Category Archives: Reality Check

Reality Check With Ben Swann

Reality Check: Would ‘Anti Sex Trafficking’ Bill Actually Hurt Victims?

It’s another case of politicians with good intentions pushing harmful legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill aimed to fight sex trafficking online.

Politicians and celebrities are saying the bill will help save victims. Victim advocacy groups argue the bill is actually harmful to sex-trafficking survivors and sex workers. And the DOJ believes the bill is “unconstitutional.”

What is this new bill really about, and what are the repercussions of it?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

That’s the new public service announcement from Mary Mazzio, director of documentary “I Am Jane Doe.” The film focuses on what some people call a loophole in the law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The film highlights stories dating back to 2009 of families of sex trafficking victims who sued Backpage.com and lost. Lost, because reportedly Section 230 protects websites from like Backpage from being held responsible for all things posted to the site.

Soon after the documentary was released, Congress decided to get involved and a few weeks ago passed H.R. 1865, or as the bill is called, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” or FOSTA. Sounds good right? So what specifically does it do?

The bill amends federal law to assign liability for online services, including Backpage.com, that are “knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating” sex trafficking.

And it amends the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that quote, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

So congress fixed a big problem, right? Well, maybe not. The bill is considered government overreach by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the House Liberty Caucus, and a handful of Republicans and Democrats voted it down.

Why would they do that?

According to Ars Technica, “They argued that the law was unconstitutionally broad and that it conflicted with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants website providers broad immunity against liability for hosting material posted by third parties.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation strongly opposes the new House bill to amend Section 230. “FOSTA would punch a major hole in Section 230, enabling lawsuits and prosecutions against online platforms—including ones that aren’t even aware that sex trafficking is taking place. … If websites can be sued or prosecuted because of user actions, it creates extreme incentives. Some online services might react by prescreening or filtering user posts. Others might get sued out of existence.”

The EFF isn’t alone in its opposition. Victims advocacy groups, sex workers, free speech advocates, tech companies and others are coming forward saying that Section 230 is not broken, and that there is nothing preventing law enforcement right now from going after websites that promote sex trafficking.

Part of the reason for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” and “to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking of obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.”

So what you need to know is some websites have taken very strong action to prevent sex traffickers from using their platforms as a sales tool. Craigslist shut down its adult section in back in 2010, without government force.

But what H.R. 1865 will do is threefold:

  1. It will actually create massive liability for platforms, websites, ISPs, web hosting providers, and online advertisers, by holding them responsible for the actions of the users.
  2. It will create huge wave a lawsuits from trial lawyers who will go after internet companies, because again, those companies will be responsible legally for users actions
  3. And it will actually make internet companies less likely to work with law enforcement because if the company knows that someone is abusing their platform, the company is now responsible.

There are already laws in place to go after companies that knowingly support sex trafficking. There are laws in place to go after sex traffickers. But this bill only stands to create a whole new set of problems, without fixing the one it’s trying to fix.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that right now on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: Ex CIA Director Says U.S. Meddles for a ‘Good Cause’

Producer’s note, March 15, 2018, 5:24 PM: This episode cited an article published by Salon, which was a republication of an original article written for Alternet by Nicolas J.S. Davies. The original article can be seen here.

The Russians hacked our election. The Russians attacked our democratic process.

You have heard these claims from the media and politicians for well over a year.

Then, the recent federal indictment of Russians accused of intervening in the 2016 election. That was the final bit of proof, right?

Consider the fact that the Russian meddling indictment was just $100,000 in Facebook ads bought to swing the election. But compare it to the money spent and lives put at stake when the U.S. meddles in foreign elections or outright overthrows governments all over the world.

A former CIA director claims our meddling is different because when we do it, it is “for the good of the system.” Is that really true?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey said it himself. Yes, the U.S. meddles in other countries elections. But when we do it, it’s for the right reasons.

“Only for a very good cause,” he says, because our government is ensuring foreign elections result in “democracy.”

But doesn’t democracy demand that people decide for themselves, even if they choose to have a communist government? And how well has U.S. meddling actually worked out?

According to Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov Levin, the United States has attempted to sway elections in other countries more than 80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000.

“One example of that was our intervention in Serbia, Yugoslavia in the 2000 election there. Slobodan Milosevic was running for re-election, and we didn’t want him to stay in power there due to his tendency, you know, to disrupts the Balkans and his human rights violations,” according to Levin. “So we intervened in various ways for the opposition candidate. And we gave funding to the opposition, and we gave them training and campaigning aide.”

But those 80+ instances of the U.S. interfering with other nations elections does not include regime change efforts.

In the 1970s in Chile, the CIA conducted a botched kidnapping of General René Schneider, the Chilean Army’s commander-in-chief, that resulted in Schneider’s death. The plot was an effort to undermine the presidency of Salvador Allende, which may have fueled the violent coup that led to Allende’s overthrow.

In 1974, Henry Kissinger was quoted in Newsweek, saying about Chile: “I don’t see why we have to let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Levin’s tally also does not include covert coup d’etats where our government overthrows a foreign leader like the the U.S. did in Iran in 1953 or in Guatemala in 1954.

But remember, we only do that to spread democracy around the world and for a very good cause… right?

No, not so much. In fact, Salon magazine documents 35 nations in which the United States has overthrown legitimate governments and or supported fascists, drug lords or terrorists.

Going back to 1953 Iran, it is one of the most stark examples of the U.S. overthrowing governments. The CIA and the U.K.’s MI6 overthrew the popular, elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

The good and right reason? Because, according to Salon, “Iran had nationalized its oil industry by a unanimous vote of parliament, ending a BP monopoly that only paid Iran a 16% royalty on its oil.”

From Salon:

“For two years, Iran resisted a British naval blockade and international economic sanctions. After President Eisenhower took office in 1953, the CIA agreed to a British request to intervene. After the initial coup failed and the Shah and his family fled to Italy, the CIA payed millions of dollars to bribe military officers and pay gangsters to unleash violence in the streets of Tehran. Mossadegh was finally removed and the Shah returned to rule as a brutal Western puppet until the Iranian Revolution in 1979.”

Cuba: “The United States supported the Batista dictatorship as it created the repressive conditions that led to the Cuban Revolution.”

Argentina: “U.S. documents declassified in 2003 detail conversations between U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Argentinian Foreign Minister Admiral Guzzetti in October 1976, soon after the military seized power in Argentina. Kissinger explicitly approved of the ‘dirty war,’ in which 30,000 people were killed, most of them young people, and 400 children were stolen from the families of their murdered parents.”

Guatemala: In 1954, the U.S. decided “to remove the elected liberal government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala”… “The CIA recruited and trained a small army of mercenaries under Guatemalan exile Castillo Armas to invade Guatemala, with 30 unmarked U.S. planes providing air support.”

“U.S. Ambassador Peurifoy prepared a list of Guatemalans to be executed, and Armas was installed as president. The reign of terror that followed led to 40 years in which at least 200,000 were killed, most of them indigenous people.”

What you need to know is everything I am sharing with you is public record. But this is where our media fails.

