Bruce Ohr: FBI, DOJ Knew Dossier Was Dirty from the Beginning
|| PJ Media
“Virtually everyone at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department involved in the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of candidate Donald Trump knew from the beginning that the investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” was based on shaky opposition research compiled by a Trump-hating former British spy and funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Bruce Ohr, the demoted associate attorney general, testified to Congress last August that he repeatedly warned top officials at the FBI and DOJ about Steele’s bias and Fusion GPS’s conflicts of interest, yet this information was kept hidden from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
And to add insult to injury, instead of investigating the officials who actively participated in the dossier hoax, Special Counsel Robert Mueller hired several of them to be on his team to investigate President Trump.
Steele, a former MI6 operative, was hired by Fusion GPS to find dirt on Trump after he clinched the Republican nomination.
The FBI fired him in the Fall of 2016 for lying, but the FBI and Justice Department officials nevertheless wrote in the FISA application that he was a reliable source.
Ohr kept top officials at both the FBI and Department of Justice apprised of his conversations with Steele both before and after the former British spy was fired as an informant.
On July 5, the very day of then-FBI Director James Comey’s press conference on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Steele flew to Rome to meet an old FBI contact, according to reports.
Later that month, he met with Ohr, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reported, based on leaked transcripts confirmed by congressional sources.
Mr. Ohr testified that he sat down with dossier author Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016, and received salacious information the opposition researcher had compiled on Mr. Trump. Mr. Ohr immediately took that to the FBI’s then-Deputy Director Andy McCabe and lawyer Lisa Page. In August he took it to Peter Strzok, the bureau’s lead investigator. In the same month, Mr. Ohr believes, he briefed senior personnel in the Justice Department’s criminal division: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz, lawyer Zainab Ahmad and fraud unit head Andrew Weissman. The last two now work for special counsel Robert Mueller.
Former FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were also hired to work on Mueller’s team after being involved with Crossfire Hurricane, but had to be removed after the DOJ inspector general discovered their extreme anti-Trump bias in text messages.
Ohr testified that he stressed that the information he was sharing came from Trump’s political opponents in the Clinton camp and warned that it was unverified and likely biased.
“When I provided [the Steele information] to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information,” he testified. “I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware. These guys were hired by somebody relating to—who’s related to the Clinton campaign, and be aware.”
He also told the team that Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected” and that his own wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that compiled the dossier.
Los Angeles County agrees to purge up to 1.5 million voters from its rolls in settlement
|| Washington Times
“Los Angeles County has agreed to conduct a purge of its voting rolls, in a move that could strip perhaps 1.5 million inactive voters from the lists of those eligible to cast ballots.
The county made the deal in a settlement last week with Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest firm, saying that under a recent Supreme Court ruling, it has a duty to remove names of people who appear to have either died, moved from the county or lost interest in voting.
The county committed to mailing hundreds of thousands of voters already deemed inactive to see whether they are still eligible voters, and to removing names of people who don’t respond to notices and who miss two subsequent federal elections. The county also agreed to try to weed out dead people still on the rolls.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who was also part of the settlement, committed to send notices to all registrars informing them that they, too, must take steps to cancel voters who miss voting in repeated elections and fail to respond to follow-up notices.
Judicial Watch called the settlement, involving both the nation’s biggest state and the biggest county, a significant win for conservatives who have been trying to harness the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, better known as “Motor-Voter,” to try to clean up voter rolls even as Democrats use the law to expand voter access.
“This is a major NVRA victory — probably the biggest in the history,” said Robert Popper, the Judicial Watch lawyer who fought the case.
He said he expects most of the more than 1.5 million names on the county’s inactive voter list will end up being removed.
Mr. Padilla, the secretary of state, disputed Judicial Watch’s claims, saying he didn’t agree to specifically kick anyone off the rolls.
“The settlement is clear and simple, California will continue its work to adhere to modern list maintenance procedures under the NVRA,” he said in a statement. “This settlement will not lead to unnecessary removal of active and eligible voters. Safeguards remain in place to ensure voter list maintenance procedures are followed before canceling any voter registration records.”
