Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 26-27


Femen March Topless in Muslim Area of Paris to Celebrate Boot Camp Opening (Sep 19, 2012) - Gianluca Mezzofiore, Members of the Femen radical feminist group have paraded topless through Paris to celebrate the opening of their new training centre, aimed at teaching feminists how to evade security forces. The Ukrainian women’s group marched half-naked through a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Paris’ 18th arrondissement with messages written on their chests including “Muslim, let’s get naked” and “Our God is a woman.”  Via


"Happiness is something we can imagine but not experience."

--Leszek Kołakowski, "Is God Happy?" New York Review of Books; Kołakowski image from article


Afghan Girls Lead Peer Education: Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs, Dawn L. McCall: DipNote Blog – U.S. Department of State - "The Internet may be important, but it’s not everything. In rural Afghanistan, courageous and talented young women who have never heard of the Internet are using skills today often associated with social media users — initiative, resourcefulness, and social connections — to make tangible contributions to their community. During a recent visit to the Guzara district outside Herat, near Afghanistan’s western border with Iran, I saw teenage girls training themselves in English and leading language classes for their younger peers. These women worked with the Afghan Women Educational and Professional Improvement Organization, an ambitious organization housed in a sparsely furnished three-room office. ... Even though the girls I met don’t use the Internet and have never heard of Facebook, they yearn for information on the world beyond Guzara, particularly English language resources. The modest library offers American and British literature, as well as resources in Farsi, Pashto, and European languages. One of the most popular books in that library, funded by a small public diplomacy grant, was developed and printed locally. It pairs on facing pages the English and Dari versions of speeches by President Obama. The young volunteer teachers use those coupled speeches as one tool to teach American English to local girls. The book has since been augmented by other books on American culture and government in a similar format.

My visit to Guzara drove two lessons home for me. One, English language learning is an aspiration of many students around the world. And two, women can lead their communities to achieve that goal — and many others — through simple means such as access to information, safe study spaces, and networks of peer support. Cross posted from DipNote [entry by Dawn L. McCall], the official blog of the U.S. Department of State." Image from entry, with caption: Dawn L. McCall, Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs, meets with Afghan teenage girls training themselves in English and leading language classes for their younger peers in the Guzara district outside Herat, Afghanistan, December 2012.

Folk Music Group Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer With BarbaraLamb Tour Asia and the Pacific Islands - Media Note, Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC: “Part of American Music Abroad, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced that Kensington, Maryland-based folk group Cathy Fink and  Marcy Marxer, with Barbara Lamb, will tour Asia and the Pacific Islands. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have won two GRAMMY® Awards and fourteen consecutive GRAMMY® nominations in folk and children’s music. The trio will tour China Dec. 30 - Jan. 6, Malaysia Jan. 7-17, Vanuatu Jan.18-23 and Papua New Guinea January 23-27. Tour activities will include public concerts, lectures, demonstrations, workshops, media outreach, and collaborations with local musicians. The American Music Abroad program, a partnership with American Voices, sends American musical groups overseas to engage with audiences and communities, especially underserved youth.

This season’s 12 participating American Music Abroad groups were selected from a pool of nearly 300 applicants to travel to more than 40 countries to promote cross-cultural understanding through music. The program builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” which embraces the full range of diplomatic tools, including music, to engage people and create opportunities for greater understanding. For more information, please visit ECA Cultural Exchanges. Media contacts: U.S. Department of State (202) 642-6452, and ; Paul Rockower, American Voices (301) 875-8319 [.]Image from

In Bhutan, Conserving The Natural Environment And Biodiversity - "Related Content: DipNote entry by Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine on Take the Pledge: Stop Wildlife Crime."

U.S News and World Report: How the Peace Corps Benefits Diplomatic Security Posted by John Coyne on Wednesday, December 26th 2012 By Robert Nolan (Zimbabwe) - When al Qaeda affiliated terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, the gap between what we knew and what the diplomatic corps knew about life in Zimbabwe grew even wider. Like in other capitals cities around the globe, our embassy began to resemble a fortress, with large concrete blocks and an increase in military personnel guarding the building. In 1999, the United States also shut down the United States Information Agency, an independent government body responsible for public diplomacy around the world. Since then, embassies have been further fortified (funding for diplomatic security has risen from $200 million in 1998 to $1.8 billion) and formerly accessible programs carried out by the agency, like helping foreigners study in the United States, providing access to American cultural and political activities, and explaining American policies around the world, have been brought “behind the wall” of the State Department. ... But as we barricade our diplomats further, it’s also worth considering a corresponding increase in funding for nontraditional diplomatic initiatives like the Peace Corps. After all, the two are not mutually exclusive. Many ambassadors and Foreign Service officers cut their teeth in the Peace Corps, where they pick up language and cultural skills critical to successful diplomatic work.

