Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 29-30

"Do you want VOA advertisements on the DC Metro?"

--A comment during a discussion on amending the Smith-Mundt Act;  image from


American Voices YES Academy Iraq. Via PR


a) Public Diplomacy in Northeast Asia: A Comparative Perspective - "On May 30, the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies (CNAPS) at Brookings will host a discussion examining the use of public diplomacy in Northeast Asia. Leading experts will discuss the objectives, practices, opportunities and challenges in public diplomacy for China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Panelists will address the history of public diplomacy in each country, how it is defined and the societal and governmental structures under which public diplomacy is practiced. They will also discuss the public diplomacy goals and practices of each nation, offering suggestions for the enhancement of public diplomacy."

b) Understanding the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, Washington, D.C. (3:00 PM, Thurs 31 May) -  Heritage Foundation: "Description: Controversy has swirled around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act since it passed mark-up as an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act on May 18. The bill is now before the Senate. The Smith-Mundt Act, which established public diplomacy and international broadcasting as activities of the U.S. government, has been in force since 1948. One of its provisions prohibits U.S. citizens from accessing the public diplomacy products of the U.S. government, whether in print or on the airwaves. The purpose of this provision was to prevent domestic government propagandizing. Yet, in an age when global news and information flows are available 24/7 in print, on the airwaves, and online, this prohibition has become an anachronism. Critics on the left and right alike have charged that modernizing the Smith-Mundt Act will lift the floodgates for U.S. government propaganda aimed at U.S. citizens. Not so. Rather, the amended act will force greater government transparency and accountability and it will allow Americans insights into what Washington is communicating to audiences around the world. Join us as our panel examines these and other aspects of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act. Participants: Juliana Geran Pilan, Director, Center for Culture and Security and professor, Politics and Culture, Institute of World Politics; The Honorable Joseph Duffey, former director, United States Information Service; Helle Dale, Moderator, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy, Heritage Foundation. Location: Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC 20002-4999"


Ted Lipien - Facebook : "Public diplomacy blunders of major proportions. Was his speech cleared by State Department and NSC? Poles Demand Obama Apology For 'Polish Death Camps' [The president referred to 'Polish death camps' while awarding a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Polish professor Jan Karski, a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance]" Image from. See also.

'Gafa Obamy': A presidential faux pas mangles World War II history and insults Poland
- Matthew Kaminsky, Wall Street Journal: "Sometimes the best-intentioned gesture can backfire on the unwitting politician. This is the story of President Obama and the Poles. ... at the White House celebration [cited above] ... [Obama] read off the teleprompter, that Jews were being murdered. On second reference, Mr. Obama noted it was a Nazi camp. Too late. The damage was done. 'Gafa Obamy,' declared Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's leading daily newspaper, in a story about 'Obama's gaffe' on its website. The linguistic faux pas went viral. In another day this would have been ridiculed as a 'Bushism,' before we got a president with a Harvard Law degree who claimed to practice 'smart diplomacy.'"

NA speaker’s rulings must be respected: Fehmida Mirza - "Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza on Wednesday said the speaker is custodian of the house whose rulings should be respected as has been provided in Rules of the Procure and Conduct of Business. ... In her inaugural address, the speaker National Assembly thanked the US government and the USAID, for their support for construction and provision of a fully equipped and furnished PIPS new campus at a cost of $11.5 million. 'This is, indeed, a valuable gift from the people of United States to the developing democracy of Pakistan,' she said adding the parliamentarians are required to be well-versed with all legal, social and strategic developments, taking place in the society.

She said the executive and the judiciary had long established their respective training institutes but the parliament was kept deprived of any such supportive mechanism. She said it was through strict belt tightening by the National Assembly that purchased this piece of land for PIPS at the cost of Rs. 34 million from our own budget and the operations would be funded by in the ratio of one-third and two-third by the Senate and National Assembly respectively. 'This building is a gift from the American people,' said the US Ambassador Cameron Munter in his remarks at the ceremony that was also attended by the US Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine. He said the building was envisaged in 2005 and has been turned into reality after seven-year untiring efforts of the speaker NA and PIPS team, adding the institute would held the legislative branch of the parliament in legislation to help strengthen democracy. Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Baloch said the PIPS campus is not only model for the country but also the Asian region that would help strengthen parliamentary performance having ultimate positive impacts on democratic system. Later, the speaker along with US dignitaries unveiled the plaques of the four-floor new PIPS campus featuring offices, seminar halls, a library, and a hi-tech auditorium. The electricity for the building is generated, in part, by the first and largest solar power station installed on the building in Pakistan and the solar power is synchronised with the grid-supplied electricity. The building, designed by prominent architect Nayyar Ali Dada, has been equipped with highest level of quake resistance." Image from article, with caption: Speaker National Assembly Dr Fahmida Mirza shakes hand with US Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs after inaugurating Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) on Tuesday

Mirza, Sonenshine Inaugurated US funded PRI - "Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza and the visiting US Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine joined by US Ambassador Cameron Munter Wednesday. inaugurated the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Service (PIPS) here.

