Mapping out path in Foreign Service

On this week’s episode of Conversations with Nicholas Kralev, Philip Reeker, former ambassador to Macedonia and incoming consul-general in Milan, talks about the wide variety of tasks professional diplomats perform, and creating a successful Foreign Service career.

Talking air travel for an hour on NPR

Air travel is one of those topics that no radio or TV show can go wrong with — it’s certain to touch a nerve with many people and provoke numerous comments and questions. That’s what happened yesterday on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, which I was on for the first time.

I always thought the reason to be invited would be to talk about foreign policy on the Friday news roundup, where Diane has three Washington journalists discussing issues from the passing week. That never happened, but a couple of weeks ago I suggested to one of the show’s producers that the summer is a good time for a program on travel…

State plans new public diplomacy posts

The State Department plans to create seven new senior positions to ensure that a public-diplomacy perspective is always “incorporated” in policy-making around the world, as well as to respond quickly to negative coverage of the United States in foreign media.

In an ambitious strategy that goes beyond any previous efforts to reach out to other countries, the Obama administration “seeks to become woven into the fabric of the daily lives of people” there, its top public-diplomacy official said Wednesday. “We must do a better job of listening, learn how people in other countries and cultures listen to us, understand their desires and aspirations, and provide them with information and services of value to them,” said Judith A. McHale, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Travel blogs keep watch on industry

Public relations departments of airlines can’t catch a break. Not only is their industry under constant scrutiny by the public and the traditional media, now they have bloggers to worry about.

Let’s face it — the news hasn’t been great lately. How do you spin reducing services while adding fees? Or keeping fuel charges intact when oil prices are three times lower than they were when those charges were imposed? Part of a journalist’s job is to “unspin” what businesses — or the government, for that matter — tell the public, but another part is to do so fairly and to present different sides to every story. Bloggers, however, have no such obligation. They are free to rant about any grudge they may hold against a company without worrying about bias…

Press ready for Obama, Clinton travel

The arrival of a new administration in Washington signifies different things to different people, and for some of us it means that we’ll have new travel companions for the next four years. It looks like we in the diplomatic press corps will be sharing a plane with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

People often roll their eyes when I tell them that traveling around the world with the secretary of state is not that glamorous, but the waning months of an administration are a case in point. Reporters are happiest when they cover good stories, and it has been a while since a trip by Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s chief diplomat — or by Mr. Bush, for that matter — created real excitement among the press corps.

Big Daddy Larry King

It took Larry King 66 years, seven marriages and five children to discover the greatest “thrill” in life: parenthood. Sitting in the children’s room of his Mediterranean-style mansion in Beverly Hills, with five-week-old Cannon in his arms and 15-month-old Chance playing on the floor beside him, King says that he pinches himself every day — “I can’t believe everything that’s happened to me”.

Having interviewed nearly 10,000 people, among them six US presidents, being recognised around the world by the millions watching “Larry King Live” on CNN every day, and paid “handsomely for something I’d do for free” — it all pales beside the joy of new fatherhood.

“Before, I was so goal-oriented that the (professional) goals were ahead of everything. I loved my children and tried to be a good father, but work always came first. Ten years ago, if you had asked me whether I’d rather have a little baby or moderate a presidential debate, I’d have chosen the debate. Now the babies and the family come first”…

Must be talking to an Anjel

Anjelica Huston has already come to terms with the fact that her first half-century will soon be behind her, but the prospect of joining the ranks of Hollywood’s much-pitied unemployed middle-aged actresses has yet to make her list of immediate concerns. With three films scheduled for release this year, another one having just started production and a script she’s writing to direct, Huston is now busier than she was in her early thirties.

She claims that one can “always find jobs” in show business, or “create jobs if one can’t find them”, although she says that her turning to writing and directing “certainly wasn’t as a result of not getting any work”.

“Most young actors aren’t being offered parts, either, so what’s the point of harping on a negative when you can create something?” she demands. “Go to a class, learn to dance, do something with your life but don’t sit complaining about what you haven’t got. I don’t have $100m — it’s too bad. But I can go and figure something that will get me my next $10m”…

Turn, turn, turn

Arianna Huffington says that she’s had a “political conversion” — not from right to left, but “beyond right and left”. Disillusioned with the “degradation” of US politics, the outspoken Greek-born author and columnist has broken with her conservative past and, apparently, opened up to the sufferings of the poor and underprivileged. She denies she’s become a liberal, but believes that the political system can be changed “through a movement throughout the country, along the lines of the civil rights movement”.

She is also frustrated with the money flooding into US politics; ironic, some say, since her former husband, then-congressman Michael Huffington of California, spent nearly $30m on his unsuccessful senate run in 1994. But that campaign was an “eye-opener”, says Arianna, who is now a staunch supporter of Arizona Senator John McCain’s campaign finance reform efforts…

Uncle Walter

Delayed by a raging New York storm, Walter Cronkite deftly opens the door of his spacious office at the CBS Black Rock television headquarters. “Good morning!” he cheerfully greets his small staff, then adds, matter-of-factly, “But I enjoy saying ‘Good evening’ much more.”

For 19 years, this statesman of the airwaves brought the world into the living rooms of millions of Americans. And, though he stepped down from the “CBS Evening News” in 1981, he remains “the most trusted man” in the US, one whom many fellow journalists call the “original anchorman”.

At 83, the silver-haired legend has allowed little of his imposing figure to succumb to ageing, and his gravelly voice still rings with authority. His schedule is as busy as ever, full of speaking engagements, interviews, high-profile events and journeys across the US and around the world. Television still occupies much of his time — albeit as a viewer — but he’s not impressed with what he sees today on America’s evening news…

Albright’s final bow

Madeleine Albright is almost shouting. She can’t hear me any more, she says. The noise on her aircraft has, indeed, become more deafening; but she also seems to be deliberately avoiding my question, and with good reason. This very moment is probably her happiest as secretary of state because of “the most important thing that has happened” during her nearly four-year tenure.

She has just received news about the Belgrade revolution and the ousting of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, and here I am, asking how she feels about having to leave office in three months. We’ve just spent a 30-hour day, having saved six hours by flying east-west from Egypt to Washington, and she says that’s exactly what she intends to continue doing for the rest of her term — “working every minute and extending the days”…