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Posts tagged ‘Dominican Republic’

Map Shows Obama Money-Raisers Take Key Ambassadorships.

It’s not unusual for presidents to appoint allies to ambassadorships, but Barack Obama has taken it to a new level, nominating 23 of his top campaign “bundlers,” as well as 18 other political allies, to ambassadorships.

And more donor-nominees are on their way.

The nonprofit Center for Public Integrity has released an interactive map that shows how Obama is sending top donors to plum assignments worldwide while career diplomats overwhelmingly get postings to Africa, South Asia, and South America.

Michael Beckel and Chris Zubak-Skees, who have worked on the map since July, told Mashable that the project is continuing since many of Obama’s nominees aren’t yet confirmed.

However, they said in an email, “there is a causal relationship between big-dollar fundraising and some of the most-sought-after positions in the diplomatic corps.

“This project was conceived to highlight the fact that scores of plum ambassadorship postings are going not to career diplomats, but to well-connected political fundraisers,” they said.

Under federal law, individuals can donate only $2,600 to a candidate. However, bundlers work to gather up donations from several people, and some of Obama’s better appointments have gone to people who have brought together up to $1.2 million in campaign contributions, even though they have no diplomatic experience.

Three of the highest-ranking bundlers are Kirk Wagar, founder and manager of Wagar Law Firm, whose nomination to Singapore came after he raised $1.2 million; Matthew Winthrop Barzun, national finance chair for Obama’s 2012 campaign, who is heading to London after he also raised $1.2 million; and Barclays Director of Financial Services Mark Gilbert, who has been nominated but not yet confirmed as ambassadorship to New Zealand.

Other top bundlers are either nominated or approved for coveted posts such as those in Germany,  Canada, Italy, the Dominican Republic, the European Union, Argentina, and Spain.

Yet others have been nominated for key UN positions, the interactive map shows.

For example, Pamela Hamamoto, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, has been nominated as a representative to the Office of the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva, after bundling $700,000 toward Obama’s campaigns.

Meanwhile diplomats with years of experience are ending up in such backwaters as Sierra Leone, Angola, Laos, and Palau.

In Europe, 11 posts went to bundlers, one to what Beckel and Zubak-Skees call an “other political appointee” while just four — Albania, Greece, Bosnia-Herzogovina, and Ukraine — went to career diplomats. But in Africa, the map shows, 18 posts went to career diplomats, two — South Africa and Tanzania — to political appointees and just Morocco to a bundler.

“This practice has been going on for generations, but this year, President Obama has been appointing political allies to ambassadorships at an exceptionally high rate,” Beckel and Zubak-Skees told Mashable.

The nominations aren’t stopping there.

Obama is close to nominating Jane Hartley, a top fundraiser and co-founder of the economic and political advisory firm Observatory Group LLC, U.S. ambassador to Paris, columnist Al Kamen writes in Wednesday’s Washington Post.

In addition, Tom Carnahan, the brother of former Democratic Mississippi Rep. Russ Carnahan, may be heading to Ireland.

Related stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Nigerians disqualified from 2015 visa lottery.



Nigerian citizens have been disqualified from participating in the United States 2015 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2015) otherwise known as US visa lottery.

According to a statement by the US Department of State, Nigerians would no longer be eligible to apply for the programme as over 50,000 citizens had emigrated to the US under the visa lottery scheme in the last five years.

The US government statement reads in part: “The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered annually by the Department of State. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For fiscal year 2015, 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) will be available.


“For DV-2015, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

“Changes in eligibility this year: For DV-2015, natives of Nigeria are no longer eligible.

However, since entries are based on country of birth, Nigerians born in eligible countries can still apply.

The move is certain to come as a big blow to thousands of Nigerian who try to enter the US legally or illegally based on family ties and desire to escape joblessness and economic hardships at home.

Entries for the DV-2015 open on October 1 and close on November 2.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Russia Issues Travel Warning to People Wanted by US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday cautioned people wanted by the United States not to visit nations that have an extradition treaty with it.

“Warning for Russian citizens traveling internationally,” the Foreign Ministry bulletin said, The New York Times reports . “Recently, detentions of Russian citizens in various countries, at the request of American law enforcement, have become more frequent — with the goal of extradition and legal prosecution in the United States.”

