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Lawmakers demand answers on firing spree at global media agency – CNN

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The shakeups at the taxpayer-funded agency have raised concerns that CEO Michael Pack intends to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration, prompting both Democratic lawmakers and former USAGM board members to call on him to respect the independence of its news organizations and recognize its importance in promoting democracy abroad.
Jamie Fly, the ousted head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL), on Friday warned against the US falling behind authoritarian countries in the information space and called for “clear and consistent leadership, funding, and support” at the news organization.
'Wednesday night massacre' as Trump appointee takes over at global media agency
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN, and their respective boards were dismissed.
In a press release Thursday, USAGM described it as “Pack (effecting) a series of significant and long-overdue actions to keep assurances to restructure the agency, fully in accordance with the law.”
“Every action I carried out was — and every action I will carry out will be — geared toward rebuilding the USAGM’s reputation, boosting morale, and improving content,” Pack said in the release, which included positive anonymous quotes and was described by one staffer as akin to “North Korean” propaganda.

Bipartisan concern

The Democratic chairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Appropriations Committee wrote in a letter to Pack Friday that they were “outraged” at Wednesday’s actions.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the USAGM staff are enabled and empowered to do this critical work and to continue the longstanding practice of not getting entangled in politics — and especially that they are not expected to shift their practice to propagandize or mislead audiences at the Trump Administration’s whim,” wrote Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey of New York.
They called on Pack to turn over by June 29 “any and all documents relating to, referring to or regarding the performance, views, and/or potential termination or replacement of Alberto Fernandez, Jamie Fly, Bay Fang, and Libby Liu” — the individuals who were ousted on Wednesday — stretching back to the beginning of Trump’s presidency.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday that he was concerned by the removals and Pack’s failure to consult with Congress.
Voice of America top officials resign as Trump-appointed CEO takes over international networkVoice of America top officials resign as Trump-appointed CEO takes over international network
“While every new leader has a right to bring in his or her own team, these mass terminations beyond just the USAGM executive leadership seem potentially damaging to both the operations & morale of the agency,” he wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, I and others were not consulted before these major decisions were made. Further troubling is that in his letter to USAGM employees, he stressed the importance of consulting with Congress.”
“I hope CEO Pack will find time very soon to explain to me and my colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee his reasons for making these decisions,” the Texas Republican said. He and GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also said they were “troubled” by the removal of another top official at the Open Technology Fund “and are concerned about the future of the organization.”
“We have been impressed with the efforts of President Laura Cunningham and her team, and we look forward to hearing from CEO Pack on how he plans to continue the vital mission of OTF during this time of transition,” the Republican lawmakers wrote in a statement Friday.
In opening remarks at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez — a sharp opponent of Pack’s nomination — warned against undermining the credibility of the agency.
“Once the credibility is gone, nobody will ever trust a report from Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti, nor trust the tools of the Open Technology Fund,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

‘Our greatest weapon is our adherence to the truth’

In a letter Friday, four former USAGM board members, including two former ambassadors, urged to him “protect” the “critical U.S. asset” he inherited “by respecting the firewall, maintaining qualified boards and management, and continuing the nonpartisan legacy.”
“These entities are a key pillar of the United States’ soft power. Their mission has perhaps never been as important as now when the U.S. is engaged in a battle in the information space with anti-democratic regimes who are actively interfering in U.S. domestic politics, debate about public health, and U.S. elections,” Leon Aron, former Amb. Ryan Crocker, Michael Kempner, and former Amb. Karen Kornbluh wrote.
“Their independence is essential to their effectiveness in demonstrating the power of the free press and in getting trustworthy information to those in repressive regimes who cannot otherwise access that information,” they wrote.
Putin rewrites World War II history -- and does battle over historical memoryPutin rewrites World War II history -- and does battle over historical memory
RFERL’s Fly, addressing his removal for the first time Friday, said he was “disappointed to leave … just as our reforms were starting to have an impact, but very proud.”
“The U.S. cannot continue to fall behind China, Russia, or Iran in the info space. Our competitors are well funded and focused on repressing their citizens and undermining democratic govts everywhere. Our greatest weapon is our adherence to the truth and we should not discard it,” he said in a lengthy Twitter post.
“The brave men and women of @RFERL need clear and consistent leadership, funding, and support when they come under pressure. With this, they will achieve results no less important than their predecessors who helped bring freedom to millions,” Fly said.”For much of the last decade, they’ve been deprived of that due to attempts to micromanage their work from DC, political fights over @USAGMgov’s structure and purpose, and strategic neglect.”
“I sincerely hope my departure is not a sign of more of the same,” Fly said.

