Saturday, March 2, 2019

King's College London 'study' slams RT for doing ... journalism



RT provided extensive coverage of the Skripal poisonings by exploring a number of theories, is critical of NATO, and writes stories about Western political dysfunction, a report from King's College London (KCL) has found. The Policy Institute (TPI) at KCL published a range of hard-hitting findings under the title 'Weaponising news: RT, Sputnik and targeted disinformation.' It's a piece of work which can stand proudly alongside the countless other reports which have reached the same conclusions using almost the same language.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Amazon just removed all movies that they consider "anti-vaccine"


Amazon has apparently started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its Amazon Prime Video streaming service. The move came days after a CNN Business report highlighted the anti-vaccine comment available on the site, and hours after Rep. Adam Schiff wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying he is concerned “that Amazon is surfacing and recommending” anti-vaccination books and movies.


18 Really Big Numbers That Show That The U.S. Economy Is Starting To Fall Apart Very Rapidly


Virtually every piece of hard economic data is telling us that the U.S. economy is slowing down dramatically. Many of the pundits have been warning that we could officially enter recession territory later this year or next year, but these numbers seem to indicate that it could happen a whole lot sooner than that. But the stock market has been surging over the last two months, and at this point stocks are off to their best start to a year since 1987, and as long as stock prices are rising a lot of people are simply not going to pay much attention to the economic alarm bells that are ringing. But everyone should be paying attention, because things are really starting to get bad out there. The following are 18 really big numbers that show that the U.S. economy is starting to fall apart very rapidly…

#1 Farm loan delinquencies just hit the highest level that we have seen in 9 years.

#2 We just learned that U.S. exports declined by 4 billion dollars during the month of December.

#3 J.C. Penney just announced that they will be closing another 24 stores.

#4 Victoria’s Secret has just announced plans to close 53 stores.

#5 On Thursday, Gap announced that it will be closing 230 stores over the next two years.

#6 Payless ShoeSource has declared bankruptcy and is closing all 2,100 stores.

#7 Tesla is also closing all of their physical sales locations and will now only sell vehicles online.

#8 PepsiCo has started laying off workers and has committed to “millions of dollars in severance pay”.

#9 The Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level in more than two years.

#10 This is the worst slump for core U.S. factory orders in three years.

#11 We just witnessed the largest decline in the Philly Fed Business Index in more than 7 years.

#12 In January, sales of existing homes fell 8.9 percent from a year earlier. That was the third month in a row that we have seen a decline of at least 8 percent. This is an absolutely catastrophic trend for the real estate industry.

#13 U.S. housing starts were down 11.2 percent in December compared to the previous month.

#14 Compared to a year earlier, home sales in southern California were down 17 percent in January.

#15 In December, home sales in Sacramento County fell a whopping 22.5 percent compared to a year earlier.

#16 Pending home sales in the United States have now fallen on a year over year basis for 13 months in a row.

#17 More than 166 billion dollars in student loan debt is now “seriously delinquent”. That is an all-time record.

#18 More than 7 million Americans are behind on their auto loan payments. That is also a new all-time record, and it is far higher than anything that we witnessed during the last recession.

It appears that “the recovery” has finally come to an end. After seeing all of those numbers, there is no way that anyone can possibly claim that economic conditions are “getting better”.

And even though the official government numbers are highly manipulated, we never even had one “boom year” throughout the entire “recovery”.

The final numbers for 2018 are now in, and last year was the 13th year in a row when U.S. GDP growth was below 3 percent.

The last time we had a “boom year” when economic growth was above 3 percent was all the way back in 2005. That was in the middle of the Bush administration.

We have never seen a bad streak like this before in modern American history. The following comes from CNS News

But prior to the current 13-year period when real GDP has failed to grow by 3.0 percent in any year, there has been no stretch (in the years since 1930) when the United States went as long as five straight years with real GDP failing to grow by at least 3 percent.

Even though the Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system over the last decade, and even though we added nearly 12 trillion dollars to the national debt, the best that the authorities have been able to do is to stabilize the system for a while. Now it is starting to sputter once again, and many believe that the next crisis will be far worse than the last one.

