Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28

"[T]he State Department's enthusiasm for technology has surpassed its understanding of it."

--Social media commentator Evgeny Morozov; image from


(a)  Концерт ковбойской музыки в резиденции посла США (Cowboy music concert at the residence of the USA Ambassador [in Moscow]). Via HS on Facebook; see also (1) (2)

(b) “Be My Baby” from the K-pop stars the Wonder Girls


PD Under Secretary-Designate’s Advice: Watch China - Adam Clayton Powell III, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Tara Sonenshine, nominated to serve as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, offered advice this morning to public diplomacy observers: Watch China. 'We are challenged every day by what the Chinese are doing in public diplomacy,' she said. Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where she is Executive Vice President, Sonenshine pointed to China’s paid print supplements in the Washington Post and other newspapers, including the New York Times. 'You may not read it,' she said, but readers are 'embraced' by the paid supplements, which Sonenshine called 'brilliant.' These supplements have not been without critics, focusing on blurring of editorial and paid propaganda content. And an article on the Nieman website described them as 'content-as-advertisement strategy.' That may be good news for China’s public diplomacy -- and confusing to readers who miss the sometimes subtle cues that label these sections as paid advertising. Second, said Sonenshine, are the Confucius Institutes, China-funded centers that have spread rapidly to U.S. universities from east to west and north to south. She said the buildup of the Institutes’ Chinese language

instruction programs across the U.S., followed by Institute-produced programs, was a major long-term investment by Beijing to gain influence here. Her third illustration was the Chinese government’s international broadcaster, CCTV. Sonenshine, formerly a producer at ABC News, recently visited CCTV’s new Washington studios, which she described as a major broadcast production center. ... Sonenshine also noted Russia has started to follow China’s PD model in the U.S., with its Russia Now section in The Washington Post and its 24-hour English language Russia Today television channel and website. 'Do you want to lose the public diplomacy battle with China and Russia?' she asked." Image from

Today in Congress: budget day in the House, waste of day in the Senate - David Waldman, Daily Kos: "Today's [March 27] House committee schedule: FOREIGN AFFAIRS [:] ... 2:30-Open [:] Oversight and Investigations Subc. On price of public diplomacy with China. Public witnesses. 2172 RHOB."

Piracy Off the Horn of Africa: Remarks, Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs; Remarks to the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC - "The international community has adopted innovative steps to address the problem of piracy. For our part, the United States has helped lead the international response and galvanize international action. ... In January 2009, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to both prompt action and coordinate the efforts to suppress Somali piracy. The Contact Group is based on a voluntary membership and was established concurrent with the UN Security Council’s passage of Resolution 1851.

It now includes over 70 nations as well as international and maritime industry organizations, to help coordinate national and international counter-piracy policies and actions. ... A number of specialized working groups were established within the Contact Group to address a variety of subjects, including, naval coordination at sea, judicial and legal issues concerning captured pirates; and public diplomacy programs in Somalia to discourage piracy. Through these working groups, the Contact Group adopts a problem solving approach toward addressing piracy. While we don’t always agree on everything, we agree on a lot and this coordinated international engagement has spawned action." Image from

Report: State Dept. has more than 150 people working on ediplomacy - Josh Rogin, The Cable, Foreign Policy: “The State Department now has more than 150 employees working full time on ‘ediplomacy,’ the use of the Internet to achieve policy goals, as well as at least 900 part-time ediplomats, according to a new study. ‘The US State Department has become the world's leading user of ediplomacy," states the new report put out by Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy, highlighting a range of initiatives that Foggy Bottom has included in its ‘21st Century Statecraft’ Initiative.’ In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms, the report, entitled ‘Revolution @State: The Spread of Ediplomacy,’ states. ‘In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for centuries.’ In addition to public diplomacy and knowledge management, new technology is being used by the State Department around the world for information management, consular communications, disaster response, the promotion of internet freedom, and even policy planning. ...  Not all experts are thrilled about the State Department's ediplomacy. Evgeny Morozov wrote in a recent edition of FP that the State Department's internet freedom efforts and other technological gambits have not produced significant results.  ‘A year later, however, the Internet Freedom Agenda can boast of precious few real accomplishments; if anything... Clinton's effort has certainly generated plenty of positive headlines and gimmicky online competitions, but not much else,’ he wrote. ‘Elsewhere, the State Department's enthusiasm for technology has surpassed its understanding of it.’  The Lowy Institute report credits Secretary of States [sic]  Hillary Clinton's

