Based on what is publicly reported, foreign governments spent millions in 2013 to develop relationships within the United States with members of Congress, federal agencies and even the media, according to an analysis from the ever-informative Sunlight Foundation.
The United Arab Emirates spent a whopping $14.2 million to influence Americans, making contacts, among many others, with columnists and reporters to discuss “illicit finance issues.” Those conversations likely focused on terrorist financing and Iran sanctions, two issues that punctuated a visit Deputy Secretary of Treasury David Cohen made to the UAE early last year.
Foreign lobbying disclosures by law are much more specific than domestic ones, requiring nations to say who they contacted, when and why. For example, UAE reached out to The Washington Post’s conservative opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin in December 2013 regarding illicit finance.
The law that governs these stricter reporting requirements, the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, was created to keep tabs on Nazi propagandists during World War II. Why reporters? The United States feared Nazi Germany was paying public relations people to spin Hitler’s motives in conversations with American journalists.
Sunlight, which just last week unveiled a new data tool called Foreign Influence Explorer, analysed spending that “foreign entities or their paid representatives reported to the Department of Justice for 2013.” The data collected by Justice does not include “diplomatic contacts by members of a nation’s embassy.”
The governments that spend the most here on hired PR are ones that typically don’t have strong established diplomatic ties, Sunlight’s Bill Allison told the Loop. “It’s like renting a diplomatic corps when they hire foreign agents,” he said. But when there is a hot issue with international implications, like the Keystone XL pipeline or a trade treaty, there is often a spike in lobbyists representing a country’s interests, so even nations with already close relationships with the United States like Canada, Mexico and Germany rack up hefty bills.
Last year, lobbyists for Canada met with members of Congress for “relationship building.” Mexico’s lobbyists reached out to offices about the “Consular Notification Compliance Act,” legislation to protect rights of foreign national prisoners. And Germany lobbied Congress on overseas military bases, presumably since several U.S. installations there are scheduled to be closed.
Other allies like England and France didn’t register on Sunlight’s list. And Israel, which already has huge U.S. political pull through domestic organizations, spent only $1,250. Meanwhile, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the well-connected pro-Israel group based in the United States, spent close to $3 million on lobbying last year.
Generally, it’s easy to surmise that the countries spending the most on U.S. lobbyists are ones with substantial energy, trade, immigration, agriculture or other notable business dealings in Washington. But it’s not entirely clear why some countries depend on their diplomats here to cultivate relationships while others look for outside help.
Top 10 foreign governments paying for influence in 2013
UAE 14.2 million
Germany $12 million
Canada $11.2 million
Saudi Arabia $11.1 million
Mexico $6.1 million
Morocco $4 million
South Korea $3.9 million
Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic) $2.4 million
Georgia $2.3 million
Azerbaijan $2.3 million
#AceWorldNews – EUROPEAN UNION – May 06 – The EU has reportedly lifted visa requirements for 19 countries from the Pacific, Caribbean, Middle East and Latin America.
The EU Council adopted a regulation to exempt from visa requirements when travelling to the Schengen zone nationals from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Peru, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.
The decision prompted frustration in Turkey, which has been waiting for years to acquire the right to visa-free travel, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
#AceUKNews – LONDON – April 12 – (BBC News ) – One of the victims of a hammer attack at a London hotel has been left with 5% brain function and has lost her left eye, police said.
The woman, from the United Arab Emirates, was attacked with her two sisters in their room at the Cumberland Hotel, Marble Arch on 6 April.
Philip Spence, 32, of no fixed abode, has been remanded in custody charged with three counts of attempted murder.
He also appeared in court charged with one count of aggravated burglary.
He is due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 17 April http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-27000875
Ace Related News – Reported the original story on April 08 – 21.13 GMT – #AceUKNews – LONDON – April 08 – An attacker has bludgeoned three Emirate’s women with a hammer in a central London hotel during a possible theft attempt.
One victim was in a critical but stable condition at a central London hospital, while the other two both sustained serious injuries but were not in a life-threatening condition, following the attack early on Sunday at London’s Cumberland Hotel. http://wp.me/p165ui-4HW
#AceWorldNews – The White House has cancelled plans for a meeting later this month between US President Barack Obama and Persian Gulf monarchs in Saudi Arabia based on tensions among US allies in the region, sources told The Wall Street Journal.
The summit was to include leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait.
Diplomats informed of the decision to scuttle the meeting said the cancellation symbolizes the tumultuous political climate in the Middle East.
The US has worked with the GCC on security and economic issues in recent years, but the main points of contention include Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear operations.
In addition, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain withdrew ambassadors from Qatar this month based on its support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group.
Wall Street Journal – News and Media Sources
#AceMediaNews reports that Three Arab countries – Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates – have banned the Hollywood film ‘Noah’ on religious grounds before it has even been released.
Noah is revered in Islam and an entire chapter of the Koran is devoted to him. Islam frowns on the depiction of holy figures in art.
