Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 9-10 Public Diplomacy Review

"He Looks Like a Monster."

--The reaction of one Pyongyang man shouting, when he saw visiting former NBA start Dennis Rodman on the street; image from, with caption: Kim Jong Un and Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang last February; see also John Brown, "'He looks like a monster!': A Thought on Dennis and his 'Rod-men' in North Korea," Notes and Essays


a) Monday January 13: Mortara Center, 5:30 PM. Screening of  The Network 2013 documentary about Moby Media, the largest independent media company in Afghanistan, with filmmaker Eva Orner (producer Taxi to the Dark Side) and "star" Saad Mohseni, CEO of Moby Media, recently named one of Foreign Policy's 100, RSVP Here

b) Tuesday January 14th: West End Cinema, 6:00 PM, sponsored  by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Screening of THE SQUARE (, documentary about the Egyptian Revolution. Oscar short-listed (final nominations will be announced Jan.16). Discussion following with film maker Jehane Noujaim (of Control Room fame), producer Karim Amer, Brookings Fellow Khaled Elgindy, moderated by Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider. Please RSVP to Anne Peckham at no later than 12:00 pm on January 14.


Fine print of new defense law reveals Obama-Congress power struggle - James Rosen, "Before President Barack Obama finally signed it into law the day after Christmas, a defense-authorization measure bogged down for months in Congress over disputes about sexual assault prosecutions, terror detainees, Iran sanctions, surveillance of Americans and other hot-button issues. ... Congress declined to authorize continued funding of five post-9/11 websites that disseminate 'public diplomacy' – State Department lingo for U.S.-style propaganda – in southeast Europe, Turkey, Northern Africa, Iraq and Central Asia.

When Obama protested, lawmakers authorized spending $2 million, but with directions to use the funds to shut the websites down. 'We remain skeptical of the effectiveness of the websites,' said the legislative report accompanying the bill." Image from

Congress Renews Efforts to Kill COCOM Websites - Lawrence Dietz, "Essentially Combatant Commanders (COCOM) such as the Central Command (CENTCOM) and Pacific Command (PACOM) developed websites which were intended to directly support the COCOM CDR’s initiatives in the region. The General Account Office (GAO) asserted in its report that these efforts were not effective partially because they were not well coordinated with other US (read that State Department) efforts. This strikes me as a good decision. From what I can tell, most successful influence population efforts have been bottom up. This is particularly true in situations where the countries in question are rural, tribal and/or heavily illiterate as is the case in Afghanistan. Top down campaigns orchestrated by 4* Commands through intermediaries is not likely to be very effective. If the Trans Regional Web initiative was targeted against high level officials, the elite, diplomatic corps, academics, etc. then it was a battleship seeking to destroy a row boat – meaning that the website is not the optimal nor most cost efficient means to reach that audience. I have often lamented the lack of a National Influence Strategy and this most recent debacle confirms the need for such a document as guidance to DOD and the Department of State for them to harmonize their influence efforts. Another interesting angle is the ineffectiveness of US Public Diplomacy ultimately rests with the President and the Secretary of State, perhaps the Republicans will latch on to this as a plank in their platform to defeat the Democrat’s most likely Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State."

