Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Considering working for the Fed?

The US Department of State ranked #5 in a list of the best places to work in the Federal Government. "The overall index score measures the performance of agencies and agency subcomponents related to employee satisfaction and commitment." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked number one, while the Department of Transportation ranking at the bottom.. guess that's not a surprise as the people at the DMV are so notoriously cheerful and helpful. The report also ranks departments by wage/benefits satisfaction, work/life balance satisfaction and even demographics. Considering a career in the Fed.. I suggest you check this out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My second Arab TV appearance- Al Jazeera English

Today I was fortunate enough to attend the Al Jazeera English’s Town Hall: "Changing Channels" at the Newseum. The event was the filming a special half hour program that will air several times in the first week that Al Jazeera English will air for the first time in D.C. Al Jazeera has been virtually black-listed from US networks and is desperately trying to hit US televisions. Finally, starting July 1st it can be seen in the DC Metro area. I personally watch it on Livestation. This town hall, hosted by Josh Rushing, the US Marine turn Al Jazeera correspondent, included a panel discussion on the media’s role in covering the United States from home and abroad, and the challenges faced by international news networks. The panel consisted of AJE's Sir David Frost, analyst Marwan Bishara, host Ghida Fakhry and managing director Tony Burman and was lead by the studio audience's questions. I got one in that I hope makes the cut! The show will be airing starting July 1st so you all will have to wait til then to see my second Arab TV appearance. (The first was the reality TV show On the Road in America which can be seen on the Sundance channel).
Don't live in DC? Visit I want AJE to campaign to get it in your area.


Watch the video of this program here!

State and social media

The Foreign Press Center has officially launched its new Twitter feed. "This new resource includes immediate announcements, updates, and links to the weekly calendar. In addition, receive the latest information on ongoing FPC tours and briefings."

Both State and the FPC have a Facebook page. With that and the Dip Note blog. Looks like State is trying to pull itself into the Web 2.0 era. I have already seen plently of workshops on how to use these new social media sites for State, the White House and even the DOD. Let's see what they post.

STATE DEPARTMENT SOCIAL MEDIA
DipNote Blog
Facebook
YouTube
Flickr
Twitter

Looking for Their Martin Luther King Jr.

I thought this was poetic and thought provoking..

Hamid Dabashi wrote in the New York Times;

"If you were to follow youth culture in Iran at the turn of the century — from
the rise of a fascinating underground music (particularly rap) to a globally
celebrated cinema, an astonishing panorama of contemporary art, video
installations, photography, etc. — you would ha
ve noted the oscillation of this
generation between apathy and anger, frustration and hope, disillusion and
euphoria. In their minds and souls, as in their blogs and chat rooms, they were
wired to the globalized world, and yet in their growing bodies and narrowing
social restrictions trapped inside an Islamic version of Calvinist Geneva."


I think there are parallels in the oscillation of Iranian and American youth. I am not Iranian but I have been fascinated by their culture and history for some years now. The youth, in particular, fascinate me living between this beautiful, historic, ancient, Islamic past and the exciting, modern, twittering, Facebooking, new media future. I watch my Iranian-American friends oscillate between their American realities, lifestyles and their Iranian heritage. Between pride of being Iranian and yet living the Western, modern, American lifestyle fully and without regret. And I have watched many, though appreciating the culture their parents teach them, turning away from a country that is not what they know or stand for. Accepting, as their parents seem to, that their country of origin has been lost to fanaticism. But now this "green revolution" has been sparked by the Iranian youth who live the realities of the Iranian political, economic, and social situation in the country. Who also have their Iranian pride. They are standing up for civil rights, and now the Iranian-American youth, who had all but given up on their country of Iran, stand with them as if they had always been in this fight. Dabashi continues;