IRAN – US – EU – UAE – HRW – SYRIA – AL QAEDA – TURKEY – ISRAEL – PALESTINE – KOREA – LIBYA – EGYPT – AFRICA
DAVOS – GENEVA – VERIZON – ROUHANI – ALBERTA – TAR-SANDS
Iran negotiating normalization of relations with US, Europe – Rouhani
Iran is negotiating with the US and is seeking actions from Washington to back up its words, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he also said relations with Europe will be normalized as an interim nuclear accord is implemented, Reuters reported. Rouhani announced that one of the priorities of his government is “constructive engagement with the world.”
UAE blocking rights news conference – HRW
Human Rights Watch has announced that the United Arab Emirates prevented it from holding a news conference Thursday to release a report criticizing rights violations in the country. “Blocking Human Rights Watch from holding a news conference in the UAE sadly underscores the increasing threat to freedom of expression in the country,” AFP quoted Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s chief for the Middle East and North Africa, as saying. The watchdog had booked a room a month ago at a Dubai hotel for the news conference, but staff said early in the morning that the reservation had been canceled. It said HRW had failed to obtain a special government permit to hold the conference.
Al-Qaeda leader calls on rebel factions in Syria to unite
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahri called on militant rebel factions in Syria to stop fighting each other, Reuters reported. They should set up a judicial committee to sort out their differences, he said in an audio recording released on Islamist websites. A small faction, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been caught up in clashes with other Islamist insurgents in recent weeks. The fighting was often triggered by disputes over authority and territory.
At least 21 dead in Turkey bus crash
At least 21 people were killed on Thursday during a bus accident in central Turkey, AFP reported, citing a local governor. The bus tipped over after sliding on an icy road in a town in Kayseri province, Orhan Duzgun said on television. “The number of the dead has risen to 21,” Duzgun said. Some of the passengers died when they jumped out of the vehicle’s windows.
Abbas ready to meet with Israeli PM, address Knesset – reports
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at any time, the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said. It also quoted Abbas as saying he does not rule out addressing the Knesset. The Palestinian goals include strengthening the vision of two states, where Israel would exist alongside a Palestinian state created on pre-1967 lines, he said. Abbas dismissed the possibility of signing any agreement that pertains only to the West Bank and stressed that any agreement reached with Israel would be brought to a referendum.
Kidnapped S. Korean trade official freed in Libya – govt
A South Korean trade agency employee abducted on Monday by four unknown assailants in Libya has been freed by security forces, said the Libyan government. Han Seok-woo, head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), was kidnapped as he was returning home after his work at the trade office in Tripoli. “The trade attaché … is now in the South Korean Embassy in good health,” reports Libya’s Foreign Ministry, adding that “some of the kidnappers were arrested.”
Five killed in Egypt in militant raid on checkpoint
Five people were killed and two others injured in an armed attack on a security checkpoint in the southern Egyptian town of Beni Suef, state television reported on Thursday. The checkpoint was raided by two masked gunmen on motorcycles, the Interior Ministry said. It’s the latest episode in a spree of attacks on security troops and army, which started after the military coup in July 2013, which deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The violence took at least 250 lives of soldiers and police officers.
EU suggests backing away from clean fuel standard
The European Union signaled in an energy and climate policy statement released Wednesday that it is backing away from a clean fuel standard aimed at reducing harmful emissions, InsideClimate News reported. The EU’s Fuel Quality Directive, established in 2009, was created in an effort to cut 6 percent of emissions from Europe’s transport sector by 2020. Yet in a wide-ranging statement Wednesday, the EU recommended not extending or strengthening the policy after 2020. Such a policy change is a win for high-carbon fuels like tar sands, environmental groups said. Canada, with its own large reserves of Alberta tar sands set for easier export to new markets thanks to pipelines like Keystone XL, has lobbied aggressively to weaken the directive since its adoption. The policy suggestion will face further review in March.
Verizon releases ‘transparency report,’ received 320,000 data requests in US
Verizon released its promised “transparency report” on Wednesday, saying it received 320,000 data requests last year in the United States alone. The report said the US government sent the company 164,184 subpoenas, 62,857 court orders, 36,696 warrants, around 50,000 “emergency requests” from law enforcement, 1,496 wiretap orders, and between 1,000 and 2,000 “national security letters” – in which information is demanded independent of court authority. “We do not release customer information unless authorized by law, such as a valid law enforcement demand or an appropriate request in an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury,” the company said. Verizon did not say how often it refuses to provide information after it is subpoenaed, or how many of its users were targeted. The company is the first major US telecom to divulge such inquiries, following the lead of Google, Apple, and Microsoft in issuing a report. AT&T also said last month that it would offer its own report.
S. Africa platinum workers to strike for higher wages
Tens of thousands of members of South Africa’s largest platinum-sector union plan to strike Thursday at the country’s top three platinum producers. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is demanding a “living wage” of around US$12,500 – over double their current pay. AMCU organizers say that 70,000 of its members will strike indefinitely. The three targeted companies – Anglo American, Impala, and Lonmin Platinum – said they have received notice of the strike from AMCU. A separate strike in the gold sector was also planned for Thursday, but was postponed after a court ruling. The platinum strike would be the largest in the sector since the 2012 Marikana massacre, when 34 protesting miners were shot and killed by police for engaging in an illegal demonstration. The planned walkout by the platinum workers is legal.
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