OVERVIEW: Time to accept USA for Innovation for what it was - June 9, 2007
The USA for Innovation site went silent on May 9, 2007. The companion site ThaiMyths.com ran from May 7 to May 18 and then went silent as well.
Based on its short history, USA for Innovation is
- an organization with no history before April 2007 (despite a huge directory of press releases, none of these were released to the net on the alleged dates they were created)
- an organization whose web attacks have no precedent in lobbying--except for the lobbying group Edelman which is well-known for creating fake lobbying efforts and planting articles and opinion pieces in the press (more info here).
- an organization that could afford an expensive hired gun like Kenneth Adelman
- an organization that seems satisfied to cease activity on May 18. Thaksin ended his association with Edelman on May 7.
"USA for Innovation" - A made-to-order lobbying effort - 7:31am, April 29, 2007
[Update: 19:11, April 29, 2007 - Traditional media is beginning to cover this story--along the lines we have laid out here. Just remember that 2Bangkok.com had the story first.]
Is "USA for Innovation" a fake lobbying group set up to attack the current Thai government?
With perfect timing, this new lobbying effort has appeared and targeted the Thai military government. Practically overnight, a Google search returns 24,300 hits for "USA for Innovation" (as of the writing of this article) and they all appear to refer to the press releases this lobbying group has issued over the last few days. Pre-April 2007 press releases from USA for Innovation do not appear to have been released to PR Web or other press release websites. Pre-April 2007 press releases do not even appear on Google--perhaps indicating they were only recently placed on the website to give USA for Innovation a plausible history before this April. Archive.org shows no activity for the site either.
USA for Innovation's sparse website has a news page with occasional press releases going back to 2005, but only the recent Thai patent issue has multiple press releases. There is also a gap, nearly a year long, between press releases from May 2006 to April 2007. According to SourceWatch, USA for Innovation's Executive Director Ken Adelman is also a senior counselor to Edelman. Edelman is the PR firm hired by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. This PR initiative comes at a suspiciously opportune time as pro-Thaksin groups attempt to build on issues from the draft constitution to destabilize the government before the momentous rulings on disbanding the Thai Rak Thai party at the end of May. 2Bangkok.com is attempting to contact USA for Innovation, Edelman, and Baker Botts for comment.
Above: For those of you who cannot see YouTube in Thailand, here is a screen grab of USA for Innovation's site. So far the comments on the clip are overwhelmingly negative. On the USA for Innovation website there is a strangely broad explanation of the YouTube blocking: Thailand's government censors speech within the country, including anything from YouTube, a service it considers to be dangerous and subversive.
Some interesting press release from the site: Thailand's Military is Sucking Money Away from Public Health - April 26, 2007
Military Regime Continues to Censor Free Speech in Thailand - April 26, 2007 USA For Innovation's Executive Director Ken Adelman will today release a message to the people of Thailand regarding the importance of innovation and concerns about the Thai Government's recent endorsement of theft of American intellectual property. This message will be available via Google's YouTube service this afternoon beginning at 3:00pm PT at the USA For Innovation YouTube website...
Troubles from Thailand - Washington Times, April 27, 2007 ... Most recently, the government brazenly announced it was breaking patents on drugs produced by Western corporations. And while this action is in line with the rampant theft of U.S. innovation in Thailand, it is also glaringly self-serving. An official Thai spokesman admitted busting patents "will be good for local pharmaceutical companies to improve their capacity." Perhaps unsurprising, one local pharmaceutical supplier happens to be owned by the Thai government, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization.
Above: Part of the full page ad placed in The Wall Street Journal
USA for Innovation's Wall Street Journal ad - April 29, 2007 The broad sweep of issues addressed in both the USA for Innovation website and its Wall Street Journal ad is peculiar for a lobbying group that is ostensibly concerned with pharmaceutical issues. Taking the angle of "Slouching towards Burma" and "Radical new regime" could indicate a broader agenda than just focusing on protecting patents. Calling the PM a "Military Dictator," bringing up "targeted 'disappearances'" in the deep south, attacking military spending, and trying to highlight YouTube censorship seems to go far beyond what would be expected from a typical lobbying group attempting to apply political pressure a patent issue.
The media talks about USA for Innovation
Adelman spin the latest attack in the 'war from outside' - The Nation, May 11, 2007
...Since his background has been in the field of defence, with close ties to hardcore American conservatives, you must wonder why he dislikes the Thai military regime so much. Don't they belong to the same species - more power and higher military budgets?
But wait a minute, his bio says that he is senior counsellor at Edelman Public Relations. Do you know why now?
Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, hired Edelman Public Relations to represent him and to help prop up his international image. The Nation earlier reported that he signed a public-relations contract with Edelman in a deal worth US$300,000 (Bt10.3 million).
Edelman Public Relations was responsible for most of Thaksin's media exposure with CNN, Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the like earlier this year when he launched a PR blitz to boost his international image.
...The outsiders set the rules - freedom of expression by YouTube, free trade by the US, high drug costs by pharmaceutical companies - we only have to follow.
Increasingly, we'll face more and more people like Ken Edelman, who has hardly ever set foot in Thailand, but who is willing to crush us to the ground with his black heart.
Ex-president blasts Abbott on standoff with Thailand - Waukegan News, May 11, 2007 ...Standing next to the Thai health minister, Clinton strongly endorsed decisions by Thailand and Brazil to break patents held by American drug manufacturers to make their own versions of the drugs. The former president also said some of the prices charged by American drug companies are "exorbitant..."
The Nation's statement on USA Innovation ad - The Nation, May 12, 2007
USA FOR INNOVATION - GPO may sue over adverts - The Nation, May 12, 2007
New 'Thailies' website spurs strong reaction - Bangkok Post, May 9, 2007 The government has increased its internet monitoring operations after the American lobby group USA for Innovation announced it had launched a new anti-Thai government website, www.Thailies.com. ''We will check the background of the website operator to see if it has any hidden agenda,'' said government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalap...
Official: U.S. ex-President Clinton backs Thai move to break patents on AIDS drugs - IHT, May 8, 2007 Former U.S. President Bill Clinton supports Thailand's move to break patents on AIDS drugs to lower their cost for poor patients, the Thai health minister said Wednesday. Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, who met with Clinton on Tuesday, is visiting the U.S. to explain Thailand's decision to break patents on three drugs, including the AIDS drugs Kaletra produced by Abbott Laboratories and Efavirenz by Merck. Both are American companies...
Thaksin ends PR contract amid flak - The Nation, May 7, 2007 Deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has terminated his association with United States-based public relations company Edelman...
Thai AIDS activist: US is "devil disguised" - Gay.com, May 3, 2007
Thailand joins China, India among worst copyright offenders - IANS, May 1, 2007 Thailand has joined China, India and nine other countries that top the US list of worst offenders of international copyright rules, the US government said...
Thailand scolded over not honoring patents - Tribune, April 30, 2007
Thai coup leaders hire PR company - BBC, April 30, 2007 ...It signals a battle over the image of the country, which has been the subject of some recent negative publicity. Its ousted and exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has hired lobbyists and PR agents in the US...
"Charity" or "corporate-funded campaigning group?" - May 11, 2007 It is interesting how the USA for Innovation ad in The Nation on May 9, 2007 (below left) uses the same points as the Philip Stevens' article. More about Philip Stevens and the International Policy Network: From the forum: The cited article in the Chicago Sun-Times [Thailand violates drug patents for its own profit] signs off with:"Philip Stevens is health program director at the International Policy Network, a London-based charity..." In an opinion piece in The Nation, the author is described as "Philip Stevens is director of the health programme at the International Policy Network, a London-based development think tank." This is the same description Newsweek uses. Sourcewatch calls International Policy Network a "corporate-funded campaigning group" that specializes in pharmaceutical and patent issues. Regardless of media outlets' misleading descriptions, the International Policy Network appears to be another lobbying group.
Left: USA For Innovation Announces Advertising Campaign In Thailand - Bangkok Post, May 10, 2007 USA for Innovation today announced an advertising campaign in Thailand aimed at highlighting Thailand's theft of American and European medical technology at the expense of the poor and sick. The advertisement, a full-page ad in The Nation, highlights the actions of Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, which hurt jobs, investment and access to safe medicines for the people of Thailand...
Above: USA for Innovation on August 23, 2007
USA for Innovation finally disappears - August 25, 2007 USA For Innovation was the fake lobbying site set up by PR company Edelman to pressure the Thai military junta. The site pretended to have a long history with many press releases and an on-going mission to target Brazilian and Thai compulsory drug licensing, but the reality is that the site (and organization) suddenly appeared in April, 2007. Deposed PM Thaksin reportedly ended his association with Edelman on May 7. USA for Innovation's last post was on May 9. USA for Innovation's sister site, Thaimyths.com, set up to highlight a series of press releases from May 7-18, is still up. Proof of the big money behind the site was the enlistment of Kenneth Adelman to front the website and even record a YouTube video - "The government of Thailand won't let me talk to the people of Thailand, since they block this YouTube message..." Inside of Thailand you can download the video here (11MB) and watch it with Miro.
Above: USA for Innovation's Executive Director was Ken Adelman