Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22

"VOA has an identity problem from which it may never ascend."

--U.S. International Broadcasting commentator Kim Andrew Elliott; image from


(a) The trailer for the State Department funded film "Buzkashi Boys," which tells the coming of age story of two best friends set against the dramatic landscape of contemporary Afghanistan and the national sport of Buzkashi (from Wall Street Journal).

(b) NORODOM SIHANOUK sing [s] a song good bye CAMBODIA ! ! ! - You Tube; cited at

(c) More unbelievable propaganda from the federal government - FOX News


Propaganda 'Blowback' to Star on Oscar Night - "The State Dept.’s public diplomacy corps will be glued to the TV on Oscar Night, rooting for the success of 'The Bushkazi Boys' a 29-minute film that is nominated in the short film live action category. The Wall Street Journaltoday reported that Bushkazi Boys was funded almost entirely by the State Dept.’s $150M propaganda budget to 'support Afghan media and burnish the U.S. image in Afghanistan.'

It was shot in Kabul with the help of a dozen aspiring Afghan filmmakers who were paired with professional mentors. The film revolves around the lives of two young Afghans who dream of starring in Afghanistan’s national sport. Bushkazi is a rough contest in which horsemen whack a headless calf carcass across a field. The game could run for days. Since the sport is popular across central Asia, the movie may have 'legs.' (Yaks are the preferred riding partners in parts of China.) The two young stars of Bushkazi Boys will be in Los Angeles during the awards ceremony on Sunday. If they beat out competing films 'Death of a Shadow,' 'Henry,' 'Curfew' and 'Asad,' Bushkazi Boys may be coming to an art house near you—thanks to your tax dollars and U.S. propaganda efforts.  I doubt the sport of bushkazi is going to take off here, soccer after all has been trying for years to gain a foothold. The film though may convince some Americans of providing long-term financial and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan long after the last U.S. soldier has left the country. To the State Dept., that would be worth more than any Oscar trophy."  Uncaptioned image from article

American star power still rules the globe - Richard Wike, CCN: "For decades, Hollywood has been a big part of brand America, and U.S. movies continue to break box office records around the world. Over the past year, blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have earned over half a billion dollars outside the United States. And this weekend, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, viewers in more than 225 countries will tune into the Oscars. Surveys consistently show that movies – and more broadly, American popular culture – are a strong suit of U.S. soft power. And, while studio executives spend considerably more time thinking about box office returns than public diplomacy, Tinseltown is actually pretty effective at nudging America’s international image in a positive direction. (Certainly, with anti-Americanism still strong in the Middle East and among some other nations, brand America needs all the help it can get). American culture is especially attractive in Europe. The continent may have a long tradition of intellectuals deriding U.S. culture, but average Europeans embrace it. A 2012 Pew Research Center poll found solid majorities in all eight European Union nations surveyed saying they like American movies, music, and television, including 72 percent in France, home to the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Luc Godard, and (until recently) Gérard Depardieu.

As is the case with nearly all things American, U.S. pop culture is more popular among Europeans in the Obama era than it was during George W. Bush’s presidency, although even during the Bush years, when European anti-Americanism was surging, most still had a favorable opinion of American entertainment. And it’s not just Europe – about seven-in-ten of those surveyed in Japan, Brazil, and Mexico, for example, say they enjoy U.S. movies, music, and television. In nearly all countries included in the survey, America’s pop culture is especially attractive to young people. For instance, a stunning 94 percent of Germans under age 30 like it, while just 47 percent of those 50 and older agreed. Huge age gaps are also found in Russia, France, Britain and elsewhere. In many nations, there is also an education gap. In China, where a growing middle class increasingly has yuan to spend on entertainment, 74 percent of people with a college degree enjoy American pop culture, compared with less than half of those with less education. ... Of course, even in countries where the U.S. and its entertainment exports are generally popular, many still voice reservations about the reach of American culture. Japan was the only nation among the 20 polled where a majority (58 percent) said it is good that American customs and ideas are spreading to their country. In contrast, less than a third in Britain, France, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Greece described the spread of U.S. ideas and customs as a good thing. In Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan the numbers were even lower." Image from article; see also John Brown, "Is the U.S. High Noon Over? Reflections on the Declining Global Influence of American Popular Culture," (February 2004)

