SFRC Hearing on Feb 11: Stewart, Riley, Dandekar, Matthews, Escobari

Posted: 4:28  pm EDT
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Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for the following State Department and USAID nominees:

  • The Honorable Karen Brevard Stewart
    Of Florida, 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 Republic Of The Marshall Islands
    Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony
  • Mr. Robert Annan Riley III
    Of Florida, 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 Federated States Of Micronesia
    Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony
  • Ms. Swati A. Dandekar
    Of Iowa, To Be United States Director Of The Asian Development Bank, With The Rank Of Ambassador
    Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony
  • Mr. Matthew John Matthews
    Of Oregon, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, For The Rank Of Ambassador During His Tenure Of Service As United States Senior Official For The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum
    Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony
  • Ms. Marcela Escobari
    Of Massachusetts, To Be An Assistant Administrator Of The United States Agency For International Development
    Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony

The SFRC page with the video of the hearing is available here.

 

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Congress Shuttered Our Zoo, So Here’s the Animal Kingdom Foreign Service Round-Up

— by Domani Spero

You’ve seen this photo of the “sad kid at the zoo,” right? The Atlantic Wire calls it the defining image of the government shutdown.  Okay. Australia’s Herald Sun screams, No zoo for you, kid. The US government shutdown hates children. Who writes things like that?  Also Matt Berman of the National Journal went looking for animals, or tried to (We Try to Find Animals at the Shut-Down National Zoo). He came away with the apparent message from the National Zoo which is this: “During a shutdown, we’ll feed the animals. But not the reporters.” He did not see any animals at the zoo except for a couple of male mammals guarding the gate and he found some fish and turtles at the nearby Petco.

Via Reddit/superbonnie

Via Reddit/superbonnie

As for us, we’re stuck as sad blogger online. The State Department is open for business but its social media arms have reportedly been directed to go limp until the shutdown is over. The embassies Twitter feeds are repeating variations of the same message “Due to the government shutdown, this Twitter feed will not be updated regularly.”  Frankly, some social media ninjas are having a hard time going dark – like @USEmbassyKabul, and @usembassyjkt because Secretary Kerry was in town and @usembassymanila, because of security threats and also Secretary Kerry was not in town.

Meanwhile, U.S. embassy officials are also restricted from giving speeches or conducting public outreach even if the agency is still funded.  Ambassadors are restricted from having welcome or farewell receptions, as well.  The welcome party for U.S.Ambassador Matthew Barzun to London is reportedly sponsored by  Tatler, a Conde Nast publication but was cancelled.  Even if no USG funds are expended, some tasks,chores or fun stuff  (including necessary work ones) are not getting done because they would look bad in the grim light of this government shutdown. But wait, on October 2 AmCham Belgium together with the American Club of Brussels did host a Gala Dinner to welcome the new US Ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer. What a difference a few days make!

Anyhow, since our national zoo is closed, we thought a collection of animals overseas might be a worthwhile blogpost during this extremely aggravating season. Note that these official engagements have all happened in the past.  Our ambassadors and diplomatic personnel shown below are not/not feeding any animals not doing engagements during the shutdown; apparently only excepted/limited/restricted/whatever activities.  So no rapid response.  You won’t like us for pointing this out — but … but…the Talibs are ‘um mocking us. Just think about it, okay?  Meanwhile, enjoy the cuties below.

U.S. Embassy Kenya

Ambassador Robert Godec  marked this year’s World Environment Day by adopting a one year old orphaned elephant named Tundani at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park. June 2013 | Via US Embassy Kenya/FB

Amb Godek_elephant2

U.S. Embassy Australia

Ambassador Jeffrey 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 during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

If  this shutdown last another week without a resolution, we should petition Congress to go on a CODEL to Darwin!

Amb B_NT

U.S. Embassy Canada

Ambassador David Jacobson carefully examines Batisse, the official mascot of the Royal 22e Regiment in Quebec. As part of a national farewell tour, the Ambassador of the United States took this opportunity to thank and address the troops of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group for their contribution in Afghanistan. | Photo by: Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Valcartier Imaging Section. Via US Embassy/Flickr

US ambo to ottawa_with goat

U.S. Embassy Laos

Ambassador Karen Stewart with an elephant. We think this was taken at the conservation center in Laos but our reference, the  ambassador’s blog has been updated with a new blog by her successor, Ambassador Clune and the archive had been wiped mighty clean.

ANIMALS_Amb Stewart during elephant festival

U.S. Embassy France

Ambassadeur Charles Rivkin avec “Celebre” au Salon de l’Agriculture 2012.

ANIM_ Ambo Rivkin

U.S. Embassy United Arab Emirates

U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson during a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the largest such facility in the world. (Photo from US Embassy Abu Dhabi) This was taken prior to his appointment as ambassador to Pakistan, can you tell?

