Thursday, June 5, 2014

June 4-5 Public Diplomacy Review

Abbreviated Edition

"I scrub the dishes against my wishes to make this world safe for democracy."

--A line from Irving Berlin's Yip, Yip, Yaphank, staged in 1918; image from


Diplomacy's Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #70 June 4, 2014 - "Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest. Suggestions for future updates are welcome." Bruce Gregory, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University, Georgetown University,


After Ukraine, Obama Keeps an Eye on the Baltics - "The U.S. would be right to hedge its bets and increase military assets in Poland and in the Baltics in cooperation with NATO. But it needs to set the table for the decision to do so. Good public diplomacy means laying the ground with our allies, Congress and American citizens to avoid triggering a negative reaction in the U.S. and Europe to more troops. A strong case can be made that protecting democracy can be done at a relatively low cost without triggering a massive war if we show power, purpose and a commitment to democratic principles.

War-weariness in the West is one thing. Political paralysis is another. We have to show the world that America can act wisely and practically and that there is something between long costly military engagements and short-term deployment of assets smartly and together with others. Burden sharing might not be dead yet." Uncaptioned image from entry

The Only Standards Are Double Standards - Robert Parry, "When Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych rejected austerity demands from the International Monetary Fund that accompanied a plan for European association, senior U.S. officials decided that Yanukovych had to go and urged on protests, ultimately spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias, that violently overthrew Yanukovych on Feb. 22. The U.S. State Department’s 'public diplomacy' officials then spun a narrative that glued white hats on the putschists and black hats on those who sought to defend the elected government. Whenever people mentioned the inconvenient truth about the crucial neo-Nazi role in providing the muscle for the coup, they were accused of spreading 'Russian propaganda.' ... Official Washington’s narrative of the crisis must always be maintained, whatever the lack of verifiable evidence. Though an objective observer might note that the crisis was provoked last year by a reckless European Union association offer – followed by the IMF’s draconian austerity plan that was rejected by Yanukovych, prompting U.S.-encouraged violent demonstrations (all while Putin was preoccupied by the Sochi Winter Olympics) – it is fundamental to the U.S. propaganda theme to boil the storyline down to Russian aggression.' Yet, while U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of another country is a good thing, it is a bad thing if a U.S. adversary does the same or is just suspected of doing the same."

Fighting Back Against The Big Lie - David Jackson, Public Diplomacy Council:
"Nenad Pejic, Interim Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Myroslava Gongadze, a reporter and television anchor for Voice of America’s (VOA) Ukrainian Service, and Will Stevens, director of the State Department’s Ukraine Communications Task Force, said this week that blatant propaganda has played a powerful role in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to boost his popularity at home, discredit Ukraine’s government, and justify Russia’s aggressions in the region. Pejic, who appeared with the others in a Washington, D.C. panel discussion sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, said Russia’s disinformation efforts have included not only a media campaign but also ‘a political campaign, a cultural campaign, an energy campaign (and) a military campaign….’ The result has been a flood of anti-Ukraine propaganda on television, radio, and especially in social media. Stevens said the Russians have become skilled at exploiting the computer code algorithms that online search engines use so that their propaganda can be easily seen, read, and spread. Because of that, he warned, people who watch or read Russia’s English-language RT (formerly Russia Today) television, which can be found online worldwide as well as on cable networks in the U.S. and elsewhere, and Ruptly, an RT-related ‘video news agency’ based in Berlin, should know that they are ‘100 per cent government-run (and) operated’ and ‘totally integrated with’ Russia’s propaganda operations. And the propaganda operations are ‘massive,’ he added.

Gongadze said the propaganda efforts have included photos where the information was simply made up. … Does the propaganda work? Gongadze said it’s clearly paying off for Putin at home. Before the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Putin’s popularity was under 50 per cent. Now 86 per cent of Russians favor his re-election. She also noted that Russia’s RT YouTube site, with nearly 1.3 million subscribers, has more than twice as many as CNN’s, which has fewer than 500,000. While Russia’s propagandists have tried to discredit Ukrainians by using World War II-era terms such as Nazis, fascists, and pogrom, one term they haven’t used is a good description of what they are doing: The Big Lie.  … Stevens said the State department is working hard to push back, and cited their efforts in social media such as ‘hashtag diplomacy’, which uses Twitter. But count me among those who are unconvinced that Twitter messages have had any discernible impact on the acceptance of U.S. policy around the world, much less on what Putin is doing or plans to do. The best response to blatant Russian propaganda is an aggressive, American-led response with the facts, expressed both publicly and privately through the White House on down through the State department and public diplomacy institutions like VOA, RFE/RL, and their fellow broadcasters who speak to – and with – international audiences every day.  The world is being exposed to lies. Ignoring them won't work. Pushing back hard with the truth will.” Image from

