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Archive for Americas

Newsline: US Embassy in South Africa Allegedly Ordered Not to Assist Barack Obama Visit

Typically, former American leaders are assisted by local American embassies when traveling abroad. However, when Barack Obama went to South Africa, he found himself left out in the cold, provided only with basic security services. These claims come via The Citizen, a South African news portal. Usually, embassy staffers will be heavily involved when a former President visits because, out of office or not, it’s a great way to build relationships with the host nation. The Citizen is citing “well-placed sources,” claiming that the Embassy was ordered to stand down and to not provide Obama with any additional services. Obama visited South Africa earlier this week to honor the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The now-deceased leader played a vital role in ending segregation in South Africa. Currently, South Africa has no sitting Ambassador and reports indicate that many staffers have left. In all likelihood, the Embassy wouldn’t have been able to offer much assistance even if it wanted to. Still, the alleged slight by Trump appears to have been meant to send a message.



Newsline: White House now says Trump disagrees with Russian request to question U.S. diplomat

As members of Congress weighed a measure criticizing President Donald Trump for considering a Russian request to interrogate former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, the White House again released a statement saying the president did not hold a position he had appeared to embrace. After the White House statement, the Senate unanimously approved in a 98-0 vote a nonbinding resolution Thursday offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that said the U.S. should refuse to make any former diplomat available to Russian investigators who say that official may have interfered in their country’s domestic affairs. McFaul reacted quickly. “98-0. Bipartisanship is not dead yet in the US Senate. Thank you all for your support,” he tweeted following the vote.


Newsline: Lawmakers condemn White House suggestion that Kremlin could interrogate former US ambassador

Lawmakers and former intelligence officials are expressing outrage over the White House suggesting it is considering a proposal from the Kremlin to potentially interrogate a group of Americans including a former U.S. ambassador. In an exchange during the White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders would not rule out the possibility that the U.S. could provide Russia access to a group of Americans they have accused of being involved in a criminal plot. Asked whether the president would actually entertain the idea of having U.S. persons questioned by Russia including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Sanders said no agreement was made yet, but acknowledged that it was indeed a topic of the president’s two-hour private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States,” Sanders said. “And the President will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.” However, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert was soon after asked about Sanders’ comment and shot down the “assertions by the Russian government” that it could question 11 American citizens as “absurd.” “I can’t answer on behalf of the White House with regard to that,” Nauert said. “But what I can tell you is that the overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd, the fact that they want to question 11 American citizens and the assertions that the Russian government is making about those American citizens – we do not stand by those assertions that the Russian government makes.”


Newsline: US embassy in Beijing seen “arrogant” for refusing Chinese neuroscientist a visa

A Chinese neuroscientist who once held US citizenship has accused the US embassy in Beijing of arrogance after he was turned down for a visa – the latest in a series of denials he has experienced from the embassy. Rao Yi, the dean of Peking University’s School of Life Sciences, said he had been invited by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency based in Alexandria, Virginia, to attend a science workshop on July 23 and 24 in Washington. But his plans were scuppered when his visa application was rejected, possibly as a result of the tighter screening process introduced last month for Chinese academics and students in the fields of science and hi-tech manufacturing. “Most embassies try to make more friends for their countries, [but] the US embassy is arrogant,” Rao told the South China Morning Post. “I am invited by the NSF, a government agency, but the State Department is taking the opposite path,” he said.


Newsline: Arrested Russian Activist Denied Access to Diplomats by US

Russia’s embassy in the United States is demanding consular access to imprisoned Russian national Mariia Butina, 29, who is accused by US authorities of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. “As the materials of the court case are classified, the interests of this woman of Russia illustrate her need for a qualified lawyer,” the embassy wrote on Facebook, vowing to “continue to defend” her rights with legal advocacy. For more than a day, Russian officials have been demanding consular access to Butina. “We are in contact with the US authorities and demand from them consular access to the Russian citizen in order to protect her legitimate rights,” the embassy tweeted Monday after the charges against her were announced by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Butina was arrested Sunday on the charge of “Conspiracy to Act as an Agent of a Foreign Government.” Tuesday, the DOJ added the additional charge of “Acting as an Agent of a Foreign Government.” The original charge was that of conspiracy, but the new one seems to accuse her of materially conducting the act.


Newsline: US embassy in Jerusalem to cost nearly 100 times Trump’s estimate

The new US embassy in Jerusalem is going to cost a bit more than President Donald Trump had estimated. Make that nearly 100 times more. The Maryland-based firm Desbuild Limak D&K was awarded a $21.2 million contract to design and build “compound security upgrades” to the embassy, according to official documents uploaded this week, Al-Monitor reported. The US has already spent $335,402 to refurbish the embassy, formerly a consulate, ahead of its May opening. “We’re going to have it built very quickly and inexpensively,” Trump told reporters in March following his decision months earlier to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy there. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion. … We’re actually doing it for about $250,000, so check that out.”


Newsline: Julian Assange Soon May Be Kicked Out of Ecuadorean Embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may soon be evicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after six years as high-level talks continue between that country and Britain, The New York Post reported. Citing The Times of London, the Post said that Assange’s fate at the embassy, where he has been since 2012, depended on the outcome of the discussions. Former President Rafael Correa granted Assange, 47, asylum after he was accused of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. But his successor, Lenin Moreno, who was elected in May, considers Assange an inherited problem and has ripped him as a “stone in the shoe.”