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?


Thursday Reads: Endless War, Quitterella, Fact-Checking Taibbi, and True Crime News

Good Morning!!

Well, last night, President Obama announced his plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Here’s the text of his speech. It was very short, less than 15 minutes. There wasn’t much to it. And get this, according to Think Progress: Obama ‘Withdrawal’ Plan Would Leave More Troops In Afghanistan Than When He Began His Presidency

…the troop reduction would not put us much closer to actually ending the war by the end of 2012. Rather this would simply scale back the second surge of 30,000 troops that President Obama announced in December 2009. It would also maintain the first surge of 17,000 troops Obama ordered upon entering office. This comes at a time when a record number of Americans want to end the war in Afghanistan and the costs of which are putting the United States deeper into debt.

They even have graph to demonstrate these findings. Basically this was just another campaign speech for Obama. He had to fudge up something, because Americans are fed up with the wars:

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds a record number of Americans now want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, confirming the trends of other recent polls showing majorities now opposed to the nearly decade-long war.

For the first time since Pew Research began asking the question in 2008, a majority (56 percent) now say they want the U.S. to remove American troops from Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” while 39 percent say they they want to leave troops “until the situation has stabilized.” That result represents a reversal since last year, when leaving the troops in place was preferred by a majority of 53 percent to 40 percent.

Not only has Quitterella cancelled her cross country bus tour, but also her trip to Sudan. She says she’s not going to Sudan because of “scheduling reasons,” but it sounds like it had more to do with security concerns, i.e., fear.

She was planning to travel with Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, as well as Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren, to the July 9 independence ceremony of South Sudan, the sources said. Van Susteren also canceled her trip. Graham said on Wednesday that he still plans to go.

[….]

One U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Palin’s potential political aspirations, said the former governor had gotten so far in the planning process as to secure permission from the government of South Sudan to attend the independence ceremony.

The official said one challenge of the trip was security. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is also tentatively scheduled to attend the ceremony, may not make the trip because of safety concerns in one of the world’s most war-torn countries.

[….]

“There is a genocide taking place,” said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), a longtime advocate for greater U.S. involvement in Sudan. “The more people [who travel to Sudan] from the West, from the United States, the better. I’ve been urging different people to go. We have a museum on the mall, the Holocaust Museum. It says, ‘Never again.’ What doesn’t the West understand about this? If this was taking place in the south of France, do you think we’d let it go on?”

Matt Taibbi has a new screed on Rolling Stone. It’s about how dangerous Michele Bachmann is. I definitely agree with him that her candidacy is no laughing matter; because as ridiculous as we think she is, Bachmann is a hard worker, a true believer, and a fantastic fund raiser.

Unfortunately Taibbi made a big error in his article. He writes:

Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.

Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of “the law from a biblical worldview,” has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush’s presidency might recognize the school’s current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.

Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become “change agents” who would help bring the law more in line with “eternal principles of justice,” i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.

Um…Matt? Regent University School of Law is in Virginia. Bachmann never studied there. Bachman did attend Coburn School of Law, which is in Oklahoma.

Oral Roberts University (ORU) established the O. W. Coburn School of Law in 1979. The school was founded to educate Christian lawyers. Initially, there was some question whether the American Bar Association would accredit the school because of its emphasis on Christian values, but accreditation was granted. In 1986 ORU discontinued the law school and gave its law library to CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) University (now Regent University) at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Giving their law library to an already establish college isn’t the same as *becoming* that college. BTW, CBS is Pat Roberts’ operation, not Oral Roberts’. I realize it’s difficult for yuppies like to to keep the right-wing preachers straight, but don’t they have fact-checkers at Rolling Stone to sort things out for you? Bachmann also attended William & Mary School of Law, and Taibbi doesn’t mention that. I’m not defending Bachmann or Christian law schools, but Taibbi is supposedly telling us not to underestimate Bachmann, while at the same time getting her history wrong. There are more problems with Taibbi’s article, but I won’t bore you any further.

I hope I didn’t put you to sleep with that silly rant. Matt Taibbi tends to get on my nerves.

Shades of the 1960s, the government has been spying on NYT reporter James Risen.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen has been subjected to government surveillance and harassment that began under the Bush administration, according to a 22-page affidavit he filed Tuesday.

“I believe that the efforts to target me have continued under the Obama administration, which has been aggressively investigating whistleblowers and reporters in a way that will have a chilling effect on freedom of the press in the United States,” Risen said.

Early this year, authorities arrested former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and charged him with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice.

The U.S. Justice Department subpoenaed Risen in May to testify at the criminal trial of Sterling, who was allegedly cited in Risen’s 2006 book.

The Justice Deparment claimed that Risen should be compelled to provide information “like any other citizen” and that he was not “being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources.”

Ain’t it great having a Democrat in the White House? Oh wait—-

CNN has a couple of crime stories that are well worth reading. The first is a piece on human trafficking in the U.S.: Sex trafficking victim testifies, then vanishes

Among the strung out addicts with zombie eyes and the beaten down prostitutes loitering by neon-lit entrances to adult video stores, Kelsey Emily Collins would have stuck out.

She was from out of town and too young to be where she was.

As she would later testify to a federal grand jury, a man 20 years older than her drove Kelsey 170 miles down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Portland’s 82nd Ave.

There amidst the strip’s seedy motels and lingerie stores where customers can buy backroom lap dances and more, the plan was simple: sell her to as many men as possible.

After that first night in January 2008 when she made about $1,000, all of which she later told investigators went to her pimp, Kelsey went right back to work as a prostitute.

Kelsey was only 16. Later she was approached by Sgt. Doug Justice, a vice squad officer who wanted her to testify against her pimp. Gradually he got Kelsey to talk to him about what had happened to her. Finally she agreed to testify before the Grand Jury. She did testify, and the pimp was later convicted. Afterward Kelsey’s mother wasn’t able to get her the help she needed to recover. She didn’t have money and there was no program that would take Kelsey. Law enforcement basically used her and threw her away. A month after she testified, Kelsey left home with a new “boyfriend,” and disappeared. Justus believes she was murdered because of her testimony. If you have time, please read the article. These are the kinds of women who are targets for predators and serial killers. It’s heartbreaking.

The second article is quite a serious discussion of whether Casey Anthony should testify in her own defense. Here’s just a short excerpt:

George Parnham, best known for defending Andrea Yates, the mentally ill woman who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, says that opening statement “boxed the defense in.” He says Anthony has to tell her story.

“She needs to get up there and defend herself,” he said. “The jury is going to want to hear from her.”

Anthony, 25, is accused of murder, aggravated child abuse, misleading authorities and other offenses. If convicted of murder, she faces the death penalty. In Florida, only seven jurors have to agree on a death sentence.

Parnham, who successfully used an insanity defense for Yates but did not put her on the stand, said he usually decides in favor of letting a jury get to know his client in death penalty cases. “If you humanize her, that may save her life. You’ve got a woman who, if she is convicted, her life is going to be in jeopardy. She’s going to be on death row.”

I know this is tabloid stuff, but there are actually a lot of interesting issues involved in this case–child abuse, teen pregnancy, the death penalty–plus fascinating new forensic techniques.

Anyway, I agree with Parnham. I think the only chance Anthony has to save her life is to get up there and tell the truth. The only problem is that I’m not sure she is capable of being sincere. I think she should try though. It’s entirely possible that she was sexually abused as a child, and it’s obvious that her mother is incredibly narcissistic and manipulative. That doesn’t justify what she did, of course; but it might convince the jury to not to give her the death penalty.

That’s it for me for today. What are you reading and blogging about?