Putin's Russian Propaganda on Ukraine - Is the West Losing? - Joe Johnson, Public Diplomacy Council: "Our [Public Diplomacy Council] First Monday Forum brought home the propaganda and disinformation campaign which Russia is waging in connection with its claims on Ukraine.  Three experts framed this as an integral part of a

Whole of Government effort.  They pointed out two distinct advantages that have made Russia’s information war effective. The government controls most Russian broadcasters and a host of extra-official commentators. The government has no scruples about putting out distortions and outright lies.  Western counter-claims cannot capture as much attention as the initial stories and statements. Adam Powell, the organizer for our Council and the cosponsors at the University of Southern California, wrote a concise and informative account of the event.  More opinionated comment came from Communications Strategist David Henderson and Council Member John Brown.  And my colleague David Jackson has beaten me to the punch with a balanced and interpretive post on this subject. Will Stevens of the State Department's Ukraine Communications Task Force, Myroslava Gongadze of VOA's Ukrainian Service, and Nenad Pejic of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty issued a powerful indictment of Vladimir Putin’s regime.  However, like any stimulating discussion, this one raised as many questions as it answered." Image from

Fulbright and the decline of America’s cultural diplomacy: U.S. universities and foreign service offices suffer when we cut funding for educational exchange programs - Karen Attiah, "For many immigrant families, including my Ghanaian parents, the U.S. is the global gold standard for educational opportunities. To them, America was one of the few countries that invested in the exchange of people, ideas and learning. The international exchange program was a gateway to the American dream. In the 1950s and ’60s, intercultural programs represented an important pillar of America’s public diplomacy around the world. This U.S. leadership in cultural diplomacy is now decaying, in part because international partnership programs are on the fiscal chopping block. ... The proposed Fulbright budget cuts have caused an uproar in the program’s alumni network. Former scholarship recipients have set up petitions and launched social media campaigns urging Congress to restore funding for the program to $234 million. ... To maintain America’s global competitive edge, U.S. lawmakers should commit to supporting educational exchange programs, especially from emerging economies in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and East Asia. Instead investment in long-term mutual understanding is being replaced by short-term paternalistic initiatives. This summer, the White House will host the first Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI): Instead investment in long-term mutual understanding is being replaced by short-term paternalistic initiatives. This summer, the White House will host the first Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) bringing some 500 handpicked leaders and entrepreneurs from various African countries to the U.S. for six weeks of networking, seminars and workshops."

There is no doubt that the winners of YALI fellowships will reap personal benefits and relish the photo ops. While YALI is being heralded with much fanfare, grants for longer, more sustained research and travel for researchers and scholars are quietly being cut. In lieu of six weeks of schmoozing in Washington, it would be much more effective if these young leaders and entrepreneurs were given a year to support their research at home or at U.S. universities. Similarly, it would have been great if African countries hosted American entrepreneurs to enhance appreciation for Africa’s diversity and create a cross-cultural understanding of African business, policy and civil environments. Seminars and workshops cannot be the cornerstones of American foreign engagement. In a word, diplomacy is about building relationships. But U.S. policymakers seem to have forgotten that basic fact. ... Karen Attiah is a journalist and editor based in Washington, D.C. She was a Fulbrighter in Ghana in 2008." Image from entry, with caption: Fulbright alumni help U.S. Embassy cultural attachés cut a cake as they mark the launch of 2015 Fulbright in Pakistan on Feb. 11.

Bergdahl Swap Could Be Issue In Confirmation Hearing For Obama’s Nominee For Ambassador To Qatar - "Lawmakers outraged over the Obama administration’s deal to release five Taliban detainees to the Qatari government in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may get their chance to grill the next U.S. ambassador to the Arab emirate over the prisoner swap. Last month, President Obama announced his nomination of Dana Shell Smith to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Qatar. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to hold a confirmation hearing on Smith’s nomination sometime in the near future. A hearing date has not yet been made public, and a spokesman for committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez did not return a request for comment. ... Smith, Obama’s nominee to serve in Qatar, is a career member of the Foreign Service. She currently serves at the state department as a senior advisor to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a position she has held since 2014."