Public Diplomacy and Information Operations Gone Wild - Monica,  "The U.S. military’s mind-boggling bungling of information operations (IO) and strategic communications programs, which I recently blogged about after reading a report by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, is even more disconcerning considering something I wrote about back in December 2011. The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) had been abolished after 63 years of service—apparently due to efforts to balance the federal budget. The ACPD is charged with honestly assessing activities—across a multitude of U.S. federal departments and agencies—intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. According to USA Today, U.S. military information operations spending was exploding with questionable results around the same time the ACPD was defunded. Check out some of these USA Today headlines and stories: U.S. ‘info ops’ programs dubious, costly (February 2012) Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor (April 2012) GAO auditing Pentagon propaganda campaigns (May 2012) Amendment puts spotlight on Pentagon propaganda (May 2012) House panel calls for serious cuts to propaganda spending (May 2012) Army drops suspension of contractor in criminal probe (December 2012) Lawsuit: Propaganda firm owner boasted of online smears (December 2012) Propaganda programs hard to justify, Panetta says (February 2013) It is a huge relief that the ACPD was reauthorized in January 2013 and can provide strategic guidance to future public diplomacy efforts across government (although initial reports about its reinstatement were not encouraging). It is also a huge relief the U.S. General Accounting Office is investigating and the U.S. Army War College had the foresight to commission such a brutally honest report. Defunding a watchdog in the midst of a scandal (not to mention harassing journalists) is not something you would expect to take place in a functioning democracy. It is what you would expect the U.S. Agency for International Development to be working with fledging democracies to prevent. Sadly, considering all these recent revelations, is anyone surprised Al Qaeda is growing in strength and has captured Fallujah? That is anybody who remembers the link between Afghanistan’s stabilization and al Qaeda funding or Al Qaeda’s links to Iraq before 9/11…"

West loses out in battle for 'hearts and minds': A new survey carried out in Afghanistan suggests NATO troops have a harder time winning over civilians than Taliban fighters. With withdrawal imminent, what lessons can the West learn from military intervention? - "After 12 years of war - at the cost of over 3,400 soldiers' lives- a new survey carried out in 204 villages across five Afghanistan provinces appears to show that ordinary Afghans prefer the Taliban to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The survey, conducted by a team from Yale and Princeton universities and based on interviews with nearly 3,000 Afghan men, found that while harm caused to civilians by ISAF soldiers increased support for the Taliban, the opposite did not hold true: Taliban violence did not result in more support for NATO. ... Some analysts raised questions about the reliability of the findings. ... The researchers attempted to waylay these concerns by using an indirect questioning method . ... But objections notwithstanding, even skeptical analysts

admit that the findings are probably accurate. 'It's nothing particularly surprising,' said Peter Quentin, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute and former officer who served in Afghanistan with the British army in 2010. 'What is interesting is that this is saying: if there's one priority it should be minimizing exposure to violence for the civilian population.' That, Quentin points out, supports the counter-insurgency strategy - often called COIN - that President Barack Obama's administration expanded in Afghanistan. The theory, championed by General David Petraeus, ISAF commander from 2010 to 2011, was that counterinsurgency had to be bolstered by public diplomacy - even at the expense of taking more casualties. COIN has been roundly condemned as a failure in Afghanistan . ... The prevailing view at the moment seems to be that no kind of power - hard, soft, or some combination of the two - really works. And it will be long time before NATO gets its appetite for intervention back." Uncaptioned image from article

2014: The Year of Public Diplomacy - Tara Sonenshine, "2014 could be the year of public diplomacy, particularly throughout the Middle East where citizens continue to exercise enormous influence over the direction of events on the ground, from Iraq to Syria, and from Israel to the West Bank. Public opinion in the U.S. matters, as does public opinion 'of' the United States around the world in an interdependent world. ... Official government-to-government relations will need to work in tandem with government-to-citizen relations in 2014 to take into account all the actors and voices in the Middle East drama of today.

A critical pillar of 2014 foreign policymaking rests in trying to achieve some equilibrium and public calm to lower the levels of violence which, left unchecked, threaten all of us, everywhere. ... Tara Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Previously, she served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, as well as Executive Vice President of the U.S. Institute for Peace." Image from entry, with caption: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (L-R), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni shake hands at a news conference at the end of talks at the State Department in Washington, July 30, 2013.