By contrast, the Great Depression of the 1930s featured some really bad years, but following those bad years the U.S. experienced a tremendous economic boom

By contrast, after the stock market crash in 1929, the United States saw four years of negative annual GDP—1930 (-8.5), 1931 (-6.4), 1932 (-12.9) and 1933 (-1.2). But then in the nine full years from 1934 through 1942, real GDP grew by an average of 9.75 percent.

We should have had some boom years too, but we didn’t, and now things are going to get bad again.

The Democrats are going to blame the Republicans and the Republicans are going to blame the Democrats, but all of that arguing isn’t going to solve anything.

What is coming next has been a central focus of my work for a very long time. The last recession was very painful, but it did not fundamentally alter life in America.

This next crisis will.

The “Everything Bubble” is bursting, the “Perfect Storm” is coming, and all of our lives will never be the same again.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. In fact, once things really start getting crazy hope is going to be one of the major themes in my work because people are really going to need it.

There will be great challenges, and life will be very different, but that doesn’t mean that life is over.

America is about to experience the consequences of decades of exceedingly foolish decisions, and the pain will be extreme. But difficult times also offer an opportunity for dramatic change, and that is something that we will need to embrace.

Get Prepared NowAbout the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

The post 18 Really Big Numbers That Show That The U.S. Economy Is Starting To Fall Apart Very Rapidly appeared first on The Most Important News.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tommy Robinson Upstages "Radical Far Left" BBC Hit Piece; Gets Immediate Facebook Ban


Days after UK conservative activist Tommy Robinson upstaged an upcoming BBC "hit piece" on him with his own documentary, Facebook banned him from their platform - including Instagram, after a BBC contributor contacted them

Robinson's hour-long Exposé, Panodrama, features undercover footage of BBC journalist John Sweeney making racist and classist statements, and reveals how the BBC collaborated with a "radical far left" organization, HOPE not Hate (funded in part by George Soros) to take Robinson down.

The BBC is also accused in Panodrama of bribery, blackmail and intimidation tactics agains former Robinson employees to "invent stories" against the former English Defence League leader.

"This is massive. This is Britain’s leading investigative journalist documentary by the BBC, that we pay for, creating, editing news, in order to destroy my life," said Robinson. 

"Panodrama is out!" announced Robinson in a YouTube video. "Go on my Facebook page, it's pinned to the top."

Unfortunately for Robinson, Facebook - which is currently under tremendous pressure by UK lawmakers for violating privacy laws, may have gotten a tap on the shoulder after BBC contributor Mohammed Shafiq took action.

Tommy Robinson being banned by Facebook and Instagram was timed deliberately so he couldn’t defend himself against the BBC hit piece about to come out.

This is how they operate.

But conservatives keep preaching “muh free market” until we are silenced into oblivion.

— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) February 26, 2019

BBC contributor Mohammed Shafiq acknowledged contacting Faebook to discuss Robinson's pages "and their impact in brainwashing his supporters to become terrorist and use violence against Muslims." 

As journalist Nick Monroe points out, Shafiq has been outed as a "religious extremist" who supports blasphemy laws (Monroe has been documenting the entire Robinson takedown, click on tweets below and scroll up for more).

"Why would Mo Shafiq promote the event of a man that advocates and celebrates murder in the service of ‘blasphemy’? And if that is Mo Shafiq in the image, why would he attend such an event?"

"It has now been confirmed that the man in the above images is in fact Mo Shafiq."

— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) February 26, 2019

In Panodrama, Robinson can be seen confronting Sweeney about a misleadingly edited segment in the BBC documentary concerning a past dispute with an employee. 

"You find it fun to tell someone that an innocent comment is sexualised — do you know what that would do to my family? Do you know what that would do to my children? Do you know what you are doing to my family? You’ve no idea what you’re doing to my family," Robinson yelled at Sweeney. 

"They’re scripting the documentary. They’re also creating and inventing news — ‘sexual thing’ against Tommy Robinson… What else was going to be said? What are lies and manufactured evidence would there have been on this documentary?"

