FSO Morgan O’Brien Launches DiploSport Podcast on Sports Diplomacy

Posted: 1:03 am ET

 

If you’re taking a road trip, and are looking for something to listen to in the car, check out the DiploSport Podcast. FSO Morgan O’Brien spent the past year studying sports diplomacy as part of a fellowship sponsored by the Council of Foreign Relations and the NBA. For his research, he interviewed journalists, policy makers and athletes to discuss the interplay of sports and government.

The first episode features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his inaugural guest (full transcript here). Others featured in the podcast include Norwegian speedskating legend and Olympic champion, Dr. Johann Olav Koss, founder of Right to Play (bit.ly/JOKossRtP) an organization which uses sport to connect with youth around the globe who face some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable; 3x American skeleton Olympian Katie Uhlaender who is preparing for the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018; Ruth Riley who served as a State Department Sports Envoy, and an NBA Cares Ambassador; and two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan who also did a stint as a State Department Sports Envoy. He told us that he started interviewing earlier this year and have about 20 podcasts in the can.

The podcast host is a Public Diplomacy officer who joined the Foreign Service in 2009 (146th A-100). He was  Ambassador Holbrooke’s assistant for his first tour, and he did a consular tour in Brazzaville.  When he came back to the State Department, he worked at the Sports Diplomacy Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). For the past 12 months, he was attached to the National Basketball Association’s International Operations team and had the opportunity to study sports diplomacy.  He is currently in language training in preparation for his next assignment to an East Asia post. We asked him a few questions about this project:

Q: How were you able to get a fun fellowship like this?

MO: This past year, I was on the International Affairs Fellowship through the Council on Foreign Relations, so this wasn’t a formalized “sports diplomacy/NBA Fellowship,” per se. I first pitched the idea to the NBA, with whom I had worked the previous two years when I was in ECA. When they agreed to the concept, I put together a written proposal for the CFR, which was then followed by a panel interview before ultimately being accepted. Since I applied, two things I think have changed: one of the stipulations was that applicants needed to be under 35, I think that’s no longer the case; and I think there is an extra level of State vetting now. Whereas I sent my proposal directly to the CFR, I think this year’s applicants need to be approved by HR before submitting to the CFR.

If one gets creative in canvassing the bid list, they’ll find that the Department can be fantastic about enabling/empowering officers to pursue opportunities outside State, including awesome fellowships (the Una Chapman Cox Fellowship is another incredible, self-paced opportunity). And while I don’t know how it was done, there are officers actually working on international affairs for a few mayor’s offices in a handful of major cities in the US.

Q: What was it like working with the NBA team?

MO: I was a fully-integrated member of the NBA team for the year, fulfilling a childhood dream of working in pro sports. I supported the All Star Game (held in Toronto) and the “Basketball Without Borders” elite youth camps held around the world this past summer. I learned a ton about the decision-making process of a multi-billion dollar organization, and was pretty blown away by their sincere commitment to social responsibility programming. At State, we should also be proud to know that the NBA really relies on us around the world as subject matter experts and partners. There are dozens of Posts with whom we worked throughout the year—whether it be for women/girls-centered programming in Latvia and Ethiopia or to help demystify the visa process for the families of our players in Serbia or Congo.

Q: What did you learn from this private sector experience?

MO: The private sector exposure was fantastic. I’m bringing back to State a wealth of knowledge in monitoring and evaluation and emphasizing efficiency. I do have to admit that the time away also reinforced my love for the Foreign Service, our mission and our wonderful colleagues. My private sector teammates always found it fascinating that we get to travel the world on behalf of the country, and were every bit as interested in what we do day-to-day as I was of their work.

Morgan O’Brien’s views/opinions expressed on the blog/podcasts are not necessarily those of the State Department.

Check out the diplosport links below and while you’re at it, you might also check @SportsDiplomacy, the official Twitter account of exchanges.state.gov/sports

Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/diplosport

iTunes: http://bit.ly/DiploSport

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2bUgvdI

Blog: http://www.diplosport.com/blog/

#

 

 

Ambassador Klemm Holds Banned #Szekler Flag in Romania, Reportedly Just Want to Be Polite

Posted: 3:35 pm ET

 

A couple of years ago, the Hungarian Spectrum posted about The War of the Flags: Diplomatic Spat Over Szekler Territorial Autonomy. A diplomatic spat over a flag. Today, the AP reports on the controversy involving the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and the same flag, the Szekler flag.

On September 14, the US Embassy in Bucharest (@AmbasadaSUA) tweeted a photo of the visit to Sfântu Gheorghe by the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and his wife.  They did not post the controversial photo of the ambassador with the flag but it was posted on Facebook by the mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe, Antal Arpad according to social media coverage. The media has not been friendly. This one says that “It is time to get over an alleged ignorance of the American ambassador vis-a-vis historical realities in Transylvania. The gesture should be seen rather as a premeditated one.” Read more about the Székely land  here.

