Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31

"So far her protégé, a desktop computer named Todai-kun, is excelling in math and history but needs more effort in reading comprehension."

--New York Times reporter Michael Fitzpatrick, on the efforts by Noriko Arai, a Japanese mathematics professor, to answer the question: "Can a Computer Enter Tokyo University? — the Todai Robot Project"; if the computer succeeds, Fitzpatrick notes, Arai believes "such a machine should be capable, with appropriate programming, of doing many — perhaps most — jobs now done by university graduates." Image from


Новогоднее поздравление посла США в России Майкла Макфола [New Year's greetings of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul] - youtube.com


The Ten Best of Public Diplomacy in 2013 - Brian Carlson, publicdiplomacycouncil.org; image from


Open World Leadership Center: 2012 Annual Report


The Politic speaks with Ambassador Robert Gosende, who served for 36 years in the Foreign Service and the State Department - Elizabeth Miles and Justin Schuster, thepolitic.org: "Ambassador Robert R. Gosende served for 36 in the Foreign Service, in the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State before joining The State University of New York (SUNY) in December of 1998. Gosende’s overseas experience includes tours of duty as a Cultural Affairs Officer in Libya, Somalia, and Poland and as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs in South Africa and in the Russian Federation. He served as President Bill Clinton’s Special Envoy for Somalia, with the personal rank of Ambassador, at the height of the crisis in 1992-93. During 1994, he was Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, directing the U.S. Government’s support of the first multi-racial elections held in South Africa in April of that year. Following his career in the Foreign Service, Gosende served as Associate Vice Chancellor for International Programs at SUNY and as the John W. Ryan Fellow in Public Diplomacy at SUNY Albany. ... [Gosende:] We [Ambassador Gosende and his spouse] ended up staying in Uganda from 1963-1966, before the days of the Idi Amin — when it was like a paradise, safe and wonderful, with children more literate than those I had been teaching in MA because there was no television to distract them from reading all the time. It was in Uganda that I discovered the U.S. Information Agency, a separate executive agency under the president that works closely with the State Department but is not explicitly part of it.

It used to do public diplomacy work for our government, but we abolished it after we won the Cold War — which, I’ll say, was a stupid thing for us to have done. I then joined the Foreign Service in 1966, and we were sent to Tripoli in Libya. ... A couple of us are actually just now publishing a book that will come out in the fall called Outsmarting Apartheid. It’s a series of interviews with people who served doing public diplomacy work in South Africa from 1970 until the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. It tries to speak to what we were doing there and how we thought we were contributing to a democratic transition. ... The Politic: As a final question, is there any particular advice you would give to university students today? Study abroad. I don’t know how to tell you how serious I am and how much you grow from this experience. First of all, you overcome a tremendous amount of parochialism. You can’t imagine how students live in other places, not only in Europe but also in parts of the developing world. This kind of exposure is so broadly necessary, regardless of what students end up doing in their professional lives." Image from entry

Return to the Events in Benghazi - Steven L. Taylor, outsidethebeltway.com:
  1. "wr says:
    @Jenos Idanian #13: 'And the Obama administration spent weeks pushing the 'riot triggered by a YouTube video' angle while downplaying or dismissing the possibility that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack, even though they knew early on that it was a terrorist attack. [...]
    And now it turns out… it was triggered by the video. What the administration said all along turns out to be the truth. Which has Baby Jenos squealing that everyone but him is a racist because… well, because… um, because…
    Oh, screw it. It’s because he’s a mewling piece of crap who can never admit when he’s caught lying.
    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0
  2. @Jenos Idanian #13: They did not blame the deaths on the filmmakers, nor did they absolve the actual killers. This is simply, plainly, and unequivocally. nonsense.
    The issue of the film was always about public diplomacy–and it needed to be addressed whether you like it or not."

Talk about the work of the Information Department Qin Gang: both highbrow and low class - Distant Learning Home: "Original title: Qin Gang talk about the work of the Information Department: both highbrow and low class [.] People Beijing December 25 (by Yang Mu Zheng Qingting) Foreign Ministry Qin Gang's Press Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs this afternoon at the 2013 China's foreign Talk about introduced the Foreign Ministry spokesman and public diplomacy. Qin Gang said that the main responsibilities of the Information Department of the Foreign interpretation is, declaring China's foreign policies, is responsible for planning, implementing public diplomacy, is also responsible for foreign media and foreign correspondents work in China. Qin Gang said, the news department has three characteristics. The first feature, engaged in public diplomacy Information Division, the focus is to solve the problem of mutual understanding between China and foreign countries, it is the first step of diplomatic work. Mutual recognition of the problem, if not solved, we and other countries will deal with a bad relationship. The second feature, the news department's work both highbrow and low class. Highbrow

means that if we want to declare China of foreign diplomacy, it is necessary to understand and master the Chinese foreign policy and principles. This looks very high-end, but our public diplomacy work, to face the public at home and abroad, so we must use the language and the way the public can understand and explain our foreign policy and policies to the public at home and abroad can be more better understanding and acceptance of diplomatic work. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their daily work, with a major event for each treatment, each made an important decision or decisions reflect public opinions through from start to finish in our deliberation, discussion, decision-making and implementation process, which indicates that the public diplomacy, public opinion and the country's image, has an important role in our diplomatic work. The third characteristic, public diplomacy work we are engaged in is a sunrise industry, occupies an increasingly prominent and important role in our country's diplomacy. We used to engage in diplomacy, more focus on content. Now China's development, and has attracted worldwide attention, and we not only want to well done, but also well said. The work of public diplomacy in our country's overall diplomatic work is increasingly important. Public diplomacy name suggests, is spread by means of communication, referral to the international community to declare the conditions shown in our country, roads, philosophy, and introduce the public to our domestic policy of the country's foreign policy, the public status of our country and the international community have an objective, comprehensive and correct knowledge, understanding and support of our national policy and diplomacy." Image from

Update on the CCR2P Presentation in Barcelona, Spain - ccr2padmin: "On Friday, November 29, 2013, the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect was invited to speak at a conference organized by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council.

Entitled 'Effective implementation of the Responsibility to Protect: The Role of the European Union and the Civil Society,' this conference brought together experts from the civil society, the European parliament, and the general public." Image from entry

harvard law checks in with propaganda press - propagandapress.org: "who else reads propaganda press? John Brown, a Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the 'Open World Leadership Center Trust Fund' program, he lectures to its participants on the topic of 'E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United.' Currently affiliated with Georgetown University, he writes and shares ideas about public diplomacy. He is particularly interested in the relationship between public diplomacy and propaganda."


Iran wants American tourists, and a boomlet has begun - Christopher Reynolds, latimes.com: The U.S. and Iran may have miles to go in their negotiations over curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the ease in hostility has already produced a boomlet in American travel to Iran. Three U.S.-based tour operators say they’ve seen a surge of bookings and questions about Iran in recent months. They’ve also heard encouragement from Iranian government officials, who met in New York with several U.S. tour operators during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the city in September.

This sudden flurry of activity doesn’t mean Tehran will be threatening Paris as a tourist magnet; U.S. visitors there are counted in dozens, not thousands. But it’s a notable shift for two countries that have been largely estranged since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries seized the country and took 52 Americans hostage for more than a year. Iran, widely known as Persia until the 1930s, has 16 sites listed on Unesco’s World Heritage list. Top attractions include the city of Isfahan (known for its graceful bridges and 18th-century architecture) and the pre-Christian ruins of Persepolis, near Shiraz – both relatively far from Iraq and Afghanistan border zones, which the U.S. State Department urges travelers to avoid. Image from entry, with caption: The 17th-century Imam Mosque is one among many architectural wonders in Isfahan, Iran. Photo taken in 1998.

