Monday, August 31, 2009

New HIV Policy at State

I finally made it back from vacation...not willingly, but I am back. This came into my in box while I was away and I wanted to share it with you.

State Dept. Settles, Changes HIV Policies
By Michelle Garcia

A U.S. Army veteran settled out of court with a federal contractor
after it denied him a job because he is HIV-positive.

The U.S. State Department, which contracts with the company that
denied employment to the man -- whose name was withheld -- has agreed
to policy changes that will prevent people with HIV from being
automatically barred from working under department contracts in the
future, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU filed the case in September 2008 against the State Department
and one of its contractors, Triple Canopy Inc. The suit claimed that
John Doe, as he is identified in court documents, was illegally fired,
violating the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities

A day before he finished training for a job providing security for the
Haitian embassy, Doe was told by a director for Triple Canopy that he
could not be employed because the State Department would not allow
workers with HIV to be deployed overseas. The department also mandated
that all contractor personnel be free from communicable diseases.

Doe is a 20-year veteran of the military who was diagnosed with HIV in
2000. He retired in 2001, and did contract work with the U.S. Defense
Department from 2004 to 2005, where he led security teams on military
bases. According to the ACLU, both the Army and the Defense Department
were aware of his HIV status and he was still able to serve as a
contractor in Iraq.

"I'm relieved that I can finally put this experience behind me and
move on with my life," the veteran said in a statement. "I feel a lot
better knowing that this kind of discrimination shouldn't happen

Friday, August 21, 2009

Possible Hiatus

Speaking of taking comp time or overtime, I am finally getting a vacation. I did take a week off in May, but it was to work on an excavation. Lots of fun, but not restful. So after a year doing shift work and a year as a Special Assistant, I am exhausted. I need a vacation.

I say possible hiatus because I am not sure how my internet access will be for the next week. If it is good, and I can think of anything to write, I will. But I am returning to a place I visited last year, and then there was only dial up. So I am not optimistic.

On the plus side though, it means the crackberry work gave me won't work either. Darn. Out of range!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Bothers Me

I learned something today that bugs me.

The new A-100 students are once again being told not to request comp time or overtime pay for the overtime they work.

Because "it isn't done."

First off, yes it is.

Second, it is important that you take it for several reasons (with the caveat that I know there are folks out there who will disagree with me).

The first reason it is important is because you have earned it. No, you shouldn't count every minute that you work over. You are supposed to be a professional. That said, there will be S visits, codels, etc that will require you to work lots of overtime and you will need the time off to recharge your batteries.

I didn't claim it at first when I got to Jerusalem, because I bought into that whole "it isn't done" line. We are all one big team. Hoo-rah! But soon you get tired, burned out. And so you have to claim the comp time so you can have a chance to rest. Because there is usually a lot of work. I ultimately ended up taking it as overtime pay because I could never get the time to use my comp time before it expired. And I left Jerusalem exhausted and ready to quit the Foreign Service.

So here is the deal. You WILL work more than 40 hours a week as a matter of course, both before and after tenure. After tenure, you will not be able to get overtime, though some positions, like my current one, so routinely require you to work more than 40 hours that you get a "differential" to make up some of the difference. Because you do need to have a life outside of this job or you will burn out. And the extra pay, while not giving you more time for a life, makes living it a little easier. Plus, once you are tenured, you have job security. You do not when you are not tenured. Overtime and comp time are the price the department pays for being able to get rid of you if they chose (they seldom do).

But a second reason you should claim comp time or overtime is to help with staffing. If you work 60-80 hours per week routinely in your section, but it is never documented, the Department will never know you are short staffed. So when they do hiring increases like they are doing now, they won't know your post needs more people because your work ethics are concealing that. I actually had a boss tell me he prefered Junior Officers claim it so he could demonstrate he needed more people.

So don't listen when the old timers tell you it isn't done. It is. And it is your right. And it is not legal for you to be denied it and your boss can't mention it in your EER.

And you are not less loyal to the Department for asking for it. You are just taking care of yourself so that you can continue to serve.

Good thoughts for the Afghanis

The Afghan elections are going on today, and from the news reports, it seems like the violence is not as bad as it could have been. This is a great relief to me, not just for the Afghan people, but selfishly, because I have very good friends there. I want them to come home safely.