The Romani Journal citing realitatea.net says that US Ambassador Hans Klemm said that the only flags that matter to him are the US’s and Romania’s.  He reportedly added that the photo was taken within a context when he only wanted to be polite.

Well, now… imagine if we have the Russian, Chinese, German or Indian Ambassador in Washington show up in Texas holding the flag of Texit or Texas Secede! advocates then telling the press he/she was just being polite.

We’ll have back to back hearings in Congress, our elected folks would refused to go home to campaign during the election season. Right.

The Romania Journal also notes the FB post: Antal Arpad wrote on Facebook: “I offered the US Ambassador as gift the flag of the Szekler community, which has become the symbol of authorities’ disrespect towards the Szekler community. I mention that this flag was first used in 1599, when the Szeklers fought alongside Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave – ruler of Wallachia 1593-1601, the first ruler to unite the three historical provinces of Romania – our note).”

Below is the embassy’s response to Romanian media roiled by the photograph.  Via The Romania Journal as it is not available on the embassy page:

In a release as reply to the information in the media, the US Embassy says that Ambassador Hans Klemm is the US Ambassador for entire Romania. He is periodically travelling through the country, he meets various groups from all the areas of Romanian society. As ally and strategic partner of Romania, the United States support and greet the democracy in Romania and Romania’s efforts to consolidate the democratic institutions with the full and balanced participation of all segments of society, the embassy said.

The 2015 Human Right Report says that the ethnic Hungarian population is approximately 1.2 million.  Also the following:

Ethnic Hungarians also complained of obstructions and bans against the use of the regional Szekler flag and symbols. In March local authorities in Targu Mures rejected the National Szekler Council’s request to hold a march to celebrate the Szeklers’ Freedom Day on March 10 and commemorate five Szekler martyrs.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related to their ability to use the Hungarian language. In August the political umbrella group Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania released a report on the government’s implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The report asserted that ethnic Hungarians were not permitted to use Hungarian in courts or administrative matters and that many municipalities did not use bilingual signs. The report claimed that courts obstructed the financing of Hungarian-language newspapers by local authorities and that the government continued to refuse to establish a public Hungarian-language university. The report also noted there were insufficient Hungarian-language cultural institutions and translations of Hungarian-language literature in the country.

In the region of Moldavia, the Roman Catholic, Hungarian-speaking Csango minority continued to operate government-funded Hungarian language classes. In some other localities, authorities denied requests for Hungarian language classes.

#

 

 

A Shared Love For Jazz: Kyrgyz Republic’s Jazz Band ‘Salt Peanuts’ Performs at the Kennedy Center

Posted: 12:06 am ET

 

The Republic of Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. The United States recognized Kyrgyzstan’s independence on December 25, 1991. Diplomatic relations were also established on December 25, 1991, when President George H.W. Bush announced the decision in an address to the nation regarding the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The American Embassy in Bishkek was established on February 1, 1992, with Edmund McWilliams as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

This year, the Kyrgyz Republic celebrates its 25th Independence Day and 25 year of diplomatic relations with the United States. Below is Kyrgyz’s Salt Peanuts performing at the Kennedy Center on September 10. A shared love for jazz, have a listen — they’re awesome!

 

 

#

 

 

Saudi Jewelry Gifts Questions: @StateDept Retains Gifts for the U.S. Diplomacy Center Collection

Posted: 3:30 am ET

Some questions have been raised about the gifts from Saudi Arabia, particularly a few specific, high valued items given to Secretary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  We’ve asked the State Department about this, and we were told that one gift is pending transfer to the GSA but three have been retained for the U.S. Diplomacy Center (@DiplomacyCenter) collection.  The United States Diplomacy Center which is scheduled to be completed in 2016 is a public private initiative which will include some 6,000 diplomatic artifacts  — via:

The Department of State is providing the space, staff and security, while the private sector will provide the funds to design and build the 40,000 sq. ft. facility. The Center includes a 20,000 sq. ft. exterior Pavilion and its informative exhibits about today’s Department of State in Hall 1, the Founding Ambassador Concourse below Hall I, and two interior Halls both of 10,000 sq. ft. each: one chronicling the history of the American diplomacy, and the other focusing on education. The USDC is located at the Department of State building on 21st Street at Virginia Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. Visit the USDC website www.Diplomacy.State.gov for information on the progress and developments of the creation of the United States Diplomacy Center.

The following response from a State Department spokesperson:

Per GSA guidelines, there is no timeline for reporting gifts of more than minimal value to GSA after they’ve been received. The Department of State reports all gifts of more than minimal value annually in the Federal Register and generally biannually directly to GSA when doing a transfer of gifts. The Department transfers the maximum quantity of gifts GSA has the capacity to accept.

