, not later.

Tomorrow is Friday, things could get really ugly after the noon prayer.

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US Embassy London Celebrates 10,750 Visitors to Winfield House With a Time-Lapse Video

– Domani Spero

 

Via US Embassy London:

 

With “Let ‘Em In,”  the second single from Paul McCartney and the Wings’ 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound. Post also did a timelapse video of Winfield House for the embassy’s New Orleans themed July 4th Party.

Since we now live in the age of social media, Winfield House which was given by Barbara Hutton to the U.S. Government after World War II for a token price of an American dollar — to be repaired and used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s — now has its own Instagram account. Check it out!

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