The ministry cited examples in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Latvia, and Spain.

“Experience shows that the judicial proceedings against those who were in fact kidnapped and taken to the U.S. are of a biased character, based on shaky evidence, and clearly tilted toward conviction.”

The issue of extradition has often been a contentious one between the United States and Russia, highlighted even more by the case of Edward Snowden, the fugitive former National Security Agency contractor who is wanted on criminal espionage charges.

Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after living in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for more than a month.

The United States and Russia lack a formal extradition treaty, according to the Times, and Russian officials cited that in arguing that they could not forcibly return Snowden to the U.S.

In response to the demands by the Obama administration for Snowden’s return, Russian officials have said the United States has routinely ignored extradition requests from Russia.

The country also complained about Russian citizens who have been arrested by the United States or by other countries at Americans’ request, the Times reports.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


By Todd Beamon

‘Modern-Day Mother Teresa’ Heads Homeless Church.


Freddie Power in the Sudan
Freddie Power in the Sudan (Facebook)

North Carolina has one of the country’s fastest-growing homeless populations. In Charlotte, one of the largest cities in the state, the most vulnerable people are in desperate need of help.

One grandmother is answering the call seven days a week. Her name is Freddie Power, and her work has led some to call her a modern-day Mother Teresa.

The Parking Lot Service

The streets of Charlotte are home to more than 3,000 people. Rory “Hotdog” Montgomery is one of them. At 63, he can fit all he owns in a shopping cart, but he’s not bitter about his lot in life.

“The way I would explain it is that you are where God wants you to be at that time that He wants you to be there,” Montgomery told CBN News. “I don’t consider myself homeless. I am just residentially disadvantaged.”

“If I can do something good for somebody, even though I don’t have, then maybe someone that have can do something for somebody else that don’t have,” he said.

Montgomery’s giving heart is pumped even bigger on Sunday afternoons. That is when he joins dozens of other homeless for church in a Charlotte parking lot.

“It gets you off the corner of the block. You ain’t in the riff-raff. This might be the time that something happens up there, and God put me here to save me,” he said.

Church Without Walls

Power is the tireless grandmother behind this growing outreach ministry. She has started two homeless churches in the last five years through her Keeping Hope Alive ministry.

She makes regular mission trips to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and South Africa, but she rarely misses an opportunity to join her faithful churchgoers when she is at home.

Power recounted stories of their faithfulness in an interview after one Sunday service.

“One day it was snowing so hard I thought, ‘No one is going to be there.’ And I thought, ‘No, I am going to take groceries, and I am going to go,’” she said.

“And there were five men with umbrellas and coats on and they were just covered in snow,” she said. “And we fed them and had church service. So, they come, no matter what.”

They come for encouragement, prayer and food.

The First Service

The services are still a walk of faith for Power. She prays each week for God to draw the people to the services and for Him to supply the food for her to distribute.

Power recalled that first Sunday service in 2008 when she emptied her own bank account to buy groceries.

“Twenty-two people gave their heart to Jesus that weekend. And I said, ‘OK, God, what are You doing? Do You want us to do it again?’ And He, said, ‘Yes, I want you to go do it again,’“ she said.

“Someone gave me the money. So we went around, and 22 more people gave their heart to Jesus. And then He said, ‘I want you to start a church for the homeless. Put out a few plastic chairs, and I will bring the people,’” she said.

Building on a Spiritual Legacy

Power’s first church for the homeless began on the corner of Duckworth and Wesley Heights in Charlotte, a corner with real spiritual significance for the city. The church meets just across the street from the site of a famous church built by Alfred Garr in the 1930s.

Power was not in Charlotte for Garr’s ministry, but she knows the history well.

“Even during the Depression, he brought the old coliseum of Charlotte, a brick at a time, over here to build this. And it was thick. The walls were very thick,” she said. “And he paid them a sandwich a day, just for the working. Isn’t that amazing? He believed in that church. And he believed the Holy Spirit was coming in power.”

“Someone invited me to come to the Garr church land—the building was there then—and we felt the presence of the Lord still on the place for all of the miracles that happened during that time,” she recalled.

Labeled a “20th-century apostle,” Garr’s miracle meetings often made headlines in the Charlotte Observer. And Power, known as “Ms. Freddie,” said she and her team still witness miracles in the neighborhood today.

