Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23

"To show 'soft power,' you don’t need to hold a high academic degree."

--"Pursuing Taiwanese values in the shadow of a giant neighbor,"; image from


(1) Obama's Second Inauguration In 153 Seconds: All the highlights in less than 3 minutes -

(2) Clinton's role in global diplomacy CNN: Nicholas Kralev, author of "America's Other Army," tells CNN that U.S. diplomacy has drastically changed since 9/11.


Inaugural Public Diplomacy - P.G. Crowley, "President Barack Obama, in his first inaugural address in 2009, said 'the world has changed, and we must change with it.' The extent of a transformed domestic and international landscape was clear in his second inaugural address this week. Inaugurals are important opportunities for public diplomacy and his message will appeal to international audiences, but it was clearly tempered by four years of real-world experience. Obama talked at length about ongoing need to achieve equality and opportunity here at home, but gone was much of the soaring rhetoric targeted abroad that captivated international audiences four years ago. ... If engagement was the international watchword four years ago, this time it was collaboration and the need to continue to strengthen the capacity of the international community to tackle major global challenges. He reemphasized a commitment to end a decade of war, rejecting the notion that U.S. security requires 'perpetual war.'

He renewed America’s support for democracy in a dramatically transformed international landscape. Those pledges will be tested over the next four years in places like Syria, Mali, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt. ... Obama in his inaugural address encouraged resolving 'differences with other nations peacefully, not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.' This approach will surely be tested in the coming months regarding the U.S. approach to Iran and whether sufficient time will be devoted to what will undoubtedly be a lengthy and difficult negotiation. The United States will continue to support democracy 'because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.' ... But the United States will have to be patient, recognizing that the path forward will not be a straight line. The final construction should be consistent with long-term U.S. objectives, but will not have a stamp that says 'made in America.'” Image from

Obama’s Inaugural Stance on Global Engagement and Strategic Posture: The Debate is Now Commenced! - Harry C. Blaney III, "Obama set forth an ambitious and broad foreign affairs agenda yesterday, including in the mix the critical climate change, which in reality will have a far more devastating impact on our nation and the globe in the coming decades than any foreseeable act of terrorism. He has already made the 'pivot' to Asia, which is the opposite from 'withdrawal.' Obama also heralds a more judicious use of our military might and a redeployment of our defense assets towards present and future threats. He furthermore challenges the buying of expensive and unneeded systems, rather than a mindless continued escalation of these practices for danger of the old 'cold war' and past conflicts. As we have posited from this blog, the basic strategy is the use of what many can call 'smart power' and 'soft power [']….. and I hope especially early intervention in emerging areas of unrest and conflict before military force is needed. A statement by defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on the ABC’s Martha Raddatz show said, 'I think it does mean that we’re going to have to work with other countries to develop the kinds of alliances and partnerships that bring other countries into the challenge of how we preserve peace. It just can’t be the U.S.' The same must be said of the active involvement of international organizations like the UN and even NATO/EU in empowering these institutions, and perhaps new ones that build the capability of civic society, humanitarian intervention, and economic development, as well as peace making: this includes peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy. Much of this has to be on the ground conciliation and negotiations involving neutral parties and NGOs. It also calls for more funding for our international development programs, for support of international peacekeeping efforts, for public diplomacy, and, as noted, for old-fashioned early intervention diplomacy."

An open letter to the New York Times concerning Thomas Friedman - Daniel W. Drezner, "Mr. Friedman can polish off an accessible 800 word column on foreign affairs better than 99.5% of the foreign policy community.  And Friedman has locked down a certain Greatest Generation demographic, the one that emails their children with Ph.D.s in political science to say 'Tom Friedman said something interesting in his column today. You should read it.'  Friedman's prose style invites a certain kind of satire, which is occasionally unkind but pretty harmless. I write now, however, because in his latest column he has migrated from the merely foolish to the ill-considered and dangerous.  This is his advice to incoming Secretary of State John Kerry: [']... Let’s break all the rules.