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Kamloops RCMP officer's 'black face' social media posts under review – Kamloops This Week

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A Kamloops police officer’s conduct is under review after he made black face jokes in a series of posts on his personal Instagram account.

RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke’s posts showed him receiving skin treatment. In one photo, a woman is apparently applying a black cleansing mask to his face; another appears to be a selfie with the cleansing mask on.

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The photo of the mask being applied is accompanied by this caption: “Black face session. It’s suppose to help my looks. I don’t think it’s working,” followed by a laughing emoji.

The selfie is accompanied by this caption: “Is my skin racist? Micro aggressions matter.”

Meinke’s Instagram is private and it’s unclear when the posts were made, but screenshots of them began circulating on social media late last week.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky told KTW he cannot speak to specifics regarding Meinke’s Instagram posts or duty status, but said making black face jokes on social media would not be smart.

“In this day and age that we’re in, that would be a dumb thing to do,” Lecky said. “I would certainly look into it.”

Lecky said he is unable to discuss Meinke’s posts because they were made on a personal Instagram account.

“It’s a social media account that is private and it isn’t linked to policing or the RCMP,” Lecky said. “So, I can’t even confirm to you if it’s a member.”

If he were to be made aware of such posts coming from a constable, Lecky said, an internal code-of-conduct investigation would be launched.

RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke
RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke in a 2013 photo. – KTW file photo

Meinke has also worked as a part-time instructor at Thompson Rivers University. He has taught police and justice studies classes.

University spokeswoman Darshan Lindsay told KTW the institution is “looking into” Meinke’s Instagram posts.

“Our commitment is to create a university where everyone belongs, where we show our respect for one another through our actions and in our words,” she said. “While we won’t be providing further comment on this matter, we can confirm the individual has taught courses part-time at TRU in the past.”

Lindsay said Meinke is not currently employed by or teaching at TRU.

Lecky said he was first made aware of the Instagram posts on Sunday, July 5.

CTV News Vancouver also reported on this story and was among media outlets to reach out to Meinke for comment. He replied, saying: “Sorry I cannot comment other than it is a skin care product. Take care.”

“Charcoal face masks, no harm, no foul,” Vanessa Simon, an activist and organizer for Black Lives Matter, told CTV. “But then you’re posting on your social media for the public to see, asking, ‘Is this racist? Micro aggression matters,’ you’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed by the community and he is getting what is coming to him.”

Simon told CTV News she was frustrated when she first saw the posts, opining they are insensitive and in poor taste.

“It’s concerning to me that there’s someone like that in the police department,” she said.

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Social media sleuths solved the mystery of this Alberta woman's photo – CTV News

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CALGARY —
When a woman shared a photo of her late father in a placed she couldn’t quite place, she turned to social media for help.

It all started when a Reddit user posted a thread Saturday, asking for help from fellow users to identify a particular spot in K-Country.

The discussion ended up spurring dozens of comments, leading up to the point where users not only identified the spot by name, but provided Google Map coordinates for the exact location.

calgary, reddit, photo, kananaskis, highway 40, br

calgary, reddit, photo, kananaskis, highway 40, br

(File/Google Maps)

As a result, the woman said she plans to do a photo tribute at the location for her father.

