Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 11-12

"[T]he embassy employs two social workers to mediate roommate conflicts."  

--Domani Spero,"US Mission Iraq: Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World," DiploPundit; image from


WASHINGTON, D.C,.  Documentary theater possesses a unique ability to respond to issues of pressing political import and social justice, and provides a platform and voice for the dispossessed. “Theater of the Voiceless" -- an international symposium and festival produced by Zeitgeist DC (Austrian Cultural Forum Washington, Goethe-Institut Washington and the Embassy of Switzerland) and the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University — takes place June 16 - 19, 2013 at various venues around Washington, DC. A centerpiece of “Theater of the Voiceless” — led by festival artistic director Gillian Drake — is a daylong symposium that will be held from 11 am to 10 pm on Monday, June 17th 2013 at Georgetown University, Davis Performing Arts Center (37th and O Streets NW, Washington, DC). To RSVP and for more information, visit


People-to-People Engagement: Cultures, History, and Mutual Understanding Through Public Diplomacy - Remarks, Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, The U.S.-Islamic World Forum, Doha, Qatar, June 9, 2013: "We are committed to supporting a new chapter – not only in Afghanistan but everywhere. We have stories, values, traditions, and freedoms to share. We know that Muslim communities – from the mosques in every state of the U.S., to the madrassas of Kuala Lumpur – also have stories to share.

That is why we prioritize our people-to-people programs in Afghanistan and the region. And why we have invested more in our Fulbright program in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world. Our challenge is to bridge the yawning gap—between the government and the governed, between traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy. To make policies work for people." See also. Sonenshine (with Clinton) image from

Oz - Oh Boy It Never Ends: "Tara Soneshine is the US State Dept's Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and she gave a speech on behalf of the State Dept Sunday in Qatar which I missed until Iraqi and Arabic social media picked up on it earlier today, calling her out for the nonsense in her speech. Iraqi media especially called her out -- in some rather graphic terms -- for failing to mention Iraq in her supposed speech on the 'Muslim communities' -- they mocked her for that as well because most consider it the Arabic world and found her 'Muslim communities' to be condescending and, as one poster on Iraqi social media noted, makes great nations sound like tiny areas in a city. And many saw it as a rejection of the notion of the Arabic world as well. Soneshine insulted the people she was trying to reach. Great going, way to work that diplomacy. What an embarrassment."

If a drone were downed - Zafar Hilaly, "Obama doesn’t believe in using diplomacy with Pakistan. ... Obama continued using drones not only to kill his enemies but also to remind us where we ranked in his order of priorities. All the talk in Washington about public diplomacy and reaching out to ordinary folk doesn’t really matter much to Obama; nor the visceral dislike of the US his policies have generated in Pakistan.

His antipathy towards Pakistan, preference for India, the pursuit of an elusive military victory in Afghanistan, shunning reconciliation and then embracing it – but not really, molly-coddling the erratic and errant Karzai ... all belie his claim of wanting a solid, long-term relationship with Pakistan." Image from

Urge President Obama to Facilitate Humanitarian Trade and People-to-People Ties with Iran
– "Last month, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) sent a letter to President Barack Obama endorsing recommendations put forth in a report, Time to Move from Tactics to Strategy on Iran, issued on April 4th, 2013, by the Atlantic Council. In particular, PAAIA urged the president to implement recommendations to facilitate humanitarian trade and strengthen people-to-people ties. While U.S. sanctions allow for exports of humanitarian goods (food, medicine, etc.) and for personal and family remittances, U.S. and international efforts, as well as Iranian mismanagement and alleged illicit activities, have caused some banks to shy away from making shipments of non-prohibited items to Iran.The Atlantic Council report acknowledges the need to ensure the effectiveness of the sanctions against Iran while also minimizing, as far as is possible, their negative effects on the Iranian people. To help accomplish this, the report recommends that the Treasury Department designate a small number of U.S. and private Iranian financial institutions and/or third-country banks as channels for payment for humanitarian, educational, and public diplomacy-related transactions. PAAIA believes that such a policy would be beneficial for Iranian Americans and for the United States as a whole."