PIPS will be housed in a $11.5 million facility built and furnished by the US government and will serve as an independent research and training center for all of Pakistan’s legislative bodies. 'This building is a gift from the American people,' said Ambassador Munter in remarks at the ceremony. 'It is an expression of our deep partnership and commitment to democracy and the people of Pakistan.' The four-floor, 55,000 sq. ft. facility houses state-of-the-art computer systems, offices, seminar rooms, a library, and an auditorium. The institute will support professional development and orientation programs for parliamentarians and staff and will provide data collection and research tools to help parliamentarians better serve the people with effective public policy." Image, presumably of Mirzha, from article

Revise Smith-Mundt? - John H. Trattner, "What to make of the renewed discussion of Smith-Mundt? A bill to revise this ancient law is part of the version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which the House of Representatives will pass sometime in the summer. It would reverse a central intent of the old law by making motion pictures, films, video, audio, and other materials prepared for dissemination abroad or disseminated abroad---material designed primarily for foreign audiences---available in the United States. The modernized law would apply to the Department of State as a whole (not just its PD operations) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Is the revision of Smith-Mundt necessary? Many experienced observers think so. The bill, they say, would bring key, overdue improvements to the original 1948 legislation. First, and arguably most important, would be the lifting of the veil that supposedly shields U.S. public diplomacy programs from the knowledge of taxpaying Americans who are financing them. In 1967, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information said it best: 'The American taxpayer should no longer be prohibited from seeing and studying the product a government agency produces with public funds for overseas audiences. Students in schools and colleges all over this country who are interested in government, foreign affairs and international relations should not be denied access to what the U.S. government is saying about itself and the rest of the world.' Second, in the era of the Internet and speed-of-light communications, the revised law would acknowledge the reality that Americans, like everyone else, can get just about any message on any topic from anywhere in the world, including reflected-back versions of what U.S. public diplomacy generates. Third, the revision would remove the time-consuming requirement that public diplomacy plans pass the original Smith-Mundt litmus test. As Steven Corman wrote recently in ComOps Journal, it would "...prevent our strategic communication agencies from spending time/resources trying to stop the inevitable. Not only is this a waste of resources but it inhibits our ability to respond to events in a timely manner when communication plans have to be reviewed by teams of lawyers in an effort to comply with an archaic law.' Okay. All this seems fact-based and reasonable. But critics of the House bill suggest that the revised law could be used with malign intent by those who manage it in years to come. They fear the day when wrong-minded administrations of the future wield it to further their domestic goals and political fortunes, or to hurt their opponents, or both. And that, of course, is possible. More than once in the last 40 years we have seen the damage done by leaders who tried to twist or evade American law for political or ideological reasons. Still, the proposed law seems well hedged in by explicit anti-propaganda language and financial strictures. Among other limitations, these would make any attempted misuse of it clearly and directly challengeable. On balance, it's indeed time to revise Smith-Mundt. But with two words to keep in mind: En garde."

Broadcasting Board of Governors – Thoughts on Smith-Mundt And More - The Federalist, USC Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "Repealing Smith-Mundt is a bad idea – a very bad idea. The repealing legislation is HR 5736, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. It would 'authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.' Burying the amendment in a Defense Department appropriations bill makes it look worse – as if the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) are trying to sneak something through – thinking no one would catch it. Deviousness – a trademark behavior of the bureaucrats of this agency. Americans like to be free thinkers. ... But more than likely, one unifying sentiment among all of them may very well be that they don’t want the government telling them what to think – or to parse 'news and information' in such a way as to turn it into propaganda directed at them. One thing that makes people particularly wary is this agency’s reputation for spinning information about itself. Some people worry most that if Smith-Mundt is repealed that the primary target audience won’t be foreign. It will be domestic: the American people. Did you notice that phrase, “…and for other purposes?” Do you know what that means? Anything the IBB careerists/bonus mongers want it to mean – up to and including trying to sell the bogus 'flim flam strategic plan' and the equally bogus claims of agency successes to the American people. It’s all baloney, to put it mildly. ... Know too that this agency is doing everything it possibly can to disguise the fact that it is an agency of the Federal government. Part of the deception is with its attempts to create and then hide behind a 'Global News Network' moniker, likely modeled along the lines of the Cable News Network (CNN) whose former executives now hold senior positions with the agency. Know also that it is attempting to de-Federalize its workforce – the last line of defense that the American people have in knowing just how far gone this agency has become. The “Global News Network” would likely be at the forefront to propagandize American citizens – something not even remotely recognizable like the 'Voice of America.' ... In a desperate attempt to survive, this agency’s bureaucrats – trying to keep their six-figure salaries and bonus-hoarding gravy train rolling – now seek to target the American people as a primary audience."

Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences” - Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner: "An honest appraisal of the [Smith-Mundt] Modernization Act requires an honest representation of the original Smith-Mundt Act, especially it’s [sic] so-called 'firewall.' ... It is true that Nazi propaganda and President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee for Public Information, also known as the Creel Commission [sic], were fresh on the minds of the Congress. As with so much about Smith-Mundt, ironically, these memories had a very substantial in [sic] role in creating the demand for the Voice of America. Too often ignored, however, was the effort to protect the Government from a State Department that enjoyed little trust and confidence from the Congress. From the information activities to the programs for the 'interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills,' the Congress made its clear its concerns that the State Department may intentionally, or inadvertently, undermine the American way of life for reasons ranging from the 'New Dealers' to the liberal culture of the Department itself."

