Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 7-8

Abbreviated edition

“Because it’s enough.”

--Gilberto dos Santos, a Volkswagen spokesman, why it -- the Volkswagen Kombi, or minivan -- has done so well in Brazil; image from


Video of Torture in Afghanistan as American Soldiers Stand By and Watch - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: "This is horrific, what appears to be a video of Afghan military beating and torturing a bound captive while persons who appear to be American soldiers stand by and watch. One of the Americans has on surgical gloves and is holding something that indicates he is there as a combat medic. When Americans conduct torture, medical personnel are typically available to ensure the torture is done to inflict maximum pain without typically killing the victim."

Američtí diplomaté v Praze si lámou jazyky s češtinou [Google "translation": American diplomats in Prague have puzzled languages ​​with Czech]: "Three hundred and thirty three silver syringes squirted over three

hundred thirty-three silver roofs' and other tongue twisters in the video, which appeared on Wednesday at the U.S. embassy website, with more or less difficulty trying to say U.S. diplomats." Uncaptioned image from entry; via WPK on Facebook


The American spying scandal is no ordinary diplomatic rift - Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Financial Times: "It is worth remembering that there is probably nothing more damaging to friendly relations among democratic states than a combination of losing faith (in an ally) and losing face (at home) as a result of an ally’s actions. These two related aspects sum up the destructive potential of the NSA scandal for the transatlantic partnership, both at the personal, elite level as well as in the broader public diplomacy context. ... The writer served as German defence, economics and technology minister."

Kerry Takes Personal Approach to Mideast Peace - Mark Landler, New York Times: "Mr. Kerry’s caffeinated style is emblematic of how he has redefined the secretary’s job — moving it away from the town-hall-style meetings and public diplomacy that characterized Mrs. Clinton’s tenure and toward a dogged emphasis

on a handful of issues. Most prominent of those issues is the peace process, which Mr. Kerry has single-handedly kept on the list of the White House’s foreign policy priorities." Image from article, with caption: Secretary of State John Kerry is welcomed to Amman by Stuart Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, on Thursday. Kerry seems to enjoy grinding it out in the unforgiving arena of the Mideast peace process.

BBG Governor Matt Armstrong talks with agency’s journalists about management reforms - BBG Watcher, bbgwatch: "We note with some encouragement and pleasure reports from our sources that one of the newer Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members, Matt Armstrong, has been talking with BBG journalists, both publicly and privately, about their concerns and the need for management reforms. Some former and current BBG members have also engaged in this kind of dialogue.

Former BBG Governor Ambassador Victor Ashe was particularly known and praised by the rank and file employees for reaching out to them and listening to their concerns and ideas for improving the management of the U.S. international media agency." Image from entry, with caption: Governor Matt Armstrong met with RFE/RL President Kevin Klose and Regional Director Akbar Ayazi, Radio Azadi journalist Sharifa Esmatullah.

Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty win at AIBs - BBG Watcher, bbgwatch: "We note with great pleasure that two of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) surrogate media outlets — Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) — won some of this year’s prestigious International Media Excellence Awards, held by the Association of International Broadcasters (AIB). The awards were announced at a ceremony, also known as the AIBs, in London."

Russia Today indulges in Anonymous protests coverage, BBC covers, VOA ignores and reports on zombies - BBG Watcher, bbgwatch: "Russia Today and the Voice of Russia offered extensive coverage of worldwide Million Mask March rallies organized Tuesday by the Anonymous movement and got over 26,000 Facebook 'Likes' for one of its many news reports.

BBC reported objectively on the demonstration in London and protests worldwide in two reports, but the Voice of America (VOA) English news website completely ignored yesterday’s protests, including protests by several hundred masked demonstrators in front of the White House and other landmarks in Washington, DC." Image from entry

The all-American criticism against Confucius Institutes: Barry Sautman says when Confucius Institutes are accused of peddling propaganda, they're really being criticised for not advocating US views - China now has 300-odd Confucius Institutes around the globe, mainly teaching Chinese language and culture. They often partner with universities, including one in Hong Kong.
In the past few years, the institutes have taken a beating from Western, especially American, critics. Marshall Sahlins, an eminent University of Chicago anthropologist, has added to that critique through a recent article in The Nation magazine. Sahlins' main argument is that universities should break ties with the institutes because they are 'propaganda efforts of a foreign government in a way that contradicts the values of free inquiry and human welfare…' His evidence is that Beijing is unwilling to allow the institutes it funds to be used as forums for Tibet and Taiwan independence supporters and the Falun Gong. Some universities with Confucius Institutes also don't do all he would like to aid such supporters; for example, a few have chosen not to provide venues for the Dalai Lama. Sahlins' argument is an odd one: most public diplomacy programmes don't provide forums for perceived enemies - or even critics - of the governments that fund them. I'm occasionally interviewed by a US government-funded broadcaster. My comments

