Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money either personally or through companies or groups to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm's corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.
The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.
The AP's findings represent the first systematic effort to calculate the scope of the intersecting interests of Clinton foundation donors and people who met personally with Clinton or spoke to her by phone about their needs.
The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP's calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.
Last week, the Clinton Foundation moved to head off ethics concerns about future donations by announcing changes planned if Clinton is elected.
On Monday, Bill Clinton said in a statement that if his wife were to win, he would step down from the foundation's board and stop all fundraising for it. The foundation would also accept donations only from U.S. citizens and what it described as independent philanthropies, while no longer taking gifts from foreign groups, U.S. companies or corporate charities. Clinton said the foundation would no longer hold annual meetings of its international aid program, the Clinton Global Initiative, and it would spin off its foreign-based programs to other charities.
Those planned changes would not affect more than 6,000 donors who have already provided the Clinton charity with more than $2 billion in funding since its creation in 2000.
"There's a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems," said Douglas White, an expert on nonprofits who previously directed Columbia University's graduate fundraising management program. “ he point is, she can't just walk away from these 6,000 donors."
Former senior White House ethics officials said a Clinton administration would have to take careful steps to ensure that past foundation donors would not have the same access as she allowed at the State Department.
"If Secretary Clinton puts the right people in and she's tough about it and has the right procedures in place and sends a message consistent with a strong commitment to ethics, it can be done," said Norman L. Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s top ethics counsel and later worked for Clinton as ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Eisen, now a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that at a minimum, Clinton should retain the Obama administration's current ethics commitments and oversight, which include lobbying restrictions and other rules. Richard Painter, a former ethics adviser to President George W. Bush and currently a University of Minnesota law school professor, said Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton should remove themselves completely from foundation leadership roles, but he added that potential conflicts would shadow any policy decision affecting past donors.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon did not respond to the AP’s questions about Clinton transition plans regarding ethics, but said in a statement Tuesday the standard set by the Clinton Foundation's ethics restrictions was "unprecedented, even if it may never satisfy some critics."
Some of Clinton's most influential visitors donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and to her and her husband's political coffers. They are among scores of Clinton visitors and phone contacts in her official calendar turned over by the State Department to AP last year and in more-detailed planning schedules that so far have covered about half her four-year tenure. The AP sought Clinton’s calendar and schedules three years ago, but delays led the AP to sue the State Department last year in federal court for those materials and other records.
S. Daniel Abraham, whose name also was included in emails released by the State Department as part of another lawsuit, is a Clinton fundraising bundler who was listed in Clinton's planners for eight meetings with her at various times. A billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace, Abraham told the AP last year his talks with Clinton concerned Mideast issues.
Big Clinton Foundation donors with no history of political giving to the Clintons also met or talked by phone with Hillary Clinton and top aides, AP’s review showed.
Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest "microcredit" for poor business owners, met with Clinton three times and talked with her by phone during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank's board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.
American affiliates of his nonprofit Grameen Bank had been working with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative programs as early as 2005, pledging millions of dollars in microloans for the poor.
Grameen America, the bank's nonprofit U.S. flagship, which Yunus chairs, has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation a figure that bank spokeswoman Becky Asch said reflects the institution's annual fees to attend CGI meetings. Another Grameen arm chaired by Yunus, Grameen Research, has donated between $25,000 and $50,000.
As a U.S. senator from New York, Clinton, as well as then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and two other senators in 2007 sponsored a bill to award a congressional gold medal to Yunus. He got one but not until 2010, a year after Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Yunus first met with Clinton in Washington in April 2009. That was followed six months later by an announcement by USAID, the State Department's foreign aid arm, that it was partnering with the Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit charity run by Yunus, in a $162 million commitment to extend its microfinance concept abroad. USAID also began providing loans and grants to the Grameen Foundation, totaling $2.2 million over Clinton’s tenure.
By September 2009, Yunus began complaining to Clinton's top aides about what he perceived as poor treatment by Bangladesh's government. His bank was accused of financial mismanagement of Norwegian government aid money a charge that Norway later dismissed as baseless. But Yunus told Melanne Verveer, a long-time Clinton aide who was an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, that Bangladesh officials refused to meet with him and asked the State Department for help in pressing his case.
"Please see if the issues of Grameen Bank can be raised in a friendly way," he asked Verveer. Yunus sent "regards to H" and cited an upcoming Clinton Global Initiative event he planned to attend.
