Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16

“We love Americans, although we don’t always say so. And you love the French, but you are sometimes too shy to say so.”

--French President François Hollande, responding to a toast by President Obama given at a recent White House state dinner; image from, with caption: President Obama offered a toast to President François Hollande of France at a state dinner on Tuesday.


What has Hillary actually achieved in public life? - Andrew Sullivan, "She [Ms. Clinton] then got one of the plum US jobs: secretary of state. What did she accomplish there? Again the cupboard is a little bare. She broke new ground by engaging the people of foreign countries in what she called public diplomacy — not just visiting heads of state and government, but contacting students and civil groups. She championed women’s rights.

But major, identifiable achievements? Not so much. ... Think, in contrast, of what John Kerry has done in a year: get a deal with the Russians on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal; secure a historic short-term agreement with Iran that might lead to a more lasting settlement; and move the Israel-Palestine peace process to a point where Israel has to make a choice between occupation of the West Bank and thriving as a Jewish state." Image fromsee also.

A Low In Bangladesh-US Relations - Farooque Chowdhury, "Dan Mozena, the US ambassador in Bangladesh, has recently told Dhaka journalist: 'The US relations with Bangladesh are not usual'. He said: The US interaction with the present government is not business as usual.(, 'America’s relations with Hasina govt not warm: Mozena', February 11, 2014)[.] No doubt, the publicly made observation is part of public diplomacy. Purpose of public diplomacy is known to all. However, at least a part of a reality has come out to public view. It’s difficult to recollect any such observation made by any diplomat, not only diplomats from the US, in Dhaka. Even, such observation was not made immediately after the emergence of Bangladesh. During that period, the Bangladesh-US relation was not a happy one."

RPA Exchange student chosen as Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Student of the Month - Press release, "The Redmond Proficiency Academy is pleased to announce that exchange student Purity Mania, from Kenya, Africa, has be recently chosen as Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Student of the Month. Purity is a participant in the ASSE exchange program and was selected from a group of approximately 900 YES Students. ... Katherine David-Fox, Programs Officer in the Youth Program Division thanks Redmond Proficiency Academy and says that Purity is clearly having a rich and fulfilling experience at school and in her host community. We truly appreciate the commitment to public diplomacy you demonstrate by hosting Purity.

'As a member of YES I have learned more about leadership, endurance, and being a problem-solver. I understand even more how important my culture is, and I want to share it with the world.' Purity has been selected to participate in the YES Civic Education Workshop in Washington, DC in February. About YES [:] Congress established the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program in October, 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to provide scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the U.S. Students live with host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. Starting in 2009, the YES Abroad program was established to provide a similar experience for U.S. students (15-18 years) to spend an academic year in select YES countries." Image from

Are political appointees the only U.S. diplomats who haven't been to the country to which they are assigned? - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "Much news in the press about  recent ambassadorial nominees who haven't been to the country where they have been selected to serve (see also the hilarious satirical video). But if you'll allow me, as the French say, ‘de faire pipi sur le [Foggy Bottom] tapis en exprès,'

I'd be interested in knowing how many career Foreign Service officers (FSOs) have actually been to the country (ies) to which they are assigned. Or, indeed, if they can speak the local language adequately, despite linguistic 'training' at the Foreign Service Institute. ... [W]ould it not be ideal for an FSO who hasn't traveled to the country where she is assigned, to live for several months in that country --  preferably with a  non-English speaking family -- before beginning her official duties?  Such an experience would provide an opportunity that FSI, for all its noble but not always successful efforts at teaching foreign languages, cannot offer -- namely, learning a language within the cultural/political context of the country where it is spoken. The FSO could also improve her command of the local language by attending an in-country educational institution." Image from entry

Foreign policy roundtable stresses need to work towards international recognition - "The Catalan National Assembly, a civic umbrella group working for a referendum in Catalonia, conquered by force of arms by Spain in 1714, held a fourth talk on post-independence foreign policy, within 'The Country We Want' series. The two speakers were Liz Castro, American-born, originally from California, who has helped to make Catalonia known to the world, writing a number of books and articles in English. She currently serves as coordinator of online newspaper Vilaweb's English-language edition. Jordi Vazquez, a business graduate, is the editor of Help Catalonia, a private entity devoted to public diplomacy. He has a long curriculum working to inform the world about Catalonia's freedom movement. Over a couple of hours, Vàzquez and Castro discussed how to work to ensure the speedy recognition of

independent Catalonia, also going over other issues such as the role of civil society in public diplomacy and how to ensure Catalans abroad are not denied their right to vote. ... Now it is the time for Catalan civil society to devote her efforts to public diplomacy, instead of relying on the Catalan Government, Vàzquez stressed. This is necessary for a number of reasons. First, to avoid accusations that the independence movement was government-directed, instead of a grass roots development. Second, because the Catalan Government could be accused of wasting resources if it spent much on diplomacy while being forced to implement cuts in health care and education. Third, in order to bypass the legal limitations under which it labours when acting abroad, which the Spanish regime is trying to tighten even further." Image from entry, with heading: What is Catalonia?

Foreign Service fiasco: A crime against the country - K. Godage, "Diplomatic resolution of problems involves arbitration, conferences, negotiations, informal diplomacy, appeasement, soft power, aggression, intimidation often described as Gunboat Diplomacy when persuasion has failed and public diplomacy. What makes our government think that ... untrained friends and relatives can perform these functions on our behalf? Is this not a cruel Joke?"