"I see the moment we are witnessing as a civil rights movement rather than a
push to topple the regime. If Rosa Parks was the American “mother of the civil
rights movement,” the young woman who was killed point blank in the course of a
demonstration, Neda Agha-Soltan, might very well emerge as its Iranian
granddaughter. If I am correct in this reading, we should not expect an imminent
collapse of the regime. These young Iranians are not out in the streets seeking
to topple the regime for they lack any military wherewithal to do so, and they
are alien to any militant ideology that may push them in that direction. It
seems to me that these brave young men and women have picked up their hand-held cameras to shoot those shaky shots, looking in their streets and alleys for
their Martin Luther King. They are well aware of Mir Hossein Moussavi’s flaws,
past and present. But like the color of green, the very figure of Moussavi has
become, it seems to me, a collective construction of their desires for a
peaceful, nonviolent attainment of civil and women’s rights. They are facing an
army of firearms and fanaticism with chanting poetry and waving their green
bandannas. I thought my generation had courage to take up arms against tyranny.
Now I tremble with shame in the face of their bravery."

I think we all sit in shame. Because now I watch Americans, who just 3 weeks ago did nothing about Iran but discuss if war was the right answer. Not thinking about the people, the youth, the ones we are standing for today. Even those of us who knew war was not the answer, did not fight for civil rights in Iran. And now our Facebook pictures are changed to those who are risking our lives, and we are members of groups that make us feel like we are part of the revolution. Make us feel as if we are playing our part. But what are we doing really but taking credit, pretending to risk our lives along side those, like Neda, who did die and are risking their lives, and uprooting their lives to bring change. When has my generation really risked their comfortable lives, their lavish lifestyles, their actual existence for the right cause? Why Iran? Why now? Why did we not stand so bravely when our own election was in question? Why do we not stand in masses, crying and posting daily as the people in Iraq die? Why is the support for the Sudanese, or the Burmese or the Nepalese nothing more than a trend? And what, once the riots and people of Iran quiet or as they are quieted and the excitement of these last few weeks has died down or become stale.. and other headlines hit CNN and the blogosphere.. what then will those who cared so much about freedom and civil rights and Iran.. what will they do next to bring human rights to the world?

To read the full Hamid Dabashi article visit the NYT site here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Public Diplomacy Blogs

My friend, colleague and all around amazing PD practitioner, Erin Kamler has started her highly anticipated blog about her experiences in Bangkok, Bali, Java, Singapore, Chiang Rai and Phnom Penh. She has been working in a school and combating child trafficking and she has some moving, interesting and emotional stuff. I highly encourage you to check our her travel blog here.

Also, Paul Rockower, renowned scholar, journalist, photographer, friend and classmate has a blog that is pretty well known here but nonetheless if you are into PD, or even just blogging, it's definitley an entertaining one. So check that one out too!

FPC Breifing with Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy, Ambassador Morningstar

In the Foreign Press Center, Foreign Service Officers (FSO) act as regional or thematic officers and manage the foreign media in their region, organize briefings and set up media tours focusing on topics related to their region. The FSO in charge of Eastern Europe set up a briefing with Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar to discuss energy issues in Eurasia and provide a summary of his recent travel to Sweden, Russia and Ukraine. The Ambassador immediately opened up the briefing to questions to foreign media. If you're interested in what was discussed feel free to see this video. The transcript should be posted here soon.



Foreign Press Officers get schooled on FPC


Periodically, the Foreign Press Center welcomes a new class of Foreign Service Information Officers for an orientation what resources the FPC will provide for them when they are "at post." Twenty-eight FSO's (Foreign Service Officers- readers will have to catch up on all the State Department acronyms as long as I do) got ready to go to overseas embassies from London to Kathmandu to Vladivostok (I had to look that one up) to fill Information officer posts from Public Diplomacy Officers to Press Advisers, consular affairs and other positions. The orientation explained how FSO's can nominate important journalists- "opinion makers" in their region to send to the U.S. on a Press Tour that my office puts together and escorts. The purpose is to get international journalists to write more stories about the U.S. actually having been there and talked to Americans about important issues. This is where the public diplomacy comes in, for those of you who are still unsure about what the heck I am getting my degree in.


