Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 19

Abbreviated edition

"If you use your smart toothbrush, the data can be immediately sent to your dentist and your insurance company, but it also allows someone from the NSA to know what was in your mouth three weeks ago."

--Internet cage-rattler Evgeny Morozov; image from

"So here’s the deal: Create a new department dedicated to spying on the NSA."

--A Commenter (comment no. 7) on Peter Van Buren's Blog, "We Meant Well"


Is anyone in charge of Public Diplomacy at the White House/State Department?  - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "The sight of the President of the United States, speaking (mumbling in the heat) before the Brandenburg Gate behind a glass bulletproof shield -- are we the USA saying the Berlin Wall has been replaced by another, updated, 'transparent' wall, a bulletproof shield? Is that our message to the post-Cold War world?

For anyone with a sense of history and a devotion to his country and no political parti pris, this speech -- compare it to the eloquent words/striking images of JFK, Ronald Reagan in Berlin -- was a PD/PR disaster. Whoever is in charge of content/'visuals' at public diplomacy/PR shops at the White House/State Department seems to have no idea of what went on in the twentieth century -- or indeed today, with the revelations on NAS spying on foreigners. ... Evidently, State's 'Diplomatic Security' and the Secret Service reign. They should be quizzed on history -- or, even more important, simple tact on dealing with foreign audiences. Comment by Professor Nicholas Cull, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "My theory is that US PD must now be under the direction of magician David Blaine as President Obama seemed to be speaking from inside a giant plastic box and was plainly attempting some kind of escape. His greeting 'Hello Berlin' and the jacket off thing were both straight from Vegas. And what about asking God to bless the peoples of Germany in plural? A little presumptive? I wish he'd been more like that terrific young senator who spoke in Berlin back in the summer of 2008. What ever happened to that guy?" Image from

Soft Power: A U.S.-China Battleground? - Nicholas Dynon, "Strip away the ostensibly benign surface of public diplomacy, cultural exchanges and language instruction, and it becomes clear that the U.S. and China are engaged in a soft power conflagration – a protracted cultural cold war. On one side bristles incumbent Western values hegemon, the U.S. On the other is China, one of the non-Western civilizations that Samuel Huntington noted back in 1993 'increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.' ... A number of recent reports have said that U.S. film producers now modify blockbuster movies to win approval by Chinese authorities for their distribution in huge and growing Chinese market. With an increasing incidence of such 'kowtowing to China' within artistic, commercial and political spheres in the West, it may well be Beijing’s economic hard power that ultimately prevents China from succumbing to American soft power."

Ghana should not react to Chinese press conference -- Vladimir Antwi-Danso - "International relations expert, Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, is counseling the government against reacting to a press conference called by Chinese diplomats on the controversial subject of illegal Chinese miners in the country. ... According to

Dr. Antwi-Danso, the action by China amounted to public diplomacy – using the media to do PR for China. '[But] our government does not have to react to this at all. It would be bad,' he said. He said ministries such as the ministry of information should refrain from commenting on the request by the Chinese." Uncaptioned image from article

United Nations Reinvents Itself Through a New Public Diplomacy Initiative - Stanislav Saling, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy:"The United Nations

launched a new public diplomacy initiative that aims to change how decisions are made about world affairs. The initiative, titled the 'Global Conversation,' uses digital media, mobile phone technology, and meet-ups to enable people from the world over to take part in setting priorities for the future global development agenda." Image from

IMF Surveillance - Making truth telling more meaningful - "Devoting more attention to what the Fund calls 'traction' will benefit the IMF in the long run. There are plenty of countries whose policies the IMF would like to change, and becoming more media savvy can both educate politicians and increase pressure on them to adopt reforms. A greater focus on public diplomacy will also require the Fund to do its job better. Rather than trot out platitudes, more public engagement means that the quality of its advice will need to become more fine-grained and country-specific. Fulfilling the promise of surveillance requires that the IMF create a genuine conversation with policymakers and publics."