Rather than negotiating with Iran’s leaders in secret — which, so far, has produced nothing and allows the Iranian leaders to control the narrative and tell their people that they’re suffering sanctions because of U.S. intransigence — why not negotiate with the Iranian people? President Obama should put a simple offer on the table, in Farsi, for all Iranians to see. ... ['] ... He goes on to talk about Israel/Palestine, but let's keep the focus on Iran. To put it kindly, there are some serious problems with Friedman's advice. In no particular order: ... 4) In the 35 years since the Iranian Revolution, and the 10+ years since Iran's nuclear program became a point of contention, is there any evidence that U.S. public diplomacy has had any positive effect in the country of Iran? Any? So why will it work now? 5) One last point. Iran's regime has been obsessed with the belief that the United States is trying to foment a Velvet Revolution in the country. They've been willing to arrest, repress, or harrass anyone vaguely associated with such a campaign. Exactly how does Friedman think the government in Tehran would respond to the kind of public diplomacy initiative that he's suggesting?" Friedman image from

Public Schedule for January 23, 2013 - U.S. Department of State: "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS TARA SONENSHINE 2:00 p.m. Under Secretary Sonenshine delivers remarks at the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau town hall, at the Department of State. (CLOSED PRESS COVERAGE)"

U.S. Embassy Disturbed By Threats - "The United States Embassy is disturbed by the series of threats and attacks against legal defenders, civil society organizations and activists who have spoken out on recent events. The right to express opinions freely is universal and one that is protected under Sri Lankan law. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka protect this fundamental right and ensure that all citizens are able to express their opinions without fear of retribution. # # # January 22, 2013: Arun Arokianathan Public Diplomacy Office of the American Embassy 44, Galle Road, Colombo 3 Sri Lanka."

OIG cites vacancies and absenteeism on the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Solution: more boards. (Updated) - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Fired Radio Liberty journalists appeal to BBG and Kevin Klose for reinstatement - BBGWatcher, "In a major shift suggesting open solidarity with fired Radio Liberty journalists and defiance against the current Russian Service and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) top managers installed by the outgoing RFE/RL president Steven Korn, a large number of Russian Service staffers in Prague signed a letter asking the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the designated next RFE/RL president Kevin Klose that their fired colleagues and others

who had resigned in protest be reinstated and allowed to carry on responsible reforms and digital expansion of programs without jeopardizing the station’s pro-media freedom and pro-human rights mission in Russia. Some currently working Russian Service journalists at the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty, where the new service director Masha Gessen has her office, have also sign[ed] the letter." Image from entry, with caption: Radio Liberty in Exile Facebook Page and New Liberty Photo

Public Diplomacy Commission Reopens its Doors - Lívia Pontes Fialho,  "Nearly a year after failing to win reauthorization from Congress, the U.S Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has been reauthorized as of January 3rd. This was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which also passed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act. The P.D. Advisory Commission was created more than sixty years ago – in 1948 – and in 2011 had to put a halt to its activities for the first time in its history. It reports directly to the President and the Secretary of State, being the sole independent official body to provide oversight on American public diplomacy efforts. Its small yearly budget of only $135,000 did not prevent it from being cut by Congress from the budget of FY2012. Officially, its purpose is 'appraising U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics and to increase the understanding of and support for these same activities.' They do so by producing reports, white papers, initiating inquiries on specific programs and organizing symposiums to connect PD practitioners across the government and discuss efforts. Its seven members are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by Congress, serving 3-year terms. The Smith-Mundt Act originally established it as the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, which was later merged with the U.S. Advisory Commission on Educational Exchanges, thus gaining its current name and structure. Their reports, dating back to 1948, are available here. The main role of the Commission is to advise the President, Congress and the Secretary of State on how to effectively tell America’s story and pursue public diplomacy by engaging foreign publics. In recent years it had been on the verge of losing funding. Furthermore, as the government did not provide nominations, positions went vacant for long periods of time.