Smith-Mundt Modernization Proposed For Department of State - Lawrence Dietz: " HR 5736, Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 was introduced in the house by Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA). (See for the official text). According to the Mountain Runner Blog (, a respected Blog in the area of Public Diplomacy, the proposed change would apply on to the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The intent of the change is to remove the restriction on domestic access to public diplomacy (and other Department of State) materials to foster domestic awareness concerning public diplomacy messages and activities. Section 208 of the bill includes: '(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure. Such material may be made available within the United States and disseminated, when appropriate, pursuant to sections 502 and 1005 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1462 and 1437), except that nothing in this section may be construed to authorize the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors to disseminate within the United States any program material prepared for dissemination abroad on or before the effective date of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012.' Proponents argue that the American taxpayer has a right to know and see for themselves what their State Department is doing abroad with their money. The law is clear that it will only be prospective, that it will apply only to material produced after the law is effective. The proposed law is also intended to insure that the Department of State can engage globally without the legal impediment of a restriction against access to the information by domestic audiences.

The bill is clear that it concerns only State Department information and does not pertain to the Department of Defense. In previous posts I’ve argued that MISO personnel and equipment would very likely be pressed into service in major domestic incidents where there is a need to communicate/inform the local population and where there aren’t enough commercial or local resources can’t do the job. Normally this ‘voice of the CDR’ role would be undertaken by the PAO, but PAO lacks the means to do so. Assuming Smith-Mundt adequately addresses the Department of State, then it would seem that other legislation that would address the Homeland Security aspects of MISO utilization. In some respects this would be analogous to an exemption under Posse Comitatus. Under Posse Commitatus military personnel can be employed for law enforcement – we need to exempt MISO from its domestic limitation so that it can be effectively employed in furtherance of Homeland Security." Dietz Image from blog, with following quotation: "If you were a cannibal, what would you wear to dinner? you don't"

The domestic dissemination ban probably won't be relaxed. Now will it be enforced? - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: “Americans can know 'whether the content of VOA is in fact truthful or propagandistic,' because VOA content is available at the VOA websites. The real question is, now that the domestic dissemination ban will not be relaxed, will it be enforced? It would be a simple matter to prevent VOA and other USIB websites from reaching US IP addresses. The BBC prevents its video archives and other content from being accessed outside the UK, and its commercial international websites from being accessed inside the UK.The internet and satellite finally make the domestic dissemination ban enforceable. Geoblocking can do it with the internet. The satellite footprints of USIB can cover every part of the world except the United States. Ironically, the old and derided shortwave radio was the only medium that could not be stopped from propagating back into the United States, even if the signal was nominally beamed to some other part of the world. Key to salvaging any hope of relaxing the domestic dissemination ban is the need to convince people that VOA and USIB are in the news business, not the propaganda business. This endeavor is not helped by the fact that the BBG and it elements seem uncertain of the concept, and even uncertain of which concept they are uncertain of. Confusion could result from the BBG's ambiguous new mission statement. And note in a recent BBG press release that one person is described as a VOA journalist and ‘a tireless campaigner for human rights.’ Both are noble vocations, but can one actually simultaneously be both? In the same sentence? Future legislation might address specific problems. One bill could assist US ethnic media in their need for news about their audiences' home countries in the language of their home count[r]ies. US international broadcasting can perform a valuable public service here at no additional cost to the taxpayers. Another bill could guarantee the right of Americans to access any content (reimbursing for costs if there are any) of US international broadcasting. See previous post about same"

Via VOA, US forces deny report of US incursions into North Korea - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting [see below "Related  Items."]

China’s Public Diplomacy - acqualife1, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 2: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University: "China’s public diplomacy has four main purposes. First of all, China would like to be considered by foreign powers as a hard working country that aims to provide its citizens with the best possible future. The government further attempts to familiarize people with their governmental procedures and programs through newspapers and magazines, the Internet and with academic exchanges should be seriously taken into consideration. Secondly, China would like to be seen as an established and reliable country that even though it is economically flourishing there is nothing to be suspicious or frightened about. Thirdly, Chinese government would like to be considered as prepared, efficient and also to be a reliable member of the international community ready to cooperate in achieving world peace. Finally, the country would like to be recognized by its important cultural legacy. On the other hand, China’s policies are still doubtful with unresolved issues like the Tibet affair, the China’s and Taiwan unification or the big problems of human rights within the country."

The First Soft-Power Superpower - Philip Seib, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "If the United States and other nations persist in engaging with China within the realm of public diplomacy, China might be nudged toward increased openness. This could enable the newest superpower to continue to rely on soft power."

