Posted: July 24, 2021 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: anti-maskers, Donald Trump, Olympics, Paul Manafort, Tom Barrack, United Arab Emirates, vaccine holdouts
Arsen Kurbanov, Russian artist
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the case against Trump ally Tom Barrack, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power. Politico:
Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Barrack, 74, is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.
A federal indictment issued by a grand jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., charged that Barrack put pro-UAE language into a Trump campaign speech in May 2016, took direction from UAE officials about what to say in media appearances and an op-ed piece he published just before the 2016 election, and agreed to promote a candidate for ambassador to UAE backed by UAE officials.
Prosecutors say Barrack used his insider access to White House officials that he gained through roles like his position as chair of Trump’s inaugural committee to give the UAE “non-public information about the views and reactions of senior U.S. government officials following a White House meeting between senior U.S. officials and senior UAE officials.”
Also charged in the case were an aide to Barrack at his investment firm Colony Capital, Matthew Grimes, and a businessman from UAE, Rashid Al-Malik.
Prosecutors allege that early in the Trump administration, Barrack sought to be appointed to a high-profile role in Middle East policy, while telling his allies in UAE that such an appointment would be good for them.
“In his communications with Al Malik, the defendant framed his efforts to obtain an official position within the Administration as one that would enable him to further advance the interests of the UAE, rather than the interests of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Carel Willink, Wilma with a cat, 1940
Barrack has now been released on a massive bail and will have to wear a gps monitoring bracelet. CNN: Trump ally Tom Barrack strikes a $250 million bail deal to get out of jail.
Also see these Emptywheel pieces: Paul Manafort Shared Trump Energy Speech with Tom Barrack and Paul Manafort Knew Tom Barrack Was Working with “Our Friends”
Columnist Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: A Foreign Agent in Trump’s Inner Circle?
…[W]hen the billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, one of Trump’s biggest fund-raisers, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates along with other felonies, it might have seemed like a dog-bites-man story. Barrack was once described by longtime Trump strategist Roger Stone — a felon, naturally — as the ex-president’s best friend. If you knew nothing else about Barrack but that, you might have guessed he’d end up in handcuffs.
Nevertheless, Barrack’s arrest is important. Trump’s dealings with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia deserve to be investigated as thoroughly as his administration’s relationship with Russia. So far, that hasn’t happened. When Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testified before Congress, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said to him, “We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any Gulf nations were influencing U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.” But we have not found out.
A Barrack trial, if the case goes that far, is unlikely to answer all the outstanding questions about how Gulf money shaped Trump policy. But it could answer some.
Portrait of Edward Gorey by Sam Kalda
Let’s recall that Russia was not the only nation to send emissaries to Trump Tower during the presidential campaign offering election help. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian election interference discusses an August 2016 Trump Tower meeting whose attendees included Donald Trump Jr., George Nader, then an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the Emirates’ de facto ruler, and Joel Zamel, owner of an Israeli private intelligence company, Psy-Group. (Nader is currently in prison for child sex trafficking and possession of child pornography.)
“Zamel asked Trump Jr. whether Psy-Group’s conducting a social media campaign paid for by Nader would present a conflict for the Trump campaign,” said the Senate report. “According to Zamel, Trump Jr. indicated that this would not present a conflict.”
Zamel told the committee that his company never actually performed such work. “Nonetheless, as described below, Zamel engaged in work on behalf of Nader, for which he was paid in excess of $1 million,” said the report. Zamel claimed the payment was for a postelection social media analysis, all copies of which were ostensibly deleted.
If the allegations in the Barrack indictment are true, it means that while an adviser to the Emirates was offering the Trump campaign election help, an Emirati agent was also shaping Trump’s foreign policy, even inserting the country’s preferred language into one of the candidate’s speeches. Prosecutors say that Barrack told a high-level figure they call “Emirati Official 2” that he had staffed the Trump campaign. (It was Barrack who recommended Paul Manafort, later to be convicted of multiple felonies, to Trump.) When an Emirati official asked Barrack if he had information about senior Trump appointees, Barrack allegedly replied, “I do” and said they should talk by phone. He is said to have traveled to the Emirates to strategize with its leadership about what they wanted from the administration during its first 100 days, first six months, first year and first term.
Read more at the NYT.
Yesterday Dakinikat focused on the latest pandemic news as well as the growing anger against the idiots who are refusing to be vaccinated. I want to follow up on a some of the stories she posted. First, in the comment thread, she posted a horrifying story about an anti-mask demonstration at a cancer clinic.
Here’s more on that from Vice News: Breast Cancer Patient Attacked by Violent Anti-Mask Protest Outside Clinic.
A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy.
Andrea Kowch, Queen’s Court, 2019
Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors.
In one exchange captured by local videographer Vishal Singh, a woman who has since publicly identified herself as Kate Burns, a cancer patient, approached the protesters and told them to leave.
“I get treated here, get the fuck away,” Burns said.
One protester, who was filming the scene on his phone, asked her why she was so angry, as a man holding a cardboard sign saying “End the Censorship of Vaccine Risks” smirked.
“Because I’ve just gone through fucking breast cancer,” Burns said. “And you motherfuckers are here.”
After a few more exchanges, the a “protester” actually punched Burns in the chest.
