Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 14-15

Abridged edition

"There are a lot of things that machines can do - it is a kind of zombie art."

--Irene Caesar: Art as Shock Therapy; Caesar image from


Fulbright and Academic Exchange Programs in China - Marianne Craven, DipNote: "Last month, I traveled to Beijing and Xi'an with Matt McMahon, the Fulbright Chief for East Asia. It was the first time

I had been to China, and I was excited to see firsthand Fulbright and other Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange programs at work. Overall, we shared an informative and enlightening week with insightful and generous hosts, and we're proud of the work that ECA and its program participants are doing there." Image from article

Broadcasting Board of Governors executives plan an attack piece on Helle Dale’s criticism - BBG Watcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "BBG Watch has learned from a reliable source that Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) executives in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) have been working on a response attacking a recent criticism of their strategic and management decisions posted on The Heritage Foundation blog by Dr. Helle Dale. She is the Heritage Foundation’s Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy studies. In her article, “BBG Budget: Voice of America Slashed, Fewer Broadcasters, More Bureaucrats,” Dr. Dale wrote: “The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) recently released its 2013 budget request, which slashes Voice of America (VOA) funding by more than $17 million while increasing funding for major bureaucratic offices inside the International Broadcasting Bureau. A reprioritization is clearly necessary. ... Dr. Dale made the following points: 1. Actual broadcasting services are being cut, resulting in lost viewers and listeners who, since they often have no Internet access, are deprived of trustworthy and important news sources. 2. We should not be spending more than eight times as much per capita on public diplomacy broadcasting in Tajikistan than in China. 3. An added emphasis on broadcasting in China will let the U.S. respond to China’s messaging blitz. 4. Instead of increasing funding to bureaucratic offices and cutting back on VOA, the opposite should be done."

Confusion whether BBG committee approved saving VOA Tibetan radio and VOA Cantonese Service - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "There appears to be some confusion whether at the meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Strategy and Budget Committee that took place on April 10, 2012 at BBG Headquarters in Washington, DC its members voted to save VOA Tibetan radio and the VOA Cantonese Service from the proposed elimination.

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) website reported that BBG senior Republican member Victor Ashe urged the other committee members, Governors Michael Meehan and Enders Wimbush, to save VOA Tibetan radio and VOA Cantonese broadcasts from being terminated. (Governor Michael Lynton was not in attendance.) CUSIB quoted Ashe as saying: 'I cannot say the full committee agreed or disagreed. It is unclear. However, what I think is clear is that Congress will not allow this cut to take place.'" Ashe image from article

Shortwave is not a hot topic, BBG strategists are - BBGWatcher, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) strategists have engaged in a bit of propaganda in trying to frame the legitimate debate on their competency and their strategy by focusing the discussion on the issue of shortwave broadcasts and portraying all their critics as shortwave radio dinosaurs. BBG Shortwave: Sorting The Fact From The Fiction. Sorry to say but most of the criticism of BBG strategists and their ideas have little to do with shortwave broadcasting. ... The hot topic is not shortwave per se, although it is part of it; it is the judgement and the understanding of the mission on the part of BBG strategists. ... Another hot topic is the continued elimination of the Voice of America brand-name. ... Contrary to what the BBG article is trying to convey, critics of BBG strategists don’t think shortwave is the ultimate answer for U.S. international broadcasting. The real debate is not about shortwave at all. It is about broadcasting, both radio and television, and about serving disenfranchised and repressed groups-audiences, many living in great poverty. The debate is also about U.S. national security interests and the ability of the BBG to respond to crises and inevitable cyber attacks and Internet censorship. Such a response cannot be done without some secure shortwave capability. ... Ultimately, the multi-platform, multi-media delivery is what the BBG needs if it wants to have an effective strategic weapon against undemocratic regimes. You can’t go for a mass audience in such countries because you can’t get it without seriously compromising your message.”

BBG executives can’t find Annette Lantos’ letter protestingcuts to VOA broadcasts - BBG Watcher,  USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "A high-ranking Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) executive reported that the letter Mrs. Annette Lantos had sent to the BBG, in which she pleaded with the Governors not to cut Voice of America broadcasts to China, Tibet and other countries without free media, cannot be found. Because of government security screening procedures for all mail, letters sent to government agencies may take much longer to be delivered. It’s possible that the letter has not yet been delivered to the BBG headquarters. BBG members learned from outside sources about the letter addressed to them several days after it had been sent."


India anger at Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan detention - India has reacted angrily to the detention of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan by US authorities for 90 minutes at White Plains airport near New York. This "policy of detention and apology by the US cannot continue", External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.