New digital platform launched for US-Russia dialogue - "On June 17, Russia Beyond the Headlines and Foreign Policy launched a new digital project called Russia Direct. The new website will bring together articles, white papers and monthly memos on U.S. and Russian foreign policy from leading experts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Editor-in-chief Ekaterina Zabrovskaya hopes Russia Direct will allow readers and participants to find new avenues for cooperation following renewed interest in Obama’s reset of relations with Russia amid a prickly diplomatic environment. ... Behind the Curtain offers an insider's perspective on Russian geopolitics. Russia Direct also overviews the most influential think tanks in the United States and Russia. 'I think that this and similar projects are important to present a more balanced view on Russia than the most critical one offered by the Western media,' said Edward Lozansky, president of the American University in Moscow. 'It is in the best interests of both sides of the Atlantic that we have an intelligent and responsible debate which leads to understanding and rapprochement rather than division and demonizing opposite side,' he added. 'In the age of the Internet, public diplomacy can play an important role and projects such as Russia Direct can be particularly effective.'" Image from

Iranian Deputy FM Stresses Further Development of Ties with Indonesia - "Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ramin Mehman-Parast underlined Iran and Indonesia's different historical and cultural commonalities, and called for the further expansion of the relations between the two countries. Mehman-Parast, who is also President of the Foreign Ministry's Public Diplomacy and Media Center, made the remarks in a meeting with members of Indonesia-Iran Friendship Association in Jakarta on Wednesday. He underscored the Indonesia-Iran Friendship Association's important role in the further consolidation of the ties between Tehran and Jakarta in different fields and in increasing the Iranians and Indonesians' interactions, and invited the members of the Association to visit Iran."

Ethiopia-Egypt Maneuvering Takes on “Black and White” Operational Guises - Gregory R. Copley, "Observers in Cairo noted that the outbursts by Egyptian Pres. Mohammed Morsi and jihadist Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) adherents against possible Ethiopian interference with the flow of the Blue Nile were an attempt to build up a distraction, and an external threat to Egypt, in the run-up to the planned June 30, 2013, major demonstrations against the Government. Significantly, after the public outbursts began against Ethiopia — and most of the attacks were widely- condemned by many Egyptian military and civil observers — Cairo changed some of its public diplomacy to promote the prospect of negotiation and cooperation. Some more radical officials, however, continued to make inflammatory statements against Ethiopia’s dam- building, while Egyptian defense officials indicated that any attempts to resolve the issue through military means would not be viable."


Extending a Hand Abroad, Obama Often Finds a Cold Shoulder - Mark Landler and Peter Baker, New York Times: A hard reality for Mr. Obama as he heads deeper into a second term that may come to be dominated by foreign policy: his main counterparts on the world stage are not his friends, and they make little attempt to cloak their disagreements in diplomatic niceties.

Mr. Obama differs from his most recent predecessors, who made personal relationships with leaders the cornerstone of their foreign policies. Image from

‘Pretty please’ foreign policy - Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: Unfortunately, the president who fancies himself as the guy who ends wars and doesn’t start them has no idea that, without military success and the threat of military force, your influence wanes and our adversaries come to regard us, well, as a joke.

The Taliban Agree to Talk - Editorial, New York Times: In the end, any peace deal can be concluded only between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Peace talks a fragile step in Afghanistan - Editorial, Washington Post: If there is to be a genuine political settlement in Afghanistan, the United States must drive home the message that it will do what is necessary to prevent a Taliban military victory for the indefinite future.

Image from

An Afghan Peace? The Taliban won't talk seriously if they think they are going to win - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The Obama Administration is eager to midwife peace talks so it can reduce its commitment beyond 2014. But the Taliban will have no incentive to negotiate seriously if they think they can retake Kabul or large chunks of the country after the U.S. leaves. The best chance for peace is to give the Afghan army and police all of the support they need, including helicopters for medical evacuation, so the Taliban conclude they can't win.

How to End the Stalemate With Iran - Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Mohammad Ali Shabani, New York Times: The stunning election of a pragmatic former Iranian nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, has offered the Obama administration a once-in-a-lifetime chance to end the atomic stalemate with Iran. Mr. Rowhani’s victory demonstrates that there is now real momentum toward the initiation of direct talks between Iran and the United States. Despite remarks he has made to appease hard-liners since his victory, Mr. Rowhani’s campaign rhetoric made clear his desire to change the hostile relationship with America. Worryingly, the West has a history of squandering chances to strike a deal with Mr. Rowhani.

