Photo of the Day: Iron Man @RobertDowneyJr with Marine Security Guards in Berlin

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Via US Embassy Berlin:

 

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Ambassador Michael Punke’s ‘The Revenant’ — on NYT Best Sellers For 9th Week

Posted: 7:31 pm EDT

 

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s movie  The Revenant has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards in this year’s Oscars including Actor in a Leading Role for Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor in a Supporting Role Tom Hardy, and directing and best picture.  The New York Times writes that among the hopeful novelists who will be closely watching Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, only one has negotiated a $1.3 trillion global trade deal. The NYT is talking about Michael Punke, the deputy United States Trade Representative and the United States ambassador to the World Trade Organization. He is the author of the 2002 novel “The Revenant” which inspired the movie. The book  sold around 15,000 copies after it was first published according to NYT.  It had apparently been out of print before the movie started shooting but a new hardcover came out in 2015. “The Revenant” has reportedly sold more than half a million copies, and Picador has reprinted the book 21 times.

Ambassador Punke was originally nominated by President Obama as Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative in 2009. He was recess appointed in 2010 and finally confirmed by the Senate in the fall of 2011 (also see Deputy USTR Ambassador Michael Punke’s The Revenant: Now a Movie With Leonardo DiCaprio).

Due to his government position, he reportedly can’t give any interviews about the book, or even sign copies. The NYT says that “Federal ethics rules prohibit him from any activities that would be “self-enriching” or could be seen as an abuse of his post.”  The Office of Government Ethics has a handout relating to book deals and government employees (PDF), and a pretty complex guidelines for particularly covered noncareer (CNC) employees and Presidential appointees to full-time noncareer positions (PA).

It took 14 years but on the week of January 17, 2016, the book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers and has remained on the list for the last 9 weeks.  Enjoy the excerpt courtesy of Amazon/Kindle Instant Preview:

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Secretary John Kerry on Jimmy Kimmel Live – Ready to Bring Together Taylor Swift and Kanye West

Posted: 12:23 am EDT

 

Last week, when Secretary Kerry had a meeting in Hollywood after the summit with Asian leaders in Palm Springs, he also made an appearance at the Jimmy Kimmel show.  He was introduced as the guest who “has been to almost 80 countries and logged more than a million frequent flyer miles.”  

The transcript of the appearance on February 16 is here: Interview on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!;  Secretary of State John Kerry; Los Angeles, California.

 

Deputy USTR Ambassador Michael Punke’s The Revenant: Now a Movie With Leonardo DiCaprio

Posted: 1:08 am EDT

Michael Punke serves as Deputy United States Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland.  He is the author of The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, now a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917, and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.

Below is his USTR bio:

Michael Punke has worked in the field of international trade law and policy for two decades. From 1995 to 1996, Punke served as Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. There, he advised the USTR on issues ranging from agricultural trade to intellectual property protection.

From 1993 to 1995, Punke served at the White House as Director for International Economic Affairs with a joint appointment to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. His responsibilities included assisting in the management of the interagency process. From 1991 to 1992, Punke was International Trade Counsel to Senator Max Baucus, then Chairman of the Finance Committee’s International Trade Subcommittee. Punke has also worked on international trade issues from the private sector, including as a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, & Maw. From 2003 to 2009, Punke consulted on public policy issues out of Missoula, Montana.

Punke has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Montana and as a writer, authoring a novel, two books of nonfiction, and two screenplays. Punke is a graduate of George Washington University and Cornell Law School, where he was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell International Law Journal.

The Revenant | Official Teaser Trailer: Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members  of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. THE REVENANT is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel) via . Read more about the development of the movie from unpublished manuscript to film here.

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Milla Jovovich’s Survivor — RSO-I’s Job Just Got Seriously Sexy

Posted: 2:46 am EDT

 

How did we miss James McTeigue’s 2015 action film Survivor starring Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, and Angela Bassett?  Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich) is a Diplomatic Security agent with the State Department stationed at the U.S. Embassy in London, where she is tasked with weeding out visa applicants who could be potential terrorists. This job would be the Regional Security Officer – Investigator (RSO-I), yes?  For those who work at a consular section and at a US embassy, there will be stuff to quibble about in this movie. But if you just enjoy an action thriller with lots of running and fireworks, you might find this enjoyable.  Or not. The RSO-I’s job just got seriously sexy, hey …

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Note: If you have not check it out yet, we have also put together a curated list of State Department-related movies in our newly organized Amazon store. We get a tiny, mini egg added to our nest egg if you use our affiliate links 😉!

