Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for October 8, 2011

Newsline: US diplomat charged with abuse

A US diplomat has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon after allegedly beating his wife while they lived in Dakar, Senegal, the Justice Department said. The indictment against Michael Makalou, 40, was handed down by a grand jury in Virginia. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The Justice Department said Makalou was a political officer at the US embassy in Dakar where he lived with his wife and children. According to an affidavit filed in the case, an argument erupted between Makalou and his wife on the morning ofAugust 13 2011. The Justice Department alleged that “Makalou then began to physically assault his wife, which included choking her, striking her head with closed fists and stomping on her back with his feet”. “As a result of the attack, Makalou’s wife suffered a concussion as well as lacerations to her gums, multiple contusions and bruising,” it said. The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service investigated the case.




Newsline: Federal government spends over $1 million to maintain vacant former embassy

Once a mecca of activity on the coveted doorstep of Parliament Hill, the abandoned former U.S. Embassy building onWellington Streethas gathered more than a decade’s worth of dust and cobwebs at a taxpayer cost of more than $1 million over the past six years. Documents obtained by Postmedia News using access to information legislation reveal the Conservative government, since coming into power, has spent more than $1.1 million on the upkeep of the deteriorating structure, now essentially a vacant warehouse. The biggest expense — $556,207 spent between 2006 and 2011 — was for operations, maintenance and minor repairs. Another $204,539 was spent on other repair projects, $65,012 on roads, grounds and security, $2,792 on cleaning and $272,321 on utilities in the same time period, while electricity costs averaged almost $53,639 per year. Built in 1931, the Beaux-Arts style three-storey mansion, with its intricate classical details carved out of limestone, was designed by prominent American architect Cass Gilbert. The building was well maintained throughout its operational life, and still retained many of its original architectural elements when the last of the U.S. Embassy workers moved to their new, larger office onSussex Drivein 1999. As ideas on how to use the space were tossed about, then-prime minister Jean Chretien approved in 2001 a proposal to spend $22 million on transforming the historic building into a portrait gallery. However, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative party came to power in 2006, the embassy renovations were quickly axed. In 2009, the Harper government reportedly looked into using the building as a reception space for dignitaries, but nothing came of that idea, either. Today, although tall wooden barricades block off the street level view of the building, signs of wear and tear are visible on the its facade. The left doorknob on the double-door entrance is broken off, and graffiti has been drawn into a layer of dust and grime that has accumulated over many years of vacancy. In an email on Friday, Public Works and Government Services Canada wrote the department “is exploring options for future use of the building located at 100Wellington.” For now, the building “is a classified heritage building and requires regular maintenance and repairs to mitigate health and safety risks and to ensure its preservation,” the email said.