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Fulbright Alumna interviews Chancellor Merkel

Ahead of her US visit Chancellor Merkel answered questions from Fulbright Alumna Kate Lindemann on TTIP, the US funding cuts to an exchange program with Germany, and racism & xenophobia in the US and Germany. Video is in German:

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We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX

When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."

Good news? Yes!

But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:

The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.

Continue reading "We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX"

Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars

After 9/11, the US Congress realized the need for in-depth knowledge of world affairs and advanced language proficiency and increased the Fulbright-Hays budget. This program "supports research and training efforts overseas, which focus on non-Western foreign languages and area studies."

Apparently the post-9/11 era is over now. A few days after Bin Laden's death, the 2011 Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowships have been cancelled due to budget cuts. $5,800,000 had been estimated, when the US Department of Education invited applications in September 2010, while pointing out that "the actual level of funding, if any, depends on final Congressional action."

It's a disgrace that this prestigious and important fellowship program does not have secure funding.

Continue reading "Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars"

Americans Are Helping Germany Once Again

"Desperate to rescue itself from disappointing performances in recent years, Germany is sending two Americans to sing and dance in the Eurovision Song Contest," writes my Fulbright buddy Jakob Comenetz for Reuters.

Three years ago, we already tried it our luck with an American music genre and cowboy hats: Germany Sends Country Band to Eurovision Song Contest

What Germans Think of Barack Obama: Continuity We Can Believe In

The majority of Germans support Barack Obama for the US presidency, not because they believe he will radically change US policy, but because he is expected to return it to the familiar pre-Bush trajectory. This is the conclusion from my colleague Ben Heine over at atlantic-community.org

Ben and I have interviewed German, American and other attendees of the Obama rally in Berlin yesterday. We have asked some of the questions that you suggested on Atlantic Review. Here's our video with their responses:

 

What do you think of the opinions expressed by the interviewees?

Israel Does not Allow Fulbright Grantees to Leave Gaza (UPDATED)

The State Department has taken Fulbright scholarships away from eight students in Gaza, because of Israeli travel restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled part of the Palestinian territory.

Sounds like a PR disaster for Israel and the US due to the lack of cooperation among bureaucratic. The New York Times talks about "longstanding tensions" between the US consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv and also says that the Israeli defense department and prime minister's office disagree whether a Fulbright grant is a "humanitarian necessity."

How shall there be any economic and political development in Gaza as well as some pro-American sentiment, if students are not allowed to leave the Gaza prison strip? The New York Times also points out:

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.
"This could be interpreted as collective punishment," complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament's education committee, during the hearing. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules."

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:

More Iraqi Fulbrighters Seek Asylum
Experiencing America: New Book by Fulbrighters
• Fulbright Workshop on Implementing a Digital Library for the Maghreb

UPDATE: Open Letter by Fulbrighters: Reinstate Fulbright Grants to Students in Gaza

The Petition Site: Help Palestinian Fulbright Grantees Get Exit Visas from Israel.

UPPERDATE:
The BBC reports that the State Department has reinstated Fulbright grants. (HT: Omar)

Howard Zinn's "A People's History Of The United States" in German

Looking for a Christmas present? Here’s a hint: Atlantic Review editor Sonja Bonin has translated Howard Zinn's bestseller "A People's History of the United States" into German. Her translation was presented at the Frankfurt book fair this fall and selected second-best non-fiction book on the highly esteemed recommendation list (“Bestenliste”) by NDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Buchjournal and Börsenblatt in October.

Howard Zinn’s classic, which was first published in English in 1980 and has reached more than one million readers so far, has become an all-time favorite of both students and the intellectual left in the US. The octogenerian author, a historian, WWII-veteran and civil rights activist, has become quite famous in the US, but (unlike his friend and occasional co-author Noam Chomsky) is not well-known outside America yet. Zinn’s German publisher, Schwarzer Freitag in Berlin, is run by German Fulbright Alumnus Andreas Freitag.

You can order the book directly via the publishers or support the Atlantic Review by ordering it on Amazon.de. Schwarzer Freitag has also published the DVD “You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train”, a documentary about Howard Zinn with German subtitles. For more information on Howard Zinn, visit Wikipedia (German, English) or the following websites: www.howardzinn.org; www.howardzinn.de.

If the complete edition puts too much of a burden on your financial or time budget (700 pages, € 28.80), consider buying one or more out of nine slim volumes that comprise two to three chapters each (circa 100-150 pages, € 7,80).

"Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America"

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates calls for the US government to commit more money and effort to "soft power" tools, including communications, because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. The NY Times quotes Gates as saying:

"We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," he said. "It is just plain embarrassing that Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America."

Fred Kaplan asked his readers for ideas on how to improve America's image in the world. He received 120 responses, "nearly all of them from foreigners or from Americans living abroad." Kaplan summarizes them in an interesting article in Slate Magazine:

A few common themes emerge from these suggestions: Government-sponsored PR has its limits, mainly because people see it for what it is; the important thing is to change policy, and part of that involves aligning America's approach to the world with the most attractive aspects of our culture (in the broadest sense of that word). One of those aspects is what the Bush administration constantly boasts about -- our openness and our freedom. But those boasts ring hollow when the rest of the world sees us as closed down and locked shut. The first step, then, is to reopen the doors to the world.

Kaplan describes several suggestions from readers. Very popular are calls for expansion in the Peace Corps, in Fulbright fellowships, and, in student-exchange programs.

One readers also pointed out that "globalization has stripped pop culture of nationality." Beyoncé, for instance, is very popular among young people, but they don't associate her with America." I found that interesting.

I wonder how much of the US image problem is bad policy and cannot be fixed with better public diplomacy. And how much could be fixed with better communication?

As a Fulbrighter, I instantly agree with Kaplan's readers about the importance of personal exchanges. This is not controversial. Let's focus on the internet instead. Secretary Gates said that Al Qaeda is more successful on the internet than the United States. Does that mean beheading videos are more popular with the target audience than Chocolate Rain and Evolution of Dance?  Or are the West's internet videos the problem? Perhaps it's all Germany's fault: Do Heidi Klum videos cause terrorism?

I wish the hugely popular Where the Hell is Matt? video would improve the image of the American tourist.

US bloggers are more authentic than PR firms. They could counter Al Qaeada's internet propaganda. Why have blogs so far failed to change the minds of Al Qaeda sympathizers? What could bloggers do better? In addition to writing in Arabic. And what could the Atlantic Review do? Any ideas on how to reach out and win hearts and minds?