Top 10 U.S. Public Diplomacy Priorities for 2014 - Matthew Wallin, "It’s a new year for public diplomacy, and one that’s likely to be filled with opportunities and challenges. With this in mind, I have assembled a top 10 list for public diplomacy priorities for 2014. While by no means serving as a complete list of all the important issues facing U.S. public diplomacy, it is a reflection of the numerous discussions I have held with officials, practitioners, and academics over the past year. In no particular order: 1.) Confirm a new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs [.]2.)Keep an eye on IIP [:] 2013 saw the release of an Inspector General report on the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). Of particular note was State Department spending on Facebook campaigns, which was held to particular scrutiny by the media. ... 3.) Merge the analog and digital [.] 4.) Incorporate metrics [.] 5.) Define a strategic narrative [.] 6.) Get serious about U.S. International Broadcasting [.] 7.) Train the next generation [.] 8.) Inform the Homeland [.] 9.) Iran ... For the sake of creating mutual understanding, the U.S. should be wary to not cede the public diplomacy realm completely to Iran and increase the use of PD as a tool in the effort to change the relationship between the two countries. ... 10.) Egypt ... The U.S. should make efforts to increase its on-the-ground understanding of the situation in Egypt, and assist where appropriate in the progress towards democracy."

My fake online friend-bots - Alex Beam, Boston Globe: "[T]he Associated Press reported that the State Department spent $630,000 buying 'friends' for its Bureau of International Information Programs’ Facebook page. The bureau self-describes as America’s 'foreign-facing public diplomacy communications bureau,' the linchpin of State’s 'growing social media community that numbers over 22 million followers.'

Many of them fake, alas. It would be nice to lay this scandal at the feet of the emotionally needy secretary of state, John Kerry, but the policy of buying friends for America redounds to his emotionally needy predecessor, Hillary Clinton." Image from entry

The State of Evaluation - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "Given the amount of time that people in the PD community spend worrying about evaluation you might be interested in a recent report from the UK National Audit Office on Evaluation in Government…put it this way given the size of PD budgets there are a lot of people with much bigger problems: The main findings [:] Despite polices that require evaluation of the impact of interventions British government actually evaluates in a pretty random way, departments don’t have a clear view of what they evaluate or why they do it. A graphic casually points to £51 Billion of defence expenditure that isn’t being evaluated at all (ie roughly 25 times the entire FCO Budget) Most evaluation fails basic standards of methodological adequacy Departments don’t use evaluation evidence in developing policy. Only a small fraction of requests for funding from The Treasury are supported by evidence from evaluations. Evaluation reports that are weaker in supporting the causal impact of interventions make bigger claims for policy effectiveness. So the next time someone asks you to justify the impact of public diplomacy expenditure you will be perfectly at liberty to ask them about the evidence that any other government activity actually does anything. The point is not that government activities don’t do anything (even though this might be the case) but that government isn’t very good at producing good evidence that they do."

UC expands partnership in Iraq with federal grant - Andy Brownfield, "The U.S. Embassy to Iraq is giving the University of Cincinnati a $300,000 grant to build partnerships in Iraq, the university announced on Thursday.

The money from the Public Diplomacy Grants Program is to build an alumni university program with Iraq as the U.S. continues its effort to rebuild the country. The alumni university program will expand a partnership UC participated in beginning in 2010 with the Salahaddin University-Hawler. UC was one of a handful of universities selected to participate in that three-year University Linkages Program. Image from entry

Syria and its exodus draw efforts from Baylor and resettlement agencies - Dianne Solis, "Baylor University’s School of Music has started a scholarship fund to bring musicians from conflict zones such as Syria to the refuge of the Texas campus. The Texas university’s stepped up to help out with a crisis the world hasn’t seen in this dimension in many years.

They’re working with the U.S. non-profit American Voices—one with a 20-year track record of training and collaborating with young people passionate about music, dance and theater in more than 100 countries. Just before Christmas, we profiled here two promising students brought from Syria, Andreh Maqdissi and Amjad Dabi, on student visas. Dabi calls war 'when people stop seeing each other as human.'” Image from entry, with caption: Amjad Dabi prepares to play the piano at Baylor School of Music in this archived photo from 2013. Via PR

Security Cooperation, and Nonmilitary and Regional Effects - Chap Godbey, "Security cooperation (SC) is not very familiar to most operators in the Department of Defense. SC’s a difficult skill set. SC can pay off not only as a force multiplier, but also to provide diplomatic effects which can be game-changing. ... The benefits of SC have national influence, not just military, from public affairs/public diplomacy to changing policies in a country. SC also has a regional influence: in the ability to use the U.S. effort as a go-between between two partners unhappy with each other, in the ability to build regional ties with the U.S. invited to play, and in the ability to influence regional decisions based on a calculation from a nation that has to deal with what the U.S. has done in the neighborhood."

