Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18

"Secret Service Agents abroad: always remember to pay your prostitutes to avoid undue hassle." 

--Diplomat/Consul Peter Van Buren, in his blog We Meant Well, commenting on secretly serviced USG employees traveling at taxpayers' expense overseas to protect "POTUS" (a bureaucratic designation for the President of the United States) while s/he is on foreign trips; image from; see also John Brown, "POTUS Visits and Public Diplomacy: Doing Nothing While Waiting for Nothing to Do," Huffington Post (November 13, 2010), as well as Ambassador Brian Carlson, "Public Diplomacy and POTUS Visits," Public Diplomacy Council (Wednesday, April 18th 2012), with below image:


Sovereignty, Drones and the Automated Future of War - tlsstudent1, “In the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Iran and Somalia our use of UAVs has caused a larger stir. This week’s articles by Shane Harris and Mary Ellen O’Connell analyzed the legal dimensions of a conflict fought chiefly from the air with UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle -- JB]. This week’s articles by Shane Harris and Mary Ellen O’Connell analyzed the legal dimensions of a conflict fought chiefly from the air with UAVs. ... [I]n international law these attacks would seem to be a violation of the sovereignty of the governments where the

attacks take place. As O’Connell notes in her article, the use of drones obviously violates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter in its strictest reading. The UAVs cross international borders and use force to identify and eliminate potential targets. It would be a plain violation of International Law, assuming that an agreement doesn’t exist between the government of Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. Most likely, such an agreement exists. Even if it did not, an argument could be made over Pakistan’s unwillingness or inability to deal with the problem on its own. The ability for insurgents to find safe haven across the border puts U.S. troops at risk. ... I agree with the sentiments of O’Connell and Harris from a public diplomacy point of view. These strikes are unpopular, and are difficult to defend in the open media. No public would enjoy having its sovereignty trampled by robotic flying death machines. Further, knowing that these planes could be overhead, watching you or a family member at any particular moment is terrifying. However, in using these weapons, policy makers should ask themselves ‘What is the alternative to using UAVs? What if this weapon did not exist?’  If the answer to that question involves a more intrusive form of force in order to achieve the same result, then the use of drones does not appear to seem like a bad option.” Image from

Future of nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1 - Abolghasem Bayyen, "Iranian officials also expressed hope that the new nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries would be different than the previous talks and that the scheduled meeting would mark a step forward in resolving the remaining issues between the two parties. In a rare act of public diplomacy of this sort by an Iranian political official, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi published an opinion article in Washington Post two days before the nuclear negotiators were to meet in Istanbul, emphasizing the need for building mutual trust between Iran and the United States, while advising the parties to have realistic expectations of the upcoming talks between Iran and the Western powers, noting that the differences between the parties cannot be bridged overnight.” Image from article

What’s with the visas? - Marek Siwiec MEP, "In the Polish news, in the shadow of the anniversary of the Smolensk tragedy, there is the American struggle for the presidency and behind it – the efforts for the abolition of visas to the United States. Officially, the proud leaders of my country do not ask the Americans for anything, but the practice is different. The Polish Embassy in Washington has just released a special web publication dedicated to Poland and the 'suspension of visas' programme.

From the five selected pages of a carefully prepared text we can learn that the implementation of the programme will be good for America and business, it will increase the level of US national security and give the American public diplomacy a strong argument. Next, we learn why Poland is not in the programme despite its successes. The Embassy reminds readers that we fight in Afghanistan, we bear losses and they have been able to come to our country without visas since 1991. Then it gets even harder. They write that every year 7 million Poles go abroad, and only 100 thousand from them go to US. Not enough. The best of all, however, is at the end. It turns out that despite the promises of President Obama, the support of the American Chamber of Commerce and others, the great project is supported by 9 senators (out of 100) and 30 congressmen (out of 435)… Let me remind that in autumn the Americans will elect not only their president, but also one third of senators and the entire composition of the House of Representatives… We must decide whether at the current stage of Polish-American relations the maintenance of visas is a Polish or American problem. If the problem is Polish, then such publications make sense. But if we are going to proudly wait until the Americans get softer, giving out pleading leaflets on the Internet does not make any sense." Image from article

