Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11

"[U]ntil we annex Denmark, there's just not much benefit for an American political campaign to be dealing with foreign press."

-- Jesse Benton, spokesman Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, cited at; image from, with caption: Prince William's Wedding: HM The Queen of Denmark


U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers - Larry Rohter, New York Times: "In the decade since the attacks on the twin towers, American visa procedures for foreign artists and performers have grown increasingly labyrinthine, expensive and arbitrary, arts presenters and immigration lawyers say, making the system a serious impediment to cultural exchanges with the rest of the world. ... A foreign artist seeking authorization to perform in the United States must navigate a system that involves a pair of government departments. Homeland Security, created in 2003, evaluates the initial application and then, if approval is granted, the State Department, assuming it is satisfied with the results of an in-person interview with the performer, issues a visa at an embassy abroad. Congress requires the process

to be financially self-sustaining, rather than depend on taxpayer support, which in practice means that fees are typically higher than those of other countries. Homeland Security even offers an expedited 'premium processing fee' of $1,225 per application — over and above the standard $325 filing fee — that is supposed to guarantee a response within two weeks, but arts administrators complain that the agency sometimes fails to meet its own deadline. ... In many cases foreign troupes must also pay a 'consultation' fee of up to $500 to an American union to certify that its performances will not adversely affect the interests of American artists. ... As a result, some large ensembles are now simply avoiding the United States." Image from

Welcome to America - Philip Seib, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Public diplomacy efforts to showcase the United States to the world are doomed if the first American a visitor meets is ignorant and hostile."

Pajamas and press outreach - Laura McGinnis, manIC: "[A] quick highlight from the realm of public diplomacy, this one courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which reports that the foreign press is often marginalized while covering the U.S. presidential race:  ‘They show us pictures of Ron Paul yard signs in their country and say 'See, there are signs and stickers all over Stockholm,'  ’ said Ron Paul spokesman

Jesse Benton. ‘I'm not without some compassion and sympathy for them. But until we annex Denmark, there's just not much benefit for an American political campaign to be dealing with foreign press.’ However, the Journal reports, the U.S. State Department's Foreign Press Centers have stepped in to create an outreach opportunity out of what might otherwise be seen as a snub." Image from

State Department to Acquire Own Drone Fleet - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: "According to NextGov, the State Department plans on acquiring its own fleet of (so far unarmed) aerial drones. Because sure, why not? Nothing says 'diplomacy' these days better than showing some swag violating foreign air space because we freaking can. This development can only make the US more popular overseas, that is for certain. Just as a thought experiment, how do you think the US would feel if say the Chinese or the Iranians wanted to fly drones over the US to watch over their own diplomats (the Iranians have a UN mission in New York)? Any issues there? The State Department has issued a request for proposals for contractors to provide the aircraft, crew and support on a turnkey basis.

The procurement request released last month and updated Monday marks the start of a project to provide the department with UAV assets that could be deployed anywhere in the world. State did not say how many aircraft it eventually planned to deploy. ... The State UAV project has already attracted 62 interested bidders, including manufacturers such as General Atomics and a number of aerospace companies, as well as systems integrators such as Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 Communications and Lockheed Martin Corp. Bids are due April 23. Maybe the State Department’s public diplomacy social media people can get in on this, say holding a contest on Twitter, the winner gets his/her house buzzed by a drone. Or something on Facebook where whomever gets the least 'likes' has a Hellfire missile sent down their timeline? Image from entry

She remained silent. We do not - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: “Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century,” said SecState Hillary Clinton. Clinton has made internet freedom and the rights of bloggers and journalists a cornerstone of her foreign policy, going as far as citing the free use of social media as a prime mover in the Arab Spring. At the Conference on Internet Freedom at the Hague, Clinton said: [‘]When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us. In China, several dozen companies signed a pledge in October, committing to strengthen their – quote – [']self-management, self-restraint, and strict self-discipline.['] Now, if they were talking about fiscal responsibility, we might all agree. But they were talking about offering web-based services to the Chinese people, which is code for getting in line with the government’s tight control over the internet. [’] The United States wants the internet to remain a space where economic, political, and social exchanges flourish. To do that, we need to protect people who exercise their rights online. Yet inside her own Department of State, Clinton presides over the censoring of the internet, blocking objectionable web sites that refer to Wikileaks, such as TomDispatch ... , while allowing sites that play to State’s own point of view, such as, which also refer to Wikileaks. The use of specialized software and VPNs that State recommends to Iranians to circumvent the firewall block placed by the Tehran government are prohibited by the State Department to its own employees to get around State’s own firewall blocks. While Clinton mocks Chinese companies, claiming terms like 'self-management, self-restraint, and strict self-discipline' equate to censorship, her own Department’s social media guidance reminds employees to