"We’ve seen the BBC, who pride themselves on being impartial and reporting the truth, you’ve witnessed the main man from Panorama telling someone what to say, brokering a deal on what they have to say about me," Robinson concludes. 

Sweeney can also be heard calling working-class men "cannibals from Amazonia" along with other offensive remarks, which the BBC admitted: "some of the footage which has been released was recorded without our knowledge during this investigation and John Sweeney made some offensive and inappropriate remarks, for which he apologises." 

Responding to the ban, Robinson told Breitbart London: "…the reasons they’ve given are just complete lies. They’re saying I incited violence and that I openly called for violence against Muslims, that’s just a lie. If that was the case then they could show evidence of messages where I’d said that but I never have."

"This is continued censorship which we all knew was coming but its been done instantly because of my documentary which exposed the establishment working with Hope not Hate, working with the BBC in order to destroy my name to the nation. When I exposed what they were doing they’ve put down the pressure to completely delete me from the internet. This has to show people the levels they’re gonna go to silence any opposition to mass migration and the Islamisation of this nation."

Robinson’s removal from the platform is only the latest in a series of bans targeting the campaigner in recent years. He was de-platformed by Twitter in May 2018, banned from receiving payments by Paypal in November of that year, and had Youtube videos blockedfrom earning revenue in January 2019.

Mr Robinson told Breitbart London that he would be working on his own mobile app for live streaming after his removal from several social media sites. -Breitbart London

My friend #TommyRobinson banned from Facebook and Instagram for speaking the truth.

But the truth cannot be censored!

— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) February 26, 2019

Facebook claimed in a nebulous statement that their decision to ban Robinson because his Facebook page "has repeatedly broken these standards, posting material that uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims. He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organized hate. As a result, in accordance with our policies, we have removed Tommy Robinson’s official Facebook Page and Instagram profile."


— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) February 26, 2019

Meanwhile, thousands of people attended a Sunday rally against the BBC in support of Robinson, where Panodrama was unveiled to the public for the first time. 

More bannings

Also of note, British political activist and former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London Raheem Kasaam, as well as Inforwars host Owen Shroyer have had their Facebook pages taken down as well. 

Raheem Kassam @RaheemKassam has his Facebook page ALSO REMOVED at the same time as Tommy Robinson

— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) February 26, 2019

J Owen Shroyer (@allidoisowen) also down

— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) February 26, 2019

After intervention from Donald Trump Jr., however, Facebook reinstated Kassam's account. 


Following this intervention from @DonaldJTrumpJr and others, Facebook has now reinstated my account.

Thank you to Don Jr. and all the others who got so involved and ahead on this story. I've no doubt you frightened Facebook into acting.


— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) February 26, 2019

If by “as soon as we were able to investigate” they mean “as soon as Don Jr called us out publicly,” then I believe them.

— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) February 26, 2019


Ex-CNN Reporter Amber Lyon Explains How They Fake The News



by Tim Brown, Freedom OutPost: You may recall the name of journalist Amber Lyon.  She is the one that left the most worthless name in news, CNN, after her reporting was censored.  She went on to out the state-controlled propaganda machine at the time.  However, in a short interview with Abby Martin on Sky News, Lyon explains […]

The post Ex-CNN Reporter Amber Lyon Explains How They Fake The News appeared first on SGT Report.


Monday, February 25, 2019

When The Veneer Of Civilization Slipped Away


Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The American Institute for Economic Research,

They Shall Not Grow Old is an extremely painful film to watch. I’ve seen most of the major war films but I can’t recall one that is more powerful overall – powerful in the sense that it shakes you to your spiritual core.

This film puts you right there as a middle-class Briton in the midst of the Great War, step-by-step from regular civilian to the killing fields of the Western front, from the onset of patriotism at the beginning to the shattered hopes and lives of the end.

You are left with a deeply unsettling number of questions to which there are no obvious answers, questions such as where does war come from and why can’t it be stopped and why, after this experience, did humankind ever allow it to happen again? The whole thing seems too unbelievable to be true. And yet somehow this movie makes it too true to ignore, try as one might.

