US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook Continues Creative Streak

The US Embassy Jakarta in Facebook continues its creative streak.  It wasn’t too long ago when it did a fan-drive to get to the 10,000 fan-mark. Whether it’s an underwater competition or a presidential birthday, it catches every opportunity to enlarge its reach as well as plug in its other online presence including the online visa appointment system:

The new U.S. Embassy Facebook President Contest gives awards not only to the “President” but also to the “Vice President,” the “Speaker of the House,” awards to 2 weekly winners or “Senators” and a variety of “most interesting status” or “representative” awards.  See the contest rules here. Excerpt from the US Embassy announcement below:
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta is holding a competition for its 30,000 Facebook fans to find the biggest fans of the month before the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Indonesia. The competition is to find who the top fan — the “President” — of the Embassy’s Facebook fan page is, by encouraging fans to promote the page, telling their friends about what the Embassy is doing by including the status tag “@U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia.”  
The contest runs from February 12 until March 12, 2010, and participants have a chance to win cutting-edge gadgets, books about the United States, and U.S. Embassy logo items.  Microsoft and Starbucks have donated prizes for the competition, including a Samsung Omnia Pro B-7320 smart phone, Microsoft Office 2007 software, a LifeCam Cinema HD camera, and vouchers for coffee at any of the 75 Starbucks locations throughout Indonesia. 
U.S. Embassy Jakarta created its Facebook fan page, in January 2009, making it the first diplomatic mission in Indonesia to do so.  The page features unique content, including previews of Embassy-produced radio and television programs, photos of the Embassy’s batik collection, and U.S. tourism videos.  It regularly hosts fan-only contests to win tickets to American cultural programs and events.  The Facebook fan page was also where the Embassy first released news about the March visit of President Obama, several hours before officially releasing the information to the media. 
The U.S. Embassy also uses other online technologies to connect directly to the Indonesian people, including its official webpage, Twitter account, a branded YouTube channel with over 300 videos, and an online visa appointment system.
The State Department’s Facebook page currently has 30,988 fans. While we were not looking, the US Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook page has racked up some 1800 more fans than the mother ship and currently stands with 32,819 fans  I expect that the current contest will boost its reach some more. 
I’m wondering — can’t we, you know —  send the Jakarta folks running this gig to beef up the “rapid response team” in Pakistan?       

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Blog Fate: Truth, Power, Authenticity and Death

War, Literature and the Arts Volume 21 (2009) had a piece by Brandon Lingle on former mil-blogger, Colby Buzzell (Colby Buzzell’s My War: An Outsider’s Voice from Inside Iraq). Excerpt below:                                  

