Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13

"He knows the man is lying and he expects him to lie."

--A US sergeant reacting to the statement by a silk-bearded Afghan claiming that "We haven't seen any Taliban"; Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times; image from article, with caption: A helicopter casts a shadow on a road at Camp Leatherneck, a U.S. military base in a desolate patch of Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

“Words are the power to be feared most.”

--Barry Obama, answering a question, asked by an English teacher at his Hawaii Punahou School 34 years ago, about what is to be feared most


Rethinking U.S. Relations with Dictators - Daniel Calingaert, "The time has come to formally review U.S. relations with authoritarian regimes around the globe and identify ways to support human rights and democracy activists while continuing cooperation on common security and economic interests. Senior U.S. officials and diplomats should regularly engage with human rights defenders and democracy activists who struggle against repression. They should also conduct vigorous public diplomacy to communicate the values of freedom directly to people living under authoritarian rule. In this way, the United States can both stay true to its values and pursue its interests, as over time, U.S. interests lie in the advance of human rights and democracy abroad."

China's Latest Export: Journalists - Elizabeth Dwoskin, "Xinhua, the government-owned news wire that launched an English-language edition in America in 2010, announced the opening of its U.S. headquarters in a Midtown Manhattan tower last year with a massive LED-lit billboard in Times Square. According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. issued 868 visas to Chinese journalists in 2011, up from 616 the prior year. ... While America’s been opening its doors to China’s state-owned media, U.S. journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to cover the world’s second-largest superpower. In a survey of its members last year, the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China found a third had had difficulties obtaining visas.

Incidents of police violence against foreign journalists are also on the rise, according to the U.S. State Department. ... California Representative Dana Rohrabacher, who was a journalist in the 1970s and chairs the House’s oversight subcommittee, introduced a bill last year that would mandate parity between U.S. visas issued to Chinese journalists and visas that China grants U.S. reporters working for the government-funded Voice of America—who currently number two." Via. Image from

CNN partners with Pakistani conglomerate to create Urdu-language news channel - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "Pakistan Today, 8 Oct 2012, on passing Turner Broadcasting press release: 'Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, Inc’s CNN International and Pakistan’s Associated Group (AG) have signed a broadcast affiliate agreement for a new Pakistani news channel, Dais. ... [Elliott comment:] It would seem, therefore, that this new channel will be doing the same work as VOA Urdu: providing uncensored, unbiased news as the antidote to the disinformation of terrorists and other anti-American elements in Pakistan. The difference is that Dais will be doing it at no cost to the US taxpayers. So can VOA justify continued broadcasts in Urdu, especially as the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 prohibits BBG competition with private-sector international broadcasting efforts? Does this development point to a complementary scenario in which the CNN/AG partnership provides the news, while an Urdu-language service in the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (part of the State Department Public Diplomacy section) advocates on behalf of the US government?'"

RFA and VOA accused of favoritism in "friendly meet" with Cambodian officials - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Russians and Germans: 1,000 Years of Art, History and Culture - Donald Lee, "This exhibition is an attempt to emphasise the things that unite rather than divide the Russians and the Germans. It is an obvious example of 'soft' diplomacy: a cultural initiative that is politically motivated with a strong commercial involvement.

The exhibition was conceived and inaugurated by Mikhail Shvydkoy, the special envoy for International Cultural Co-operation of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), the state ministry for culture in Berlin. The show is 'powered', as its publicity has it, by E.ON Ruhrgas, Europe’s biggest client of the Russian company, Gazprom, itself the world’s largest extractor and supplier of natural gas. Ruhrgas has a 6.4% investment stake in Gazprom and owns the former Russian electricity generator OGK-4, now E.ON Russia. The two intertwined German and Russian companies have since 2010 been locked in a long legal dispute over the price of gas, so this exhibition may be an indirect means of finding a way through the disagreement. ... To what extent it will help to resolve the gas price battle is, like all cultural diplomacy, incalculable, but significant." Image from article, with caption: Fyodor Rokotov, Katharina II, 1775-80

Dr. Helena Kane Finn, "Public Diplomacy: Not All Cocktails and Laughter" October 18, 2012 - awilliams3. "The Center for European Studies, The University of Wisconsin - Madison: Time: 4:00pm Location: 8417 Sewell Social Science Building [.] The talk 'Public Diplomacy: Not All Cocktails and Laughter' is part of the event 'Careers in in the Diplomatic Corps.' Dr. Helena Kane Finn has been Vice President and Director of Programs at the American Council on Germany since September 2010. A career diplomat of the Department of State, she served as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin (2007-2010) and as Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (2003-2007). She has been the Cyrus Vance Fellow in Diplomatic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (2002-2003). Her article on public diplomacy appeared in the November-December 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs. She has also been Director of the Turkish Studies Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (2002).

As Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (2000-2001), Dr. Finn was responsible for the State Department’s global academic, professional, and youth exchanges, including Fulbright and the International Visitor program. She also oversaw the Office of Cultural Heritage and Preservation. Dr. Finn has served overseas as the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey (1997-2000), and at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria (1995-1997). Previously she was the Public Affairs Officer and Director of the Amerika Haus in Frankfurt-Main, Germany (1992-1995). She has been the Desk Officer for Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus (1989-1991), following public diplomacy affairs tours in Lahore and Islamabad, Pakistan (1984-1989). See New York Times articles quoting Dr. Helena K. Finn on the life of fellow diplomat J. Christopher Stevens, the late Ambassador to Libya:" Finn image from


Who had the worst week in Washington? The State Department - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post: Anytime the State Department is in the news, it’s probably not a good thing for the State Department. That was definitely the case this past week as the U.S. diplomatic corps sought to get out from under mounting questions about the events leading up to the attack in Libya last month that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

A preemptive strike on the foreign policy failures of the next administration - Daniel Byman, Washington Post: Americans like to think that all problems can be solved and that, if they aren’t, incompetence or malfeasance is to blame. Often, however, the challenge is overwhelming and U.S. influence is limited.

The problem is not that Democrats are wimps, that Republicans are warmongers or that Washington’s halls of power are filled with the greedy and the hapless, but rather that few foreign policy problems can truly be solved. Most can at best be managed, and just getting by is often the best we can do. Image from

The U.S. today, the Soviet Union in the 1980s: Another great power once let its infrastructure decay, its deficits rise and its economy hollow out as it poured its national treasure into its military and getting stuck in an unending war in Afghanistan - Tom Engelhardt, Los Angeles Times: In 1945, only two were left, the United States and the Soviet Union, so mighty that they came to be called "superpowers" and vied for dominance on a global scale for half a century. When the weaker, less wealthy of the two, the Soviet Union, began to falter, its leaders let its infrastructure decay, its deficits rise and its economy hollow out. Meanwhile, it poured its national treasure into its military and getting stuck in an unending war in Afghanistan. Sound familiar? After the Soviet Union had simply disappeared in 1991, U.S. leaders, wreathed in self-congratulation and proclaiming victory, skipped the "peace dividend." Instead, having watched with amazement as their enemy imploded, they then made the most curious of choices. They decided to follow "the Soviet path." Today, our national treasure pours into the military, the rest into the ever-expanding universe of national security and militarized projects of all sorts. Our infrastructure decays, our deficits soar, our economy hollows out and, eerily enough, after 11 years, we still find ourselves stuck in a war in Afghanistan.

Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech - Jonathan Turley, Washington Post: Whether speech is deemed imflammatory or hateful or discriminatory or simply false, society is denying speech rights in the name of tolerance, enforcing mutual respect through categorical censorship.

As in a troubled marriage, the West seems to be falling out of love with free speech. Unable to divorce ourselves from this defining right, we take refuge instead in an awkward and forced silence. Image from article

N. Korea Drops Propaganda Leaflets Over Border - North Korea has dropped thousands of propaganda leaflets attacking South Korea across their heavily militarised border for the second time this year, the South's defence ministry said Tuesday. South Korean soldiers have collected about 17,000 leaflets, which were floated by balloon over the frontier on Saturday, a ministry spokesman said.


"But seriously, if you keep up with current events in supermarket tabloids, you know that a team of Martian anthropologists has been studying our culture for the past ten years, since our culture is the only worth a nickel on the whole planet. You can sure forget Brazil and Argentina.

Anyway, they went home last week, because they knew how terrible global warming was about to become. Their space vehicle, incidentally, wasn’t a flying saucer. It was more like a flying soup tureen. And they’re little all right, only six inches high. But they are not green. They’re mauve.

And their little mauve leader, by way of farewell, said in that tweeny-weeny, tanny-wanny, toney little voice of hers that they were two things about American culture no Martian could understand.

'What is it,' she squeaked, 'what can it possibly be about blowjobs and golf'?"

--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country, pp. 116-117; image from

"Travelers to Las Vegas now can do more to protect their health and well-being than just skipping the smoke-filled casinos and gut-busting buffets. On Monday, the MGM Grand and real estate developer Delos will open 42 Stay Well rooms and suites in the hotel’s main tower with at least a dozen health-and-wellness amenities. Among the rooms' features are

special lighting to help reverse jet lag and regulate melatonin levels, advanced air purification and water filtration systems, vitamin C-infused water for showers, healthful room-service options and access to wellness, stress and weight management software developed by the Cleveland Clinic that guests can use for up to 60 days after their stay. Dr. Deepak Chopra will appear on the in-room-TV Stay Well channel, welcoming guests to the MGM Grand and introducing the rooms' features. Standard room rates at the MGM Grand begin at $75 a night; the Stay Well amenities add $30 to the cost of the room."

--Anne Harnagel, "Las Vegas: MGM Grand to open wellness hotel rooms," Los Angeles Times; image from article, with caption: The new wellness rooms at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas feature dawn-simulator alarm clocks that gradually awaken the body.


--Image from

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