Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 19-20



"[A]s someone who for the past fifty years has lived on four continents and worked in or visited nearly fifty countries, I think of home as the place where I came from, not the place where my ancestors -- known and unknown -- came from."

--Ambassador Charles A. Ray, "I Am Who I Am – Reflections of an African-American Ambassador in Zimbabwe," DipNote; image from

"The State Department spends much money and effort to recruit and train the 'best and the brightest' to represent America overseas, then proceeds to hammer and shape them into, I’m sorry to say, drones, who follow directions, not create waves and most importantly, whose stingers are without barbs."

--Domani Spero, DiploPundit

VIDEO

BBG Our People: Richard Lobo - Richard M. Lobo, Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, talks about the importance of international broadcasting and the Broadcasting Board of Governors' mission.

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY

Perception and Strategy Part I - zenpundit.com: "I would observe that in public diplomacy, IO and demonstrations of force, the United States more often than not ... alienated potential allies, regularly ignored enemy depredations of the most hideous character, debased our core values, crippled our analysis and decision-making with political

correctness and lavishly rewarded treachery against us while abandoning those who sacrificed at great risk on our behalf. We are still doing these things." Image from article

The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012 - mountainrunner.us: "[T]he President [has] issued an updated 'National Framework for Strategic Communication' for 2012 (3.8mb PDF, note: some readers have noted trouble viewing the PDF online, try downloading and opening it outside of your browser). This report updates the 2010 report issued last March that was little more than a narrative on how the Government was organized for strategic communication. The report is required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009. Some highlights from the 2012 Framework:
■The two-part definition of strategic communication from 2010 – one part practice, the other bureaucracy – lives on.
■A difference between communication and communications is absent.
■The Administration seeks to establish a 'culture of communication' for better policy planning, and implicitly execution.
■State is to have 'primacy' over Defense outside of 'combat zones.'
■Building capacity at State includes 'augmenting personnel at critical posts and developing more flexible models for rapid deployment of civilian officers.' (Are these Foreign Service Officers?)
■The Administration is solidifying a 'closer working relationship between State and DOD in the deployment of Military Information Support Teams.'
■The framework suggests continuing enamor with technology over people.
■A tenth of the framework is devoted to the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication (CSCC) as an example of the interagency 'collaboration we envision moving forward.' (Later this month, Amb. Alberto Fernandez takes the helm of CSCC.)
■Another tenth of the framework cites changes promulgated by the 2010 State Department Framework on Public Diplomacy, created under former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) Judith McHale. The uninformed will read the report and think all is peachy under the sun. Of course one would not expect the airing of dirty laundry in this framework but there was room to acknowledge challenges in the interest of transparency and to build support from the Congress. These issues include ongoing challenges at Foggy Bottom to meet modern requirements, including the need to update the State Department’s Framework (which McHale intended), the lack of training and support for public diplomacy officers, the lack of public diplomacy staffing and resources, and turf battles more concerned with protecting bureaucracies than supporting the mission and policy."

Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: Conversations With America: U.S. Engagement With the African Union - Interview: Cheryl Benton,Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs; Michael Battle, U.S. Ambassador to the African Union; Steve McDonald, Africa Program Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Washington, DC March 16, 2012 - U.S. Department of State, Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: On the Occasion of St. Patrick’s Day - Press Statement, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Washington, DC, March 16, 2012: "On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Ireland as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this March 17. Today, we honor the rich history and cultural heritage of the Irish people and reflect on the bonds of friendship and family between our two nations. Irish contributions to America have shaped American culture from the founding of our nation. Eight of the men who signed

the Declaration of Independence were Irish-Americans and half of our American Presidents have been of Irish descent. Countless Irish-Americans fought bravely during the Civil War, giving their lives for a better America. Throughout our society, Irish Americans have contributed in ways large and small to the bedrock of American life. The depth and scope of Irish influence throughout the world is immeasurable and exemplifies your rich history and culture. As you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in cities from Dublin to Detroit, know that the United States stands with you. Congratulations and best wishes for a year of peace and prosperity." Image from