US Mission Iraq: Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: State/OIG recently released its inspection report of U.S. Embassy Baghdad and its constituent posts in Erbil and Basrah. Here are a few things that you may not know about our largest embassy in the world. ... #8. Largest IVP in the World US Mission Iraq 'manages the largest International Visitor Leadership Program in the world with 149 participants in FY 2012.' #9. Arabic Speakers: Only Three Can Conduct Interviews Unassisted 'Consular Management The section’s effectiveness is hampered by a dearth of Arabic-language speakers, limited cultural insight, and an insufficient number of useful local contacts, largely due to the limited role the five Iraqi employees play in the overall operation.

Fewer than half the consular employees—both U.S. and non-U.S. direct hires—speak Arabic and only three of the Arabic-speaking officers can conduct the full range of interviews unassisted.' This shortage of expertise is not confined to language. Elsewhere in the report, the inspectors note that many Washington-based employees have more historical knowledge than some employees working in Iraq today." Embassy image from entry

Salaries, Spooks, and Ambassadors - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "[C]onsider what kind of 'public diplomacy' message we are sending abroad, perhaps unintentionally: a conscience-stricken 29-year-old spook in a secure/obscure installation in Hawaii involved in secretly collecting intelligence on Americans and foreigners -- and naive in thinking that communist-controlled Hong Kong, on all cities, would provide him with a safe hiding place, after telling his boss 'that he needed time off for epilepsy treatment -- was being been remunerated more than (supposedly carefully selected) diplomats who openly engage important officials and the significant public opinion overseas."

How does USG internet snooping jibe with "internet freedom"? - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "How does USG internet snooping overseas jibe with the State Department proclaimed 'Internet Freedom'?

A question to consider, not yet asked so far as I can tell in the U.S. media, if we Americans wish to carry out a public diplomacy overseas that is not seen the ultimate expression of U.S. exceptionalism -- our 'awesome' ... hypocrisy." Image from

Security is the Wrong Framework in Which to Understand NSA Surveillance - Annemie, Immunity from Elquence: "The essential question is not where the balance between security and surveillance lies, but whether the security problem is a real problem. In other words, do the benefits of consorting with Israel, Saudi Arabia and their ilk outweigh the harm of attacks and surveillance on American citizens (and their foreign contacts)? Should Americans be placed at risk of attack and surveillance so that their government can support its rights violating allies? Given the harm of attacks and surveillance, what are the benefits to American citizens of their country’s military support for human rights violators? These are the necessary questions that have not been asked. Instead, journalists meekly adopt the US government’s context of security versus surveillance, since that makes some level of surveillance appear necessary. In 2004, quite unsurprisingly, the Defense Science Board Task Force concluded that the US could leave its policies in place, but should adjust its 'strategic communication: ['] The U.S. Government needs a strategic communication capability that is planned, directed, coordinated, funded, and conducted in ways that support the nation’s interests … Public diplomacy, public affairs, psychological operations (PSYOP) and open military information operations must be coordinated and energized … Messages should seek to reduce, not increase, perceptions of arrogance, opportunism, and double standards … It should emphasise messages of: [']Respect for human dignity and individual rights; individual education and economic opportunity; personal freedom, safety and mobility.['] This proposed propaganda has clearly worked on Western journalists and their audiences."

PRIDE in Romania 2013 - Life's Crazy Pace: "June is PRIDE month all around the world and, just like other European capitals, Bucharest is host to many NGO and community-led celebrations. There are a couple of active pro-LGBT rights NGOs here, perhaps the largest and most active being ACCEPT. ACCEPT coordinated and promoted a full slate of activities last week, culminating in the PRIDE March on Saturday. In its promotion of LGBT rights, the [U.S.] embassy's public diplomacy section sponsored a visit by author Kevin Sessums. Kevin's autobiography Mississippi Sissy tells the story of his childhood and adolescence in Mississippi. Being gay in the 1960s is certainly a major theme in the book, but it's also about the trauma of losing both his mother and father by the age of eight and growing up being made to feel different and how that shaped the way he saw the civil rights era through his young eyes. Kevin went on a whirlwind tour of Romania with dozens of interviews, readings, and book signings last week. On Monday Kevin helped the embassy and ACCEPT celebrate the launching of an LGBT book shelf at the wonderful Cărturești Bookstore in Bucharest. After a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Kevin read an excerpt from his book and signed copies for the audience. Hearing him read, breathing life into his own narrative was amazing. I look forward to reading his next book, which is due out in 2014. ... The embassy produced shirts with this quote by President Obama. Image from entry

The Economic and Social Value of the US J-1Visa Programme - staywyse: "Faced with changes to US immigration legislation that could threaten educational and cultural exchanges in the country, WYSE Travel Confederation presents its own research which shows the major social and economic benefits that such exchanges bring to communities across the US every year.

