Category Archives: Video of the Week

US Mission China: Ambassador Max Baucus Says Hello and Xie Xie

– Domani Spero

The video below was produced by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs in March 2014. Speakers include Max Baucus and his wife, Melodee Hanes.

Via State/IIP:

“Former Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, returns to China as the U.S. ambassador with his wife, Melodee Hanes. While in China, the ambassador is very interested in working on a number of issues and seeing many different places. In this video he will tell you all about it. His wife will also tell you a little bit about the ambassador and just where you may find him running around – literally!”

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Filed under Ambassadors, China, Social Media, Spouses/Partners, State Department, U.S. Missions, Video of the Week

US Embassy Dublin: 5 Ways Americans Invented St. Patrick’s Day

– Domani Spero

The Irish Times writes, “five ways Americans invented St Patrick’s Day, apparently.”

One YouTube commenter says, “Corn-beef and cabbage isn’t a tradition here it is potatoes and steak.” Another writes, “Obviously a joke just not funny.”

From somebody not/not happy about this:

“Americans did not invent Saint Patrick’s Day, which is an ancient Christian feast day, they just invented deeply tacky celebrations with an excess of lurid green elements (tolerable shades do exist) and inappropriate Scottish kilts (which Irish people do not wear), fake leprechaun outfits (leprechauns do not wear green) and fake-coloured quasi-”red” beards (leprechauns do not have red hair). It is noteworthy how leprechauns are never seen any more; they have been shamed into deeper reclusiveness than ever.”

From somebody who just love St. Patty’s Day Saint Paddy’s Day:

“Love St. Patrick’s Day Parades!! The one in St. Louis, Mo is great fun. Just visited Ireland and loved it. Everyone wants a bit of Ireland, so green pints, rivers and parades. Americans love to invent holidays, it means getting together for the parade and the the pints. Just glad it was invented!!”

Don’t pinch us, we’re wearing a non-tacky green leprechaun outfit on Monday!!

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State Dept on Ambo Nominees’ “Certificates of Documented Competency” — Working On It

– Domani Spero

The American Foreign Service Association was in the news yesterday after announcing that it will file a suit against the State Department if, by end of business day today, it does not get the certificates of demonstrated competence for ambassadorial nominees (see AFSA Threatens to Sue State Department Over Ambassadors Credentials, Again).

The topic made it to today’s Daily Press Briefing with the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki answering questions about AFSA’s FOIA requests for these documents which were reportedly filed on July 29, 2013 and a second request filed on February 28, 2014.  Ms. Psaki refused to make a prediction of whether State would respond to AFSA’s request by the close of business today.

At about 3pm EST, ABC News tweeted that AFSA is giving the State Department until tomorrow morning to furnish the requested “Certificates of Documented Competency” for ambassador nominees.

When you look at that AFSA FOIA request delay of 7 months and a week, it might be useful to note that in FY2012, the State Department’s total requests in backlog is 10,464.   In fact, according to foia.gov, State has one of the highest backlogs, second only to DHS. In FY 2011, the average number of days to process a simple case was 156; for complex cases, 342. Some cases have been pending for 5 or 6 years (see State Dept FOIA Requests: Agency Ranks Second in Highest Backlog and Here’s Why).  The oldest pending request, as you can see below is 1,922 days.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06

Here is the short version of the March 6, 2014 DPB:

Screen Shot 2014-03-06

via Word It Out

Below is the long version from the March 6, 2014 DPB:

QUESTION: The American Foreign Service Association said yesterday that they were going to be filing suit against the State Department if, by end of business today, you don’t provide certificates of demonstrated competence for ambassadorial nominees. So I just wanted to know if you had any reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, AFSA submitted a FOIA request on July 29th 2013 to our website – this is just some details for all of you to be aware of – seeking certificates of a demonstrated competence for every ambassador from January 1st 2013 to the present. We receive, as many of you know, about 18,000 FOIA requests per year. Generally – we generally process requests on a first in, first out basis. So we’re currently actively processing the request in accordance with the statute and the Department’s regulations, which applies to the specific release they put out yesterday.

In terms of broadly speaking, obviously, in nominating ambassadors, we look – the Administration looks for qualified candidates who represent Americans from all walks of life and who show true zeal for serving their country, and we’ve received interest and recruited talented people from all across the country and all kinds of professional backgrounds, whether they are Foreign Service – well, that’s – they proceed through a different process, there, of course, but political appointees who may be from the business sector, who may be from a public service sector. We feel that this kind of diversity helps represent who we are and the United States around the world.

