Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21

"Happy Everything!"

--Inscription on a holiday card; image from


US Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You - DiploPundit: The video below is from US Embassy Warsaw with Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull (at the 0:07 mark) and all the American and Polish staff at the United States Embassy in Poland in Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You.


A Snapshot of Public Diplomacy in Action - Anka's Place: "Tara D. Sonenshine, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, has started sharing the weekly highlights of the State Department in action around the world, in an email newsletter called 'A Snapshot of Public Diplomacy'. You can sign up to receive these highlights here: Really impressive activities, and fun to know what we are doing around the world!"

Russian Students Astonished by U.S. Holiday Cheer - Jonathan Earle, The Moscow Times: “The holiday season has brought many pleasant surprises for Russian students in FLEX, a U.S. government-sponsored study-abroad program that sends teenagers from across the former Soviet Union to the United States for a year of cultural immersion.

The Moscow Times is following some of the 244 students who are living with American host families and attending American high schools this school year. The group is ambitious, energetic, sharp and quite possibly Russia's future leaders. The skills, perspective and confidence they bring back could change the country from the ground up. ... Students expressed delight in e-mails about the Americans' love of Christmas decorations, gift-giving, charity, and holiday cheer.” Via MT on Fcaebook. Image from article

State Department to beef up security at diplomatic posts in dangerous areas - Anne Gearan, Washington Post: "The State Department pledged Thursday to bulk up security at diplomatic posts in dangerous areas in response to the fatal attack on a lightly guarded compound in Libya, as one top official acknowledged that 'we fell down on the job. ... House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) suggested that the State Department might do better to examine its priorities before asking for more money. ... Clinton’s launch this year of a flashy initiative to send American celebrity chefs on goodwill tours abroad seems especially misplaced in a time of tight budgets, Ros-Lehtinen said."

21st Century Visual Culture, NGOs, and Public Diplomacy - Mary Jeffers, Take Five: "An early Christmas present arrived in the mail today – a new book called Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism (Meg McLagan and Yates McKee, eds., Zone Books, 2012.) The 'visual culture of nongovernmental activism' seems like an important topic for U.S. public diplomacy practitioners to consider.  Even though public diplomacy isn’t exactly nongovernmental, neither does it represent the prevailing governing power of the countries in which public diplomats work.  And in “making the case for America” in those foreign lands, we are very much activist, vying for attention along with non-governmental (and other-governmental) efforts of every stripe.  We may ally ourselves enthusiastically with some causes, for example women’s empowerment. We may argue against others, for example restrictions on free speech deemed blasphemous.  But we are always one voice among many, without the authority (however defined or felt) that a government body carries in its own country. And of course, one of public diplomacy’s key resources is visual culture.  From the first great expansion of U.S. public diplomacy during the Cold War period, the U.S. looked for ways to make visual our ideas, our values, our culture.  Jazz Ambassadors did not tour just so people could hear their music; these mega-stars were sent abroad so that their photos would be on the front page of every newspaper, perhaps shaking the hand of a prime minister or jamming with local musicians. Jeeps and trucks carried USIS officers to remote areas with movies and portable generator-run projectors. Every month USIS distributed glossy color-photo magazines in

Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French, and other languages. U.S. cultural centers were and are full of posters, photographs – even d├ęcor – supporting our particular 'cause,' i.e., America itself. With the advent of satellite television in the 1980’s, USIA under Charles Wick eagerly embraced the opportunity to engage via this new medium.  Interestingly, the first and most prominent use of USIA’s 'Worldnet' television was to bring together multi-country audiences in mutual discussion and debate." Image from entry

Heritage Foundation aims its bullet points at the Radio Liberty Russian controversy - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting. Contains Elliott's comments on the issue

Broadcasting Board of Governors launches review of US international broadcasting in Russia, and moves towards CEO - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting. Contains Elliott's comments on the issue.