Clinton ordered an aide: “ ive to EAP rep," referring the problem to the agency's top east Asia expert.
Yunus continued writing to Verveer as pressure mounted on his bank. In December 2010, responding to a news report that Bangladesh’s prime minister was urging an investigation of Grameen Bank, Clinton told Verveer that she wanted to discuss the matter with her East Asia expert "ASAP."
Clinton called Yunus in March 2011 after the Bangladesh government opened an inquiry into his oversight of Grameen Bank. Yunus had told Verveer by email that "the situation does not allow me to leave the country." By mid-May, the Bangladesh government had forced Yunus to step down from the bank's board. Yunus sent Clinton a copy of his resignation letter. In a separate note to Verveer, Clinton wrote: “ ad indeed."
Clinton met with Yunus a second time in Washington in August 2011 and again in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka in May 2012. Clinton's arrival in Bangladesh came after Bangladesh authorities moved to seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders. Speaking to a town hall audience, Clinton warned the Bangladesh government that "we do not want to see any action taken that would in any way undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank."
Grameen America’s Asch referred other questions about Yunus to his office, but he had not responded by Tuesday.
Earlier this month, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau acknowledged that agency officials are "regularly in touch with a range of outside individuals and organizations, including nonprofits, NGOs, think tanks and others." But Trudeau said the State Department was not aware of any actions that were influenced by the Clinton Foundation.
In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman's firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. One day after the breakfast, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman's request. In December that same year, Schwarzman's wife, Christine, sat at Clinton's table during the Kennedy Center Honors. Clinton also introduced Schwarzian then chairman of the Kennedy Center, before he spoke.
Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone's charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzian available for comment.
Clinton also met in June 2011 with Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder. The meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention. The public-private partnership was formed to fight gender-based violence in South Africa, the State Department said at the time.
The MAC AIDS fund donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. In 2008, Mahon and the MAC AIDS fund made a three-year unspecified commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. That same year, the fund partnered with two other organizations to beef up a USAID program in Malawi and Ghana. And in 2011, the fund was one of eight organizations to pledge a total of $2 million over a three-year period to help girls in southern Africa. The fund has not made a commitment to CGI since 2011.
Estee Lauder executive Fabrizio Freda also met with Clinton at the same Wall Street event attended by Schwarzman. Later that month, Freda was on a list of attendees for a meeting between Clinton and a U.S.-China trade group. Estee Lauder has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. The company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.
MAC AIDs officials did not make Mahon available to AP for comment.
When Clinton appeared before the U.S. Senate in early 2009 for her confirmation hearing as secretary of state, then- Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, questioned her at length about the foundation and potential conflicts of interest. His concerns were focused on foreign government donations, mostly to CGI. Lugar wanted more transparency than was ultimately agreed upon between the foundation and Obama’s transition team.
Now, Lugar hopes Hillary and Bill Clinton make a clean break from the foundation.
“The Clintons, as they approach the presidency, if they are successful, will have to work with their attorneys to make certain that rules of the road are drawn up to give confidence to them and the American public that there will not be favoritism," Lugar said.
US shifts troops in Afghanistan as Taliban makes gains
Some 100 US troops have been sent to Lashkar Gah, capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where the Taliban is advancing and opium cultivation is booming. A new report shows various support contractors outnumber US troops in the country more than three to one.
The US contingent has arrived in Lashkar Gah with a mission to provide training and support to the Afghan security forces, Brigadier-General Charles Cleveland, spokesman for the US mission in Afghanistan, said Monday.
The Afghan authorities are looking to have more US troops sent to Helmand, since much of the province has been overrun by Taliban insurgents in recent weeks. Fighting “on several fronts” has closed many roads and highways in the province, the head of Helmand’s provincial council, Kareem Atal, told AP.
“Around 80 percent of the province is under the control of the insurgents,” Atal said. “There are a number of districts that the government claims are under their control, but the government is only present in the district administrative center and all around are under the control of the insurgents.”
The majority-Pashtun province is also a major center for opium cultivation, with the annual crop valued at an estimated $3 billion. Though the Taliban outlawed opium in 2000, they reversed the decision after US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Heroin produced from Afghan poppies is now a primary source of funding for the insurgency, US officials say.
Most US combat troops left Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but the planned withdrawal of the remaining “advisers” deployed as part of the mission dubbed Resolute Support has stalled, due to the inability of Afghan government forces to defeat the Taliban.
Original drawdown plans called for reducing the troop presence to 5,500 by the end of 2016, but in October last year the Obama administration announced that it would keep 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2017, and maintain some kind of combat presence in the country “indefinitely.”