Neither the Los Angeles registrar nor the county’s counsel returned messages Monday seeking comment. Neither did the League of Women Voters or Mia Familia, both of which sought unsuccessfully to intervene in the case earlier.
On Tuesday, however, the registrar finally responded, providing a statement saying last year’s Supreme Court ruling undercut his defense.
Registrar Dean C. Logan still said he’s confident voters won’t be wrongly kicked off the rolls because of the settlement.
“We have simply agreed to comply with the NVRA as interpreted by the Supreme Court and nothing in the agreement will jeopardize even one eligible Los Angeles County voter,” he said.
California becomes the third state to reach a settlement. Ohio reached one in 2014 and Kentucky entered into a court-imposed consent decree with Judicial Watch over its voter rolls last year.
Mr. Popper said the motor-voter law was a compromise. It boosted voter participation by requiring states to register voters at public offices such as motor vehicle bureaus, but it also encouraged states to keep their lists clean by removing outdated names in order to tamp down on the chances of fraud.
Democrats have chiefly focused on the expansion of registration, while battling against efforts to clean the rolls.
One example of that, according to Mr. Popper, was a 1998 decision by the Clinton Justice Department instructing California not to remove people identified as being inactive voters because they failed to respond to follow-up communications. Other states have made similar arguments.
But the Supreme Court, in a major 5-4 ruling last year, said states can use non-responses as part of their justification for cleansing rolls — and that people who have been notified and missed two subsequent federal elections must go.
“Not only are states allowed to remove registrants who satisfy these requirements, but federal law makes this removal mandatory,” the majority ruled.
The new agreement reached last week highlighted that part of the ruling, which appeared to undercut Los Angeles’s legal position and leave the county with little choice but to settle.
Judicial Watch said it targeted Los Angeles after finding the county’s total voter population was higher than the number of people the Census Bureau estimates to be citizens of voting age in the county. That’s true for the state overall, which Judicial Watch said has a 101 percent registration rate for its eligible adult population.
Mr. Popper said while much of the national debate about voter fraud is on in-person abuses, the bigger problem is fraudulent double-voting, which can happen if someone is still getting a ballot or registered at their old residence, while also being registered and voting at their new home.
He said Los Angeles’s inactive voter file is a major potential source for mischief.
Contrary to the impression left by several media fact-checkers, “inactive” voters in California are able to cast a legal regular ballot. The difference between them and active voters is that those on the inactive list don’t get regular communications such as sample ballots from elections officials.
Last week’s settlement agreement is just one of the battlegrounds over voting rights to emerge in recent years.
Democrats won control of the House in the midterm elections in part on a campaign arguing that Republicans were suppressing the votes of racial and ethnic minorities and poor people. They have vowed action to expand voter access and curtail voter integrity checks.
H.R.1, Democrats’ first marquee bill, would require states to allow same-day and internet registration. It would also amend motor-voter to overturn last year’s Supreme Court decision, eliminating the ability of states to remove people for failing to vote or respond to follow-up notices.”
Rep. Ted Lieu Says He Will Give Contributions From Ed Buck to Civil Rights Groups Following Deaths of 2 Men at Donor’s WeHo Home
“After the body of a black man was found in longtime Democratic donor Ed Buck’s West Hollywood apartment this week, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu announced he will donate more than $18,000 in campaign contributions he received from Buck to LGBTQ and African American civil rights organizations.
Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment has been the scene of the apparent overdose deaths of two black men in the last two years, authorities said.
“I am deeply disturbed by the latest revelations of a second death by overdose at the home of Ed Buck,” Lieu (D-Torrance) said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “While we await the results of the law enforcement investigation, I am going to donate the contributions I have received from Mr. Buck to my federal campaign.”
Lieu said he will donate $5,000 to Lambda Legal; $5,000 to the NAACP; $3,000 to GLAAD; $3,000 to The Trevor Project; and $2,500 to the Equality California Institute.”
Obamacare thrown out by judge, raising insurance uncertainty | Straits Times
“DALLAS (BLOOMBERG) – Obamacare was struck down by a Texas federal judge in a ruling that casts uncertainty on insurance coverage for millions of US residents.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed on Friday (Dec 14) with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, known formally as the Affordable Care Act, was unconstitutional after Congress last year repealed a key provision – the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.