Web logs or “blogs,” basically online journals, are now common among soldiers in war zones. Today, there are nearly 2,400 military blogs by Americans, and this virtually uncontrolled medium is allowing unheard voices into the global dialogue quicker than ever before. One of these voices is that of former Army specialist Colby Buzzell. His writing is interesting because it gets at truth in a subversive way that caught the attention of a wide audience including the military leadership.
Buzzell writes that kids from his working-class neighborhood had two choices after high school: “you either get your education on at some big-name university or you live at your parents’ and smoke pot and work a shit job, like telemarketing.” Not content with either of those choices, Buzzell was a 26-year-old punk rocker, skateboarding through “dead-end” jobs around San Francisco, California, when he decided to join the Army because he was bored. He ended up in Iraq and began anonymously documenting his experiences on a blog. Buzzell’s often cynical and satiric blog gained a significant following of readers. One reader wrote that Buzzell’s “writings about Iraq are more interesting than those of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings combined” which points to the apparent diminishing credibility of mainstream news outlets. But, the popularity of Buzzell’s blog invariably led to its temporary undoing when the website caught the eye of Army leadership who censored the online writings.
Buzzell best exhibits his Gonzo Style in a post titled Men in Black. It recounts a massive insurgent offensive downplayed by both the media and military. Buzzell intros the piece with the text from a CNN article titled “Mosul clashes leave 12 dead.” The CNN article makes no mention of US involvement in the fighting. Buzzell continues:
Now here’s what really happened…We were driving down Route Tampa when all of the sudden all hell came down around us, all these guys, wearing all black, a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys […] everywhere, just came out of fucking nowhere and started unloading on us. AK fire and multiple RPGs were flying at us from every single fucking direction…[I] engaged them with a couple good ten-round bursts of some .50 cal, right at them…this gunfight had been going on for 41 hours when the ING (Iraqi National Guard) showed up to the party.(250-1)
Buzzell then posts the Army news release about the incident which claims that “Iraqi security forces repelled all of the attacks [and] multinational forces served in a supporting role,” (261) which completely contradicts Buzzell’s account of the battle. It is ironic that a figure like Buzzell provides a more accurate account of an event than the government or media. This incident exemplifies Gonzo Journalism’s adaptability to the blog format which itself is another tie to the picaresque model, that of a protean form.
Buzzell earned some media attention after his Men in Black post which thereby drew the Army’s interest. As the Army’s monitoring of Buzzell’s blog increased, he changed his writing style. The once detailed vignettes became stripped down caricatures when he began posting cynically vague statements like “the other day we went somewhere, and did something (counter-mortar mission).” Buzzell taunted the Army censors that he knew were watching: “I would like to take this time now to say a nice warm Mar-Haba (that’s ‘Welcome’ in Arabic) to all my new readers down at MI [military intelligence],” (285).
He also posted Amendment I of the US Constitution with the disclaimer “story developing…” (289). Buzzell was officially ordered to stop blogging after he posted a message from Dead Kennedy front man and first amendment activist Jello Biafra:
. . . we are the real patriots here, not the unelected gangsters and scam artists who started this war. Real patriots care enough about our country – and the world – to speak up, stand up, and fight back when the government breaks the law, lies, steals, and gets innocent people killed… As long as people in the field speak up we have a chance at preserving the truth. Otherwise it’s the bullshit gospel according to Fox News and the Bush-Croft regime. . . . (320)
Brandon Lingle is a 2000 graduate of the US Air Force Academy where he currently teaches English. His non-fiction or photography has appeared in WLA and The North American Review, The Mississippi Review online, and Juked Magazine.
Colby Buzzell’s blog My War: Killing Time in Iraq has not been updated since mid 2009.  You can read some of the press his blog had generated but the archives are almost completely offline.  His book with the same title was published in October 2005. Publisher’s Weekly called it a “relentlessly cynical volume” and said “Buzzell appears to be a sentimental misanthrope; he pours scorn on everyone from cooks to generals to President Bush. He also despises the media, the antiwar movement and everyone who thinks they understand what’s happening in Iraq. That his superiors kept their hands off his blog for several months, however, shows they understood that despite its foul language, griping, insults directed at higher officers and occasional exposure of dirty linen Buzzell’s work never really wavers in its portrayal of American forces as the good guys in a dirty war.”

Officially In: Rashad Hussain as Special Envoy to OIC

President Obama Announces Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
On February 13, President Obama appointed Rashad Hussain to serve as his Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Comprised of over 50 member states, the OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world. As Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain will deepen and expand the partnerships that the United States has pursued with Muslims around the world since President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June.
President Obama said, “I’m proud to announce today that I am appointing my Special Envoy to the OIC—Rashad Hussain. As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Qur’an, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work.” 

The WH released the following official bio: 

Rashad Hussain is presently Deputy Associate Counsel to President Obama. His work at the White House focuses on national security, new media, and science and technology issues. Mr. Hussain has also worked with the National Security Staff in pursuing the New Beginning that President Obama outlined in his June 2009 address in Cairo, Egypt. Mr. Hussain previously served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hussain was a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he focused on national security-related issues. Mr. Hussain received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation, he served as a Law Clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mr. Hussain also earned his Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Rashad Hussain was a 2003 fellow of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.  Bio below from the foundation’s website
RASHAD HUSSAIN was born in 1978. He earned his JD from Yale University and his MPA from Harvard University. His parents are naturalized citizens from India and live in Plano, Texas. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he holds bachelor’s degrees with highest distinction in both philosophy and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which he completed in two years. He received highest honors for his philosophy thesis, “Assessing the Theistic Implications of Big Bang Cosmological Theory.” Rashad also holds an MA from Harvard University in Near Eastern languages and civilizations. He finds his heritage central to his identity as a Muslim American and his career goals, especially in light of events in recent history. Rashad has worked extensively on Capitol Hill, both as an intern in the office of former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt during the summer of 2000 and as a legislative aide on the House Judiciary Committee, where he worked for a year and a half between his time at Harvard University and Yale University. Rashad sees his varied academic interests converging and feels that his study of international affairs, law, and security can form a salient combination for addressing many contemporary legal and public policy issues. He finished a clerkship for Judge Damon Keith on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Detroit, MI and was a Trial Attorney at the US Department of Justice. Now he is deputy associate counsel to President Barack Obama.
I have added active links above.  Note that special envoys do not require senate confirmations so Mr. Hussain should be off and running pretty quickly.

