– Domani Spero
– Domani Spero
– Domani Spero
We just got this ‘Congratulations! You Won the Green Card Visa Lottery‘ email purporting to originate from the State Department.
Yup, not just from the State Department but from the United States Consulate in Kentucky. In ALL CAPS. And in wrong font. You dolts! Didn’t you get the memo? 12 pt Times New Roman!
In exchange for “a processing fee” of $890 – $1420, the U.S. lottery visa that we apparently “won” also includes free tickets to — the United States. How do we claim this prize and free ticket if we’re already in the United States? We desperately needed a vacation and would like tickets for Hawaii. We were going to call the phone number provided to inquire (offer says do not email because they’re “busy”) but the country code says +66. Mr. Googles says that country code belongs to Thailand. And here we thought US Consulate Kentucky is in the land of Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.
Don’t you just want to head to Thailand for spring break, find U.S. Consulate Kentucky’s Secretary General Brooke and punch him in the face?
So below is the U.S. Consulate in Kentucky, USA with a phone number in Thailand headed by a Secretary General who uses an email without a .gov. Kidding aside, if you don’t want to be a fraud victim, read this one: Diversity Visa Program Scammers Sending Fraudulent Emails and Letters.
Apologies for inflicting an ALL CAPS post on our readers but doing this as a PSA:
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
NATIONAL- VISA- CENTER 32 ROCHESTER AVE,
PORTSMOUTH , NH 0358801-2 USA
CASE- NUMBER::FRC 55865663318AA
PREFERENCES- CATEGORIES:- (DV DIVERSITY)
FOREIGN- STATE -CHARGEABILITY
WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU ARE AMONG THE LUCKY SELECTED WINNERS OF THE U.S. GREEN CARD EMAIL BALLOT LOTTERY PROGRAM OF THE 2014 EDITION .
THIS E-MAIL BALLOT VISA- LOTTERY- PROGRAM WAS INNOVATED ON 2ND OF MARCH BY- USAFIS, THIS IS THE 2ND EDITION OF THE PROGRAM AND ITS DESIGNED TO BE HELD EVERY YEAR, THE AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM IS TO GIVE FREE- VISA’S TO CITIZENS OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD WHO WISHES TO TRAVEL TO U.S AND START A NEW LIFE AND WORK.
IN THIS INNOVATED PROGRAM, NO -REGISTRATIONS WERE BEING MADE OR REQUIRED AS THE PROGRAM WAS BEING CONDUCTED THROUGH COMPUTER DRAW SYSTEM OF E-MAIL RANDOM EXTRACTIONS FROM WORLD WIDE REGISTERED WEBSITES.
IN THIS 2ND EDITION OF THE PROGRAM, TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE (225) U.S- VISA’S WERE RELEASED AND 6.3 MILLION E-MAIL ADDRESSES WERE EXTRACTED FROM WORLD WIDE REGISTERED WEB-SITES DURING THE 33-DAYS EXTRACTION PERIOD THAT RAN FOR FINAL SELECTION, ALL EXTRACTED EMAIL ADDRESSES WERE ASSIGNED TO DIFFERENT TICKET NUMBERS FOR REPRESENTATION AND PRIVACY FOR FINAL- SELECTION THROUGH COMPUTER- DRAW- SYSTEM.
YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS ATTACHED TO TICKET- NUMBER (564002-188) DREW -THE LUCKY- NUMBER’S WHICH SUBSEQUENTLY WON YOU THE U.S VISA AND WE ARE SENDING THE WINNING- NOTIFICATION- DIRECTLY THROUGH THE- SELECTED- WINNING E-MAIL ADDRESS WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU RECEIVE THE WINNING- NOTIFICATION IN YOUR MAIL BOX THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED- AMONG THE LUCKY- WINNER’S.
APPROXIMATELY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE (155) LUCKY- SELECTED- WINNER’S HAD BEEN NOTIFIED- THROUGH THEIR SELECTED E-MAIL ADDRESSES- INCLUDING YOU TODAY
YOUR VISA- WINNING -IDENTIFICATION- CASE -NUMBER IS (FRC55865663318AA) NOTE THAT YOUR VISA- WINNING IDENTIFICATION CASE NUMBER IS YOUR PIN CODE TO CLAIMING YOUR VISA.
ANY -SELECTED- LUCKY- WINNER FROM THE SOME COUNTRIES WILL BE DISQUALIFIED, THIS IS BECAUSE EACH HAS MORE THAN 50,000 CANDIDATES IN THE U.S:-
HOW CAN I MAKE THE CLAIM OF MY VISA?
