Difficult (And Sometimes Nasty) Divorce in the Foreign Service — AFSA Talk, July 30 at 2 pm

💔 By Domani Spero

As part of its Speaker Series, AFSA is presenting a panel discussion on divorce in the Foreign Service this week.  On Tuesday, July 30 at 2 pm, AFSA and the Department of State’s Divorce Working Group will present “a seminar and panel discussion on the sensitive yet important topic of divorce in the Foreign Service.”  The announcement says that this is “a great opportunity to become a resource on this issue for colleagues at your post or in your bureau who may go through such a life change; or in the event that this may affect you at some point.”

Expected to participate in the event are the following:  Susan Frost, the Director of the Family Liaison Office (FLO), will moderate the discussion; Panelists will include Daniel Hirsch, Management Officer and former AFSA Vice President for the Department of State; Work-Life Specialist Elizabeth Royal; Chief Policy Adviser of the Office of Retirement Jacqueline Long; and Sharon Zarozny, founder of Brilliant Exits LLC, a divorce consulting and support group.

Among the topics to be covered are what happens at post when a family splits up and what spouses’ rights are upon divorce. Handouts and resources will be available during the event and as always, the session will be recorded and made available for online viewing through our web site and YouTube channel.  This program takes place at AFSA HQ, 2101 E Street NW, at 2:00 pm on July 30. RSVPs are required for this event and should be sent to events@afsa.org.

About a year ago, the Director General of the Foreign Service Linda Thomas-Greenfield, then in office for barely a month sent out an ALDAC on Providing Adequately for Spouse, Partner, and Children Due to Separation and/or Impending Dissolution of Marriage or Domestic Partnership.  Below is an excerpt:

Marital separations, divorce, and the dissolution of domestic partnerships are difficult, emotionally trying times for Foreign Service employees and their families. The stress and logistical difficulties are exacerbated while an employee is posted abroad. It has come to my attention that some spouses, partners, and children depart post on Advance Travel Orders, when there is an impending dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership, without the basic requirements to set up a home and sustain themselves. As a result, these families are put in the position of having to seek help from relatives and friends and, in some cases, from public assistance. The failure to adequately arrange for a spouse/partner or children’s transition from post can reflect adversely upon the U.S. government. Moreover, the COM and the Department have a legitimate concern in the welfare of family members accompanying employees to post and the overall morale at post. 

That this went out as an ALDAC probably means that there were more than one or two of these cases.  Read in full here.

Did you hear about that case from years back when a mid-level official left his family for another officer, decamped to a hotel and cause a minor scandal at post? Maybe the wife had no lawyer, or had a bad one, but we heard that she could not even afford to go to a fast food restaurant after she returned to the DC area!

What would you do if under a murky separation agreement, you  had to call ex-dear hubby every month to remind him to send money so the kids can eat? Do you know what to do if you’re asked to sign a quit claim to your spouse’s pension? Should you accept the house with a mortgage as part of a settlement? Is anyone at the State Department assigned a role as spouse’s advocate during this difficult and sometimes nasty process?  Spouses/partners with 52 weeks of creditable employment overseas get Executive Order Eligibility, what happens if you cannot find a job within the time limit prescribed under E.O. 12721?

All would be great questions for this panel on Tuesday. Below are some reading materials provided by AFSA:

Not a fun subject but …. something one might want to keep in the brain’s back pocket.

Blog Note — this blog is having a mental health break; nah, not a breakdown dears, just a much needed break.  Plus need to tear apart my whole bathroom (old house, long story).  So blogging may be on pause for the next couple of weeks.  Apologies, too for the slow mail from my end. Will get back to you as soon as I am able.