Because it is our media who wants so badly to point the finger at the Russians who “hacked our election” by trying to influence our democracy. But that same media absolutely refuses to hold our own nation responsible, not for creating Facebook ads to sway an election but toppling governments and leaving millions of people around the world living in horrific conditions.

Look back at history and you will find that U.S. intervention is rarely about democracy. And instead, it is often about profit, business, natural resources and political control.

It is about what is “good” for the U.S. and not about what is good for the people of those nations, who should have every right to choose their own government and their own systems for themselves.

That’s Reality Check let’s talk about it right now on Facebook and Twitter.

Reality Check: Mass Shootings & Psychiatric Drugs

Let’s start with a question. When it comes to the debate over mass shootings in America, why does the discussion always go toward tougher gun laws?

And yet, we are not talking about the role of antidepressants and other psychiatric medication.

The truth? The connection between mass shooters and these medications is stunning.

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

The response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida has been call after call for tougher gun laws, but seems to ignore the issues once again surrounding antidepressants.

Without question, Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man who killed 17 students and wounded more than a dozen that afternoon February 14, had for years exhibited signs of mental health problems. We talked about it on Reality Check a few episodes back.

Here’s what we know about Cruz.

Cruz’s adoptive father Roger Cruz died more than a decade ago, and his adoptive mother Lynda Cruz reportedly struggled with her son and his brother Zachary until her death in November 2017.

Barbara Kumbatovich, a former sister-in-law, told the Miami Herald, that Lynda Cruz “did the best she could,” and that Nikolas and Zachary “were adopted and had some emotional issues.”

Kumbatovich told the publication that she believed Nikolas was on medication to deal with those issues and that Lynda “was struggling with Nikolas the last couple years.”

In addition to Kubatovich’s statements, records show that police were called to the Cruz residence as many as 45 times since 2008, according to Buzzfeed News.

Between reports that Cruz had previously pulled a gun on his brother and mother, and an anonymous FBI tip from January that Cruz had been suicidal but then decided “he wants to kill people” and that he was “going to explode”… all evidence is indicating a clearly unstable young man with numerous documented concerns from those who knew him.

We still don’t know what, if any medications Cruz might have been on. But we do know that the number of high profile mass shootings over the past 30 years, and the link to psychiatric medication, is deeply concerning.

In 1989, 47-year-old Joseph T. Wesbecker shot 20 workers in a Louisville, Kentucky factory, killing nine people… just a month after he began taking Prozac. The drugmaker, Eli Lilly and Company, later settled a lawsuit brought by survivors.

1998: 15-year-old Oregon school shooter Kip Kinkel, who opened fire in his school cafeteria, he was on Prozac.

1999: Columbine killer Eric Harris was taking Luvox, another antidepressant.

An important fact about Luvox. According to author David Kupelian from his book, How Evil Works, “Luvox manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals concedes that during short-term controlled clinical trials, 4 percent of children and youth taking Luvox — that’s one in 25 — developed mania, a dangerous and violence-prone mental derangement characterized by extreme excitement and delusion.”

In 2005, 16-year-old Jeff Weise, living on Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation, shot and killed nine people and wounded five others before killing himself. Weise had been taking Prozac.

2007: Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, he shot and killed 32 people. Officials found prescription medicine “related to the treatment of psychological problems” among his personal belongings, according to the New York Times.

2012: Colorado theater shooter James Holmes was reportedly prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft.

2013: Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis sprayed bullets at office workers and in a cafeteria, killing 13 people including himself. Alexis had been prescribed Trazodone by his Veterans Affairs doctor.

2014: Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista, California killer who went on a shooting spree after stabbing three men to death, had been prescribed psychotropic drugs, according to The Los Angeles Times.

2017: Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, had been prescribed diazepam.

Known by its brand name Valium, “a sedative-hypnotic drug in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which studies have shown can trigger aggressive behavior.”

Paddock received the prescription in June 2017. That October, he carried out the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

And there are dozens of other examples. To be clear, we’re not saying that prescription drugs are to blame for mass shootings.

The underlying issues of mental health that these shooters seem to all have, however are alarming. And knowing that the majority of them were prescribed antidepressants, you have to consider this…

Some of the most alarming side effects of Prozac include suicidal thoughts, self mutilation and manic behavior.

Zoloft can cause hallucinations, agitation and memory problems.

For Valium, it’s also hallucinations, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

These are dangers that drug makers themselves are required to disclose.

The use these antidepressants in America has skyrocketed. As of 2013, 12 percent of Americans were filling prescriptions for them. And while millions of people do not suffer violent episodes, the drug makers warn that some people may… and do.

You’ve heard some of those warnings in the commercials those pharmaceutical companies pay to run on mainstream media networks. According to the New York Times, “771,368 such ads were shown in 2016 … an increase of almost 65 percent over 2012.”

Pharmaceutical companies were estimated to spend $6.4 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising in 2016, according to USA Today.

Further, Open Secrets reports that in the 2016 election cycle, pharmaceutical companies contributed $12.4 million to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, another $1.5 million to former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, more than $812,805 to Sen. Ted Cruz, $446,400 to Chris Christie, $388,706 to Donald Trump, and $280,408 to Bernie Sanders.

So what you need to know, is correlation does not always equal causation. We do not know that the reason for these mass shootings is because of any one drug or any number of drugs. Nor do we know how much of a role these drugs may have played at all… but the question is, why is that?

Why are politicians and mainstream media pushing so many discussions about guns and virtually no discussion of whether or not antidepressants are playing a role? Because the numbers are compelling and beg a question that deserves an answer.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that right now on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: Internet Purge of Dissenting Voices?

Is there an Internet purge of conservative voices or voices of dissension online? Some say yes, and that the purge is being pushed by YouTube (owned by Google) and Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve heard about censorship before, but is what is happening now an all-out purge?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

You might be a fan, you might be disgusted by him. But there is no doubt that InfoWars founder and radio host Alex Jones is a lightning rod. His YouTube channel has over 2.2 million subscribers and more than 33,000 videos.

Just days ago, Jones claimed that YouTube had begun a process of taking his channel down.

On March 3, CBS reported, “Jones tweeted that he had ‘set up a new channel’ that the ‘SPLC,’ or the Southern Poverty Law Center, wanted censored. In one of the videos on the channel called ‘InfoWars Censored,’ Jones said, ‘We’re live on Facebook, on Twitter, on Periscope, but we cannot go live on the Alex Jones channel — it’s been frozen for the third time in one week.’”

YouTube confirmed to CBS News that some advertisers had asked that their ads be pulled from Jones’ channel but there was “no plan”…“at present” to remove the channel completely.

Of course, all of this comes after YouTube announced in December that it would hire 10,000 new moderators to flag content. And those moderators have been flagging at stunning rate.

But more than flagged, YouTube is outright banning channels. Some YouTube channels recently complained about their accounts being pulled entirely with no advance warning. In this latest case, YouTube seems to have been flagging content that was either deemed as pro-gun or conservative content.