YOU WILL OBTAIN YOUR VISA THROUGH THE- U.S CONSULAR OFFICER IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY OR COUNTRY OF YOUR PRESENT RESIDENCE AND NOTE THAT THE U.S CONSULAR OFFICER IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY OR COUNTRY OF YOUR PRESENT RESIDENCE WILL NOT ATTEND TO YOU WITHOUT YOUR PROCESSED DOCUMENTS OF WHICH TO ACCESS YOUR VISA WINNINGS THROUGH THEIR NETWORK DATABASE.
OUR VISA PROCESSING AGENTS HAD BEEN APPORTIONED AMONG SIX GEOGRAPHIC REGIONS, ALL SELECTED LUCKY WINNER’S WILL NEED TO ACT ON THEIR CLAIMS APPLICATIONS QUICKLY BEFORE THE VISA CLAIM EXPIRATION DEADLINE(30TH APRIL 2014)
FOR YOUR- VISA- FORM AND REQUIREMENTS,CONTACT OUR ASIA/PACIFIC/MIDDLE EAST -AGENT VIA THIS CONTACT DETAILS, NAME: MRS DONNA WHITE
N.B: PROCESSING FEE.
HOW CAN I PAY THE PROCESSING FEE?
THE FOLLOWING FORMS OF PAYMENT ARE ACCEPTED:
WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER.
ALL THE SELECTED -LUCKY -WINNER’S WILL GET FREE AIR TICKETS TO THE U.S. YOUR AIR TICKET WILL BE SEND TO YOU BY- OUR ASIA /PACIFIC /MIDDLE EAST AGENT TOGETHER WITH YOUR PROCESSED DOCUMENTS.
PLEASE READ AND FOLLOW ALL THE ENCLOSED INSTRUCTIONS VERY CAREFULLY.
DO NOT REPLY BACK TO THIS NOTIFICATION E- MAIL (BUSY)
FOR FURTHER INQUIRIES;
CONTACT OUR ASIA /PACIFIC AGENT WHERE YOUR VISA WINNING DETAILS FALLS.
MR. TONY BROOKE
SECRETARY GENERAL US CONSULATE KENTUCKY
If you are not too familiar with visas and the United States, please know that there are no/no U.S. embassies or consulates inside the United States. There is no such thing as a Secretary General or a U.S. Consulate Kentucky. To learn more about the green card lottery, officially called the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program, please check out the official page of the U.S. State Department at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/diversity-visa.html.
* * *
- Domani Spero
The confirmations for presidential nominees are now moving as fast as a turtle’s pace. Below is a round-up of the latest confirmations from the U.S. Senate this past week:
April 7, 2014
Mark Bradley Childress, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Republic of Tanzania.
April 02, 2014
April 01, 2014
Kevin Whitaker, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Colombia.
March 27, 2014
Matthew H. Tueller, of Utah, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Yemen.
March 26, 2014
Joseph William Westphal, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
* * *
– Domani Spero
The Associated Press recently produced an investigative piece on ZunZuneo, a Twitter Cubano reportedly aimed at undermining the socialist government in Cuba that was managed by USAID.
The official government response cited a GAO report from 2013 which make no mention of ZunZeneo. The report, however, provides a snapshot of how much we have spent on the Cuba Democracy project from 1996-2011. Ay mucho dinero:
In fiscal years 1996 through 2011, Congress appropriated $205 million for Cuba democracy assistance, appropriating 87 percent of these funds since 2004. Increased funding for Cuba democracy assistance was recommended by the interagency Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which was established by President George W. Bush in 2003.13 Program funding, which peaked in 2008 with appropriations totaling $44.4 million, has ranged between $15 and $20 million per year during fiscal years 2009 through 2012. For fiscal year 2013, USAID and State reduced their combined funding request to $15 million, citing operational challenges to assistance efforts in Cuba.14
In fiscal years 1996 through 2011, $138.2 million of Cuba democracy funds were allocated to USAID and $52.3 million were allocated to State. (see GAO report pdf).
* * *
– Domani Spero
Do you know how many Foreign Service members are currently awaiting approval for commissioning, tenuring and promotion in the U.S. Senate? 1,705. That’s 1,705 regular folks in the career service, excluding the ambassadorial nominees.
Some of these names have been submitted since January, and they are all still pending in a dark cauldron brewing in the SFRC.
