Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Public Diplomacy Review June 3

"[T]he Declaration of Independence is, in effect, a work of propaganda, -- or, to put it more politely, an exercise in public diplomacy."

--Former Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (during 2009-2012), Walter Isaacson, in a July 4, 2004 article in The New York Times; image from


Ideological cloak (and dagger): US peace pitch masks material interests - Claudio Gallo, RT: "President Obama’s West Point speech was hailed as a new foreign policy doctrine focused on soft power and diplomacy, while it appears indeed only to be 'a new skin for the old ceremony' as the 1974 Leonard Cohen album put it. Obama promises a new global leadership with less recourse to military might in future. This was the message which Western newspapers headlines passed on - with a ‘no more war’ stance ready for a global photo opportunity. The reality is different. The US has only changed the model of projecting its force around the world, as explained several times by Nick Turse on TomDispatch: 'In 2013, elite US forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs.

This 123 percent increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the US has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection.'” Image from

Is the US losing the propaganda war with Russia? - Adam Powell, communicationleadership.usc.edu: "Moscow's propaganda machine has vastly outmatched the U.S., according to speakers here today at the June CCLP Washington Communication Leadership forum. ‘Russia has spent the past twenty years building up,’ said William Stevens, Director of the Ukraine Communications Task Force at the U.S. State Department, while Washington spent two decades dialing back. The Kremlin's aggressive media campaign is effective across all platforms, including newspapers, social media and television, according to Myroslava Gongadze, TV anchor and reporter at Voice of America's Ukrainian Service. Nenad Pejic, Interim Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty went even further, saying the Russian campaign goes beyond propaganda, to include ‘a media campaign, a political campaign, a cultural campaign, an energy campaign, a military campaign... Media propaganda is [just] part of it.’ … 'At the very beginning of the protest in Kiev, while Yanukovich was still in power, Russian and Ukrainian TV stations reported that few hundred protesters occupied Independence square in Kiev,' Pejic said. ‘This is what RFERL did: we sent [a] cameraman to the top of TV tower, we put small camera on his helmet and this is the result.’

He then played a video from RFERL which showed not hundreds but hundreds of thousands of protesters. … Gongadze said most Americans have no idea of the extent or intensity of the Kremlin campaign, because little of it appears in U.S. media. She pointed to the Stop Fake website as a good source for Westerners to use to monitor daily fabrications by Russian media. Stevens said it is difficult for Americans to imagine how intense the Kremlin's fabrications are because U.S. media do not report on them every day - while Russian television, newspapers and web sites repeat them daily and even hourly. And according to Stevens, the Kremlin has mastered social media. …  [A] reason for Russian dominance is simple, according to today's panelists: No one in Washington is making a priority of responding to Moscow's propaganda. Image from entry, with caption: Left to right: WIlliam Stevens, Director of the Ukraine Communications Task Force at the U.S. State Department; Myroslava Gongadze, TV anchor and reporter at Voice of America's Ukrainian Service; and Nenad Pejic, Interim Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; see also David Henderson, "The US in a propaganda war with Russia over the Ukraine," davidhenderson.com; more also at.

Voice of America to target Americans despite ban on funding domestic news distribution, critics say  - Smith-Mundt News: “By U.S. law, knows as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the Department of State are not authorized to use taxpayers’ money to influence public opinion in the United States or to otherwise propagandize to Americans. It appears, however, that the Voice of America (VOA) is now spending public money to help distribute its programs specifically to American citizens and U.S. residents and to promote such domestic distribution of VOA programming. A press release, issued by the

Voice of America on May 30, 2013, strongly suggests that VOA executives have spent U.S. taxpayers’ money to specifically arrange for domestic distribution of VOA programs intended for foreign audiences. They definitely appear to have used U.S. taxpayers’ money to promote U.S. domestic distribution and domestic reception of VOA programs despite a prohibition on using appropriated funds ‘to influence public opinion in the United States.’ U.S. government officials and employees, whose salaries are paid by U.S. taxpayers, appear to have been definitely actively involved in making arrangements with a private firm for domestic distribution of VOA programs. Targeting American citizens with VOA programs designed for foreign audiences is still against the law if appropriated funds are used. Any BBG payments using appropriated funds to any organization to make VOA programs available specifically in the United States would be illegal, while such payments to make VOA programs available outside of the United States are legal. They are concerned that U.S. government officials may be wasting taxpayers’ money for purposes not authorized by Congress.” Image from; see also.

