Thursday, April 28, 2005

Beacon No. 32: After Dizzy, Who?


The New York Times recently detailed the discovery of an hour-long concert recorded at Carnegie Hall in November 1957. It's historically significant because it's one of the few times John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk can be heard playing in the same band, and the concert was pretty much forgotten until recently. The tape of the concert was made for Voice of America, which in the 1950s helped promote jazz music abroad as an expression of American creative freedom and musical innovation.

The State Department had just sent Dizzy Gillespie and an integrated jazz band on a goodwill tour of the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America in 1956, according to John Brown's invaluable Public Diplomacy Press Review for the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. The point was to showcase jazz and counteract Soviet propaganda that portrayed the whole U.S. in the light of the Jim Crow South.

(Brown cites the April 15 Times Literary Supplement for this nugget, but alas, there's no link; Univ. of Michigan associate professor Penny von Eschen wrote the story, probably as an excerpt of her just-published Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War.)

Jazz was all that in the 1950s, but what about today? Could State really send a jazz band abroad right now and expect it to win points? The form is hardly avant-garde anymore.

There's classical music, which will always reel in other countries' elites; but its cultural reach is necessarily limited and ... well ... slightly European, although Japan and China both have first-rate classical operations.

Country-and-western? Forgive me, Madame Secretary, but the world may have had its fill of cowboy hats, although some retro steel-guitar vibes might be welcome overseas.

That leaves rap and rock, and what else? I asked several people who are knowledgeable about what the kids are listening to the following question: Which American artists could you send overseas today as exemplars of American values like creative freedom, hard work, free expression and other positive stuff?

Replies came back quickly. One wag suggested the Marine Corps Marching Band, and we were off to the races, with one correspondent observing:

In the "rock" genre, Springsteen would make a good cultural ambassador for the US, but it would probably only happen in a Democratic administration. He's the closest thing there is to Woodie Guthrie ... unless you count Arlo Guthrie.

Britney Spears would be good to send broad, just to get her out of the country.

John Fogerty would be good for the same reasons as Springsteen.

I'd also send Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which is [Creedence Clearwater Revival] without John Fogerty, just to show the rest of the world what happens in America when lawyers get involved.

Another correspondent agreed:

What happened to roots rock, man? It's the core of what's best about American music—Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams.

This same writer also wondered about how much musical context foreign citizens have when they hear American music in the first place:

I once saw a kid on the main street of Kiev, playing guitar, surrounded by mopey young adoring girls. I walked closer and realized he was playing and phonetically singing "Rape Me" by Nirvana.

Another wondered about rappers and a possible jazz/hip-hop combo:

Too bad Ray Charles is gone.

"Clean" hip hop, i.e. non-gangsta bitch ho 187 stuff. Problem: Usually it's by college-educated brothers (and white boys) who rip on U.S. foreign policy. See Beasties. And it'll still get tarred with the violent sex-crazed rep of ghetto asshole hip-hop. And it behooves the listener to comprehend rapid-fire English, and slang.

But it's about the only thing young people in other countries would probably care about.

Jazz again is not a bad idea at all—universal language, and it would even have symbolic value as a repeat—but it would have to be giants. Also, jazz + hip hop has been done, but it would take the edge off rap's "ugly American culture." A ripping jazz band with a couple old gods and a couple superhot enlightened rappers to bring out the kids.

Or just hire Bono.

Finally, one reply talked at length about sampling and mash-ups, the electronic mixing of two different—often wildly different—songs, changing their tempos and phase-shifting the voices to make a seamless blend. It's become an underground club phenom—underground because mash-ups live and breathe copyright infringement.

... You might want to think about folks like Beck, DJ Spooky, DJ BC, Beastie Boys, and some artists who come later in the alphabet. All these folks are pushing the boundaries of music with innovative uses of sampling and mashing. In no uncertain terms, the work they are doing/inspiring others to do is adding a very interesting perspective to the current debate around digital copyrights. (And as an aside, you should check out The Beastie Boys have released a song with a creative commons license. And as an aside to the aside, NIN (Nine Inch Nails to some of you) just released an entire track in Apple's Garage Band file format to encourage people to cut it up and play with it.