In addition to the US military personnel, there are currently some 29,000 “defense contractors” in Afghanistan, according to the latest report by the Congressional Research Service. That translates into slightly more than three contractors per every official member of the US military.
About a third of the contractors are American and less than a quarter of them are providing security services, noted the report, published last week. Pentagon records show approximately 1,600 translators, 1,700 construction workers, 2,200 “base support professionals” and 12,000 working in logistics and maintenance services.
The number of contractors employed by the US Department of Defense peaked in early 2012, when some 117,000 contractors were servicing 88,000 US troops, according to the report.
In Iraq, where 2,500 contractors are working with almost 4,000 US troops “advising and assisting” the country’s security forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the CRS report noted.
Monday, August 22, 2016
We have intervened enough in Syria, It’s time to defund head-chopping Islamists, restore diplomatic relations with Assad’s government, and work with the Russians to drive out the Islamists and keep them out.
Nicholas Kristof: War Crimes Enabler - Antiwar.com Original
He wants US intervention – on the side of Islamist head-choppers
We all saw the little Syrian boy in besieged Aleppo, wiping blood from his forehead, covered in dust and clearly in shock. How could we help it? Practically every newspaper in the country printed his photo, along with a caption blaming the Syrian military and/or the Russians for his plight. The video is all over the Internet. By the way, little Omran Dagnish is still alive, and is fine physically. But there’s another little boy, a prepubescent child, who hasn’t been dignified with a name, who is also a victim of this war – and he’s dead, beheaded by US-backed Islamist rebels of the "al-Zenki" movement. And the rebels didn’t try to hide this atrocity: they filmed it and put it on the Internet.
These are the people who are defending Aleppo, the rebels we are being told are fighting for “freedom" against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and those dastardly Russians.
The video of Omran went "viral," while the video of the nameless beheaded boy didn’t. Why is that?
The US media isn’t very interested in publicizing the latter atrocity – because in the information war to provoke US intervention in Syria on behalf of head-chopping Islamists, some children are more equal than others.
And make no mistake: the propaganda campaign is now in full swing, being pushed by the same media outlets openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton – who is on recordas calling for funding of Islamist groups in Syria and overthrowing Assad. If she is elected, we’re very likely to see a full-scale US intervention, with US forces openly and aggressively confronting not only Syrian government forces but also facing off with the Russians.
The New York Times, which makes no bones about its political sympathies in this presidential contest, has unleashed well-known "humanitarian" Nicholas Kristof in the effort to gin up sympathy for the "moderate" rebels and force Washington’s hand. He babbles on about the death of his dog and the sympathy he received when he wrote about it, and then writes: “ f only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!"
Not that he’s trying to manipulate us or anything.
"For five years the world has been largely paralyzed as President Bashar al-Assad has massacred his people, nurturing in turn the rise of ISIS and what the U.S. government calls genocide by ISIS. That’s why I argued in my column a week ago that President Obama’s passivity on Syria was his worst mistake, a shadow over his legacy.”
More than half of those killed in the Syrian civil war were massacred by the rebel forces, none of whose depredations are so much as mentioned by Kristof. And who, exactly, is "nurturing" ISIS – isn’t it the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and other pro-head- chopper Muslim states in the Gulf? In the Kristofian lexicon, you’re "nurturing" ISIS if you fight them and prevent them from taking over your country. As for President Obama’s alleged "passivity," if only it were so! Under his regime, US taxpayer dollars financed and "nurtured" Islamist rebels who valorize Osama bin Laden and want to turn Syria into an Islamist theocracy. Kristof’s complaint is that he didn’t send them enough money, guns, and sharper knives to chop off the heads of yet more nameless boys.
Yes, this is “humanitarianism," Kristof-style.
While the political class demands that Obama "do something," ordinary Americans oppose yet another Middle East war. They showed that the last time the Washington-New York know-it-alls ginned up a wave of war hysteria over the alleged "poison gas" episode, in which Assad’s forces supposedly crossed the "red line" and used gas on "their own people." Except, as Seymour Hersh showed, they did no such thing: indeed, it was the rebels who used and are no doubt still using poison gas. In any case, when Obama announced we were going to intervene, the congressional phone lines lit up as tens of thousands called in to register their protest. One by one members of Congress previously committed to war or on the fence backed down – as did the President.