An interesting few days in Chinese soft power - Public Diplomacy and International Communications: Thoughts and comments about public diplomacy, soft power and international communications by Gary Rawnsley: “Phil Seib of the USC Centre on Public Diplomacy has published an interesting blog on Chinese soft power I share Phil's assessment of China's exercise of soft power and its public diplomacy strategy.  Phil's posting comes at the end of a very interesting week which I think clearly reveals a degree of confusion in Beijing about what soft power is, how it works and what the government would like to achieve by exercising it. We witnessed a minor victory for China in persuading the US State Department to reverse a ruling on accreditation that would have had serious consequences for the work of the Confucius Institutes. Needless to say the major Chinese newspapers were extremely vocal in protest (though the escape of Chen Guangcheng's brother, Chen Guangfu, received no coverage). It is interesting to consider whether this reversal (as it was described by the Chinese media) by the State Department represents the impact of hard power on soft power in that traditional diplomatic institutions are engaged in dispute about the architecture of their soft power strategies(?) There is clearly an interaction taking place here that deserves further consideration. I have not found much coverage of this event in the American media and would welcome from my State-side friends any comments on whether and how this has been reported.  At the same time, China was extremely critical of the publication in the US of the State Department's annual report on human rights which singled out human rights abuses in the PRC. China's State Council Information Office almost immediately hit back by publishing its own Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011. More information is available  here While of course China is both entitled and correct to point out the double standards in US discourse, to do so in response to the publication of the US's report reveals the PRC's insecurity and lack of confi[d]ence in its growing stature; the reactive and defensive nature of China's [...]public diplomacy; and perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that China has still not learned that being able to tolerate (even if you cannot accept) international criticism is a major asset in soft power terms.  The final interesting development over the last week was the visit by 51 ambassadors and ministers from 49 countries to the Publicity Department. Not surprisingly the official Chinese media reported how the visitors had enjoyed their visit, had asked many interesting questions and learned a lot (see Of course diplomats would not say anything else in fear of insulting their hosts. What is important here is that the visit took place at all: the Publicity Department is the English name for the Propaganda Bureau of the Communist Party which is located in an unmarked building next to the seat of power in Beijing, Zhongnanhai. This seems to be another step in China's determination to convert (at least for foreign audiences) propaganda into public diplomacy. By far the best description of the structure and inner working of the Propaganda Bureau/Publicity Department is Anne-Marie Brady's Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China (2009).” See also

Chinese police storm into the era of social media - David Bandurski, We’ve written a great deal in recent weeks and months about how Chinese of all stripes — from journalists and lawyers to academics and the curious hoi polloi — have used social media to share information and perspectives on human rights,international affairspropaganda and public diplomacy. But while we emphasize the importance of microblogs as a popular and personal means of communication, we should not forget that they are also important tools for organizations and agencies — including those with a vested interest in controlling and spinning information. On May 24, People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Center released a list of China’s top influential microblogsoperated by public security offices at the provincial and sub-provincial level in China, determined on the basis of confirmed followers (认证粉丝数), follower activity levels (丝活跃率), original posts, average shares and comments and other criteria.

Image from article, with caption: An image shared by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau on its official Weibo account on May 29, 2012, showing Guangzhou police in action. A Sina Weibo button on the photo slideshow allows users to share photos on their own accounts with a click of the mouse.]

Nation branding complications for China and Israel - Madhurjya Kotoky, The Public Diplomacy Blog; "[T]he definition of a 'good product' and a 'bad product' is contentious. In addition, the standard of evaluation is distinctly different from the 'Political Brand DNA,' if I may use the term, of both China and Israel."

IDF documents Palestinian using human shield: Censored video shows terrorist use woman as human shield while planting explosives. Soldiers irked by ‘censorship’; IDF says not all footage taken by military is published - "The IDF imposed an embargo on a video allegedly documenting a Palestinian terrorist using a Palestinian woman as a human shield, Ynet discovered Sunday. Footage taken by IDF cameras in the area clearly shows the terrorist holding the woman hostage, carrying her as a barrier between himself and IDF forces. The video documents an incident that took place two weeks ago, near the Gaza border: Seven Palestinians planting explosive devices north of Beit Lahia were intercepted by IDF soldiers. The soldiers opened fire, injuring some of the men. The footage shows the terrorists running toward a group of farmers. Then, one of them grabbed a woman and carried her until taking cover behind a building.

Golani Brigade soldiers, who are currently deployed in the sector, and have had the opportunity to see the footage, said it was clear that the woman was forced to run with her assailant until he found cover. ‘Why don’t they give this video to the media? It should be shown to Goldstone,’ said one of the soldiers. The IDF spokesman’s unit said in response that,  ‘The IDF uses the various means in its disposal to document its operational activities for purpose of debriefing, public diplomacy and possible criminal action. Nevertheless, for security reasons not all documented events are released for publication.’” Image from article, with caption: One of the wounded men at a Gaza hospital

@AmbassadorOren on Why He Joined Twitter: The Israeli envoy discusses his job as diplomat to the public  A little over one month ago, Jewish Twitter received a conspicuous new member: Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (@AmbassadorOren). On his feed (which, he told me, he mostly writes himself), Oren shies from controversy, instead thanking various U.S. dignitaries for visiting or hosting him, linking to op-eds he’s published or speeches he’s given, and wishing folks a happy new week on Saturday evenings. But Oren, who when not wearing an official hat is a respected historian, has elsewhere drawn attention to his role not only as emissary of the Israeli government to the U.S. government but as a public diplomat, advancing the agenda of those he serves to the U.S. people. Most prominently, he forcefully responded on-air to claims in 60 Minutes concerning Israel’s treatment of Christians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Whether or not the question of Israeli diplomacy ought to be a particularly touchy subject, it is. So Oren’s joining Twitter—an unusually unmediated medium, if that makes sense—seemed a good time to ask him about the extent to which he sees conducting public diplomacy as his job; he responded in part with a history of the shifting role of the ambassador over the past several centuries. Why did you join Twitter?