In a message to its members on March 18, AFSA writes that it “has worked diligently for months on this issue and we would like to alert you that last week, important progress was made in resolving the holds, through the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). AFSA is confident that both sides have demonstrated the good will necessary to move the process forward and looks now to an amicable and expedited solution to this situation in the coming days.”
These employees are waiting Senate attestation so they are officially commissioned, tenured and promoted. And you know what, the Foreign Service “bidding season” is fast eating up the days in the calendar.
Why this can get complicated?
A good number of these employees pending at the SFRC will be “bidding” for their next assignments. The Foreign Service is a rotational, rank-in-person system. As a consequence, there will be “real” FS-01s, for example and “FS-02s” who are supposed to be treated as 01s but who technically are 02s.
The State Department reportedly is telling folks looking at bids to treat “02” bidders as “01s” and so on and so forth because of inaction from the Senate.
Oh crap, how do you sort them all out?
One frustrated official writes, “I can’t see how this won’t have a major impact as we’re evaluating employees.”
Not only that, we imagine that the bump in pay and associated hardship/danger/COLA allowances (a percentage of basic compensation) will also not get taken care of until the Senate officially blesses these names.
Since bad news comes in threes — you should know that Ambassador Arnold A. Chacon’s nomination as Director General of the Foreign Service got out of the SFRC in February 2 but has been stuck since then waiting for a full vote in the U.S. Senate.
WaPo recently reported that President Obama may have learned how to finally break through the months-long Senate logjam on his ambassadorial nominations: he or Vice President Biden must travel to the countries where nominees would be headed.
Unfortunately for the Foreign Service, neither President Obama nor VP Biden has DGHR listed in their immediate schedule.
Below is the list of nominations pending in committee:
We can’t help but think that this is one more unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuklear” option. This WaPo piece on President Obama’s inability to fill many of his administration’s most important jobs is not even hopeful.
Doesn’t this remind you of wreck ‘em Plants v. Zombies, the DC edition?
* * *
– Domani Spero
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced today the retirement of Ambassador Nancy Powell after 37 years in the Foreign Service:
U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announced in a U.S. Mission Town Hall meeting March 31 that she has submitted her resignation to President Obama and, as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May. She is ending a thirty-seven year career that has included postings as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India as well as service in Canada, Togo, Bangladesh, and Washington, where she was most recently Director General of the Foreign Service. Ambassador Powell expressed her appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of the U.S. Mission to India team who have worked to expand the parameters of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship. She also thanked those throughout India who have extended traditional warm Indian hospitality to her and who have supported stronger bilateral ties.
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– Domani Spero
Joshua White, the deputy director for South Asia at the Stimson Center tweeted this last week:
So… apparently the US is paying $400k to install “Camel Contemplating Needle” at the new US Embassy Islamabad https://t.co/V1Gfes0Uok
— Joshua White (@joshuatwhite) March 28, 2014
On March 30, The Skeptical Bureaucrat blogged about it:
The U.S. State Department has purchased for $400,000 a reproduction of that sculpture you see in the photo above, and will display it at the new U.S. Embassy that is now being constructed in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Acquisition of “Camel Contemplating Needle” by John Baldessari. Includes production cost related to the procurement of representational artwork to be displayed at the new US Embassy Islamabad and reproduction rights.
Representational artwork in embassies is intended for cross-cultural understanding through the visual arts, or something like that. So, what does that sculpture say about how the United States sees its relations with Pakistan? Is one of us the camel and the other the needle?
Today, it became a Buzzfeed Exclusive, U.S. Taxpayers To Spend $400,000 For A Camel Sculpture In Pakistan:
A camel staring at the eye of a needle would decorate a new American embassy — in a country where the average income yearly is $1,250.
Officials explained the decision to purchase the piece of art, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” in a four-page document justifying a “sole source” procurement. “This artist’s product is uniquely qualified,” the document explains. “Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country,” it says. (Like the Bible, the Qur’an uses the metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.)
To emphasize Baldassari’s fame, the contracting officials pulled a section from Wikipedia. “John Anthony Baldessari (born June 17, 1931) is an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images.”
In a statement, State Department press spokeswoman Christine Foushee said the proposed purchase comes from the department’s “Office of Art in Embassies.” In new construction projects, she said, a small part of the total funds, about 0.5%, is spent on art purchases.
Steven Beyer of Beyer Projects, the art dealer for the project, points out to Buzzfeed that while some Americans may find it frivolous for the government to pay for art, others will find it important. “It depends on what part of the public you are in,” he said. “If you go to the museum and enjoy art and are moved by it, things cost what they cost.”
