Quickie: The Birthers’ Next Target: Hillary Clinton?

Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones asks “The Birthers’ Next Target: Hillary Clinton?”Quick excerpt below: 

Ever since Barack Obama started running for the White House, he’s been plagued by lawsuits from detractors who claim that he is not a natural-born citizen, and thus is ineligible to serve as president. Now the devoted conspiracy theorists of the so-called “eligibility movement” have a fresh target: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And there’s a chance that the Supreme Court might hear their challenge.
In January 2009, a longtime foreign service officer named David C. Rodearmel sued Hillary Clinton in federal court in DC arguing that an obscure provision of the Constitution blocks her from serving in Obama’s Cabinet because of her previous stint in the US Senate. This argument isn’t as nutty as those used in the numerous lawsuits disputing Obama’s citizenship—in fact, it previously prevented Orrin Hatch from becoming a Supreme Court justice.
Rodearmel himself says he’s just doing his best to protect the Constitution, although he’s no stranger to conservative political causes: In 2004, he donated $250 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And he’s supported by some familiar Clinton antagonists, namely the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, which filed numerous suits against both Hillary and Bill Clinton when they occupied the White House. His quest has also been cheered on by WorldNetDaily, the leading online promoter of the birthers’ cause, who seem eager to open up a new front in the “eligibility” fight. 
Read the whole thing here.  I hope the SCOTUS wrap this thing up quickly. I hate for this to last all the way to 2012, and then who knows — start over again?!  
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The Most Expensive Embassy in the World?

The Baghdad New Embassy Compound (NEC) which sits on a 104-acre site (420,873 square meters), infamously compared to the size of the Vatican officially opened in January 2009.  The Baghdad NEC which was delayed for a year originally cost $592 million but was completed at a reported cost of $736 million. 

It looks like the US Embassy in Baghdad will continue to be the largest embassy in the world in terms of size but it might get nudged off the top list as the most expensive.  NEC and housing project in Pakistan is estimated at $670-830 million (see this). Since NEC projects in Kabul and Baghdad went over the original award amounts, I suspect that this one in Pakistan will be closer to $830M (or higher) than $670M; which would make it more expensive than the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul, which had been closed in January 1989 for security reasons, officially reopened as an embassy on January 17, 2002. According to the GAO, State decided to replace the embassy in Kabul and brought the construction project to the front of the 2002 schedule following the U.S. and allied military action there that responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks.  The Kabul NEC was a $115 million cost-plus contract completed six months after the amended completion date of May 2005, and at a higher contract amount of $147 million.
Last year, the State Department issued a prequalification solicitation for SAQMMA-09-R0072 which included a housing and annex building project at an estimated design-build cost of $175-200 million. It was reported cancelled three days after it was announced.  The current solicitation includes “permanent staff housing facilities” for 420 beds.  I wonder if that cancelled solicitation was folded into this one. If so, the Kabul NEC with this latest expansion would amount to approximately $590 million. This would make it the 3rd most expensive US mission, after Islamabad and Baghdad. Is that right?  And we’re not even talking yet about operational costs.     

Contractors Wanted for New Embassy Constructions in the -STANS

The Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) is requesting submissions to pre-qualify firms for Design-Build (D/B) services for the design and construction of a Standard Embassy Design (SED) New Embassy Compound (NEC) and housing in Islamabad, Pakistan, New Office Building (NOB) in Kabul, Afghanistan and New Office Building (NOB) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

SAQMMA-10-R0092: Islamabad, Pakistan NEC and Housing Project: $670-830 million

Islamabad, Pakistan NEC. The project will consist of the design and construction of a New Embassy Office (NOB), new office annex building (NOX), Marine Security Guard Quarters (MSGQ), general services offices and warehouse, central utility plan, site utilities and infrastructure, compound access facilities, and demolition of existing buildings on the US Embassy Compound in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Approximate Site: 168,000 square meters
New buildings area: 79,000 square meters
Estimated design-build cost: $530 – $630 million

Islamabad, Pakistan Housing. The project will consist of the design and construction of a permanent staff housing buildings, recreation and support structures, central utility plan, site utilities and infrastructure, and compound access facilities on newly acquired property for the US Embassy Compound in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Approximate Site: 48,600 square meters
New buildings area: 75,000 gross square meters
Estimated design-build cost: $140 – $200 million

Read more here.

