Sunday, January 31, 2010

A 60 Minutes Segment Worth Watching

Link here:

About the Green Berets in Afghanistan. The training doesn't work, the Afghans shoot Green Berets by mistake, the Green Berets shoot Afghan children by mistake, they have to call in the Air Force to bomb the Taliban. It looks like "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight" meets trigger-happy cops high on steroids. Not bringing law and order, apparently. Plus, how dumb are the top brass in the US Army to let CBS News document this type of SNAFU? (Though I'm grateful it's finally on the air). I hope Gen. McChrystal can clean this embarrassment up rather than sweeping it all under the rug. Hasn't anyone been trained--and supervised--in running a checkpoint? No wonder the Blackwater fiasco happened in Iraq. This appears to be shameful and demoralizing in every respect. Some of these guys need to go back to parking cars....

BTW, the Green Berets all seem to have beards, but the Afghans appear clean-shaven. They look better disciplined than our guys (who seemed to lack proper discipline in the training segment, although there appeared to be plenty of bullying).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Frank Furedi: Cowardice Won't Help Haitian Earthquake Victims

Someone I know sent me a link to this thoughtful analysis by Frank Furedi:
No doubt there are many desperate people in Haiti who feel they have nothing to lose by taking matters into their own hands. But why on earth are the actions of the powerless being construed as a serious challenge to the UN, the American military and the numerous other international actors in Haiti? Yes, the situation is very difficult, and anyone involved in the rescue operation should not expect the niceties of an afternoon tea party. But, tragically, what is really hampering the rescue effort is not so much the violence and looting of Haitians as the fear and anxiety of aid workers and rescuers.

Numerous reports indicate that many aid workers and first responders are not going out to the poor and outlying areas of Port-au-Prince and beyond because their organisations are worried about their safety. Many doctors and aid workers are protected by armed guards, and some of them appear to be more concerned about their own individual security than the provision of relief. It seems that even when it comes to the challenge of saving lives, a powerful mood of aversion to risk has the upper hand.

These days, it is not any kind of aggressive foreign policy that fuels the tendency to transform humanitarian relief operations into military exercises. Rather, this trend for imagining that a country afflicted by an earthquake is a war zone, and that the rescuers are likely to need rescuing, is the logical outcome of the culture of risk-aversion that dominates Western societies. Even when it comes to the noble mission of saving lives, the ethos of banal risk management prevails.

Western societies have become so obsessed with safety that virtually every human experience comes with a health warning. It is not simply children’s playgrounds and schools that are now dominated by the ethos of safety for its own sake – even organisations like the emergency services, the police and the army are now subject to the dictates of health and safety. As Bill Rammell, the UK’s armed forces minister warned last week, ‘my fear is that we as a nation will become so risk-averse, cynical and introverted that we will find ourselves in inglorious and important isolation by default’ (4).

Even those two once-risky institutions of the police and the army have become increasingly risk-averse. One British journalist has noted that the British police rarely venture out these days, and even when they are confronted with a serious situation they rarely take risks. In one case, armed police stood for 15 days besieging a London home, only venturing in after the hostage had escaped by his own efforts and the lone gunman perished in a fire which he had started (5). The ethos of safety has become institutionalised within the military, too. Army commanders have to draw up risk assessments for every aspect of their soldiers’ training. Some have given up testing soldiers to the limit, lest they inadvertently contravene health-and-safety rules (6).

General Sir Michael Rose, former head of Britain’s elite special-forces regiment the SAS, has spoken out about the destructive consequences of risk-aversion and the ethos of safety for the morale of the military. He has denounced the ‘moral cowardice’ that brought about what he describes as the ‘most catastrophic collapse of military ethos in recent history’ (7). And if anything, the decline of the warrior ethos is even more comprehensive in the US military. One analyst believes that risk-aversion has undermined the effectiveness of the US military: ‘As emphasis on risk-avoidance filters down the chain of command, junior commanders and their soldiers become aware that low-risk behaviour is expected and act accordingly.’ (8)

Unlike some institutions in society, the military, emergency services and disaster-response teams simply cannot function without taking risks: they have to go to unstable places and go beyond the call of duty. When the behaviour of rescue teams is determined by a concern for their own security, as it seems to be in Haiti right now, then they inevitably become distracted from the humanitarian mission at hand. In such circumstances, the imperative of security, rather than of aid, wins out, and as a result the effectiveness of the mission is diminished. Worse still, it demoralises those involved in the job of saving lives, and threatens to turn humanity’s noble gestures into tawdry exercises in playing it very safe.

Geert Wilders Trial a 21st Century Dreyfus Case

That's my take-away from Douglas Murray's blog coverage in The Telegraph (UK):
There is nothing hyperbolic in stating that a trial which has just started in Holland will have unparalleled significance for the future of Europe. It is not just about whether our culture will survive, but whether we are even allowed to state the fact that it is being threatened.

The trial of Geert Wilders has garnered hardly any attention in the mainstream press here. [NOTE: Also true in USA] Fortunately the blogosphere can correct some of this.

Wilders is a Dutch MP and leader of Holland’s fastest-growing party, the Party for Freedom. Just a few years ago he was the sole MP for his party. The latest polls show that his party could win the biggest number of seats of any party in Holland when the voters next go to the polls.

His stances have clearly chimed with the Dutch people. They include an end to the era of mass immigration, an end to cultural relativism, and an end to the perceived suborning of European values to Islamic ones. For saying this, and more, he has for many years had to live under round-the-clock security protection. Which you would have thought proves the point to some extent.

Now the latest attempt of the Dutch ruling class to keep Wilders from office has begun. Last week, apparently because of the number of complaints they have received (trial by vote anyone?) the trial of Wilders began.

The Dutch courts charge that Wilders ‘on multiple occasions, at least once, (each time) in public, orally, in writing or through images, intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion’.

I’m sorry? Whoa there, just a minute. The man’s on trial because he ‘offended a group of people’? I get offended by all sorts of people. I get offended by very fat people. I get offended by very thick people. I get offended by very sensitive people. I get offended by the crazy car-crash of vowels in Dutch verbs. But I don’t try to press charges.

Yet, crazily, this is exactly what is going on now in a Dutch courtroom. If found guilty of this Alice-in-Wonderland accusation of ‘offending a group of people’, Wilders faces up to two years in prison.

If anyone doubts the surreal nature of the proceedings now going on they should simply look through the summons which is available in an English translation here. It shows that Wilders is on trial for his film Fitna. And for various things he has said in articles and interviews in the Dutch press.