Mwaah! D/

đŸ˜œ

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GAO Examines Foreign Service Promotion Process — Strengthened But Documentation Gaps Remain

◉  By Domani Spero

 

Congress tasked the Government Accountability Office to look into the State Department’s Foreign Service promotion process.  The GAO conducted a performance audit from July 2012 to July 2013.  According to the July 2013 report, the audit addresses actions taken by State since March 2010 to help ensure the Foreign Service promotion process operates with fairness and integrity. The report examines (1) State’s process for ranking and promoting Foreign Service personnel, (2) procedural changes State has made to its Foreign Service promotion process in response to identified concerns, and (3) the extent to which updated procedures were consistently followed in 2011 and 2012 and whether any notable concerns about the promotion process remain.

Here is the audit’s conclusion:

State’s Foreign Service promotion process is conducted within the context of an up-or-out system and the practice of identifying a set percentage of staff each year for possible separation from the Service. Within an organizational culture that emphasizes performance and career advancement, safeguards to ensure the fairness and integrity of the promotion process are of particular importance. While we found that State had responded to previously identified concerns about its Foreign Service promotion process and taken a number of actions to strengthen internal controls over the process, documentation supporting the full implementation of these controls was sometimes missing. For example, we found that many selection board member oaths were missing from 2012 selection board reports and some boards did not include documentation of recusal requests. In the absence of a fully documented system of controls, there is a risk that intentional or unintentional failures to implement safeguards, by board members or HR staff, will go undetected and uncorrected. A failure to implement safeguards, in turn, increases the risk that promotion results could be intentionally or inadvertently compromised.

Screen Shot 2013-07

The GAO recommends the following:

To improve and better document State’s compliance with key safeguards governing the Foreign Service promotion process, we recommend that the Secretary of State instruct the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of the Human Resources Office of Performance Evaluation to take steps to ensure that selection board, performance standards board, and reconstituted board reports are complete and fully document compliance with internal controls, including but not limited to signed oaths and recusal memos.

Some details

According to the GAO, the State Department prompted by concerns identified by the OIG and Foreign Service Grievance Board in 2010,  took a number of actions to strengthen procedures governing selection boards and reconstituted boards as follows:

  • New Board Member Oath
  • Revised Recusal Procedures
  • Updated Procedures for Reconstituted Boards
  • Renewed Emphasis on Certifying Board Results
  • Discontinued Annotation of Promotion Lists
  • More Nonspecialists to Serve on Specialists Boards
  • New Procedural Manual for HR Staff

Documentation Gaps

We found that selection boards, performance standards boards, and reconstituted boards complied with many updated procedures in the 2011 and 2012 Foreign Service promotion cycles; however, some selection boards and reconstituted boards had documentation gaps for certain internal controls.[…]  We found that some board reports, which constitute the master record of proceedings, had a number of documentation gaps. As shown in figure 2, there were several instances of missing oaths and incomplete documentation of recusals among the 41 selection boards we reviewed. For example, we found that 2012 selection board reports did not include 45 of 122 required signed oaths from members, or nearly 40 percent of the required total. Subsequent to our file review, State officials provided a portion of these missing oaths and other missing documents from ancillary records.

Discrepancies Explained

We also checked for discrepancies between boards’ rank-ordered promotion lists and official promotion announcements and found a total of 74 names recommended for promotion in 2011 and 2012 selection board reports that did not appear on corresponding promotion announcements. State officials explained that these individuals were not included on promotion lists due to requirements outlined in the FAM relating to the (1) permanent removal of names from promotion lists due to personnel actions such as retirement, and (2) temporary removal of names from promotion lists due to outcomes of the vetting process described earlier. State provided documentation to account for each removed name.

