"The principal activity of the federal government these days is investigating itself."
Washington Post pundit David Ignatius; image from
From Russia With No Love: US Diplomat/Alleged CIA Spy Expelled For Having Two Bad Wigs - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: "Of course, the arrest also happened as the US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was holding a live Q and A on Twitter. Coincidence or perfectly timed?"
Image from entry
US targets to send 15000 American students to India every year - economictimes.indiatimes.com:
Another diplomatic mistep: Promoting gay rights abroad - Robert R. Reilly, college-ethics.blogspot.com: "If the United States wishes to promote democratic principles and constitutional rule in other countries, but insists on inserting a manufactured right such as “gay” rights as integral to that program, it will be rejected overall by religious people and by those who, through the examination of moral philosophy, have arrived at the existence of human rights from natural law. If we wish not only to make ourselves irrelevant, but an object of derision in the Muslim and other parts of world, all we have to do is openly promote the rationalization of homosexual behavior, which is explicitly taught against as inherently immoral by Islam and, in fact, by every minority religion in those Muslim-majority countries, including Christianity and Judaism. If we wish to make this part of American public diplomacy, as we have been doing, we can surrender the idea that the United States is promoting democracy in those countries because they are already responding, 'If this is democracy, we don’t want it, thank you; we would rather keep our faith and morals.' This approach not only undermines the foundation of human rights abroad but here, as well. But, of course, democracy is not the real goal; the goal is the universalization of the rationalization for sodomy. This is now one of the depraved purposes of US foreign policy. The light from the City on the Hill is casting a very dark shadow."
Talking About America - albaniaorbust.blogspot.com: "The Public Diplomacy division of the State Department operates a program that sends Americans out into their host country communities to talk about American culture and share what it means to be an American. The Speaker's Bureau program reaches beyond the typical politicians, diplomats, and business leaders who interface with the international community by allowing Americans the opportunity to meet with the ordinary citizens of the country. Through this program Americans from the Embassy, employees and spouses alike, go out into local schools and community groups to share a bit of their homeland. Discussions may focus on American specific holidays and traditions--Independence Day, Earth Day and President's Day are popular topics but educational opportunities in America, popular culture, business and economics, and the electoral process are other popular issues host country residents want to hear about. Volunteers may speak on these standing popular topics but any aspect of American culture that they are knowledgeable about and excites them is up for grabs as a discussion topic. The Speaker's Bureau seems to be especially popular here in Albania where every aspect of American culture is observed and emulated by ordinary Albanian citizens.
I've known about this program since we arrived in Tirana and this past week I finally joined the ranks of a Speaker's Bureau speaker. ... I used to speak to large groups on a regular basis but it had been a long time since I spoke formally in front of a group and much to my surprise, I found myself a bit nervous at the prospect of addressing my audience. The forty or so slouching youth sitting in front of me wearing bored expressions on their faces did little to ease my discomfort. I opened my presentation with a YouTube video which seemed to reel in my audience -- or at least earned a round of applause. Most of the audience seemed to warm up to the topic as my presentation went on. Of course there was the group of boys sitting in the back of the room who made faces and threw things at each other for the duration of the entire presentation. (I guess this behavior is not unique to American culture; boys around the world strive to look cool and disinterested when there are girls present). I received a few questions and some polite applause as my presentation concluded so all in all I'm going to assume I did alright. Did what I say make an impression on my audience? I'm not sure." Image from entry
Cultural Diplomacy and Heritage Wars - Robert Albro, blog.artsusa.org: "The cultural diplomatic potential of U.S. military cultural heritage management is not without risks. At times the military has been so intent upon developing its cultural capacity that it has not appreciated conceptions of culture other than its own tendency to view culture as an asset and mission resource. It can also be deeply problematic for the safeguarding of heritage to be directly implicated in strategic or tactical military 'soft power' objectives. Cultural professionals can be perceived as agents of coercion and control. It is, therefore, critical for them to develop robust parallel humanitarian networks in ways enabling a legitimating autonomy rather than have their work defined primarily through military mission priorities." See also.
Department of State Public Schedule Thursday, May 16, 2013 - posted at rockycoastnews.blogspot.com: "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS TARA SONENSHINE 1:30 p.m. Under Secretary Sonenshine attends a lunch in honor of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted by Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry, at the Department of State."
