No links tonight, give your brain a rest. Merry Christmas!!!
Daily Archives: December 24, 2010
In a recent report by Kay King of the Washington Initiative, about Congress and National Security, she addresses how the the number of staff members for foreign relations congressional committees has decreased over the years, making it very hard for members to keep up with the amount of information regarding foreign relations. In this highly connected and globalized world that presents a bit of a challenge. Another problem is that the committee interns and staff members are often meant to serve the congressmen on the committee helping them with other projects, even personal projects. This means the staff members are not engaging in research to learn the complexities of an issue and thus the congressman voting in committee will also not have the expertise necessary to make an informed decision. These two graphs bring this problem into perspective (click on the link to access the graphs) – its on pages 39 and 40 of the document.
Compare these numbers to this:
This expertise deficit in Congress is quite dramatic when compared
to the size of the workforces at the agencies that the national security
committees oversee—600,000 civilians at the Defense Department,
45,000 employees (including foreign nationals) at the State Department,
and 8,800 in the USAID workforce. Since much of the work is
classified, the actual number of individuals employed by the intelligence
community is unknown, but the Washington Post reported in July 2010
that an estimated 854,000 people across the nation hold top-secret
security clearances.30 Of course, there is an overlap between this group
and individuals with top-secret clearances at DOD, State, and USAID,
but the number is nonetheless stunning.
With this talent deficiency, it will be very difficult for congress to solve problems accurately and in a timely manner. To me, that is quite scary.
Photo Credit: Google Images
According to Asian expert Joshua Kurlantzick, there are several indications that Burma/Myanmar’s military Junta has intentions to start a nuclear program. The more surprising part is that the U.S. could be turning a blind eye to this problem, with all of our focus being on Iran and North Korea. Kurlantzick writes for the New Republic:
Many minor Wikileaks scoops have attracted media notice—like the fact that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi apparently always travels with a buxom Ukrainian “nurse”—but one frightening disclosure in particular has not received nearly enough attention. In several cables written from the U.S. embassy in Rangoon, the largest city (and former capital) of Burma, diplomats provided information about the Burmese junta’s potential cooperation with North Korea, including details of what may be nascent nuclear and missile programs.
In one cable, from back in 2004, American officials reported that sources told them North Korean workers potentially were helping the junta build a ballistic missile program at one secret military site inside Burma. In another cable, a source told U.S. officials of reports that Burma is importing significant quantities of ore, possibly in order to be refined into uranium. In still another cable, sources reported on more details of covert military co-operation between Burma and North Korea, including on potential nuclear production.
The fact that two of the world’s most repressive and opaque regimes could be collaborating on nuclear and missile technology is disturbing enough. But nearly as disturbing is that reports of this collaboration have been surfacing for years, mostly among Burmese exiles—yet, until recently, diplomats mostly shrugged these stories off. Indeed, foreign governments know so little about (or are so disinterested in) Burma that the junta may have been able to start building a nuclear program with scarcely anyone knowing or caring. Save Kim Jong Il, that is.
The first reports that the junta might be launching nuclear and missile programs started filtering out of Burma at least five years ago, from exiles and several foreign intelligence analysts. These reports were picked up by news outlets run by Burmese exiles, such as the Democratic Voice of Burma, a radio station based in Norway. Last winter, the respected Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a report detailing a range of suspicious sites in Burma and Burmese purchases of sophisticated machine tools as well as other technology that would have little civilian use. Yet, as recently as a year ago, when I spoke with several top Asian officials about the potential of a Burmese nuclear program, they pooh-poohed the possibility, saying that they doubted the junta had any real intention to build nukes, or the capabilities to get it done.
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As the Pope begins to deliver the midnight mass message to all the Catholics who will gather at St. Peter’s Basilica, and rest who will watch on EWTN, it might be nice to know how this nice little tranquil, and holy city works. A Wilson Quarterly article from 1982 gives some indication to the number of people employed at the Vatican:
There are several tennis courts on the grounds, numerous audience halls, thousands of offices, and enough apartment buildings and messhalls to shelter and feed the Swiss Guards and the 900 prelates and laymen whose jobs entitle them to reside within the papal enclave. About 1,600 lay workers are employed in Vatican offices, shops, and services. Almost all of them live outside, in Rome. The Vatican issues passports
to its diplomats, but emissaries and high-level staff (and sometimes their families, if they are laymen) receive citizenship only for the duration of their service. Currently, 729 persons are citizens of the city-state. No taxes are collected. The business of the Vatican is the business of the Holy See, whose business in turn is that of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a sprawling enterprise.