I Am Who I Am – Reflections of an African-American Ambassador in Zimbabwe - blogs.state.gov: "*DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government. In honor of Black History Month, the Zimbabwe-U.S. Alumni Association hosted Ambassador Charles A. Ray on February16 for a discussion on 'Being an African-American Ambassador in Africa.' Ambassador Ray was inspired to write this blog following a lively discussion of cultural differences, preconceived beliefs and what it means to be an American.* I'm an African-American who came of age during the turbulent years of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, when the process of dismantling the legal and institutional barriers faced by minorities began. It was a time when many Americans of color sought their roots in the culture from which their unknown ancestors came. People adopted African names, wore what they assumed to be African dress, and listened to African music -- all things that gave us a sense of self and identity that institutionalized discrimination and neglect had taken away from us. It was a time when people spoke of 'going home to Africa.'

Now, I want to be absolutely clear about this: I am intensely proud of that part of my heritage that sprang from the continent that is the cradle of humankind. But, I must also be honest; as someone who for the past fifty years has lived on four continents and worked in or visited nearly fifty countries, I think of home as the place where I came from, not the place where my ancestors -- known and unknown -- came from. That statement will, no doubt, not go down well with many, including many hyphenated Americans who mistake pride in the culture of their forebears for 'belonging' to that culture. I have a rather strict view of culture -- I believe that you cannot be 'of' a culture unless you grew up 'in' that culture. You can like it; you can even have a surface understanding of it; but, you cannot be of it in the way a person can who grew up in it and who takes its norms and practices for granted. Imagine if you will an Asian child, adopted at birth and raised in the U.S. Midwest. Even if that child is taught his or her native language while growing up, the first visit back 'home' will show that he or she is an outsider. I've seen this many times in Asia, and I know that the same holds true in other cultures as well. Often, I'm asked if, as a U.S. diplomat of African-American descent, I feel that I am at home in Africa. Well, I've done two official tours of duty in Africa -- one in West Africa and one in southern Africa -- and have visited six or seven other African countries. While I thoroughly enjoyed each visit, at no time have I felt a sense of home coming." Ray image from article

Civic Education Workshop for Future Leaders Exchange Program Students Kicks Off in Washington, DC, March 18-24 - state.gov: "The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs welcomes Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) students March 18-24 for a Civic Education Workshop in Washington, DC. On March 20, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Kathleen Stephens will address the students. On March 21, students will meet with Members of Congress and staff representing the districts of their American host families. The FLEX program gives students ages 15-17 from Eurasian countries the chance to live with an American host family and attend a U.S. high school for an academic year. The 100 students were chosen through an essay competition to participate in the Civic Education Workshop from approximately 800 students participating in FLEX this year. Participants in the workshop represent ten different countries from Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia, and are studying in 30 U.S. states. Throughout the week, participants will take part in seminars on the U.S. system of government and discussions with representatives of civic organizations and the media. Students will have a chance to meet with FLEX alumni to learn what they have done since returning home and how their FLEX exchange experience has influenced their careers and lives today. For additional details on the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), please visit http://exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/flex.html Media contact: Anna Griffin, GriffinAL@state.gov, (202) 679-3961." Via PD Dan on Twitter.

U.S. International Broadcasting Joins The Digital Age - Judi Hasson, '[R]ecognizing the changing times, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which oversee the government's worldwide broadcasting outlets, are embracing these 21st century platforms to connect with 187 million people a week. 'We are trying to be at the forefront of all the digital innovations that come down the road,'


said Richard Lobo, director of the IBB, which oversees operations of the BBG's five broadcast entities: VOA, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa.' Image from

Boadcasting Board of Governors – Forget Voice of America radio WHAM (Winning Hearts and Minds) - Quo Vadis, usgbroadcasts.com: "Th[e] non-sequitur in deciding to cut VOA Afghan broadcasts in spite of their importance and popularity is rivaled by the announcement in the FY-2013 budget that VOA will cut most of its English-language broadcasts to the world including China and the Middle East. This decision ignores the fact that according to some, English is or should be the official language of the United States, remains the language of diplomacy, culture, and commerce in the world as well as being the second language of choice for millions of people around the globe from Albania to Zambia.