RFE/RL acting president Kevin Klose discusses reforms at Radio Liberty in Russia - BBGWatcher, usgbroadcasts.com: "At the broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) open meeting in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) acting president
Kevin Klose discussed some of the reforms of Radio Liberty operations in Russia, including the recent resignation of Masha Gessen from the post of the Russian Service director in Moscow and the process of reconciliation with the Russian human rights community and journalists fired by RFE/RL’s previous management in Prague. Klose said that Gessen resigned to write new books. He did not comment on her performance at Radio Liberty. ... Another BBG Governor, Ambassador Victor Ashe, who was highly critical of the previous RFE/RL management, led the effort to defend the fired journalists and to reform the organization. In a surprising move, however, the White House announced that it wants to replace Ashe on the bipartisan BBG board even though there are two other Republican vacancies that remain to be filled. ... Ashe is seen as a hero by RFE/RL journalists and is highly respected by BBG employees and their union for his efforts to improve working conditions and employee morale. Ashe is expected to keep his BBG seat for as long as the U.S. Senate does not confirm his proposed replacement. He announced plans to visit Russia in June. ... Klose announced at the BBG meeting that he had asked Irina Lagunina, a Prague-based journalist, to be the chief editor in the Russian Service. Klose also announced at the BBG meeting that the position of the Russian Service director based in Moscow was abolished to allow for better coordination of coverage of such multi-national issues as terrorism. Klose said that coordination of such coverage would be better done from the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague." Image from entry
BBG’s Michael Meehan: human rights leaders in Russia are under unbelievable threats - BBGWatcher, usgbroadcasts.com: "Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Michael Meehan said that human rights leaders in Russia are under unbelievable threats from President Putin and his government. He promised that U.S. international broadcasters, including Radio Liberty and the Voice of America, will respond to the challenge with tough journalism. 'They are fighting every which way possible and it is vitally important for us to use our collective strengths to give them the voice so they can stand up for people who don’t have voices in that country,' Meehan said. ... Meehan, McCue and Kevin Klose met in Moscow with U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul. Meehan suggested that the U.S. State Department will work on trying to achieve the same treatment for BBG broadcasters in Russia that Russia Today journalists enjoy in the United States."
BBG member may have a conflict in vigorously defending media freedom - BBGWatcher, usgbroadcasts.com: "At the May 15, 2013 open meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) expressed CUSIB’s concern that some BBG members and nominees may have conflict of interest issues as private companies for which they work do business in countries without free media such as Russia and China.
Noonan suggested that repressive governments may retaliate against their businesses if such BBG members are outspoken in defending media freedom." Image from entry
The National Endowment for Democracy and US Public Diplomacy: Part 1 - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "The NED is a grant giving organization rather than an operator but as well as responding to applications for grants It funds four core partners ... : the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute – organizations associated with the American political parties and inspired by a German model, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. In addition in lists three ‘initiatives’ on its website, the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the World Movement for Democracy: ‘a global network of democrats including activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, who have come together to cooperate in the promotion of democracy’, the Journal of Democracy and the Center for International Media Assistance." ... [M]apping the network of the NED will take you into some interesting places. Is this a public diplomacy organization? It would say that it isn’t but; 1. It’s created by legislation that requires it to promote democracy in a manner 'consistent… with the broad concerns of United States national interests.' 2. It’s funded with US tax payer money appropriated by congress. To ensure funding it has to be able to demonstrate that it’s pointing in the same direction as US foreign policy. 3. Its board is composed of paid up members of the US foreign policy and political establishment: In any country you can take people out of the MFA or the local equivalent of the White House and put them on the board of an independent organization like this and they will still check that the grants that they are making are consistent with 1."
Buy blue and white – and orange - Josh Hasten, jpost.com: "With the launch of the international BDS movements (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) against Israeli businesses and companies by anti-Semites disguised as anti-Zionists in the mid 2000s, many pro-Israel hasbara (public diplomacy) organizations have gone on the offensive, encouraging consumers to counter the BDS’ers by 'buying blue and white' – or in other words, products 'made in Israel.' The ongoing initiative to support Israeli breadwinners in the face of this displaced and unjustified campaign, which boils down to pure hatred of the Jewish state, should be applauded and supported by friends of Israel around the world.