Now some people liked Fitna and some people didn’t. That’s a matter of choice. But by any previous interpretation it is not the job of courts in democratic countries to become film-critics. In fact it would create a very bad precedent. I thought the latest Alec Baldwin film stank. But I don’t think (though the temptation lingers) Baldwin should go to prison for it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union: Obama Lays an Egg

Worst mistake, IMHO, the President's line about "unity in diversity." That's the national motto of Indonesia, not the United States of America. In future, the President might try to avoid reference to Americans as "they" or "them," and avoid saying concerns are "theirs." He's our President, he works for us, and that means our problems are his problems, too. His scolding, hectoring tone, his thin-skinned resentment of criticism, and his demand that people stop complaining reminded me of George Bush I & II. Seeing all those cutaways to a smiling Tim Geithner made me want to throw up.

Finally, anyone who talks about quitting in public, as the President did in the State of the Union, reminds me of Nixon's last public statement on Aug. 8, 1974: "I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President I must put the interests of America first . . . Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow."

And then, in my email this morning, I found this from President Obama:
Larry --

I just finished delivering my first State of the Union, and I wanted to send you a quick note.

We face big and difficult challenges. Change on the scale we seek does not come easily. But I will never accept second place for the United States of America.

That is why I called for a robust jobs bill without delay. It's why I proposed a small businesses tax credit, new investments in infrastructure, and pushed for climate legislation to create a clean energy economy.

It's why we're taking on big banks, reforming Wall Street, revitalizing our education system, increasing transparency -- and finishing the job on health insurance reform.

It's why I need your help -- because I am determined to fight to defend the middle class, and special interest lobbyists will go all out to fight us.

Help me show that the American people are ready to join this fight for the middle class -- add your name to a letter to Congress today:

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But we don't quit. I don't quit.

Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

President Barack Obama

MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT: (1) Get some new speechwriters; (2) Get a new speech coach; (3) Fire Tim Geithner!

The iPad Has Landed...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Garry Apgar: Scandalous Exploitation of a Chinese Teacher in New Haven

From the New Haven Register:
I am deeply disturbed by the treatment of Haiyan Bai, a citizen of China hired to teach Chinese at Hamden High School who was wrongfully dismissed from the job.

I believe she was fired because she requested full payment of her compensation and, when that failed, demanded payment through her attorney.

Bai began teaching in August, yet she was not paid anything until Oct. 9, when she received $800 plus a $1,000 stipend for transportation.

The May 29 “letter of appointment” signed by Hamlet Hernandez, Hamden’s assistant school superintendent, promised a salary of $26,967 and a housing benefit of $8,500.

The schools deducted the housing benefit and a sizeable chunk of her salary from her paycheck. So far, she has received only $5,150, less than one-fifth of the promised salary.

Bai was arrested Dec. 20 based on an altercation in her apartment with her roommate, a Chinese teacher at Hamden Middle School, who, Bai says, filed a false complaint. The charges were summarily dismissed Jan. 8 in Superior Court.

The roommate, also paid a fraction of her salary, has not pursued the matter. She retains her job.

Less than a day after the arrest, and never seeking Bai’s side of the story, Hernandez gave the high school Chinese teacher position to a long-term substitute teacher.

The same day, Bai got an e-mail from Hanban, the Chinese agency that recruited her to teach in the United States, ordering her home.

Bai was called before her principal, department head and Hernandez Dec. 22. Although she is on leave as a university professor of American and English literature in China, English is not her first language. Yet, she was not given the benefit of a translator or the moral support of a colleague at the meeting, where she was asked to help find her own replacement, then effectively fired.

At that point, she and Hernandez already had been at odds for weeks over pay and other terms of her employment.

Hernandez was quoted in the Register, saying Bai’s “employment stopped because the College Board (which acts as an agent matching schools in the U.S. with teachers furnished by Hanban) released her, and she is no longer a member of the guest teacher program.”

That is a subterfuge.

On Jan. 8, an attorney for the College Board Chinese Guest Teachers Program, in a conversation with Bai’s attorney, Peter Ricciardi, “was very clear” that the College Board did not hire Bai and therefore “could not fire” her, but added that it had been asked by Hamden to fire her.

“College Board was quite confident that (the) arrest would provide everyone with sufficient cover for their actions,” said Ricciardi. The lawyer, Ricciardi said, “was quite concerned” when told there was a good chance the court would dismiss the case, which it did.

There were never any grounds for Bai’s firing.

Hamden school officials have not asserted, nor can they, that she was negligent or delinquent in her duties.
Students and parents made eloquent, respectful pleas to the Board of Education Jan. 12 to reinstate a teacher whose work has been universally hailed. The pleas fell on deaf ears.

Bai was dismissed for insisting on her rights. A Freedom of Information request has been filed with the Hamden schools and the College Board that can provide more proof to strengthen her case.

Bai’s visa, pulled as a result of the wrongful actions of the Hamden schools and the College Board, expires Friday. If her job is not restored before then, she is obliged to leave the country.

A week ago, when I expressed outrage to an administrator about Bai’s treatment, I was told she should be glad she’s not back in China, where things probably would be much worse. When I said that was no excuse to abuse her, I was told that Bai is not “one of us.”

Tragically, school administrators are trying to force Bai to China to face consequences, not of her making, that might lead to the end of her academic career there, and economic hardship. She appears to have fewer rights in America than Sept. 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

I urge readers to demand that Hamden restore Bai to her job. Members of the school board should know they must answer to voters for their negligence, if they run again for office.
Garry Apgar teaches French at Hamden High School. Write to him at 40 Bennett St., Bridgeport 06605. E-mail:

The Lancet Criticizes NGOs

Over their Haitian relief efforts...From the current issue [free, but registration required] (ht AidWatch):
Politicians and the media make easy targets for criticism. But there is another group involved in disaster relief, which has largely escaped public scrutiny—the aid sector, now undoubtedly an industry in its own right. Aid agencies and humanitarian organisations do exceptional work in difficult circumstances. But some large charities could make their good work even better. The Lancet has been observing aid agencies and NGOs for several years and has also spoken with staff members working for major charities. Several themes have emerged from these conversations. Large aid agencies and humanitarian organisations are often highly competitive with each other. Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts. Media coverage as an end in itself is too often an aim of their activities. Marketing and branding have too high a profile. Perhaps worst of all, relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have have better networks in affected counties and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief.

