Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13

"Gold, silver, jewels, purple garment, houses built of marbles, groomed estates, pious paintings, caparisoned steeds, and other things of this kind offer a mutable and superficial pleasure; books give delight to the very marrow of one's ones."

--Petrarch; cited in Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011), p. 119;  Petrach image from


Bridging the cultural divide - Stuart W. Holliday, "[D]iplomatic relations can be rife with challenges in approach and opinion that are, at times, hard to overcome and must be addressed. That is why this week's visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to China for the high level Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the 2012 Consultations on People-to-People-Exchanges (CPE) is so significant. The CPE is an initiative to broaden and deepen US-China relations in areas of great mutual interest and potential new cooperation, like educational and cultural exchange. From ancient prints to cutting-edge art, music, film, and literature, our two countries have a great deal to share with one another that can provide a window on each culture. The State Department is involving private sector partners and organizations, like Meridian International Center, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Asia Society, to stimulate exchange with our counterparts in China as part of the CPE's cultural pillar. For more than a decade, Meridian has been creating exhibitions of American art that travel abroad and organizing presentations of foreign art in the US with the goal of promoting international understanding.

Through the forum of art and exchange, thousands of visitors around the world have experienced a new culture for the first time, and thousands more have gained perspective on cultures they thought they knew. Our experience is that artistic exchange offers a unique lens through which people can gain insights about another culture, society, and its values. On the heels of the CPE in China next week, the US Embassy and Meridian will be opening an exhibit of photos that depict one of America's quintessential music genres at China's most prestigious venue–the National Centre for the Performing Arts (The Egg). The exhibit is called Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World and the story behind it demonstrates the power of cultural diplomacy. In the 1950's, Dizzy Gillespie and legendary music producer Quincy Jones led an effort to use jazz as a tool of foreign diplomacy." Image from

Europe Day in Yerevan, Armenia - Yelena Osipova, Global Chaos: "Last year I had the opportunity to attend the Passport DC and Europe Day 'embassy open house' events held (now annually) in D.C. Unfortunately, I had to miss them this year as I am currently back in Armenia for a relatively short visit. I was very excited to find out, however, that Europe Day was going to be commemorated in Yerevan, as well. So I decided to spend the afternoon there, with a camera, documenting Europe's cultural diplomacy

in an 'Eastern Partner' country. ... Overall, this was an impressive event. The central, open-air location ensured sufficient space to accommodate a potentially large volume of attendees. The various stands and exhibits were well-stocked with information and relevant literature. Better educating the public about all the different programs implemented in the country with the help of the EU was perhaps an even better approach to public diplomacy, as it made the event directly relevant to the public itself, as opposed to - for example - yet another showcase of by now well-known European 'culture'. That also demonstrated - better than anything - the applicability of 'European values' to the local context. Nonetheless, there was also a good balance between the educational and cultural aspects of EU public diplomacy throughout the event. I would estimate at least some 3000-4000+ (impressive for a small town like Yerevan) attendees at any given time, especially towards the end." Image from entry

Public Diplomacy and its role in the EU’s external relations - kag0276, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 3: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University


U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police - Tim Arango, New York Times: In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed — and may jettison entirely by the end of the year — a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here. What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 American law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100.

The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year. The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan. Instead, it has emerged as the latest high-profile example of the waning American influence here following the military withdrawal, and it reflects a costly miscalculation on the part of American officials, who did not count on the Iraqi government to assert its sovereignty so aggressively. Image from

Iran Accused of Being behind 9/11 Attacks: U.S. Court Judgment, December 2011 (Havlish v. Iran) - Julie Lévesque, The U.S. court judgment issued in December 2011 (Havlish v. Iran) which blames the Iran government for the 9/11 attacks is part of the propaganda ploy, which consists in demonizing the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is part and parcel of America's ongoing war against Iran since the overthrow of its U.S.-backed monarchy in 1979. Like many similar lawsuits in America, this legal procedure's ultimate goal is to draw off important sums of money from the Iranian government leading to the possible confiscation of assets, thereby further strangling the country’s economy, already targeted by U.S. sanctions, while simultaneously reinforcing Iran’s image of a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

Azerbaijani Consulate General in US opens Facebook, Twitter pages: The Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles has opened a page on Facebook and Twitter to strengthen the Azerbaijan's propaganda in California and other 12 western states of the US - The pages are planned to include primarily links, video and information about Azerbaijan's modern development, domestic and foreign policy, economy, history, culture, tourism opportunities, Armenia's aggression against the country, activity of the Consulate General, events etc.