According to The Verge, “YouTube indicated that as the platform ramps up human-powered moderation efforts, new moderators may have mistakenly removed or flagged right-wing videos and channels. Bloomberg reported the news this afternoon, quoting a YouTube spokesperson saying that ‘as we work to hire rapidly and ramp up our policy enforcement teams throughout 2018, newer members may misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals.’ The spokesperson said that YouTube’s policies had not changed, and that ‘we’ll reinstate any videos that were removed in error.’”

So it’s not a conspiracy.

There is no question that human moderators were, in fact, pulling down “right wing” or “conservative content.”

But why? What is really happening here? Because YouTube’s push to control video content, just like Facebook is nothing new. In fact, it has been happening for some time.

Mike Cernovich tweeted that a video he has posted of Antifa protesters chanting death threats at a protest in DC was taken down by YouTube because it violated community guidelines.

To be clear, the video was about 30 seconds of an actual protest in DC. And the language of the protesters violated community guidelines? That is called news, YouTube. But it was not allowed.

Mike Adams, the founding editor of NaturalNews.com, announced March 3:

“YouTube has now deleted the entire Health Ranger video channel, wiping out over 1,700 videos covering everything from nutrition, natural medicine, history, science and current events.”

So why is all of this happening? Is it all because YouTube is trying to control the Internet? Maybe not.

There is, in fact, a very coordinated effort by a number of organizations, like Media Matters for America and the Southern Poverty Law Center to silence voices with which it does not agree.

I know this first hand, as these organizations have attacked me personally trying to silence my voice.

Full disclosure here, I am ideologically a libertarian, neither on the left or the right. But according to these groups, I am “alt-right”—a dog whistle which means white nationalist. I am not, not at all. But that doesn’t stop them from slandering me.

The goal of these organizations is to silence dissent. Not just from the right, but from the left as well.

Anyone who is not part of the establishment structure is attacked.

Facebook is going through a very similar process right now, with increased pressure to control voices on its platform.

Remember in 2016 it was widely reported by several outlets, including Gizmodo:

“Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.”

Twitter does the same thing. In December, Twitter announced strict enforcement of new rules on “hateful conduct and abusive behavior.”

According to Politico, “That provoked the first objections from some on the right who called the steps a ‘#twitterpurge.’ The company conceded at the time that ‘we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process.”

So what you need to know is that the YouTube and Facebook purges are not a new problem.

Mainstream media networks and newspapers have routinely pushed narratives in their newsrooms for decades. We all know that.

Yet, for some reason, Facebook and YouTube, which have far more influence than those networks, have chosen to bend to pressure and try to control the narratives on their platforms.

YouTube says its mission is, “to give everyone a voice and show them the world.” But the truth is, they are not.

The problem for any dissenting voice is that if you are using your voice on someone else’s property, i.e., YouTube or Facebook, you will never have control of it. Which is why the next frontier must be decentralized platforms.

Platforms like Dtube and Steemit, built on blockchain, will be future of how content, the good the bad and ugly, will be stored. And the efforts to silence dissenting voices, will actually be the undoing of YouTube and Facebook.

As for those of us who have a voice, you and me, well… if you do not object to YouTube and Facebook purging voices with which you do not agree, then just wait.

Because if you are silent now, it may soon be the voices you do agree with that will also be silenced. And who then will be left to come to that defense?

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about it right now on Facebook and Twitter.

Reality Check: Obama/Clinton to Blame for Slave Markets in Libya?

It’s been three months since the media outcry over the open market slave trading in Libya and yet, the problem persists.

And the root cause of how these slave markets were created, thanks to U.S. foreign policy, has been ignored.

Do you want to end the slave trade in Libya?

We’ll tell you the biggest step toward making that happen… in a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

The video shocked the world. CNN posted the images: men who appeared to be sold at auction in Libya for $400. The grainy undercover video appears to show smugglers selling off a dozen men outside of the capital city Tripoli.

So how did we get here? Most media will tell you that Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

According to Time, “In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.”

What’s more, according to a September report by the United Nations Human Rights Agency, there are estimates that “400,000 to almost one million people” are now bottled up Libya. “Detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants.”

Read just about any mainstream report on what is happening in Libya, and what you will not hear is who is responsible for the utter failure of Libya.

The policies that have created some of the most horrific conditions in the world fall squarely on the shoulders of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Keep in mind, in 2003, under the Bush administration, the long time leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, had entered into an agreement where Gaddafi would give up any weapons of mass destruction and the U.S. would leave Gaddafi and Libya alone.

But under Obama and Clinton, the U.S. broke that agreement. In 2012 the U.S. insisted that there was an “Arab Spring” uprising taking place in Libya. There was not. As I reported at the time, the fighters attempting to overthrow Gaddafi were al Qaeda fighters.

Under Obama and Clinton, on March 21st of that year, a no fly zone was imposed over Libya. And then, seven months later, with the U.S. tracking a Gaddafi convoy, the Libyan leader was caught and killed in the streets.

Was Muammar Gaddafi a dictator? Yes. No question.

But was Libya under Gaddafi a relatively peaceful place? Yes.

Gaddafi actually promoted a Pan-Africanism, spoke out against anti-black Arab racism and was pushing for unified African currency.

Bragging about her so-called accomplishments after the fact, Hillary Clinton famously said… “We came, we saw, he died.” The problem is, so many others are dying now as a result.

In an interview after the leaving the White House, former President Obama called the overthrow of Gaddafi his greatest single mistake in office. While that is difficult to argue, what is truly stunning about that statement? The policy to overthrow Gaddafi was attempted again for the next four years by the Obama administration as they attempted to overthrow the Assad regime, even as Libya continued to slip deeper into chaos.

And that’s what you need to know. Because Obama is no longer president, Clinton is no longer secretary of state and Gaddafi is no longer alive.

The answer to how Libyans should fix what is happening in Libya is beyond me. But the answer as to what the U.S. should do about Libya is not.

If we want to prevent these chaotic failed states around the world, the U.S. must stop intervening and thereby creating them through the toppling of governments in the Middle East and Africa.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that, right now, on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: Is Crypto Backed by “Radical Transparency”?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you’ve been hearing about cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and dozens of coins as being either the future of currency, or causing the biggest bubble ever.

One of the biggest criticisms of cryptocurrency is that it’s just made up money, that it’s not backed by anything.

But is that true?

What if I told you that crypto, unlike dollars or even gold and silver, has the greatest backing of all: radical transparency.

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Radical transparency. In the spirit of radical transparency I should mention once again that Reality Check and Truth in Media are exclusively sponsored by Dash Digital Cash, which is of course, a cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrencies are in the news every day, from Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in December to over $19,000 a coin, to the drop in February to below $7,000. You’ve heard everything from how crypto is the future, to crypto is a scam. The biggest bubble since the Dutch tulip bubble which burst in the year 1637. Yes, it happened. And yes, that comparison is being made in media.

One of the biggest complaints in media about crypto is that it is simply made up money. It’s not backed by anything.

Not like dollars and gold. But is that true?

The U.S. dollar came off the gold standard in 1933 and then fully abandoned it in 1971 under President Nixon.