Crap I read today: the post-election edition - Robert Koehler,
"While the US wants Korea to adopt THAAD (Theater High Altitude Area Defense), Korea seems intent on going its own way. Now, I’m no expert on public diplomacy, but you know what might help USFK more effectively make its case? Not having three drunk GIs sexually harass a female employee at a water park, assault a male employee trying to help and spit on and beat the arresting officers. Soon followed by another drunk serviceman stealing a cab, hot rodding down Gangnam-daero, hitting another car and assaulting the arresting officers. To be fair, at least it appears USFK behaves better than East German troops in Poland."

The Inevitible [sic] End Result of Public Diplomacy In Negotiations With Terrorists - Sky News US Team, "The family of an American women reportedly being held captive with her husband and their child in Afghanistan has come forward with videos that show them asking Barack Obama for help.

The videos, obtained by The AP news agency, are the first clues into what happened to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle following their disappearance in late 2012. 'Boyle’s ex-wife is Zainab Khadr, whose father has been linked to Al-Qaeda and whose brother, Omar Khadr, the only Canadian citizen ever held in Guantanamo Bay.' ... The families told the news agency that they decided to come forward with the videos now in light of the recent publicity over the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl." Image from entry, with caption: A photo of Boyle and Khadr from 2009

Russia has enough of ngo’s and media outlets funded by US neo-cons - Ludo Rubben, "NED [National Endowment for Democracy] was founded in 1983 at the initiative of Cold War hardliners in the Reagan administration, including then-CIA Director William J. Casey. Essentially, NED took over what had been the domain of the CIA, i.e. funneling money to support foreign political movements that would take the U.S. side against the Soviet Union. ... In one note to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese, Casey endorsed plans 'for the appointment of a small Working Group to refine the proposal and make recommendations to the President on the merit of creating an Institute, Council or National Endowment in support of free institutions throughout the world.' ... To organize this effort, Casey dispatched one of the CIA’s top propaganda specialists, Walter Raymond Jr., to the National Security Council. Putting Raymond at the NSC insulated the CIA from accusations that it institutionally was using the new structure to subvert foreign governments – while also helping fund American opinion leaders who would influence U.S. policy debates, a violation of the CIA’s charter. Instead, that responsibility was shifted to NED, which began doing precisely what Casey had envisioned. Many of the documents on this 'public diplomacy' operation, which also encompassed “psychological operations,” remain classified for national security reasons to this day, more than three decades later. But the scattered documents that have been released by archivists at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, reveal a whirlwind of activity, with Raymond in the middle of a global network." Reagan image from

Greek MUSA e-Magazine in the U.S. - Theodora Matsaidoni - "The Greek Embassy is set to publish the cultural e-magazine ‘Muse’ in the U.S.A. The Press and Communication Office will present the first issue of MUSA magazine, where ‘the U.S.A meets Greek culture’ promoting important samples of the Greek heritage and the uniqueness of Greek culture. Head of the Press and Communication Office Christos Failadis (Communication Counselor- Public Diplomacy) stated ‘After its recognized action in social netting, Press and Communication Office undertook the publishing of a cultural magazine in English attempting to add an interesting element to the Greek-American relationships, through the rich, consistent tradition of Greek culture.’

He also highlighted ‘ Our magazine is a quarterly cultural electronic overview entitled ‘Musa’ (M+USA), after the combination of the name Muse, Greek goddess, patroness of Art (Mousa in Greek) and the acronym U.S.A.’ Finally Failadis noted that ‘We are proud of the artistic design and the innovative publishing formula, which embodies videos, multiple photos and audio files. We owe special thanks to all 2yolk friends and to Designlobby for being such professionals and for their valuable courtesy.’” Image from, with caption: Greek Embassy in Washington

Washington韩日... this time 'think-tank warfare': Views sasakawa Foundation Brookings韩three extensions 'Korea Chair' [Google "translation"] - "This year with the Brookings Institution for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and other major think tanks are sponsored by some Japanese sasakawa Foundation sponsored a seminar. Government in Japan is beating strongly. Opinion leaders against the host country and the knowledge hierarchy 'public diplomacy' (public diplomacy) this year under the pretext of development think tank in the United States known to be committed significant funding. Secretary for Public Diplomacy Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as a think tank affiliated with a dedicated team to manage the investment plan to configure, is the message that roam around the world."