Soft War = Smart War? Think Again – Analysis - Anna Simons, "Arguably, we Americans have always wanted others to think well of us—it has become standard for American politicians to invoke the U.S. as the shining city on the hill. But in the past this amounted to little more than rhetorical posturing. In contrast, today we don’t just need others’ good opinion of us to feel better about ourselves, but link this directly to our security. Ergo our renewed concern about public diplomacy, though one irony with the attention we now pay to what we call ‘strategic communication’ and information operations is that those who believe in the Evil Eye (and practice witchcraft and sorcery in other parts of the world) do so for very similar reasons; they, too, believe misfortune comes from people thinking ill of them. One difference between them and us, however, is that they believe the less they do to incite others’ resentment the less likely it is others will wish them harm. ... [T]ying our long-term security to the notion that we can out-manipulate and out-spin others in the realm of cross-cultural persuasion, and thus wage some sort of soft, smart war

seems especially imprudent. ... Counterinsurgency is worth singling out because it is at the vanguard of how soft war proponents want to see us fight: nimbly, with finesse, a small footprint, and population-oriented sensitivity. One chronic problem with counterinsurgency, however, is that its press has always outstripped anyone’s ability to make it work as advertised. ... Not only does COIN’s own history reflect the need for a stunning amount of brutality, but the fact that in campaign after campaign commanders have found themselves desperate to be able to apply decisive force reveals what every generation ends up (re)discovering the hard way: soft approaches don’t impel enough people to change their ways fast enough. ... [N]umerous smart people in Washington and academe appear to believe that those whom we most need to influence abroad will hear that we plan to co-opt them via soft power and will then happily let us do so. Being charitable, those who think this might work have either not spent enough time among non-Westerners and/or have spent too much time among people skilled at telling them the kinds of things they most want to hear. ... It is certainly clear what any adversaries would prefer we do—they would no more want us to use decisive force than we seem prepared to want to use it. In the grandest irony of all, this should simply underscore who already has an edge in out-finessing whom. Anna Simons is a Professor of Defense Analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). At NPS, she teaches courses on the anthropology of conflict, military advising, low intensity conflict in Africa, and political anthropology. Dr. Simons is the author of Networks of Dissolution: Somalia Undone and The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces as well as numerous articles and essays." Simons image from

Strategic Comms, Pt 39: No Substitute for Grassroots Communication in Politics (This is the 39th in a continuing series on strategic communications. Click here for earlier segments) - Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group: “One of the hallmarks of our company’s success is our use of grassroots advocacy on behalf of our clients. 

This is our preferred method of communication because it allows us to interact with people directly and develop a dialogue through which issues and solutions can be explored.  In fact, grassroots communication is so effective that it is increasingly being used in international diplomacy efforts. For instance, the Emerson Election Project has utilized grassroots communication and person-to-person interactions in its public diplomacy or ‘soft power’ efforts.  This group was founded by Tristram Perry, a public diplomacy officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, and Dr. J. Gregory Payne, an associate professor at Emerson College. The project’s first program involved inviting prominent Indonesian journalists to participate in the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008.  Journalists from Indonesia, a country with the fourth largest population and the largest Muslim population in the world, had a particular interest in this campaign.  Interest was not only piqued by Obama’s intercultural background (i.e., he had lived and studied in Indonesia) but also the fact that the country was preparing for only its second presidential election since becoming a democracy in 1999.[1] The program consisted of briefing the Indonesian journalists on presidential politics through a series of seminars at the college and having them interact with various constituencies in swing states.  As with any public diplomacy effort, the goal of these exchanges was to increase a mutual understanding between the participants and the hosts of the program.  The program was a resounding success and resulted in more than 50 articles and 150 minutes of video for Indonesian audiences.  In addition, a documentary on the program was created to further the project’s mission of promoting understanding through education.[2] Given the fact that almost 75% of the American public does not have a passport, this severely limits their exposure to other cultures.[3]  Therefore, these types of programs can help fill a void that is otherwise filled by mass communication sources.” Image from

New TV Production Facility and High Definition Studio Designed, Implemented and Completed for the U.S. Department of State - Press Release, "Human Circuit announced today that the U.S. Department of State's International Information Program (IIP) Facility Design and Integration Project is complete. The State Department's High Definition Studio and Post Production Facility job included design, engineering and media integration services for the transformation of an existing architectural space into a state-of-the-art High Definition (HD) production and post production facility. ... About the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) [:] The Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) is the State Department's public diplomacy (PD) communications bureau, leading the Department's support for U.S. Embassy PD efforts and engagement with overseas audiences.