At the same time, the Israelis who are feeling the BDS wrath more than other populations in the country are the Jews of Judea and Samaria, who not only have to fight for their livelihoods, but have to defend the legitimacy of their existence time and time again. Take for example comments made this week by former US president Jimmy Carter encouraging the European Union to implement a law forcing products coming out of the so-called West Bank to be labeled as such, according to a report in The Irish Times. As quoted by The Jerusalem Post, Carter said, 'The EU has repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank, it could therefore introduce a clear labeling of products made in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.' Carter’s true goal is obvious – to encourage European consumers to think twice before they purchase something produced in 'occupied territory,' which would ultimately benefit the 'settlers' living there. God forbid that a Jew living in Judea should be able to make a living." Image from entry, with caption: Jimmy Carter during an interview in Kathmandu in April
Premier Eager to Return to India - China Daily "There are so many reasons for China to choose India as the first stop of Premier Li Keqiang's overseas debut after taking office. And for the premier himself, there is one more reason-to return to the land where he once set foot 27 years ago. Li told a visiting delegation of Indian young people on Wednesday that the trip left an impression that will last in the rest of his life. ... Calling India a 'friendly neighbor and natural partner', Li said it will be a blessing on Asia and the whole world if the two neighbors can get on well, respect each other's concerns and properly handle differences. 'Our two countries must shake hands and conduct exchanges so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world and truly make Asian economy an important engine for world economy.
It's so good to see the young people in China and India getting on so well with each other.' He encouraged the young people to realize the pragmatic and long-term significance of the ties between Beijing and New Delhi and make efforts to push forward the key relations. Hu Shisheng, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Li's meeting with the Indian youth 'reflects the importance Beijing attaches to public diplomacy with India' and has come at a good time." Image from article, with caption: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with a 100-member youth delegation from India in Beijing on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
Working for the British Consulate General San Francisco - gov.uk: "Current job vacancies: "The British Consulate General is seeking an energetic, efficient and innovative Public Affairs Officer to join its West Coast Politics, Press and Public Affairs (PPPA) team. Based in San Francisco, and working for the West Coast Regional PPPA Director, the Public Affairs Officer works with the media and the public to explain and champion British policies to the US audience through media relations, digital outreach, and strategic communications campaigns. The position also requires political and economic reporting. The British Consulate General in San Francisco represents the UK government in Northern California, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. Duties and Responsibilities [inter alia]: Develop and implement strategies and projects for the promotion of key public diplomacy messages in collaboration with Embassy policy leads, counterparts in London, communications colleagues around the United States, and external partners." Via KA on Facebook
Congress should clarify authorization for war - Editorial Board, washingtonpost.com: The reality is that al-Qaeda and its successors appear likely to pose a serious threat to the United States for the foreseeable future — as the recent terrorist attacks in Benghazi and Algeria demonstrated. Countering the jihadists with intelligence and law enforcement tools manifestly failed before Sept. 11, 2001. Congress would be wise to ensure that this president and his successors have the authority they need to defend the country.
When to Talk to Monsters - Christopher R. Hill, New York Times: The Obama administration’s decision to engage Russia in diplomatic talks is a good but belated one. Russia, a key backer of the Syrian government, cannot by itself end the war, any more than the United States can.
But together with countries like Britain, there is a chance, however slim, of a diplomatic breakthrough. The real shortcoming of the administration’s policy on Syria has not been an unwillingness to engage militarily — as critics of President Obama have suggested — but the ill-advised decision, in August 2011, to preclude the possibility of a diplomatic resolution involving all sides. Image from
John Kerry's Russian Friends: Our supposed Syrian peace partners help Assad at the U.N. - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: Secretary of State John Kerry insisted this week that "enormous plans" are afoot with the Russians to convene a Syria peace conference in the coming weeks. He struck this deal last week in Moscow. As the U.S. leans on the rebels, Russia is supposed to deliver Assad. Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, Syria Burns - Andrew Finkel, New York Times: The first request of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, when he visits the White House on Thursday, will surely be that his hosts stop dragging their feet on Syria. Turkey wants the United States to show the same muscle there that it displayed in Libya in order to bring down Bashar al-Assad. This is quite an about-face for a persistent critic of Washington’s repeated blunders in the Middle East, especially its 2003 intervention in Iraq. It is also a loss of face for a government that has claimed it understands the complexities of the area like no one else. It is, in effect, an admission that despite Turkey’s recent ambitions to be a major player in the region, its actual reach is limited.