One can only wonder if the BBC, plus Radio Canada International and Radio Australia, perhaps inspired by the daring VOA example, will soon cut its English-language broadcasts to the world as well. ... Although public diplomacy was indeed omitted in the latest in the latest [BBG] Strategic Plan, former BBG Chairman, Walter Isaacson, placed international broadcasting at the center of our national security. In his remarks when the Strategic Plan was unveiled, Mr. Isaacson said: 'Our media outlets – VOA, RFE/Radio Liberty, Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa, RFA, and Radio/TV Marti – are a vital, cost-effective national security asset, whose impact is felt by some 166 million people weekly across the globe where critical U.S. interests are at stake.' That difference of opinion is reflected in the current state of affairs at the BBG/IBB where there is an obvious disconnect about the true mission of international broadcasting between upper management and some middle-managers together with most of the rank-and-file. Over the past few years, that disconnect is also obvious with the U.S. Congress which has consistently overruled the plans of the BBG/IBB in the national interest and the interests of national security." Image from

Public diplomacy Californian style - Public and Cultural Diplomacy: 6A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University - "California is working closely with a number of companies and executives from Brand USA, Facebook and Air China to prepare for the year ahead with the 2012 Visit California Outlook Forum in Sacramento. The state has taken advantage of it’s [sic] international markets in countries such as Mexico, Canada, Germany and India to make this year even more successful than the last."

Century later, US cherry blossoms coup for Japan - AFP, posted at turkishpress.com: "A century before cultural diplomacy became a buzzword for governments around the world, Japan scored a spectacular success -- Washington's cherry blossoms, which have become one of the US capital's top tourist attractions. First planted in 1912 on central Washington's then barren Tidal Basin, the gifts from Japan each year now draw more than one million visitors who revel in the famously short-lived beauty of the blooming pink and white cherry petals. Japan and the United States

will mark the March 27 centennial of the first trees' planting with a month-long festival, but crowds are already eagerly strolling around the trees as warm weather brings an early bloom. ... [I]n the modern era, ... many governments have multimillion-dollar budgets to promote their cultures overseas in hopes of increasing their 'soft power.'" Image from

A Note on Public Communications -  "During my five years as Hungarian Ambassador in Washington, DC, we used public communications extensively—both traditional tools and 'outside the box' ones. Every day my staff and I were on the lookout for new outlets to portray our country in a positive light.  In that vein, my two appearances on the Colbert Report were, without doubt, the greatest achievements of them all. In terms of public policy these brief episodes overshadowed everything I had done in my capacity as the representative of a country that rightly has a saying: 'If the World is God's hat, Hungary is the flower bouquet on it.'  The first invitation to the show was prompted by Stephen Colbert entering a Bridge naming contest in Hungary, which was launched by the Ministry of Transportation. (Check it out on 'Colbert Nation: The Bridge.') Until Colber entered the competition, the leading contestants were Chuck Norris and Miklos Zrinyi, a 17th-century Hungarian national hero. Born of his desperate desire to win the competition, Stephen Colbert called our revered hero an a--hole!  Budapest was offended, up in arms, and demanded from me a quick and clear response to this unacceptable American behavior.


The second time around, Colbert was even tougher, calling the Hungarians 'paprika snorting Goulies', in an allusion to the pride of Hungarian Cuisine. (See it on 'Colbert Nation: The Apology.')  In both episodes, I could have chosen to be offended, much as a big part of the official Kazakh establishment was offended by Sacha Baron Cohen’s imaginary character Borat. Instead, I decided to face the deadly Colbert directly. When he first invited me to his show, I presented him with the news that he was the winner of the naming contest but laid out a series of conditions that were not only impossible to satisfy, but also made up. The second time around, now that I knew that his weakness was his larger than life ego (that is, his on-screen persona; the real Stephen Colbert is generous and nice), I simply brought him a gift: a beautiful electric guitar made by a Hungarian luthier. I came away with one of the biggest pro-Hungarian public diplomacy coups ever: Stephen told the guest who appeared on the show after me that I was 'small, but dignified.' But seriously, this was Hungary, and the Hungarians, receiving the appreciation of Stephen Colbert in front of millions of Americans.  To go on the show required some self-confidence, humility and courage. It was no trick, no gimmick. It was a result of a long and meticulous study of the American media, and, last but not least, a thorough understanding of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the unique American attitude toward free speech and open debate, Washington is the most difficult terrain for any foreigner trying to influence U.S. political thinking and perceptions.