‘be mindful of the weight of your expressed views as a U.S. government official,’ and to ‘Remember that you are a Foreign Service USG employee.’ Official guidance reminds employees that 'All Department organizations with a social media site must monitor user-generated content,' and cites 27 laws and regulations that must be followed to be acceptable to the government. Self-censorship is the byword at State, as it is in China. Government bureaucrats know that this sort of slow-drip intimidation keeps people in line. They are meant to see what’s happening and remain silent. One web site reported that when Matt Armstrong was hired as Executive Director for the now defunct Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, a condition to his hiring was to stop blogging. The condition was set by the office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Whistleblower Ray McGovern was arrested merely for physically standing and turning his back on Clinton at a public rally where she was speaking about the importance of freedom of speech. Did Secretary of State Clinton say anything about the arrest?  She remained silent.  We do not." Image from

Social Media and the Embassy - Kitty Non Grata, “Social Media is the new cool thing in the State Dept, and the USG over all.  The messaging power of Social Media is real, as my amazing team in Public Affairs has proven. A few weeks ago, Facebook switched to the Timeline format for organizations and my team was ready with tons of updates and a detailed timeline that goes back to the 1950s when we first opened up diplomatic relations with Cambodia. A few people tweeted back at us about how much they like our Embassy Facebook page. I’m really only involved in Twitter and Facebook for the Embassy in a supervisory capacity, but it makes me so proud of my team when they get that kind of feedback! A blogger in Cambodia reached out to us recently and asked us to answer some questions about the Embassy’s use of social media.  Again, my team was hard at work (and making me look good!) Here is the article the blogger wrote: The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh Talks Twitter, Facebook, Social Media.Via

The Downside of Focusing on Influencers in Social Media for Public Policy - “When it comes to companies and brands looking to engage in social media for marketing purposes, the emphasis is on people who have influence or authority…in other words; reach. If you’re a brand, you want to engage with someone who has an audience, that way if they something good about your brand, they reach a lot of people. That’s okay for marketing, but not so much when it comes to public diplomacy or policy issues. Even in marketing terms, it has a downside and here’s why. Really valuable information, the kind of information that becomes intelligence

remember, it’s intelligence we use to make a decision, not information…and we’re not talking espionage type intelligence) may be a single ‘tweet’ or blog post from someone who perhaps doesn’t have a very big audience. But the quality of their content is critical. In public policy terms, it may be a blog post that can play a critical role in shaping a policy through a suggested improvement or approach. In marketing terms, it may be a comment on a product feature/function the company had never thought of that provides for a whole new revenue stream. Too often in our research projects (over 200 of them) into social and news media, we see public and private sector clients looking for the big ‘wow’ or the thought leader they can then instantly form a rapport with – without a clear understanding as to ‘why’ it has to be someone with a big audience. This can mean the most valuable of information gets completely overlooked. With so much industry news media and pundit ‘hype’ over social media and size mattering more than substance, it is not the fault of the governments, NGO’s and corporations who fall prey to looking for big numbers over substance. If you’re researching into digital media, in this case specifically social media, then be cautious about focusing on  just those who have a big audience; they often have different value to their content.” Image from

The US and the paradox of Latin America - jtothelo, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 2: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University: "In reality any country especially the United States cannot operate on the basis of a one sided mode of public diplomacy and one knows how the pursuit of the unipolar turned out during the Bush years. ... US needs to hand over the PD to private and NGOs instead of trying to dominate the narrative themselves."

