U.S. Ambassador to Poland Tweets Happy Passover Wishes, Angers Poles

 

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@StateDept Ups Sri Lanka Travel Advisory After Multiple Easter Sunday Explosions

 

On April 21, the State Department increased the Travel Advisory for Sri Lanka to Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) after multiple attacks throughout the country. Explosions reportedly occurred at  the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo and churches in Kochchikade, Katuwapitiya and Batticaloa; the blasts killed 290 people and wounded 500.  Arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing according to media reports.

The Advisory says in part:

Exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to terrorism. Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo also announced that it will be closed to the public on April 22. The American Center in Colombo & all American Spaces will also be closed. Emergency American Citizen Services will be available (see contact number below).  In a statement to the press, the secretary of state confirmed that “several U.S. citizens were among those killed” in Sri Lanka attacks,

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FSGB Case: Employee’s Mental Health Issues and Performance

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2016-043:

The Department denies that grievant’s 2013 EER is factually inaccurate, falsely prejudicial, or biased, and cites a series of interviews with her supervisors, subordinates, and colleagues to dispute her contentions about the unfairness and inaccuracy of the EER. In response to grievant’s allegation that she was inadequately counselled on the deficiencies described in her EER, the agency contends, based on statements from grievant’s rating officer, that she was in fact counselled, both formally and informally, during the rating period. With respect to grievant’s claim that she was bullied, ostracized, and treated unfairly by the Embassy community, which she alleges triggered her trauma symptoms, the Department provided input from the Ambassador, grievant’s rating officer, and the General Services officer, all of whom disputed grievant’s allegations.

In response to grievant’s claim that she suffered from then-undiagnosed mental health issues (including anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms), the Department counters with quotes from grievant’s rating officer who stated that “from the time REDACTED arrived at post, she appeared unhappy and talked of being stressed.” The rater recalled that some of her stress “appeared to be related to prior postings (including REDACTED, REDACTED, and REDACTED),” and said that “upon arrival she talked to me about how stressful she had found the 6 months of FSI [Foreign Service Institute] REDACTED language training, and told me she urgently needed a break.” The Department was not persuaded that grievant’s poor performance resulted from the medical condition with which grievant was diagnosed after she left REDACTED. The Department put less credence in the medical statement grievant provided from her post-REDACTED therapist, stating “grievant has not provided medical documentation substantiating her alleged diagnosis. Nor does grievant’s counselor provide such documentation; the counselor merely states that ‘I believe PTSD is the primary diagnosis.’”

FSGB BOARD:

In all grievances except those involving discipline, the grievant bears the burden of proving that her claims are meritorious.3 This case turns on whether the grievant’s EER is falsely prejudicial, and, whether any documented underperformance can be attributed to the grievant’s post-REDACTED diagnosis of mental health disorders. The Board notes that the record in this case is, unfortunately, sparse with respect to a diagnosis of grievant’s mental health issues. While the Department is correct in noting that grievant’s counselor noted only that “I believe that PTSD is the primary diagnosis,” the Department provides no opposing medical information whatsoever, relying solely on the observation of grievant’s Foreign Service colleagues in REDACTED.  Grievant’s licensed mental health counselor did in fact provide a detailed listing of grievant’s problems in REDACTED, and concluded that grievant suffered mental health disorders as a result thereof. We note that grievant’s counselor saw the grievant regularly over a period of more than a year. On balance, therefore, the Board is obliged to find grievant’s medical evidence preponderant. After careful examination of the ROP, the Board concludes that grievant’s 2013 EER cannot stand, because her performance during that period was likely influenced by her depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms. We base our conclusion largely on the detailed statement submitted by grievant’s Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), with whom grievant had at least 38 therapy sessions between April 2014 and August 2015, and to whom grievant was referred by a prior therapist who had diagnosed her with anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. In the Board’s view, this statement, written by a mental health professional who knows the grievant well, is entitled to more weight in the decision process than that of grievant’s rating and reviewing officers, or her colleagues at post. We also note that the Agency provided no contradictory medical opinion, or any information of a medical nature.

In her August 18, 2015, statement, grievant’s LPC states, in relevant parts:

She was referred to my center, the National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety, and Depression in Washington DC by a previous therapist who had diagnosed her with anxiety, depression, and Trauma Symptoms. She also sees REDACTED , MD for medications at this center. I believe PTSD is the primary diagnosis and the depression and anxiety are symptoms of the PTSD. REDACTED described primitive and unsanitary living conditions that caused her to feel unsafe. She reported unsanitary water in her apartment, unsafe electrical problems, and other living conditions that prevented sleep, peace and support. While in the workplace, she felt she was targeted, bullied and marginalized. Because of the combination of insecurity in her home, insecurity in her workplace, and the stress of an extremely stressful foreign environment, began to suffer from PTSD symptoms. She became depressed and hopeless, developed panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, developed nightmares, and generalized anxiety.