Senior Adviser for Innovation Alec Ross and Policy Advisor for Innovation Ben Scott, ‘who have helped embed ediplomacy at State, driven an external and internal ediplomacy promotion campaign and helped conceive of specific ediplomacy initiatives.’ Read the whole thing [the report] here." Image from

The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost - Chris Hedges, "I covered the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua from 1983 to 1988. Press members who reported on the massacres and atrocities committed by the Salvadoran military, as well as atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed Contra forces in Nicaragua, were repeatedly denounced by senior officials in the Reagan administration as fellow travelers and supporters of El Salvador’s Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) rebels or the leftist Sandinista government in Managua, Nicaragua. The Reagan White House, in one example, set up an internal program to distort information and intimidate and attack those of us in the region who wrote articles that countered the official narrative. The program was called 'public diplomacy.' Walter Raymond Jr., a veteran CIA propagandist, ran it. The goal of the program was to manage 'perceptions' about the wars in Central America among the public. That management included aggressive efforts to destroy the careers of reporters who were not compliant by branding them as communists or communist sympathizers. If the power to lock us up indefinitely without legal representation had been in the hands of Elliott Abrams or Oliver North or Raymond, he surely would have used it. Little has changed. On returning not long after 9/11 from a speaking engagement in Italy I was refused entry into the United States by customs officials at the Newark, N.J., airport. I was escorted to a room filled with foreign nationals.

I was told to wait. A supervisor came into the room an hour later. He leaned over the shoulder of the official seated at a computer in front of me. He said to this official: 'He is on a watch. Tell him he can go.' When I asked for further information I was told no one was authorized to speak to me. I was handed my passport and told to leave the airport." Image from

"Call to Action on Public Diplomacy" includes call to action on US international broadcasting - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Entertainment as a strategy of neutrality for Voice of America - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "[A]s far as the BBG strategists are concerned, silencing of VOA radio to Tibet will not be a big loss. Tibetan monks cannot be easily surveyed in Tibet about their radio listening habits. Those fearing reprisals do not share such information with strangers. If they can’t be counted, they don’t exist. What can bring the BBG a large audience in China are English lessons with juvenile humor that the regime censors will not prevent from circulating on the Internet. The BBG plans to pay for expanding such program offerings by abolishing not only VOA Tibetan radio but also the entire VOA Cantonese Service. VOA radio programs to communist-ruled countries like Vietnam, Laos, as well as to Georgia, are also set for elimination. Serious journalism and long-format news reporting and analysis that offend dictators cannot be placed on local networks and do not produce audiences that can be easily measured. The BBG therefore also plans to reduce drastically VOA English and Spanish programs, while China and even Iran are expanding theirs. ... [T]he Broadcasting Board of Governors current commercial programming and marketing philosophy designed to maximize the audience size by diluting the message. It reminded us of one of Marshall McLuhan’s keen observations other than

'the medium is the message' and 'the global village': ['][...] the commercial interests who think to render media universally acceptable, invariably settle for 'entertainment' as a strategy of neutrality.[']The Inside VOA message may seem banal but it was no doubt carefully crafted based on recommendations from the BBG’s research and marketing strategists. They have have recently signed a 50 million dollar five-year audience research contract with Gallup while planning to eliminate numerous broadcasts to countries without free media and to fire more than 200 journalists, broadcasters and support staffers." Image from

One Organization, Many Brands, Much Confusion - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "BBG Strategy, 19 Mar 2012, Bruce Sherman: 'One organization, many brands' is integral to the BBG’s new strategy, Impact through Innovation, and Integration. The ability to have multiple brands offers several advantages. The BBG’s major brand names are, of course, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa, Radio Martí and TV Martí. There are also various sub-brands such as Radio Azadi (RFE/RL) in Afghanistan and Deewa Radio (VOA) in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Popular BBG programs — Parazit in Iran, OMG Meiyu in China, and Studio 7 in Zimbabwe — often acquire identities in their own right. Differential branding is beneficial.