“Things cost what they cost” would make a nice motto.
In December 2013, The Skeptical Bureaucrat also blogged about the artwork of Sean Scully that will be displayed at the future new U.S. Embassy in London:
The incomparable State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf displayed some performance art of her own at last Friday’s daily press briefing when she tried to explain why she thinks this purchase is “a good use of our limited resources” (yes, she does):
Okay, on the artwork, we have an Art in Embassies program run through the Office of Art in Embassies which curates permanent and temporary exhibitions for U.S. embassy and consulate facilities. It’s a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. For the past five decades, Art in Embassies has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy with a focused mission of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and the artist exchange.
In terms of the London piece, like much of the art purchased by this program, this piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery. This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas. We maintain facilities that serve as the face of the U.S. Government all throughout the world, and where we can promote cross-cultural understanding, and in this case do so for under market value, we think that’s a good use of our limited resources. Yes, we do.
Expect the official response to inquiries on the albino camel with blue eyes contemplating a gigantic needle artwork to take a similar line.
Go ahead, and just write your copy already.
Here’s one that reportedly takes 3 days to clean to bring on the full shine!
The Office of Art in Embassies, in the Directorate for Operations, in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/OPS/ART) curates, plans, and administers exhibitions of original art for the chief of mission residences overseas. It is also the office which oversees all aspects of the creation of permanent collections for new embassies and consulates through the Capital Security Construction Program. With a focus on cultural diplomacy, these collections feature the artistic heritage of the host country and the United States.
So far, we have not been able to locate a list of the artworks in the State Department’s permanent art collection.
* * *
– Domani Spero
State/OIG posted its March 31, 2014 Inspection Report of the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. While there are some pockets of sunshine in this report, it comes across like post is a huge management mess. Post is headed by career diplomat, Ambassador Thomas Krajeski who assumed charge in October 2011. According to the embassy’s website, Stephanie Williams arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission in Manama in June 2010. The current Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Pounds arrived at post in March 2013.
The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and 23, 2013, and in Manama, Bahrain, between September 25 and October 19, 2013. Ambassador Marianne Myles (team leader), Michael Hurley (deputy team leader), Alison Barkley, Beatrice Camp, Roger Cohen, David Davison, Shawn O’Reilly, Keith Powell II, Richard Sypher, Joyce Wong, and Roman Zawada conducted the inspection.
Embassy Manama is a medium-sized mission with 80 U.S. direct hires, 23 U.S. local hires and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members who oversee a $14 million budget and manage 78 leased properties. The embassy building opened in 1991 and is nearing capacity. Manama is one of the Middle East missions that allow families, and assignments there continue to be 3-year tours. Continuing demonstrations and attacks against government and commercial targets have severely restricted the movement of staff and taken a toll on their morale.
You’ve got to wonder what’s else is going on when the embassy’s website displays this white space despite its DCM’s arrival at post about a year ago.
More details below extracted from the OIG report.
Leadership and Management – Ambassador:
Leadership and Management – Deputy Chief of Mission:
[T]he volume of economic reporting has been low, with approximately 1 economic cable for every 10 drafted by the political unit. The lack of front office attention to economic matters has left the economic unit with little guidance on issues of potential interest to Washington. The frequent diversion of the economic specialist’s attention to political issues, while the political specialist performs backup protocol duties, has also hurt economic reporting.
Public Affairs Section
The public affairs section has an experienced and dedicated staff conducting innovative programming and responding to intense front office interest in media reporting. […] Post public diplomacy programs would have greater impact if they were part of an overall strategy that included greater participation by the Ambassador. The public affairs officer (PAO) has not directed the section in establishing policies, defining goals, and prioritizing plans to achieve mission objectives. Internal processes for dealing with grants, speakers, and exchanges are not consistent, clearly understood, or readily accessible. The section posts only limited information about its processes and activities on its SharePoint site.
The government-controlled press is frequently highly critical of the Ambassador but the embassy is cautious about using social media to counter this, concerned that doing so often draws negative comments. The public affairs section posts the Ambassador’s public appearances on Facebook but does not generally tweet his activities. The embassy does not use blogs. Officers adept at social media can help use these tools to improve the Ambassador’s public image and to correct misinformation about U.S. policies.
There is a need for better management planning across the board, including for staffing, real property acquisition, office space, housing, safety, and maintenance. Management controls are inadequate; in the procurement section, weak controls constitute a serious deficiency. The section requires outside help. Customer satisfaction scores from OIG questionnaires for most support services were low, reflecting a lack of basic processes and standard operating procedures. Embassy Manama should make improving management operations and internal controls a priority.
