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Q&A: Foreign service, Olympic food

Donor to ambassador

I've seen stories criticizing President Obama's ambassador appointments. Is it true that he's putting more political donors into those jobs than previous presidents?

The American Foreign Service Association has kept track of ambassadorial appointments since the 1970s, judging them to be either political or career diplomat appointments.

Its figures show that Obama has made a higher percentage of political appointments than his three immediate predecessors, but is at about the same rate as Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Of the 327 total appointments Obama has made, 206 (63 percent) have been career diplomats and 121 (36 percent) have been political appointees. In his second term, though, 41 of his 77 appointments have been political — 53 percent.

George W. Bush made 453 appointments, and 70 percent were career diplomats. Bill Clinton made 417, and 72 percent were career diplomats. George H.W. Bush appointed career diplomats 69 percent of the time. Reagan and Ford were at 62 percent career diplomats appointed. Jimmy Carter had the highest percentage of career diplomats appointed, 73 percent.

Carter reversed the previous policy of Richard Nixon, who was not a fan of the foreign service and set a price tag on the donation someone had to make to get a desirable assignment.

"My point is, my point is that anybody who wants to be an ambassador must at least give $250,000," Nixon said to White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1971, according to a tape that was transcribed in 1997.

In grand jury testimony in 1975, Nixon denied selling ambassadorships, but defended appointing large donors to the jobs.

Olympic eating

How are Olympic athletes fed? Do they have a communal cafeteria catering to every participating nation's taste and sensibility or does every nation bring its own chef and supplies?

There is the main Olympic Dining Hall with a wide variety of foods, including salad bars and buffets, but there are also dining areas in each of the three Olympic villages — for athletes competing indoors, for cross-country and biathlon athletes, and for athletes competing in all other mountain events.

Many nations bring their own food staff and as many supplies as they can, the United States among them. Eight years ago, at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, many Americans had such bad food experiences that the U.S. Olympic Committee decided it needed to act to improve nutrition.

This year, for example, the U.S. ski and snowboard teams have their own dietitian and three other chefs to prepare food for the 100 athletes and other staff. There are others who specialize in other groups of U.S. athletes and cater to their specific needs. And for those who need it, there's even a McDonald's.

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email

Q&A: Foreign service, Olympic food 02/20/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 11:43am]
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