Three Specific Boards

  • Our online data collection tool revealed a limited number of procedural concerns relating to the operations of three specific boards. Our online tool was designed to provide board members with an opportunity to identify whether they observed any actions, behaviors, or concerns that could have compromised their board’s integrity and fairness. Our online tool was sent to 293 of 298 members who served on the 2011 and 2012 selection boards, 2011 and 2012 performance standards boards, and reconstituted boards since October 2011.23 We received 206 completed forms.24 From this total, two responses identified a total of four concerns with the operation of a board in 2011 or 2012. One response claimed that a board member had refused to follow precept instructions to consider candidate service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan in a favorable light.25
  • The same response noted that the board did not follow proper recusal procedures in all cases. The second response claimed that an “HR official” had inappropriately instructed a board member. The same response noted that the board did not follow proper recusal procedures in all cases. We obtained permission from one respondent to provide the respondent’s two concerns to State’s HR staff and the OIG for further review and follow-up as appropriate.

Footnote on the report says that “According to State, since January 2011, no State employee has filed a procedural complaint relating to State’s Foreign Service promotion process through the Office of Special Counsel, and one State employee has filed such a complaint through the District Courts.” (That court case is presumably Joan Wadelton’s — See Joan Wadelton’s Appeal Makes it to FSGB 2011 Annual Report to Congress and  Joan Wadelton’s Case: That’s One Messy Promotion Scorecard, Next Up – It’s GAO Time!)

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Related item:

State Department Has Strengthened Foreign Service Promotion Process Internal Controls, but Documentation Gaps Remain GAO-13-654

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

◉  By Domani Spero

 

We blogged last month about the OIG report on the State Department’s IIP Bureau (See State Dept’s $630,000 Social Media “Buying Fans” Campaign,  a Success — But Where’s the Love?). At one point, we Googled $630,000 and we got 6,260 results in 10 seconds. Few of them complimentary for blowing that much dough to buy “friends.” The Daily Beast asks, “Oh, State Department, didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t buy your friends?”

C’mon folks, the USG buy friends all the time. It even buy frienemies, who occasionally bites it behind and in front of cameras.

Anyway, today, The Cable’s John Hudson has  this: Unfriend: State Dept’s Social Media Shop Is DC’s “Red-Headed Stepchild” where a former congressional staffer with knowledge of the bureau calls IIP or the Bureau of International Information Programs “the the redheaded stepchild of public diplomacy.”  An unnamed source also told The Cable that its main problem was finding something it actually does well. “It has an ill-defined mandate and no flagship product that anyone outside of Foggy Bottom has ever heard of.”

Actually, it used to run america.gov, an easily recognizable product created under the previous administration. But some bright bulbs decided to reinvent it into something easily memorable; you think  IIP Digital and you think, of course,  America. (see Foggy Bottom’s “Secret” Blog, Wild Geese – Oh, It’s Pretty Wild!).

The Cables’s piece has a quote from Tom Nides, the State Department’s former deputy secretary for management and resources who defended IIP in the wake of the OIG report:

“We have to allow our departments to be innovators and take risks. And if you’re an innovator, some things just aren’t going to work… The bureau does some really innovative and interesting stuff.” 

Like the e-reader debacle.  When somebody run something by the seat of their pants .. well, okay we’ll agree to call it interesting but please, let’s not/not call this innovative.  See What Sunk the State Dept’s $16.5 Million Kindle Acquisition? A Complaint. Plus Missing Overall Goals

Tara Sonenshine, until recently the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who oversees IIP also spoke to The Cable:

“OK, they spent time acquiring too many followers. They built up the traffic to their site. Is that really such a sin?” she asked in an interview with The Cable. “They moved quickly into social media at a time when Secretary of State Clinton said we should have 21st century statecraft. I don’t know why that’s such a bad thing.”

Is that really such a sin? Here is the problem that the OIG inspectors were not happy with:

“The absence of a Department-wide PD strategy tying resources to priorities directly affects IIP’s work. Fundamental questions remain unresolved. What is the proper balance between engaging young people and marginalized groups versus elites and opinion leaders? Which programs and delivery mechanisms work best with which audiences? What proportion of PD resources should support policy goals, and what proportion should go to providing the context of American society and values? How much should PD products be tailored for regions and individual countries, and how much should be directed to a global audience? What kinds of materials should IIP translate and into which languages? Absent a Department wide strategy, IIP decisions and priorities can be ad hoc, arbitrary, and lack a frame of reference to evaluate the bureau’s effectiveness. The 2004 OIG IIP inspection report recommended that the Department conduct a management review of PD. The Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs created an Office of Policy and Outreach but did not carry out the management review. A strategy that ties resources to priorities is essential to resolving questions of mission and organization for IIP in general and for the PD function in particular.”