It lets us position our products for specific markets and target key audience segments (women, youth, etc.). It helps us stand out in cluttered media environments and deal with challenging political realities, including anti-Americanism. All this helps boost our reach and impact — a BBG priority.' [Elliott comment]: How can USIB 'stand out in cluttered media environments' when it is itself a cluttered media environment? For an example of the confusion caused by the 'many brands,' see the previous post. I argue for a single, unified, global USIB brand in 'US International Broadcasting: Success Requires Independence and Consolidation'."  Image from entry

BBG's "busy" Victor Ashe visits RFA and VOA offices in Bangkok and RFA and VOA offices in Phnom Penh - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting.

Ashe image from entry

Former VOA journalists in the news - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Sri Lankan politician calls for closure of VOA relay station - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Image Making Mumbai - Bob's World: High Points Low Points, What's the Point? - "Some time after World War II the Propaganda bureau gave way to the Office of Public Diplomacy, a more gentile [sic] term for selling a nation. There are now public diplomacy Phd programs and fresh faced public diplomats flourishing all over the world. Only along the North Korean DMZ–same place Obama visited a few days ago—do they still blast real propaganda and martial music at the enemy through huge loud speakers. Public diplomacy creates lots of government PR jobs, but doesn’t hold a candle to pop culture.

For that you need a 'Slumdog Millionaire' the 2008 Brit film that won 8 Oscars and made the Mumbai’s Dharavi slum world famous. Jamal, the orphan Muslim kid rises from the slum to win final question on 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', confirming to the world that Indian’s [sic] do have brains like supercomputers." Image from article, with caption: Jamal vs Anil

India to wage documentary war countering West’s exposure of Sri Lanka crimes - "The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi has embarked on deploying India’s expertise in cinematography to campaign against recent exposures of Sri Lanka’s war crimes by Western documentaries and to defend the partnership efforts of the two Establishments in the island. Leading film makers in India have been hired by the ministry to produce a documentary that will be showing an interview with

Rajapaksa, de-mining work by Indian teams and footages of Tamils ‘praising’ India, news sources in Colombo told TamilNet on Tuesday. Meanwhile, India’s Bollywood is set to produce a ‘politically charged’ commercial film, 'Jaffna,' directed by Shoojit Sircar carrying the theme of ‘extremism’ to another level compared to his earlier film on Kashmir, and the actor John Abraham is going to visit the island often to get a hang of the milieu, IANS reported early this month. Indian Public Diplomacy, a wing of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is engaged in producing the documentary." Image from article

India: The Last Handwritten Newspaper in the World - Rezwan, "The earliest forms of newspaper were handwritten and now ‘The Musalman‘ probably is the last handwritten newspaper in the world. This Urdu language newspaper was established in 1927 by Chenab Syed Asmadullah Sahi and has been published daily in the Chennai city of India ever since.

It is presently run by Syed Asmadullah’s grand son Syed Arifullah and six skilled calligraphers work on this four pages newspaper everyday. With a circulation of approximately 23,000 the paper covers news in Urdu language across a wide spectrum including politics, culture and sports. ... Check out this video [on the Musalman, included in entry] directed by Ishani K. Dutta and produced and uploaded to YouTube by the Public Diplomacy Division of India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Image from article, with caption: Signboard of the office. Screenshot from the video The Musalman

The Media and South Korean Public Diplomacy - Ashley Turner, "There are two things the South Korean government is completely sure of – that the local pop culture has been good for the country economically and that it has carved out a distinguishing trait that correlates with the country’s desire to become more dynamic in the eyes of the world. South Korea has successfully individualized itself in Asia by forming a mainstream culture that has increasingly isomorphic qualities in the Eastern Hemisphere. This also coincides with the government’s public diplomacy strategy of successfully promoting Korea as a brand. However, South Korea now has its sights set on moving beyond that region into one where cultural values tend to be more segregated: the West. This alone will not halt any progress currently being made, but with a still-developing tourism industry, the knowledge and resources will be necessary to repeat that same success on the other side of the world. South Korea is already reaching out to expand its network, which in Asia already has vastly embedded connections. However, they are missing integral connections to bridge those connections in Asia to create a substantial network in the West. There are already preparations for this in the country’s active involvement in globalization. There is a need to be noticed and appreciated by the rest of the world, and the connection with the United States is still fairly weak. If seriously pursued, South Korea will proceed to export its popular culture westward after which it will undergo another change courtesy of its usage of transnationalism."