Bad decisions mean more violence ahead - Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star: The “global war on terror” has used drones to attack and kill militants and civilians in half a dozen countries in recent decades, with the result that today the Salafist-takfiri militants are the fastest growing political actors in the entire Middle East. Via LJB

Global Disorder Scorecard: As the U.S. retreats, a reader's guide to the world's traumas - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The world is messy, and it is getting more so as the U.S. retreats from its role as the protector of global order. With civil wars, uprisings against governments and other bloody disputes proliferating, it can be hard to tell the good guys from the bad. The U.S. once would have led the world in defusing these conflicts, or at least trying to reduce their harm. But President Obama has disavowed any Pax Americana.

US News Hosts Allow Propaganda That Snowden Has Tried to Sell Secrets for Asylum - Kevin Gosztola, dissenter.firedoglake.com: "NSA has been desperate to feign transparency by engaging in clear public relations operations. Revolving door journalist John Miller essentially produced an infomercial for "60 Minutes" that had the blessing of NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and gave the NSA plenty of opportunity to spout propaganda without challenge. Remarkably, not even the best efforts to push false government talking points have succeeded. The government has been unable to truly undermine Snowden and the work of journalists around the world reporting on documents. They have had to reluctantly embrace the debate—even pretend they “welcome” it. They have had to setup a review group to provide recommendations on how to make cosmetic changes to restore trust in the NSA.

‘Tis the season for anti-Israel propaganda at St James’s Church, Piccadilly - Richard Millett, cifwatch.com: St James’s Church, Piccadilly, in London’s West End has installed a life size 8 metre tall/30 metre long replica of Israel’s security wall in its courtyard as part of its Bethlehem Unwrapped festival. The replica wall is so vast that it obscures the Church itself.

The replica wall will be lit up at night and for the next twelve days of Christmas (until 5th January) a montage of images and slogans will be continuously projected onto it. Scenes include parts of London with a wall passing through. This replica wall has possibly cost thousands of pounds. There have been designers, architects, curators, materials, scaffolding and a team of builders. With mouths to feed and people freezing to death in this country alone it is shameful that St James’s Church, Piccadilly, has squandered so much on what is nothing more than an anti-Israel propaganda exercise. Image from entry

cuban propaganda posters at kemistry gallery - designboom.com: A private collection of over 40 Cuban propaganda posters is on display at Kemistry Gallery in Shoreditch, London until January 25th 2014.

Bold, colorful and eclectic, these posters by the Organization In Solidarity With The People Of Africa, Asia And Latin America (OSPAAAL) are considered the front-among the front runners in propaganda art. Image from entry

Life Under Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban - Mark Gevisser, New York Times: There are many reasons for Russia’s dramatic tilt toward homophobia. The country has always sought to define itself against the West. Now the Kremlin and the nationalist far right are finding common ground in their view of homosexuality as a sign of encroaching decadence in a globalized era. Many Russians feel they can steady themselves against this cultural tsunami by laying claim to “traditional values,” of which rejection of homosexuality is the easiest shorthand. This message plays particularly well for a government wishing to mobilize against demographic decline (childless homosexuals are evil) and cozy up to the Russian Orthodox Church (homosexuals with children are evil). Yet one often ignored cause for this homophobic surge is perhaps the most obvious: backlash.

9 Things the Russian Government Says Are “Gay Propaganda” - globalvoicesonline.org: Though it seems to have appeared on the Internet no later than December 2, 2013, Russian bloggers have suddenly discovered [ru] government censors’ revised criteria [ru] for recognizing information online that supposedly endangers minors. Russians can thank Roskomnadzor, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the media, for the new reading material, which spans roughly two thousand pages and twenty different sections. Many, however, are limiting their attention to Section 6 [ru] of the document, awkwardly titled “Criteria of Internet Content Harmful for Children’s Health and Development.” Even the report’s authors confess that the subject is quite “heterogeneous,” making it difficult to determine “unambiguous criteria” for identifying offending material. To resolve problems with definitions, Roskomnadzor adopts broad parameters, designating anything published online as “systematically disseminated” information. To qualify as propaganda, the agency concludes, the content must also contain “false information” and have been produced with the intent of influencing public opinion.

Propaganda Doughnuts opens for business: After a longer than anticipated wait, Propaganda Doughnuts finally opens doors to offer classic French patisserie doughnuts on South Division - Ana Olvera, therapidian.org: With an agrarian upbringing based on old world traditions, Tory O’Haire - also known as the Starving Artist - is bringing the classic French patisserie to Grand Rapids with Propaganda Doughnuts, 117 S. Division.

The shop’s soft opening was held this past weekend. Image from entry


The 124 states of America - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post: Secessionist movements are all the rage these days. A handful of counties in Colorado tried to secede from the rest of the state earlier this year.  There's an attempt to create the State of Jefferson (northern California/southern Oregon) via ballot initiative in 2014.  And there's plenty more. What would the U.S. look like if all of the secession movements in U.S. history had succeeded?  Well, Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears built a map to answer that question. (It covers secession movements through the end of 2011.)  His 124 states of America is below. Click the map to enlarge it. Via MT on Facebook


America in 2013, as Told in Charts - Steven Ratner, New York Times. Among them:

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 29-30

"Love, and do what you like."

--Saint Augustine; St. Augustine image from


U.S. Embassy in Uganda Slays Christmas - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well

Animated Soviet Propaganda - American Imperialist: The Millionaire - youtube.com. Via


Cult of Personality Watch: US Embassy becomes Obama Embassy  - pubsecrets.wordpress.com: "Sure, all US embassies and consulates have portraits of the current president hanging in the offices; he is, after all, Head of State. But… Well… This

is just a bit much: ['] Large tapestry portraits of President Barack Obama were unveiled for guests at the U.S. Embassy in London over the weekend. The recently-installed, large-scale tapestry portraits were created by National Medal of Arts winner and renowned American painter, photographer Chuck Close. ['] Call me old-fashioned, but if you want a large piece of art decorating the entry to a United States embassy, the first thing visitors see, why not a work that reflects the history of the United States? Christy’s 'Signing of the Constitution,' for example, to celebrate one of our seminal events, or Rockwell’s 'Abraham Delivering the Gettysburg Address,' in honor of what many feel is the moment of our second Founding? Or, to borrow Rockwell again (1), why not showcase 'Freedom of Speech,' that most American of values, which both embodies and guards the right of a free people to rule themselves? Instead we get giant portraits of one man? All art is communication, after all, especially public art, and art displayed in an embassy should reflect the nation’s values, how it sees itself, what it holds dear, its spiritual center, its… Oh, wait. I get it. In this case, I guess it reflects the government’s spiritual center.  Footnote: (1) He was the all-American painter, after all." Via RM on Facebook. See also John Brown, "Rockwell/Socialist Realism: A Photo Essay," and "Norman Rockwell and the Four Freedoms," Notes and Essays.

