Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 2

“Maybe Washington’s Metro needs a Canadian brother to help them.”

--Benoit Aquin, who works as a mechanic and foreman for an elevator and escalator company in Montreal, regarding the Washington D.C., subway system's "taking-so-long" problems in fixing its escalators; DC Metro image from article


Snails-Pace Senate Finally Moves on Public Diplomacy Chief - Helle Dale, "Belatedly, last week, the new Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, Tara Sonenshine, and a bundle of other diplomatic nominees received the Senate stamp of approval. Having someone competent and knowledgeable to steer the U.S. government’s communication to the rest of the world is critically important. Yet this job has been vacant one-third of the time since it was created in 1999, contributing to a disjointed and intermittent U.S. public diplomacy policy. Sonenshine, the former executive vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, has been waiting in the wings since her nomination hearings in December. Unlike her predecessor, Judith McHale, a Discovery Channel executive and Hillary Clinton supporter, Sonenshine has longstanding experience of the U.S. government and its workings, going back to the Clinton National Security Council as well as private-sector broadcasting experience. She has her work cut out for her. ... McHale spent her three years in office, focusing mainly on completing the bureaucratic integration (begun in 1999) of the U.S. Information Agency into the State Department. She added six new assistant secretaries for public diplomacy in the State Department’s regional bureaus and one in the press office to deal with foreign media. She also created the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication within State. Sonenshine’s challenge will be to grapple with several substantive issues: -- The challenge from China, whose aggressive public diplomacy advances are well-documented and were the topic of hearings in the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. -- The great upheaval at U.S. International broadcasting, whose leadership, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), is proposing to lay off some 25 percent of the staff, replacing many with contractors and moving away from broadcasting to digital information dissemination. Holding a seat on the BBG, an active undersecretary for public diplomacy can have an influential voice in this process. --Evaluating the State Department’s e-diplomacy efforts, which reportedly now employ 150, a number that appears to be growing exponentially. Are we spending U.S. tax dollars wisely? That will be the first litmus test."

Public Diplomacy: Propaganda for Who? - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: "There has been some web chatter about public diplomacy in general, and social media in the particular. Of course, since it involves technology invented since the wireless, the State Department has to call it something slick, so eDiplomacy. The idea is actually not eNew. Throughout the Cold War the US used the social media of the day, eRadio, TV and musical tours to spread a message into the exSoviet Bloc. Not sure what the effect there was (though lots of older Russians do like jazz) but the ideas presented as revolutionary are not so new.

And neither is the debate over their effectiveness. As propaganda. Really bad propaganda. Really, do we think that spending American tax dollars on creating YouTube videos that supposedly show American Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki (assasinated by drone along with his 16 year old son) solicited prostitutes are going to win any war? ... But with all the distractions lately about my own struggles getting fired from State, it is useful to return to what the hub-bub is all about: the waste and mismanagement by the State Department in the reconstruction of Iraq. It was that failure which indeed lost the war. Not that you’d know by watching some of the State Department’s own public diplomacy drech about the 'success' of their efforts ... One feature of these propaganda videos is their crudeness, primarily in their shameless lack of objectivity and balance. It is not unexpected that the Embassy would want to put a positive spin on things, but to present the PRT program as a singular savior of Iraq seems a bit much." Image from article

VOA website gets new, blue look, using CMS from "sister station" RFE/RL - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: This might help audiences distinguish among the "many brands" of USIB by color-coding the websites.

VOA is blue. RFE/RL is orange. Image from article

Zimbabwe Senator: "Everyone is scrambling to be heard on [VOA's] Studio 7" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Does Al Jazeera's downsizing of its Washington bureau downsize Washington as a news center? - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

New marketing exec will help build Al Jazeera's "international presence and global brand" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

New distribution exec, hired from France 24, will build Euronews "footprint" in the US and Asia - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

BBC Worldwide and China's CCTV9 will co-produce two science series - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting.

APDS Conference: The Future of PD - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "The USC APDSers are having their annual conference this week, and it sounds to be a interesting engagement.