Monday, June 22, 2009

DC Metro crash

So leaving work today I got on the orange metro line as usual to leave work around 5:30.. business as usual... for me anyway. I started receiving calls about the red line metro that had crashed just 30 minutes prior killing at least 7 people. Family members and friends frantically calling to make sure I was okay. Good to know so many people cared. Thanks! Sad to hear about the deaths. Investigation on the crash is pending.

Reza Pahlavi Speaks Out

Reza Pahlavi, son of the former shah of Iran, spoke to the National Press Club which is a couple floors above the Foreign Press Office. I flashed my State badge, pretended like a VIP and took a seat in the small audience of reporters from CNN and others. Mr. Pahlavi stood in front of the "Shahan-shahie" or shir o khorshid flag. The one with the lion holding a sword (seen here) which, I am told, is waved by Iranians who want to see the monarchy reinstated. I have also heard that there has been some divisions within the Iranian-American community about what path to take in Iran regarding political structure. These issues are discussed in the LA Times blog here.

Pahlavi spoke of how if the protests are put down it will lead to extremism and threaten economic stability. He charged the media audience not to underestimate the role they play in the outcome of the events going on in Iran. He stated that free media must fight the information blackout in Iran and inform their own leaders of the atrocities going on in the country. He often mentioned the Declaration of Human Rights, saying it "knows no boundaries." He stated that the had been in contact with. He talked of guards who got off their shifts and joined the protests when five hours earlier they were beating protesters and those in the Ahmadinijad regime who were contemplating the best way to "jump ship." He also noted reports that the regime was hiring outside forces, such as Hamas, to help quash the resistance.


No one benefits, he said, from "knives and cables cutting into the faces and mouths of our young and old, or from bullets piercing our beloved 'Neda', (a young woman who died on camera from a gun shot during an opposition protests in Iran, and has now become a face of the movement), and other victims of the violent crackdown on the protests. Pahlavi tried very hard not to get emotional but still shed some tears. The moment was very emotional and sincere, and was applauded by the media audience.



The focus of the media's questions, of course, focused on Obama's reaction to the events in Iran among widespread accusations of a too timid response. Pahlavi expressed very carefully that he was encouraged by Obama's recent words and stated a clear distinction between interfering in the Iran's matters and standing for human rights. The media pushed this issue repeat idly but Pahlavi didn't budge from the statement. He did state that non-violent movements seldom succeed without international support and that for the first time in Iranian history, the people have asked for international involvement.


When asked to address the Iran nuclear issue, Pahlavi said, "If I were there today, I would not feel safer if every country had nukes pointed at each other. I don't buy that argument."


Many questions focused on Pahlavi's plan for his role in a new government in Iran. There is some skepticism about Pahlavi's motives in campaigning for change in Iran, as the man who would now be Shah of Iran if it weren't for the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Pahlavi stated that if the people wanted him to run for office in a democratic, secular parliamentary system with a constitution based on the Declaration of Human Rights, he would of course. But insisted that the country was not at that point yet and until then, it was about the will of the people and human rights, not his future there.


Pahlavi announced that "a movement was born," "not an Islamic or anti-Islamic" movement, a"not capitalist or socialist" movement or part of any ideology, but a movements that "cares little about historical conflict" and all about the "sanctity of the ballet box." He charged Khameini with stealing the election and that the "citizens will not stand for it" and in the end "he will not stand" either.



Friday, June 19, 2009

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY’S GLASS CEILINGS

Posted by Alvin Snyder on the USC Center for Public Diplomacy website.