Worldwide, its religious personnel alone include some 404,000 priests, 950,000 nuns, 2,447 bishops, and 532 cardinals and archbishops. They are scattered among hundreds of thousands of churches in 1,803 dioceses in 162 countries. No accurate count exists of the numbers of schools colleges, hospitals, clinics, leprosariums, orphanages, halfway houses, and nursing homes run by the church. These efforts, together with the abbeys, convents, rectories, seminaries, re- treat houses, and other properties, provide employment for up- wards of five million laymen, food and shelter for another 13
million, and spiritual care for 724 million. The Holy See does not pay for all of this – church finances are highly decentralized. But it has the final say in church administration. The pope is the supreme executive, legislative, and judicial authority within the Vatican. Under his aegis, day-to-day ad- ministration is the task of the Roman curia - an entrenched bu- reaucracy of cardinals, prelates, priests, professors, nuns, and laymen that has at one time or another exasperated every pon- tiff. (When asked once how many people worked in the curia, Pope John XXIII replied, “About half.”) The organs of govern- ment are called congregations or secretariats. These function like cabinet offices. The decisions of the congregations and sec- retariats are rendered in letters, rescripts, admonitions, and other legal forms,many of them procedures with which the Em- peror Hadrian would have been familiar.
Paying for these employees is also interesting:
The Vatican’s overhead alone is exorbitant - a fact illus- trated dramatically by the recent threat to strike by lay workers within the City State: the policemen and firemen; construction crews and repairmen (the sanpietrini); gardeners in the Vatican and at the experimental farms at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo; postmen; telephone operators; ushers; typog- raphers. (Average salary at the Vatican for lay workers is $7,000 per annum, indexed to inflation.) The Holy See also supports some 35 curial cardinals plus an estimated 3,000 other officials and clerics, including papal emissaries and their staffs in more than a hundred countries.
The principal source of Vatican income is the financial settlement made in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 when the Italian government turned over to the pope the equivalent of $70 mil lion in cash and another $100 million in government bonds as compensation for papal territories lost in 1870. Under the watchful eye of a highly respected banker, Bernardino Nogara, this nest egg was invested wisely with the help of New York’s
Chase National Bank (now Chase Manhattan) and National City Bank (now Citibank), London’s Hambros Bank and N. M. Rothschild & Sons, and France’s Lazard Frères, and Credit Suisse. No one knows how much money the Vatican actually has now, not even the pope. Estimates placing the amount at several billions are considered absurd by European financiers, who generally cite figures of about $500 million (equivalent to about one-third of Harvard’s endowment). A second source of income is the generosity of Catholics all over the world who make contributions in special collec- tions-most notably “Peter’s Pence.” (This was originated by Britain’s King Canute in the ninth century as an annual giving of one penny from each household; it was revived during the middle of the 19th century by devout English and French Catholics.) On visits to the Holy See, cardinals and bishops from affluent nations typically make special donations. Well-to-do laymen often pick up part of the tab for such extravagances as the new papal Hall of Audiences, built by architect Pier Luigi Nervi for Pope Paul VI.
This provides you with an idea with how much the Vatican spends to keep its country afloat. These numbers have probably changed, since this article was from 1982, but it probably still has the same operations.
Photo Credit: BBC
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), an organization that normally is in charge of missile defense for the U.S. and Canada is tracking good ol’ St. Nick on his yearly rounds. The Guardian writes a somewhat serious article on the topic:
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) is following his once-yearly 24-hour delivery using radar, satellites, “Santa cams” and fighter jets. Timing his arrivals for when children are asleep, the red-suited present-giver generally heads first for the South Pacific before starting his first calls, moving on to New Zealand, Australia and moving westwards round the globe.
The monitoring service by Colorado-based Norad – main job defending the US and Canada from nuclear missile attack – depends partly on the infrared signal from the glowing nose of Rudolph, the most famous of Santa’s reindeer. It has become an internet favourite with children following through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable,” a Norad spokesman said. “Norad co-ordinates with Santa’s elf launch staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him.
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Photo Credit: CNN