Officially In: Robert A. Wood — from USEU to the Conference on Disarmament – Domani Spero, DiploPundit: "On December 12, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Robert A. Wood, for Rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Representative to the Conference on Disarmament. The WH released the following brief bio: [']Robert A. Wood, a Career Member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. ... Mr. Wood has been a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and the former U.S. Information Agency since 1988. In Washington, Mr. Wood has worked as a public affairs advisor for the Bureau of African Affairs, as a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and in several positions dealing with the Balkans.[']"

Strange Rodman diplomacy comparable to ‘Ping-Pong’ diplomacy of 1970s - "Sports have long served as a diplomatic avenue to promoting friendship and camaraderie between nations. This cultural bridge has allowed both friendly and hostile nations put aside their differences and embrace their similarities via friendly competition. The ancient Greeks called an Olympic Truce every four years to ensure that all athletes and spectators could enjoy the games peacefully. The United States and Red China famously engaged in 'ping-pong diplomacy' in the early 1970s – breaking the ice for President Richard Nixon’s historic visit. The State Department regularly sends popular athletes, such as Michelle Kwan, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr., overseas as public diplomacy envoys to promote dialogue and cultural understanding between the US and other nations. But none of that compares to the Dennis Rodman-style sports diplomacy that we’ve witnessed this week in North Korea. Following up on his bizarre yet relatively uncontroversial visits to the hermetic country last year, Rodman recruited a cast of 1990s NBA castoffs to join him in a basketball match commemorating the birthday of Kim Jung Un, the country’s young and ruthless dictator. ... Unsurprisingly, Rodman has been peppered with criticism over his 'diplomacy'. ... Maybe the state-run media will doctor footage to show the 5’6 Kim Jung Un dunking over Rodman. Or maybe sharpshooter Craig Hodges, the former Chicago Bull and current 'Rod-man', will reunite the two Koreas by shooting three-pointers over the demilitarized zone along the 38th Parallel. Similar quips were made about the U.S. and China exchanging table-tennis players in the 1970s. As insignificant as this strategy seemed, who could have predicted that the two countries would begin to reconcile within the decade? Perhaps Rodman diplomacy is worth a shot after all."

What Is [retired NBA basketball player] Charles Smith Doing in North Korea? - Jim Cavan, "[T]the Associated Press published a story stating that Smith [on Smith, see] was already regretting having made the perilous journey to Pyongyang:[']What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it,' Smith told the Associated Press. 'Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government.' Circumstances that are much bigger than us.

Whether Smith is talking about the complex geopolitical overtones inherent in a contingent of American citizens traveling abroad to engage in public diplomacy with a sworn, crypto-Communist enemy, or about a guy who once wore full makeup and a wedding dress to a book signing is almost irrelevant. What is relevant — or at least endlessly fascinating — is what the hell Smith is even doing there at all."Image from entry

European Integration and Security Epistemic Communities - Mai’a K. Davis Cross, "Since the Strategy [the 2005 Strategy on Radicalization and Recruitment (SRR)] was made public on 24 November 2005, ... The SRR became part of the more general EU Action Plan for Combating Terrorism . ... The new initiatives include: public diplomacy to explain and legitimate EU actions to the international community and to put forward a common EU image; information sharing across member-states; setting up funding for individual research that would aim to strengthen the relationship between civil society and European authorities, and multinational funding to generate policy proposals that would require a European approach to combating terrorism; and a new approach to extremism that would treat it as a danger within all religions, instead of emphasizing Islam alone."