While giving these people passports and ambassador-type responsibilities might seem foolish or an act of subversive support for a clear leftist agenda to insure that no one can ever make money off music again, I think that extolling the virtues of technical innovation and demonstrating the natural tension that exists in (rapidly diminishing) democracy would be a valid thing to show the world. After all, did we not clearly establish a framework in the Constitution so that "Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts. ..." The founders were well aware that democracy cannot and will not flourish without an active and empowered intellectual community exploring, poking, innovating and otherwise trying to figure out how to make [the Beatles'] "Day Tripper" and [the Beastie Boys'] "Triple Trouble" sound even better than hawks and doves playing with one another.

Finally, if none of you have heard the "Beastles," you should check it, check it out. Beastie Boys songs mixed with Beatles tracks. It might be the best thing to happen to the Fab Four since they stated they were more popular than Jesus.

So I looked, at the Beastles and much more. Mash-ups crackle with energy, at least in the West. DJs from San Francisco to the U.K. to France are in the game, squeezing together bands and songs that have no business occupying the same time zone, let alone the same track.

It seems like mashers are required to have a sense of humor to get in the game, judging from the humorous album-cover art and song titles that accompany most tracks. I particularly love "Hey Ladies Night," which combines the Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies" with Kool and the Gang's "Ladies Night."

There's also LenLow's "To the Taxmobile!," which mashes the old Batman TV-show theme with the Beatles' "Taxman" and Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

Mash-ups are largely presented live or given away over the Web, and anyone with an MP3 player can download them. Mashing seems easy to learn and tough to master, judging by the commentary I saw on some of the sites.

In short, like our other recent exports—from skateboarding all the way back to, yes, jazz—mash-ups are everything people like about America: technical virtuosity, curiosity, humor, creativity and a dash of harmless criminality. If we could just get around some copyright problems and rain mash-ups and mashers on the world. ...

I'll leave the strictly old-school among you with "Rap Riders," a stellar combo of the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" and Blondie's "Rapture." It's even danceable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Explaining Desperate Housewives to Disparate Arabs


Among the many who have given advice to public diplomacy undersecretary-designate Karen Hughes is Arnaud de Borchgrave, whose April 16 Washington Times column laments an American entertainment landscape that definitely does not have Ms. Hughes' back:

Islam's clerics have had a field day convincing their congregations that "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex in the City" are true reflections of U.S. secret weapons to destroy Islam. Military might to impose depravity is how the Bush doctrine and its crusade for democracy are explained in countless mosques throughout the Middle East.

Try explaining to sophisticated Arab audiences, let alone the uneducated masses, that New York is not truly representative of the United States. For most foreign visitors, New York is America. If television is not an accurate reflection of manners and mores in the United States, then how does one explain the Olympian ratings of sleaze?
Mr. de Borchgrave continues into a standard denunciation of "smut and muck" on the airwaves, but to riff from his main point: Ms. Hughes once ran a 24/7 White House war room that counteracted Taliban and Iraqi propaganda. Should she develop a similar operation that explains to Arab audiences that the U.S. isn't amoral, it just plays one on TV?

Friday, April 22, 2005

What They Say About What We Do


Watching America translates and catalogs stories about the U.S. from media outlets around the world, providing a useful window into how Poles, Ghanaians, Cubans, Koreans and others think about the United States and how they react to U.S. moves. The site also tries to include links to audio, video, and original stories and transcripts, allowing linguistically inclined readers to double-check translations for spin.

Some of the themes will be familiar to readers of U.S. newspapers (overseas attacks on favorite whipping boy Paul Wolfowitz, Cuban accusations that the U.S. is up to no good, etc.) but most will not be. The sheer range of possible interpretation of U.S. actions can be startling.

The Middle East Media Research Institute performs a similar function to Watching America's, although it focuses exclusively on the Middle East, layers its own analyses over native-language source materials, and includes many stories that are unflattering to the Arab nations (crazy lawsuits against "the Jews" for stealing trillions of tons of Egyptian gold during the Exodus; tales of U.S. soldiers stripping Iraqi corpses for their flesh and/or organs) .

Compare and contrast. Both sites are sure broaden any diet of American news and liven up a slow domestic news day.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Beacon No. 31: Like a Good Neighbor, Americans Are There?