Women in public diplomacy have long been confronted with a glass ceiling in Washington. It seems that their male counterparts in PD now see such a ceiling as well.What caught my eye was a comment last weekend by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. At her 50th class reunion at Wellesley College, Dr. Albright remarked to Boston Globe correspondent Ben Terris that women probably make better diplomats than men."In a lot of ways we do have advantages," she said. "Diplomacy is about being able to put yourself into someone else's shoes, to be able to empathize, figure out their perspective. At the risk of making a gross generalization, women are often much better at that." Maybe that's why, with one exception, all Under-Secretaries of State for Public Diplomacy have been women since the position was created in 1999.President Bill Clinton chose Evelyn Lieberman to be the first State Department chief of public diplomacy. President George W. Bush appointed three women and one man to the job during his two terms in office (Charlotte Beers, Margaret Tutwiler, Karen Hughes and James Glassman), and President Obama selected Judith McHale. Apparently the male presidents who signed off on those presidential appointments could not make up their minds, as that State PD position has been left vacant more than one-third of the time since 1999.It should also be noted that from 1997 to the present, three females have served as Secretary of State (Albright, Condoleezza Rice and now Hillary Clinton), with Colin Powell the lone male. With that new glass ceiling for men at the State Department for the positions of Secretary of State and Under-Secretary for PD, the ceiling for women was shattered at the former U.S. Information Agency, when it was merged into the State Department and the office of the Undersecretary of State for PD was created. It was an all-male director's club at the USIA down through its history, headed by 13 male chiefs during the agency's 46-year existence, 1953-1999 (Streibert, Larson, Allen, Murrow, Rowan, Marks, Shakespeare, Keogh, Reinhardt, Charles Z. Wick, Bruce Gelb, Henry Catto, Duffy).The Voice of America, which was not merged into the State Department, but survived with quasi-independence from public diplomacy and its glass ceiling in tact, has had 27 VOA directors since 1942, all males with two exceptions: Mary Bitterman, 1980-81 and Evelyn Lieberman, 1997-1999. Although a woman's diplomatic skills may not be required for the very top director's position at the VOA — located on the protected side of the public diplomacy firewall — their time to shatter the glass ceiling may yet come.

Shoma be Farsi "Google" va "Facebook" chi migin?

Interesting that both Facebook and Google Translator have added farsi as a supported language on their sites. I've been waiting for this since I started learning the language. I'm wondering how long this affinity and support for the Iranian people will last.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trafficking in Persons In the US




After blogging about the Trafficking in Persons report that was recently released this week, a friend commented that it was interesting (she didn't use the word interested persay.. she was a bit more snide about it) that the U.S. published such report- "pointing fingers at other countries"-when trafficking is such a problem here. So I realized that I failed to mention in my previous post about a sister report came out along with the Trafficking in Persons report. The "Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons Fiscal Year 2008," looks at the trafficking situation in the US. I encourage you all to check it out. Because trafficking is still a problem in this country and the Department of Justice is working to battle it.


"Sadly, there are thousands who are trapped in various forms of enslavement, here in our country….It is a debasement of our common humanity." ~ President Barack Obama