Benghazi Exposes Failures Of Obama Doctrine - Helle Dale, PA Pundits – International: In a series of papers and panel discussions, The Heritage Foundation itself has explored and tracked the Obama Doctrine. Four main tenets were identified by authors Kim H. Holmes and James J. Carafano. In the name of making the
Cambodia Presses U.S. Museums to Relinquish Antiquities - Tom Mashberg, New York Times: Buoyed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s decision this month to return two stolen statues, Cambodia is asking other museums to examine any Khmer antiquities they acquired after 1970, when a 20-year period of civil war and genocide gave thieves free range to loot the country’s ancient temples.
Hundreds of Cambodian antiquities are in American museums, as well as in the hands of foreign institutions and private collectors. Many were acquired after 1970 and lack paperwork showing how they left Cambodia. Image from article, with caption: Prasat Chen temple, which may be the home of some statues being returned to Cambodia and others in legal limbo.
Russian literature could help rehabilitate juvenile offenders - James W. Symington, Letters to the Editor, Washington Post: The insightful and uplifting May 13 Metro article “Crime and punishment, change and progress” should be required reading for anyone interested in the rehabilitation of young offenders and the role that Russia’s immortal Leo Tolstoy can play in achieving it. His understanding of the human condition, together with that of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Pushkin and other giants of Russian literature, should inform our relationship beyond the fleeting demands of politics and diplomacy. Bravo, then, to the
Unravelling the Civil War Propaganda - Lal Aqa Sherin, ipsnews.net: As international media reports of “impending” or “inevitable” conflict continue to proliferate, experts here contend that Western countries with a vested interest in maintaining their military presence have conjured the bogey of civil war to justify continued engagement.
“Their…goal is to create fear in Afghanistan,” Ghulam Jailani Zwak, head of the Afghan Analytical and Advisory Centre, told IPS, adding that he sees “no substance” in the predictions of chaos after 2014. “Over the last 11 years, Afghanistan has built up a functioning civil society and a strong parliament that has shown it can stand up to the executive,” he said referring to the fact that at the end of 2012, 11 ministers were issued summons to appear in parliament or face impeachment for failing to spend 50 percent of their annual budgets in the last financial year. Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, head of the Regional Studies Centre, believes threats of civil war are a deliberate Western ploy to maintain a military presence here, particularly in the Bagram airfield, one of the largest
Angela Merkel denies Communism propaganda claims in new book: Angela Merkel has denied claims made in a new book that she played a senior role in the East German Communist youth movement - Jeevan Vasagar, telegraph.co.uk: The allegations in the book relate to a period when the German chancellor studied for her doctorate and worked as a researcher at the Academy of Sciences in east Berlin. The book, 'The First Life of Angela M.', written by two German journalists, claims that in 1981 – when she was in her late twenties – she became "agitprop" secretary of the academy.
This would have made her responsible for promoting Communist ideology. Mrs Merkel said at an event late on Sunday that she had never hidden anything about her life in East Germany, though acknowledged some things may emerge "because no one has ever asked me about them." Like many other young people who grew up under Communism in East Germany, Mrs Merkel was a member of the Communist youth organisation, the Free German Youth. She has said that she "politically lived an assimilated life." Merkel image from article
Neueste Geschichte: K. Berkhoff: Motherland in Danger - Masha Cerovic, berlin.de/rezensionen: In his latest book, Karel C. Berkhoff scrutinizes Soviet wartime propaganda, a still neglected aspect of World War II. The book seeks to assess the mobilizing role of newspapers and radio broadcasting directed at civilians on the Soviet home front.