Keith Reinhard, the chairman of advertising giant DDB Worldwide (formerly Doyle Dane Bernbach), has spent decades selling American brands in the U.S. and abroad. But according to a 2004 article in The Economist, Reinhard and others became worried that rising anti-Americanism abroad was doing permanent damage to U.S. products' competitiveness:

In a long career in advertising, Keith Reinhard's talent has been to find and promote the hitherto unknown virtues of products. In a memorable “You deserve a break today” campaign for McDonald's, it was the fact that people hungered for a better experience, not a better hamburger. In the “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” campaign, it was that car-insurance buyers wanted reassurance even more than a good price. Now, the chairman of DDB Worldwide is taking on the ultimate challenge: selling to the world the hidden virtues of America.

“I love American brands, but they are losing friends around the world and it is vital to the interests of America to change this,” Mr. Reinhard told a packed meeting of business students at Yale University on February 23rd [2004]. His basic argument is that something is amiss in the perception of America abroad, that this perception is economically damaging, that it must be changed and that it can be changed.

Just prior to his Yale talk, Reinhard had founded Business for Diplomatic Action, a group dedicated to the proposition that Americans themselves, and not just U.S. policies, were fueling anti-Americanism overseas.

Ignorance of local customs, arrogance, sloppy dress and other boorish behavior by American tourists were increasing hostility to U.S. businesses and brands, Reinhard reasoned, with consequences beyond the occasional Coca-Cola or McDonald's boycott: potential long-term, across-the-board, worldwide declines in export sales. The consequences for the U.S., whose export troubles have mounted for decades, didn't need elaboration.

So Reinhard, executive director Cari Eggspuehler and their Business for Diplomatic Action colleagues decided to start doing something about it. Roughly 55 million Americans travel to foreign countries each year, and their visibility, mobility and relative wealth make a huge impact. Knowing this, BDA created a short guide for students and others on how to act responsibly overseas, hoping to turn the tide of anti-American sentiment by influencing those young enough to change their behavior wholesale.

The resulting World Citizens Guide reads a little like the front of a Lonely Planet guidebook—be-open-to-others, tuck-in-your-shirt, don't-talk-in-church type advice—but everyone could benefit from its reminders the next time they're getting their passport stamped.

An abbreviated version is available for download here, and readers can learn more about the project at the World Citizens Guide Web site.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Ottawa Couple


This morning's Washington Post arrived with "Canada Unveils Plan to Bolster Influence Internationally," which describes embattled Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin's plan to increase Ottawa's influence overseas:

Canada's government said Tuesday it would beef up its military, bolster its diplomatic corps and overhaul its foreign aid in a bid to reverse the country's diminishing influence in global affairs.

"Our international presence has suffered," Prime Minister Paul Martin said in releasing a long-promised foreign policy review. "Now is the time to rebuild."

Conservatives, smelling increasing amounts of blood in the water as an influence-peddling scandal taints all things Liberal, are scoffing loudly: Nothing new, they say. Too limited, they say.

But the Martin plan combines potentially spending big to enlarge Canada's military and create a flexible disaster response force, while greatly narrowing the number of countries that receive Ottawa's foreign aid from 155 to 25, primarily in Africa.

Can a wounded Liberal party and an ascendant Conservative one agree on any of this before the scandal brings down Martin's government? I doubt it, but stay tuned for more—on the next episode of The Ottawa Couple.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

VOA on Hong Kong

Here is what a far-flung correspondent tells me is Voice of America's official word on the outsourcing of VOA overnight operations to the People's Republic of China. (I am unable to confirm its officiality via Voice of America's Web site "press room.")

The text below addresses several of the complaints I made yesterday in Beacon No. 30 without necessarily answering them—and says nothing of the viability of a VOA operation based in the PRC. I'm still not convinced—but please read this as a companion to yesterday's Beacon entry:

Simply put, VOA is taking steps to expand its presence in East Asia, an increasingly important part of the world for us. In the months ahead, VOA will hire a half dozen or so new writers in Hong Kong and move writers currently on Washington's overnight newsroom shift to other shifts in Washington.

