Goodbye 2020, a Most Cruel Year!

 

This has been a difficult year for us but harder for those who are facing empty chairs across their tables this year and harder still for those who will never get to hug their loved ones again. We have been lucky that while a few loved ones contracted coronavirus earlier this year, they all mercifully recovered from the illness.
However, the dark clouds hovering us all as we watch the deaths continue to set gruesome records have been inescapable. Of course, it is not just the coronavirus though, and it’s not just just one thing happening, but many things happening all at once. And none of them any good.  How did we get to become a full candidate for the Banana Republic Pageant? We try not to blog while angry, and holy moly macaroni, it turns out that’s really hard!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to check how we’re holding up and for helping keep our spirits up.  We are grateful for your kind thoughts even if we have not been the best of correspondents the last several months. Frankly, we don’t know yet what to do next year.  In about another three months, we would have been blogging for 13 years. We are wondering if we can still make a difference or if we have reached the end of the line here.
For readers sending us stuff even for the Burn Bag, please do not send us attachments unless we have agreed in advance to accept them. We regret that unsolicited attachments will not be opened for prudent reasons.
For readers looking for jobs with the incoming Biden Administration, please direct your inquiries to the Biden Transition website. This blog has no official connection to the Transition and we are not able to respond to every query.

Also the Consular Affairs Saga Continues

Meanwhile, at the State Department, a CA-EX-Special-Assistant announced that Mora Namdar “will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau until a new Assistant Secretary has been appointed.” Career FSO Ian Brownlee apparently will continue to serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. So with just 20 days to go to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Pompeo’s State Department had to bring in someone from the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to become Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs! Makes you turn your head sideways and asks, why, the why is this even happening? (Also see Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint, Sept 29, 2020 PDF).
The less-than 50 word announcement was actually missing a crucial part. The acting assistant secretary is a political appointee and will be required to step down by January 20 when the Biden administration takes office. Somebody please correct this asap before folks get the wrong impression (Also see CA’s Carl Risch Reportedly Quit Over the Weekend, Decamps to DOJ).

@StateDept Gets Yin and Yang on China

And while the outgoing secretary of state has been talking China, China, China on social media, we understand that the State Department has been fairly quiet about the treatment of U.S. diplomats and family members returning to their assignments in China. U.S. diplomats are apparently not allowed to home quarantine. We understand that all returning staff must spend 2 weeks in a Chinese government owned hotel, with families separated with men put in one room and women and children in another — “one dirty hotel room for two weeks” with apparently, no kitchenette, or laundry. This is just one more test to show how USG employees can make the best of a bad situation? Excuse me, even small children and babies must learn to make the best of a bad situation, too? 
State Department employees and family members going to China are reportedly required to get both a nasal swab and antibody blood test within 48 hours of leaving the United States. They are tested again upon arrival at the airport by the host government;  then tested again on the 13th day of their quarantine. The question then becomes — why are our diplomats not allowed home quarantine? Is the United States placing Chinese diplomats on USG quarantine upon arrival here for their diplomatic assignments?  
OFM’s Diplomatic Note 20-162 notes that the United States suspended entry of individuals from China but “Notably, the entry suspension is not applicable to individual foreign mission members seeking entry into or who are transiting the United States on A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visas. However, even with respect to exempted individuals such as the visa holders listed above, such individuals may be medically screened, and where appropriate quarantined for up to a 14-day period to prevent the spread of the virus.”
CDC guidance for international travelers as of today says that “CDC does not require that international travelers undergo mandatory federal quarantine, but does recommend travelers do the following after an international flight-Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel; Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days; If your test is positive or you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected and follow public health recommendations; If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.”
So why is the State Department fine with subjecting our diplomats to Chinese quarantine? Is somebody just filing this under the “needs of the service” folder? Psst! Wake up!

The New Kid in the Block Is Still Happening? 