So long story short, we are reviewing their request. We process requests as they come in. Certainly we welcome the comments of anyone and views of anyone on these sorts of issues, but I think it’s important to remind everyone of what we look at when it comes to ambassadorial nominees.

QUESTION: Jen, they submitted this request in July? How many months ago?

QUESTION: January.

QUESTION: No, July 29th, she said.

QUESTION: I thought you said January.

MS. PSAKI: For every ambassador from January 20 –

QUESTION: Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.

QUESTION: So how long should they expect to wait until you finish processing your request? And why should they even have to submit a FOIA request for this? Why wouldn’t you just – if they asked for it, why wouldn’t you just turn them over?

MS. PSAKI: They were asking for specific documents that are –

QUESTION: Right. But this is not an organization that has a questionable interest in this. It’s an organization that, in fact, represents – I mean, it is the – basically the union for Foreign Service officers, so it’s not really an outside party.

MS. PSAKI: Well, oftentimes, Matt, there’s a processing aspect that needs to take place with these requests, so –

QUESTION: Right, I’m sure that – I’m sure everyone is thrilled, everyone who’s ever filed a FOIA request to the State Department or any other government agency is thrilled, but I think that –

MS. PSAKI: There are many people who do. That’s part of the challenge in processing them.

QUESTION: Right. Okay, so you just threw this in the big pile, in the in-box with every single other request, even though they clearly have some – they have demonstrated interest in this subject. I don’t understand –

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say we threw it in a pile, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, you did. You said you get 18,000 requests a year, so – and –

MS. PSAKI: We do. We process them.

QUESTION: So when they –

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, we’re working to review their request and see how we can meet it as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: But specifically they asked for it to be by the close of business tonight. Otherwise, they’re going to take their – take this to legal action.

MS. PSAKI: I understand that.

QUESTION: Are you saying that you will not be able to get it to them by end of day tonight?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that. We’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Just – can I have one –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Where – you are now processing this specific request, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re actually looking at it and trying to satisfy it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. If you get 18,000 FOIA requests a year, what is the typical time lag for processing a request? Is it, as in this case, I guess, eight months or – is that typical or is it less, is it more?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific time breakdown for you. I’m happy to see if there’s anything like that we can provide.

QUESTION: And was this one –

MS. PSAKI: We’re – they’re about to start the press avail, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Was this one jumped to the front of the queue for any reason or no? It was processed –

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are cases where – and they asked for expedited processing, and some cases that question is asked. This didn’t satisfy the specific laid out standards for that, but we’re still working to see if we can process this as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: But it was not – was it jumped ahead or no? Or it –

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re still working to see if we can process it as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: No, no, that’s not my question, though. My question is whether it got – I understand that they may have requested expedited processing –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: – and did not – denied it because they don’t meet the standards, which happens to a lot of people.

MS. PSAKI: And at the same time, we’re still working to expedite – to process this as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Right. Right. Right. No, but I’m sure you’re doing that with the other 17,199, right? I mean, the question is whether you are doing this faster.

MS. PSAKI: Specifically with this one, we are –

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: – working to process it as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: But quicker than everything – others’ stuff?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t work in that exact way, but we’re working to process it as quickly as possible.

Ali.

QUESTION: And Jen, they said that – AFSA said that they also filed a second FOIA request on February 28th.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So did they express to you their – because I know there was discussion between counsels.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So was that part of the aspect, that they didn’t feel that the July request had been processed or addressed within a – expeditiously enough so that –

MS. PSAKI: You’d have to ask them that question. I’m not sure if they are basically about the same thing or not. So I’m happy to check, and you may want to check with them and see what the reason was for the second one.

QUESTION: These documents are – what they’re seeking or these certificates are not classified, are they?

MS. PSAKI: No, but they’re still internal files, and so obviously we go through a process –

QUESTION: Fair enough. But they’re for a very small number of people, 50. Do you have any idea how many pages one of these things is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s every ambassadorial nominee for the last 14 months.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So –

QUESTION: And how many – well, actually, it wouldn’t have been originally –

MS. PSAKI: 15?

QUESTION: No, because they filed it in July asking for every one that went back to January. So –

MS. PSAKI: But when you meet it, you’re abiding by what the FOIA request –

QUESTION: Fair enough. How many pages is one of these things?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a specific number of pages for you.