IIP creates and supports the ways and places for the U.S. to have sustained conversations with foreign audiences; provides the products that enable our posts to have those conversations; and manages the infrastructure to support it all. Where innovation, policy, and public diplomacy intersect, IIP programs engage international audiences in sustained, meaningful interaction on the full spectrum of U.S. policy objectives. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of U.S. policy, society, and values to help create an environment that can be receptive to America's national interests. It is one of three bureaus reporting to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. IIP communicates with foreign opinion makers and younger audiences through a wide range of print and electronic outreach materials published in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Persian, Russian, and Spanish. IIP also provides information outreach support to U.S. embassies and consulates in more than 140 countries worldwide." Via manIC; image: Ole Miss Rebels new high definition display

Ink Diplomacy - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "I was watching CCTV the other night (yes, I love international broadcasting, and sometimes tune in to RT, NHK and France24) and I saw something on the ticker that made me laugh: apparently, the most popular tattoos in China these days are English words. So years after the stupid craze of getting Chinese characters inked on Occidental skin, now the Chinese are getting semi-poignant words printed on their skin-cum-canvas. As I noticed across the Straits, in Taiwan- where there is a large Buddhist population- people were opting for Sanskrit. Having been to China, and seen the muck of Chinglish that exists on signage ('Racist Park' in Beijing, among a slew of anecdotes I could name), perhaps a good bit of business could be made in teaching English to tattoo artists, and offering proofreading for people planning on getting tatted up. Someone could set up a stand outside parlors, and proofread for a lil kwai. Maybe it could even be a public diplomacy exchange. Why do all our vocational exchanges need to be high brow? Why couldn't we sponsor some vocational exchanges for tattoo artists? The Bernays-Barnum School of PD approves such guerrilla cultural exchange."

VOA has a cameo in the Russian movie musical Hipsters, now playing in the USA - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting 

Image from entry

"The World Tomorrow": Episode 1 – Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: “So, Assange's much-anticipated TV show on Russia Today finally had its debut on Tuesday. I guess I'll just cite the (awesome) opening paragraph from The Guardian: ['] It was billed as Julian Assange's ‘explosive’ TV debut.

The choice of word was perhaps unfortunate given that the first guest on Assange's much-hyped interview show, The World Tomorrow, was Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The Kremlin propaganda channel Russia Today has exclusive initial rights to the show, broadcast for the first time on Tuesday around the world. ['] ... Since the RT's vision of public diplomacy is rooted in the attempt to counter the Western media hegemony (or, to put it undiplomatically, to stick it to the Americans), this combination of Assange and Nasrallah guaranteed not just sensationalism, but also fulfillment of its objective. In an ironic and twisted way, this can be said to represent precisely what many in the public diplomacy circles have been calling for: the government (well, RT is as governmental actor here) providing a platform for other actors to interact and engage in dialogue. This was a blunt demonstration of that, perhaps. ... To read more about Hizballah's media strategy and their attempts at ‘public diplomacy’, see my paper in the Journal of International Service.”Image from entry

In defence of the Australia Network - Alex Oliver, "The Australia Network represents almost the entire government expenditure on public diplomacy, with most other platforms cut over the last few years as Australia's foreign affairs infrastructure has been whittled away. Apart from DFAT's  [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade -- link provided by JB] website and the tightly-constrained activities at diplomatic posts, the Australia Network IS Australia's so-called 'soft diplomacy'. Axing it would be drastic, and would cut off one of Australia's principal means of projecting its image, strengths and values to the world. ... Australia is a prosperous nation whose closest neighbours face vastly different socio-economic conditions, with different religions and political systems. We are spending almost $5 billion in aid each year to help them address their challenges. Yet we have starved our diplomatic network and hobbled our public diplomacy. Now is not the time to axe our primary means of communication with our region. * Disclosure: the review was commissioned by the ABC.”

