Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21

"Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed."

--Bertrand Russell; Via MB on Facebook; Russell image from


A ‘Happy’ tribute video brings unhappiness in Iran - Nick Kirkpatrick, Washington Post: Six young Iranians were reportedly arrested Monday and forced to repent on state television for creating a homemade video cover of the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”


Democrats Do Boko Haram Kabuki, Republicans Lead - Jason Poblete, "For several years ... Congressional Republicans have been warning that the Obama Administration needed to do more to combat the Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad (a.k.a., Boko Haram). The beheadings, crucifixion, or conversions are reason enough. But those are symptoms of a much more bigger problem. The Obama Administration has repeatedly ignored GOP requests to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization because it is politically inconvenient to do so. ... The abduction

of school age girls, to the Obama Administration, is an inconvenient reminder that the war against radical Islam is far from settled. ... The Obama Administration and other progressive Democrats in Congress may try run from reality, and treat it, erroneously, as a law enforcement or public affairs matter. The law and public diplomacy only take you so far. There are other tools that need using, including the military and other efforts. African nations need U.S. help to stem the growth of radical Islamic terror groups as well as deal with those who support them." Image from

- Ron Nixon, New York Times: “A bill to overhaul Voice of America has prompted an intense debate among supporters of the legislation who say it will better enable the broadcast news service to counter Russian disinformation and opponents who say it will turn the service into an American propaganda tool. The legislation, which recently passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with bipartisan support, would make changes to the mission of the government-financed Voice of America that its sponsors say would more clearly define its role in support of the United States. Specifically, the bill revises the language of Voice of America’s mission to explicitly state that the outlet has a role in supporting American 'public diplomacy' and the policies of the government. The full House is expected to take up the bill as early as this summer. The Senate is working on a similar bill. Representative Ed Royce, the California Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the legislation was essential in the face of negative and inaccurate information increasingly disseminated about the United States abroad. 'While countries like Russia have been working 24/7 on their information campaigns, V.O.A. has abandoned its mission to effectively promote the policies of the U.S. even though its charter is clear in this regard,' Mr. Royce said. Representative Ed Royce calls the legislation essential. But the bill, the latest in a decades-old debate in foreign policy circles about the role of Voice of America, has prompted a backlash from journalists, many of whom work at the news service once run by Edward R. Murrow and who pride themselves on the organization’s independence. 'The only thing V.O.A. has left is its reputation, built over decades, as a credible news organization,' said one veteran journalist at the service who asked not to be identified criticizing the legislation. 'Changing our focus from straight news to policy promotion will undercut any efforts to keep or build our audience.' … Mr. Royce said the bill would not turn the broadcast service into a government messaging tool because it provided safeguards to keep the government from dictating content. Walter Isaacson, a former chairman of the Board of Governors as well as a former chairman and chief executive of CNN, said that the legislation was a response to changing times and that Voice of America should have a dual mission to clearly present American policy as well as provide objective news.

‘Russia has returned to its old Pravda-like disinformation tactics, China and the Arab nations are creating sophisticated new broadcasts, and Twitter and social networks are changing the game,’ Mr. Isaacson said. ‘We need to respect Edward R. Murrow’s legacy while realizing that even he would be changing with the new technologies and threats.’ James K. Glassman, another former board chairman, said he agreed with the move to tweak the mission of Voice of America. ‘It’s supposed to be this journalism organization and at the same time support U.S. foreign policy,’ Mr. Glassman said. ‘This comes into conflict all the time, and I believe Congress is right to address it.’ But D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, a former member of the Board of Governors, called the legislation problematic because, he said, it would fundamentally change the way the service operated. ‘The V.O.A. has a pure journalistic mission and it always has,’ Mr. Hirschberg said. ‘It doesn’t do messaging or propaganda. Any legislation that alters the journalistic mission would be unfortunate.’ Inside Voice of America, the legislation has created widespread fear among staff members who have long considered themselves professional journalists rather than spokesmen for government policy. During a recent staff meeting, journalists angrily voiced their concerns to managers. One journalist said the broadcast network could see a mass exodus if the legislation passed. Dan Robinson, who worked at the service for more than two decades before retiring this year, said the legislation would create additional problems if passed into law: It could endanger the lives of journalists and broadcasters who work abroad. 'So do foreign governments now start seeing journalists from V.O.A. as agents of U.S. policy rather than as journalists?' he said. 'That’s a real concern.'" Royce image from entry