The decision came just before the end of a six-week open enrollment period for the programme in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.”
Gov. Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power line, wildfire safety
|| San Jose Mercury News Oct 2017
“Serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds.”
“A year ago, a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires from overhead electrical lines went to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
It was vetoed.
The author of the measure — passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature — now says the governor missed out on a chance to tackle one of his state’s longstanding vulnerabilities: massive wildfires endangering residential communities. But the governor’s office and the California Public Utilities Commission say the bill duplicated efforts already underway among the CPUC, Cal Fire and utilities like PG&E.
Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds.
On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators have started looking into whether toppled power wires and exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the simultaneous string of blazes.
The acknowledgment followed publication of a review by the Bay Area News Group of Sonoma County firefighters’ radio transmissions in the fires’ infancy that found that there were numerous downed and arcing wires. In the first 90 minutes Sunday night, firefighters were sent to 10 different spots where problems had been reported with the area’s electrical infrastructure. The crews reported seeing sparking lines and transformers.
During that same time period, radio transmissions indicate 28 blazes — both vegetation and structure fires — breaking out, mostly in Sonoma County. Firefighters were sent to eight fallen tree calls, with many reports of blocked roadways.
“Those were witnessed,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said Wednesday, regarding the blown transformers and downed wires. “However, you have to go and look to see if it was a cause of the fire or as a result of the fire.”
The state’s fire agency has said it has ruled out lightning, but said the investigation continues for an official cause of the blazes, which as of late Wednesday had killed 23 people and destroyed more than 3,500 structures in Sonoma, Napa and other Northern California counties.
PG&E acknowledges there were troubles with its equipment Sunday night, but says blaming the utility’s electrical system for the fires at this point would be “highly speculative.” It has labeled the conditions in the first hours of the fires a “historic wind event.”
But meterologist Jan Null, owner of Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga, said that Sunday night’s winds, while strong, were not “hurricane force” and had been surpassed in previous storms. Atlas Peak had gusts of 32 miles per hour at 9 p.m. on Sunday night, Null said. By comparison, the peak had gusts of 66 mph in last February.
SB 1463 had been introduced in last year’s legislative session by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. The bill would have required the state to identify the places most at risk for wildfires and would have required the CPUC to beef up plans to prevent fires sparked by power lines — including moving lines underground if necessary.
But Brown said the bill was unnecessary. “Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations,” he said in his veto message. “This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”
But the senator isn’t buying it.
“Up until my bill those guys were doing nothing,” Moorlach said Wednesday. “I think you got some false information.”
He said his bill would’ve sped up what had become a cumbersome process and given local communities more of a voice by clarifying how fire risk is defined.
Had the governor signed his bill into law, he added, “I think it would have changed things. … I think it would’ve given Cal Fire a whole different set of priorities.”
Brown’s sister Kathleen, he pointed out, served on the board of the energy services holding company, Sempra. Power and utility companies, Moorlach said, “didn’t want to spend the money” making things safer by moving lines underground.
That’s “so outrageous it doesn’t merit a response,” Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said of the notion that the governor didn’t sign the bill to somehow help out Sempra. “It’s unfortunate this particular individual is trying to score political points by peddling inaccurate, self-serving claims at a time like this.”
CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the years-long CPUC and Cal Fire effort has already reached key goals.
Phase One was completed in 2015 and Phase Two is nearly done as well, which will implement new fire safety regulations in high priority areas of the state.
PG&E has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements over the years for its failure to properly maintain vegetation clearance around its electrical lines when it led to massive fires.
In April, the state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked the Butte fire in Amador County in September 2015. That fire burned for 22 days, killing two people, destroying 549 homes and charring 70,868 acres.”
COMMENTARY: Former CIA agent John Kiriakou argues that no former intelligence official should be allowed to keep their security clearances when they leave government, especially if they work in the media.