critical of Chinese government policies are broadcast; those critical of US government policies are not. A Broadcasting Board of Governors, headed by the US secretary of state, oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and the like. Its eight other members by law must all be, in effect, 'party cadres': four Democrats and four Republicans. The board ensures that, on issues like Tibet, only one view is heard; that of the Tibetan exiles who staff its Tibetan language services. Sahlins' article refers to only one academic paper on Confucius Institutes, by a PhD student in Australia whom Sahlins presents as making another odd argument: that the institutes, by teaching simplified Chinese characters, conspire to keep their students 'semi-literate' in order to cut them off from Hong Kong and Taiwan writing that is critical of the Chinese government and uses traditional characters. Other scholarly articles, however, treat the institutes as public or cultural diplomatic outfits, and examine the issues raised by Sahlins. Another Australian PhD student analysed the institutes in Germany. Among the institutes' leaders he interviewed, one said critical topics should be handled 'in a balanced manner and with the necessary respect towards sensitivities in China'. Another said his institute could hold a discussion with the largest 'free Tibet' group in Germany.  It might be said that Sahlins' argument is peculiarly American: that all and sundry must accept being 'inclusive' of viewpoints mainly held by US politicians and media. For example, Sahlins deplores that, in a 2008 lecture, one Confucius Institute director 'use[d] a map that showed Tibet clearly inside of China.' No state disputes that Tibet is 'clearly inside of China', but the US Congress and much of the US media do. Sahlins, oddly, seems to argue that Confucius Institutes should host those who take the opposite position. Barry Sautman is an associate professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology." Image from

European Union Film Festival, Nov. 14 - Dec. 1 - "Celebrating the Best of European Cinema in Ottawa Since 1984 The Canadian Film Institute (CFI), the Delegation of the European Union to Canada, and the Member States of the European Union are proud to present the 28th European Union Film Festival (EUFF), launching November 14th and continuing until December. ... Established in 1976, the European Union Delegation to Canada is a fully-fledged diplomatic mission and maintains an open dialogue with different sectors of the Canadian society by engaging in various public diplomacy activities designed to enhance the knowledge and understanding of the European Union as well as EU-Canada relations among Canadians. Go to:"

Scots have kilts, what do Catalans have? - Fiona Ortiz, Reuters: "When Catalonia's local language was reintroduced in the northern Spanish region's schools three decades ago, Nati Grabiel was on the frontlines of the effort, training teachers to educate in the Catalan tongue. Today, the 72-year-old retired schoolteacher is on another crusade: trying to convince the world that Catalonia should break away from Spain. She and five other pro-independence senior citizens are travelling to the United States early next year to shoot a film that explains Catalan culture and history. 'There is no going back. No, no, no,' says the dynamic, white-haired Grabiel. Grabiel's cinematic adventure is one of many marketing efforts, including movies, books and web projects, to promote

a growing movement to make the region of 7.5 million people - 16 percent of Spain's total - an independent state. ... Catalans are trying to get their voices heard worldwide. Magazine editor Claudia Pujol recently raised more than 150,000 euros in an on-line campaign to produce a book of photos and English-language essays 'Catalonia Calling'. She says the book will be mailed to 10,000 world figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, former footballer Pele and Hollywood star Nicole Kidman. ... Some saw Catalonia's 2011 ban on bullfighting as part of a drive to emphasize its distinction from the rest of the country. There is also an official diplomatic drive underway via Catalonia's mini-embassies in New York, Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin, which together have a 3 million euro budget. The region's publicly funded Public Diplomacy Council, or Diplocat, is organizing seminars around Europe." Image from article, with caption: (L-R) Six pro-independence senior citizens Jaume Sobreques, Albert Roma, Nati Gabriel, Paco Vallespi, Florenci Trullas and Tomas Llusera pose in front of the Catalan flag, on the roof of the Catalonia History Museum in Barcelona November 5, 2013.