A letter from an Iranian-Jewish-American friend, Tabby-

Here in LA, I’ve been monitoring the events coming from Iran very closely, first for personal investment (I have family in Tehran), and second for SHEER AMAZEMENT at how events have unfolded. You are witnessing history!I know that it may seem like the usual…another fraudulent election in the Middle East, hijacked by the incumbent extremists. But what you are witnessing from Iran on television and the internet is nothing short of SPECTACULAR. I have become very emotional watching the scenes from Tehran, where I was born and where I would have also stood in the streets today. I’ll spare you my own political and regional analysis of what has been occurring in Iran since the June 12th elections, and I'll try to keep it light and airy, like perfectly cooked Persian rice. I will simply say that you are NOT witnessing history because of a potential regime change in Iran. A regime change, which would end the mullahs’ theocratic rule, will not be a by-product of the recent protests, strong as they are (some 5 million people taking to the streets, reportedly). I do not expect an orange or velvet or in Iran’s case, kabob revolution, from all of this. But I am no less EXCITED (yes, I put it in capitals!).Then why 'historic"? It has been amazing to see footage of so many Iranians, average people, young people like me who were born around or after the revolution, in the streets, not only demanding that their vote be counted and counted fairly, but shouting “Death to the Dictator” (Ahmadinejad). Upon seeing the news, my mother noted that she had not seen this type of public outpouring in the streets for thirty years, since the eve of the Revolution in 1979! Ironically, the youth of 1979 poured into the streets …the pictures on their thousands of signs was of none other than…the Ayatollah Khomeini, who ironically, is the antithesis of everything today’s protestors are fighting FOR (he died in the late 1980s). And so it is that the Iranians made their Persian bed in 1979 (welcoming the theocracy into the country), laid in it for 30 years (no sleep number mattresses for them), and have now decided to literally wake up and smell the jasmine tea (coffee is for the Turks). **Why are they so angry? Why do the protestors feel entitled? They are angry because their vote was seemingly neglected. All over the country, not only Tehran, but in Shiraz, Esfahan, and elsewhere, people have demanded a change, literally putting their lives at stake. In addition to feeling robbed of their vote, they cannot fathom how Ahmadinejad could have possibly been re-elected, and by such an ENORMOUS margin. The man who 4 years ago won on the promise of “putting the oil money on your dinner table” has handled one of the most mismanaged economies in the entire world. Inflation is at 30%! Just imagine how much that loaf of delicious pita an Iranian wishes to place at his dinner table costs now. Besides handling the economy with the expertise of a drunken goat, Ahmadinejad has also made the country less safe for the citizens, and they know this. Unfortunately, he has spoken for them for four years, whether they agree with him or not, denying the Holocaust, alienating regional neighbors such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, threatening Israel, the U.S. and the West, and wearing an unforgivably ugly jacket. **Who is the other guy?Moussavi, the “reformist” and “moderate” candidate, claims that he received 25 million votes (Iran’s population stands at 67 million), but that these were swept under the rug. The Interior Minister boldly rejects this claim, but he was appointed by none other than Ahmadinejad. Mousavi even claims that fraudulent final vote results showed that he did not secure the vote even in his own province! How is it possible, he demands? We must also understand that for Iranian leaders, the term “moderate/reformist” means something different than our term in the West. Tabby's Thought of the Day: Do you remember “The Princess Bride”? When they took Wesley to the healer (Billy Crystal), it was official that Wesley was “mostly dead,” instead of completely dead. So it is that a “moderate” Iranian leader is “mostly fanatic,” as opposed to completely fanatic (thanks, Mahmoud). Does the moderate candidate (Moussavi) support Iran having a nuclear weapons program? Yes. Does he spout anti-Israel violent rhetoric? Yes. The main differences, for our purposes, is that Moussavi, had he been elected, may have proven more willing to discuss the possibility of renewed talks, dialogue, and relations with the West. The key word here is “mostly.”It has been reported that over 8 people have been killed so far in the protests. Iranians have a very long memory. My grandmother may recount to you an experience that she had in April 1965, or any other date. These people have now become martyrs in the eyes of the Iranian people, to the chagrin of the regime. No one knows this better than the real man in command, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who will address the nation on Friday and has just asked the ‘Guardian Council’ to review the final election results. The OSCE, it ain’t. The regime has banned all international coverage of the protests and election results. Why? It banned Facebook and Twitter. Ahmadinejad also has his share of supporters…they may clash more and more with those supporting Moussavi in the streets. Police have violently clashed with students at Tehran University…many will remember protests in 1979 at Tehran University SUPPORTING the mullahs (not me, I was not alive then, thank you). Moussavi has declared today a national day of mourning. If he makes it out of his public street speeches among hundreds of thousands (and a few sharpshooters) alive, I will drink to this “mostly fanatic” fanatic for having merely survived. And so we wait and watch with anticipation. Mostly likely, the protests will fizzle down, the West will condemn the election results, but something very important has occured...the wheels have been set into motion. What can the U.S. do to support Iranians seeking democracy? Will Israel sneak in a swift and clean attack of Iranian nuclear sites amidst the distraction of the domestic instability? If the protests continue and Iran finds itself with more dangerous political instability, a desperate regime would impact the entire region, perhaps even ordering proxies Hezbollah or Hamas to begin a new distracting war. But as mentioned, I am highly dubious of any notable regime change, including for individuals. People have been protesting all over the U.S. as well…Iranian Americans from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. I believe that at the end of the day, something snapped in the Iranian people last Friday, upon realizing that they may be faced with four more years of Ahmadinejad and even worse, 12% unemployment, 30% inflation, and nothing to show for their greatest natural resource…their youth…other than instability and misery for 30 years. In the end, the public outcry is more than “mostly” good. It’s phenomenal!