Given the ongoing crisis in Haiti, it may seem unpalatable to scrutinise and criticise the motives and activities of humanitarian organisations. But just like any other industry, the aid industry must be examined, not just financially as is current practice, but also in how it operates from headquarter level to field level. It seems increasingly obvious that many aid agencies sometimes act according to their own best interests rather than in the interests of individuals whom they claim to help. Although many aid agencies do important work, humanitarianism is no longer the ethos for many organisations within the aid industry. For the people of Haiti and those living in parallel situations of destruction, humanitarianism remains the most crucial motivation and means for intervention.

Serves Them Right!

The Guardian reports:
The Church of England has lost £40m from a disastrous investment in a buyout of two vast Manhattan housing complexes, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, that collapsed into default after struggling under huge debts incurred at the peak of the US property bubble.

Home to 25,000 people, the two redbrick housing estates comprise 56 buildings along New York's East River. Completed shortly after the second world war, they are known as one of the few remaining bastions of affordable living among the multimillion-dollar tower blocks of lower Manhattan.

They were bought for $5.4bn (£2.86bn then) in 2006 by a consortium led by a New York investment firm, Tishman Speyer, and the fund management group BlackRock, in the biggest US residential property deal on record. But after struggling for months to keep up repayments on loans attached to the buyout, Tishman today handed over the entire estates to its creditors, making the deal a landmark victim of the plunge in property values.

Simon Johnson: Replace Bernanke with Krugman

From Baseline Scenario (ht Huffington Post):
The support for Bernanke in the Senate hangs by a thread – with Harry Reid providing a message of support, albeit lukewarm, after the markets close. The White House is telling people that if Bernanke is not reconfirmed there will be chaos in the markets and the economic recovery will be derailed. This is incorrect.

The danger here is uncertainty – the markets fear a prolonged policy vacuum. Fortunately, there is a way to address this. Ben Bernanke should withdraw and the president should nominate Paul Krugman to take his place.

Paul Krugman is an expert on monetary policy – he wrote the classic paper on balance of payments crises (and probably could have got the Nobel Prize just for that), his work on Japan in the 1990s shaped everyone’s thinking of how to handle potential deflation, and his assessment of the crisis and needed response in fall 2008 was right on the money.

Krugman is known to many academics as a trade theorist and as a pioneering modeler of growth with increasing returns. But just because Keynes wrote eloquently on Indian currency reform did not prevent him from also understanding what had gone wrong with the world economy – and how to substantially fix it.

Krugman also has exactly the paper trail that you would like to see from any potential Fed chair. He has written pointedly and with complete clarity about all the leading policy issues of the day.

There is no question where he stands, for example, on “too big to fail” financial institutions: he’s opposed and would push for fundamental financial reform and tough oversight.

Masterpiece Theatre's Emma

Watched it last night with someone I know, and we both enjoyed it thoroughly--especially Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse and the rest of the supporting cast. The only discordant note was leading lady Romola Garai, as a poor man's Gwyneth Paltrow (and a pale imitation indeed). She was hard to watch, with her simpering, bug-eyed mugging, and botox-frozen, collagen-puffed expressions, along with a lot of eyebrow-wiggling and shoulder-hunching.

Still, the horse-drawn carriages, the clip-clop and jingling on the soundtrack, the attention to soup spoons being used the right way, the stately mansions, the sumptuous interiors, and the costumes (though some looked a little too off-the rack--for example, Michael Gambon's Pashmina) reminded one of Masterpiece Theatre's glory days. A blast from the past...except, unfortunately, Laura Linney is no Alistair Cooke.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Has Happened to Scientific American?

Saw this post on my university library blog, and couldn't believe what I was reading...
A Sad Farewell to Scientific American
Posted: January 18, 2010 at 9:00 am by Sue Vazakas in Online Resources |
Once upon a time (1845), there was a magazine called The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements. Soon, with the mercifully shorter title of Scientific American, this publication became the way that the country kept informed about progress and events in science and technology.

Written for the layperson, Scientific American is a chronicle of American innovation. The phonograph, the automobile, televisions, computers, rocket ships, the artificial heart - SA’s writers, including more than 160 Nobel laureates, explain it all. However, at the end of 2009, Eisenhower Library stopped receiving print copies, and at the end of May of this year, we will no longer have online access to issues from January 1, 1995 to May 31, 2010.

This sad circumstance is the result of the sale of the magazine to Nature Publishing Group. Nature tripled the prices and ignored all pleas to reconsider its treatment of America’s oldest continuously published magazine. Libraries across the US are refusing to continue subscribing under these conditions, and MSEL’s librarians made this same decision, with heavy hearts.

MSEL does own many years in various formats, including online (1845-1908; 1998-2003), print (1927-2009), and microfilm (1845-2007). (Or, read articles from 1846-1869 at Cornell University Library’s “Making of America” site.)

We don’t yet know whether Nature will allow any other vendors to carry current issues, but we’ll keep you informed.
I have a personal soft spot for the magazine, due to the articles below published by my father and my cousin in Scientific American:

1. Sci Am. 1964 Apr;210:29-37.

2. Sci Am. 1981 Jan;244(1):74-80.

Bye, Bye, Geithner...

Thank you, Senator-Elect Scott Brown! From The Washington Post:
For much of last year, Paul Volcker wandered the country arguing for tougher restraints on big banks while the Obama administration pursued a more moderate regulatory agenda driven by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Thursday morning at the White House, it seemed as if the two men had swapped places. A beaming Volcker stood at Obama's right as the president endorsed his proposal and branded it the "Volcker Rule." Geithner stood farther away, compelled to accommodate a stance he once considered less effective than his own.

The moment was the product of Volcker's persistence and a desire by the White House to impose sharper checks on the financial industry than Geithner had been advocating, according to some government sources and political analysts. It was Obama's most visible break yet from the reform philosophy that Geithner and his allies had been promoting earlier.

Senior administration officials say there is now broad consensus within the White House and the Treasury for the plan advanced by Volcker, who leads an outside economic advisory group for the president. At its heart, Volcker's plan restricts banks from making speculative investments that do not benefit their customers. He has argued that such speculative activity played a key role in the financial crisis. The administration also wants to limit the ability of the largest banks to use borrowed money to fund expansion plans.