Although it has contributed important research on the state of PD in the US, the commission’s relevance – especially due to its broad access to lawmakers and the executive branch – is still not fully understood. This may be a reflection on the approach many policymakers have to public diplomacy as a practice. Underscoring this is the fact that two very important pieces of legislation to PD, both the Modernization Act and the reauthorization, were included in the NDAA. After taking his oath of office on Monday, one of the nominations signed by President Barack Obama was that of Freddy (Alfredo) Balsera as the commission’s newest member. Balsera runs a PR firm based in Florida and worked in the Obama ’08 campaign crafting a national media strategy specific to the Hispanic population. During Obama’s transition period, he participated as an advisor in the review process conducted on the Federal Communications Commission. The Commission will reopen its doors, but without a more effective approach than before, that may not be enough to draw the substantial support public diplomacy needs in order to be taken seriously by policymakers." Image from

Russian Service is not the only victim of management actions at RFE/RL - BBGWatcher, "A commentary sent to BBG Watch by a journalist whose articles have been published on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) English-language website points out that the outgoing RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his top deputy Julia Ragona fired experienced journalists and destroyed the effectiveness of not only Radio Liberty’s Russian Service but also the services providing news and analysis to Central Asia."

Obama renominates Jeff Shell to become BBG Chairman - BBGWatcher, "BBG Watch has learned that President Obama has re-submitted to the U.S. Senate the nomination of Jeff Shell, Chairman, NBC Universal International, to be the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting. Shell was first nominated last September to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but because his nomination was not scheduled for confirmation by the Senate, it had to be re-submitted to the new Congress. There has been yet no official White House or BBG announcement on Jeff Shell’s re-nomination."

Pursuing Taiwanese values in the shadow of a giant neighbor - "President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration has been fond of using the term 'soft power' to identify the values of Taiwan since he took office in 2008. 'Soft power' is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe a nation’s ability to use its way of life, cultural assets or public diplomacy as a tool of persuasion, rather than choosing to compete on a political, military and economic level. Soft power matters[:] 'Soft power' has a special significance to Taiwan.

To show 'soft power,' you don’t need to hold a high academic degree, which has traditionally been considered important, if not superior, by the ethnic Chinese. You can still be a high achiever in non-academic areas (such as sport, hospitality, and social movements) even with a lower level of education. On several occasions, President Ma cited Kevin Lin, the ultramarathon champion, Wu Pao-chun, master pastry chef, Yani Tseng, the top seeded women golfer, and Chen Shu-chu, the vegetable vendor and philanthropist. In the past, only successful entrepreneurs, scientists, and academic scholars were praised as role models by the head of state. The influence of 'soft power' allows Taiwanese people to pause and reflect on the long-term pursuit of increasing GDP. Rapid economic growth has alerted the people of Taiwan to be more concerned about quality of life, artistic innovation and cultural refinement. More importantly, under the pressure of strong competition from China in terms of politics, economics, military power, and international status, Taiwan has to find a value system capable of strengthening the self-confidence of its people." Image from, with caption: Nationalists from Taiwan and Hong Kong wave the ROC and PRC flags at the Diaoyu islands in 1996

Israel elections: Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid surges - Priyanka Boghani, GlobalPost:  "Exit polls from Israel's election on Tuesday not only indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be winning with a weaker majority than expected. ... The brand new centrist party, led by recently retired journalist Yair Lapid, seemingly came out of nowhere, with pre-election polls predicting no more than 10 seats for it. ... Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that Lapid probably benefited from his former career as a journalist, television presenter and celebrity bank spokesman, gaining public exposure even before his foray into politics.

[']Lapid honed in on the tastes of voters who want change as long as it's not too drastic. These are people who love their Israeli identity and the Israel Defense Forces, but who live their lives to an American soundtrack... These are people who don't love Arabs and aren't interested in any 'New Middle East,' and want peace mainly so that Israel will be accepted by the West; the types who rant about Israel's lousy public diplomacy being the reason the world hates us.[']" Image from article, with caption: Yair Lapid, chairman of "Yesh Atid" party meets a supporter as he visits a polling station to cast his vote in the Israeli General Election on January 22, 2013 in Netania, Israel. The latest opinion polls suggest that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to office, albeit with a reduced majority.

