Trump to Nominate Former L.A. Dodgers Co-Owner Jamie McCourt to be Ambassador to Belgium

Posted: 3:01 am ET
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On June 22, President Trump announced his intent to nominate former L.A. Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt to be the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. The WH released a very brief bio:

Jamie McCourt of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belgium. Ms. McCourt, a prominent entrepreneur and attorney, has founded and directed leading entrepreneurial enterprises in Los Angeles and Boston, most recently Jamie M, LLC. She was co-owner and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Ms. McCourt earned a B.S. from Georgetown University, a J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law, and a M.S. from MIT/Sloan School of Management. She speaks French.

Clips below:

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT
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Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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Dear SecState Tillerson: Congrats on 737 Cost Savings, But Don’t Ditch Your Press Corps on #Turkey Trip

Posted: 3:01 am ET
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On March 23, the State Department reiterated during the Daily Press Briefing Secretary Tillerson’s excuse for ditching his traveling press:

[H]e was clear and he’s spoken about this in his interviews – is that he is committed to a smaller footprint. That’s not to say – let me be clear – that we’re not going to look at taking any press in future trips. I’m not saying that at all. But he is committed to a smaller footprint. And with respect to the trip to Asia, the space constraints on the plane did not allow, frankly, for a press contingent. So we worked with — [snip] So we work with our embassies. I think it is. And I can get into this. I don’t – we don’t need to have this out here, but I’m happily – happy to talk to you about this offline. But there’s a significant cost savings to taking the smaller plane, but that smaller plane requires – or has minimal seating.

Secretary Tillerson cited “cost savings” in using a smaller aircraft ( a 737), which apparently also “flies faster”; presumably in comparison to the 757 previously used by his predecessors?

We don’t know much about airplanes, so you know we’ve got to take a look, right?

Here is the current secstate’s 737 | C-40 B/C via af.mil:

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The body of the C-40 is identical to that of the Boeing 737-700, but has winglets. Both models have state of the art avionics equipment, integrated GPS and flight management system/electronic flight instrument system and a heads up display. Heading the safety equipment list is the traffic collision avoidance system and enhanced weather radar. The aircraft is a variant of the Boeing next generation 737-700, and combines the 737-700 fuselage with the wings and landing gear from the larger and heavier 737-800. The basic aircraft has auxiliary fuel tanks, a specialized interior with self-sustainment features and managed passenger communications. The cabin area is equipped with a crew rest area, distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations, two galleys and business class seating with worktables.

The C-40B is designed to be an “office in the sky” for senior military and government leaders. Communications are paramount aboard the C-40B which provides broadband data/video transmit and receive capability as well as clear and secure voice and data communication. It gives combatant commanders the ability to conduct business anywhere around the world using on-board Internet and local area network connections, improved telephones, satellites, television monitors, and facsimile and copy machines. The C-40B also has a computer-based passenger data system.  The C-40C is not equipped with the advanced communications capability of the C-40B. Unique to the C-40C is the capability to change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers.

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The C-40 B/C provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for U.S. leaders to locations around the world. The C-40B’s primary customers are the combatant commanders and C-40C customers include members of the Cabinet and Congress.  (Courtesy photo)

Previously, the secretary of state’s airplane was a C-32, a specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner.  This is the aircraft used by Secretary Kerry.  757 | C-32  via af.mil:

The C-32 provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for our nation’s leaders to locations around the world. The primary customers are the vice president, using the distinctive call sign “Air Force Two,” the first lady, and members of the Cabinet and Congress. The C-32 body is identical to that of the Boeing 757-200, but has different interior furnishings and 21st century avionics. The passenger cabin is divided into four sections: A) The forward area has a communications center, galley, lavatory and 10 business class seats; B) The second section is a fully-enclosed stateroom for the use of the primary passenger. It includes a changing area, private lavatory, separate entertainment system, two first-class swivel seats and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed. C) The third section contains the conference and staff facility with eight business class seats. D) The rear section of the cabin contains general seating with 32 business-class seats, galley, two lavatories and closets.

The USAF C-32 fact sheet also says that this aircraft is more fuel efficient and has improved capabilities over its C-137 predecessor. “It can travel twice the distance on the same amount of fuel, and operate on shorter runways down to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in length. Its 92,000-pound (41,731 kilogram) fuel capacity allows the aircraft to travel 5,500 nautical miles unrefueled.”