The conference is on 'The Future of Public Diplomacy' and hits some good areas of PD in both the theoretical and practical levels. PDniks in Lalaland should stop on in for what sounds to be an interesting program." Image from article


Maikel Nabil Sanad draws back the curtain on Egypt’s military - Jackson Diehl, Washington Post: democrats as well as Republicans in Congress protested when the Obama administration announced that it was handing the Egyptian military the full $1.3 billion of its annual U.S. aid despite its blatant violations of human rights. Organizations such as Freedom House argued that the United States was breaking faith with the Americans and Egyptians facing criminal trial in Cairo this month for promoting democracy. But I doubt that staffers at the State Department and National Security Council heard a more scalding indictment of their decision than that delivered last week by a 26-year-old Egyptian blogger named Maikel Nabil Sanad. “The statement”announcing the decision “was a series of lies,” Nabil told them, and repeated to me. “It was a way of accepting the blackmailing of the Egyptian military, by trying to say the relationship is good, when relations are going in the wrong direction and Egypt is going in the wrong direction.” But I doubt that staffers at the State Department and National Security Council heard a more scalding indictment of their decision than that delivered last week by a 26-year-old Egyptian blogger named Maikel Nabil Sanad. “The statement” announcing the decision “was a series of lies,” Nabil told them, and repeated to me. “It was a way of accepting the blackmailing of the Egyptian military, by trying to say the relationship is good, when relations are going in the wrong direction and Egypt is going in the wrong direction.”

Al-Qaeda’s online forums go dark for extended period - Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, Washington Post: Al-Qaeda’s main Web forums have been offline for the past 11 days in what experts say is the longest sustained outage of the sites since they began operating eight years ago. No one has publicly claimed responsibility for disabling the sites, but the breadth and the duration of the outages have prompted some experts to conclude the forums have been taken down in a cyberattack — launched perhaps by a government, government-backed organization or hacking group. Philip Mudd, a former longtime CIA and FBI counterterrorism expert, said he understands the intelligence value the sites have. But as the al-Qaeda movement loses ground, he said, “maybe the more important issue is how do we now get more aggressive in shutting down any effort they have to spread the message?” In the past, U.S. officials have also relied on diplomatic channels to dismantle extremist sites that are seen as posing a threat to American personnel or interests, according to former U.S. officials familiar with the episodes.

Obama and the Eisenhower Standard: When crafting foreign policy, the late president didn't 'give a damn how the election goes' - Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Obama has never owned up to the fact that the cruel regimes in Tehran and Damascus were the ones he had been eager to court at the dawn of his presidency. History is perhaps forgiving nowadays, the Syrian rebellion could be crushed without Mr. Obama paying an appreciable political price. It is a sad truth that the president has become the embodiment, and the instrument, of our retreat from distant shores—and concerns. He trades away strategic American assets in the hope that the American people will not care or notice. On the face of it, he exudes a sublime confidence that the world could be held at bay—at least until November, past that last election.

The Anti-American Nobel Peace Prize: Norway's judges don't like the pro-freedom foreign policy of some U.S. presidents - Jay Nordlinger, Wall Street Journal: Finally came the 2009 award, which went to the new American president, Barack Obama. If George W. Bush was the committee's nightmare president—and he was—Mr. Obama was its dream president. With its 2009 award, it was blessing a new day. Reagan? The committee's bête noire from the 1980s? Nobel Prize Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland went on to quote that president, who said that American ideals lived not only in America but "in the hearts and minds of millions of the world's people in both free and oppressed societies who look to us for leadership." That is exactly the sort of thing that Mr. Bush said, ad nauseam, for eight years. There will come a time when another conservative sits in the Oval Office. Will the Nobel chairman then quote George W. Bush, with wistful fondness?

We're Not France, Yet: ObamaCare is the coup de grâce of America's policy mandarins - Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal: Like the U.S., France also had "liberté" in the short version of its founding idea. Democracies always begin in liberty, but they don't always keep it. France is in economic decline today because the structure of its government is so severely centralized. An anecdote describes what eventually such centralization does to national hope.