Back off, Congress, and keep Voice of America real - Al Pessin, Los Angeles Times: "Congress is considering a bill that would destroy its 'real story' reporting. You can't win respect and communicate if no one is listening, and people would stop listening if Congress transforms VOA into a ... Chinese-style state broadcaster. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), calls for a 'recalibration' of VOA's mission, requiring it to produce news that is 'consistent with and promotes the broad foreign policies of the United States.' The bill says this would give VOA 'greater mission focus.'

In fact, it would make it impossible for VOA to fulfill its mission. The VOA charter says, 'The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world.' The charter also says, 'To be effective, the Voice of America must win the attention and respect of listeners.' You can't win respect and communicate if no one is listening, and people will stop listening if Congress transforms VOA into a Russian- or Chinese-style state broadcaster. ... [W]hat VOA really needs are more resources to cover the news, deliver programs and train staff. Instead, over many years Congress has subjected us to 'death by a thousand cuts,' and nothing in the Royce bill would change that." Image fromsee also.

Asking the Right Questions About U.S. International Broadcasting: Before reforming U.S. international broadcasting, Congress must decide what its objectives are first - Matthew Wallin and Jed Willard, thediplomat.com: "Congress is currently examining the government’s role in international news broadcasting, but are they asking the right questions? The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a bill to reform the U.S. Government’s international broadcasting apparatus. There have been issues with America’s international broadcasting for years, and the legislation makes long needed management adjustments that will streamline processes and generally enhance the official American voice around the world. But while there are many good things in the bill, it brings to mind the open question as to why America has international broadcasters in the first place. On one hand, public diplomacy, which includes international broadcasting, is intended to build relationships and advertise our nation’s purpose, ideals, culture, and exceptionalism. On the other hand, public diplomacy also supports, explains, and defends foreign policy in an effort to achieve specific goals. These are both perfectly rational objectives for public diplomacy and for the nation. But do they conflict? Does the U.S. want its state broadcasters to serve as independent journalists providing objective news coverage for populations otherwise subjected to nothing but propaganda and conspiracy theories? Or does it expect its state-funded broadcasters to strictly advocate U.S policy? Are these choices mutually exclusive? Can Voice of America be assigned, for instance, to produce – as worded in the pending legislation – 'accurate, objective, and comprehensive news and related programming that is consistent with and promotes the broad foreign policies of the United States?' Or is that asking the impossible – assigning an entity to perform two potentially opposing tasks? To examine the potential complications, let us consider VOA’s assignment in depth. First, does 'of the United States' actually mean 'of the current administration?' If so, does our international broadcasting necessarily promote one party’s, branch’s, or administration’s policy over another? Second, are 'the broad foreign policies of the U.S.' implied to be the ideals and principles outlined in America’s founding documents? If so, obligating our international broadcasters to report when U.S. policies are inconsistent with those values serves not only to put those ideals into practice, it encourages consistency of word and action and thus enhances national credibility.

Or, are “broad policies” inclusive of policies relevant to specific issues at hand, such as military action, sanctions, treaties, or immigration policy? But perhaps the most difficult question to answer is why America needs international broadcasting in the first place. Does it want Voice of America to be the 'spokesperson' of the United States? If so, then shouldn’t VOA be strictly supervised by the Executive? Then again, is a government spokesperson credible to a skeptical audience? And doesn’t the U.S. Government have enough spokespeople, anyway? Congress needs to be mindful of what it is indicating it wants through this legislation. Does it want accurate, objective, and comprehensive news and programming for information-starved foreign audiences? Does this programming also have to be consistent with U.S. foreign policy? What happens when that is impossible? Does this legislation tacitly acknowledge that supporting some U.S. policies requires tweaking 'objective' coverage – and our values – to promote those policies? If U.S. foreign policy is always consistent with our founding ideals and principles, coverage should not have to be mandated to promote this. It would seem that Congress, through this legislation, recognizes that it is not. Before Congress passes any bills altering the current system, it should seriously consider the answers to all these above questions, objectively, and keep in mind the varying reasons a foreign audience would want to tune-in to American international broadcasting in the first place. International broadcasting may be a tool intended to serve the foreign policy goals of the United States, but it must also serve the needs of the foreign audience to be useful and effective. Matthew Wallin is a fellow specializing in public diplomacy at the American Security Project. Jed Willard is the Director of the FDR Center for Global Engagement at Harvard College."