It is based on extensive archival research, as well as on detailed analysis of four central newspapers (“Izvestija”, “Pravda”, “Trud” and the army’s “Krasnaja Zvezda” – although the latter was obviously not destined to the home front) and the Sovinformburo broadcasts, supplemented by occasional references to other news sources, and memoirs. Berkhoff offers a sweeping survey of Soviet media coverage during the war and a compelling analysis of the complex, at times contradictory processes that shaped it. Image from entry
State propaganda exhibition puts Morph and Hitler under scrutiny: More than 200 posters, films, interviews and other ephemera part of look at gentle – and not so gentle – methods of persuasion - Mark Brown, guardian.co.uk: Could it be the first major exhibition to feature the little red book, the Green Cross Code, Hitler, the guy who did the Falklands press briefings and Morph? The answer is almost certainly yes and the link is that they are all involved, in different ways, in state propaganda and form part of a major exhibition opening on Friday at the British Library. More than 200 items including posters, films, interviews and other ephemera will be part of the show, which the library hopes will provoke debate.
"If you say propaganda, everyone has a definition and opinion, everyone can visualise what they think of as propaganda," said co-curator Ian Cooke. "Often it is lies and what the bad people do, so we're trying to challenge that a little bit. There are lots of ways of defining it and we are not going to come out with one definition …" adding after a pause: "It would be quite important not to do that in a propaganda exhibition." About 80% of the exhibits are owned by the library. Image from article, with caption: US army posters on display as part of the Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition at the British Library.
Propaganda Thursday: Second Edition w/Chester Hare [DTL Records] - blogto.com: If you can't wait until the weekend to get your deep house, tech house, and techno fix, this is the night for you.
Enjoy $4 premium pints in an intimate, retro, candle lit, lounge space with a club grade lighting and a killer Bose sound system. Only underground and non-commercial, deep house, garage and techno will be played; so come prepared to hear the something fresh and exciting. Image from entry
TOP 10 WEIRD FOREIGN LAWS
It is illegal to:
1. Feed pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. The practice was outlawed in 2008, much to the dismay of seed vendors there, because the historical buildings (and many sightseers) were bearing the brunt of the byproduct.
2. Run out of gas in Germany. More precisely, it's verboten to stop on the nation's fast-paced autobahns, where German motorists tend to get all Fahrvergnugen behind the wheel.
3. Drive while wearing flip-flops in Spain. It's also illegal to drive with groceries on the back seat of a convertible. Best to stay on your toes no matter what's on your feet.
4. Spit in public in Barcelona. Not a bad call, and one a few more cities might want to consider.
5. Wear high heels at Greek archaeological sites such as the Acropolis. Pointy heels pierce the delicate "skin" of these antiquities, officials determined in 2008 when they first sought the ban. Indeed, stilettos can transmit more pressure per square inch than an elephant, experts say.
6. Drive in Scandinavia during daylight without headlights switched on. The reasoning behind the law is sound: Daylight hours are limited during long northern winters.
7. Chew gum in Singapore. The government instituted the ban in 1992 in response to sticky wads gumming up the subway system and other public spots. It has resisted occasional calls to revoke the ban, though medically therapeutic gum is OK.
8. Eat during Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates. Muslims abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan. And non-believers are expected to follow suit. Same goes for Saudi Arabia, where offending foreigners can get their visas canceled for the infraction.
9. Step on currency in Thailand. Thai baht bear the picture of the King of Thailand.
Defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family is illegal — and so is stepping on paper currency.
10. Pee in the ocean in
---Jayne Clark, USA Today; image from
Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military - James Dao and Andrew L. Lehren, New York Times: Of the crises facing American troops today, suicide ranks among the most emotionally wrenching — and baffling. Over the course of nearly 12 years and two wars, suicide among active-duty troops has risen steadily, hitting a record of 350 in 2012. That total was twice as many as a decade before and surpassed not only the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan but also the number who died in transportation accidents last year. Even with the withdrawal from Iraq and the pullback in Afghanistan, the rate of suicide within the military has continued to rise significantly faster than within the general population, where it is also rising. In 2002, the military’s suicide rate was 10.3 per 100,000 troops, well below the comparable civilian rate. But today the rates are nearly the same, above 18 per 100,000 people.
5 Shocking Retirement Facts - Christian Hill, moneynews.com: 46% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. (Employment Benefit Research Institute); 40% of baby boomers now plan to work until they die. (AARP); 36% of Americans say they don’t contribute anything at all to their savings. [CNBC]; 87% of adults say they are not confident about having money for a comfortable retirement. (Lifehappens.org); Expected retirement age is up to 67 from age 63. (Zero Hedge); imagvfrom
-Obama/Turkish PM Ergonan image from