By 1973, the U.S. had entered into agreements with Saudi Arabia to create the petrodollar. they agreed to use American dollars for paying against oil contracts.

Oh yes, oil. The “fuel of the future” is what backs the U.S. dollar?

Maybe not. Maybe it’s something completely different. Peter Thiel puts it this way:

“You will not be able to pay your taxes in bitcoin. You have to pay them in dollars. If you don’t pay them with dollars, there will be people who will show up with guns to make you pay them.”

From the Daily Reckoning: “Coercion is what holds the u.s. dollar system together. ‘tax-driven money’ is the phrase that economists use to describe the theory. it applies to all sovereign currencies.”

Though, as we have reported at TruthInMedia.com, three states are now considering state taxes to be paid in crypto.

So what about commodity-backed currency, like gold or silver? At least there is a physical asset there, right?

The use of precious metals as money goes back nearly 3000 years.

According to Ross Ashcroft’s Renegade Inc., the founder and chairman of Goldmoney “James Turk argues for a return to the gold standard because ‘only gold is outside the control of politicians’. That may be true, but it’s not outside the control of mining corporations, whose interests are unlikely to coincide with those of the wider population.”

And while gold has a fixed supply that can’t be inflated, it also hasn’t been easy to audit.
And that brings us to cryptocurrency.

With crypto, you know exactly how much is out there, where it all is, and how often it moves.

Forbes Magazine writes:

“…Vanguard founder Jack Bogle and Nobel Prize winner Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz from Columbia University. They have both attacked bitcoin saying that it’s a “bubble,” comparing it to many dotcom companies that were really shell companies offering little value and not ‘backed by anything.’ Stiglitz actually went so far to say bitcoin should be outlawed and said it doesn’t serve any useful social function.”

No useful social function? That argument is really not true.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin cash, and many others are backed by blockchain technology. And blockchain creates radical transparency through antifragile decentralization.

In other words, blockchain is a secure digital ledger and a distributed database, tracking transactions anonymously and replicating them to prevent data loss. It’s nothing like the trust we instill in our current financial system, which explains its useful social function.

Joel Valenzuela from Dash Force News explains:

“The whole point of a secure public ledger for financial transactions was to remove the need for trusting an institution like a bank to not only hold your money, but also maintain an accurate copy of all transactions and not engage in financial trickery.”

Now let that sink in. The power of blockchain, upon which most crypocurrency is built, is to actually be able to securely remove the financial middleman.

The mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, in his whitepaper, writes:

“The traditional banking model achieves a level of privacy by limiting access to information to the parties involved and the trusted third party. The necessity to announce all transactions publicly precludes this method, but privacy can still be maintained by breaking the flow of information in another place: by keeping public keys anonymous. The public can see that someone is sending an amount to someone else, but without information linking the transaction to anyone. This is similar to the level of information released by stock exchanges, where the time and size of individual trades, the ‘tape,’ is made public, but without telling who the parties were.”

The goal of true financial privacy is to break the link between an open and auditable network and true identities of the users.

Blockchain technology is facilitating this, allowing even silver currency transactions to be stored as is done by lodecoin.

It’s the power of blockchain that creates what Valenzuela calls “trustlessness.” For instance, Dash Digital Cash does this by “trustlessly mixing funds with a few other parties so that an anonymized transaction can’t be linked back to you, all the while keeping everything publicly visible. There’s incredible value to being able to maintain privacy while keeping the main advantage of cryptocurrency: trustlessness.”

What you need to know is that word, trustlessness, is a powerful one.

So I’ll say it again… trustlessness. Valenzuela says it better than I can, so I will quote him here.

“You don’t have to trust that the network is being used in a certain way. You don’t have to trust that it’s well-distributed, and no one party (or small group of parties) controls a very small portion of the supply. You don’t have to trust any developers or administrators to tell you that the network is running fine. You can see for yourself.”

Radical transparency.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that right now on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: No Sarin Gas Used by Assad in Syria?

It was a stunning announcement, stunning because of what was said and maybe equally as stunning because it was honest.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis says there is no evidence that the Syrian government used sarin gas on the its own people.

It is a narrative we have been pushing back on for years. So what does this mean for U.S. policy in Syria? And will President Trump continue to push for war in Syria, or will he return to the positions of candidate Trump who said the U.S. should stay out of it?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

The statement is getting very little media coverage but it is a very big deal.

According to Defense Secretary James Mattis, there is no evidence that the Syrian government has used sarin gas on its own people.

Here is exactly what Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon:

“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used.”

“We do not have evidence of it.”

“We’re looking for evidence of it, since clearly we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions.”

Mattis insists that he wasn’t refuting the claims. But in a sense, he did.

According to Newsweek, in 2017 a White House memorandum was quickly produced and then declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria.

The justification used was that Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people. Then President Trump himself insisted that there was no doubt that Syrian President Assad had killed his own people with banned chemical weapons.

But Mattis also didn’t qualify the statement to just the Syrian airbase strike. That means that the 2013 gas attack in Ghouta also was not proven to be Assad.

At that time, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were demanding congress approve use of force against Assad. Obama said this from the rose garden as he said American destroyers armed with Tomahawk missiles were on standby in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I’m prepared to give that order, but having made my decision as commander in chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”

Congress did not approve that use of force, but then applauded Trump for his use.

For his part, in this latest statement, Mattis says that “aid groups and others” had provided evidence of the Syrian government using sarin.

But as I have extensively reported over the past few years, there is much evidence that the so called Syrian freedom fighters are actually ISIS and Al Qaeda fighters. And there is evidence that they have used chemical weapons.

Other problems with the claims of Assad using sarin: in the 2013 Ghouta event, the sarin came from home-made rockets, which were favored by insurgents.

Also, according to Newsweek:

“In the 2013 event, the White House memorandum seemed to rely heavily on testimony from the Syrian white helmets who were filmed at the scene having contact with supposed sarin-tainted casualties and not suffering any ill effects.

“Carla del Ponte was unable to fulfill her U.N. joint investigative mechanism mandate in Syria and withdrew in protest over the United States refusing to fully investigate allegations of chemical weapons use by ‘rebels’ who are actually jihadis, allied with the American effort to oust President Assad (including the use of sarin by anti-Assad rebels).”

According to the Times of London:

“Carla del Ponte, head of the independent UN commission investigating reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, told a Swiss-Italian television station that UN investigators gleaned testimony from victims of Syria’s civil war and medical staff which indicated that rebel forces used sarin gas – a deadly nerve agent.

“‘Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,’ del Ponte said in the interview, translated by Reuters.

‘This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,’ she added.”

It was the involvement of those jihadis posing as Syrian rebels that made then-candidate Trump state emphatically that he wouldn’t intervene and help oust Assad as Hillary Clinton wanted to do.

Candidate Trump pushed back heavily against intervention. He warned that ISIS was likely to take over Syria if Assad were ousted, just as they have in Iraq and Libya.

And yet the U.S. is only escalating fighting.

Four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, according to Russian and Syrian officials—that according to the New York Times.

Russia says that no members of the Russian armed forces were killed and that any Russians fighting alongside the Syrians were mercenaries.