This was certainly the case with Ambassador Stevens, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco during the 1980s, learning Arabic and developing the affinity for Arab culture for which he became so well known and loved. ... The good news is that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a record number of young people are studying Arabic (some on State Department scholarships) and, thanks in part to slow economic growth, applying to programs like the Peace Corps. As the independent panel findings out this week recommend the State Department boost funding for diplomatic security to the tune of $2.3 billion annually for the next decade, it’s worth noting that the Peace Corps budget has hovered for the past two years at a paltry $375 million. I would propose increasing this funding significantly, with the aim of boosting volunteer activity specifically in the Middle East and North Africa. I would also suggest the creation of a renewed United States Information Agency or similar public diplomacy initiative in the region, not dissimilar from China’s rapidly expanding Confucius Centers based at universities in Asia, Africa and even the United States." Uncaptioned image from entry

This little piggy went to market….No $$$-Money for Benghazi Security [December 26] - Onion Slice, Duck Sauce: "Flanked by grinning men - and women - in navy blue chef coats emblazoned with American flags and the department's official seal. Now Chief of Protocol of the United States, unveiled

the department's new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, which will 'elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.'  Hillary Clinton: 'Better and more effective diplomacy can happen around a dining table than at a conference table.' Notice the announcement date - Sept 11, 2012." Image from entry

Best Places to Work survey shows VOA among worst places to work - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Thoughts for 2013 - M Saeed Khalid, "Somehow, there is no mention of Pakistan’s legitimate concerns about developments in Afghanistan and how the US could try to accommodate those. It must be understood that, as the US and allied forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban’s need for sanctuaries outside would come down. America should start depending less on anti-Pakistan public diplomacy and seriously try to address more serious issues. The other relationship that merits serious reflection is that with our big neighbour and traditional adversary, India. The accounts one heard from Pakistani participants at the Track II meeting in New Delhi were indeed sobering. Renewing invitations to India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan is an exercise in politeness but nothing more. Pakistan must review its public diplomacy which gives the impression that we are desperate for dialogue with India."

The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy (3-4) - Alfatih Ziada, "[U]nconditional U.S. support

for Israel makes it easier for extremists like bin Laden to rally popular support and to attract recruits. Public opinion polls confirm that Arab populations are deeply hostile to American support for Israel, and the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world found that 'citizens in these countries are genuinely distressed at the plight of the Palestinians and at the role they perceive the United States to be playing.' ... Modified from John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt." Image from

Israel Wishes You a Merry Christmas? - Eytan Meyersdorf, Sheva: "Why must Israel, a Jewish state founded on Jewish values, voluntarily go out of its way to wish Christians a Happy Christmas? I understand very well the idea of public diplomacy and the political game, but Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu appealing to the Christian world on their holiday will not change the facts on the ground – rather, there is a deeper reasoning behind the message: Jews suffer from an illness of needing acceptance.

The thought process is simple - if we are kind to those who oppose us, we can be friends; however, history has proved differently. The reality is, we have allies, because it is in their best interest to be our allies, and not because we wish them a Merry Christmas. As a citizen of Israel, I do not approve of my country reaching out to those who have caused us so much suffering throughout our history. To most, 'Merry Christmas' is an innocent, kindly message of togetherness, but I will never forget my grandfather explaining to me what Christmas meant for the Jews in Poland, and the fright and terror they experienced when the Christians would go around wreaking havoc and terror upon the Jewish community on their holiday." Image from

IsraHell Recruits ‘Sayanim’ - "For those of you who don’t know, ‘sayanim’ are semi-official agents, usually recruited from Jewish communities abroad, who can at times, be called on to act for Israel [.] Israel [link evidently does not lead to specific article -- JB] has instructed its embassies in 10 European countries, including the UK, each to recruit 1,000 members of the public to act as advocates for its policies in a new public relations offensive. A cable from the foreign affairs ministry was sent to embassies last week, with instructions from Avigdor Lieberman, the controversial and extreme right-wing foreign minister, to adopt a range of measures aimed at improving Israel's standing in Europe. The most unusual was the order to identify up to 1,000 people by mid-January to act as 'allies' to Israel.

