U.S. Embassy Minsk: A Visit to the Chernobyl Alienation Zone in Gomel Oblast

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Next week the world will mark the 30th year since the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were reportedly evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. About 60% of the fallout is said to have landed in Belarus.

Via: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located ten kilometers from the border with Belarus. This neighborhood has identified extremely high pollution southern areas of Belarus by radioactive materials that were released from the destroyed nuclear reactor in 1996. Almost from the first day of the accident republic territory contaminated by fallout from that April 27 was extremely intense. By April 29 the wind bore radioactive dust from Chernobyl in Belarus and Russia. Due to heavy contamination was evacuated 24,725 people from the Belarusian villages and three districts of the Republic of Belarus was declared mandatory exclusion zone.

Click here to see the map of the predictive contamination in Belarus from 1986 until 2046.

From U.S. Embassy Minsk’s historical photos:

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Deputy Chief of Mission Constance Phlipot visits the Chernobyl alienation zone in Gomel Oblast. February 2005

We should note the following about the US presence in Belarus via US Embassy Minsk: Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The imposed reduction in staff has greatly impeded the Embassy’s ability to carry out mutually beneficial diplomatic programs and activities, including cultural and educational exchanges, assistance programs, and visa services.

 

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Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?

— Domani Spero

 

Do you know how many Foreign Service members are currently awaiting approval for commissioning, tenuring and promotion in the U.S. Senate? 1,705. That’s 1,705 regular folks  in the career service, excluding the ambassadorial nominees.

Some of these names have been submitted since January, and they are all still pending in a dark cauldron brewing in the SFRC.

In a message to its members on March 18, AFSA writes that it “has worked diligently for months on this issue and we would like to alert you that last week, important progress was made in resolving the holds, through the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).   AFSA is confident that both sides have demonstrated the good will necessary to move the process forward and looks now to an amicable and expedited solution to this situation in the coming days.”

The Senate's side of the Capitol Building in DC.

The Senate’s side of the Capitol Building in DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

End of the month and here we are.  Neither the Chairman nor the Ranking Member of the SFRC has anything to say about this logjam on their website.

These employees are waiting Senate attestation so they are officially commissioned, tenured and promoted. And you know what, the Foreign Service “bidding season” is fast eating up the days in the calendar.

Why this can get complicated?

A good number of these employees pending at the SFRC will be “bidding” for their next assignments.   The Foreign Service is a rotational, rank-in-person system.  As a consequence, there will be “real” FS-01s, for example and “FS-02s” who are supposed to be treated as 01s but who technically are 02s.

The State Department reportedly is telling folks looking at bids to treat “02” bidders as “01s” and so on and so forth because of inaction from the Senate.

Oh crap, how do you sort them all out?

One frustrated official writes, “I can’t see how this won’t have a major impact as we’re evaluating employees.”

Not only that, we imagine that the bump in pay and associated hardship/danger/COLA allowances (a percentage of basic compensation) will also not get taken care of until the Senate officially blesses these names.

Since bad news comes in threes — you should know that Ambassador Arnold A. Chacon’s nomination as Director General of the Foreign Service got out of the SFRC in February 2 but has been stuck since then waiting for a full vote in the U.S. Senate.

WaPo recently reported that President Obama may have learned how to finally break through the months-long Senate logjam on his ambassadorial nominations: he or Vice President Biden must travel to the countries where nominees would be headed.

Unfortunately for the Foreign Service, neither President Obama nor VP Biden has DGHR listed in their immediate schedule.

Below is the list of nominations pending in committee:

  • Feb 10, 14     PN1419    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott S. Sindelar, and ending Christine M. Sloop, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Feb 10, 14     PN1418    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Mark L. Driver, and ending Karl William Wurster, which 59 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1384    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Beata Angelica, and ending Benjamin Beardsley Dille, which 381 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1383    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kevin Timothy Covert, and ending Paul Wulfsberg, which 277 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1382    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Matthew D. Lowe, and ending Wilbur G. Zehr, which 242 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1381    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Gerald Michael Feierstein, and ending David Michael Satterfield, which 196 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1380    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kate E. Addison, and ending William F. Zeman, which 121 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1379    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kathleen M. Adams, and ending Sean Young, which 112 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1378    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Julie Ann Koenen, and ending Brian Keith Woody, which 94 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1377    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Susan K. Brems, and ending Ann Marie Yastishock, which 45 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1376    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott Thomas Bruns, and ending Janelle Weyek, which 23 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1375    Foreign Service Nominations beginning James Benjamin Green, and ending Geoffrey W. Wiggin, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1374    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher David Frederick, and ending Julio Maldonado, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 09, 14     PN1317    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Ranya F. Abdelsayed, and ending Fireno F. Zora, which 135 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January  9, 2014.

We can’t help but think that this is one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuklear” option.  This WaPo piece on President Obama’s inability to fill many of his administration’s most important jobs is not even hopeful.

Doesn’t this remind you of  wreck ’em Plants v. Zombies, the DC edition?

 

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Senate “Nuclear” Fallout Snares State Department Nominees

— Domani Spero

CNN reports that the partisan battle over presidential nominations is heating up again and threatens to dominate the remaining days before the winter recess.  The Senate Republicans, reportedly are still angry over filibuster changes Democrats made last month, and have blocked “a series of largely non-controversial nominations Democrats tried to clear.”

On December 9, 2013, Senator Harry Reid asked for unanimous consent to confirm all Executive and Judicial nominations on the Executive Calendar. Senator Lamar Alexander objected to the request.

We can’t say how long long or how intense this battle is going to be. What we know is it has already snared dozens of State Department nominees.  Senator Reid filed cloture on 10 executive nominations.  Under the rule, the first cloture vote will occur one hour after the Senate convenes on Wednesday, December 11th. Among the 10 nominees are Heather Anne Higginbottom, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and Anne W. Patterson, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs).  

Below is a list of nominees for State, Peace Corps, Ex-Import Bank submitted by Senator Reid for unanimous consent:

STATE DEPARTMENT

#403 Frank A. Rose – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)

#404 Tomasz P. Malinowski – to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

#406 Anne W. Patterson – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (NearEastern Affairs)

#407 Rose Eilene Gottemoeller – to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

#408 Crystal Nix-Hines – for the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

#409 Pamela K. Hamamoto – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador

#410 Adam M. Scheinman – to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador

#412 Brian A. Nichols – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Peru

#413 Mark Bradley Childress – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Republic of Tanzania

#414 Carlos Roberto Moreno – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belize

#415 John Hoover – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone

#416 Timothy M. Broas – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

#417 Donald Lu, of California – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Albania

#418 Robert A. Sherman – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Portuguese Republic

#420 Thomas Frederick Daughton – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia

#422 Michael Stephen Hoza – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon

#423 Eunice S. Reddick – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Niger

#424 Karen Clark Stanton – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

#425 Matthew T. Harrington – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho

#426 Dwight L. Bush, Sr. – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Morocco

#440 Daniel W. Yohannes – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador

#441 Elizabeth Frawley Bagley – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#442 Theodore Strickland – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#443 Stephen N. Zack – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#444 Heather Anne Higginbottom – to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources

#445 Sarah Sewall – to be an Under Secretary of State (Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights)

#446 Richard Stengel – to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy

#448 Anthony Luzzatto Gardner – to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

#449 Amy Jane Hyatt – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Palau

PEACE CORPS

#447 Carolyn Hessler Radelet – to be Director of the Peace Corps

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES

#388 Wanda Felton – to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States for a term expiring January 20, 2017 (Reappointment)

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