The Envoy
  • The Senate confirmed U.S. ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, Jr. in a voice vote Tuesday evening.

    The action came a day after the Senate confirmed U.S. envoy to Syria Robert Ford by unanimous consent.

    Both Ricciardone and Ford had been recess-appointed to the ambassadorships by President Obama last December, following months of their nominations being stalled by Republicans.

    Ricciardone, a fluent Turkish-speaker and career diplomat, previously served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt, ambassador to the Philippines, deputy U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, and in two earlier tours in Turkey, including as deputy chief of mission and charge d'affaires.

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  • State Department braces for budget cuts

    The State Department, like other federal agencies, is bracing for painful budget cuts.

    "We're going to have to do more with less — or less with less, depending on how you look at it," Thomas R. Nides, the deputy secretary of state for management and budget, told the New York Times' Steven Lee Myers.

    The Obama administration requested $59 billion for the State Department's operations and foreign assistance budget for the new fiscal year, which began October 1.

    Proposed cuts by the Republican-controlled House appropriations subcommittee would reduce that by $12 billion, or 20 percent, to $47 billion, Myers reports.

    The foreign assistance budget was cut by $8 billion last spring. Foreign aid accounts for only 1 percent of the federal budget.

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  • David Gerbi stands in front of Tripoli's main synagogue Sunday. (Abdel Magid al-Fergany/AP)

    David Gerbi, a Libyan-born Jewish psychoanalyst, lived in exile in Italy for 40 years. He returned to Libya this past spring to assist the Libyan rebel forces during the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.

    Gerbi's dream in the aftermath of Gadhafi's fall was to restore Tripoli's old Jewish synagogue, and he claimed to have received permission from Libya's interim authorities, the National Transition Council, and a local Muslim cleric to proceed.

    However, just two days into his internationally-noted effort, Gerbi's plan was stymied by threats of violence from a hostile crowd of Libyans who gathered outside the old Tripoli synagogue where Gerbi was praying, National Public Radio's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported in a sad dispatch from Tripoli.

    "The building is not safe. The area is not safe. There are a lot of people armed. We don't know what happens. So the best thing for him is to leave," Hadi Belazi, a man in the crowd outside the synagogue, told NPR.

    Though the Jewish community in the north African nation "dates back thousands of years," for the last half century, "there was virtually no Jewish presence in Libya," Garcia-Navarro reports. Libya's Jewish population emigrated in waves, after the establishment of Israel in 1948 and again after the 1967 war. The remainder were ousted after Gadhafi's rise to power in 1969.

    Read More »from Menacing Libyan crowd forces returned Libyan Jew to flee Tripoli synagogue


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