U.S. Diplomat Becoming Something Of A Celebrity In Pakistan After he appeared on Pakistan Idol [includes video] - Rosie Gray, BuzzFeed: "In a first for American diplomacy, a U.S. diplomat performed on the inaugural season of Pakistan Idol in April. Phillip Assis, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. consulate in Karachi, sang on stage on national television during the Pakistan Idol semifinals last month, performing alongside the semifinalists. 'They had never had a foreigner on,' Assis, who goes by the stage name Phillip Nelson when he’s performing, said in a phone interview from Pakistan. 'It was exciting to be on an authentic Idol show.' Pakistan had its first official version of the Idol franchise this year. The embassy reached out and said, 'We have a real live singer here if you’re interested in having an American on the show,' Assis said.

A few months after the initial contact, Assis was booked to perform. Assis, 48, a native of Portland, Oregon, has been singing and playing the piano all his life and 'always had a passion for bringing people together culturally and forming bridges between cultures,' he said. ... Assis previously did tours in Guyana and in the Vatican before coming to Karachi. His next tour will be back in Washington, where he has been invited to perform at a celebration for Pakistan’s independence day. In Pakistan, Assis has been involved in other musical projects, including recording a song in Pashto, the video for which became a hit locally. Though he doesn’t speak the local languages, Assis has learned to sing in them phonetically. 'I’m lucky that I have Pakistani colleagues plugged into the cultural field here, so that’s how the connections were made,' Assis said. … A former U.S. diplomat in Pakistan, Shayna Cram, also had some musical success in Pakistan before Assis’ arrival. She recorded a song in Pashto about Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban and who has become an advocate for girls’ education." Assis image from

Foodie Diplomats Talk Turkey at the White House - blog.meridian.org:
"Last month, Meridian hosted an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) group of chefs, foodies, and culinary experts from the Middle East. They came to the United States to discuss economic development, explore food culture, and of course, to sample great food. They dined at restaurants, visited markets, learned about America’s slow food movement, and even fit in time for a food truck tour.

Culinary diplomacy uses food and meals as an opportunity to create cross-cultural understanding. The State Department officially adopted culinary diplomacy as part of its public diplomacy programs in 2012, and even created a corps of chefs who represent the U.S. here and abroad. The American Chef Corps promotes cooking as a way for people to find common ground." Image from entry, with caption: International Visitor Leadership Program group talks culinary diplomacy with White House chefs

Collection of photographs of Norman Rockwell in Russia under Library of Congress entry "Russia-USIA exhibit" - John Brown, Notes and Essays: On USIA, the Cold-War U.S. agency handling public diplomacy, see.

Invitation: The Cost of Peace and Freedom, June 25 - atlantic-community.org: "The Atlantic Initiative would like to invite you to our upcoming event in Berlin, offered in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation. We will discuss implications of the Ukraine Crisis for Germany with security experts and members of the Bundestag's budgetary and defense committees. … Our thanks to the NATO Public Diplomacy Division for their generous support.”

The strategic aims of Chinese cyber industrial espionage - strifeblog.org: The recent indictment of several People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers linked to the 61398 Unit, accused of industrial espionage against several US private companies and trade union bodies on the behalf of Chinese state industries, has pushed the issue of ‘cyber warfare’ to the front pages of global media. What for decades was the mutterings of government officials in anonymous briefings with journalists and high-level diplomatic meetings, has been pushed firmly into the level of public diplomacy, with the spokespeople of rival foreign ministries engaging in slander matches and finger pointing. There are key perceived differences, however, in the motives and strategic goals of the “Five Eyes”, the formal alliance between the signals intelligence (SIGINT) agencies of USA, UK, Canada, Australia & New Zealand that are responsible for intercepting communications, and the Chinese PLA’s cyber units. This is summed up by investigations firm Kroll’s managing director Timothy Ryan’s statement in an interview for Bloomberg TV, in which he asserted that, 'The US government is concerned primarily with geopolitical conditions in the world [and that]… The Chinese are doing (cyber espionage) primarily to make money, to give their state owned corporations an unfair advantage.'

