Russian President Vladimir Putin got a solid assist from U.S. public relations giant Ketchum Inc. in placing his commentary in The New York Times’ op-ed page Thursday just as a meeting of Russian and U.S. representatives in Geneva, focusing on Syria and chemical weapons, got under way, notes Grumpy Editor.
In the op-ed --- titled A Plea for Caution From Russia --- which grabbed heavy print and broadcast headlines in the U.S., Putin portrayed himself as a peacemaker, criticized the U.S. and lectured the U.S. for its tendency to use "brute force" in world disputes.
Reuters pointed out Ketchum has earned more than $25 million working for Russia, according to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department.
The PR firm, with 74 offices and 56 affiliates in 70 countries, is a unit of New York Stock Exchange-listed Omnicom Group Inc.
Several sources said Putin himself wrote the op-ed.
On the day the op-ed appeared, a Senate panel narrowed the definition of a “covered journalist” as an independent contractor, employee or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information.
So, as the writer of an op-ed piece, does that put Putin (as a “freelance writer”) in the same category as other contributors to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and other publications?
Meanwhile, in a “fair and balanced” response to Putin’s N.Y. Times material, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) will write an op-ed for Russia’s Pravda, with a paltry paid circulation of 49,000, dwarfing that of the N.Y. Times' total circulation of 1.9 million.
More snooping looms: credit card transactions
Overlooked Friday and over the weekend by most media --- but not the Washington Examiner --- was information on more government snooping, finds Grumpy Editor.
The newspaper declared, “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials are seeking to monitor four out of every five U.S. consumer credit card transactions this year, up to 42 billion transactions, through a controversial data-mining program, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.”
The Washington Examiner went on to explain that “a CFPB strategic planning document for fiscal years 2013-17 describes the ‘markets monitoring’ program through which officials aim to monitor 80 percent of all credit card transactions” this year.
“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 1.16 billion consumer credit cards were in use in 2012 for an estimated 52.6 billion transactions. If CFPB officials reach their stated ‘performance goal,’ they would collect data on 42 billion transactions made with 933 million credit cards used by American consumers."
What's more, the newspaper added, “CFPB officials hope to monitor up to 95 percent of all mortgage transactions, according to the planning document.”
In case you missed these…
Another journalist joins Obama team. Richard Stengel is leaving his Time magazine editor post to become undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. It marks the 21st journalist to become a member of the Obama administration…While Washington and most media have been focusing on Syria and chemical weapons, North Korea has been acting up --- again. The Associated Press reported a recent satellite image appears to show the communist country is restarting a plutonium reactor in a move that could raise renewed international alarm over its nuclear weapons program, according to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Ice story ignored by most U.S. media: A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year, reports Britain’s Daily Mail. That’s a 60 percent increase. The newspaper noted the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, adding global warming has "paused" since early 1997, “an event that the computer models used by climate experts failed to predict.”
In media developments: A copy of USA Today, starting Sept. 30, will cost $2 at newsstands, double the current $1, unchanged since 2008…Sean Hannity agreed to a multi-year extension of his radio show via Premiere Networks, which said Hannity’s program will expand to additional major market Clear Channel talk stations as well as non-Clear Channel stations next year…The Washington Post now offers free digital access for federal employees, military personnel and students in higher education…From Glenn Beck commenting on the Syria situation on his Tuesday morning radio program: “Write it down in your calendars, because this is the week that America lost its superpower status”…Closer Weekly, a new magazine from Bauer Publishing Co., debuts in November. Aimed at Generation X females, it will cover celebrities, beauty, health, fashion and recipes.