Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.

Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a  special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.

 

DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts

The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.

“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.

“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.

In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.

DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida. 

More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.

The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.

The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.

“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.

About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.

This story is still developing.

Multiple Trump Investigations

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

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Letitia James

The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.

Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.

A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.

Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.

Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”

 — Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.

 — “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.

In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.

“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.

Judge Loose Cannon

U.S. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.

The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.

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Judge Aileen Cannon

The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.

“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”

As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.

Justice Elena Kagan Speaks

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.

“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.

Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….

Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”

Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.

“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.

Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).

To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.

Read more at the NYT.

Links to revelations from the book:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Latest News, Accompanied By Library Cats

Sir Eli, Los Robles Elementary School Library, Porterville, CA

Good Morning!!

Yesterday I called Dakinikat early in the morning to tell her about a long investigative piece at The Miami Herald: Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted. She posted a brief excerpt from it in her Friday post. It was just one more example of the corruption Trumph has enabled since becoming “president,” right? Well it looks like there’s a lot more to this story and it could blow up into a huge scandal.

Yesterday multiple photos of prominent Republicans posing with Li “Cindy” Yang, the subject of the Miami Herald story, were posted on Twitter.

Yang founded a chain of “Asian day spas” in Florida, including Orchids of Asia Day Spa, which was recently busted for sex trafficking. Yang is no longer the owner of Orchids, but she and her family members still own numerous such “massage parlors” called Tokyo Day Spas, which are known for providing “sexual services.”

From the Miami Herald story linked above:

Bradford Public Library in Bradford, Pennsylvania, has a cat named Miss Whispurr

Before the 2016 general election, Yang offered no evidence of political engagement. She hadn’t voted in 10 years, records showed. But she has now become a fixture at Republican political events up and down the East Coast. Her Facebook is covered in photos of herself standing with President Trump, his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, the president’s campaign manager and an assortment of other high-level Republican operators she has met at charity events, political fundraisers and galas, many of which require hefty donations to attend. She sometimes carries a rhinestone encrusted MAGA clutch purse.

Yang has shown considerable political largesse. Since 2017, she and her close relatives have contributed more than $42,000 to Trump Victory, a political action committee, and more than $16,000 to the president’s campaign.

In February 2018, Yang was invited by the White House to participate in an event hosted by the Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative, an advisory commission Trump established by executive order the year before. Later in the year, she attended at least two more AAPI events in Washington, D.C., according to her Facebook page.

The article says that Yang is planning to get out of the day spa business and plans to move to Washington, DC. More on Yang from the Herald piece:

Catniss Evergreen, Akron Carnegie Public Library, Akron, Indiana

When Donald Trump became a serious candidate for president, politics began to dominate her social media presence.

In January 2017, she was in the crowd at Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. Later that year, she snapped a photo with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. In December, she attended her first elite event at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, a poolside steak lunch.

In September 2018, Yang received a personalized note from the president and first lady. It read: “Thank you for your friendship and dedication to our cause. Leaders like you in Florida are the key to fulfilling our bold agenda to Make America Great Again!” [….]

Over the past two years, Yang has racked up a who’s who of photos with politicians at more than a dozen political events. She has enough pictures of the president’s private clubs to fill an album.

In 2018, she attended a Safari Night at Mar-a-Lago hosted by the president’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, as well as the White House’s celebration of the Lunar New Year at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. She took photos with Florida’s soon-to-be-governor, Ron DeSantis, at a pro-Israel gala held at Mar-a-Lago, met U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in Washington, D.C., and posed with Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz and former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. She also posted a photograph of herself with DeSantis at a restaurant, saying she was having “brunch this morning with Florida’s next Governor.”

She was photographed with Donald Trump Jr. at a winter Mar-a-Lago gala for Turning Points USA, the conservative college organization, and met Eric Trump last month.

Kuzya, Novorossiysk Library, Russia

Yang claims she doesn’t know Trump personally and is just a volunteer at campaign events. But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story. David Corn at Mother Jones this morning: A Florida Massage Parlor Owner Has Been Selling Chinese Execs Access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

…there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the business—which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach—suggests she had some success in doing so.

Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.” But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.” (The same day the Herald story about Yang broke, the website stopped functioning.) [….]

Ernie, Bealton Librrary, Bealton, VA

The GY US Investments website lists upcoming events at Mar-a-Lago at which Yang’s clients presumably can mingle with Trump or members of his family. This includes something called the International Leaders Elite Forum, where Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, will supposedly be the featured speaker. Attendees, the site says, will include “Chinese elites from various countries, including the US states, as well as elite leaders from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, Europe and other countries and regions.” Another event for which Yang’s firm says it can provide access is Trump’s annual New Year’s celebration at Mar-a-Lago. Elsewhere on the website, the firm boasts that “GY Company arranged a number of guests to attend the 2019 New Year’s Eve dinner. All the guests took photos with” members of Trump’s family. This page displays photos of Chinese executives and a Chinese movie star with Donald Trump Jr., suggesting that these pics were arranged by the company, and also includes a photo of Yang with Elizabeth Trump Grau.

I wonder if Yang has anything to do with all those Chinese licensing agreements and trademarks Ivanka keeps getting? Honestly, there is no bottom to the Trump family’s corruption, and there are probably more grifters like Yang picking up the scraps.

In other news, Gabriel Sherman has background on why former Fox News exec Bill Shine is no longer in charge of the White House communications shop: “Trump has been calling him Bill “no shine”: Why Roger Ailes’s Former Right Hand is Leaving the West Wing.

“Bill was iced out,” a Republican close to the White House told me, echoing the view of multiple sources that the president had been souring on the former Fox News co-president for months. “Trump has been calling him Bill ‘No Shine,’” one source briefed on the conversations told me.

Mimi the Blueskin Bay library cat, Dunedin, New Zealand

Trump’s decision to hire Shine last July completed the Fox-ification of the West Wing. Shine got the job after his close friend Sean Hannity lobbied Trump to name Shine chief of staff. “The relationship was always Hannity based,” a former West Wing official explained. “When Trump hired him it was like he thought, ‘I’m getting Hannity.’ I’m like, no you’re getting the guy who produced Hannity.” Trump put Shine in charge of the beleaguered White House press operation with a mandate to plug leaks and improve his image. Shine accomplished neither. In Shine’s defense, the brief was impossible given Trump’s destructive Twitter habits. “Trump needs someone to blame for his bad press,” another former West Wing official said.

Shine was in over his head from the beginning. As Roger Ailes’s right hand, he had virtually no direct contacts with reporters and no involvement in Fox’s P.R. department. “Bill’s not a strategist,” a former Fox executive told me. That lack of experience was evident last September when Shine was caught flat-footed during the rollout of Bob Woodward’s book Fear. “Trump started complaining to people there was no advance prep on Woodward’s book,” the Republican close to the White House said. “Trump let Shine know he wasn’t happy.”

Trump should just hire Hannity as chief of staff and be done with it.

Medhi Hasan of The Intercept did a hard-hitting interview with Erik Prince and got him to admit to attending a high-level meeting at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. (The New York Times reported on the meeting in May 2018). Here’s a summary of the story at HuffPost: Ex-Mercenary CEO Erik Prince Admits To Trump Tower Meet With Donald Jr. And Saudi Emissary.

 

Shadow, Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Erik Prince, former head of mercenary business Blackwater, revealed in a bombshell interview Friday that he attended a meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and a representative of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss “Iran policy” during the presidential campaign.

The interview marked the first time Prince has publicly acknowledged such a meeting. Prince said in congressional testimony in 2017 that he had no “official” or “unofficial” role in the campaign — other than a “yard sign” and writing “papers” — according to the transcript of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Nor did he mention the meeting in his testimony, according to transcripts.

The New York Times reported last year that Prince organized the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s eldest son and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader. Nader revealed at the meeting that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wanted to aid Trump in his bid for the presidency, according to the newspaper.