The Israeli occupation is clearer from Hollywood: 'Five Broken Cameras' provides a naked look at the painful results of this ongoing occupation. Some of these results have been inscribed in acts of overt violence, and others on the troubled faces of some of the soldiers forced to “star” in this film - Shaul Arieli, "The moment it became a candidate for an Oscar, we were quick to embrace the film 'Five Broken Cameras' as a cause for Israeli pride. In this, we once again demonstrated the choice we have made for the past several years: to live apart from the harsh reality and imagine our lives as a glittering reality show. ... The film’s fame overseas is liable to put a mark of Cain on Israel’s brow for many years to come. A hundred ambassadors, a thousand public diplomacy experts and tens of thousands of overseas emissaries won’t be able to halt the expected erosion in Israel’s moral image. Most viewers will have trouble understanding the film within the complex context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The truth is − and this is the source of the film’s power − that it doesn’t speak in the name of the Palestinian people ‏(as evidenced by the criticism it levels at the Palestinian Authority‏), but only in the name of the village of Bil’in. ... The Oscar nomination belongs solely and entirely to the creators of this film, giving us a 'periscope' with which to peek over the physical and mental wall we have built between us and those who live under our control only spitting distance away. The film provides a naked look at the painful results of this ongoing occupation. Some of these results have been inscribed in acts of overt violence, and others on the troubled faces of some of the soldiers forced to “star” in this film." Image from article, with caption: Guy Davidi, director of "5 Broken Cameras," in Bi'lin

Vote seen as referendum on Jordan's gradual reforms: Jordanians head to the polls tomorrow for parliamentary elections. The opposition is urging a boycott to register dissatisfaction with the extremely gradual pace of democratic reforms - Nicholas Seeley, "In 2011, in response to protests, the electoral law was rewritten, but the changes are much smaller than many had hoped for. Jordan now has a convoluted system by which most of the 150 seats will be elected under the same process as before, while 27 will be elected on a 'national list,' which may make it possible for political parties, with actual policies, to gain a foothold.

The king [Jordan's King Abdullah II] says this is the first step toward real, European-style parliamentary democracy, and has promised to consult with parliamentary figures on choosing the next prime minister. Eventually, he has said, parliaments may be able to choose their own leaders – though in a paper published last week he suggested that process could take more than a decade. In the months since the January elections were announced, the government and the royal court have been engaging in a full-court public diplomacy press, trying to get citizens to buy into the process, with the elections as its centerpiece." Image from article, with caption: A Jordanian girl reads a poster for a parliamentary candidate, one day before the designated date of the Jordanian parliamentary elections, in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday

The Year Of Korea - Jennifer Campbell, Ottawa Citizen [Scroll down for article]: "Speaking as the year-long celebration kicks off, Korean Ambassador Cho Hee-yong described Canada and Korea as ‘staunch allies (since the Korean War), ideal partners (between $10 and $12 billion in trade between the two countries) and like-minded countries’ which are middle powers, and fellow members of the G-20. ... [H]e hopes to improve public diplomacy.”

Korea Foundation donates $1 million toward ... - "The Korea Foundation, a charitable organization owned by the government of South Korea, has pledged $ 1 million for the establishment of a Korean Studies chair in the Department of East Asian Studies. This will be the first time that the University has a tenure-track position in Korean Studies, according to Robin D.S. Yates, the Chair of the East Asian Studies Department. According to its website, the foundation seeks to 'broaden understanding of Korea among the peoples in the global society' and describes itself as the nation’s 'foremost institution to advance Korea’s public diplomacy interests through global communication.' The Department of East Asian Studies has been working with the foundation for over twenty years trying to 'develop [McGill’s] Korean language program and Korean studies program,' according to Yates."

Langley: Linked to FMLN terrorist group, José Figueroa fighting deportation - "About 20 supporters of Langley [Canada] resident José Figueroa and his fight against deportation staged a quiet rally outside the offices of Langley MP Mark Warawa Wednesday afternoon. ... The FMLN was organized into a political wing responsible for propaganda and public diplomacy and a military wing responsible for armed operations."

