Coming Soon to Your Cable Network: Stanistan, a Dramedy with @StateDept and Spooks

— Domani Spero 

USA Network announced on May 8 the cast-contingent pilot pickup for the hour-long original drama series STANISTAN (Universal Cable Productions) for the 2014-2015 television season. Here is a brief description:

STANISTAN follows the staff at the American compound in the Middle Eastern country of Stanistan, where State Department workers, covert CIA officers and journalists operate in a delicate balance of danger and silliness using every coping mechanism available.  From Universal Cable Productions, STANISTAN is written by Andy Parker, who is also supervising producer. Richard Scarth, Mary Louise Vitelli and Maureen Ryan (“Project Nim”) serve as co-executive producers.  Steve Scheffer is executive producing.

Active link added above.  Danger + silliness = a dramedy?

We don’t know what a cast-contingent order means. Apparently, according to Mr. Googles, it means that all that stands between a script and a green light is finding actors that the network approves of to fill the lead roles. These orders are handed out to pilots when the network determines that the right lead can make or break a show.  No news yet on who will be the lead stars.

We hope they’ll have @ElSnarkistani as consultant, that’s all.

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Snapshot: Highest Level of Youth Unemployment in the World – Middle East & North Africa

Via The Arab Spring and economic transition: two years on by Harry Quilter-Pinner (FCO) and Graham Symons (DFID):

“The Arab Spring, which led to a series of political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, was in part caused by economic underperformance and exclusion. The region has historically been marred by high levels of inequality and unemployment. MENA has the highest level of youth unemployment in the world (figure 1), whilst female labour participation (at 25%) is also the world’s worst. Significant state (and in some cases military) involvement in the economy has constrained private sector financing and growth (figure 2), and created large fiscal deficits.”

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Snapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Assistance in FY2012 Actual and FY2014 Request

Extracted from the CRS: The FY2014 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request, April 18, 2013 via Secrecy News:

The list is dominated by strategic allies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as top global health program recipients in Africa. Israel would continue to be the top U.S. aid recipient, at $3.1 billion, a $25 million increase over FY2012 funding. Afghanistan would again rank second among recipients, though with a slightly smaller allocation compared to FY2012. Iraq would drop out of the top five, with elimination of the Police Development Program driving a 55% funding cut, while Nigeria would move up to number five with a proposed allocation of $693 million, or 7% more than actual FY2012 funding. Together, the top 10 recipients would account for about 37% of total bilateral economic and security assistance funds in the FY2014 budget proposal.

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State Dept Anticipates Spending $25 Million on Internet Freedom This Year

What kind of Internet freedom support has the State Department provided in the Middle East region? The official non-response says an average of $19 million from 2008-2011 but did not break it down by region. And in 2012, despite the budget cuts, Internet freedom programming is up by 7 million in the Middle East and worldwide. Below is the official State Department response to that question:

ANSWER: Advancing Internet freedom is a priority for this administration. From 2008 through 2011, the State Department and USAID have spent $76 million on Internet freedom programming. This year, at a time when we are making significant budget cuts in many areas, we anticipate spending $25 million in Internet freedom programming. Through these programs, we provide training and tools to civil society activists, in the Middle East and throughout the world, to enable them to freely and safely exercise their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly on the Internet and via other communication technologies.

Across the Middle East, we have seen that access to technological tools enables people to tell their story to the world when they are otherwise silenced by repressive governments. Our Internet freedom programming is aimed at making sure that voices for peaceful democratic reform in the region can be heard.

As Yusuf (CatStevens) sings it – “Oh baby baby it’s a wild world, it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” You need spending money, too. Absolutely!