It is, in particular, a nightmare for public affairs offices in some countries and especially for propaganda ministries in others. The first are bound to score successes; the latter are bound to fail. Breaking through the haze of world and local news, politics, and celebrity-driven agenda is difficult but not impossible. Content matters, one must be able to distinguish between different kinds of communications—the serious and the lowly, the scholarly and the official, the formal and the informal. Presentation matters too. The most important thing is that you want to be good news. And the messages must be to the point, well founded, innovative, elevated and respectful. They must be measured, and, as I have heard many times as a response to my own efforts, you must know when enough is too much. Respect the three basic rules: moderation, moderation, moderation.  There are some other rules. Hold your head up high, but be modest. Always look for the root cause of criticism and make every effort to find common ground. Find out why that piece that upsets you was written; after all, maybe you are in the wrong. At times, rather than fighting back with thinly veiled defensive language, one must simply let go. Don't keep bad news on the front burner. A humorous comment, however harsh, doesn’t merit government response. And a comment by a scholar should not be confused with an official note. On the contrary, a scholarly view should trigger, perhaps even more than official statements, soul searching and reconsideration, because scholars by nature are looking for root causes, not short-term political debating points.  I play in a rock band called The Coalition of the Willing. There is much for politics to learn from a rock band, such as: louder is not better. Our lead guitarist and musical director, an official Guitar God, Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter, has a rule: Always leave the stage with people wanting more. These  are some of the thoughts that came to mind as I read the Hungarian government’s response to a recent article by Francis Fukuyama in The American Interest Online." Image (1) from (2) from

Browsing All Posts filed under 'Public Diplomacy' - Aldo Matteucci, Reflections on Diplomacy.

Image from blog

Are We Over-Analyzing Musical Dipomacy [sic]? - David Slatter, NKNews: "Diplomacy can come in many shapes and sizes, from the ping pong diplomacy of the 70s to China’s current panda diplomacy. These direct interactions and exchanges are a form of diplomacy that can prove more palatable and understandable to the general public. After all, the imagery of a cute panda frolicking in zoo is a more preferable image in the papers to that of hardnosed diplomatic negotiations; where such cuteness comes at a minimum.

As attention spans for politics shrink, views of nations can thus increasingly be shaped by arts, images, and events. Can North Korea capitalize on this with a new push of cultural diplomacy fronted by its musicians? Its Unhasu Orchestra are wrapping up their high-profile visit to Paris and they performed Wednesday last week. The eventwas [sic] unique in many ways; it is the first time this orchestra and most of it’s [sic] members have played abroad – France is one of the few remaining EU nations not to have diplomatic relations with North Korea – and on top of this the whole performance was conducted by South Korean Chung Myung-Whun (whose mother is from Wonsan in the North). ... Cultural diplomacy between the DPRK and Western nations can never flourish if it is constantly subjected to the pressure of wider geopolitics." Image from article

Djokovic given Serbia’s highest honor - floodnervoushank.demonsofdrift.com: "Serbian Tennis Federation president Vuk Jeremic described Djokovic, who was part of Serbia’s Davis Cup-winning team in 2010, as the greatest sporting hero the country has produced. 'Tennis has become the most popular sport in Serbia and a source of collective pride,' Jeremic told CNN of Djokovic’s impact. 'People identify with Novak, and draw great inspiration from his can-do, never-give-up attitude. He’s the role model — unbreakable, devoted, patriotic, charismatic.' As well as the impact Djokovic

has had on the court, Jeremic also hailed the positive impact he has had on Serbia’s image around the world. 'No athlete in our history has become such a national hero. And as far as Serbia’s image abroad is concerned — can you think of a better public diplomacy vehicle?' Djokovic will next be in action at the Dubai Tennis Championships at the end of this month for an event he has won the last three years." Djokovic image from article