The meeting also reportedly included now-top White House aide Stephen Miller and Israeli social media expert Joel Zamel.

The August meeting is yet another secret huddle with a representative of foreign governments that may have provided illegal international aid to sway the American election.

More stories to check out, links only:

Addison Nash, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma library cat

Buzzfeed News: Military Doctors Told Them It Was Just “Female Problems.” Weeks Later, They Were In The Hospital.

NBC News: Trump administration responsible for even more separated children, judge rules.

USA Today: Judge: Trump administration may have to reunite thousands of additional migrant families.

Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post: The more we learn about Brexit, the more crooked it looks.

The Washington Post: Trump budget to propose slashing domestic spending, boosting defense.

The Washington Post: A Trump official said seismic air gun tests don’t hurt whales. So a congressman blasted him with an air horn.

Bloomberg: Russian Trolls Shift Strategy to Disrupt U.S. Election in 2020.

The New York Times: Chelsea Manning Is Jailed for Refusing to Testify in WikiLeaks Case.

The New York Times: The Daintiest Slap on Paul Manafort’s Wrist.

The Los Angeles Times: How could anyone think Paul Manafort lived an ‘otherwise blameless’ life?

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Moose, Black Bears, a Laudable FBI Sting, and Various Slimy Politicians

Good Morning!!

I just had to share this news about wildlife encroaching on Boston’s western suburbs: Black bear and moose sighted in Needham and Wellesley

It was a wild Monday in the suburbs west of Boston, with reports of a black bear ambling down by the Charles River in Needham and sightings of a 600-pound moose racing through backyards and across streets in Wellesley.

Isn’t that exciting?

The suburban sightings follow a rash of similar wildlife reports across the state – coyotes, of course, and more recently, black bears. One particularly adventurous bear spent weeks roaming Cape Cod, romping through cranberry bogs and backyards and spawning bear-themed T-shirts before being tranquilized in Wellfleet.

A bear was spotted in a few yards around Norwood Saturday night, according to local police. And State Environmental Police investigated reports of a black bear in the woods along Route 109 in Dedham Sunday morning. Officers did not locate the bear, and officials speculated it had moved on.

According to the article, the bear population in Massachusetts has increased since it was estimated at 3,000 in 2005 and bears have started to move into the eastern part of the state. It’s mating season now, so the bears are out searching for mates and looking to establish their own territories.

As for the moose:

While authorities combed Wellesley backyards Monday afternoon, people puttered around in their cars hollering out the latest updates on the moose’s location from the police scanners. Groups on foot swapped backyard-sighting stories, and shared pictures on cell phones. They gathered with cameras at the ready to watch as authorities blocked off a home on Lexington Road to search its woody backyard for the wild interloper.

Police searched for hours but were unable to locate the moose.

An FBI Sting Operation Worth Applauding

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the FBI broke up prostitution rings across the U.S., freeing 79 underage prostitutes and arresting 105 pimps “as part of the…Innocence Lost National Initiative entitled ‘Operation Cross Country VI.'”

Reuters:

Seventy-nine teenagers held against their will and forced into prostitution were rescued at hotels, truck stops and storefronts in a three-day sweep of sex-trafficking rings across the United States, law enforcement officials said on Monday.

The FBI said 104 alleged pimps were arrested during sting operations in 57 U.S. cities including Atlanta, Sacramento, and Toledo, Ohio. The operation lasted between Thursday and Saturday and involved state and local authorities as well as the FBI.

The teenagers, aged from 13 to 17 years old, were being held in custody until they could be placed with child welfare organizations. They were all U.S. citizens and included 77 girls and two boys, the FBI said.

One of the minors recovered in the sweep reported being involved in prostitution from the age of 11, according to Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

He said the cases were not “one-off” incidents, but evidence of “criminal enterprises” that lure minors in, often through social media, hold them against their will through threats to them or their families, and then traffic them through different U.S. cities.

CNN has more from Perkins:

“Many times the children that are taken in in these types of criminal activities are children that are dissaffected, they are from broken homes, they may be on the street themselves — they are really looking for a meal, they are looking for shelter, they are looking for someone to take care of them, and that’s really the first approach that’s made,” said Perkins.