Don’t Assume Your Audience Knows What You Know - To Inform is to Influence: "I have been doing a fairly deep dive on Public Diplomacy and the BBG for the past year. They have a feedback mechanism which tells them how effectively their broadcasts are reaching the target audience, yet most of the information activity ‘cycle’ is hidden. The staff puts out 'fair and objective' reporting and then broadcasts it into denied areas. The focus is on reaching the most numbers. The focus is not on achieving an objective. What is that objective? The best answer I can ascertain is to 'promote democracy'. Other than that the objective is to merely reach the most numbers. The true measure of success, I have discovered in the past year, is only anecdotal.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, we discovered that the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other International Broadcasting efforts were being listened to. I have yet to find concrete evidence that VOA or RFE contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain, however, I would like to think so. I admit I have not done enough research in that area. My point is that I do not see adequate planning or research in the Public Diplomacy field, I don’t see stated objectives, I don’t see planning, I don’t see how the planning is effected by the feedback mechanism they have in place – except for broad policy and resource allocation changes." Image from

BBG Journalists Honored For Bravery, Excellence And Innovation - bbg.gov: "In 2013 the networks of the Broadcasting Board of Governors earned high-profile awards and accolades for their innovative use of technology, commitment to excellence and dedication to providing quality, unbiased information to audiences around the world. Journalists from the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting received honors from the New York Festivals, the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB), the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists and many other organizations."

VOA Russian Service reports on White House – NSC statement on terror attacks in Russia –- VOA English does not - BBG Watcher, BBG watch: "In effect, the VOA English website is not reporting on U.S. reactions to the terrorist attacks in Russia and neither is the vast majority of more than 40 VOA language services."

Public diplomacy meets social media: A study of the U.S. Embassy's blogs and micro-blogs - sciencedirect.com: "Xin Zhonga, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China,[;] Jiayi Lua, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China [.] Highlights: -- Traditional public diplomacy is transforming. -- We examine the U.S. Embassy's public diplomatic communication via social media. -- We use the methods of content analysis and interview. -- Experience-sharing and relationship-building is the core of new public diplomacy. Abstract [:] With the evolution of communication technologies, traditional public diplomacy is transforming. This study examines the practice of the U.S. Embassy's public diplomatic communication via social media, namely Chinese mainstream blogging and micro-blogging, sites using Tencent for a case study. This study analyzes the embassy's blog and micro-blog entries and an interview with the embassy's public diplomacy officer. Based on the content analysis and interview, this study discerns the key features of the U.S. Embassy's public diplomatic communication using social media and further suggests that the common values and interests related to the global public as well as experience-sharing and relationship-building might become the focus of new public diplomacy research." Via LOS on Facebook

First Lady of the United States Visits Pakistan and Tours Peshawar, the Khyber Pass, and Lahore [includes video of the United States Information Service film video of this even] - skepticalbureaucrat.blogspot.com: "Given that USIS was folded into the State Department back in 1999, I expect there are few active members of the U.S. Foreign Service today who have

any memory of when there was an independent government agency that did public diplomacy and broadcasting. ... In its last year of operation, USIS had 190 posts in 142 countries, an annual budget of $1 billion and change, and employed - even after a staffing reduction in 1997 - 6,352 employees, of whom 904 were Foreign Service personnel, 2,521 were locally engaged staff overseas, and 2,927 were Civil Service employees in the United States. How does that compare to the resources of the R Bureau [at the State Department] today? Badly, I know." Image from article, with caption: Arriving in Peshawar. On USIS/USIA, see.

Brazil’s top 10 foreign policy challenges in 2014 - Oliver Stuenkel,  Post-Western World: "7. Engage the public - both at home and abroad [:] "Few Foreign Ministers spent as much time talking to students, representatives of NGOs and academics as Antonio Patriota during his time in office. Rightly so: Itamaraty [the Brazilian Foreign Ministry] must convince civil society that Brazil should turn into a global actor strongly involved in many issues around the world. Yet foreign policy still plays only a marginal role in Brazil's bustling public debate. Itamaraty's greatest projects are often greeted with a mixture of neglect and rejection by both the media and public opinion. A supportive public, however, could help the Foreign Ministry precisely with the sort of problems it faced in 2013. A youtube channel, a public diplomacy blog, a twitter presence and an accessible Foreign Minister are important first steps. Launching a complete English-language Foreign Ministry website would make a tremendous difference to those who follow Brazilian foreign policy abroad, making Brazil's international strategy more transparent and accessible. ... 10. Keep opening up Brazil[:] Brazil has undergone an incredible and unprecedented process of internationalization over the past decade. Foreign investment skyrocketed. Never in history have as many Brazilians traveled or studied abroad. The number of foreign tourists, business travelers and exchange students has never been as high. And yet, Brazil remains, in many ways, more isolated than other countries. Far more tourists travel to Argentina than to Brazil. The number of foreign tourists coming to Paris alone exceeds that of visitors to all of Brazil by more than three times. The number of Brazilian students who go abroad remains low by international comparison. The government's growing financial support for exchange programs is thus to be welcomed. Universities should push governments to make recognizing diplomas abroad easier. Following the example of the Brazil-Russia visa waiver deal, visa requirements with other countries (such as the United States) should be eased. Brazil has little to lose and lots to gain from enhancing this international people-to-people diplomacy."

External interference aimed at impeding Sri Lanka's forward march - Daya Gamage, Asian Tribune: "Sri Lanka's Consul General-designate for eight western states in the United States Malraj de Silva didn't sound like he was unaware of how external factors affect a post-war Sri Lanka. He is well conscious of global nuances unleashed to isolate his country of birth by the agents who had been in collaboration with the defeated Sri Lanka terror movement to diplomatically achieve the objective the terror group failed before its domestic demise in 2009.He realizes the obstacles

Sri Lanka is facing to get her message across to American foreign policy framers and lawmakers. And then he advocates a concerted effort to invigorate a public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication campaign to erase the myths, half-truths, diabolical lies and misinterpretations that the pro-separatist elements in the Tamil Diaspora very professionally dispatch." Image from, with caption: A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil woman dressed in traditional costume

Embassy of Israel at Limmud Conference - embassyofisrael.co.uk: "This week, Israeli diplomats attended Limmud Conference and participated in, and gave a variety of sessions on subjects close to their hearts. ... Ms Rony Yedidia-Clein, director of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy gave a talk on the importance of Israel for diaspora Jewry." On Limmud conference, see.

South Sudan on brink of civil war: who to blame, Riek Machar or Salvar Kiir? - Nangayi Guyson, guysontheinvestigator.wordpress.com: "The United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon has asked [Ugandan] President Museveni to intervene and help find a solution to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.

Head of public diplomacy at the ministry of Foreign Affairs Fred Opolot revealed last week at a media briefing on the state of affairs in the South Sudan. Political relationship between South Sudan and Uganda have been friendly for several decades, and the intervention could be of great importance since Uganda’s longtime President,Yoweri Museveni was a personal friend of South Sudan rebel leader John Garang and supported the (SPLA), which fought for the region’s independence." Image from

New Special Issue on Political Public Relations - political-public-relations.com:[Among them:] "Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: Conceptual and Practical Connections, by Kathy Fitzpatrick, Jami Fullerton and Alice Kendrick."

Yang signs contract for book on PR, public diplomacy - "Yang signs contract for book on PR, public diplomacy  [:] Associate professor Sung-Un Yang has signed book contract with Peter Lang Publishing Inc. for International Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: Communication and Engagement. "


Kerry’s Energizer Bunny Diplomacy Takes Risks for Wins - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, businessweek.co: Whatever their eventual outcome, Kerry has breathed new life into an array of long-shot talks.

He has stuck with negotiations late into the night in Kabul, Geneva, Jerusalem and Ramallah to secure pledges from allies and adversaries alike that many -- including officials in the White House -- considered unachievable. Via HF. Image from entry, with caption: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is departing on New Year’s Day for Jerusalem and Ramallah for another attempt at negotiating an end to 65 years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

New York Times under fire for 'propaganda' claiming video caused Benghazi attack - examiner.com: The New York Times sparked controversy Saturday with an article claiming, among other things, that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi that saw four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed, was the result of an obscure YouTube video.