“(CN Op-ed) — Libertarian senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that in a personal meeting with President Donald Trump, he urged the president to revoke the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama-era intelligence officials, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s position, not specifically regarding these three people, but for any former intelligence official. No former intelligence official should keep a security clearance, especially if he or she transitions to the media or to a corporate board.
The controversy specifically over Brennan’s clearance has been bubbling along for more than a year. He has been one of Trump’s most vocal and harshest critics. Last week he went so far as to accuse Trump of having committed “treason” during his meeting in Helsinki, Finland with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Brennan said in a tweet, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots: Where are you???” The outburst was in response to Trump’s unwillingness to accept the Intelligence Community position that Putin and the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Other intelligence professionals weighed in negatively on Trump’s Helsinki performance, including Republicans like former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former CIA director Mike Hayden.
Why are these people saying anything at all? And why do they have active Top Secret security clearances if they have no governmental positions? The first question is easier to answer than the second. Before answering, though, I want to say that I don’t think this issue is specific to Donald Trump. Former officials of every administration criticize those who have replaced them. That’s the way Washington works. It’s a way for those former officials to remain relevant. Donald Trump happens to be an easy target. His actions are so wildly unpredictable—and frequently so disingenuous on the surface of things—that he proves wrong the oft-quoted observation by the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves. You only make complicated stupid moves, which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”
I’ve known John Brennan for 30 years. He was my boss in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence decades ago. John was hard to get along with. His superiors generally didn’t like him. He was once fired from a job at the CIA. He’s not particularly bright. And then he found a patron in former CIA director George Tenet, who saved his career. Brennan has had his run. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’s been CIA Director, deputy National Security Advisor, director of the Transnational Terrorism Information Center, and deputy Executive Director of the CIA. That’s pretty heady stuff for a kid from Bergen, New Jersey.
He also has very low self-esteem from those early days at the CIA. Almost everybody else had more degrees, spoke more languages, and went to better schools. Until Tenet, Brennan never had a political rabbi and was stuck at the GS-15 (journeyman) level for years. Now, all these years later, he again doesn’t have anyone to help his career. Barack Obama isn’t president anymore. And Brennan desperately wants to be Secretary of Defense. He says it to anybody willing to listen. That is what’s supposed to be his legacy, at least in his mind.
Besides legacy, Brennan and the others have cashed in on their government service. They’ve all become rich by sitting on corporate boards. Brennan is on the board of directors of a company called SecureAuth + CORE Security. He also serves on the board of The Analysis Corporation, which he helped found before joining the Obama Administration. Finally, and most importantly, Brennan is now the official talking head and “Intelligence Consultant” for NBC News and MSNBC.
To me, this is the point that is the most obviously wrong. How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. First, these officials run the risk of exposing classified information in a television interview, either inadvertently or not. Second, and more cynically, what is to keep them from propagandizing the American people by simply spouting the CIA line or allowing the CIA to use them to put out disinformation? What’s to keep them from propagandizing the American people by selectively leaking information known only to the intelligence agencies and Congress? Or to release information passed to them by the FBI?
No former intelligence officials should have a security clearance. There’s no purpose for it other than propaganda and personal enrichment. And if Brennan or Hayden or Clapper or any other former intelligence official becomes an employee of a media company, he or she should not have a security clearance. Period. Donald Trump ought to act right now.”
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.
Is it a surprise to find a Stalin apologist at the center of the Steele dossier scandal?
|| American Spectator
Gotta hand it to Special Counsel Robert Mueller: He knows how to set off a stick of dynamite. I refer, of course, to his office’s recent indictment of thirteen Russians in Russia, which we are now to chase after, yelling “Pearl Harbor!” on the Left and “No collusion!” on the Right, forgetting all about the coalescing revelations of corruption and conspiracy and, yes, Russian influence, to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016, and, failing that, to destroy the Trump presidency.
The key is still in the “dossier” spying scandal.
Nellie Ohr is the “dossier” spying scandal’s woman in the middle.
To one side of Ohr, there is the Fusion GPS team, including fellow contractor Christopher Steele. To the other, there is husband Bruce Ohr, who, until his “dossier”-related demotion, was No. 4 man at the Department of Justice, and a key contact there for Steele.