Audiences are wild for the film (99% on Rotten Tomatoes). It exudes integrity in every frame.

The headline pitch for the film is the technology that made it possible. The producers took old black-and-white spotty footage and colorized it, added sound, and removed the rough edges, seemingly bringing the dead back to life. It’s jaw-dropping for sure, and enough reason to keep watching. If you have had any moments of regret concerning the effect of CGI on modern filmography, this movie might change your mind.

But this is far from all that the film offers. The narrative is genius storytelling, somehow taking this ghastly, complex, ignored series of events with strange beginnings and turning it into a deeply engaging human drama about the mystically evil event we call war which baptizes mass murder and death in the cleansing waters of patriotic fervor.

Why do people choose to give up their normal, happy lives to risk debilitating injury and death in steamy swamps of the warzone, a life of sleeping while standing up in terrifying trenches while suffering gangrene and dysentery with the only hope of escaping resting with the obliteration of people just like yourself but for accident of geography who are living the same way just over the hill?

True, Britain had a draft. It was instituted in January of 1916. From the telling we receive here, however, it’s not obvious that it was necessary. The nation was calling and that was enough. Propaganda posters were everywhere. The pressure must have been unbearable. You surely do not doubt the superiority of your nation or distrust the claims of its leadership. Your friends and colleagues were going. Were you just going to let them risk their lives for the great cause of...something...while you languished at home as a cowardly shopkeeper?

I wondered what I would have done, but it seems rather obvious given the times. I too would have signed up. I’m sure every viewer was thinking the same. From that moment of mental decision making, you feel deep empathy with all the subsequent events: the disease, the terror, the heartache, the sense of betrayal after the war.

The world had never seen total war before, but these were also times of the advent of the total state that knew no limits to its power. The age of laissez-faire was said to be over, and scientific planning would take its place. We had the intelligence. We had modern technology. We had central banks to generate the necessary funds out of thin air.

Why stop with domestic policy? The total beckoned to be tested on the battlefield. From the Middle Ages through the Napoleonic and Colonial wars, the conflicts between nations were between states and those who worked for them. But with the Great War, it was different. Whole nations were now at war, not just governments. Not one was excluded from the massive mobilization.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote, “The first step which led from the soldiers’ war back to total war was the introduction of compulsory military service. It gradually did away with the difference between soldiers and citizens. The war was no longer to be only a matter of mercenaries; it was to include everyone who had the necessary physical ability.”

And so it began, almost as if by accident. The noble and heroic legend of wars past was summoned up in support of a new kind of war in which, as people soon discovered, individual bravery mattered hardly at all. The difference between those who came home in one piece and the many millions who were slaughtered was purely accidental. How can you fight bravely from a trench? Your main goal was survival and there was very little you can do to make it more or less likely.

Every viewer will be affected differently but here are the parts that stood out to me. I had read about mustard gas but had not seen or fully realized the implications. I had known that the soldiers in the war were young but as young as 15 years old? Remarkable. I hadn’t fully realized what a remarkable invention the tank was for war. I’ve heard stories of the tragedy afflicting returning soldiers from Vietnam but hadn’t known that it affected those returning from the Great War too.

There is a moment near the end in which a soldier is telling the story of successfully pushing through the German line and pouring into a trench occupied by German soldiers. Enemy combatants came out with their hands up. The aging soldier continued with the story: “at that moment, we had to decide what to do, so of course we….” – and if the audio had stopped there I had no way to predict what he would have said. He continued: “we captured them and led them back to camp.” Whew: four fewer murders that day than one might have expected.

You read every manner of speculation concerning the mysterious appearance of moral nihilism in the 20th century. Rarely is the Great War named as a culprit, but this film leaves no doubt. Hundreds, even thousands, of years of struggle to develop and cultivate a sense of decorum, decency, peace, human understanding, and, poof, in a seeming instant it is all gone.