Last week we expressed our grave concern that the US may be turning its back on this cornerstone of US public diplomacy. As our research shows, such a move also stands to have a negative impact on the US economy too." Image from entry

Travel, tourism trade show feeling ‘the Las Vegas effect’ - "It's been a record-breaking IPW so far, and if Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter has his way, all the records set this year will be shattered again in 2020.The U.S. Travel Association announced today that IPW — a gathering of travel and tourism companies that meet with buyers and distributors in a trade-show setting — will return to Las Vegas in 2020. ... U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said 6,400 people are attending the event from 74 countries and 90,000 meetings were scheduled for the three-day gathering. The event also has 1,300 buyers and booths, the most in a decade. Earlier in the week, Dow said he thought 'the Las Vegas effect' was responsible for the record-breaking numbers. Ralenkotter wraps up his two-year term as chairman of the organization when the show closes Wednesday. He also has served on the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which takes recommendations to the Commerce Department, which relays them to the president. Through the years, the organization has rallied to support tourism as a form of public diplomacy. It has backed the private-public partnership that led to the development of the Travel Promotion Act that formed Brand USA, the United States' first international marketing initiative. The organization also has worked with the State Department and the Commerce Department to ease burdens on potential foreign travelers using the visa application process. Tourism leaders, including Las Vegas marketers, have identified China, India and Brazil as important emerging markets with growing numbers of citizens who have the means and desire to travel abroad. Potential travelers were discouraged by an application process that took 100 to 150 days to get an appointment for what often was a five-minute meeting. But the association has lobbied for additional employees and video-conferencing technology to speed up the process. Dow said the wait is now down to two to three days in those countries. The organization also has worked to add to the list of visa-waiver countries — those with agreements with the United States enabling free travel without visas for 90 days. This list now includes 37 countries, with Taiwan the most recent addition last year. Dow said when South Korea was included in the visa waiver program, travel by Koreans to the United States increased by 49 percent in the first year. He said Chile has been nominated for inclusion in the program."

From Turkey reconciliation to Palestinian talks: How Netanyahu made the Foreign Ministry obsolete -- The prime minister has taken to bypassing the Foreign Ministry by using personal envoys and making it irrelevant to the decision making; Israeli diplomats’ appalling pay and benefits is closely tied to the Foreign Ministry’s deteriorating status  - Barak Ravid, "Netanyahu’s attitude toward the ministry is ... a combination of

disgust, disrespect and suspicion. He does not see any need for the ministry to really engage with defense and foreign policy issues. The best demonstration of this was the army’s botched raid on a 2010 flotilla to Gaza. Netanyahu preferred to rely on the defense establishment rather than the diplomats, and we all saw the result on the decks of the Mavi Marmara. Similarly, [National Security Adviser Yaakov] Amidror told an ambassadors’ convention that the Foreign Ministry would be better off focusing on public diplomacy, cultural activities and international assistance in the areas of agriculture and medicine. Netanyahu, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the 1980s and then deputy foreign minister, has cultivated the image of being a media expert and an outstanding diplomat. He believes that most professional diplomats don’t come close." Image from

Foreign Ministry hobbled by work stoppages, lack of clout - "Israel's Foreign Ministry is defunct and unable to function properly, MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) charged on Tuesday, during a Knesset subcommittee meeting on the ministry's status. Hoffman, who chairs the Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy Subcommittee of the Knesset's powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, slammed the government, of which he is a part, for scattering the ministry's various functions to different political bodies, leading to the ministry's 'redundancy.'"

Social Media Internship - "The intern at BOMAH will assist the CEO, Itzik Yarkoni, in building workshops for participants visiting Israel from around the world. The intern will be trained in social media, advocacy, public diplomacy, and public speaking. Our intern will also take part in tours and presentations in Sderot, Israel. BOMAH | The Brand of Milk and Honey positively re-brands Israel by identifying why Israel is important and demonstrating how to share stories thought social media.