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the two planes, the 757 that former Secretary Kerry used and the 737 that Secretary Tillerson is currently using.

Cost savings? Yes, but …

There are fixed costs associated with operating an aircraft that do not vary according to aircraft usage (crew, maintenance, labor, parts, operations overhead, administrative overhead, etc) so we requested from the State Department the cost savings identified with the Tillerson trip to Asia. Its official response was to direct us to the DOD comptroller for the travel per hour cost. According to the DOD Comptroller’s FY2017 hourly rates for fixed wing aircraft effective October 1, 2016 (used when the applicable aircraft are provided on a reimbursable basis), Secretary Tillerson’s 737/C-40C aircraft costs about a third of the previous secretary’s 757 cost per hour.

But, because there’s always a but …the 737/C-40C model used by members of the Cabinet and Congress can change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers. Let’s just say that Secretary Tillerson is using the 737/C-40B model primary used by combatant commanders; this model still has seats for 26-32 passengers.

Secretary Tillerson traveling party to Asia was small, so he basically flew with a half empty plane but the State Department officially cited “space constraints” as the reason for not having a traveling press.  In any case, if Secretary Tillerson is saving money by using a smaller but mostly empty plane, he surely can save more money by using a smaller plane with paying passengers (press pay for their rides in USG planes) instead of empty seats, won’t he?  He does not have to take the whole village, but he has to take more than one, and they ought not be preselected for obvious reasons.

To Turkey, to Turkey

On Friday, the State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will travel to Ankara, Turkey, on March 30, to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish government officials, then travel to Brussels, Belgium on March 31 to visit NATO.

The Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, rates Turkey’s press freedom status as “not free.” Its report on Turkey states: “Media outlets are sometimes denied access to events and information for political reasons. Critical outlets are regularly denied access to the AKP’s party congress and meetings, and the government prevents certain journalists from attending press conferences or accompanying officials on foreign visits.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) notes that Turkey jails more journalists than any other country in 2016 and closes some 178 news outlets and publishing houses by decree in the space of five months.

This is one trip where the Secretary of State absolutely cannot afford to ditch his traveling press.

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How many @StateDept people remain unaccounted for after the #BrusselsAttacks? (Update #5)

Posted: 3:23 am EDT
Update #1: 7:02 pm EDT
Update #2: March 25, 12:27 am EDT
Update #3: 12:25 pm EDT
Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT
Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT
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Updated: 7:02 pm EDT: We understand that there are two individuals with the State Department who are unaccounted for in Brussels at this time. We will update when we learn more.

Updated: March 25, 12:27 am EDT: One of the two State Department individuals still missing in Brussels is a family member and part of mission under Chief of Mission authority. The second one is reportedly USG but is not part of the tri-mission (we don’t know at this time if employee or family member). 

Update #3: 12:25 am EDT: One is a family member and reportedly part of the USNATO mission; the second one who is USG but is not part of the tri-mission is also a family member.  

Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT:  The two unaccounted for are now the first two confirmed USG fatalities in Brussels. According to the AP  the State Department has confirmed that the families of two Americans had been informed of their deaths in the attacks Tuesday. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the names were being withheld out of privacy considerations. 

Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT: According to ABCNews, the two Americans killed in Brussels this week have been confirmed as the spouses of U.S. personnel. “A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the two Americans were living in Europe at the time of the attacks. Their names have not been released and the families have asked for privacy.”

Via state.gov | Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, March 23, 2016:

“So in terms of State Department or U.S. Government personnel, that is still also ongoing. We still have not accounted for every official U.S. Government employee or their members – or family members on the ground in Belgium – or in Brussels, rather. Partly, that reflects the size of the mission or three missions. There’s a bilateral mission, there’s a mission to the EU, as well as a mission to NATO. And as I said, partly reflects the fact that there’s a number of injured in the hospital – in hospitals around the city, and we’re still trying to gain access and trying to determine the identity of those and the nationality, obviously, of those individuals.”

The Brussels Tri-Mission includes U.S. Embassy Brussels, the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU), and the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO). Each mission has its own ambassador and DCM. Posts often have an administrative “warden” system for the official U.S. citizen community.  Shortly after the attacks, the mission’s or tri-mission’s phone tree/notifications would have been activated. But we should also note that the Tri-Mission has one of the heaviest visitor workloads in the world due to the num­ber of U.S. agencies that conduct business in Brussels.

