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Sri Lanka says its 73-meter (238-foot) Artificial Christmas Tree is Tallest in the World

The Guinness World Records is yet to confirm if this is the tallest artificial Christmas tree

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A Sri Lankan family takes photographs standing near an enormous artificial Christmas tree as others gather in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec. 24, 2016. Sri Lanka has unveiled a towering Christmas tree, claiming to have surpassed the world record for the tallest. VOA
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Colombo, Dec 25, 2016: Sri Lanka unveiled a towering Christmas tree, claiming to have surpassed the world record despite constructions delays and a shorter-than-planned finished product.

The 73-meter (238-foot) artificial tree in capital Colombo is 18 meters (59 feet) taller than the current record holder, organisers said. The tree’s steel-and-wire frame is covered with a plastic net decorated with more than 1 million natural pine cones painted red, gold, green and silver, 600,000 LED bulbs and topped by a 6-meter (20-foot) tall shining star.

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Church says money misspent

The tree costs $80,000 and was criticized by the Catholic Church as a waste of money. The church suggested that the funds better be spent on helping the poor.

Hundreds of port workers and volunteers struggled for four months to put up the tree in time for the holidays. Work was suspended for six days in early December after Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, representing the island nation’s 1.5 million Catholics, lambasted the project.

Construction workers work on a huge Christmas tree in an attempt to construct the world’s tallest Christmas tree, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec. 20, 2016. VOA

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responded to the criticism by saying the tree was not being built with public money, but with donations from individuals and private firms.

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The Guinness World Records is yet to confirm if this is the tallest artificial Christmas tree. Currently, the record is held by a Chinese firm that put up a 55-meter (180-foot) treelike tower of lights and synthetic foliage, ornaments and lamps in the city of Guangzhou last year.

A tree for harmony

Sri Lankan organizers said they wanted the tree to help promote ethnic and religious harmony in the Buddhist-majority island nation, where a long civil war ended in 2009 but reconciliation remains a challenge.

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“This is just to show the world that we can live as one country, one nation,” said Arjuna Ranatunga, a former cricket player and the minister of ports and shipping. He said Sri Lanka is still grappling with issues regarding religion, caste and race.

Minority Christian and Muslim communities complain of state-sponsored discrimination, and there are allegations of widespread abuses against minority ethnic Tamils both during and after the war. (VOA)

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A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

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Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

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Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)