Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 22-23

"[S]omething I suffer from myself ... is phantom vibration syndrome, in which people feel their phone vibrating when it isn’t."

--Senior at Woodrow Wilson High School Shane Achenbach, Washington Post; image from


NATO Public Diplomacy Strategy 2010-2011 - publicintelligence.net


Soft Power Daily; Via LO on Facebook


Dance ’2012 Presidential Debate = Propaganda’ [Video] - thatsenuff.com: With the 3rd and final debate here, we thought it was only right that we drop this joint titled PROPAGANDA to shed some light on how we have been misled in the past.


Bulletproof glass distorts the diplomatic view - Anne Applebaum, timesdispatch.com: "[I]t does seem that events in Benghazi were very confusing that day. As a result of that confusion, some people think the attackers were motivated by news of an anti-Islamic video, some think they were members of an al-Qaida affiliate, and maybe U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should have waited before speaking with such certainty about what happened. To my mind, there is only one truly disturbing element of this discussion: the underlying assumptions — made by almost everyone participating in the argument — that no American diplomats should ever be exposed to any risk whatsoever and that it is always better to have too much security than too little. Since Ambassador Chris Stevens' death, it has become widely known that he did not subscribe to those assumptions. He was a popular, admired and successful ambassador precisely because he traveled around the country where he was posted, got out of his residence, spoke Arabic and understood the value of public diplomacy. He was in Benghazi on Sept. 11 to open a new cultural center where Libyans could get access to books and movies about America, something he clearly thought was important. All of this made him extremely unusual in a region where many American diplomats spend most of their time behind the guarded doors of bunker-like embassies, often far from the center of town.

The U.S. Embassy in Tunis looks like a high-security prison. The U.S. Embassy in Amman is encircled by barriers of concrete and steel. Even in London, the U.S. Embassy is surrounded by so many impractical roadblocks that neighbors have protested and the Americans have decided to move. When construction is completed, the ambassador will commute from his residence in central London to the embassy in a distant suburb, far away from the events and people he is supposed to monitor. This is not merely an aesthetic problem (though it is that as well) or a question of convenience. Diplomats who have no contact with ordinary people get things very wrong and are liable to be badly misunderstood themselves. Remember Iraq's Green Zone, the high-security U.S. compound in Baghdad where American soldiers and diplomats had access to discos, bars and a shopping mall — but rarely met any local residents?"" See also John Brown, "Ambassador Stevens as a Public Diplomacy Envoy - Updated," Notes and Essays. Image from article, with caption: "A Marine honor guard stands beside people attending a public memorial in honor of slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in the rotunda of City Hall in San Francisco, Tuesday. Stevens, 52, and three other Americans were killed Sept. 11 when gunmen attacked the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya."

State Department Skimps on Libya Security, Blows Millions - themoralliberal.com: "A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered by Islamic terrorists in Libya because the State Department skimped on security yet the agency has enough cash to blow millions in one year on 'pressing cultural preservation needs' in foreign countries. ... The State Department deploys foreign diplomats and is responsible for their safety. In Libya the agency cut corners by hiring an unknown and inexperienced British firm rather than the larger, more reputable companies that are customarily used in overseas danger zones infested with hostile, anti-American Islamists. As a result, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on the mission are dead.  ... Here are some of the dire projects funded by U.S. tax dollars that perhaps could be better spent on securing U.S. embassies in hostile Arab countries. Uncle Sam doled out $750,000 to restore a 16th-century tomb complex in India, $700,000 to conserve ruins in Tanzania, $600,000 for the 'temple of the winged lions' in Jordan and $450,000 for the conservation of a 10th century temple in Cambodia. Those were just the big ticket projects. Hundreds of thousands more went to smaller causes throughout the world. For instance, the restoration of a 16th century convent in Guatemala got $119,052 and an aqueduct in Mexico received $115,000 and the following three projects each got $100,000 from the State Department; a program to document endangered musical traditions in Mali, the restoration of a railroad station in Paraguay and a 19th-century log house museum in Russia. Here is the list of all the allocations for 2011. This is all part of the administration’s international diplomacy efforts, a cornerstone of the Obama presidency. Just last month the State Department launched a first-of-its-kind Diplomatic Culinary Partnership to 'elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.' A new American Chef Corps has been created because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims that 'culinary engagement' can 'further intercultural dialogue and strengthen bilateral relationship.'”

US Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine on social media and public relations - Dave Tobin, The Post-Standard (October 18): "Tara D. Sonenshine @Tsonenshine, became the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in April. Thursday she spoke at Syracuse University's Newhouse School about how traditional foreign policy tools are achieving deeper reach and dimension through digital and social media. A Brooklyn native, Sonenshine worked as an editorial producer of ABC News Nightline and a Pentagon reporter for ABC World News Tonight. She sat for a brief interview with The Post-Standard before her talk. Here are edited portions of that interview. For the State Department, has social media become more of a listening tool? Or a delivery tool? It's a pulse, a way of listening to the heartbeat of a nation. Does Voice of America (VoA) still have a role? Yes. A lot of the world is still dependent on radio. VoA has migrated online and to television without losing the old radio format. In many parts of world it is the only independent source of news. In parts of Africa, VoA is still a staple of the news diet. VoA also teaches English. It promotes freedom of the press, advances independent media and it serves as a (news) surrogate in many places. How well do citizens of other countries trust US State Department social media activity? What is important is always is to be clear about who is communicating. The State Department is very clear so the viewer or recipient can decide if they want to trust or accept that. In places like Libya recently, or parts of the world with rapidly spreading unrest, what can the State Department do through social media in the moment? People can give you an early warning that something bad is happening. That's eyes and ears on the ground that we've never had. Someone can communicate from a remote part of a country where you might not even have an embassy or consulate or even a reporter. After a crisis, like an earthquake, social media can help identify where needs are. Do you Tweet? I tweet multiple times a day with help (from an assistant) who helps me think about what to Tweet. We Tweet positive stories. We are of the mind that a lot happens in the world which is really negative. We do our best to look for inspiring public policy stories that make people feel good. 3,200 people are following us. What can US citizens who aren't affiliated with State Department programs do to engage citizens of other countries and promote understanding? They can host international exchange students. They can go online and begin to get in the conversation. They can retweet or ask questions. They can become citizen diplomats, become involved in non-governmental organizations like CARE or Sister Cities. All around us are organizations, local charities or foundations doing work overseas. Become involved with them." Via

PCDF Launch at AU - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "Last Wednesday, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine attended the launch of the Public and Cultural Diplomacy Forum (PCDF) at the American University.

Her remarks centered on the issue of collaboration in public diplomacy, especially between the public and private sectors. You can read the full text here." Image from entry

Public Schedule for October 23, 2012 - U.S. Department of State: "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS TARA SONENSHINE 10:00 a.m. Under Secretary Sonenshine attends a meeting with the National Travel and Tourism, Marketing and Promotion Working group, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (CLOSED PRESS COVERAGE) 7:00 p.m. Under Secretary Sonenshine delivers remarks as the featured speaker at the Meridian Board of Trustees Dinner, in Washington, DC. (MEDIA DETERMINED BY HOST)"

Assistant Secretary Hammer To Travel to Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa - Media Note, U.S. Department of State: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Mike Hammer will travel to Kampala, Uganda, Nairobi, Kenya, and Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa, departing Washington, DC on October 22nd. At each stop he will engage with journalists, students, civil society leaders, and government spokespeople on public diplomacy and communication efforts, support for democratic institutions and freedom of press, and economic statecraft, among other topics. He will also underscore the U.S. Government’s commitment to the region. While in Johannesburg, Assistant Secretary Hammer will deliver keynote remarks at the launch of the new location of the Africa Regional Media Hub, which is one of six media hubs around the world managed by the Bureau of Public Affairs. The hubs – in Brussels, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Miami, and Tokyo – serve as conduits through which the Department communicates American foreign policy directly to international audiences.

BBG Governor Victor Ashe sees a meltdown at Radio Liberty in Moscow - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Ambassador Victor Ashe has issued a statement today to the media criticizing the direction in which Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steven Korn is taking Radio Liberty in Russia. 'There appears to be a meltdown at Radio Liberty in Moscow,' Ashe told journalists and called for a Congressional hearing to shine the light on what happened to Radio Liberty. He is the only member of the BBG’s bipartisan board who has spoken up publicly against Korn’s management decisions. Other BBG members have been either silent or still support Korn. The BBG’s interim chairman Michael Lynton expressed confidence in Korn’s leadership on behalf of the board. That statement was later removed from the BBG official website after Ashe objected to its wording. Some BBG members say now privately that they also have serious reservations about Korn’s actions in Moscow."

Radio Liberty Russian website going to the dogs - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "According to a report prepared by former Radio Liberty employees, the station’s Russian Service website is not being frequently updated by the recently hired team of web editors brought on board by the new director Masha Gessen.