I’m interested in the public diplomacy aspect of your job
. I come to this job at a crucial juncture in the relationship between Israel and the United States. We face great challenges in getting our message across. Today there are few alternatives as far-reach[i]ng and effective, with very wide audiences and young audiences, as Twitter. Twitter is another tool that enables me to communicate with other diplomats and journalists, while also allowing me to add a personal touch. Most young people aren’t necessarily reading your standard newspapers or watching evening news. You can also link them to things that we are putting out. I recently had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the challenges facing Israel’s reputation over the last 40 years, and I was able to able put that link out through the Twitter account and greatly multiply the readers. It’s our messaging. It’s also about listening. It’s a way that I learn what’s out there. And I get feedback, and that’s important.” Image from article: Ambassador Oren in 2010.

Eurovision 2012: In between propaganda and... propaganda - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "The Eurovision final was held a couple of days ago, and since I had promised to write more on the subject, I tried to put together some materials and personal reflections on what happened.

There were two major issues of note about this year's Eurovision, held in Azerbaijan: the attempted, and yet unsuccessful, 'public diplomacy' by the regime, and Armenia's 'boycott'." Image from article

Social Media’s Role in Aid Delivery and Programs - "While there is much discussion regarding the use of social media for crowdsourcing during humanitarian crises, there are other relevant applications of social media analysis and engagement on an ongoing basis. But first, some assumptions need to be addressed – namely that there is little use of social media by non-elites in developing nations. Such an assumption has lead to some missed opportunities and more based on some of our research. Often, in developing nations, social media services are accessed through mobile phones, either by texting to a social network or accessing it directly through an app on the phone. Non-elites or general society often access the Internet and social media services through Internet cafe’s or buying from an individual who has set up a private ISP service from their home. In our research projects in Sudan, Haiti, Benin, DRC, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries we estimated Internet use by the general population (non-elites) was on average, 43% higher than official estimates taken from reporting ISP’s in the country. By researching and analysing social media usage by civil society (both non-state organisational actors and individuals) aid agencies, governments helping in reconstruction or aid and other organisations, can gain some key insights into topical issues. They may identify areas where aid isn’t reaching or be able to better define political atmospherics, new groups to engage with and more meaningful dialogue opportunities. These are but some of the benefits to researching and understanding the engagement of civil society in social media today. Others become apparent when research is undertaken and aid organisations or governments can enhance their digital and public diplomacy activities."


Obama’s ‘secret kill list’ shows president is final word on terrorist killing missions - Dylan Stableford, When it comes to the "secret kill list"—a regularly updated chart showing the world's most wanted terrorists—President Barack Obama

is the "final moral calculation" in the kill or capture debate, according to the third in a series of  New York Times articles assessing his record. And despite his liberal background, Obama has taken an aggressive approach to counterterrorism. Image from article: The White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011

In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes breed anger, and sympathy for al-Qaeda
- Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post: Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists. Top image from article; bottom mage from article, with caption: Protesters in Sanaa, Yemen, shout during a May 29 march marking an attack last year by security forces on an anti-government camp in the southern city of Taiz.

Taliban Dubs Haqqani's Alleged Death as ‘Government Propaganda’ - Naharnet: The Taliban on Wednesday denied reports of the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Pakistani-linked Haqqani network which is regularly blamed for major attacks in Afghanistan. "We strongly dismiss the reports that Jalaluddin Haqqani is dead. He's alive," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Agence France Presse, attributing the reports to "government propaganda.”

Uncaptioned image from article

"We strongly dismiss the reports that Jalaluddin Haqqani is dead. He's alive," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Agence France Presse, attributing the reports to "government propaganda.”

State Dept’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program Costs Approx $1,800/Student Per Day of Training -

Image from entry

A Child’s Glossary for the War of Terror - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: Learning is fun! and knowing how to understand grownup language in the War of Terror is a duty for all children, just as it is important to brush your teeth each evening and report suspicious activity by your parents. Your Government wants you to do these things so it can protect you from scary terrorists. Bad men (many are gay– ask dad to explain) and women (most have had abortions) in the “media” will try and hurt your mind with words. You have to be strong to fight back against this “word terrorism.” We’ll help! People killed by US Drones = Militants or Terrorists (suspected terrorist is OK if liberal media, for now) People killed by Terrorists = Innocent Victims Innocent Victims Killed by US Drones = Accidents, Suspected Terrorist or Collateral Damage Innocent Victims Killed by Terrorists = Innocent Victims Bad Terrorists = Enemies, Mad Dogs Good Terrorists = Freedom Fighters (need help determining who is who? The State Department keeps a list of terrorist organizations. Check back frequently on the status of MEK.) Afghan Soldiers Who Kill American Soldiers = Terrorists wearing Afghan Army uniforms Iraqi Police Who Killed American Soldiers = Terrorists wearing Iraqi Police uniforms American Soldiers Who Sacrifice Themselves = Heroes Terrorists Who Sacrifice Themselves = Fanatics Powerful Belief in God = Righteous City on a Hill Powerful Belief in Allah = Fanatic People Who Touch Your