I'd also love to see an Afghanistan that resembled the one pre-Taliban, pre-Russian invasion. Where the numbers of women in Parliament exceeded that of our own Congress. Where people were passionately democratic and religiously tolerant. I know that Afghanistan is a long way off, but I wish it for them none the less.

An unrelated note: You might have noticed I am writing more instead of just pasting articles with a little comment. The reason is two-fold. First, I missed writing. But perhaps more importantly, I began my new assignment about a month ago. My last assignment was one were I couldn't talk about my work. While I LOVED that work and that bureau, I am now in a position where I can talk about what I do and I am not having to filter what I talk about based on what I have read because everything I read is unclassified. And most of it is either in the press or related to it.

Yay for being a Public Diplomacy Officer!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not even close to the only one!

Here is yet another link on bidding.

Complicated Vile Process AKA Bidding from Cats With Passports.

She calls it a "vile, vile process."

See, nobody likes it. As Diplodocus said, "Show me an officer who says they like bidding and I will show you a liar."

Amen Brother!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Even Baby Steps Move You In The Right Direction

We continue to move in the right direction here at the State Department. As I mentioned in my post on bidding this week, my partner and I are working on bidding for the first time as an official tandem, and today, we had an excellent meeting with her CDO (Career Development Officer) on our next steps in bidding. We are being treated exactly like other tandems, and that is exactly what we want. Equality. No more. No less.

The cable below is one more step towards equality. We were married in 2002 in our church, and while it did not have any legal binding, it is the only marriage that counts. That said, we do plan in November, on our 10th anniversary of being together, to be legally married in Massachusetts. But as I said, our real marriage happened in 2002.

That said, the cable below means that after our marriage, we could, if we decided to, change our names in our passports based on our marriage certificate. We don't plan to...we both like our names and even as children never planned to give them up. That said, it is nice to know we could if we wanted to. That we have the same options our straight colleagues do.

Baby steps, but steps.

Towards Equality. No more. No less.

R 171347Z AUG 09


E.O. 12958: N/A


2. The verbatim text of the 7 FAM 1359 revision

a. 22 CFR 51.25(a) states that "A passport shall be
issued in the full name of the applicant, generally the
name recorded in the evidence of nationality and
identity." 22 CFR 51.25(c) states that, "A name change
will be recognized for purposes of issuing a passport if
the name change occurs in one of the following ways.
...(4) Operation of state law. An applicant must present
operative government-issued legal documentation
declaring the name change or issued in the new name."


c. When a passport applicant assumes a new surname
(whether a totally new surname, the applicant's original
"maiden name", or a new hyphenated name) under the
provisions of state law, the applicant may have the
passport issued in the applicant's new surname.

Note: The Department may recognize a legal name change
based upon a marriage certificate because states
generally provide for lawful name change upon marriage.
The Department is not recognizing the marriage
certificate for purposes of upholding or determining the
validity or the status of the marriage. With respect to
passport issuance the Department does not address the
matter of marriage validity but is addressing only a
state-recognized legal name change.


f. The Department recognizes other name changes,
provided they are recognized by operation of state law,
established by customary usage, or effected by court
order. If not on the PRI listing, applicants seeking to
establish a name change based on a certificate of civil
union or certificate of domestic relationship have the
burden to show that state law recognizes the name change
by operation of law. If the state recognizes a legal
name change based upon the certificate of civil union or
certificate of domestic relationship, please then refer
to sections b through d above.


(2) A certificate of civil union or certificates of a
domestic relationship can be accepted as one of the
public documents submitted in support o f a customary
name change. Name changes by customary usage must be
supported by documentary evidence of use of the new name
for a period of five years, that is, three original or
certified copies of public records that show the
applicant's name, date and place of birth and use of the
assumed name for five years. Original or certified
copies of certificates of civil union or certificates of
domestic relationship cannot be accepted as the only
documentary evidence of a customary name change but may
be one document evidencing customary usage.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Climate refugees?

We have protestors again. I can see these folks from my window. Actually, as I have mentioned earlier, I can see most protests at the State Department from my window. They deliberately pick this entrance because of its high visibility and proximity to the door the journalists go in.