Image from article, with caption: Figueroa was ordered deported for belonging to the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a group linked to violent acts against the regime that ruled the country during the civil war from 1980 to 1992.

Davos 2013’s Middle East and North Africa agenda - Miroslav Dusek, "Miroslav Dusek is director and head the of Middle East and North Africa region, World Economic Forum. ... Between 2003 and 2007, Dusek was assistant, then director at the American Center, U.S. Embassy, Prague, responsible for managing public information programs ranging from expert conferences to academic competitions and publications.

Between 2007 2011, he worked as public diplomacy specialist, U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, responsible for relations with Iraqi media and for a number of education and cultural projects." Image (presumably of Dusek) from article

U.S.-China Public Relations Specialist Wen Chen Speaks to Rotary Club of Goleta - "The Rotary Club of Goleta recently welcomed guest speaker Wen Chen, a public relations coordinator for New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTY) in Los Angeles.

Chen is a former contributing researcher to the Center on Public Diplomacy’s Nation Branding at Expo Shanghai 2010 project, while she was a second-year student in the master of public diplomacy program at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism." Image from entry, with caption: Dick Temple, program chair for the Rotary Club of Goleta, welcomes Beatrice Meier, left, special project executive for New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTY) in Los Angeles, and Wen Chen, NTDTY public relations specialist.


If Barack Obama is an isolationist then isolationism no longer has any meaning - Alex Massie, The US retains a military presence (of one sort or another) in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. To the extent there is any “retreat” from europe this too is best appreciated as a continuation of a policy first suggested by George W Bush. It does not mean a retreat from interventionism; merely a rebalancing of American commitments. The expansion of the US’s operations in Australia is merely one obvious, telling, example of this. It is true that Obama’s second inaugural contained nothing as bold or dramatic or sweeping as his predecessor’s declaration that the American mission in Bush’s second term was nothing less than the global eradication of tyranny. But that hardly makes Obama an isolationist.

Kerry: A State nominee skeptical about overseas activism: Committee must grill one of its own - Guy Taylor: With President Obama having now tapped Mr. Kerry to become America’s next secretary of state, foreign policy insiders say the five-term senator from Massachusetts is unlikely to stray from his record as a liberal who favors assiduous debate and analysis before committing to any kind of engagement overseas.

“Kerry will work closely with President Obama, but the president and the national security staff will set the tone,” said Gordon Adams, who worked on President Clinton’s national security staff and now teaches foreign affairs at American University. “I do not expect Kerry to develop an independent posture from the White House,” Mr. Adams said. Mr. Adams predicts that Mr. Kerry is more likely to take on a personal style comparable to former Secretaries of State James A. Baker and Dean Rusk, who “loved the business of diplomacy but left management to others within the State Department.” “And this doesn’t serve the department well,” he said. Image from

On Benghazi, blame the bureaucracy: Experts from disparate agencies reviewing intelligence from the field often end up watering down the information - Sarah Chayes, One lesson to be drawn from the Benghazi snafu is that powerful bureaucratic filters prevent crucial information from reaching senior U.S. government leaders. Whether the client at the top is the U.N. ambassador, the director of Central Intelligence or the president, bureaucracies consistently massage and filter information before passing it up the chain. U.S. leaders must work actively to counterbalance this tendency. To nourish high-quality, timely decision-making, they must make a concerted effort to seek out analysis that contradicts what they normally get, as painful as the effort — and the hearing of it — may be.

Hillary and 'Leading From Behind': Why did Mrs. Clinton outsource to Qatar the arming of the opposition in Libya and Syria? - Paul Wolfowitz, Wall Street Journal: Although the outcome in Syria won't be known for some time, it will weigh heavily in judgments of Mrs. Clinton's tenure as secretary of state. As she leaves office, the American people deserve to know whether she supports the leading-from-behind approach that has undone some of the Libyan achievement and dangerously prolonged the war in Syria. If it is the president's policy and not hers, now is the time to voice her objections. If it is her policy, too, then it is fair to ask her to defend it and to be held accountable for its consequences.