General Services Office
The general services office suffers from poor communication up and down the chain of command. An accurate arrivals and departures list would enhance the efficiency of all general services sections. The embassy’s internship program is not adequately coordinated with the general services office, creating adverse effects on housing, motor pool, and travel services.
Customs and Shipping
The customs and shipping staff consists of one LE employee who expedites shipments and has a large contact base at the port and at the airport. This employee has not been able to take leave, even when he has scheduled it well in advance, because of emergencies that require his presence. Sound management requires backup for each critical function.
Work and quality of life questionnaires administered by the OIG team report scores significantly below prior embassy averages in human resources support and services, administration of the awards program, and fairness of family member hiring. Poor leadership, lack of adequate processes, and the absence of transparency and communication have hampered the staff. The human resources officer needs to reinvigorate the section and regain the trust of the mission’s direct-hire employees, LE staff, and eligible family members.
Inspectors encountered a number of shortcomings in the office. The retail price survey had not been completed since 2009. Personnel cables were not being sent using the proper template and each message was being created from scratch. Supervisors were not being notified 6 months prior to LE subordinates’ retirement dates. Staffing patterns contained numerous mistakes.
Foreign Service National Issues
The LE committee cited several examples of culturally insensitive behavior by American employees. It is unclear whether the words and actions were spiteful or occurred because the employees lacked knowledge of Bahraini culture and norms. To guard against such events, it would be helpful for the embassy to incorporate a cultural sensitivity component into its orientation programs for U.S. direct-hire and locally employed staff.
COM Residence: The chief of mission residence costs $272,000 per year (approximately $22,500 per month) to rent. It is one of the Department’s most expensive short-term leased properties, qualifying it for consideration to purchase. The embassy has requested the Department also consider purchase of a DCM residence and a Marine security guard residence.
Language Designated Positions: Embassy Manama has 10 language designated positions: the DCM; 4 political/economic officers, 2 consular officers, 2 public diplomacy officers, and the management officer. As half the population of Bahrain is expatriate, many from South Asia, the common language of the country is English. Six of the 10 officers in language designated positions reported to inspectors that they do not use Arabic in their jobs. The number of language designated positions makes finding qualified candidates for embassy jobs more challenging. Moreover, it costs the Department approximately $500,000 to train an officer to speak proficient Arabic.
Management Controls: Management controls at Embassy Manama are inadequate. Despite the embassy’s positive responses to the OIG functional questionnaires, and the positive information provided by the regional bureau, the OIG team determined the breakdown in procurement processes reaches the level of a significant deficiency. Though adequately staffed, Embassy Manama paid 2,000 hours of overtime compensation to general services employees and 1,000 hours to facilities management employees in FY 2013. According to the Foreign Affairs Handbook, (FAH) 4 FAH-3 H-525.1-2 the management officer must establish controls for accurate and timely recording and reporting of time and attendance. The mission delegates responsibility for overtime authorization to each section supervisor and time and attendance to the financial management officer. Nobody monitors LE staff overtime, resulting in anomalies and improper overtime approvals.
The report is available to read here (pdf).
* * *
– Domani Spero
Actually no, the season officially opened last month when U.S. Embassy Kathmandu celebrated the 238th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America on February 22, 2014. Nepal’s Vice President Paramananda Jha was the main guest at the event. According to Ambassador Peter W. Bodde’s prepared speech, this was the second year the embassy celebrated July 4th early “in the hopes of escaping monsoon weather.” Also, they chose this week “because in February we honor the birthdays of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.” Eleven members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Band based in Okinawa, Japan entertained the guests at the chief of mission residence. More photos are available here.
So, US Embassy Nepal had officially bumped off US Embassy Muscat for the first July 4th celebration of 2014. On March 25, 2014, the US Embassy in Oman hosted its 238th Independence Day event. According to ONA, Greta Christine Holtz, the US ambassador to the Sultanate gave a speech during which she affirmed the deep-rooted relations binding Omanis and Americans. In 2013, the embassy celebrated July 4th on May 24. More photos available here. In 2012, we did, Chew on This: US Embassy Oman Celebrates 4th of July (in February) with Fast Food Sponsors. It looks like they no longer display prominently the event’s corporate sponsors.
This year, we hope to do a Fourth of July fashion or food round-up. Give us a heads up if you have something interesting at post.