Makes one wonder why not.

The recommended management review in 2004 did not happen under Margaret D. Tutwiler (2003-2004) not under Karen Hughes (2005-2007) not under James K. Glassman (2008-2009) or Judith McHale (2009-2011).  And it did not happen under Tara D. Sonenshine (2012-2013).

Which is how you end up with State Dept’s Winning Hearts and Minds One Kindle at a Time Collapses 
. Presently Dead.

Or how you get an odd Facebook campaigns on intellectual property theft and the importance of IP rights led by US embassies in Canada, Spain, Estonia, Uruguay, Suriname, Guyana, and Chile. (via Ars Technica). You’d think that if you do an embassy FB campaign on IP rights, you should at least target the 39 countries in USTR’s Watch List. Suriname, Guyana and Estonia did not even make that Watch List.

Or how tweets can get “bungled” and no one has the @embassyhandler’s back, not even the State Department Spokesperson.

Or how embassies create “fun” videos that cost time and money that does not fit/poorly fit an occasion or serve any real purpose (See employees around the U.S. Embassy in Manila sing and dance to the Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe” in December 2012, the Harlem Shake by U.S. Embassy Algiers in February 2013, or the U.S. Embassy Tashkent Navruz dance celebration in Uzbek Gangnam style in March 2013!

Look, we are not averse to seeing videos from our diplomatic posts, but they do require time and money.  Rehearsals, anyone?  We’d like to see some purpose put into them beyond just being the “in” thing to do.  (see some good ones US Embassy Bangkok’s Irrestibly Charming Happy 2013 Greeting, US Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You, and US Embassy Costa Rica: La Visa Americana, Gangnam Style).
In December 2012, Ms. Soneshine gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation, touting  “real success” with IIP’s FB properties:

IIP, the Bureau of International Information Programs, has had real success with its four major Facebook properties, which engage foreign audiences on issues related to innovation, democracy, conservation, and the USA.

Our metrics help us refine our understanding of the hopes and aspirations of young people in key countries, allowing us to explain our goals, policies and values in particular and responsive ways. In just 15 months, our Facebook following has expanded from 800,000 to more than 8 million, as they like, share, and retweet in their communities. And that includes young people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and Venezuela.

Ms. Soneshine did not mention how much money the USG spent to expand the number of those Facebook followers or the rate of the engagement.

In the same speech, she touted the use of “rigorous, evidence-based” work that “demonstrate the effectiveness” of the State Department programs:

[O]ur in-house staff – Statewide – includes Ph.D. social scientists, program evaluators who have worked all over the world, pollsters who left successful careers in the private sector to work for us, and other communications experts.

Our rigorous, evidence-based, social scientific work now allows us to go beyond anecdote and demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs and work in increasing foreign public understanding of U.S. society, government, culture, our values and the democratic process.

Here is what the OIG says:

The Office of Audience Research and Evaluation is charged with assessing bureau programs and conducting audience research for PD work. It is not performing either duty adequately. The coordinator brought a former colleague from the private sector into the bureau to oversee the operation, which is attached to the front office. However, that employee had no U.S. Government experience with the issues surrounding PD research or familiarity with the programs, products, and services IIP offers. At about the same time, the Office of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs transferred to IIP the responsibility for managing a PD database for tracking embassies’ work, along with the responsibility for preparing a report assessing the global impact of PD. Since the 2011 reorganization that put these changes in place, the office has accomplished little.

