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April 2012

Bahrain celebrities exposed!

As a former entertainment/celebrity journalist, Mr. Crab maintains a minor obsession with all things celebrity. Bahrain is not exactly glittering Dubai, yet during our almost two years in Bahrain, a few celebs have passed through our shores including Toby Keith, Jessica Simpson, Joe Montana, Neil Armstrong, not to mention all the Formula 1 drivers who participated in the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix including Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and friends. And that got me thinking about famous folks that have once called Bahrain home.

Some top celebrities connected to Bahrain: 

Michael Jackson

Jacko-Bahrain_king The late King of Pop is, by far, the most famous world celebrity to make his mark on Bahrain. Jackson lived in Bahrain from June 2005 to May 2006. Jackson fled from Neverland Ranch to Bahrain to hide out after he was acquitted of child molestation charges. My most accounts, Jackson spent his time in Bahrain shopping, once donning a women's burka to shop at Marina Mall. He once promised to build the Neverland of mosques in Bahrain (never happened). As a guest of Prince Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Jackson lived on the man-made Amwaj Islands, and apparently racked up millions of dollars in debt from his expensive lifestyle.

Jackson_narrowweb__300x447,0The Prince - himself an aspiring singer - later sued the King of Pop in a London court for the tune of $7 million for breach of contract, accusing Jackson of reneging on a deal to produce an album, including a song intended to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. Prince Abdullah's attorney told the court that the Prince felt "betrayed" by his friend. The two sides settled their case in 2008, but the damage was done. Michael Jackson died in June 2009. Jackson remains immensly popular here in Bahrain. Last week's 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix featured a performance by Navi, the world's top Michael Jackson impersonator.  


Jermaine Jackson

JermaineFCBahrainMichael's brother reportedly converted to Islam after a 1989 trip to Bahrain. Jermaine's love for Bahrain must have made quite an impression on Michael. In September 2011, Jermaine wrote a new book in which he revealed a plan to secretly fly Michael Jackson from Los Angeles to Bahrain - which does not have an extradition policy with the United States - if he had been found guilty of child molestation charges. 



ShakiraColombian-Lebanese pop singer Shakira lived in Bahrain as a little girl, briefly attending Bahrain School, run by the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS).  Shakira even mentions Bahrain in her song "Ojos Asi". Shakira speaks Arabic, among a half dozen other languages. Her hips don't lie.


Bruno Campos

Bruno_Campos Brazilian-born actor Bruno Campos is best known for his role as Dr. Quentin Costa on Nip/Tuck. Bruno briefly lived in Bahrain as a child. By the time he was 14, Bruno had already lived in Bahrain, Brazil, Houston, and Toronto. "There was something exciting about being in a school filled with kids from around the world," Campos told Us Weekly in 1999 of his time in Bahrain. "I met my first real girlfriend there at 13. She was 18." You go, boy! 


Shemar Moore

ShemarMoore This ladies man plays FBI agent Derek Morgan on CBS' "Criminal Minds". Born in Oakland, California to an African-American father and Irish American mother, Shemar's family moved to Denmark as a baby, partly to escape the racist environment of the 1970s. The family moved to Bahrain. From age 4 to 7, Derek attended a British private school (The British School?), where his mother was a math teacher. "My mother put me in a British private school so I could learn English because she knew she was going to bring me back to the States eventually," he told Ability magazine, adding, "I’m grateful for that time of my life, though. I’m grateful for the travels and all of it, because I think it all instilled values and a sense of broad thinking." 


Know of any other famous celebrities with a Bahrain connection? Drop me a line! 

DOS: lessons (to be) learned

As a former Army NCO, I'm often perplexed at the vast cultural differences between DOD and DOS.  Both sides do a lot of things very well, but there are also many ways each agency could learn from the other, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. 

That's why Kori Schake's article in Foreign Policy, "State of Disrepair", is a must read. Ms. Schake header sums it up: "If the State Department really wants to lead U.S. foreign policy, it needs to stop complaining about the military and act more like it."  This paragraph pretty much sums it up:

"The people who are successful in the State Department are people who can be thrown in the deep end of the swimming pool and not drown; but the department never teaches them to swim, and the successful ones even come to discredit the value of swimming lessons, because they succeeded without them."