This is a potentially misleading representation of Chinese motives for two main reasons. Firstly, for strategists in the Chinese Communist Party, it is impossible to overlook that Western industrialisation in the 19th and 20th centuries was buttressed by state power and often military force. The need to secure cheap raw materials such as cotton to support the burgeoning private industries in northern England was a key motivator for British imperialist adventurism in India and Africa. Forced entry into Chinese markets through the humiliating concessions made by the Qing dynasty during the Opium Wars provided Western imperial powers with access to Chinese trade and a huge export market for manufactured goods. ‘The Century of Humiliation’, the period between 1839 and 1949 under which China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty was ripped asunder by unequal treaties, port concessions and violent interventions by Western imperial forces, still has huge resonance amongst party cadres. This reinforces the view that they are simply righting historical wrongs that have given Western corporations a huge starting advantage at the expense of Chinese national sovereignty and dignity. ... Secondly, this view does not provide a complete picture of the motives of the state owned enterprises (SOEs) that are still central to the Chinese ‘socialist market economy’ model." Image from

Netanyahu is dancing to Abbas’ tune, always one step behind: The Israeli response to the formation of the Palestinian unity government was surprisingly muted, but the situation reflects badly on the prime minister - Barak Ravid, haaretz.com: "Netanyahu’s conduct toward the Hamas-Fatah unity government reveals that he has no plan or strategy of his own on the Palestinian issue. As has been his pattern throughout the last five years, he is merely reacting to Palestinian moves, and thereby putting Israel’s fate into Abbas’ hands. Instead of seizing the initiative and grabbing the bull by the horns, he gets dragged along time after time, like a street-sweeper’s broom. And for all of Netanyahu’s caution, nothing good will come of the diplomatic freeze.

Today, under his leadership, Israel’s government has been taken hostage. It is at the mercy of the pogromists of the 'price tag' movement, the terrorists of Hamas, and the Palestinians’ domestic political infighting. And all the public diplomacy attacks that he surely plans against Abbas won’t deliver him from one simple question: What ought to be done?" Image from entry, with caption: Benjamin Netanyahu, June 1, 2014

Why I represent a security threat to Israel? Open letter to the Israeli ambassador in Denmark [Google translation from the Danish] - Maher Khativ, politiken.dk: "DHIP is a Danish culture that wants to create a dialogue between Danes and Palestinians, a kind of public diplomacy, which is supported by the Danish Foreign Ministry, who has just asked the Israeli authorities to treat people who need to visit or work for DHIP. In the last six months has DHIP [Danish House in Palestine] however experienced the opposite in the sense that several interns and volunteers have been rejected at the border, and the great uncertainty makes increasingly difficult work."

Contesting Rashid Shaz on Endorsing the Sangh Parivar led Government - Arshi Khan, twocircles.net: "Political analysis without understanding the purpose of ‘the State' and the 'Politics' and the factor of 'legitimacy' of the national Government in the eyes of the largest Muslim minority community in a multicultural settings is an adulation with ignorance. Politics is neither inter-faith dialogue (as part of the US public diplomacy in collaboration with Saudi Intelligence) nor translating the wrong as the thing nor seeking power by all means but to seek legitimacy on the part of the citizens. Politically India is a Constitutional State

as a Federal Nation which requires different communities to be civic and democratic in substance for the purpose of nation-building. One nation, one culture and one language idiom is not compatible with constitutional values." Image from