American National Security Strategy: The Leadership Factor by Richard Wetiz - Mastermind Century Group: [A]nalysis of recent U.S. biodefense strategy concludes

that a critical weakness of present USG endeavors stems from the fact that DOD, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services all lack a single focal point by which to conduct intra-agency coordination. Analysis of public diplomacy in the 1990s illustrates the atrophying of the innovative interagency International Public Information Group under the pressures of Foggy Bottom bureaucracy after it was moved there from the NSC." Image from

"What’s the Best Way To Foment Unrest in a Foreign Country?" A media guide (updated with RFE/RL response) - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "Response to Slate from from Martins Zvaners, depurty [sic] director of communications, RFE/RL, Inc.: "Concerning Radio Free Europe and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, to which you refer in today's Explainer -- the tapes of all of the Hungarian Service broadcasts from that time were preserved by chance by the German government. These tapes, along with the findings of several internal and external investigations, refute the charges that RFE incited the revolution, promised

Western military assistance, or provoked the Soviet crackdown. What RFE’s programs were most guilty of, according to researcher and former RFE executive Ross Johnson, was 'project[ing] to Hungary the sympathy and moral and humanitarian support of the Western world. In the context of the revolution, this reporting--with few exceptions both accurate and journalistically responsible--inadvertently became a source of false hope.' To read Johnson's "Hoover Review" article on RFE's performance during the Hungarian Revolution, visit Johnson examines the issue in more depth in his December 2010 book, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond, while Arch Puddington discussed the question in his May 2000 book, Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Image from

BBG Reception iho New Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Soneshine - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "April 10, I had the pleasure of attending a late-morning Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)- organized reception in honor of Tara Sonenshine, the new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department. ... The BBG has been under immense criticism in recent years. I may be a sucker for people-to-people encounters but this modest one-hour event -- coffee and pastry were available, and no official speeches were given, at least when I was there, all of which cost the US taxpayer little -- showed the human face of the BBG."

CIPG doubles showcase titles at London Book Fair - "The London Book Fair, one of the three biggest book fairs in the world, will open on April 16 with a strong presence of Chinese culture. China International Publishing Group (CIPG) is planning to showcase 972 titles – twice the number of the previous year – in 43 languages for the exhibition. CIPG, established in October 1949, is China's leading publisher for international readers. The organization annually publishes over 2,000 book titles, 21 printed periodicals and 25 cyber journals in 20 languages in over 100 countries and regions around the world. ... [A] panel discussion on topics surrounding China's public diplomacy will feature panelists including Zhao Qizheng, press spokesman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Liu Binjie, president and Party chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication and president of the National Copyright Administration, and other renowned Chinese and foreign experts."

2012 Global Forecast "[In] Risk, Opportunity, and the Next Administration [one of the authors] Walter Douglas explores why public diplomacy has ceased to be at the forefront of public debate and how the next administration should think about the challenge at hand.

Global Forecast 2012 provides a snapshot of CSIS’s collective wisdom on the challenges facing the next administration in the years ahead. Although the focus is on foreign and defense policy, this is a year when our domestic debates are intrinsically tied to long-term success abroad. Failure of the next Administration to recognize the risks and opportunities in both settings will have consequences for years to come." Image from entry

Some Lessons from ISA 2012 - Craig Hayden, Intermap: "So I’m still trying to digest all that I learned from this year’s International Studies Association annual convention. For the first time, there was simply no way to attend all the panels pertaining to public diplomacy and strategic communication. That’s a good thing. I also learned that issues central to public diplomacy and strategic communication studies – information and communication technologies, the politics of information, and the mediatization/mediation of politics – are being eagerly studied across a range of related fields of international studies.

I felt the sneaking suspicion that public diplomacy studies, in particular, needs to 'get with the program' or else be left behind by more traditional forms of international studies research. This was made evident in my participation in the New Media and Foreign Policy” working group, and in many other panels. ... There was a clear sense that while maybe some theories relevant to international studies may yet hold, our sense of the practice of things like public diplomacy needs to catch up with reality. It was also clear that insights from outside the traditional sphere of international relations/political science might yet shed some light on communication and media effects, the cultural foundations of new media ecologies, and the constitutive effects of communication on international institutions." Image from

Propaganda v. Public Diplomacy …. ‘We’re just misunderstood…’ - thebricsarecoming, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 4: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University: "The very term public diplomacy I would argue is propaganda in its finest form."

