"nobody believes anything management has to say anymore."
--One current VOA staffer
"The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth."
--William Harlan Hale, 1st VOA broadcast (1942); image from, with caption: VOA is the last solo album Sammy Hagar released before joining Van Halen. The title is a reference to the Voice of America broadcast network.
Is American popular culture swaying public opinion abroad? - PBS: "Martha Bayles, a professor of humanities at Boston College, speaks to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brow about her new book, ‘Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad.’ According to
Martha Bayles, a professor of humanities at Boston College, public diplomacy has disappeared. Her new book is ‘Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad.’ Bayles defines public diplomacy as ‘any effort by a government to sway opinion or cultivate good will among a foreign public.’ She says that diplomatic efforts were much more active before the end of the Cold War. … ‘Popular culture is a commercial undertaking and it tends to go for the lowest common denominator. And since the media have been deregulated and with new technology, what happens is the lowest common denominator takes the form of, as any American can tell you, a lot of graphic sex, a lot of explicit violence, always trying to outdo the last generation of media.’ It’s those cultural exports that Bayles believes have affected America’s image abroad." Bayles image from
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN THE NEWS
Bowe Bergdahl Becomes Symbol of Desertion, Could Be Charged - Brett Daniel Shehadey, In Homeland Security: As the Taliban did not take prisoners as a rule of thumb, why was Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl the only American hostage in the war against the Taliban? Why was he kept alive? Perhaps the answer lies in the state of his capture, his purported personal views about America, the War in Afghanistan or even a possible conversion to Taliban Islam. ... [W]hat if Bergdahl was never in any real danger? After all, the Taliban had held him since 2009. What if he was accepted by them as a sympathizer and eventually a brother? In that case, the threat of an American soldier going live on the air and condemning Americans and U.S. activities before a Muslim audience over coming years posed a critical security risk and a public diplomacy nightmare, Bergdahl could have been used as an instrument of massive propaganda for a recruitment campaign for new members among other things.
It was not a trade of one man for one man but Sgt. Bergdahl for the lives of five top Taliban commanders, no less. Only these would satisfy Taliban terms of releasing Bergdhal and provide them with what they perceived as a more beneficial victory than keeping him for other uses. See also, Associated Press, "The Bergdahl rescue: What’s known and not known," Washington Post, and below articles in "Related Items." Image from
A U.S. Strategy Toward Egypt Under Sisi - Michele Dunne, carnegieendowment.org: "The United States should not give unqualified support to Sisi [Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, becoming Egypt’s fourth president] and his government, as working closely with repressive Egyptian governments in the past yielded poor results and engendered widespread anti-Americanism. Rather, Washington should refocus its diplomacy on supporting the Egyptian people, while limiting relations with Sisi and his government to essential security interests. ... Rather than expend U.S. resources on a variety of programs that have neither much individual impact nor much public diplomacy value, the United States should consider offering
a large-scale higher and vocational education scholarship program as a strong, visible sign of support for the rising generation of Egyptians. A program that sent Egyptians to American or indigenous institutions could be implemented by a Fulbright-type bilateral commission, with minimal involvement by the Egyptian government in order to avoid politicization and excessive bureaucracy. ... Lending U.S. support to youth and civil society to help create a more educated, enlightened cadre of Egyptians that can deal more capably and creatively with the next wave of political and social change, whenever it comes, will be a wis[e] investment." Image from
US official Macon Phillips due Sunday| - 24 News | Financial Express [June 7 ]- Financial Newspaper of Bangladesh: "The Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), US Department of State, Macon Phillips, will
arrive in Dhaka on a 4-day visit on Sunday. ... The IPP is the State Department foreign-facing public diplomacy communications bureau." Uncaptioned image from entry
#SavePsaki -- 'Public Diplomacy' Gets Personal - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "Jen Psaki, the State Department Spokeswoman, is
probably a little-known name in the US outside of Washington and the foreign policy circles. Her position, however, plays a key role for the US public diplomacy, as she is the person who usually takes on the international press corps - often single-handedly - serving as a mouthpiece of and representing the US foreign policy establishment. ... [T]the State Department should give a little more thought to who they put out on the front lines of this [U.S.-Russian information] war." Psaki image from entry. See also.