QUESTION: It seems to me like this is a very limited request from an organization that’s got a very, very important interest in this subject, and that frankly, they should, if they ask, should be allowed to see – without having to go to through the FOIA processing. Was there any – did – do you know – are you aware if they asked outside of FOIA to get this – to get these documents?

MS. PSAKI: They are closely engaged with our chief of staff and deputy secretary of state, and have a range of meetings. So I know that all of these issues have been discussed. In terms of this specific request, I can check if there’s anything we can share on that.

QUESTION: So in other words, you said no. They asked, you said no, you have to submit a FOIA? Is that –

MS. PSAKI: I’m not saying that’s how it all went down. I’m saying they have many channels for having discussions with people in the Administration. And if there’s more to share on whether they made this specific request outside of the FOIA request process, I’m happy to check into that.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea if there is a chance, even a remote chance, that the processing will be finished by 5 o’clock this afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to predict when it will be finished.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but –

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re working to process it as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: I understand that. But is there a possibility that it could be done by 5 o’clock?

MS. PSAKI: There’s always a possibility.

QUESTION: There is. Okay.

QUESTION: How many nominees are we talking about? Have you got a figure?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a figure.

Well, then, tomorrow, maybe  – or we’ll wonder who’ll stop the rain …

 

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One More Expert — Live from Crimea

– Domani Spero

After watching the news for days now, the tween in our house is starting to worry that we are on the verge of World War III.  We are pleased to see TDS’s new Senior Caucasian Correspondent Jordan Klepper deliver this live report from Crimea.

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Happy New Lunar Year of the Horse – Let’s Talk Horsey!

– Domani Spero

Last year, they had a snake looking for food. (see USCG Hong Kong & Macau: Lunar New Year Greeting for Year of the Snake) This year, a different animal is up at the consulate — a horse, looking for a job. Consul General Clifford A. Hart, Jr., the staff of the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau, and a “new Consulate employee” wish you a happy and healthy Year of the Horse in this new video:

The Shanghaiist gave this a thumbs down, calling it “weird” — “The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau has released a ’2014 Lunar New Year Greetings’ video, and something has gone catastrophically wrong. Remembering that there’s a woman hiding under the desk in each shot, with her hand crammed up a horse-sock, doesn’t exactly help.” It also called last year’s lunar greeting video, “freaking terrifying.”   The Shanghaiist is one of China’s most popular English-language blog/portals, founded by American writer Dan Washburn in 2005.

USCG HK’s lunar video, published last week has been eyeballed 69,577 as of this writing.  That’s more than the views of its lunar video greetings from 2013, 2012, and 2011 combined.  The use of Cantonese seems appreciated by the locals, “[Y]ou speaks Cantonese in this video that means you and your team are respect to HK people and the local culture…” A majority of commenters appear to give it a thumbs up, despite being well, weird.  But then, someone pleaded, “Please bring the US army here to eliminate the locusts coming from China.” We thought, locusts, what locusts?  It turns out in Hong Kong, “locust” is a derogatory term for immigrants and tourists from China.  The anti-China sentiment is  playing out in the comments section of USCG HK’s page.

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Education USA: Where do you want to study? Las Vegas! With Marilyn Monroe?

|| >We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 to February 15, 2014. If you want to keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub <||

– Domani Spero

According to the   U.S. Department of Commerce international students contribute $24.7 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses. The Institute of International Education notes that “Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.”

In 2008, the State Department issued 340,711 student visas (F1 visas for academic or language training program).  In 2012, the agency issued 486,900 student visas as well as 27,561 F2 visas for spouse/child of F1 visa holders. According to NAFSA, in 2012-2013 academic year, international students across the United States supported 313,000 jobs, a 6.2% increase in job support and creation.

It is no surprise then that our embassies and consulates overseas are working hard to attract foreign students to come to the United States to study. And while most of the videos we’ve seen have been sorta boring, a couple of missions have recently released YouTube videos that seems to be attracting attention.

Below is US Embassy Riyadh with Nawaf starting his journey to study in the United States. If you want to follow in his footsteps — and be more prepared — contact an EducationUSA advisor. Their advising services are free and available through the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah and Dhahran. Sign up for a pre-departure workshop at http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/education….” This is kind of an odd skit but it is getting a lot of views, currently at 254,866 273,668.