China’s State Media Engagement in Africa: An Instrument of Public Diplomacy - Meles Zenawi, "The West has not been interested in Africa for decades. Now, after seeing what China is doing in Africa, the topic of Africa, specifically, Africa’s relations with China, has come to the front pages. Most western states are mulling over what they need to do to get the piece of the action in Africa. Yes, Africa is changing for the better. Some predict that the West will change their course

in the next decade and try to get in to Africa using various methods, but it could be too late as most Africans will have a solid relationship with China by then. Ethiopia has attracted huge investments from China and we hope that Chinese media will be allowed to expand in Ethiopia soon, as Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa. Yushan Wu of the South African Institute of International Affairs gave a power point presentation titled China’s State Media Engagement in Africa: An Instrument of Public Diplomacy. Click here to read the report (PDF File)." Image from entry


U.S. on alert for Islamist ire to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ - Kristina Wong, The Washington Times: Could the release of “Zero Dark Thirty” provoke violent protests against the U.S. in response to the film’s searing depictions

of “enhanced interrogation” — the coercive, super-secret and bitterly debated methods used by the CIA against al Qaeda terrorism suspects? Image from article, with caption: Scene from "Zero Dark Thirty."

Zero Dark Propaganda [video]- Abby Martin, Abby Martin, host of Breaking the Set, takes a look at films that glorify war by highlighting the recent film "Zero Dark Thirty" as an example of an over-sensationalized historical narrative.

Western international broadcasters "cast a wary eye on ... efforts to control the Internet" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting. Image from entry

Putin Lashes Out at U.S. Rights Record - Gregory L. White, Wall Street Journal: Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the U.S. for what he called hypocritical attacks on his government's human-rights record, but refused to say whether he would sign a draft law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans that parliament has proposed in retaliation.

Putin and the Orphans: Russia retaliates against Congress by hurting its own children - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Joournal: Everyone expected some kind of Russian response after Congress this month passed the Magnitsky Act, which is named for a Russian corruption whistleblower who died in prison and which bars Russian human-rights violators from entering the U.S. and from doing business with American banks. But we have to admit we didn't expect that Vladmir Putin's government would retaliate by punishing Russian orphans. The Duma this week passed a bill that would ban the adoption of Russian children by Americans. This would be a loss for U.S. couples who would like to provide a home for unwanted or orphaned kids, but it would be a particular tragedy for the Russian children. Americans have adopted more than 70,000 Russians in the last two decades, providing them opportunities to escape poverty and fulfill their dreams.

The Fading Mideast Peace Dream - Editorial, New York Times: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive new push to expand settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem further isolates Israel while diminishing fading hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Hamas' hard line: Comments by leader Khaled Meshaal that ruled out a two-state solution with Israel are outrageous, irresponsible and depressing - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' statements are so much more rational than Khaled Meshaal's, the top leader of Hamas. That's why he is supported by the United States and most of the world. But the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has too often lumped Abbas together with Hamas.

These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since … - Domani Spero, Diplopundit: The State Department is a traditional organization with a top-down hierarchy. For as long as we’ve been studying it, it has never been a flat one, unless you’re talking about the base of a pyramid. There are chains of command like any bureaucracy. You can get in trouble for driving outside your lane.

Propaganda Art From North Korea's Arirang Festival Captured For New Exhibition (PHOTOS) - Sam Parker, The Huffington Post UK: Twice a year, in the world's largest stadium in Pyongyang, a mass public celebration called Arirang requires no less than 50,000 young people to work in perfect tandem to celebrate their "Eternal Leader."

An exercise in government propaganda on an almost unthinkable scale, Arirang is marked by the young performers holding flipcharts of more than 150 unique pages that they switch between seamlessly to create giant mosaics. Image from article, with caption: Kim Il-Sung's Revolver

Comic: @pontifex: Papal propaganda - Another sign of the imminent (Mayan) apocalypse? - Roberto De Vido, The Pope is tweeting. In eight languages. At this writing, he has over 1.1 million followers on his English-language account, and he is following only his other seven language accounts

(Spanish and Portuguese and his native German are among them, but all have substantially fewer followers than the English language account). And God, of course. He's following God, but God doesn't tweet. Not via Twitter, anyway. Image from article


--Saatchi Gallery: Mind where you step! This work called Karma is by the Korean sculptor and installation artist Do Ho Suh. Via DR on facebook

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