A story in the New York Times a few weeks ago reported on two small towns on the border between France and Germany. French Sélestat, in Alsace, has an unemployment rate of 8% and a youth unemployment rate of 23%. Across the border in Emmendingen, the rates are 3% and 7%. (The U.S.'s own unemployment rates these days are closer to those in Sélestat.) Deep in the article, the mayor of Sélestat explains why this is so. In Germany, he said, local and state governments can set many of their own rules. In France, "the national Education Ministry wants to keep all control." The Affordable Care Act is our road to France's ministry of education. Image from article

Dancing With The Stars: The Foreign Service Edition - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: Contains videos of/comments on dancing US ambassadors throughout the world.

Image from article, with caption: On Saturday, July 16, 2011, I went to the Lao-American Heritage Foundation performance at the Lao National Cultural Hall. It was a wonderful evening, and all of the performers were very talented. I even had the chance to take the stage and lead a traditional “Lam Vong” dance. It was quite an honor! (Photo from Ambassador Stewart's blog)


Letters to the Editor: Inefficient Dulles Airport - Gabriel S. Meyer, Rockville, Washington Post: "I enjoyed the March 29 Metro article 'As jets expand, so does Dulles Airport.' However, it overlooked problems that continue to plague Dulles International Airport.  I recently saw some of them firsthand when I arrived at Dulles aboard an international flight. Upon deplaning, passengers were directed into a so-called mobile lounge (which resembled a discarded 'Star Wars' prop) for transit to the immigration and customs checkpoints. Although the vehicle was full, we waited 15 minutes for a driver to appear. We then made the five-minute crawl across the tarmac to the immigration hall. There, now more than 20 minutes after we deplaned, only two-thirds of the processing stands were staffed, and the line was several hundred passengers deep. While I waited in line, several immigration officers went off duty. At the front of the line, I was greeted by large signs touting the new Global Entry Program, which would allow me, after paying $100 and undergoing a background check, to enjoy the speedy processing I take for granted at other airports. On this occasion, I cleared immigration and customs more than one hour after deplaning. I have been told by others that my experience was typical. They suggest I fly out of Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, where even passengers without Global Entry status often exit the airport only 20 minutes after arriving on an international flight. Dulles management has a duty to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that immigration lines are properly staffed and to take other reasonable measures to speed transit. Until then, I will take my business elsewhere." From the Dulles airport webpage: "The concept that made the new airport outstanding and unique from the passenger's view in 1962 was the specially designed mobile lounge, used to transport the passengers between the terminal building and the aircraft parked on a jet ramp ½ mile away from the terminal. The mobile lounge was designed by the Chrysler Corporation in association with the Budd Company.
dulles_history_4The mobile lounge was constructed as a 54-foot long, 16-foot wide,
17 1/2-foot high vehicle, and could carry 102 passengers, 71 of them seated, directly from the terminal to the aircraft on the ramp. This protected the passengers from weather, jet noise and blast, and also eliminated long walking distances. Because of the mobile lounge, passengers had to walk only 200 feet once they entered the terminal until they were seated in the lounge for the short trip directly to their aircraft. Today, Dulles operates 19 mobile lounges and 30 plane mates, which are similar to the lounges but can transport passengers from the terminals, directly onto the airplane by attaching itself to the aircraft." Above image from; below image from Dulles website entry

Burger King reinvents itself with new food, new look - Bruce Horovitz, USA Today: Burger King Monday will reveal a future that's decidedly less focused on young, hungry guys and more culturally directed towards moms, families and Boomers. In the next 12 months, Burger King and its franchisees will spend about $750 million fixing the menu, revamping marketing, tweaking operations and updating the look of a chunk of its 7,204 U.S. stores. A vastly changed menu, with a record 10 new items, rolls out nationally today.

Image from article, with caption: Demiyan Gardner, 10, sips a smoothie at a Burger King in Silver Spring, Md., where diners were among the first to taste the chain's new offerings.

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