South Africans recall their own history during Israeli Apartheid Week - "This year’s Israeli Apartheid Week in South Africa created a buzz nationwide. BDS South Africa and other Palestine solidarity groups teamed up with trade unionists, political parties, student bodies, churches, youth organizations and activists in Gaza to reach out to a wide audience. Organizers used various means to inspire broad-based support for boycott, divestment and sanctions activism. Huge billboards were put up to announce Israeli Apartheid Week. Durban-based GangsOfGraffiti inspired fellow street artists and graffiti writers to participate by creating works with 'Free Palestine' as the theme.

On walls in several cities, artwork appeared in support of IAW and boycott activism. In thirteen towns around the country, the film Roadmap to Apartheid was screened, including all major cities and in Soweto ('National film tour, 5-11 March 2012,' BDS South Africa). According to an article in The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli 'Public Diplomacy Ministry' had sent a delegation to South Africa to 'battle the apartheid label,' but Israel’s messengers did not succeed in changing the perception held by many South Africans that Israeli apartheid is similar to apartheid in South Africa ('Envoys to fight Israel Apartheid Week on campus,' 19 February 2012)." Image from article, with caption: In Johannesburg, a graffiti artist helped promote this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week.

The THNK Tank: Why Amsterdam Wants Your (Creative) Brains - fmartindesign's Space: "The city of Amsterdam, the Dutch government, and a host of private sponsors are funding an accelerator for 'successful dropouts and Harvard alumni' from around the world. The goal? More talent in Amsterdam. ... Participants come from a variety of backgrounds--and are working on some very interesting projects.

Ben Keene is the founder of the crunchy global south living project Tribewanted, Gines Haro Pastor is behind The Guardian's ambitious Social Enterprise Network, and Shona McDonald's Shonaquip produces low-cost wheelchairs for rural areas. ... The public diplomacy portion of THNK also comes up thanks to a recent visit by Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan to India. THNK staff members traveled to Mumbai and Bangalore as part of a trade mission, where they hosted leadership workshops for like-minded local firms. Six of the initial thirty participants in THNK are Indian." Uncaptioned image from article

Why KONY 2012 is Bad Public Diplomacy - Marissa Cruz-Enriquez, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "In early March 2012 the international non-profit organization, Invisible Children (IC) ... began an awareness raising campaign to bring African warlord, Joseph Kony, to justice. While Invisible Children and other NGOs have been conducting on-the-ground activism in Uganda for years, KONY 2012 is not a call to action beyond the act of purchasing an action kit, sharing a video, and clicking 'Like' on Facebook. Providing assistance to citizens in Africa to take back control over their own futures is where the real solution lies. Any approach that does not consider this aspect is severely misguided. This public diplomacy mandate touches on another criticism leveled against KONY 2012, that of the 'White Savior Industrial Complex'

where Africa is merely a backdrop for Western egos to be projected upon. The video can be seen as a fantasy of heroism where a 'nobody' from the Western world can be a godlike savior in Africa. ... The goal of public diplomacy is to communicate and engage in a meaningful and mutual way with foreign publics. Now non-state actors such as Invisible Children have the ability to do just that. However, with the democratization of information sharing, thanks to new media tools, comes great responsibility. Social media is an excellent tool for bringing together different stakeholders, in this case Invisible Children and its supporters, but there also needs to be more than just raising awareness for real change to occur: raising awareness is a noble cause but it is not enough. Invisible Children’s campaign has proven that social media can be used to spread an idea to all reaches of the world but the danger lies in assuming that social media campaigns alone have the power to bring about concrete changes. Social media present an exciting dynamic

in the international arena but it must be coupled with an effective public diplomacy strategy to bridge the say-do gap." Top image of Invisible Children official John Russell from; below image from an article which states: “'Invisible Children' filmmaker Jason Russell, who created  the viral 'Kony 2012' video, is seen nude yelling and slapping the ground in a new video that emerged yesterday highlighting his bizarre behavior last week. His family said Russell was under stress and that he 'never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn’t caused by either of those things.'”