ANIm_Ambo olson with falcon

U.S. Consulate General Toronto, Canada

Consul General Jim Dickmeyer greets Honest Ed (back) and Tecumseh along with their riders, Sgt. Jim Patterson and Staff Insp. Bill Wardle, respectively. The horses and the police officers – all members of the Toronto Police Service’s Mounted Unit took part in President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21st.

POD_inauguration horses

U.S. Embassy New Zealand

Ambassador David Huebner during an official visit to Palmerston North and Massey University’s Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. A special highlightfor the Ambassador was his introduction to “Chelsea” a mature New Zealand Kiwi who was recovering in the Institute’s specialist care centre. August 2010 | Via US Embassy/Flickr

NZ_kiwi

The Emperor penguin colony representatives in Antarctica during their first diplomatic encounter with Ambassador David Huebner.| Photo by USAF/MarkDoll | December 1,2011 via US Embassy New Zealand

NZ_mike_ambo

U.S. Embassy Norway

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011)
Ambassador Barry White met with representatives from local breeding cooperatives Norsvin and Geno over a traditional Norwegian breakfast at Staur Gjestegård.  The companies conduct cutting edge research in sustainable breeding and artificial insemination and export pig and bull semen to over 20 countries, including the U.S. It’s estimated that over one million pigs and 100,000 cows in the U.S. now carry Norwegian genetic material. Below, Ambassador White stopped for a photo-op with Bosnes, a “quietly confident” 1000kg breeding bull.

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011

U.S. Embassy Thailand

Ambassador Kristie Kenney riding an elephant during Thai Elephant Week in early 2013

Photo via KK/Instagram

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 8.46.10 PM

That’s kind of blurry, so we’ll give you another snapshot of Ambassador Kenney with a real cutie:

Ambassador Kenney with baby elephant

U.S. Embassy Egypt

Photo of U.S. Marine Security Guards and their camels at the pyramids, from MSG Detachment Cairo
via Diplomatic Security

Thanks to A Female Marine (second from left). This photo was taken in 2008 at the Great Pyramid of Giza on the morning of the Marine Ball .  “So the Marine in charge of MWR funds rented a herd of camels for us to sit on while the photographer snapped our pictures. Luckily the herd arrived with a handler for each camel otherwise we never would have been able to get lined up for the photo. The camels were not happy about this at all, they did not appreciate being forced to stand so close to each other and they were constantly squabbling like siblings in the backseat of a car.” Read more about it plus photos here.

Marines_security group in egypt

Perhaps, the most disappointment thing in this collection is the lack of pandas!  We could not locate a snapshot of Ambassador Huntsman or Ambassador Locke with the pandas.  What’s with that?  But we are sorta persistent, and finally we found an ambassador and a panda from 2004, Ambassador Huntsman’s predeceesor, Clark T. Randt, Jr.:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 3.31.17 PM

The end.

*(^O^)*

US Embassy Vientiane: Ambassador Karen Stewart Blogs Goodbye

— By Domani Spero

The U.S. Ambassador to  Lao PDR Karen Stewart concluded her three-year assignment at the US Embassy in Vientiane in early August.  She blogged her farewell and favorite Lao things here.   Her Ask the Ambassador: Farewell Edition video is here.  Her successor Ambassador-Designate Daniel A. Clune was confirmed by the Senate on August 1.

You might remember that Ambassador Stewart was also the chief of mission at the US Embassy in Minsk  where embassy staffers were subjected to occasional aggressive surveillance.  In 2008, she was “advised” to leave the country by Europe’s last dictator. Two years after that she got appointed to Lao PDR, another authoritarian state. A case of jumping from a hot frying fan to another.

Below are some of our favorite photos. (All photos from US Embassy Vientiane/Flickr):

KS_9298562544_e094cc2bf0

With feelings. At the embassy’s Fourth of July celebration, 2013

KS-6850043204_4aa296aab7

During a visit to see the Nutrition Program in Akkha Village

KS_tumblr_inline_ml2lwe5pX21qz4rgp

During the Pi Mai New Year Holiday in Laos

KS_6834877789_2d796cb560

At a medical delivery mission to three Hmong villages

KS_8388115623_5a1b879bf4

With Nitaya Panemalaythong, the first Lao-American to win the title of Miss Minnesota USA 2012. Video of that fun visit here.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Laos: Ambassador Stewart Gets a Lesson in Breakdancing

Via the US Embassy Vientiane:

“The 2012 Fang Meh Khong dance festival will take place October 23-24 in Vientiane, featuring hip-hop, modern, and traditional dancers from Laos, Singapore, and France. The U.S. Embassy is one of the sponsors of this event, so Mr. Ole, the director, decided to stop by the Embassy to teach some dance moves to Ambassador Stewart. She raps, she breakdances, it’s official: Than Thoot Karen is the coolest Ambassador ever!”