Armed Drones Could Target President: Former U.S. Intelligence Chief - David Wood, Huffington Post: As the technology for arming drones spreads around the world, terrorists could use the unmanned, missile-firing aircraft to attack and kill the president and other U.S. leaders, the former chief of U.S. intelligence said Tuesday. Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as President Obama's first director of national intelligence, told reporters he was concerned that the proliferation of armed drones -- a potential outgrowth of the U.S. reliance on drones to attack and kill terrorists -- could well backfire.

US Diplomatic Museum On The Horizon – Charliera45, Over a decade ago, recognizing that there were more than 500 museums in the US that showcase the contributions of the military, but not a single one that covers the work that American diplomats have done valiantly since before the founding of the republic, a group of senior officials, including former secretaries of state and members of Congress, began to promote the idea of establishing a museum and center that would educate Americans on the important role diplomacy played and continues to play in our security and prosperity. The project languished for a long time until Hillary Rodham Clinton became Secretary of State, and threw her support and amazing fund-raising ability behind it. On January 25, along with former Secretary James Baker, Clinton will launch the US Diplomacy Center and Museum which will be housed in the Department of State‘s main building in Foggy Bottom, between C and D Streets Northwest, and just west of the National Mall.

This unique project will showcase the history and importance of diplomacy and the contributions of members of the Foreign Service through interactive exhibits and outreach programs to American high schools. Anyone wanting to know more about the center can visit the Website of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association of the Foreign Service, at: Image from, with caption: Description: U.S. Diplomacy Center

Covert Propaganda and Media Manipulation: Lew Rockwell interviews Doug Valentine - Lew Rockwell, Valentine: "The United States has a couple of agencies that are interested in propagandizing not only the American people but the world, including the State Department, which is the biggest federal agency involved in propaganda, and the military, which is probably a close second. The military is one of the biggest advertisers. And, of course, the media depends on its revenue, not on -- especially the television -- not on listeners or viewers, but on its advertisers. So there is relationships -- a much larger relationship between the U.S. media, the military, the State Department, than there is with the CIA. The question one has to ask, given that all this propaganda from the various agencies is coming at the American people is, what makes CIA propaganda different than State Department propaganda or military propaganda or even just plain -- the propaganda that corporations and advertisers are throwing at the American people every second of every day. Everywhere you look there's signs, advertising signs, and that's all propaganda as well, too. So the question you have to ask is, what differentiates CIA propaganda from all this other propaganda. ... There's all types of propaganda. And the CIA is one of those agencies that's trying to promote itself and get more money for itself. And all those things contribute to whether the CIA decides what kind of propaganda to promote in its decision making. There's those bureaucratic reasons as well as anything about spreading freedom and democracy."

"Zero Dark Thirty": US-Condoned Propaganda Promotes Extra-Judicial Killings of Brown Men - Deepa Kumar, Truthout: "Zero Dark Thirty" sells us on a strategic shift in the war on terror from conventional warfare to targeted killing.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by Obama earlier this month, includes an amendment that legalizes the dissemination of propaganda to US citizens. Image from entry, with caption: A scene from "zero Dark Dirty"

Iran's Obama billboard: what it really means: Tehran's latest propaganda offensive shows Barack Obama on a huge mural side by side with a seventh-century Shia villain - Roland Elliott Brown, Depictions of foreign politicians are almost unknown, but last week an Iranian website showcased photographs of a dramatic new anti-Obama mural near the city's busy Valiasr Square. The image is of Barack Obama standing next to Shemr, a villain in Shia Islam, with a BBC-style caption at the bottom attributing to both men, in the years 2013 and 680 respectively, the loaded phrase: "Be with us, be safe." This is an example of what one might call "high-context" propaganda. Whereas in America unfounded insinuations that Obama is a Muslim come from his enemies, in Iran they come from admirers. As Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd recalls in his 2012 book, The Ayatollahs' Democracy, Obama's 2008 presidential campaign inspired rumours in Iran that the senator from Illinois had Iranian roots. Some fans made much of his middle name – Hussein – which he shares with the central martyr in Shia theology, the prophet Muhammad's grandson. Others made an omen of his surname, observing that it sounds like Oo ba ma'st, or "He's with us", in Farsi. The Tehran mural aims to invert this occult symbolism by recourse to Shia tradition. The villain Shemr belongs to the narrative of Hussein's martyrdom at the Battle of Karbala in 680, the trauma that split Muslims into Sunni and Shia denominations.