“Once the child has been taken out of harm’s way, then really the story just begins at that point,” said Perkins. “That’s where the real work starts, where we have to call upon the community, various social welfare agencies, our own office of victim assistance has to work with each child on an individual basis to see what their requirements are.

“This is a very difficult task. These children are very damaged — very harmed, and they need a great deal of help — it’s really taxing the social welfare agencies and it’s something that, going forward, we need to pay particular attention to.”

Unfortunately many of these children may still end up back on the streets. Still, it’s a worthwhile effort, IMHO.

Mitt Romney Updates

ABC News The Note managed to get some details about Romney’s ultra-secret weekend millionaire/billionare donor retreat in Park City, Utah.

Chateaux at Silver Lake

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: As attendees entered the Chateaux at Silver Lake, the host hotel, throughout the sunny afternoon, they were handed a Vineyard Vines tan canvas tote bag with navy piping and the words “Believe in America” stitched on the side. Inside the bag was a blue baseball hat with “Romney” written over a circular American flag and a thick white binder, detailing the weekend’s schedule from policy discussions to social events, along with a list of Romney’s upcoming events and Romney for president pins.

In addition to the Romney swag, there was also a typed note from Romney’s National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick addressed to the attendees by their first names. “Welcome to the first Romney Victory Leadership Retreat! We are very glad you were able to join us for this special weekend. Thank you for the continued support and leadership. On to victory!,” the card read.
Some were even personalized with a handwritten note from Zwick expressing appreciation to the donor and his or her family, signed with his initials “SZ.”

Golf carts whipped attendees around the complex and to discussions on healthcare, Israel, the state of the race, and the financial services industry that were conducted both Friday and Saturday.

There’s lots more at the link.

Despite the complaints of corporate Democrats like Cory Booker and Ed Rendell, the Obama campaign has continued to hammer Mitt Romney over his history as a corporate raider. And over the weekend, there were three in-depth articles on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Today James Downie highlighted those pieces at the WaPo: Mitt Romney, Bain Capital and a ‘profit-first’ presidency

The first, from Friday’s Post, described how Romney’s Bain was an early supporter of companies that outsourced American jobs. “While Bain was not the largest player in the outsourcing field,” The Post reported, “the private equity firm was involved early on, at a time when the departure of jobs from the United States was beginning to accelerate and new companies were emerging as handmaidens to this outflow of employment.” That outsourcing damaged American job creation was no matter; Bain made its profit.

The second, in Saturday’s New York Times, outlined how, again and again, Romney’s Bain reaped revenue from companies even as they were failing. “At least seven [of the 40 U.S.-based companies that Bain held a majority stake in while Romney was active at Bain] eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward . . . In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money.” In several of the bankruptcies, companies made their situation worse by borrowing more to return money to Bain and its investors. And even when both outside investors and the companies themselves failed to do well, “lucrative fees helped insulate Bain and its executives.” Again, Bain made its profit.

The third, and perhaps most damning article, came from Sunday’s Boston Globe, depicting Romney’s work with disgraced junk-bond king Michael Milken. In 1988, Romney was searching for money to finance a heavily-leveraged buyout of two small department store chains. “At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation” for insider trading and stock manipulation. Despite this, Romney and his partners, after personally meeting with Milken, went ahead with the deal. With financing from Milken’s shady business, Romney and Bain were able to make a $10 billion investment, not long before Milken was sentenced to 22 months in prison. Bain eventually profited to the tune of $175 million (although the merged department stores later went bankrupt, shortly after dumping its Bain-appointed chief executive). Sure, an important chunk of the financing may have come from questionable sources, but Bain made its profit.

I included the Boston Globe article in my Sunday morning roundup. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has been taking the John Kerry approach–ignoring the attacks on Romney’s primary claim to presidential qualifications, just as Kerry long ignored the attacks on him by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” That didn’t work out so well for Kerry.