It is my understanding that her evaluations from this period faulted her for having strained relations with her subordinates, program participants, and peers in Washington, as well as difficulty making contacts in the REDACTED media and discomfort speaking to media on the record. I did not observe REDACTED during this period, so I do not have an opinion on the accuracy of these criticisms, but, if true, each would in my opinion be related to the various symptoms of her previously-undiagnosed and untreated anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms. 

I do not believe a patient can work with very seasoned therapists or psychiatrists and hide character issues as described in the accusations towards REDACTED. However, I do believe that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for REDACTED , while suffering the effects of PTSD, to maintain a high level of diplomacy, an ability to connect well with co-workers, and to utilize PR skills to connect at work well with the media.

Nightmares, panic attacks, depression, extreme fear, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and not feeling respected or supported would prevent most people from working at a level of excellence which, to my knowledge, had been true for REDACTED before her REDACTED posting. I believe REDACTED ’s behavior while in REDACTED was mischaracterized at most and misunderstood at the least. This is my opinion based on working with many patients who suffer from trauma-related symptoms. 

We find the foregoing LPC statement to be a detailed professional observation, based on relatively long-term (at least 16 months’) observation of grievant, and thus accord it more weight than we do the statements offered by the Department from non-medical providers (her rater, the General Services officer (GSO), the Ambassador, and grievant’s subordinates). While the statement does not contain a definite diagnosis of grievant’s symptoms, we note it is from a licensed medical professional, and is countered by the Department only with comments from non-medical co-workers and colleagues.

THE BOARD’S DECISION:

Grievant has shown by preponderant evidence that she suffered from the effects of then undiagnosed mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and potential Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during her tour in REDACTED and accordingly, her Employee Evaluation Report (EER) for 2013 must be expunged and replaced in her Official Personnel File (OPF) by a standard gap memorandum. Grievant has shown that she suffered from these conditions and that they affected her performance in ways that contributed to the negative statements in her EER. If she is not promoted by reconstituted Selection Boards for the years 2014 -2017, her Time in Class shall be extended by one year.

One more: “as a general matter, an EER is inherently false, even though it accurately describes an employee’s performance, if that poor performance was the result of the employee’s serious illness.”

Confirmations: Rosenblum(Uzbekistan), Scott (Malawi), Abizaid (Saudi Arabia), Tom (US/FAO)

 

On April 11, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following State Department nominations.

2019-04-11 PN138 Uzbekistan
Daniel N. Rosenblum, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Uzbekistan.

2019-04-11 PN263 Malawi
Robert K. Scott, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Malawi.

2019-04-10 PN103 Saudi Arabia
John P. Abizaid, of Nevada, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

2019-04-11 PN144 UN/FAO
Kip Tom, of Indiana, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

For a list of nominees cleared by SFRC and awaiting full Senate confirmation, please click here.

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#CycloneIdai Affects Over a Million People in #Mozambique, #Zimbabwe & #Malawi

 

Secretary of State Pompeo: It’s “possible” Trump sent by God to save Jewish people from Iran

 

Transcript: 03/21/19 Interview With Chris Mitchell and David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network;  Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo; David Citadel Hotel; Jerusalem

QUESTION:  Okay.  Look where you are today.  But your faith has informed your views, clearly.  And not only that, but you’re not shy to talk about it.  And I’m wondering about how that – how that really manifests in your life.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So of course my mission as a Secretary of State, the thing I rose my – raised my right hand to do, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And I’ve done that now a handful of times – first as a soldier, then as a member of Congress, then as the director of the CIA, now as Secretary of State.  But in each of those missions, the task that I have is informed by my understanding of my faith, my belief in Jesus Christ as the savior.  It doesn’t drive answers and outcomes every day; we all as Christians are searching.  But it does inform how I try to treat every human being with dignity and respect in ways that Christians ought to.  I don’t always live up to that standard, but it does inform the way I think about the world.  I think that makes a real difference, and so I want people to know.  It’s why I talk about it from to time.  I want folks to know the perspective that I am bringing to the challenges in the job that I face, and it also requires me to try to hold myself to the standards that Christians hold themselves out for.

QUESTION:  And you also mentioned a Bible story last night when you had your statements with the prime minister.  Today’s being Purim, a celebration.  Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman.  And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran.  Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  As a Christian I certainly believe that’s possible.  It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains.  I am confident that the Lord is at work here.

@StateDept Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia @usembassyjkt

 

Via State Department: 03/19/19 The Department of State Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia

As a display of our enduring friendship and important partnerships with Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R. Donovan Jr., Chargé d’affaires for the U.S. Mission to ASEAN Jane Bocklage, and Director of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Addison D. “Tad” Davis IV, along with Indonesian Government officials, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia today.

The new complex provides a secure, modern, sustainable, and resilient platform for U.S. diplomacy in Indonesia and the ASEAN region.