 

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@StateDept’s Comment on American Casualties During #BrusselsAttacks

Posted: 4:29 pm EDT
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Meanwhile in Belgium, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels issued a message that says the security situation remains at level 4. It urge individuals to exercise caution and to avoid large gatherings. “A period of mourning is underway and will end on Thursday. Many public events have been cancelled. Public transportation has been disrupted. Zaventem airport remains closed.”

 

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U.S. Embassy Belgium Requests USG Personnel Defer Travel to Brussels Until 3/29, DOD Travel Restrictions On

Posted: 6:00 pm EDT
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On March 22, U.S. Embassy Brussels sent a security message to U.S. citizens in Belgium informing them that an anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • All public transport in Brussels has been halted and tunnels have been closed.

A subsequent embassy message requests USG personnel to defer non-essential travel to the capital city until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. Mission Brussels requests that U.S. government personnel defer non-essential travel to Brussels until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • Public transport in Brussels is limited and several roads and tunnels remain closed.

These events take place with little or no notice, therefore U.S. citizens are urged to:

  • Be aware of local events
  • Follow local authority instructions
  • Monitor local media further developments 
  • U.S. citizens should contact their family and friends to let them know they are safe.
  • Take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security

Meanwhile, the DOD and the European Command have implemented a travel restrictions to Belgium on March 22, 2016. They apply to all uniformed service members, civilian and contractor employees, and command-sponsored dependents.

 

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#BrusselsLockdown Response: Keep Calm and Tweet a Cat; Also No Consular Services on 11/23

Posted: 3:32 pm PDT
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During an ongoing police operations in Belgium on Sunday, Brussels Police requested the public to observe radio silence on social media.  Crisis Center Belgium also asked the people to remain calm and to strictly follow all the instructions of the security forces.

 

 

The Belgians and Twitter responded by tweeting cat photos.  We recently lost our cat companion of 18 years, so don’t blame us too much if we get enamored with these cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on November 22, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels announced the closure of the Consular Section on Monday, November 23 as well as the continued elevated threat in the capital city and the rest of Belgium:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that the current threat level remains at Level 4 (serious threat of imminent attack) for Brussels, and Level 3 (high) for the rest of the country.

All public schools in Brussels will be closed on Monday, November 23. The International School of Brussels, Brussels American School, and St. John’s International School will also be closed. For other schools please consult their administrations.

All Metro stations will be closed on Monday. Other public transportation options, like trams, are operating on a limited basis. Regional trains and airports are operating but authorities urge vigilance.

The Belgian government continues to caution citizens to avoid public places such as major pedestrian walkways and shopping centers. The Belgian government will again reassess the threat level on Monday. We will provide further information as available.

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section will be offering emergency services only. All scheduled appointments are cancelled. Information on rescheduling these appointments will be available on our website.

In this time of elevated threat, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution in public transportation systems, sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

Read in full here.

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CRS: Ebola Outbreak – Quarantine v. Isolation, Travel Restrictions, Select Legal Issues

— Domani Spero
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On October 25, WaPo reported that the governors of New York Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered on Friday the imposition of a mandatory 21-day quarantine for medical workers returning from the countries hit hardest by the ebola epidemic. Illinois later in the day imposed similar restrictions. Today, NYT reported that the Obama administration has expressed deep concerns to the governors and is consulting with them to modify their orders to quarantine medical volunteers returning from West Africa.

Ebola CRS report via Secrecy News (pdf):

On August 8th, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The recent arrival in the United States of several health care workers who contracted the disease, combined with the first diagnosis of a case in the U.S. at a hospital in Dallas, has sparked discussion about the appropriate government response. Aside from the various policy considerations at issue, the outbreak has generated several legal questions about the federal government’s authority to restrict specific passengers’ travel and/or contain the outbreak of an infectious disease. These questions include, inter alia, whether the federal government may: (1) restrict which countries U.S. nationals may travel to in the event of a public health crisis; (2) bar the entry into the United States of people who may have been infected by a disease; and (3) impose isolation or quarantine measures in order to control infectious diseases.

Passport restrictions on which countries U.S. citizens may visit can be imposed by the Secretary of State. Pursuant to the Passport Act, the Secretary of State may “grant and issue passports” according to rules designated by the President, and may impose restrictions on the use of passports to travel to countries “where there is imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of United States travellers” (sic). The Supreme Court has recognized that the authority to “grant and issue” passports includes the power to impose “area restrictions” – limits on travel to specific countries (restrictions must comply with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution). Although passport restrictions are not criminally enforceable, they may prevent travelers from boarding a flight to a restricted area.