But the longer-winded tropes of “public diplomacy” carry keys to their own undoing - Newspeak: [no additional text]

Remembering Priscilla Buckley - Mike Brownfield, "Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner issued the following statement on the passing of Priscilla Buckley, longtime managing editor of the National Review, who died Sunday at age 90. Priscilla and I served together for seven years on President Reagan’s U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

As commissioners, we met monthly in Washington and travelled together frequently. We went to Guantanamo (before it was considered newsworthy), to Berlin (before the Wall came down), to China (before it was popular), and most every other part of the world. She was the ideal traveling companion." Image from article

Guest Post: the Relationship Between EU Identity and Sports - Emina Vukic, Ren's Micro Diplomacy~ a public diplomacy and soft power blog: "Emina Vukic is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. She is an Annenberg scholar, born and raised in Croatia. Emina has worked for Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia (for several years as a human rights activist after the war), the Hague Tribunal office in Belgrade, and later for USAID’s Local Government Reform Program in Serbia. Emina’s public diplomacy interests lie in nation branding through cultural diplomacy, primarily of post-conflict countries."

Noses, Shaking Hands: Social Norms in Kenya - Ryna Keith, A World Not Our Own: A Public Diplomacy Blog: "This world is not my own, I am just passing through" - "Even after a year and a half of living in Kenya, I am still everyday amazed at the difference in cultural norms. The minute you step into this country you realize how different everything is. My favorite cultural difference is the extended greetings. It makes the world seem so friendly when every person you meet greets you with a smile and a loud 'Habari Yako!!' And then you must stop to shake their hand, greet them in return, and have a short conversation about their family or yours. If they are strangers, this can get a little tedious; walking through town can take five times as long if you stop to talk to every person you meet. Even the language barrier does not stop the friendliness from overwhelming you. If I pass an old mzee on the road, he will stop and take my hand in his wrinkled grip, and say hello in the local mother tongue. I smile and greet him back and, when he goes off on a long rant in kiborana, I tell him I only know a little Kiborana ('Afan anin kiborana'). Undaunted, he will continue to chat amicably, not at all concerned that I am not answering. Eventually, he will wave, say his one English word, 'Goodbye!', smile, showing off his yellowed, chipped or missing teeth, and continue on his way. And this encounter will be repeated by every person you meet. If you are in a hurry, you can get away with a wave and just call the greetings over your shoulder until you are over the next hill. My least favorite social norm is the acceptance of

picking your nose. I find it disgusting to see grown men, sitting across from you at a staff meeting, 'digging for gold'. It is normal and no one cares. I will never get used to seeing someone approach, finger firmly up their nostril as they come over, pulling the finger out in time to inspect it and wipe it on their shirt and then hold their hand out for me to shake. One thing that I am bothered by, but accidentally acquired as part of my 'Peace Corps Quirks' is the tendency to stare. Everywhere I go, I feel like a movie star. I do not know what is so interesting about me that requires near constant eye contact. I will wear the same clothes every day, walk the same path, see the same people, and after eighteen months, the sight of me requires everyone walking in front of me to slow their pace and everyone behind to run to catch up. Once the person is next to me, in nine out of ten cases, they do not want to talk. They just want to look at me. Walking side by side, neck craned to never lose eye contact, just in case I break into dance or change color or have a fit. I rarely do. I have seen many a person trip over stones, fall off a bicycle, and ride into a bush on their pikis, while attempting to get a good look at me. Once, while being followed by a group of primary school kids who refused to make conversation, in any of the three languages I know, I decided to do something crazy just to see what would happen. I started singing along to my iPod, and without hesitation, the kids just started singing along. I was belting out some Glee hit and they sang a traditional Borana song. It was weird and strange and less entertaining than I thought it would be. When you walk into a room filled with ten Americans, it is polite to say a 'Good Afternoon' to the room in general. And if there is something going on, an important meeting for example, it is polite to not say anything, either wait outside until they are finished or come in and sit down without interrupting. In Kenya, the proper etiquette is to come in and greet the room, then go around to each person and shake their hand and greet them individually. The important meeting will come to a halt while you make your rounds, and then you may go outside to wait. If two groups approach each other, you line up like opposing Little League teams and go down the line shaking hands. Another custom that I dislike is the custom of mentioning flaws. If you have acne, a bad hair day, have gained a little weight, or just look scruffier than usual, you can be guaranteed that people all day will ask you about it. And they are blunt. 'You look fat today.' I have never been called fat in my entire life and yet somehow I am pressured to go on a diet because of all the 'you gained some much weight!' comments I have received. Sometimes, they comments are just in inquiry. 'Why do you have spots on your face?' They worst are the ones where the person implies that you have been looking terrible for awhile. 'Yeah, I’ve noticed you hair has been looking strange lately. What happened?' The flip side of this custom of bluntness is that everyone is also generous with the compliments. If you look slightly nicer than yesterday you get a whole slew of 'you look so smart!' Yesterday, I wore a short skirt (it was one of the few clean things I had) and a pair of black tights to hide my white legs, and I had one student say I looked like a movie star, and another say I looked like an angel. Pretty high compliments for a Wal-Mart skirt and old tights. And so, as hard as it is to hear blunt, sometimes negative, honesty, I will never complain because I love the habitual self- esteem boosters. Another social convention that was difficult to get used to, but I am afraid I might have begun to emulate, is the Kenyan concept of keeping time. For Kenyans, the