The photo gallery section of the Facebook page features photos from beautiful and sightseeing spots of Azerbaijan. It's planned to expand the photo gallery. Image from article

Book review: Peter Beinart's 'The Crisis of Zionism' sounds call: The author wants American Jews to force changes in Israeli policy to protect the democratic legacy of Labor Zionism. He also explains why that's unlikely to happen - David Lauter, Los Angeles Times: Nearly all the considerable attention generated by Peter Beinart's "The Crisis of Zionism" has focused on its final 8 1/2 pages. There, warning that the "hour is late," he calls for liberal supporters of Israeli democracy to engage in "direct action" against Israeli occupation of the territories occupied after the June 1967 war.

To save Israel from what he sees as the corrosive effects of settlement in the West Bank, he says, American Jews should boycott products made in the settlements and push the U.S. government to ban tax-deductible gifts to charities that fund settlers. Unfortunately for Beinart's cause — as his book describes — a minority of American Jews remain passionately committed to Israel — they are disproportionately older or Orthodox and often sympathize with the Israeli right wing. Those who are both passionate Zionists and liberals are a minority of a minority. The rest, seeing the problems of the Middle East as intractable, have moved on to other things. Image from


"Six in 10 children older than 9 own a cellphone, according to the Pew Internet  and American Life Project. Teens text 60 times a day and four in 10 use video chats, according to Pew. Kids 8 to 18 years old spend about 10.5 hours a day in front of a computer, television or mobile device, up from 7.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation."

--Cecilia Kang, "High-tech vs. no-tech: D.C. area schools take opposite approaches to education," Washington Post

"Ninety-four percent of students who earn a bachelor’s degree borrow to pay for higher education — up from 45 percent in 1993, according to an analysis by The New York Times of the latest data from the Department of Education. This includes loans from the federal government, private lenders and relatives."

--Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren, "A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College," New York Times; image from

"[W]hen I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

--Kelsey Griffith, who graduates on Sunday from Ohio Northern University. To start paying off her $120,000 in student debt, she is already working two restaurant jobs and will soon give up her apartment here to live with her parents.


“During [the] crucial year, between June 1940 and June 1941, German economic planners were working hard to devise the ways in which a conquered Soviet Union would make Germany the kind of superpower that Hitler wanted it to become. The key planners worked under the watchful eye of Heinrich Himmler, and under the direct command of Reinhard Heydrich. Under the general heading of ‘Generalplan Ost,’ SS Standartenführer Professor Konrad Meyer drafted a series of plans for a vast eastern colony. ... The general design was consistent throughout: Germans would deport, kill, assimilate, or enslave the native populations, and bring order and prosperity to a humbled frontier.

Depending upon the demographic estimates, between thirty-one and forty-five million people, mostly Slavs, were to disappear. ... Colonization would make of Germany a continental empire fit to rival the United States, another hardy frontier state based upon exterminatory colonialism and slave labor. The East was the Nazi Manifest Destiny. In Hitler’s view, ‘in the East a similar process will repeat itself for a second time as in the conquest of America.’ As Hitler imagined the future, Germany would deal with the Slavs much as the North Americans had dealt with the Indians. The Volga River in Russia, he once proclaimed, will be Germany's Mississippi.’"

--Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Stalin and Hitler (2010), pp. 159-160; image, with caption: Adolf Hitler Geburtstagfeier. (Birthday Celebration) Los Angeles, April 20, 1935 from

"Adolph Hitler adored Mickey Mouse."

--Mike DeNero and Kyleigh Spencer, “Cigarettes, Nazis, and Hollywood Stars: The Historical Tale of the Garbaty Film Star Sets,”; image from


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