Thoughts?

Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Dish wrote in his blog posting "Neocons For Ahmadinejad":

"Danielle Pletka insists she doesn't want the coup to succeed, she's just making "a sad observation about reality." Now? As the revolt reaches a critical phase? Instead of waiting to see what might happen? Here she pronounces the resistance over:

'The uprising is little more than a symbolic protest, crushed by the elite
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.'
She could write that yesterday? Pletka is a hard-right neocon, very close to the Kagans, and a former aide to Jesse Helms. Her support for Ahmadinejad is the same as Daniel Pipes' and the Mossad's. What we're seeing is how much of the neocon agenda really was about freedom. I have long since stopped believing that, having observed them closely for the past few years. They are about warfare against Israel's perceived enemies, and extending US hegemony to eclipse any rival regional or global power. That is the prism through which you have to watch their every statement. But why is the New York Times giving a platform at this moment to people who got the Iraq war so terribly wrong? Are there no consequences for total neoconservative failure?"'

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Actually...

"So far the only clear winner in this tangled morass is Twitter. And this is illusion. Aside from cute but trite quotes borrowed from historic soundbites like "The revolution will not be televised, it will be Tweeted," (and the annoying tendency to capitalize "Tweeted" (who capitalizes, who ever capitalized "televised"?) Twitter is not the revolutionaries' best friend. Even as I type this Iranian organizers are struggling with inauthentic messages from "the revolution" urging supporters to meetings organized by the secret police, wrestling with proxies to circumvent the secret police's internet blocking efforts, warning of "honey pot" proxies designed to lure in dissenters and record their IP address for later handling by non-cyber means, honing in on Twitter accounts with Iran locations in the profiles and generally using Twitter to spread disinformation. Unlike the anonymous flier, a political Tweet points right back to the Tweeter. Somewhere, someone has a long, long list of IPs to take a look at when (if) all this quiets down."

-Marla Singer

Democracy is...

As one of our assignments for PubD 504: Global Issues and Public Diplomacy, probably the most fun class in the Masters in Public Diplomacy program at USC, we were instructed to create of video submission for the US State Department DemocracyChallenge. My group and one other group in the class won the class "pre-challange." The winners got funding from our program director Nick Cull to actually produce the video and submit it for the challange. I couldn't participate because it was a "conflict of interest" due to my internship here. Anyway, the winners for the contest have been announced. Thought it would be cool to see which one's won. Check it out here.



"What I have witnessed"

A powerful note from a female medical student in Iran, translated from Farsi by a trusty reader.

Hello,

It's painful to watch what's happening.
I don't want anything to do with what has been said this far, as I neither have the strength nor the resilience to face all these unfathomable events.
I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help--I'm sure it will even be worst tonight.
What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?
This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflected on the people. They've put a baton in the hand of every 13-14 year old to smash the faces of "the bunches who are less than dirt" (government is calling the people who are uprising dried-up torn and weeds) .
This is what sickens me from dealing with these issues. And from those who shut their eyes and close their ears and claim the riots are in opposition of the government and presidency!! No! The people's complaint is against the egregious injustices committed against the people.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trafficking in Persons Report

I got to the grind early this morning due to the rollout of the 2009 Trafficking In Persons Report. I went to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to pick up the reports and bring them back to the Foreign Press Center (FPC) to distribute to foreign media who were already waiting for the anticipated report. I spent the morning preparing for the Press Briefing that we hosted later that afternoon. The breifer was Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director of the Trafficking in Persons Office who discussed the report as well as the "Three P's" that they rate countries on: Punishment, Protection, Prevention. He cited the ILO estimate that about 12.3 million people being held in bondage worldwide, of whom they estimated about 1.5 million are for sexual slavery, sexual servitude. He stated that about 25% of countries have not prosecuted any traffickers. He also emphasized that the term "trafficking" didn't just include sex trafficking, which several countries still fail to focus on. This includes debt bonded migrant workers, involuntary domestic servitude and child soldiers. Ambassador CdeBaca stressed that while protecting citizens is the states job, working with civil society and others is critical because often NGOs reach victems in zones the government does not have access to. The report outlined 8 "2009 TIP Report Heroes," people who stood out in the battle against trafficking from across the world and were recognized by Secretary Clinton today.