Private Parts in the Airport = TSA Patriots People Who Touch Your Private Parts at School = Pedophiles Empowering Women in America = Socialism Empowering Women in Afghanistan = Foreign Policy Killing People in Yemen = Defending America Killing People in US = Terrorism Massacre in Afghanistan = Random act of deranged individual soldier Massacre in Syria = Proof of whatever it is we think is wrong in Syria Weapons for One Side = Dangerous Escalation Weapons for the Other Side = Freedom Illegal Prisons, Wiretapping, Torture = Bush Illegal Prisons, Wiretapping, Torture = Obama And a few bonus items kids: Reasons Ambassadors and General Quit Early = Spend more time with family, health, give back to society “Militant” = all military-age males we kill America’s Most Important Foreign Policy Objective = Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, aw, just remember “We Have Always Been at War with Eastasia.” If you’re caught unaware of the right answer to a hard, hard question, just remember “If we do it, it is right and if they do it, it is wrong.” You’ll be right every time, just like America! BONUS: For those who think this is satire, much of Obama’s “success limiting civilian deaths in drone strikes is, in part, due to a disputed method for counting civilian casualties embraced by Obama. According to the New York Times, the White House considers ‘all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.’” Hah, because dead men tell no tales. We’ve come full circle now in America. The Obama policy is nearly identical to tying a suspected witch to a stone and throwing them in the river. If they drowned, then the old Salem inquisitors had their “posthumous proof” that they weren’t a witch. Image from article

How Al-Qaeda Exploits Palestine Cause -  When US Special Forces raided Osama bin Laden’s compound last year, they grabbed al-Qaeda documents describing internal debates, including how the terror group should continue exploiting Israel’s abuse of Palestinians as a crucial recruitment pitch, reports Robert Parry. The documents captured in last year’s raid that killed Osama bin Laden reveal al-Qaeda’s intent to keep its propaganda focus on Western double standards and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.One internal document, criticizing mistakes made in al-Qaeda’s public messaging, stated simply: “It was necessary to discuss Palestine first.” This emphasis on the plight of the Palestinians to rally support for an extreme Islamist agenda recurs throughout the documents, which were translated by West Point’s Center on Combating Terrorism and released this month.

U.S. denies parachuting spies into North Korea - Chico Harlan, Washington Post, posted at The U.S. military on Tuesday denied a report that it has been sending commandos into North Korea to spy on underground military facilities, a mission that would violate the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. A U.S. military statement said the Diplomat, an Asia-Pacific current affairs journal, had "taken great liberal license" with comments attributed to Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of special operations for U.S. Forces Korea. Tolley reportedly said at a conference last week that U.S. and South Korean commandos parachute into the North to conduct reconnaissance on underground tunnels. "Quotes have been made up and attributed to him," the U.S. statement said. "No U.S. or [South Korean] forces have parachuted into North Korea." But analysts warned that North Korea, despite the U.S. denial, could seize the initial report as evidence of American belligerence, a central theme of its propaganda and a key rationale for its military spending and provocations. 

BBC Wages Propaganda War on Syria - Stephen Lendman, Millions globally follow BBC reports regularly. Most perhaps don't know they get propaganda, not real news, commentary and opinion. Since established in October 1922, it's operated as a UK imperial tool.

The threat to global health from the hunt for bin Laden - David Ignatius, Washington Post: Recruit a Pakistani doctor to collect blood samples that could identify Osama bin Laden’s family, under cover of an ongoing vaccination program. But as an ethical matter, it was something else. The CIA’s vaccination gambit put at risk something very precious — the integrity of public health programs in Pakistan and around the globe. It also added to the dangers facing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a world that’s increasingly hostile to U.S. aid organizations.Intelligence operations, by definition, operate in a gray area where the normal legal and ethical rules get fuzzy. But some intelligence tactics, such as using health workers overseas, should be off-limits: If the operations are blown, the consequences will be too damaging, in unintended ways, to innocent people.

Defeating jihad: To finish the war against Islamist terrorism, the U.S. and its allies need different approaches to Afghanistan and Pakistan - Dilip Hiro, Los Angeles Times: Any resolution to the Afghan war must involve engagement with the Taliban and an attempt to draw them into a power-sharing deal in post-2014 Afghanistan. President Obama's recent signing of the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership with the Karzai government should give the two presidents greater confidence in negotiations with the Taliban if and when these are resumed. The challenge that the West faces in Pakistan requires a different approach. In Pakistan, Al Qaeda's leaders and their allies have established themselves in the semiautonomous tribal belt along the Afghan border, and they remain committed to pursuing global jihadism.

Pakistan must end its equivocation and combine a forceful move against violent jihadists with a vigorous campaign of education, information and propaganda through state-run electronic media and through mosques run by moderate clerics. Image from article, with caption: This undated file photo reportedly shows rarely photographed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Osama Bin Laden befriended Omar, which led to Omar adopting global jihad as his movement's ideological anchor.

At U.S.C., Media Training for Afghan Students - Michael Cieply, Before he became famous in the media world as the chief executive of MTV, and then its parent, Viacom, Tom Freston had a less glorious career as the proprietor of a clothing company based in Afghanistan. Things ended badly, by Mr. Freston’s account, when he had to leave the country in 1978 on the heels of a coup. “There was too much shooting in the streets,” he recalled. But his love affair with Afghanistan continued. And Mr. Freston, fired from his Viacom position by Sumner Redstone in 2006, has been quietly stealing time from his current career as a consultant and entrepreneur to connect the dots of his far-flung experiences — from untamed Afghanistan to the unruly media future — via a little-noticed program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Kept under wraps until now because of security concerns, the program, entering its second year, enrolls two Afghan students annually for a crash course in the cinema school’s summer program.