Africa is keeping up with Kim Kardashian – but will it pay the price? [includes video] -  Lost in Show Bliz Blog, "'Kim Kardashian is different from the generally known stars, he [Kim's publicist] opined. 'She doesn't sing. She doesn't dance. But she's still famous. She has her own talent to be herself and make people love her. She travels around the country, around the world, receiving thousands of fans. People even pay $1,500 to see her in the Middle East – that means something. ... She is free. She moves from one topic to another one without worrying or thinking about it. She's a kind of role model.' Mm. Or is she, in fact, the US government's stealthiest new nation-building weapon? Consider this report for the locals, compiled by Voice of America, which you may know is the official external broadcast network of the US government. 'American reality television star Kim Kardashian is making a visit to the west African nation of Ivory Coast,' began a VOA report datelined Abidjan,'where her family's shows have earned her a loyal following.' So far, so unremarkable.

But here's where it gets a bit Operation Enduring Mindmelt. 'While the family's exploits might be seen as decadent and absurd by some Americans,' we learn, 'fans in the commercial capital of Abidjan view the shows as heartfelt family dramas featuring girls familiar with struggle and hard work.' ... By the time an Ivorian is wheeled on to give her nation's precis of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, ... the alarm bells should be giving you tinnitus. 'It shows us the American spirit, and the American way of life,' this supposed member of the public says. 'People struggle to earn their living every day, and then when they succeed in life they get big cars, houses, luxurious things. It shows us how American people live.' Well. Voice of America has long been cited as a propaganda tool of the US government, but this seems brainwashing even by those standards. LiS [Lost in Show Biz Blog] is reminded once again of the radical diplomatic manoeuvre nicknamed The Fatal Hug, which proposes the embrace of states you wish to destabilise. As one academic told Time magazine: 'There is a theory that American cultural and economic power is so insidiously attractive that opening up to the US would be the death of these regimes.' So there you have it. The US government is conducting a covert campaign in sub-Saharan Africa via the strategic deployment of Ms Kimberley Kardashian, whose narcotising presence is widely credited with being able to usher in the change a military campaign could only dream of." Via (and comment by) KAE; Kardashian image from article

Afghanistan Is Getting Better Website and Story Corps - "Category Explanation: Public Diplomacy Expected Number of Awards: 1 Estimated Total Program Funding $250,000 [.] Description [:] The Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan invites all eligible organizations to submit a proposal for a cooperative agreement with the U.S. embassy to create and design a stand-alone website or dedicated channel on that allows individuals from within Afghanistan and across the globe to upload short (no more than three-minute long) personally recorded videos describing why and how the individual is contributing to the betterment of Afghanistan and/or the ways in which the Afghanistan of today has provided opportunities that didn’t exist before, and offering messages of hope for the country’s future. In addition to ensuring that others can upload videos to the site, the recipient will also be responsible for recording and uploading an initial set of videos."

Department of State Public Schedule Friday, February 22, 2013 - posted at "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS TARA SONENSHINE 12:30 p.m.

Under Secretary Sonenshine attends a meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, at the BBG headquarters in Washington, DC. 6:00 p.m. Under Secretary Sonenshine attends a reception hosted by the Ambassador of Japan His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae in honor of the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan His Excellency ShinzÅ Abe, in Washington, DC." Image from entry

A Snapshot of Public Diplomacy in Action: Public Diplomacy Programs Programs by Area for the Weeks of January 28 and February 4, 2013 - Tara D. Sonenshine, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Issue Brief: Intelligence Needs in the Hunt for the LRA - Alissa Orlando, "Despite ... meaningful steps taken by the Obama administration, efforts to apprehend the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] and protect civilians have fallen short.