"Inacio Sebastiao Mussanhane, a Mozambican lawyer, was studying in South Africa
when he heard overheard men talking about high end call girls available in Pretoria. In 2008, he met 3 of the sex slaves of a powerful organized network that lures young girls from Mozambique for sexual exploitation. Posing as a client, Mussanhane went to the brothel and gained the confidence of the girls. Despite attempts by the criminal gang to bribe him, threaten his life, and kidnap him, Mr. Mussanhane began to work closely with the South African police, a local trafficking shelter, the Mozambican embassy, and the South African Ministry of Justice. Police freed the
girls and arrested the network’s organizer. The case went to court in October
2008 and is ongoing. Throughout the case, Mr. Mussanhane has been educating the
Mozambican and South African governments, police, and courts on the nature of
human trafficking. He continues to risk his life to protect the Mozambican
girls, ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators, bring international attention
to the issue, and disrupt a profitable multinational criminal organization."

He also talked about the effects of the current economic crisis on workers, especially foreign guest workers, which become particularly vulnerable "because of the way in which recruitment is often – is too often done, we see a problem in the guest worker programs both abroad and here in the United States, and a number of the tier rankings are affected by countries having large guest worker programs that do not have any safeguards built into them."

Two of the Heroes joined Ambassador in CdeBaca for the briefing, Vera Lesko from Albania and Mariliana Morales BerrĂ­os, from Costa Rica. They told their stories of how important their work is and the challanges they have in their home countries. Both spoke of either corruption or neglect in their governments regarding trafficking. Columbia moved up to Tier 1 and Albania is now a Tier 2 country after being a Tier 3 for many years. The Ambassador talked about the consequences for countries who are on the 3rd tier or continue to be on the 2nd tier. Apparenlty, those on tier 2 for 2 years in a row are bumped to tier 3, and those on tier 3 are sanctioned by the U.S.
"There are a few very positive countries that I’d like to single out. I can’t talk about Nigeria enough, actually. It's a country that within five years has gone from Tier 2 Watch List on the cusp of Tier 3, and because of political will, because of some talented detectives, because of a willingness to work with NGOs and actually do cases, has seen an upward trend in their prosecutions, has seen an improvement on how they treat victims, and as a result is a welcome addition to the list of Tier 1 countries."

I suggest everyone at least read the Victims' Stories of the report. Sad stuff.
Coincidentally, I watched the documentary Born Into Brothels last night. Sad and interesting film about a women who gives camaras to children born to prostitutes in red light district of Calcutta. The film can be watched here. I suggest it if this topic interests you and especially if you don't realize how bad a problem it is.



Friday, June 12, 2009

Elections in Iran


I am listening to the news coming in about today's Iranian elections and hearing contradicting reports about incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his reformist challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi.. this is making me nervous. I am really hoping that Moussavi wins even though I do realize the Supreme Leader runs things and probably not a whole lot will change. Maybe I am being naive about it mattering who wins. I just get the feeling it would be a good sign for future Iran-US relations. It's too soon to tell for sure, most likely we won't know for sure til after the weekend. It seems Iranian youth have rocked the vote, which is great. Though, it's hard to tell how free and fair the elections actually are. I don't know why I am so anxious about this. Anyway, an Iranian friend of mine sent me this short interview with Mr. Mosavi with Al Jazeera English for anyone interested.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CNAS, Petraeus and my first encounter with Under Secretary for PD McHale