National Security and International Exchange - Elizabeth Redden: "Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivered a rousing oration in favor of international education and exchange Tuesday. Addressing the thousands gathered for the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference, Gates described foreign language education, study abroad, and the recruitment of foreign students to U.S. campuses as key strategies in promoting America’s national security and economic interests. No policy has proven more successful in making friends for the United States than educating [international] students at our colleges and universities,” Gates said. Gates called the U.S. military “one of the most enthusiastic proponents” of international exchange, its officers having gained “a unique appreciation for the limits of what military power can do.”

The triumph of English - Gwynne Dyer, Last week one of the most respected universities in Italy, the Politecnico di Milano, announced that from 2014 all of its courses would be taught in English. There was a predictable wave of outrage all across the country, but the university's rector, Giovanni Azzoni, simply replied: "We strongly believe our classes should be international classes, and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language. Universities are in a more competitive world. If you want to stay with the other global universities, you have no other choice." The university is not doing this to attract foreign students. It is doing it mainly for its own students who speak Italian as a first language, but must make their living in a global economy where the players come from everywhere and they all speak English as a lingua franca. Many other European universities, especially in Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, have taken the same decision, and the phenomenon is now spreading to Asia. There is a huge shift under way, and it has become extremely rare to meet a scientific researcher or international businessperson who cannot speak fluent English. Via MC on Facebook

Russia's New Propaganda Minister - Michael Bohm, Moscow Times: With Monday's announcement that historian Vladimir Medinskywas appointed the culture minister, critics quickly labeled him the country's new propaganda minister. Considering his checkered past, this may not be far from the truth. At the top of Medinsky's patriotic agenda is his battle against what he believes to be widespread Russophobia — both from foreigners and Russians. He is the author of a series of books on the most common "myths" about Russia — above all, a belief that Russians are historically inclined toward alcoholism, laziness, corruption and strong leaders. In the preface to each book, he explains that the series was not written for foreigners, most of whom will probably always cling to these deeply ingrained stereotypes, but for Russians who have read and heard so much malicious anti-Russian propaganda that they have actually started to believe some of it.

The other aspect of Medinsky's patriotic agenda has been to battle historians, journalists and authors who purportedly distort and besmirch Russian history. From 2010 to 2012, he served as a member of the presidential commission against the falsification of history. Ever since the Soviet period, the Kremlin has always believed that it can manufacture and inculcate patriotism in Russians. As culture minister, Medinsky is highly qualified to continue this tradition. Russian ministry of culture site at. Via NI on Facebook. Image from article

Crackdown on Chinese Bloggers Who Fight the Censors With Puns - Michael Wines, New York Times: One of China’s largest hosts of Twitter-like microblogs decreed new punishments on Monday for users who post comments that its editors — and by extension, China’s government censors — deem inappropriate. The service, Sina Weibo, imposed “user contracts” that award each of its 300 million microbloggers a starting score of 80 points. Points can be deducted for online comments that are judged to be offensive. When a blogger reaches zero, the service stated, a user’s account will be canceled. Users who suffer lesser penalties can restore their 80 points by avoiding violations for two months. Deductions will cover a wide range of sins, including spreading rumors, calling for protests, promoting cults or superstitions and impugning China’s honor, the service stated. Via MC on Facebook

Young and Global Need Not Apply in Japan - Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times: Notoriously insular, corporate Japan has long been wary of embracing Western-educated compatriots who return home. But critics say the reluctance to tap the international experience of these young people is a growing problem for Japan as some of its major industries — like banking, consumer electronics and automobiles — lose ground in an increasingly global economy. Discouraged by their career prospects if they study abroad, even at elite universities, a shrinking portion of Japanese college students is seeking higher education in the West. At the same time, Japan’s regional rivals, including China, South Korea and India, are sending increasing numbers of students overseas — many of whom, upon graduation, are snapped up by companies back home for their skills, contacts and global outlooks. At American universities, 21,290 Japanese students were registered last year, fewer than half the number a decade ago — even though the overall number of Japanese enrolled in college has been constant, at around 3 million. American universities last year had 73,350 students from South Korea, which has less than half of Japan’s population. Via ACP III on Facebook

Ukraine attacks BBC Euro2012 propaganda - Ukraine Foreign Ministry has condemned the state-run BBC’s arrogance and xenophobia in portraying the people in UEFA’s Euro 2012 co-hosts, Ukraine and Poland, as racist and violent. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Voloshyn described the BBC’s portrayal as “outrageous” saying his county “is one of the leaders in Europe in terms of religious and racial tolerance.” Voloshyn’s comments came after the BBC aired a documentary as part of its Panorama program which tried to paint a violent and racist image of the Ukrainian and polish nations by showing footage of such incidents during football matches in Ukraine and Poland. However, Voloshyn hit out at the BBC saying it is shameful for the British state broadcaster to misuse such lame proof to pretend the Euro 2012 hosts are not safe for travelers, just one week before the games begin. “Nazi symbols can be seen at ... any match in England, but does it mean that fans should not come to London for the Olympics?” he said.