To make the situation even sweeter, the user said she still has her father’s motorcycle.

“We still have his BMW seen in the pic. Oh boy, that means I’d have to get licensed up. It’s a large bike and I’m a tiny woman, hah!”

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Putting The Social Back In Social Media: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Social – Forbes

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Social media has gotten a bad name partially based on how negatively it can affect self-esteem and true connectedness. But that may be changing given the coronavirus pandemic which has led to our separation from each other, mental health issues and shifting habits.

In fact, social media has an important role to play—both new and renewed—during the pandemic. It can connect us in profound ways. We are social creatures and it is our instinct to come together. That’s why social distancing has been so hard. Our brains crave relationships, and from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology, we seek safety in numbers when we’re faced with threat or danger. That’s the reason solitary confinement is one of the most severe punishments we can impose. Our humanity demands connections—one way or another.

In the midst of quarantine, social media is a window on the world. For Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Social Impact for Hootsuite, the new role of social media takes it back to its origins. “Social media started as a mechanism to connect people, engage people and build relationships. It is returning to its roots,” he says. Evan Kirstel, founder @eViRa and B2B influencer agrees, “Social media is a social water cooler for a lot of people—it’s the importance of the social side of social media.”

Our use of all kinds of media—including social media—is surging.

  • According to a study by GlobalWebIndex which spanned 13 countries, four generations and all income levels, 95% of consumers reported spending more time on media consumption, and an increase in the use of key platforms to connect—a 70% monthly increase in video calling with Facebook and a 100% increase in WhatsApp voice and video. Also, 45% of all global consumers are spending more time on messaging services.
  • In addition, according to the GlobalWebIndex, Pinterest and Google consumption is up for all kinds of media from decorating ideas and YouTube meditation videos (up 51%) to DIY videos for bread making, movie recommendations and live streaming of music and sports events via Instagram. 
  • Almost half of internet users surveyed in Hootsuite’s April Digital in 2020 Statshot have reported spending more time on social networks. In addition, messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp increased 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus, and Twitter has seen a 23% increase in daily users compared with a year ago.

So, what does all this mean, and what actions should you take regarding media, and social media in particular?

Build relationships. Leverage all kinds of media—including social media— to connect, build relationships and communicate with your people. The pandemic has been tough on our mental health and (social) media may be the solution. Video conference with your grandparents, tap into your neighborhood app to stay in touch with friends down the street and utilize your favorite platform to share videos of your new puppy with other new-puppy parents.

Relieve pressure. Social media also has a role to play in alleviating tension and enhancing moments of empathy. Letting others lean on you by sharing a laugh at the latest cat video or humorous meme is good for the soul. “It’s about creating moments of empathy and being there for each other as a community,” says Campher.

Embrace opportunity. Another element to take advantage of on social media is the extent to which it levels the playing field. You can start a business or create a movement. “No matter what your skills or background or interests, social media enables you to begin a venture for yourself. Think outside the box in terms of what you can do,” says Kirstel.

Exercise caution and ensure transparency. Of course, it’s not all positive. There is a dark side to social media. While there is no magic bullet, Campher says, “Transparency is key to maintaining the good. Relationships work best when they are enlightened and that is also true of all media including social media.” Kirstel points out the negatives on social media can be outweighed by the “pure gold that exists in discovery, learning, education and new connections,” that can result from the platforms.

Leverage the power to transform. Campher is optimistic and believes, “Social media has the power to transform society for the better.” Through building relationships, ensuring transparency, enhancing accountability and delivering solutions, social media can help us through tough times. Kirstel points out the amplification of voices via social media. “All your stakeholders are on social media—investors, analysts, shareholders, community members, and more,” he says. This can be transformative because of its reach and potential positive influence.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a reset in many aspects of life and social media is one of them. Use of media—including social media—has increased significantly. Leverage the power of social media to build relationships, relieve pressure and embrace opportunities. Use caution, of course. But overall realize how powerful social media can be in transforming relationships and society—for the better.

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