The proposals, which require congressional approval, are the most explicit restrictions the administration has tried to impose on the banking industry. It will help to have Volcker, a legendary former Federal Reserve chairman who garners respect on both sides of the aisle, on Obama's side as the White House makes a final push for a financial reform bill on Capitol Hill, a senior official noted.
IMHO, Much of Obama's problem with health care legislation is due to lingering bad odor from the Paulson/Geithner "bailout" and "stimulus" packages. Having a confessed tax cheat as Secretary of the Treasury undermines confidence in the US Government as well as the Obama Administration.

Plus, in the American mind, big banks are like big insurance companies. Americans don't trust them, and so clearly can't trust legislation that puts them at the center of anything--much less mandates buying their services. Obama should be able to pass health care legislation, IMHO, but only after he cleans up the banking mess to the satisfaction of the electorate--and changes the legislation in order to favor the needs of the mass of American citizens over those of insurance companies or special-interest groups (such as Nebraskans, abortion advocates, or unions).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Message of Scott Brown's Victory in Massachusetts

IMHO, "Throw the Bums Out"

Which means insiders are in danger, while outsiders have electoral potential, in 2010. Obama could survive this electoral setback, as did Clinton and Reagan in similar situations, by sacrificing insiders and bringing in some talented and credible outsiders.

Bye, bye Geithner...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Simon Johnson on What Obama Needs to Do Now

Think of it this way. If the Democrats lose badly in November – as seems likely, with their current weak and unconvincing narrative about the financial crisis and origins of our mass unemployment – then President Obama’s reelection campaign will be a long struggle to redefine the message, presumably towards finding something he has changed in a major way. In that context, strong attempted action against the power of big banks would appeal to the left, center, and even part of the right. Why wait for defeat in November before making this switch?

Run hard now, against the big banks. If they oppose the administration, this will make their power more blatant – and just strengthen the case for breaking them up. And if the biggest banks stay quiet, so much the better – go for even more sensible reform to constrain reckless risk-taking in the financial sector.

When you are running against opponents with bottomless resources, great hubris, and a profoundly anti-democratic bent, get them to speak early and often in as public a manner as possible. Dig up and publish everything there is to know about them. Review and forward the details of how JP Morgan was humbled over Northern Securities and how John D. Rockefeller was finally brought to account.

FDR’s favorite president was Andrew Jackson. The White House might like to read up on why – Jackson confronted, ran against, and ultimately defeated, the specter of concentrated financial power. President Obama needs to do the same.

Gary Anderson on the US Military Mission in Haiti

From Small Wars Journal (ht Tom Ricks, NPR website):
For military personnel assigned to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations (HA/DR) in Haiti who might be looking to the Small Wars Journal for some help, I’ll offer some thoughts from someone who has done a few of these things and studied them extensively.

Let the Assessment Drive the Operation. HA/DR should be a “recon pull” operation; it is maneuver welfare. If you get the assessment wrong, you will end up clogging scarce airport ramps and offloading piers with unneeded supplies while the things you really need will wait in line. And remember that assessment is continuous. You will find yourself in different stages of the operations in different places. Don’t be afraid to use non- traditional sources such as reporters, NGOs, and missionaries in the ongoing assessment. That angry reporter or Non Governmental Organization (NGO) worker, who wants to know why nothing has been done for village X, has just given you a piece of your assessment puzzle.

Remember the Little Things. As soon as possible, get permission to fly non Department of Defense personnel in military aircraft. This should be SOP, but somehow it always gets overlooked until some overly officious Air Force Master Sergeant won’t let a desperately needed civilian doctor on an airplane.

Sea Base the Operation as Much as Possible. Every American who spends the night on shore is one less Haitian that will get food or water that day. Ruthlessly weed out uniformed “tourists” who don’t have a real function.

Wherever Possible, Use Local Security Forces to Secure Distribution Sites. The last thing you need to have on CNN is American troops clubbing desperate villagers like baby seals at a relief distribution site. If needed, put Haitian police on the first helicopter into a relief landing zone; then bring in the relief supplies.

The Best Thing the American Military can Supply is Transportation and Communications.

The NGOs and International Organizations (IOs) are pros at this. However, their normal means of transportation and communications will be down initially. They will get supplies to the major cities and will have some supplies in warehouses - but they will need help with retail distribution. Your helicopters, air cushioned landing craft, and radios are what you can really bring to the fight. Whatever you do, don’t do air drops - you are likely to kill more people than you help by crushing them with pallets or by starting riots.

Keep Your Relations with NGOs and IOs Professional. Most of these people are more likely to join the Peace Corps than the Marine Corps, but they are professionals in their own fields and will be as results oriented as you are in their own way. Some have never dealt with the military before and may have an attitude when you first meet them. The best way to confront that is head on. Tell them, “We are both here to get a job done. Let’s leave our personal feelings at the door, you may even find that I’m not a war criminal.”

Don’t Get Involved With the Disposal of Human Remains. Think how you’d feel watching your grandmother shoved into a ditch by a Russian bulldozer. CARE and some of the other major NGOs are funded and know how to stand up ad hoc mortuary companies to bury people in ways acceptable to the local culture. This will also get some needed money pumped into the economy. They are also smart enough to keep an eye on the local entrepreneurs. At some point in the operation, they will start to run short of bodies. Gruesome as it sounds, some of these people in past disasters have dug up bodies to get paid for burying them multiple times. You would never have thought of that; leave that sort of thing to the pros. While we are on the subject, the NGOs and IOs are pretty good at deciding when it is time to stop delivering prepackaged emergency rations and start providing things like raw rice and cooking oil.

Avoid Going High Tech. Mobile surgical field hospitals and reverse water treatment purification units (ROWPUs) are wonderful things, but you stand the risk of raising local expectations so high that they won’t want to part with them, and they wouldn’t be able to maintain them, even if you could leave them. Simple tube wells, where the water table allows, run by a small generator and a simple pump is something that they can keep and probably maintain. The same holds true with chlorine tablets. From a medical perspective, trauma units will not be much in demand. Sadly, those who will die from immediate injuries sustained in the earthquake will likely have done so by the time you get there. What will really be needed are internists with qualified interpreters who can treat the invariable gastrointestinal diseases that will follow from drinking bad water.

Beware of Mission Creep. Your job is to try to get Haiti back to something approaching the way it was seconds before the quake struck. If the President wants you to do nation-building, he’ll let you know. Identify the things that only you as the American military can do and for how long you will need to do them. When the roads are open, they will not need helicopters anymore; stop flying helicopters. If you need to run a hospital until Doctors Without Borders get there, you should stop running it when they arrive. Your best people are the ones who will get you into mission creep situations the fastest. Doctors and engineers always want to make things better, and in these kinds of operations, better is the enemy of good enough.
Americans excel at these types of ad hoc operations. We are poor strategists, but excellent tacticians. Successfully completing this operation (and you will succeed) will be one of the best memories that you will have of your military career.