We believe that the move will position VOA to offer better and faster-reacting coverage of news from Hong Kong, and the rest of East Asia. The move will also include adding internet staff in Hong Kong who will enable VOA to update its web presence 24 hours a day, something that is sorely needed.

No jobs will be eliminated. Members of the current overnight shift will be moved to day and evening shifts in Washington. Three editors and five writers will be hired as contractors in Hong Kong to handle the news operation in our bureau there.

Stories produced in Hong Kong will be edited by full-time VOA staff editors currently based there and also overseen and vetted by their counterparts who will remain on the midnight shift in Washington. So the news room here is not exactly going dark. Final editorial responsibility will remain in those overnight editors in Washington.

The overnight shift in Washington has long been the least popular among employees, and vacancies have been difficult to fill. The unpopular hours also have been a recruitment obstacle. People are reluctant to come here once told about the prospect of having to put in overnight hours.

Hong Kong's day of course coincides with Washington's overnight hours, and the city has a skilled local English-speaking workforce of journalists who can be hired to write and edit the same news stories now produced in the Washington newsroom, following the same high journalistic standards that have long distinguished VOA broadcasts around the world.

VOA has had foreign stringers throughout the world for many years, just as have most other major international news organizations. So there is nothing new there. Also, as you know, VOA has had a bureau in Hong Kong for many years, as have many other international news organizations.

There is already in place total communications and computer connectivity between VOA's Washington headquarters and its Hong Kong bureau. Since we already have a bureau in Hong Kong, no new office space will have to be acquired.

The Hong Kong move and resulting savings will allow VOA to add two people to the Hong Kong staff to edit the English-language Web site during U.S. overnight hours. This will be an effective and efficient way to keep our Web site up to date seven days a week.

At current Hong Kong rates for local hires (no benefits or other perks required), the staff would cost about $380,000 per year. Although this shift will result in a small savings, that is not the main point of the move. It is rather to extend and enhance our presence in Asia, assure quality coverage during Washington's overnight hours, and achieve true 24-hour web coverage. We think the move makes sense, and we also think that now is a good time to make it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Beacon No. 30: The Last Word in Outsourcing


Some Voice of America observers are sounding the alarm about a plan to close down VOA operations in Washington each night—and have a second team pick up the slack on the other side of the earth.

According to DC-area media tipsheet DCRTV, here's the plan:

VOA To Outsource Overnight Shift - 4/8 - DCRTV hears that the DC-based Voice Of America is planning to "outsource" its overnight shift to a Hong Kong facility. Currently, the international broadcaster's shift is staffed by a half-dozen news writers, plus an editor. They provide stories for VOA newscasts in English and for Asian language services. We hear that the affected employees, which include salaried employees and freelancers, will be offered jobs on other VOA shifts.....

In correspondence, one former high-ranking VOA official further describes the operational set-up, as well as some potential consequences:

VOA Director David Jackson has announced that every day between midnight until 7 a.m., Washington time, the Voice's new state of the art multimedia newsroom will be closed. The news will be “contracted out” to a team of eight editors and writers (reportedly Americans, British and Australians) in Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China. Some sources project cost savings at about $300,000 annually, in a VOA budget of approximately $168 million.

How does moving to Hong Kong save money? VOA will wind up paying for a second set of offices, and in one of the world's most expensive cities to boot. Then there's the problem of contracting a critical public-diplomacy task to a team that includes foreign nationals.

The former VOA official continues:

If implemented, the proposed schedule will mark the first time since at least the early 1950s that the VOA headquarters newsroom has gone dark. Today, the news center continues to provide information for hourly newscasts for VOA's 44 language services and its newly consolidated VOA-TV and website operations.

Relocating VOA central news operations in the PRC for nearly a third of each day poses significant risks. In the event of another Tiananmen uprising or a Beijing assault on Taiwan, the Chinese regime could shut down VOA's worldwide news service in a flash, either by cutting communications or by expelling staff. In June 1989, the PRC expelled two VOA Beijing correspondents after the Tiananmen massacre. VOA has an audience estimated at nearly 100 million each week and hundreds of FM and TV affiliates around the world.

This is the crux of the problem: The People's Republic could shut down Voice of America's Hong Kong operations, leaving VOA blind and deaf in the region for one-third of what could be some very critical days—at least until a work-around is found.