Iranian FM calls on Iranian citizens living abroad to engage in citizenship diplomacy - "Head of the Consular Division in the Foreign Minister Hossein Qashqai said that 5 million Iranians currently live outside Iran. Qashqai called on Iranian students abroad to become active in the public diplomacy arena and for them to participate in the citizenship diplomacy for their friends overseas. They must explain why sanctions against Iran are not achieving any results. According to Qashqai, 5 million Iranians live overseas who can participate in Iran’s diplomatic mission to approximately 20 million people, if each has 4 relatives and friends." Image from entry

South Koreans on Arab Airwaves: Seoul is making itself heard amid the din of Arabic-language broadcasters - Joseph Braude, "Audiences from Algeria to Iraq are tuning in to South Korea’s Arabic radio as the station’s personal touch proves to be a winning recipe for the country’s public diplomacy."

Image from entry, with caption: The N Seoul Tower next to a traditional bower on the top of Nam mountain in Seoul, South Korea. The tower was established as Korea’s first total electric wave tower to send TV and radio broadcasts in 1969.

Southeast Europe 2014 outlook: Starting the grand poker game - Ioannis Michaletos, "Turkey continues in strong pace the "Neo-Ottomanization" of Muslim communities in the Balkans [:] The process bears the sign of the incumbent Erdogan-AKP Administration along with the alliance - now broken- with the powerful Gulen movement. The policy is based on public diplomacy-soft power structures and comes along with a definite religious and historical umbrella."

EU wants to help SAARC [The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] with regional cooperation - "KATHMANDU: Ambassador of the European Union to Nepal, Rensje Teerink, today said the EU wants to share its experience of regionalism and extend help in areas of trade facilitation and public diplomacy to SAARC countries. Speaking in a programme titled ‘EU-SAARC relations: Towards deeper engagement’ in the Capital today, Teerink pointed that the EU has expertise in achieving better cooperation among regional members, and would like to share the knowhow with the South Asian countries."

Q&A: Travel and Tourism Both Economic Boost, Environmental Hazard - Becker Sarah Williams, "[I]n her new book

Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, former New York Times and Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Becker notes the positive impact of the tourist trade is off-set by some less-desirable consequences. ... [Becker:] I found Deng Xiaoping in January of 1980, right after he wrested control, gave a series of six directional talks on why tourism was going to be so important to China as it opened up to the world. Now, the economic piece, that’s understandable. But then, he said he hoped that tourism would mean they would have a good environmental consciousness, that did not work out, obviously. But then ... he said that tourism would be important for what we would call public diplomacy. He said China does not have a great reputation out there in the broader world. These are my words, not his, obviously. And he said we have to learn how to treat tourism well, remember our hospitality which we used to have; we have to make every tourist a little sort of ambassador to go back, because the reputation of China after all those years of the Cold War wasn’t great. And he said part of that would be a tourist cadre. ... China is scheduled to be the biggest attraction for foreign tourists by 2020, and the same year they expect the Chinese to be the largest number of tourists." Image from entry, with caption: A new book by Elizabeth Becker offers insight into the impact travel and tourism have on the world economy and the environment

Israel trains Jirapa health workers - "Health educators at the Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, have trained about 25 doctors, nurses and midwives at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Jirapa in the Upper West Region on treatment of diabetes. The training is part of the Ghana ‘Tele-health Project’, a 10-week lecture series which centres on exchange of expertise and transfer of technical knowledge through videoconferencing. A statement signed by the Ms Mina Okuru, Public Diplomacy Coordinator of Embassy of Israel and copied to the Ghana News Agency, said." See also.

When I'm 34 - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "I am 24. I am in Houston. I am working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. I had never dreamed I would live in Texas, but I enjoyed it so. At the ripe age of 24, I get to speak on behalf of the State of Israel, and conduct her media and public diplomacy (a term I would yet understand). The weight of such responsibilities fills me with pride."