Colonel Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps officer. He was the J-3 (Operations Officer) for operation SEA ANGEL in Bangladesh and has done several published studies on HA/DR.

At Last, A Pentagon Decision I Support

From today's New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has told his military aides not to wear combat fatigues to work at the Pentagon anymore, reversing a symbolic change of protocol ordered in the harrowing days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

There was no formal announcement about Mr. Gates directing his military staff to shed their fatigues in favor of business uniforms — the smartly pressed ones bedecked with combat medals and service ribbons that are the military equivalent of a civilian coat and tie, worn with dress shoes and not combat boots.

But throughout the Defense Department, where every action by the civilian boss is parsed by officers with a care akin to old-school Kremlinology, Mr. Gates’s decision is likely to prompt deliberations across the armed services on whether to have personnel working in the Pentagon follow his example.

The defense secretary’s instructions took effect with the start of the new year and were directed at only some of the 23,000 employees at the Pentagon. Even so, the change has been noticed by recent visitors to Mr. Gates’s third-floor suite of offices and has become a topic of conversation along the Pentagon’s 17.5 miles of corridors.

The switch to camouflage and flight suits became the norm in the days after Sept. 11, and it made a statement: The building itself was a terrorist target, the nation was on a war footing, and it was thought important that even military personnel on the home front should dress for combat.
IMHO, the only people who should wear camouflage are soldiers who need to do so in order not to be seen by the enemy while fighting. The manifest "symbolism" of wearing combat fatigues elsewhere is that the military is so incompetent that it doesn't even know where the battlefield, it looks sloppy and undisciplined, at least to my, my hat's off to the Secretary of Defense on his decision!

NEXT STEP FOR SECRETARY GATES: Please move Central Command HQ from Tampa, Florida to Kabul, Afghanistan, ASAP.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Togo West-Vernon Clark Report: "DoD Independent Review Related to Fort Hood"

Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Finding 2.1
DoD programs, policies, processes, and procedures that address identification of indicators for violence are outdated, incomplete, and fail to include key indicators of potentially violent behaviors .
Recommendation 2.1
• Update training and education programs to help DoD personnel identify contributing factors and behavioral indicators of potentially violent actors .
• Coordinate with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit’s Military Violence unit to identify behavioral indicators that are specific to DoD personnel .
• Develop a risk assessment tool for commanders, supervisors, and professional support service providers to determine whether and when DoD personnel present risks for various types of violent behavior .
• Develop programs to educate DoD personnel about indicators that signal when individuals may commit violent acts or become radicalized .
Finding 2.2
Background checks on personnel entering the DoD workforce or gaining access to installations may be incomplete, too limited in scope, or not conducted at all .
Recommendation 2.2
• Evaluate background check policies and issue appropriate updates . • Review the appropriateness of the depth and scope of the National Agency Check with Local Agency
and Credit Check as minimum background investigation for DoD SECRET clearance .
• Educate commanders, supervisors, and legal advisors on how to detect and act on potentially adverse behaviors that could pose internal threats .
• Review current expedited processes for citizenship and clearances to ensure risk is sufficiently mitigated .
Finding 2.3
DoD standards for denying requests for recognition as an ecclesiastical endorser of chaplains may be inadequate .
Recommendation 2.3
Review the limitations on denying requests for recognition as ecclesiastical endorsers of chaplains .
Finding 2.4
The Department of Defense has limited ability to investigate Foreign National DoD military and civilian personnel who require access to DoD information systems and facilities in the U .S . and abroad .
Recommendation 2.4
Coordinate with the Department of State and Office of Personnel Management to establish and implement more rigorous standards and procedures for investigating Foreign National DoD personnel .
Finding 2.5
The policies and procedures governing assessment for pre- and post-deployment medical risks do not provide a comprehensive assessment of violence indicators .
Recommendation 2.5
• Assess whether pre- and post-deployment behavioral screening should include a comprehensive violence risk assessment .
• Review the need for additional post-deployment screening to assess long-term behavioral indicators that may point to progressive indicators of violence .
• Revise pre- and post-deployment behavioral screening to include behavioral indicators that a person may commit violent acts or become radicalized .
• Review policies governing sharing healthcare assessments with commanders and supervisors to allow information regarding individuals who may commit violent acts to become available to appropriate authorities .
Finding 2.6
The Services have programs and policies to address prevention and intervention for suicide, sexual assault, and family violence, but guidance concerning workplace violence and the potential for self- radicalization is insufficient .
Recommendation 2.6
• Revise current policies and procedures to address preventing violence toward others in the workplace .
• Integrate existing programs such as suicide, sexual assault, and family violence prevention with information on violence and self-radicalization to provide a comprehensive prevention and response program .
Finding 2.7
DoD policy regarding religious accommodation lacks the clarity necessary to help commanders distinguish appropriate religious practices from those that might indicate a potential for violence or self- radicalization .
Recommendation 2.7
Promptly establish standards and reporting procedures that clarify guidelines for religious accommodation .
Appendix C
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Finding 2.8
DoD Instruction 5240 .6, Counterintelligence (CI) Awareness, Briefing, and Reporting Programs, does not thoroughly address emerging threats, including self-radicalization, which may contribute to an individual’s potential to commit violence .
Recommendation 2.8
Update DoD Instruction 5240 .6 to provide specific guidance to the Services, Combatant Commands, and appropriate agencies for counterintelligence awareness of the full spectrum of threat information particularly as it applies to behavioral indicators that could identify self-radicalization .
Finding 2.9
DoD and Service guidance does not provide for maintaining and transferring all relevant information about contributing factors and behavioral indicators throughout Service members’ careers .
Recommendation 2.9
• Review what additional information (e .g ., information about accession waivers, substance abuse, minor law enforcement infractions, conduct waivers) should be maintained throughout Service members’ careers as they change duty locations, deploy, and re-enlist .
• Develop supporting policies and procedures for commanders and supervisors to access this information .
Finding 2.10
There is no consolidated criminal investigation database available to all DoD law enforcement and criminal investigation organizations .
Recommendation 2.10
Establish a consolidated criminal investigation and law enforcement database such as the Defense Law Enforcement Exchange .
Finding 2.11
DoD guidance on establishing information sharing agreements with Federal, State, and local law enforcement and criminal investigation organizations does not mandate action or provide clear standards .
Recommendation 2.11
Require the Military Departments and Defense Agencies to establish formal information sharing agreements with allied and partner agencies; Federal, State, and local law enforcement; and criminal investigation agencies, with clearly established standards regarding scope and timeliness .
Finding 2.12
Policies governing communicating protected health information to other persons or agencies are adequate at the DoD-level, though they currently exist only as interim guidance . The Services, however, have not updated their policies to reflect this guidance .
Recommendation 2.12
Ensure Services update policies to reflect current DoD-level guidance on the release of protected health information .
Finding 2.13
Commanders and military healthcare providers do not have visibility on risk indicators of Service members who seek care from civilian medical entities .
Recommendation 2.13
Consider seeking adoption of policies and procedures to ensure thorough and timely dissemination of relevant Service member violence risk indicators from civilian entities to command and military medical personnel .
Finding 2.14
The Department of Defense does not have a comprehensive and coordinated policy for counterintelligence activities in cyberspace . There are numerous DoD and interagency organizations and offices involved in defense cyber activities .
Recommendation 2.14
Publish policy to ensure timely counterintelligence collection, investigations, and operations in cyberspace for identifying potential threats to DoD personnel, information, and facilities .
Finding 2.15
DoD policy governing prohibited activities is unclear and does not provide commanders and supervisors the guidance and authority to act on potential threats to good order and discipline .
Recommendation 2.15
Review prohibited activities and recommend necessary policy changes .
Finding 2.16
Authorities governing civilian personnel are insufficient to support commanders and supervisors as they attempt to identify indicators of violence or take actions to prevent violence .
Appendix C Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Recommendation 2.16
Review civilian personnel policies to determine whether additional authorities or policies would enhance visibility on indicators of possible violence and provide greater flexibility to address behaviors of concern .
Finding 3.1
• The Department of Defense has not issued an integrating force protection policy . • Senior DoD officials have issued DoD policy in several force protection-related subject areas such as
antiterrorism but these policies are not well integrated .
Recommendation 3.1
• Assign a senior DoD official responsibility for integrating force protection policy throughout the Department .
• Clarify geographic combatant commander and military department responsibilities for force protection . • Review force protection command and control relationships to ensure they are clear .
Finding 3.2
DoD force protection programs and policies are not focused on internal threats .
Recommendation 3.2
• Develop policy and procedures to integrate the currently disparate efforts to defend DoD resources and people against internal threats .
• Commission a multidisciplinary group to examine and evaluate existing threat assessment programs; examine other branches of government for successful programs and best practices to establish standards, training, reporting requirements /mechanisms, and procedures for assessing predictive indicators relating to pending violence .
• Provide commanders with a multidisciplinary capability, based on best practices such as the Navy’s Threat Management Unit, the Postal Service’s “Going Postal Program,” and Stanford University’s workplace violence program, focused on predicting and preventing insider attacks .
Finding 3.3
The Department of Defense’s commitment to support JTTFs is inadequate .
Recommendation 3.3
• Identify a single point of contact for functional management of the Department of Defense’s commitment to the JTTF program .
• Evaluate and revise, as appropriate, the governing memoranda of understanding between the FBI and different DoD entities involved with the JTTF to ensure consistent outcomes .
• Review the commitment of resources to the JTTFs and align the commitment based on priorities and requirements .
Finding 3.4
There is no formal guidance standardizing how to share Force Protection threat information across the Services or the Combatant Commands .
Recommendation 3.4
Direct the development of standard guidance regarding how military criminal investigative organizations and counterintelligence organizations will inform the operational chain of command .
Finding 3.5
The Department of Defense does not have direct access to a force protection threat reporting system for suspicious incident activity reports .
Recommendation 3.5
• Adopt a common force protection threat reporting system for documenting, storing, and exchanging threat information related to DoD personnel, facilities, and forces in transit .
• Appoint a single Executive Agent to implement, manage, and oversee this force protection threat reporting system .
Finding 3.6
There are no force protection processes or procedures to share real-time event information among commands, installations, and components .
Recommendation 3.6
Evaluate the requirement for creating systems, processes, policy, and tools to share near real-time, unclassified force protection information among military installations in CONUS to increase situational awareness and security response .
Finding 3.7
DoD installation access control systems and processes do not incorporate behavioral screening strategies and capabilities, and are not configured to detect an insider threat .
Recommendation 3.7