Israeli officer who clubbed Danish activist with rifle facesdismissal (REPOST) - "Lt Col Shalom Eisner reported to have expressed regret over attack as Israeli defence minister joins condemnation of incident  Amid continued widespread coverage of the incident in the Israeli media, the defence minister, Ehud Barak, joined in the condemnation of the incident, saying the actions of Lt Col Shalom Eisner were unacceptable and that a full inquiry would be held. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said the investigation was already advanced and a swift conclusion was expected. ‘The commanders are treating the incident very seriously because the pictures were not representative of IDF values,’ said a

spokeswoman, Avital Liebovich. ...  The IDF declined to comment on whether the incident had been filmed by an army cameraman, as is routine. About 100 combat soldiers had been professionally trained to use video cameras, Liebovich said. ‘We also understand the importance of the picture – not just for public diplomacy but also for intelligence-gathering,’ she added.” Image from

Summary of Op-Eds from the Hebrew Press - "Yediot Ahronot comments on the recent altercation in which an IDF officer struck a foreign activist with his M-16 and says that, 'Indeed, the report was extensively covered on news sites around the world – but no anti-Israeli storm has broken out.' The author ventures that, 'The Jordan Valley Brigade deputy commander’s action was so unnecessary and so stupid that everyone was convinced that – again – we had done exemplary service for those who wish to put the State of Israel into a corner,' but adds that, 'What happened this time is that for the first time in a long time, Israel did what it has always needed to do – respond quickly.' The paper believes that the officer’s immediate suspension and the wall-to-wall official condemnations had a positive effect and concludes that, 'Sometimes it is preferable to stop for a moment and do the right thing vis-à-vis public diplomacy. This is the only way to minimize the damage that is liable to grow to considerable proportions. Lt.-Col. Eisner, the investigations are expected to determine, failed in his duty. Israel, for a change, did not."

Salsa anyone? India swings to the Latino beat - "Latino dances are now the world's hottest cultural diplomacy tool connecting people across continents.

And in India, it is the new beat on dance floors. Dancers say the popularity of Latino dances lies in the inherent joyousness, the friendships it generates on the floor across cultural divides - and the free-flowing body language, open to improvisations." Image from article, with caption: A couple dances Salsa at the international Latino dance in the congress in the capital; via manIC

Culture as a magnetic mechanism for nation branding - eub0015, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 1: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University

US Consulate General and US Embassy: Information Assistant | Web Manager/ IT Assistant | Chauffeur - Lowongan Kerja 2012: “Information Assistant – Surabaya Basic Function of Position [:] - The incumbent works directly with media outlets to get coverage of consulate activities and programs, organizes press conferences, and places press releases. ... Qualifications Required [:]... - A thorough knowledge of Indonesia’s media, political, economic, social, religious, and education environment. General familiarity with key mass media, government, military, cultural, business, and labor leaders is required. Knowledge of journalistic and public relations techniques sufficient to help meet Consulate’s public diplomacy goals. ... Web Manager/ IT Assistant – Medan Basic Function of Position [:] - The incumbent designs, maintains and updates the American Presence Post Medan websites on an ongoing basis. The incumbent will work with Public Affairs (PA) to strengthen public diplomacy efforts in Sumatra’s ten provinces by maintaining and keeping abreast of information technology (IT), web, and other new media outreach tools.”


State Dept Tops Chief Watchdog Vacancy Club – 1,546 Days and Counting – Domani Spero, DiploPundit: POGO’s Jake Wiens calls it an “inglorious membership” with the club’s longest serving member,

the State Department OIG having a leadership vacancy streak of 1,546 days and counting. Since assuming office, the Obama Administration has not bothered to put in a Senate confirmed Inspector General for the State Department. Image from entry

State of Disrepair: If the State Department really wants to lead U.S. foreign policy, it needs to stop complaining about the military and act more like it - Kori Schake, Foreign Policy: Imagine a State Department that actually does lead American foreign policy, one whose ideas for shaping the world in positive ways drive the agenda of America's engagement and build a broad basis of public support to which elected leaders would respond. Imagine a State Department that produces data that drive public and congressional analyses of problems and programs and whose diplomats are so expert that they are foreign and domestic journalists' preferred interviews and major universities' preferred hires.

