The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Chile.
Official VIP travel to Chile, however, is still on.
The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Chile.
An internal State Department report says the agency's work in publicizing administration foreign policy and its relations with the media have been hurt by poor communication, lack of staffing and uneven leadership in the Bureau of Public Affairs.
A review by the department's inspector general found that some employees had been instructed not to return phone calls to reporters asking sensitive questions and that the environment in one office was so tense and hostile that several workers fear violence.
The report, which was completed last week, was obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press.
The 63-page document also found that the duties of some career employees in the press office had been transferred to political appointees, which contributed to low morale. The report was compiled last fall, months after Hillary Rodham Clinton took the helm at the State Department.
"It's a tough report," said P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs who runs the bureau. "What the report shows is that the bureau has many strengths, but it clearly has some organizational weaknesses that we are aggressively trying to correct."
He said corrective action had already been taken on about a third of the problems identified in the report.
The inspector general conducts periodic reviews of each department bureau. The work of the Bureau of Public Affairs is deemed critical to the administration's ability to communicate its foreign policy to the American taxpayer and foreign governments and their publics.
The review praised the skill and professionalism of the spokesmen - both career diplomats and political appointees - who brief reporters daily from the podium at the department's headquarters. It also lauded the bureau's attention to new media and its use of social networking platforms to get out the Obama administration's message.
But it said the operation needed better direction and that a senior front office position empty for more than a year should be filled immediately as its vacancy "contributes significantly to weak bureau management and low morale.
At lower levels, the report said the Office of Press Relations, which in previous administrations has been a primary channel for answering inquiries from the media, had lost much of its role because Clinton's team believed it was not effective.
"Thanks to a perfect storm of administration transition, weak leadership, miscues, misunderstanding, personality conflicts and poor communication, PRS has been marginalized," it said, referring to the press office by its acronym.
The report said the office also may have lost credibility because it had been instructed not to respond to certain questions from reporters.
"Under direction from the front office, PRS does not return some reporters' calls, for inquiries that are deemed sensitive," it said.
Crowley denied there was a policy to ignore certain reporters' phone calls but said in some cases inquiries would be passed along to the front office, adding that calls are returned.
The report's most damaging findings involve the Office of Broadcast Services, which produces and distributes audio and video content to worldwide media outlets. That office, it said, is beset by severe morale problems and hostility between employees and managers.
It said several employees expressed concern "that violence in the workplace could result because of the high levels of workplace animosity and tension." The report called for the current director of the office to be replaced.
Crowley acknowledged "a serious morale issue" in the office and said it was being addressed.
It's better to be hated for what you are, than loved for something you are not ...... Unless you're a CIA officer working under official cover, in which case it's more or less a wash.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman, and Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Adam Namm, announced today that KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has won the design competition for the New London Embassy.
KieranTimberlake’s design met the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century. Their concept most fully satisfied the requirements outlined in the design competition’s mission statement. The concept holds the greatest potential for developing a truly iconic embassy and is on the leading edge of sustainable design. KieranTimberlake is an architectural firm known for its commitment to innovation and environmental responsibility.
Starting with 37 architectural submissions, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations narrowed the list to nine firms. A distinguished jury of both American and British leaders in the fields of architecture, academia and diplomacy selected four firms for the final phase of the competition.
The four firms explored the symbolism of the embassy, its presence and position in the cityscape of London. Their goal was to create a building and site complex with a timeless quality to appropriately represent the United States of America in the United Kingdom.
The four competing architectural firms, KieranTimberlake, Morphosis Architects, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Richard Meier & Partners, worked for nearly a year and made presentations to the jury which then recommended the winning design.
As KieranTimberlake moves forward with the design of the building, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and KieranTimberlake will be actively engaged in the consultation and planning process involving the Mayor’s office, the Wandsworth Borough Council, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, as well as residents in the area to ensure that the new embassy provides an appropriate home for the United States of America in London.
The anticipated ground breaking on this landmark embassy will be in 2013 with a goal to complete the construction in 2017.
Jane Loeffler, author of "The Architecture of Diplomacy," a history of U.S. embassy facilities, praised the selection.
"They really want to make this a positive statement and it looks like they are doing that," said Loeffler. "It is very fashion forward, but it's not just trendy; it has rationale and science behind it."
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The winning design's emphasis on sustainability isn't just trendy architectural positioning, argues Loeffler. It is symbolically important as a diplomatic gesture. It also demonstrates how sustainability and security are interwoven in embassy architecture. A structure with its own water and energy sources isn't just kind to the environment, it's self-reliant during a crisis. Loeffler cites the example of the U.S. Embassy in Haiti -- an exemplar of the State Department's recent more fortress-like structures -- which withstood last month's devastating earthquake and has kept functioning through the aftermath.