Our focus is to help program participants translate their personal experience into messages and inspiration for others regarding Israel. BOMAH focus on the power of the individual, the power of relationship building, and of personal narratives. This program will empower you to take these concepts into the social media world." Image from

The Kurdish who Made it to Arab Idol Quarter Finals - "I do not think for one second that anyone has ever thought that a young lady from Kurdistan would be popular in the Arab world through a Reality TV show. Parwas Hussein was the only Kurdish Iraqi Contestant that made it to MBC’s Arab Idol ‘Pop Idol Arabic version' when she does not speak Arabic fluently. She made to the quarter finals in Arab Idol and lost. ‘Tough to compete with other contestants with their strong voices in that stage [.]’  Of course it was a clever thing from

the Arab Idol producers and the MBC to accept Parwas , they did not have to accept someone who is not fluent in Arabic to become the Arab Idol but for sure politics play a role here. This year was the first time Arab Idol would include Kurdistan. ... I do not know if the producers of MBC’s Arab Idol understand what they have done or not but they managed to break the ice for real through Kurdistan and the Arabs through Parwas Hussein. I just wish that after breaking the ice, there will be bridges to mend the gap made from a very long time ago. This is the true soft public diplomacy." Image from entry, with caption: Singing in Beirut while wearing Kurdish traditional dress

An anniversary for the future: Norway as the "Land of equality" [Google translation] - Hilde Danielsen, "It was the time after 1990, 80 years after women's suffrage was unanimously adopted, the story of Norway as the 'world champion of equality' was coined. The authorities began to present himself as an example. Instead of comparing Norway and other Nordic countries, began to compare conditions with countries in other continents, with an entirely different story. This self-image has been reinforced by the fact that Norway, in the recent times, has been placed at the top of several international indices that measure living standards . ... 1990-years was a period characterized by nationalistic currents

in the western world. Like other developed countries Norway's reputation policy, where gender was included as a key ingredient. One important reason is the global emergence of 'new public diplomacy', also called 'soft power,' which has meant that each country has developed a strategy to promote itself to the outside world. This was of great importance for foreign and development policy. Along with nature and climate, not to mention peace and reconciliation, gender equality has become one of the cornerstones of the Norwegian brand and reputation management." Image from entry

Win a trip to Korea! - Hallyu UK: "The Embassy of the Republic of Korea is offering individuals the chance to win a trip to Korea.

The Embassy is holding a 'Quiz on Korea' as part of their public diplomacy project in which they hope to raise awareness and interest in Korea within the United Kingdom." Image from entry

Coaching Clarity: Two or Three Things I Know about the Hollins' Situation -
"If coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Chris Wallace weren't part of the Grizzlies' future, an uninformed onlooker wouldn't have known it from the team's draft workout Monday morning, where Hollins and Wallace sat at the back of the gym talking and new chief decision-maker Jason Levien was nowhere to be seen.

But clarity finally came to the Grizzlies' increasingly messy coaching situation later that day, with the team announcing, via an official release, that it had severed ties with Hollins, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the month. ... Jason Levien needs to shore up his public diplomacy: I have little doubt that Levien ran this move by players, minority owners, and others around the organization and knew a coaching change would not cause a revolt. But the Grizzlies are at once private enterprise and public trust, and the community needs a fuller and more personal explanation than the brief, antiseptic press release the team put out Monday night. Levien needs to explain this decision, in direct but polite terms." Image from entry, with caption: Dave Joerger [right] may be next in line as Lionel Hollins' tenure as Grizzlies' head coach ends.


Prism Exposed: Data Surveillance with Global Implications - Marcel Rosenbach, Holger Stark and Jonathan Stock, Der Spiegel: The American intelligence director and the White House have finally

confirmed what insiders have long known: The Obama administration is spying on the entire world. Politicians in Germany are demanding answers. via ACP III on facebook. Image from

Surveillance: A Threat to Democracy - Editorial, New York Times: The issue is not whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists. The question is whether the security goals can be achieved by less-intrusive or sweeping means, without trampling on democratic freedoms and basic rights. Far too little has been said on this question by the White House or Congress in their defense of the N.S.A.’s dragnet.