Robinson comments on Pessin’s article in The Hill - Former Voice of America (VOA) senior White House correspondent Dan Robinson, who had retired earlier this year, posted a comment under an article on The Hill website written by Al Pessin, a senior Voice of America foreign correspondent, currently based in London. Pessin was expressing his private views  and concerns about the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490). ... COMMENT BY DAN ROBINSON [:] 'Understandably, current and former VOA journalists fear that H 4490 could be the final nail in the coffin when it comes to VOA’s credibility as a news organization. What they don’t discuss much is that the 'agenda' — advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives, and now being stated much more clearly by lawmakers, national security objectives — has always been part of the picture. I retired from VOA this past February after 35 years with the organization, the last four as Chief White House Correspondent, fed up with both institutional schizophrenia, mismanagement, and mistreatment of employees I saw playing out. And I have concluded it is time to call a spade a spade, and put an end to the long running debate about the mission of VOA and all U.S. international media. Indeed, the current BBG, headed by Jeff Shell, stated in its FY 2015 budget submission, that it 'practices objective journalism, great journalism, but not as an end in itself. Rather, there is a purpose: to support U.S.national security interests.' In recent years, rarely a board meeting took place without one or another official referring to the various pieces of U.S. international broadcasting as 'national security assets'. If VOA, and an envisioned Freedom News Network, are more broadly and publicly connected with U.S. policy by way of HR 4490, there will be no more masquerading as policy advocacy under the label of journalism, as one of my former colleagues has put it.

Importantly, this is also a time for the various professional journalist organizations in Washington and perhaps overseas, to state clearly where they stand when it comes to the Voice of America, and other U.S. government-funded media outlets. Amid complaints by VOA journalists, HR 4490 is being bolstered with language to protect journalism there. But there is no getting around that the bill will associate VOA and the 'surrogate' media outlets even more closely with the Executive Branch. Just the fact that this is being discussed should probably prompt a review by professional organizations that accredit VOA and other outlet reporters. In the House and Senate Radio/TV galleries, VOA occupies physical reporting space, but is restricted to non-voting status. Yet, guidelines state that members 'not be employed in any legislative or executive department or independent agency of the Government.' In contrast, at the White House VOA has full voting status in the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA). It also has one of a few much-coveted physical reporting booths in the White House media gallery, and has an even more coveted seat in the Brady Press Briefing Room. Given HR 4490′s call for establishing a new International Communications Agency, intensified links between it and the Secretary of State and other government departments, and lawmaker’s call for it to more intensively serve public diplomacy and national security interests, it’s an appropriate moment for questions to be asked.” Robinson image from entry

Deutsche Welle does Voice of America’s reporting job on Hunter Biden and Ukraine - BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: The Voice of America (VOA) English website did not have a news report on Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, joining the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas company.

Despite wide international interest and reporting on this controversial news story, including one-sided reports by RT and Voice of Russia, Voice of America English News ignored it. Al Jazeera, BBC, and countless other major international and U.S. media outlets reported on Hunter Biden and his Ukraine connection in English and in other languages. ...Deutsche Welle, on the other hand, did have not one, but two news reports on Hunter Biden that were accurate, balanced and comprehensive — a requirement for the Voice of America under its Charter. Image from entry

RFE/RL praised for StoryMap, multimedia reporting comparisons with VOA and DW - BBG Watcher, “Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) “made this brilliant interactive map of Moscow’s coercive diplomacy using the open source tool: story map, author of A Field Guide for Mobile Journalism, Robb Montgomery, reported on his website.

StoryMap is a free and easy-to-use tool that journalists can use now to create exclusive, Web-native multimedia story experiences.” Image from entry

Tweeting at terrorists: US's social media battle with online jihad: US State Department has launched an experimental unit to fight al-Qaeda ideologists on Twitter across the web. But can it actually stop terrorism? [includes video] - Raf Sanchez, "Mr [Alberto] Fernandez is the head of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), an experimental unit of the State Department intended as America's answer to the digital propaganda put out by al-Qaeda and other extremists. The CSCC was created in 2011 and for the last three years its team of operators have worked in Arabic, Urdu and Somali as they trawl through the murky world of online jihad.