Today my colleagues invited me to the Center for a New American Security’s third annual conference, “Striking a Balance: A New American Security”. The conference was at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, which- as I learned- was where "Lobbyists" got their name by lingering in the lobby of the Willard Hotel during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. The conference offered recommendations on how to strike a balance between immediate and long-term national security challenges facing the United States, including topics such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The agenda consisted many interesting speakers, including General Petraeus, whose remarks can be read here. The panel entitled "Triage: The Next 12 Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan" was very insightful. It talked of the need for a population centric approach to our actions there needed to be instated. Also, according to the recommendations presented at the panel, it must be remembered that Afghanistan is not Iraq. The report also stressed the importance of measuring progress not in terms of enemies killed but rather in #s of civilians shielded. One of the panelists, Andrew J. Bacevich, a Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University, said a minimalist approach should be taken in Afghanistan. He proposed that the US should build schools, build security measures, and fight corruption and crime in Mexico but added that anyone who suggest this is laughed at, while anyone who suggests such in Afghanistan is held as a savior. He concluded that as long as the US maintains moderate defenses, Al Qeada "in their caves, only pose a moderate threat." This was obviously a heretical statement, but the audience audience of Generals, military, research analysts, and scholars applauded his ideas. Another speaker, a General in the Army, stated that Afghans are more frustrated with US incompetence than their presence in their country.

An interesting anecdote;
A TV producer bought the rights to broadcast the American TV show "24" in Afghanistan. An army solider explained that in the show all the villains were Muslim. The Muslim producer said that he polled Afghans and apparently no one cared as long as they weren't Afghans.

The highlight of the conference for me was the keynote speaker, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale. She talked of how governments normally inclined to support US policies back away if their publics don't trust the US. She stressed how public diplomacy can help in these situations. She also talked about how PD cannot be seen as only wearing combat boots. There also needs to be a civilian force. She noted that sufficient financial resources are not available from the State Department and stressed her full commitment to reaching out to other departments for resources. She spoke of how enhanced PD is a key part of Presidential strategy in the Middle East, including providing a platform for moderate Muslims in the region. Her full transcript can be found here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Do's on Day Two

My office asked me for a good web resource that showcased public diplomacy tools that could be used by the Foreign Press Office. I referred them to the USC Center on Public Diplomacy website since, of all the web searches and online research I have done, is the most comprehensive site of its kind out there. The site has events, blogs, research, reports, media monitors, book reviews, etc. I also referred them to PD Corp a new Facebook resource for any one interested in PD tools, resources and networking. I am proud to be part of both these organizations and encourage any one who wants to know more to visit their sites.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My first day at the Foreign Press Center




So my first day and the Foreign Press Center (FPC) in Washington, D.C. has been as exciting as hoped. After getting my cubicle set up and all that good stuff, I sat in on a briefing by Tom Korologos, former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium and Strategic Advisor at DLA Piper. He spoke to foreign press about the Senate confirmation process from his experience as one of Washington’s most experienced and prominent political advisers.

Then I joined my first FPC staff meeting in which we discussed upcoming briefings, press tours and events. My job over the next few months will be to assist in such tours and briefings which this department organizes for foreign media. I am very excited because I already see where my public diplomacy training will come in and it will be great to use what I have learned at school. I then sat in on a press tour meeting to help plan an upcoming event which will be announced soon.

This first day went by pretty quickly, I am excited to be here. My new colleagues, which consists of foreign service officers and civil service officers as well as producers and film people, are all very welcoming and ensure me I will have plenty of "real" and interesting work to do. It's good to know that it won't be all getting coffee and making copies. The worst part is trying to figure out what they heck everyone is talking about with all the acronyms they use here. But people are happy to explain things to me so that's nice. The USC Master's in Public Diplomacy program is well known here so I am in good company. It's refreshing not to have to explain what PD is and be surrounded by those who speak the language.

The State Intern program in general has set up several events each week for interns to attend pending their office work allows it. Such events include brown bag lunches with diplomats and other experts in the department, and tours of places like the White House and the Supreme Court. My supervisors have encourage me to attend the events I am interested in and also let them know if there are others that they can help set up for me or let me tag along with them. I am very excited! Keep following to hear more. I got approval to blog much of what I am doing so I'll try to keep up with all my exciting events.