Petition for Recognition, Media Project by Jasmine Hayden - worldreligionnews.wordpress.com: "For my media project I produced a mock up of a scene that would be in potential play production including, the director’s and playwright’s notes. ... Director’s note: This monologue is intended to be a Western Muslim Woman’s response to the media that she has recently encountered. As she moves through her responses she points out elements that stick out to her as well as elements that could contribute to the sources bias or influence. At first she expresses her disdain toward ignorant representations of her Muslim identity, then she takes us through the journey she undergoes while researching the media representations of Muslim women in the West. ... [evidently from the monologue:] Huffington Post says to hell with previous misrepresentations of us! They don’t know our lives, they don’t know who we are! We are making progress and we are individuals outside of our Muslim religion! We are scholars, businesswomen, advisors, leaders, activists, and authors. Time says WOMEN are leading MEN in prayer! Take that patriarchy! If Time isn’t influential, I don’t know what is. Time says we’re persistent, and the ‘antidote to patriarchal expressions of Islam’. And I say hell yeah! We’re working in national security, public diplomacy, foreign policy, politics! Muslim feminism is a thing people!! WE HAVE A MUSLIM WOMAN RUNNING FOR PROGRESS DAMNIT! We are wearing our hijabs on the red carpet! There’s ample proof that we have moved on from the clichés of oppression!"


Prison Planet:

White House Launches Propaganda At TROLL Level

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Washington’s Blog
June 2, 2014
Russian writer idaltae tweeted the following:
Whitehouse launches propaganda at troll level pic.twitter.com/S45vJokXN2
White House Launches Propaganda At TROLL Level Ukraine Putin
Because she didn’t say what search term she used to pull up that ad – and because we don’t live in Russia – it took some legwork to verify that this is real.
Specifically, we used Keyword Spy – a highly-regarded and widely-used resource in the SEO industry – to see if the White House had purchased keywords for Google using the domain name WhiteHouse.gov.
Indeed, we did find the ad using Keyword Spy:
White House Launches Propaganda At TROLL Level Whitehouse Ad
Keyword Spy also told us the keywords which the White House purchased:
White House Launches Propaganda At TROLL Level Whitehouse Ad2
Telenor is a huge telecommunications company based in Norway, which provides telecom services in Eastern Europe, and has had a series of legal disputes regarding its sizable ownership stake in Russian and Ukrainian telecoms.
In other words, Telenor Russia is probably a popular Google search term in Russia and Ukraine.  And the White House has purchased Google key words to troll Putin.

Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America: The adventures of Russian agents like The Ghost of Marius the Giraffe, Gay Turtle, and Ass — exposed for the first time - Max Seddon, BuzzFeed: Russia’s campaign to shape international opinion around its invasion of Ukraine has extended to recruiting and training a new cadre of online trolls that have been deployed to spread the Kremlin’s message on the comments section of top American websites. Plans attached to emails leaked by a mysterious Russian hacker collective show IT managers reporting on a new ideological front against the West in the comments sections of Fox News, Huffington Post, The Blaze, Politico, and WorldNetDaily. The bizarre hive of social media activity appears to be part of a two-pronged Kremlin campaign to claim control over the internet, launching a million-dollar army of trolls

to mold American public opinion as it cracks down on internet freedom at home. Definitively proving the authenticity of the documents and their authors’ ties to the Kremlin is, by the nature of the subject, not easy. The project’s cost, scale, and awkward implementation have led many observers in Russia to doubt, however, that it could have come about in any other way. Russia’s “troll army” is just one part of a massive propaganda campaign the Kremlin has unleashed since the Ukrainian crisis exploded in February. Via HS on Facebook. Image from

Jay Carney Scolds Matt Lauer for Listening to 'Propaganda of Terrorists' on Bergdahl Exchange [video] - breitbart.com: White House Press Secretary scolded the Today Show’s Matt Lauer after he repeatedly questioned President Obama’s decision to exchange five Taliban prisoners to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. "Is this semantics, Jay?” asked Lauer. “Are we calling it a prisoner swap when, in fact, it is negotiating with terrorists?” Carney reminded Lauer that the United States was a country that did not leave soldiers behind in periods of war and that the White House “made every effort we could” to secure Bergdahl’s release. “Yeah, but the terrorists are celebrating this, Jay and in some ways, they now know there is a going rate, that one American in captivity can win the release of five terrorists being held by the United States,” Lauer said.