Why breakdancing?  Ambassador Stewart explains in her blog:

Since coming to Laos, I have definitely tried a lot of things I never thought I never thought I would try. From eating bugs, to detonating a huge pile of unexploded ordnance, to rapping in Lao to a crowd of teenagers, I’ve had some amazing experiences.

Last week I got to cross another experience off my list: Break-dancing! To show my support for the upcoming Fang Mae Khong dance festival (which the U.S. Embassy is helping to sponsor), I got a lesson in B-Boy dancing from Ole, the young director of the dance festival.

Ole and his team showed me a few simple moves (well, simple for them, anyway). At the end, we performed a little dance routine together. You can watch the results here.

Well, of course I am no real dancer, but it was a lot of fun! It’s always good to get out there and try to do something when part of you thinks you can’t do it.

Read her full post here.  She also blogged about detonating the “bombies” here.

 

 

 

Photo of the Day: All together now, say “queso”

U.S. Ambassadors to ASEAN nations pose for a photo with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during her visit to Phnom Penh on July 13, 2012.

Via US Embassy Manila/FB

From L-R, the US Ambassadors to the ASEAN countries: Daniel Shields (Brunei), Harry Thomas (Philippines), Karen Stewart (Laos), Derek J. Mitchell (Burma), HRC, David Carden (ASEAN), David Shear (Vietnam), Kristie Kenney (Thailand), William Todd (Cambodia), and David Adelman (Singapore).

Missing from the photo: Paul Jones of US Embassy Malaysia and Scot Marciel of US Embassy Indonesia.

Domani Spero

More Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service

Catch up post on additional Fourth of July celebrations around the Foreign Service this year that caught our eye. The previous one we did is here: Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up.

US Mission Mexico

Guadalajara, Jalisco: Los Vice Cónsules Nick Geisinger y Timothy J. Dunaway interpretaron el himno nacional estadounidense durante la celebración.
Click on image for more photos of the Fourth of July celebrations in our Mexican posts.

US Embassy Paris, France

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin at the 4th of July Garden Party, Ambassador’s Residence, July 4th, 2012.  More photos via FB here.

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

On Tuesday, July 3 the United States Embassy commemorated the 236th Anniversary of Independence of the United States of America by hosting a celebration in Nassau, The Bahamas aboard the U.S. Naval Ship USS ANZIO docked at Prince George Wharf.  The event was held in partnership with the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and included more than 200 of The Bahamas’ top leaders, representing the government, the business community, civil society, media, and the arts.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Dinkelman gives official remarks and toast at the 4th of July celebration. (Photo State Dept.)

US Embassy Dublin, Ireland

On July 4 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia celebrated American Independence Day and hosted at their Residence in the Phoenix Park in Dublin the Third Irish American Flag Football Classic. Over 2,500 guests were in attendance for the Independence Day celebrations.

Photo from US Embassy Dublin/Flickr
(click on image for a slideshow)

US Consulate General Chennai, India

Photo via USCG Chennai/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Afghanistan

U.S. Ambassador Stephen G. McFarland, the Coordinating Director of Rule of Law and Law Enforcement shakes hands with a Marine after he received his naturalization certificate on 29 June 2012 at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Click on image for more photos

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Embassy Cairo, Egypt

Ambassador Patterson on the dance floor during the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo from US Embassy Egypt via FB
Click on image for a slideshow

US Mission Pakistan – Islamabad

Photo via US Embassy Islamabad website

US Mission Pakistan – USCG Lahore

Consul General Nina Maria Fite hosted U.S. Independence Day reception at her residence. She was joined by Chief Guest Senior Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, U.S. Army Attaché Colonel Kurt H. Meppen, and USAID Punjab Director Theodore Gehr, and 400 guests from various walks of life. The event included the playing of the Pakistani and U.S. national anthems and a cutting of a cake.

Photo via USCG Lahore/FB

US Embassy Rome, Italy

Visitors arriving at the Villa Taverna for the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo via US Embassy Rome/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The theme of U.S. Embassy Bangkok Independence Day Celebration for this year is “The Great American Roadtrip.”