If VOA's offices were at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, that would be one thing; China would be reluctant to impede VOA operations originating on "U.S. soil."

But a stand-alone VOA operation would be unprotected at a time when the mainland government is slowly tightening the screws on both independent reporting and democratic governance in Hong Kong. It seems like the reported $300,000 savings wouldn't be worth this increased exposure.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Super Rajul, Wonder Imra' and Other Superheroes


Even though this has been widely reported, it's still worth mentioning: U.S. Special Operations Command is getting into the Middle Eastern comics business.

It has advertised on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site (solicitation no. H92239-05-T-0026 or see here) for someone to produce a comic book series:

... based on the security forces, military and police, in the near future in the Middle East in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior of some of those countries. The comic series will be subject to change based on initial focus group testing of a prototype comic. If the subject matter for a specific comic does not do well in its intended focus group then it may be dropped and/or a new basis for the comic will be selected.

The comic-book series is being produced for psychological-operations purposes that aren't yet public.

It's quite an opportunity for an aspiring comic-book type who can produce a year's worth of monthly, 16-page comics using "thematic guidance from representatives of the U.S. Army," particularly if he or she has the desired "knowledge of Arab language and cultures, law enforcement and small unit military operations."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

An Unwillingness to 'Fess Up


It used to be that only China's government got upset when Japan would release another school textbook downplaying Imperial Japan's aggression before and during World War II. And it still does, judging by this story in the People's Daily Online. Nowadays, though, Japan is starting to hear it from the average Chinese on the street.

It seems elements in the Japanese government like portraying the country as a victim of Western imperialism during World War II (which might make sense if Japan hadn't made some free-wheeling forays into Korea, Manchuria and elsewhere on the Chinese mainland before the war even started). This whitewashing of Japanese responsibility is highly visible in the textbooks that Japan's schoolchildren read, and are an endless source of outrage for countries that Japan occupied in the 20th century, particularly the People's Republic of China.

Lately, though, Chinese crowds have been getting into the anti-Japanese action, and it's the government in Beijing that's calling for cooler heads to prevail.

Crowds marched in Beijing Friday and in Guangdong province Saturday, shouting slogans, pelting Japanese diplomatic turf with bottles and eggs, and generally engaging in the sort of hooliganism that, back in the day, would wind participants up in a labor camp for a few years of reeducation and healthy outdoor living.

Even though Chinese riot police seem to be protecting Japanese dips and installations from real harm, Japan has lodged a formal protest about the Beijing incident and is asking for compensation. As it should; but the Japanese government will one day have to take a page from Bill Clinton and simply apologize for what it did wrong.

Suspicion that the Japanese aren't really sorry for stomping around Asia in the '30s and '40s—and that they retain the arrogance that drove such actions—is a major impediment to Japan's soft power at a time when it would like regional military partners besides the U.S., an expansion of its lagging trade, and a seat on a hypothetically expanded United Nations Security Council.

For now, I suspect Beijing is letting rowdy Chinese crowds signal that it's time to say, "Sorry."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Beacon 29: Student Visas and Their Results


New Ukrainian leader and Orange Revolution poster guy Viktor Yuschenko is in Washington today to visit President Bush, and he'll address Congress tomorrow. He could pull a Gorbachev and get out of his limo to press the flesh, but unlike Gorbachev he could also just keeping walking around D.C. and not get lost.

That's because Yuschenko is a graduate of Georgetown University, one of dozens if not hundreds of foreign leaders schooled in the United States thanks to generous pre-9/11 student visa policies and the occasional grant, exchange program or student loan. Tiny investments can pay big dividends 20 years later, even though the U.S. also educates the occasional tyrant.

Here's a not particularly up-to-date list of foreign leaders who have gone to school in the U.S., as it doesn't include current luminaries like Kofi Annan (economics bachelor's, Macalester College in St. Paul; management master's, MIT) but it does note that Jacques Chirac went to Harvard and King Abdullah was a Hoya along with Yuschenko.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Beacon No. 28: Time Keeps on Tickin', Tickin', Tickin'


In many cultures, haste is considered a sign of weakness at best, and rudeness at worst.

