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:

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