Most of the new staffers have no experience in working with multimedia websites having, by their own admission, only posted texts before they came to Radio Liberty. Members of the old Radio Liberty highly successful Internet team were fired. They have created one of the best and the most cited multimedia news websites for radio in Russia — text-audio-video-live video-social media-podcasts/mobile devices." Image from article

Conservative commentators blame the Obama administration for developments at RFE/RL Russian - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

US News and World Report reporter examines VOA and USIB, but comes away confused - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: Elliott comment (among others): "[T]he article says nothing about the key function of US international broadcasting: it provides the balanced, accurate, credible news that is not available from the state-controlled domestic media of the target countries."

NBCUniversal International, of which BBG chairman nominee is president, inks China distribution deal - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Founder of for-profit B-corp says "I'm going to partner with" BBG and VOA - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Alhurra joins with McNeil/Lehrer Productions on US elections documentary series - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting.

Image from entry

The full story behind the war against free speech in Israel’s universities - Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada: "A sustained battle by the Israeli right to stifle academic freedom at the country’s universities is close to claiming its first major scalp. In an unprecedented move last month, officials from Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) — a government-appointed body overseeing universities and colleges — recommended the effective closure of the politics department of Ben Gurion University, based in  the Negev/Naqab city of Beersheva. ... Tel Aviv and Haifa universities, especially, appeared to be making gestures of conciliation to the government.

Political activities on campus, especially by Palestinian students, were severely circumscribed, including speeches by Arab politicians and demonstrations in 2010 against Israel’s killing of activists aboard an aid flotilla to Gaza. In addition, the two universities set up programs to teach hasbara, a term officially translated as 'public diplomacy' but in practice signifying propaganda and the use of misinformation." Image from article, with caption: The further erosion of academic freedoms in Israel is likely to give the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement a powerful boost.

Palatial mansion: Pakistan’s biggest and busiest diplomatic mission - Robin Fernandez, tribune.com.pk: "Situated in the Karte Parwan neighbourhood of Kabul is Pakistan’s diplomatic mission.

Steeped in history, the embassy building and the adjoining ambassador’s residence together form the country’s single biggest mission in the world – a frontispiece to our public diplomacy abroad." Image from article, with caption: The ambassador’s residential complex was reconstructed in a record time.

Mudar Zahran, the putative Prime Minister of Jordan - israpundit.com: "Mudar Zahran, a lecturer, publicist and Palestinian blogger attends international seminar on new media and public diplomacy given by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry at Ariel University Center in Samaria, speaks to Israel Hayom about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

I'm Voting For Mitt Romney, Even Though I Don't Agree With Him - Helene Imperiale, businessinsider.com: Helene Imperiale

is currently a Master of Public Diplomacy Candidate at the University of Southern California. Imperiale image from article


Global Poll: Obama Overwhelmingly Preferred to Romney - worldpublicopinion.org: A new 21-nation poll for BBC World Service indicates that citizens around the world would strongly prefer to see Barack Obama re-elected as US President rather than his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The poll of 21,797 people, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA between July 3 and September 3, 2012, indicates that Obama is preferred to Romney in 20 of the 21 countries polled. Overall, an average of 50 per cent would prefer to see Obama elected, compared to only 9 per cent who prefer Romney. The rest express no preference between the two.

Of all the countries polled, France is currently the most strongly pro-Obama, with 72 per cent wanting him to be re-elected and just 2 per cent preferring Romney. Australia (67%), Canada (66%), Nigeria (66%), and the UK (65%) are among the other countries with large majorities favouring Obama. Pakistan, where 14 per cent want to see Romney elected compared to 11 per cent who prefer Obama, is the only country where the current President is not the favoured candidate--but here, three-quarters (75%) express no opinion. The countries with the largest proportions favouring Mitt Romney are Kenya (18%) and Poland (16%). Image from

World reactions mixed to US presidential debate - usatoday.com: Commentators and people around the globe gave mixed opinions to the performances of Mitt Romney and President Obama in Tuesday's debate that focused largely on foreign policy.

George W. Bush Won This Debate - Peter Beinart, Daily Beast: Barack Obama didn’t win tonight’s foreign policy debate. Neither did Mitt Romney. George W. Bush did. Bush won it because the framework for understanding the world that he put in place after Sept. 11 still holds, even though it wildly distorts the world that the next president will actually face.

