'Regime' Changed

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The annual State Department human rights reports on conditions in various countries often spark internal tussling over tone and nuance.

The battles generally pit folks in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), who tend to be hard-line human rights advocates, against the regional bureau diplomats, who tend to be more, well, diplomatic.

This is especially true when it comes to places such as nuclear North Korea, run by the somewhat offbeat Kim Jong Il, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is hoping endless six-way negotiations will get the North Koreans to stop their nuclear program.

So on Friday, Glyn Davies, the principal deputy assistant secretary in the East Asia bureau, sent an e-mail to Erica Barks-Ruggles, a deputy assistant secretary in the DRL bureau, regarding some changes in the introductory language of a report on North Korea.

"Erica," he wrote, "I know you are under the NSC [National Security Council] gun," apparently to get the report done so the NSC can review it, "but hope given the Secretary's priority on the Six-Party Talks, we can sacrifice a few adjectives for the cause.

"Many thanks. Glyn."

And the changes? Eliminated words are in brackets, and additions are in italics:

"The [repressive] North Korean government[regime] continued to control almost all aspects of citizens' lives, denying freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association, and restricting freedom of movement and workers' rights. Reports of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and arbitrary detention, including of political prisoners, continue to emerge [from the isolated country]. Some forcibly repatriated refugees were said to have undergone severe punishment and possibly torture. Reports of public executions continued to surface[were on the rise]."

As Hemingway might have written: For Whom the Kowtows?

Manila's Papaya Princess

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney is hugely popular in Manila. There's speculation in the press that she might even win the presidency there if she were eligible to run.

Some of her popularity may relate to her diplomatic skills, especially her efforts to restart stalled peace talks between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines.

She was spotted a couple of weeks ago at the main rebel base, where she met with rebel chief Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, reportedly to press him on talks to finally end the rebellion, which began in 1978.

Or maybe the career diplomat's superstar status has more to do with her dancing the "papaya" a few months ago on the TV game show hosted by Edu Manzano. He is credited with making the papaya a nationwide dance craze, possibly because, as he said recently, "it does not take any degree of expertise."

A clip of Kenney doing the dance -- quite well, it appears -- has become something of a YouTube sensation.

Honor Washed Away

It's getting rough out on the speechmaking circuit these days for attorneys general. Former AG Alberto Gonzales had trouble last month filling the hall for a speech at Washington University in St. Louis.

Now there's word that Boston College Law School has decided not to give Attorney General Michael Mukasey its Founder's Medal when he speaks at its commencement in May.

The medal has been given to recent speakers -- including former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). But the law school's online newspaper, Eagleionline.com, reported that Mukasey will not receive the reward after students and faculty protested that it could be seen as an endorsement of his position on waterboarding. The Founder's Medal, according to the site, is the highest honor bestowed by the school.

Glengarry Glub Glub

Speaking of waterboarding, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that a supervisor at a motivational coaching business in Provo has been accused of waterboarding an employee in front of his salesmen to demonstrate that they should work as hard on sales as the employee had worked to breathe.

The salesman, Chad Hudgens, naturally filed suit in January, alleging that managers also allowed the supervisor to draw mustaches on employees' faces, take away their chairs and beat on their desks with a wooden paddle "because it resulted in increased revenues for the company."

The late Chris Farley of "Saturday Night Live" would have been appalled.

Gang of One

World Bank general counsel Ana Palacio, part of what some call the Wolfowitz Gang of Six, is calling it quits as of April 15. Bank President Robert Zoellick said yesterday he was "very grateful . . . for the service she has provided over the last 18 months."

Former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz appointed Palacio, who was Spain's foreign minister back when Spain was a member of the Coalition of the Willing, in June 2006. Wolfowitz resigned under pressure a year later after an uprising by bank employees over his management style and his involvement in obtaining a fine post for a pal.

His top aides, Kevin Kellums and Robin Cleveland, left around that time. Suzanne Rich Folsom, who had been at the bank earlier but was promoted by Wolfowitz to be anti-corruption chief, left in January.

"Her leadership in the bank's fight against global fraud and corruption is well recognized," said Juan Jos┬┐ Daboub, a Wolfowitz ally and one of the bank's managing directors.

As it turns out, Daboub is the last remaining top member of Wolfowitz's inner circle.

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