US Embassy Havana: To Cuba, to Cuba — here are five things you should know before you go

Posted: 3:20 am ET

Are you planning a trip to Cuba? Here are five things you should know before you go; put together by US Embassy Havana:

 

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An American Diplomat in Poland With His Red “Baby”, a Fiat 126 From the 70’s

Posted: 1:32 am ET

Below is a video from U.S. Embassy Warsaw featuring one of our consular officers driving around Poland in his Maluch, a Fiat 126 which was introduced at the Turin Auto show in 1972. The car was manufactured in Poland until 2000 and was exported to many Eastern bloc countries. In Poland, it is called  called Maluch, which means “small one”, baby or toddler. It is known as kispolszki (“little Polish”) in Hungary, Bolha (“flea”) in Slovenia, Bambino in Germany,  “Polaquito” in Cuba and Peglica (“little iron”) in Serbia.

This guy’s a natural, hey!  The video has walk on parts by other embassy employees, as well as the Ambassador to Poland Paul Jones. We don’t speak Polish but it looks like he’s having fun explaining why he loves his red “baby.” Apparently the Poles love him–the video is all over the local news outlets.  Already interviewed on the morning news, sounds like his language skills are also impressive.  Luv the matching jacket, Dan!

 

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@StateDept Spox John Kirby Pens a Message to Colleagues in the Bureau of Public Affairs

Posted: 1:49 am ET

On June 2, State Department spokesperson, John Kirby sent a message to the staffers of the Bureau of Public Affairs concerning the deliberate tampering of a DPB video, an official State Department record. The message was sent on June 2 but is effective on June 1st upon its announcement at a morning meeting:

Colleagues,

As you know, we learned that on at least one occasion this bureau edited a portion of the video of a daily press briefing before posting it to our YouTube channel and the Department’s website.

Upon learning of this, I immediately directed the video to be restored in its entirety with the full and complete copy that exists — and had existed since the day of the briefing — on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System website.  I also verified that the full transcript of the briefing, which we also posted on the Department website, was intact and had been so since the date of the briefing.

To my surprise, PA did not have in place any rules governing this type of action. Now we do.

All video and transcripts from daily press briefings will be immediately and permanently uploaded in their entirety on publicly accessible platforms.  In the unlikely event that narrow, compelling circumstances require edits to be made, such as the inadvertent release of privacy-protected or classified national security information, they will only be made with the express permission of the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and with an appropriate level of annotation and disclosure.

This new policy took effect yesterday. And I have tasked Susan Stevenson to lead an effort to create new language for the Foreign Affairs Manual to institutionalize this approach.

I know you share my commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability.  While the actions taken in relation to the editing of this video broke no protocol — since none existed — they clearly were not the appropriate steps to take.

I ask for your help going forward in ensuring that the content of any video or transcript from daily press briefings is not edited or altered in any way without my specific permission.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication.  We’re a great team with a great mission.

There’s nothing in this message that has not been reported in the press earlier but it iss worth noting what he says in this message. “I know you share my commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability.”

But how can he know that?

Pardon for raining on a perfectly good message but since Mr. Kirby’s internal investigation is at a “dead end” and had not been able to determine who was responsible for this deliberate act — how can he know that everyone he’s writing to shares his “commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability?” An official at the PA bureau directed the tampering of the video, we don’t know who or why but that individual has not come forward and is obviously not big on accountability.  So, how can he says “I know ….?”

That’s quite a whodunit, hey?

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US Embassy Rangoon Celebrates Thingyan, the Burmese New Year Water Festival

Posted: 2:35 am ET

 

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon celebrated the the Burmese New Year Water Festival which usually falls around mid-April. It is a Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days, culminating in the New Year.

 

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Robert Gates Talks Strategic History With a Moral Purpose (Video)

Posted: 2:06 am ET

 

The Zbigniew Brzezinski Annual Prize honors the legacy of Dr. Brzezinski by recognizing and promoting the importance of geostrategic thinking with a transcending moral purpose. It’s Inaugural Prize recipient is Robert M. Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense. Below is Mr. Gates lecture at CSIS on April 12, 2016. If you want to skip the intros and go directly to the lecture, it starts at the 13:25 mark. Don’t miss the Q&A starting at the 34:00 mark.