Seoul, Beijing to hold joint public diplomacy forum next week - "South Korea and China will hold a joint public diplomacy forum in Beijing next week to discuss ways to step up bilateral exchange in non-political sectors, a foreign ministry official here said Thursday. 'South Korea and China will hold their second public diplomacy forum in Beijing on June 12,' the official said. 'There's a discussion with the Chinese side now underway to explore joint projects that can have synergy effects.' The upcoming public diplomacy forum, dealing with bilateral cooperation in non-political sectors like culture, education and sports, is the second of its kind following the two countries' inaugural meeting in Seoul last September. With the second forum, the countries are seen as aiming to hold the bilateral forum on a regular basis.

Under the tag line of 'joint efforts to make beautiful hopes,' the forum will bring together many public diplomacy officials from the two neighbors, including Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister now heading the China Public Diplomacy Association. The officials plan to share public diplomacy policies of the two nations and to discuss ways to intensify cooperation in sectors such as broadcasting, reflecting on the growing popularity of Korean dramas in China. Joint public diplomacy projects may also be launched through the forum, as well as other policies aimed at increasing collaboration in education, according to the official." Image from

Beijing sends new envoy to Jakarta - Yohanna Ririhena, The Jakarta Post: "Chinese Ambassador-designate to Indonesia Xie Feng arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday, emphasizing his hopes for stronger bilateral cooperation and the pursuit of peace in the region. ... Xie replaces Liu Jianchao who returned to Beijing earlier this year to take up the position of assistant foreign minister for press and public diplomacy."

China's new repression a bitter echo of the past - John Garnaut, "A surprising proportion of the lawyers, journalists and intellectuals who are leading today’s citizens’ rights movement in China are veterans of the Tiananmen protest movement. ... It is not just leading Chinese citizens who are being jailed for failing to forget [about the Tiananmen protest movement].

The latest to be ''disappeared' is a much-loved Australian artist and Tiananmen veteran, Guo Jian, who has been a pillar of Australian public diplomacy for years. He has drawn the world's attention to one of his inspired installations in Beijing: a large, as yet unexhibited, diorama of Tiananmen Square decorated with 160 kilograms of minced meat." Image from entry, with caption: 25 years ago: Peacefully protesting students were gunned down around Tiananmen Square.

Australia Network off air by mid-September - "The Australia Network has roughly three months left on air before the federal government's decision to axe the ABC-run overseas broadcaster comes into effect. The government announced in the budget it would terminate the ABC's $223 million 10-year contract to run the network, which is beamed into 44 nations across the Asia-Pacific region. It's been confirmed the network will go off the air by September 18. The network is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as its primary means of public diplomacy for promoting Australia's values and culture to the wider region. Its end leaves Australia with about $5 million in its budget for public diplomacy initiatives, an amount even the department admits is low by international standards.

'If you ask me would I like more money for public diplomacy, you bet,' DFAT secretary Peter Varghese told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday. But he didn't seem too disappointed to see the network go, expressing his long-running scepticism about the effectiveness of conducting public diplomacy through a satellite TV channel. 'In my experience it was very rare to meet someone in the countries that we were targeting who actually watched Australia Network,' he said. The hearing was told other nations pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into their overseas networks and enjoyed considerable reach. Labor senator Sam Dastyari suggested forking out about $23 million a year on a network reaching 44 nations was money well spent, and said Australia was now spending less on public diplomacy than the African country Chad." Image from

Scenes from the Tehran International Book Fair - Dennis Abrams, "Writing for The Guardian last month, Simon Tisdall described the scene at the Tehran International Book Fair . ... [F]or Tisdall, one of the things he sees is evidence that change is in the air. Last year, for example, the then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad banned some publishers from the fair for their supposed sympathy to reformist views. But this year, there have been no such prohibitions (although censorship persists). And the fair was opened this year by Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, described by Tisdall as 'an amiable centrist.' 'A book, its publisher and the reader are respected as much as wisdom itself,” Rouhani said. 'We should try to pave the way for book writing and reading…If we want books to obtain their rightful place, we should provide security and freedom for their writers and publishers.' In this way, he said, the fair could be seen as a sort of public diplomacy. Tisdall spoke with Hasam, a marketing student from Tehran who had come to the fair in search of books on management information, who believes that Iran is in the process of opening up to the world. 'This is the largest exhibition in Iran,' he said. 'Politically it’s quite free. There were some problems before but it’s better now under Rouhani. The youth in Iran like Rouhani. They call him ‘Too Honey’ because he is so sweet…[']"