As central as Nellie Ohr’s placement is, her role in the creation of the “dossier” remains undefined. For example, the House Intelligence Committee memo on related matters vaguely tells us that Nellie Ohr was “employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”; the memo adds that Bruce Ohr “later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” Senator Lindsey Graham more sensationally told Fox News that Nellie Ohr “did the research for Mr. Steele,” but details remain scarce.
Still, relevant facts have emerged. These include Nellie Ohr’s study in the USSR in 1989; her fluency in Russian and Ph.D. in Russian history in 1990; a 2010 CIA affiliation, which practically makes her former MI6 agent Steele’s “opposite number”; and the extremely curious detail, harkening back to earlier eras of spycraft, that on May 23, 2016, around the time she came on board Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr applied for a ham radio operator’s license.
Notably, the “dossier” men in her life have tried to shield Ohr from public scrutiny, even at professional risk. Her husband, as the Daily Caller News Foundation reports, failed to disclose his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS and seek the appropriate conflict-of-interest waiver, which may have been an important factor in his demotion from associate deputy attorney general late last year.
Under Senate and House questioning, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson consistently failed to disclose Nellie Ohr’s existence as one of his firm’s paid Russian experts, let alone that he hired her for the red-hot DNC/Clinton campaign Trump-Russia project.
Even Christopher Steele may have tried to keep Nellie Ohr “under cover.” Steele, put forth as the “dossier” author ever since its January 2017 publication in BuzzFeed, does not appear to have let on to his many media and political contacts that he had “dossier”-assistance from at least two fellow Fusion GPS Russian experts, Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. Baumgartner, interestingly, was a Russian history major at Vassar in the 1990s when Nellie Ohr taught Russian history there.”
Halfway Through 2018, Streaming Continued Growth Defies Mathematical Trends
“In the first half of 2018, overall on-demand streaming increased 41.7 percent to reach 403.5 billion U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music. That growth defies mathematical trends, which dictate that, as a base enlarges, it becomes harder to achieve a bigger percentage growth than in preceding time periods.
When looking at only album consumption units constructed with audio on-demand streams — the kind used in tallying the Billboard 200 and U.S. market share — the industry grew by 13.8 percent to 270 million units at midyear 2018, compared to 237.2 million at the midway point of 2017. Audio on-demand streams grew 45.5 percent to 268.3 billion, from the 184.5 billion accumulated in the first six months of 2017, while video on-demand streams grew 34.7 percent to 135.2 billion from the 100.4 billion streams tallied in the first half of 2017. (Overall video stream count is not available because YouTube stopped reporting streams of song videos that do not garner at least 1,000 views a day in mid-2016.)
R&B/hip-hop remained the most popular genre with a 31.2 percent market share, and had the largest gain overall, up from 28.65 percent in 2017. Conversely, rock came in second at 23.1 percent, but had the largest decline, falling from the 24.81 percent it had accumulated in the first six months of 2017. Latin continued to show strong growth, accounting for 7.74 percent market share, up from 6.46 percent for the corresponding period in 2017, while the other large genre, pop, grew to 15.09 percent this year from 14.76 percent last year, with its album consumption units increasing to 46.22 million from 38.93 million units.
While country grew 8.1 percent to 25.74 million album consumption units at the midway points, its market share actually declined to 8.4 percent, down from 9.03 percent last year, because it isn’t growing as fast as the overall market.”
Beyoncé Claps Back At Accusations Of Fake Streaming Numbers On New Album
|| The Federalist
Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new collaborative album takes a shot at Spotify, presumably in response to recent reports about Tidal’s fudging of subscriber numbers.
“My success can’t be quantified/ If I gave two f–ks about streaming numbers, would’ve put ‘Lemonade’ up on Spotify/ F–k you, f–k you,” Beyoncé spits on her new joint album with Jay-Z. Queen Bey’s not-so-cryptic lyrics seem to be a response to accusations her husband’s streaming service, Tidal, faked hundreds of millions of plays and subscriber numbers.