When a gift is no longer being used for official use, it must be reported within 30 days to the Office of the Chief of Protocol, to pend transfer to GSA.

‎All four gifts in question are in the possession of the Department of State. The first three are in official use, as part of the collection of the U.S. Diplomacy Center. The final is being stored and pending transfer to GSA, and will be transferred when GSA has the ability to accept it.‎‎

Here are some gifts currently included in the Diplomacy Center’s online collection:

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

 

#

British Diplomats of the Future — More Like ’24’ or ‘Spooks’? Read ‘Future FCO’ Report

Posted: 9:31 am PT

This is an interesting read; may require registration/subscription via ft.com:

Last year, there was a discussion at Chathamhouse on 21st Century Diplomats: The Changing Role of British Diplomats. Below is an excerpt from Ambassador Tom Fletcher’s talk:

I recently put in a very audacious and cheeky bid for a senior position in the Foreign Office and part of my application was to say, I think my age may be a problem. Up front, I think my age is a problem, I think I’m too old for the job. My point was that in so many of the countries that we’re now trying to influence, and this was one of them, as one of the bigger emerging economies, the people that we most need to get to are actually much younger than me. So we need to reflect on that as we work out how to engage with those new groups.
[…]
Diplomats have always been told they’re about to go out of business and we have always found ways to evolve. It’s a Darwinian profession and we have found ways to move forward and use new tools and that’s what we’re going to do in this phase. The basic qualities of a diplomat through that period, I would argue, haven’t really changed that much either. I’ve been writing recently about the history of diplomacy and consistently find that the people who make good diplomats tend to have a certain amount of courage, tend to have a certain amount of tact and can probably eat anything. That will be the case for diplomats in 100 years’ time as it was for diplomats 200 years ago and beyond.
[…]
The scientists tell us that the change that we’ll see in the next century is equivalent in sociological terms to the change we’ve seen in the last 43 centuries. So imagine that’s like going from the cave painting to the atom bomb in three generations of diplomats. This change as we’re seeing in all sorts of industries is disruptive. It is going to put a lot of businesses out of business. It’s going to put a lot of states out of business, though not I would argue states altogether. It’s going to put a lot of ideas out of business and for all of us who care about diplomacy, we have to make sure that we’re not one of those businesses that is disrupted.

The FCO has just released the Future FCO report by Ambassador Fletcher. Give it a read below or read here (PDF) to see what’s in store for the cousins across the pond.

The Future FCO report notes that the skills mix required to deliver successful diplomacy is changing. In 2020 and beyond, it will need to retain and bolster the FCO’s traditional strengths: geographical and multilateral expertise; languages; policy-making; networking, influencing and negotiating. By 2020, the FCO will also need to build or strengthen the following skills: Programme; open source data; digital diplomacy; stabilisation and mediation, particularly in volatile and/or ungoverned space; smarter use of cross-Whitehall resource, including financial, economic, diplomatic, intelligence and legal measures (as pioneered by the ‘full spectrum’ approach on security issues); working with business and non-state actors.

#

U.S. Embassy Minsk: A Visit to the Chernobyl Alienation Zone in Gomel Oblast

Posted: 2:59 am ET

 

Next week the world will mark the 30th year since the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were reportedly evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. About 60% of the fallout is said to have landed in Belarus.

Via: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located ten kilometers from the border with Belarus. This neighborhood has identified extremely high pollution southern areas of Belarus by radioactive materials that were released from the destroyed nuclear reactor in 1996. Almost from the first day of the accident republic territory contaminated by fallout from that April 27 was extremely intense. By April 29 the wind bore radioactive dust from Chernobyl in Belarus and Russia. Due to heavy contamination was evacuated 24,725 people from the Belarusian villages and three districts of the Republic of Belarus was declared mandatory exclusion zone.

Click here to see the map of the predictive contamination in Belarus from 1986 until 2046.

From U.S. Embassy Minsk’s historical photos:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23

Deputy Chief of Mission Constance Phlipot visits the Chernobyl alienation zone in Gomel Oblast. February 2005

We should note the following about the US presence in Belarus via US Embassy Minsk: Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The imposed reduction in staff has greatly impeded the Embassy’s ability to carry out mutually beneficial diplomatic programs and activities, including cultural and educational exchanges, assistance programs, and visa services.

 

#

America’s War Machine: If you think @StateDept runs American foreign policy … (book excerpt)

Posted: 3:04 am ET

 

James H. McCartney had covered every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton. McCartney covered the White House, the State department, the Pentagon and relevant committees on Capitol Hill. He reported from about 30 countries, including Vietnam, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and Europe. After retirement from daily journalism, he taught courses in foreign policy and politics at Georgetown University. McCartney’s papers, including about 4,000 of his articles, are in the Special Collections Research Center at Georgetown University’s Lauringer Library.