The article, panned as "propaganda," also claimed that al-Qaeda played no role in the attack. Those assertions were criticized by Reps. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., and Mike Rogers, R-Mich., along with a former CIA analyst. Image from

West should drop 'inconsistent approach' to terrorism after Volgograd bombings - RT: Neil Clark [a journalist, writer and broadcaster']: "The West needs to change its policy towards Russia because there is a war being carried against Russia. That’s a kind of soft war, a propaganda war which has been orchestrated by the Western neo-conservatives and what I call the 'fake left' in Western countries, which is actually trying to demonize Russia for any reason, whether it’s Pussy Riot… whether it’s the gay rights law ... I think we need to work closer with Russia. We saw close cooperation at the Boston bombings, when we had the Russian warnings about the Tsarnaev brothers, but they were ignored by the Americans because again it’s Russian warnings. The West [must] cooperate more seriously with Russia, as equal partners, in this battle against the radical terror groups; that’s a major shift that’s got to happen. On the one hand, they say they are going to work with Russia; on the other hand, there is this kind of Cold War propaganda against Russia."

U.S. Cold War rivals China, Russia step up challenges to Obama’s Asia pivot - Guy Taylor, The Washington Times: As the Obama administration attempts an ambitious reorientation of the nation's strategic and diplomatic focus, two regional powerhouses and former Cold War adversaries are showing themselves increasingly keen to challenge Washington's dominance on the world stage. Foreign policy analysts say recent moves by Moscow and Beijing have been far-reaching, heavy with symbolism and clear tests of President Obama's intentions and resolve.

Iran, Turkey’s New Ally? - Vali R. Nasr, New York Times: With American influence in the region in decline, and with Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies finding themselves united in their opposition to Iran, Turkey could find itself playing a central role thanks to its links with Iran.

Hey, Who’s that American? Probably a Special Forces Guy - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: The U.S. military as a whole has armed personnel in more than 150 nations worldwide.

The U.S. Special Operations Command has over 67,000 acknowledged personnel and a known budget of $7.483 billion for Operations and Maintenance; $373 million for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; $1.6 billion for Procurement; and $441 million for Military Construction funding. Image from

'Baghdad: The City in Verse' finds poetry in Iraq's capital: The enlightening collection includes poets from Muti' ibn Iyas in the 8th century to Sinan Antoon and more in the present [review of book authored by Reuven Snir] - Hector Tobar, latimes.com

"Baghdad is a city that looms large in the American imagination. In 2003, at the start of the last Iraq war, it was occupied by U.S. troops. In the years that followed, thousands of U.S. citizens (soldiers, contractors, officials and journalists) passed through Baghdad. My own memories of the city are of its heat and light and the brokenness of its buildings and the kindness of its people. I lived there in 2003, briefly, as a reporter. The ongoing war and the constant fear of being swept up in the conflict that was destroying the city kept us Americans from exploring in it. The legendary Baghdad, that center and crossroads of Mesopotamian cultures, the city of "One Thousand and One Nights," remained unknown to us. Uncaptioned image from entry

If True That Foreign Diplomats in the U.S. Are “Eligible” for Medicaid — That’s Absolutely Bonkers! – Domani Spero, DiploPundit

MODERN SCIENCE (From: "Scientists tell us their favourite jokes," The Guardian, via Boing Boing; among them:)

An electron and a positron go into a bar.
Positron: "You're round."
Electron: "Are you sure?"
Positron: "I'm positive."

What is a physicist's favourite food? Fission chips.

A blowfly goes into a bar and asks: "Is that stool taken?"

A statistician is someone who tells you, when you've got your head in the fridge and your feet in the oven, that you're – on average - very comfortable.

There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Psychiatrist to patient: "Don't worry. You're not deluded. You only think you are."

What do scientists say when they go to the bar? Climate change scientists say: "Where's the ice?" Seismologists might ask for their drinks to be "shaken and not stirred". Microbiologists request just a small one. Neuroscientists ask for their drinks "to be spiked". Scientists studying the defective gubernaculum say: "Put mine in a highball", and finally, social scientists say: "I'd like something soft." When paying at the bar, geneticists say: "I think I have some change in my jeans." And at the end of the evening a shy benzene biochemist might say to his companion: "Please give me a ring."

--Image from

Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28

“There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good.”

―-Stephen Colbert; image from


[The Babushka] - YouTube


U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission: 2013 Joint Annual Report
- "Executive Summary: Now in its fourth year, the U.S. – Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission represents the sustained efforts of our governments to strengthen and expand cooperation between the United States and Russia. Over the past year, the Commission’s structure has evolved and grown to reflect our shared interests and common goals. Today, the BPC counts 21 working groups, drawing on the talents of over 60 offices, agencies and departments across the whole breadth our nations’ governments, as well as enjoying contributions from non-governmental organizations and private sector businesses. ... Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group [:] The Education, Culture, Sports and Media Working Group (ECSM) is one of the most productive working groups, with more than 100 completed cultural programs, meetings, and exchanges since its inauguration in 2009. The Education Sub-Working Group completed this year the fourth Fulbright Community College Administrators Seminar, which enabled high-level representatives from both countries to exchange views on the structure and management of technical and vocational schools.

During the seminar, education administrators also signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding on technical innovation and training. As part of its efforts to enhance opportunities for U.S. and Russian students and faculty, the Moscow Fulbright Office partnered with Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics in hosting summer schools on sustainable development and humanities. The Culture Sub-Working Group has sponsored an unprecedented amount of cultural programming and promoted common historic and cultural heritage by joint celebration of Fort Ross 200th anniversary. An excellent example of the melding of great American and Russian culture was the tour of the American National Youth Symphony Orchestra which brought together 120 American teenagers from 42 states to perform Russian classics under the direction of Russian Maestro Valery Gergiev. In another example, the unparalleled Bolshoy and Mariinsky Ballets entertained audiences from California to Washington D.C. during their U.S. tours in May and October 2012. Additionally, an American ballerina, Keenan Kampa, was invited to tour with the Mariinsky group – the first such invitation ever. Other highlights included tours of Russia by American rhythm and blues singer Maya Azucena, the Santa Fe Ballet and the Quebe Sisters Band. Music has only been one of many forms of artistic expression through which American-Russian cultural appreciation has flourished. Young writers have been able to connect through exchanges and workshops, such as those led by Christopher Merrill, Director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. The popular 'Show US!' American Documentary Film Festival showcased American films in Moscow, the Urals and Tatarstan. The Sports Sub-Working Group completed a number of unique programs this year. Highlights include a visit by the first Muslim woman to represent the US in an international competition, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. In October, 2012, Russia hosted 20 high school-aged American ice hockey players for a week of hockey diplomacy. Future programming includes an exchange for high school athletes to tie into the 2014 Paralympics. The Mass Media Sub-Working Group has also actively continued its work this year, meeting in Washington, DC in October, 2012, and in St. Petersburg in August, 2013. The meetings focused on such themes as: the Business of Media; the Evolving Practice and Profession of Journalism; and New Media Technologies. To put words into action, the Mass Media sub-Working Group organized the Young Professional Journalist Exchange, which took place in November/December, 2013. Twenty four young American and Russian journalists participated in the four-week exchange that placed them in news organizations in Moscow and around the U.S., respectively." Image from

State Dep't Sends Condolences To Iran FM Via Social Media - Golnaz Esfandiari, rferl.org: "The U.S. State Department has turned to social media to express its condolences over the passing of the mother of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.  State Department Farsi spokesman Alan Eyre expressed his condolences over the death of Efat Kashani on his Facebook page, which has over 70,000 likes. He also shared the Internet link to his message via Twitter. Eyre wrote that he heard about Kashani's death with the ‘deepest regret’ and added that he prayed God might give the family ‘patience.’ The United States has extensively used the public-diplomacy tools at its disposal to reach out to Iranians. But Eyre's message is a rare -- perhaps unprecedented -- instance of the State Department using social media to reach out to an Iranian government official."