For example, last December I spoke with a U.S. Army colonel who was a captain during Gulf War I. Tasked by his commander to procure fuel, generators and sundries from behind the lines during the run-up to war, this then-captain drove to a city in the rear and found a store that seemed like it might carry what he needed. It was already filled with other American officers who wanted similar supplies—right now and WHAT EXACTLY IS WRONG HERE, SIR, THAT I CANNOT PROCURE A FEW GENERATORS?

This captain politely checked in with the shop's proprietor, a Lebanese who was not about to act like he was the clerk at a 7-Eleven for all these gringos, and then sat down.

And sat. And sat, sweating through his fatigues.

Eventually, the proprietor put off the increasingly agitated American supply officers and offered the seated captain some coffee. The captain accepted. Then came a cigarette, which the captain obligingly puffed on even though he didn't smoke.

The proprietor sat down and the two communicated haltingly in English and the sprinkling of Arabic the captain knew. Family photos were exchanged, as were stories of one another's countries. No one said anything about supplies or money.

Hours later—many cups of Arabic coffee and 20 cigarettes later—the proprietor sat up a little straighter and said, So, how may I be of assistance to you?

The captain replied that if it wouldn't be any trouble—he certainly didn't want to cause inconvenience—could the proprietor look into finding some of the items on the list he'd written?

Of course, the proprietor said. The list vanished into a pocket, and nothing more was said about it.

More cigarettes, coffee and friendly conversation went by. The captain and the proprietor eventually went to dinner, much to the outrage of the remaining Americans.

The next day, guess which officer's request for supplies was filled, and who returned to the front lines with a truck full of supplies, and whose commander was thrilled, and who had a crucial new link in his personal supply chain?

The time cost of getting these supplies was enormous, but by showing some cultural sensitivity, the captain was ahead of all of his colleagues who needed similar stuff.

In a country without Wal-Marts, the patient man is king.

Which brings us to the lightning overseas tours of most Bush administration officials. Like the late cartoonist Charles Schulz, who practically never spent a night away from home after serving in World War II, the most powerful figures in the Bush White House have a morbid fear of lingering past breakfast anywhere in the world.

That's fine in Europe, which is starting to do business at U.S. speeds for the first time in its history. But in the rest of the world, politeness and patience matter, even when you're leading a war on something as incivil as terror—maybe especially then.

First Lady Laura Bush flew entirely around the world to spend just six hours in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hit six Asian nations in eight days, racking up 21,118 flying miles in the process. Before that she visited London, Berlin, Warsaw, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Rome, Vatican City, Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg City in another eight-day sprint. (That's nine countries, 11 if you count Vatican City and the Palestinian Territories as separate nations.)

And then there's the president, breezing into Manila for eight hours in September 2003, flitting into Baghdad for a mere 2-1/2 hours to share Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops, blowing through Cartagena, Colombia for four hours in November 2004, glancing at a wildlife park in Botswana for a mere 20 minutes, and so on. His 18-hour stop in Ireland on the way to a 2004 NATO summit is one of the longer of his administration, and some of the Irish press speculated that it was because of a simple need to sleep before the meeting in Turkey.

I understand that administration officials' time is valuable in and of itself. I get that the President isn't fond of extended policy discussions or long meetings, preferring to be a decision-maker rather than a deliberator. And third, I'm sure that staying in one place for too long makes one an easier target for assassins and terrorists.

But what can government officials do in D.C. that they can't do in their technologically advanced aircraft and embassies? What requires their personal presence back home? There could be a lot gained by officials who linger in the host country for a day or two and talk with someone besides the top-level ministers. Give the gossip columnists in Ankara something favorable to write about by taking your party to a restaurant. Make the Bratislava Bugle Corps' day by sitting still for a performance. Be seen at the Prado when you're in Madrid!

I believe the president and his Cabinet should make an effort to at least spend the night in more places and break bread more often, rather than metaphorically gulping coffee while speed-walking past the airport duty-free shop.

Formal state visits to the U.S. are supposed to be a major reward for foreign dignitaries who come to Washington, and the U.S. doles them out sparingly; but it's also a sign of goodwill and friendship when administration officials spend more than 20 minutes looking at someone else's national treasure—like that game park in Botswana—before moving on to whatever else is so crushingly important.
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