In May, the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported that Tidal fudged the streaming numbers for both Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” and Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” generating “massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”
According to Variety, Tidal claims that West’s album recorded 250 million plays in the first 10 days of its release with just 3 million subscribers. Meaning that every subscriber played the album on average eight times per day. Tidal also said “Lemonade”was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release last April.
The paper’s investigation used data from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where researchers estimated that Tidal’s total number of subscribers was closer to 1 million globally. Tidal denied the report and responded in a statement issued to Music Week: “This is a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an ‘Israeli Intelligence officer’ and our owner as a ‘crack dealer’. We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.”
This isn’t the only sign of Tidal’s struggle. Kanye West ended his contract with the company last summer over money, claiming Tidal owed him $3 million. And TMZ reported on Tuesday that the heirs of Prince’s estate are about to back out of a deal giving Tidal exclusive streaming rights, saying “they don’t want the estate getting caught up in the streaming service’s legal problems.”
The other tracks on the power couple’s new album collaboration talk about their life at home, life in the public eye, celebrating their marriage rehab and growing family. “This beach ain’t always been no paradise/But nightmares only last one night,” Bey raps on “LoveHappy.”
The real irony of Beyonce’s lyrics on the track ‘NICE’ is that she actually does give more than two f–ks about her streaming numbers. The album dropped exclusively on Tidal over the weekend, but was available on Spotify and Apple Music by Monday morning.”
FORGET ABOUT FAKE ARTISTS – IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT FAKE STREAMS
|| Music Business Worldwide | By Tim Ingham
“I’ve got a confession to make. I’m a fake artist.
One afternoon, about a decade ago, I started nobbing about on GarageBand. Made a scratchy demo. It wasn’t very good.
Last month, thinking nothing of it, I uploaded that demo to Spotify, via Tunecore.
I called it PH, by Pinky Hue. On Pinky Hue Records.
(As it turns out, my pseudonymous tendencies wererather more in vogue than I’d appreciated.)
Then, for over a fortnight, nothing. Aside, that is, from one loyal monthly listener in Milton Keynes, England. (Thanks mum.)
But this past week-and-a-half, things have kicked right off.
First 1,000 listens, then 3,000, then 5,000. Word’s getting out.
As we stand today, Pinky Hue has racked up more than 10,000 Spotify plays – and is already marching towards 15,000.
Anyone know a good manager?
There’s just one problem with this empowering rags-to-riches story, of course.
I bought these streams off the internet.
And I could have bought 2 million of them.
The issue of fake streams has been on my mind since Midem back in June – in particular, a panel called ‘How distributors and streaming services collaborate.’
Anne-Marie Robert (VP International, Tunecore France) appeared alongside reps from the likes of The Orchard and ADA, and was asked how self-releasing artists could gain better access to streaming playlists which would then revolutionize their career.
“Contrary to my friends from ADA and The Orchard, we don’t provide direct trade marketing services because we let the artist do [that] and we take no commission,” she replied.
“But we give a lot of advice on our blog… and also, we are partnering with some services where you can buy some streams [on] Deezer and other websites which can help you.”
Robert specifically mentioned Feature.fm, which allows artists and rights-holders to have their music played in promotional slots on streaming platforms – for a price.
Robert’s comments triggered a subsequent thought in my head: How hard is it to go out and actually purchase fake plays online?
So, the other week, I Googled ‘buy fake Spotify streams’.
And voila: options.
The top result was for a company called Streamify, which boasts on its homepage: ‘Whether you want to get more fans, boost sales or just monitor your plays [sic] count, Streamify has the answers and insights you need to get your songs played more.’
Streamify LLC is officially located in Houston, Texas and offers a full menu of fake stream delicacies specific to Daniel Ek’s platform.
For the timid trialist, $5 will buy you 1,000 Spotify plays.
For the bolder connoisseur, $200 will buy you 100,000 Spotify plays.
And for the full-on, screw-it-this-will-change-my-life desperado, $2,250 will buy you 2 million Spotify plays.
Other options for buying Spotify streams on the internet – and to be clear, MBW cannot vouch for the legitimacy of these companies – include Streampot/StreamKO and Mass Media, both of which also sell packages of fake YouTube plays.”