Unmuffling the Voice of America: Congress has a chance to fix an error and give the U.S. a fighting chance in the international war of ideas - Robert R. Reilly, Wall Street Journal, posted at: "In May, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the U.S. International Communications Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.). If approved by Congress, it will eliminate the BBG, which has oversight of the Voice of America and other nonmilitary government broadcasting, and transform the board into an advisory committee. The bill also will create the position of a full-time chief executive officer to run the new agency. ... The U.S. has enduring interests in the world. We need to explain ourselves in the most persuasive way we can, and by the most effective means, particularly to those peoples and countries whose future is going to most affect ours, such as China and Russia. This needs to be done within the U.S. government in a command structure related to our national security. Establishing an International Communications Agency will restore a sense of mission to government broadcasting and give it some clear leadership. Failure to do this will be paid, I fear, in American lives. Better to win the war of ideas than have to win a war."
Employees speak out on VOA’s management problems and Royce-Engel bill - BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: "Current and former Voice of America (VOA) employees have spoken up about management problems at the U.S. taxpayer-funded international news organization and what its future may look like if the bipartisan Royce-Engel reform bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President. Some of the comments were made during a highly confrontational meeting Voice of America Director David Ensor had with VOA Newsroom and English Programs employees last Tuesday. Other comments were posted on former employees’ Facebook pages and on BBG Watch Facebook page. READ: VOA Editor to Director Ensor: “Nobody Believes Anything Management Has to Say Anymore”, BBG Watch, June 5, 2014. READ: Ensor – Staff Meeting – Expert Describes Squandering of VOA’s News and Digital Potential, BBG Watch, June 6, 2014."
U.S. finances satellite TV channel to counter Boko Haram propaganda - Ron Nixon, theglobeandmail.com: "The State Department is financing a new 24-hour satellite television channel in the turbulent northern region of Nigeria that U.S. officials say is crucial to countering the extremism of radical groups such as Boko Haram. The move signals a ramping up of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts to directly challenge the terrorist group, which abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in April. State Department officials acknowledged that setting up a U.S.-supported channel could prove challenging in a region where massacres, bombings and shootings by Boko Haram are common, and where the U.S. government and Western educational programs are far from popular. The group has been known to attack media organizations in Nigeria. The new television channel, to be called Arewa24 – arewa means north in the Hausa language – is financed by the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, and it is expected to cost about $6-million (U.S.). State Department officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity, and offered sparse information about it, but details have emerged in publicly available contracting documents and in interviews with people familiar with the effort.
The project was started last year and is run in Nigeria by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based government contractor that has managed media programs sponsored by the State Department in Yemen and Pakistan that encourage youth participation in politics, in addition to countering Islamist extremism. Work on the project is nearing completion, but broadcasts have not yet begun. State Department officials said that the Nigerian government was aware of the television project and that it had not planned to hide U.S. support for the program, which has not been previously disclosed. However, 'U.S. sponsorship will not be advertised or promoted,' a State Department official said. The goal of the channel is to provide original content, including comedies and children’s programs that will be created, developed and produced by Nigerians. State Department officials said they hoped to provide an alternative to the violent propaganda and recruitment efforts of Boko Haram. Many foreign policy experts, while applauding State Department programs to counter the efforts of Boko Haram and other extremist groups, said the new satellite project faced several challenges in a region with low levels of infrastructure, public services, literacy and security. Access to electricity is limited in many rural areas of northern Nigeria, and few people own TVs. While some people might be able to view the programs on cellphones, a U.S. Agency for International Development official recently told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Boko Haram has been targeting cellphone towers to reduce access to communication services in the region. Jacob Zenn, an Africa analyst at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, said other issues could also limit the effectiveness of the satellite channel. Most members of Boko Haram speak Kanuri, a language also spoken in Niger and Cameroon, although the channel’s programming will be in Hausa. Zenn also said that most new members of Boko Haram are not Nigerians, but recruits from countries bordering Nigeria. ... The United States has long had a media presence in northern Nigeria. The Voice of America offers general Hausa-language news programs in the region, but State Department officials said the new project would go beyond simply providing information. In addition to the broadcasts, officials said the project would provide training to journalists in the region, including women, who would then be able to produce their own video content." Image from
US Consul honours residents who completed MIT course - ryal.gazette.com: "A group of ten Bermudians got a commendation from US Consul General Bob Settje after making the grade on an online entrepreneurship course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The group completed the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) 'Entrepreneurship 101: Who Is Your Customer?' The US State Department helped to provide the course through online educators Coursera, as part of a move to boost online learning worldwide. State Department exchange alumnus Erica Smith, acting director of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), set up the MIT course. The BEDC plans to offer another entrepreneurship course in the autumn."
