Troll and Mock: France’s Emmanuel Macron, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull

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Posted: 1:29 am ET
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then President of the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote an open letter to the American people in 2006, then a year later blasted President George W. Bush during a speech at the United Nations. Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez also called President Bush names — donkey and Mr. Danger on his television show, and “the devil” during the 2006 General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.  But we can’t ever remember leaders of friendly countries upfront trolling or mocking the President of the United States. Until now.  But that’s where we are.

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Tillerson Travels to #Australia and #NZ: Protests, Bird Flips, Water-Filled Condoms and a DJT Effigy

Posted: 2:12 am ET
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Secretary Tillerson is currently on travel to Australia and New Zealand from June 5-6. In Australia, America’s chief diplomat was asked, “what specific promises have you brought on trade and climate to ensure that Australians do not interpret “America First” to mean “America the selfish and do it alone?” The reception in New Zealand was harsher. Could not recall in recent memory when the Kiwis turned up collectively to welcome the Secretary of State with protests, bird flips, water-filled condoms and a presidential effigy.

New Zealand

Australia

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Trump Travel Ban: Rudy Tells the “Whole Story”, Plus Reactions and Fall Out

Posted: 2:09 am ET
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On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of refugees to the United States for FY2017 for 120 days. The E.O also proclaimed the entry of certain aliens as “detrimental to the interests of the United States” and declared the suspension of their entry into the United States for 90 days.  The aliens referred to are from countries cited under Section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.1187(a)(12) according to the executive order.  These are the same countries cited under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen.

We’ve seen folks on social media get confused about this. So let’s try this.  There are 38 countries designated as Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries; citizens or nationals of these 38 countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. However, if either of the following is true, travelers will no longer be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Instead, individuals in the following categories will have to apply for a visa using the regular appointment process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

The Trump EO banning entry and issuance of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for 90 days uses these same seven countries.  Note that citizens from these seven countries have not been banned from visa applications or entry to the United States previously. Citizens from 38 visa waiver countries who previously traveled to these seven Muslim-majority countries were not allowed to use the waiver and must submit for an interview with a consular officer at an embassy or consulate overseas.

Since it appears that DOD Secretary Mattis and DHS Secretary Kelly were out of the loop on this, would it be totally shocking if no input was asked from the State Department? No?  Interagency cooperation is just the White House now? On the day President Trump was preparing to sign this EO, our embassies and consular posts worldwide were still issuing visas;  all official, and valid but no longer acceptable at ports of entry as soon as the executive order took effect.

Here’s Rudddddddy with a backgrounder.

Reaction round-up below:

 

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Ex-State Dept Employee Settles Housekeeper’s Claim Over Slavery and Rape

Posted: 4:01  am EDT
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In September 2012, we blogged about the Linda and Russell Howard case (see Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper). The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here — Jane Doe v. Linda Howard, et.al, (pdf).

On March 5, 2015, Australia’s Herald Sun reported that the Howards who moved to Melbourne were chased through the local court by Jane Doe and that Australian Justice Jack Forrest upheld the US decision. “My opinion is that it would be an abuse of process … to permit Mrs Howard to claim that Jane Doe’s claim was fraudulent,” Justice Forrest said.  “Mrs Howard chose not to agitate her claim … and it was her choice to leave the (United States),” the Herald Sun quotes Judge Forrest.

At that time, the report indicated that Mrs Howard’s legal team was considering an appeal.

On September 6, 2015, Australia’s The Age reported the settlement of the case, and provided more details on how the plaintiff pursued this case in Australian court.   Read more here.

The Daily Mail also reported on this case here citing Justice Forrest saying that Linda Howard “could not argue the housekeeper’s claim was fraudulent after remaining silent on the matter for two years and not fighting it in US courts when she had the chance.”   

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Dear Congress: You Are Not Allowed to Make Fun of Secretary Kerry’s Asia Pivot Shirts

— By Domani Spero

The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.

Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.

In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.

Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?

We actually think that purple batik suits him well.  Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it.  Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.

Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Nari caused the cancellation of Secretary Kerry’s trip to the Philippines, so we are missing Secretary Kerry wearing the country’s famous Barong Tagalog.

Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.

So there’s that.

Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships?  All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea.  But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….

No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:

“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.

“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.

We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.

Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom:  The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing.  Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:

The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.

Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.

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Officially In: John Berry – From OPM to Australia

◉  By Domani Spero

On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate John Berry as the next Ambassador to Australia. The WH released the following brief bio:

John Berry served as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from April 2009 to April 2013.  Previously, he was the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park from 2005 to 2009, and the Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from 2000 to 2005.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior.  From 1995 to 1997, he was Director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Smithsonian Institution.  He joined the federal government in 1994 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Department of Treasury.  Before joining the Department of Treasury, Mr. Berry was the Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer.

