Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Another New America Foundation Co-Founder Dies

 Here is more from Politico:

Sherle Schwenninger, one of the co-founders of New America, died Wednesday at 69. From his family: “Sherle was also founding director of the World Economic Roundtable, a joint venture of The Institute for New Economic and New America NYC … From 2007 to 2015, he was director of New America’s Economic Growth Program … The overreaching goal of Sherle’s life was advancing world peace and stability through his policy work and mentoring others to advance his ideals. Sherle wrote and spoke frequently on questions relating to the U.S. and world economies and on issues related to American foreign policy and international economic strategy. … A celebration of life will be held at a later date.”

A few weeks, ago, another New America Foundation co-founder, Ted Halstead, died.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Think Tank Quickies (#386)

  • Meet the hawkish liberal think tank (CNAS) powering Kamala Harris. 
  • RAND Corp., for first time, makes wargame available to the public; Defense Secretary Mark Esper visits RAND.
  • Senior think tanker at CSIS, among the 70+ Republican national security officials who has publicly endorsed Biden, lays out why a second Trump term is "dangerous."
  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG) organized and provided support for meetings between a Saudi delegation to US think tanks.
  • Ghislaine Maxwell and her think tanking "boyfriend," Scott Borgerson.
  • RAND launches Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy.
  • New Jamestown Foundation report has exposed "chilling details" of official measures to shrink the Uighur population in China.
  • Two largest think tanks in US led by black women. 
  • Joan Didion on the now defunct think tank Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
  • Founder of pro-Brexit think tank buys EU passport via Malta.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Think Tank Chief Suspected of Selling Info. to Chinese Spies

 Here is more from the BBC:

Fraser Cameron, who runs the EU-Asia Centre think tank, is suspected of passing sensitive information about the EU to two spies allegedly posing as Brussels-based journalists.

He is alleged to have exchanged the information for thousands of Euros.

But Mr Cameron told The Times the allegations were "ridiculous".

The businessman, who worked for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service from 1976 to 1991, says he has no access to any "secret or confidential information".

Numerous people who work at think tanks around the world have been accused of giving information to foreign spies.

Here is a link to the EU-Asia Centre, which was established in 2011.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CFR Under Fire for Hosting Top Iranian Official

Here is more from The Washington Free Beacon:

A U.S. think tank is under fire from the Trump administration and its allies in Congress for hosting Iran's chief propagandist in an upcoming event that legal experts say runs afoul of American sanctions laws.

The Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan U.S. think tank that employs numerous former government officials, is scheduled to host next Tuesday Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, the regime's top spokesman and architect of the landmark nuclear accord, for a virtual conversation on the Zoom meeting platform. The event comes just days after Iran tortured and executed popular Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari over his participation in a peaceful protest. The execution sparked outrage across the globe and is casting a shadow over the CFR event.

Trump administration and congressional officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the upcoming event expressed outrage that CFR would host Zarif after his government executed Afkari, who has since become a poster boy for Iran's human-rights abuses.

Here is a video of the event, which took place on September 21.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hackers Targeting Think Tanks Amid 2020 US Elections

 Here is more from Politico:

Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers have mounted cyberattacks against hundreds of organizations and people involved in the 2020 presidential race and U.S.-European policy debates, with targets including the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Microsoft said Thursday.

Microsoft said Russia's targets this time included political parties in the U.S. and Europe, while Chinese hackers went after people in Biden's campaign and Iranians attempted to breach the accounts of Trump's campaign staff. Hackers also attacked political consultants, think tanks and groups such as the German Marshall Fund and Stimson Center that promote international cooperation.

The New York Times notes that the Atlantic Council is among the think tanks that have been targeted in the most recent campaign. 

FBI Special Agent Matthew O'Brien recently said that if foreign adversaries are unable to breach an organization's computer systems via remote means, they have infiltrated the think tanks' offices in person and covertly installed keystroke logging software.

"We've got reports from the think tanks locally that they'll try to piggyback coming in through doors and just walk in and see if they can get access somewhere," said O'Brien.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Co-Founder of New America Foundation Think Tank Dies

From the Houston Chronicle:

The head of a climate activism group that brought together conservatives and major polluters like Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, died in a hiking accident last week.

Ted Halstead, the president of the Climate Leadership Council, fell to his death on Sept. 2 while hiking in Spain, where his wife and daughter live, a spokesman for the non-profit said.

Here is a press release from New America (previously New America Foundation), which he founded together with Walter Russell Mead, Michael Lind, and Sherle Schwenninger.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Chinese Think Tanks Severing Ties With Australian Think Tanks

 Here is more from The Australian Financial Review:

Academics working for Chinese government think tanks and top universities say they are cutting off communications with their Australian counterparts and cancelling plans to travel to the country because they fear they will be accused of being Communist Party infiltrators.

Five prominent academics in China specialising in foreign relations and Australian studies told The Australian Financial Review it was becoming almost impossible to collaborate with Australian universities because of the rise in anti-China rhetoric.

The Chinese government is clearly not happy with some Australian think tanks.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Brookings Partnered With Shanghai Think Tank Under Scrutiny For Spying

 Here is more from The Washington Free Beacon:

The Brookings Institution, a prominent Washington, D.C., think tank, partnered with a Shanghai policy center that the FBI has described as a front for China’s intelligence and spy recruitment operations, according to public records and federal court documents.

The Brookings Doha Center, the think tank’s hub in Qatar, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in January 2018, the institution said. The academy is a policy center funded by the Shanghai municipal government that has raised flags within the FBI.

The partnership raises questions about potential Chinese espionage activities at the think tank, which employs numerous former government officials and nearly two dozen current foreign policy advisers to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Since the partnership began, the organizations have teamed up to host a 2018 conference in Shanghai and a 2019 joint workshop in Doha. Both events focused on Middle East cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s multinational infrastructure project that the U.S. government has described as a global security threat.

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), which employs nearly 800 people, was founded in 1958 and is China's oldest think tank for the humanities and social sciences.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

US Protests Lead to Major Diversity Push at US Think Tanks

 Here is more from Foreign Policy:

Hundreds of Washington think tank and policy professionals, including some directors and CEOs, have signed a letter advocating for more diversity in their profession after nationwide protests against racial injustice shook the country this summer. 

The letter, signed by more than 300 current and former employees from 43 think tanks and research organizations, provides a detailed blueprint for reforms in the largely white Washington policy scene, recommending that think tanks make public their diversity data and work harder to recruit and retain people of color by adding human resources staff and paid internships, and by interviewing more diverse candidates.

Prompted by nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis earlier this year, the pledge includes among its signatories current and former staffers from the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and New America. 


The article also notes that two young academics in Germany, Sarah Bressan and Theresa Lutkefend, have launched an initiative called "Better Think Tanking," which aims to make professional advancement more dependent on expertise than an adherence to professional culture.