Molly Sinclair McCartney worked as a newspaper reporter more than 25 years, including 14 years at the Washington Post. In 2012 she was appointed a Woodrow Wilson Public Scholar in Washington D.C. to do the research and interviews needed to finish America’s War Machine.

“You knew, if you were a government spokesman, that you’d better have it straight and you’d better have the facts, because he’d keep coming at you…He was not there to enhance the government. He was there to inform the people. I didn’t know anyone I respected more than Jim.” ―Hodding Carter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and State Department spokesman

Book excerpt from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts, courtesy of Amazon Kindle:

This embed is invalid

 

Related items:

 

 

#

Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading for delegates this summer?

Posted: 12:32 am EDT

 

According to Fox News, delegates become “unbound” and are free to support other contenders as soon as their candidate withdraws.

Rubio, in suspending his campaign after his home-state Florida loss, leaves 169 delegates behind. Ben Carson accrued eight delegates before he dropped out of the race, while Jeb Bush picked up four. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul each picked up one in Iowa.

And if either Ted Cruz or John Kasich drop out in the weeks ahead — and Donald Trump still has not clinched the nomination with the necessary 1,237 delegates — additional zombie delegates could be in play in Cleveland.
[…]
They would become essentially free agents, prizes to be wooed by the candidates duking it out in Cleveland.
[…]
In the 1976 Republican convention, it was the unbound delegates moving toward President Gerald Ford instead of Ronald Reagan that handed Ford the nomination that year. Ford held a slight lead going into the convention, but was shy of an outright majority.In part by using the power of the White House, with promises of visits and patronage to woo over delegates, Ford won the nomination on the first ballot, by a slim 60 votes.

In addition to these “zombie” delegates, there are apparently also 112 Republican delegates who are “unbound” because their states and territories – North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam – hold no primaries or caucuses. According to Real Clear Politics, delegates are chosen at state convention without reference to voters’ views on the presidential candidates.

Below is a link to a video clip with Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who has served as counsel to the Republican National Committee and several presidential campaigns talking on MSNBC.  He explains what happens to Marco Rubio’s delegates now that the candidate has suspended his campaign, and the role that unbound delegates play in the Republican primary process. It looks like promises and patronage can play a big part in wooing over delegates. Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading as candidates duke it out in Cleveland this summer?  Oh boy!  “A lot of ambassadorships out there and some 1500 Schedule C jobs.” See the great legal question and the answer.  Watch at the 1:59 mark.

The video can also be viewed here on MSNBC.

 

#

President Obama Visits #Cuba, First Visit By Sitting POTUS Since 1928

Posted: 5:49 pm EDT

 

According to NYT, former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba twice after he left office, in 2002 and 2011. President Obama’s visit today is the first visit by a sitting president in 88 years. In January 1928, President Calvin Coolidge attended the Pan American Conference in Havana. He rode the presidential railcar to Key West and then boarded the battleship USS Texas and set sail for Havana. This is also a first for Air Force One.

 

#

 

The Obama Doctrine — @JeffreyGoldberg’s Atlantic Interview, Read the Responses

Posted: 8:01 pm EDT
Updated: March 14, 5:01 EDT

 

 

Also this —

And this —

 

And over in Foggy Bottom, Mr. Kirby got a grilling. A quick excerpt below. Click here to read the transcript of the entire briefing

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t think that people are confused about what U.S. foreign policy objectives are?

MR KIRBY: I – look, there are constant discussions we have every day with foreign leaders about what we’re trying to achieve. And I can’t – I’m not going to lie and say that there isn’t disagreement.

QUESTION: Good.

MR KIRBY: That people don’t necessarily see things the same way we do, or that people – that there’s some – maybe some leaders that want more information than maybe we’re willing or able to give them. I mean, obviously, we have an obligation as well. And I don’t know how much we’ve talked in this room about operational security in light of the – making all those emails public. We have an obligation to protect sensitive information, and that’s how you look after the American people.

But in general and in the main, the art of diplomacy and achieving foreign policy objectives is through conversation and dialogue and as much transparency as possible. And don’t sit here and tell me that this is not a transparent institution here at the State Department. I mean, we brief every single day. You are able to come in here every day and harangue and harass me, and I keep standing up here and taking it because that’s what we do. We are accountable to not just the American people, but to people all around the world for what we’re doing.

QUESTION: You – yes, you —

MR KIRBY: And we’re not afraid to answer these tough questions.

QUESTION: Well, when you answer the questions, though, you don’t often give substantive answers.

#