Monday, November 28, 2011

November 27 (posted November 28)

"[T]he numbers of Iraqi students attending universities in the United States are much lower than they were under Saddam Hussein -— 423 last year, the Institute of International Education says, compared with more than 1,500 in 1985."

--Reporter Tim Arango, "A Corner of American Outreach Has Few Visitors, and Plenty of Dust," New York Times; Rumsfeld-Hussein image from


A Corner of American Outreach Has Few Visitors, and Plenty of Dust - Tim Arango, New York Times: "In a nook of the library at Baghdad University, sturdy histories of the American Revolution and the Vietnam War line up next to Alexis de Tocqueville and John Updike. Paperbacks from Tom Clancy and Michael Connelly, even Judy Blume, dangle guilty pleasures. And, as if to close the loop on Americana, baseball makes a token appearance with a copy of 'Farm Team,' a novel about a boy who builds a ball field in a cow pasture. Yet, the readers never come. On a recent morning, this section was empty, as it is most days. As far as Kamal Yunis, a research librarian who oversees what is formally called the American Corner, can tell, no student has ever opened one of the books. The collection was assembled by the American Embassy here and is an example, writ small, of the sort of cultural programs — 'soft power,' in the diplomatic nomenclature — that the State Department will emphasize after the last troops leave. Even in this arena of cultural and educational links, United States diplomats say they hope to gain leverage over Iran — whose political influence here is vast and likely to grow after the departure of the American military — by steering more students and academics toward American ideas and, hopefully, more opportunities to study in the United States. Like nearly every American pursuit here, a battle of ideas will be difficult to win given deep suspicions toward the United States and the shattered civil society that is only slowly re-emerging. ... The embassy’s book collection is part of a hub established here — this one at Baghdad University opened last year — and at other universities around the country, intended to allow students to browse carefully selected books about America, and to find information about studying in the United States. Posters entice students with idealistic visions of a multicultural society, with one depicting a Muslim member of the Yale band performing at a basketball game. ... On the shelves in the American Corner at the university library, thick layers of dust coat copies of 'GMAT for Dummies' and

'Exploring Corporate Strategy.' A big doorstop of a Lincoln biography stares out, daring to be read, and lined up back to back to back are three hefty titles fit for a graduate student’s reading list: 'The Creation of the American Republic,' by Gordon S. Wood; Louis Menand’s 'American Studies'; and 'Dilemmas of Pluralistic Democracy,' by the Yale political scientist Robert A. Dahl. While Mr. Yunis has never seen a student open one of these books — possibly because students are not allowed to borrow them — he did say that every once in a while someone would drop in and flip through a big volume on American geography that sits on a table, or peruse the leaflets that explain how to pursue studies in the United States." Image from

Temporary fix to wider woes‎ - Darcel Choy, Trinidad News: "Britain's High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Arthur Snell, has admitted that while Trinidad and Tobago has been safer during the state of emergency, it can only be a temporary way of addressing a wider problem. ... Snell first shared his thoughts on the state of emergency through his blog (a website on which an individual or group of users record opinions and information on a regular basis). The blog, along with the use of social networks, is the commission’s step into what Snell calls digital diplomacy. 'Diplomacy is sometimes seen as an old fashioned activity which involves funny documents, people having high level VIP meetings, ... to some extent, diplomacy is about international relations between countries and of course an important part of diplomacy is public diplomacy, so that is how our country internationally connects with ordinary people,' he said. He noted there were lots of ways for the British government to connect with local citizens, but the most important way was online with the use of blogs and social

networking sites Facebook and Twitter. ... He noted that persons responding to the blog seemed to have a pre-conceived view with the way the United Kingdom wants to interact with local citizens. 'In a way, the whole point of digital diplomacy is to get away from that pre-conceived view. There is a sort of irony but I don’t regret having that topic. What I would like and hope is that more people read the blog or look at the specifics of the articles, rather than respond to a second or third hard rendering,' he said." Image from, with caption: High Commissioner for Britain Arthur Snell [left] as he paid a courtesy call on Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran recently.

Pakistan: A Key to Achieving US's Foreign Policy Objectives in Central Asia and the Pacific - Naveed Butt, "The US sees Pak-India ties through the same prism of containing China. There has been an unusual push towards Pak-India normalization right after Hillary's visit to Pakistan in October this year. The Pakistani government out of nowhere granted India MFN (Most Favored Nation) status, something India has been demanding for years. This has been a major initiative from Pakistan given that Pakistan had been blaming Indian involvement in FATA and Baluchistan. Pakistan used this claim to motivate Pakistani soldiers to carry out brutal military operations in FATA, which displaced millions and killed thousands of Muslims. Furthermore, Pakistan has completely decoupled the Kashmir issue from Indo-Pak trade - an old Indian demand which Pakistan has been denying until now. Just in the span of few days, Indian wrestlers visited Pakistan and a Pakistani Kabadi team went to India.