The U.S. should leverage its international weight, public diplomacy outreach, and intelligence technologies to mitigate intelligence challenges." Image from entry

Radio Free Europe through the Eyes of the Czechoslovak State Security Service - BBGWatcher, "For anyone interested in the activities of the Czechoslovak State Security Service (StB) directed against Radio Free Europe should look at this document with historical photographs that has just been made available to view or download. An article about the photographs was published by Richard H. Cummings, author of “Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989″ (2009) and “Radio Free Europe’s ‘Crusade for Freedom’: Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960″ (2010).

Cummings served as Director of Security at RFE/RL. Radio Free Europe through the Eyes of the Czechoslovak State Security Service, Richard H. Cummings, Cold War Radios, February 22, 2013. Radio Free Europe through the eyes of the State Security Service [pdf] – Behind the Iron Curtain (The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes), February 2013." Image from entry

Worldwide campaign launched to support conflict photographers and journalists [update] [includes video] - "On 22 February 2012, The Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and freelance photographer Rémi Ochlik were murdered when their press centre in Homs, Syria, was targeted by the Syrian regime. To date, no one has been prosecuted for their deaths. Now, a year later, a group of journalists, editors, photographers and legal experts have launched an international campaign to 'draw sharper attention to the growing number of journalists who have been killed and injured in armed conflict, in some cases as a result of direct targeting by the belligerents; to develop a public diplomacy, institutional and legal agenda to combat this more effectively; and to investigate and collect evidence in support of prosecutable cases in this area'. The campaign, dubbed A Day Without News?, originated during a panel discussion at the United Nations headquarters in New York."

British Council Call for Action to Support Arts in North Africa - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "This is a bit of an odd document. It comes out of the Arts side of the Council rather than reflecting an overall organizational strategy. It presents itself as a research report but there is very little evidence of the research itself in the report. There’s no description of who has been interviewed. We don’t get a sense of who is supposed to be talking and where they fit into the broader context. There’s no attempt to compare across countries and what is really strange: there isn’t a single quote in a report called ‘voices of the people’. I’m not sure that it’s very effective in presenting either the research or the call to the UK arts sector to get involved."

Opportunity Korea - Julie Chappell, “'Opportunity Korea' ... is a week-long series of events in five UK cities aimed at busting the myths and making a compelling case for doing business in this thriving democracy. Over the course of the week, we spoke to over 200 companies.

Opportunity Korea was a flagship event but it’s part of a much wider process. We have invited participants to take part in trade missions. We’re set to welcome Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and a creative industry delegation in March. And as a priority market for the GREAT Britain campaign, our innovative public diplomacy work is supporting efforts to double exports of UK goods and services to Korea by 2016." Chapell image from entry

North Korea’s Defiance May Reshape China’s Strategic Calculus - Paul Haenle, "[A]lthough China continues to resist adopting a more active diplomatic role internationally, it is devoting a great deal of energy and resources to public diplomacy efforts aimed at enhancing China’s image and soft power around the world. The continuing narrative that North Korea defies China, one of the North’s only allies, at every turn, and that Beijing can’t persuade Pyongyang to be a stable and constructive actor in the region, cuts across Beijing’s goals of consolidated regional influence and eventual global great power status."

Savir's Corner: Raising expectations - Uri Savir, Jerusalem Post: "[F]actors of dangerous change in the Middle East that demand a radical turnabout toward Arab-Israeli peacemaking in the core of the region. Radicalism, fundamentalism and terrorism cannot be deterred anymore by the military might of superpowers or regional powers. America witnessed this in the unstable outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel witnessed it in its recent campaign in Gaza, where it was unable to defeat Hamas, which was actually strengthened by the confrontation. Radicalism and fundamentalism must be defeated in the hearts and minds of the people as they are beliefs; it is no longer about a balance of deterrence, but about a balance of motivations. This, in the eyes of governments, is a more difficult task – the traditional 'chess game' with kings, tanks and fighter jets were easier to deal with. Diplomacy and public diplomacy must go hand-in-hand. Yet it is a doable task as most people in the region, while not enamored with one another, want to live in peace."

