One in THREE US military service members refuse COVID-19 vaccine - Daily Mail posted at 14:11:12 UTC
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- Senior officials have indicated the Biden administration plans give many top ambassadorships to political appointees.
- But given America's damaged global standing, ambassadors should have experience in the field.
- Giving a vast majority of these top jobs to career diplomats is the best way for the US to help restore our place in the world.
- Brett Bruen was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House and a career American diplomat. He runs the crisis-communications agency Global Situation Room.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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One of Joe Biden's earliest public events as president was a visit to the State Department. He promised in his remarks before the depleted ranks of American diplomats that he "had their backs" and their experience working abroad would now be elevated in his administration.
The speech was a needed pep talk for our nation's dispirited diplomatic corps, but the public message Biden espoused that day may not be holding up in private. Instead of relying on the extraordinary experience of our nation's diplomatic corps, I am hearing increasing indications that career officials are being relegated to the back of the line when it comes to consideration for ambassadorships.
I recently spoke with several senior officials about how the Biden Administration was handling the selection of ambassadors - an important deliberation that determines who represents America around the world. It's not an encouraging picture. The White House has not even bothered to consult, let alone coordinate with the State Department, according to current career diplomatic officials with whom I've spoken. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said nothing to his leadership about the process, those sources tell me.
Instead of being informed by our foreign policy interests, decisions are largely being guided by domestic considerations. such as campaign donations or personal connections in the White House.
A misguided idea
Appointments based on political preference over diplomatic skill is not what Biden promised on the campaign and repeated to current career employees. He told those diplomats at Foggy Bottom, "in our administration, you're going to be trusted and empowered." Apparently though, not when it comes to the most important jobs representing the United States abroad.
One well-placed source in the State Department told me that they are "being frozen out" of the process and that they cannot even begin to consider career ambassadors until the White House gives them "the number." Essentially that means how many and which plum positions first go to political appointees.
After those are doled out, the career diplomats get the leftovers. Think about that for a second. America's standing in the world is at an abysmal, historic low. The country's adversaries are rapidly gaining ground. Yet, it seems that the primary consideration informing who will lead our embassies remains how much political capital people accrued during the campaign.
The US cannot afford to continue to treat some of our most important national security positions as though they were political party favors. It needlessly inflicts further damage on our international influence and depletes our already weakened diplomatic defenses.
Political ambassadors spend months trying to learn the institution and in many cases, international affairs 101. That's the best case scenario for the ones that are open to how this job might be different from running a movie studio or fashion line. Political ambassadors of both parties are notorious for creating international incidents with their lack of protocol or basic ethical guidelines, as was often on display during the Trump Administration. Their appointments also serve to sideline those who spent their careers learning the nuances of the regions where they serve and can speak the language fluently.
The US needs to elevate experience and send a strong message to China, Russia, and others who are presently playing the long game in the realm of international influence.
Political ambassadors have very short time horizons. In most cases they stay for less than four years. Even if a president is reelected, they typically change up their ambassadors to pay back more favors. We need officials who can stay and see a longer time horizon, as well as seeing through initiatives that take years, if not decades to develop.
A big moment for Biden
This is a decisive moment for the new president. He has a unique opportunity to reform and recalibrate our national security system. Coming in after the devastation caused by President Trump and his secretaries of state, the State Department has to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it seems like this White House is squandering the chance to really look at how we "build back better" when it comes to our diplomacy.
I previously wrote about the fact that all of the top jobs at the State Department and on the National Security Council had already been filled by political appointees. It was my fervent hope that at the very least there would be a greater effort made to rebalance our representation abroad when it came to ambassadorships. But the sources I am speaking with suggest it's not going to happen. Neither the State Department, nor the White House responded to requests for clarification or comment.
This isn't to say some political appointees make excellent diplomats. But,the US should not have 30% or more of these critical jobs going to inexperienced political figures. That sort of appointment should be a limited exception, no more than 10%.
Restoring America's global leadership is not going to be an easy task. It will not take place during one term or even one administration. We need to put in place a far stronger capacity to strategize and execute policies over longer periods of time. That's exactly what has given our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow an advantage in recent years. Without more experience guiding our embassies overseas, those efforts will continue to be severely hampered and handicapped.
Brett Bruen was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House and a career American diplomat. He runs the crisis-communications agency Global Situation Room.
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Following a flurry of data suggesting the first generation of COVID vaccines may not be as effective against certain COVID mutations, particularly a mutant strain first identified in South Africa, new "research" is suggesting patients may not even need a second dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 jab - or at least it could be delayed "in order to cover all priority groups as the first one is highly protective," according to two Canada-based researchers, who made the statement in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Even so, new lab study has just been released Thursday suggesting that the Pfizer-BioNTech jab "stimulated lower levels of neutralizing antibodies" against the SA mutant, and that the variant could reduce the efficacy of the jab by as much as two-thirds.
All of this comes as the UN turns up the pressure on its push for a global vaccination program, via the WHO and its Covax initiative, presumably.
But according to the doctors writing in the NEJM, the Pfizer jab had an efficacy of 92.6% after the first dose, Danuta Skowronski and Gaston De Serres said, based on an analysis of the documents submitted by the drugmaker to the FDA.
Pfizer responded by saying alternative dosing regimens of the vaccine had not been evaluated yet and that the decision resided with the health authorities. As one might imagine, there are "differences of opinion" as to what should be done, as some experts claim that the efficacy data so far is enough to justify a "flexible" dosing schedule. We guess sometimes "the science" isn't always conclusive. In their letter, the doctors mentioned above the efficacy data would justify second-jab delays to increase supplies. Meanwhile, another group of doctors wrote into th NEJM to share more results showing the Moderna jab is also less effective against the South African variant.
As supplies of the vaccines remain stretched incredibly thin worldwide, the EU earlier this week clinched a deal for hundreds of millions more doses of the Pfzier and Moderna jabs. But even in the US, officials are looking for reasons to allow a delay in the second "booster" jab, as politicians like Joe Biden scramble to meet their promises on vaccination numbers.
Even the US CDC, which warned Britain against experimenting with intervals weeks ago, is now considering offering the exact opposite advice.
Meanwhile, vaccinemakers are already developing next-gen shots that they say will offer more protection against the COVID-19 variants.