August 21, 2019

The Epoch Times, a news outlet closely aligned with a spiritual community banned in China, has spent $1.5 million over the last six months to run 11,000 pro-President Trump ads on Facebook, NBC News reports.

Only the Trump campaign has spent more money on ads in support of the president, data shows. Former staffers of the New York City-based Epoch Times told NBC News the ad blitz isn't surprising, due to the leanings of the Falun Gong movement. Ben Hurley, who helped launch The Epoch Times in Australia, said the outlet is "rabidly pro-Trump" because the most devout Falun Gong followers "believe that Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party."

The Facebook ads feature people praising Trump and talking about fake news and Deep State and QAnon conspiracies, NBC News reports. Trump's Facebook page has posted Epoch Times content, and his daughter-in-law was recently interviewed by the outlet. Data shows that between Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, Epoch Media Group videos had about three billion views in April alone, making the company 11th among all video creators, NBC News reports.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by a Falun Gong practitioner named John Tang, but not much is known about its ownership, with executives refusing to give NBC News any names. The founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, called Epoch Media Group "our media," and in 2009 he pushed for The Epoch Times to become mainstream. Li argues that feminism and homosexuality are wicked and that aliens can take over human minds and bodies, and former employees said they were told they couldn't write about gay people or popular music but needed to push conservative opinions and criticism of China. The Epoch Times' publisher, Stephen Gregory, said the company has "no political agenda." Read more about the secretive news outlet and what it was like to work there at NBC News. Catherine Garcia

April 1, 2018

A video compilation published on YouTube Saturday shows dozens of news anchors at local affiliate stations owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group reciting word-for-word the exact same message on "fake" news.

"Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think," the anchors say. "This is extremely dangerous to our democracy."

The video shows CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates sharing the message. Sinclair's aggregate televised reach covers about 40 percent of the U.S. Watch the surreal compilation below. Bonnie Kristian

August 9, 2017

Several U.S. diplomats had to leave Havana last year after they mysteriously started to lose their hearing, and officials said an advanced sonic weapon is to blame, The Associated Press reports.

The hearing loss began in the fall of 2016, after the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations and the embassy in Havana reopened. The U.S. launched an investigation and determined that the diplomats had been attacked by a weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and was covertly placed either inside or outside their homes, AP reports. Five diplomats were affected. The U.S. responded by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their Washington embassy on May 23, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, adding that there is no certain explanation for the incidents.

In Cuba, diplomats live in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government, and they are under surveillance by the country's state security. Officials told AP that investigators are also looking into the possibility that a third party operating without Cuba's knowledge, like Russia, could have deployed the weapons. Cuban officials declined to comment on the report. Catherine Garcia

October 8, 2015

Choreographer Ryan Heffington has a talent for putting together some unusual, breathtaking dances — remember the video for Sia's "Chandelier"? This time, Emma Stone is Heffington's leading lady in the music video for "Anna," by Arcade Fire's Will Butler.

Filmed on the supposedly haunted Queen Mary ocean liner, Billboard reports that the music video was partly inspired by stories of the Lady in White, "a young and beautiful woman who, it has been reported, likes to dance to unheard music in the Queens Salon." While you really need the sound on for the full effect, Stone's performance is mesmerizing just about any way you look at it. Watch it in full below. Jeva Lange

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