But its newer English language Twitter account has attracted the most attention, mainly for the spectacle of the US government arguing publicly on the internet with supporters of al-Qaeda. Where most State Department Twitter feeds post only platitudes and rarely respond to other users,@ThinkAgain_DOS is caustic and high tempo and actively looks for places to start fights. … In purely numerical terms the jihadists also seem to have the upper hand. CSCC's most popular Twitter account, which focuses on Pakistan, has fewer than 6,000 followers while many of its opponents boast tens of thousands. The CSCC retains the support of both Rick Stengel, the former editor of Time who is now the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy, and Ed Royce, the Republican chair of the House foreign affairs committee, which oversees its $5 million budget. In a statement, Mr Royce said that aggressively confronting al-Qaeda online ‘must be a fundamental part of overal US counterterrorism strategy’. … In his office in Washington, Ambassador Fernandez acknowledges that in a war of words it is difficult to give metrics of success. "The holy grail would be someone saying 'I was a terrorist but I changed my mind because of you.' I don't have a firm example of that," he says. Instead, he offers a dozen examples of what he says are signs that the online jihadists are rattled by the CSCC's work." Image from entry, with caption: "Our goal is not to make people love the US. Our goal is to make al-Qaeda look bad."

Department of State Public Schedule, May 21, 2014 - "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS RICHARD STENGEL 1:00 p.m. Under Secretary Stengel attends the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s CEO Committee Meeting, at the VOA Building, in Washington, DC. (MEDIA DETERMINED BY HOST)"

Interview: Jose L. Cuisia, Ambassador of the Republic of Philippines to the United States: The Wisdom of Balancing Political Strategy, Economic Policy, and Public Diplomacy with Good Old-Fashioned People to People Relations - Stuart W. Holliday, Diplomatic Courier.

Uncaptioned image from entry

Exclusive interview with Gal Rudich, Head of new media Section at the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Digital Diplomacy Unit - "Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to further my study of Israel’s Digital Diplomacy by interviewing Gal Rudich, Head of New Media Section at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Gal spoke to me about the Israeli digital diplomacy model, how the ministry coordinates digital diplomacy messages at the ministry and embassy level, how the ministry has been able to create a vibrant online community at its social media channels and how sees the future of digital diplomacy. ... [Q:][W]hat do you think the future has in store for digital diplomacy? A: I started this job over three years ago and had no predecessor. Today, I am part of a section which I believe will become bigger and bigger. In time it will turn into a division in size. There is now a growing recognition in the ministry, as there is around the world, of the central importance of digital diplomacy as a basic tool of public diplomacy, of its awesome potential and impact. But, there is also an understanding of how demanding it is and of the manpower necessary in order to reach that potential."

Public diplomacy .. Why? [Google "translation"] - Imad Mudaifer, "Became public diplomacy Public Diplomacy in recent times, of the leading scientific issues that are being circulated and debated in the field of political communication, that were not highlighted at all in this century AD (atheist twenty) marked Informatics, where escalating attention and crystallized the idea since late last century , then it soon assumed a high profile among the most prominent universities and scientific institutes specialized international, even when governments in developed countries, scientifically, militarily and industrially, and eventually become, without exaggeration, her main concern. It established several schools and institutes and scientific departments specialized academic in the field of public diplomacy (or public diplomacy) with the most prestigious American and European universities. ... And public diplomacy aimed at addressing the people and public opinion in other countries through the formation of political parties and non-official in the fabric of society that expresses the vital sectors, and

thus differs from the official diplomatic concerned only with governments. It also includes aspects and activities that engage the State in order to take care of the national interests at the formal and informal, including aspects of the media, art, and development support, and scientific exchange, culture, seminars and talk shows, and so on. The focus of public diplomacy, according to the definition of the center of public diplomacy CPD at the University of Southern California USC mentioned in its website on the roads used by the states) or international organizations like the United Nations) to communicate with citizens in other societies, diplomacy popular affecting stems from the fact that the dialogue is the central means to achieve foreign policy goals, which must be considered to public diplomacy as a dual carriageway. It should be noted here that public diplomacy is not trying to formulate messages that you would like the state is sent to the outside only, but are also analyzed ways to interpret these messages in different communities, says Moataz Abdel Fattah said in the paper presented at a seminar of public diplomacy the U.S. toward the Arab world at the University of Cairo in 2006: 'It's a public diplomacy is trying to answer the question of how these communities have received the message, and how Vsrōha?'" Mudaifer image from entry

Summer Seminar “A Polish History Challenge. How to Learn, How to Teach?” The project is co-financed by the

Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a part of the programme Cooperation in the Field of Public Diplomacy 2014." Image from entry

LaSor and Farmer follow up on Gabriel Garcia Marquez - "Guy Farmer was a career USIA officer specializing in public diplomacy, with multiple assignments in South America and the Caribbean, including Grenada during the invasion."

