Consular Affairs Asst Secretary Carl Risch Visits A$AP Rocky in Sweden, Who Else Wanna Visit?

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Update: ASAP Rocky and Co-Defendants Allowed to Leave Sweden While Awaiting Verdict (set for August 14).
Sweden’a national public television broadcaster SVT reported on July 19 that the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch was in country to meet with A$AP Rocky and the other two detained US citizens.  He reportedly also meet staff from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Also see U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden).

The report cites a statement from Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that “Risch will, among other things, meet with representatives of the Foreign Office’s consular unit and the Justice Department, as well as in the role of consular officer in attendance at one of the US embassy’s previously scheduled visits to the three detained US citizens.” (via online translation).
The Foreign Ministry further writes according to SVT that “The US embassy has confirmed that the conditions in the Swedish detention comply with both the Vienna Convention and the international standard.” This in reference to a report by TMZ that A$AP was being held in “shockingly inhumane condition”.
A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden on July 3. The State Department previously announced on July 17 that CA’s Assistant Secretary Risch was traveling to Sweden from July 18-20 apparently to “observe U.S. consular operations and meet with foreign government counterparts to underscore the enduring commitment to the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens overseas and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States.”
The State Department’s own 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices on Sweden  under Prison and Detention Center Conditions notes:
There were no significant reports regarding prison, detention center, or migrant detention facility conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.
Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent, nongovernmental observers, including the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
In any case, the top gun at Consular Affairs already visited A$AP Rocky on July 19th. (Prior to Asst Secretary Risch’s visit, do you know when was the last time the assistant secretary of Consular Affairs made a prison visit overseas?).
When @StateSPEHA Robert O’Brien (the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs)  showed up in the Swedish courtroom on July 30 along with journalists, teenage rap fans and curious onlookers, the highest official in charge of Consular Affairs appeared to have already seen the three detained Americans.   One specific embassy official also has a clear role and reporting duties in the arrest and detention of American citizens. We would be surprised if U.S. Embassy Sweden’s Charge d’affaires ad interim Pamela Tremont, or post’s Consular Chief have not already visited the detainees.
Since neither the Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary nor the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs could sprung A$AP Rocky from jail, how useful are their presence in Sweden beyond appearances that they are doing something to get these individuals released?
Do we have senior officials actually thinking through the potential consequences of these actions — with senior officials descending into Sweden, and presidential tweets pressuring for the release of those in detention, plus the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs tweeting about “expedited paperworks “?
Does anyone enjoy the appearance of giving in because of some very public arm-twisting? No?
It may interest you to know that Sweden is also the “protecting power” for the United States in North Korea and has been so since September 1995. These folks know hostages. Do you think Sweden appreciates the United States decision to send a Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to a non-hostage situation there? Even if this case were to get resolved next week, do you think the Swedes will simply forget this?

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U.S Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji Gets a #Gripen Ride

Posted: 12:20 am ET
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In 2010, we blogged about US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck who flew on an F18 with the Finish Air Force.  In 2011, US Ambassador to India Tim Roemer and then Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro had their rides of a lifetime in a Lockheed Martin F/16 Super Viper and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet respectively during Aero India.

Yesterday, the U.S ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji got a ride in a  with test pilot Marcus Wandt. We missed this but in 2013, her predecessor, Ambassador Brzezinski also got a Gripen ride.

According to Wikipedia, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force.

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VPOTUS Swears-In New U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji

Posted: 2:53 am EDT
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Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up

US Mission New Zealand

Independence Day Celebration in Wellington, June 11, 2012.
With a 1942 theme.  2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American forces in New Zealand during WWII. With so few veterans left the Embassy has decided this is an important anniversary to commemorate. (click on image for slideshow).

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

Independence Day Celebration, Auckland, June 18, 2012 (click on image for slideshow)

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

Independence Day Celebration in Christchurch, June 22, 2012
Present-day Marines talking with WWII Marine Harry Oliver, now living in Christchurch. Ambassador Huebner blogged about the Christchurch celebrations here.

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

US Embassy Stockholm, Sweden

On June 28, the Embassy celebrated Independence Day, with Sweet Home Chicago as the theme, a city that personifies America’s multicultural roots. Ambassador Brzezinski’s wife, Natalia also blogged about the celebration in the Brzezinski Blog(click on image for slideshow)

Image from US Embassy Sweden

US Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel

On July 3, 2012 beginning at 7pm, the embassy’s #1 event of the year with “Israel’s A-List” goes live for online viewing straight from the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro. The online invite says: “Be there as guests arrive, Dr. Eric Huntsman sings the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Ms. Hagit Yassu sings “Hatikva,” and the U.S. Ambassador, Israeli President, and Prime Minister deliver their remarks. Musical entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by an ensemble from the Israeli Conservatory of Music and the U.S. Military Band “Winds Aloft.” Of course don’t miss how the fireworks light up the night sky above the cliffs of the Mediterranean!

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv is also to “live Tweet” the event using the hashtag #July4inTA and has raffled invitation on its Facebook page. It has the most detailed web page we have seen on July 4th, including information for guests and facts and historical documents (with translation) about the Fourth of July.

US Embassy Helsinki, Finland

Ambassador Oreck and Ms. Cody Douglas Oreck hosted the Embassy’s 4th of July party on Wednesday, June 20th.  From the embassy presser: “In addition to the traditional 4th of July program, the guests had a chance to get a firsthand look at the construction site and even witness a blast—not quite the visual effects of the 4th of July fireworks but the noise level was the same!  Other attractions included the viewing of energy efficient vehicles Fisker Karma and Volt and a tour of the newly renovated library with its Karelian pine and flame-birch wall paneling.  The menu featured Georgia O’Keefe Southwestern Chili, in honor of the famous American artist currently exhibited at the Helsinki Art Museum.  The tasty dish was prepared with Finnish moose meat.” The event is complete with yellow hard hats! (click on image for slideshow)

Photo from US Embassy Finland/Flickr

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

On June 27, 2012, Ambassador Norman Eisen hosted the traditional Independence Day reception at the Ambassador’s residence in Prague. (click on image for slideshow)

Ambassador Eisen waits for his guests at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Prague. (Photo from US Embassy Prague/Flickr)

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

Photo collections Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

US Consulate General Matamoros, Mexico

The U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros commemorated the 236th anniversary of American independence on June 15th with a reception at the Consul General’s home. The ceremonies ended with the traditional cake cutting ceremony, where Consul General Michael Barkin was joined by Mayors Alfonso Sanchez Garza of Matamoros, Alberto Gonzalez Peña of Mier, Ramon Rodriguez Garza of Miguel Aleman, and Juan Diego Guajardo of Rio Bravo.

Photo from USCG Matamoros, Mexico (website)

US Embassy Canberra, Australia

The July 4th celebration with a NASA theme, complete with a Mars bar and Buzz Aldrin! The NASA display was reportedly extremely impressive and done by the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex! (click on image for slideshow)

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Ambassador Bleich and Buzz Aldrins with our Marines before the ceremony (Photo by US Embassy Canberra/Flickr)

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

On July 2, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band from Okinawa performed at Chulalongkorn University as part of this year’s U.S. Independence Day celebration.

Photo from US Embassy Bangkok/FB

Happy 4th! Stay safe,

Domani Spero