Today, President Obama mocked Romney’s response to the outsourcing story at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

The president noted that Romney’s campaign had pushed back against the Post’s scoop by complaining it didn’t sufficiently distinguish between “outsourcing” and “offshoring,” only the latter of which expressly involves shipping jobs overseas.

“You cannot make this stuff up!” Obama said. “What Gov. Romney and his advisers don’t seem to understand is this: If you’re a worker whose job went overseas, you don’t need somebody trying to explain to you the difference between outsourcing and offshoring, you need someone who’s going to wake up every day and fight for American jobs and investment here in the United States.”

Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law

Pennsylvania is one of the many Republican-controlled states that have instituted voter ID laws. Usually the claim is that these laws will prevent the massive amount of voter fraud that Republicans claim is happening (of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever for this claim). But recently a Pennsylvania Republican state legislator actually told the truth.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.

“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

The statement drew a loud round of applause from the audience. It also struck a nerve among critics, who called it an admission that they passed the bill to make it harder for Democrats to vote — and not to prevent voter fraud as the legislators claimed.

The Pennsylvania voter ID law is particularly complex and strict in its requirements. Most onerous is the requirement that the ID must include a specific date of expiration.

As this article in The Nation explains, most employment and student ID’s do not have expiration dates listed. Even the Republican Secretary of State Carol Aichele did not know that her employee ID would not be accepted for voting!

Back in April, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele visited the editorial board of the Erie Times-News newspaper to speak with them about the new photo voter ID bill Governor Tom Corbett had just signed into law….Aichele’s Erie visit was part of a state tour to educate voters about what they’d need for compliance with law and for the ability to exercise their right to vote. One of the IDs acceptable for voting is a state employee photo identification card. However, the law also says that IDs must have a current expiration date for voter eligibility, and the state employee cards do not. Aichele seemed to overlook this paradox in her education drive.

“Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele showed her state photo ID, which is not acceptable for voting because it doesn’t have an expiration date,” wrote the editorial board after she showed hers to them. It must have been humiliating for the secretary who was promoting the new law to find that her own example didn’t hold muster. It’s bad enough mandating that voters have ID cards, but to add the additional restriction that the ID needs an expiration date makes it even more obtrusive. The editorial says that 10 percent of Pennsylvanians, or 88,000, do not have a valid photo ID—though that number is contested and is thought to be much larger.

The law will make voting difficult for many senior citizens.

Take the example of Henrietta Kay Dickerson, 75, of Pittsburgh, a black woman who was born in Louisiana. She came to Pennsylvania as an infant and grew up her whole life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the historical black neighborhood immortalized in the plays of August Wilson. In May last year her state ID expired. She went to the state’s department of transportation where she was refused a free voter ID card, even after she paid the $13.50 fee, according to her account in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project against the state, which says the law violates voting rights granted by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Pennsylvania’s many college students could also have difficulties if they don’t research the law’s requirements and follow them exactly. Most college IDs do not have dates of expiration.

I’m going to end here, because this post is getting way too long! I’ll turn the floor over to you now–what are your reading recommendations for today?

Open Thread: Hillary in India

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches a girl do karate during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

[Click on the photo to see more pictures of Hillary Clinton in India.]

This is just going to be a link and photo dump, because I know absolutely nothing about Indian politics.

From the NY Daily News:

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, hoped to narrow a gap with India over Iran on Monday as she tried to throw a spotlight on issues dear to her heart such as the fight against sex trafficking.

Mrs Clinton was paying the first visit by a top US official to the eastern metropolis Kolkata and will then meet in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, amid concern that the growing US-India partnership has been drifting….

On Sunday, Mrs Clinton sought to draw attention to sex trafficking in India, where forced prostitution of women and girls is one of the largest illicit businesses.

Mrs Clinton appeared visibly moved as she watched a dance by former victims of sex trafficking, who recounted their plight in a synchronised performance designed as a form of therapy by the local group Kolkata Sanved.