Hip-hop performers make Kolkata groove - indiablooms.com: "On a sultry afternoon in the city when the rest of the Kolkatans were busy with their routine tasks, a small crowd cheered throughout the performance by hip- hop artists Next Level at the American Center. The performers from the US entertained the audience along with local hip-hop enthusiasts and dancers. Next level programme is an initiative sponsored by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in association with the University of North Carolina's Department of Music.
Before landing in Kolkata, the artists conducted workshops and performed in the Indian city of Patna. Ahead of the performance, US Consul General Helen LaFave said: 'The American Center is proud to bring you this afternoon's concert, a fusion of American music styles through hip-hop music and dance, demonstrating yet again our commitment towards shared values between India and the US.' Opening with a performance by DJ Lester Wallace, the other artists Ansley Jones, Sheikia Norris and Korin Wong-Horiuchi soon joined him in a musical extravaganza which enthralled the mass. Paul S Rockower of Levantine Public Diplomacy said: 'The feedback of the performance in Kolkata was excellent.'" Uncaptioned image from entry
Spanish foundation to expand ties with Hispanics in U.S., Asia - globalpost.com: "Spain's Carolina Foundation agreed on Thursday to foster cooperation with the Hispanic communities in the United States and the Asia-Pacific region during the annual reunion of its board, which was presided over by King Juan Carlos accompanied by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Five notables on Thursday were named to the foundation's advisory council, which was formed in 2000 to promote cultural relations and cooperation in education and science between Spain and the Ibero-American countries as well as with other nations with special historic, cultural or geographic links. The monarch, who on Monday announced his abdication in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, opened the special session of the board, which was attended by four Cabinet ministers and a dozen chief executives
of companies. The foundation reported that Spain's secretary of state for International Cooperation and Ibero-America, Jesus Gracia, presented the preview for the Action Plan for 2015, the year in which it is scheduled 'to strengthen its offering of scholarships and relations with Ibero-America in the fields of culture and education.' In addition, the foundation will plan for the internationalization of Spanish study centers and strengthen "its leadership and public diplomacy programs with Ibero-America, the Hispanic communities in the United States and, in coordination with Brand Spain, with the main countries of the Asia-Pacific." Image from
Juan Carlos: Spanish Soft Power Asset - uscpublicdiplomacy.org: "Juan Carlos’ contribution to Spain’s soft power did not begin with the country’s democratic transition. As I describe in my recently published book, Franco Sells Spain to America: Hollywood, Tourism and Public Relations as Postwar Spanish Soft Power, Francisco Franco and his minions worked assiduously in the quarter century following World War II to restore the dictatorship’s tattered reputation in the United States. ... It is a delicious irony that Juan Carlos, whose charisma and glamor were repeatedly utilized as a soft power asset by the Franco regime in its search for American approval, became a key player in ending Franquismo, and a heroic personification of the new, democratic Spain.