Davis Brody Bond Architects and Planners of New York, New York is the design architect for the project and Page of Washington, D.C. is the architect of record. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama constructed the facility.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 154 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 49 projects in design or under construction.

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Ambassador Donovan notes that “This celebration comes at a very opportune time, as this year we are also celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties between the United States and Indonesia. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize Indonesia’s independence, establishing our first embassy on December 28, 1949. When President Truman appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, H. Merle Cochran, he reaffirmed U.S. support welcoming Indonesia into the “community of free nations.”

He added that architects and designers took into consideration Jakarta’s climate and that the building uses the latest in environmental sustainability features that reduces energy consumption. The covered walkways are topped with solar panels  and the exterior metal sunshades limit sun exposure and reduce the demand for air conditioning. The building’s design reportedly also incorporates water conservation strategies to irrigate the green landscaped areas by collecting and re-using storm run-off.

The primary building is finished but the State Department is also constructing a heritage building on the site used by a Republic of Indonesia delegation during negotiations for Indonesia’s independence with the Dutch in 1949. It is estimated that the completion of that building as well as a consular pavilion will occur by the end of 2019.

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Mystery Illness: @StateDept Raising Doubt About 14 China Cases #TheThing

 

We’ve blogged previously about the mystery illness that was reported to have afflicted USG employees in China (U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou – What’s Going On?Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs; Yo! The Thing. Still Going on in China?)

Last night, CBS/60Minutes did a segment on the health attacks in China. Back in July  2018, WaPo wrote about Mark Lenzi whose access to the building at post was reportedly restricted after he “began to speak up more forcefully about the treatment of his family.” Recap below: USCG Guangzhou Security Engineering Officer Mark Lenzi Disputes State Department Statement on Mystery Illness

On June 6, WaPo wrote about Mark Lenzi and his family who  started noticing noises in April 2017 at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China. “A few months later, the headaches started — pain that lasted for days at a time. Lenzi and his wife experienced the same symptoms, which soon included chronic sleeplessness as well. Lenzi says he asked his superiors for help but they dismissed his concerns. Consulate doctors prescribed painkillers and Ambien, which did nothing to address the underlying causes of the problem. And then, last month, Lenzi was shocked to learn another neighbor, a fellow Foreign Service officer, had been evacuated from their building and flown back to the United States for a thorough medical assessment, which soon determined that the person in question was suffering from “mild traumatic brain injury.”  

They gave him painkillers and Ambien but medevaced the FSO next door?

The State Department reportedly issued a statement but said it is unaware of any other cases — a point “strongly disputed by Lenzi, who insists he had repeatedly informed both the embassy in Beijing and State Department headquarters in Washington of his family’s predicament.”  Lenzi, who has reportedly called for the resignation of the US Ambassador to Beijing  told WaPo that the State Department “restricted his access to the building where he normally worked after he began to speak up more forcefully about the treatment of his family, essentially neutralizing his capacity to continue his work at the consulate”.

We understand that Mark Lenzi is a specialist who was assigned as a Security Engineering Officer (SEO) in Guangzhou until he and his family were evacuated from post. Given the reported restriction to post access for speaking out about this incident, this is a case that bears watching.

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60Minutes notes that “for reasons that are unclear, the State Department is raising doubt about the other 14 China cases. Click here for the transcript of the State Department segment.

In addition to Mark Lenzi, also on camera were U.S. Commerce Department trade officer Catherine Werner,  trade officer Robyn Garfield and wife Britta who were posted in Shanghai, and former NSA employee Mark Lenzi who believed that the weapon used is a radio frequency energy, in the microwave range.

A clue that supports that theory was revealed by the National Security Agency in 2014. This NSA statement describes such a weapon as a “high-powered microwave system weapon that may have the ability to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time without leaving evidence.” The statement goes on to say “…this weapon is designed to bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves.” The NSA disclosed this in a worker’s compensation case filed by former NSA employee Mike Beck.

Also:  “The State Department declined an interview, but in a statement to 60 Minutes it said, “We will continue to provide our colleagues the care they need, regardless of their diagnosis or the location of their medical evacuation.” A State Department official told us that the Cuba patients are victims of an attack. But State hasn’t made the same determination for the China patients. The department has asked the National Academies of Science to assist in the medical investigation.”

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Pompeo Announces Departure of All Remaining U.S. Embassy Caracas Diplomats From Venezuela

 

On March 14, Secretary Pompeo announced the “temporary” departure of all remaining US Embassy Caracas diplomats from Venezuela. He also said that “We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins. ”

Two days ago, the State Department reissued its Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory after the March 11, 2019 announcement of temporary suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and withdrawal of diplomatic personnel in Venezuela. The advisory cautions American travelers to  “not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention.”

Keep the local staffers in your thoughts, personnel withdrawal does not include the local employees. See CDA James Story video here with a message to the people of Venezuela.

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Ethiopian Airlines #302 Crashes Near Addis, Boeing 737 MAX 8 Grounded Around the World