But the War Party doesn’t take "no" for an answer. No sirree, when the warlords of Washington deem it their "duty" to "liberate" some unfortunate country, they’ll not be denied by those peasants in flyover country. Kristof addresses these impudent peons in his column, one of whom had the temerity to suggest that "There is nothing in our constitution that says we are to be the savior of the world from all the crazies out there." Kristof’s answer is more manipulative rhetoric with no basis in reality:
"I agree that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t try to solve any. Would it have been wrong during the Holocaust to try to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz? Was President Bill Clinton wrong to intervene in Kosovo to avert potential genocide there? For that matter, was President Obama wrong two years ago when he ordered airstrikes near Mount Sinjar on the Iraq-Syria border, apparently averting genocidal massacres of Yazidi there?”
LET’S TAKE THESE “ARGUMENTS" ONE BY ONE:
1) Auschwitz – Is Kristof really saying that Assad is Hitler? If so, he has broken Godwin’s Law, and has therefore automatically lost the argument. What’s going on in Syria is in no way, shape, or form equivalent to what occurred at Auschwitz, as Kristof knows full well.
2) Kosovo — Yes, President Bill Clinton was wrong to intervene in Kosovo: by doing so he created a gangster state that is today the heroin capital of Europe and whose "President" has been credibly charged with trafficking in human organs. The remnants of Kosovo’s besieged Serbian population live in terror, and the country is rife with a virulent ultra-nationalist movement that threatens its neighbors and the peace of Europe.
3) Yazidis — The idea that the Yazidis were under the threat of "genocide" is comparable to the entirely imaginary "genocide" that was supposedly averted by US intervention in Libya – and both have resulted in making the situation worse. In fact, as I pointed out at the time, when US troops arrived on the scene of the supposed “ enocide" that was occurring on Mount Sinjar, they were met with cries of "We want to stay!":
"Several thousand Yazidis remain on the mountain, a senior United States official said, but not the tens of thousands who originally were believed to be there. Some of the people who remain on Mount Sinjar indicated to American forces that they considered the mountain to be a place of refuge and a home, and did not want to leave, a second United States official said.”
This is the Kristof Method: refer to past hoaxes in order to validate the latest hoax. The big problem for him and his comrades in the Weepy Liberals for Perpetual War camp is that, these days, we can fact-check your ass.
Syria was never a Jeffersonian republic where peace and prosperity reigned: it’s in a rough neighborhood. Yet it wasn’t until the Saudis and the rest of the Islamist states in the region began funding and arming Salafist and al Qaeda-like insurgents – and the US joined in with aid to head-chopping "moderates" – that the country exploded and sent out swarms of refugees who are now flooding Europe. Our Israeli allies have openly said they prefer the Islamists to Assad and his Iranian allies: they’ve been plotting and scheming to overthrow the Syrian Ba’athist regime for many years. And now the hypocritical “ iberals" of Kristof’s ilk have taken up the interventionist war cry –in the name of "the children," no less!
As our "moderate" Islamists on the CIA payroll behead children, crucify Christians, and turn Syria into a killing field, "liberals" of the Kristofian persuasion, who preen in print over their own alleged moral superiority, as just as responsible as the Islamists who beheaded that child and held up his severed skull in triumph. In short: for all his self-righteous moral posturing, Kristof is an enabler of war crimes.
We have intervened quite enough in Syria, thank you. It’s time to defund those head-chopping Islamists, restore diplomatic relations with Assad’s government, and work with the Russians to drive out the Islamists and keep them out.
That’s the only path to peace in Syria.
An Important Note: The "mainstream" media isn’t reporting the truth about what’s happening in Syria for a very good reason: they support the "moderate" Islamists who want to topple the Assad government. It’s that simple. Just as the Syrian government forces and the Russians are about to free Aleppo from the head-choppers’ grip, the Kirstof Brigade comes out for US intervention to stop the "genocide." And that’s just a coincidence, I’m sure.
There is no "good" side in Syria, and the US should simply stay out of it. That’s the common sense stance shared by most Americans – but not by our war-happy political class. They and their allies in the media will do anything to drag us into that bloody conflict – including “ anaging" the news so that one side comes out looking like the "good guys."
We here at Antiwar.com aren’t buying into that narrative. If you want the undiluted facts, this is the place to come to. But we can’t continue without your support – your financial support. The War Party has unlimited funding – they have the corporate media working on their behalf. We just have … you. We need your tax-deductible donation to push back against the "mainstream" media narrative and bring the truth to the American people. Please make your contribution today.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richertand David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.