Australia backtracks on cultural festival in Indonesia over spying scandal - Primrose Riordan, Canberra Times: “A major Australian government festival in Indonesia was cancelled weeks after news broke of a spying row between the two countries late last year in a sign that relations between the two countries were more frail than previously thought. Ozfest Indonesia, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade program planned for January to April this year to promote Australian culture, was replaced in December 2013 with a lower-profile year-long program of events. The festival was to follow in the success of Ozfest India, a four-month festival of 100 performances over 18 Indian cities opened by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in New Delhi in 2012. Dr Alison Broinowski, a researcher at the ANU and Macquarie University, was formerly an Australian diplomat and cultural attache at the Australian Embassy in Japan. Along with five other academics, she was part of a planned Macquarie Soft Power Advocacy and Research Centre (SPARC) research project of which Dr Broinowski said Ozfest Indonesia was to be the ‘centrepiece’.‘We had been putting together a project assessing the success of Australia’s public diplomacy with Indonesia,’ Dr Broinowski said.
She had met senior DFAT staff late last year and informed them of the centre's research plans. DFAT head Mr Peter Varghese helped launch Ozfest India;during his time as Australian high commissioner. ‘We were in the planning process in collaboration with SPARC and it was all going ahead, then everything went very quiet.’ In November documents released by Edward Snowden revealed Australia's intelligence efforts against Indonesia went as far as monitoring the private mobiles of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Kristiani Herawati. A diplomatic struggle ensued, protests took place at the Australian embassy in Jakarta and Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia.” Image from entry, with caption: Prime Minister Julia Gillard meets with musicians Gurrumul Yunupingu (left) and Anoushka Shankar (right) who performed at the opening of Oz Fest at Purana Qila, in India on Tuesday 16 October 2012.
Erdogan Party Touts HSBC Advertorial in Foreign Media Offensive - Isobel Finkel, businessweek.com: "Turkey is ranked 154th of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, dropping from 113th in 2004. U.S.-based media watchdog Freedom House downgraded the country to 'not free from 'partly free' in its report this year. 'I don’t see Turkey as a country where you have total government control -- there is a free media and there is a lively debate,' Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch, said by phone from Istanbul yesterday. 'But the media in Turkey is now so polarized, and that’s part of the reason why the government feels the need to shout the loudest, and is pouring all this money into drowning out other voices.' That includes backing its own English-language press.
In the past year, the pro-government Sabah and Yeni Safak newspapers have launched English-language versions. They join state-run Anadolu agency’s English service and compete with offerings from Dogan (DYHOL) media group and Zaman. 'Unfortunately, we ignored the media in English in Turkey, we didn’t care about how we were perceived from outside and we didn’t try to make public relations or public diplomacy,' Yasin Aktay, the ruling party’s head of foreign relations, said by phone yesterday. 'We couldn’t defend ourselves in English.' ... On June 3, Erdogan [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan] labeled CNN’s Istanbul-based correspondent Ivan Watson an 'agent' in a speech at parliament, prompting condemnation from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who said it was 'a ridiculous accusation.' Watson was detained and kicked during a live broadcast on May 31 by plainclothes police as he reported from Taksim Square on the Gezi anniversary." Image from entry, with caption: On June 3, Erdogan labeled CNN’s Istanbul-based correspondent Ivan Watson an “agent” in a speech at parliament, prompting condemnation from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who said it was “a ridiculous accusation.” On May 31, Watson had been detained and kicked during a live broadcast by plainclothes police as he reported from Taksim Square on the Gezi anniversary.
The Apartheid Libel: A Legal Refutation - docstalk.blogspot.com: "Secretary of State John Kerry may have quickly retracted his recent off-the-record comment to the effect that without a peace agreement, Israel risks becoming 'an apartheid state.' But his quip nonetheless has helped push the accusation into the mainstream conversation and ensure that it will continue to be repeated by Israel’s critics. ... The apartheid claim, as applied to Israel within the 1949 Armistice lines, is entirely absurd, with the Israeli Arab minority having full civil and political rights. The new apartheid accusation focuses on the West Bank, claiming that Israel denies Palestinians political participation on the basis of their ethnicity. (The legal definition of apartheid speaks of 'racial,' rather than national or ethnic discrimination, but that is the least of the weaknesses with the apartheid accusation). That is to say, Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli elections."
