US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook Fans Now 100,000+

In the preceding days/weeks prior to President Obama’s planned visit to Asia, the US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook page raced towards the 50K fan mark, then the 100K mark.  As of 4 am EST today, its fan base currently sits at 113,679. Considering that the State Department’s main Facebook page continues to hover around 30,000 fans, US Embassy Jakarta’s active online recruitment is quite impressive.   

The presidential visit to Asia has now been postponed until June. Below is an excerpt of the statement:

[T]he President telephoned the leaders of Indonesia and Australia and told them that he must postpone his planned visits there for a later date so he can remain in Washington for this critical vote. The President expects to visit Indonesia in June.
The President greatly regrets the delay.  Our international alliances are critical to America’s security and economic progress.  But passage of health insurance reform is of paramount importance, and the President is determined to see this battle through.
To show US Embassy Jakarta’s very nimble online operation – just shortly after the President gave an interview in Washington DC on March 18, 2010 to RCTI reporter, Putra Nababan about the postponement of his trip, the video of that interview was up in US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook page.  Click here for President Obama discussing the rescheduling of his Indonesia Trip to June 2010.
How many more fans do you think US Embassy Jakarta can recruit in the next 8-10 weeks on Facebook?  500K? A million?  Take a guess.





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Amidst Economic Chaos, Greece Joins Visa Waiver Program

On March 9, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the designation of Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP info from CBP)— “strengthening passenger information sharing and ensuring strict security standards while streamlining travel for Greek citizens visiting the United States.”

“Our efforts to guard against terrorism while enhancing legal travel and trade depend upon close collaboration with our international partners,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I commend our partners in Greece for committing to strong screening and security standards and enhanced information sharing for travel by Greek citizens to the United States as we work together to protect our citizens and strengthen our economies.”
Greece’s VWP designation represents a major step forward in the continued and long-standing economic and security partnership between the United States and Greece—reflecting more than two years of coordination between the two countries on Greece’s entry into VWP.

In accordance with the VWP designation process, DHS determined that Greece complies with key security and information-sharing requirements—such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States; timely reporting of lost and stolen passports; and the maintenance of high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards. In turn, Greek citizens will be permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

With this announcement, Greece joins the 35 nations already participating in VWP—established as a pilot program in 1986 to help eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel and made permanent on October 30, 2000. Like VWP travelers from other countries, Greek citizens will be required to apply for an Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) through the Web-based system. Greek citizens will be able to visit the United States without visas in approximately 30 days.

Read the full announcement here.

Can you remember any other country placed in the VWP amidst an economic crisis in that country?  I don’t know, I can’t recall, but I’m curious.  Here is a timeline of the Greek economic crisis from Reuters.

It looks like on the same day the VWP was announced, Greece President Papandreou was visiting Washington and was quoted as saying that President Obama encouraged Athens’ effort to curb speculators who they blame for worsening the debt crisis.

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece
in the Oval Office, March 9, 2010. 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Two days after this announcement, public and private sector workers went on strike in Greece grounding flights, shutting schools and halting public transport in the second nationwide walkout.


Libya: foreign women faces routine sexual harassment

TripoliImage via Wikipedia

This one from OSCA’s trove of Crime and Safety reports — these are annual reports written by the Regional Security Officers of our embassies about the current environment overseas. Excerpt below from the 2010 report on Libya. Yes, the same place where the King of Kings rule:    

The Department of State considers Libya a high crime country. While official statistics are often inaccurate and difficult to access, crime has increased in recent years and outpaced the efforts of an under-equipped police department and an inefficient judicial system.The majority of crimes are property crimes, including pick-pocketing and purse-snatching. Criminals often target tourists and wealthy-looking foreigners, especially foreign women. Libyan criminals are mostly young, single men who commit crimes of opportunity both during the day and at night. While they are not often violent, victims may be jostled or pushed to the ground during the commission of a crime. Victims who resist may be subjected to greater violence. Vehicle thefts are on the rise.
Sexual harassment against foreign women continues to be a serious problem. Foreign women face routine harassment such as cat-calling and groping. Most foreign women are targeted while traveling alone or in pairs. However, the Libyan police have been somewhat successful in arresting and convicting sexual offenders.
Tripoli police do not maintain comprehensive crime statistics for individual neighborhoods and it is difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of the general crime level in Tripoli. Residential burglary is the most common crime reported by expatriates in Libya. Burglaries that were reported have occurred both during the day and at night. Rising burglary rates have caused many foreign individuals and companies to invest in residential security measures such as metal grillwork, alarm systems, and anti-climb devices. Burglars often carry edged weapons both as tools for entry and as a deterent against uncooperative victims.
Carjacking is an emerging crime in Libya. Carjackers may cause minor accidents as a pretext for luring their intended victim into stopping and exiting the vehicle to inspect for damage. Several foreigners in Tripoli have been carjacked in this manner; nearly all of them left their keys in the ignition when they exited their vehicles, thus making it easier for the carjackers.
While Libyan media do not report extensively on crime, there is a private perception that crime has increased due to the growing prevalence of wealthy foreigners and western goods, as well as growing numbers of migrant workers from around Africa. High unemployment and a rising cost of living also contribute to crime rates in Libya. If you are victimized, proceed immediately to the nearest police station, hotel, or major business for assistance.
Read the whole thing here.