 

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US Embassy Bangkok Celebrates Songkran Festival

Posted: 2:55 am ET

 

U.S. Embassy Bangkok put out a video of its Songkran festivities with Ambassador Glyn Davies asking a few American officers to sample some Thai “summer foods.”

 

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Video: US Ambassadors on #TheNew10 Dollar Bill, One Ambo Wants — OMG! Beyoncé

Posted: 3:13 pm ET

 

This is a video posted on March 23 by the State Department’s DGHR with the following description: “Ambassadors from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. on March 14 and 15, 2016. When asked whose picture they would like to see on a redesigned U.S. banknote.” Sounds fun enough, okay. But. Why? How is this useful to DGHR or the State Department? The video currently has 524 views on YouTube.

Anyone thought about cost versus return or is this one of those “the intern did it” stuff?

 

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Turkey Warns UK Diplomat Over Selfie, Summons German Diplomat Over #ErdowieErdowoErdogan Video

Posted: 3:34 am ET

 

The British Consul-General to Istanbul Leigh Turner (@LeighTurnerFCO) tweeted these on March 25:

 

Apparently, that selfie with Cumhuriyet journalist Can Dundar did not sit well with Turkey’s President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan:

 

And then there’s this:

According to the Guardian, Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara last week and asked to justify the contents of the short video made by Extra 3, the popular satirical television program.  “We demanded that the programme be deleted,” a Turkish diplomat told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.”

The video is still online, now has English and Turkish subtitles, and over 2.5 million hits on YouTube. Newsweek reported on Tuesday that the song’s title and melody are inspired by German pop star Nena’s 1984 love song “Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann” (Anyhow, Anywhere, Anytime). The rewritten lyrics in English is available here, but you don’t need German to get this:

 

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President Obama Remembers Ex-@USEmbArgentina Diplomat Tex Harris

Posted: 5:01 pm EDT

 

Below is an excerpt from the Buenos Aires Herald interview with Tex Harris:

What actions did you take?

I had business cards printed up, would go to the Plaza de Mayo square and urge the Mothers to come to the US embassy to explain what had happened to their family members. It began slowly, and developed into a torrent of reports.

How did the State Department use your reports?

Under the Carter administration, Congress mandated a new bureau for human rights in the State Department. Patricia “Pat” Derian headed this new bureau and her office used the reports to argue for severe sanctions against the military government of Argentina. The embassy leadership saw the curtailing my reporting as a way of curtailing the ability of Derian’s human rights office from impacting on US policy.

What type of sanctions did the Carter administration implement?

Under the US congressional mandate, the Carter administration began to cut off things from the military government one-by-one. They stopped providing special new technology, such as computers for police cars, or objecting to IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) loans. They began to cut off cultural, agricultural programmes, military exchanges and visits. Training for military officers was also curtailed.

Did you face any repercussions for your actions?

After six months of reporting, US human rights policy began to have an impact on every connection between the Argentine government and the United States. The embassy’s leadership tried to curtail my human rights reports, so they could have more flexibility in arguing for softer policies towards the military dictatorship. That led to a confrontation with my sense of duty to report the information being provided to me by family members and my responsibilities as a professional diplomat. And I was penalized for not being a “team player.” For seven years, my career was paralyzed.

Who was the ambassador at the time?

Raúl Castro was the US ambassador to Argentina then. He had developed a good relationship with (former Argentine dictator Roberto) Viola, and he was convinced that the best way to resolve the human rights problems in Argentina was for the US to take advantage of the divided military government, by supporting the army against the navy. But Washington DC had no interest in playing this micro-political ball game in Buenos Aires. The White House wanted to demonstrate the seriousness of then-president Carter’s human rights policy by implementing sanctions against gross violators of human rights — whether in Argentina or the Philippines.

Read the full interview here.

For those who missed this back when, here is a clip from Bill Moyers Crossroads interview. Part 2 is here.

 

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