Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 7

“I’ve been hearing confessions for 36 years, and I haven’t been surprised for 35 years."

--Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, who since 2005 has served as rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, a Emmitsburg, Md., institution that boasts an expansive program of confession training that lasts a year and culminates in a series of mock confessions; image, with caption: Confessions on a Dance Floor


KONY 2012: Part II - Beyond Famous


Швыдкой: США согласны защитить российские культурные ценности (Shvydkoi -- The USA is in agreement to protect Russian items of great cultural value) - Москва и Вашингтон подтвердили свою заинтересованность в заключении межправительственного соглашения для защиты российских культурных ценностей в США. Эта тема обсуждалась в субботу на встрече представителя президента РФ по международному культурному сотрудничеству Михаила Швыдкого с новым заместителем госсекретаря США по публичной дипломатии Тарой Соненшайн.(Moscow and Washington expressed their interest in concluding an inter-governmental agreement for the protection of Russian items of great cultural value in the USA. This theme was discussed on Saturday at a meeting of the representative of the president of RF [Russian Federation] for international cultural cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi with the new USA under secretary of state for public diplomacy Tara Soneshine). Via HS on Facebook;

 Shvydkoi image from article. 

Twitter: Danny Ayalon ‏@DannyAyalon - "I posted 4 photos on Facebook in the album 'Meeting with US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy'"

Congress tries to thwart BBG attempts to shut down Voice of America - Quo Vadis, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "Year after fiscal year, members of Congress in bipartisan fashion, question the plans of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and its powerful Executive Staff to eviscerate the Voice of America. Since 1999, the Broadcasting Board of Governors has governed the units responsible for U.S. international broadcasting including the Voice of America, Radio/TV Marti and the grantee organizations: RFE/RL, RFA (Radio Free Asia) and for the past several years, MBN (Middle East Broadcasting Network). All sorts of reasons for dismantling VOA are presented. The latest reasoning goes like this: the Chinese government jams VOA Mandarin and Cantonese broadcasts. In fact, the BBG people have demonstrated to congressional aides what jamming in China does to the signal. Ergo, the broadcasts should be shut down. Their solution? The Internet, leaving out the critical fact that the Chinese government has complete control of the Internet thanks to its most efficient cyber-army. Thankfully, Congress understood these facts when it decided to negate the BBG’s attempts last year to drastically cut VOA Mandarin and Cantonese radio and TV broadcasts to China. That did not deter the BBG Executive Staff from narrowing the reduction plan, now proposing to cut the VOA Cantonese Service in FY2013. ... It is comforting to know that there are many in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, who do understand what the VOA mission is all about, including Congresswoman Betty McCollum. In her remarks at a subcommittee hearing several years ago, Congresswoman McCollum stressed the strategic importance of radio in delivering the message of America to the world. She also pointed out that VOA is a vital part of the public diplomacy toolbox, a comment that no doubt aggravated the BBG Executive Staff who deny that any such function exists for VOA. Broadcasting employees could only wish that her belief in the value of VOA broadcasts would be shared, in some way, by the BBG Executive Staff."


Obama Embraces National Security as Campaign Issue - Helene Cooper, New York Times: With a Republican opponent all but chosen and the general election campaign about to start, President Obama is preparing to emphasize an issue that few Democratic candidates have embraced in the past: national security, long the domain of the Republican Party. At the same time, the Obama campaign is seeking to portray Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, as a national security neophyte whose best ideas are simply retreads of what the president is already doing, and whose worst instincts would take the country back to the days of President George W. Bush: cowboy diplomacy, the Iraq war and America’s lowest standing on the

international stage. In the coming weeks, Obama advisers plan to release a list of national security “surrogates” — high-profile Democrats like former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Wesley K. Clark, a retired general — who will write newspaper op-ed articles, give speeches and take Mr. Romney to task every time he opens his mouth about foreign policy, Obama advisers said. The plan is to draw a contrast between Mr. Obama — who, his advisers say, kept his word on ending the Iraq war, going aggressively after Al Qaeda and restoring alliances around the world — and Mr. Romney, who will be portrayed as playing both sides of numerous issues. Image from

Can the United States Balance National Security and Economic Reality? - Chas W. Freeman, The greatest threats the United States faces today are not violent acts carried out by foreigners — but its own fiscal foolishness, political paralysis and promiscuous military impulses. Via TH by email

What's the difference between Anwar al-Awlaki and Jane Fonda? - Anwar al-Awlaki was accused of training terrorists to attack America. But that's about the only difference. Both of them are/were U.S. Citizens. Both of them were accused of spreading anti-American propaganda overseas. Both of them were unarmed. Both were accused of being a danger to US troops. Neither were convicted of the crimes they were accused of. What would stop a Republican successor to President Obama from sending a combat drone to kill the next Jane Fonda... abroad or in America?