“Welcome to Rice. Now go away!” - Owl Admission Blog: Learn from current Rice students about Rice University: "[U]niversities have realized there’s a lot more other countries have to offer aside from their classrooms, and so now you can find internships, fellowships, research, and service opportunities in other countries. Rice fully embraces this expanded view of study abroad, and has lots of resources you can consult to find the the experience

that best suits you. ... The sophomore after sophomore year, I got to go to Japan for 10 weeks to learn Japanese and do nanotechnology research through a Rice-sponsored program called NanoJapan, and it was an amazing experience. One of my friends liked being abroad so much, she decided to apply to go abroad the semester after she came back. Or you can be like one of my more policy-minded friends. While I was in Japan, he participated in a Baker Institute trip to American University Cairo where he got to meet Egyptian students through the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking program. He enjoyed that trip and learning about public diplomacy, and this year he helped organize a student trip to Qatar to meet with Qatari college students and attend a science policy conference. Image from article


Terrorists in Court: Abu Hamza and friends may get the U.S. justice they deserve - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: When it comes to what George W. Bush used to call "the war on terror," Europeans often seem divided on what they think is worse: terrorism itself, or the means the U.S. government has used to prosecute it. On Tuesday the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) took a stand on the subject by ruling in America's favor.

The case concerned the U.S. attempt to extradite several alleged terrorists from Great Britain. Happily, the European court decided that their rights would not be in jeopardy in American courts (where they would be accorded the presumption of innocence) or even in places like the "Supermax" prison in Colorado, where the worst terrorist offenders often go. That ruling is a triumph over a mountain of anti-American prejudice. Image from article, with caption: Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri with a masked bodyguard.

A U.S.-Brazil respect deficit: Op-Ed This week's U.S. visit by President Dilma Rousseff could set the stage for meaningful economic agreements between the two nations that have long neglected the need for a robust relationship - Peter Hakim, The two countries need to be more respectful of each other. Frequently, the U.S. treats Brazil as an interloper in world affairs, which does not match the status it has achieved. For its part, Brazil seems intent on demonstrating its influence by flaunting its independence of the U.S. and, on many issues, showing off its opposition, even when bedrock U.S. interests are at stake. Changes in approach would benefit both nations. For now, however, they seem comfortable with the status quo, with two governments tolerating and accommodating each other, while maintaining their distance. Unfortunately, neither is prepared to invest very much in building a more robust relationship.

The U.S. has little leverage to stop North Korea’s missile test - Editorial Board, Washington Post: The cycle of actions with which North Korea has manipulated the United States for nearly two decades remains unchanged: It promises a freeze on its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for economic and diplomatic concessions; it breaks those promises; and then it lashes out when it is held accountable. Now the cycle has been radically compressed.

Only 16 days elapsed from the announcement of a freeze-for-food deal between the Obama administration and Pyongyang to the North’s revelation that it would launch a ballistic missile. The launch is expected as early as Thursday, and there are signs that it could be followed by a nuclear weapons test. Image from, with caption: North Korea 'preparing to unveil missile capable of striking continental US'

Islamists Inside the Gates: It is tempting, but dangerous and premature, to write off Egypt and its dominant Muslim Brotherhood - Matthew Kaminski, Wall Street Journal: "We never think of our leaders as divine or holy," said Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, who represents Luxor in parliament for the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, in Washington last week. "That's the European experience. Don't impose it on us." As intended, the audience laughed at the reference to the centuries when Europe's royalty claimed to rule by divine right. For democracy to stick in the Middle East—as it has in Europe, where today's Christian Democrats were some of the religious populists of the 1930s—Islamists will need to mature politically. The next, tough step will be to get them and their countries to that second free election without any detours.

International broadcasters accuse international broadcasters of "fabricated" reporting about Syria - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Syria's "Rogue Islamist Opposition": US-NATO’s New Lie in its Bid for Regime Change - Finian Cunningham, The Western propaganda offensive against Syria looks like tripping over itself in the rush to cover up the increasingly threadbare lies and deception that the mainstream media have been shamelessly churning out over the past year.