“That is what is so great about it. We show up, and God does the rest. I don’t do the miracles. He does. And He saves people, and He heals people,” she said.

Hotdog, the Miracle

“Hotdog” Montgomery is one of those miracles. Though blind in one eye, he can still create works of art with just a pencil, a Q-tip and an eraser.

“I use what God gave me, when I can,” Montgomery told CBN News. “It gives me a little peace—peace of mind.”

Power featured one of Montgomery’s works in her book, Letters to My Mom.

“He has such talent,” she said. “He is amazing. And there he is on the street. I couldn’t believe it.”

Freddie has only one prayer for Hotdog and her other walking miracles on these streets.

“I want God to be real to them, right where they are at. I want them to live a supernatural, miracle life, right where they’re at,” she said.

And the faithful members of Power’s homeless congregations have only one prayer for Ms. Freddie.

“I pray that she comes back, that’s for sure,” Montgomery said. “I pray that she has safe trips to do what she has to do to make her world and other people’s world better.”

That work is why some call her Charlotte’s “Mother Teresa.”


Tropical Storm Chantal Speeds Toward Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Chantal churned across the Atlantic Ocean toward the eastern Caribbean on Monday on a track that would put it over flood-prone Haiti and the Dominican Republic later this week, U.S. forecasters said.

The third named storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season posed no immediate threat to U.S. oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

But while a track forecast from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center showed it turning away from the gulf after cutting across eastern Cuba early Friday, meteorologists said the forecast was still subject to possible change.

On the current track forecast, the storm would likely head back out to sea after skirting across the eastern coast of Florida and crossing the Bahamas on Saturday.

Chantal, which had winds of about 45 miles per hour (75 kph) on Monday as it swirled 390 miles (630 km) east-southeast of Barbados, was not forecast to strengthen into a hurricane. It was speeding westward at 26 mph (43 kph).

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the Virgin Islands. Tropical storm warnings were also issued for the eastern Caribbean islands of Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

The storm is expected to reach near hurricane strength as it approaches Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, but lose some of its power passing over the mountainous Hispaniola island made up of the two countries.

Jeff Masters, a hurricane expert with private forecaster Weather Underground, said it was rare for a tropical storm to form east of the Lesser Antilles Islands before mid-July. The hurricane season’s traditional busy phase runs from mid-August to October.

He said storm prediction models were forecasting the formation of another tropical storm southwest of the Cape Verde Islands early next week.

“It appears that the Atlantic is primed for an active hurricane season,” Masters said. (Reporting by Tom Brown and Kevin Gray; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Eric Walsh)

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Film Casts Baseball Superstar In Different Light.


Albet Pujols
Albet Pujols (Reuters/Mike Stone)

As an international sports star, Albert Pujols is often thought of only for his baseball accomplishments. The short film I am Second, however, demonstrates Pujols as a man devoted to his family and his faith. In his video, he discusses his love for wife, Deidre, and the daughter that came into his life along with her.

In the film, the all-star and Los Angeles Angels’ first baseman shares his personal journey from the Dominican Republic to the major leagues and what personal legacy he hopes to leave beyond baseball in partnership with I Am Second, a movement meant to inspire through stories of hope and transformation.

Pujols’ short film premiered on on July 2.

“A friend of mine challenged me about four years ago to ask every guy that gets to first base what the most important thing in their life is,” Pujols said. “The response I sometimes get is why I am asking such a question. I tell them it is because there’s more to life than this game.”

In his 12 years in the Majors, Pujols has never hit less than 30 home runs in a season and has hit 488 during his career. He won World Championships with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011, and is a three-time National League Most Valuable Player Award winner. In a recent poll, he was voted the most feared hitter in baseball by 30 MLB managers.

Pujols dreamed of playing baseball from a young age. He grew up in poverty in the Dominican Republic, before his family moved to the United States in 1996. Before long, his dreams began to come true and it seemed baseball would be the focus of his life. But then he met Diedre.

“I don’t want people to remember me as just a baseball player,” Pujols said. “To me, off the field is more important than what I do on the field. Sure, I want to be a great baseball player, but I also wanted to a godly daddy and husband, setting an example for my kids. If you would ask me this 20 years ago, I would have told you that I thought it was about me.”