This comes as UEFA’s Euro 2012 director in Ukraine Markian Lubkivsky also dismissed the BBC’s claims as irrelevant. “From UEFA’s point of view, I see no threats for citizens of various nationalities to stay in Ukraine,” Interfax News agency quoted Lubkivsky as saying. Meanwhile, Poland’s government body in charge of the games said the problems the BBC tried to pinpoint in the country is “specific to the whole of Europe.” “The problem of stadium pathologies, such as xenophobia or racism, is a problem specific to the whole of Europe and not only to Poland,” said Mikolaj Piotrowski, a spokesman for the body. “As in every European country, it affects a small minority of those present at the stadiums - unfortunately, a minority that is usually loud and visible in the media,” Piotrowski added. Image from article

North Korea's answer to K-Pop: You may have heard of the South Korean pop group Girls' Generation. Well, North Korea's home-grown equivalent just made its debut - Emily Lodish, They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Tell that to North KoreaNorth Korea recently debuted an all-female musical group meant to raise morale among the troops. The Korean-language Chosun Ibo called them "Goddesses," and put them on par with South Korea's enormously successful K-Pop band, Girls' Generation. K-Pop, or Korean pop music, has become enormously successful the world over, with a huge American debut at Madison Square Garden at the end of last year. Important to note are some key differences between the Goddesses and Girls' Generation, however. Both groups may have performed for their respective militaries, but  regular troupe" and the "special troupe," for work domestically and overseas respectively.

Chosun Ibo goes into more detail: The ‘regular troupe’ only possess costumes, with pleasantly simple outward appearances wearing no make-up and with moderately titillating roles, while on the other hand the ‘special troupe’, which is specifically selected for international propaganda, is equipped with outstanding beauty queens, colourful costumes make-up mastery. The ‘special troupe’ belongs to a privileged class of different social status from regular soldiers. Image from article, with caption: Those from North Korea's privileged class are selected to join the overseas propaganda troupe. (KoreaBang/Screengrab)

Notes From the Underground - Tom L. Freudenheim, Wall Street Journal: Norton Dodge (1927-2011) was an economist whose academic research took him to the Soviet Union, where he became engaged with the below-the-radar art and artists who were challenging the hegemony of so-called Soviet Realism. Turning into an obsessive collector, Dodge amassed a collection of more than 20,000 works by these artists—easily the world's largest such assemblage. In 1991, Dodge and his wife, Nancy Ruyle Dodge, donated the entire collection to the Zimmerli.

Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid remain the best-known bad boys of this large group. In "The Origins of Socialist Realism" (1982-83) they depict Stalin with a naked muse tracing his silhouette on a wall." Image from article, with caption: Komar and Melamid's 'The Origins of Socialist Realism' (1983)

The legends and propaganda surrounding Raphael's 500-year old masterpiece - The Voice of Russia: This year the Sistine Madonna, the work of Italian Renaissance genius artist Raphael, turns five centuries old. To celebrate the anniversary, a unique exhibition has opened in Dresden that tells the story of Raphael's masterpiece. During World War II, the Nazis moved the

Sistine Madonna along with many other masterpieces of the art world from the gallery and put it in a hiding place near Dresden. The story of the search and recovery of the Sistine Madonna is described in detail in Leonid Volynsky's book “Seven Days” which was quite popular in the Soviet era and reprinted several times. The recovered treasures – altogether over 1240 paintings – were sent to Moscow for restoration led by a leading Russian expert and painter Pavel Korin. A painting by Mikhail Kornetsky “Saving the Sistine Madonna” (1984) depicting the work of the restorers is also on display in Dresden now. In the notes to the painting, the exhibition organizers mention that this is just one of the legends born by “Soviet propaganda." Image from article


The charge of the, like, brigade - Mark Teeter, Idioms can strike without warning, and the uglier ones sometimes cause serious injury. After two weeks at a U.S. high school in 1989, a 16-year-old Russian exchange student named Vanya complained to an American classmate, as the two stood in line for lunch, about his overprotective mother back in Moscow: “So I didn’t call home on Tuesday, big deal – but she was, like, angry!”

Overhearing this, I was, like, appalled. Because I’m, like, a teacher. My ears started, like, burning from this all-too-idiomatic use of like as an interjection. Like, ouch! Image from article


Porn video shot on Coliseum grounds: It's unclear how the filmmaker got access to the taxpayer-owned stadium or permission to use its field lights - Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum field is the place where the USC Trojans play football, two Summer Olympics were staged, John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass.

It was also a location for "The Gangbang Girl #32," a hard-core pornographic movie that featured 40 minutes of group sex on the gridiron turf, The Times has learned. "I was just in awe that we were at the Coliseum," said a star of the film, who goes by the name Mr. Marcus. "I've made movies for about 20 years and I've done a lot of things, but that one really stands out.… I mean, who gets to have sex on the Coliseum floor?" Image from article


Elena Galibina - Via OS on Facebook


Via OR of Facebook


"[C]licking on the 'like' button is not free speech after all."

--Ken Paulson, "Is 'liking' on Facebook a right?: USA Today, regarding a federal \federal court decision


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