"If viewers perceive a bias...": As Al Jazeera's audience grows, so does the number of its critics - - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Sky News Arabia will launch on 6 May, "with an independent editorial mandate at the heart of everything we do" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Iran Not Shutting Down Internet, Merely Building Walled Garden - Andrew Tarantola, Iran has issued a strongly worded statement denying reports from yesterday that the country planned to shut itself off from the rest of the Internet.

Quite the contrary — Iran is just building its own, closed version. Totally different!  Iran’s Communications ministry published a statement on its website (which isn’t available outside of Iran) that the original story was the work of “the propaganda wing of the West and providing its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim.” Communications Minister Reza Taghipour did confirm via the statement that while the government isn’t going to shut itself off from the rest of the Internet, it will instead build an Iran-only national intranet — the so-called Clean Internet. This network would reportedly operate much like a large corporate intranet — that is, easy to control and monitor — though Iranian officials have not commented on whether or not the Internet access will be cut once the national network is in place. [AFP via Mashable] Image from

Gunter Grass: Israel’s response to poem akin to dictatorship - German literary giant Gunter Grass said Israel's decision to bar him entry following publication of his controversial poem resembles the behavior of a dictatorship. Writing in the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass said the decision puts Israel in the company of Communist-ruled East Germany and junta-ruled Myanmar -- the only two regimes that ever have barred him entry. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared the Nobel Prize-winning writer persona non grata this week after Grass published a short poem

that suggested that Israel's saber-rattling on Iran was a greater threat to world peace than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. "It's the alleged right to a first strike that could destroy an Iranian people," Grass wrote in his poem. "Why only now, grown old, and with what ink remains, do I say: Israel's atomic power endangers an already fragile world peace?" After the poem caused a firestorm of criticism in Israel and Germany, Grass said he should have phrased the poem differently to make it clear that the current Israeli government was his target, not Israel as a whole. Image from, with caption: A screen shot from a German news site showing a copy of a controversial new poem by G├╝nter Grass, published on Wednesday in the newspaper S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung.

South Korea deplores Israeli TV channel's anti Iran propaganda‎ - Islamic Republic News Agency: South Korean Ambassador to Tehran Bark Chi Young in an statement on Tuesday deplored Israeli TV’s anti-Iran propaganda. He expressed regret over the trade show by Israeli TV channel using Samsung products. He decried the "unacceptable action of an Israeili cable TV channel and unawareness of Samsung." The ambassador said in the statement that Samsung called for a rapid end to the misusing advestisement of Galaxy Tab products by the channel. The Diplomat underlined Iran-South Korea friendly relations and expressed hope the misuse of advertisement would not affect the historical and respectful ties of the two nations. Samsung has extended an apology to Iranian Ambassador to Seoul in this regard.

WikiLeaked cable: Invisible Children helped Ugandan security forces arrest government opponent -  Joshua Keating, Foreign Policy. Just days after releasing its new video, Invisible Children -- the U.S.-based NGO behind the phenomenally successful "Kony 2012" campaign -- has yet again found itself in the midst of controversy over a U.S. diplomatic cable released last year by WikiLeaks, which reports that the group cooperated with the Ugandan military to facilitate the arrest of a former child soldier who was allegedly involved in the formation of a new rebel group. Via  KK on Facebook

State of Cool - Maureen Dowd, New York Times: "I asked the dazzling Diana Walker — the Time magazine photographer who took one of the totemic pictures of Hillary on a C-17 flight last fall from Malta to Tripoli for a cover story on

'Hillary and the Rise of Smart Power' — what made her black-and-white shot such a sensation. 'I don’t think she was meaning to be cool,' Walker said. 'She just reached in her bag to get some glasses to read her BlackBerry before the plane took off for Tripoli.'” Image from


Nearly 900 wrongly told they're admitted to UCLA - AP, USA Today: UCLA is apologizing for mistakenly sending almost 900 applicants emails congratulating them on getting into the highly competitive school.


Dude breaks up fight on NYC subway with bag of chips [VIDEO] - Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing


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