Foreign Minister stresses importance of multi-thematic diplomacy - "Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides stressed the importance of following a multi-thematic diplomacy in the new competitive environment.The Minister was addressing Tuesday a public consultation event with the civil society on 'The role of Cyprus’ diplomatic missions and the challenges they have to face in the international environment (energy, economic, cultural and public diplomacy)'. The aim of the consultation is to gather ideas on various aspects that could be used in

Cyprus` diplomatic efforts. ... Referring to tourism, he said that Cyprus continues its efforts to highlight its comparative advantages as a service center for medical tourism, conference tourism and religious tourism. The Foreign Minister also spoke about the importance of cultural diplomacy as well as public diplomacy, saying that the Ministry has created accounts in various social media." Image from

V K Singh to Play Big Role in Global Ties - Express News Service: "The Ministry of External Affairs notified the allocation of work for the two ministers -- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her junior colleague V K Singh.

Swaraj will have the same work profile as her predecessor, looking after all neighbouring countries, Indian Ocean, China, Japan, United States, Canada, Eurasia, Asean members, Gulf and West Asia. Besides, she will have direct supervision over border connectivity, external public diplomacy, vigilance, passport and Haj." Image from entry, with caption: Former Army Chief V K Singh has become the driver for India’s ties with nearly half of the world, including new emerging areas of South America and Africa.

Stanford U.S.—Russia Forum: Model Exchange Diplomacy? - Stanislav Budnitsky, "Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum (SURF), a grassroots student exchange program, is a rare bright spot in the presently bleak bilateral relations picture—and a globally promising model of educational exchange diplomacy.

In late April, SURF completed its fifth academic year with a conference at Stanford University, bringing together nearly fifty American and Russian students." Image from entry

European Forum for Public Diplomacy – Brasov – September 2014: "In the evening of June 4, 2014, were adopted at the Center for Public Diplomacy organizational elements of the second edition of the European Forum for Public Diplomacy. Center for Public Diplomacy, apolitical and non-governmental professional association organizes the second consecutive year one of the relevant meetings at European level in the field of public diplomacy and foreign perception management of the country. To organize this meeting mention that efforts are not employed by the state budget, so it is a kind NGO initiative where central and local administration representatives of Romania may obtain extremely valuable information and experiences that are provided by the relevant specialists, researchers Forum for Public Diplomacy in Romania

is an approach which follows three very important goals – near public diplomacy professional conceptual decision-making environment in Romania, providing an optimum environment for the exchange of expertise between international actors in the most relevant and effective public diplomacy The first edition of the European Forum for Public Diplomacy was held last year in Bucharest in September – 2013 the Aula purview of the Central University Library Carol I. audience could listen to lectures of relevant decisional actors in Romania and had the privilege of receiving some considerations of the leading exponents of public diplomacy in the world – PJ Crowley (former spokesman Depatramentului State and associate professor at George Washington University), Sean Aday (Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication GW University) Philip Seib (Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California) and Nick Cull (professor and coordinator of the Master program in Public Diplomacy and International Communications of USC Los Angeles). This year the European Forum for Public Diplomacy – Brasov 2014 are invited to attend all vectors Roman state officials, representatives of the legislative, executive and external attributions of institutions, heads of university centers of Romania, specialists etc. Abroad at the European Forum for Public Diplomacy taking part extremely relevant representatives in Europe, Asia, USA, Australia, South America and Canada, representatives of international institutions worldwide leading representatives of cultural institutions. Theme European Forum for Public Diplomacy Brasov in 2014 will focus on two sections – 'Public Diplomacy and creating credibility, essential elements of Competitive Identity' and 'Public Diplomacy and Soft Power for a sustainable expansion of the European Union'." Image from entry

The Enduring Power and Presence of the Star-Spangled Banner - Brent D. Glass, "Brent D. Glass, Ph.D., a Georgetowner since 2006, is Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where he served as director from 2002 to 2011. An author and international consultant on museum leadership, Glass has participated in State Department public diplomacy initiatives in Egypt, Russia and Europe."