Scholars call for EU negotiations, domestic reform - Menekse Tokyay, "As Turkey's EU bid has stalled, a group of prominent scholars agree that negotiations can only proceed if Turkey advances democracy, drafts a new civilian constitution and resolves of the Kurdish issue. The Abant Platform has long been a progressive force in Turkey, bringing together intellectuals to debate and outline a vision for the country's future. This year, the platform emphasized the importance of Turkey's EU membership process, which should run parallel to work on a new constitution, democratisation, rule of law, equal citizenship and resolution of the Kurdish issue.

...Speaking to SETimes, platform participants said the Turkey-EU relationship should be based on trust between parties. Meanwhile, public opinion on both sides should be well-informed of the benefits of membership, including the critical role of Turkey for the European security and ensuring 'peaceful coexistence between the Muslim world and the West.'  ...  'One of the main problems is that some European governments act under the pressure of populist parties that stir up and exploit anti-foreigner, anti-Muslim and in particular anti-Turkish sentiments. Both sides should be aware that they are facing the same geopolitical challenges. Steps of public diplomacy could play an important role in the improvement of mutual trust,' Austrian professor Hans Köchler, the president of the International Progress Organisation, told SETimes. ... Another participant at the platform, Savas Genc from Istanbul's Fatih University, agreed.  'The EU, which still takes an elitist approach in its public diplomacy, is not ready to accept Turkey as a member. It is the duty of the EU to stop interpreting Turkey from the perspective of immigration problems,' Genc told SETimes." Image from entry

Colombia not Columbia - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "'Colombia is where famed artist Fernando Botero hails from; Columbia is a university in New York. The coffee you drank this morning might be from Colombia; Your outerwear might have been made by Columbia.' Colombia, not Columbia.

I posted it on Che Miles' FB page, since he works in the region. His answer was: 'I don't like it. It's placing pride over PD strategy and aims much lower than the 'The only risk is wanting to stay' campaign. Unless they direct the scope at some of the real image problems the country has, the only positive impact will be the correct spelling of Colombia.' Verdad." Image from

Words I Never Said  - Political Mirrors: "It is a shame that the entwining of lyrics and images within music video has not gained more notice as a strong tool for public diplomacy which is not controlled by the state."

Stanley McChrystal’s memoir reveals deeply personal truths - Renée Filiatrault, "Renée Filiatrault was Senior Public Diplomacy Officer in Afghanistan with Task Force Kandahar in 2009-10. Before that, she served two ministers of National Defence."


U.S. drone strikes up sharply in Afghanistan: Their use rose 72% last year compared with 2011, and the trend is likely to continue as troops withdraw. But while the aircraft reduce risks to U.S. forces, mistakes are deadly for civilians - Shashank Bengali and David S. Cloud, Though drone strikes represented a fraction of all U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan last year, their use is on the rise even as American troops have pulled back from ground and air operations and pushed Afghan soldiers and police into the lead. In 2011, drone strikes accounted for 5% of U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan; in 2012, the figure rose to 12%. The U.S. military has acknowledged multiple times that it has accidentally killed civilians in drone strikes.

Sad SIGAR Saga in Afghanistan - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: The reconstruction of Afghanistan

is simply another foreign policy feel-good farce. Image from

Obama needs a Plan B for Syria - Vance Serchuk, Washington Post: If any prospect remains to change the calculations of Assad and his gang, it will be because of bold leadership from Washington, not Moscow — specifically, the use of limited military force, such as airstrikes, to neutralize Assad’s airpower, protect civilians in liberated areas and underscore that the Syrian leader’s cause is hopeless.

Lies of Zionist propaganda - As'ad AbuKhalil, The Angry Arab News Service: For decades Zionist propaganda insisted that Yasir `Arafat has been stashing millions (or billions) in foreign bank accounts. Even as of last month in the new book by Elliott Abrams, he claimed that Arafat had a wealth of $300 million. Of course, as much as I detest Arafat, now we know the truth. Arafat had no money whatsoever and left no money whatsoever. All that was a lie.

Baseless Islamophobia perpetuated by propaganda - Kevin Frankel, Islam is a religion of an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide, 2.6 million of whom are Americans. To think that it is a uniformly anti-Western religion is just foolish.