Many of the protests are, shall we say, unclear. So we were all curious about "climate refugees." According to their website, this is what is going on:

"This Monday morning, the Avaaz Climate Action Factory, in solidarity with climate refugees across the world, will erect a refugee camp right in front of the US State Department in Washington DC. We will brave the 95 degree heat to demand that Clinton include language recognizing and protecting climate refugees in the negotiating text. We’re going to be there all day, and all night and…"

Some days my window is far more entertaining than TV.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Reason to Be Thankful

There was a car bomb today near the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. No doubt the idea was to send the message to prospective voters for next week's presidential election to stay home.

From the coverage I have seen, that message was received by some. I hope not many.

None of the folks at the mission were hurt, and they have all been accounted for. For this, I am extremely grateful. I have friends there, including one very close friend. Until she left for Kabul last month, we had continued our tradition, begun in Jerusalem, of having dinner together once a week or so with a group of friends. Aside from my partner, she is one of my very best friends, and one of the people that make me think I should stay in the service because without it, I'd have never met her.

I hope everyone in Afghanistan stays safe and comes home soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009


So I thought I would give you a break from my usual fare and take this moment to complain about bidding. I can even pretend you are a captive audience, at least until I look at my sitemeter to see that you stayed on the page just long enough to get to the word complain.

For those of you still here, bidding is awful. I know when you think about it from outside the Foreign Service, it probably sounds cool. Wow, you get a list of all of these cool places to choose from. The world is your oyster. It is true that you get a list. It is also true there are *some* cool places on there. There are far more "oh hell no" places on there.

This is my fourth time bidding in the past four years. It is my own fault really, since I have been doing one year tours. So I am bidding now less than a month into my new job. That is also the nature of one year tours.

Bidding is ALWAYS hard. You don't get the list of all the cool places and go to the one you choose. You have to select six places for which you are at grade and in cone. For me, that means I have to pick a public diplomacy or interfunctional (they count as any cone) job. But really it has to be public diplomacy, because I am currently doing my fourth tour and only my first PD assignment (the joys of directed assignments for your first two tours include being somewhat unlikely to do a tour in your cone). I need to use this tour to make the connections to get an overseas PD tour now or I will have a hard time EVER getting one. And I want to do PD is why I chose this cone. Those six jobs also have to be at my rank, though I can also bid on jobs one grade above my rank (this is called a "stretch," and not because you are unlikely to get it, though in the age of linked assignments, that too is true). Most of the PD jobs overseas would be a stretch for me, which means that even if post loves me and wants me, someone who is at grade and in cone can come in at the last moment and take the job. Even if post doesn't want them.

An additional pain in bidding is the whole concept of lobbying. It is not what you know but who you know. I got my current job because someone knew me and only because of that. Luckily for them, I am also good at my job (IMHO). But really, I didn't want it to be that way. I wanted to send my resume and have them say, "she look's interesting. Let's interview her." And then let me sell myself.

But no. I have to find people who know me and know who I am applying to. to make calls for me. And hope my big dog is bigger than someone else's big dog.

This year, we have an added twist. My partner and I are, for the first time, an official tandem. So I am having to learn to work that system. Jerusalem was easy. It was directed. and I now see why so many tandem couples spend much of their careers in DC. It is just easier to find jobs here.

So now, since was asked to take a one-year job instead of the two year job I had been assigned to (the one year job is more prestigious and I hope gets me a big enough dog in my corner), my partner and I are off cycle. She is in her job a year longer than I am in mine. So I am trying to find jobs where the timing will work out given language training, her rank, my rank, and our cones. So far, in the bureaus where we have connections, I have come up with four places. But I have no idea what will happen or whether any of it will happen. My one ace is that I can extend in this job if we can't find something that works, but that means doing this whole exercise all over again next year.

And I really hate bidding.

Lest you think I am just whining, I offer you the following fellow suffers:

Diplopundit: Bidding Sucks, No, Really...

Email from the Embassy: Apples vs. elephants: The Bidding Process

Diplodocus: So Where Have I Been?

Girl In The Rain: The Bid List Is Out

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Public Diplomacy Reserve Corps

An interesting article on public diplomacy at Understanding Government:


By Mitchell Polman

Washington, D.C. — Defining “public diplomacy” is almost a cottage industry among bloggers and others interested in the way America interacts with foreign states and audiences. The term "public diplomacy" was first coined by Dean Edmund Gullion of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1965. Gullion called it " . . . influencing the way groups and peoples in other countries think about foreign affairs, react to our policies, and affect the policies of their respective governments." Public diplomacy blogger Matt Armstrong has devoted thousands of words to this topic, including these: "The purpose of public diplomacy is to identify, empower, encourage (and possibly equip) self-organizing systems." Perhaps the most widely accepted definition today is the one offered by retired diplomat and public diplomacy expert Hans Tuch, in his book Communicating with the World: U.S. Public Diplomacy Overseas says public diplomacy is "a government process to communicate with foreign publics in an attempt to bring about understanding of its nation’s ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture as well as its national goals and current policies.”