Did we hear correctly that there is a congressional hold for the creation of a new bureau of Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) at the State Department? Oh, but alas, the State Department hasn’t really paid that much attention to Congress, has it?  So just nah, apparently, they went ahead with the creation of this new bureau in the waning days of Pompeo’s Foggy Bottom tenure? What the what? Real oversight in the Senate has been almost non-existent the last few years. Do not be shocked if the GOP somehow keeps the majority, and the good senators suddenly find their jello spines miraculously strengthened in the new season. There may even be righteous orations from those exercising their vocal cords and flexing their secret/not so secret ambitions. (Also see New @StateDept Bureau to Take $26 Million, Plus 98 Staffers From the Medical Services  Bureau).

Pray Tell, Who/What Lighted the Damn Fire Under State/OBO?

Well, the sale of the ambassador’s residence made news back in summer. But why was State/OBO in a hurry to sell this property? We were told recently, “We do not have a new residence to replace it.  We are paying for a splendid suite at the King David in the meantime.” Oh, golly, something else for State/OIG to look into, hey?  Wait, the THIRD acting inspector general had also left? How many inspectors general and acting inspectors general have now been lost in the span of just 12 months? This is a record to beat, yes?
It’s a good thing we just have a few more days to go. We can’t stand any more darn records to break!
This was a close call, wasn’t it?  Let’s hope 2021 will be a kinder year, and will not make our lives any shorter than it already it.  Stay well. Sending air hugs to all who needs it!
–DS

 

 

 

Help Former Diplomat Richard Boly Get to SXSW2020 For Migration Crisis Project

Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.  SXSW remains a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn and share ideas. The 2020 SXSW Conference & Festivals will be on March 13-22 in Austin, TX
Former U.S. diplomat, Richard Boly has a proposal to be in the Festival.  Proposals will be open to the public for voting and commentary from August 5-23, 2019.
PanelPicker is a session proposal platform that gives the SXSW community a significant voice in programming conference activities (presentations, panels, discussions, demonstrations, etc.) for SXSW and SXSW EDU. Prospective speakers submit their session ideas to PanelPicker, then the community, SXSW Advisory Board and SXSW staff choose the best proposals.
Public voting accounts for about 30% of the decision-making process for SXSW and SXSW EDU programming. Feedback from the SXSW Programming Committee (or the SXSW EDU Advisory Board) and SXSW staff is also taken into account, with a weight of 40% and 30% respectively.

 

Speakers

 

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Maduro Breaks U.S. Diplomatic Relations, PNGs Diplomats But — USG Now Recognizes Guaido as Venezuela President

Posted: 1:05 pm PST

 

What happens next?

On January 23, 2019, Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro  decided to break diplomatic relations with the U.S. government. Apparently, the U.S. diplomats in Venezuela have  72 hours to leave the country. The announcement follows President Trump’s recognition of the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. As one diplomat points out, if the United States remove its remaining diplomats within 72 hours, that would be a recognition that the Maduro Government is still in power. But if the U.S. doesn’t, what happens then? What protection does the mission gets from the host government that it no longer recognizes?

For now, it looks like there are protests breaking out, and a battle on the Wikipedia page on who is the president of Venezuela is ongoing. This could easily spin out of control beyond that.

The US Embassy in Caracas is currently headed by Jimmy Story, the Chargé d’ Affaires, a.i. who arrived in Caracas in July 2018 from Rio de Janeiro where he served as Consul General.  His previous assignments include Office Director of the INL for the Western Hemisphere, Director of INL Office in Bogota, Colombia, Senior Civilian Representative to in Southeastern Afghanistan, and Political-Economic Chief and Deputy Principal Officer in São Paulo, Brazil.

On January 16, 2019, the State Department issued a “Level 3 Reconsider Travel” advisory for Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. Also the folowing:

There are shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 ‘Avoid Nonessential Travel’ notice on May 15, 2018 due to inadequate healthcare and the breakdown of the medical infrastructure in Venezuela. Consular access to detained U.S. citizens who also have Venezuelan nationality is severely restricted by the Venezuelan government and the U.S. Embassy may not receive access in these cases.