USC Dornsife Scholars: The four new Dornsife Scholars combine the talents sought in USC’s Discovery, Renaissance and Global Scholars programs with an added emphasis on positive human impact - Susan Bell, "Marissa Roy, a philosophy, politics and law major. A progressive degree

student, she will also graduate with a master’s of public diplomacy offered through a joint program at USC Dornsife and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism." Roy image from entry


White House accuses Russia of anti-U.S. propaganda war in Ukraine - Paul Richter, Russia has warned for weeks that American security contractors like those accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007 have been ordered into Ukraine to guide the interim government's crackdown on Russian-speaking separatists. This month, corroboration seemed to appear in a photo that showed five men dressed in black and carrying assault weapons on a featureless city street.

State Department officials say the men were New Orleans police or contractors trying to prevent looting after the 2005 hurricane. The photo, they say, was doctored by "Kremlin-sponsored websites" to remove the sign of an American fast-food joint. They did not identify the websites, but the photo has rocketed around social media. "The Internet is a wonderful thing, and eventually people can find out where photographs came from," said Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "The allegations that there are somehow 'U.S mercenaries' operating in Ukraine are false." U.S. diplomats can expose such manipulations of the truth, but they're not likely to deter Moscow from trying to make its case, according to the Carnegie Endowment's Andrew Weiss. "This is cardinal to the way Russia pursues foreign policy," he said. "We're in a relentless propaganda war of attrition." Image from entry, with caption: A pro-Russia militant looks through binoculars at a checkpoint on the road from Donetsk to Mariupol in Ukraine on May 15.

Eastern Ukraine: Is Russia Really Winning the Propaganda War? - Juliane Fürst: The one-sentence answer to this two-pronged question is, “Yes and both.” The two-paragraph answer to this question will run something along the lines of, “Yes; maybe; we do not know; and there is nothing like a perfect propaganda operation.” In short, Russian propaganda is not perfect and not everything that sounds like it, deserves the pedigree.

Stop forcing Ukraine into a narrative of Moscow versus Washington: We are told that this is a geopolitical battle instead of an attempt by ordinary Ukrainians to take back control from the oligarchs - Oliver Bullough, Anyone who tells you Ukraine is a battle between Russia and the west is wrong. It is a lazy narrative told by ignorant people, but is helping create a genuine tragedy that we should all be concerned about. Insiders snatched Ukraine's industries, with particularly powerful business clans in the cities of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk. They fought for control of the government in Kiev, but all had the same basic interest: to perpetuate chaos. The longer Ukraine was a mess, the richer they got. This was not Russia against the west; everyone piled in. Ukraine was a modern Prometheus, chained to the ground, while vultures of all geopolitical persuasions companionably pecked at its liver. This is what the revolution is about: Ukrainians trying to wrest control of their country from the oligarchs of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk and elsewhere who – with help from east and west – have robbed them for 23 years. The east against west story does have one beneficiary: the Kremlin. In Ukraine Moscow is trying to preserve a crooked regime against the wishes of Ukrainians who want to live with dignity, because the old ways made it money. It also fears a united and stable Ukraine would join Nato. Russia is deploying its propaganda apparatus to present this as an ideological struggle rather than a mercenary one. RT, the channel formerly known as Russia Today, addresses the outside world, while state television channels bombard Russian-speakers with denunciations of the "fascists" in Kiev.

Journalists who grew up in a world when Moscow and the west were equal adversaries feel comfortable in this narrative. It's far easier to sell Ukraine if it's Czechoslovakia 1968, rather than a messy failed state, a European Congo. Journalists They should remember this is about ordinary Ukrainians, not about Moscow or Washington. And they should be aware that their lazy judgments are tomorrow's incendiary propaganda. Image from entry, with caption: A group of Maidan guards outside the parliament building in Kiev

US parrots Kiev claims detained Russian journalists were ‘aiding terrorists’ - Washington has failed to condemn the detention of Russian journalists by Ukrainian troops, instead parroting Kiev’s accusations that they were abetting terrorists. The US appears to be biased in its attitude towards media professionals working in Ukraine.