phrase 'on time' is never heeded. If you have a meeting scheduled for 9am, people, including the organizers, will not start to show up until 11am. And with all the greetings and introductory chatting, you will not get started until 1pm. This can be extremely frustrating for Americans who are very time conscious (early bird gets the worm and all that) and hate to be kept waiting. In Kenya, the unofficial motto is 'Haraka Haraka Hyena Baraka' or 'Hurry Hurry brings no blessings.' Even in the cities, time moves at its own pace. A movie showing at a popular theatre will start at least fifteen minutes late. If you call for a taxi to take you home at night, you will be waiting for over an hour every time. Even on a large scale, or for events of great importance, end up being very, very late. When reporting to public school, it is guaranteed that not one of the two hundred students will show up on the first day. Most will not even come the first week. That is usually fine because none of the teachers will have reported back from vacation either. Most will come a week late, and then sit around complaining that they can’t begin teaching because the classes are empty. It is baffling to me. Recently, my school acquired a number of computers from the government. We hired a local man to come install them for us and after three WEEKS of waiting for this guy to show up, I am still the only one incensed at this appallingly unprofessional behavior. It is frustrating and difficult, but on the other side of the coin, people never question you when you are late. You are pretty much free to show up to important events whenever the mood strikes you. I only worry about my friends and colleagues; if they ever go to America for jobs (as they all endeavor to do) [,] they are going to have a lot of trouble adjusting to the 'Haraka Haraka' nature of life over there. Living in Kenya has been a very different experience from living in America. It is an adventure everyday just trying to navigate the social waters with no life vest on. I am sure that I fail, committing faux pas nearly constantly, and am only saved by the overwhelming kindness of Kenyans. Now that I am closing the distance to the end of my time here, I am starting to worry about going back to America and behaving like a crazy Kenyan. I only hope I don’t walk into my first American job interview an hour and a half late with my finger up my nose and say to the interviewer 'wow, you are kinda fat!." Top image from; below image from blog, with caption: Ryan and Katharine Keith


4,000 days of war in Afghanistan? - Rachel Maddow, Washington Post: Our public and political willingness to accept the costs of the Afghanistan war in years one through 11 (so far), may not hold for years 12, 13 and beyond. If so, it should not be lamented as a failure of will on the part of the American people but, rather, as an expression of our will.

