Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 30

"I have an appointment with myself in a couple of hours."

--Sergi Pàmies, from his new work of fiction, "La bicicleta estática"; cited in The Times Literary Supplement (July 8, 2011), p. 26; image from


Report: U.S. invests millions in effort to boost Obama's image in Israel - "The United States has been pumping millions of dollars into Israel to help overcome the Jewish state's distrust of President Barack Obama. A State Department report said the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv has been facing rising Israeli distrust in the Obama administration. The department's Office of the Inspector-General reported that the embassy was given nearly $7 million a year to influence public opinion in the Jewish state. 'A fragile Israeli coalition government leans toward the views of its members from the nationalist and religious right, creating a challenge for diplomats seeking to build support for U.S. policies,' the inspector-general said. The report, issued in March 2010, said U.S. ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, played a major role in revising the policy of the Jewish state.

But the embassy has failed to change Israeli public opinion against Obama. 'One of the embassy's challenges is how to build support for U.S. policies in Israel at a time when peace talks are under way and little can be said about them publicly despite intense public interest,' the report said. 'It will be useful to the United States for the ambassador, the DCM [deputy chief of mission], and the embassy's public diplomacy section to continue developing outreach programs that explain and advocate fundamental U.S. positions to Israeli audiences who may be becoming more distant from the United States than in the past.'" Image from

The Cultural Underbelly of Public Diplomacy - RS Zaharna, battles2bridges: "Culture as an underlying force that shapes global public diplomacy remains curiously unexplored. Yet, every aspect of an entity’s public diplomacy, from the values and ideals buried in its political goals to how it tries to communicate with publics is touched by culture. Intercultural scholars have cautioned that to overlook culture’s impact is to remain vulnerable to its power. Conversely, with the benefit of cultural knowledge, one can more effectively harness that power. ... [T]he need for cultural knowledge take on greater urgency for public diplomacy given two trends that are likely to intensify. The first trend that will require greater cultural knowledge is the growing salience cultural identity in the public arena. ... A second trend that is also likely to intensify and require greater cultural knowledge is the move within public diplomacy toward collaboration in an effort to tackle complex global problems. ... A public diplomat’s skills in invoking culture’s blessing or curse will rest on cultural knowledge."

Kabul television: After helping to modernise Afghanistan’s media, David Ensor is about to direct the Voice of America - Annie Maccoby Berglof, Financial Times: "Three-and-a-half years after taking a private sector job as head of public relations at Mercuria, an energy company, Ensor was tapped for a new senior US government post in Afghanistan: director of communications and public diplomacy for the US embassy. The job of communications 'tsar' included a hefty budget to build up Afghan television, telephone and radio infrastructure and programming: '[The late diplomat] Richard Holbrooke asked me to go. I wanted to do my part to make sure Afghanistan moved into the modern world and never became a base for terrorist camps again, says Ensor, 60,

tanned from his time in Kabul. ... Once in Kabul, Ensor was outfitted with a staff of 60, heavy security and a chunk of more than $4bn in aid. He set about creating television, radio and phone towers as well as home-grown programmes from news shows and soap operas to an Afghan cop drama. 'A lot of the programmes I founded are aimed at the young. Afghan police are perceived as corrupt. We wanted to create positive role models.' ... Soon Ensor will be packing up with his family again to assume a new post as director of Voice of America in Washington." Ensor image from

State Department official calls for return of VOA and RFE/RL access to FM dial in Azerbaijan - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Amendment to create VOA Sindhi service approved by House Foreign Affairs Committee - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Columbia Journalism Review issues correction to its story mentioning VOA website's corrections policy - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "Columbia Journalism Review, 27 July 2011, Justin D. Martin: 'The websites of The Economist, Foreign Policy, the Singapore Straits-Times, The Times of India, World Politics Review, The Moscow Times, Voice of America and Foreign Affairs have neither visible corrections pages nor prominent corrections policies, to list a few.

