Deputy USTR Ambassador Michael Punke’s The Revenant: Now a Movie With Leonardo DiCaprio

Posted: 1:08 am EDT
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Michael Punke serves as Deputy United States Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland.  He is the author of The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, now a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917, and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.

Below is his USTR bio:

Michael Punke has worked in the field of international trade law and policy for two decades. From 1995 to 1996, Punke served as Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. There, he advised the USTR on issues ranging from agricultural trade to intellectual property protection.

From 1993 to 1995, Punke served at the White House as Director for International Economic Affairs with a joint appointment to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. His responsibilities included assisting in the management of the interagency process. From 1991 to 1992, Punke was International Trade Counsel to Senator Max Baucus, then Chairman of the Finance Committee’s International Trade Subcommittee. Punke has also worked on international trade issues from the private sector, including as a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, & Maw. From 2003 to 2009, Punke consulted on public policy issues out of Missoula, Montana.

Punke has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Montana and as a writer, authoring a novel, two books of nonfiction, and two screenplays. Punke is a graduate of George Washington University and Cornell Law School, where he was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell International Law Journal.

The Revenant | Official Teaser Trailer: Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members  of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. THE REVENANT is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel) via . Read more about the development of the movie from unpublished manuscript to film here.

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Milla Jovovich’s Survivor — RSO-I’s Job Just Got Seriously Sexy

Posted: 2:46 am EDT
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How did we miss James McTeigue’s 2015 action film Survivor starring Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, and Angela Bassett?  Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich) is a Diplomatic Security agent with the State Department stationed at the U.S. Embassy in London, where she is tasked with weeding out visa applicants who could be potential terrorists. This job would be the Regional Security Officer – Investigator (RSO-I), yes?  For those who work at a consular section and at a US embassy, there will be stuff to quibble about in this movie. But if you just enjoy an action thriller with lots of running and fireworks, you might find this enjoyable.  Or not. The RSO-I’s job just got seriously sexy, hey …

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Note: If you have not check it out yet, we have also put together a curated list of State Department-related movies in our newly organized Amazon store. We get a tiny, mini egg added to our nest egg if you use our affiliate links 😉!

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Marco Rubio Borrows Liam Neeson’s Strategery — Hunt, Find, Kill. Rinse and Repeat ∞

Posted: 11:24 pm EDT
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We could not stop watching this gem.  We would like to suggest that the good senator hire a dramatic coach. His tone is just not/not menacing enough. And the delivery is lacking some … some real  habanero.   We tried to imagine this on a SOTU address and it’s just … no, can’t do.  Frankly, we don’t scare easily. And if he can’t scare us enough, how will he scare the living daylights out of global jihadists and terrorists? Attention @FearDept, more help over there!

 

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State OIG Appoints Whistleblower Ombudsman, Releases “Know Your Rights” Video

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The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, requires every IG to appoint an Ombudsman.  The Act requires that an ombudsman educate employees about the rights and protections available to whistleblowers.

The State Department IG Steve Linick has appointed Jeff McDermott as Ombudsman for the Department of State and the BBG. Mr. McDermott is a career appointee and his ombudsman duties are in addition to his duties as a senior investigative counsel.  He also serves as the OIG’s representative to the Justice Department’s whistleblower protection committee and counsels individual whistleblowers.  Within OIG, he works with the Office of Investigations to investigate allegations of retaliation by contractor and grantee employees.  He is available to discuss the protections against retaliation and how to make a protected disclosure, but he cannot act as your legal representative or advocate.  You may contact him at at OIGWPEAOmbuds@state.gov. Read more here. The “Know Your Rights” video is here. We asked the OIG a couple of questions:

Q: What protection is there for whistleblowers?

The law protects individuals from reprisal for reporting potential misconduct or alleged criminal activities. Reprisal can come in the form of a prohibited personnel practice which occurs when a person with authority takes, fails to take or threatens to take a personnel action against an employee because of the employee’s protected disclosure and can include details, transfers, reassignments, and significant changes in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.

Q: Are hotline callers automatically considered whistleblowers? 

No, whether or not a hotline caller is considered a whistleblower depends first on whether the hotline caller has made a protected disclosure. The caller may be entitled to whistleblower protection if he or she indicates that a personnel action was taken because of the protected disclosure. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Office of Special Counsel may receive and investigate claims for whistleblower protection from federal employees, former federal employees, and applicants for federal employment. In addition, OIG offers confidentiality or anonymity to any individual who contacts the hotline and fears retaliation because of the disclosure. In 2013, Congress created a pilot program whereby employees of contractors and grantees who allege they are retaliated against for whistleblowing can request an investigation by the OIG, and in these cases, OIG does determine whether a complainant qualifies as a whistleblower and whether retaliation occurred because of the whistleblowing activity.

We were told by State/OIG that in 2014, the office processed 1,278 Hotline complaints for the calendar year.  We understand that this is generally in line with the amount of complaints the OIG processed in 2013.  However, a significant portion of the OIG complaints reportedly pertain to visa issues, and those complaints are sent to Consular Affairs for appropriate response and action.  Occasionally, the office also receive complaints that do not pertain to Department of State or Broadcasting Board of Governors matters – i.e. Veteran’s Affairs, Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, etc. Those submissions are referred to the appropriate Office of Inspector General and are not counted in State/OIG’s tally of “processed Hotline complaints”.

Some notable whistleblowers have been brought to life on the big screen.  Check out the top 10 whistleblower movies via http://www.WatchMojo.com:

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UPDATE:

“A Concerned FS Officer” sent us the following for your consideration, appended to this post on 2/9/15 at 15:47 PST:

While “retaliation” is officially forbidden, it is close to impossible to prove. Assignments, for example, are at the Dept’s discretion, needs of the service, etc. and it can just be a coincidence that your whistleblowing and your assignment to the butthole of the world coincide. Same of course for the black hole of promotions.

Once you are a troublemaker, er, whistleblower, be prepared for a non-retaliatory “routine” deep dive into your life. Suddenly there’s a need to audit your travel vouchers back to the Dulles era, DS needs to update your clearance based on info received you can’t see, that sort of thing. All of those moves are well-within the Dept’s routine responsibilities and you’ll never prove they’re connected to your talking to the OIG.

If you are contemplating blowing the whistle, speak to a qualified, outside lawyer first. AFSA has its place, but you need serious advice from someone familiar with the real-world case law, not just Dept practices.

 

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When Life Imitates Art — The Man Who Would Be King

From The Man Who Would Be King (1975) based on a story by Rudyard Kipling. Daniel Dravot [Lecturing his Er-Heb recruits while Billy Fish translates:]

“Now listen to me, you benighted mockers! We’re going to teach you soldiering, The world’s noblest profession! When we’re done with you, you’ll be able to stand up and slaughter your foes like civilized men! But first, you will have to learn to march in step. And do the manual of arms without even having to think! Good soldiers don’t think, they just obey! Do you suppose that if a man thought twice, he’d give his life for Queen and Country? Not bloody likely! He wouldn’t go near the battlefield! One look at your foolish faces tells me that you’re going to be crack troops. Ohhh him there with the five-and-a-half hat size has the makings of a bloody hero!”

Slaughter your foes like civilized men … that seems instructive, even for a movie that’s from 1975 based on a book novella from 1888.

Domani Spero