Американцы летят в Афганистан - Военнослужащие сидят на борту военного самолета США - они летят в Афганистан из транзитного центра в киргизском Манасе. (American military on a US military plane flying to Afghanistan from the transit point in Manas (Kyrgystan)

Image from article

Is Russia America's #1 geopolitical foe -- and if not, who is? - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently called Russia "without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe" while criticizing President Obama for remarks he made to Russia's president about missile defense that were picked up by a live microphone.   At the United Nations Security Council, "who is it that always stands up for the world's worst actors?" Romney asked on CNN on Monday. "It is always Russia, typically with China alongside."  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was unimpressed, telling reporters in Seoul that Romney's remarks seemed to come out of the Cold War era and "smacked of Hollywood," the Associated Press reported. The Times posed the question to several experts in international relations: Is Russia the "No. 1 geopolitical foe" of the United States? And if not, who is? Nicholas Burns, director of the Future of Diplomacy Project: Iran. Lawrence J. Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress: Nobody. John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus: The United States is its own worst enemy. Barry Pavel, director of the International Security Program, Atlantic Council: Iran. David C. Speedie, senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: Nobody.

New York Times on Syrian developments: where do I begin - As'ad, The Angry Arab News Service: So the writers [not identified in entry] of this article in the New York Times really believe that it is impossible to find tens of people inside Syria who are supportive of the regime? What about the hundreds of thousands of people who have demonstrated in support of the regime over the last few months? Were they also bused in? And where they injected with a chemical that made them look enthusiastic? Why can't the media report on the story without an obsession with the propaganda agenda?

Propaganda changes lanes in Chongqing - David Bandurski,  Offering further indication of the shift away from the politics of Bo Xilai, who was removed as the leader of Chongqing on March 15, a report in today’s Chongqing Daily offers what seems to be a mea culpa by the municipality’s head of propaganda, He Shizhong (何事忠).  According to the report in Chongqing Daily, the official “mouthpiece” of the municipality’s top leadership, He Shizhong told a gathering of propaganda leaders on March 26 that “the cultural and propaganda work of the whole city must firmly and resolutely maintain a high degree of uniformity with the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.”  He Shizhong emphasized that Chongqing propaganda leaders needed to “realistically summarize and analyze propaganda and culture work over the past few years, in which there are a number of areas that require improvement.” Specifically, He said there was a need to “improve activities and methods, reducing as much as possible collective theatrical performances, firmly avoiding movement-style [propaganda] methods.” Just over a year ago, as Bo Xilai’s campaign of “red songs” was in full swing in the city, He Shizhong defended the Chongqing’s policies on propaganda and culture. Below image from, with caption: Cute as a Chinese Baby: Radar rounds up Chinese propaganda posters in honor of their underage gymnastic team.

Beijing Power Struggle Heralds End of Chinese Communist Party The persecution of Falun Gong is ending, laying the foundation for a stable China - Editorial Board, Epoch Times: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life on Feb. 6 to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, and Chongqing’s Communist Party chief Bo Xilai pursued him with 70 police cars and armored vehicles, the first sign appeared of a power struggle breaking out at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The infighting behind the high red walls of Zhongnanhai, the CCP’s leadership compound, has focused attention on the darkest chapter in the history of today’s China: the persecution of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. That persecution is now seen to be the core issue behind the struggles going on at the top of the CCP, The CCP’s propaganda machine claimed that Falun Dafa had caused the deaths of 1,400 people through suicide, homicide, alcoholism, drug use, failure to use medical treatment, mental illness, and so on. This lie was spread just as the persecution was launched and was the opening gambit in an effort to turn the Chinese people against this peaceful, traditional spiritual practice. The regime used threats and bribes to fabricate cases; claimed the deaths of many who didn’t practice Falun Dafa as deaths caused by the practice; used patients at mental hospitals who did not practice Falun Dafa as examples of Falun Dafa’s alleged negative effects; promised reductions in medical expenses to bribe hospital patients into blaming Falun Dafa for their illnesses; and counted some of the Falun Dafa practitioners who had been tortured to death as among the 1,400 cases.

Soviet Space Program Had A Ball Spreading Propaganda On The Moon - Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty: The "Luna 2" slammed into the Moon by design in 1959, becoming the first manmade object to reach the lunar surface. American artist Randy Regier, who frequently employs old parts from military or industrial equipment to great effect, shared a replica of that Soviet memento in a flickr photo set he calls "Who's On First?" It's a sphere made of pentagonal silver panels with the Soviet state symbol and "USSR January 1959" repeated in Cyrillic in relief. And it's one of at least two copies of those objects used in the actual mission, the other having been gifted to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower by Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev. Says Regier: "I'm an object person, So, it goes with the territory that I tend to trust them (objects). The first on the Moon? Well, object-ively speaking? The Russians, Damn it." 
The photos come from a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which in addition to genuine spacecraft also houses artifacts from the history of spaceflight.