Voice of America does at least have an accuracy policy on its site, stating that 'VOA corrects errors or omissions in its own broadcasts at the earliest opportunity.' ... Correction: This article originally reported that the website of Voice of America contains no statement regarding its online corrections policy. In fact, such a statement is available here, under 'Corrections': CJR regrets the error." Image from

Because All India Radio "chose not to" have greater impact, Indians put up with the "positive ordeal" of foreign radio via shortwave - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

VOL. VII NO. 15, July 15-July 28, 2011 - The Layalina Review on Public Diplomacy and Arab Media

Japan - Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 28 July 2011 - "Q: ... My ... question is about the commendation awards given to Japanese and foreign nationals in Japan. If possible I would love to have what kind of criteria the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses, and how they choose to award people, because I see in this list, particularly for the foreign recipients of this award, are from very few countries. ... Mr. Sobashima [Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima]: ... I cannot add more than what is written in Paragraph 3 of the distributed paper, that 'The Foreign Minister's Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups of outstanding achievements in international fields, to acknowledge their contribution to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries'. ... [I]f you have a recommendation, perhaps you would talk to the Divisions concerned in the Ministry, the Division covering a particular country, for example, or other relevant Divisions.

I am also responsible, for example, for the Public Diplomacy Department, and the Public Diplomacy Department is dealing with cultural exchanges, and if you are aware of someone who has outstanding achievement in the field of cultural exchanges then our Department, the Public Diplomacy Department, may be interested in listening to your recommendation, or Japanese Embassies overseas, and they should be attentive. And then we will evaluate the achievements of those people and groups." Sobashima image from

Summer School for Young Professionals 2011 - For the sixth time already, Summer School for Young Professionals was held at the Armed Forces Academy of Milan Rastislav Stefanik in Liptovský Mikuláš in Slovakia. The sixth Summer School for Young Professionals took place from 25th June – 3th July 2011 and it hosted 26 master and doctoral level students of political science and international relations from 15 countries . ... To make the Summer School project more interactive,

Ján Mihálik from Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia set up a conflict resolution creative workshop which received a very positive feedback from the participants. Also, once again, the organizers managed to connect with the NATO Public Diplomacy Division in Brussels. Through the video teleconference participants had the opportunity to see and hear reflections on two topics by NATO PDD analysts – Antonella Cerasino spoke about new NATO strategic concept and Rolf Schwarz had a lecture about NATO involvement in Libya." Image from article


Global Concern Over U.S. Debt Ceiling Disagreement - Liz Alderman, New York Times: While the debt debacle in Washington preoccupies America, it is causing jitters in power corridors from Beijing to Brussels. The stewards of the world’s largest economies are anxious for a compromise, to keep their own finances from suffering collateral damage.

Their worries stem from an inescapable reality: for other governments, there is still no good alternative to holding the almighty dollar, or American Treasury securities, even if the United States gets tarnished by a once-unthinkable credit downgrade. Image from

NATO Strikes at Libyan State TV - David D. Kirkpatrick: NATO said Saturday that it had disabled three Libyan state television transmission dishes in Tripoli with airstrikes overnight, as the alliance took steps to remove the main instrument of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s propaganda from the airwaves. Although the broadcasts continued on Saturday, silencing state television would be a psychological blow to Colonel Qaddafi’s forces as well as a boon to his opponents. The rebels challenging his rule have urged NATO for months to take out the channel, and both NATO and the rebels now face a deadline in September, when the United Nations resolution authorizing the airstrikes expires.

U.S. review finds Iraq more dangerous than a year ago - Ed O’Keefe, New York Times: Increased attacks on U.S. troops, a continuing wave of assassinations targeting government officials and a growing number of indirect rocket strikes on Baghdad’s Green Zone are making the security situation in Iraq more dangerous than a year ago, according to a new government watchdog report issued Saturday. “Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,”

U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. wrote in his quarterly report to Congress and the Obama administration. “It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago.” Image from

If Anti-Israel Propaganda Becomes Too Ridiculous Will Nobody Believe it? - "This article in The Economist, once considered the world’s greatest international magazine for serious news and business analysis is so horrendous that I admit to laughing hysterically while reading it. The opening sentence is priceless. Innocent Palestinian kids are just going to get water and for no reason at all Israeli soldiers start shooting them down in cold blood. If such an incident had ever happened, it would be everywhere in the mass media. Yet no date or place is mentioned, making it certain that this is fabricated or, more likely, the journalist merely writing down what he was told by Palestinians. Then the reporter quotes an Israeli settler as saying that the soldiers should maim Palestinians more. No name, no place, no date. This one the journalist himself must have made up."