Mr. Berry received a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.P.A. from Syracuse University.

Via Federal News Radio:

“On John Berry’s final day as director of the Office of Personnel Management, the consensus from federal employees and employee groups he has worked with the past four years is that his shoes will be hard to fill. Those interviewed by Federal News Radio said he has been the utmost advocate for feds in a tough political climate of furlough talk, budget negotiations and a rebounding economy.”

The advocate.com notes that Mr. Berry’s OPM appointment (2009-2012) made him the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Obama executive branch. It quotes HRC president Chad Griffin praising the nomination: “John Berry has been a devoted public servant for 30 years and will bring tremendous experience to our embassy in Canberra.”

Mr. Berry’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, July 23 at 9 am.  If confirmed, Mr. Berry would succeed Jeffrey Bleich, California lawyer and former Special Counsel to President Obama who was appointed to the US Embassy in Canberra in November 2009.  Since 1960, 72.2% of all ambassadorial appointments to Australia went to non-career appointees.

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Related item:

June 21, 2013 President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Video of the Week: Can we please borrow Australia’s Lt. Gen. David Morrison for a bit?

—By Domani Spero

The State Department spokesman said,  “We hold all employees to the highest standards.”  Her top boss also said, “all employees of this department are held to the highest standards, now and always.” Of course, they are held to the highest standards. They are all public servants representing the United States overseas, we hold them to the highest expectation. But what we want to hear from the Secretary of State is what is he going to do if these allegations of manipulation and interference of DSS investigations are proven true?

Since we haven’t heard anything about that, we’re just going to borrow this guy talking about standing up for others, morale moral courage and legacy.

This is the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.

“If we are a great national institution – if we care about the legacy left to us by those who have served before us, if we care about the legacy we leave to those who, in turn, will protect and secure Australia – then it is up to us to make a difference.

Yeah, that.

(‘_’)

Ambassador Bleich’s Close Encounter with the Croc Kind in Australia’s Northern Territory

The last time we featured our man in Australia in this blog was in our election night round up last November. (see Election Night 2012 Roundup — What a Party!).  This week, Ambassador Bleich made quite a stir in cyberverse with an FB post on Stopping the Game of Clones timed for the 17th annual UN World Book and Copyright Day.

Wired.com wades in with “Tyrion Lannister would not give a shit” (of course!) in U.S. Ambassador Calls for End to Game of Thrones Torrenting: ‘Tyrion Will Thank You’.  Over in the ambo’s FB page, there is an ongoing vigorous discussion whether it should be called stealing or not. It looks like a bunch of people there are real serious about their GOT.

Anyhow, we thought we’d check what else Ambassador Bleich is doing.  Don’t you think this photo below is just pretty wild?  That’s Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich who posted that “the cage of death is actually pretty fun.” Compared to his Facebook page, this looks almost peaceful, despite that gigantic snout.

Ambassador Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB)

The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia earlier this week during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

Quick excerpt from Ambassador Bleich’s FB post:

I spent the past several days in the Northern Territory preparing for the next rotation of U.S. Marines to arrive in Darwin to train with their Australian mates. Each time, I come back to Darwin, I’m reminded of the genuine kindness and hospitality of Territorians. Part of the Marines’ reason for training in Darwin is the ability of our combined forces to practice expeditionary exercises in a large uninhabited training area. But a big part of the attraction is about the people. Our Marines feel truly welcome in Darwin. 
[…] 
By the time I welcomed the Marines onto the tarmac in Darwin last night, I was able to give them three pieces of practical advice: 1) don’t step in any water deeper than your ankle; 2) never pass up a conversation with a Darwinian; and 3) the “cage of death” is actually pretty fun. (See photos!) Welcome Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine. We’re all glad you’re here. 

Read in full here.  Sky News covered the military rotation here: http://goo.gl/Orz8g and says that the 200 Marines on training in Darwin is the second rotation in a five year program.  Next year there will be 1100 Marines and  eventually 2500 on six month rotations.
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US Embassy Canberra: What do Ambassadors actually do?

Via US Embassy Canberra/FB with our Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L. Bleich:

Photo from US Embassy Australia
(click on image for larger view)

Photo of the Day: Ambassador Bleich with the Australian Kings

Via US Embassy Canberra/FB:

US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich with the Australian Kings
Photo from US Embassy Canberra/FB

 

 

 

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