So what you need to know is that candidate Trump was clear when he pointed to the bush policy in Iraq and the Obama/Clinton policies in Libya and Syria that have only strengthened the creation and spread of ISIS and jihadism.

Candidate Trump rightly pointed out that these policies had failed and that it was insanity to keep pursuing those policies and expecting a different outcome.

So why is President Trump now embracing those insane policies that if continued will undoubtedly leave another power vacuum in the Middle East which will be filled with jihadis?

That’s Reality Check, let’s talk about it tonight on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: FDA’s Disinformation Campaign on Kratom

The opioid crisis is one of the biggest stories in the U.S. with tens of thousands of Americans dying from opioid overdoses.

So why would the FDA crack down on a substance that may help save lives?

Some say the agency has actually been involved in a massive disinformation campaign against a substance called kratom. What is kratom, and why is the FDA fighting so hard against it?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Another White House administration is making fighting the opioid epidemic a top priority. And again, the focus is on the wrong thing.

What if, while ignoring the root causes of the opioid epidemic, the FDA is also fighting a substance that is saving people’s lives who suffer from opioid addiction?

Before we can answer that question, let’s talk about the substance the FDA is looking to ban. It’s called kratom.

So what is kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree in the coffee family. It is commonly used in raw plant form, with the dried leaves used to make tea or crushed and mixed with food. Indigenous to Southeast Asia, the plant has become popular in the U.S. as a natural medicine.

So how popular is kratom?

Actually, millions of people around the world take it for chronic pain, alcohol addiction, weaning off opiates, depression, anxiety, PTSD and more.

But the FDA says kratom is actually just as dangerous as opioids. In fact, in November, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recommended that kratom be scheduled as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is highly addictive and has no proven medical value.

In addition, the FDA claims that kratom is responsible for 36 deaths.

But here’s the problem: just days ago, nine leading scientists in substance addiction and safety wrote to the White House Opioid Crisis Team Leader Kellyann Conway and acting-DEA Administrator Robert Patterson.

They encouraged both to disregard the FDA’s claims about kratom, pointing out serious flaws in the agency’s claims.

“The scientists warned that ‘four surveys indicate that kratom is presently serving as a lifeline away from strong, often dangerous opioids for many of the several million Americans who use kratom. A ban on kratom that would be imposed by CSA Scheduling would put them at risk of relapse to opioid use with the potential consequence of overdose death. Similar unintended consequences are to be expected in some who would be forced to use opioids to manage acute or chronic pain.'”

These scientists went on to challenge the claims by the FDA by pointing out that, “available science is clear that kratom, although having effects on opioid receptors in the brain, is distinct from classical opioids (e.g. morphine, heroin, oxycodone, etc.) in its chemistry, biological effects, and origin.”

Kratom is not poppy based. it is a tree in the coffee family, and therefore has a reportedly milder euphoric effect than traditional opioids and opiates.

The other important rebuttal these scientists made was to point out that the FDA used significantly flawed information when it claimed kratom was responsible for 36 deaths.

“…the fatalities that the FDA lists as having been associated with kratom include deaths with a wide variety of apparent causes in people suffering from various diseases and/or taking other substances that also likely contributed to their deaths. For example, it includes 9 fatalities in Sweden that resulted from an adulterated product that included the active substance of the prescription opioid tramadol…” 

In response, the FDA commissioner released more information on those who have died, the agency says, from kratom. And that information is even more stunning.

According to HuffPo:

“Almost all of the FDA’s cases involve subjects who were found to be on multiple substances at the time of their death, with the vast majority including either illicit or prescription drugs that carry well-known fatal risks.

“FDA’s list of kratom-related deaths  includes a 43-year-old man determined to have died from complications due to deep vein thrombosis.

“He had a long list of medical problems… At the time of his death, he’d recently been prescribed five different medicines.

“His toxicology test came back positive for opioids, Xanax, antidepressants and a medication apparently used to treat his Tourette’s syndrome. He also tested positive for kratom.

“One case involves a man who had fallen out a window, broken his arm and refused treatment before dying.

“He was ultimately found to have had nine different substances in his bloodstream, among them, the primary psychoactive substance in kratom.

“One case the FDA listed as a kratom-related death, which has been completely redacted in the document, appears elsewhere in an agency database as a death by homicide due to a gunshot wound to the chest.”

So why is the FDA doing this? We don’t know the motives of the FDA but as I have shown you in the past, the FDA suffers from severe conflicts of interest, especially when it comes to the revolving door between the agency and Big Pharma.

With the government spending more than $500 billion per year to fight the opioid epidemic, one could assume there are lines of pharmaceutical companies looking for product alternatives.

But remember, any naturally occurring substance like kratom cannot be privately patented. So there is no real profit incentive for Big Pharma in kratom.

So what you need to know is that while I won’t speculate about what the FDA is ultimately trying to do, I can tell you what the FDA wants done.

The agency wants kratom to become subject to an FDA new drug application. To be clear, they say a naturally occurring plant taken in its raw form, that is helping millions of people right now, needs to be banned and become subject to a study that would take no less than 10 years and cost up to $2.5 billion dollars.

More importantly, what the FDA is recommending is exactly the opposite of the agency’s charge. There is no evidence that kratom, on its own, is harming anyone.

And so the question remains. If the FDA is successful, will the agency actually push millions of people toward more dangerous alternatives, including harmful opioids? If so, how is that making the fight against opioid abuse a priority?

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that, right now, on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: Trump Did Not Make It Easier for Severely Mentally Ill People To Buy Guns

Vote in our poll about gun control. Click here to vote.

The latest mass shooting at a school in Florida is once again reigniting the debate over gun control and mental health.

But now the media headlines are blaming President Trump because, they say, he signed a bill that actually made it easier for people with severe mental health problems to get guns.

Is that true?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, police say, is the man responsible for gunning down at least 17 teenagers at a Florida high school.

We now know much more about Cruz’s background, which include a number of very disturbing reports of police calls to his home.

According to police records obtained first by CNN, police responded to Cruz’s home 39 times over a seven-year period.

Details about the calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office have not yet shown if all involved Cruz.

What do we know about the calls police were responding too? According to KTLA, those included calls of a “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance” and “missing person.”

We also know that, according to the New York Times, “Last fall, a bail bondsman in Mississippi spotted a disturbing comment on his YouTube channel.”

‘Im going to be a professional school shooter.’

“The bondsman, Ben Bennight, took a screenshot and flagged the comment to YouTube.” And he even “left a voicemail message at his local F.B.I. field office alerting it to the comment.”

The name of the person who wrote that comment? Nikolas Cruz.

And there is more. ABC News reports that law enforcement sources say Cruz claimed “he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions” for the attack. And those “voices were described as ‘demons’.”

So to summarize, at this point it appears that Cruz very likely suffered from extreme mental health issues.

And yet, he was able to legally buy a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 .223, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the ATF.

According to USA Today, “Federal law allows people age 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database.”

According to the Gun Control Act of 1968, if somebody is “‘adjudicated mentally defective’ or has been ‘committed to a mental institution’,” he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.