Imagine a department that is a magnet for entrepreneurial people of diverse skills and which puts those skills to creative use, fostering professional growth, with employees whose ability is so obvious that they are pulled by other agencies and constantly at risk of being poached by the private sector so that State has to fight to keep them. Imagine a department in which competition for retention is so fierce that it drives a personnel pyramid wide at the base, with an educational program so rigorous it equips our diplomats to succeed at every level of their career and draws applicants from the military and foreign countries to learn what our diplomats know. And imagine a department with personnel policies that identify emergent needs and encourage activity rather than description; one whose senior leadership is so proficient and commands activity so expansive that the Pentagon would seek to place four-star generals as deputies to diplomats rather than give diplomats consolatory slots in our military headquarters. We should not just imagine such a State Department. We should demand it. And we know how to achieve these things; we do it in our military. Kori Schake is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor at the United States Military Academy. She has previously worked in the Pentagon, National Security Council, and State Department. Her new book is State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department. Image from

Navy to send floating hospital to Asia -  Kristina Wong, The Washington Times:  The Navy next month will send one of its two medical ships on a goodwill mission to Southeast Asia. Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Fleet, the USNS Mercy will be joined by a Japanese landing ship tank carrying a complete medical team, helicopters and Japanese humanitarian volunteers during stops in the Philippines and Vietnam. Teams from AustraliaCanadaChileFranceSouth KoreaMalaysiathe NetherlandsNew ZealandPeruSingapore and Thailand also will participate in the mission. “This mission is about engagement,” said Navy Capt. James Morgan, the mission’s commander. Costing about $20 million, the mission will consist of about 1,000 military personnel from all four services who will embark on a

four-month deployment to Indonesiathe PhilippinesVietnam and Cambodia. Image from, with caption: Welcome to the USNS Mercy website!

U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers:An American soldier says he released the photos to the Los Angeles Times to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation - David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times: The paratroopers had their assignment: Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification. The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan's Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse's severed legs. A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up.

After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs. Two soldiers posed holding a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man's hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading "Zombie Hunter" next to other remains and took a picture. The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Los Angeles Times showed officials copies of the photos, which recently were given to the paper by a soldier from the division. "It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes," said George Wright, an Army spokesman. "Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas." Image from article, with caption: A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division with the body of an Afghan insurgent killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. The photo is one of 18 provided to The Times of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses.

U.S., NATO ready plan to leave Afghanistan - Virginia Mayo,  USA Today: The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses the media Wednesday in Brussels. The U.S. and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan. Top military and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and NATO allies met Wednesday to finalize the combat handover program and a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.

The Taliban Are Too Weak for a Tet Offensive: The only way they will shoot their way back into power is if we abandon Afghanistan - Max Boot, Wall Street Journal: The Taliban, Haqqanis and associated insurgents continue to enjoy safe havens in Pakistan, but the only way they will shoot their way back into power is if we abandon the vast majority of Afghans who have no desire to be ruled by ignorant, medieval tyrants. The bad news—and the reason so many well-to-do Afghans are talking of selling homes and businesses and moving abroad—is that there remain major concerns about how much support the U.S. will provide for Afghanistan when 70% of the American public has turned against the war.

Taliban in Afghanistan make online donations appeal: Afghan officials say that funding for the Taliban is drying up - BBC News: Afghanistan's Taliban has made a call for donations on one of its websites. The appeal, which provided telephone numbers and email addresses for the Taliban's financial commission, called on Muslims to support the insurgency. Some analysts believe the appeal is

primarily a propaganda move, because the Taliban is thought to receive most of its funding from opium production. The Taliban governed Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a US-led military coalition dislodged them. Image from article, with caption: Afghan officials say that funding for the Taliban is drying up