Zing!

In the aftermath of the release of the IIP report, Ms. Soneshine reportedly sent out a lengthy email offering to connect recipients “directly with the bureau’s leadership so that you can learn more about IIP and its great work, in addition to hearing how the bureau is proactively implementing the report’s recommendations.”

She reportedly also touted the bureau’s accomplishments and writes that “IIP is now positioned firmly in the 21st Century and will innovate constantly to stay at the forefront of modern Public Diplomacy.”

That must be why the fishes are leaping out the barrel; fishes to refer to multiple species of fish in that specific barrel.

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Related item:

-05/31/13   Inspection of the Bureau of International Information Programs  [975 Kb]

Officially In: Dan Clune – From HR/BEX to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

◉  By Domani Spero

On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate  Dan Clune as the next Ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Dan Clune, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is an Assessor on the Board of Examiners in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State.  From 2010 to 2012, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.  From 2007 to 2010, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia.  From 2005 to 2007, he was the Director of the Department of State Office of Monetary Affairs, and from 2002 to 2005, he was Director of the Department of State Office of Economic Policy and Public Diplomacy.  Mr. Clune served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas from 2000 to 2002.  Previously, he was the Trade Advisor at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development from 1998 to 2000.  In Washington, his earlier assignments include Director for Middle East in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 1997 to 1998, and Economic Officer in the European Affairs Bureau from 1990 to 1992.  He has also served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Lima, Peru and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Mr. Clune received a B.A. from Boston College and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Until 2012, Mr. Clune was the PDAS at the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), and was reportedly charged with overseeing the Keystone XL project, one of the more contentious subjects facing the State Dept. in the domestic front; contentious enough that it might manifest during his confirmation hearing currently scheduled for Tuesday, July 23 at 9 am.

As an aside, Senators Sanders, Wyden and Whitehouse had requested State/OIG for an investigation into the State Department’s handling of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and National Lnterest Determination (NlD) for TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  (See  Special Review of the Keystone XL Pipeline Permit Process Report Number AUD/SI-12-28, February 2012).

If confirmed, Mr. Clune would succeed career diplomat, Karen Stewart who was appointed chief of mission to the US Embassy in Vientiane in November 2010.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is one of the 42 countries in the world where we haven’t had a political appointee. Ever.

According to history.state.gov, the American Legation in Vientiane was established on August 22, 1950, when it opened under ChargĂ© d’Affaires ad interim Paul L. Guest.  On July 27, 1955, the United States Senate confirmed Charles W. Yost, who was then Minister to Laos, for the post of Ambassador to Laos.  According to a joint announcement by the Governments of the United States and Laos on August 10, 1955, the United States elevated its diplomatic mission in Vientiane from a Legation to an Embassy. With the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) in December 1975, the diplomatic relation was downgraded. The ambassadorial relations was not restored until August 6, 1992 with the the presentation of  credentials by our first Ambassador to the LPDRAmbassador Charles B. Salmon Jr.

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Related items:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officially In: John Berry – From OPM to Australia

◉  By Domani Spero

On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate John Berry as the next Ambassador to Australia. The WH released the following brief bio:

John Berry served as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from April 2009 to April 2013.  Previously, he was the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park from 2005 to 2009, and the Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from 2000 to 2005.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior.  From 1995 to 1997, he was Director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Smithsonian Institution.  He joined the federal government in 1994 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Department of Treasury.  Before joining the Department of Treasury, Mr. Berry was the Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer.

Mr. Berry received a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.P.A. from Syracuse University.

Via Federal News Radio:

“On John Berry’s final day as director of the Office of Personnel Management, the consensus from federal employees and employee groups he has worked with the past four years is that his shoes will be hard to fill. Those interviewed by Federal News Radio said he has been the utmost advocate for feds in a tough political climate of furlough talk, budget negotiations and a rebounding economy.”