Palestinians vow 'unprecedented response' to Israeli construction - israelhayom.com: "Israel announces plan to build 1,500 new settlement homes in response to Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government • Housing minister says settlement construction is the only 'fitting Zionist response to the formation of a Palestinian terror government' ... MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) ... criticized the move, saying that 'the very use of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority is senseless and unwise, and will harm Israeli's foreign relations. It is far worse when we use construction as a penalty. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, endangering the future of the settlement blocs and turning them into something foul in the eyes of the international community.'
This is part of the prime minister's failing policies, and the failed policies of the entire government in terms of public diplomacy and international legitimacy.'"
Image from entry, with caption: The east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo
Head of the Jewish Community of Armenia has denied irresponsible and biased statements Arye Gut [Google "translation'] - panorama.am: "Azerbaijani media recently published an article titled 'Azerbaijan - a sample of dialogue between civilizations', which stated: 'In its comments on the report of American human rights organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on the facts of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan expert in the field of international relations Arye Gut noted that the report is provocative and undermines the strong friendship and mutual respect between the Azerbaijani and Jewish peoples.' Azerbaijani media have quoted Arye Gut, attesting that 'the Jews never felt foreigners in Azerbaijan, and today they are an integral part of the Azerbaijani society.' Moreover, according to the Azerbaijani media, A. Guth also said, they say, 'another case of Armenia, which according to the report is the leader 'in the level of anti-Semitism in the CIS.' In connection with this revision Panorama.am asked for comments to the head of the Jewish community of Armenia Rimma Varzhapetyan-Feller.
The answer given without cuts and changes. 'Article Israeli journalist, a native of Baku, Arye Gut' Azerbaijan - the most tolerant country in the world, has never been anti-Semitism, 'May 16, published in the Hebrew edition of Kaleidoscope' Public Diplomacy Network induced to express an opinion Ike Torosian - qualified analyst, Institute for National Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia, candidate of political sciences, having a master's degree in 'Global Security.'" [Original text of previous sentence: «Статья израильского журналиста, выходца из Баку, Арье Гута "В Азербайджане – самой толерантной стране мира, никогда не было антисемитизма", от 16 мая, опубликованная в издании Еврейский Калейдоскоп 'Public Diplomacy Network' побудила выразить мнение Айка Торосяна – квалифицированного аналитика Института национальных стратегических исследований Министерства обороны Армении, кандидата политических наук, имеющего степень магистра в области 'Глобальной безопасности'. His response, published in Armenian and Israeli sites, has absolute certainty, based on reliable sources proving the hollowness and engagement performance Israeli author. [Его ответ, опубликованный на армянских и израильских сайтах, имеет абсолютную достоверность, на основании достоверных источников доказывающий беспочвенность и ангажированность выступления израильского автора]. Uncaptioned image from entry
Pakistan's Diaspora Diplomacy - Mobisher Rabbani, thewordtheatre.com: "Pakistani diplomatic missions worldwide with its Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates have been slow to diplomatically engage the Pakistani diaspora to work side by side in the said cause. Public diplomacy is still seen through the government information projection glass rather than a people to people public affairs exchange.
Ours would be the one of the only Foreign Service which has not made any sincere efforts to effectively utilize the vast potential of social media which has now been dubbed successfully as digital diplomacy. Also out of the various hierarchical foreign postings it has the least amount of posts for cultural attaches,a diplomat with special responsibility for promoting the culture of his or her homeland." Image from entry
Operationalizing the Responsibility to Protect: The potential for transnational public diplomacy to advance effective, domestic responsibility - Horacio Trujillo and David Elam, publicdiplomacymagazine.com: "Introduced just twelve years ago, the Responsibility to Protect—the principle that states and the international community have a responsibility to protect populations from crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes—has rapidly become one of the most referenced and debated topics in international relations. ... In short, non-state actors must play an increasingly important role to fully realize the potential of the Responsibilty [sic] to Protect.