While the definition may be debated, there is one aspect of America’s public diplomacy efforts that is not subject to much argument: the need for the department to recruit more people to work on it. Given the wide range of issues “PD” foreign service officers are responsible for – they serve as press and information officers, sign people up for government-sponsored exchange programs, conduct cultural programs, promote English language education, and oversee American libraries and other cultural resource centers, among other things – it’s no surprise that, given the State Department’s overall Foreign Service staffing problems, the public diplomacy area is also feeling squeezed.

To address this problem, the State Department needs both to revamp its traditional hiring procedures and to look at some innovative approaches.

When candidates for the department’s Foreign Service register take the entrance examination, they select the area of expertise they wish to build their careers in from five "cones," including administrative, consular, economic, political, and public diplomacy. The staffing shortage mentioned above is particularly acute in the public diplomacy cone. The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in 2008 published a report called "Getting the People Part Right," which states that as of 2007, public diplomacy had the second fewest number of officers of among Foreign Service cones.

The shortage is seriously hampering the State Department’s public diplomacy mission because most public diplomacy work is currently being carried out by junior level officers who are stretched too thin. As a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, entitled U.S. Public Diplomacy: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight, asserts, the State Department is facing a shortage of mid-level public diplomacy officers that will take years to erase. Even more significantly, the GAO notes that this lack of public diplomacy personnel is preventing the State Department from effectively spending the funds Congress has allotted specifically for public diplomacy. So the nation’s ability to communicate and interact with foreign publics is clearly hampered by the lack of personnel.

Of course, this is about more than just the number of public diplomacy personnel. The State Department also needs people with the right mix of skills. Some public diplomacy officers, for example, have strong media relations skills, but lack foreign language training. Others may have strong language skills, but little in the way of media outreach experience.

State Department Tests a Better Test

Gaps like these were one of the reasons that the Foreign Service in 2007 moved towards a "total candidate approach" in its examination process. The new Foreign Service examination places a greater emphasis on actual work experience. For example, the newly revised Foreign Service Oral Exam includes a "Qualification Evaluation Panel" (QEP) that factors the actual real world experience of a candidate into the exam score. Consequently, a candidate for the public diplomacy cone who has media or cultural exchange experience, for example, gets a higher score because of that experience. This has made it easier for the Foreign Service to identify and recruit candidates who would make suitable Public Diplomacy officers. The Advisory Commission reports that public diplomacy is now the second most popular cone choice of those taking the oral exams (political being most popular).

There is, however, still room for improvement in the examination process. David Firestein, a career foreign service officer, is also Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Firestein believes that the QEP has been instrumental in helping the department identify suitable candidates for public diplomacy work. However, he comments that "…even today the public diplomacy knowledge does not come through on this exam to the degree that it probably should" and adds that those designing the foreign service exam “ . . . haven’t yet built . . . a public diplomacy exercise” into the test. Finally, Firestein notes that State is “not recruiting specifically for PD expertise or testing for it either." Thus, the advisory commission report recommended that State test candidates for specific public diplomacy skills and criticized the department for not actively promoting Public Diplomacy Officers to senior level positions within the department.

Congress has been listening closely to the Advisory Commission on this issue. The FY2010 appropriations bill for the Department of State (H.R. 2410) contains most of the commission’s proposals for strengthening U.S. public diplomacy. Amongst those proposals is a long standing recommendation to create a Public Diplomacy Reserve Corps (PDRC) that would recruit Foreign Service retirees and others with public diplomacy experience to fill public diplomacy related vacancies at the State Department. The act specifically states: "The Secretary of State is authorized to establish in the Foreign Service a Public Diplomacy Reserve Corps consisting of mid- and senior-level former Foreign Service officers and other individuals with experience in the private or public sector relevant to public diplomacy, to serve for a period of six months to two years in postings abroad."

