Dec 14, 2022·edited Dec 14, 2022

IRS forms, Guidestar 990 forms, charitable 501c3 designation and reporting:

A nonprpofit has to record that 5 mil payment or donation on its nonprofit form filed with the IRS. It has to account for how the money was spent down to the penny. How did the money get spent? What was it for? It is all in the public record filing of the nonprofit. Find their funding and expenses.

This nonprofit that is supposed to be ethical in its own lane, got into another lane.

The question about why was the money given, was it given to the nonprofit charitable arm of a 501c3 organization and was the donation reported in its docs to the IRS - that can cause a coverup. In spy stories, the foreign government does this for blackmail. To undermine American left media.

Is this the only donation is another question.

Their nonprofit status and the org's existence is being threatened with these questions. Many nonprofit organizations have problems with large assets - recording, and following IRS nonprofit guidelines. 36 million is a lot of moolah for pp assets.

Note the incredibly large assets reported by this nonprofit, as they follow their mandate to help the downtrodden. Close examination of the expenses may reveal more. That may be part of the stonewalling. And a very good reason for reporting laws for all 501c3's. In a famous case from the last century, the head of United Way was using their nonprofit funds for his romance with an underage girl, including providing her with an apartment on UWay funds. Not at all uncommon, unfortunately, in the nonprofit world, for a nonprofit with such large assets reported. Guidestar was created by the foundations in order to police their own. 501c3 problems can be legion.

Not many understand that the Board of Directors of a nonprofit are individually and 100% liable for any oversight errors, such as financial reporting problems. They are 100% responsible and liable for all aspects of the nonprofit activities.

International gov foes like to acquire US news orgs too! The involvement of the GOP could be a long game to undermine progressive media. In the spy novels, blackmail is common in these scenarios. Let's hope there is a good explanation. Why was the gop involved in this?

This is not a case where, like they say in the Old West jails, "no noose is good noose." We need transparency. Stonewalling is making it worse and the Board of Directors is the ultimate authority in running that nonprofit, so the buck stops there. Ask the President of the Board about their mandate which is to advocate for transparency.

"Meet the U.S. Officials Now in China’s Sphere of Influence" Daily Beast


There's a slew of one-time U.S. politicians and officials who have lobbied for China or whose business interests are closely connected to it.


Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Updated Nov. 21, 2018 4:50PM

"Beijing has also learned how to harness its economic might by alternately opening its doors to companies who play by China’s rules, and slamming the door on companies that go against its red lines. In some cases, this grants Beijing powerful sway over foreign companies with business interests in China. This has raised concerns that current U.S. government officials may have an eye on their future prospects in China even before leaving office."

“Nobody in the 1980s would have represented the Russian government. And now you find so many lobbying for the Chinese government,” said Frank Wolf, a retired U.S. representative from Virginia who long served as the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. “I served in Congress for 34 years. I find it shocking.”

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All about the benjamins, James, n'est-ce pas? Verdad?

enjoy your day! Big snowstorm coming to ski country in the cold north!

Charitable watchdog and reporting org, online 990 report:

https://www.guidestar.org/search (charitable watchdog and reporting org, online 990 report)

PRO Publica, Inc. Silver


New York City, NY|EIN: 14-2007220





Pro Publica site, 990 Charitable reporting forms here:


2021: Pro Publica https://assets-c3.propublica.org/pdf/reports/2021-Pro-Publica-Form-990.pdf



IRS form 990: purpose of org:


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Dec 13, 2022·edited Dec 15, 2022

" SBF gave PP $5 million for reporting on "pandemic preparedness." Did that have any bearing on the choice, handling, or emphasis in story?"

yes, follow the money

The only reason for a nonprofit to stonewall like this is misuse of $. Exposure would threaten their nonprofit status. Unfortunately, they are trying to hide under the covers like a small kid hoping the monsters will go away.

They've made a determination that saying nothing is more productive than exposing the possible misuse of funds. Theory

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Diana, thank you. It really is strange that an organization as formidable as PP would decide just to clam up. I will report back as I learn more.

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thanks JF for offering a master class in journalism! :

Reynolds School of Journalism staff, advice for new students:

"Here are some inspiring quotes from giants of the media field to give you the inspiration to get through the semester or maybe apply for that media dream job."