Rogel Alpher With Eytan Schwartz –- Journeys [video] - "Eytan Schwartz became a household name in 2005, when he won the popular reality TV show 'The Ambassador.' He spent the next year in the United States on a public diplomacy mission, primarily on university campuses. Today, Schwartz is Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s adviser for international affairs. In this episode of Journeys, he recounts amusing anecdotes of his speaking engagements in the US, which sometimes took him to the remotest of areas. He also explains how Tel Aviv’s reputation as an international center for industrial innovation and creativity, which attracts many educated and professional young Jews from Western countries, should be bolstered."

Media and Crises: The Art of Manipulation and Propaganda - "Date: 29-30 April 2014 Venue: Ibn Khaldoun Hall, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar [.] This international conference on 'Media and Crises: The Art of Manipulation, Distortion and Propaganda' comes at a time of widespread turmoil and conflicts in many parts of the world where news reporting and media coverage are in many cases characterized by censorship, disinformation, propaganda and manipulation. The international community is witnessing a conflict of cultures, stereotyping, racism, and hatred. In the midst of the escalating war in Syria, the current developments in the Arab Spring countries, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the ‘War on Terror,’ to name a few of the international events, journalism practice is yet again under fire. ... Conference Themes: ... The media and public diplomacy."

The Foreign Policy Group (FP) - Nation Branding Research Fellowship - "The Foreign Policy Group (FP) is seeking a graduate‐level researcher with significant experience in international affairs to assist our international advertising sales team with a three month study on country promotion strategies. The Nation Branding Research Fellow will work closely with FP's nation branding staff to design the study and will be primarily responsible for its execution and analysis of results. FP intends to launch the study in mid January 2014 and present results at the end of March. ... Qualifications ... At least two years of professional experience prior to graduate school preferred; background in research or public diplomacy preferred."


Is Iraq’s Mess America’s Fault? Twelve takes on who’s to blame for the country’s downward spiral - Via PVB

Grim Sequel to Iraq’s War - Peter Baker, New York Times: For two years, President Obama has boasted that he accomplished what his predecessor had not. “I ended the war in Iraq,” he has told audience after audience. But a resurgence by Islamic militants in western Iraq

has reminded the world that the war is anything but over. The turn of events in a country that once dominated the American agenda underscores the approach of a president determined to keep the United States out of what he sees as the quagmires of the last decade. In places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Syria, Mr. Obama has opted for selective engagement and accepted that sometimes there will be bad results, but in his view not as bad as if the United States immersed itself more assertively in other people’s problems. Image from entry, with caption: Iraqis fleeing violence waited on Wednesday at a checkpoint in Falluja. Sunni Islamist militants have taken over parts of the city.

Iran’s fingerprints in Fallujah - David Ignatius, The Obama administration, in its rush to leave the country, allowed the sectarian Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to undo many of the gains made against al-Qaeda. Second, Iran has waged a brilliant covert-action campaign that turned Maliki and Iraq into virtual clients of Tehran — and in the process alienated Sunnis and pushed them toward extremism.

Obama and the Sunni-Shiite War: The U.S. tilt to Iran is upsetting allies and disrupting the Middle East - Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal: The weight of Islam is in the Sunni states. If we opt for an alliance with Iran and its satraps, we should do so in the full knowledge that our choice places us as odds with the vast majority of the Islamic world.

Iran’s Path to Nuclear Peace - Siegfried S. Hecker and William J. Perry, New York Times: A successful nuclear deal with Iran would also provide an enormous boost for beleaguered global nonproliferation efforts and possibly lead to a productive American-Iranian relationship that could deal with the many complex security problems impeding stability in the Middle East.

A diplomatic insurance policy against Iran - Robert Menendez, Washington Post: As the Senate returns to work, let us concentrate our efforts on achieving shared goals: a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, coupled with a diplomatic insurance policy should negotiations fail.Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama’s Afghanistan strategy was the start of a foreign policy transformation - Fred Hiatt, Washington Post: Obama's shift from idealism to what he sees as pragmatism may prove to be anything but realistic. With violence and misery radiating outward from Syria to Iraq, Lebanon and beyond, the United States is likely to be forced to reengage, and on less favorable terms than it might have found two or three years ago.