One source described them as 'friends who are willing not just to receive messages but to actively promote these messages'. These individuals – likely to be drawn from Jewish or Christian activists, academics, journalists and students – will be briefed regularly by Israeli officials and encouraged to speak up for Israel at public meetings or write letters or articles for the press. ... Israel has previously launched drives to improve its image through hasbara – literally meaning explanation, although alternatively interpreted as public diplomacy, spin or propaganda. During its three-week war on Gaza, which began in December 2008, Israel launched a PR strategy through its national information directorate to co-ordinate key messages on a daily basis. ... The Israeli government, military and various embassies are adept at using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to promote material. Organisations such as Bicom, the Britain Israel Communications Research Centre, in the UK and the Israel Project in the US, which describe themselves as independent, are dedicated to promoting Israeli policies. Both organisations offer regular briefings, contacts and tours to foreign correspondents based in Israel and Palestine, and all-expenses paid trips to Israel for journalists, including from the Guardian, based elsewhere. Other countries undertake similar PR drives." Image from

Dr. Evil in Israel's corner [subscription only] - Jerusalem Post. According to Google Search, mention of public diplomacy/hasbara.

Close encounters with the IAF [subscription only] - Jerusalem Post, According to Google Search, mention of public diplomacy.

Is Foreign Policy Hypocritical? - Sabah Athar, There's no happily ever after without a bit of heartache: "After juxtaposing recent personal events with recent public events, I have come to the conclusion that foreign policy or more specifically, public diplomacy, is hypocrisy.

In comparison to the highly publicised shooting of the young Pakistani girl Malala Yousaf-zai by the Taliban, it can be said that unless you have money in the bank, have celebrity status or the whole world backing you, you will be treated like complete and utter SHIT!" Image from

Sudhir Vyas appointed Secretary (West) in Ministry of External Affairs - NetIndian News Network: "Mr Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry ofExternal Affairs, has been appointed as Secretary (West). ... Mr Pinak R. Chakravarty, IFS (77), Special Secretary (Public Diplomacy), will succeed Mr Vyas on his relinquishing the charge of the post."

Executive Director’s Letter (WC: 478) - "As we approach the end of 2012, the organization’s vibrant health reflects strengthened staffing capabilities and focused program-based development – two strategic objectives set by the Chairman and Board in April 2012. ... Program-based Development. The growth trajectory of our three program areas – Educational Exchange, Public Diplomacy, and Leadership Development – is entering an advanced stage of enriched content and extensive reach. ... Educational Exchange: The Journalist and Civic Leader Delegations continue to attract elite interest and participation. With the inaugural Civic Leaders Delegation in May and completion of the November Journalist Delegation, C-100 is shaping the U.S.-China dialogue on the frontlines.

Recently-returned C-100 Journalist Delegates Jonathan Tepperman, managing editor at Foreign Affairs, Clive Crook, senior editor of The Atlantic and columnist for Bloomberg View, and Brian Lehrer, host of the Brian Lehrer Show WNYC have been blogging about their China experience. To view their conversation and contribute your comments, visit Public Diplomacy: As Chairman Dominic Ng referenced, the impact of C-100’s China policy debate in Washington DC continues to reverberate. Building on the debate’s strong momentum, we released a verbatim China debate transcript, which was briefed to Members of Congress and key stakeholders in Washington. All expressed high interest in exploring future collaborative efforts. Leadership Development: High demand for participation in the New York Women’s Leadership Exchange, Washington DC Leadership Roundtable, and Southern California Leadership Mentoring Program attests to the Committee’s unparalleled appeal as a magnet that attracts rising Asian American leaders who aspire to learn from C-100 members. ... Best wishes, Angie Tang Executive Director Committee of 100." Image from entry

Public Diplomacy Assistant (FSN-08), U.S. Embassy - "About U.S. Embassy [:] U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan [;] Job Summary [:] Public Diplomacy Assistant (FSN-08) [;] Position is based in Herat [;] Province Duties and Responsibilities [:] The incumbent serves as an advisor to the Consulate Public Affairs Officer (PAO), the Consul and other members of the Consulate on public diplomacy related activities in the Consulate’s geographic area of responsibility. The incumbent assists in the design and implementation of public outreach programs designed to understand, inform and influence members of the Afghan government, media, educational institutions and other influential citizens in their provinces. The incumbent assists the PAO and Consul in the development and sustaining of relationships with contacts that enable constructive engagement."