Cruz had not been flagged by the proper authorities. So what was the response from the media?

That it is President Trump’s fault because, they say, he and the Republican Party have actually made it easier for people with mental health problems to buy assault weapons.

So is that true? Did the GOP pass, and then President Trump sign, a repeal of an Obama-era directive to keep guns out the hands of people with severe mental illness?

No, that’s not actually what happened.

What did happen?

HJ Resolution 40 was signed by President Trump on February 28, 2017, days after his inauguration.

According to the BBC, “It repealed an Obama-era rule that would have affected about 75,000 US citizens who are too mentally ill to handle their own disability benefits.”

The Obama measure covered those of “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

“It also ordered the US Social Security Administration, which administers benefits, to add these names to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

And this is what media is jumping all over.

But what they are not telling you is the incredible groundswell of opposition to the this rule from at least 15 mental health organizations, including American Association of People with Disabilities. And even the ACLU led the charge against this measure, saying it was unconstitutional and wrong.

Wrong, because, according to the Seattle Times, about 2.7 million people currently receive disability payments from Social Security for mental health problems. Another 1.5 million have their finances handled by others for a variety of reasons, according to the LA Times.

Those reasons may have nothing to do with mental illness. And they, those 1.5 million people, are who would not be allowed to purchase a gun.

Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who studied how veterans with mental health problems managed there money, points out, “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe.”

And the ACLU’s opposition letter rule states:

“We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”

So what you need to know is that the Obama-era rule allowed one federal agency, the Social Security Administration, to be judge, jury and executioner of whether millions of Americans can purchase guns, based upon whether some else handles their finances.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old who has the police come to his home 39 times in seven years somehow goes unflagged.

At the 11th hour, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of the FBI and DOJ for mishandling tips about Cruz, stating “It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures.”

What will result from this investigation remains to be seen. But if legislation is created to protect against people with violent and dangerous mental health conditions buying guns, then it needs to be crafted in a way that actually works.

That’s Reality Check, let’s talk about it right now on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: If Haiti Is a “Shithole” Country, Who Is Really to Blame?

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It’s been a couple of weeks but I had to take this one on: President Trump reportedly refers to African nations as well as the island nation of Haiti as a “shithole” and the media, both on the left and the right loses their minds.

But here’s the problem—while media and politicians want to fight about Haiti, nobody seems to care that Haitians have been ripped off by American foreign aid and politicians for years.

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

The comments by President Trump were reported but not recorded.

Here’s what the Washington Post was first to claim: President Trump “discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.”

‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’ Trump said, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers. … ‘Why do we need more Haitians?’ Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. ‘Take them out.’”

By now you know that media lost its collective mind.

On the left, all they could talk about was what a racist, savage President Trump is. On the right, it was an effort to defend the use of the word with commentators insisting it’s okay, because thats what Haiti really is.

Of course the problem with all of this is that the debate hasn’t been about Haiti. It’s been about Trump. The argument is over whether Donald Trump is a racist or right.

That argument robs the Haitian people of the debate we should be having, the debate over why that country has remained in abject poverty and with an unemployment rate of 40 percent even with billions of dollars and investment flowing there.

Reality Check here: those billions of dollars never got to the Haitian people.

And that is the discussion we should be having.

It was January 2010 when a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck island of Haiti, killing an estimated 220,000 people, leveling 100,000 homes, and leaving 1.5 million people destitute.

Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors for Haiti’s recovery. At the time, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. And her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was appointed co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), along with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

So what happened? Well, of the $13.3 billion pledged, some $9 billion actually came in as the total international funding, which is an incredible amount of money.

The problem is, that money was wasted, mis-managed and went just about everywhere except to actual Haitian organizations.

According to the BBC, of the $6 billion that came from bilateral and mutilateral donors, 89.8% went to non-Haitian organizations, $580 million went to the Haitian government and around one half of one percent went to Haitian organizations.

The vast majority of the funding went to U.N. agencies, international aid groups, private contractors and donor countries’ own civilian and military agencies.

Now, a lot of people have blamed the Clintons personally for what happened in Haiti.

Perhaps some of that criticism is unfair, and perhaps it is not.

For instance, thanks to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, we know that one US envoy described the value to contractors who were eager to cash in as a “gold rush”.

According to the BBC, “In email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials, a senior aide to Mrs Clinton, who was then-secretary of state, kept an eye out for those identified by the abbreviations “FOB” (friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs).

‘Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC,’ wrote Caitlin Klevorick, a senior State Department official who was vetting incoming offers of assistance coming through the Clinton Foundation.”

Some of those friends who appear to have gotten sweetheart deals?

According to the National Review, “the Clinton Foundation selected Clayton Homes, a construction company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to build temporary shelters in Haiti. Buffett is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative who has donated generously to the Clintons as well as the Clinton Foundation.

“The contract was supposed to be given through the normal United Nations bidding process, with the deal going to the lowest bidder who met the project’s standards. UN officials said, however, that the contract was never competitively bid for.”

Again, according to National Review, “The Clintons also funneled $10 million in federal loans to a firm called InnoVida, headed by Clinton donor Claudio Osorio. InnoVida’s application was fast-tracked and approved in two weeks. The company, however, defaulted on the loan and never built any houses.”

An investigation revealed that Osorio had diverted company funds to pay for his Miami Beach mansion, his Maserati, and his Colorado ski chalet. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in 2013, and is currently serving a twelve-year prison term on fraud charges related to the loan.

There are many other stories just like those.

But perhaps the biggest mess of all in Haiti’s recovery, or lack thereof, was what the Clinton Foundation touted as a signature project, a garment factory known as the Caracol Industrial Park.

According to the National Review, “The project was funded by the U.S. government and cost hundreds of millions in taxpayer money, the largest single allocation of U.S. relief aid.”

From the BBC: “The foundation, working with the Clinton State Department, helped arrange a U.S.-subsidised deal with the Haitian government to build a $300 million factory complex in 2012.

“Several hundred farmers were evicted from their land to make way for the 600-acre manufacturing site.”

The plant began producing clothes for retailers such as Old Navy, Walmart and Target.
Former President Clinton said 100,000 jobs would be created “in short order”. But the Caracol Industrial Park only created 8,000 jobs.

Again, from the National Review, “In addition, Caracol was supposed to include 25,000 homes for Haitian employees; in the end, the Government Accountability Office reports that only around 6,000 homes were built.”

And of course, the criticism goes deeper than not simply creating jobs.

South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which was the main employer at the facility, donated a sum between $50,000 to $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the BBC.

The failure in Haiti, as much as some people would like to put it solely on the Clintons, is not their failure alone.

It is the failure of the entire U.S. Foreign Aid landscape… donor nations and private contractors control the money. And, in many cases, funnel it to projects, contractors and organizations that align with their interests—not the interests of the people in need.

Maybe the best of example of how that worked in Haiti was like this.

According to the GAO, the cost to build one house in the post-earthquake relief effort $33,000 because it was paid to outside contractors. That is five times what it costs one nonprofit, called Mission of Hope, per house, using local contractors.