Why the suddenly aggressive behavior by China? Beijing is shedding its low profile — and causing regional waves - Gary Schmitt, From Beijing's perspective, the United States is Asia's interloper and the principal obstacle to obtaining its goal of predominance. And, like individuals, nations can be envious and resentful of those they perceive as standing in the way, even when economic and trade ties are substantial.

'The dark side' of America's fight against terrorism: The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the post-9/11 detention and interrogation practices of the George W. Bush administration should be available to the American people - Editorial, It has been more than a year since the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a voluminous report on the detention and interrogation practices of the George W. Bush administration. But the 6,000-page document remains under wraps, even as defenders of "enhanced interrogation" techniques such as waterboarding continue to contend that they produced valuable intelligence, an assertion the study reportedly rejects. President Obama should move promptly to ensure that the public can scrutinize both the report and the CIA's response to it.

Another Anti-Israel Vote Comes to Academia: One scholar says being denied access to the West Bank violates her 'rights as an American citizen.' Huh? - Cary Nelson, Wall Street Journal: Save for some college students refusing to buy Israeli hummus, the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement against the Jewish state has had very few successes over the past decade. That changed last month when the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Now the Modern Language Association (MLA), a far more prominent group, is poised to condemn Israel at its annual meeting in Chicago. Anyone interested in academic freedom should pay attention.

Chen Guangbiao Fights Propaganda Battle: Chinese Tycoon’s trip to New York was about adding fuel to a hoax - R. J. Mitchell, Chinese recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao has been drawing mass attention with his quixotic attempt to buy the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or another major U.S. media entity.

Chen Guangbiao may not be serious about his attempts to purchase U.S. media entities. But nonetheless, he is carrying out a major operation in “the battleground of thoughts” as regards Falun Gong adherents who survived attempted self-immolation in a 2001 incident that has since been thoroughly debunked. Image from entry, with caption: Chen Guangbiao sings karaoke at a press conference he called for the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 7, in a hotel in New York City. His eccentric presentation cloaked a serious purpose, reviving a propaganda hoax, argues R.J. Mitchell.

Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices Will Feature Michael Rosen, Thomas Schall, Uzo Aduba and Catherine Curtin - Carey Purcell, "Orange is the New Black" stars Uzo Aduba and Catherine Curtin and Michael Rosen and Thomas Schall will participate in Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices. Spotlighting Russia's recent anti-propaganda law in relation to sport, performance and LGBT and Olympic history, the festival of staged readings and panels will be held Jan. 18-19 at Cooper Union. Participants also include New York Times journalist Masha Gessen, Tobias Segal and Nadia Bowers, "Kings" star Michael Crane and Olympic medalist Derrick Adkins, as well as Russian playwrights.”

Condi: More Popular Than Angela Merkel, Less Popular Than Sarah Palin - Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog: It's Gallup, so take it with a grain of salt, but every year they poll dumb Americans who still have landline telephones "to name, in an open-ended format, the man and woman

living anywhere in the world they admire most." The results are impressive for America's Princess Diplomat, because, well, because she's on the list! Not bad for not having ever contributed anything of significance to society whatsoever other than her Lifetime Movie-esque biography. Snaps for Condi! Image from entry, with caption: (PSP Flashback to when Condi met Daffy, 09-05-2008!)


"We now have more college graduates working in retail than soldiers in the U.S. Army, and more janitors with bachelor's degrees than chemists."

--Richard Vedder and Christopher Denhart, "How the College Bubble Will Pop: In 1970,
less than 1% of taxi drivers had college degrees. Four decades later, more than 15% do
," Wall Street Journal


--The best worst U.S. map ever - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post: Here's the full explanation -- courtesy of Wysacki -- of how he arrived at the worst for each state. Some are -- surprise! -- less scientific than others.

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