“Do you worry that that sets a very dangerous precedent? “Well, I caution anyone against buying the propaganda of terrorists, first of all,” Carney shot back, pointing to a “long history and precedent” of the United States exchanging prisoners during armed conflicts. Image from, with caption: Figures – Jay Carney Decorates His House With Soviet Propaganda

Sorry, Italy, the 'Getty Bronze' belongs in L.A. - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: For decades, the Getty Museum and other art institutions in the United States have struggled to deal with the tainted provenance of many of their most valuable antiquities. The Getty, the world's richest museum, has returned more than 40 pieces to Greece and Italy since 2007 because of questions about how or where or under what circumstances they were acquired. It has instituted stricter acquisition policies that have become a model for a more conscientious era of art collecting. The bronze spent the vast majority of its first 2,000 years deep in the ocean.

Its longest home since then has been the Getty. That hasn't stopped disputes over pieces that remain in the Getty collection. One of the longest-running battles centers on a life-size bronze statue known as the "Victorious Youth," an ancient masterpiece that commands its own humidity-controlled room at the Getty Villa. The trustees of the museum bought it from a German art dealer in 1977 for $3.95 million and put it on display the next year. Since 2001 there has been an agreement between the U.S. and several countries, including Italy, requiring the U.S. to return illegally exported works. But the bronze left Italy long before that law took effect. The bronze spent the vast majority of its first 2,000 years deep in the ocean. Its longest home since then has been the Getty. That is where it should stay. Image from entry, with caption: "View of The Victorius Youth gallery in the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu," 300-100 B.C., Greek, Bronze with copper inlays.

Obama’s global war on straw men - Michael Gerson, Washington Post: After 5½ years, President Obama finally has a foreign policy doctrine all his own, which White House aides summarize as: “Don’t do stupid s--- .” FDR had his Four Freedoms. Harry Truman would stand against the further expansion of communism in Europe. Ronald Reagan would attempt to roll back communism by providing assistance to freedom fighters. Jimmy Carter would use military force, if necessary, to defend U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf. George W. Bush would support the growth of democratic movements and institutions as an antidote to radicalism. Obama doesn’t do “stupid [stuff].” The world Obama depicts is a choice between foolhardy extremes. The proper response is not primarily an assertion of American values or the defense of U.S. interests; it is a trust in Obama’s own balancing judgment. America will not, as some people hope, invade and occupy every country on earth to impose our imperial will. America will lead the global war against straw men; on all other matters, let’s not get carried away. The Obama Doctrine’s most serious problem: Its vapidity is evident to leaders around the world, who are even less inclined to trust or fear the United States when determining their own actions. Which is where the doctrine hits the fan. Below image from

At West Point, Obama tries to excuse the inexcusable - Richard Cohen, Washington Post: Recently, Obama has taken to slaying straw men, mad war-mongering types of his own creation. All along, his weakness has been the lack of a worldview. Problems are approached individually — unconnected to anything else — and often left to languish. We pivot to Asia . . . in a speech. We applaud the Arab Spring and promise hugs and kisses . . . in a speech. We call recent developments in Ukraine a success for U.S. policy, but Russia’s seizure of Crimea stands. Obama should fix the policy, then give the speech.

Obama’s values-free foreign policy - Fred Hiatt, Washington Post: "In October, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama limited America’s 'core interests' in the Mideast to defending allies, fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and protecting the free flow of energy. He said democracy, human rights and free trade were important, but not core, and could 'rarely' be advanced through unilateral action. Last week he further constricted the nation’s core interests and closed the narrow opening he had left for action in defense of values; the 'rarely' was gone. I doubt this is really where Obama wants to end up. A values-free foreign policy isn’t sustainable for most Americans, and if another humanitarian crisis confronts the president in the next 30 months, I doubt it will be sustainable for him."

From John Kerry: We need more visas, now, for our Afghan allies - John Kerry, Los Angeles Times: The Afghan special immigrant visa program was established by Congress in 2009 to help Afghans whose work for the U.S. government put them in danger of retaliation. Nearly 5,000 Afghans, mainly interpreters and their family members, have received visas under the program since Oct. 1, 2013, compared with roughly 1,600 in the previous 12 months.