Soviets on the Moon_02

Regier also shared an image of what is presumably the placard that apparently accompanies the orb:

Soviets on the Moon_01

The Huns and Germans? - "My albeit weak understanding is that the Huns were a barbarian horde from Asia, that conquered most of Eastern Europe during the dark ages. Why then, do you sometimes Germans being referred to as Huns? The best example I can think of is Wartime propaganda calling Germans 'the Huns.' Hi. Back in the days before World War I, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, known for his outrageous speeches, gave one to German troops setting sail to put down the Boxer Rebellion in China in which he urged them to 'act like Huns' and make sure no Chinese would ever offend a German again – show no mercy like Atilla and his Huns of old. The name was then in fact later used as propaganda against German troops during World War I. Cheers. 'The comparison was helped by the Pickelhaube or spiked helmet worn by German forces until 1916, which was reminiscent of images depicting ancient Hun helmets'. The ostrogoths, or the eastern goths had served under the Huns during the battle of Chalons."

Katy Perry 'Part of Me' video branded "propaganda for the Marines" - Lewis Corner, Katy Perry has been criticized by a feminist author for her latest music video. The singer's visual for new single 'Part of Me' sees her joining the US Marines after discovering that her partner had cheated on her.

Katy Perry Part of Me Video poster
However, Naomi Wolf - who admitted that she used to be a fan of Perry - has criticized the star for the pro-military message included in the video. Wolf stated on her official Facebook page: "Have you all seen the Katy Perry marines video? It is a total piece of propaganda for the Marines… I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making it… it is truly shameful. "I would suggest a boycott of this singer who I really liked – if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am." 'Part of Me' reached number one in the US and UK upon its release and is included as one of three new tracks on Perry's new repackaged album Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. Watch the music video for Katy Perry's "Part of Me" in the entry.

New Website Launches to Satisfy Hunger Games Superfans - recently launched, creating a place for super fans to immerse themselves in the world of the smash hit Hunger Games and extend the fantasy beyond the books and movie. The fictional voice of is the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem, the ruins of what was once North America. The site posts regular stories from the fictitious “Ministry of Propaganda” but is often “hacked” by the burgeoning rebellion. The site boasts original Propaganda art inspired by the story, hand-drawn Panem maps and a wide variety of Hunger Games merchandise. Dan McCall, the accomplished artist and satirist of, creates the art for the site. "We're huge fans, basically writing between the lines of Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins’ world. It's part fan site, part fan fiction. We know there are tons of fans out there who want to totally immerse themselves in the story, just like us, so this has been a creative outlet for that." says Dan McCall of, “We are offering something different from the other fan sites in that we stay in character, offering fans the feeling that they are actually living within the story, in Panem.” It's a family affair. McCall's sister, Molly Amberson, is editor and head writer of the site's content under the ‘Games’ name Lollia Grey. Another sister, Emily Greenfield, runs the business end of things. “It's amazing to see the response from fans to the site, especially the positive reaction from students and teachers. 

The Hunger Games books have really engaged kids to read. And the website is hopefully another extension of that.” says Amberson “We’re giving fans a way to stay inside the story long after they’ve finished the books or seen the movie.” The Boston Herald recently featured’s merchandise in their article, “‘Hunger’ Pangs” – further feeding the appetite for this global juggernaut. Image from


The Topless Photo Spread - Here she is ... a topless OctoMom in all her nipple-covering glory ... smiling her way through a series of erotic photos for a European magazine. The photos feature Nadya Suleman in various states of undress ... eventually stripping down to just a pair of panties. For the record -- the panties never come off (thank god). Octo had previously sworn to never EVER pose naked ... but when she once again found herself desperate for rent money ... she agreed to drop her top for a $10,000 paycheck.

Image from entry


--From OS on Facebook


From: Photographs of Moscow 1931 from the archives of the traveler Branson DeCou. Via VP on Facebook


Via VL

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