HE Kumar gives overview of India’s electoral process - usp.ac.fj: "HE Kumar preusp.ac.fjviously served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Thimphu (Bhutan) and Canberra and has worked in different divisions of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, including as Head of Division in the Public Diplomacy
and Multilateral Economic Relations Divisions." Image from entry, with caption: Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Vinod Kumar speaking at a seminar on India's electoral process at USP's Laucala campus on June 6.
U.S. should preserve its partnership with Afghanistan - Michael O’Hanlon, Washington Post: Yes, retaining some 3,000 U.S. personnel in Afghanistan for five, 10 or even 20 years after 2016 could cost us some $5 billion a year and occasionally involve American casualties. But that’s life in the age of terror. And compared with our recent mission costs of more than $100 billion a year and several hundred fatalities, or the overall defense budget exceeding $500 billion annually, it is a bearable price compared to the possibility of al-Qaeda again mounting an attack from a South Asian sanctuary against the United States.
Why Negotiating With Our Enemies Is Not a Sin: The Taliban swap for Sgt. Bergdahl is just the latest in a long line of occasions when America willingly dealt with bad guys. And like it or not, this is how wars end - Lawrence J. Korb: Not surprisingly, President Barack Obama's decision to negotiate with the Taliban to obtain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Haqqani network by agreeing to release five Afghan Taliban prisoners to house arrest in Qatar has been pilloried by his political opponents. The list of criticisms is long: that the president didn't provide adequate notice to Congress, that the U.S. intelligence community identified these five Taliban captives as among the most dangerous being held in Guantanamo, and that Bergdahl was -- at best -- a complicated individual for whom to strike a bargain with America's enemies. But at the heart of these attacks is a central complaint: that America never negotiates with terrorists and that it sets a bad precedent for the United States to make deals with enemies who have American blood on their hands. Sorry, but this
claim is without analytic or historical merit, and it completely ignores the positive aspects of the release. Moreover, critics of the Bergdahl prisoner release deal ignore the fact that at some point, the United States and its Afghan partners will have to negotiate with the Taliban as the war in Afghanistan concludes. This prisoner-of-war exchange marks the beginning of an end to the war in Afghanistan, just as prisoner exchanges during the end stages of the wars in Korea and Vietnam did. It brought back an American POW from captivity, at the cost of five Taliban detainees who would have had to be released anyway when the war in Afghanistan ends. Moreover, the successful negotiation process itself could help lead to greater stability in Afghanistan. That's a good deal for the United States, Sgt. Bergdahl, and his family. Image from
U.S. Funding for Hamas? State winks at the Palestinian merger with the terror group - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The 1988 Hamas Charter explicitly commits the Palestinian terror group to murdering Jews. Thanks to the formation this week of an interim government uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. supports to the tune of more than $400 million a year, the American taxpayer may soon become an indirect party to that enterprise. The question is whether the U.S. government will continue to fund the PA now that Mr. Abbas has cast his lot with a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization. U.S. law prohibits dispensing taxpayer money to any Palestinian entity over which Hamas exercises "undue influence." Nobody should count on the Obama Administration to apply meaningful penalties to the PA for joining forces with Hamas and flouting its obligations toward Israel. That leaves Congress, which can block funding to the Palestinians until they prove capable of governing themselves as something other than a terrorist enterprise.
The White House is Right to work with the Palestinian Unity Government [subscription] - Editorial, Washington Post
Hamas now supports the Palestinian Authority. How should the U.S. respond? - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: For the U.S., continued aid to the Palestinian Authority — which amounts to $500 million a year — is conditioned on proof that Hamas doesn't exert "undue influence" over the government. So long as that remains true, the U.S. should continue to support the authority even as it insists that Hamas abandon its rejectionism and renounce terror.
Israeli-Palestinian Collision Course - Editorial, New York Times: Many experts say that if there is ever to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, admittedly a distant dream at this point, the Palestinians must be united. But the United States has to be careful to somehow distinguish between its support for the new government and an endorsement of Hamas and its violent, hateful behavior.