Deidre’s faith and Down syndrome daughter, Isabella, gave Pujols a new perspective on life. Through his journey raising Isabella as his own, Pujols became a stronger man of faith. It was this that inspired him and his wife to found The Pujols Family Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on aiding families with Down syndrome children, in 2005.

Pujols’ film can be viewed at or the recently launched Spanish website


US Tries New Aerial Tools in Caribbean Drug Fight.

ABOARD THE HIGH SPEED VESSEL SWIFT  — Drug smugglers who race across the Caribbean in speedboats will typically jettison their cargo when spotted by surveillance aircraft, hoping any chance of prosecuting them will vanish with the drugs sinking to the bottom of the sea.

That may be a less winning tactic in the future. The U.S. Navy on Friday began testing two new aerial tools, borrowed from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, that officials say will make it easier to detect, track and videotape drug smugglers in action.

One of the devices on display aboard the High Speed Vessel Swift is a large, white balloon-like craft known as an aerostat, which is tethered up to 2,000 feet above the ship’s stern. The other tool on board for tests in the Florida Straits is a type of drone that can be launched by hand from the deck.

Together, they expand the ability of Navy and Coast Guard personnel to see what’s beyond their horizon, according to officials from both military branches and the contractors hoping to sell the devices to the U.S. government.

The devices should allow authorities to detect and monitor suspected drug shipments from afar for longer sustained periods, giving them a better chance of stopping the smugglers. They also should allow them to make continuous videotapes that can be used in prosecutions.

“Being able to see them and watch what they are doing even before we get there is going to give us an edge,” said Chief Chris Sinclair, assistant officer in charge of a law enforcement detachment on board the Swift, a private vessel leased to the Navy that is about to begin a month-long deployment to the southwestern Caribbean, tracking the busy smuggling routes off Colombia and Honduras.

Crews practiced launching and operating both systems before a small contingent of news media on board the Swift, managing to bring back video of vessels participating in a mock surveillance mission as well as radar and video images of the fishing charters and sailboats that dot the choppy seas separating Cuba from the U.S. mainland.

The drone, officially a Puma All Environment unmanned aircraft system from Aerovironment Inc. of Simi Valley, California, splashed into the water on one landing and had to be retrieved. On the second round, it clacked noisily but intact on the shifting deck of the 321-foot ship. Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander of the Navy’s 4th Fleet, said the devices are necessary at a time when the service is making a transition to smaller, faster ships amid budget cuts.

The aerostat, formally the Aerostar TIF-25K and made by a division of Raven Industries Inc. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is filled with helium. It’s an old technology, models of which have been used for decades, but it’s packed with cameras and sensors that expand the ship’s radar capability from about 5 miles to about 50 miles. That can help teams in an on-board control center to identify larger ships, which now would appear as just dots on the horizon, from as far as 15 miles away.

The Puma, meanwhile, can be sent out to inspect a vessel flagged by the larger aerostat and give a “God’s eye view,” of what’s happening on board, a job usually handled by a plane or helicopter, said Craig Benson, director of business development for the company.

Both the aerostat and the drone have been used widely by the U.S. government for overseas actions, but Harris and others aboard the Swift said neither has been used before by the Navy to conduct counter-drug operations.

Unmanned aerial devices, however, are not new to the drug fight. U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates 10 Predator drones, including two based in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that patrol a wide swathe of the Caribbean through the Bahamas and down to south of Puerto Rico. It deployed one to the Dominican Republic last year for six weeks and has considered using one in Honduras. The others are used along the northern and southern borders of the United States.

The U.S. military has long been deeply involved in counter-drug operations in the Southern Hemisphere, coordinated by a multi-agency task force based in Key West, Florida. Navy ships and Air Force jets use their radar to track and run down smugglers, though for legal reasons the actual arrests are carried out by the Coast Guard, civilian agencies or officials from other countries.

In March, the military said it would reduce patrols and sorties in Latin America and the Caribbean because of the automatic spending cuts imposed by Congress, another argument for increased use of aerial surveillance devices like the aerostat and drone, officials said.

Representatives on the Swift from both contractors declined to say what their systems cost. But they said each can be run at a fraction of the cost of the fixed-wing planes or helicopters usually dispatched to check out suspected smugglers.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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