Iranian actions speak louder than election results - Michael Singh, Washington Post: The Obama cannot dismiss the possibility that international pressure on Iran has finally produced the sort of change it has been waiting for, but it also cannot risk alleviating that painstakingly-accumulated pressure based on mere hope or speculation. The administration should focus on Iranian actions, not Iranian personalities. Unless and until Iran is willing to meet international demands regarding its nuclear program, its support for terrorism and other activities, fundamental U.S. policy should not change, even as the administration reaches out to Rouhani and probes for new diplomatic openings.

Postcard From Turkey - Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: On June 7, he declared that those who try to “lecture us” about the Taksim crackdown, “what did they do about the Wall Street incidents? Tear gas, the death of 17 people happened there. What was the reaction?” In an hour, the American Embassy in Turkey issued a statement in English and Turkish via Twitter rebutting Erdogan: “No U.S. deaths resulted from police actions in #OWS,” a reference to Occupy Wall Street. No wonder Erdogan denounced Twitter as society’s “worst menace.”

Transatlantic trade pact would end last nagging barriers - Editorial, Washington Post:
Negotiating a free-trade pact known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)— never an easy proposition given all the interests, and interest groups, of the United States and 27 E.U. member states — appears to be getting more difficult before bargaining begins.

The revelation of global National Security Agency surveillance and an unapproved genetically modified wheat strain in Oregon have inflamed Europe’s most sensitive concerns about greater integration. Meanwhile, France made mischief within E.U. ranks by demanding and getting written into the E.U.’s opening bid a “carve-out” for movies. This reflects a long-standing French fear that Hollywood products will swamp its protected, subsidized entertainment industry.  Image from

Benghazi's Legacy of Broken Trust: When serving in harm's way, diplomats, spies and soldiers need to know that their government has their back - Kevin Norton, Wall Street Journal: Servants of the American people—diplomats, spies, soldiers, aid workers—who work in harm's way should be able to depart these shores confident that their government will do anything it can to protect them. This principle is at the very core of foreign service and is based on trust. Any breach of that trust is devastating to our efforts abroad. In Benghazi, the U.S. government simply did not do all it could to protect its agents in the field.

Noam Chomsky: Obama is ‘dedicated to increasing terrorism’ - Jessica Chasmar,  Washington Times: Author Noam Chomsky blasted the Obama administration in an interview on Tuesday, charging that President Obama “is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history.” “The Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism,” Mr. Chomsky, an MIT professor, told GRITtv host Laura Flanders. “In fact, it’s doing it all over the world. Obama, first of all, is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history. The drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it. … All of these operations, they are terror operations.” “Villages, regions, countries are terrorized by these operations. … People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them, that’s not a surprise,” Mr. Chomsky added. “Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to acts of terror.”


AMA declares obesity a disease - Melissa Healy and Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times: The American Medical Assn. voted Tuesday to declare obesity a disease, a move that effectively defines 78 million American adults and 12 million children as having a medical condition requiring treatment. Treatment of such obesity-related illnesses as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers drives up the nation's medical bill by more than $150 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Fight for Black Men - Joshua DuBois, Daily Beast: There are more African-Americans in the corrections system today—in prison or on probation or parole—than there were enslaved in 1850.

Humanities Committee Sounds an Alarm - Jennifer Schessler, New York Times: Nationwide, a mere 7.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees were granted in the humanities in 2010.

-- A 50s retro Big Chill refrigerator, whose starting price is $2,995.


From: 8 Secret Spots to Hide Valuables at Home - Gregory Han, Apartment Therapy


"How do you reinvent history?"

--6-foot-4 Sam Nazarian, the biggest nightclub owner in Los Angeles, who is placing $800 million on the SLS Las Vegas (the acronym stands for style, luxury and service), a 1,600-room hotel, casino and night-life venue, claiming that "This is the birthplace of — and the gateway to — the next era of Las Vegas"; the LA Times reports that his $8.5-million, 14,000-square-foot mansion in the hills above Las Vegas boasts an epic view of the Strip, a 10-car garage, a home theater and other amenities; the constant feature in Nazarian clubs is over-the-top lavishness: leather banquettes, chandeliers, showgirls dancing on platforms, and pricey bottle service.


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