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With the US bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, even tough-minded conservatives are talking about a new emphasis on "soft power." We talk about what that means and how it could serve America's interests in an increasingly dangerous world. Also, immunity for Blackwater security guards, and child pornography and the First Amendment were back again today at the US Supreme Court.

Banner image: US Marines walk past the front of the American Embassy in Baghdad. The United States has used the former palace of Saddam Hussein as it's embassy since shortly after the invasion in 2003. A new embassy is currently under construction. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Making News Iraq and State Department at Odds over Contractor Immunity 6 MIN, 2 SEC

The Associated Press and several newspapers report that State Department investigators offered immunity to Blackwater security guards in exchange for statements about last month's shootout that left 17 civilians dead on the streets of Baghdad. Denying the allegations, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said, "The Department…would not have asked the FBI and the Department of Justice to get involved in a case that we did not think that they could potentially prosecute." John Broder wrote the immunity story in today's New York Times.

John Broder, New York Times

Main Topic Should America Use 'Soft Power' in the Middle East? 34 MIN, 55 SEC

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States was known for generosity to allies and former enemies. Lately, the US is seen as an international bully as President Bush and his neo-conservative advisors project America's "hard power" militarily and economically. Now, isolated and overstretched, as the wars grind on in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is losing the battles even some Administration officials now say should be fought with "soft power."  Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a recent reference to this prime American asset when he said that American has "a variety of tools. Not all of them are hammers."  What is "soft power?" Are Iran and China beating the US at what used to be its own game? How could "soft power" serve America's interests in a world of terrorism and nuclear weapons?

Joseph Nye, Professor of International Relations, Harvard University
Ruth Wedgewood, Professor of Law, Johns Hopkins University
Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council (@tparsi)
Clifford D. May, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (@CliffordDMay)
Jane Loeffler, Professor of Architectural History, University of Maryland-College Park

Reporter's Notebook Supreme Court Takes Up Child Porn Law 8 MIN, 13 SEC

In 2002, the US Supreme Court threw out a law against child pornography on the Internet saying it might have covered depictions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Congress re-wrote the law, which was used to convict Michael Williams of promoting child pornography, on the grounds that it violated the 1st Amendment. The Bush Administration wants the law to be restored. The 11th Circuit ruled that part of the law unconstitutional and today the Supreme Court heard the appeal. Joan Biskupic covers the court for USA Today.

Joan Biskupic, Reuters (@JoanBiskupic)

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