What Can Public Diplomacy Learn from Netflix? - Jonathan Henicks, Take Five: I had the pleasure and privilege to attend yesterday’s meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors as a member of the public. The session featured two fascinating presentations and discussions. First, Voice of America Director David Ensor gave an inspirational presentation on the mission, goals, accomplishments, and challenges facing the Voice of America. Later, we listened to an insightful panel on Technology and Innovation that featured Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Coordinator for International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State Macon Phillips, and Chief Technology Officer for the Atlantic Media Group Tom Cochran. Among the many important issues raised in these discussions are a few key themes facing all of us who are engaged in the practice of public diplomacy. The dominant issue – as is often the case – is how to use our scarce resources most effectively. ... The VOA discussion featured a number of comparisons with broadcasting organizations of other countries like CCTV, Russia Today, and the BBC (usually to illustrate that VOA is relatively underfunded). ... The Innovation panel also proved exceptionally interesting, highlighting the significant challenges that technology poses for the BBG (and the State Department). Netflix CEO Reed Hastings emphasized the need to always keep the big picture of the future in mind if we hope to develop tools and programs that will be effective in the future. He noted, for example, that Netflix always believed that streaming video was the future of the company and that snail mail DVDs were always considered an interim measure. Likewise, we in public diplomacy should all keep in mind that in another 20 or 30 years the internet will be everywhere, even overseas (a remark that caused many in the audience to ponder a future when television and radio will simply be obsolete). Another interesting theme was the benefits and dangers of 'personalization' (using technology to deliver customized content to individuals as Netflix does) and 'balkanization' (the development of virtual 'gated communities' in which there are no longer public squares and water coolers where people are forced to debate issues of general interest). ... The author is a State Department officer specializing in public diplomacy, currently detailed to the IPDGC [Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication] to teach and work on various Institute projects."

VOA News not reporting on American Greenpeace activists leaving Russia - BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: "The VOA English website has two reports on Greenpeace activists – five Britons and one Canadian – who have left Russia after being granted amnesty from charges of hooliganism. Neither of the two reports mentions the two American citizens, Peter Willcox, the Greenpeace ship’s captain, and Dimitri Litvinov, of the famous Litvinov family from Russia."

Former Israeli Amb. To the U.S. Michael Oren Speaks at IDC Herzlyia Ambassador Club - israelseen.com: "Over 250 students attended the opening of the 8th year of the StandWithUs Ambassadors Club at the IDC Herzliya’s Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS). The opening event, with a keynote address from Ambassador Michael Oren, until recently Israel’s Ambassador the United States, was held in the largest auditorium on campus. ... Ambassador Oren gave one of his first lectures since completing his post as Israeli Ambassador to the United States.

He discussed the importance of speaking up and telling Israel’s story around the world in an educated and effective way. Oren spoke about the experiences and challenges he faced as Ambassador to the United States, providing the students with a better understanding of what they may face as the future leaders and ‘ambassadors’ for Israel. This marks the 8th year of the successful ‘Ambassadors Club’ program which has become the go-to program at the IDC Herzliya for Israeli public diplomacy, educating students who want to represent Israel to the best of their abilities around the world. Previous speakers included Alan Dershowitz, Natan Sharansky, Mark Regev among many other top politicians, diplomats, educators and media personalities. Image from entry, with caption: StandWithUs and IDC Herzliya ‘Ambassadors Club’ Launches 8th Year with Keynote Ambassador Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States headlines launch of public diplomacy program for international students in Israel.

Between Support and Discord: Gulf-Egypt Relations after June 30 - Sherif Elashmawy, "Though Mohamed Morsi’s first overseas trip as president of Egypt was to Riyadh, the gesture proved to be of little importance. ...  Following Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian military on July 3, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was the first head of state to congratulate interim President Adli Mansour after his appointment by the country’s military overlords. ... From the perspective of Egypt’s new rulers, the support from the Gulf provides international legitimacy they otherwise lack.

While Cairo has been seeking world recognition through an extensive public diplomacy campaign, the only countries President Mansour has visited since July 3 are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and the UAE. Image from entry, with caption: The Gulf governments’ decision to back Morsi’s ouster has not been without its costs.

2013: A fruitful year in Chinese diplomacy - Shen Qing, xinhuanet.com: "Senior diplomats from Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke highly of China’s diplomacy in 2013. Speaking at the '2013 Chinese Diplomatic Discussion' in Beijing on Wednesday, they defined the year of 2013 as a 'fruitful year in foreign affairs of China'. ... Senior diplomats restressed the importance of public diplomacy, saying promoting the mutual understandings between China and other countries is the task public diplomacy faces.

China needs to build its image at the international stage. Traditional media and new media have vital social responsibilities in making international voice on Chinese-related information and matters and showing positive and contributive images of China, they added." Image from entry, with caption: Senior diplomats from Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs attend “2013 Chinese Diplomatic Discussion”, Dec. 25, 2013.

On the Study of US-China's Trade Diplomacy - gilangardana.blogspot.com: "For its Public Diplomacy strategy, China seeks understanding for its political system and policies rather than pressuring other to accept their ideology, China is not following US Public Diplomacy that stressing that their ideology, which is democracy, is the best practice for political ideology.[5] In practice, China did that with its Confucius Institutes, the institutions that emphasis teaching than intellectual exchange and imparting an understanding of China rather than seeking common values through dialogue. Likewise, The U.S. government public diplomacy aim in large part to cultivate shared democratic values among the professional and leadership classes of foreign countries. And for some, it is not appreciating other’s political ideology. That is why in term of public diplomacy in gaining foreign market, China is arguably has more strategic policy than US. ... [5] d'Hooghe, I. (2007, July). The Rise of China's Public Diplomacy. Clingendael: Netherlands Institute of International Relations."

BBC plans big expansion of arts coverage and cultural fare - James Pickford and Henry Mance, Financial Times: "The BBC will appoint a senior executive next year to lead a big expansion of its arts coverage and build relationships directly with artists and arts institutions. Lord Hall, BBC director-general, has made arts a priority since taking the reins at the corporation in March 2013, pledging a 20 per cent rise in funding for arts television programmes, more broadcasting of live events, online expansion and more cultural fare on the flagship channels BBC One and BBC Two. A new arts supremo will be asked to drive plans to bring music, opera, ballet and visual arts to mainstream audiences and make the most of the BBC’s arts content. ... The arts drive will rely heavily on the use of digital technology, which is rapidly becoming more important as a means of delivering BBC content."

Afghan Women Writers To Speak With New Voice At Richmond Hill Library - theforumnewsgroup.com: "Queens residents will have the opportunity to hear intimate, first-person accounts of life in Afghanistan read aloud next month at the Richmond Hill branch of the Queens library. The library will be hosting the Afghan Women’s Writing Project for a special reading featuring the work of Afghan women writers. The event will take place Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The library is located at 118-14 Hillside Ave. Admission is free. ... The Richmond Hill event will feature a reading by

Masha Hamilton, the founder of the AAWP and the author of five novels, including 'What Changes Everything,' which centers on the way both Americans and Afghans grappled with the most recent Afghan war. She previously worked in Afghanistan as the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy." Image from entry, with caption: Masha Hamilton, the founder of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, will read from her work at the Richmond Hill Library on Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

Canelons for St Stephen’s Day, December 26th, in Catalonia - rachellaudan.com: "Well, if the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia can tweet my 2012 piece on this 'traditional' dish (albeit with the caveat that retweets are not endorsements), I reckon I can re-post it. ... Today is St. Stephen’s Day, the day that Catalans celebrate by eating

canelones (cannelloni). When I was living there for a few months, I delved into the origin of this custom." Catalan canelons image from entry


Central African Republic needs international help - Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Omar Kabine Layama, Washington Post: We greatly appreciate the U.S. military and humanitarian assistance that supports the French and African forces. The aid and security forces have given our country the chance for a fresh beginning, but progress is fragile and these soldiers cannot shoulder this burden alone. We believe the most effective way to stop the killing is for the swift authorization of a U.N. peacekeeping force, which would have the resources to adequately protect our civilians. The United Nations should urgently move to approve and dispatch such a force. U.S. support for this force will be vital.