The veneer of civilization slipped away, to quote one memoir. You either kill or be killed, on a scale not seen since the Black Death wiped out half of Europe’s population. It’s one thing to be killed by disease; another to manufacture with industrial equipment the means to inflict mass death on a population by design.

It’s no wonder that following this war, humankind’s hold on the idea of fixed moral categories became tenuous at best. The claims made by the ruling class that this war was conducted for righteous reasons, complete with mandatory church attendance during training, came to be revealed very obviously as a tissue of lies.

“Each chief of the murderers causes his colors to be blessed,” wrote Voltaire, “and solemnly invokes God before he goes to exterminate his neighbors. If a chief has only the fortune to kill two or three thousand men, he does not thank God for it; but when he has exterminated about ten thousand by fire and sword, and, to complete the work, some town has been leveled with the ground, they then sing a long song in four parts, composed in a language unknown to all who have fought, and moreover replete with barbarism. The same song serves for marriages and births, as well as for murders.”

Every idealist hopes that humankind can learn from history. There is plenty of evidence that we do not. Voltaire failed to stop war, despite valiant efforts. Still, we must face history, even its most brutal chapters, if there is to be any hope of finding our way back to peace and civilization. They Shall Not Grow Old makes a mighty contribution to that goal.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Middle East Bought Our Think Thanks Long Ago


The 2016 elections awakened Americans to a startling reality: the country’s political system is ripe for foreign interference. The Russians took full advantage of social media with bot armies and through unregistered foreign agents. While their influence garnered considerable attention and has led to increased enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), one area has remained largely off the congressional and media radar screens.  Yet it remains a vital part of the way other governments try to influence policy in this country: the foreign funding of think tanks.

Most Americans undoubtedly have little idea what a think tank actually does.  Having worked at two of them myself, it’s fair to say that even those of us who have labored inside these basic building blocks for policymaking in Washington are often still trying to figure out just what many of them do.  Still, whether you know it or not, you’ve certainly seen think-tank employees on cable news, heard them on the radio, or read their op-ed pieces.

After all, think tanks are homes for so many of the “experts” who are the go-to sources for media coverage of foreign and domestic policy topics on just about any day — and are often key go-to sources for those making policy in Washington, too). You know, the former Department of Defense official you caught on NBC News discussing Iran or the Middle Eastern expert you saw quoted in Newsweek critiquing the Trump administration’s policies there. Outside the public eye, members of Congress and executive branch officials rely heavily on think tanks for expertise on a wide range of issues, for key congressional testimony, and even for quite literally helping craft public policy.

Those who run Washington generally trust the inhabitants of think tanks of their political bent to provide the intellectual foundations upon which much of public policy is built. At least in some cases, however, that trust couldn’t be more deeply misplaced, since cornerstones of the ever-expanding think-tank universe turn out to be for sale.

Every year foreign governments pour tens of millions of dollars into those very institutions and, though many think tanks are tax-exempt non-profits, such donations often turn out to be anything but charitable gifts. Foreign contributions generally come with critically important strings attached — usually a favorable stance toward that country in whatever influential work the think tanks are doing. In other words, those experts you regularly read or see on screen, whose scholarship and advice Washington’s politicians and other officials often use, are in some cases being paid, directly or indirectly, by the very countries on which they are offering advice and analysis. And here’s the catch: they can do so without ever having to tell you about it.

The Money Trail From Foreign Governments to Think Tanks

“I’ve never had to worry in my years at CAP about an analyst or me saying X, Y, and Z and worry about a funding source. Never thought about it. Never,” explained Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress (CAP).  He was speaking at a Middle East Institute (MEI) event in January entitled “The Role of Think Tanks in Shaping Middle East Policy.” MEI President Paul Salem echoed this sentiment, noting that funding, particularly foreign government funding, shouldn’t ever shape a think tank’s work.  “Independence,” he proclaimed, “is sacred.”