A Pak-India cricket series is also on the cards for early next year. All these styles of public diplomacy are geared towards normalizing the relationship between the two countries." Image from

India-China border talks cancelled over Dalai Lama row: Report - "The reported Chinese demand for cancellation of the Dalai Lama's speech at a Buddhist congregation here next week is believed to have led to the postponement of India-China border talks scheduled for Monday. The Chinese side is said to have called off the 15th round of the talks between Special Representatives (SR) of both the sides after India refused to accept their demand that the congregation which was to be addressed by the Tibetan spiritual leader be called off. The Dalai Lama was to address the valedictory function of the four-day Global Buddhist Congregation, co-organised by the Public Diplomacy division of the external affairs ministry, on Wednesday."


November 21-27 (Note: other items on cultural diplomacy also appeared in the PDPBR during that time period)

US 'hip hop diplomacy 'fails to heal rift with Pakistan': "It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: Send an American rap crew on a tour of Pakistan to help build bridges between two countries whose relations have plumbed new depths this year - Rob Crilly, "[A] fter being detained by security officials in Rawalpindi and then seeing a major concert cancelled by a venue in Lahore at the last moment, the FEW Collective's attempt at cultural diplomacy has backfired, emphasising the frosty feelings between two awkward allies. On Wednesday, the hip hop troupe from Chicago, was in Karachi preparing for a concert after being forced to abandon its Lahore gig amid allegations the venue had come under pressure to cancel the event. The Al-Hamra Arts Council claimed US officials had not produced a No Objection Certificate from the Pakistani government.

However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Islamabad insisted that the paperwork was in order. While America's image through much of the Muslim world has been dominated by war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the music that sprang from its inner city black populations in the 1980s is popular everywhere from the West Bank to Kabul. Rappers such as El General in Tunisia have even helped spread the message of democracy during the Arab Spring this year. Hip hop diplomacy has become an increasingly important plank of American foreign policy during the past decade as officials try to tap in to the worldwide popularity of rap – just like the jazz tours of the Cold War when Dizzie Gillespie and Benny Goodman were dispatched to counter Soviet propaganda in Africa and the Middle East. [W]ithin days of their arrival the FEW Collective fell foul of the country's beady-eyed security services last week when a band member was spotted taking photographs from a US embassy vehicle in Rawalpindi, home to Pakistan's military headquarters and Benazir Bhutto International Airport. They were released only after deleting images from their cameras." Image from article, with caption: Members of FEW Collective performing in Islamabad

The two faces of the tyrant's son - Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail: As recently as a year ago, it was possible to speak of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, with a reasonably straight face, as a reformer who was attempting to take his country in the direction of democracy. That, at least, was what Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s most influential son

told everyone who would listen, and he had enough wealth and influence to tour the world saying it. ... The floor of his Mediterranean-style villa was covered with half-read books on topics such as 'soft power,' cultural diplomacy and intercultural relations. He was nearly finished his doctorate at the London School of Economics; its topic, 'The Role of Civil Society in the Democratization of Global Governance Institutions,' would prove to be darkly ironic. ... His democracy and human-rights initiatives rarely went anywhere. His dissertation proved to have been heavily plagiarized." Uncaptioned image from article

Pursue ideals within realistic framework, Tharoor tells NRIs‎ - Gulf Today: "Expatriates are ambassadors of Indian ideals abroad. However, the UAE’s Indian Diaspora has to pursue their ideals within a realistic framework, says noted writer-politician and former UN Under-Secretary General Dr Shashi Tharoor. Interacting with a packed audience at the 'Meet the Author' programme of the 30th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), Tharoor remarked that UAE’s Indian community has extensively contributed to the development of their fostering nation. The expatriates also make great contributions to India in their chosen fields. Dr Tharoor urged the community members to promote cultural diplomacy through more festivals of India abroad, as the magic of Indian identity is its pluralism. 'The Indian entertainment industry is already doing this by bringing its brand of entertainment to the Indian Diaspora across the globe.'”

ICCR chief honoured by Edinburgh University - "The University of Edinburgh has awarded an honorary doctorate degree to Suresh Goel, director-general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), for his contribution to the country's external cultural relations. The award was presented to him at a ceremony in Edinburgh Wednesday morning, a statement by the ICCR said.