Pushing the Kremlin Line - Bill Powell, Newsweek : Dmitry Konstantinovich Kiselev calls himself a journalist, and since last December, in addition to his weekly television duties, he heads the news service Rossiya Sevodnya (Russia Today)—created by the Kremlin after the shutdown of its predecessor, RIA Novosti, which had been one of Russia’s primary wire services. Kiselev, as a vehicle for Russia’s propaganda, is undeniably having an impact, which is why there will undoubtedly be lots more of it to come.

“We always had propaganda in Russia,” says Mikhail Zygar, the director of Rain TV, an independent network that lost its right to broadcast earlier this year, “but for the first time it’s very effective. Both the Kremlin’s politics and its propaganda are giving people something they had missed for decades, a feeling of pride.” Image from entry, with caption: The man behind 'Russia Today' stokes a nation’s growing chauvinism

Let Ukrainians decide what's best for Ukraine - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: The calibrated sanctions the United States and its European allies have imposed on prominent Russian figures — with threats of broader sanctions if Russia undermines the election — may have had some success in checking further Russian adventurism. Given the historic ties between Ukraine and Russia, it's understandable that Putin would advocate that the new government of Ukraine embrace measures such as greater decentralization and official status for the Russian language. But that civilized conversation will be impossible unless Russia recognizes that Ukrainians have the first and final say about their political arrangements.

A Finland model for Ukraine? - David Ignatius, Washington Post: e Obama administration's dispute with the Kremlin over the unrest in Ukraine has turned to a new controversy: whether heavily armed men in a grainy image are trigger-happy American mercenaries in Ukraine or a police SWAT team in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Maybe the elections will dull the self-flagellating domestic rhetoric in the United States that Putin’s menacing moves were somehow the fault of President Obama and his allegedly weak foreign policy. Obama has made mistakes, especially in the Middle East, but his Ukraine policy mostly has been steady and correct. He recognized that the United States had no military options and fashioned a strategy that, with German help, seems to have deterred Putin from further recklessness. The case for “Finlandization” of Ukraine emerges in a monograph prepared recently by the State Department’s Office of the Historian. It argues that “Finnish foreign policy during the Cold War successfully preserved Finland’s territorial and economic sovereignty, through adherence to a careful policy of neutrality in foreign affairs.” Ukraine’s new government may pursue a similar nonalignment.

The U.S. is solidly behind Mexico's president, but his own people aren't. Now what? - John M. Ackerman, Los Angeles Times: After 17 months in office, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's bubble has burst, but no one seems to have noticed. U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry should use his visit to Mexico City this week to radically rethink policy toward this important southern neighbor. It would be a mistake for the U.S. to trust a man whose only interest appears to be his personal wealth and power. President Obama has placed all his bets on Peña Nieto. In his recent visits to the country, the president has showered his Mexican counterpart with praise and extolled the virtues of his supposedly "modernizing" program. But today Peña Nieto has the lowest public approval rating of any president in recent Mexican history. Peña Nieto will be eager to shake hands and take photographs with Kerry this week, but it would be a mistake for the U.S. to trust a man whose only interest appears to be his personal wealth and power. The real hope in Mexico will not come from the commanding heights of Mexico's government or oligarchs but from the actions of common people defending their rights.

Go Beyond Diplomacy on Syria - Jonathan Stevenson, New York Times:Along with President Obama, most Americans disapprove of direct military intervention in Syria.

They believe it would immerse the United States in another Middle East war with unpredictable consequences. They much prefer a diplomatic solution. They are correct. But Syria is not as distant a threat as some believe, and limited, discreet military assistance to the Syrian opposition could enhance American security and make diplomacy more likely to succeed. Image from entry

The Military, Again, Takes Over in Thailand - Editorial, New York Times: Under the pretext of restoring “peace and order,” the military of Thailand imposed martial law in that politically troubled country early Tuesday morning. It’s the latest in a series of disturbing developments that will further undermine the country’s democracy and its economy. The commander of the Thai Army, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, insists that he has not staged a coup. But it’s hard to describe what has happened as anything but a coup. The State Department on Tuesday called on the Thai Army to “honor its commitment to make this a temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions.” The Obama administration should make clear to General Prayuth that it does not support his actions and he should immediately restore civilian rule by holding elections. Far from restoring peace and order, military coups have played a huge role in weakening Thailand’s democracy and its economy.


Via AC on Fcebook

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