Update @8:17 PST:  The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia estimates that more than 100,000 Saudi students and their family members in the United States contribute roughly $6-7 billion to U.S. GDP.  The embassy told us that this video, made with a Saudi production house that produces Saudi Arabia’s most popular animated cartoon series is the second in its educational advising videos.  The first one received over 600,000 views. “Humor doesn’t always translate easily across cultures.  We ourselves don’t understand the elephant joke, but every Saudi we’ve tested it with falls out of their seat laughing so we left it in the video.” Apparently, since airing the series, visits to the embassy’s online educational advising resources have seen a 500% jump. “If elephant jokes and Marilyn Monroe is what it takes to get young Saudis interested in studying in the U.S., we’re happy with the results,”the embassy said.   Should be interesting to see how the spike in views translates into the number of Saudis getting an American education at Saudi government expense.

Here is one from from US Embassy in Bangkok with the staff showing off  their best school cheer in celebration of  Education Month.  Just debuted a couple days ago, the video currently has 1,655 views but they sure look like they’re having a lot of fun doing this!

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Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase — Crowdfunding for 2014

– Domani Spero

Diplopundit has been running almost continuously since March 2008.  It has published over 3,500 blog posts and is on track for nearly two million visits.  In 2013 Diplopundit doubled the number of visits it received in 2012.  Over the last two years the blog was viewed more often than it was during its first four years combined.

During its six-year run Diplopundit has exceeded the typical life span of most similar blogs by twelve times.  Take that, Grim Reaper of Blogs!  Some readers have been with this blog since its beginning, and we are grateful.  Thank you for sticking with us all this time . . . even when we were not especially funny or when our rants went over the top.  To our newer readers, welcome and we hope you are finding visits to Diplopundit worth your time.  The blog tries to be timely, informative and, well, witty.  It does not always succeed at that, but never for lack of trying.

As it turns out, your blogger had reached a milestone this year, too.  She has counted more than a dozen strands of gray hair and discovered that she is officially old.  Okay, ADEA or AARP old, but not dead. But, hey, the last time she looked in the mirror, she was, well … a babe and now, ugh! she’s not.  Anyway, whenever she start obsessing about that stranger in the mirror, one of you inevitably pulls out from somewhere a white rabbit that runs around, muttering something like, “Oh dear! Oh dear! Something is happening over there!”  And there we go with another chase down the hole; sometimes it’s pretty and fun, and sometimes it’s really not – especially the heartbreaking bits.

In any case, your blogger is not sure how much longer Diplopundit will be able to stay around chasing rabbits. That will depend principally on you, our readers.  Your blogger has been entertaining thoughts of running off to Colorado to join the weed stampede of “potpreneurs.”  Apparently, that is the greatest new business opportunity since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  However, your blogger has no idea which weed is pot and which weeds are not, so — the learning curve would be pretty high.  She would much rather continue to follow the goings on in international affairs and the institution of our Foreign Service.  But following these interests can no longer be exclusively the chasing of a diplomatic white rabbit down a  hole to learn what delightful or frightful adventures might be discovered there.

Pardon me?  Oh, well, yes, she’s grown up and is now required to balance her check book and pay her bills.

On average, roughly 130,000 visitors return to this blog each year. If everyone reading this gave $1, we would not have to worry sustaining this blog and your old blogger for three years. But we all know, it’s not as simple as that.

If you find our work interesting or useful, or even entertaining at times, we hope you will support Diplopundit’s crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub.

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If you want to donate without displaying your name publicly, please see the following steps: 

  • Go to Dashboard then My Profile
  • Scroll down to Update Your Account Info, fill in the name you want to display publicly. You may use your real name, an alias or “Anonymous” if preferable.
  • Click on the “Fund This Project” red button.

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Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade Strip Search Video Is Fake – Here’s Proof

– Domani Spero

There is a video circulating on social media which claims to be showing the CCTV footage of the strip search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade after her arrest in New York.   The video was “user submitted” on zemtv.com on January 3, 2013 under the headline CCTV Footage of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade being strip searched By U.S Police. The video is online on Tune.pk, Pakistan’s video sharing website where it has 18.9K views, on DailyMotion where it has 123,011 views and on YouTube, where the video is no longer displayed but the following notice is up “Indian diplomat D…” This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Arup Bhattacharya.” Both videos are 1:10 minutes in length and appears to be the same footage.