Security forces have arbitrarily detained U.S. citizens for long periods. The U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.
[…]
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services in certain neighborhoods in Caracas as U.S. government personnel and their families are subject to travel restrictions for their safety and well-being.

to be updated in a bit …

RIP Tony Mendez #CanadianCaper #Argo

Posted: 3:34 am EST

 

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Pens Farewell Message to Pentagon and Troops

Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit

 

On June 29, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia James Melville announced on Facebook his intent to retire from the Foreign Service after 33 years of public service. See US Ambassador to Estonia James Melville Pens Resignation on FB Over Trump Policies.  On October 3, WaPo published his op-ed explaining his departure.

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Snapshot: Top 15 Recipients of U.S. Foreign Assistance, FY2019 Request

Via CRS: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations | April 18, 2018 – August 9, 2018:

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Trump to Nominate Marie Royce to be Asst Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs #HFAC

Posted: 3:16  am ET

 

On January 3, the WH announced the nomination of Marie Royce to be the next Assistant Secretary of State (Educational and Cultural Affairs). Ms. Royce is the wife of Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  HFAC has oversight of the State Department. The WH released the following brief bio:

Marie Royce of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Educational and Cultural Affairs). Ms. Royce, a businesswoman and former professor, has been the CEO and Principal of Marie Royce, LLC in Fullerton, California since 2016.  She has more than 30 years of experience in the private sector with Fortune 500 companies and as a small business owner, creating and launching start-ups and new initiatives and serving as a key business liaison to 80 countries.  As a former educator and full-time university professor, Ms. Royce led an international grant program between two universities.  She is a private sector appointee on the Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP) at the Department of State and has served on two U.S. Cultural Exchange Boards.  She served as an American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) delegate to Hungary & Poland.

Ms. Royce earned a B.S. and B.A. at California State Polytechnic University and an M.B.A. at Georgetown University.  She speaks Spanish.

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SFRC Clears Bass (AFG), Manchester (Bahamas), King (Czech), McFarland (Singapore), Gingrich (Holy See), and More

Posted: 1:30 pm PT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

On September 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominees. The nominations will now go to the full Senate for a vote:

John R. Bass, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Stephen B. King, of Wisconsin, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Czech Republic.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.

The panel also cleared Steve Mnuchin as U.S. Goveror for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the IMF:

Steven T. Mnuchin, of California, to be United States Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United States Governor of the African Development Fund, and United States Governor of the Asian Development Bank, vice Jacob Joseph Lew, resigned.

Steven T. Mnuchin, of California, to be United States Governor of the International Monetary Fund, United States Governor of the African Development Bank, United States Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank, and United States Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of five years, vice Jacob Joseph Lew, resigned.

The following nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

Barbara Lee, of California, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Christopher Smith, of New Jersey, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Previously, the Senate panel also cleared the following nominees. As far as we can tell, these nominees are pending on the Executive Calendar and the full Senate has yet to put these nominations to a vote:

Callista L. Gingrich, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. Jul 27, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador. Aug 03, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations. Aug 03, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

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USCG Montreal Consul General Nina Maria Fite to be U.S. Ambassador to Angola

Posted: 2:12 am ET
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On September 2, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Nina Maria Fite to be U.S. Ambassador to Angola. The WH released the following brief bio:

Nina Maria Fite of Pennsylvania to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola. Ms. Fite, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1990. She is currently Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal, Canada, a position she has held since 2014. Ms. Fite is known for her leadership skills, knowledge of Angola, and strong record promoting United States trade and foreign direct investment, including as a negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. She has served at seven United States Missions overseas and in senior leadership positions at the Department of State. Ms. Fite earned an M.S. at the National Defense University, an M.B.A. at Thunderbird School of Global Management and a B.Arch. at Carnegie-Mellon University. She speaks Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Hungarian.

 

Photo via USCG Lahore/FB

 

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