On Wednesday, November 14, 2007, Hollywood came to Madison, Wisconsin. Paramount Pictures sponsored a free pre-release screening of "Stop-Loss," which is due to hit theaters nationwide on March 28, 2008. (It will be released in the U.K. on April 18, 2008.) Writer and director Kimberly Peirce, best known for directing "Boys Don't Cry," was in attendance and took part in an extended questions and answer session after the screening.
According to a "privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, near the Iranian border," U.S. intelligence activities in Iraq are skewed to find incriminating evidence against Iran. Micah Brose told The Observer that U.S. officials "push a lot for us to establish a link with Iran. They have pre-categories for us to go through, and by the sheer volume of categories there's clearly a lot more for Iran than there is for other stuff.
Its reputation in tatters, the Blackwater private military firm has hired "a bipartisan stable of big-name Washington lawyers, lobbyists and press advisers," report John Broder and James Risen. In addition to the Burson-Marsteller PR firm, the hired guns who have worked for Blackwater include Kenneth D.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes is leaving the Bush administration. Hughes, a long-time confidant of President Bush's, served as a counselor during Bush's first term, then officially left the White House in 2002, only to return as the nation's PR czar in 2005. Her last day will be in December. In announcing her resignation, Hughes stressed that improving the U.S.'s image around the world is a "long-term challenge." At the State Department, Hughes increased the number of "interviews with Arabic media," and "set up three rapid public relations response centers overseas to monitor and respond to the news. She nearly doubled the public diplomacy budget, to nearly $900m annually, and sent U.S. sports stars Michelle Kwan and Cal Ripken abroad as unofficial diplomats. But polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since she took over. A Pew Research survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of America in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75% in 2000 to 30% last year." Hughes' key deputy, Dina Habib Powell, left the State Department earlier this year, "to become director of global corporate engagement for Goldman Sachs Group," notes PR Week.
As investigations into its shootings of Iraqi civilians continue, the private military contractor Blackwater USA is softening its public image. "The company's roughneck logo — a bear's paw print in a red crosshairs, under lettering that looks to have been ripped from a fifth of Jim Beam — has undergone a publicity-conscious, corporate scrubbing," reports Paul Von Zielbauer.
As fires rage in southern California, the U.S. media devoted extensive coverage to the refugees displaced by the disaster and even to the fate of horses and other farm animals.
Two new opinion polls show deepening public dissatisfaction with U.S. politicians. According to a Reuters/Zogby poll, "The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent. Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent.
As the U.S. House of Representatives considers a controversial resolution "recognizing as 'genocide' the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the former Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago," the Turkish government is increasing its Washington DC lobbying.