Iran war isn't inevitable -  Peter Casey (source:  - Elements in Israel and the West intent on attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran are creating the appearance that war is inevitable.  Since the turn of the year, anti-Iran propaganda has intensified into a storm of hysterical nonsense. The media tells us that the Israelis are no longer the only ones facing an Iranian “existential threat.” Any day now, Iran will be able to bomb the United States with new ICBMs that can travel 10,000 kilometers. In Venezuela, Iran installs missile bases, builds Hezbollah training camps, and organizes cadres of young thugs to kill Americans. The Iranians probably already have terrorists in the U.S.  The threat is so dire that “the NYPD has stepped up security at the Israeli consulate, landmarks, subways, and dozens and dozens of potential targets in the Jewish community, not only synagogues but any place Jews live, work, or congregate.”  For over a decade, the U.S. has tightened an iron noose around Iran with military forces massed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and bases or facilities in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and the Gulf states. The U.S. and Europe are imposing “crippling sanctions” on the Iranian economy, inflicting misery on tens of millions of ordinary people. The Fifth Fleet is in striking distance of the Strait of Hormuz, daring Iran to make a false move. MEK terrorists under contract with Israel, some of them trained by U.S. “special operations forces” in the Nevada desert, are murdering Iranian civilian scientists on the streets of Tehran.

Letter to the editor - Mares Hirchert, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's comments on Iran seem to echo PR propaganda put out by the Israeli government. When Levin says, "If Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon ... it would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," he fails to mention that Israel already has more than 200

nuclear bombs and has refused to have its facilities inspected, while Iran has had numerous inspections and no proof that it is its intention to make a nuclear bomb. The religious leaders in Iran are against nuclear weapons, part of their value system. Did your editorial staff question the veracity of anything Senator Levin said with regard to war with Iran? His statement that "the leadership of Iran is wild enough" to use nuclear weapons begs to be countered with "Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency: (Attacking Iran is) "the stupidest thing I have ever heard. ... It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end." Sounds to me like it is Israeli leadership's sanity that is in question. Senator Levin saying "it's pretty scary" when the leadership of Iran says Israel should be "wiped off the map," he is using a saying attributed to Ahmadinejad from 2005, the translation of which has been debated ever since. Professor Juan Cole from the University of Michigan, along with others, interprets the translation of those words to be "invoking Khomeini's wish that, someday, somehow, the Israeli government will collapse under its own weight." Image from

Muslims victims of ‘massive propaganda campaign' -  [includes video] - Muslims have been the main victims of the so-called war on terror that began under George W. Bush. “The destruction of civil liberties and the constitution in the U.S. that’s occurred under the war on terror has been aimed at Muslims who have been the victims of massive propaganda campaign,” Dr. Kevin Barrett, one of America’s best-known critics of the so-called war on terror said in an interview with Press TV’s U.S. Desk on Tuesday.

Time to include Cuba: The policy of banning Cuba from the Summit of the Americas for nearly 18 years is backfiring - Editorial, The Obama administration has denied that its goal in excluding Cuba is to keep Cuban American voters in Florida happy during a presidential election year. Whatever the reason, the position is not playing well with leaders in the region, who see embargoes and political isolation as anachronistic policies from the Cold War era.

The United States should abandon its push to keep Cuba from attending the Americas summit. Engagement, not isolation, is the best way to encourage change without alienating allies. Image from, with caption: Cuba Libre Recipe. In essence a rum-and-coke.

U.S. can't abandon the Middle East: In making a foreign policy 'pivot' toward Asia, the U.S. shouldn't turn its back on the Arab world - Hassan Bin Talal, America does have a duty to this region and to the Arab world in general. The euphoria generated by the "Arab awakening" cannot hide the fact that the Middle East is as much of a mess as it ever was. In 2009, President Obama spoke in Cairo of how "while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement." Such engagement, which we all hope for, cannot be sustained by pivoting. American military disengagement from Iraq and Afghanistan is welcomed within the Arab world. But other types of U.S. engagement are still needed. The desire by many Middle Eastern countries for greater self-determination is also qualified by an obvious question: After a decade of war and continued stalemate in the peace process, will America abandon this region and leave it to pick up the pieces? A sense of mission fatigue in Washington has meant that the lessons of history are being overlooked.

Embassy Row: Locke demands Ni Yulan release - James Morrison, The Washington Times: The U.S. ambassador to China this week demanded that the Chinese government free a crippled human rights activist and her husband from prison and lift the house arrest of their daughter. “I call on China’s authorities to release Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin, and to cease any restrictions on the freedoms of their family members,” Ambassador Gary Locke said in a strong challenge to the communist government. Mr. Locke also directly criticized China for sentencing the couple to more than two years in prison for advocating property rights. Mrs. Ni opposes the government’s practice of forced evictions and land grabs of homes and property.