But would a PDRC make it difficult for more junior level public diplomacy officers to move up in the ranks? Firestein calls that "a fair question" and says that it’s a concern that "…deserves attention and a longer term strategy." But given that the House resolution on DOS funding specifically mentions “other individuals with experience in the private or public sector relevant to public diplomacy,” it is time for creative solutions.

A Good Time for Change and Innovation

Some suggest that the best use of a reserve corps would be at home, rather than abroad. William P. Kiehl, a former Foreign Service Officer and public diplomacy specialist, commented that the best use of a public diplomacy reservist might be as a "… desk officer in Washington for an area that he or she knows well and has served in multiple times.” Kiehl said this kind of reinforcement at Foggy Bottom would help ensure a higher degree of “background in the country and culture of the region currently lacking as most Country Affairs Officers currently have little or no expertise in either the region/country or in public diplomacy." But given the language problems the Foreign Service still faces – the May 2009 GAO report said that fully 25% of officers designated for public diplomacy positions did not meet the language requirements – sending experts abroad to help may be more important. Retired Foreign Service Officer and public diplomacy blogger John Brown said he feels the proposed PDRC makes a lot of sense, "especially if the chosen officers are sent to countries where they would be able to speak the local language."

This is an ideal time not just for revamping public diplomacy, but for exploring fresh approaches to staffing this area of the State Department’s portfolio. It looks like the growing focus on public diplomacy – after several rocky years in the Bush administration, especially early on, when public diplomacy was not in favor – is dovetailing with the Foreign Service’s own personnel requirements. The State Department might consider developing the PDRC not just as a way for retirees and public diplomacy professionals to pitch in, but as a channel for both younger people and mid-career professionals from outside the department who are interested in public diplomacy careers. The number of Foreign Service candidates expressing an interest in public diplomacy is on the rise, but until now the State Department has not even had enough staff on hand to expend all the funds allotted for public diplomacy.

The PDRC could serve as an ideal training program for candidates awaiting background checks, recent graduates, and people considering a career in public diplomacy, including mid-career professionals who may be interested in a State Department career. These might be public diplomacy fellows, or trainees, who would be drawn from outside the Foreign Service and might then go on to enter the service itself as career officers. If these people brought in media and public relations skills fundamental to public diplomacy, the State Department would benefit and its public diplomacy efforts would be more effective. As it is currently, the State Department hires many independent contractors to perform work on its public diplomacy programs. A number of those positions could be filled by PDRC members.

The Public Diplomacy Reserve Corps appears to be a step in the right direction, but it could also be used as a recruiting tool for the department, as well as a way to fill gaps in personnel. The political stars are aligned in such a way as to make bold changes on the public diplomacy front possible. The State Department has the support of the new administration and Congress to come up with creative solutions to longstanding and very persistent problems – just at the time when the world is opening up to a new image and understanding of America.

Friday, August 07, 2009

USAID follows suit

We knew that when State extended benefits to same-sex partners, many of the agencies that come under Chief of Mission authority while overseas would follow suit. USAID is the first. The announcement below came out Tuesday...yes, I am slow getting it out. My AID friends let me down! :)

USAID/General Notice

Subject: Implementing Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees Serving Overseas

This past June, Secretary Clinton announced that the Department of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees serving overseas. We are pleased to announce that USAID is joining the Department of State in implementing this new policy. In addition, we are including U.S. Personal Services Contractors (USPSCs) posted overseas.

Extending such benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners will help USAID attract and retain well qualified-staff in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits are becoming increasingly prevalent.

The following Q&As detail the new policy and procedures USAID employees must follow in order to obtain benefits. M/OAA will issue separate guidance for USPSCs in the near future.

1. What specific changes are being made and how are they being implemented?

To implement this new policy, the Department of State made interim changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) effective June 26, 2009. The interim changes to the Standardized Regulations (DSSR) carry an effective date of July 5, 2009. For additional information, refer to 09 STATE 066740 (Attachment 1) and 09 State 067315 (Attachment 2).

The interim changes to the FAM and DSSR permit same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances. These benefits and allowances include:

• Diplomatic passports;
• Inclusion on employee travel orders to and from overseas posts;
• Shipment of household effects;
• Inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations;
• Family member preference for overseas employment;
• Use of medical facilities at posts overseas;
• Medical evacuation from posts overseas;
• Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives;
• Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts overseas;
• Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts overseas;
• Inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (for example, payment for quarters, cost of living,
and other allowances);
• Representation expenses, and
• Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners, as well.