"I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon." - Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard is a Czech-born British playwright and screenwriter, The Daily Telegraph ranked him 11 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture." Stoppard fled Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia as a child and settled in England in 1946. Before becoming a playwright, Stoppard worked as a journalist in Bristol. It was through writing about arts and culture that Stoppard found the world of theater. Stoppard wrote many successful plays and went on to co-write the screenplay for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," although he was uncredited.

It goes to show, you don't know where a career in journalism will take you.

"In America, the president reigns for four years, and journalism governs forever and ever." - Oscar Wilde

Journalism has been referred to as the fourth estate; our democracy depends on an independent press to hold officials accountable. Irish writer Oscar Wilde knew this when he uttered the above phrase.

Wilde worked as a journalist and reviewer for an evening paper in London called The Pall Mall Gazette, from 1885-1987. He’s remembered for his novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," and his play, "The Importance of Being Earnest." Like many great writers, he got his start in journalism.

"Journalism allows its readers to witness history; fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it." - John Hersey

Have you ever gotten lost in a highly literary article in The New Yorker or Rolling Stone? You might have John Hersey to thank. He helped pioneer a style of writing known as “new journalism,” which takes techniques from fiction storytelling and applies them to journalism.

Journalism is an ever-shifting and changing field and a good journalist isn’t afraid to break the rules and see what happens. It’s how we move forward.


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Jim, it's so very important that someone of your stature is making a point of publicly asking these essential question. Thank you.

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Thank you Ethan.

I find it really startling that Pro Publica will not engage.

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Manoj Kewalramani's invaluable substack in which he covers each day's People's Daily is a great way for a non-Mandarin speaker to acclimatize to the CCP/Xi lingo. Yes, it can be opaque to us Westerners until you get used to it....heavy in metaphor and implicit historical use of a word or phrase. I can see how the committee staffer could go down a rabbit hole.

But there is no rabbit hole. There are many Mandarin speaking China analysts working in the US, people with deep knowledge and high integrity, some having grown up in China and maybe having worked within the CCP system, striving to follow CCP leadership and figure out what's going on. The whole idea of a secret language just doesn't compute. There's no place to hide messaging.

In that context, beyond Jim's devastating questions of journalistic practice, the PP piece seems like a naive attempt, outside the a richer and better informed conversation.

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Thank you.

As a basic matter of journalistic craft, apart from expertise in Mandarin (which I do not possess), I can't understand editors giving a "Let's go!" decision to a story relying the "secret language" claim. Or without checking with the vast potential pool of people who could vet the claim, as you set out.

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JIm, it might be useful to forward this and the previous post to Erik Wemple over at the Washington Post and see if he would also be interested in pursuing this story This seems to be one of the types of media malfeasance issues that would spark his interest.

ProPublica seems to be doubling down rather than addressing criticism of the story. I just wen over to the site to see what they have posted in response to criticism and it is really nothing that would stand up to scrutiny. I'm still stunned that the central piece of information for the story is the translation of a document(s) rather than any hard scientific evidence. It is doubtful that this meets the standard of evidence in the American judicial system (Frye v Daubert that established what constitutes expert testimony). They also cherry picked scientists statements about the lab leak theory.

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Thank you. Good idea.

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Dear Jim,

Great piece. A further question occurs to me : Why did no one approach the majority (Democrat) staff for comment? They must have known what was going on. Why did they choose not to participate? Or did the Republican staff exclude them?

Best regards,


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Grenville, thank you. Yes, good question about the majority (Dem) staff. Let me look into this.

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Terrific questions. Three other red flags stand out to me:

1. Using material from Republican Congressional staffers as the initial basis for PP's work. For political reasons, Republicans have been desperate to prove the lab leak almost from the beginning of the pandemic. Actual, highly qualified scientists who have studied the issue have concluded otherwise.

2. The conspiratorial mind can't be budged: Relying on a single translator who claims unique powers of understanding seems very similar to many other instances in history where a shaman-like character leads the gullible (and/or the eager) down rabbit holes. Cognitive dissonance can keep them there.

3. An occupational and organizational hazard: Once in a while, investigative reporters fall in love with the story, lose their perspective and ability to question their conclusions. PP staff were very eager to solve this puzzle and had too much invested in it. Some of Seymour Hersh's work late in his career also illustrate this problem. The NYT 1619 project also showed some of these problems, including their disinterest in addressing criticisms by highly qualified experts.