The Shia, or "Party of Ali" (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law) sought hereditary leadership of Islam. After the murder of the Caliph Ali, and the death of Ali's son and successor Hassan, Ali's younger son Hussein clashed for succession with the Umayyad Caliph Yazid, who sent Shemr's army to destroy Hussein and his followers. Shemr offered some of Hussein's supporters a "letter of protection" in exchange for betraying him, but they refused. In the mural, Shemr extends a similar letter to the viewer, as he and Obama utter the words Ba ma bash – "be with us" – playing on the president's name, and insinuating that anyone who still likes Obama in the wake of tightening sanctions – or who advocates meeting American, EU, or International Atomic Energy Agency demands over Iran's nuclear programme to avoid conflict – is a traitor to the faith. Obama, the state insists, is a "Hussein" unworthy of loyalty. Image from article

Bahrain Propaganda 101: Regime Looking for a Few Good Women on Twitter - Scott Lucas, One of the distinctive features of the political conflict in Bahrain, soon after the start of the mass protests in February 2011, has been the intensity of the exchanges on social media. Opposition activists have been prominent in their dissemination of information and videos.

Bahraini officials have encouraged their supporters to put forward the regime case, and public-relations firms have been given large contracts to work with those officials on social media strategy. Meanwhile, senior opposition figures and human rights activists such as Nabeel Rajab and Said Yousif AlMuhafda have been imprisoned for their Tweets. This week the regime-linked Gulf Daily News posted an article on a new social media effort by the ruling AlKhalifa family: “Young women will get training on how to use Twitter to help combat false information being circulated about Bahrain. The initiative is being spearheaded by the Children and Mothers' Welfare Society for its younger members.” Image from article

Glorious Mission: Chinese propaganda officials design online game - Samantha Stainburn, 'Glorious Mission' is an online combat game designed to impart 'the core values' of the military to Chinese players.

North Korea’s Propaganda Computer Games Are Violent, Crude and Cartoonish - Brian Ashcraft, While North Korea has the propaganda of military parades down pat, it needs to work on how it uses computer games to indoctrinate. Actually, it just needs to work on computer games.

And once it has that down, the country can focus on brain washing. Uriminzokkiri is a web portal that pushes North Korean propaganda from the country's central news agency. It's based in China, but according to Reuters, it's controlled from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. On Uriminzokkiri, there are a handful of flash games you can play on your computer, reports NK News. Uncaptioned image from entry

One in Ten Beijingers Is a “Propaganda Worker” - At yesterday’s municipal propaganda department meeting in Beijing, Vice Mayor Lu Wei implored 60,000 propaganda workers “in the system” and over two million “outside the system” to “use Weibo.” According to official records, Beijing has a population of more than 20 million–from Lu’s statement, one out of every ten Beijingers is a “propaganda worker.”

‘Warm Bodies’ Goes The Propaganda Route With New Poster! - Evan Dickson, Summit Entertainment has just released a new poster for All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and 50/50 director Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies.

I really like the unique tone to all the materials we’ve seen thus far (check out Part One of my Set Visit here) and this one sheet is no exception. Its use of propaganda iconography is nicely in step with the theme of the film. Image from entry




"Putin is saving Russia," V. Mamatkazin; via AK on Facebook


Wanted: 'Adventurous woman' to give birth to Neanderthal man - Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby - Allan Hall and Fiona Macrae, Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA.

His ambitious plan requires a human volunteer willing to allow the DNA to be put into stem cells, then a human embryo. Image from article, with caption: Neanderthals have been extinct for 33,000 years, but George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, believes he can bring them back with the help of a surrogate human mother. Via LV on Facebook

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