Interim changes to the FAM and DSSR may be accessed from the Office of Human Resources’ Web page at Employees should review these changes to understand the full range of benefits and allowances extended to same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees serving overseas.

2. What is the process for obtaining benefits?

To obtain benefits for their same-sex domestic partners, employees must file an affidavit of eligibility for benefits and obligations (Attachment 3) and update their OF-126, Residence and Dependency Report.

Consistent with criteria set forth in 3 FAM 1610, the affidavit must affirm, among other things, that the employee and his or her domestic partner:

• are each other’s sole domestic partner and intend to remain committed to one another indefinitely;
• have a common residence and intend to continue the arrangement;
• are at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to consent to contract;
• share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare and financial obligations;
• are not married to, joined in civil union with, or domestic partners with anyone else; and
• are same-sex domestic partners and not related in a way that would prohibit legal marriage in the State in which
they reside.

3. What are the next steps?

Foreign Service employees who seek benefits for their same-sex domestic partners should work with their servicing Human Resources Specialist in OHR/FSP. To obtain benefits, employees must provide OHR/FSP staff with the following:

• An affidavit of eligibility for benefits and obligations (Attachment 3); and

• An amended Residency and Dependency Report (Form OF-126) to add “domestic partner” in the box requesting “relationship.” The OF-126 may be accessed from the Agency’s Forms Web page. Employees may file these forms immediately.

Domestic partners must also comply with the same security requirements and undergo the same background check as spouses. Domestic partners must also have a valid medical clearance for the post of assignment. Those already at post should follow the procedures for a newly acquired dependent. They will be given access to the overseas health unit for up to 90 days pending completion of their medical clearance. It is important to note that domestic partners must have health insurance, as the Agency acts only as a secondary payer in the event of overseas hospitalization.

4. Where can I find additional information?

The Office of Human Resources has developed a Web page with various references and documents. This information is located at Additional instructions and guidance will be provided in the near future regarding specific benefits.

Attachments: (1) 09 STATE 066740
(2) 09 STATE 067315
(3) Affidavit

Alonzo L. Fulgham
Acting Administrator

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sad Anniversary

Tomorrow will be the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attack on our Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 200 people were killed in those attacks.

Today, during her trip to Africa, Secretary Clinton honored the victims of those attacks by placing a wreath at the memorial on the site of the Kenya attack. She also signed the guestbook and met with survivors.

She said the site is a reminder of "the continuing threat of terrorism, which respects no boundaries, no race, ethnicity or religion, but is aimed at disrupting and denying the opportunity of people to make their own decisions and to lead their own lives.''

She vowed to "to renew our resolve to do all that we can to ensure that these attacks don't take more innocent lives in the future.''

Some of those behind the attacks have not yet been brought to justice and are being sheltered in neighboring Somalia.

Let's hope they get what they deserve soon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Thank You Toast

I just attended a thank you toast held by GLIFAA in the Delegates Lounge at Main State. The idea was to thank everyone who worked on getting the benefits the Secretary announced in June, particularly the 2,200 people who signed the letter to Secretary Clinton that GLIFAA delivered in January and all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make it happen.

U/S for Management Pat Kennedy, who is GLIFAA's official mentor (and has been an unwavering allie for LGBT Foreign Service families, said the benefits that were extended were the "rational and human thing to do, because you can't expect people to stay in [dangerous] places when they are separated from their loved ones." He said the extention of benefits was both the right thing to do in terms of business sense and the moral thing to do.

The next step of course in Congress. Currently, there are efforts towards passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and we hope same-sex partners will be included in those efforts. And there is the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which will, among other things, extend health insurance benefits to same-sex partners. Both of these will directly impact the lives of LGBT Foreign Service families.

I think we have some great allies in the Department to help us reach those goals.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Can do!

I just had to share this with you, and not just because it starts off with America's first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, but because it is about who we are:

Can do - And the Pursuit of Happiness Blog by Maira Kalman

I especially like this part:

"Everything is invented.
Language. Childhood. Careers.
Relationships. Religion.
Philosophy. The Future.
The are not just there for the plucking.
They don't exist in some
natural state.
They must be invented by people.
And that, of course, is a great thing.
That is the American message.
Electricity. Flight. The Telephone.
Television. Computers. Walking on
The Moon. It Never Stops