Surveillance: Snowden Doesn’t Rise to Traitor - Editorial, New York Times: For several top lawmakers in Washington, Edward Snowden committed the ultimate political crime when he revealed to the world just how broadly and easily the government is collecting phone and Internet records. “He’s a traitor,” said John Boehner, the House speaker.

“It’s an act of treason,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee. Among prosecutors and defense lawyers, there’s a name for that kind of hyperbole: overcharging. Mr. Snowden may well be going to jail for exposing practices that should never have been secret in the first place. Image from

Who Guards the Guards? - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: Snowden simply told the American people, in much greater detail than the Government wished to reveal, what their own government was doing to them. The people Obama is/has/will be prosecuting under the Espionage Act (Manning, Drake, Snowden) did not act for money (quite the contrary; all suffered personally for their actions) and instead of informing a foreign power, they sought to inform the American people. That is not spying.

Hong Kong, a Strange Place to Seek Freedom - Law Yuk-kai, New York Times: Edward J. Snowden, the 29-year-old government contractor who blew the whistle on the American government’s vast data-collection efforts, was last seen checking out of a boutique hotel here on Monday. The previous day, he released a video defending his decision to leak sensitive secrets and explaining that he’d sought refuge in Hong Kong because it “has a strong tradition of free speech” and “a long tradition of protesting in the streets.”

Whether it was youthful naïveté or just ignorance, Mr. Snowden’s positive view of Hong Kong no longer matches the reality. Shortly before his arrival, the international organization Freedom House ranked Hong Kong 71st in the world in protection of political rights and civil liberties. Image from

A Whistle-Blower, a Criminal or Both - Room for Debate, New York Times:   We know that Edward J. Snowden disclosed secrets about U.S. surveillance programs. But that’s where the consensus ends. Lawmakersaccuse him of treason, but he portrays himself as a truth teller, giving the American people information that they need to know. If Snowden can be seen as either a brave whistle-blower or a reckless traitor, how should the government handle his case?

We can't trust Obama: The IRS and NSA scandals show the president can't be trusted to keep politics out of government - Jonah Goldberg, In late May, the president announced in a speech that the war on terror was essentially over. In early June, he's defending a data-mining operation even Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) — an author of the Patriot Act, which authorizes surveillance by the NSA — is denouncing as dangerous overreach he never intended.

The idealist wants credit for ending the war, while the alleged pragmatist wants to keep a surveillance apparatus that has no justification if the war on terror is truly over. Maybe he's right on the merits. The problem is that fewer and fewer people are willing to take his word for it. Image from

Inside the United States: GlobalPost goes inside the United States to uncover the regime’s dramatic descent into authoritarian rule and how the opposition plans to fight back - Human rights activists say revelations that the US regime has expanded its domestic surveillance program to private phone carriers is more evidence of the North American country’s pivot toward authoritarianism. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported this week that a wing of the country’s feared intelligence and security apparatus ordered major telecommunications companies to hand over data on phone calls made by private citizens.

How to Respond to Your Friends Who Think the NSA Surveillance is No Big Deal - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: Why, if the NSA is vacuuming up everything, and even sharing that collection abroad, this all needs to be kept secret from the American people.

If it is for our own good, the government should be proud to tell us what they are doing for us, instead of being embarrassed when it leaks. If you’re not doing anything wrong then you’ve got nothing to hide, right? Image from

Is China willing to listen to the world? - Editorial, Washington Post: A few recent events, including the California summit with President Obama, suggest that President Xi is attentive to the world beyond his borders, even as repression continues inside China. But China has long resisted outside criticism of its sorry record of punishing those who speak their minds. It is revealing that its leaders can project confidence across the table from a U.S. president but are threatened by the words of their own citizens.

Putin says Washington meddles in Russian politics - UPI: President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of meddling in Russian politics by backing activists, as an anti-Putin protest was to be held in Moscow Wednesday. "Our diplomatic service does not cooperate actively with Occupy Wall Street, yet your diplomatic service interacts directly with [Russian opposition activists] and supports them," Putin said in a roundtable interview at the Kremlin-funded RT television network's new headquarters. He was responding to a question from an American RT talk show host on RT's English-language channel. "In my opinion, that's not right," Putin said in Russian about the alleged State Department support of opposition activists, "because the diplomatic services of a country are supposed to establish relations between governments and not delve into their internal political affairs."

