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, "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 - "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, "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 - "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 - "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 - "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 - 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, Sign reads (loose translation: "The station of fire-prevention propaganda." Via HS on Facebook


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

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