Russian saber-rattling has Eastern Europe craving NATO protection - Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times: Obama was in Poland this week, solemnly reaffirming the biggest and brightest red line in U.S. foreign policy: the 1949 North Atlantic treaty that commits the United States to defending its allies in Europe against any outside threat — which these days, once again, means Russia. The U.S. commitment to its allies, Obama said, is "rock solid." To underscore the commitment, he proposed a $1-billion "European Reassurance Initiative," a package of beefed-up military exercises and training programs. Obama's "Reassurance Initiative," despite its missing pieces, is a cautious first step toward a strategy to make sure Russia knows that NATO will keep its most basic commitment: the defense of its members. In fact, there's a word left over from the Cold War that pretty well describes what the president is trying to do: "containment."
Obama's swap for Bergdahl: A presidential power play? - Chris Edelson, Los Angeles Times: In the wake of the prisoner swap that resulted in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release by the Taliban, questions are rightly being asked about the deal's legal justifications. In fact, the Obama administration did not comply with statutory requirements that it provide notice to Congress before transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, and it has not fully explained how it believes its unilateral decision can be legally justified. Obama promised that, if elected president, he "[would] not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law."
With the recent prisoner swap, however, he seems to have done precisely what he promised not to do as a candidate. The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requires the administration to provide Congress with 30 days' advance notice before transferring any prisoner from Guantanamo. Image from entry, with caption: The parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stand alongside President Obama makes a statement regarding the release of their son.
Obama Official: Bowe Bergdahl was Swift-Boated - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: "Let’s be clear: I am glad Bowe Bergdahl is home from five years with the Taliban. If he was truly captured on the battlefield, give him a parade. If he ran away, send him to trial. At the same time, the Obama administration’s bleating that 'all the facts aren’t in' and that somehow after five years some sort of endless investigation needs to happen are just sad."
The Bergdahl Dishonor: The sergeant should request that every file about him be published - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: Whether Sgt. Bergdahl was taken by the enemy, deserted the Army or defected to the Taliban remains to be established. But just to be clear where the former operator is coming from, Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice states: "Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct." But wait: We are not "in time of war." We are in Time of Obama. In Time of Obama, dereliction of duty is heroism, releasing mass murderers with American blood on their hands is a good way to start a peace process, negotiating with terrorists is not negotiating with terrorists, and exchanging senior Taliban commanders for a lone American soldier is not an incentive to take other Americans hostage but rather proof that America brings its people home.
Bergdahl, Obama and the Tank Man - Dan Henninger, Wall Street Journal, posted at: After more than five years of Obama foreign policy, what we’ve got is a huge fuzzball of good intentions. It doesn’t stand for anything—not a strategy, not a set of identifiable ideas, no real doctrine and not much to show for whatever it is. Barack Obama in the world resembles Casper the Friendly Ghost—with the U.S. role fading in and out of view as is his wont. Hillary Clinton flew a million miles as Secretary of State with no evident concept of what she was doing or why. John Kerry endlessly slips in and out of capitals, talking. This, they say, is “smart power.”
Meet Obama's Kissingers: The National Security Council is no place for speechwriters and lobbyists - Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal: If the Bergdahl uproar feels creepily reminiscent of the Benghazi uproar, or the Syrian "red line" uproar, or the choose-your-own- Obama -foreign-adventure uproar, it's because they all have a common denominator. This is what happens when political hacks formally take over foreign policy. It's the "formal" point that bears some meditation. Barack Obama isn't the first president to make foreign-policy decisions on the basis of domestic political calculations. He does, however, win the distinction of being the first president to utterly disregard—to treat with contempt—the institutions and procedures that were designed to help the commander in chief insulate the serious business of foreign policy and national security from baser political concerns.
The End of America's 'Big Stick' Policy - Markos Kounalakis - uscpublicdiplomacy.org: What the president made evident to the West Point cadets and to the rest of the world is that the United States will now mainly play the role of indispensable chief of police, but that others need to pony up more of their own beat cops.