• Review best practices, including programs outside the U .S . Government, to determine whether elements of those programs could be adopted to augment access control protocols to detect persons who pose a threat .
• Review leading edge tools and technologies that augment physical inspection for protecting the force .
Appendix C Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Finding 3.8
The Department of Defense does not have a policy governing privately owned weapons .
Recommendation 3.8
Review the need for DoD privately owned weapons policy .
Finding 3.9
Services cannot share information on personnel and vehicles registered on installations, installation debarment lists, and other relevant information required to screen personnel and vehicles, and grant access .
Recommendation 3.9
• Develop timely information sharing capabilities among components including vehicle registration, installation debarment lists, and other access control information .
• Accelerate efforts to automate access control that will authenticate various identification media (e .g ., passports, CAC, drivers’ licenses, license plates) against authoritative databases .
• Obtain sufficient access to appropriate threat databases and disseminate information to local commanders to enable screening at CONUS and overseas installation access control points .
Finding 4.1
Services are not fully interoperable with all military and civilian emergency management stakeholders .
Recommendation 4.1
• Establish milestones for reaching full compliance with the Installation Emergency Management program .
• Assess the potential for accelerating the timeline for compliance with the Installation Emergency Management program .
Finding 4.2
There is no DoD policy implementing public law for a 911 capability on DoD installations . Failure to implement policy will deny the military community the same level of emergency response as those communities off base .
Recommendation 4.2
Develop policy that provides implementation guidance for Enhanced 911 services in accordance with applicable laws .
Finding 4.3
DoD policy does not currently take advantage of successful models for active shooter response for civilian and military law enforcement on DoD installations and facilities .
Recommendation 4.3
• Identify and incorporate civilian law enforcement best practices, to include response to the active shooter threat, into training certifications for civilian police and security guards .
• Include military law enforcement in the development of minimum training standards to ensure standard law enforcement practices throughout the Department of Defense .
• Incorporate the Department of Homeland Security best practices regarding workplace violence and active shooter awareness training into existing personal security awareness training contained in current Level 1 Antiterrorism Awareness training .
• Develop a case study based on the Fort Hood incident to be used in installation commander development and on-scene commander response programs .
Finding 4.4
Based on Joint Staff Integrated Vulnerability Assessments, many DoD installations lack mass notification capabilities .
Recommendation 4.4
Examine the feasibility of advancing the procurement and deployment of state-of-the-art mass warning systems and incorporate these technologies into emergency response plans .
Finding 4.5
Services have not widely deployed or integrated a Common Operational Picture capability into Installation Emergency Operations Centers per DoD direction .
Recommendation 4.5
• Examine the feasibility of accelerating the deployment of a state-of-the-art Common Operational Picture to support installation Emergency Operations Centers .
• Develop an operational approach that raises the Force Protection Condition in response to a scenario appropriately and returns to normal while considering both the nature of the threat and the implications for force recovery and healthcare readiness in the aftermath of the incident .
Finding 4.6
• Stakeholders in the DoD Installation Emergency Management program, including the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness; Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks
Appendix C Summary of Findings and Recommendations
and Information Integration/Chief Information Officer, have not yet synchronized their applicable programs, policies, processes, and procedures .
• Better synchronization and coordination would remove redundant planning requirements, identify seams in policy, focus programmed resources, and streamline procedures to achieve unity of effort in installation emergency management .
Recommendation 4.6
• Review responsibilities for synchronizing Office of the Secretary Defense programs, policies, and procedures related to installation emergency management .
• Establish policy requiring internal synchronizing of installation programs, plans, and response for emergency management .
Finding 4.7
Mutual Aid Agreements (MAAs) between DoD and civilian support agencies across the Services are not current .
Recommendation 4.7
Review Installation Emergency Management programs to ensure correct guidance on integrating tracking, exercising, and inspections of MAAs .
Finding 4.8
The Department of Defense has not produced guidance to develop family assistance plans for mass casualty and crisis response . As a result, Service-level planning lacks consistency and specificity, which leads to variation in the delivery of victim and family care .
Recommendation 4.8
• Develop guidance incorporating the core service elements of a Family Assistance Center as identified in the Pentagon AAR .
• Develop implementation guidance to establish requirements for a Family Assistance Center crisis and mass casualty response as integral components of Installation Emergency Management plans .
• Consider the Air Force’s Emergency Family Assistance Control Center and the Fort Hood Behavioral Health Campaign Plan as possible best practices when developing policy .
Finding 4.9
The lack of published guidance for religious support in mass casualty incidents hampers integration of religious support to installation emergency management plans .
Recommendation 4.9
• Consider modifying DoD and Service programs designed to promote, maintain, or restore health and well-being to offer each person the services of a chaplain or religious ministry professional .
• Develop policy for religious support in response to mass casualty incidents and integrate guidance with the Installation Emergency Management Program .
Finding 4.10
Inconsistencies among Service entry level chaplain training programs can result in inadequate preparation of new chaplains to provide religious support during a mass casualty incident .
Recommendation 4.10
Review mass casualty incident response training in the Chaplain Basic Officer Courses .
Finding 4.11
The Department of Defense has not yet published guidance regarding installation or unit memorial service entitlements based on the new Congressional authorization to ensure uniform application throughout the Department .
Recommendation 4.11
Develop standardized policy guidance on memorial service entitlements .
Finding 4.12
• DoD casualty affairs policy, Federal law, and DoD mortuary affairs guidance do not exist regarding injury or death of a private citizen with no DoD affiliation on a military installation within CONUS .
• There is no prescribed process to identify lead agencies for casualty notification and assistance or to provide care for the deceased, resulting in each case being handled in an ad-hoc manner .
Recommendation 4.12
• Review current policies regarding casualty reporting and assistance to the survivors of a private citizen with no DoD affiliation, who is injured or dies on a military installation within CONUS .
• Review current mortuary affairs policies relating to mortuary services for private citizens who become fatalities on a military installation within CONUS .
Finding 5.1
• DoD installations are not consistent in adequately planning for mental health support for domestic mass casualty incidents to meet needs of victims and families .
• At Fort Hood, advanced treatment protocols developed at our universities and centers were not available to the commander prior to the incident .
• Fort Hood developed a Behavioral Health plan that incorporated current practices including a “whole of community” approach, and a strategy for long-term behavioral healthcare not reflected in any DoD policy .
Appendix C Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Recommendation 5.1
• Update Mental Health Care clinical practice guidelines that address both combat and domestic incidents to ensure current and consistent preventive care .
• Review best practices inside and outside the Department of Defense to develop policies, programs, processes, and procedures to provide commanders tools required to protect the force in the aftermath of combat or mass casualty incidents .
• Consider the Air Force Instruction and the Fort Hood Behavioral Health Campaign Plan as possible sources for developing appropriate guidance .
Finding 5.2
• The Department of Defense does not have comprehensive policies that recognize, define, integrate, and synchronize monitoring and intervention efforts to assess and build healthcare provider readiness .
• The Department of Defense does not have readiness sustainment models, with requisite resources, for the health provider force that are similar to readiness sustainment models for combat and combat support forces .
• The demand for support from caregivers in general, and from mental healthcare providers in particular, is increasing and appears likely to continue to increase due to the stress on military personnel and their families from our high operational tempo and repeated assignments in combat areas .
Recommendation 5.2
Create a body of policies that:
• recognizes, defines, and synchronizes efforts to support and measure healthcare provider readiness in garrison and deployed settings;
• addresses individual assessment, fatigue prevention, non-retribution, and reduced stigma for those seeking care, and appropriate procedures for supporting clinical practice during healthcare provider recovery;
• requires DoD and Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences curricula, training materials, and personnel performance management systems to incorporate healthcare provider self-care skills and readiness concepts;
• develop mechanisms for collaborating with civilian resiliency resources . Finding 5.3
The lack of a readiness sustainment model for the health provider force, the unique stressors that healthcare providers experience, and the increasing demand for support combine to undermine force readiness—care for both warriors and healthcare providers .
Recommendation 5.3
• Develop integrated policies, processes, procedures, and properly resourced programs to sustain high quality care .
• Develop a deployment model that provides recovery and sustainment for healthcare providers comparable to that provided to the combat and combat support components of the force .
• Review the requirement for the Department of Defense to de-stigmatize healthcare providers who seek treatment for stress .
Finding 5.4
Senior caregivers are not consistently functioning as clinical peers and mentors to junior caregivers .
Recommendation 5.4
Review Senior Medical Corps Officer requirements to determine optimal roles, utilization, and assignments
Download complete PDF file here:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