Does Samantha Power Mean War? The humanitarian hawk must betray her principles---or lead the Obama administration into Syria - Leon Hadar, Power and [Susan] Rice are only making us more confused about the direction of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in his second term, which looks and sounds more direction-less than ever.

A Power of conviction - Michael Gerson, Washington Post: Samantha Power would bring some uncommon qualifications to U.S. diplomacy. She is a multilateralist who has also written extensively on the limits and failures of the United Nations. She understands the reality of evil in human affairs — the kind that fills mass graves with bodies and covers them with lime.

She believes that the strong have a responsibility to protect the weak. She is outraged at outrageous things. It is hard to argue that government has an excess of these qualities. Power image from

Clinton aides are suspected of criminal cover-ups for diplomats - Guy Taylor, The Washington Times:
Both chambers of Congress and the State Department’s inspector general are examining allegations that senior officials working under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may have suppressed investigations into suspected criminal activity among U.S. diplomats abroad — including the alleged solicitation of prostitutes by an ambassador in Europe. After CBS News reported on the allegations this week, lawmakers from both parties said the charges are “very serious” — and point out the need for a permanent inspector general at the State Department. A deputy inspector general has been active in recent years, but the department’s top watchdog post, tasked with investigating practices at roughly 260 embassies worldwide, has been vacant for more than five years. See also.

Aung San Suu Kyi's Narrow Road: Can Burma's democracy icon avoid being trapped by the regime that freed her? - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: Among the changes in Burma: the release of most political prisoners; reconciliation efforts with some ethnic minorities; an end to overt media censorship; and considerable economic liberalization, at least on paper. And, of course, the release from house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who now sits in parliament though she's still legally barred from running for president. In exchange, the West has lifted most sanctions, and President Barack Obama hosted Mr. Thein Sein in the White House last month. Even for people who profited from the status quo, 50 years of isolation is enough. There's leverage in that. The Obama administration can help Ms. Suu Kyi by not giving it up until she's allowed to run for president.

Japan Is a Model, Not a Cautionary Tale - Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York Times: Those who see Japan’s performance over the last decades as an unmitigated failure have too narrow a conception of economic success. Along many dimensions — greater income equality, longer life expectancy, lower unemployment, greater investments in children’s education and health, and even greater productivity relative to the size of the labor force — Japan has done better than the United States.

By the Victors: Meta-Propaganda in Captain America and Inglourious Basterds - Richard Rosenbaum, Captain America

and Inglourious Basterds dealt with the production, reception, and consequences of using the mass media to promote the righteousness of nationalist military causes. Image from entry

North Korean factory offers propaganda art on the cheap: Pyongyang's Mansudae employs 4,000 workers and appeals to governments hunting for inexpensive monuments - Jillian Steinhauer, Salon: Here’s something you may not have known: there’s a massive art factory in North Korea that makes monuments, sculptures, statues museums, and more for at least a dozen countries around the world.

In a fascinating story in Bloomberg Businessweek, writer Caroline Winter lays out the details — or at least those she can gather — of Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, which takes up 30 acres, employs 4,000 people, 1,000 of them artists, and also includes a soccer stadium, paper mill, sauna, and kindergarten.

Why does every story that comes out of North Korea seem somehow more bizarre than the last? Above image from article, with caption: Senegal’s 164-foot-tall African Resistance Monument is another example of Mansudae’s handiwork; below image has caption: Han Guang Hun, “Dance Party in Open Air” (2006), oil

Most Russians want 'gay propaganda' to be banned - poll - Russia Beyond the Headlines: Eighty-eight percent of Russian citizens welcome the proposed ban on the propaganda of homosexuality, compared to 86 percent in 2012, and only 7 percent support it. See also


"Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a privacy expert, likens this program to a Seurat painting. A single dot may seem like no big deal, but many together create a nuanced portrait."

--Editorial, New York Times, re surreptitious collection of “metadata” — every bit of information about every phone call except the word-by-word content of conversations





Doughnuts gone wild! New, funky concoctions - Bruce Horovitz, USA Today: Doughnuts have gone utterly wild for the summer of 2013, with three familiar brands — Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' and IHOP — having their names linked with outside-the-box doughnut-ish concoctions. A celebrity chef — not the Krispy Kreme brand itself — has devised a Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe (dare we add, with cheese) sold over the weekend at the San Diego County Fair.

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