Like every other major religion, there are varying sects, some of which happen to be extreme to a violent degree. Casting the entire religion as inherently violent is not only unjust and offensive, but it presents the threat of undue violent retaliation that cannot be tolerated. Image from

The propaganda machine - Fahmi Howeidi, There is, today, nothing louder than the voices of sabotage, destruction, and incitement in the Egyptian media. There has been a determined attempt to aggravate the relationship between the regime and the army. In recent weeks, there have been rumours of complaint and anger amongst the armed forces, as well as direct calls on television talk shows for military intervention to halt the country's decline. The propaganda machine still continues to function.

Armenian ambassador to Czech Republic: Azerbaijani propaganda results are obvious in Czech Republic - Seyranyan, the Armenian ambassador to Czech Republic, made an extensive speech. He first introduced the beginning of the Karabakh conflict when in response to peaceful rallies Sumgait massacre was implemented by the Azerbaijanis as well as a number of other acts of violence. They also started a war, which brought to death of thousands.

Afterwards the RA Ambassador has applied to the Czech MPs and has touched upon the unilateral resolution of the foreign relations committee of the Chamber of Representatives about the Khojalu events. The ambassador has stated that Azerbaijan is spending big amount of money over anti-Armenian racist and militant campaign, and is using all the possible means. Seyranyan image from article

Hollywood shocker: Oscar best picture nominees have positive messages - Carl Kozlowski, Washington Times: More surprising even than the popular success and entertainment value of this year’s best picture field is that these nominees — again, with the exception of “Amour” — have actually been films with a positive, traditional message. It seems that maybe the grass-roots backlash against Hollywood’s assault on mainstream sensibilities — a revolt that’s been growing in scope and in courage, both within Hollywood’s creative ranks and from cultural critics without — is finally having an impact.

Among them “Zero Dark Thirty”: The story of the people who fought to the end to take down one of the worst enemies we’ve ever had, Osama bin Laden. Much like “Argo,” it amazed viewers with its straightforward telling of its story of immense patriotism, determination and sacrifice on behalf of fellow Americans. Image from article, with caption: This undated publicity photo released by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. shows Navy SEALs seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, as they prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden's compound in Columbia Pictures' hyper-realistic new action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty."

The Legion of Real-Life Supervillains: What if the world's most notorious villains -- real and imagined -- teamed up? - Bily Mariano da Luz, George W. Bush may have had his "axis of evil," but this week Bily Mariano da Luz ("Butcher Billy") unveiled his own entourage of global evildoers -- one that included the former American president himself. Da Luz, a Brazilian artist, mashed up comic bad guys with real-life villains (an eclectic bunch that includes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and John Lennon assassin Mark Chapman) to create a hybrid "Legion of Doom." The depressing part of the exercise, da Luz wrote, was realizing that "if the comic book supervillains were actually the ones threatening real life, the world wouldn't be such a bad place."

Above is one of the surreal Frankensteins da Luz created, with commentary from the artist about what inspired him to make the provocative pairings that he did. Via PR on Facebook


Get a slurp of this: Recession-proof U.S. wine market booming, record exports posted - Joshua Eferighe, The Washington Times: Boosted by soaring double-digit sales increases in China and other Asian markets, U.S. wine exports hit a record 1.4 billion liters in 2012, up 2.6 percent from 2011 and the third straight annual increase, the San Francisco-based Wine Institute said Thursday.
Europe remained the top export market, followed by Canada and Hong Kong. Wine exports to China last year were up 18 percent to $74 million, while sales were also up 27 percent in South Korea and 22 percent in Vietnam. U.S. wine exports — 90 percent of which originate from California — have managed to do well despite the recent global downturn due to rising demand, improved marketing and trade agreements that have opened new markets. Other wine-producing countries, including South  Africa and France, also have reported record exports in recent weeks.


"essere bello non è peccato"

--Cover Headline of the Italian Vanity Fair regarding Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the Pope’s aide; The Daily News notes, "Forget George Clooney — Italians have a new hunk to drool over, and this one is truly God-like. Catholics in Italy have gone gaga for the movie-star good looks of Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the right-hand man to the Pope and the first clergyman to grace the cover of Italian Vanity Fair." Image from

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