Around the Foreign Service: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2016 (Videos)

Posted: 1:41 am ET
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US Embassy Tokyo, Japan

It looks like we have our first viral embassy holiday video at over 3.5 million views in the last two days. Ambassador Kennedy and U.S. Mission Japan staff in Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Naha got into the holiday spirit and showed off their dance moves. Below is their rendition of the “Koi Dance” (Love Dance) from one of the most popular TV shows in Japan this season.

Here is a bonus clip with Santa going down the chimney:

 USAID

US Embassy Warsaw; USCG Krakow, Poland

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

 

US Embassy Prague, The Czech Republic

US Embassy Seoul, South Korea

US Embassy Ottawa, Canada

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

“It’s Ambassador Heins’ first Christmas in Norway, but will he find julestemning? In this year’s Embassy holiday video, the Ambassador, Tone Damli and Ole Torp drive around Oslo singing Christmas carols and practice Norwegian in their quest to find true holiday spirit.”

 US Embassy Zagreb, Croatia

US Embassy Zagreb also launched their celebration of the holiday season with their new Mannequin Challenge video.

US Embassy Quito, Ecuador

USCG Toronto, Canada

U.S. Consulate General Toronto’s multilingual and diverse team wishes Happy Holidays on this Mannequin Challenge video in 19 languages.

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7.8 Earthquake Hits Ecuador, Casualties Expected to Rise

Posted: 1:41 am ET
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USAID is reportedly seeking airlift bids to the Ecuador earthquake zone before midnight last night. We have yet to see any formal announcement from USAID or from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. USAID’S field office in Ecuador was shut down in October 2014 after over 50 years of operation in the country.  The government in Quito had refused to allow USAID to renew its programs or start any new activity in the country.

 

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A Perfect Case for OIG’s Office of Evaluations & Special Projects: How the Visa Waiver Sausage Gets Made

— Domani Spero
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In 2004, Alden P. Stallings, a Foreign Service Officer pleaded guilty for writing false visa referrals. According to DOJ, Stallings was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea as the Deputy Public Affairs Officer when he submitted to the Consular Section 54 referrals in which he provided false information about his relationship with the applicants. DOJ charged that on each of the 54 referral forms, Stallings stated that he recommended the issuance of a non-immigrant visa to the applicant because the applicant was an “important post contact” whom he had “personally known” since a specified date. In fact, on each of the 54 occasions, Stallings knew that his statement on the referral form was false, and that he did not personally know the contact.

At the time Stallings pleaded guilty,he faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and that case effectively ended his career.

But hey, is it true that if you are in a senior position or a congressional representative,  a personal intervention on behalf of a rejected visa applicant — who allegedly brought foreign maids into the country under false visa pretenses, and donated money to political campaigns — is A-okay?

Via the NYT:

The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.

The woman, Estefanía Isaías, had been barred from coming to the United States after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids. But the ban was lifted at the request of the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton so that Ms. Isaías could work for an Obama fund-raiser with close ties to the administration.

It was one of several favorable decisions the Obama administration made in recent years involving the Isaías family, which the government of Ecuadoraccuses of buying protection from Washington and living comfortably in Miami off the profits of a looted bank in Ecuador.
[…]
In the spring of 2011, Ms. Isaías, a television executive, was in a difficult situation.

Her father and uncle were Ecuadorean fugitives living in Miami, but she was barred from entering the United States after she brought maids into the country under false visa pretenses and left them at her parents’ Miami home while she traveled.

“Alien smuggling” is what American consular officials in Ecuador called it.

American diplomats began enforcing the ban against Ms. Isaías, blocking her from coming to Miami for a job with a communications strategist who had raised up to $500,000 for President Obama.
[…]
Over the course of the next year, as various members of the Isaías family donated to Mr. Menendez’s re-election campaign, the senator and his staff repeatedly made calls, sent emails and wrote letters about Ms. Isaías’s case to Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Mills, the consulate in Ecuador, and the departments of State and Homeland Security.

After months of resistance from State Department offices in Ecuador and Washington, the senator lobbied Ms. Mills himself, and the ban against Ms. Isaías was eventually overturned.
[…]
David A. Duckenfield, a partner at the company who is now on leave for a position as deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at the State Department, said Ms. Isaías worked for the firm but declined to comment further. Another senior executive at the firm said she must work outside the office because he had never heard of her.
[…]
“There are rigorous processes in place for matters such as these, and they were followed,” said the spokesman, Nick Merrill. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, declined to comment, saying that visas are issued free from political interference by other federal agencies.

Mr. Boehm, the former Pennsylvania prosecutor, said Senate ethics rules allowed members of Congress to reach out to the administration on behalf of a constituent. “Members of Congress do a lot for their constituents,” Mr. Boehm said.

“These folks are not his constituents,” he added, referring to Mr. Menendez.

See the whole report here: Ecuador Family Wins Favors After Donations to Democrats. 

Pardon me? Ah, yes, the vomitorium is next door to the right, please don’t make a mess.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Adam Namm as Ambassador to Ecuador – Finally!

On April 26, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed Adam Namm as the new Ambassador to Ecuador. Ambassador Namm’s nomination made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) in November last year.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at that time announced his intent to oppose the nominees for WHA, including Namm’s due to what he called this Administration’s policy towards Latin America defined by “appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies.”

PN887 *       Ecuador
Adam E. Namm, 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 Republic of Ecuador.

President Obama announced his nomination of Adam Namm on September 2011. We missed that announcement; below is the brief bio released by the WH:

Adam E. Namm is the Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) at the State Department.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor, Mr. Namm joined the Department of State in 1987.  His most recent overseas assignment was as Management Counselor in Islamabad, with prior tours in Bogota, Dhahran, and Santo Domingo.  His domestic assignments have included Executive Assistant in the Bureau of Administration, Director of the Office of Allowances, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management, and both Desk Officer and Post Management Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Mr. Namm holds an A.B. magna cum laude in International Relations from Brown University and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College.

Ambassador Louis Susman (left), Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Adam Namm (right), and architect James Timberlake (middle) examine the new U.S. Embassy London model.
(U.S. Embassy London photo by SJ Mayhew/Via Flickr)

Ambassador Namm will assume charge of the US Embassy in Quito from Timothy Zúñiga-Brown who has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Quito since July 2011, and is currently acting as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Mr. Zúñiga-Brown previously he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nassau, The Bahamas.

The previous US Ambassador to Quito, career diplomat, Heather M. Hodges was appointed Chief of Mission on October 2, 2008. She departed post in April 2011 after Ecuador asked her to leave the country “as soon as possible” following the wikileaked of a diplomatic cable alleging widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police force.

Domani Spero