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US Embassy Tel Aviv: Look who came to visit!

Posted: 12:08 am EDT

 

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US Embassy Seoul: The Terminator and the Mother of Dragons Visit South Korea; Grigsby Gets a Kiss

Posted: 1:03 am  PDT

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger and  “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke arrived  in Seoul to promote the fifth installment in the “Terminator” franchise, “Terminator Genisys“ directed by Alan Taylor. They visited Ambassador Lippert, at the COM residence, and Grigsby got a kiss from Terminator man.

 

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The Brink: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid – Coming June 21 on HBO (Video)

Posted: 2:14 am EDT

 

That time when you showed your diplomatic passport and a host country official in uniform tore it up? Yup, they put that here — see another clip from The Brink,  coming to HBO this month.   Jack Black plays FSO Alex Talbot and Tim Robbins plays Secretary of State Walter Larson. The Brink’s 10-episode season premieres June 21 at 10:30PM on HBO.

 

Related post:
Doomsday Go: The Brink, Nuclear Apocalypse Dark Comedy With Tim Robbins and Jack Black (Video)

 

Howard W. French on Gayle Smith’s Appointment as USAID Administrator

Posted: 1:29 am EDT

 

We’ve previously posted about the nomination of Gayle Smith as the next USAID administrator on May 5 (see Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator.  What if every nominee gets a thorough treatment like this?

Excerpt from Mr. French’s piece over at FP:

When President Obama recently nominated Gayle Smith to be the next administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, many members of the country’s small Africa-related foreign policy community howled.
[…]

Smith’s critics, myself included, have objected to the fact that over the years, this former journalist has been a conspicuous backer of authoritarian regimes in places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda. When I first made this point publicly, a former White House staffer offered a disconcertingly ambivalent response: “I’m not sure if there were more compelling candidates out there,” he said.

He may well be right – and the reason for the lack of qualified personnel is a direct consequence of Washington’s long failure to devise a coherent policy toward Africa.
[…]
Gayle Smith should certainly not stand alone to answer for this horrible record, for which the American foreign policy establishment has never given anything like a proper reckoning. One of the reasons for that, though, is the persistence of people like Smith, and her patron, Susan Rice, in positions of high authority. Another, equally pernicious, is the general disinterest that Africa receives from the foreign policy thinkers.

As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. Top Africa jobs have often become a kind of sop for African Americans within the bureaucracy. Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world.

Read in full via FP, From Quarantine to Appeasement (registration may be required).

Ms. Smith’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. It is currently pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Howard W. French journalist, author, and photographer, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously a Senior Writer for The New York Times, where he spent most of a nearly 23 year career as a foreign correspondent, working in and traveling to over 100 countries on five continents.  From 1979 to 1986, he lived in West Africa, where he worked as a translator, taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast, and lived as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and other publications. From 1994 to 1998, he covered West and Central Africa for the NYT, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.

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Doomsday Go: The Brink, Nuclear Apocalypse Dark Comedy With Tim Robbins and Jack Black (Video)

Posted: 12;56 am EDT

 

It looks like Nacho Libre‘s “Friar Storm” was reassigned from Mexico to Pakistan and we’re going to get Foreign Service officer Alex Talbot in a business suit. The Brink,  is coming to HBO on June 21 with Jack Black playing FSO Alex Talbot and Tim Robbins, apparently playing the philandering or kinky (take your pick) Secretary of State Walter Larson.  Aasif Mandvi, of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” plays Rafiq Massoud, a Pakistani employee of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.  TV.com says that the dark comedy focuses on a geopolitical crisis (some rogue general took over somebody’s nukes) “through the eyes of three disparate, desperate men” who must “pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War III.”  Sounds so totally not Madam Secretary.

 

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We understand that if it catches on, we could be watching The Brink tackle different crises in different parts of the world for its next seasons.   We would like to make a public appeal now that  Alex Talbott put in Venezuela top of his bidlist so the next season will be set in the Western Hemisphere.

The Brink’s 10-episode season premieres June 21 at 10:30PM on HBO.  Get your funny bones ready, or if you don’t have one, stay away from teevee this summer.

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