Another gem that really stands out:

  • Protecting Americans at home and abroad through excellence in consular service should be the primary function of America's diplomats: preventing dangerous enemies from attaining visas to travel to the United States, ensuring Americans traveling overseas have the protection of their government, encouraging educational and other involvement with talented foreigners. These are the bread and butter -- what prospectors would call the "grub stake" -- of diplomacy, the activities that can only be performed by diplomats but on the success of which all Americans rely. Yet they are also the activities least valued by the State Department: Consular service is the lowest priority "cone," or specialization, in the Foreign Service. Talented diplomats are not tracked into that branch. It is as though the Army and Marine Corps did not consider ground combat their principal function. This needs to change if the State Department is to build a strong institutional base as the lead agency for U.S. foreign policy. State needs to clearly embrace consular activity as its essential function and realign the incentives and thereby the culture of the institution. Doing so would bring the State Department significant advantages, both in the operation of the organization and in its support by the public and Congress.

Schake, a research fellow at Stamford University's Hoover Institutution, has just written a new book that further explores her concepts: "State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department" (Hoover Inst. Press).

Interestingly, DOS & DOD also share one major similarity:  Apart from the military, I can't think of too many professional organizations where prior skills and experience are NOT a major job requirement.  There are only a handful of requirements to become a Foreign Service Officer including U.S. citizenship and age (20-59). There is no educational or work experience required, nor foreign language or travel experience. Granted, you have to pass the Foreign Service written & oral exams, plus earn and maintain security and medical clearances. Some would argue that all this is a good thing: all applicants, regardless of background, are on a level playing field. But should DOS should be hiring for needed skills rather than teaching on the job?   Good question.



Call off the United Airlines boycott!

United_Air_Lines_1955 United Decides to Extend the Military Pet Transport "Waiver" to Members of the Foreign Service! 

This is a victory and provides recognition to the Foreign Service and those who serve abroad. AFSA will continue to work to ensure we have the option to transport pets as accompanied baggage checked in at the passenger terminal and delivered with baggage and hope to work with United to make PetSafe viable globally and truly safe for pets. 

AFSA 's request for a meeting with United's CEO Jeff Smisek or with an appropriate Vice President resulted in a call today from Hershel Kamen, United’s Senior Vice President for Alliances, Regulatory Affairs, and Policy. Mr. Kamen told us that United Airlines has decided to extend its military pet travel policy waiver to members of the U.S. Foreign Service who are traveling on official change-of-station orders. This will include USG employees traveling to take up assignments in our embassies and missions abroad from all agencies.

We have not received official notification in writing and are awaiting details about what the waiver provides, but this decision is a direct result of this collective action that you made possible by your quick and united action. We want to let you know right away.

Huge thanks to all of you who wrote quickly and eloquently to United! Volume, speed and content combined for successful collective action and a message that was heard. This is a real success and validation of collective action for a good cause, and for standing up for the Foreign Service and what we do in service to our country. 

We extend our appreciation to the work of Under Secretary Kennedy and his staff and to the Director of Logistics Operations in the A Bureau to get GSA authorization to use alternate U.S. carriers or code shares. This option should remain in place because the option to transport pets as accompanied baggage is the standard we need for ourselves and for our animal companions.

AFSA also extends our appreciation and thanks to six members of Congress – Nita Lowey, Jim Moran, Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards, Gerry Connolly and Eleanor Holmes Norton who wrote to United in support of extending the waiver to members of the U.S. Foreign Service. 

AFSA extends a big thank-you to the Overseas Briefing Center, and to volunteers from AAFSW, the Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network (FAFAN), the FSpets Yahoo Group as well as from our FS pet owners themselves for their great work for this cause. It would not have happened without you all!

We appreciate United's decision to extend this courtesy to a large and dedicated customer group, demonstrating their appreciation of the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Foreign Service on behalf of the United States. We hope to work with United to help them improve their level of service to customers and to make PetSafe a program that is safe for pets globally.

AFSA will publicize the details of what the waiver provides as we learn them. Until then, you may read about the military waiver on the pet issues page of AFSA’s Web site. That page also includes the details of AFSA’s campaign to date.


Susan R. Johnson
AFSA President