Train Crash Proves Debacle for China's Propaganda Machine - Adam Minter, Bloomberg: On the evening of July 23, news broke on China’s microblogs that a collision and derailment occurred on high-speed rail tracks between the boomtowns of Taizhou and Wenzhou, killing at least 39 people. Less than 48 hours later, Chinese internet users were horrified and infuriated by images of the damaged train cars being chopped up and buried. For a Chinese public that had, even before the accident, become fed up with the corruption related to the country’s outrageously expensive high-speed rail lines, the burial suggested a cover-up of defects in the rail system’s infrastructure. In the days since, China's propaganda managers have been learning a lesson American politicians know well (but don't always heed): the cover-up is often worse than the crime. For six decades, the Central Propaganda Department had virtually complete control of the government's image and -- when deemed necessary -- covered up its mistakes with little public backlash. But that sense of immunity has eroded. Today, department officials find themselves competing with Chinese bloggers, microbloggers and increasingly independent -- and ascendant -- journalists who are enraged with the government's latest case of incompetence and efforts to control public criticism of it.

Down rabbit holes in rubber-tyre sandals in Vietnam - Effie-Michelle Metallidis, "[T]he Vietnamese government ... operates a popular tourist destination for those interested in ambling through the leafy forests of former Vietcong trenches. For US$7 (Dh26), visitors can shoot rifles and submachine guns, and for $8 (Dh29), they can crawl through claustrophobic holes up to 15 metres underground. ... Forty years ago, the 121km network of the Cu Chi tunnels in northern Saigon acted as a base for Vietnam's communist resistance forces. It was carpet-bombed by American troops in one of the most disastrous military campaigns of the Cold War. Fortunately, the enmity between Vietnam and its colonisers has been buried, allowing US imperialists, such as ... myself, to wander about a site peppered with camouflaged traps and 250kg US cluster bombs.

As a propaganda enthusiast, I was interested in seeing how Vietnam had constructed its national narrative after communism's decline. In this regard, Cu Chi is an emerald among gems. Sure, propaganda poster shops are a staple of Vietnamese tourism, and hipsters with black-framed glasses can be seen poring over reprints of Ho Chi Minh and Lenin in the crowded shops of Ho Chin Minh City, but there is no propaganda quite like installation propaganda. Having been to Hizbollah's 'tourism park' in the south of Lebanon, which pays homage to the guerilla group's victory over Israel, I can say that rescued enemy tanks and walk-through tours of hidden guerilla caves win over a poster any day." Image from article, with caption: A shoemaker makes Vietcong-era sandals from black rubber tyres at the Cu Chi tunnel site.  As expected, the military has turned Cu Chi into a sanitised field of patriotic remembrance. Leafy trees cover the grounds of former battle sites and reconstructed huts show how the Vietcong lived, cooked, stored supplies and designed traps to thwart imperialist forces.

These social network propaganda posters are awesome - "Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have all taken the world by storm. It’s rare to meet anyone who doesn’t use at least one of them, although with Google+ it’s most likely someone you know on Twitter. Artist Aaron Wood created these clever propaganda posters

that trumpet the creeds of the big 3. We think that they’re pretty accurate, although he probably could have gone with Mafia Wars for the Facebook one and it would have worked just as well." Image from article


National Archive food and government exhibit: “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” - David Pescovitz, Boing Boing: Right now, the National Archives in Washington DC are hosting an exhibition about government and food. Titled “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?,” it covers everything from government regulations on food processing and labeling to nutritional campaigns for such things as, er, “Vitamin Donuts.” Smithsonian magazine was particularly intrigued by the exhibition’s information about US presidential diets. Above, Richard Nixon’s last meal in the White House,

“slices of pineapple arranged around a plop of cottage cheese, paired with a glass of milk and served on a silver tray.”  “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?: The Government’s Effect on the American Diet(National Archive)


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