Happiness tops in Denmark, lowest in Togo, study says - Emily Alpert, Los Angeles Times: How happy is your country? In a report released for the meeting, economists John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs round up what is known about happiness around the globe. Different groups have asked different questions to measure happiness. In the widest such survey, Gallup asked people to rate their lives from 0 to 10. It found huge differences in global happiness: More than a third of Europeans ranked themselves an 8 or higher. Less than 5% said so in sub-Saharan Africa. According to polls taken from 2005 to 2011, these were the happiest countries: Denmark [,] Finland [,]Norway[,]Netherlands[,]Canada[,]Switzerland [,]Sweden[,] New Zealand [,]Australia [,] Ireland [.]

The United States ranks 11th, just after Ireland. The unhappiest countries were Togo (ranked last), Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Comoros, Haiti, Tanzania, Congo and Bulgaria. Bhutan, which pioneered the happiness index, is not included in the Gallup World Poll. (Other surveys rank countries differently from Gallup. To see some of the other rankings, read the full report.) Image from article, with caption : Danish Minister for Economy and Interior Margrethe Vestager after the second day of a Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Copenhagen on Saturday. Denmark is the happiest country in the world, according to Gallup polls. Via PS on Facebook

Missing U.S. in the World -  Steve Clemons, “I just got word that an impressive project designed to help Americans connect with global issues beyond a 'fear-mongering frame' is shuttering itself but will live on through the various reports it produced via the web.  The U.S. in the World Initiative, first launched many years ago by Priscilla Lewis, P.J. Simmons, and Sue Veres -- all then at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund -- was housed in various stages of its development at the Aspen Institute, New America Foundation, and Demos. Today's toxic political climate and the extreme polarization of views after 9/11 on a number of fronts -- ranging from energy and climate policy to economic questions to national security -- seemed to force politicians and policy-focused organizations to chase people at the extremes rather than to make the case for healthy civic debate, a deliberative process about trade-offs, and decisions based on interests rather than fear.” Via TH email.

A real-life 'Hunger Games': In North Korea, children are bred like livestock in labor camps. They are taught to betray their parents. They are worked to death - Blaine Harden, "There are about 200,000 inmates in six camps, the largest of which is 31 miles long and 25 miles wide, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. ... I learned about daily life in these camps from Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person known to have been born in one of them and escape to the West. Shin was born in Camp 14 in 1982 after guards selected his mother and father for a 'reward marriage' and instructed them to have sex. Shin was 14 when he was forced to watch camp guards hang his mother and shoot his brother. ... [Shin] wants Americans to know the awful particulars of what North Korea has done — is still doing — to men, women and children in the camps.

He wants Americans to pressure their leaders to lean on China, North Korea's patron, and force the young dictator, Kim Jong Un, to close the camps." Image from article, with caption: People attend rally to mark the 100th day of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on March 25. The Kim family dynasty has presided over this human rights catastrophe for more than half a century without provoking much interest, understanding or outrage from the American public.

Israel’s pinkwashing exposed as dishonest at New York debates - Uri Horesh, The Electronic Intifada: “Pinkwashing is a way to normalize Zionism in a queer context.” So said Nadia Awad, an American-born documentary filmmaker of Palestinian ancestry, at a panel titled “(Un)Occupying Territories of Gender and Sexuality in Palestine,” at the New School for Social Research in New York. The term “pinkwashing” has been used by activists for some time, but came to wide public prominence last November due to a New York Times op-ed by Sarah Schulman. In general, pinkwashing refers to an Israeli hasbara (literally “explaining” in Hebrew) — or propaganda — strategy to portray Israel as espousing liberal or progressive democratic values such as feminism, gay rights and multiculturalism, in order to distract from or discount Israel’s systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Sudan and South wage propaganda war‎ - The News International: "While guns blazed on the border between Sudan and South Sudan in recent days, the airwaves and newspapers of both countries have fired salvos of their own in an intense propaganda war. Almost two weeks ago the clashes between the neighbours began along their undemarcated and disputed frontier in the most serious unrest since South Sudan gained independence from Khartoum last July, after Africa's longest war. International fears have mounted of a return to full-blown conflict. But with access to the war zone restricted on the Sudanese side the full extent of recent fighting remains unclear, leaving much of the local media parroting inflammatory government rhetoric."

In Russia, Stalin enjoying a revival on school notebooks: School notebooks depicting Josef Stalin have become instant bestsellers. Critics decry the attempt to promote the brutal dictator as a Soviet hero in schools - Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times

Image from article, with caption: Notebooks bearing Josef Stalin's image on the cover are flying off the shelves of the Pedagogical Book House store in downtown Moscow. The store runs out of stock each day.