Mrs Clinton called the recital “mesmerising” and thanked each of the six dancers, telling them she was proud of them. She was shown quilts which former trafficking victims sew as a way to give them new livelihoods.

“What you’re doing is so important to try to not only help yourselves but to help other young girls,” Mrs Clinton said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) holds a sari during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

Here’s another article on the anti-trafficking event: Hillary’s date with history
She’s cheerleader in trafficking crusade

To them, she was “US ka bahut bara neta….Bill Clinton ki biwi (a top leader of the US….Bill Clinton’s wife)”. To her, they were the faces of a movement close to her heart.

When Poonam Khatoon, 16, and Uma Das, 19, finally found themselves face to face with Hillary Clinton at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre of the ICCR on Sunday afternoon, all it needed was a smile to break down the barriers.

“Aami bhabtei parini onar shamne darate parbo. Uni amader lorai-tey shamil hoyechhen, sheta ekta boro byapar (I couldn’t imagine I would be standing in front of her. She has joined our crusade, that’s a big thing),” Uma told Metro of her meeting with the US secretary of state.

Community worker Uma and Poonam, a student of Class IX, are daughters of women in prostitution involved with Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots movement to end sex trafficking. The duo took turns escorting Hillary through a pictorial journey of a trafficked girl.

At the end of the event, Hillary told the women she was their “cheerleader” and that she would “stand by” them. They asked her to talk publicly about human trafficking as much as she could.

The secretary of state’s keepsake from the Sunday afternoon rendezvous was a green wristband with the words: “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex”.

Hillary not only wore the band immediately, she insisted that members of her entourage sport one each as well. “She was also gifted a T-shirt that read: ‘Together we can end sex trafficking’.

Another photo from the trafficking event

From the Washington Post:

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in India’s capital Monday with a clear message for the country’s leaders: Cooperate with us on with Iran.

Yet less than a mile from her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there was another group meeting with Indian leaders. An Iranian trade delegation is in New Delhi, overlapping with Clinton’s trip and potentially undermining one of its main purposes.

The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on India to join international sanctions against Iran that would choke off funds for the country’s nuclear program. India, which relies on Iran for about 12 percent of its oil imports, has so far been unwilling to go along.

“This is a regime that has a history of aggressive behavior,” Clinton warned of Iran during a town hall-style meeting Monday morning in Kolkata, her first stop in a three-day swing through India. “And I don’t think you deal with aggressors by giving in to them. … Our goal is resolve this peacefully and diplomatically, and that’s why we need India to be part of the international effort.”

Finally, a report from India on Hillary’s meeting with the prime minister:

New Delhi: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Hillary and the Prime Minister discussed several issues related to Indo-US relations. She also urged India to speed up the civil nuclear deal and cut oil imports from Iran….

Before her meeting with the Prime Minister, Hillary met Mamata Banerjee earlier on Monday and promised more US investment in West Bengal….

According to a US consulate statement, the top US diplomat, who had an hour-long meeting with Banerjee, discussed a range of issues including stepping up US investments in the state, according to a US consulate statement.

“Touching on issues, ranging from increasing US investment in West Bengal, including in the retail sector, US-India relations, regional affairs and strong people-to-people connections, the Secretary reaffirmed to the chief minister the US desire to work with India and West Bengal to deepen and broaden our partnership,” it said.


Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

I always enjoy a little E.L Doctorow. Fortunately, I have some to share with you this morning. Monday Morning is a good time to be acerbic. Doctorow offers up some advice on how to be embrace the US’s inner state of unexceptionalism.  Phase One was carried out during the Dubya years.  I think you’ll recognize it.

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

Don’t miss the other phases!

Here’s my offering for one of those phases.  It’s from Alternet writing on a HuffPo piece.

 For the Republicans’ constant trumpeting of saving the economy in public, they have proven time and again that’s exactly the opposite of what they want to do. The latest: the GOP would like to save the disproportionate defense spending by… cutting food stamps. No, America, they do not care about your well being, or whether all of us can afford to eat. The Huffington Post:

In a memo sent to members Wednesday instructing them how to write their reconciliation bill, Republicans picked a number of targets, including extracting $80 billion from federal workers and $44 billion from health care. In all, it identifies $78 billion to cut in 2013, and details around $300 billion over 10 years.