US Embassy Vientiane, Laos

Photo from Ambassador Karen Stewart’s Tumblr.
Click on image to read about it in the ambassador’s blog

US Embassy Beijing, China

Ambassador Gary Locke cutting the Fourth of July cake. Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr. Click on photo for a slideshow

US Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau

Probably the most popular US mission online post for this Fourth of July, 11,000 forward and still counting. Via the WSJ:

For the July 4 commemoration of U.S. Independence, it stepped back into history to tweak the Party with its own words.  Accompanied by an exuberant image of the Stars and Stripes, its Weibo posting said:

On this day each year, joy and glory is felt by every good and honest person in this world. From the birth of this new nation, democracy and science were seeded beneath the foundations of a new liberal world… Day and night, the god of liberty shines her torchlight of freedom into the darkest corners of the earth, providing warmth for those who have suffered and reminding them there is still hope left yet.

This post quickly gained popularity and has now been forwarded more than 11,000 times.

Let’s see how long before the Chinese tigers bite.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

 

Dancing With The Stars: The Foreign Service Edition

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul and his wife, Donna Norton made news last week when they tore up the floor of Spaso House in Moscow with their polka steps.

Ambassador and Mrs. McFaul at Spaso House
Photo from US Embassy Moscow/FB

But before Ambassador McFaul, we had our original dancing ambassador in the Philippines, Kristie Kenney.  Not to be confused with Raymond Bonner’s “Waltzing With a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy” because KK’s tenure in the Philippines occurred during the post-Marcos Era.

Here is Ambassador Kenney, then US Ambassador to the Philippines in the Shall We Dance Christmas Episode from December 2009:

Of course, the Philippines with its fondness for TV variety shows was ga-ga over Ambassador Kenney. One show even had a Double K (Kristie Kenney) dance step. And here she is doing the papaya dance with Edu Manzano, Filipino-American actor and politician. A hard act to follow.  It would not be a surprising if her successor at the US Embassy in Manila is forced to issue a secret plea not to put on his dancing shoes.

From the US Embassy in Laos, we have Ambassador Karen Stewart who danced the traditional “Lam Vong” at the Lao-American Heritage Foundation performance at the Lao National Cultural Hall.

On Saturday, July 16, 2011, I went to the Lao-American Heritage Foundation performance at the Lao National Cultural Hall. It was a wonderful evening, and all of the performers were very talented. I even had the chance to take the stage and lead a traditional “Lam Vong” dance. It was quite an honor!
(Photo from Ambassador Stewart's blog)

From the US Embassy in Bangladesh, we have these two gentlemen. What are you doing in the back, ahhh, SCA/AS Robert Blake … you should be dancing yeah, Ambassador Dan Mozena!

On February 16, 2012, Assistant Secretary of State for South & Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake visited Grameen borrowers’ group meeting, borrower’s homes and businesses, and attended a cultural program arranged by the villagers at Narayanganj, along with Ambassador Dan Mozena.
(Photo from US Embassy Bangladesh/FB)

From the US Embassy in Uzbekistan, we have Ambassador Krol in a shake your groove thing — with the dictator, but please don’t blame the guy.

Via RFERL:
March 22 marked Uzbekistan’s observance of Norouz, the Persian New Year, a holiday kept not just in Iran but all over Central Asia. For the occasion, Uzbek President Islam Karimov threw a big party in a Tashkent arena, replete with choreographed performances, giant balloons, and spontaneous dancing from officials who normally keep a tight lid on their public personas.

A festive spirit also took hold of the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan, George Krol, who could be seen dancing at various points during the celebration. Krol has been on the job in Tashkent since June 2011, and previously served as America’s ambassador to Belarus.

Ambassador George Krol during a dance off in Uzbekistan
(click on the image to view the video)

The blog, Different Stans is asking“Should you dance with the dictator — literally? That was the question some people had in mind when they saw the video clip discovered by Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, showing our own American envoy to Tashkent, Ambassador George Krol, dancing in the stadium audience at the official Novrouz celebration.”

The writer points out that Karimov has been president since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and head of state since 1989 and that kind of important point that we “really badly need Uzbekistan as a transit route for NATO troops and equipment because the route through Pakistan is blocked.”

Should you dance with the dictator? But what a silly question. Haven’t we seen Nancy danced with Ferdie and Ronnie danced with Meldy, she of a thousand shoes? Or Meldy with Lyndon? How easily we forget. Then it was about our bases and those commies in Asia. Now, it’s about our logistic route and those terrorists nearby; we have seen this genre before.

Since Raymond Bonner had just released his book, Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong, last February, perhaps he can be persuaded to write “Waltzing With a Dictator: The Karimov Edition.” Oops, we don’t like calling him a dictator?  Fine …. as long as we don’t say silly things like, “*We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process, and we will not leave you in isolation.

Meanwhile, our original dancing ambassador is kept busy in Thailand but has made time for parachute jumping (see Ambassador Kinney here during a jump in Lopburi). We look forward to doing a round up of chief of mission parachute jumping in a year or two.

Domani Spero

*U.S. Vice-President George H. W. Bush during Ferdinand Marcos inauguration, June 1981.