774 ABC Melbourne, Mornings with Jon Faine: Subjects: Bob Carr; NSW Right bullying culture; Papua New Guinea - juliebishop.com.au: "JON FAINE [:] The other issue this morning concerns our new Minister for Foreign Affairs, former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, who has got himself into all sorts of strife in pretty much day one on the job, by some remarks he made on Sky News about Papua New Guinea.

JULIE BISHOP [:] Jon, this was Mr Carr’s first public statement about Papua New Guinea in his new role, and he chose to make it a threat with talk of condemning and isolating PNG and imposing sanctions. He chose a clumsy, heavy handed approach and as a result Papua New Guinea has called in our Diplomat in Port Moresby to explain. So Mr Carr has failed his first test of public diplomacy, but the most troubling aspect is that his instinct, when he was asked this hypothetical question about PNG, was to adopt a threatening, bullying tone." Image from article

Belarus, Armenia discuss issues of co-operation - neurope.eu: "On 15 March, Belarus and Armenia’s Foreign Ministries discussed political, economical, regional co-operation issues between Yerevan and Minsk. The sides also referred to the co-operation in frame of the international organisations and touched upon the possibility of expanding co-operation in public diplomacy sphere."

Brazil Declares War on Teen Smoking - Eric Ehrmann, Huffington Post: "Paraguay, with soft tobacco regulation, is the most corrupt nation in South America, with a rating of 154 on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. The high profile arrest in Paraguay of wealthy Brazilian cigarette smuggler Roque Silveira and a Chilean associate last March resulted in the quick release of both men. The Center for Public Integrity reports that Silveira, who was sent to prison for smuggling in the US in 2005, has high level connections in Paraguay's government Adding drama to the situation, public diplomacy propaganda pumped out of the US Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay has claimed that Hizbollah and other extremist organizations are using the trade in cheap cigarettes and duty-free items in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to fund terrorist operations."

RELATED ITEMS

Pentagon Seeks to Manipulate Social Media for Propaganda Purposes - globalresearch.ca: The Pentagon is looking to build a tool to sniff out social media propaganda campaigns and spit some counter-spin right back at it. On Thursday, Defense Department extreme technology arm Darpa unveiled its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. It’s an attempt to get better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media. SMISC has two goals. First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself. This is more than just checking the trending topics on Twitter. The Defense Department wants to deeply grok social media dynamics. So SMISC algorithms will be aimed at discovering and tracking the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” on social media, according to Darpa’s announcement.

Russia: No U.S. Financing of Russian Parties - Embassy - en.ria.ru: The U.S. embassy in Russia on Tuesday denied that the U.S. government provides any financing for Russian opposition political parties.“The U.S. government has never financed and will not finance Russian political parties, movements, candidates or politicians.

Only bilateral exchanges and independent non-governmental organizations,” the U.S. embassy in Moscow cited U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul in its official Twitter account. McFaul image from article

US Does a Great Job of Repelling Tourists - Patricia H. Kushlis, Whirled View

Iran then and now: As Tehran faces off with Israel, the United States and Europe, it's worth remembering how the Islamic Republic fights -- dirty and long - By Stephen Schlesinger, latimes.com: Today, Iran is facing down Israel, the U.S. and Europe over its nuclear program. Tehran will not play the same passive victim that Syria or Iraq did after Israel unilaterally bombed their nuclear facilities.

Image from article, with caption: A picture released by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's website shows Ahmadinejad, center, greeting his supporters in the city of Karaj. Ahmadinejad seems unimpressed by Western threats over the country's nuclear programs.

The Bogus Iran Intelligence Debate Ignore the media leaks. Tehran's nuke program is hiding in plain sight - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: For real intelligence, merely consider that a regime that can take a rock in its right hand to stone a woman to death should not have a nuclear bomb within reach of its left. Even a spook can grasp that.