Geneva N-deal thwarted anti-Iran propaganda: Cleric - presstv.ir: A senior Iranian cleric says the breakthrough interim nuclear deal struck last month in the Swiss city of Geneva between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear energy program frustrated anti-Iran propaganda.

“The favorable outcome of these [nuclear] negotiations was that the propaganda launched by the [global] arrogance against Iran faded out given that they had long been falsely claiming that the Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing atomic weapon while we have always stated that we are seeking to acquire nuclear science,” Tehran interim Friday Prayers leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani told worshippers in Tehran. Image from entry, with caption: Tehran interim Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani

‘Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power’ by Kevin Peraino - Stephen Budiansky, Washington Post: Just as historians have long shown that beneath Lincoln’s self-deprecating dismissals of his talents as a political leader or military commander-in-chief lay a deep skill in judging and managing people and events, so Peraino argues we should be skeptical of the image of the “plain-talking Railsplitter” unschooled in diplomatic finesse.

On the contrary, Peraino writes, Lincoln understood realpolitik as well as any great-power leader, shrewdly exploited the new mass media to advance America’s interests by appealing directly to foreign public opinion, and “worked assiduously to build a centralized American state — a critical prerequisite to America’s later rise to power,” particularly by strengthening the role of the presidency as the “firm hand” on the nation’s foreign policy. Image from entry

Caroline Igoe campaigners quote Nazi propaganda - Supporters of a would-be model ordered to serve at least 20 years for murdering her boyfriend are quoting Nazi propaganda in their bid to free her. Caroline Igoe was jailed in 2010 after shooting Martyn Barclay in the head.

Now, on a Facebook page entitled The Case of Caroline Igoe, campaigners of the 35-year-old have published the words of Hitler’s henchman Joseph Goebbels. The paragraph reads: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Supporters claim Igoe was convicted using only circumstantial evidence and “deserves to have her full case heard in court." Ingoe image from entry

Inside the Rainbow: how Soviet Russia tried to reinvent fairytales - Marina Lewycka, Financial Times:
“Reds Are Ruining Children Of Russia” raged a New York Times headline in June 1919.  According to the article, in the new “Red” Russia, religious instruction “is strictly forbidden”, “lessons are supplanted by dancing and flirtations”, and, lest you should think that sounded fun, the journalist warned, “It is a deliberate part of the Bolshevist plan to corrupt and deprave the children ... and to train them as future propagandists of Lenin’s materialistic and criminal doctrine.” The reality is more complex, as illuminated in a book to be published next month by London’s Redstone Press. Inside the Rainbow is a fascinating collection of Soviet literature for children, featuring stories, picture book illustrations and rhymes published between 1920 and 1935 – an exhilarating and dangerous time. The early days of Bolshevik rule, before Lenin’s death in 1924, while often chaotic, hungry and cruel, were also marked by great optimism and idealism. 
‘Journey Inside the Electric Lamp’ (1937) by Nikolai Bulatov and Pavel Lopatin, illustrated by M Makhalov

‘Journey Inside the Electric Lamp’, illustrated by M Makhalov (1937)

A new society was to be built from scratch. How to mould and inspire human beings fit for this wonderful new world was a challenge for artists and educators alike. Avant-garde writers, artists, cinematographers and musicians, many of them commissar Lunacharsky’s friends, were eager to be part of the great experiment. Resourceful writers sent their characters on adventurous trips, even while adhering to the party’s educational tenets. In Nikolai Bulatov and Pavel Lopatin’s The Journey Inside the Electric Lamp (1937), the discovery of electricity becomes a thrilling undertaking when two children, magically diminished in size, make the hazardous journey up an electricity cable into the heart of their reading lamp. The illustrations by M Makhalov – including a photomontage showing the two tiny figures balancing precariously on a looped and twisted cable, their shadows looming beside them – look every bit as exciting as a traditional adventure story. Image from entry, with caption: ‘Journey Inside the Electric Lamp’, illustrated by M Makhalov (1937) Via CDM on Facebook.


From: American photographer in the Soviet Union in 1931. Moscow - Deco Branson (Branson DeCou) - American photographer and traveler, skif-tag.livejournal.com. Sign reads (loose translation: "The station of fire-prevention propaganda." Via HS on Facebook


[Interactive] Map: Property Taxes in Your County - brookings.edu. Via JMK on Facebook

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27

"But I am a ruin myself, wandering among ruins.”

Heinrich Heine; image from; more below (in today's PDPR's "related items"), Jake Heppner, "The 38 Most Haunting Abandoned Places On Earth. For Some Reason, I Can't Look Away...," distractify.com; via GG on Facebook


PD Council Seeks Ten Best Public Diplomacy Actions of 2013 - pdaa.publicdiplomacy.org: "Public Diplomacy Council wants your nominations for the best public diplomacy actions, ideas, programs or decisions of 2013. The rules, says PDC, are simple: 'Anyone can make a nomination.' Entries are welcome from current and former public diplomacy professionals, as well as observers in the academic world, business, and government. Nominations should be sent by e-mail to PD10Best@gmail.com by noon on Monday, 30 December."


U.S. Foreign Exhibitions Program Remembered in Pictures - [Joe Johnson], Public Diplomacy Council; image from entry


What’s Wrong with U.S. Public Diplomacy? - Michael Rubin, Commentary: 'I had written a couple months ago about the seemingly uncoordinated and scattershot approach in which U.S. embassies engage in the name of public diplomacy. An interlocutor pointed me to a speech delivered by retired Foreign Service officer Donald Bishop to the Council of American Ambassadors earlier this fall. While so many practitioners of public diplomacy circle the wagons to protect budgets and the system they know and in which they thrive, Bishop speaks directly: ['] Public diplomacy makes less difference in spite of the many studies and reports that proclaim its importance, despite the many new programs in the graduate schools, despite words of praise on all the appropriate public occasions, despite Congressional support for exchanges, despite Secretary Clinton’s decree that 'every officer is a Public Diplomacy officer,' and despite the fact that Public Diplomacy officers are working harder than ever. ['] Bishop continues to suggest three separate problems, or rather clusters of problems. The first is organizational. Public diplomacy has been shunted aside to a bureaucratic corner. ... The second problem, he observes, is the fact that there is 'division among the American people over our nation’s purposes in the world.' ... For Bishop, the third set of problems revolves around strategy. ... It seems that secretaries of state in recent administrations have sought to compete with their predecessors in mileage traveled, as if logging miles somehow became a metric of wisdom or diplomatic success. Leadership is not simply about free travel and five-star hotels, nor should an appointment to lead the State Department be the ultimate perk. Rather, being secretary of state should be about management and implementing a coherent strategy." See also.