Upcoming American University Research Seminars Analyze the Media, Ideology And Climate Politics - Matthew Nisbet, "Erik Nisbet, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Communication at The Ohio State University where he studies political communication as it applies to public diplomacy, international conflict, and debates over science and environmental issues."


Should the U.S. be preaching freedom of religion overseas? President Obama recently insisted that 'promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.' He's right - Editorial, In promoting religious freedom abroad, the United States needs to recognize two realities. The first is that this country's commitment to religious freedom — and to other core values such as democratization, free speech and equality for women — sometimes will be trumped by other interests.

Second, even when the country is an ally, for geopolitical or other reasons, the United States shouldn't be silent when it sees religious rights being violated. The United States is right to witness to the importance of freedom of conscience, but it needs to preach that message to friends and enemies alike. Image from

Open the Door to the Kurds [subscription] -- Editorial, Washington Post

Time for a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations: Things have changed radically in the decades since the embargo was installed. We should lift it - Editorial, There are real issues that need to be addressed between the U.S. and Cuba, including the continuing imprisonment of Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor, and Cuba's human rights record. But there are sound political and economic reasons to support normalization.

The world has changed radically since the nuclear-freighted tango between the United States and the Soviet Union ended more than 20 years ago. These days, the U.S.-Cuba rift puts us at odds with many of our hemispheric allies and perpetuates the image of the U.S. as an overbearing neighbor.And then there's the human dimension. The embargo has inflicted suffering on the Cuban people for generations and yet has notably failed to achieve its goal of ousting the Castros. It's time to lift it. Image from entry, with caption: A motorist waves a Cuban flag in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Recent polls have shown that Americans are more open to normalizing relations with Cuba.

U.S. military intervention, done right, could boost African stability: Now is the time to reassess the long-standing American anathema to military involvement in Africa's terrible wars - Michael O'Hanlon, At a time of national war fatigue and fiscal austerity, it may be counterintuitive to propose an increase in U.S. involvement — particularly military commitment — abroad.

And given the problems that continue in Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Libya, Sudan, the DRC and Nigeria, Africa does not appear to be an area of opportunity. But, for a modest investment, the U.S. and other countries may be able to make major strides toward improving the prospects for peace and stability on the continent. Image from article, with caption: Democratic Republic of Congo MISCA peacekeepers soldiers patrol in street in Bangui.

Sochi 2014: Invisible security is the best security, says Putin’s chief of staff - RT: Making the Sochi Olympics safe for visitors but not intrusive was a major achievement for Russian security officials, Sergey Ivanov, President Putin’s chief of staff and a veteran security professional, told RT. Ivanov spoke with RT’s Anissa Naouai in Sochi about the hurdles the historic construction project had to overcome, the legacy that the Olympics will leave behind and the campaign of criticism launched at the Games by some western media. RT: We’ve been speaking to a lot of athletes and some spectators here at RT, and many of the foreign spectators are surprised that things are so nice, are surprised that it is so safe. They’re shocked that Sochi is what it is. And there was a huge campaign, some might call it, leading up to these Olympics. How do you react to it? SI: Personally, I reacted quite calmly. RT: Did you expect it? SI: Yes, I did. Because I think it’s part of propaganda. That’s it. You have to live with it. You have to stay calm, you have to stay cool, and you have to go on this long and winding road regardless of what some critics say. Then you will succeed. And I think we did.

Image from entry, with caption: Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochisee also.

Pak militants using Twitter, Facebook for propaganda - Terrorist organisations in Pakistan like the Taliban are increasingly using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook to spread their propaganda and as a means of intimidation.

A number of Twitter accounts allegedly managed by members of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have emerged, on which they post messages and engage in dialogue with their followers. Facebook pages are used to upload statements and videos. Image from entry, with caption: The Taliban is using social media to spread propaganda

Dream Date With Condi Still SUPER Expensive - Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog: The good news for Condi is that she's giving the keynote address at Rutgers University's anniversary shindig. The even better news for Condi is that she's getting $35,000 to do it.

So that's her non-profit rate, her academic discount. Oodles of Ferragamos, yay! Did I mention that America's Princess Diplomat is the GOP's new spokeslady for income inequality? She's doing an awesome job! Image from entry, with caption: (PSP flashback to one of Condi's many super-exciting gigs.)


Fracking brings oil boom to south Texas town, for a price: Since 2008, hydraulic fracturing oil drilling technology has been tapping the rich Eagle Ford shale formation, transforming Carrizo Springs in good ways and bad. Nobody knows how long it will last - Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Texas oil companies, tapping a vast formation called the Eagle Ford shale, have nearly doubled oil production over the last two years and by next year are expected to produce 4 million barrels a day. That would catapult Texas ahead of Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates to become the fifth-biggest oil producer in the world.


Top 10 cities with the highest tax rates - Thomas C. Frohlich and Alexander E.M. Hess, USA Today: No. 1: Bridgeport, Conn.: • Taxes for family earning $25,000: $4,001 (4th highest) • Taxes for family earning $150,000: $33,208 (the highest) • Unemployment rate: 7.8%. No. 10: Wilmington, Del. • Taxes for family earning $25,000: $2,296 (2nd lowest) • Taxes for family earning $150,000: $20,332 (9th highest) • Unemployment rate: 8.6%


--Via PR on Facebook


--Via LH on Facebook

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