The advocate.com notes that Mr. Berry’s OPM appointment (2009-2012) made him the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Obama executive branch. It quotes HRC president Chad Griffin praising the nomination: “John Berry has been a devoted public servant for 30 years and will bring tremendous experience to our embassy in Canberra.”

Mr. Berry’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, July 23 at 9 am.  If confirmed, Mr. Berry would succeed Jeffrey Bleich, California lawyer and former Special Counsel to President Obama who was appointed to the US Embassy in Canberra in November 2009.  Since 1960, 72.2% of all ambassadorial appointments to Australia went to non-career appointees.

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Related item:

June 21, 2013 President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Officially In: Joseph Y. Yun – From EAP to Malaysia

◉  By Domani Spero

On June 12, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Joseph Y. Yun as the next Ambassador to Malaysia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joseph Y. Yun, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Prior to this, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2010 to 2011.  From 2009 to 2010, he was Director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. Yun has served overseas in Korea, Thailand, France, Indonesia and Hong Kong.  Before joining the Foreign Service, he was an economist for Data Resources, Inc. in Massachusetts.

Mr. Yun received a B.S. from the Cardiff University and an M.S. and M.Phil from the London School of Economics.

Joseph Y. Yun (screengrab from YouTube)

Joseph Y. Yun
(screengrab from YouTube)

If confirmed, Mr. Yun would succeed career diplomat, Paul W. Jones who was appointed chief of mission to Kuala Lumpur in 2010. Of the 19 ambassadors appointed to Malaysia since 1960, only one, Barbara Mae Watson (1980-1981) had been a political appointee. (Note: That’s the same Barbara Watson who was twice appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. The State Department’s Award for Consular Excellence is also named after her).

Mr. Yun is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing at the SFRC on Tuesday, July 23 at 9 am.  Video and written testimony will be posted here when available.

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Related item:
June 12, 2013  President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

 

Officially In: James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. to the Dominican Republic, an Island of Grace and Tolerance

◉  By Domani Spero

On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate James “Wally” Brewster, Jr., as the next Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. is the Senior Managing Partner for SB&K Global, a brand strategy and consumer dynamics consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Before starting SB&K Global in 2010, he was an Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications with General Growth Properties (GGP), a real estate investment trust headquartered in Chicago.  Prior to joining GGP in 1996, Mr. Brewster worked in management at several real estate companies in Texas, including The Rouse Company and the DeBartolo Corporation.  Earlier in his career, he held marketing and management positions with Carla Francis, Inc. and the Jim Collins Company in Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Brewster is a National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

According to Open Secrets of the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Brewster bundled $500,000+ for the Obama 2012 reelection.

www.barackobama.com also listed Mr. Brewster and Bob Satawake  as Obama For America and Obama Victory Fund 2012 Volunteer Fundraisers who  raised $100,000-$200,000.

Six out of 16 total ambassadorial appointments to Santo Domingo since 1960 or 37.5% went to non-career appointees.  If confirmed, Mr. Brewster would replace another political appointee Raul Yzaguirre who was appointed chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo in November 2010.  Ambassador Yzaguirre’s May 6, 2013 announcement of departure says that he is leaving for “health reasons” and that  he and his wife will return to their home in the city of Mt. Airy, Maryland.

In late June, the AP reported that religious groups in the Dominican Republic said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay U.S. ambassador to the conservative Caribbean country.  CNS quotes DR Bishop Pablo Cedano saying that if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.”  DR Cardinal NicolĂĄs de JesĂșs LĂłpez RodrĂ­guez is on YouTube calling the nominee  maricĂłn, a derogatory term.

This past Monday, there was a “Black Monday” protest organized by religious leaders to demonstrate their disapproval of the openly gay nominee.