China Remembers Mao … on the Eve of His 120th Birthday - Ron Radosh, pjmedia.com: "When I was in China for one of those State Department public diplomacy tours in 2000, before our highly contested election that year, I spoke all over the country to explain our American political system, how it worked, and to lecture on the meaning of political democracy. The last day in Beijing, before I was about to leave back for the States, the American embassy phoned to say they had managed to book me on the most popular talk program in the country, in which I and an interviewer — a political scientist from the university who had his own popular program, something akin to Charlie Rose on PBS here — would conduct the discussion. It was a big coup to place me on the program, the embassy spokesman told me. They never had been able to do that before. I got to the station on time, and presented my views much as I had in lectures at universities and public forums. These, of course, were limited to those who came to hear me. The show was taped, and I was told it was to be broadcast later that evening, in prime time. I received a call from the embassy again. The censors viewed it before airing, and right before airtime, they re-broadcast an old program, putting my interview into the ashcan. The reason, the embassy told me, was that they thought my comments on political democracy were too volatile to be heard by a vast audience. Mao never believed in political democracy."

Mission and Innovation — Netflix CEO at Broadcasting Board of Governors - BBGWatcher, BBG Watch: Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell should be applauded for arranging a visit to the federal agency by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his participation in a panel discussion on technology and innovation. The event was held Wednesday, December 18, at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) headquarters in Washington, DC. Reed Hastings made a refreshingly unassuming, honest and informative presentation. Fortunately, the discussion went beyond the topic of technology, thanks to both Hastings and Shell, but also thanks to the two other panel participants: Macon Philips, Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, and Tom Cochran, Chief Technology Officer at Atlantic Media.

Hastings, Philips, and Cochran described how companies, media outlets, and government agencies can best develop a strategy for adjusting to technological and societal changes. Image from entry, with caption: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (center); Macon Philips, Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (right); and Tom Cochran, Chief Technology Officer at Atlantic Media (left).

American movement for equal rights and justice in Palestine gains momentum - Sarah Marusek, middleeastmonitor.com: "As the New Year approaches and we step back to reflect upon 2013, it becomes increasingly obvious that cracks are emerging in Israel's most special relationship.

While the occupation of Washington continues uncontested, more and more Americans are carving out other spaces of resistance that challenge the hegemony of the Zionist narrative and confront Israeli occupation and apartheid. These efforts are starting to rupture the deeply entrenched political and ideological frameworks that enable the US government to spend vast public resources to help Israel oppress the Palestinian people, without any public backlash. There is still an extremely long way to go, but there is no doubt that Zionists in the US and Israel are beginning to see that the writing is indeed on the wall. ... In addition to spending $125 million on bringing Jews around the world to Israel, the government has also formed a task force to reverse the disenchantment trend. Other efforts that illustrate the growing sense of desperation in Tel Aviv include a related initiative of the prime minister's office to establish covert units at Israeli universities to engage in online public diplomacy, or hasbara. As Haaretz reported in August, 'A diplomacy group will be set up at each university and structured in a semi-military fashion.' Those students who head each group are to receive full government scholarships while other students are paid stipends. When a government has to pay its own youth secretly to counter the increasingly negative image of its country abroad, pro-justice activists can take courage in the struggle in the year to come." Uncaptioned image from entry

Israeli right proposes taxing NGOs that back boycott - al-monitor.com: "On Dec. 16, the media published stories about how an organization — a negligible one, it should be noted — called the American Studies Association (ASA) decided to adopt an academic boycott against Israel to express, in its words, identification with Palestinian students deprived of their academic freedom. Anyone who is well-versed in Israeli-Palestinian relations understands that this is total nonsense. ... It should be noted that the US State Department issued an immediate condemnation and rejection of the boycott. But one should not treat this case lightly because it is the first time that such a large US organization joins the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The decision by the ASA, which numbers 5,000 lecturers and professors, was adopted in an Internet vote in which a quarter of the organization’s members took part. Two-thirds (66%) voted in favor of imposing a boycott on Israel’s academia. It should be noted that no American university or college joined the boycott. ... So how are educated American academics taken in by this pack of lies? I believe that the main reason for this is that the Israeli government, which invests a lot of money in its defense budget, has still not understood that public diplomacy is the new battlefield and that money and resources must be invested to repulse the wave of incitement and lies spread about it around the world. The battlefield of public diplomacy is far more important today to the existence of the State of Israel than a tank battalion or an Apache squadron. Many pro-Palestinian organizations in the world, and in Israel, seek to hurt Israel using the framework of quite successful 'public diplomacy' offensives. They do it by calling for an academic and economic boycott of Israel and by presenting petitions against Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and heads of the security forces. These organizations enjoy a great deal of power and invest millions of euros in their incitement activity — a sort of a 'new anti-Semitism.' What is the source of the money, you ask. Well, it comes from private donations, but a more significant part originates in European countries, in general, and the European Union, in particular. ... To contend with this absurd situation, I proposed, along with Knesset member Robert Ilatov, an amendment (No. 1672) to the internal revenue bill (support by a foreign diplomatic entity for Israeli nonprofits), known by the media as the 'NGO bill.' In a nutshell, this bill determines that any donations received by Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGOs) from a foreign diplomatic entity will be levied a 45% tax, if the NGO in question — be it in its charter or the actions taken by

the organization or by its managers — corresponds to one of the five criteria specified in the bill: -- Petitions for legal procedures against IDF soldiers in international courts. -- Calls to boycott, to withdraw investments or to sanction Israel or its citizens. -- Delegitimizes the existence of Israel as being a Jewish and a democratic state. -- Incites racism. Supports armed resistance of an enemy state or a terror organization against Israel. The proposed bill was met with a cold shoulder by the Israeli left, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, for allegedly being 'anti-democratic.'” Image from entry, with caption: The American Studies Association, in voting for a boycott against Israel, claimed there was "no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation" — a statement strongly disputed by others. Here, Birzeit University near Ramallah is seen in 2007.

Into the Fray: Leibler on settlements - Right diagnosis, wrong prescription - Martin Sherman, Jerusalem Post: "The real reason for much of the international misunderstanding – and hence enmity – towards Israel with regard to the Palestinian-cum-settlement issue is the abysmal performance of Israel’s public diplomacy over the past several decades, and its utter failure to convey to the world the imperative of applying Jewish (I stress 'Jewish')

sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. ... One cannot really gauge Israel’s political options, or the international constraints on it, given the current feeble and often counterproductive efforts in the field of public diplomacy." Image from entry, with caption: Diamond Exchange Area, as seen from "Palestine"

Israel Hopes To Lure More French Jews - jewishheritagemonth.com: "Israel is set to announce a three-year plan aimed at attracting more French Jews to settle in the Jewish state. The first move will consist of recognizing French diplomas for medical professionals and tax consultants, an official from Israels Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs told the Maariv daily this week. The government has decided in principle to increase funding for facilitating the arrival of new immigrants from France, said the official, who was not named. The government has realized this is a historic window of opportunity, said the official."

Former UN ambassador Dore Gold to serve as Netanyahu's foreign policy adviser Gold, whose job will focus on Israeli-U.S. relations, has relatively hawkish views and has never expressed support for the two-state solution - Barak Ravid, haaretz.com:"Gold currently heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank. During Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, in 1996-99, Gold served first as the premier’s foreign policy adviser and then as UN ambassador. He had no formal position in Netanyahu’s second administration, in 2009-13, but Netanyahu consulted him periodically and invited him to meetings on issues such as public diplomacy and relations with America." Gold image from entry

Pakistan wants to promote peaceful and friendly ties will all countries: PM - Parvez Jabri, brecorder.com: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said Pakistan wants to promote peaceful and friendly relations with international community particularly with its neighbours to ensure peace and progress in the region.