But the memo spends the most time targeting the exploding cost of food stamps, on which more Americans rely than ever, at greater expense to the government than ever before.

Each month during fiscal 2011, an average of 45 million mostly poor Americans received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at a cost of $78 billion to the federal government. Last year’s SNAP participation represented a 70 percent increase from 2007, and the highest enrollment the program has ever seen. In that time, the cost of the program more than doubled.

Of course, the food stamp budget is “exploding” (in HuffPo’s weird term) because the Republicans have failed to support a single plan that might help average Americans get back on their feet.

Chinese workers are back in the news.  Foxconn Workers endure terrible working conditions and many are threatening suicide again. Of course, we have to go to the UK Guardian to read up on this.  Heaven Forbid that we learn people suffer to provide Ipads to the nation’s self absorbed yuppies.

Workers at a factory owned by Foxconn, Apple‘s main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest about wages, a month after the two firms reached agreement on improving working conditions.

The protest happened in the central China city of Wuhan.

It involved 200 workers, the Hong-Kong based activist group Information Centre for Human Rights said.

A company spokesman said the dispute, which concerned workplace adjustments and involved new workers, had been settled. He said it was not a strike. The company employs 1.2 million workers in China.

“The dispute has already been settled after some negotiations involving the human resources and legal departments as well as the local government,” the Taipei-based spokesman, Simon Tsing, said.

Foxconn, China’s largest private-sector employer, and Apple agreed to tackle violations of working conditions and improve working environments.

The deal was agreed almost two years after a series of worker suicides at Foxconn plants focused attention on conditions at Chinese factories and sparked criticism that Apple’s products were made by Chinese workers subjected to mistreatment.

On Tuesday Apple reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, exceeding financial market expectations.

 Speaking of Apple, are you aware they are one of the biggest tax dodgers among a proud tradition of US corporations that avoid paying taxes?

Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones here. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby.

Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year — which would be a record for any American business.

We have a bipartisan effort with two US congress women looking to stop the use of GOOGLE by Human Traffickers. U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee (R) and Carolyn Maloney (D)  of New York are looking at GOOGLE practices that may accommodate this hideous  industry.

In an effort to stop a rising tide with the use of online networks for human trafficking, two U.S. Representatives of Congress, Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, have sent a bipartisan letter to the largest online search engine in the world – Google, Inc.Questioning current practices and policies at Google, specifically within the offices of Google Adwords, the Congresswomen are sending a joint letter from Congress to Google to bring hard questions to the internet giant.

Stepping up their efforts, the Blackburn and Maloney Congressional team are bringing Google’s employee policies under the microscope. Unless Google answers the questions regarding the handling, receiving and allowing of online advertising by Google Adwords the corporate giant may be questioned further.

“It’s about time that we all take a close look at the largest ad publisher in the world – Google,” said Phil Cenedella, founder and director of The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates, an advocacy group that works on-the-ground with women and girl victims of human trafficking and now over 41 global partners. “This problem is worldwide and it’s growing right under our feet,” continued Cenedella. “The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of modern slaves and illegal slave labor worldwide and this includes sex-trafficking.”

The aim by Congress is to find out more about internal problems at Google Adwords that may be allowing international and local human trafficking rings to sexually exploit and sell women and girls online.

If you need a smile this morning, try the 18 funniest joked by Jimmy Kimmel from the Nerdprom on Saturday night.

1. To Obama: “I know you won’t be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.”

2. “If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, ‘The president’s name is Barack Obama?'”

3. “Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.”

4. “Democrats would like you to stick to your guns. And if you don’t have any guns, you can ask Eric Holder to get some for you.”

5. “They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner.”

BA-da-BOOM!

Here’s an inspiring thought for the day:

“A nation cannot be liberated whether internally or externally while its women are enchained.”

Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik 1908-1975

So, there ya go!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?