Screen Shot 2014-01-04

Click on image to view the video on Tune.pk
(Warning: graphic images)

screen capture of YouTube video

screen capture of YouTube video

This alleged CCTV footage of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s strip search is a hoax.  It is ill-intentioned and could put Americans, particularly official Americans in danger.  Given that the Khobragade’s case has already spawned a good number of conspiracy theories, particularly in India, we don’t think that people will just accept it when we say this is a hoax. “Allegedly a hoax” is how the official denial that this video is a hoax is referred to in some parts of social media.

This is not/not “allegedly a hoax” but a real hoax. Nothing but video fakery and we’ve got proof.

The woman in the alleged Khobragade video is not/not the Indian diplomat but Hope Steffey, a U.S. citizen strip-searched by the Stark County sheriff’s department in Ohio in 2006.  The video was obtained by Ms. Steffey’s lawyer and released to the public in 2008 (See 12:44 minute video with Tom Meyer for WKYC-TV, Channel 3, Cleveland, OH)

The screen capture from a report by WKYC-TV (uploaded by a different YouTube user) shows the same woman on a blue mattress being strip searched.

Screen Shot 2014-01-04

Click on image to view video of Hope Steffey in the Stark Country jail in Ohio, 2008.
(Warning: Graphic images)

In June 2010, WKYC-TV reported that the settlement of the Hope Steffey lawsuit against Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson, accusing his deputies of using brutal and excessive force resulted in the payment of $475,000. The total cost to Stark County to defend and settle the Steffey lawsuit was reportedly more than $705,000.  It also resulted in the insurance premium for the country county to dramatically jump from $34,261 in 2008 to $195,350 in 2010.

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Some Top Attractions From 2013 – Goodbye Old Year, and Happy New Year!

– Domani Spero

 

Embassy Row’s Dirty Little Secret: Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers by Diplomats

Near, far, wherever you are, Benghazi will go on and on … oh, but do you want to buy a Benghazi thong?

US Embassy Ukraine Gets High Marks and Yay! State/OIG Now Discloses Names of Inspectors

US Mission Kenya: USAID FSN’s Wife Ruhila Adatia-Sood Killed at Westgate Mall Attack

US Embassy Malta Gets a Viral Video But — Not the Kind You Want

$630K To Buy Facebook Fans — Is That Really Such a Sin? Only If There’s Nothin’ But Strategery

After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General

Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem

State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please

State/OIG on Diplomatic Security’s Special Investigations Division – The Missing Firewall

In the Foreign Service: Death, Too Close An Acquaintance

2012 State Dept Annual Awards: Greatest Achievements in Many Fields, Mostly By Men

 

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Reposting below U.S. Embassy Bangkok’s New Year 2014 video. Wishing you all a more peaceful and prosperous new year. DS

 

 

 

 

 

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From U.S. Embassies in Warsaw, Bangkok, Dublin, Kampala, Oslo, Sofia – A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

– Domani Spero

U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Poland

Employees from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow along with their families with their “Jingle Bell Rock”cover recorded by American diplomats in Poland with the support of musician Stan Breckenridge, U.S. Distinguished Chair Fulbright Scholar to Poland from California State University, who is currently in Poland on the Fulbright Scholarship at Jagiellonian University. The video was created on the streets of Warsaw and Krakow. The clip includes Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, see the 00:12 mark.  Last year, they did All I Want For Christmas Is You.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The U.S. Embassy Bangkok and U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai wishing  their  Thai friends a happy new year.  The clip below includes Ambassador Kristie Kenney on a motorbike at the 00:20 mark. In 2012, they did this video to the tune of Ruen Rerng Ta-lerng Sok by Soontaraporn.

U.S. Embassy Dublin, Ireland

With some cute little munchkins in the “town of the hurdled ford.”

U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria

U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

U.S Mission Uganda wishing the Ugandan people a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Americans at the embassy do their best to send holiday greetings in a few Ugandan languages: Luganda, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Luo and Runyankore.  Is that Ambassador Scott DeLisi at the 00:09 mark?

U.S Embassy Oslo, Norway

American diplomats tried to pronounce Norwegian words and phrases that relate to Christmas – Kålrabistappe – mashed rutabaga, Dorullnisse – “toilet roll santa,” Marsepangris – “marzipan pig,” Pepperkakemann – gingerbreadman, God Jul – Merry Christmas and more.

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