John Kerry: Well-suited to be secretary of state - Editorial Board, Washington Post: Mr. Kerry’s dedication to dialogue even with U.S. enemies makes some sense for a secretary of state.

But Mr. Obama’s new Cabinet could also benefit from the balance provided in the first term by figures such as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert M. Gates, who took a more skeptical view of “engagement” and favored steps such as the surge of troops in Afghanistan. Mr. Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state would be a rare achievement for a losing presidential candidate. It’s one he has earned, and we expect he would serve the country well. Image from

The surprisingly high cost of security at diplomatic posts - Michael J. McMorrow, Arlington, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post: "The Dec. 21 news article 'State Department to raise security at diplomatic posts' reported thus: 'Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is asking Congress for an additional $750 million to hire about 150 more security officers, a deputy said.' Do the math: $5 million per security officer. Where do I apply?"

Afghanistan Taliban appears to be softening stance: The militant group in Afghanistan has suffered military setbacks and seems to be more willing to bargain, observers say. Others aren't convinced - Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times: Recent pronouncements by the Taliban have raised the possibility that the insurgents may be softening their stance on what a future without U.S. and international

forces in Afghanistan might look like. But even among those who are most optimistic about reviving a stalled peace process, there is hesitation about prospects for reaching a political settlement before the bulk of NATO forces pull out in 2014. And others dismiss the Taliban's overtures as propaganda designed to build the group's political profile among Afghans and the international community. Uncaptioned image from article

Egypt’s Flawed Constitution - Editorial, New York Times: Ideally, a new constitution in Egypt would unite citizens around a consensus vision for their country and set a firm foundation for a democratic transition. The Islamist-backed constitution that took effect this week has only exacerbated divisions and left millions of non-Islamists feeling disenfranchised, angry and determined to force changes in the document. If there is to be a durable solution, President Mohamed Morsi will have to take the lead in steering Egypt out of the chaos he did so much to create and toward compromise, including amendments to constitutional provisions many Egyptians find objectionable. The State Department has urged Mr. Morsi to seek compromise. Egypt needs stability.

Zionist lobbies seek to restrict Press TV activities in US: William Spring [video] - United States Zionist lobby groups seek to limit the activities of Press TV in America over fears of losing the propaganda war, a human rights activist tells Press TV. Spring: [']Why is it ... that the Jewish lobby, or the Zionist lobby, I’d rather say, in America, is so anxious to limit the activities of Press TV? It seems to me though there’s a real fear among the Zionist lobby in America that they are losing the propaganda law.[']

Looking back at a time of smoke and fire: Propaganda posters with the themes: Vietnam definitely wins, Hanoi is determined to follow Uncle Ho’s words, Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom bring us back to a time of smoke and fire - VietNamNet Bridge: Some 40 of 1,000 propaganda posters with great historical value in the war of resistance against America are on display at the 4th exhibition of painter Truong Sinh in Hanoi.

In Vietnam, propaganda posters are attached to the struggle for national liberation. They played an important role in serving the task of political propaganda, revolutionary struggle and mass mobilization associated with the revolution. They also become a strong spiritual weapon in the process of struggling for national independence. After the country’s reunification, propaganda posters contributed to urge all people to rebuild the country and protect the achievements of the revolution. From these results, propaganda posters passed the "political task" to become an important part in the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. Image from article, with caption: Nixown [sic] has to pay blood debt.


The Hidden Revolution in Online Learning: The economics of digital learning will undermine the liberal biases built into the current education system - Lewis M. Andrews, Wall Street Journal: Udacity, one of the three largest providers of online college courses, picks its instructors not on the basis of their degrees or research interests but according to how well they actually communicate.

"We reject 98 percent of faculty who want to teach with us," Udacity co-founder David Stavens recently told the New York Times. He sees a day when faculty are selected and promoted very differently, with the best "compensated like a TV actor or movie actor." Image from

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