Did Tidal really fake Kanye and Beyoncé’s streaming numbers?
|| Digital Trends
“A Norwegian newspaper made huge waves in the music streaming industry on May 9, claiming that on-demand music streaming service Tidal had manipulated listener data for two of its biggest artists: Kanye West and Beyoncé.
The accusations surround both artists’ most recent albums, Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, with the newspaper claiming that it had gained access to royalty reports and a hard drive that contained “extensive data” regarding Tidal’s streaming plays. Tidal had exclusive streaming rights to both albums when they launched. Tidal owner Jay-Z is married to Beyoncé and is a longtime friend and collaborator of West.
Rolling Stone has since reported that Tidal has contracted a third-party cybersecurity firm to investigate the data breach. The company still denies the allegations made by the story and says it is undertaking the investigation as a means of reassuring its customers that their data is secure.
“Although we do not typically comment on stories we believe to be false, we feel it is important to make sure that our artists, employees and subscribers know that we are not taking the security and integrity of our data lightly,” Tidal CEO Richard Sanders told Rolling Stone.
The newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv, worked in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to analyze the data, producing a report which claims that more than 320 million false plays had been logged for the two albums on more than 1.7 million user accounts. In March 2016, Tidal claimed that The Life of Pablo had been streaming 250 million times in 10 days. The streaming service claimed that Lemonade had 306 million plays in just 15 days following its release.
A later article from Dagens Naeringsliv that was published Wednesday, May 16 claims that Tidal has also failed to make royalty payments to some major labels since October of 2017.
Many may be wondering why Tidal would want to skew its own streaming numbers in the first place. After all, you may think that increased plays would just cost the streaming service more money in royalty payments overall, thereby hurting the company. That is not true, as Billboard points out. Due to the nature of its contracts with major labels, Tidal — as well as competitors like Apple Music and Spotify — pays royalties from a percentage of revenue, not based on the total number of plays in a given term. This means it would simply shift the proportion of money they would have already paid other labels and artists towards West and Beyoncé.
There a few reasons this may have been in Tidal’s interest, should the allegations be true. First, it would have garnered increased publicity for two of its biggest artists. Second, it would have increased Tidal’s position and valuation in the marketplace — potentially profiting the company in terms of its increased ability to sell equity (Tidal sold a 30 percent stake in the business to Sprint in early 2017). And third, it would have made both artists over a million dollars in extra royalties, provided they were paid the “superstar” royalty rate of 50 percent on streaming from Def Jam and Columbia, the labels that produced the albums.
Tidal claims that the data was stolen and manipulated by Dagens Naeringsliv itself. One thing the study did indicate is that the data was unlikely to have been manipulated by a software bug or by accident.
“Due to the targeted nature and extent of the manipulation, it is very unlikely that this manipulation was solely the result of a code-based bug or other anomalies,” the study reads.
“[It] is highly likely that the manipulation happened from within the streaming service itself,” concludes professor Katrin Franke, who led the university team.
As part of its extensive story, Dagens Naeringsliv interviewed numerous affected customers, whose accounts show numerous plays of the album during odd hours.
Music critic Geir Rakvaag, for example, is shown in the data to have listened to songs from The Life of Pablo 96 times in a single day, and 54 times in the middle of the night.
“It’s physically impossible,” he claims in the story.
We’ll continue to keep tabs as this story develops. As for whether or not Tidal actually did manipulate user data to generate bigger publicity and profits for two of its biggest artists: Time will tell, and numerous lawsuits are likely forthcoming.”
Peter Strzok Admits Junk Russia Dossier Came from Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS
“On Thursday disgraced FBI investigator Peter Strzok admitted during his congressional hearing that the phony Russia dossier was funneled through the FBI by Nellier and Bruce Ohr.
The junk dossier went from Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson–> to Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS–> to her husband Bruce Ohr at the DOJ –> walked over and fed to Peter Strzok at the FBI –> and this was the impetus for the entire Trump-Russia investigation!
And it was all paid for by the Clinton Campaign and DNC!
This was the basis for the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.
It was all a Democrat Party operation.