Innovations in Public Diplomacy - Abhay K, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Embassies generally busy themselves promoting their own culture and values, spending a large sum of their financial resources inviting cultural troupes from the countries they represent. What if, in addition to promoting their own culture, they could promote the culture and talent of their host countries without committing major financial resources? Wouldn't it be a masterstroke in the practice of public diplomacy and economy of resources? B.P. Koirala Nepal-India Foundation in association with the Embassy of India, Kathmandu has been experimenting with four such innovative initiatives at the Nepal-Bharat Library in Kathmandu, Nepal to expand the horizons of public diplomacy since January 2013. These four programs are aimed at promoting Nepalese art, literature, music, and film; they also encourage and engage the younger generation of Nepalese to share their ideas, experiences, and stories. ... Public diplomacy in this context could be redefined as putting the other country, its people, and culture first."

A Cultural Diplomacy Catalyst? The Cyrus Cylinder, Part II - Andrew Wulf, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "The Cyrus Cylinder is an example of ancient cultural heritage that resonates with new meanings today."

University of Gastronomic Sciences - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "Apparently you can get a Master's in Food Communication at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.

I know this because I was just reading over a student's Master's Thesis on gastrodiplomacy and culinary diplomacy. Allesandra, you get an A from Prof. Rockower of USLM. Meanwhile, I think I deserve an honorary doctorate from said university...." Image from

Baku Smooths Over Its Rights Record With A Thick Layer Of Caviar - Robert Coalson, Analyst Noonan [Joshua Noonan, an Azerbaijan analyst for 'The Conway Bulletin'] says that Baku's public-relations efforts are unlikely to be as influential in the United States as they seem to have been in Europe. Ultimately, he says, Baku must understand that representatives in Congress respond most strongly to their constituents. '[Baku's public diplomacy] is useful in reaching out to higher-level individuals in D.C., but this lobbying effort will not be a success in the long term if constituents of the representatives are not engaged. Without that engagement, this is just making linkages. You are not going to affect policy at a deep level,' Noonan said."

Breaking the budget logjam - Olympia Snowe and Karen Hughes, Washington Post: "Olympia Snowe is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and co-chairs its Commission on Political Reform. A Republican, she was a U.S. senator from Maine from 1995 to 2013. Karen Hughes, also a member of the commission, is worldwide vice chair of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. She was undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2005 to 2007."


U.S. popularity in Germany on a steep decline in wake of spy scandal: To most Germans, Snowden is a hero - A new poll by German public television (ARD) indicates that only 35 percent of Germans still see the United States. as a good partner. That figure has fallen 14 points since just this past July when about half of all Germans saw American as a partner they could trust. The new poll, done Thursday, also indicates that 61 percent of Germans now see the United States as an untrustworthy partner.

The poll reflects the deep unhappiness in Germany over the spy scandal, which has seen outrage consistently build from the summer. The first reports were that a U.S. spy program was collecting phone calls and emails and social media communications of Germans. Last month it was alleged that they‘ve been tapping the personal cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel and that the top of the U.S. embassy in Berlin houses a big spy nest. And it’s a steep decline in popularity here for a nation which since the end of World War II has seen the United States as a close friend, an essential ally, a protector and often a provider. To Germans, for decades, the United States was not just the ideal partner but an ideal. Via ACP III on Facebook. Image from

Foreign Service Balancing Act: Safety and Openness for America’s Diplomats – Domani Spero, DiploPundit: “John Norris, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at American Progress and former director of communications for U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott recently wrote an excellent piece in The Atlantic on balancing safety and openness for our diplomats overseas.  He notes that foreign affairs professionals have faced disease, disaster, war, and terrorism over the last 234 years and asks, how secure should today’s officers be?

The Cost of Being an Artist - Room for Debate, New York Times: Artist and musician David Byrne recently wrote that the cultural life of New York City had been “usurped by the top 1 percent,” implying that our society’s emphasis on the bottom line has compromised our humanist sensibilities. With soaring housing and health care costs, and a culture that seems more interested in financial stability than creative expression, has it become too expensive to pursue the arts in this country?


--From: Hairdo Matters: Hairdos Matter! - Princess Sparkle Pony's Photoblog:  "If you want to read some really good hairdo journalism, Krissah Thompson and Lonnae O'Neal Parker have an excellent article over at the Washington Post about how Bill de Blasio's family of compare/contrast hairdos went a long way in solidifying his image as one to which a wide range of New Yorkers could easily relate. I've often written here about how hairdos, far from 'not mattering,' can actually be crucial to a politician's success (or failure; see: John Edwards). In this case, the hairdos were practically surrogates for de Blasio's campaign, and successful ones at that. So anyway, I don't have much else to say here that I haven't said before, so... golf clap. Well done, Parker and Thompson. I'm telling you: Hillary better get her mercurial coiffure sorted out by 2016."


Image from


Image from; Via MT on Facebook

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