Such comments, like the events themselves, are just the norm in Washington think-tank life — unless, that is, you follow the money, in which case they seem both striking and supremely ironic. On any given day, Washington is, in fact, awash in foreign-policy events at think tanks. There, experts convene to publicly discuss just about every topic you’d want to hear about — except one, of course: their funding. And that is what made the Katulis-Salem exchange particularly interesting. What they and their follow panelists never mentioned at an event extolling the importance of think tanks in helping craft political Washington’s Middle East policies was this: both CAP and MEI have received millions of dollars from authoritarian governments in the Middle East.

MEI has publicly reported receiving millions from Saudi Arabia and lesser amounts from the Persian Gulf states of Oman and Qatar. By far its largest donor, however, seems to have been the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reportedly making a “secret” $20 million contribution to that think tank, earmarked to “hire experts in order to counter the more egregious misperceptions about the region” and “to inform U.S. government policymakers.” In other words, in the spirit of that MEI panel title, the UAE’s funding was explicitly designed to shape that think tank’s — and so U.S. — policy considerations.

While hardly in that $20 million range, CAP has also publicly reportedreceiving at least $1.5 million from the UAE.

And keep in mind that those two think tanks are hardly the only ones receiving donations from countries in the Middle East. The Center for a New American Security, for instance, received $250,000 from the United Arab Emirates to produce a study on the need for the U.S. to export military-grade drones to countries like… the UAE. That think tank’s subsequent report on the topic notes that the U.S. doesn’t export drones to the UAE and other countries, but should because “this reluctance to transfer U.S. drones harms U.S. interests in tangible ways.” Never mind that a third of those killed in drone strikes in the devastating war in Yemen are civilians.

The Brookings Institution received a $14.8 million donation from Qatar. In fact, according to a New York Times analysis, nearly all of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington have accepted money from authoritarian regimes in the Middle East or elsewhere. And that, in turn, is just the tip of the iceberg, since think tanks are not legally required to publicly disclose their funding.

Charity or Influence Buying?

If think tanks are to be believed, the money they receive from such funders changes little. Recent events at a number of think tanks, including the Center for American Progress and the Middle East Institute, should, however, give pause to anyone who assumes that such institutions are by their nature insulated from the influence of foreign funders.

Recently, serious questions have been raised about whether CAP’s ties to the UAE, itself a close ally of the Saudi royals, contributed to its awkward response to the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi in that Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  Following that killing, CAP released a response condemning the Saudis for their involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, but not calling for specific consequences to punish the Kingdom.

According to reporting by the Intercept’s Ryan Grim, such consequences were stripped from the statement by a CAP staffer who just happened to be Brian Katulis. Then, in December, CAP largely sat on the sidelines as the Senate passed a historic resolution to end U.S. involvement in the devastating Saudi-UAE war in Yemen. At the MEI event in January, Katulis dismissed those giving “energy and dynamism” to “the Yemen debate” for ignoring “the full complexity of the challenges.” Jamal Khashoggi’s name wasn’t even mentioned.

Despite MEI head Salem’s claim that “independence is sacred,” there’s reason to question how independent scholars can be when their work is, at least in part, dependent on foreign funding. In at least one case, for instance, Salem’s institute published the work of Fahad Nazer, who was directly on the Saudi payroll. While earning $7,000 a month as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia, Nazer wrote several pro-Saudi articles for both think tanks and mainstream media outlets, including one for MEI that made no mention of his financial ties to the Saudis. That March 2018 article did, however, encourage yet more U.S. support for the country’s ruling crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who, Nazer wrote, would “be good for Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the world.”

Just seven months later, bin Salman would reportedly authorize the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and, in January 2019, Nazer himself would become the official spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Blurred Lines and Lack of Transparency

Nazer’s case also illustrates a growing pattern of interactions between think tanks that receive foreign funding and the registered foreign agents of those countries. In fact, Emirati foreign agents last year reported contacting think tanks at least 85 times, according to an analysis of Foreign Agents Registration Act filings for a forthcoming report on the Emirati lobby in the U.S. by the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, which I direct.