How the United States, its own might sapped by the financial crisis and wars of imperial overstretch, meets the challenge posed by countries that are converting their economic success into geopolitical power, is the defining foreign policy question of our time. Not only wasn’t that question answered at the presidential foreign policy debate, it wasn’t even posed. Image from article

Fact check: Are U.S. students falling behind foreign students? - Howard Blume, latimes.com: U.S. students in many states have posted relatively stagnant scores on such measures as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. U.S. students also have fallen back compared with some nations on tests that are administered to samples of students around the world. Some experts say what happened is that other nations have caught up and passed the U.S. academically. At the same time, critics have challenged the relevance of some of these international measures. It’s also true that America takes on the challenge of educating all children in a way that few other countries have aspired to do. And the nation’s higher education system attracts students from around the world.

Russia accuses U.S. of human rights abuses: At hearings, Russian officials say the U.S. uses rights issues to meddle in other nations' business while committing the very acts it is 'moralizing' about - Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times: Prisoners detained without charges. Prisons operating outside the legal system. Limits on free speech and the Internet.

Legitimate voters prevented from casting their ballots. Sanctioned kidnappings. Witch hunts and torture. It's all part of life, says the Russian government — in the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a 56-page report in Russian and English titled, "On the Human Rights Situation in the United States." Image from article, with caption: Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers in Moscow that instead of conducting a dialogue among equals, U.S. officials preferred “the language of admonition and moralizing” and wielding human rights issues as “a propaganda tool.”

Working With the Muslim Brotherhood - Roger Cohen, New York Times: Perhaps the most radical change in U.S. foreign policy under President Obama has occurred here in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, long shunned as a collection of dangerous Islamist extremists, is now the de facto object of American support. Not only that: Ultraconservative Salafist politicians, who make the Brotherhood seem like moderate pragmatists, are now regular visitors to the U.S. Embassy and, on the theory that it is better to have them inside the tent than out, they are able to visit the United States to learn how things work in the land of Jeffersonian democracy.

The Myth of the Anbar Awakening, Afghan Remix - Peter van Buren, We Mean Well: As in Iraq, the U.S., ever-so-desperate for something close enough to call a “victory” before we just get the hell out of Afghanistan, so wants to believe any anti-Taliban action is somehow even remotely related to a pro-Afghan government or maybe– maybe– a pro-U.S. stance. It is not true.

Iran's Unrequited War: The mullahs are at war with us. Maybe we should return the favor - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: Sensible policy on Iran begins not with the question of how to avoid a war—that war was foisted on us in 1979—but how to win it. Anything less invites further terror and dishonors the memory of Iran's many American victims. America’s radical policy turnabout in Cairo poses an important question: Why is this engagement with political Islam, even in Salafist form, confined to Egypt?

If Washington has discovered by engaging that the long reviled Brotherhood, or at least large swathes of it, may have evolved into centrist pragmatists, what other such discoveries may be made through dialogue rather than confrontation? Image from

A Question for Obama - David Feith, Wall Street Journal: Tehran's willingness to dispatch agents of its Revolutionary Guard to attack Washington speaks directly to the regime's ambitions, willingness to take risks and susceptibility to sanctions. This is relevant to whether America can rely safely on the hope that it could contain a nuclear Iran should it come to that.

Al Qaeda Is Making a Comeback: Across the Middle East and South Asia, the group isn't dead or dying but on the rise - Jack Keane, Wall Street Journal: The only talking point on Afghanistan that the American people have heard this election season is "2014"—as in withdrawal. But al Qaeda and its friends world-wide have heard that too. And it gives them hope that in two short years their heartland will be ripe for retaking. They know full well—based on U.S. actions from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria—that U.S. policy is to disengage, and that momentum is on their side.

Seoul blocks propaganda launch after military threat - Lim Chang-Won, AFP: PAJU, South Korea — South Korean police on Monday blocked activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border with North Korea, which had threatened to respond with a "merciless" military strike.

The decision to shut down the propaganda exercise was an unusual one and reflected, analysts said, Seoul's desire to avoid any destabilising clash ahead of South Korea's presidential election in December. Image from

Soviet Space Propaganda Posters, 1958-1963 - Chris Wild, retronaut.com: Among the images the below, with caption: Fatherland! You lighted the star of progress and peace. Glory to the science, glory to the labor! Glory to the Soviet system!


'Paul Ryan Shirtless' Googled More Than His Budget Plan (PHOTO) - Timothy Stenovec, Huffington Post: It would appear people are more interested in Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.; Republican vice-presidential candidate) upper body than in his budget plan. Writing for The New York Times' Campaign Stops

blog, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reports that Google searches for "Paul Ryan shirtless" are nine times more frequent than searches for "Paul Ryan budget."

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