Iran will hit back at any attack with equal measure: Leader - presstv.ir: Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the Iranian nation will respond in kind to any possible attack on its soil by the US or Israel. “We do not possess a nuclear weapon and we will not build one, but we will defend ourselves against any aggression, whether by the US or the Zionist regime, with the same level [of force],” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday in an address to large crowds of people in the northwestern Iranian city of Mashhad on the occasion

of Nowruz (Iranian new year). The leader said Washington and its allies are well aware that Iran is neither in possession nor in pursuit of nuclear weapons and the real reason behind their enmity against Iran is their thirst for the nation’s oil. “Global arrogance chiefs, those in positions of power and wealth, and their agents in our region are trying to intimidate the Iranian nation with all their financial, propaganda and political resources,” Ayatollah Khamenei added. Khamenei image from article

The Message From Egypt's Generals: Doubling down on thuggishness with help from U.S. money - Maikel Nabil Sanad, Wall Street Journal: Why are the Egyptian people not allowed to enjoy the same rights and freedoms that Americans have? How does a democratic country give weapons to militarists knowing that they will be used against democratic activists? And if military aid given to Egypt is supposed to support the cold peace between Egypt and Israel, then why have Egyptian authorities never stopped targeting peace activists or spreading anti-Israel propaganda? Mr. Sanad, a blogger and former law student, was released in January after serving 10 months in an Egyptian prison.

Aljazeera propaganda exposed: "Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage".(thanks Sam) - Posted by As'ad AbuKhalil at 11:14 AM

PFP raises objections to beef leaflets - taipeitimes.com: People First Party (PFP) caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) yesterday urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to stop what it says is a propaganda campaign surrounding its policy to allow conditional imports of US beef containing residues of the feed additive ractopamine. The Government Information Office (GIO) on Monday produced 250,000 leaflets and fliers to explain what ractopamine is, why the government plans to ease the import ban and the benefits the policy

would bring the country. Local governments and KMT lawmakers are responsible for handing out 10,000 copies, 100,000 copies were distributed with newspapers yesterday, while the rest will be distributed in magazines. Image from article, with caption: Staff from the Taipei Health Department inspect various containers of meat at a local food company in Taipei yesterday.

Russian Blogger Wants to Jam State TV Signal - Ira Iosebashvili, Wall Street Journal: Russian authorities may have tolerated the anti-government rallies leading up to presidential elections earlier this month, but they’re unlikely to be equally open-minded towards Alexei Navalny’s latest idea. Outraged by a recent state television documentary claiming the opposition hired people to participate in a wave of pre-election protests, Mr. Navalny wants to fight what he calls Kremlin propaganda in the most direct way possible—jamming frequencies used by government channels and using them to broadcast his own message. “Through a not-very-powerful device assembled by one’s own hands, it’s possible to shut down the signal of NTV or Channel One and replace it with a little bit of truth,” Mr. Navalny wrote in his blog.A blogger and anti-corruption activist, Mr. Navalny has become one of the opposition’s most recognizable leaders, with some commentators predicting he may one day attempt a presidential run of his own.

Madonna urged to cancel St Petersburg gig in August: American-Russian journalist Masha Gessen calls for St Petersburg boycott over ‘gay propaganda’ law - gaystarnews.com: A Moscow-based journalist has today urged pop idol Madonna to cancel a concert in St Petersburg on 9 August because of the ‘homosexual propaganda’ law in the city which went into effect on Saturday. Writing on the New York Times Latitude blog website, Masha Gessen, who holds dual American and Russian nationality and lives in Moscow, pleads with readers ‘not to visit’ St Petersburg which she describes as "one of the most beautiful cities on earth."