Qorvis MSLGROUP Expands Staff To Support Growth: Washington PR Powerhouse Brings Three Key Hires On-Board Following Spike in New Business - "Lisa Clayton joins Qorvis MSLGROUP as a senior account supervisor to manage public affairs and public diplomacy campaigns for several key clients. Clayton has held prominent communications positions for close to 15 years, most recently as the Ministerial Advisor at the Ministry of State for Communications in Bahrain. Previously, she served as advisor for International Media for Information Authority Affairs (IAA) and was as assistant professor of art history and film studies for Virginia Commonwealth University. 'As both our domestic and international public affairs business continues to grow, unparalleled public diplomacy expertise like Lisa's is a must-have,' said Michael Petruzzello, public affairs practice director for MSLGROUP North America and president of Qorvis MSLGROUP. 'Attracting top talent is an important part of our growth strategy and we're thrilled to welcome Lisa to the Qorvis MSLGROUP family.'"

Senior Education Advisor -- US Embassy - Riyadh - "4. Knowledge/Other Criteria: Must have excellent knowledge of the Saudi educational system and scholarship opportunities, and excellent and detailed knowledge of the U.S. educational system at all levels, from elementary school to post-graduate study. Must be current on new information in these fields. Knowledge related to public diplomacy as it pertains to U.S. - Saudi relations would be useful."


Taliban Deftly Offer Message in Video of Freed U.S. Soldier: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s Release Displays Captors’ Savvy Propaganda Effort - Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times: The Taliban seem loose, almost offhand, on camera as they wait for the American Black Hawk to land. Two fighters walk their hostage, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, out to American troops, greeting their enemies eye to eye as they quickly shake hands. They wave as the Americans retreat back to the chopper. In their viral video to the world on Wednesday, framing dramatic images of their transaction with the United States with music, commentary and context, the Taliban scored their biggest hit yet after years of effort to improve their publicity machine — one bent on portraying them as the legitimate government of Afghanistan in exile. Within hours of the video’s release, the Taliban website

where it was posted was overwhelmed with traffic and the page hosting it crashed, according to Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents. The video has since been uploaded in dozens of different versions on YouTube. It is the product of a Taliban propaganda effort that has grown increasingly savvy. Where the Taliban have struggled has been in producing propaganda that would resonate beyond sympathetic Afghans and hard-core jihadis. Their usual fare has been videos of gory images overlaid with Koranic verses. And even clear attempts to speak directly to Americans — such as an open letter to Congress posted after the 2010 midterm elections — have been mired with misspellings, stock political speech and obvious misinformation. On Wednesday, though, the Taliban’s message rang clear in their video and commentary on Sergeant Bergdahl’s release: They saw the Americans come meet them on equal footing, on insurgent turf. Image from

Other Views: Russia and the propaganda war - Ivan Rodionov ... defends President Vladimir Putin so vehemently one could be forgiven for confusing him with a Kremlin spokesperson. But Rodionov views himself as a journalist. The 49-year-old is the head of the video news agency Ruptly, founded one year ago and financed by the Russian government. The eighth floor of the office building has a grand view of Germany’s house of parliament, the Reichstag. It’s a posh location and the Kremlin doesn’t seem to mind spending quite a bit of money to disseminate its view of the world from here. Around 110 people from Spain, Britain, Russia and Poland work day and night in the three-floor office space on videos that are then syndicated to the international media. At first glance, it’s not obvious Ruptly is actually Kremlin TV. In addition to Putin speeches, there are also numerous other video clips available in its archive, ranging from Pussy Riot to arrests of members of the Russian opposition. When it comes to eastern Ukraine, however, the agency offers almost exclusively videos that are favorable towards pro-Russian supporters of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk,” which was founded by separatists.

A U.S. ambassador was just sworn in on a Kindle - Paper books are on the decline. In 2008, the market forconsumer print books was north of $15 billion. Now it's more like $10 billion — and that number is expected to continue falling until it reaches parity with e-book sales at about  $8 billion in 2017.

It's no surprise that with e-books on the rise, more and more public officials will be sworn in on them. On Monday, Suzi LeVine became the first U.S. ambassador (she's the American representative to Switzerland) to be sworn in on an e-reader. Via JMc; image from entry; via JMc

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