Authoritarian regimes dream through propaganda and so, to see what they're fantasizing about, we regularly check in on what state-controlled media outlets have been churning out.

Cuba welcomes ... Danny Glover?

You can imagine our surprise when we loaded the website for the Cuban News Agency only to find a story on Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover leading the site. Why? During a visit to Cuba, Glover had spoken out in support of the "Cuban Five" who've been imprisoned in the U.S. for several years--a major cause of Cuban state media. A U.S. court convicted the five men in 2001 for attempting to infiltrate U.S. military facilities in Florida, but Cuba claims they are political prisoners who were gathering information on "terrorist" plots by Cuban exiles in Florida. 

ACN quotes Glover talking about his visits with one of the Five and calling for the prisoners to be freed. In the clip below, Glover's Cuban interviewer gushes with praise for the actor. Glover manages a furtive "buenos dias, como está?" before switching into English. 

Syria's disturbing televised confession

Televised confessions represent one of the primary techniques Syria's state-run media uses to advance the regime's narrative of the uprising and discredit the opposition. On Thursday, state TV aired an interview in which Lt. Col. Hussein Harmoush, the most senior army officer to defect from the military during the uprising, suddenly appeared back in Syria to retract statements he'd made in the past about being ordered to fire at protesters and to blame the unrest on "armed gangs" who get their weapons from the Muslim Brotherhood. Harmoush claimed that he left a Turkish refugee camp when he had a falling out with the opposition. Syrian activists are refusing to believe that Harmoush's comments are sincere, speculating instead that he was kidnapped by Syrian intelligence agents or sent back by the Turkish security forces, a charge Turkey has denied.

Here's footage of the interview via the pro-regime SyriaonlineTV YouTube channel. The exchange is interspersed with images of Harmoush in uniform denouncing the regime and calling for rebellion:

Teacher gifts: China's greatest challenge?

In the days preceding and following China's national Teachers Day on September 10, a current of anxiety has surged through Chinese news outlets. The hand-wringing revolves around whether parents should give teachers gifts, and seems to arise from the fact that parents give gifts to teachers not to express their appreciation but to make sure their children are treated well. The corollary that children won't be treated well in the absence of gifts appears to have sparked a veritable gift-giving arms race, especially since Teachers Day comes around the same time as the Mid-Autumn Festival. Teachers are drowning under the gift deluge.

Earlier this month, China Daily noted that a middle school teacher had pleaded with parents not to give teachers gifts because many instructors are "perplexed about how to refuse or send back gifts," only for some parents to ignore the advice because they felt "teachers would treat their children better if gifts were given for Teachers Day." A couple days later, Xinhua quoted a stressed out mother as saying, "We are facing a dilemma as parents who can not afford very expensive gifts, but the teachers will not be impressed if the gifts are too cheap." An equally stressed out teacher explained that she stuffs the mooncake vouchers she's given into dictionaries and hands them to children to return to their parents. Underlying the tension is the fact that parents and teachers feel a mixture of compulsion and revulsion about the whole unspoken practice. "It makes me feel like some sort of thief," a teacher tells the Global Times. "However, if I turn them down they will very likely be upset. Also, I'm afraid to ostracize myself from my colleagues, as most of them will accept such presents." Meanwhile, a parent tells the tabloid that this year marks "the first time that I have decided to 'bribe' somebody. Although it feels weird, I do it for my child's sake. I don't want him to be neglected as one of the few students whose parents declined to give presents to the teacher." It's a vicious cycle! 

Who's happy about America's economic woes? Iran, of course

Iranian state-run news outlets usually rail against the U.S. media. But, well, they'll make an exception if we're bashing ourselves. On Friday, Iran decided to run a San Francisco Chronicle article entitled "Rising Poverty Reflects Diminishing American Dream." Here's the treatment of the story by Iran's Press TV:

Correction: A reader points out that it's not really fair to say the U.S. "claims" the Cuban Five were agents spying on America, as we initially wrote. The five were in fact convicted by a U.S. court in 2001 for attempting to infiltrate U.S. military installations in Florida. The text above has been modified to reflect this correction.