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Huh? News: Jogger collides with DSS vehicle

This one from The Daily Caller: Struck Down: Feds refuse to explain how agent injured Daily Caller writer:  

The State Department has refused to answer basic questions about an accident that took place in Washington on Wednesday night, in which a U.S. Diplomatic Security Service vehicle struck Daily Caller employee Sean Medlock as he was crossing the street.

An agent in the vehicle, Mike McGuinn, did not identify himself to Medlock at the scene, or apologize for running him down. Indeed, Washington, D.C., police drove to a local emergency room to serve Medlock with a jaywalking citation as he lay prostrate in a hospital bed, while a man who identified himself as “special agent” stood by watching and taking notes.
The Daily Caller sent several questions to the Diplomatic Security Services public affairs office regarding the incident and the employee involved in it and received the following response:

At approximately 7:10 PM last night, a jogger collided with one of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service’s official vehicles.
The jogger was transported by ambulance to Georgetown University Hospital.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) responded to the scene and conducted an investigation. Diplomatic Security has since learned that the jogger was cited for Jaywalking. For further details regarding the investigation, we would refer you to MPD.
At all times, Diplomatic Security acted responsibly and appropriately and displayed due diligence in caring for the injured.
Apparently Medlock, according to the report does not even jog. The report also says that he was taken to Georgetown University Hospital with “a broken left knee, lacerations and bruises” and that he will undergo surgery later this week (last week, that is).
Obviously, there are always three sides to every story.  But “collision” and “jogger” may not be the best choice of words here.  A “jogger” who’s not really a jogger cited for “jaywalking” colliding with a vehicle does not sound very good to our ears.  “Collision” denotes “crashing together with violent impact.” Which one of us in our right minds would “collide” with a high-performance four-wheel drive car built on a truck chassis? No report yet  on the condition of the SUV after the said collision.

Google Buzz: Think Before You Click

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled on Google Buzz since its rollout last week especially relating to privacy issues. Here is the Google team’s recent take:  Millions of Buzz users, and improvements based on your feedback and A new Buzz start-up experience based on your feedback:  On Saturday, Google announced some forthcoming changes via its Gmail blog:

For the tens of millions of you who have already started using Buzz, over the next couple weeks we’ll be showing you a similar version of this new start-up experience to give you a second chance to review and confirm the people you’re following.
Second, Buzz will no longer connect your public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items automatically. Just to be clear: Buzz only automatically connected content that was already public, so if you had previously shared photos in an “Unlisted” album or set your Google Reader shared items as “Protected,” no one except the people you’d explicitly allowed to see your stuff has been able to see it. But due to your feedback Buzz will no longer connect these sites automatically.

Third, we’re adding a Buzz tab to Gmail Settings. From there, you’ll be able to hide Buzz from Gmail or disable it completely. In addition, there will be a link to these settings from the initial start-up page so you can easily decide from the get go that you don’t want to use Buzz at all.

This may be a great idea for some, but it’s not for me.  If you want to skip this hassle after the Buzz splash screen (the one that says Check out Buzz and Nah, go directly to Gmail), select Nah … and go to your Gmail account.  Scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail page and click on “turn off Buzz.” Buzz should disappear from the left-hand side bar of your Gmail. For good measure, check that your Google profile is also configured to your desired privacy setting.    

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