Perhaps not surprisingly, CAP’s Katulis and MEI were among the top think-tank contacts for UAE’s foreign agents. According to 2018 filings, Katulis was contacted at least 12 times by the Harbour Group, which the UAE paid more than $5 million in 2018 to “influence U.S. policy,” according to the firm’s FARA filings. Katulis was a particular focus for them because he was helping to organize a “study tour” in which think-tank experts would take a luxurious trip to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. That group also contacted MEI at least 14 times on behalf of the UAE, directing most of its efforts towards a “speaking engagement at MEI” for the Emirati ambassador to the U.S., the same man who had directed that “secret” $20 million contribution to the institute.

Under current law, it is perfectly legal for think tanks that receive funding from foreign governments to also work with foreign agents registered to represent those very governments. FARA includes an exemption for those engaged in “bona fide… scholastic, academic, or scientific pursuits.” Like many parts of the FARA statute, it’s not at all clear what “bona fide” means, but think tanks are presumably exempt from registration if they meet this threshold.

While the work done by both think tanks and registered foreign agents can sometimes overlap, the two are worlds apart on one critical score: transparency. Under FARA, registered foreign agents are required to disclose a considerable amount of what they do, including whom they’re working for, how much they’re being paid, and whom they’re contacting, as well as when and where they do it, on behalf of foreign principals like the United Arab Emirates. And most of that information is available online. Anything they distribute on behalf of a foreign backer must also include a “conspicuous statement” to let anyone know that what they’re reading is being distributed on behalf of a foreign principal.

Think tanks receiving funding from foreign sources are, however, not required to do any of the above.

As is appropriate during tax season, most of this should, in the end, be blamed on the Internal Revenue Service. Think tanks usually operate as tax-exempt organizations and, according to the IRS, “a tax-exempt organization is generally not required to disclose publicly the names or addresses of its contributors set forth on its annual return.”

While MEI and CAP do both disclose their funding sources on their websites — for which they should be commended — many think tanks do not. And few, even among those that do, mention any potential conflicts of interest that might be reflected in their published reports or the speeches and media appearances of their members. Even more worrisome, a Project On Government Oversight investigation by Lydia Dennett found numerous examples of think-tank experts not reporting or mentioning financial ties to foreign governments when testifying before Congress. Hiding such potential conflicts of interest is likely to leave the public and policymakers with the impression that they’re hearing truly objective experts, when they may, in fact, be taking testimony from someone who is functionally or literally on the payroll of a country with a deep stake in what they’re telling Congress.

If think tanks are to remain credible sources of foreign-policy expertise, such ties must, at the very least, be laid bare.

A first step would simply be to require think tanks to publicly disclose any foreign funding they receive, something easily done by amending the IRS code. In addition, just as registered foreign agents are required to include a “conspicuous statement” letting readers know they’re working on behalf of a foreign power, think tanks should have to fully disclose their funding sources and any potential conflicts of interest in all their written products, as well as at speaking engagements, especially testimony before Congress. It should also be incumbent upon the media to do a better job of vetting sources. Sure, journalists are extraordinarily busy, but if a simple Google search can reveal that the Middle East “expert” you’re quoting is being paid by a country in the Middle East, it behooves you to tell your readers that.

Finally, transparency is essential, but it’s well past time for think tanks themselves to focus on the track records of the countries they’re getting money from. The Brookings Institution did just that by cutting ties with the Saudis shortly after the murder of Khashoggi and, soon after, MEI, too, announced that it would decline any further funding from the Saudi government. More recently, and following the questions raised about CAP’s involvement with the United Arab Emirates, that think tank announced that it would no longer accept UAE money. As a CAP spokesperson said, “It’s just the right thing to do.”

CAP, MEI, and Brookings are, however, the exceptions.  Most think tanks haven’t done “the right thing” and dropped funding from autocratic regimes. Nor are they likely to voluntarily increase transparency about that funding. The burden then falls on Congress to enact reforms ensuring that senators and representatives will know when the expert they’re hearing discuss a specific country or the region it’s in is being paid by that very same country. Failure to act could leave Americans asking a simple and uncomfortable question: Which country is buying U.S. foreign policy today?

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Abandoning science in favor of coercion, FDA pharma mob bosses demand U.S. states eliminate vaccine exemptions... or else

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