"I am especially asking you not to go if you are the singer Madonna, who is scheduled to play a concert there on 9 August," she writes. "And if you are Mercedes-Benz or PepsiCo, the two foreign companies that have signed on as partners of this year’s economic forum, scheduled to take place there 21 to 23 June, I am asking you to pull out." Gessen image from article

Russia Could Face Backlash Following Passage Of Anti-Gay Propaganda Law - thinkprogress.org: LGBT activists are pressuring the international community to punish Russian lawmakers for enacting a law in St. Petersburg that fines individuals and organizations that “promote” homosexuality to minors. The group GayRussia is asking authorities in the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, France and Germany “to impose bans on entries to these countries for Vitaly Milonov, the author of the scandalous ‘anti-gay law’ and Georgy Poltavchenko, St. Petersburg governor who adopted the law by signing the final draft.” “Milonov and Poltavchenko have disgraced Russia all over the world. They have turned our country and its ‘culture capital’ into the medieval barbaric times, what that means is that there is no place for them in the contemporary civilized countries. Milonov and Poltavchenko do not share the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Belarus underground culture defies KGB goons - Nikolaj Nielsen, euobserver.com: Underground culture is flourishing in the heart of Belarus despite regime attempts to establish control. In public, the residents of Minsk consume a cocktail of Western pop culture and lumbering propaganda: concert posters for rockers Megadeath and jazz-man Kenny G adorn city walls alongside notices of operatic-military stage performances in the country's National Theatre.

Meanwhile, the likes of 27-year old Maryna Yurevich stage - illegaly - world-class plays in a tumble-down house in a north-Minsk suburb. She belongs to the Belarus Free Theatre, which last year took first prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for its play A Reply to Kathy Acker: Minsk 2011 about homophobia and prostitution in Belarus' dysfunctional society. In Thessaloniki in 2008, it took the European Theatre Prize. Image with caption: The Belarus Free Theater in Minsk - non-existant [sic] according to officials, but celebrated around the world (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

Report: US government spent at least $945M on advertising in 2010 - foxnews.com: According to Congressional Research Service, over the last 100 years, Congress has enacted three statutory restrictions on agency communications with the public -- one to limit hiring of publicity experts, another to prohibit using budget money to lobby Congress, and one to ban using budget money for "publicity or propaganda."

IRISH-AMERICAN RELATIONS

Irish Politicians Have Fashion Disasters, Too, Just Like Us! - Princess Sparkle Pony's Photoblog: "I really don't pay much attention to the State Dept. since Condi left. It was, like, that's totally enough of that. But this picture from Hillary's day jumped out at me this afternoon.

Hillary looks fine, maybe a little frowsy, but she wearing a fab ultra-nubby blue tweed coat matched nicely with some expensive-looking lapis jewelry. And thank goodness she got rid of that ridiculous flip hairdo. No, my problem is with First Minister Robinson. What on earth is he wearing?

This is so bad: I'm going to be charitable and assume that he's still hung over from St. Patrick's day."

AMERICANA

In vitro babies denied U.S. citizenship - Michele Chabin, USA Today: Jerusalem – Chicago native Ellie Lavi could not have been happier when she gave birth to beautiful twin girls overseas. She found that the U.S. State Department did not share in her joy when she went to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to apply for citizenship for her children. An embassy staffer wanted to know whether Lavi got pregnant at a fertility clinic. She said yes and was told that her children were not eligible for citizenship unless she could prove that the egg or sperm used to create the embryo was from an American citizen.

RUSSICA

"14.Более 2/3 женщин предпочтут шоколад, а не секс." (More than 2/3 of women prefer chocolate, not sex.)

--Любовь Воропаева on Facebook. See also.

PROPER TOILET MANNERS


Hitler toilet-paper wants you to add the mustache - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing: DrawTheShitler sells rolls of toilet roll printed with a caricature of a mustache-less Hitler. You supply the mustache when you wipe.

MODESTY

Colleen Graffy ‏ @Colleen_Graffy Reply RetweetedRetweet Delete FavoritedFavorite · Close Open Details "What is US Doing to Improve Its Image Abroad?"

audience at Pepperdine SPP will find out--from me! #PublicDiplomacy. Image from tweet

IRONIC QUOTATION FROM JOHN L. BROWN, FATHER OF THIS BLOG'S COMPILER

"Let's talk about something interesting -- let's talk about me"

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