More than 1,000 Afghan interpreters received visas in March and April alone. This success has created a new challenge. At the current fast pace, we expect to reach the 2014 fiscal year visa cap of 3,000, authorized by Congress, sometime in July. This leaves us in danger of stranding hundreds of deserving Afghans until a new batch of visas is approved for fiscal year 2015. It's an outcome that will be dangerous for applicants — and damaging to our national credibility the next time we have to rely on local knowledge. Keeping our word requires passing legislation this summer to authorize additional visas for the remainder of this fiscal year and for the next fiscal year. Image from

The Mirage of Political Islam - Mustapha Tlili, New York Times: As the Obama team prepared to end the wars of the Bush administration, it felt a need for friends in the Arab world. So the administration bought into the fallacy of “moderate” political Islam. America should help, not hinder, the secular democrats of the Muslim world. It is in America’s national interest.

Foreign Investors Won't Liberate Cuba: The billions already poured into the island have done nothing to advance civil society - Mary O'Grady, Wall Street Journal: Last month one group—made up largely of lobbyists and former U.S. bureaucrats and politicians who now make their living as consultants—sent a letter to Mr. Obama asking him to unilaterally lift some restrictions on U.S. investment and travel to Cuba. The letter's signers say a change in U.S. policy "can help the Cuban people determine their own destiny," strengthen civil society and improve bilateral relations between the U.S. and the dictatorship. But as Cubans are not allowed to freely engage in any business transaction with a foreign entity, any new investment from the U.S. must go through the Castro brothers and their friends.

US Ambassador To London Agrees To Embassy Nap Rooms For American Diplomats - Ned Simons, The Huffington Post UK: The United States embassy in London plans to install nap rooms to stop its diplomats from getting too tired, the American ambassador

to Britain has indicated. Image from; see also.

American propaganda machine under microscope - Peter G. Prontzos, vancouversun.com: The mass media tend to paint a simplistic, “good guys versus bad guys” picture of complex events in other countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Iran. This has also been the case regarding the crisis in Ukraine, where the story is often presented as a one-sided demonization of Russia, a view that is encouraged by western politicians “striking heroic poses” (Chomsky) while hypocritically presenting themselves as champions of democracy and human rights. While all governments try to manipulate public opinion, arguably none has had such dire global effects as the United States during the Cold War, when Washington portrayed the Soviets as an “evil empire” trying to conquer the world.

Central to that campaign were Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles. As heads of the CIA and the State Department respectively, they had more impact on Washington’s foreign policies in the 1950s than anybody except president Dwight Eisenhower himself. Their bloody record is reconstructed in a fascinating history by Stephen Kinzer, a historian and award-winning journalist for the New York Times. Image from


Here Are The Drunkest States In America - Christina Sterbenz, Business Inside: New Hampshire is the drunkest state in America, according to a new report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The study calculated alcohol consumption per capita for each state using beverage sales as well as tax receipt data from 2012. Because the amount of ethanol varies among beer, wine, and spirits, researchers used a conversion to estimate average ethanol content. The findings show the typical New Hampshire resident, age 14 or older, consumes 4.65 gallons of ethanol every year. That translates to 1.9 gallons of beer, .86 gallons of wine, and 1.89 gallons of spirits.  New Hampshire's numbers sit well above the national average of 2.33 gallons of ethanol per year. Residents in the District of Columbia, which came in second place, only consume 3.89 gallons of ethanol per year. The state with the lowest amount of consumption, 1.37 gallons per year per resident, is Utah.  As the map shows, the Northeast (and D.C.) and states in the Heartland and Mountain regions tend to imbibe more the rest of the country. Visit this link for the full data, ranked below in our own spreadsheet. Via JJ on Facebook


“If you don’t give me any of your shitty papers, you get an A. If you give me a paper, I may read it and not like it, and you can get a lower grade.”

--Academic Slavoj Žižek to students at The New School in New York; Žižek image from


Geumsusan Palace and Kim Il Sung Mausoleum (from Huffington Post)

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