So when the media is outraged that Trump uses words that seem to dismiss the people of Haiti, but expresses virtually no outrage over how the people of Haiti were actually robbed of what was promised them in the aftermath of that devastating earthquake, you have to question what their outrage is truly over.

That’s Reality Check, let’s talk about that tonight on Twitter and Facebook.

Editor’s note: In the graphic displayed at 3:39 in the video above, the percentage of funding that went to actual Haitian organizations is displayed as 0.06%. It should read 0.6%, nearly half of one percent.

Reality Check: Will Sanctions Against North Korea Really Work?

Take our Truth In Media poll. Is U.S. Sanction Policy a Failure? Click here to vote.

The Russian envoy to North Korea warned President Trump not to place any further sanctions against North Korea or Kim Jong-un surrounding “supplies of oil”.

To do so, he says, would be perceived as a declaration of war. But if we’re going to be honest, aren’t all sanctions an act of war? And why are we putting sanctions on North Korea in the first place?

Forget all the talking points you’ve heard over the past year — because this is a Reality Check you’re not going to get anywhere else.

Alexander Matsegora, Moscow’s envoy to North Korea says that any more sanctions on the country’s oil supply would be perceived as a declaration of war.

He went on to tell President Trump, “If the supplies of oil and oil product are stopped, it would mean a complete blockade of the DPRK (North Korea).”

According to Newsbreakouts.com, “Before Christmas, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to cut exports of gasoline, diesel and other oil products by 89 per cent.”

And The Express UK reports that, “Right now, the current UN sanction that caps oil supplies to 540,000 tons from China and 60,000 tons of refined oil from other nations was labelled as ‘a drop in the ocean’”

You know that the war of words between president Trump and Kim Jong-un has been intensifying for almost a year, and so have actions by the U.S.

For instance, in November of last year, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued that North Korea deserved to be back on the list of state sponsors of terror.

Why? Because the North Korean government is reported to have assassinated a North Korean citizen—Kim Jong-Un’s own half-brother.

Of course, that says nothing about Washington’s own program to assassinate U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son under Obama, and later Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter under Trump.

And like Kim’s half brother, Awlaki and his two children were never tried or convicted of any single crime before being killed by their own government. They were living in Yemen but were still full U.S. born citizens.

The Ron Paul Institute points out:

So North Korea is officially a terrorism-sponsoring nation according to the Trump Administration because Kim Jong-Un killed a family member.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has killed 10,000 civilians and injured 40,000 more since 2105 and “no one says a word. In fact, the US government has just announced it will sell Saudi Arabia $7 billion more weapons.

The bottom line? In reality, a “state sponsor of terrorism” designation has little to do with actual support for global terrorism.

As bad as the North Korean government is—and no doubt the North Korean government is terrible—the government of North Korea does not invade other countries, nor do we have reports of North Korea funding terror attacks around the world.

The designation is a political one, allowing Washington to ramp up more aggression against North Korea.

And part of that aggression are sanction, which are in and of themselves an act of war. But truthfully, sanctions aren’t a war on military or government. They are war on the people.

During this year’s State of the Union address, President Trump said this:

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening. Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.”

And there was an moving moment with a North Korean defector.

So—aggressive sanctions against North Korea are the way to go?

According to Arie W. Kruglanski from the National Center for the Study of Terrorism:

  • Extensive sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan didn’t deter them from acquiring a nuclear capability.
  • Economic pressure by the U.S. in the 1970s did not convince Turkey to remove its troops from Cyprus.
  • U.S. sanctions against Russia under the Obama administration didn’t seem to phase the country.

In fact, according to the CATO Institute, “…the most compre-hensive study of sanctions found, they fail to achieve their goals in 66 percent of cases, and they fail 79 percent of the time when designed to discourage military misadventurism.”

And why that is, is what you need to know. Because in reality, sanctions don’t hurt the most powerful, most connected and wealthiest people in a nation who, by the way, are the ones who control militaries.

No. Cutting off oil, crashing economies, weakening finance, creating a lack of food import—all that those sanctions truly do is bruise and harm the people in that country who have no real control over whether there is a war or not.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about it tonight on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

Jeff Sessions Wages War on Cannabis

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ready to wage war on cannabis. Or, should I say, he wants to return to the drug war of the 1980s.

I’ve warned you about this before. But the latest step taken by Sessions should ignite a real debate over states rights. Meanwhile, even after Sessions’s comments, cannabis has seen its biggest month ever in 2018.

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Legalized cannabis just had an incredible month. January 1 of 2018 was a huge day for marijuana legalization.

On that day, California, the country’s most populous state and, by the way, the world’s 6th largest economy, officially launched the recreational marijuana industry.

More than 400 businesses were licensed as of January 1. Cities, including Los Angeles—the most populous in California—began letting businesses sell cannabis for recreational use, adding dozens more approved licenses to the state’s total.

All of that happening, with the backdrop of Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempting to double down on his hatred of marijuana. And a move he made that, despite what he hopes, may actually increase legalized cannabis.

To understand that, we have to go back to 2013.

In 2013, the Obama administration letter issued a memo called the Cole memo that essentially told federal prosecutors to use discretion.

Specifically, it focused on states that had legalized cannabis or recreational and medical use. It told those prosecutors to use discretion, to focus not on businesses that comply with state regulations, but on illicit enterprises that create harms like selling drugs to children, operating with criminal gangs, selling across state lines, and so on.

That memo, on its own, was problematic because it still turned into criminals, parents who might live in a state like Georgia where cannabis oil is legal, but cultivating cannabis is not. Those parents have to cross state lines to get the cannabis they need, and that forces them to break the law.

But as messy as all of that was, Sessions just made it messier when last month he ordered that the Obama-era memo be rescinded.

So what does that actually mean?

It means that federal prosecutors no longer need to keep their hands, for most part, off of state licensed dispensaries. It also means that all U.S. Department of Justice enforcement memos issued before and after the Cole memo are now gone as well. That includes a 2014 memo dealing with money laundering laws. It gave guidance on how financial institutions should be dealt with if they want to provide banking for the cannabis industry.

But it also means something else. Because since Sessions has announced the rescinding of that memo, the backlash has come from a number of places—most importantly, from congress.

There is a now a push to create a federal law that will require the DOJ to leave alone states where the cannabis industry is legal. Members of Congress are all about money, and they will likely move to protect an industry that is expected to generate $2.3 billion in state tax revenue by 2020.

And, even after the Sessions move, another state has just legalized recreational marijuana use.

According to Vox.com:

“…after Sessions announced his new marijuana policy, Vermont legislators, with the support of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, legalized marijuana for recreational use. The law won’t allow sales — only possession and growing. But it’s a big move because Vermont is now the first state to have legalized marijuana through its legislature.”

So what you need to know is that Jeff Sessions may hate marijuana, but polling numbers prove that, by and large, the majority of Americans hate the drug war even more.

In fact, the latest poll from Gallup shows 64 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana—the highest number in half a century. Oh and, by the way, in that same poll, for the first time, a majority of Republicans favor legalization, with 51 percent expressing support.