Meet Your Mixologist: Bryan Ranere of Laszlo Bar - Donna Domino, The SF Examiner: It’s easy to miss this bar, tucked off the hallway entrance to Foreign Cinema, which is known for the classic films it projects on a wall in the restaurant’s courtyard. It has the look and feel of a neighborhood bar, a striking contrast to the elegant dining room down the hall. Russian propaganda posters and skateboards line the walls. Bar manager Bryan Ranere, who’s been there since Foreign Cinema opened in 1999, was brought in because of his filmmaking and bartending background.

Laszlo Bar, 2526 Mission St., San Francisco, [Q:] What was the inspiration for this drink? The owner has a fetishistic relationship with Russian Cold War accoutrement. We were changing the cocktail menu, and he wanted a Russia-themed cocktail. The vodka is neutral so the ginger shines through.  Russia House : ½ oz. Canton ginger liquor / 2 oz. Stolichnaya vodka /Juice of ½ lemon /Peychaud’s bitters.  Shake with ice in cocktail shaker. Strain into rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Float with Peychaud’s bitters. Garnish with lemon peel. Image from article, with caption: Iron Curtain cocktail: Laszlo Bar manager Bryan Ranere says this drink was inspired by the Cold War propaganda posters lining the walls. He uses the iconic Russian vodka Stolichnaya and Peychaud’s bitters for color, “because I wanted to show blood spilled on the ice.


America loves a vigilante. Until we meet one - Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "From Clint Eastwood in 'Dirty Harry' to Charles Bronson in 'Death Wish,' from Robert De Niro practicing his sneer in 'Taxi Driver' to comic-book superheroes sheathed in various hues of spandex, whether he is walking tall or falling down, the lone avenger speaks to something deep and abiding within the American psyche, engaging our most cherished ideas about a country founded by brash rebels and sustained by rough-hewn individualism, flinty self-reliance and a congenital suspicion of powerful institutions.

It’s easy to understand the enduring appeal of the vigilante archetype, whose hard-charging moral certainty jibes perfectly with this country’s sense of exceptionalism, not to mention the narrative constraints of a 90-minute action movie. Image from article

Caring, Romantic American Boys - Amy T. Schalet, New York Times: "In 1988, many more boys than girls, ages 15 to 17, told researchers that they had had heterosexual intercourse. But in the two decades since, the proportion of all American adolescents in their mid-teens claiming sexual experience has decreased, and for boys the decline has been especially steep, according to the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, though more than half of unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds have had sexual intercourse, fewer than 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls have, down from 50 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls in 1988. And there are virtually no gender differences in the timing of sexual initiation."


A D.C. whistleblower goes unrewarded - Colbert I. King, Washington Post: "[Consider] the 61 D.C. government employees who, as WAMU recently reported, have been fired in the course of an ongoing investigation into workers receiving unemployment checks while employed by the city. Five others resigned, and one was suspended. Harry Thomas (D), who resigned his Ward 5 seat on the D.C. Council and pleaded guilty to federal felony theft and tax charges in January. He is to be sentenced next month. Mary Ayers-Zander, a former tax examiner for the D.C.

Office of Tax and Revenue, who was sentenced on March 19 to 30 months in prison on a federal charge of wire fraud over a scheme involving more than $400,000 in fraudulent refunds. Joe L. Parrish and Gregory A. Scott, two former inspectors at the D.C. Department of the Environment, who pleaded guilty March 13 to federal charges over a scheme in which they demanded and received $20,000 in bribes for not reporting serious infractions and assessing fines and penalties. Aisha Hackley, a former city police sergeant who was sentenced Feb. 3 to 18 months in prison over the theft of $40,005 from an 85-year-old District resident she met while investigating a crime. And who can forget Harriette Walters, the tax assessment manager who pleaded guilty in 2008 to a scam that netted her and her co-conspirators in the city tax office $48.1 million over 20 years?" Image from


Background Note: Afghanistan - "While the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan is transitioning primary security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, the United States plans to remain politically, diplomatically, and economically engaged in Afghanistan for the long term. A Strategic Partnership Declaration between the United States and Afghanistan will solidify the long-term partnership. The United States fully supports the ambitious agenda

set out by the Afghan president, focusing on reintegration, economic development, improving relations with Afghanistan’s regional partners, and steadily increasing the security responsibilities of Afghan security forces. Rapid progress on this agenda is important and requires international support. Toward this end, the U.S. is encouraging the Afghan Government to take strong actions to combat corruption." Image from entry

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