Here is an excerpt from the 2012 Human Rights Report on DR:

Treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals ranged from ambivalent tolerance to staunch homophobia.  No specific law protects individuals against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and NGOs reported widespread social discrimination in areas of society including health care, education, and the workplace.  LGBT individuals often faced intimidation and harassment…According to various reports, LGBT individuals were arrested without reason, not hired, denied access to rent/own homes, and denied access to health services….Members of the LGBT community often gathered informally in public spaces, especially in Duarte Park of the colonial zone in Santo Domingo.  However, formal activities of LGBT organizations were generally subjected to approval by the Community Board of Neighbors, an institution influenced by the Catholic Church and its conservative views on LGBT issues.

As an aside, diplomatic courtesy requires that the sending state ascertain if the proposed ambassadorial appointee is acceptable to receiving state.  The acquiescence of the receiving state is showed by its granting of an agrĂ©ment to the appointment.  The Obama administration would  not have released this nominee’s name had it not received the approval of the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Embassy in Washington told The Cable:

“The Dominican Republic is a democracy with a vibrant media and a wide diversity of opinions on every conceivable topic,” the statement read. “However, it is the position of the Government of the Dominican Republic that a personÂŽs sexual preference is strictly a personal matter and it looks forward to working constructively with Mr. Brewster in his official capacity once his nomination is approved by the US Senate.”

As of this writing, no schedule has been announced yet for Mr. Brewster’s confirmation hearing.

Related item:

June 21, 2013  President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

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US Mission Turkey Joins 25th Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim Competition

◉  By Domani Spero

In July 2012, we posted about USCG Istanbul participating in the Bosphorus Swim. See US ConGen Istanbul in ’2 Continents 1 Race’ Bosphorus Swim and Look who else joined the American Team in the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim.

This year, Ambassador Francis Ricciardone and Consul General Scott Kilner once again joined the 25th Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim Competition. The competition started from Kanlıca on the Anatolian side and ended at KuruçeƟme on the European side of the Bosphorus. Ambassador Ricciardone was 30th runner up and Consul General Kilner was 25th runner up in their categories. 1426 swimmers from 55 countries swam at the competition.

Photo via US Embassy Turkey/FB

Photo via US Embassy Turkey/FB

Bosphorus swim results

Photo via US Embassy Turkey/FB

More photos here.

According to Swimza, Hasan Emre Musluoğlu from Turkey received the gold medal among the 1,5oo swimmers at the 25th Bosphorus Cross-Continental Races yesterday in Istanbul, marking his fourth consecutive win.

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Senate Confirmation: Pyatt, Mushingi, Russel

The U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominations for the State Department on July 9, 2013.

PN176 *       Ukraine

Geoffrey R. Pyatt, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class ofMinister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Ukraine.

PN288 *       Burkina Faso

Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Burkina Faso.

PN426 *       DEPARTMENT OF STATE/EAP

Daniel R. Russel, of New York, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (East Asian andPacific Affairs).

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US Embassy Belgrade: Ambassador Michael Kirby Dedicates $149M New Embassy Compound

◉  By Domani Spero

The US Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby recently dedicated the new embassy compound in Belgrade.  The project which, according to State/OBO had an original completion date of May 10, 2012 was dedicated on July 1, 2013.

 

Photo from state.gov/obo

Photo from state.gov/obo

Via state.gov:

In an important symbol of America’s commitment to an enduring friendship with the Republic of Serbia, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia, Michael D. Kirby, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Belgrade today.

Occupying a 10-acre site adjacent to the Beli Dvor, the $149 million multi-building complex provides a secure, state-of-the-art, environmentally-sustainable workplace for over 350 embassy personnel.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, LLP was the concept design architect and The Louis Berger Group of Washington, D.C. was the architect of record. The project was constructed by Framaco International of Rye Brook, New York.

The new facility incorporates numerous sustainable features to reduce operating costs and conserve resources, most notably a storm water detention pond; solar hot water technology; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and the careful selection of plantings to reduce the amount of irrigation needed. The facility has been registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDÂź) certification.

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