AKA Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service...

President Woodrow Wilson's Intervention in Haiti

From Digital History (University of Houston):
Intervention in Haiti
Period: 1890-1920

In July 1915, a mob murdered Haiti's seventh president in seven years. Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was dragged out of the French legation and hacked to death. The mob then paraded his mutilated body through the streets of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. During the preceding 72 years, Haiti had experience 102 revolts, wars, or coups; only one of the country's 22 presidents had served a complete term, and merely four died of natural causes.

With the European powers engaged in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson feared that Germany might occupy Haiti and threaten the sea route to the Panama Canal. To protect U.S. interests and to restore order, the president sent 330 marines and sailors to Haiti.

This was not the first time that Wilson had sent marines into Latin America. Determined to "teach Latin Americans to elect good men," he had sent American naval forces into Mexico in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution. American Marines seized the city of Veracruz and imposed martial law.

The last marines did not leave Haiti until 1934. To ensure repayment of Haiti's debts, the United States took over the collection of customs duties. Americans also arbitrated disputes, distributed food and medicine, censored the press, and ran military courts. In addition, the United States helped build about a thousand miles of unpaved roads and a number of agricultural and vocational schools, and trained the Haitian army and police. It also helped to replace a government led by blacks with a government headed by mulattoes. The U.S. forced the Haitians to adopt a new constitution which gave American businessmen the right to own land in Haiti. While campaigning for vice president in 1920, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, later boasted, "I wrote Haiti's Constitution myself, and if I do say it, it was a pretty good little Constitution."

Many Haitians resisted the American occupation. In the fall of 1918, Charlemagne Peralte, a former Haitian army officer, launched a guerrilla war against the U.S. Marines to protest a system of forced labor imposed by the United States to build roads in Haiti. In 1919, he was captured and killed by U.S. Marines, and his body was photographed against a door with a crucifix and a Haitian flag as a lesson to others. During the first five years of the occupation, American forces killed about 2,250 Haitians. In December 1929, U.S. Marines fired on a crowd of protesters armed with rocks and machetes, killing 12 and wounding 23. The incident stirred international condemnation and ultimately led to the end of the American occupation.

By that time, Roosevelt had changed his mind. In 1928, he had criticized the Republican administrations for relying on the Marines and "gunboat diplomacy." "Single-handed intervention by us in the internal affairs of other nations in this hemisphere must end," he wrote. After he became president in 1933, Roosevelt proclaimed a new policy toward Latin America. Under the Good Neighbor policy, he removed American Marines from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Center for International Disaster Information Relief Guidelines

Monetary Contributions to Established Relief Agencies are Always the Most Useful Response to Disasters

Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster victims and to pay for the transportation necessary to distribute those supplies. Unlike in-kind donations, cash donations entail no transportation cost. In addition, cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased at locations as near to the disaster site as possible. Supplies, particularly food, can almost always be purchased locally - even in famine situations. This approach has the triple advantage of stimulating local economies (providing employment, generating cash flow), ensuring that supplies arrive as quickly as possible and reducing transport and storage costs. Cash contributions to established legitimate relief agencies are always considerably more beneficial than the donation of commodities.

Confirm There is a Need for All Items Being Collected.

Do not make assumptions about the needs of disaster victims. Exactly what is needed can be confirmed by checking with an established relief organization that has personnel working on-site. Do not send what is not needed; unneeded commodities compete with priority relief items for transportation and storage. Organizations that receive in-kind relief donations can help this process by clearly communicating what items are required (in what size, type, etc.) as well as clearly stating what items or services are NOT needed. Please remember, certain foods, particularly in famine situations, can make victims ill. In most cases, donations of canned goods are not appropriate. The collection of bottled water is highly inefficient. It is important to have an accurate analysis of need before determining response.

Deliver Items Only to Organizations having Local Distribution Capacity

Distributing relief supplies requires personnel and financial resources within the affected country. To efficiently distribute relief commodities, staff, warehouses, trucks and communications equipment are required. It is not enough to gather supplies and send them to an affected region; a sound partnership with a reliable local agency having transport and management capacity is mandatory.

Donate Only to Organizations having the Ability to Transport Collected Items to the Affected Region

Immediately after a disaster, many local organizations will spontaneously begin collecting miscellaneous items for use in disaster relief. However, at the time that these collections are begun, agency officials will not have thought about to whom, or how, the items will be sent. It is not unusual for community and civic groups to have collected several thousands of pounds of relief supplies only to find that they do not know whom to send the supplies to and that they do not have viable transportation options for shipping the goods. At this juncture, it is often advisable for those collecting the goods to auction them off locally, converting commodities into cash to be applied to the relief effort.

Never Assume the U.S. Government or any Relief Agency Will Transport Unsolicited Relief Items Free of Charge

It is important to make arrangements for the transportation before collecting any kind of material donations. Never assume that the government or any relief agency will transport donations free of charge (or even for a fee). In the majority of cases, the collecting agency will be responsible for paying commercial rates for the transportation and warehousing of items gathered.

Volunteer Opportunities for Disaster Relief are Extremely Limited

Volunteers without prior disaster relief experience are generally not selected for relief assignments. Candidates with the greatest chance of being selected have fluency in the language of the disaster-stricken area, prior disaster relief experience, and expertise in technical fields such as medicine, communications logistics, water/sanitation engineering. In many cases, these professionals are already available in-country. Most agencies will require at least ten years of experience, as well as several years of experience working overseas. It is not unusual to request that volunteers make a commitment to spend at least three months working on a particular disaster. Most offers of another body to drive trucks, set up tents, and feed children are not accepted. Keep in mind that once a relief agency accepts a volunteer, they are responsible for the volunteer's well-being -i.e., food, shelter, health and security. Resources are strained during a disaster, and another person without the necessary technical skills and experience can often be a considerable burden to an ongoing relief effort.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who You Going To Call? ADRg Ambassadors!

Just in time for the New Year...Maybe they're not really Ghostbusters, but Diplomatic Blogoir Charles Crawford has set up an alternative dispute resolution company staffed by former British ambassadors and other diplomats, called ADRg Ambassadors, to help you negotiate yourself out of a jam in business or personal life, and maybe get out of those pesky New Year's Resolutions, too...

Here's a link to the website:

President Obama's Statement on the Haitian Earthquake