Obama chews gum during D-Day ceremonies, sparks Twitter outrage - Kellan Howell, The Washington Times: President Obama was caught on camera chewing gum during the D-Day ceremonies in France as Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed, and Twitter feeds worldwide exploded with criticism. "Obama and his chewing-gum. Classy" one French user tweeted sarcastically. "Not very elegant, the Obama attitude in the middle of the ceremony," another user said, while yet another added, "Is there anyone who will ask Barack Obama to stop chewing on his gum like a cowboy?" The words "shameful" and "vulgar" were thrown around as social media networks lit up with outrage at Mr. Obama's display. "Obama do you want a Coke too while chewing gum while the Marseillaise is being played?" one tweet fumed, in reference to the president's lack of respect for the French National anthem.
Through the Looking Glass Darkly: Government as we wish it or government as we will it - Arthur D. Robbins, dissidentvoice.org: Consider the term “American exceptionalism,” the belief that the United States occupies a special place among the nations of the world. By virtue of its national credo, historical evolution, and political and religious institutions, America is unique. It is not to be judged by the same standards that are applied to other peoples. In fact, it is not to be judged or critiqued in any way. It represents the incarnation of the highest ideal that any government can aspire to. In this light, the United States occupies a quasi-religious niche in the pantheon of gods who reign on earth. Any “true” American would no more criticize or scrutinize the United States than he would criticize God himself, or herself. Americans believe unquestioningly in the benign intentions of their government. Such a belief is a fundamental element of their ethos. It prevents them from seeing accurately and acting responsibly. It is an anesthetic to their political sensibilities. Like a summer fog on cat’s paws, slowly, silently, subtly the fascist state rolls in. It hangs in the atmosphere like smog. With balletic grace it takes up residence in the halls of Congress, in the courts, in the corporate boardrooms, in our minds and hearts. No fuss. No muss. It will not arrive at some distant date. It is right here, right now. And we are smack, dab, right in the middle of it. And it is no accident.
Consider the work of Edward Bernays (1891-1995). Born in Vienna, nephew of Sigmund Freud, he is considered to be the founder of the field known as public relations, pioneering the use of psychology and sociology in the manipulation of public opinion. His best known book is Propaganda (originally published in 1928). In this book, he poses the rhetorical question, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?”7 He answers it as follows: The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society…. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society…. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind. Mass control of the mass mind is the hidden hand that guarantees submission to the fascist state. Which is why things run so smoothly in the U.S. of A. Everyone thinks they are thinking their own thoughts when, in fact, they are reading from a script that the “invisible government” has prepared for them. There is no real freedom. There is only the scripted version. The fascist state has your mind. Now it wants your body. This is where the “health care” system kicks in. Image from
It's a knock-off! China's copycat culture gives rise to bizarre fakes of Mount Rushmore, the Egyptian pyramids and New York skyline - Simon Tomlinson, Daily Mail: China is already renowned for copying Western goods from trainers to champagne. Now it is building a replica reputation in the world of architecture, with miniature versions Mount Rushmore, the Egyptian pyramids and the Manhattan skyline - to name a few - springing up all over the country.
The reproduced structures — also dubbed 'duplitecture' — can appear bizarre to outsiders but make sense to many in the country. Image from entry, with caption: A slice of the Big Apple: A theme park in Chongqing features a condensed version of the famous New York skyline as China builds a reputation for replicas. Via SL on Facebook
After Mentioning ‘Mexico’s Brothels’, Morocco’s Minister clarifies on Twitter - moroccoworldnews.com: It seems that Mustapha El Khalfi, Morocco’s Minister of Communication and government spokesman, was either ill-advised or did not realize the seriousness of his words when he compared the high number of soap-operas broadcast TV channel to a “brothel in Mexico.” Three days after his declaration before the parliament on Tuesday, Khalfi found himself in an uncomfortable situation and was forced to use Twitter to clarify what he meant by this phrase when he talked about the Latin American soap operas served to the Moroccan public TV channels. “My statement has been altered. This is what gave rise to an attack on a friendly country Mexico, and this attack is unacceptable,” said El Kahlfi on his Twitter account on Friday.
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--Via KW on Facebook