Accepting the award, Goel said, 'The conferring of the degree is a recognition of the great work being done by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in the area of cultural diplomacy.' 'The ICCR is using dialogue between societies toward achieving the ancient wisdom of the whole world being a family in which every thought, every person and every group has a place and space for their creative endeavour,' Goel added." Goel image from article

Film fest puts Filipino culture in limelight - Mariecar Jara-Puyod, "Cultural diplomacy has become the fourth fundamental pillar of Philippine foreign policy, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Grace Relucio Princesa said. Princesa mentioned this new addition to the three existing fundamental pillars at a press conference in Dubai on Friday, kicking off the first Philippine Film Festival in the UAE — 'Our Films, Our Culture.' The three other pillars are the preservation and enhancement of national security, promotion and attainment of economic security, and the protection

of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of Filipinos overseas. A Cultural Diplomacy Unit (CDU) is already in place and under the Office of the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations of Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs, said Princesa." Image from, with caption: 8th Environmental Awareness Photo Competition & Gala Night was officially opened by ribbon cutting on 20th November 2009 at Metropolitan Palace Hotel. (L-R) Bernie Morillo, Leah dela Cruz, Ambassadress Grace Relucio Princesa, Yacob Al Ahli, Rashid Kankarin, Myrna R. Anderson.

The direct approach isn't always most effective‎ - Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail: "William Hague is a conservative foreign minister. He is an ardent supporter of Israel and a devoted promoter of Britain’s economic interests in the world, especially its petroleum industry. ... He has pushed Britain’s economic interests, in part by insisting that one of its key planks is cultural diplomacy: When the war in Libya ended, before BP had begun operating there again, he set up a Tripoli office of the British Council, which offers generous arts grants and English-language instruction. He has promoted Britain’s 27 foreign-language public radio and TV networks, including one that has become one of the most-listened-to voices within Iran. ... John Baird is a conservative foreign minister. He is an ardent supporter of Israel and a devoted promoter of Canada’s economic interests in the world, especially its petroleum industry. How does he put those principles into practice? By taking a direct approach. ... He has defended Canada’s business interests equally directly. When it became apparent that Europeans, who are crucial trade partners, see Canada mainly as a place that kills seals and produces a high-pollution form of oil, the response has been to shout back, through every channel, that the seal hunt is okay and that Canada’s oil is 'ethical.' Canada has no budget at all for cultural diplomacy at most of its embassies, and no separate program for it . ... Same principles, different approaches. Which are most likely to succeed? Without getting directly to the point, let me say that one of the best books I’ve read this year is John Kay’s Obliquity. The veteran Oxford University economist carefully examines the pathways that people and organizations follow to success, and finds, over and over, that those who succeed the most are those who take the oblique path. 'If you want to go in one direction,' he writes, 'the best route may involve going in another.'”

Raw Material Company‎ - E-Flux: "Raw Material Company is pleased to announce Condition Report a 3-day international symposium on building art institutions in Africa organized in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Cultural Foundation. The symposium takes place in Dakar, Senegal, from 18–20 January 2012. ... Wednesday January 18 2012 [:] The first chapter, Actors, Agents and Mainstream takes a look at existing institutions—public and private—and how they work to build a shared understanding of artistic agency. The African cultural and artistic context is characterized by the predominance of government led art programs and infrastructure. Be them biennials, festivals, conferences, cultural centers or art schools. Artistic initiatives are developed and carried out by civil servants of the ministry of culture often through the induction of the Head of the State, who, in more cases than not, uses the arts and culture to serve a personal agenda for political gain and checking off the art box. This is even stronger the case in countries with a French colonial past, who have adopted the French system of cultural and artistic organization. ... Friday January 20 2012 [:] The third chapter Remains of the Days discusses how former colonial powers define and implement their strategies of cultural representation and exchange in post-colonial areas, and how these strategies

influence local dynamics of cultural action. It is an old knowledge to professionals in the field that cultural and artistic life in most African cities is spearheaded by cultural institutions of western countries such as France, Germany, Great-Britain, Spain, Portugal and to some extent the U.S. Embedded in the dialectics of cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding and arising mainly from the colonial carthasis, these institutions, yet, shape and greatly influence the perceptions of local and international audiences with regards to intellectual activity and artistic production in the territories that they are active in." Image from

Kuwaiti art show hangs Iranian works - "An exhibition of works by Iranian and Arab artists opened at the Life Center in Shuwaikh, Kuwait on Sunday. Curated by Ali Bakhtiari, the art show focuses on graphic designs of Persian and Arabic calligraphy, graffiti or any other type of writing, Kuwait-based organizer JAMM announced on its website. ... JAMM is an independent art advisory, which was founded in 2009 by Sheikha Lulu Al-Sabah and Lydia Limerick. 'JAMM is a vessel to promote cultural diplomacy,' the founders state on their website. 'Our goal is to advance Arab and Iranian artists in the West, and Western artists in the East, and thus encourage further collaboration between the two,' they explained."