Addressing inaugural ceremony of new block of the Foreign Office building here which has been attributed to the Former Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, the Prime Minister said Pakistan is playing its due role for promoting regional and international peace and enhance mutual cooperation through its Foreign Office. ... Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said for any State, diplomacy was the first line of defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country's diplomats play an indispensable role in any nation's efforts to promote peace, and foster regional and international cooperation. He said conventional diplomacy had now acquired new dimensions and the specialized streams like multi and bilateral diplomacy and economic coupled with public diplomacy and services streams were now more relevant." Uncaptioned image from entry

Annual Parliament address by President Gjorge Ivanov - macedoniantruth.org: "This is the complete annual Parliament address made by President Gjorje Ivanov.

Respected citizens of the Republic of Macedonia,... Through a personal example, I have insisted during my term on active, professional and pragmatic diplomacy, but also on proactive economic and public diplomacy." Uncaptioned image from entry

Gas deal may help Ukraine out of crisis - "The gas deal with Moscow may help Kiev get out of economic crisis, a senior Russian diplomat said Saturday. When meeting his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, in Moscow on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to slash the price of natural gas for the economically struggling neighbor. 'This is an important aid to our fraternal country that will help it, probably, to boost economic rates and to come out of the crisis, toward which the Ukrainian economy has moved closer,' Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying at a public diplomacy event here."

Stephenville native finds success with United Nations: A curious child by nature, Edward Mishaud always strived to solve problems. - nlnewsnow.com: "So what’s next for Edward? He admits it’s hard to say. 'After nearly nine years working for the United Nations, across three very different organizations I do think working for a smaller institution, like a ‘start-up’ could be interesting and challenging, for instance a ‘think tank’ or an international public diplomacy institute.

On the other hand, returning to journalism could also be a challenging option.'” Image from entry, with caption: Stephenville native Edward Mishaud can be found in Geneva, Switzerland working for the United Nations where he is helping to tackle the global problem of HIV/AIDS.

Team Leader for Media, Branding and Public Diplomacy: The Danish Embassy in Tokyo Is Currently Seeking a Team Leader for Media, Branding and Public Diplomacy - savvytokyo.com: "Description: The Royal Danish Embassy in Tokyo is seeking a highly motivated person to join us as Team Leader for Media, Branding and Public Diplomacy. Your role is to lead the task of informing about, promoting and branding Denmark and Danish viewpoints in Japan through public diplomacy activities that will support the achievement of the Embassy’s goals. You are expected to proactively and closely network with national and local Japanese press and media in order to ensure a high public profile of Denmark in Japan. You will also need to work closely with representatives of Danish media in regard to high-level Danish visits to Japan. You will be overall responsible for the Embassy’s External Communication Strategy, including Branding Denmark, as well as for the Embassy’s cultural activities.

Public diplomacy efforts are relevant to all Embassy activities, and you are expected to work closely and openly with all Embassy teams as well as the Ambassador. As a member of the Embassy’s Team Leaders’ Group you are expected actively to contribute to the overall management, coordination and functioning of the Embassy." Image from, with caption: Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt pose for a photo during ... memorial for Nelson Mandela.


The awkward state of U.S.-China relations: Working together is hard and frustrating, but not working together is worse - Nina Hachigian, latimes.com: Both countries have managed to compartmentalize disagreements so cooperation in some areas can generate real progress.

Given the differences, even these modest successes are worth celebrating.

In Blue-Collar Toledo, Ohio, a Windfall of Chinese Investments - Timothy Williams, New York Times: ties between Toledo and China have grown numerous. Chinese companies have paid more than $10 million in cash for two local hotels, a restaurant complex and a 69-acre waterfront property. Mayor Michael P. Bell has taken four trips to China in four years in search of investors. His business cards are double-sided, in English and Chinese. Huaqiao University, one of the largest higher-education institutions in China, recently signed an agreement to open a branch in Toledo.

Toledo has also reached a deal for rarely seen Chinese antiques to be shown at the museum next year, and there are plans for the city to host a Chinese technology trade fair at its convention center. More than 100 Toledo businesspeople have traveled to China in recent years, and hundreds of Chinese investors have been welcomed in return, treated to special performances by Toledo Symphony Orchestra members. Image from entry, with caption: The location of Toledo and its low housing costs have helped lure Chinese investment.

South Sudan’s Imperiled Future - Editorial, New York Times: The United States, which played a major role in South Sudan’s birth as an independent state, has a special responsibility to mediate a political solution.

Mystifying U.S. Diplomatic Pullback From the Vatican: Much will be lost by shutting the Embassy to the Holy See and moving its operations to America's outpost in Rome - Ray Flynn and Jim Nicholson, Wall Street Journal: The Obama administration plans to close the separate, free-standing embassy building that has long served the U.S. Mission to the Holy See and move its functions into surplus office space in the compound of the U.S. Embassy to Italy late next year or early 2015. This would be a colossal mistake. The State Department likes to apply the term "reset" to its diplomatic efforts. In this case, a reset is indeed in order: one that confirms the independence of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and reaffirms the importance that America places on this unique relationship.

Supporting Belarus’s climb out from under dictatorship - Andrei Sannikov, Washington Post: Belarusan dictator Alexander Lukashenko stole the presidential election.It is not a question of if but when Belarusans will rid themselves of Europe’s last dictatorship and join the community of European democracies. The strategy for doing so has to be built on principles. Lukashenko must be sanctioned for the crimes he has committed, and the people of Belarus must be engaged. By supporting democratic movements, free media and freedom fighters, along with transparent cooperation and concerted diplomacy with the European Union, the Obama administration can significantly reduce this time from years to months.

Americans favor not isolationism but restraint: Americans appreciate that the U.S. needn't run the world to be safe in it - Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble, latimes.com

An American Story - Pamela Druckerman, New York Times: Behind all our recent troubles, optimism remains an authentic part of us Americans.

The Enduring Power of Zionism’s Propaganda Lies - Alan Hart, countercurrents.org: Zionism’s claim that Israel has lived and still lives in danger of annihilation is propaganda nonsense to facilitate the assertion that Israel is the VICTIM, (when actually it is the AGGRESSOR and OPPRESSOR), and therefore must be free to act with impunity in any way it thinks fit, even when its actions demonstrate contempt for international law and the human and political rights of the Palestinians. Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent. He is author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews."


TLC’s New Show Might Make You Reconsider Having Sex - Andrew Kirell, mediaite.com: The New York Post chronicles examples the show will cover: 1. Rock singer and guitarist Cash O’Riley and his girlfriend Anne shared a night of passion. During his orgasm, Cash collapsed onto Anne, losing feeling in his left arm and leg. Turns out, Cash had a stroke mid-shag.

2. Dr. Kevin Klauer once treated a man who broke his penis during a threesome with his wife and mistress. When the two women began brawling at the hospital over who did the damage, Dr. Klauer got a bonus patient to treat. 3. Liz and Eric had a quickie before work one morning. But when Eric got up to leave, Liz was still having an orgasm. Pleasure turned to pain when it continued for two hours. 4. When Tsion and Brashaad snuck away for a jaunt in the janitor’s closet, the tight space resulted in injuries. 5. Dr. Jordan Moskoff treated a man for broken bones after he claimed he fell washing his windows. But the man was naked when he fell. When his wife showed up, she accused him of cheating. Image from entry; via LH on Facebook


--Constructed in the shadow of Mt Fuji, this theme park opened in 1997. Despite financial help from the Japanese government, it lasted only 10 years before being abandoned; from Jake Heppner, "The 38 Most Haunting Abandoned Places On Earth. For Some Reason, I Can't Look Away...," distractify.com; via GG on Facebook