Tensions continued to rise as more far-right, anti-maskers arrived on the scene. A small group of anti-fascists also arrived, and got into altercations with the far-right. A woman holding a megaphone shoved Burns, and then punched her several times. Burns said, on social media, that the woman hit her in the chest and struck her scars….
Thursday was the second time that anti-maskers had targeted that particular breast cancer clinic over its mask policy. The ugly scenes and casual political violence that unfolded there on both occasions have become troublingly common across the U.S.
Can someone explain to me why unvaccinated athletes are being permitted to compete in the Olympic games? NBC News: About 100 U.S. athletes in Tokyo unvaccinated as Covid-hit Olympics begin.
Five out of 6 U.S. athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the team’s top doctor revealed Friday just before the Games officially begin.
That information was culled from the health histories that 567 of the athletes filled out before they departed for Japan, said Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, who estimated that 83 percent of those competitors were fully vaccinated.
“Eighty-three percent is actually a substantial number, and we’re quite happy with it,” Finnoff, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s medical chief, said.
That’s higher than the national rate, with about 56 percent of Americans having received at least one dose of a vaccine. But it still means that about 100 of the total contingent of 613 U.S. athletes have not yet been vaccinated.
The news came as the opening ceremony of the pandemic-hit Games got underway in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, marking the official launch of the global sporting event.
But why aren’t they all vaccinated? This makes no sense to me. We really need to stop coddling these holdouts. They are putting themselves and everyone else in danger.
Chelin Sanjuan Piquero, Spanish artist
Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager at The Washington Post: ‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts.
Seven months after the first coronavirus shots were rolled out, vaccinated Americans — including government, business and health leaders — are growing frustrated that tens of millions of people are still refusing to get them, endangering themselves and their communities and fueling the virus’s spread.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Thursday lashed out amid a surge of cases in her state, telling a reporter it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.” The National Football League this week imposed new rules that put pressure on unvaccinated players, warning their teams could face fines or be forced to forfeit games if those players were linked to outbreaks.
“I think for a lot of leaders, both in government and in business, patience has worn thin,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist. “There is an urgency that might not have been there a month ago.”
Meanwhile, exhausted health providers say they are bracing for casespikes that are largely preventable, driven by the hyper-transmissible delta variant. “We are frustrated, tired and worried for this next surge — and saddened by the state we find ourselves in,” said Jason Yaun, a Memphis-based pediatrician, who said his colleagues are grappling with an “accumulation of fatigue” since the outbreak exploded in March 2020.
Biden administration officials increasingly frame the current outbreak as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” seeking to persuade and perhaps even frighten some holdouts to get the shots.
But after months of careful cajoling, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are venting about the sheer number of Americans who remain unvaccinated, particularly as hospitals are becoming overwhelmed in states with low vaccination rates.
Read the rest at the WaPo. These people need to grow up!
That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind?
Posted: March 9, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Asian day spas, Bill Shine, corruption, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Erik Prince, GY US Investments, human trafficking, iran, Li Yang, Mar-a-Lago, Saudi Arabia, Sean Hannity, sex trafficking, Tokyo Day Spas, United Arab Emirates
Sir Eli, Los Robles Elementary School Library, Porterville, CA
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.
Posted: April 24, 2013 Filed under: open thread | Tags: Omar Borkan Al Gala, Saudi Arabia, too handsome, United Arab Emirates
Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai
You may have heard about this already; but, as you can see, I have photos!
Time Magazine reports: “Saudi Arabia Reportedly Deports Men for Being ‘Too Handsome’”
The men were visiting Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates to attend the annual Jenadrivah Heritage & Cultural Festival in Riyadh. They were apparently minding their own business when members of Saudi Arabia’s religious police entered the pavilion and forcibly removed them from the festival. Their offense? They were considered “too handsome” to stay for fear that women would find them irresistible, according to the Arabic-language newspaper Elaph.
A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice] members feared female visitors could fall for them,” Elaph reported this week, as quoted on the website Arabian Business. The Emirati men were subsequently deported to Abu Dhabi. In Saudi Arabia women are largely prohibited from interacting with unrelated males.
Apparently the incident was triggered by the appearance at the festival of a female singer named Ayram
UAE Singer Aryam
The UAE female singer Aryam was at the heart of an incident involving storming of the country’s stand at an a Saudi cultural festival by a member of the Gulf Kingdom’s feared religious police, the signer has said.
Aryam confirmed she went to the UAE pavilion at the annual Genaderia festivities but added she was there as a delegate of the UAE and had no intention to sing.
“I went to the UAE stand as a delegate and congratulated them on their folklore…I stayed there for 20 seconds and had no intention to sing,” she said, quoted by Arabic language newspapers in the region. “I strongly respect the traditions of Saudi Arabia and all Gulf states and I consider myself a Saudi woman.”
Aryam, of Egyptian origin, said she had been invited by the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority to visit the national pavilion when the incident took place.
“I respect their traditions and had no intention to sign or perform anything,” said the 33-year-old Dubai-based Aryam, whose real name is Reem Shaaban Hassan.
The man in the photo above, Omar Borkan Al Gala, is reported to be one of the men who was “forcibly” deported for being “too handsome.” I have no idea if he is really one of the three men, but he’s pretty good looking and he does seem to be from the UAE. Here’s his Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Flicker page.
A couple more photos:
This is a “way too handsome” open thread!