SAQMMA-10-R0091, Kabul, Afghanistan, New Office Building (NOB)
Kabul, Afghanistan, NOB: The project will consist of the design and construction of a classified New Office Building addition to the existing chancery building approximately 53,000 square meters; permanent staff housing facilities (420 beds) approximately 57,000 square meters; and a three to four (3 to 4) level vehicle parking facility containing approximately 300 spaces in 9000gsm. The project will require design and construction of the listed facility on the existing US Embassy Compound in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Approximate Site: 32,000 square meters
New buildings area: (not indicated)
Estimated design-build cost: $370 – $440 million

SAQMMA-10-R0088, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, New Office Building (NOB)
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, NOB: The project will consist of the design and construction of a classified New Office Building. The project will require design and construction of the listed facility on the existing US Embassy Compound in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Approximate Site: 45,000 square meters
New buildings area: 6,611 square meters
Estimated design-build cost: $70 – 100 million

Read more here.

Snapshot: Afghanistan Reconstruction – $51.01Billion and Counting

FY2002-December 2009
As of December 31, 2009, the United States had appropriated approximately $51.01 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since FY 2002. This cumulative funding total is based on data reported by agencies and amounts appropriated in FY 2010, as shown in Appendix B. This total has been allocated as follows: $26.75 billion for security, $14.75 billion for governance and development, $3.75 billion for counter-narcotics efforts, $2.05 billion for humanitarian aid, and $3.72 billion for oversight and operations. Figure 3.1 provides an overview of the major U.S. funds that contribute to these efforts.
 From SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress, January 2010
ASFF: Afghanistan Security Forces Fund
CERP: Commander’s Emergency Response Program
ESF: Economic Support Fund
INCLE: International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
Other: Other Funding
Source: SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress, January 2010

Quickie: Pakistanis See a Vast U.S. Conspiracy Against Them

Footbridge on the Indus River, PakistanImage via Wikipedia

This one from from Time’s Tim McGirk/Islamabad Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010:

From the Pakistani army barracks to the roadside chai stands along the Indus River where truckers gulp down cups of muddy tea, anti-Americanism is roiling across the country. It is whipped up by the often sensationalist, ratings-hungry Pakistani TV news talk shows — think of Fox News cranked up to full volume, in Urdu. It resounds from the mosques, in virulent anti-U.S. sermons during Friday prayers. But most ominously, according to Islamabad observers, this deep suspicion of America’s intentions in the region seem to be shared by elements within Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence services.
Even as the wild speculations circulate, U.S. diplomats are harassed in real life by Pakistani authorities. Their vehicles are seized and their visas tangled in bureaucratic red tape for months, crippling aid projects and counterinsurgency efforts. Sometimes photos of their residences are published in newspapers and labeled as CIA dens. American journalists, too, are singled out.
Pakistan has long been characterized as a country whose rulers may be pro-American but whose people are decidedly not. In 1979, for example, Pakistani radio falsely reported that U.S. aircraft bombed Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, prompting a mob to storm the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, killing five American and Pakistani staffers.
The conditions for a perfect storm of anti-U.S. feeling have risen, according to Samina Ahmed, director for the International Crisis Group in Islamabad. “What we’re seeing is a nexus between an irresponsible media, the mullahs and the military, which is using anti-Americanism to beat a weak civilian government on the head,” she says.
Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats in Islamabad, instead of ignoring the outlandish whoppers on local TV news channels, are moving more swiftly to deny them before they spread and gain credence. Military analyst Masood suggests that the U.S. State and Defense officials who are constantly shuttling to Islamabad should offer the military assurance that Washington has no intention of meddling with their nuclear arsenal or with their defenses against rival neighbor India. “The Americans have to take measures that lower the paranoia. They have to persuade the army that the U.S. is not after Pakistan’s nukes,” he says. Given the fever pitch of suspicion that Pakistanis feel toward the U.S. these days, that may take a lot of persuasion.
Read the whole thing here.