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Thank you. I agree on all three.

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Mr. Fallows, when I read your previous article my first thought was why don't you discuss this with Nicholas Kristof at the NY Times? As I'm sure you're aware, Mr. Kristof speaks Mandarin, spent several years as bureau chief in Beijing, and was present during the uprising in 1989. In addition, his wife is Chinese-American. It seems to me if anyone would be able to offer an informed view, Mr. Kristof would.

Meanwhile, I have to agree with the others here: I'm so glad you're pursuing this story. Digging the truth out of an authoritarian nation like China is difficult enough without the obfuscations brought about by partisan goals that reverse the most fundamental rule of investigative reporting: gather facts first, then draw conclusions.

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Thank you. I do know, like, and respect Nick Kristof. He is in the category of "distinguished reporters who also have language skills."

I think the translation issues are for people like Brendan O'Kane and others, whose business is dealing with the nuances of the language. I think that Nick K would agree.

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Très intéressant JF! thanks!

also like all comments in the comment section, great to read other comments !

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

― Thomas Paine

“The pressure of adversity is the most powerful sustainer of accountability. It's as though everything you do is multiplied by 50 in order to surpass those with a head-start. I was never capable of slacking when at the threshold of failure.”

― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“He had learned that close-held secrets could often be cracked by going all the way to the top and there making himself unbearably unpleasant. He knew that such twisting of the tiger's tail was dangerous, for he understood the psychopathology of great power.”

― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Good for you for pursuing this. I have the upmost respect for journalism as a profession, but being on the other side of the notepad as a public official, I've seen my share of examples of hypocrisy. This is especially true when questions of story integrity arise. I've found that some journalists can be thin-skinned about that. In any case, you are serving the profession well.

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Dan, thank you.

This is a puzzling and disturbing case to me. It would be *so easy* for ProPublica to resolve the whole issue. "We realize that we made a mistake. We will look into the whole instance and see what we can learn." They are behaving in exactly the way they would denounce if it were a corporation or a government agency.

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It turns out that even ProPublica has its own inner Maggie Haberman.

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I am puzzled by their decisions. The story itself was a mistake. What's happening now is self-inflicted damage.

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Dec 11, 2022Liked by James Fallows

Frankly, my comment about "The Habes" ties in. The Times does similar things: It publishes absolute garbage but then the leadership declares, almost in so many words, since we are The Times, it is correct. Others tend to parrot them, which helps to explain how and why The Former Guy owes his office to several media outlets, but both The Times and CNN stand at the forefront of journalistic incompetence and malpractice.

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Very disappoited in PP. Stonewalling makes it so much worse. Supid, stupid, stupid. Keep the heat on, Jim!

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Thank you

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I have informed Jill Shepard who sent me a solicitation yesterday that I will not give any more money to ProPublica unless or until they respond to the very legitimate questions you have raised about the dubious Lab Leak story.

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I'm not trying to undermine PP's support, at all. But they may need more pressure to Do The Right Thing.

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I heard back from Jill Shepard. She asked to know “specifically what you’re disappointed about” in their failure to answer the questions that have been raised about the COVID origins report.

Here’s what I said in response -

Thanks for responding. As I said, I’d like to see ProPublica answer some of the questions that James Fallows has raised. I read the editor’s note, and I don’t think it suffices to say you’ll have no further comment. Who are the “three Chinese language experts” referenced in the editor’s note? Is there a reason they can’t be identified?

My concerns about the original story were only heightened when I read the Fallows interview with Brendan O’Kane. He struck me as a credible person. Does ProPublica dispute any of his criticisms of the principle source, Toy Reid, of your story?

I admire the fine work that’s been done by ProPublica. That’s why I’ve given you money. But my faith has been shaken by the COVID Origins Report and the insufficient response to the questions about it that have been raised. Please restore that faith by more fully answering those questions.

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Thanks for following up this way.

I am trying to follow up with PP myself. I will report here on what I hear, or don't.

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Thanks for your professional follow up on ProPublica’s bizarre October Wuhan story. I have been a regular contributor to ProPublica because of its image for excellent reportage. That image is now clouded as is my lock-step enthusiasm for ProPublica

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Thank you. Again, I respect and support PP. But they are making a mistake.

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