The war on cannabis is coming to an end. But what would be almost ironic, is if Jeff Sessions’s attempt to revive that war, was the catalyst to finally ending it for good.

That’s Reality Check, let’s talk about it tonight on Twitter and Facebook.

Reality Check: GOP Memo and FISA Problems

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Friday, the White House released a controversial memo meant to provide some context to the whole Trump/Russia investigation.

The Nunes memo is four pages long, and it explains many of what seem to be very questionable actions by the Department of Justice and the FBI in how they got their hands on FISA warrants on Trump campaign officials.

But more than just this case, this memo backs up what civil libertarians have been screaming about for years. And begs the question—can the FISA court system actually be trusted?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

First, let’s start with the Nunes memo. It was long anticipated. So what did it show?

The memo focuses in part on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that authorized the surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

First, The memo claims that, “On Oct. 21, 2016 the DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Page.”

According to the memo, “The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant tareting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC.”

“…Then-FBI Director James Comey signed three FISA applications on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one.”

The memo also says, “Then-DAG [Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of the DOJ.”

Now, where things get interesting is when you bring in that infamous Trump dossier.

It was created by former British Spy Christopher Steele on behalf of the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

The memo states that, “Neither the initial application for the warrant in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding of Steele’s efforts.”

That’s despite the fact that we know Steele was paid more than $160,000, and even though the memo states that both the DOJ and the FBI were aware of the Democratic Party funding of the dossier.

The memo claims that in the Carter Page FISA application a Yahoo News article was cited extensively. But the memo states that the article did not corroborate the Steele dossier because “it was derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News.

In fact, the memo says that the FISA application “incorrectly asses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News and several other outlets in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS.”

The memo also claims that, “before and after Steele was terminated as a source,” which by the way was, according to the memo, because of unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI, Steele “maintained contact” with the DOJ through then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr, who worked closely with Yates then Rosenstein, eventually spoke with the FBI about his communications with Steele.

In September 2016, Steele apparently told Ohr he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to the memo.

And the memo also notes Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS to help with the opposition research against Trump, something the memo claims was—once again—not disclosed.

The memo also claims that McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 “that no surveillance warrant would have been sought” without the Steele dossier information. But there is no direct quote from McCabe’s (behind-closed-doors) testimony.

Finally, the memo ends with information about George Papadopoulos—who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI—and claims the FISA application mentions information about Papadopoulos “triggered the opening of a counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok.”

(Strzok was removed from Mueller’s probe after anti-Trump texts between him and his mistress, former FBI agent Lisa Page, were discovered.)

For her part, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN that this memo is all a lie.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported, “FISA court was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrant request was paid for by a political entity, but that the application did not specifically name the Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.”

But there is actually a larger question here. Larger than this memo, larger than the Trump/Russia question. It is a question civil libertarians have been asking for years.

How does anyone in America trust the FISA court system?

What you need to know is that this story is much bigger than just President Trump. If the Nunes memo holds up as true, what does that mean for those who have been charged or arrested under the other 38,000 plus FISA warrants?

The President shouldn’t be above anyone else and if transparency is deserved in his case, shouldn’t transparency be deserved in all FISA cases?

Lets talk about that tonight on Twitter and Facebook.

Ben Swann Is Back!

Hey guys, Ben Swann here. Or should I say, Ben Swann is back?

You know, just a few days from now we’re actually going to hit the one-year mark of when my Truth in Media project and all of my social media went dark. A year ago — can you believe it?

That was when I announced to you that those pages, and my website, were going to be taken down. At least for a while, they were going to disappear. And I asked you at that time to trust me.

For the past year, I have been in the position of being unable to talk about Truth in Media. I have also been refrained, if you will, from having social media and having a social media presence at all.

We’re going to get into that later. I’m going to tell you why all of that happened.

But I have not been in a position, so far, to do anything about it.

Sun Tzu said this in the Art of War: he said, “Let your plans be as dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

Well, I have been patient. And I have been quiet. But that time has now come to an end.

And that’s all thanks to Dash Digital Cash.

Which is now, by the way, the exclusive sponsor of TruthInMedia.com and also Reality Check with Ben Swann. So excited to tell you about this.

So what exactly is Dash? Let’s start there.

No doubt you’ve heard of bitcoin, right? A digital currency, also known as a cryptocurrency. Back in 2013 I actually went and spoke at the Texas Bitcoin Conference. And that was at a time when hardly anybody even knew what bitcoin was.

I talked about it at that time and said, back then — which, by the way, I absolutely still believe — that cryptocurrency and the decentralization of our financial systems was absolutely and is absolutely the future of finance.

Now, I have been a believer in and a supporter of cryptocurrency ever since then. I have funded projects with it. I have paid contractors in it. I absolutely believe in the crypto space.

Dash Digital Cash is a cryptocurrency. But frankly, kids, it’s not just any crypto.

Dash is actually, in my opinion, the most technologically superior of all crypto thanks to features like instant send and private send. And the incredibly low fees for trading. It’s pretty incredible stuff.

And while those features alone make Dash, again, I believe, superior to other crypto, it is what Dash is heading toward — an innovation called Evolution that will absolutely change the crypto game for everyone.

Now, back in November I was approached by some users and supporters of Dash and its DAO.

Oh, by the way, for all you media bloggers out there who want to write about this stuff but don’t understand it, let me explain to you what that is.

It is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization. They [Dash DAO] talked to me about bringing back Truth in Media and Reality Check with Ben Swann.

So, I created a proposal. I put that proposal forward and it was accepted by the organization.

Again, a note to all you folks who are going to try to explain this but don’t understand it: Dash is not a company.

It has no board of directors. It is a decentralized, peer-to-peer currency. Quite candidly, that is what gives it its power. A large community able to fund projects like Truth in Media and Reality Check with Ben Swann — without some corporation crushing the voices with which it does not agree.

That is the power of decentralization. And that is what is so exciting about this announcement.

You see, Dash Digital Cash isn’t just helping to create the financial decentralization revolution.

It is also helping to create a revolution in industries like in media, where for too long — for far too long — too few voices, especially the voices that dissent with repeated narrative, are not allowed to be heard.

You know who I’m talking to.

If you followed my work, then you know this: you know that I absolutely believe that the left-right paradigm in media is fake.

I believe that corporations, and politicians, and special interest groups, they have gamed so many systems. They have gamed the financial industry, the healthcare industry, political systems in America, and yes, they have also corrupted our media.

I believe that humanity is greater than politics. And I am so grateful to Dash Digital Cash that I now, once again, have the platform to be able to tell your stories, and to uncover corruption, and to question those who are in authority wherever they are, whichever party the belong to, whatever ideology. And to hold them accountable, to do my part to restore truth in media.

Thanks for watching. By the way, next week Reality Check with Ben Swann returns for a new season with brand-new episodes beginning every Tuesday and Thursday. I cannot wait to get those episodes out to you.

In the meantime though, if you would like to learn more about Dash Digital Cash — I know I’ve talked about it a lot here, you can go to DiscoverDash.com. You can also check out the Dash 101 section there.

So glad to be back. I’ll see you next week.