Restrictions may also be imposed on who may enter the United States, though the range of applicable restrictions may differ depending upon whether a person seeking entry into the country is a U.S. national. The government enjoys authority under federal immigration law to bar the entry of a foreign national on specific health-related grounds, including when a particular foreign national is determined to have a “communicable disease of public health significance.” More broadly, section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the President, pursuant to proclamation, to direct the denial of entry to any alien or class of aliens whose entry into the country “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

These restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, who may enjoy a constitutional right to reenter the country. Nonetheless, certain travel restrictions may impede the ability of any person – regardless of citizenship – from traveling to the United States in a manner that potentially exposes others to a communicable disease. For example, airlines flying to the U.S. are permitted under Department of Transportation regulations to refuse transportation to passengers with infectious diseases who have been determined to pose a “direct threat” to the health and safety of others. In making this determination, airlines may rely on directives from the CDC and other government agencies. Pilots of flights to the United States are also required to report certain illnesses they encounter during flight before arrival into the U.S.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain a public health “Do Not Board” (DNB) list, which contains the names of people who are likely to be contagious with a communicable disease, may not adhere to public health recommendations, and are likely to board an aircraft. Airlines are not permitted to issue a boarding pass to people on the DNB list for flights departing from or arriving into the United States. People placed on the DNB list are also “assigned a public health lookout record,” which will alert Customs and Border Protection officers in the event the person attempts to enter the country through a port of entry. The CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) can conduct exit screening at foreign airports to identify travelers with communicable diseases and alert the relevant local authorities.

Finally, both federal and state governments have authority to impose isolation and quarantine measures to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. While the terms are often used interchangeably, quarantine and isolation are actually two distinct concepts. Quarantine typically refers to separating or restricting the movement of individuals who have been exposed to a contagious disease but are not yet sick. Isolation refers to separating infected individuals from those who are not sick. Historically, the primary authority for quarantine and isolation exists at the state level as an exercise of the state’s police power in accordance with its particular laws and policies.

However, the CDC is also authorized to take measures “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.” In order to do so, the implementing regulations “authorize the detention, isolation, quarantine, or conditional release of individuals.” This authority is limited to diseases identified by an Executive Order of the President, a list which currently includes Ebola. Whether an isolation or quarantine order originates with the federal or state government, such orders will presumably be subject to habeas corpus challenges, and must also comport with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

View the original CRS Legal Sidebar here (pdf) includes active links.

And that legal challenge may soon be upon us. On October 26, Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, went on CNN on Sunday and criticized the “knee-jerk reaction by politicians” to Ebola.  According to CNN, Hickox, an epidemiologist who was working to help treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, has tested negative twice for Ebola and does not have symptoms.  Norman Siegel, Hickox’s attorney, and a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told CNN that he will be filing papers in court for Hickox to have a hearing no later than five days from the start of her confinement. Siegel told CNN that Hickox’s quarantine is based on fear.

Here is the link to the Executive Order 13295 of April 4, 2003 cited above by the CRS brief via:

[T]he following communicable diseases are hereby specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act:

(a) Cholera; Diphtheria; infectious Tuberculosis; Plague; Smallpox; Yellow Fever; and Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Crimean-Congo, South American, and others not yet isolated or named).

July 31, 2014 Update

“(b) Severe acute respiratory syndromes, which are diseases that are associated with fever and signs and symptoms of pneumonia or other respiratory illness, are capable of being transmitted from person to person, and that either are causing, or have the potential to cause, a pandemic, or, upon infection, are highly likely to cause mortality or serious morbidity if not properly controlled. This subsection does not apply to influenza.”

A side note, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power is currently traveling to the countries in West Africa hardest hit with the ebola outbreak:

 

 

Now, since Ambassador Power is not a medical worker, she probably will not be subjected to the NJ/NY mandatory quarantine when she gets back. However, on October 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that public health authorities will begin active post-arrival monitoring of travelers whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea.  Active post-arrival monitoring, according to the CDC  means that travelers without febrile illness or symptoms consistent with Ebola will be followed up daily by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date of their departure from West Africa. Except that Ambassador Power’s return trip will not be originating from West Africa but from Belgium, the last stop on this West Africa-Europe trip before returning to the U.S.

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