I Talk Madonna and Movies at the Liberatum 10th Anniversary Party - "Last night I popped into The Corinthia Hotel for the

Liberatum 10th anniversary party hosted by Patron Ella Krasner. As an organisation which promotes global cultural diplomacy and artistic venture around the world there was an abundance of creative types there." Image from


For Obscure Iranian Exile Group, Broad Support in U.S. - Scott Shane, New York Times: A fringe Iranian opposition group, long an ally of Saddam Hussein, that is designated as a terrorist organization under United States law and described by State Department officials as a repressive cult despised by most Iranians and Iraqis. The extraordinary lobbying effort to reverse the terrorist designation of the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, has won the support of American advocates who have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group. Some have been flown to Paris, Berlin and Brussels for appearances.

Is This George Kennan? [Review of George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis] - Frank Costigliola, New York Review of Books: Though Gaddis lauded Kennan’s “grand strategy” between 1946 and 1948 to contain the Soviet Union, he remained largely unsympathetic to
Kennan’s efforts in the subsequent forty years to propose a changed relationship with the Soviets that would lead through negotiations to an easing of the cold war. Kennan image from article

Soul Man [review of Soul Man: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun By Robert Greenfield] - Alex Abramovich, New York Times: Ahmet Ertegun was the first person to ask Ella Fitzgerald for her autograph, in 1935. He lived long enough to party for days on end with Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson, and died in 2006, after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones show on the Upper West Side. It wasn’t the prettiest, most dignified death. But Ertegun — who appreciated good jokes, bad women, booze, bad jokes and good women, in any given order — would have enjoyed the obituaries. Ertegun was born in Istanbul, in 1923. His father, Mehmet Munir, was Ataturk’s legal adviser, a practicing Muslim who helped to build secular Turkey and became its ambassador to France, the Court of St. James and the United States. Ertegun — who’d fallen in love with black music after seeing Duke Ellington’s band perform in London, in 1933 — grew up in Washington and, together with his older brother, Nesuhi, put on a series of jam sessions and jazz concerts that were among the city’s first integrated events. He stayed on after his father’s death, in 1944, studying philosophy at Georgetown and hanging out at Waxie Maxie’s record store. In 1947 he moved to New York and formed

Atlantic Records, with money from the family dentist. By industry standards, the ambassador’s son was a prince. “The Last Sultan” takes its title from something one latter-day mistress — “a striking 34-year-old blond French dermatologist” — tells the biographer: “Ahmet was the last sultan of Turkey,” she explains. “A man of this dimension will never stay with one ­woman.” Image from


Casino is looking for a few good 'broads': The revamped Plaza plays on the city's gangland past to drum up business for its steakhouse - Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times: One by one, women climbed onto a stage to endure the polite grilling typical of a Miss America pageant. This made sense, because they were essentially competing for a title. A panel of questioners asked each one: What does being a "broad" mean to you? The Plaza's owners recently poured $35 million into revamping the faded downtown haunt.

One of its showpieces will be Oscar's, the namesake steakhouse of Oscar Goodman, the bombastic mob attorney turned mayor turned TV judge (if his recently filmed pilot is picked up). Goodman, whose wife, Carolyn, succeeded him as mayor, was beloved locally for peacocking at ribbon-cuttings with a feather-clad showgirl on each arm. Scheduled to open next month, Oscar's plans to sell itself with half a dozen or so "broads." Image from article, with caption: Oscar Goodman, former Las Vegas mayor and defense attorney in organized-crime cases, often appeared with showgirls at public events. He's the namesake of a casino restaurant recruiting 'broads' as waitresses.

The Dwindling Power of a College Degree - Adam Davidson, New York Times: A college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools. A bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability. To get a good job, you have to have some special skill — charm, by the way, counts — that employers value. But there’s also a pretty good chance that by some point in the next few years, your boss will find that some new technology or some worker overseas can replace you.

"How the Reds Made a Sucker out of Me."

--Article by Romanian-born actor Edward G. Robinson, whose association with one anti-fascist group, which became known for its communist ties, as well as anti-red-baiting stance had him called a

Communist during HUAC testimony, generating so much acrimony that he couldn't find work; he spent three years fighting the charges, eventually caving in and appearing as a chagrined witness before HUAC and writing the above article.  Image from 

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