As a matter of historical study, however, we have too long been at pains to separate the diplomatic from the military. These are conceived as different fields of inquiry, and camps of historians working each side of this street have looked askance at colleagues on the other curb. Academic programs did not require much in the way of training across these subject boundaries. As for the relevant professional organizations, the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations and the Society for Military History, for a very long time you could not find a historian who held membership in both those groups. Then there was one, then a few. The situation today is somewhat better but still far from where it needs to be. Diplomatic historians tend to regard military specialists as too narrow, military historians tend to see diplomatic experts as naïve and superficial. Not only does this bifurcation exist in an environment in which both schools of history are under challenge from other historical specialties, but in a real world in which, as argued here, both disciplines are necessary to properly analyze developments.
Washington, D.C., February 12, 2010 - For the first time, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has declassified substantive information on one of its most secret and sensitive schemes, "Project Azorian," the Agency codename for its ambitious plan to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in order to retrieve its secrets. Today the National Security Archive publishes "Project Azorian: The Story of the Hughes Glomar Explorer," a 50-page article from the fall 1985 edition of the Agency's in-house journal Studies in Intelligence. Written by a participant in the operation whose identity remains classified, the article discusses the conception and planning of the retrieval effort and the creation of a special ship, the Glomar Explorer, which raised portions of the submarine in August 1974. The National Security Archive had submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CIA for the document on December 12, 2007.
Internal evidence suggests that the article was written in 1978, but it was prepared at such a high level of classification that it was apparently unpublishable until the Agency made decisions in 1985 to downgrade it to "Secret."
The Hughes Glomar Explorer's recovery operations were greatly complicated by almost 14 days of near-continuous surveillance of the ship's work by two Soviet naval vessels. Despite the presence of the Soviet surveillance vessels, recovery work did not stop. But fearing that the Soviets might try to land personnel on his ship by helicopter, on July 18, 1974, the CIA mission director on the Glomar Explorer ordered crates stacked on his ship's helicopter deck to prevent the Soviets from landing on it. According to the article, orders were given to "be prepared to order emergency destruction of sensitive material which could compromise the mission if the Soviets attempted to board the ship. The team designated to defend the control room long enough to destroy the material ... was alerted, but guns were not issued."
"So long as men and nations are suspicious of each other, instruments of war will be constructed and brave men will die, as these men have died, in the service of their country."
The ferocity of the storm that swept through Washington left Metro officials anticipating that the system will only have run rail service underground Thursday and will limit bus and MetroAcess services, or suspend the latter operations altogether.
On Wednesday, the transit agency stopped workers from clearing tracks and stations as blizzard conditions caused three- to five-foot snow drifts. High winds were making conditions unsafe for workers, said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.
"Mother Nature has the upper hand right now," she said. "Whatever we clear gets covered up immediately."
Metro has barricaded escalators at some stations to keep out the snow, meaning elevators offer the only access. Strong winds blew a door off its hinges at Largo Station, Farbstein said.
Metro has stored an unprecedented 506 train cars in underground tunnels and is running 76 cars in its limited underground service Wednesday, officials said. As of noon, 11,000 trips had been taken on the rail system Wednesday.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday used the phrases "extremely dangerous" and "life-threatening blizzard" to describe conditions in Baltimore and Washington, which have both set records this week for the snowiest seasons ever. Wind gusts have reached as high as 60 miles per hour as the blizzard passed through the region.
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The Washington Post reports that Pepco, the local electric utility, has suspended repair operations for the 3,500 homes in the Washington and Maryland suburbs that are still without power after the weekend's storms.
Alexandria, Va., emergency services also issued a warning, "Due to blizzard conditions and near-zero visibility on the roadways, to protect the safety of city employees and residents, all snowplowing operations have been temporarily suspended until weather conditions improve."
[Laura Silsby, the leader of the group of Americans] said that no one, including American officials and the group’s original lawyer, had informed them of the status of their case. The only thing they have been told, she said, was that the judge would hear each of their stories and if they were consistent, they would be released.
“I’m not sure if anyone from the government is doing anything for us,” she said.
An inquiry into a scandal that tarnished British politics found Thursday more than half of the House of Commons made excessive or bogus expense claims worth more than [note: insert Dr. Evil voice here] $1 million.
In a report that party leaders hope will draw a line under the furor ahead of a national election, auditor Thomas Legg said 392 of 752 current and former legislators he investigated - including Prime Minister Gordon Brown - must repay a total of $1.7 million.
While House of Commons lawmakers claim an average of $223,000 a year in expense payments, the U.S. Congress allots each House and Senate office between $1.4 million and $1.9 million to cover expenses.