American Brain Drain - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "While we in America were fighting wars abroad and culture wars at home as our infrastructure grew dilapidated, the rest of the world started growing up.  Now, the children of those crossed the seas to find the American dream are finding that energy that once drove such dreams in their parents back in their ancestral lands. This strikes me as an encapsulated failure of the American dream, but having been to ChinaIndia and Brazil, I can attest to that frenetic energy that simply doesn't seem to exist here these days."

Al Jazeera Balkans "an island of media professionalism in the region," he writes - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Pakistan imploding under sectarian violence – Murtaza Haider, After decades of waging the propaganda war against India for its highhanded treatment of Kashmiris, Pakistan is

now the subject of a similar campaign by India who has highlighted the plight of Shias being murdered by sectarian terrorists in Gilgit-Baltistan. Uncaptioned image from article

How cross cultural communication can get you in trouble: Having a solid working knowledge of the verbal taboos before attending a foreign business conference will prevent you from embarrassing yourself and your company - When you’re doing business at your next trade show, a mixture of languages may be interpreted by some to be an evasion of an open work environment where secrets are being made.

After you fill your appointment book to meet potential clients at this year’s convention, look into the cultural business tactics of the international company. Discover how communication is executed, including use of appropriate topics, use of silence, interruption, even humor. Westerns’ traditional chatty, friendly, forward business style could easily be taken as unprofessional and rude in certain cultures. Context is necessary while establishing contracts and making business decisions and it should be handled with particular care in an unknown cultural space. With a little investigative work and investment in a native speaker with priceless local knowledge, your next event will run as smoothly as business done in your own backyard. Image from article; via manIC

Soviet Space Propaganda - No text, just image:

Magnificent Maps: Cartography as Power, Propaganda, and Art - Maria Popova, Three of my great fascinations -- cartography as art, propaganda design, and antique maps -- converge in Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art. The lavish tome collects cartographic curiosities from the golden age of display maps -- the period between 1450 and 1800, when maps were as much a practical tool for navigation as

they were works of art and affirmations of cultural hegemony or social status — culled from the formidable collection of the British Library. ...  Complementing Magnificent Maps is an interactive site from the British Library that lets you explore some of the maps with curatorial context. For a related treat, see BBC’s fantastic The Beauty of Maps, which visits the British Library to explore five of the world’s most beautiful maps and their sociocultural context. Image from article/exhibit


"A while back, I wrote about the Watergate Exxon and the exorbitant prices it charges for gas. Prices weren’t nearly so high when Arnold Szyfman worked there, reader Yale Richmond [my link -- JB] says. Szyfman, Yale explained, was a Polish Jew who found refuge in the United States during World War II. He was a theater specialist, but the only job he could find was at what was then a Gulf station and is now Watergate Exxon.  Yale

wrote: 'Returning to Poland after the war, Szyfman became editor of the prestigious magazine Teatr and was put in charge of supervising the rebuilding of the Warsaw opera house, which had been completely destroyed by the Germans during the war. Today, called the Teatr Wielki (Grand Opera House), it is the largest opera house in Europe and a monument to Szyfman’s perseverance in overcoming opposition and seeing the rebuilding through to completion.'  Yale was the cultural officer in the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw from 1958 to 1961 and met Szyfman then. Yale wrote: ‘Szyfman, who died in 1967, enjoyed telling his American friends, how he pumped gas at Watergate.’”

--John Kelly," A world awash in nature’s itching powder," Washington Post; via YR by email; Richmond image from


"The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American generates 4.43 pounds of waste each day."

--Marc Levinson, "At the Top of the Heap: Does America suffer from a trash addiction? Has it transformed itself into 'China's trash compactor'?' Wall Street Journal


"Let's face it, historically women ... have been used to infiltrate or get information."

--House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King, R-N.Y. Image from, with caption: Geeks infiltrate Royal Ascot with iPad, iPhone Hats

“I am as insignificant here as you can imagine.”

--John Adams, who served as minister to England from April 1, 1785 – March 30, 1788 ; cited in Hannah Gurman, The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond (2012), p. 4

“I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington. Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.”

--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2010), regarding State Department telegrams disclosed by Wikileaks; image: Thomas Cole - The Consummation of Empire

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