The actor arrived on a private plane and was on the way to Yale University for a function when he was stopped. US customs and border protection authorities later expressed "profound" apologies for the incident. The spokesman for the US embassy in Delhi, Peter Vrooman, also apologised "if Mr Shah Rukh Khan experienced an inconvenience or delay." Via YO on Facebook. Khan image from article

Agents for Secret Service Face Misconduct Inquiry - Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, New York Times: The United States Secret Service placed 11 employees on leave on Saturday as the agency’s internal watchdog opened an investigation into accusations of misconduct involving prostitution in Cartagena, Colombia, where President Obama arrived on Friday for a summit meeting. In addition, five United States military service members who were working with the Secret Service unit have been confined to quarters and are facing an investigation because they violated a curfew and might “have been involved in inappropriate conduct” in the same hotel as the agents, the military said. The Secret Service employees, including both agents and officers, had been sent to Colombia to provide support to teams preparing security measures ahead of the president’s arrival. On Friday, the Secret Service abruptly replaced the entire unit.

Left behind: What we lost in Iraq and Washington, 2009-2012 - Peter Van Buren, Le Monde Diplomatique: "People ask the question in various ways, sometimes hesitantly, often via a long digression, but my answer is always the same: no regrets. In some 24 years of government service, I experienced my share of dissonance when it came to what was said in public and what the government did behind the public’s back. In most cases, the gap was filled with scared little men and women, and what was left unsaid just hid the mistakes and flaws of those anonymous functionaries. What I saw while serving the State Department at a forward operating base in Iraq was, however, different. There, the space between what we were doing (the eye-watering waste and mismanagement), and what we were saying (the endless claims of success and progress), was filled with numb soldiers and devastated Iraqis, not scaredy-cat bureaucrats. That was too much for even a well-seasoned cubicle warrior like me to ignore and so I wrote a book about it, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. ... There has been a personal price to pay for my free speech. In my old office, after my book was published in September 2011, some snarky coworkers set up a pool to guess when I would be fired — before or after that November. I put $20 down on the long end. After all, if I couldn’t be optimistic about keeping my job, who could? One day in October, security hustled me out of that office, and though I wasn’t fired by that November and so won the bet, I was never able to collect. Most of those in the betting pool now shun me, fearful for their own fragile careers at State."

George Washington named Britain's greatest ever foe - Jasper Copping, The American was voted the winner in a contest run by the National Army Museum to identify the country's most outstanding military opponent.He was one of a shortlist of five leaders who topped a public poll and on Saturday was selected as the ultimate winner by an audience of around 70 guests at a special event at the museum, in Chelsea, west London.

In second place was Michael Collins, the Irish leader, ahead of Napoleon Bonaparte, Erwin Rommel and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Via ACP III on Facebook. Image from article

Luxury Stores Pull Out Mandarin Phrase Books to Make the Sale - Stephanie Clifford, New York Times: Though luxury brands started opening stores in Beijing and Shanghai years ago, Chinese shoppers still spend more on luxury products abroad than they do at home, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. Price is the major reason: Because of China’s taxes, luxury products are about a third cheaper in the United States and elsewhere. European luxury stores have been catering to Chinese tourists for years. Now high-end retailers in the United States are pulling out their Mandarin phrase books and trying to convince Chinese visitors that Americans can do luxury, too. Via ACACACP III on trying to convince Chinese visitors that Americans can do luxury, too. Via ACP III on Facebook

In a first, North Korea tells its people about a failure - Chico Harlan, Washington Post: North Korea has long been better at making myths than making rockets, but it showed a new face on Friday in acknowledging the failure of the country’s third effort to blast a satellite into space. Unlike after the previous two setbacks, North Korea didn’t manufacture a tale about a technological triumph. This time, roughly four hours after the Unha-3 rocket fell apart shortly after launch, Pyongyang’s state-run news agency released a brief statement saying that the “earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.”

A news anchorwoman then read the statement on domestic television. “Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure,” the broadcaster told viewers. The North’s admission marked a surprising reversal of the usual national narrative, which portrays a self-reliant country that thwarts larger imperialist powers with its military and technological might. It also threatened to turn a celebratory week into a humiliating one: Pyongyang’s leaders had planned the rocket launch as a showcase for the 100th birthday party of late leader Kim Il Sung. The launch required the impoverished North to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, according to estimates — an investment it hoped to use to build national pride and support for new leader Kim Jong Eun, analysts say. Via LW on Facebook. Image from article


--Via CR on Facebook

--Via JG on Facebook


"A curious feature of the Catholic hierarchy is the extent to which it operates as a cash economy, with envelopes full of notes constantly changing hands. This can extend right to the top.  According to John Paul II's biography George Weigel, ... it was not unusual for the Vatican band to receive a call from the papal apartment in the morning, saying that the Pope needed a certain number of envelopes containing $20,000 or $50,000 by noon  -- gifts to bishops from Africa, Latin America and Asia. Or, to put it less kindly, perhaps, personal slush funds to be used at their complete discretion"

--John Plender, "make me accountable -- but not yet," The Times Literary Supplement (April 6, 2012), p. 7

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